David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from Barking in east London. Guests on the panel include former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, Simon Hughes and Rachel Reeves.
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Tonight we're in Barking in East London and welcome to Question Time.
Good evening to you at home.
Good evening to our audience here, who are going to put the
questions to our panel, who don't know them
until they hear them from their lips. On the panel,
Conservative former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine,
who was Defence Secretary during the Cold War,
Labour's Shadow Work and Pension Secretary Rachel Reeves,
Liberal Democrats' Simon Hughes,
who became a Justice Minister in December,
The Times columnist David Aaronovitch,
the former Kremlin advisor Alexander Nekrassov,
and the Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell.
Thank you very much indeed.
Our first question from Eddie McNally, please.
Is Russia too powerful, unpredictable
and scary for Europe to deal with it in the way it's dealt with
other countries in the past?
DAVID REPEATS THE QUESTION
You can't possibly underestimate the risks and dangers in the Ukraine
in recent events. It's unpredictable.
And if there's one thing that is necessary,
it is to lower the temperature and to try
and resolve this matter by dialogue.
Er... I don't think anyone knows how it will be resolved. How can I...?
I'm not Ukrainian, I've never been there,
how can I know how the thing will play out?
But there is one thought that I would contribute to the
answer of this question.
I think that, in the West,
we need to reappraise our relationships with Russia.
If I look forward over the next 20, 30 years,
the big dangers I see for our part of the world...
Let's assume China were to become a belligerent world power...
I don't think it will, but suppose it was.
I would want Russia on our side.
If you look at the southern borders of Russia,
they are full of unstable, very ethnically divided countries.
And surely we ought to have a degree of humility with the idea that
military intervention, or something of that sort,
is going to solve anything.
If you take Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya...
it's quite obvious that there are potential civil wars
going on in those countries,
which our intervention has done nothing to solve.
Russian intervention, however illegal,
however questionable in the Ukraine,
has actually created a position where bloodshed is not likely to
flow within the country itself.
And so I am frightened of the language which tries to push
Russia...ever more remote,
with bits of the Ukraine being attracted into the European Union,
other bits of the Ukraine wanting to join Russia itself.
You saw the result of the Ukrainian parliament today.
And diplomacy, I think, for the West, for Europe particularly,
is to reach out to Russia for some all-embracing,
almost certainly economical settlement,
which makes Russia feel secure.
-Whose language are you objecting to?
Well, I think that the reaction of the Americans today,
of sanctions of the sort that they've imposed now, is presumptuous.
And the British Government?
The British Government is involved in European talks.
But the last point I wanted to make about the Russians.
Never forget that it was Napoleon who came from France
Hitler who came from Germany, and every Russian knows that.
That would be a completely appropriate response
if anyone had even remotely suggested
invading Russia - nobody has.
But let's just think about how the game's changed today.
And remember before, as we do,
that we stand guarantors under a 1994 agreement to the
territorial integrity of Ukraine,
and that means plus the Crimea today.
The coup people, who took over in the Crimea
when people stormed the parliament there,
brought forward a referendum that was supposed
to be that they themselves would be held on autonomy for Crimea
on the 30th of March to the 16th of March - ten days away from now.
On the same day, two Ukrainian...
TV stations were closed down and two pro-Putin, pro-Kremlin
TV stations opened up in their stead.
That's a description, but the question is -
is Russia too big and scary to be dealt with in the way that
-It certainly is far too big and scary to be dealt
with in the way that Lord Heseltine is suggesting for this reason.
The leader of the Crimean pro-Russian group said when he
was asked what he expected to happen as a result of this referendum was,
"75% will vote yes."
This is a de facto annexation of the territory...
of a sovereign country with the agreement
of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin
that we stand guarantor to the state,
having suggested that we would stop it from happening.
We can't solve this by invasion, but we certainly
have a responsibility to the Ukrainians
not to turn around and say,
"In some 100 years' time, we might need you against the Chinese,
"so we're going to turn a blind eye to the fact that you've taken
"a big chunk of somebody else's country."
I do have some thought about how it should be dealt with,
and Ed Miliband and David Cameron have talked about some.
We can talk about some of them later,
but the one thing that we're not going to be able to do is say,
"Vladimir Putin, well, you're a Russian.
"This is what we expect from Russians
"and we don't care that much. We're just going to let it happen."
Let's turn this question around.
Can Russia trust the West?
When the Cold War stopped, we Russians...
well, our government, was assured by the West
it's not going to push NATO borders to the east.
We were assured definitely. Look what happened afterwards.
NATO started to spread closer and closer to Russia.
And this was not a friendly intent.
Why, if the Cold War was over, NATO wanted to be closer to Russia?
We don't understand that.
Secondly, we are missing the point here,
that there was a coup in Kiev which was supported by the EU.
Let's not close our eyes to that,
because EU politicians involved themselves in the so-called protests.
They came over, they encouraged those protests.
Now we know they were funded by the EU and the Americans.
So to say that President Putin
suddenly decided to invade Crimea for no reason...
Are you saying Europe organised those protests
and led to the downfall of the corrupt President Yanukovych?
Excuse me. He was a democratically elected president
and that was confirmed by the European Union observers
and other observers.
-To say he was a corrupt...
I can name several more countries...
I'm sure. I'm sure you come from one.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE I can even say to you...
that President Hollande is less popular than Yanukovych was.
We are not saying, "Come on, French people, get rid of him."
The point is this.
When Ukraine refused to sign a free-association agreement
with the EU, which was a bad agreement,
believe me, I read it.
Any sane government would have said no to the agreement.
The Russian deal was better. There was money on the table. DAVID AARONOVITCH LAUGHS
-Excuse me, but there was money on the table.
