20/02/2014 Question Time


20/02/2014

David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from Swindon, with a panel including author Jeanette Winterson and philosopher Roger Scruton.


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Transcript


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welcome to Question Time. As ever, welcome to you at home, to

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our audience who will be putting the questions, and to our panel, who do

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not know the questions until they hear them. The Conservative Defence

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Secretary, Philip Hammond, Labour's shadow health minister, Liz

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Kendall, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy,

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philosopher and writer Roger Scruton, and the author of many

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novels, Jeanette Winterson. Excellent. Sandra Seldon has the

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first question. Do Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms represent a

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moral mission? This is in the light of the Archbishop Nichols of the

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Roman Catholic Church saying they were a disgrace, the Church of

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England today saying there was a moral imperative to act, and the

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Prime Minister, rebutting all of this, saying the Tories are on a

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social and moral mission. Charles Kennedy. First things first, I have

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been a critic of some of these welfare reforms the coalition has

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brought forward. I have spoken against some and voted against some

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in the House of Commons. So I am perhaps not the best proponent of

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the argument. But going to the nub of the question, the moral

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dimensional, I think it is very appropriate that the clergy speak

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out on social issues which have a moral dimensional. I think they have

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every right to. They have done so under successive governments. It is

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the mark of a smaller liberal democracy that they should do so

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whenever any combination of parties is in power. Secondly, I think if

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you look at the letter published today in the Daily Mirror from

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church leaders, I listened to an interview this afternoon on my

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travel getting here today, with the Bishop of Manchester. He was making

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the point that quite a lot of the government's aims they were not

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disagreeing with, but they were pointing out gross deficiencies in

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the welfare system. Leave aside the specific changes the government is

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making. You can be critical aspects of those, against them and so on,

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but the endemic problems within the benefit system, of people changing

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from one category to another, getting wrongly assessed,

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encountering delays, having to go to food banks even if they were in

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employment, because there were gaps in their benefit payments, or the

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sustainability of their income. These are all things that needed to

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be looked at. Did you agree that half a million people in this

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country regularly go hungry? Well, I am not in a position to criticise it

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or to undermine that argument. You only need to listen to what

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nutritionists in the clinical profession are saying about two

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contradictory things. One, the prevalence of obesity in society,

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but that the other end, too many children in particular going to

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school not properly nourished. Roger Scruton. I agree that this is a

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conflict question which has been wound into politics at a time when

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everybody is looking for some kind of moral crusade to conduct. I would

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say of course this is a moral issue. It is a moral issue because people

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are suffering and people need to be supported if they have come to the

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stage when they can't support themselves. It is also a moral issue

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because a vast number of people feel that the benefit system is being

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exploited by those who are using it for their own benefit and not taking

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responsibility for their own lives. That is a moral question, to, the

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extent to which individual citizens ought to be responsible for their

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own lives. And I think all the reforms, as I understand them, have

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been brought about because there is widespread discontent with this fact

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that the benefits system creates a culture of dependence, where people

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come to it wanting and needing it, of course, because that is the way

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it has turned out for them, but nevertheless not accepting that it

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is their responsibility to do something about it.

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Sandra, what did you make of what the Archbishop and the bishops of

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the Church of England said? My view is that I feel there is a moral

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mission in regard to benefit fraudsters, who we all want to see

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sorted. But unfortunately they only represent a small percentage of

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people who desperately need welfare support and might be in a great deal

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of hardship as a result of these reforms, so I agree with the

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Archbishop. When the Prime Minister says he is on a social and moral

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mission with welfare reforms, do you agree? That is what I mean, it is

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only in the sense that it is targeting a few, rather the majority

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who need welfare support. -- rather than the majority.

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I think the benefit fraud is a smoke screen which hides the impact on

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people with autism and other disabilities. I spend a lot of my

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day job hearing from parents and adults with autism and other

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disabilities and hearing about the impact that the assessment of

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benefits through and trained assessors is having on their lives,

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and depriving them of the basic support that they need to live their

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life, which can be washing, shopping, going out and trying to

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get a job. I really do think that some of the rhetoric in the media

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around benefits and benefit fraud is hiding that impact.

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Philip Hammond, would you like to answer his point? Firstly, I don't

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think many people would have an issue with the need to clamp down on

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benefit fraud. But equally, benefit fraud is a relatively limited

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problem. The moral mission David Cameron was referring to is a much

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broader one. It is about getting away from a system that for many

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years, under governments of all colours, has simply dumped people on

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welfare for the long-term, has not helped them to help themselves, has

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not recognised that the only really sustainable way the people to get

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out of poverty and to stay out of poverty is to help them into work,

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if they are able to work. And the mission we have set ourselves is to

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make sure that the welfare system supports those who cannot work,

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because it is morally right that we should, but for those who can work,

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we help them with the right incentives, the right skills, to get

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back into work. And it is not just about welfare reform. It is about

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immigration reform. It is about creating jobs in society so that the

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jobs are there for people. It is about reforming our educational

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system, so that people have the skills that will allow them to learn

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a pay packet, and that in turn gives them the security and the peace of

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mind that families need. Are you made uneasy when you have ahead of

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the Roman Catholic Church saying the welfare are punitive and a disgrace,

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the Archbishop of Canterbury welfare are punitive and a disgrace,

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that government policy means children and families pay the price

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for high inflation, rather than the government? Are you uneasy at the

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moral issue, the moral charge being laid against you, the charge of

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immorality? Like Charlie Kennedy, I think it is perfectly acceptable for

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churchmen to engage in this kind of debate. It is an ethical issue and

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they have a right to engage in the debate. I don't very much like the

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choice of language. When I looked at Archbishop Nichols' article, there

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were quite a number of things in it which I could agree with. What I

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don't, of course, except is the implication that there is in

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morality in the motive. We are trying to do what is right. We are

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trying to help people to be able to help themselves, get them to ring

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gauge with work, get them to acquire the skills that they will need. --

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get them to engage with work. Do the things that most of us take for

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granted, hold down a job, support our families, bring home a pay

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packet. The woman in the fifth row down. When the welfare system was

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first set up, it was supposed to be a safety net for those who had

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fallen on hard times. I think what we are seeing right here, right now

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is not a new problem. This is something that has been growing and

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building steadily for the last 20, possibly even 30 years, which is why

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right here, right now, the enormity of the problem is just so big. Are

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you sympathetic to what Ian Duncan and the Prime Minister are trying to

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do? I am sympathetic. We absolutely need to ensure that we care for the

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vulnerable people, disabled people in society, the people who are just

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not in a position to help themselves for one reason or another. But I

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think for too long there are people who have been exploiting the system.

