05/12/2013 Question Time


05/12/2013

David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from east London, with Danny Alexander, Rachel Reeves, David Davis, Dr Mary Beard and radio presenter Nick Ferrari.


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Transcript


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Tonight, we're in London and welcome to Question Time.

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Welcome to you at home. Welcome to our audience here who will ask the

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questions and arguing with our panel. Our panel, the Liberal

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Democrats Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. Labour's

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Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves. The Conservative,

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David Davis who lost out to David Cameron for the leadership of the

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Tory Party. The LBC Radio presenter Nick Ferrari and Professor of

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classic classics at Cambridge University, Mary Beard.

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APPLAUSE #12k3w4r thank you very much. We

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take our first question from Thomas Rous, please.

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In right of the PISA International Student Assessment Survey sub pished

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this week, is it time -- published this week, is it time to send our

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children to school in South Korea? This was the view that the UK was

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way, way behind 20 or so other countries. Mary Beard, should we go

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to South Korea? I happen to have an ex-student who is teaching in a

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school in South Korea. She e-mailed me a couple of days ago and said you

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don't know how difficult it is to teach children, who were taught to

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ask a question was a weakness. Everything we see about the

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politician politicians being mesmerised by these PISA tables,

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seems to me to be bonkers. There's - clearly you can learn some

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things about microdifferences about countries in the UK, for example.

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But if you imagine that Shanghai was a dream ticket for kid's education,

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because they are doing well at these tests to which they have been

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adequately taught, you would be mad. I think that, and there are two

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problems here - and I think one is there is no right way of England

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kating kids. If we could realise there wasn't a right answer, there

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are some ways we can -- educating kids. If we could realise there

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wasn't a right answer, there are some ways we can.

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There is nothing simple and there's no recipe for success. Also you have

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to see that there's almost no country in the world that doesn't

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somehow project its anti-sys about -- anxieties about itself. If we

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were to go to Shanghai, we would find people worrying about stress,

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over-work, kids at school for 12 hours a day. Extra classes,

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weekends, no music. We would find people coming to the UK to say, so,

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how do you do it in the UK? How do you get a bit more laid back? The

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real key is, just to say education is a very inexact science and no

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single table, as we know from league tables, will give you the right

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answer to what will work. So, it should be...

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APPLAUSE Nick Ferrari? I am greatly

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disheartened by someone as well educated as you taking that stance.

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I would suggest there is a reason why schools in Asia are outstripping

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us in Britain. That is one word - thatted is competition. On the --

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and that is competition. On the radio show we phoned three

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countries. We phoned Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. When a

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child enters a class they know where they are, whether they are 19th or

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25th. The teachers work around and they try and bring them up. It is

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called competition. As and when you go into the real world, that is

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called competition. That was outlawed in this country by mostly

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Labour, not solely, by mostly Labour, left wing trendy

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educationalists who said no child could ever win a prize, don't worry

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if they cannot spelt, don't worry if they don't have a piece of paper.

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What a load of cobblers and we are reaping the price!

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Danny Alexander? I am a parent of two young children. I find these

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tables worrying, actually. And particularly in the areas of maths

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and science, where we know that if, as a country, we want to succeed in

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the modern word, that educating people in maths and science - the

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academic at the OECD said math sss the best protection against

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unemployment. If you think about the industries where we will succeed we

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need to improve our performance. That is why we need to make sure we

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get rid of some of the disadvantages in our education system. Kids from

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poor backgrounds have done worse for a long time. We are introducing a

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pupil premium. Today, I am very proud I have announced we'll give

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free school meals... Can I say... ? No, let me finish. ?150 million and

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you had not budgeted for. You tax all of us and you turn around and

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say we just need another ?150 million. Let me finish the point.

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Absolutely - the money comes from the taxes of people in this room and

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from money that the Government has raised in many different ways. The

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point is that actually when kids have a full stomach at school they

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learn better. All the studies show that actually with free school meals

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you have kids having a 20% advantage in their education educational

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achievements. The truth is, as a country, we let our kids down in the

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first years of education and they never catch up again. That is why

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focussing on that age group is so important.

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As well as mentioning South Korea, we have to mention the fact that the

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kids in South Korea have a much higher rate of suicide - for young

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children. So this is as well something to mention. You think what

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- they are over-pressed. What do you think? Education is key to a

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competitive economy. This is the tip of the iceberg. They will trickle

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down into our university system. I have been to Cambridge and

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competition is key. It is very stressful. Everyone wants to come to

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these institutions and wants to come to the UK. I don't want to lose that

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external investment. Rachel Reeves? I don't want my

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children to go to school in South Korea. I want them to go to school

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in this country. The results from the PISA league tables are a wake-up

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call to us. We need to do better if we want to compete for jobs in the

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future. The gentleman said education is dee a successful economy. It is

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-- key for a successful economy I is also for those who compete. I went

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to my local state school, in south-east London, I got a fantastic

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education there. It was also at a time there were huge cuts to

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budgets. My sixth form was two prefab huts. There were never enough

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textbooks to go around. We have seen a huge transformation of schools in

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this country over the past 15 years. We need to do better still. I think

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the PISA results show we have to do that. Why are we 25th in math, 23rd

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in science? We have improved. Other countries are leapfrogging and doing

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better. We need to redouble our efforts. That means having the best

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teach teachers in our schools. We are still really struggling to

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recruit enough good teachers in maths and science. If we want to

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have kids who succeed in the future, we need some of the best into the

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hardest schools like Hackney and other areas of London, because that

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is what will make the difference to young people. It is fine for Mary to

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say you have to have creativity and all of those things, also young

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people have to leave schools with decent GCSEs if they are going to

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get jobs. There's no question but to come back to PISA. What I wonder is

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how many people have looked at the questions in these tests? What does

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it matter? Britain comes 25th. What does it matter!

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This is from the reading test. It is a test that shows you a receipt from

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a camera shop. At the bottom it says thank you for your kus up the. The

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question is, why do you -- custom. The question is, why do you think

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the shop said that. The correct answer, for which you get full

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marks, is in order to build up a relationship with the customer. If

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you were to put in order to show that the customer is valued, they

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would get no marks. Now, when you think, when you look

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through these - these questions, sometimes multiple choice, sometimes

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not, it is all available on the web and you say, these are the kinds of

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questions that Governments are using as accurate tests of how our kids

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are doing - I think that is crazy. It is not a wake-up call...