-There was, yeah.
Ukraine would not have survived with 800 million euros which was
promised by the EU. Right?
Suddenly, Yanukovych in a matter of days became illegal,
corrupt and everything.
Before the signing of that agreement,
before it was still on the table, he was OK for European Union.
-He was OK.
-We get the point. You, sir, in the second row.
-We'll come back to the argument.
-I really think Alexander has a point.
Can Russia trust the West?
The way I sort of see it is,
-I in no way condone what Russia has done in this situation...
Yeah, BUT...where are the West getting this presumption
we have the right to sanction Russia for breaching international law
when we participated in an illegal invasion of Iraq?
Amanda Platell. You heard the point he made.
How can Russia trust the West?
And I totally agree.
Tony Blair's legacy was that we have lost the moral authority
to go into other countries. You look at the mess in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I actually think David Cameron has judged this right.
We do not want to see another British soldier, man or woman, with
their boots on foreign soil trying to sort out someone else's problems.
And coming back with their legs blown off. APPLAUSE
And if I might just answer the original question.
The thing that struck me about this whole dilemma at the moment,
we have just announced that our defence budget
has been so cut that it's unlikely we could defend our own country.
Germany's has been cut, France's has been cut,
and America announced last week that in their next plan
they will have fewer troops than they had before the Second World War.
How can we stand up to countries like Russia,
who have increased their budgets and just announced that they have
one of these long...these big missiles that can, you know, nuke us?
It's like an ant biting on an alligator.
What should you do, nothing?
David Cameron is right to try to negotiate his way out of it.
He is trying to bring a qualified conversation between Russia
and the Ukraine, and the people there, and not threaten them
with violence from Europe, which is the last thing they need.
-You, sir, in the centre.
-Some very interesting points raised there.
One concern we need to establish even beyond this current crisis
is that probably the two most damaging events of the last century
were the two world wars, and NATO's agreements itself
create the same kind of crises that permitted the First World War.
The Serbs killed Franz Ferdinand,
there was all of these cross-agreements
that enabled the First World War.
Where we sit right now, the Ukraine was inches from signing
an agreement where it became part of NATO and where we would, therefore,
have been forced into a situation that would be extremely damaging.
There wasn't. I'm sorry. There are some extraordinary things going on here.
-Firstly, no-one has suggested any use of military force against Russia.
That would be completely mad.
Secondly, nobody is suggesting the Ukraine comes into NATO.
The EU agreement was an association agreement with
the European Union,
which, as far as we can tell, the majority of Ukrainian people
seem to have wanted, but which the president, after discussions
with President Putin - I wonder what went on there - decided at
the last moment that he wasn't going to sign and set off the crisis.
The EU didn't set off a crisis, Yanukovych did,
and Putin is now trying to take advantage of it.
APPLAUSE Excuse me, David, but let me tell you about the conversation between
Catherine Ashton and the Estonian Foreign Minister,
who told her that the information points to those snipers who were shooting...
-No, he didn't say that.
-He did say that, it was confirmed... Let me finish.
This was confirmed by the Estonian Foreign Ministry.
-He didn't confirm that.
-Make clear what you're asserting.
Suddenly we learned that the snipers who were shooting both at the police and the protesters
-were hired by the opposition.
-No, we didn't. That's a lie.
Excuse me, you should read the text. This is very important, because that betrays...
It's no use getting into the minutiae of who said what and who shot what.
This is a vitally important political issue of massive scale.
Where I take issue with David, he says we've guaranteed
this frontier. Terrific.
We can all march to the banners, but actually you can't do anything.
So you're deceiving your audience.
I think you were in that government, Michael, which made that guarantee.
This issue is full of quotations of who said what. The issue is this.
The Russians are there and we, you say, have guaranteed the frontier.
I don't disagree. What are you going to do about it?
You're not going to send troops.
-Are you going to have economic sanctions?
-There is no chance.
There is no chance of the Germans agreeing to economic sanctions,
because they will suffer more than the Russians,
because they depend on Russia for their energy supply.
-All right. You, sir.
Personally, I think the UK needs to wake up.
We need to play our role on the global scale,
toning down the rhetoric from the US.
Bridge the gap between the US and the EU and Russia.
-There's a bigger picture going on here.
Not only are we disagreeing about the Ukraine,
but while the Syrian conflict goes on,
and let's bear in mind that Russia supports President Assad,
there's already an element of distrust.
We need to play a more mediatorial role in this.
We need to open the talks, get Russia back on side.
I don't agree with what they've done,
but we can't go wading into this pretending we're a big authority.
We're not. And we rely on the gas from Russia.
What would your view be if they have this vote in Crimea
and it votes to go with Russia and leave Ukraine?
-If it can be overseen...
Well, if it can be, and if they allow the EU in to make sure
-the vote is fair and that's the way they vote...
Then it would be a closed issue for you. You, sir, at the back.
I agree with David Aaronovitch there.
I mean, where's the moral imperative to this?
When are we going to stand up for a country that wants democracy?
Is this not akin to Germany going into Poland,
you know, the first steps of that?
Is not the actions of Vladimir Putin just totalitarian and dictatorial?
-But if you...
-All of what he has done is unjust.
Does anybody care about that any longer?
When you talk about the morality,
what do you think is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya,
all of which were used to justify the argument,
"We will set up stable democratic governments"?
Look at what's happening there.
Rachel Reeves. Hang on,
you can come back at her, but let Rachel Reeves answer your point.
Going back to the first question as well, from Eddie.
Look, I think there is common ground that can be found.
Others have said this already, but it is worth repeating.
We need to lower the temperature,
de-escalate and get the Ukrainians and Russians talking to each other.