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The man up there. A banker, a Daily Mail reader and a single mum on

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benefits sat down to have a packet of a dozen biscuits. The banker took

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11 biscuits and whispered to the Daily Mail reader, watch out for

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her, she is trying to Nick your biscuits. It has always been the

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case, throughout history, that the rich and powerful turn to the people

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who work and make them turn against the people who can't work. This is

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exactly what is happening now. Jeanette Winterson. Do you agree.

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Yes. There are all kinds of benefit fraud. Three more people have been

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indicted for rigging the LIBOR rate. Google and Amazon fine perfectly

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legal loopholes so they don't have to pay the taxes that they should

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pay. -- they find legal loopholes. We just sold Royal Mail at a huge

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loss to the taxpayer. That money could have gone on welfare benefits,

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to a lot of good causes. Instead, it went to make rich people richer.

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That is not a good system. The postmen did not. I asked my post man

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if he was going to buy shares and he said he could not afford them and

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the bank would not lend him money. People who ran the post offices were

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not even offered shares. It is rubbish to say the postmen have got

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rich cause of the Royal Mail sell-off. They have not. Everybody

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who worked for the Royal Mail got shares. And they did not get rich.

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You know where the money went. Do you know where it went? I want to

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continue. The moral issue is, if you read the Bible, I do not see any

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sign of Jesus advocating tax breaks for the rich. I see him feeding the

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5000, going to the rich man and saying, give away everything to the

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poor if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, sitting with

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prostitutes. There are many right-wing so-called Christians who

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believe somehow that the poor are responsible for all of their own

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problems and nobody needs to do anything. I have one more thing to

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say which is this. If we create a society where people can have work,

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dignified work, where they can hold up their head, earn a living wage to

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support themselves and their families, that is a different thing.

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You can work 60 hours a week on the minimum wage and not be able to

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support your family. So all of this rhetoric about get out there and get

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a job, even if you get a job you are still going to get into debt, you

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can't afford a house, can't support your family. David Cameron has never

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been hungry in his life and does not know anybody who has ever been

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hungry. He is not fit to be prime minister. Liz Kendall. Do you agree?

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I think having a job and earning a decent wage gives people a sense of

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dignity for having the self-reliance that they can look after themselves

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and their families. And I think it is a mark of a moral society that we

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look after the people who cannot support themselves. The problem is

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that what the government is doing is not working. We have a work

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programme that in many places is worse than having nothing at all.

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And we are having people who are severely sick and disabled, whose

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partners all loved ones are looking after them but need to sleep in a

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separate bedroom, who are being made to pay the bedroom tax. I think

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people are asking, if it is not really helping people get work and

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earn a decent wage, and if the government is also penalising some

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of the poorest and most vulnerable, they don't think that is fair. And I

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think it is right that the bishops have spoken about that. We want a

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system where people have strong incentives and support to work, but

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that is not happening. And we need a proper safety net for those who

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can't, and that is not happening either. When I see in my

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constituency 200 tonnes of food each year going out through food banks,

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people are not going to food banks because it is easier than popping to

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Tesco or Sainsbury is. Rachel Reeves. It is Liz Kendall, not

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Rachel Reeves. Are you flattered by the comparison? Most flattered. I do

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not think people are going to food banks because it is easier than

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popping to the supermarket, they are going because they are desperate and

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we need to address that. Can you remind the audience how many

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of our welfare reforms the Labour Party has supported? Labour wants to

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avoid the difficult decisions. No, we don't. How much have you

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supported? Have you supported the cap on benefits that stops people on

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benefits being able to earn more than a family in work? We think the

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way you have done it, hasn't worked. Have you supported the cap on

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housing benefit. We wanted a compulsory job scheme where people

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are offered work -- How long is it funded for? You scrapped our Future

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Jobs Fund, which was far more successful than your work programme.

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Your programme is funded for one year. Rachel Reeves has admitted as

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much. Is All benefits would benefit from comparative judgments. With

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what country are we comparing ours when we make these great decisions?

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Everywhere that I've read about, including America, France, Germany

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as well, has had this problem about the welfare system and the claimants

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of the people claiming benefit and how to rectify the all the political

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imbalances and the resentments that come from this. It's not as though

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we were facing this alone. The policies that the Government are

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proposing have their parallel elsewhere in Europe and elsewhere in

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the world. In what way is our country supposed to be doing

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something morally despicable? Is it perhaps everybody is in this

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position? Is Hang on a second. Let me bring in members of the audience.

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I will come back to the panel. One of the major problems we have got is

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not how much people get, it's how they spend it. One of the most

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immoral things we have ever done in this country is the relaxation of

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all the gambling laws. So many people who are poor find gambling so

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attractive. All right. You sir, over here on the right. Can we get back

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to the question. Get back to it, yes. The clergy have commented that

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the well fair safety net is shredded. The Mr Cameron, his

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policies, he's got every faith in them surely the question is one of

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timing. The policies that Mr Cameron has advocated and they may work, or

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may not, their medium and long-term policies. They are already working.

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We are seeing people - Excuse me, I'm speaking. The clergy are talking

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about a situation here and now. The clergy... We get the point.

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Recognise... Charles Kennedy. People cannot live on hope as Mr Cameron

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has said. OK, Charles Kennedy. I couldn't help but smile actually,

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the gentleman at the front who mentioned gamble. Harry Macmillan,

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when he was Chancellor or Prime Minister, he introduced premium

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bonds. The Archbishop of Canterbury of the day condemned them for the

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institutionalisation of gambling. His answer was, unlike His Grace the

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Archbishop I don't think it's my job to (inaudible (is (politicians

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should tread with infinite care. I appreciate that David Cameron has

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been pulled onto the moral argument in response to what has been said

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this week. I do think that Macmillan had a point, that morality is better

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perhaps in the pulpit than in party politics. In that sense. It's not

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right. Do we want to be to be a moral people or not? Is I don't

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think you want moral lectures from people like the three of us in that

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sense. It's not about lectures. What kind of people do we want to be.