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Pla APPLAUSE

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David Davis? I could not disagree with Mary more. All these tests are

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rough and ready. None of them are perfect. But Other surveys show much

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the same thing. One thing they show over and over again is that the

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people who Come top, the countries who come top tend to be South Korea,

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Singapore - the various provinces of China. In other words the people who

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are showing clean heels in terms of the economic competition. They are

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winning, they are willing because their people are well educated. In

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this country and it exposes something Boris referred to, that is

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in this country... Boris? Johnson. I am in London - I thought everyone

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would know who I was talking about. Boris Johnson - the Mayor of London

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said what? He highlighted a point - we have three classes of schools in

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this country. We have standard state schools, state grammar schools and

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private schools. The private schools are as good as any of the world, the

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grammars are. Some of the comprehensives are. Most of our

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state sector does not compete well enough.

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This is what all these things are telling you and letting down an

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entire generation. If you select who goes to your

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school, of course you will get better results. If you are selecting

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on academic ability and parental in income, of course. I think our state

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schools should be applauded taking kids from all backgrounds.

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The woman there? Do you not think schools are focussing too much on

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getting correct statistics rather than focussing on the pupils

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themselves? Danny Alexander, do you want to answer that point? That is

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not my experience. I think that schools should focus on the

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performance of their pupils and on the well being of pupils too.

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Actually, I totally agree with what Rachel said. I went to my local

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comprehensive in the Highlands of Scotland. I had a good education

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there. This argue you should have an elitist education system is the

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wrong argument. Actually if you go to South Korea you find they have

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been able to develop a system which offers excellence in education for

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every child in that society. The idea we have to say unfortunately so

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many of our schools are not good enough and we'll only have a few

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which are good is a recipe of disaster. We have the most stratfied

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country in the world today. Look at how our country runs. People from a

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working class background have a low chance of getting on in Britain

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today, that is because of the education system. Why the grammar

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schools are the greatest tools for socially enabling ever known.

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It is a fantastic opportunity for a kid, regardless of how much mum and

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dad have in the bank. They should be brought back tomorrow.

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APPLAUSE I would definitely say that I think

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the system is going through some issues because of mol mollycoddling.

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When I went to school, we were placed on the ladder, you knew where

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you were on the ladder. When you went home at the end of term and you

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told your parent you were last, you felt a level of shame. I don't

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believe it is right that children can graduate at 16, 17, without

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basic maths and we think this is a system to adopt in today's age. It

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is wrong. The earlier we start to address these issues from, a very

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young age, the better it will be. By making schools more competitive?

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Definitely! Yes, you, Sir? The structure in

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South Korea is not prevalent in our schools here. And you, Sir, in the

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second row. My mum is from Malaysia. I have cousins there too.

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The difference between them being taught in school and I was taught

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here. There is a culture within the fams will that -- families that kind

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of pushes them along. I went to an independent school, so most of my

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mates were pushed by their parents. I see sometimes, I am not saying all

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parents, but there's no culture to push them along as well. I don't

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know if it is something that could be worked upon as well. I think

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sometimes the tables don't really show everything as well. Are you

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saying in Malaysia it is normal for children to be pushed more? They

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have outside tuorring. All my suss tins, once they -- all my cousins,

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once they finish school they go to a tuor.

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-- tutor. Why did both governments allow grade

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inflations year after year, why did you allow that? I was fortunate to

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get through on O levels just before GCSEs came behind. I saw it degrade

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the A-levels. I saw it degrade the universities. They lost a whole

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year. Now why did the politicians allow that to happen? Just for your

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cheap political tricks. That's the future of the country you're talking

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about. The generation ahead. I think the big challenge we've got in our

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education system today is not too many kids getting good results, but

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too many kids not getting decent GCSE results. We should be - Sorry,

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you're not answering his point. You make it sound like every kid leaves

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school with straight As. We still have 40% of kids who aren't leaving

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school... Year after year it went up. He's right. No, but there's

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better teaching. There's better teaching in schools. Why do they do

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the exams of years past and have the same rate as before, you just have

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higher grade. Partly because different things matter. Yeah the

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future of the children matter. I don't take my children to school in

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the UK... You asked the question and I'm trying to give an answer. If you

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today went and looked at a GCSE paper in physics, science or in

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English literature for A-level for further maths, I bet you would

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struggle with a lot of those questions. I don't think they are

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simple questions. I don't think you should devalue the achievements of

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our young people, whether GCSEs, whether it's GNVQs, A-levels or

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university degrees. Kids are working incredibly hard. We put huge

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investment into schools and into teacher training. Those things do

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lead to better results. We should applaud that. I did mechanical

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engineering and the exams were tough. You had to remember the form

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Las before you actually had to go into the exam. Now they're given

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multiple choice. It's dumbed down. These children can only take the

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exams that are put in front of them. We must applaud what they do. You

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have to address the fact, particular under your Government, every year,

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supposedly the population got brighter and it's simply not true.

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Look at Manchester United, they're sinking like a stone, it doesn't

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always get there. That's the reality. The woman on the right.

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Yeah, I just want to agree with Mary and back up a point that point that

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the woman made there. South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates

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within high school students and you cannot just simply look at another

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nation with rose-tinted glasses based on facts and figures and

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statistics, having taught English in South Korea for four years, I can

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tell you it was really distressing to see the amount of competition

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that students were taught to, you know, utilise in everyday life. The

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stress that they were put under. There was students who were ten

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years old would come home at 10pm at night, being in private tuition up

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until then. It was really unhealthy and really quite distressing to

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witness. We can't just look at another nation with rose-tinted

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glasses. We have to look at everything.

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APPLAUSE Were you expected to put them under

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pressure too, as an English teacher? I taught in a state school, so there

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wasn't that much pressure on me. Most of the emphasis on their

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education is actually, well, it's normal for a South Korean child to

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go to a private institution and go and get after-school lessons until

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about 11pm. This starts about eight years old. Really it's quite

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serious. It puts into perspective this notion that competition is

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necessarily good. I absolutely take your point that some kids would go

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back home at the end of term, shamed by their position at the bottom of

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the ladder and determined to do better. But we also know that there

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are other kids who came home devastated by their position at the

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bottom of the ladder and never could ever get back into that subject

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again. It doesn't always work the same way.