That is the only way we'll find a solution.
Of course there's a role for Britain and the EU and America,
but there will only really be an answer
-if the Ukrainians and Russians talk to each other.
Now, there are, of course, things we can do.
No-one is suggesting military action.
That sort of language, I think, is sabre rattling,
that won't help anybody,
but there are targeted things that can be done,
for example, visa restrictions, asset freezing.
I'm not suggesting they need to be done right now,
but there are options on the table
which are short of sanctions and certainly short of military action.
I do think that common ground can be found
-but we need that common ground.
-It's not the first time Russia's done it.
It might be Ukraine now,
but it might be another one of the former USSR states
in another ten years.
The last time they did go into one of their former countries,
they devastated it. They really, really did.
So when are we going to turn round
and start helping these people who are asking for our help
and stop helping people who aren't wanting our help?
The best way to help is to get people sat around the table
with each other, which is not happening now
and it's an important role for Britain and the EU.
-Does that work for you?
-They didn't listen the first time round.
It's the only thing that will work.
What do you think? I said I'd come back to you at the back.
I agree with Rachel Reeves and a lot of people,
there needs to be dialogue and a way forward.
Even though I have a lot of respect for you, Michael Heseltine,
I get tired of this thing about Iraq and Afghanistan being wheeled out
as examples of how the West has meddled in other country's affairs.
These are very different scenarios.
There were a lot of precedents about agreements that were made before,
the fact that NATO, all these countries around are part of NATO.
If a country wants democracy,
it should be upheld by countries like this.
OK, Simon Hughes, do you want to answer that point?
It should be upheld by countries like this,
but can I link that with the initial question?
Is Russia big? Yes.
Is it unpredictable?
Yes, in some respects, in terms of how it pursues its ambitions,
and is it scary? Certainly,
when its troops, pretending not to be its troops, appear in other countries
that's pretty scary, but we have to be a bit careful.
In my constituency just by the Imperial War Museum, there is
a memorial to the Soviet war dead at the end of the Second World War.
25 million people.
-They were our allies.
Without them, we would not have won the Second World War.
The Arctic convoys, who we salute,
were part of that wonderful rescue operation.
It is ironic, in a way, that it was in Crimea, in Yalta,
where the settlement post-war was resolved in 1945.
Where does this get us with today?
Where it gets us is that we have to be sensitive to Russian history,
while we absolutely uphold the right of the Ukrainian people
to their independence, to their own decision-making.
Alexander is wrong about what happened in the last few weeks.
There was a deal done for a coalition agreement.
The President then left within 24 hours.
The parliament, the parliament, decided what should happen.
The parliament elected an interim president.
And David is absolutely right,
there is a guarantee, of which we are signatories,
that Ukraine should not be invaded.
We are signatories of that, in return for them giving up nuclear weapons.
There is an absolute guarantee that Crimea is part of Ukraine.
We need, as Rachel says, and there's a consensus across Parliament
among the major parties, to encourage the European Union to work together.
We have slightly different interests, but we must work together.
We have to use those appropriate sanctions and methods
which are political and which give the message to Russia,
but if the Ukrainians,
I've been there several times, I love the country and the people,
if the Ukrainians can't look to us at moments like this
to stand up for the liberties, to determine their own future,
then we are not just denying our obligation to them in law,
we are actually failing to stand up for standards that should be European
-and that Russia needs to respect as well.
-But if the Crimea...
If Crimea chooses to leave Ukraine,
then there's nothing you can do about it
despite these agreements and guarantees.
Hang on a minute. It's slightly more complicated.
Ukraine has done this before. There has been a vote. Since 1954,
when Crimea was given to Ukraine,
there's already been one occasion when there was a vote, a referendum,
-a so-called referendum.
-No, Simon, there was never a referendum.
-You can't say that. There was never a referendum.
I do say that. I do say that.
I'm also clear that the parliament in Crimea has made decisions,
as it were, to break away. The issue is not now whether we allow,
suddenly in the middle of all this turmoil, Crimea to break away.
We need to, as Rachel rightly said,
seek to get the Russians and Ukrainians around the table.
30% of people in Ukraine are Russian speaking, first language.
They need to come around the table,
supported by the rest of the European Union. Can I say one last thing?
The economic future of Russia, as well as Ukraine,
depends on a peaceful outcome.
Russia's economy is not in good nick,
Ukraine's economy is not in good nick.
They could be very strong economically,
they could help themselves and us,
but we are going the wrong way if we allow things to go on as they are.
We've got hands up, and we've had a lot of talk about
what the EU and Britain might do economically,
sanctions and all that, so I want to take a question
from Sharmit Mehta, please, on this point,
and we'll carry on with this because it's very interesting.
I question how credible the threats of economic sanctions on Russia
actually are, given it supplies 30% of Europe's gas.
It's a point Michael Heseltine made. How credible are the threats
of sanctions, or indeed of any action? David.
Firstly, Russia is a great deal more
open to economic sanctions
than, say, the Soviet Union was.
All these arguments were deployed at the time of the Soviet Union,
"You couldn't do anything about Hungary or Czechoslovakia."
And it was true, because Russia was not part of the world economy.
Now it is, and it's a pretty vulnerable part of the world economy.
That's why its oligarchs come and live over here,
buy our football clubs, buy up large sections of London etc,
use this place as a place to launder money, large amounts that were stolen
in Russia, effectively, by stealing the assets of the Russian people.
The question is whether we will be effectively corrupted by that money
into saying we are not prepared to take any kind of economic hit
should, in ten days' time,
this is the point, in ten days' time, that rigged vote will happen,
and in ten days' time, effectively,
there will be a de facto annexation of the Crimea
unless we show in these next ten days
that we are prepared to do something about it.