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That is a different thing. Britain over took Germany for the many

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market for Ferraris. We are rich. We can afford to look after our people.

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You can't hive off the moral argument saying it's for church, not

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for politicians. You sir. I think with this issues like this people

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tend to talk about the benefit fraudsters and the poor suffering

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people that do deserve benefits. The problem in the middle that is the

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biggest problem because a lot of people that are scrounging off

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benefits, within the eyes of the law, are more than deserving of it.

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Because the system doesn't dictate who properly who should have it and

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who shouldn't. I think that's the biggest problem we need to tackle.

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You have raised a really important point, which is that more than

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two-thirds of people living in poverty now are actually in work.

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And the problem is that our economy has too long relied on low skill,

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low paid jobs. We haven't taken the long-term decisions we need to

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invest in skills, technology and our infrastructure. Actually, we need to

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shift our mind set here. We are never going to succeed in our

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families or communities or as a country if we try and fight a race

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to the bottom. Actually, it is that issue of people who are in work, but

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on low pay, and aren't able to get the skills and the jobs they need to

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really build a better life. We have got to shift our economy. You

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describe it, what are you going to do? Is I will tell you. The The

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description is accepted? Sort out on the problems of housing, we need

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more social and affordable housing so people can get on the housing

2:40:052:40:04

ladder. Transform skills so that we have the skills for the future.

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Thirdly, I'd like to see a new system of regional banks that

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support different parts of the country so we are not perhaps so

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dominated by London and the south-east. That would make a

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difference. People within the eyes of the law are deserving of these

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benefits, morally they are not. It's costing the system how many billions

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of pounds a year when that money should be going somewhere else. It's

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not the raw sters, in the legal sense of the world, that is the

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problem. I doubt there is that many in comparison, as Phillip touched

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on. What do you mean people who deserve it's morally wrong they take

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it? The way the system is dictated at the moment, a lot of people are

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claiming benefits legally that from a moral point of view, to most

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people's standards shouldn't be deserving of it Why? They are not

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disabled, no problem with their skills. They could be in work. They

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should be in work, they, for whatever reason, choose not to be.

2:40:052:40:04

Isn't that our obligation to create a system where the incentives point

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people strongly towards work? I agree with Rachel. Yes! There is no

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future for Britain as a low wage economy. We need to be a high skill,

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high wage, high productivity economy. We need to point people

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towards work. We need to give them the skills to be able to earn. The

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so that they can deliver the security that the their families

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need. What will you do about the minimum wage that doesn't pay his

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bills? Shall I pin this! One more point from the man at the

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back there. I agree with Rachel as well! I think the chap with his pact

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of biscuits is quite frankly crackers. This is all... This is not

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about bankers, trying to get people into work. I don't think we should

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apologise for having a debate about that. Being on benefits is no fun.

2:40:052:40:04

It's extremely difficult. But, you know, it's detrimental to people's

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long-term physical and mental health as well as their wallets. The

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government's efforts to take people out of tax at a low level are to be

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welcomed. This is about getting people into jobs because it's

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long-term in their best interests. In society's best interests. A topic

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I know we will come back to in the following... In successive weeks. If

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you want to join in the debate you can, Twitter. You can follow us at

2:40:052:40:04

BBC Question Time. If you are texting our number is: 83981. The

2:40:052:40:04

red Tton will tell you what people are saying. A question now from

2:40:052:40:04

Philip Webb. In view of the recent events, why are we still planning to

2:40:052:40:04

build on floodplains in Swindon and elsewhere? Are you building on

2:40:052:40:04

floodplains in Swindon? There is planning permission gone out. , the

2:40:052:40:04

area has been flooded for donkey years, everybody knows about it.

2:40:052:40:04

It's still going ahead. Do you know why it's happening? I have no idea.

2:40:052:40:04

They keep saying about the farmers not doing the drains and everything

2:40:052:40:04

else. You need to go down the roads around here locally and you will see

2:40:052:40:04

they are flood ared even though the farmers dig them out all the time.

2:40:052:40:04

Let us not talk about, we talked about the floods last week. Let us

2:40:052:40:04

talk about the planning, the building planning on floodplains.

2:40:052:40:04

Roger Scruton, you are a countryman and follow country events. What is

2:40:052:40:04

your view about the planning decisions? Is Well, there are two

2:40:052:40:04

enormous problems that we confront, one is that obviously the British

2:40:052:40:04

weather, the English weather in particular. Which has always been

2:40:052:40:04

unpredictable, suddenly this year become much worse than normal.

2:40:052:40:04

That's not something you can plan for. Secondly, our country is over

2:40:052:40:04

populated. England in particular. We have to build somewhere to

2:40:052:40:04

accommodate the people. Without a long-term policy about population

2:40:052:40:04

and demographics there will be no answer to this. People are going to

2:40:052:40:04

have to build on the territory adjacent to towns. Some of that

2:40:052:40:04

territory is going to be in a floodplain. I think it's not the

2:40:052:40:04

planners that are responsible for the problems. They do their best to

2:40:052:40:04

avoid that, they still have to answer to the nation's need for new

2:40:052:40:04

homes. OK. The Phillip Hammond, you are taken your boots off to come in

2:40:052:40:04

here tonight. You seem to have been everywhere over the last fortnight.