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The lady there made a very important point. Too often we allow and

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tolerate the gaps in attainment to emerge at a young age. Your point

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about investing in kids when they're two, three, four, five, six years

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old, that's the most important time. Once the gap emerges, the history of

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our education system shows you it is never put back together again.

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Investing in kids with a young age, with high quality education is the

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best way to make sure every child has the best start in life. That's

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the best way to get a fairer society. Do you agree? I would

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agree. Though childhood suicide is obviously wrong, we have some

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lessons to learn. I mean, you can't have a situation where we say we

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don't want to put you under stress, we don't want you to compete. In the

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real world you compete. I work until 11pm at night. So the whole purpose

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of education is to prepare them for real life. I'm sorry, I don't

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believe we can cover our children from what life is really like.

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One more point. Quite a few points, one... Can you make one. OK then.

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The competition in very young children, I don't think is very

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healthy. It's OK for children to know their place in a class. I'm a

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primary teacher. If children know their place in a class, it's great

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if they've got the academic ability to get near the top, but if they

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haven't and they're constantly at the bottom, or bottom five in a

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class, year after year, that is no way that's good for them. That is so

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demoralising. What do you do then? You give them as much extra help as

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you can. Are you against what she was saying about children knowing

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their place? I am against it. It would be nicer if they didn't. I'd

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like to keep them closeted for a little while. Life is painful enough

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when they're older. Her point is that life is painful enough, you

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have to make it early on. Not at all. It depends what result you

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want. If you want these people to be interesting members of the

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community, whichever way they're contributing, making them feel

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failures at the age of five is not a great way to start.

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Sorry for those of you who wanted to get on this. If you're watching this

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at home, you can debate by text or Twitter.

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A question from Lisa Lariccia. I'm 31, should I expect to work until

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I'm 70. We know that today the announcement was made, you have to

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expect to work until you were 68 or 69 very soon, probably 70 and then

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75 and goodness knows where we'll be. David Davies? Well, the truth of

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the matter is we all have to work longer than our previous generations

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did. I think and in that respect the Government is right. It can't defy

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mathematics. We haven't got the money to pay for the length of

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retirement. The problem in the policy we have got, whereas

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everybody around this table have no trouble to work until they're 70.

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They do a job which is not particularly manual. If I dug

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trenches or I was a nurse and lifted patients a lot, had a lot of

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physical activity, I think that's different. I think we really have to

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think, as we extend the ages higher up, what sort of occupation the

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people have, what sort of health do they have? And address that. We have

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20 years to do it. It's not something we have to think about

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very quickly. We should address the issue of not everybody retiring at

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the same age. People with very tough jobs, physical jobs should have a

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better crack at having a decent retirement than they currently do.

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APPLAUSE Well, a couple of years ago, the

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Government tried to increase the state pension age for women in their

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mid-50s with just six years' notice. I thought that was totally wrong.

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Peep need -- people need time to prepare for the future. You need

:24:04.:24:08.

years notice so that you can save more, so you can train, so you know

:24:09.:24:11.

how long you're going to be expected to be in the workforce. I do think

:24:12.:24:15.

it's right as people live longer and we should celebrate that, it's a

:24:16.:24:19.

huge achievement, put it down to our National Health Service that people

:24:20.:24:21.

are living longer and healthier lives. So it's right that people

:24:22.:24:24.

work longer because if they don't, they'll have a poorer retirement

:24:25.:24:28.

because the money that you can save during working life won't be enough

:24:29.:24:32.

to support you during those years of retirement. But, David is right, we

:24:33.:24:37.

need to change quite a few things if this is going to be a reality. It's

:24:38.:24:41.

fine for us in the House of Commons to say to construction workers and

:24:42.:24:44.

shop workers, you have to work until you're 70. But if we're going to

:24:45.:24:49.

ensure that's fair and people can work in dignity until they're 70, we

:24:50.:24:53.

need to change the world of work as well. We need to ensure we offer the

:24:54.:24:56.

training to people in their 50les to get the jobs that are available. We

:24:57.:25:00.

need to work with employers to do more to value the experience that

:25:01.:25:05.

older workers have to offer, but also change those jobs, so sometimes

:25:06.:25:08.

they're not frontline workers, if you're a construction worker, you

:25:09.:25:13.

might not want to be up the scaffolding, but they can make a

:25:14.:25:16.

huge contribution. Are you alarmed at the prospect of working till

:25:17.:25:22.

you're 70 or more? It's not just the physically demanding jobs, I'm a

:25:23.:25:26.

social worker, so I think as well, jobs that also involve quite a lot

:25:27.:25:32.

of emotional stress, you do need to be well equipped and to think about

:25:33.:25:38.

always delivering quality. You go in to do meaningful work. If it's

:25:39.:25:45.

becoming quite a slog. You'd want to be excluded from the provision you

:25:46.:25:51.

retire at 70. Yes. Two-tier retirement. The nature of the work

:25:52.:25:55.

should be looked at. Taking lessons from politicians about pensions is

:25:56.:26:01.

like being lectured about sobriety about the Reverend flowers. These

:26:02.:26:08.

are the most Kos eked bunch of -- cossetted bunch of people you will

:26:09.:26:12.

come across. The sort of pensions that they will enjoy, not like you,

:26:13.:26:18.

they'll be slaving until you're 110 and lucky enough to get your first

:26:19.:26:23.

house when you're 90. They retire on the sort of pension that you and I

:26:24.:26:28.

would be north of ?2 million in a pension pot to generate. Unless you

:26:29.:26:33.

were Wayne Rooney or a hopeless BBC boss who have been slung out and

:26:34.:26:37.

given a payment, you're never going to have the money.

:26:38.:26:45.