I agree about the business about talking people down
and getting people to talk but it can't be on the basis that
effectively we say, "Yeah, we're happy with the annexation."
I would never say I was happy.
I just listen to hear what you think we should do.
We're not going to impose sanctions on Russia,
because we won't get agreement to do it.
What no-one is talking about is
whether sanctions on Russia might lead to sanctions on us from Russia
and the cost in British economic terms that would flow from that.
If we could get agreement, Michael, would you be in favour of it?
-If we could get agreement...
-With European partners?
With European partners to talk to Russia and the Ukraine, yes,
but what I would not do is to rush to the point at which
Russia is forced onto the defensive.
You know, I think you said it, or the question earlier,
are they unpredictable? They are not unpredictable.
These are the most sophisticated chess players in the world.
What they do is to back their own self interests vehemently,
but they calculate. I remember vividly as Defence Secretary
facing the dangers of a nuclear holocaust,
the only real danger was a mistake.
The Russians would never have precipitated a nuclear war
because they could never have won such a war.
OK, you, sir, in the fourth row.
I just think it's very telling that
when there are economic interests of the EU and of America and Russia
involved, the whole international community are absolutely concerned.
When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina,
who have seen a massive crisis in terms of workers' protests
and government attacking those protesters
and police attacking those protesters,
the international community has been silent, completely silent.
-I think it's atrocious.
Are you saying economic self-interest...
Amanda Platell, you'd agree with that?
I can't see in a million years
that we're going to implement any sanctions in this situation
when we have to get the agreement of Germany, when they rely upon
40% of their energy from Russia.
It's just not going to happen, there won't be an agreement.
-It'll happen next week.
-It'll happen next week, Amanda.
-What will happen?
If the Russians and the pro-Russians in Crimea insist on going ahead
with this referendum and rig it,
there will be economic sanctions of some kind or another
because we will have no alternative.
David, you use the word, "and rig it".
I can only ask you a simple question.
81 out of the 83 members of the Crimean parliament
today voted for such a referendum.
How can you say, with certainty, that it will be rigged?
-Or is that what you want to say after it happens?
-No, I can't say...
-I can't say with certainty.
-But you did say.
No, I can't say with 100% certainty.
-You did, that's what you did say.
-I can say it with 95% likelihood...
-Well, come off it! That's quibbling.
-..that it's going to be rigged.
-That's not good enough for you?
Simon Hughes, you're in Government, the only person here in Government.
What did you make of that bit of paper we saw
being carried in or out of Downing Street
saying actually we wouldn't do anything at all?
Firstly, I don't think everybody saw the whole of the bit of paper,
-as I understand it.
-Did you see more than we saw?
No, but I've, as you would hope,
taken advice as to what is been discussed.
Hang on, you've taken advice on what WAS on that bit of paper?
I've talked to colleagues, obviously,
-to know what exactly the Government's...
-What did it say?
Given that it isn't a definitive position of the UK Government,
I don't think exactly what it said is helpful.
The UK Government has a very clear position
set out by the Prime Minister today, yesterday and the day before,
with the support of the Leader of the Opposition,
and that is that we are taking action
because to do nothing is unacceptable.
To respond to the questioner, they are intended, to start with,
to be targeted asset-related action,
to deal with people who have money in this country who we can freeze
and deal with in very targeted ways.
Now, there are other things we can do. We've already said
we are not proceeding with the preparations for the G8 Summit,
which is due to be in Russia, because they hold the chair.
We've already said we're not going to support, sadly,
from a political assessment, the Paralympics.
Those sort of things.
Can I say to the gentleman who raised the question of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
I had the privilege to be there two weeks ago.
We absolutely have made clear to the government in that country
that it's unacceptable for the authorities to turn on the public.
I did so myself to the Prime Minister
of the country on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.
We absolutely make clear to all countries in Europe,
whatever the relationship inside or outside the EU, that for example
pressures on minorities like gay people is unacceptable,
and we will go on doing that, but at the moment we need to concentrate
on a collective agreement across the European Union,
with all our differences,
to try to make sure we have a common approach to say to Russia,
"Stop, think, it's not in your interest
-"and it's certainly not in the interests of Ukraine."
And actually, we have done something.
We have withdrawn Prince Edward's appearance
at the Sochi Olympic Games, so we've come out fighting!
Can't work out whether that's a republican or a monarchist opinion
that you advance, as an Australian.
Or perhaps you aren't an Australian any more.
You can join in this debate at home.
I'm going to move on to a question now from Joel Hodgson, please.
Can the Met ever be trusted
when it comes to dealing with ethnic minorities?
Can the Met ever be trusted
when it comes to dealing with ethnic minorities?
This is in the light of the Home Secretary's announcement today that
there will have to be an inquiry into undercover policing
after a review found what she called "deeply troubling evidence"
that the police spied on the Stephen Lawrence family.
The question is, can the Met ever be trusted?
Simon Hughes, you are a London MP.
Do you think the Met can ever be trusted?
The public in London need the Met to be trusted, but...
-That's a different matter.
-No, but they haven't arrived there.
They should be trusted. It's a tragedy
that after the efforts made by the Labour government under Jack Straw
to have the Macpherson Inquiry,
which we thought dealt with the Stephen Lawrence failed prosecutions
and lots of action by the Met to deal with those things,
we now discover from today's report,
independently commissioned by the Government,
very clear and robust decision from the Home Secretary,
that they've failed again.
They failed to investigate corruption allegations.
They failed to pass on those allegations
to the Macpherson Committee, and the third allegation was that
there was clearly inappropriate undercover activity.