2:40:052:40:04

I thought you had given up being Secretary of State for Defence and

2:40:052:40:04

become Secretary of State for Floods? No Secretary of State for

2:40:052:40:04

Defence and defence has been glad it has played a constructive role in

2:40:052:40:04

responding to the crisis. The problem we have got, we are -

2:40:052:40:04

southern England is a a low-lying bit of the country. 13% of England

2:40:052:40:04

is floodplain. Unfortunately, the floodplains are often the places

2:40:052:40:04

where economic activity is happening, for historical reasons,

2:40:052:40:04

much of London is a floodplain. I don't think it's practical to say,

2:40:052:40:04

no building at all in floodplains. Clearly, we must avoid building in

2:40:052:40:04

the highest flood risk areas. Where we do allow any building in

2:40:052:40:04

floodplains we have to make sure that building is a-- accompanied by

2:40:052:40:04

investment in flood eleavation and protection schemes so that, if you

2:40:052:40:04

take a floodplain, like the Thames Valley, my constituency, significant

2:40:052:40:04

part of which was flooded over the last 10 days, there are parts, new

2:40:052:40:04

developments that haven't flooded at all because they had been well

2:40:052:40:04

constructed with proper defences. Other relatively new developments

2:40:052:40:04

that have gone under at the first signs of the Thames over topping its

2:40:052:40:04

banks. We have to get the balance right. We can, I think, build some

2:40:052:40:04

development in floodplains, but we have to do it properly. We musn't

2:40:052:40:04

scrimp. You, sir, up there. Every year we seem to be hearing about

2:40:052:40:04

another year of floods. 2007, 2010 and now. Surely, we need a long-term

2:40:052:40:04

plan to deal with these floods they are becoming more and more common.

2:40:052:40:04

We have one. Ha what are we going to do about it? What is your long-term

2:40:052:40:04

plan? For the first time we have set out a five-year forward plan for

2:40:052:40:04

flood defence investment. The Environment Agency can start

2:40:052:40:04

planning. We have invested - You are not going to stop flooding? We are

2:40:052:40:04

making great progress. Everybody has focussed over the last couple of

2:40:052:40:04

weeks, rightly, on the properties that have flooded. For any person

2:40:052:40:04

whose property floods, that is a tragedy. We should also remember

2:40:052:40:04

that 1.3 million homes in this country are protected by flood

2:40:052:40:04

defences. In 2 #0 7 we had floods, 55,000 homes flooded. In 2013/14,

2:40:052:40:04

this flooding event, we have had 6,500 homes flooded because we have,

2:40:052:40:04

under both this Government and the previous government, invested in

2:40:052:40:04

flood defences. The situation is getting better. The woman at the

2:40:052:40:04

back there, the second row. Going back to the first question on

2:40:052:40:04

building on floodplains. Yes. I wonder why we are allowing people to

2:40:052:40:04

legislate greenfield sites. Due to the economic downturn we have any

2:40:052:40:04

number of unused brownfield sites that are unused. We know these sites

2:40:052:40:04

are useable and relatively safe for buildings, why aren't we developing

2:40:052:40:04

these rather than building on sites used for agriculture and other

2:40:052:40:04

enterprises? Is Who wants to take that one on? Is

2:40:052:40:04

I think it is a good point and the right point that we do not use

2:40:052:40:04

Brownfield sites sufficiently well, or make in the city is more

2:40:052:40:04

attractive. There are plenty of places we could think about

2:40:052:40:04

imaginatively for housing, not the obvious Greenfields targets. Flood

2:40:052:40:04

plains are a problem. It is no good saying it is getting wetter and 13%

2:40:052:40:04

of England is flood plains. With respect, James Lovelock was saying

2:40:052:40:04

in the 1970s that the result of climate change for the UK would be

2:40:052:40:04

that we would get wetter and wetter. That was in the mid-1970s, James

2:40:052:40:04

Lovelock stood up and said, this is what climate change will mean for

2:40:052:40:04

the UK. He has been proved right. Everybody laughed at him. Climate

2:40:052:40:04

change is real. Nobody has mentioned it yet, but it is real and we are in

2:40:052:40:04

it. There are things we are going to have to do as a country, and looking

2:40:052:40:04

larger, for global action, otherwise we will not have a planet to live

2:40:052:40:04

on, never mind flood plains and Brownfield sites. We will

2:40:052:40:04

destabilise so much of our fragile planet that we will cause real

2:40:052:40:04

catastrophes. But we still have to build houses in Britain. What do you

2:40:052:40:04

think? We are talking a lot about expensive flood defence schemes. Why

2:40:052:40:04

aren't we going back to the basic geography of maintaining flood

2:40:052:40:04

plains and keeping with the channels as they used to be? There were

2:40:052:40:04

photographs of the press this week of river channels taken in the 1960s

2:40:052:40:04

this wide. And this year, they just don't have the capacity. This is

2:40:052:40:04

fundamental, O-level geography. Is it as simple as that, Charles

2:40:052:40:04

Kennedy? I don't know, Jonathan. The lady is making a very serious

2:40:052:40:04

point, because whatever government is in power there will be more

2:40:052:40:04

pressure for housing for all of the very good reasons outlined earlier.

2:40:052:40:04

I have not seen the figures in England lately, but last time I was

2:40:052:40:04

looking at them, they are astonishing. If you look at the

2:40:052:40:04

numbers, the total numbers for England and Wales, these figures

2:40:052:40:04

were, those categorised as homeless, and then you look at the

2:40:052:40:04

number of empty properties that are not being utilised, particularly on

2:40:052:40:04

old-fashioned high streets, above the shops. Back in the day, the

2:40:052:40:04

shopkeeper lived over the premises. That has gone. You have all sorts of

2:40:052:40:04

social problems that have come. The police will tell you, you can have

2:40:052:40:04

CCTV and this and that, the best security that you can have in a

2:40:052:40:04

township setup is actually having people living in the middle of the

2:40:052:40:04

place. APPLAUSE

2:40:052:40:04

You address a lot of social problems, from homelessness to

2:40:052:40:04

disorder in the streets, but you also begin to cut into the

2:40:052:40:04

relentless erosion, if you will pardon the pun, of natural land,

2:40:052:40:04

which we are building and building on and yet it is finite and we can't

2:40:052:40:04

cope with the capacity that we have got. Thank you, Nigel! That Lady's

2:40:052:40:04

point about managing the flood plains is absolutely valid.