You guys, I'm a 16-year-old, and you have spent the past ten minutes

:26:46.:26:50.

cueing -- accusing me of being a retard, I'm finding it really hard

:26:51.:26:54.

to accept that you're making me work until I'm 70, when A, I'm not

:26:55.:27:01.

promised a job when I leave uni, and I won't be able to get a house. What

:27:02.:27:07.

do I retire on? On the magical couch that my parents are going to leave

:27:08.:27:12.

me? And you'll be stacking shelves in B Q when you're 82. You're

:27:13.:27:17.

going to retire on the equivalent of a ?2 million pension, you have it

:27:18.:27:22.

curby and you're making life hell. If Nick is visiting this 16-year-old

:27:23.:27:26.

when he's stacking shelves at the age of 82 he'll be doing well. I

:27:27.:27:31.

want to pass my 11-plus. Maybe not. The answer to the question, both

:27:32.:27:34.

that gentleman's question and the original question, yes, you will

:27:35.:27:37.

have to work probably until you're 69 in your case, maybe 70 at your

:27:38.:27:42.

age, but and this is a consequence of some simple facts that

:27:43.:27:45.

politicians have ignored for a very long period of time. As health care

:27:46.:27:51.

improves, as societies improve, life expectancy is rising. People are

:27:52.:27:54.

living longer, healthier lives on average across our country and

:27:55.:27:58.

across the developed world. The fact is unless we set rules now about

:27:59.:28:02.

what proportion of your working life you'd expect to spend in retirement

:28:03.:28:06.

and how long you have to work for, then we simply won't be able to pay

:28:07.:28:10.

out. The state basic pension that everyone in this room would expect,

:28:11.:28:14.

much less to build up the entitlements in work-place pensions

:28:15.:28:17.

or other pension that's we can all afford. What about the two-tier

:28:18.:28:22.

retirement that was suggested, that people doing hard work or social

:28:23.:28:28.

workers can get an exception. I didn't include social workers.

:28:29.:28:33.

Social workers. In the argument there you hear part of it, every

:28:34.:28:36.

profession would say they have a special case. Make a special case

:28:37.:28:40.

for people who have physical labour? I spent quite a lot of time

:28:41.:28:44.

negotiating through tough changes to public service pensions, two years

:28:45.:28:48.

ago, including for MPs, changing the terms of pensions for a lot of

:28:49.:28:51.

public sector workers. It was quite unpopular with a lot of those groups

:28:52.:28:55.

because we had to put those pensions back on a footing that was

:28:56.:28:58.

affordable to the taxpayer and those people made a reasonable

:28:59.:29:01.

contribution. Every group says she need particular exceptions. The

:29:02.:29:04.

truth is every pension scheme has early retirement provisions within

:29:05.:29:07.

it. It's really the responsibility of the health care system and of

:29:08.:29:10.

other parts of society to make sure that people can live longer,

:29:11.:29:13.

healthier lives. You can't expect the pensions system, in this

:29:14.:29:17.

country, since Lloyd George, a liberal, first introduced the state

:29:18.:29:23.

pension back in the early part of the Twentieth Century, a common

:29:24.:29:25.

retirement age for everybody. I don't think the pensions system can

:29:26.:29:29.

take care of the problems in our health care system. There are

:29:30.:29:33.

objective differences between the effect on your health of digging a

:29:34.:29:36.

trench when you're 70 or being Chief Secetary when you're 70. The wear

:29:37.:29:42.

and tear on you is somewhat different. When I've been to a

:29:43.:29:50.

70-year-old nurse that has to lift me out of bed! It might take any two

:29:51.:29:57.

of us on the panel to do that particular job, Nick. I know who I'm

:29:58.:30:01.

picking. People also change jobs as they move through their lives.

:30:02.:30:05.

That's part of it. Actually, one of the things employers in this country

:30:06.:30:09.

need to get their heads around better, is that older workers can

:30:10.:30:12.

make a huge huge contribution. Dodging one question, somebody is

:30:13.:30:17.

digging trenches or building hougss, carrying hods of bricks, physical

:30:18.:30:20.

work, are you saying that the same rule would have to apply to them?

:30:21.:30:29.

I am saying there should be a single state pension age for everybody,

:30:30.:30:36.

yes. The woman at the back, yes? Hi there. I am a nurse. I would find it

:30:37.:30:40.

very difficult to lift this young man up over here and I'm in my 30s.

:30:41.:30:45.

There's a point here to be made that you can't put everybody under the

:30:46.:30:49.

same bracket. I agree with the social worker down here, not only

:30:50.:30:53.

are they physically straining jobs, but they are mentally straining as

:30:54.:30:57.

well. Sometimes you can go home absolutely exhausted by what you've

:30:58.:31:00.

had to deal with that day. I think you need to look at manual workers,

:31:01.:31:05.

nurses, professionals slightly differently.

:31:06.:31:09.

What is your thought to working still at 69? I don't think you will

:31:10.:31:13.

be able to provide quality care at that age. I work in a medical

:31:14.:31:18.

additions unit, which is linked to accident and emergency. We take

:31:19.:31:23.

emergencies in through A I would not be able to do it at 68. What is

:31:24.:31:30.

your retirement age now? I would get my NHS tension at -- pension at 60.

:31:31.:31:40.

What I liked about Danny's contribution is this is about cash,

:31:41.:31:44.

about saving money. It is about making things affordable

:31:45.:31:50.

to the country. I was giving you a compliment... I am not used to that!

:31:51.:31:54.

I will not resist telling you this has a history going back 2,000 years

:31:55.:32:01.

and exactly 2,000 years ago today the Emperor Augustus could not

:32:02.:32:06.

afford to pay the pension of the soldiers, so he postponed their

:32:07.:32:10.

retirement date. What do you think the consequence was? A vast mutiny.

:32:11.:32:18.

There are lessons to be learnt here. I think, in general, the points that

:32:19.:32:24.

David and Rachel have made, this has to go along, whatever its basic

:32:25.:32:30.

financial driver - it has to go along with re-thinking some of the

:32:31.:32:33.

nature of work and what a working career looks like.

:32:34.:32:37.

If you have been spending your life as a fireman, at what point do we

:32:38.:32:42.

think you want to stop. We have to remember, all of you, you are using

:32:43.:32:46.

the slogan, longer and healthier lives, which is almost as bad as

:32:47.:32:51.

hard-working families. Some people out there who actually are not going

:32:52.:32:54.

to have longer and healthier lives and they are not going to have

:32:55.:32:59.

healthier lives. There is a way this is building in a, in a sense a

:33:00.:33:05.

sub-class of those of us who will not go on happy until we are 85 and

:33:06.:33:11.

then drop down dead suddenly on the bus.

:33:12.:33:14.

All this came out of course today from the Autumn Statement. Let's

:33:15.:33:19.

just move on a little bit wide tore the Autumn Statement and take a

:33:20.:33:23.

question from Grace Hunt. Does the Autumn Statement show the

:33:24.:33:28.

economy is in full recovery? Full is the key word. Danny Alexander - is

:33:29.:33:34.

it in full recovery? The Autumn Statement shows the recovery is

:33:35.:33:38.

under way. I would not say it is a full recovery. There is a lot more

:33:39.:33:41.

work to be done to make sure the recovery which is starting to show

:33:42.:33:45.

positive signs for this country gathers pace. It is worth saying our

:33:46.:33:49.

growth figures have improved in the last few quarters. Our borrowing is

:33:50.:33:54.

coming down at a time our debt starts to fall is getting nearer.