Duwayne Brooks, who was the friend of Stephen Lawrence,
who is a colleague and friend of mine, and who is now in public life
because he is seeking to be the Mayor of the borough
that Rachel originally came from in Lewisham, I spoke to today.
He is a black man, a young black Londoner. I take his advice,
because actually, it's about young, black minority and other Londoners.
He said, "Look, we have to get the message across to the Met -
"you have to move on. You have got to move on."
It's no good looking back
and trying to accuse people of things in the past.
Yes, they need to be looked into,
but the obligation on the Met and on the politicians in London
is to make sure every single citizen
in Barking and Dagenham and everywhere else
can have confidence in the police force, and one thing that is needed -
the police force needs to look like London.
It needs to have the mix of ethnic backgrounds...
-SHOUTING FROM AUDIENCE:
-Like the Politicians!
What did she say?
-Just like the politicians.
-That's true, that's true.
Joel Hodgson asked the question, what's your opinion?
I don't think that they can be trusted.
I think it's just one mistake after another, so every week you're
opening a newspaper and it's always something else that's gone wrong.
I mean, is it going to be in 25 years' time,
we're going to find out that Mark Duggan was unlawfully shot?
What do you think, Rachel Reeves?
I totally understand what Joel is saying
and it shouldn't take 21 years for a mother to get justice
and find out what happened to her son.
Erm, back in Eltham, 21 years ago.
But I would also say that the vast majority of police officers, like
all of us, will be disgusted
and distressed by what they have learnt today as well
because the majority of police officers, I think, in London
but also in Leeds, where I'm an MP, do a fantastic job
of protecting us, investigating crimes, rooting out homophobia
and racism and bringing people to justice for those crimes.
And how do you know when you're dealing with the police
whether you're dealing with one of the people you describe or
whether you're dealing with somebody, who, like the
Home Secretary says, is damaged, policing stands damaged today?
How can you tell what you're dealing with?
Well, look, I just think the vast majority are doing a good job
and we need to ensure that the reforms that were recommended
originally by Macpherson,
and then now with this new inquiry, are taken forward.
And that means reforming
the Independent Police Complaints Commission
because this was investigated in 2006
and didn't find out any of this.
-So, that clearly needs further reform.
And we also need to have greater
scrutiny of undercover police officers.
Because that shouldn't have been allowed to happen the way it
did with that infiltration of the family.
So, reform is needed but I think we should trust the police.
I think we can trust the police and I think the police, like us,
will be disgusted by what they've learnt today.
I think it's unfortunate that the police cannot be trusted.
They have made efforts, I think, to improve the service
but until we get rid of institutional racism
and unless we understand what institutional racism's
all about, there will never be that trust and I think institutional
-racism exists throughout society, not just the police.
And you, sir, at the very back there.
In the spectacles, yes.
It was on the news last night about section 60, stop and search.
The Government's put it on the back burner, basically.
-They were going to reduce or cut out stop and search.
-That's correct, yeah.
David Aaronovitch? Have the Government done that?
All the information I have is that there's a huge
argument between the Home Secretary, Theresa May and Number Ten about
whether or not she wants to restrict stop and search.
And Number Ten badly doesn't because it sees it as quite
an element in its ability to go out and say it's tough on crime.
and not only is our relationships
now between the Business Department
and the Home Office incredibly bad but the relationship
between the Home Office and Number Ten are incredibly bad.
OK, you, sir, up there on the left.
My view is that although we need to look at the police,
solve their problems,
we should stop navel-gazing because when you compare the police in this
country to other parts of the world, I don't think we can fault them.
You see, they do a good job.
As a black man, I've been subject to stop and search.
I used to live in Suffolk and when I came to London, in a week,
I was stopped three occasions by the police.
And I couldn't believe it that this could happen.
But in the end, I have to put that aside and to decide that,
look, the police are like just you and I. Everybody makes mistakes.
When they make mistakes, it should be dealt with and move on.
You don't think there's a policy of stopping black
people as opposed to white people and searching them?
I think there is, but also there a lot white people who are stopped
but nobody reports it.
So, I think we should stop navel-gazing.
Can I just say one thing? To generalise is fine,
Rachel's right, the police have made huge progress.
But if you're the one person,
if you're the person stopped on the street unjustifiably again
and again and again, that is unacceptable
and we have to deal with the stop and search problem.
Because some communities get it really badly.
Alexander, what do you think?
-You've lived here many years.
What do you think of the policing here?
Well, I think the police here is great compared to some countries.
Well, we've seen the Ukrainian police
and I know about the Russian police as well.
To be honest with you, I think they're trying very hard
to be inclusive and maybe if they don't have the numbers,
you know, of black or Asian policemen but they're moving there.
They're not saying, "No, no, no, we're not going to change."
So, I have faith in the British police.
OK, the woman there in the middle.
Erm, like I said, we need to see change.
We need to see what we want to believe in as a nation, as a country.
We need to see...when you grow up, when the media portrays things,
when our teachers, the policemen, the politicians,
we need to see ethnic minorities.
We need to see difference.
If we just see, I'm sorry to say, just Conservative white people
up there, we're not going to have belief in anything!
I'm not saying it about white people, I'm saying Conservative
and people who've come out of private schools.
There's no-one there with a bit of colour,
not talking about skin colour,
I'm talking about colour to the plate, bringing something
passionate, bringing something that we can look up to,
rather than dryness.
And you, sir, in the fourth row from the back, yes.
I, personally, wouldn't...I've grown up in London but I don't
trust the police.
Recently when I was part of the tuition fee strikes,
we was rounded up with my friends, who were white, and we were
taken to Euston Station for about three hours and then we were let go.