2:40:052:40:04

However, if government and local authorities are going to continue to

2:40:052:40:04

authorise building on flood plains, they should provide the funds to

2:40:052:40:04

prevent flooding. In Germany, I think in Hamburg, they built a

2:40:052:40:04

complete business sector on a flood plain and they put their defences in

2:40:052:40:04

place and it has never ever been flooded. If we are going to still

2:40:052:40:04

keep building on flood plains we should be prepared to spend the

2:40:052:40:04

money to stop the houses and other properties flooding. Liz Kennedy. I

2:40:052:40:04

wanted to come back to the point that the gentleman in the check

2:40:052:40:04

shirt made about we have to have a long-term plan for this. Certainly,

2:40:052:40:04

I think the government's climate change committee has said the

2:40:052:40:04

investment in the flood defences is about half a million down on what it

2:40:052:40:04

should be, and if it was in place we would make sure that we would not

2:40:052:40:04

end up spending up to about ?3 billion in terms of the cost of

2:40:052:40:04

failure. This comes back to a point we have been talking about before,

2:40:052:40:04

which is to shift our thinking to the longer term. I do agree with

2:40:052:40:04

your initial point, which is that it does not make sense to people to

2:40:052:40:04

build a huge numbers of houses on areas that are really at risk,

2:40:052:40:04

because then you will have to spend even more on the defences. So we

2:40:052:40:04

need a balance, and we also need to critically start waking up to the

2:40:052:40:04

bigger, longer issue of climate change. We know the world is getting

2:40:052:40:04

warmer and that is creating more moisture. It means when stormy

2:40:052:40:04

conditions happen, it makes rain more intense. That is a medium to

2:40:052:40:04

long-term issue that we have to face up to. We can do a lot in this

2:40:052:40:04

country but we have to work with others. It is the long-term approach

2:40:052:40:04

that I think we really need. Another question from Claire Evans. Does the

2:40:052:40:04

yobbery of MPs during a minister 's questions give the best impression

2:40:052:40:04

of the political elite? -- juror in Prime Minister's Questions? This was

2:40:052:40:04

said by the speaker, that they behave like yobs and upper toffs and

2:40:052:40:04

all sorts of other things and were giving themselves a bad name. No, it

2:40:052:40:04

doesn't give us a good name. I think Prime Minister's Questions, the

2:40:052:40:04

behaviour there is unprofessional, it is childish, it is at times

2:40:052:40:04

nasty. We are at work. This is our workplace. You would not tolerate

2:40:052:40:04

that behaviour in a classroom, let alone a boardroom. Are you saying

2:40:052:40:04

you are whiter than white and you never shout out? OK, twice I have,

2:40:052:40:04

if not shouted, loudly projected about two things I felt strongly

2:40:052:40:04

about but I did not feel good afterwards. I thought if my

2:40:052:40:04

constituents had seen me, let alone my mother, my life would not be

2:40:052:40:04

worth living. So I think Prime Minister's Questions needs to

2:40:052:40:04

change. I think it can change. I think we can change the culture if

2:40:052:40:04

party leaders and party whips to side that is what they want to see

2:40:052:40:04

happening. This is a personal view, but I would like to see real changes

2:40:052:40:04

to PMQs. I think if we went back to two sessions a week, and made one

2:40:052:40:04

about perhaps a specific topic, so you can have much more in-depth

2:40:052:40:04

questioning, or you made one more like a kind of select committee

2:40:052:40:04

session, where groups of MPs, small groups in rotation could question

2:40:052:40:04

the Prime Minister, having a meaningful discussion, rather than -

2:40:052:40:04

this is our window on the world. If, like me, you believe in the power of

2:40:052:40:04

politics and democracy, potentially, to change the world for

2:40:052:40:04

good, and this is our window on the world, it is not a good

2:40:052:40:04

advertisement. Charles Kennedy, you have been there longer than anybody

2:40:052:40:04

on the panel and you know that half a million people in this country

2:40:052:40:04

watch it and people in the knighted States watch it for the political

2:40:052:40:04

excitement. Do you think it should change? -- people in the united

2:40:052:40:04

states. The Americans love it because they have no equivalent.

2:40:052:40:04

Imagine if George Bush had had to do Question Time. He would never have

2:40:052:40:04

got a second term. It has its advantages. There was a

2:40:052:40:04

distinguished parliamentary commentator years ago called Norman

2:40:052:40:04

shrapnel. He once wrote that too much silence is much more ominous

2:40:052:40:04

than too much noise in a parliamentary democracy. I am not a

2:40:052:40:04

fan of Prime Minister's Questions. I used to have to ask two questions

2:40:052:40:04

once a week for the seven years I was party leader, getting shouted at

2:40:052:40:04

by both sides. Perhaps not both colleagues here, but their

2:40:052:40:04

equivalent in days gone by. I do not think it is a good advert, but it is

2:40:052:40:04

not also a typical representation of Parliament at work. And I find, for

2:40:052:40:04

example, as a political consumer, I like when the Prime Minister goes a

2:40:052:40:04

couple of times again in front of a committee for a couple of hours

2:40:052:40:04

chaired by all of the select committee chairs, and you get

2:40:052:40:04

meaningful exchange. If you want a bit of entertainment, Prime

2:40:052:40:04

Minister's Questions is your slot. But our job is not to entertain, is

2:40:052:40:04

it? There is an element of entertainment about politics. There

2:40:052:40:04

is an element of showbiz about politics. Privatise it with Simon

2:40:052:40:04

Cowell then, if you want to be entertaining. Sometimes, if you want

2:40:052:40:04

to make a point that gets through to people, it can be a very lethal

2:40:052:40:04

weapon in politics. APPLAUSE

2:40:052:40:04

The lady with the blue scarf. I think the downside is particularly

2:40:052:40:04

for women. Many women are turned off politics. They do not like the

2:40:052:40:04

adversarial way they are picked on and spoken to. Although you have

2:40:052:40:04

been very brave about speaking up, I think shouting out, shouting over

2:40:052:40:04

men and taking part in that is very bad for women. Do you think Margaret

2:40:052:40:04

Thatcher didn't enjoy it? I do not think she epitomises all women in

2:40:052:40:04

politics. I think you are right, if we could get more women into

2:40:052:40:04

politics the culture would change naturally. Even in the best

2:40:052:40:04

situation is commie go into a bar with four guys, it is very different

2:40:052:40:04

than if there are ladies present, or if it is just women. We do not have

2:40:052:40:04

enough women in politics and we need to encourage women to get more

2:40:052:40:04

involved. I hope that will happen. The Tories have no commitment to

2:40:052:40:04

getting women into politics. Labour does seem to. You have dropped your

2:40:052:40:04

all women short lists. They never had any. I would like to see women

2:40:052:40:04

change the culture naturally by our presence. In the judiciary, only 18%

2:40:052:40:04

of women are QCs. There are not 30% of women in boardrooms. Women are

2:40:052:40:04

underrepresented everywhere in public life. Then we will see the

2:40:052:40:04

change without having to legislate. I was going to pick up the point

2:40:052:40:04

about all women short lists. I don't think that is the way forward. You

2:40:052:40:04

man, so you wouldn't. There are very good women in Parliament already and

2:40:052:40:04

they got there on merit and that is the way it should be going forward.