:33:55.:34:00.

1.4 million net jobs have been passed in the sector in the last few

:34:01.:34:04.

years. That is a huge tes meant to the businesses and individual whoss

:34:05.:34:09.

are powering the recover -- who are powering the recovery in this

:34:10.:34:13.

country. Progress is being made because the Government's economic

:34:14.:34:16.

plan is working. Because we have been willing to take the decisions

:34:17.:34:19.

to get this country back on the right track, to invest in some of

:34:20.:34:22.

the things we have been talking about over some of the last

:34:23.:34:27.

questions which helped raise productivity in future. The

:34:28.:34:30.

coalition Government came together. Liberal Democrats, my party and

:34:31.:34:35.

David's party to clear up a massive economic mess made by the previous

:34:36.:34:38.

Government. We are on the way. The job is not finished and there is a

:34:39.:34:46.

lot more work to do. Rachel Reeves? The economy is finally growing after

:34:47.:34:50.

three years of flatlining. For many people, people in this room,

:34:51.:34:53.

watching on the television, things are incredibly tough at the moment.

:34:54.:35:01.

In the 40 months David Cameron has been Prime Minister, prices have

:35:02.:35:04.

risen faster than wages. Whether it is your gas or electricity bills,

:35:05.:35:08.

the rent - the prices of everything are going up. Wages are standing

:35:09.:35:11.

still. That's making it very difficult for

:35:12.:35:16.

people to make ends meet. Can you square that circle yourself? Well,

:35:17.:35:20.

we have said, for example, that we would freeze energy prices. That we

:35:21.:35:28.

would introduce the bonus to guarantee a job for young people out

:35:29.:35:33.

of job for more than a year, introduce a 10 p starting rate of

:35:34.:35:38.

tax. We could not do all we would like to do because the fiscal

:35:39.:35:42.

situation we're in is difficult. We would make difference choices and

:35:43.:35:48.

prioritising those on low and modest incomes rather than giving a tax cut

:35:49.:35:52.

for people earning more than ?150,000. If you look, at the

:35:53.:35:56.

moment, at the very bottom you have people who this Christmas will have

:35:57.:36:01.

to go to food banks and are going to loan sharks to make ends meet. You

:36:02.:36:06.

have people in the middle who are also incredibly worried about paying

:36:07.:36:11.

for the energy bills, what to do if the boiler breaks down or you need a

:36:12.:36:17.

new washing machine, not to mention - people have alluded, about their

:36:18.:36:23.

children and their grandchildren and what live has in terms for them -

:36:24.:36:27.

paying off the university debt. There are choices to be made. The

:36:28.:36:31.

Government made some today. Labour will be make making different ones

:36:32.:36:36.

in Government. Firstly, Rachel, you said the economy is flat-lining. It

:36:37.:36:41.

is not, that would mean zero growth. What is the current Government

:36:42.:36:44.

doing? You said in the Autumn Statement by 2015 you want to reduce

:36:45.:36:49.

unemployment by 7%. What is being done about youth unemployment, which

:36:50.:36:59.

stands at 21%? Yes, there are some ifs. If you are

:37:00.:37:03.

in work at the moment and possibly if you work in the south, because I

:37:04.:37:06.

fear we are more a divided nation than we have been for some time,

:37:07.:37:12.

then, yes, you probably are doing OK. While the economy improves you

:37:13.:37:16.

don't necessarily feel that because you are not getting more in your pay

:37:17.:37:22.

packet or wallet. What chilled me to the bone is when Rachel said, when

:37:23.:37:26.

Labour are in Government we'll do this and this and this. Let's not

:37:27.:37:35.

forget these were the people Ed Balls, he was the man who

:37:36.:37:39.

brilliantly sold the gold at the worst possible time when the price

:37:40.:37:42.

was at the lowest. He decided to sell it, so we lost it. If that lot

:37:43.:37:50.

came in we would all be queueing outside Wonga!

:37:51.:37:55.

This lot sold Royal Mail at half the price it was worth. A terrible

:37:56.:38:00.

decision. I think that will be part of a parliamentary inquiry. Maybe

:38:01.:38:07.

been around to see Nigella. What happened with that, he certainly got

:38:08.:38:12.

the price wrong. We were all told when I first entered the City that

:38:13.:38:18.

the best thing to do was to put money into pensions. Which myself

:38:19.:38:23.

and my good lady did. No-one told us a man called Brown was going to tax

:38:24.:38:27.

the pensions and make the money I saved in my pensions worth almost

:38:28.:38:32.

nothing! Do you feel the economy is recovering? It is recovering. I can

:38:33.:38:37.

feel it. It is better than it was. Davis? First off, when we supposedly

:38:38.:38:46.

had a double dip recession, we didn't - the numbers were wrong. Now

:38:47.:38:50.

we are improving, but we don't want to get too manic about that either.

:38:51.:38:57.

We are, in round numbers 1.5% growth rate, hopefully 2.5% next year. It

:38:58.:39:02.

takes about 3% growth to actually spread the income around the

:39:03.:39:07.

country. I mean, most of the western countries have this problem - the

:39:08.:39:10.

Americans, 2% growth rate. Nearly all the income into the top couple

:39:11.:39:15.

of per cent of the population. We are actually just at the beginning

:39:16.:39:17.

of this. That's why this austerity policy is

:39:18.:39:25.

going to have go on for some time. That's why the Treasury and Danny

:39:26.:39:29.

and his colleagues are going to have to work incredibly hard to make this

:39:30.:39:34.

actually keep going. We started out talking about the education system.

:39:35.:39:38.

We are up against ferocious competition around the world, in

:39:39.:39:41.

China and Singapore and other places. We'll have to earn our way.

:39:42.:39:46.

So, yes, we are beginning, but only just beginning to recover. Would you

:39:47.:39:50.

like to see tax cuts at this stage? Interestingly, one of the things...

:39:51.:39:55.

The answer is, yes. Let me tell you why. Let's pick up Rachel's point

:39:56.:40:03.

about the supposedly the top 1% or whatever getting tax breaks.