They just told us, "Sign here, sign here." And then we were let go.
And my white friends didn't leave with nothing,
not even a warning but I left with a caution.
Of doing nothing, literally.
I'm trying to run a CRB for a job
and then it comes up on Enhanced CRB, I realised that
I do have a caution, which I didn't know about, no-one told me
at Euston Station that I was given a caution.
So, literally, this is going to live with me
for the next five years, yet it's the mistake of the police.
So, how do you expect me to trust the police when they can do
that to me and they can't do it to my white friends from uni?
When Joel first asked that question, the first thing I was struck
by is that you are a beautiful young black man,
as Stephen Lawrence was before he
was stabbed to death in the street.
He was not just let down by the
Met, it wasn't just the police who
lied, not all of them, I can see that most of them are great.
But there was an element that lied, that covered up,
covered each other's backs.
They were not just let down by the police,
they were also let down by the politicians.
And it was my newspaper, the Daily Mail,
who ran a nonstop campaign against all fashion,
against all popularity, against the reader.
You know, it wasn't like putting
Madeleine McCann on the front page of the paper.
This was not a groundswell campaign but my editor, Paul Dacre, felt so
passionately that this was so wrong that he campaigned for two decades!
That's the plug for the Daily Mail.
Let's have the answer to the question.
It is actually really important because what we have now...
It's been said often. What about the question that Joel asked?
Can I actually speak now, is it Question Time?
It is Question Time where you answer the question that Joel asked.
And I answered it.
THEY TALK OVER EACH OTHER
As much as we know the Mail is a much-loved paper
and all of that, can the Met ever be trusted,
when it comes to dealing with ethnic minorities? That was the question.
And I think that I answered that but the question now is...
Right, then, we'll go on to somebody else.
No, can I just finish?
The simple point is that we
talk about the fact that everything has changed
and things have got better but actually,
the whole case with Andrew Mitchell
and "Plebgate" shows that the police still,
there's an element of corruption and they cover each other's backs.
And that is very, very worrying.
Well, the particular story that we're addressing is a scandal.
And I think the Government
have reacted speedily
and correctly in responding to what
has shocked huge numbers of people.
To pick on individuals for any reason,
whether they be of a different race or a different class or
different infirmity is intolerable.
And the law is clear.
Now, your specific question is "Can people trust the Met in the circumstances?"
I think the truth is, for the most people, yes.
But for very large numbers of a minority, no.
-To be trusted by everyone, not for...
-Life isn't like that.
You never get 100% opinion on one issue.
So, I think what I'm trying to say is
that there's a balance in the answer.
Many people will feel, I think, as you do, you never can trust them.
But a lot of people say, "Yes, they're doing their duty."
So, it's a mixed answer.
Now, from your point of view
and I'm very sympathetic to the point of your question.
I think it was either Rachel or Simon who said that the police don't
look like London.
The electorate of London is now 50% ethnic
but virtually nothing in London,
except the electorate, looks 50% ethnic.
And so the issue is about absorbing a vast number of new
people who've come to this country over the last 50 years
and seeing them represented at every level of society.
One of the particular problems in the case of the police is,
it's very difficult to recruit people from some of the ethnic groups.
-Due to lack of trust.
Exactly, OK...no, no, no, let's accept that point.
Let's assume there is a lack of trust,
how does the Met overcome that
if they try to recruit people
in order to build the trust, but the recruits don't come?
Well, the recruitment system is obviously not fair then, is it?
You're honestly telling me that these
-people aren't applying for these jobs?
-That's not... come on! I find that very hard to believe.
You may find it hard to believe...
Can I just say, as someone who was attacked in Barking just two
weeks ago as a consequence of sheer
and utter incompetence by the police here,
I ran and chased my attacker to the police station myself.
That police station was closed on a Sunday afternoon
and no-one was there to rescue me
but a 13-year-old Muslim girl, who came to my rescue to defend me!
You may find it hard to believe
but it is difficult to attract certain groups of ethnic minority.
My point is that the people you've got in power at the moment
aren't doing the job correctly.
As the lass down there was saying, the Conservative
white people are not doing their jobs properly, so...
OK, you, sir, at the back there in the check shirt.
Thank you. I think we have to put it in context,
we're talking about corruption in the police service.
The Metropolitan Police has 35,000 police officers, we're
talking about a handful of incidents here over a number of years.
OK. All right, and time is against us.
I'm going to move on to another question.
This is a question we had, I think, more questions about,
apart from Ukraine than anything else this evening
and it's from Pam Dumbleton, please, Pam Dumbleton.
Isn't it time the Government listened to the people about the effects
immigration is having in changing our communities?
Just in what way do you think the Government isn't listening?
The Government haven't got a clue.
David Cameron has never been to Barking.
If he came, he'd be warned in advance
and everything would be brushed up.
The Government needs to come and walk through our town
and just see how we now live.
Go back 12 years, it was totally different.
Now we are the complete minority there
and it's just like the most terrible place on earth to live at the moment.
I did a little bit of research about Barking before I came here
and evidently you've had a 30% drop in the indigenous population
and a 200% increase in immigration.
And, look, I think I'm the only one on the panel that is an immigrant.
I came from Australia 28 years ago with a backpack.
I love this country, I'm really glad to be able to live here
but I never came here expecting that I would be able to get a house,
send child benefit back home, use the welfare system.
I always thought it was a privilege to be here
and I do not understand when we have the kind of social tensions
we have here with schools, which are just overflowing now.
You've got more children of school age, in this area, proportion
of population, than anywhere else in the country.
And that's because you have lots of people coming in,
many of whom want to work really hard and want to contribute,
but the Government is not taking account of the pressure it puts...