2:40:052:40:04

It doesn't work like that. If you take that argument, here is the

2:40:052:40:04

problem, if you take that argument, you are saying if women succeed,

2:40:052:40:04

that means all women can succeed and the fact that there are not more

2:40:052:40:04

means that women are just not very good at succeeding. Or you can look

2:40:052:40:04

at society and say maybe there are social issues here, which is why

2:40:052:40:04

women are not yet represented properly according to the population

2:40:052:40:04

statistics in those echelons of power. That is what I'm talking

2:40:052:40:04

about. Women very much have the ability to break through those

2:40:052:40:04

barriers. It was only because Labour had all women short lists that we

2:40:052:40:04

actually got the" in the number of women in Parliament. You are all

2:40:052:40:04

making the assumption that women would not shout. Roger Scruton, do

2:40:052:40:04

you think women would not shout? There is the assumption, absolutely,

2:40:052:40:04

that somehow manners are going to be better. It is not that, Roger. This

2:40:052:40:04

is what Liz was implying, at least. Of course, on a panel like this you

2:40:052:40:04

are on your best behaviour and you do seem to be a very acceptable

2:40:052:40:04

voice for your sex. I don't know what you're going to be like when in

2:40:052:40:04

that situation you are confronted with somebody who really opposes you

2:40:052:40:04

and hates the things you are saying and thinking. If you have knocked on

2:40:052:40:04

doors and campaigned, you will find people who tell you exactly what

2:40:052:40:04

they think about you. I have done that, yes. Nevertheless, isn't the

2:40:052:40:04

problem not the yobbery of members of parliament, but the bad judgement

2:40:052:40:04

of the people who vote for them? Controversial! The speaker goes on

2:40:052:40:04

about yobbery, but it is half an hour once a week. As everybody else

2:40:052:40:04

says, that is not what goes on in the House of Commons the rest of the

2:40:052:40:04

time. It is the only thing that really gets on television. That is

2:40:052:40:04

the problem. That is what people see. That is the conundrum. Of

2:40:052:40:04

course, very worthy work goes on in parliament and committees are

2:40:052:40:04

televised, but people watch PMQs. We need to engage the public. In a

2:40:052:40:04

democracy, we need the public to be interested in what is going on in

2:40:052:40:04

Parliament. We all believe that it would be great if the public watched

2:40:052:40:04

our very dignified proceedings in committee, but they are interested

2:40:052:40:04

in Prime Minister's Questions. Prime Minister's Questions is a unique

2:40:052:40:04

institution pretty much in the world. Most politicians around the

2:40:052:40:04

world that we talk to are terrified at the prospect of having to face

2:40:052:40:04

anything like that. It gives a huge amount of accountability to Prime

2:40:052:40:04

Minister of any party, who has no idea what the question is that he is

2:40:052:40:04

going to be asked. I do not agree Liz's idea about having sessions

2:40:052:40:04

where it is defined, a certain subject. The whole point about PMQs

2:40:052:40:04

is that the Prime Minister has to demonstrate that he is across the

2:40:052:40:04

whole of his brief. Why couldn't he do it without consulting the leader

2:40:052:40:04

of the Opposition week after week? APPLAUSE

2:40:052:40:04

And it is not reciprocated? Of course it is. But Cameron when he

2:40:052:40:04

came in said he was fed up with Punch and Judy politics,

2:40:052:40:04

name-calling, backbiting, point-scoring, finger-pointing. He

2:40:052:40:04

vowed to change the way we behave. That was December 2005, ten years

2:40:052:40:04

ago. What has happened? Maybe you should have a word with your leader.

2:40:052:40:04

I think we are all captured. We all go into the chamber intending to be

2:40:052:40:04

extremely well-behaved on a Wednesday. Do you feel forced by

2:40:052:40:04

peer pressure? That is not good, is it? The mood of the chamber captures

2:40:052:40:04

this. Even you, Liz, I have seen you getting excited. It was only in

2:40:052:40:04

health questions. Is part of the problem the narrow

2:40:052:40:04

field that politicians tend to be drawn from? There was something the

2:40:052:40:04

other day, released from the House of Commons, that said 57, around

2:40:052:40:04

about, just under 10%, of current MPs had family connections who had

2:40:052:40:04

been MPs in the past. That seems a mass ve skew is inbreeding and

2:40:052:40:04

nepotism the problem? OK. On that happy note let us go on to another

2:40:052:40:04

question, from Morira Brodie. The OECD reports that our best maths

2:40:052:40:04

pupils are lagging behind the poorest Chinese students. Should we

2:40:052:40:04

adopt Chinese-style teaching to raise our standards? This was the

2:40:052:40:04

latest attack on British education and in particular pointing out that

2:40:052:40:04

in maths China did unbelievable well, we did unbelievable badly.

2:40:052:40:04

Jeanette Winterson? You ought to try the test online. It's really easy.

2:40:052:40:04

If our children are so bad at maths, as bad as this test would suggest.

2:40:052:40:04

It's a very simple test, yes, we are in trouble. The test that everybody

2:40:052:40:04

had to do. Look, if I can get 90% shall anybody can. You have done it,

2:40:052:40:04

have you? Yeah, I did. It's a b pro. What do we want our children to be?

2:40:052:40:04

How do we want our children to learn? We need to have teachers that

2:40:052:40:04

we can respect, as a society, we can teach our children to respect. All

2:40:052:40:04

the systems in the world won't make a difference unless we have teachers

2:40:052:40:04

who are passionate, interested and excited in the classroom and make

2:40:052:40:04

children think - I want to learn this, this is for me. It's no good

2:40:052:40:04

sitting there and learning the drill. You look... I have been to

2:40:052:40:04

China. I don't know if many of you have, you go into some schools, you

2:40:052:40:04

don't feel they are particularly happy places to be. You don't...