:40:04.:40:07.

Actually, since the tax was reduced, the amount of money, the amount of

:40:08.:40:12.

our tax paid by the top 1% has gone from 27% to 30%. As high as it's

:40:13.:40:21.

ever been. This was the cut from 50-45%. . Which we debated on your

:40:22.:40:26.

programme on the day it was announced. We are getting more money

:40:27.:40:30.

out of the rich. That is how we pay for health service and so on. We

:40:31.:40:34.

heard from the Chancellor, we also heard from the Chancellor today that

:40:35.:40:39.

you have done a dynamic study into the effects of corporation tax. By

:40:40.:40:45.

having a local corporation tax for more jobs and inward investment. The

:40:46.:40:50.

policies are not popular, they are difficult. Which taxes would you

:40:51.:40:53.

like to see cut now, right now? Would you like to have seen cut

:40:54.:40:58.

today? I approved... It is unusual for me. I approved of everything

:40:59.:41:02.

they did today, which is a novelty. But the... Falling off his chair

:41:03.:41:08.

here! We kept corporation tax low. We did

:41:09.:41:13.

a lot to help small businesses. Where are the jobs coming from -

:41:14.:41:18.

small businesses. All the rated capping, all the actions to improve

:41:19.:41:23.

-- all the rate capping, all the actions to improve the high street

:41:24.:41:27.

are a benefit and will show next year. I don't know how the

:41:28.:41:31.

Chancellor can claim we are in full recovery today. We have one in five

:41:32.:41:37.

children living in poverty. 800,000 children, 80,000 children living in

:41:38.:41:40.

temporary accommodation in the capital. I think we are a long way

:41:41.:41:45.

from full recovery. APPLAUSE

:41:46.:41:49.

Can I come back on that? The truth is, and it is something

:41:50.:41:54.

that Rachel said as well, that we are, the recovery is under way, but

:41:55.:41:59.

it is not fully, it is not, the country is by no means fully

:42:00.:42:04.

recovered. And having recovered from the deepest economic crisis we have

:42:05.:42:08.

seen for many decades, where the loss was on average ?3,000 a

:42:09.:42:11.

household during the economic crisis, of course it is the case it

:42:12.:42:16.

takes time to repair people's living standards. The only way to repair

:42:17.:42:21.

people's living standards is for a strong economic recover, it is only

:42:22.:42:24.

because we have a plan that is doing that that we have been able, for

:42:25.:42:28.

example, to cut income tax for 26 million working people in this

:42:29.:42:32.

country. Something my party and the Liberal Democrats promised at the

:42:33.:42:35.

last election. From next May, every working person in this country will

:42:36.:42:40.

keep ?700 more of their own money. We cut fuel duty, frozen council

:42:41.:42:45.

tax. We are doing a great deal to help people with the cost of living

:42:46.:42:48.

pressures. Rightly so, we are only doing it because we have a plan...

:42:49.:42:55.

It sounds like you are back on the bulletins! It is true. I find the

:42:56.:43:00.

Autumn Statement slightly irritating. Oh, dear! Not the

:43:01.:43:05.

contepts, but the reason we have seen -- contents. But the reason we

:43:06.:43:10.

have seen tonight. It adds like a penny in the slot and for you to

:43:11.:43:15.

swap percentages, which we don't get and we suspect you don't entirely

:43:16.:43:20.

get either! APPLAUSE

:43:21.:43:24.

I said, "Suspect! " Also we know what it is in it already, because

:43:25.:43:29.

you only had to read the up from newspapers. -- read the newspapers

:43:30.:43:35.

for the past few days. I read it, thanks to you Danny did lend me the

:43:36.:43:40.

Autumn Statement so I could prepare. I did, actually. I thought what is

:43:41.:43:46.

this for, if it is not what it looks like it is for. I read it as an

:43:47.:43:52.

election message. This is the beginning of the manifesto. You are

:43:53.:43:57.

very careful to say, not yet full recovery. Because actually, if we

:43:58.:44:03.

had a full recovery we could go back and have a Labour Government and

:44:04.:44:08.

that would be hunky dory! I don't think this country could afford a

:44:09.:44:12.

Labour Government under any circumstances. We are nearly there.

:44:13.:44:17.

There is some blue sky over there. We are on the right track and what

:44:18.:44:20.

you cannot trust is going back to those guys. It is very important for

:44:21.:44:24.

your election not to say we are fully recovered, but to say we are

:44:25.:44:29.

pointing in the right direction! It does not feel like fully

:44:30.:44:31.

recovered to me. I come from the north of England and

:44:32.:44:43.

you won't pretend there's a full row coverery -- recovery in the north of

:44:44.:44:47.

England. Danny is right. We are beginning. 1. 5% is just a

:44:48.:44:51.

beginning. We cannot afford to stay at this left. We have to get better.

:44:52.:44:57.

You're doing percentages again. The economy is running at a huge

:44:58.:45:03.

deficit, we are up to our necks in debt. Living standards are going to

:45:04.:45:06.

have to fall. I think no politician admits to that. We are not earning

:45:07.:45:11.

enough. Everything we buy this Christmas is coming from China or

:45:12.:45:15.

the Far East. If we don't make stuff, we don't actually generate

:45:16.:45:20.

wealth, we can't live at our current living standards. We have to get

:45:21.:45:23.

used to a changing environment. There is a report that what growth

:45:24.:45:28.

there is is because people are using savings not because of increased

:45:29.:45:32.

manufacturing, increased prosperity and increased productivity. Do you

:45:33.:45:37.

agree with that? Yes. That's the problem. This Christmas I think we

:45:38.:45:40.

find people are asked to increase their level of debt, their personal

:45:41.:45:47.

debt in order to help the country's national debt. I think it's a

:45:48.:45:52.

complete fallacy that there's even a recovery, never mind a full recover

:45:53.:45:57.

-- recovery. People are buying things they don't need with money

:45:58.:46:01.

they don't have which they're going into debt for. When we buy the

:46:02.:46:04.

things, we don't make them in the country. We buy them from Korea or

:46:05.:46:11.

China. The whole point is that if we're really going to have a proper

:46:12.:46:17.

recovery we need a growth policy. You don't have a growth policy. The

:46:18.:46:22.

office of budget responsibility have made several predictions, all of

:46:23.:46:25.

which have transpired to be wrong. The Government used that data to

:46:26.:46:29.

make spending decisions which affect all of us. There is no recovery.

:46:30.:46:33.

We're all spending money which we don't have, which we're borrowing on

:46:34.:46:37.

goods that we don't make. We need to make things in this country, rather

:46:38.:46:42.

than buy them from abroad. APPLAUSE

:46:43.:46:47.

And you, Sir. I would just like to know how many

:46:48.:46:51.

of the MPs on the panel would voluntarily take a pay cut or pay

:46:52.:46:55.

freeze to contribute towards the country that the majority of us work

:46:56.:47:06.

so hard for? I don't think I can put that on that. You're free to answer

:47:07.:47:11.

any of you that question about the pay cut. When we came into

:47:12.:47:15.

Government, all ministers took a 5% pay cut and ministerial salaries

:47:16.:47:20.

have been frozen for the Parliament. MPs' pay has been frozen for two

:47:21.:47:25.

years. And restrictions are in place like every other public sector

:47:26.:47:27.

worker. It's right because we have to show and have restraint in pay to

:47:28.:47:32.

help the country recover the mess in its public finances. Just a point

:47:33.:47:36.

from the person who is just about to start talking there. 1. Something

:47:37.:47:42.

per cent is a tiny amount. I'm worried that people will think that

:47:43.:47:46.

we are on the road to recovery and vote for Labour. We don't need to

:47:47.:47:49.

continue to spend until we're paying back our debt. We're in a bad

:47:50.:47:53.

situation. I want to get a couple more questions in. One from John

:47:54.:47:57.

Golden. Does the extensive media coverage of

:47:58.:48:01.

Tom Daley's new relationship suggest that it's, in fact, still not O'-Kay

:48:02.:48:07.

to be gay? -- OK to be gay. Interesting question, huge coverage

:48:08.:48:11.

of Tom Daley saying he was in a gay relationship. Does the coverage

:48:12.:48:15.

suggest it's still not OK? No, I don't think it does. I think you

:48:16.:48:20.

have to accept This is a Man's World was an scrord -- you have to accept

:48:21.:48:24.

this was an extraordinarily successful young man. There may have

:48:25.:48:27.

been issues about his sexuality in the past. He was an Olympic hero, he

:48:28.:48:33.

will be front-page news. I would suggest the tone of the papers

:48:34.:48:36.

radically different to how papers would have reported this two decades

:48:37.:48:41.

ago. I would argue it spoke it a better and more tolerant Britain. It

:48:42.:48:46.

was totally embracing. Everybody said we couldn't care a damn, get on

:48:47.:48:51.

with it and enjoy your life. Thats what I took from it.

:48:52.:48:56.

Surprisingly, I absolutely agree. We're not doing very well, Mary,

:48:57.:49:01.

tell me why. I thought my own reaction was that I wasn't terribly

:49:02.:49:08.

interested. Don't read it then. I wasn't terribly interested, but I

:49:09.:49:12.

think many people thought fine. But just led the lad get back and dive,

:49:13.:49:18.

I thought and not worry about his sex life. I guess, the time when

:49:19.:49:25.

we're really a mature society is when he doesn't need to bother to

:49:26.:49:28.

tell us. That's the real thing. Nobody cares one way or the other.

:49:29.:49:34.

APPLAUSE In one respect, Nick is right. This

:49:35.:49:39.

is a sporting hero. He's somebody who everybody idolises, the girls

:49:40.:49:45.

allise olised too. There will be -- idolised too. There will be some sad

:49:46.:49:49.

girls! He did it the way he did it. He did it very tastefully. And he

:49:50.:49:54.

chose to do it. Nobody forced it, his choice. Wonderful. Good luck to

:49:55.:49:58.

him. If it was truly like not an issue, it wouldn't have been

:49:59.:50:03.

mentioned. The fact that there is newspaper articles about his

:50:04.:50:08.

sexuality shows that to some extent, it's an issue in someone's head. If

:50:09.:50:11.

it was mentioned briefly in an interview or something, that would

:50:12.:50:15.

be more understandable. Why was it necessary to make these remarks?

:50:16.:50:21.

Look, no-one would come out and say, I've got something to tell you, I'm

:50:22.:50:26.

straight. There is still an issue. It is fantastic that Tom has done

:50:27.:50:30.

this. The public reaction has been fantastic. If you take football,

:50:31.:50:34.

there isn't a single professional footballer in this country who is

:50:35.:50:39.

out as gay or bisexual. Maybe there's no professional footballers

:50:40.:50:42.

who are gay or bisexual or it might be that they are afraid of telling

:50:43.:50:46.

us they are, because they're worried about the reaction on the pitch when

:50:47.:50:50.

they're playing in matches. I think there is still an issue. We've come

:50:51.:50:56.

a long way. But there is still further to go. Until it's regarded

:50:57.:51:01.

as it doesn't matter at all. I address the gentleman there, it only

:51:02.:51:05.

made news because it's Tom Daley. I remind the audience, this is Great

:51:06.:51:09.

Britain, and orientation or disability is treated far more

:51:10.:51:13.

liberally here than other parts of the world. I agree with that, I

:51:14.:51:20.

think. It's right Tom Daley is a famous guy. He's a celebrity and

:51:21.:51:24.

successful athlete. There's bound to be a bit of attention when he says

:51:25.:51:29.

this. Butch it's a mark of -- but it's a mark of our tolerance in our

:51:30.:51:33.

society that it's been received as it has been. Rachel makes an

:51:34.:51:36.

important point, which is that there are other sports where perhaps

:51:37.:51:41.

there's not as much tolerance as there needs to be, there are very

:51:42.:51:45.

few footballers, cricketers, rugby players who've been able to make the

:51:46.:51:48.

sort of statement that Tom Daley has. It's a good example that you

:51:49.:51:53.

can make these sorts of statements, be well received by the public and I

:51:54.:51:57.

hope very much we will continue to become more tolerant as we have by

:51:58.:52:01.

supporting same-sex marriage in this country too.

:52:02.:52:06.

Which you were against, I think. Yeah. You are still? Yeah, well,

:52:07.:52:14.

it's over, it's past, it's done. The important point, when we took

:52:15.:52:20.

through the civil partnership legislation, the Labour Party did

:52:21.:52:23.

and we supported it, we talked to people at that time and said do you

:52:24.:52:27.

want same-sex marriage and they said no. Making a double issue out of it

:52:28.:52:32.

was a waste of time. One more question, that was something that

:52:33.:52:38.

David Davies preefl mentioned. -- briefly mentioned. Do you agree with

:52:39.:52:42.

Boris that greed is good. This was the speech, the Margaret Thatcher

:52:43.:52:46.

lecture, that Boris Johnson made, it goes to the heart of the economy and

:52:47.:52:50.

indeed of education, we've been talking about. This is the quote,

:52:51.:52:55.

"Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and

:52:56.:53:00.

keeping up with the joneses, that is like greed, a valuable spur to

:53:01.:53:08.

economic activity." True or false? Neither true nor false. It's another

:53:09.:53:12.

example of us being rather dim and handing Boris publicity on ape

:53:13.:53:17.

plate. -- a plate. APPLAUSE

:53:18.:53:21.

He says something kind of arguably controversial and he gets thousands

:53:22.:53:26.

of column inches. He then comes back and said, well, actually, if you

:53:27.:53:29.

read my speech, I didn't quite say that. He said exactly what I quoted.

:53:30.:53:34.

If you put it in context, it was rather different. I read the speech

:53:35.:53:37.

in full. He said that and he said other things, which he then puts in

:53:38.:53:43.

the Scotsman or Scotland or Sunday and gets more column inches. In some

:53:44.:53:47.

ways, we all have a good time, he goes on your programme. Can you

:53:48.:53:51.

address the issue. Is it true or false what he said that inequality,

:53:52.:53:59.

envy, keeping up with the joneses and greed is a spur to activity.

:54:00.:54:06.

Ah... LAUGHTER

:54:07.:54:08.

Delete the valuable and in some cases, I have no doubt that greed is

:54:09.:54:14.

a spur to economic activity. I have no doubt. Whether it's a valuable

:54:15.:54:18.

spur, I would have much bigger cause to doubt.

:54:19.:54:24.

In fact I think it's not valuable. Anybody who says greed wasn't a spur

:54:25.:54:27.

to some forms of economic activity would be mad. Boris used to work on

:54:28.:54:33.

my team when I was Shadow Home Secretary, which is why I have so

:54:34.:54:40.

much grey hair. You should see his! He was an interesting handful. Mary

:54:41.:54:45.

has a point. Mary is an historian. She'd think of Henry Ford, Edison,

:54:46.:54:55.

Vand erbilt, who made the great Industrial Revolution. They did it

:54:56.:54:57.

because they wanted to make a fortune and they did. The point that

:54:58.:55:04.

Boris is making is this is a driver. It actually makes economies run. It

:55:05.:55:09.

makes companies grow bigger. It makes people create wealth for

:55:10.:55:12.

everybody, not just themselves. But what he also said, I have to do it

:55:13.:55:17.

from memory, but something like, I hope that Gordon Gekkos of the City

:55:18.:55:22.

of tomorrow will give back and create more. He made the point, of

:55:23.:55:26.

course he recognised that there were a problem with unfettered greed

:55:27.:55:32.

doing things that aren't necessarily socially useful. He also made the

:55:33.:55:36.

point that it's necessary for people who are at the top of society to

:55:37.:55:40.

give a lot back. That was really the point of the whole speech.

:55:41.:55:45.

Boris clumsily put, which is ridiculous of a man of his level of

:55:46.:55:50.

education, though he didn't do very well in the IQ test - but there is

:55:51.:55:55.

nothing wrong with keeping up with the Joneses. The audience has

:55:56.:55:59.

brought it round in full circle. As we talked about competition at the

:56:00.:56:03.

start, the young lady back there, an the gentleman over there, you've

:56:04.:56:05.

expressed how important it is. That is why, as a when you have children,

:56:06.:56:09.

you want your children to do better than you. That's what it's all

:56:10.:56:15.

about. That drives it. That is wholesome and correct. Well, you

:56:16.:56:19.

talk about what you want for your children. You want them to be

:56:20.:56:23.

successful, happy, but I don't want my children to be greedy. I don't

:56:24.:56:28.

think greed is a virtue. It is a vice. Take what he said on the

:56:29.:56:36.

whole. The question was about greed being good. I don't think greed is

:56:37.:56:41.

good. Wanting to do well to create wealth and to create new things, of

:56:42.:56:46.

course that is. You mention people like Henry Ford. If you look at some

:56:47.:56:51.

of the most successful business people, Gates, Ford or Carnegie,

:56:52.:56:57.

they were successful in business, but they gave a huge amount back.

:56:58.:57:00.

They weren't greedy. They were successful, but they cared about the

:57:01.:57:07.

places where they worked. ? . -- worked. Common sense is important

:57:08.:57:12.

too, as perhaps Boris has learned this time. You are an optimist! I

:57:13.:57:20.

am. Yes, I am. But what was so wrong about what Boris seemed to be saying

:57:21.:57:23.

was that there's a group of people in our population who should be kept

:57:24.:57:26.

down and some people are always going to succeed. He did not say

:57:27.:57:32.

that. I want a stronger conmy in a fairer society -- economy in a

:57:33.:57:36.

fairer society. You want people to have the opportunity. Everyone will

:57:37.:57:40.

succeed to different levels because of their ability, effort,

:57:41.:57:44.

application. But you want a society where everyone has the chance to get

:57:45.:57:48.

on. That's what we should be and are working to achieve. What's been a

:57:49.:57:52.

somewhat gloomy programme, as a country we have brilliant people,

:57:53.:57:55.

institutions, brilliant businesses. I believe we can succeed in that

:57:56.:57:59.

way. I'm sorry, we've got to stop there. Our time's up. We're in

:58:00.:58:04.

Swansea next week. We have Eric Pickles for the Tories and the First

:58:05.:58:09.

Minister for Wales. For Labour, we're off the air while Parliament

:58:10.:58:15.

takes a break. We are in Lewisham in January to take part in those

:58:16.:58:19.

programmes, Swansea or Lewisham, go to our website. Or call: If you're

:58:20.:58:28.

listening on Radio 5 Live, the debate goes on. Our thanks to our

:58:29.:58:35.

panel here, to all of you who came here, good night.

:58:36.:58:38.

David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from east London. On the panel are chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander, Labour's shadow secretary for work and pensions Rachel Reeves, former shadow home secretary David Davis, professor of classics at Cambridge University Dr Mary Beard and Nick Ferrari, LBC radio presenter.


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