-And how should it do that?
-Well, David, I think it's a huge problem.
-What David Cameron has suggested recently...
-Say again, sorry?
Listen to the indigenous people here, the people that have been here
all their lives, all their families have been here.
David Cameron did suggest that we had a ban, so if someone was
coming in they had to work for three months and pay tax before they...
-Look, people today, one in seven...
-..were able to use benefits.
I would say ten years, I would say make it a bigger barrier,
make people contribute.
All right. Make your point, sir, again. What was it?
One in seven new businesses are set up by immigrants, yeah?
To employ immigrants.
They're all being given money,
everything's being thrown at the immigrants.
Can I finish? I've applied for 100 jobs on the railway. 100 jobs.
I don't even get an interview no more.
In the old days, at least you'd get a letter.
At least you'd get a rejection letter.
I don't even get that, 100 jobs!
But these immigrants, they get all their tickets paid for,
they get all the jobs. I am homeless. I've got nowhere to live.
I have to go down today and see an immigrant,
an immigrant telling me that I...
Well, that's the truth. That's the truth!
I went down to John Smith House today
and an immigrant tells me that I cannot live here.
I cannot get nowhere to live.
-All right, David Aaronovitch.
-AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOUTS
-Hang on. All right.
OK, we get your point.
-We are the minority, and we get nothing.
Sir, you're blaming...
-I'm not blaming immigrants at all!
-No, you're blaming the wrong people.
-I'm not. I'm just stating the facts of the case!
No, no, you're stating a perception of the facts of the case.
For me, personally, and for many people like me.
OK, you made your point, let him answer it.
Just cos you perceive something doesn't make it true.
-It's true for me.
There isn't anything...
We've been told we're just BNP! We're not all racist!
No, hang on, sir. Hang on, be fair, be fair.
What about the indigenous people here as well?
I think we've heard your point,
the idea is that the panel should be able to answer.
No-one has so far accused anybody of being racist.
But the things that you've said were exactly what was said
about my grandparents when they came over to the Jewish East End
in the early 1900s, exactly the same things.
They said precisely the same things.
"We can't walk through our streets because they're not ours any more."
Why is a street not yours because some of the faces in it are black?
Why can't you be in a street that has black and white people?
All right, you can answer this.
APPLAUSE DROWNS SPEECH
-Hold on, actually, most immigrants...
-He didn't actually say, David...
He didn't say anything about black, and actually...
-He didn't mention black people.
Do you really think that?
I've got nowhere to live, I need to go and find somewhere to live.
-Yeah, I will! Tonight.
OK, you, sir, at the very back there. Thank you very much.
You, sir, at the back.
Can I say, I work round the corner in a school that is
a fantastically assimilated and cohesive community.
I do not recognise the Barking that we're hearing from the front row.
I'm a bit worried...
I'm a bit...not disgusted,
but a bit concerned that the BBC tonight selected that question from
the lady at the front there just to build up this sort of debate.
-You may... Hang on, hang on.
You may not have heard me say
there were more questions on immigration...
Wait a minute, be fair, more questions on immigration
in Barking than on any other subject apart from Ukraine.
-I appreciate that.
-So don't start attacking the programme
for having selected this question.
What I'd really love the panel to comment on,
though, is the supposed suppression today by the Tories of a report
that said there was no link between immigration and unemployment.
Michael Heseltine, if you'd like to answer that.
The Conservative-led Government has just published the report,
so I don't know what you're using the word "suppression" about.
And what... what the report says
is that actually there isn't anything like
the linkage between immigration and unemployment as people perceived.
That's what the report says,
although there was an earlier report which indicated there was.
But why I disagree with you is
because I think it's the job of the BBC
to allow questions of this sort to be asked,
because undoubtedly this whole issue of immigration
and the rate at which we can attract foreign people from overseas
is absolutely fundamental to the political debate in this country.
And if you actually look at the UK Isolationist Party,
they call themselves UKIP,
the whole appeal of UKIP is actually about immigration,
and the resentments that we heard here, that's the UKIP question.
And I think that the most impressive thing that's happened here tonight,
in Barking, is the overwhelming reaction of the audience
in resentment at this parody of what Barking is all about.
You, sir, up there. Yes, in the blue shirt.
I think you're deluding yourself
-if you think there aren't these tensions.
-Yes, there are.
Especially in this area.
But I think maybe you're blaming the wrong people
if you're blaming each other sitting in this audience.
If you're going to let people come here without any infrastructure
and any planning to settle them in, then there's going to be tensions,
and it's not just going to be white versus black or black versus Chinese,
it's going to be everybody.
Rachel Reeves, you're applauding him. You agree.
I do agree with him, and look, David said that just because the
gentleman at the front perceives something doesn't make it real.
And he shouted back, "But it's real for me."
And he walked out of this room and people clapped,
and you shouldn't have clapped when he walked out of this room
because for him, he is homeless, and he might be wrong in blaming
some people in this room for that, but that's how he feels.
And that is a situation that he's facing today.
And we can't just say "You're wrong" and let him walk out,
because he has to hear what other people have to say,
and you have to hear what he has to say as well.
But I do agree with this gentleman
because if we are going to let people come into this country,
we've got to make sure that there is a level playing field.
We've got to make sure that there are school places, we've got
to make sure there are the homes for people to live in, and we've got
to make sure as well that there are jobs for people, and we need to
make sure as well that the labour market isn't rigged against people.
So, you know, the situation where jobs are advertised overseas
but they're not advertised in this country, for example.
-You believe that's happening?
-It does happen.
So you believe that immigration as a whole is being wrongly handled?
I do think that there are very real problems that we need to deal with.