2:40:052:40:04

APPLAUSE I don't want to stop you, the

2:40:052:40:04

Education Minister went to China. He said that they have "a can do

2:40:052:40:04

attitude to maths contrasting with our anti-maths culture. Unless we

2:40:052:40:04

change our philosophy and get better at maths we will suffer economic

2:40:052:40:04

decline." We won't. Just wrong? I think it is wrong. I think she is

2:40:052:40:04

right. We want children to be interested in all subjects, not just

2:40:052:40:04

maths. We can only do that through quality teaching. Only 5% of

2:40:052:40:04

teachers have maths degrees. This is something we need to change. A lot

2:40:052:40:04

of teachers are teaching maths when it's not particularly their main

2:40:052:40:04

subject, their primary subject. That is something we have to alter, of

2:40:052:40:04

course we do. I want the excitement into the classroom. That is about

2:40:052:40:04

supporting teachers and supporting schools. It's not about going to

2:40:052:40:04

look at systems and bring them back wholesale and force them here on our

2:40:052:40:04

children. We are not Chinese. We are very different. A different culture.

2:40:052:40:04

We need to really respect those differences and not try and make our

2:40:052:40:04

children be something they cannot be. This is being alarmist really,

2:40:052:40:04

you are saying? These comparisons? I think it's alarmist. Yeah. OK. In

2:40:052:40:04

the back row, yes. Having worked in an international language school,

2:40:052:40:04

particularly with Chinese students, having ConVersed with them, they

2:40:052:40:04

have said that while they value the education, they don't like the

2:40:052:40:04

manner in which it's taught. They have very long days. Very little

2:40:052:40:04

control over what they learn and which interests they follow. Many of

2:40:052:40:04

them aspire to come here to actually widen their, what they are allowed

2:40:052:40:04

to study. They view our summer schools, where they come here to

2:40:052:40:04

learn English, as a way to have a choice in what they learn and their

2:40:052:40:04

education, which our education system does allow. Do you think

2:40:052:40:04

there is a danger of being complacent about this disparity on

2:40:052:40:04

mathematics, do you think it's an irrelevancy, yourself? Yes, we need

2:40:052:40:04

to raise standards. With he know... But I think it's also we need to

2:40:052:40:04

interest people. It's not necessarily the, you know, the hard

2:40:052:40:04

line, you will study this, sit down and study this for two hours. We

2:40:052:40:04

need to interest people in the subject. OK. Rather than just ram it

2:40:052:40:04

down their throats. Roger Scruton, what did you make of the report? I

2:40:052:40:04

was not surprised by it. I agree with Jeanette Winterson's basic

2:40:052:40:04

thought, there are not enough qualified teachers in the field of

2:40:052:40:04

mathematics in our country. That's not only true of schools, it's true

2:40:052:40:04

of universities too. People do not read Matt mattics. They --

2:40:052:40:04

mathematics. They don't go for the hard subjects like that any more.

2:40:052:40:04

It's part of a culture (inaudible (is (. People go to university, many

2:40:052:40:04

people in order to relax for a few years. You know... They are ng up

2:40:052:40:04

huge debts who is going to relax when they have ?50,000 they owe when

2:40:052:40:04

they come out. That is not relaxing to come out of university Ando

2:40:052:40:04

?50,000? Not a great debt when you consider the amount of pleasure that

2:40:052:40:04

it represents. APPLAUSE

2:40:052:40:04

The fact is - You really think people are running up, they are

2:40:052:40:04

paying ?9,000 a year, plus supporting themselves to doss about

2:40:052:40:04

and do easy subjects and coming out with ?50,000 worth of debt,

2:40:052:40:04

thinking, that is worth it. I can't afford a house. I have to work until

2:40:052:40:04

I'm 70, I have no pension, never mind? Not quite as bad as you are

2:40:052:40:04

implying. Many of these students are actually from the wealthy

2:40:052:40:04

middle-classes who are not running up debts or passing those debts onto

2:40:052:40:04

their parents. The fact is, when given the choice to... Between

2:40:052:40:04

reading for a degree in mathematics and reading for a degree in media

2:40:052:40:04

studies, whatever, they will take the second option. You are a

2:40:052:40:04

philosopher? Is What has that to do with it? He is a philosopher. It's a

2:40:052:40:04

hard subject. It depends, Roger, doesn't it. Never had a drink and

2:40:052:40:04

never stayed out late. Is the woman at the very back there. Yes. I want

2:40:052:40:04

to say that some of those statistics might mask other degrees that people

2:40:052:40:04

have, such as engineering physics where you have a very high level of

2:40:052:40:04

maths. The man there. I have a seven-year-old daughter. She comes

2:40:052:40:04

out of school not well up to speed with mathematics, frankly I think

2:40:052:40:04

the school has failed her. I think I've failed her as a parent as well.

2:40:052:40:04

Phillip Hammond. I'm not sure that importing a Chinese system wholesale

2:40:052:40:04

will be the solution. I would certainly not want to stamp out of

2:40:052:40:04

our children the sort of question creative approach that we value,

2:40:052:40:04

which I think the Chinese system very definitely doesn't value and

2:40:052:40:04

actively discourages. But we should still be hearing an alarm bell

2:40:052:40:04

ringing about, not just maths, but engineering, sciences. Whether we

2:40:052:40:04

like it or not, we are aring -- competing with countries like China

2:40:052:40:04

and emerging nations of Southeast Asia. If we want our economy to

2:40:052:40:04

prosper in the future we want people to have the good jobs, opportunities

2:40:052:40:04

for work, abilities to feed their families, provide for their

2:40:052:40:04

families, that we have all been talking about earlier this evening,

2:40:052:40:04

we have to make sure that our - the next generation is equipped with

2:40:052:40:04

with the skills they need. We are beginning I think to make progress.

2:40:052:40:04

We are seeing more children taking the "hard subjects" in schools. More

2:40:052:40:04

people looking to study the maths, science, engineering subjects at

2:40:052:40:04

university. I think we have to do it in a British way, which combines the

2:40:052:40:04

discipline of those subjects with the sort of creativity and the

2:40:052:40:04

enquiring approach that makes us what we are. The

2:40:052:40:04

APPLAUSE You agree? Is you clearly agree with

2:40:052:40:04

him? May I suggest that if Mr Goef stops moving the goal posts and

2:40:052:40:04

getting Ofsted to change its reachings, teachers could teach! Gsh

2:40:052:40:04

Gove. We do need to be worried about where we are in terms of maths,

2:40:052:40:04

having those basic skills is vital. We do need to have more teachers who

2:40:052:40:04

are properly trained in that and Labour introduced Teach First

2:40:052:40:04

getting the best and brightest grat waits involved, this Government

2:40:052:40:04

continued it. I want to come to the essence of how you really grasp

2:40:052:40:04

kids' minds and brains and inspire them. The best teachers I've seen

2:40:052:40:04

don't use a one-size-fits-all, they find out what excits and motivates

2:40:052:40:04

that child. They understand, if we show how maths fits into a job that

2:40:052:40:04

is involved in design, technology or engineering. If you can bring in

2:40:052:40:04

people from those professions to kids from the poorest backgrounds,

2:40:052:40:04

who probably have never met an engineer, to say - if you do maths,

2:40:052:40:04

you can have this kind of an exciting job. I saw a brilliant

2:40:052:40:04

thing in - doing this in a primary school in my stwis, Parks Primary

2:40:052:40:04

getting engineers into children who hadn't aspirations. They hadn't seen

2:40:052:40:04

anyone with a job like that. They suddenly realised, that would be

2:40:052:40:04

good. That is why it's worth doing maths. It is those children who

2:40:052:40:04

understood that, child by child. That is the passion we all need to

2:40:052:40:04

inspire. There. Would Liz agree it would be an advantage to let

2:40:052:40:04

engineers teach without necessarily having to go forward for an extra

2:40:052:40:04

degree before they can get into the classroom? Do you think - I don't

2:40:052:40:04

know, sorry, how old you are or whether you have been to college or

2:40:052:40:04

university? University. Would you think it would be good to go

2:40:052:40:04

straight into a classroom without any proper follow-up to give you the

2:40:052:40:04

teaching and skills? Do you think you would be able to do that?

2:40:052:40:04

Professionals who have worked in an industry for a long period of time

2:40:052:40:04

have developed the incredible skills should have the opportunity to get

2:40:052:40:04

back into the classroom and really share their knowledge with students.

2:40:052:40:04

The next generation. They are the most inspirational people that are

2:40:052:40:04

around. I think they should be allowed to get back into the

2:40:052:40:04

classroom. Charles Kennedy. Hands up, I hated maths at school. I was

2:40:052:40:04

hopeless at it. I loved English. I was quite good at that. Would you

2:40:052:40:04

believe, I ended up with a university degree auto 50% English

2:40:052:40:04

and 50% moral philosophy. Stimulated along the way by the professor of

2:40:052:40:04

Glasgow University those days who is a colleague and well-known to Roger,

2:40:052:40:04

Professor Robert Downie who introduced me to this distinguished

2:40:052:40:04

man on the panel tonightment I do recognise some of the descriptions

2:40:052:40:04

you give of university life, at least of 50 years ago, slightly

2:40:052:40:04

different today. What about China and maths? China. Reverting to the

2:40:052:40:04

question, for a moment. Is I think we're right. I mean sitting, as I

2:40:052:40:04

have been involved at Glasgow University Richter, sitting at the

2:40:052:40:04

university court, St Andrews and Oxford will be the same, the

2:40:052:40:04

internationalisation of education is going full gun, full guns ahead and

2:40:052:40:04

we've got to keep up with it as a country, in terms of getting

2:40:052:40:04

students in, but also not falling behind. I think on the maths and the

2:40:052:40:04

sciences we've really got to work, cut out to keep pace. We can't do it

2:40:052:40:04

grafting a different culture on to us. I don't think that will work.

2:40:052:40:04

Who replaced you as Richter? It was that chap Snowden. Worthy successor,

2:40:052:40:04

is that? Is The students choose me twice, they have impeccable taste

2:40:052:40:04

when it comes to choosing a Richter. I want to go back to what the young

2:40:052:40:04

man at the back mentioned earlier. The need to get people into schools

2:40:052:40:04

who have expertise in subjects which we are lacking. I think that he was

2:40:052:40:04

right to say that this requirement that they have a special, extra

2:40:052:40:04

teaching qualification is keeping those professionals out of the

2:40:052:40:04

schools. Keeping these engineers from coming back into the education

2:40:052:40:04

system. I was surprised, since you admired the whole Teach First

2:40:052:40:04

initiative, which your party introduced, you didn't see that as

2:40:052:40:04

actually the way forward. I do. That is what I said. You want to produce

2:40:052:40:04

professional qualification. The point of that is that it enables

2:40:052:40:04

people to enter the school without getting a qualification - We can

2:40:052:40:04

design something that people who have been in industry, come forward,

2:40:052:40:04

have three months to know how to face the classroom. Is a couple more

2:40:052:40:04

points. You sir over there, first of all. I think we shouldn't beat

2:40:052:40:04

ourselves up so much. You only used to watch the BAFTAs this week to see

2:40:052:40:04

the world leading technicians that this country are producing

2:40:052:40:04

transforming the film industry. It doesn't matter how knowledgeable you

2:40:052:40:04

are in your subject if you don't have the skills to impart that

2:40:052:40:04

wisdom and teach correctly. It doesn't matter. You have to have the

2:40:052:40:04

teaching skills. We have to stop there. A lot of you are waiting to

2:40:052:40:04

get in. Our hour is up here much we had better stop. We will be in

2:40:052:40:04

Newport in Wales next week. The week after that we will be in Barking in

2:40:052:40:04

East London. If can come to Newport or Barking the way to get to us is

2:40:052:40:04

to apply with the address on the website there. Or call us:

2:40:052:40:04

if you are listening on Radio Five Live the debate goes on in Question

2:40:052:40:04

Time Extra Time. It's my pleasure to thank our panel very much indeed and

2:40:052:40:04

all of you who came to take part in the programme in Swindon. Until next

2:40:052:40:04

week, from Question Time, good night.

2:40:052:40:05

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