For example, jobs should be advertised in this country,
the minimum wage should be properly enforced,
health and safety should be enforced,
private landlords who let out their houses to, you know, ten people
in a two, three bedroom home, that should not be allowed.
And we've got to understand the legitimate concerns of people who
have lived here and their families have lived there all their lives.
We also have to understand that people come to this country
because they want to work hard, like David's family did, like you
and your families of other people in this room did.
And we've got to make it work for everybody, for all of us,
because we have to live in this community together.
We can't roll back the clock, we have to make it work
and we can only do that by working together.
This is the most arrant hypocrisy I've ever listened to!
This is a supporter of the Labour government that had
over 200,000 people coming into this country as immigrants...
And there are 200,000 coming today, Michael.
And you actually did absolutely nothing about it,
and you're now pretending you've got all these policies.
What would you do? What would you actually do in government?
First of all, Michael...
-What would you do?
-Do you want to listen to me?
I do, I want you to answer the question. What would you do?
First of all, there are 200,000 people coming to this country today.
Under the rules that you created.
No, under the rules, you've been in government for four years,
-your government's been in power for four years.
-But what did you do?
First of all, I've been in parliament since 2010.
So it's your party's fault.
What I'm saying is we need rules to enforce these things.
We need to ensure that the infrastructure is there and
we need to ensure that jobs aren't just being advertised overseas.
No-one's been named or shamed
for not paying the national minimum wage.
We need to ensure that those rules,
that gang masters can't exploit those rules.
There are practical things we could do, but blaming each other,
people blaming each other, that's not the right way forward.
All right, you in the front here, then I'll come to you, Alexander.
I think one of the problems is, in the past,
when immigrants came in, it was in small numbers,
and they gradually assimilated into the new community.
And the new community accepted them.
Here in Barking, it's been like an absolute invasion.
We were talking about what's happening in, sort of,
the Crimea earlier, the threat of invasion there.
Here in Barking, we seem to be living through it.
I love the new foreign people, I get on with them,
but I just don't know this borough.
I feel a stranger in my own country.
Alexander. Alexander Nekrassov.
Well, you know, from a point of view of a Russian who is living here,
I tell you why you have that debate and why you are so heated about it,
is because it's been suppressed for so long,
and the only reason why you have it now is because the elections are coming.
UKIP is sort of, you know, making a fuss about this.
And suddenly all the parties started to talk.
But there was no reasonable debate on that issue about four years ago.
We had Enoch Powell in the 1960s saying all the same sort of things.
-It's not a new debate.
-No, it's not.
We had this debate back in 2010 with Gordon Brown.
We've been having nothing but the immigration debate for the last,
it seems to me, the last ten years. And let me just...
Are you saying it should be closed down, the debate?
I am very much in favour of the debate, but I'm also in favour
of saying that I'm actually pleased that Labour let all those
immigrants come to Britain, people who are an immense...
They say a terrifically good thing about this place as a country,
and they contribute an enormous amount to this country,
-and if there are problems... Yeah.
And if there are problems of transition and services
and so on, yes, we should solve those problems,
but those kids we're talking about in those overflowing schools
-will be paying your kids' pensions.
-All right. Simon Hughes.
You asked the question.
I'll come back to you after we've heard from Simon Hughes.
Listen, I represent the Old Kent Road, the Elephant & Castle,
very proud to do so. What you raised is a real issue, yeah?
I accept, I accept that for people born here,
particularly for people whose families
come from London for generations,
they have seen a very large increase in people, quotes, not like them.
I accept that completely.
I do think, like Michael, that the last government had
two significant failures for which they need to be held to account.
One, they made an error in allowing the transition period which we could
have had, when Poland and countries joined the EU, not to be applied.
We were the only country in the EU to allow that,
-so of course they came here. Hang on, David.
-Hang on, David.
-Do you regret all those Poles?
-Of course I don't,
but it was a mistake because the volume of people who came over,
in my judgment, I said it at the time,
I thought would cause a tension, which it did.
The other thing is that under Labour,
the policing of our borders was hopeless. Hopeless.
The UKBA, we had no system for checking anybody out,
and we had a pretty lousy system for controlling our borders.
And what do you say to the lady here who asked the original question,
before we come to the end of the programme?
I was responding to her question. There is...
-Hasn't the EU made all of this worse?
They've made us keep our borders open. Yes, they have.
We need to police our own borders. We need to make our own decisions.
We don't need the EU to run our country.
-You can take that view, I disagree, I'll tell you why.
-I know you do.
I'll tell you why, we in the UK have retained our right to have
passport and border control, unlike other countries, and I support that.
But this government, both parties in the government,
are very clear that they are addressing this issue.
We can't change the rules on the European Union
because it's a free trade, free movement idea.
And there are two and a half million people who are British in other
parts of the European Union because they chose to go there.
Simon, I'm going to have to stop you.
I'm going to have to stop you if I can.
I'm afraid we've come to the end of our hour.
-I'm sorry to those of you who...
What can I do? Another half hour!
I'm sorry, our hour is up.
Next week, we're going to be in Nottingham.
We'll have the Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander there,
and Nick Hewer, the star of The Apprentice,
on the panel in Nottingham. A week after that,
we're going to be in Warrington the day after the Budget.
So, either Nottingham or Warrington, if you want to come,
the address is on the bottom of the screen there, the website,
or you can call us on...
If you're listening to this or have been on 5 Live, you can
continue the debate - Question Time Extra Time follows immediately.
My thanks to our panel here and to all of you who came to Barking
for this edition of Question Time. Until next Thursday, good night.
David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from Barking in east London. On the panel are former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, justice minister Simon Hughes MP and Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary.