03/04/2014 Question Time


David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from Bristol. The panel includes Vince Cable MP, Peter Hain MP, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Camilla Cavendish and Julie Bindel.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 03/04/2014. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



welcome to Question Time. Good evening to you at home and to


our audience who will be putting questions to our panel, who do not


know the questions that are going to be put. Tonight, the Liberal


Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable, Labour's former Northern


Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, feminist campaign and Guardian


columnist Julie Bindel, author, former fund manager and Conservative


MP, Kwasi Kwarteng, and associate editor of the Sunday Times, Camilla


Cavendish. So, our first question from Anthony


Ward, please. Has the sale of Royal Mail been a first-class disaster for


the taxpayer? Royal Mail, whose shares are worth 67% more than when


they were launched shortly ago. Peter Hain, has it been a first


class disaster for the taxpayer? Yes. Not only a disaster but a total


scandal, because what the government has done is to nationalise the depth


of the Post Office by taking on the pension fund for ?9 billion of


taxpayer liability, and then sold it off at a cut-price, at a really


cheap rate, quick and easy, for far less than they needed to. Having


allowed the Royal Mail to start making profit, they waited for it to


make profit, and then they sold it. So the taxpayers got short-changed


in every possible way, and the way that it was done, with 16, a


gentleman 's agreement, 16 fund managers getting the prime cut on


the basis that they would become long-term stakeholders, what do they


do, they immediately start selling the shares and their clients make a


massive killing at the expense of us. We owned the Post Office in the


first place, all of us. And then they sell it off.


APPLAUSE Are you saying this was a cock up,


or was it motivated, is their policy behind it?


Much of what this government does is a shambles, frankly, but I do not


know whether that was the reason. They were so keen to get rid of it


and reward their mates in the city, that they were prepared to do it,


come what may, regardless of the fact that actually we could have


built a lot more hospitals and schools with that money, which have


all been cut. And that is why I call it an absolute scandal. Vince Cable,


you were in charge of the sale, accused of rewarding your mates in


the city and of a gentleman 's agreement with 16 people who got


preferential treatment. I do not have many mates in the City. We have


done what the last government were planning to do, having committed


themselves to bringing private capital into the Royal Mail, as we


have. They backed off because the Communication Workers Union vetoed


it. They were going to sell a chunk. They were going to privatise it.


Still majority public ownership, actually. That was Peter


Mandelson's idea. We wanted to put the Royal Mail in a position where


it can compete in a very, very intensive, competitive market. It


was losing market share, faced with furious competition from Corriere


companies. And it has to be able to finance the universal service


obligation, delivering to every house at the standard rate, six days


a week. So what we determined to do was to sell a majority of shares,


some of them to the public, retail, some of them to institutional


investors, long-term institutional investors. And a substantial chunk,


also, to the workforce. This has become a controversy this week


because of the report of the National Audit Office. Their


comment, which you could take as a criticism but could be treated as a


compliment, is that the government was cautious. It was cautious. And


it was cautious for several reasons. The sale took place under threat of


a strike from the Communication Workers Union. We now know they were


bluffing but we did not know at the time, and neither did the investors.


So that induced caution into people buying the shares. More important,


there was a memory of lots of other attempts to float shares. Facebook,


the most famous brand in the world, had had a flop. Their share price


had fallen by half when they tried to float a few months earlier. So


did the leaning mining company. Previous attempts by different


governments to sell shares, BP, Britoil, had all failed. So the


people who did this in my department took the view, on independent


financial advice, that they should be cautious. And they consulted 500


companies as to what the price would be. And we sold at the upper end of


that range. Of course, the price now is significantly higher. It may stay


that way, it may not. If there is a return of industrial relations


trouble it could be hit badly. If the Royal Mail is unable to compete,


and it is a ferocious market, the price could drop. But it is


currently strong. You blame the unions forgetting the price wrong


because you say they bluffed the strike so you had to sell it cheap.


I am not blaming them but it was a fact that had to be considered. One


of the positive things that has come out of this, instead of having years


in which the union were trying to disrupt the work of the Royal Mail,


they now own a substantial chunk of it. Why is it so critical, the


report? They said we were cautious. They said you could have achieved


better value. They said we could have, not that we should have. They


said there was a risk, had we proceeded a significantly higher


price, that the whole thing would have flopped. They did say that this


deep caution, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer. Anthony


Ward, you asked the question, what is your view? It is very easy to be


wise after the event. It is notoriously difficult to predict the


future value and price people will pay for shares. It was important to


have a successful sale. If Peter Hain is outraged, perhaps he could


tell us why Gordon Brown sold off all our gold reserves?


APPLAUSE It annoys me when you try to make


political capital out of these kind of issues. Who is making political


capital? Peter Hain. He is coming out with huge hindsight. Where were


the arguments at the time? I think losing an estimated 1 billion, up to


one and a half billion, from this sale we potentially could have had,


it is not cautious, it is reckless, and the public have been shafted


once again. What is really obvious to me is that the bankers are


laughing all the way back to the bank, because they are the ones, of


course, who, through organising this sale, have dragged in millions.


Somebody made the point today that politicians make bad bankers and I


think that is right. But the public have lost out on this. Every time


there is one of these big sell-outs of public amenities, we know that


wages are slashed, services are cut to the bone and people suffer, and


we never get that back. We just have to look at the rail system. I want


to get back to Anthony's point. You have made more sense than anyone on


the floor of the house this week. It's very difficult to get pricing


right. If the price had been too high and it had flopped, Peter Hain


would be saying it was a disaster, the government had not done its


homework and they completely cocked it up. As it was, the government was


cautious, the price was low. We had no idea what the market would do in


the last six months. The economy is getting better and the stock market


has done appreciably better, but there was no way we could see that


in November, October, when the sale happened. How much did they go up in


the first day, the shares? 38%. But the point that Anthony makes is


true. If it had flopped, there would have been an inquest and an enquiry


and Peter Hain and Julie Bindel would have made the same points in


the reverse way. Peter Hain, you stand accused that Gordon Brown sold


the gold, so you are no wanted to, and secondly that you are using


hindsight. I was opposed to the sale. That is my point. Of Royal


Mail. Of Royal Mail. When we looked at doing it, selling off half of it.


The other thing that worries me a great deal about this situation, and


the price of a stamp is rocketing, and packets, so you will pay for it


twice, having been short-changed by the sale. But the thing that worries


me most, now that it has happened, is that I think the Royal Mail


should have at their level playing field with the competition. A lot of


the competitors do the easy to Bristol, and if it is an outlying


village in Somerset, Gloucestershire or somewhere, they pop it into the


Royal Mail to do the hard stuff. But Royal Mail has an obligation. They


are not competing on a level playing field, they are creaming off the


profitable traffic. I think what Vince Cable should do is to create a


level playing field for all competitors in the Royal Mail. You


said, which is a serious accusation, that he was rewarding his mates in


the City. In what way were they rewarding their mates? Knowingly


getting them to take shares which they knew they would then sell on


and make profit? They were so ideological and dogmatically


determined to sell it anyway, they did it recklessly, rather than


responsibly, and they were prepared to give their mates in the City a


good deal, rather than the taxpayers. That is my point. It is a


bit worrying that in a few years the government is going to have to sell


the banks back. If it struggles to sell an institution which is worth a


couple of billion, how is it going to sell the dozens of billions,


maybe hundreds of billions of shares back at a reasonable rate for the


taxpayer? You are thinking the same problem. Camilla Cavendish. There is


an answer, which is to sell more slowly. I think Anthony is right, it


is easy to be wise after the event. It was difficult to price because


the unions were threatening to strike, so I can see the


difficulty. But you did not have too sold 60%. You could have sold 25%,


you could have seen what the price was going to be. You could probably


do the same with the banks, test the market. The NAO, you say they paid a


compliment. The NAO were scathing about this sale. And the problem


was, you were cautious on price but you were reckless in how much you


sold, and the combination was devastating. But there is an upside.


We should the upside, which is the people with money and pension funds,


who I suppose is what Peter Means by the mates in the City, have done


well because the pension funds all sold at ?5 50. And luckily, the


postal workers who bought shares, at least they have got something out of


it. Let's go to the point Camilla made about the report from the


National Audit Office saying you should retain 49%, you should have


kept for the taxpayer 49%. Why did you go for 30%? We had to sell


enough to get the thing off the government's borrowing requirements.


That was the problem. In order for the Royal Mail to survive and


compete, it has to borrow in the markets and it will not get the


money from the government. So it had to be a significant majority in


private shares to do that. But not all at once. Peter says that somehow


or other I should manipulate the amount of competition that is


allowed. I am not allowed to do that. That is set by an independent


regulator which the last government established, setting the rules of


competition. You can ask them to change the re-met. We get this


moralistic lecture on privatisation. One of the models I looked at when


we decided how to do this was what the Labour government did when it


did its own privatisation. They sold a defence company, for example, and


after it was sold, the price increased by a factor of ten. It was


ten times what they sold it for. I am not making an ideological point.


How big was that? Considerably smaller than the Royal Mail. It was


not a vital public service. The universal service obligation is an


obligation that the new Royal Mail has to observe. And we have created


a position where it can draw capital from the market and compete, and


meet the social obligation. As an ordinary taxpayer, the scandal was I


was only entitled to ?270 worth of shares. The big city investors who


would sell them very quickly, were able to have what they wanted. I


would with have invested, I did in fact have money set aside, up to


?10,000 to invest. I didn't go over ?10,000, I would have got nothing.


That is where the scandal was. It wasn't offered... It wasn't offered


equally to the taxpayer, as it was - Not at all. Why was that? Most


people would consider that a reasonable investment. He wasn't.


Many of the institutional investors were not able to invest either. Can


I correct you. Private investors got ?700. You got less ?200. ?270. It


was oversubscribed we wanted 700,000 people to have a share. If we had


allocated it all to the very wealthy investors, then small investors


would not have the had anything. The wealthy investors were... They are


not wealthy. Are much wealthier now than when they bought the shares. If


I describe who they were. The Legal I describe who they were. The Legal


General, which has hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of


members, we are talking about Royal London, classic insurance companies.


Talking about local authority pension funds. Several of them,


Labour councils in some cases, invested their funds in the Royal


Mail. These are the wicked financial institutions - What about the hedge


funds? Very few hedge funds represented. The one that did buy in


has disappeared. Most of these are long-term pension funds. Run? They


did, actually. The people we wanted to sell to were the serious


long-term investors who have the Royal Mail's interest at heart. They


are still there. There is still a substantial of majority of shares


held by companies of that kind. A couple more points. You, sir.


Briefly, if you would. What sticks in my throat, I was unfortunate


enough to go margin Ali over the limit. I was eliminated totally


because Vince thought I was a city speculator, I think were the words.


Never mind about that. One thing that does bother me... Serious


accusation. One thing that bothers me, is it now Labour Party policy


that the hundreds of thousands of loyal employees, the small


shareholders in Royal Mail, and the many, many members of pension funds,


should not have benefitted from this privatisation. Are you saying that


no employee in a company that goes private, from the public sector


should benefit? I'm not saying that. That is what you are saying? I would


not have done it in the first place. They wouldn't have benefitted at


all. Since the Government was determined to do it, they did it in


a reckless way and shortchanged the taxpayer. That is my point. A point


from you. The six energy companies are privatised and makings assive


profits. The Government are doing nothing to protect the working-class


people from being squeezed right at the root. They are finding it


difficult to make ends meet. Why is privatisation always the best way


forward? APPLAUSE


As ever, you can join in this debate by text or Twitter tonight.


I'm going on to another question, this from Oliver Sloane. Is it


embarrassing that the Deputy Prime Minister was outclassed by Nigel


Farage in last night's debate on EU membership? Yes. 27% Nick Clegg won,


68% Nigel Farage won. Vince Cable, he is the leader of your party, what


do you say? I think he deserves a lot of credit for showing the bottle


to go out and debate this very difficult issue. The the people who


actually lost were the two party leaders who couldn't be bothered and


didn't want to confront the issue. The fact is, there is a lot of very


eurosceptic feeling in the country. Some of it is rationally based, some


of it is based on myth, someone had to confront it. On that scale do you


think 68% to 27%? We don't know what they would vote before the debate


started or they will vote in a referendum. Farage, to give him


credit, if a very effective debater. He scored his points effectively. We


acknowledge that. That merely underlines the extent of the


argument that we now have to make. I mean, I spent the day in Bristol


talking to manufacturering and other companies, and really underlining to


me how many livelihoods in this area depend on the European Union. Airbus


and its supply chain companies are dependant on the European Union. If


question marks were put over its future, there would be serious


doubts over the many jobs associated with it. I had to answer today


interviews with your local press about a survey that the BBC has done


in this area, which suggested that of local companies, half of them


were wholly committed to the European Union and seriously


concerned about the consequences of leaving. 18% were opposed. That is


the balance of people who actually are providing livelihoods and jobs.


We think in this country about 2.5 million, 4 million jobs are tide up


directly or indirectly with the European Union. Nick Clegg deserves


credit for having to take on on this debate and trying to tackle the


myths. The argument is he took on the debate, but lost. You, sir. Does


the panel think the three other major party leaders should have the


bottle to debate with Nigel Farage? I've debated with Nigel Farage on


Question Time. I disagree with him absolutely on a whole number of


things, including Europe. I agree with the points that Vince has made,


that for us to consider leaving Europe would be to turn our back on


at least 3.5 million jobs, dependant on trade with Europe, a whole lot of


other benefits that we get. Why did Nigel Farage win the debate


according to all the surveys? Nigel is very good at what he does. He's a


normal bloke. I don't think anybody would elect him to be Prime


Minister, but he benefits from the enormous anti-politician feeling


that there is. Vince and I we are disliked as a professional - we may


not be as individuals, as a group we are disliked. Nigel Farage ploughs


that seed effectively. He does it very well. That is one of the


reasons why I think he trounsed Nick Clegg last night, not least because


Nick Clegg is at the other end of the spectrum of popularity. It's not


just because politicians are unpopular. It's because Nigel Farage


puts his finger on something that a lot of politicians seem unwilling to


really talk about, which is that we have an overcentralised, brur


cattic, undemocratic EU, which has actually, because of the euro, made


millions of people in Spain and Greece incredibly poor. Has not


taken responsibility for that. Is not taking any action. I thought the


debate last night came when someone in the audience asked - how will the


EU look different in 10 years time? Nick Clegg said, I think it will


look about the same. I thought, if you don't understand urgency of the


question. If you don't understand what people are worried about. It


doesn't mean they want to walk away. It doesn't mean they think Nigel


Farage has the answers. Peter, if you don't understand. If


politicians, I don't mean you personally, politicians come across


as complacent not willing to address that issue, you are going to find


that Nigel Farage wins every single time. I agree with you.


APPLAUSE You, sir. I would like to know what


the point of these debates are. Whether Nigel wins or anybody else


wins the debate, unless the people are actually going to get a


referendum and a say in it, what is the point of having the debate?


Oliver made a great point. Nigel Farage won comprehensively that


debate. 68-27 is a massive 2-1 victory. As Camilla said, he is


definitely hit the popular nerve. I was a week old when the referendum


happened in 75. Anyone who is 18 years older than me and younger has


never actually had a say on this issue. There is a huge demand from a


large section of people to finally deal with this question of the EU. I


think there is a feeling that political elites in Westminster, we


are guys in suits, with white shirts, and all the rest of it, are


completely detached from people on this issue. Does that vote suggest


to you that is how people would vote in a referendum or not? I don't


think so. I think people are fair-minded and will hear the


arguments when the referendum happens. There is a demand to have


this debate questioned and to have a say. If we were to have a referendum


tomorrow, with the anti-European propaganda that has been fed to us


on a daily basis by the likes of the Daily Express, it costs us less per


day than a copy of the Daily Express to be a member of the EU. I would


insist upon, we all would, proper information in an accessible way to


the general public about what the benefits are. Why, don't we appoint


an independent research to examine what the benefits and what the


issues would be. The effect on the economy and on the political system


if we left the EU, which I think would be a complete disaster. We


don't just make money from the EU. We have millions of jobs, a legal


system that protects us. In terms of these two men debating, I think that


Farage and Clegg sounded a little bit like each other. Really? I


really think - Really? Not in terms of policies. If they were at public


school together they might be taking their trousers down to see whose


one's biggest! The woman at the back there. Yes. What worries me, if and


when we get a chance to get a referendum, most people's decision


will be based on who comes up with the best rhetoric on TV rather than


any information that we are not currently being given. You in the


fourth row. Back to the actual... Rather than talking about the


political bickering about whether we should have been in and out it was


Nick Clegg's performance at the debate that was particularly


disappointing. The way he was so patronising to people watching,


something called the Lisbon Treaty. As if no-one has ever heard of that


thing. On one question - someone asked a question on public services


his answer was - which she picked up on - that's the problem when you


have people. Which didn't make any sense. When you tried to get an


answer out of him... You, sir, in the third row. I think Nigel Farage,


we should not ignore Nigel Farage he is ride what the political


representative in France has been doing, she is riding high. For me,


Nigel Farage is riding on what is happening on France. We should keep


an eye on that. The man in front there. My question really, which


nobody has answered, should there be a debate before the general election


which includes Nigel Farage, no-one has answered that. Miliband said he


wouldn't debate Farage in the general election in the leadership


debate. Why not, what is Cameron afraid of? He was talking about the


European election. In the Guardian about a general election. What he


said all along. It's a matter for the broadcasters of the BBC and


others to determine who should appear. Not according to the


Guardian today. There are lots of debates that will involve Nigel. I


have taken part in a lot of them, including on this programme. That is


absolutely right. This programme is a discussion programme, not a debate


in the same way. The question is he asking - should Farage be given the


standing to stand alongside the Prime Minister, the leader of the


Liberal Democrats and the Labour leader as an equal? That is what I'm


about to come to. Nigel Farage does not have a member of parliament. The


Green Party has a member of parliament. Should the Green Party's


leader be on that platform as well? You are choosing who you want to be


the Prime Minister. That will either be David Cameron or Ed Miliband. Why


is Nick Clegg there? Because Nick Clegg is in coalition he had a big


bunch of MPs, much less than the Conservatives and Labour.


Ultimately, this is a broadcasting matser. It's not a question of being


afraid to debate. This is a choice for the country as to who you want


to be Prime Minister. The 15% for UKIP and 9% for the Liberal


Democrats. Let's go back to the issue of the debates and we must


move on. You there, on the side. I don't think he has earnt his space


at the general election debate, so far they are a fringe party that


have risen to prominence on one issue. The general election debate


won't be on Europe. Who here can tell you what UKIP's economic


policies are? How would they reform the NHS. We don't know these things.


So far they are the party who are anti-everything. Until they come up


with some credible alternatives he should not be at a general election


debate. He hasn't earned that space right. You are right. I think the


media dressed him as a cuddly teddy bear, that is why he is seen as the


man of the people. He hates the working-classes, hates women,


immigrants - that is why he is seen as the a member of the people. This


is a nonsense. I don't agree with everything he


says but to demonise him as the National Front, a hater of all these


people, is absolutely wrong. He wants to cut taxes for the rich and


raise taxes for the rest. He wants a flat tax of 31p. In terms of the


debate, I have a clear view. I think it should be a two person debate


between the people who are likely to be next prime minister, Ed Miliband


and David Cameron. That is my view, because we know these are the people


who are going to be prime minister after 2015. It is a binary choice.


It is a straight choice and I think we should have a debate between the


Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. We go on to our next


question. Will a monthly ?10 membership fee encourage citizens to


value the NHS? A proposal by a former Labour health minister that


everyone should pay ?10 per month towards the NHS. You are a nurse in


the NHS. What do you think of this idea of people paying a ?10 on top


of their tax for the NHS? I am wholeheartedly against that, but I


do find that people are feeling demoralised in my profession and


there is a general feeling that the general public are complacent about


the NHS and do not appreciate it. The new boss of the NHS is on record


as saying the NHS has the most sustained budget crunch in its


history facing it. Camilla Cavendish, what do you think of it?


It is dangerous but there are good reasons for it. The fact that the


NHS is a universal service, free at the point of need, free when you


really need it, is really precious and we shouldn't lose that. If we do


lose that, a whole lot of things slide.


APPLAUSE But I also agree with you that I


think we have come to take the NHS for granted.


And we think of it as free. It is not free, we are all paying for it.


But because we think of it as free, there are more and more people who


are abusing it. AGP rang me yesterday to complain about


something I had written, and he rang because he had time because he was


sitting through his third missed appointment of the day. Nurses have


said to me, why don't we put the price on medicine? Why don't we tell


people that the antibiotics they cannot be bothered to finish costs


?30? Why don't we tell them the equipment they take home and do not


bring back costs money? I think you are right, if people were more aware


of the real cost of the NHS, they would value it more. I don't think


the answer is to slap a ?10 charge on it. Lord Warner, who made the


proposals, is a thoughtful man, a former Labour Health Secretary.


There were a lot of other proposals he made. But I do think we might


think about what we do when someone misses an appointment. What do we do


when someone rings 999 because they have a sore throat? What do you do,


find them? There are lots of doctors and nurses I have spoken to who are


getting to the point where we must not lose the principle of free at


the point of need, but we have to say, if you fail to show up three


times in a row, there has to be a price for that. I don't know how you


do it, but we need to put the value back, because otherwise we are going


to find that we can't afford the NHS any longer.


APPLAUSE I would agree with Camilla's point,


but I think you should extend it to people going out and getting drunk


on Saturday night. If they turn up at Accident


Emergency, they should get an invoice for their hotel room for the


night. Secondly, I am a healthy individual and I pay ?10 a month,


but do I get that back in the end of the year because I have not used the


NHS? Why should I be penalised, as a healthy citizen, for some people


being irresponsible? You know why? Because it is a collective. We need


to look after people who have made mistakes and fallen on hard times.


You can't start charging everybody who makes a mistake or gets a


particular disease. As I understand it, the proposal was for ?10 per


visit to a GPU. I think it is a seriously bad idea and Camilla's


introduction, I agreed with it. Once you start dismantling the principle


of free at the point of use, the edifice starts to crumble. For a lot


of people, ?10 is a lot of money and some of them have to go regularly,


so they don't go, and they don't go until it is too late and the disease


is too late. Others will try to avoid it by going to Accident


Emergency, which is already swamped with people. We are trying to get


people to GPs, not into Accident Emergency. And obviously, if people


are very poor, you have to let them off, so you create a means test in


the GPs surgery. Receptionists are already swimming in red tape and


would then be filling in forms, so it becomes self-defeating. There is


a general problem but -- about funding in the NHS. We realise that.


What do you make of the points about telling people what things cost,


charging them if they don't turn up, punishing people for abusing the


NHS. Trying to demonstrate the value. There is already charging for


certain kinds of medicine. The mechanisms are in place, but what


does punishment actually mean? How do you know whether somebody has


actually used the antibiotics when they take it home? I can understand


the frustration of genuine medics when they are dealing with patients


who do not take treatment seriously, but trying to have this policing of


the system is not practical, rather like this proposal. You were nodding


in approval when Camilla was talking. I remember a doctor coming


into my surgery as an MP and saying that one fifth of his appointments


do not show, and that is a chronic waste of his resource. It is also


terrible, because sometimes people in England have to wait a month to


get an appointment with their GP. Clearly, something needs to be done


about that, whether it is saying, if you don't show and provide an


explanation, if you ring up next time you will be at the back of the


queue, or whatever. But I agree that if you start down the road of


charging, it will never end, and you will hit those who need it most the


hardest. One other point, I think the National Health Service needs


better funding and I think it needs better funding from taxation, and it


is the cheapest health provision in the world, much cheaper than


America. America is private but it costs, per capita, much, much more


than the National Health Service costs us per head of population. We


should cherish it, and we should cherish community nurses like you


and support you, not attack you the whole time and denude the service of


the funding it needs. APPLAUSE


The woman next to the question. I am an ex-nurse, and I would agree


that it is about time that patients were aware of the costs involved,


particularly medication and treatment in hospital. Also, I would


happily pay ?10 to see my GP if it meant I could go at the time I


wanted and I could get an appointment on the day of my choice.


I appreciate what you are saying and I agree with Camilla's points but I


think that would create a two tiered system where those who could afford


?10 would get the best appointments, and those who can't would be


waiting, and those are often the ones that are the least advantaged.


I don't think you were quite saying that, were you? It is not about


priority, but about getting an appointment when you need one. That


is not priority, is it? I appreciate your point and I can see why you are


making it. I have called and been told there is not an appointment for


a week, or I have to wait all day. When you are busy, or you have


childcare, it is impossible. But I still think it would set up a two


tiered system where those who can afford it would get the better


appointments, those that are when they want them. I do think we should


appreciate the National Health Service. I do think we value it.


Remember, it is ours, we pay for it. It is not free. We pay for it


through prescription charges, through other ways, whether we


volunteer, there are all manner of ways in which we respect our health


service and it should continue. Perhaps it would be good to educate


people about the cost of medicine. Maybe it would. I have dumped think


tank pieces, and sometimes they get covered, sometimes they don't. -- I


have done think tank pieces. What do you mean? I have written think tank


pieces. Sometimes they get picked up in the media and people sometimes


criticise them. What this man is trying to do, yes, it is


controversial, but we have to have a mature debate about funding the NHS


in the future. People are getting older. The demands on the service


are increasing. If you look at age expectancy, it has risen 20 years


since the NHS was founded in 1947. Clearly, there will be more and more


costs. We have to think about how we are going to fund this. I completely


agree with Camilla, but to rely on the old methods and think we can


raise the money through more taxation is unrealistic. If you take


away the appointment system and you are ill and go to the GP, you will


not have anyone sat there waiting for someone to turn up. If you go,


you are sick, someone is waiting to serve you when you arrive, as


opposed to booking an appointment to see the GP, I would like to go today


but I can't because the appointment is in three weeks. Then you don't


bother to go and you end up with people becoming more unwell because


they have got a little better than become worse. You prefer the system


of sitting in the waiting room and taking your term. I have lived in


Wales and it works there. Wales does not have the best NHS reputation


today. When we are in Wales, everybody complains about the NHS.


When I am in England, everybody complains about the NHS. I have an


elderly relative who has just been discharged after a serious operation


who has not yet seen a GP after being a month out of the hospital,


and supposed to be getting care in the community which just does not


exist. Before I retired, I work as a Project surveyor in hospitals. I


agree that clinical costs are horrendously high. But like all


large institutions, there is a mindset where it is spending other


people's money and they really don't care. They think in telephone


numbers. I worked in a hospital where they completed a new maternity


complex. The doctor who laid out the brief realised he had not put in a


recovery room for the theatres. So they ripped out half of the whole


project. Your point is that big institutions always waste money. One


hospital I worked in, the only time it was cured, each department was


given its own budget and was not allowed to step outside that, and


that brought the cost right down, when people realised how much they


were spending. You think if clients of the NHS realised how expensive it


was it would make a difference. I think we should resist all attempts


to start charging people to see their GPs, because the only ones


that are going to lose out by this are the most vulnerable, which is


the very reason the NHS was set up in the first place.


APPLAUSE Let's go back to domestic politics


for a moment. If Maria Miller is not diligent


enough to reconcile her expenses how can she stay in her job? The Culture


Secretary, who had to apologise to the House of Commons, why should she


keep her job if she can't get her expenses right? Obviously, we have


heard a lot over the last few years about whether it is expense over


claiming or fiddling. I am grateful that we have been informed in detail


about the fact that so many serving members of Parliament are scamming.


But there are many who are not. And I think it is disgraceful what she


has done, and I think that the fact that she seems to have committed an


act of fraud, whether it is criminal or not, rather than made a mistake,


which definitely had happened with some of the cases, it is a real


scandal. And I think the apologies we are hearing over and over again


are just getting a little banal. So I want to see real accountability


with all public servants. Whether or not she has committed a worse


crime, if you like, than others, I don't know, but certainly it has


reopened the debate and I can imagine there will be others


following her. Peter Hain, you resigned as a minister over a


failure to declare. It was nothing to do with parliamentary expenses.


It was to do with not declaring donations to a deputy leader


campaign within the time limit. I went over the time limit. When I


discovered the problem I reported it and was then attacked. I thought the


best thing was to resign. I cleared my name and I went back to the


Cabinet. Do you think Maria Miller should do the same? It seems that


some MPs were treated in one way and she seems to have been treated in


another. That is the problem here. But what is also the problem is that


this is a hangover from the old system. The new system that has


operated since the last general election is extremely rigorous,


very, very clearly policed and use and he cannot do the kind of thing


that brought us all into disrepute. That minority of MPs did more to


destroy a trust between the voters and politicians like me than almost


anything else that has happened in the last few generations. And they


deserve every attack they get. In what way has she been treated


differently Labour colleagues have served prison sentences. They did


illegal things and were convicted. Is I will not have a go at Maria


Miller, she has been treated leniently compared to how others


have been treated. The public have an enormous comtempt for politicians


who scam their expenses. That is what I think. There is a problem


with expenses. There is the rule of law in Britain. If you break the law


there is a judicial process. People who broke the law, colleagues of


ours, have been sent to jail. They have done their time. Yeah. There is


no indication, no-one is suggesting that she broke the law. She was


accused of something, John Mann, parliamentary colleagues on the


Labour side, the investigation on John Mann what he said I understand


she was exonerated. She apologised fully. People say the apology could


have been longer. I think, as it stands, she should be allowed to


continue in her job. Is the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper,


resigned because she didn't know whether his cleaner had - Yes, I


think that was very harsh. At the same time - He choose to resign. He


was the Immigration Minister. It's different! There was a peculiar


sensitivity about that, given the fact he was the Immigration Minister


employing an illegal immigrant there was paradox. You thought his


resignation... He wasn't forced to do. It he behaved honourably and


handed in his resignation. Vince Cable I worry when I hear people


bandingy about words like "fraud". There is a distinction between fraud


and cheating and scams on the one hand, and mistakes on the other. I


don't know the details of this case, the people who investigated it,


there is a Parliamentary Standards group, people from each of the


different parties are represented on it, who looked at this case and came


to the conclusion, on the facts, that she was not involved in


deliberate deception, but that there had been a mistake. Why did she have


to apologise then? To for making a serious mistake. She repaid the


money. There was a proper process. I mean, had she been involved in


anything dishonest, and had the standards Committee found that she


would have had to go and had to face police action, as some of our


colleagues would. There was a clear distinction. An independent body


established there was no fraud in this case. Apology was for the way


that that she handled the commissioner's inquiries. That is


the point. What I find depressing about this, I don't know the


details, she obviously was exonerated. What I did read was that


the inquiry had found that she was unco-operative. That is what


depresses me about this. She may have been above board, it may have


been fine... APPLAUSE


You know, you have to have the grace, as a public servant, to treat


these inquiries seriously. The woman there shouted out. The apology was


for obstructing the investigation, that is what she was apologise


guising for. What does that say about her character? Should she


really be... Do you think she should have resigned? Yeah, yes, I do. On


the left there. I want to get people who haven't spoken. She should have


been sacked. This is black-and-white. At the end of the


day, take law out of the equation, she is an MP and there is a moral


grounds here for her to be sacked. There is one thing to make a mistake


over a couple of months. This is over a prolonged period of time. She


claimed for interest she wasn't being charged. I work in the


private-sector, if I made mistakes on my expenses every month, I would


be sacked. APPLAUSE


You are a colleague of hers in the same party. Briefly answer that


point. I want to go on to another question. She is capable minister.


She is doing a very good job. She is in a moral position, she is an MP,


voted in. She should be sacked. She has grounds to live up to. Going to


say that the the rules she was living with at the time mean that


she didn't have to live up to a certain code is irrelevant as well.


She is in a role. She has a moral code to live up to. She failed that


and she failed the public. APPLAUSE


I know passions are strong here. I disagree with you. I don't think


there was an independent inquiry. There was an independent inquiry


that exonerated her. Other colleagues of mine have faced


criminal charges and they have been convicted and they have been sent


down to court... Sent down to jail. I don't think this is a resigning


matter. You, sir, in the tie. You can't say that. Ultimately what this


is about is the three of you telling us you are whiter than white. Simple


as that. I'm a civil servant. If I did that, I would be sacked. We must


leave this. You are saying he is right she should resign. I'm not


saying she should resign or be sacked, that is a matter for others.


When politicians don't pay a price, when something like this happens, it


brings us into even more contempt. It does. Let us go on to another


question. One more. Joseph Llewellyn has it, please. Is it a good idea


for children to start school at the age of two or should we allow them


to be children for a little longer? Ofsted's boss, was suggesting this


today, that children should start their schooling at the age of two,


Camilla, what do you think of that proposal. I have three quite small


children, so I don't know how you would answer the question, I suspect


by the wayer asking it, you think children should be allowed to be


children. Him, he will tell you. You tell us first. I think a child being


allowed to run around and play is massively important part of growing


up. To make them start school at the age of two doesn't make sense to me.


I have recently come out of school, I have had five years of continuous


exams. It's been horrible. I hated it. To give give the contact. He


said that more than two-thirds... He stressed of our poorest children in


some of our poorest communities, that is eight children out of ten,


go to school unprepared. They can't hold a pen. They have poor language


and communication skills. They don't recognise simple numbers, and they


can't use the toilet independently and so on. So it seems to be that


that he is aiming at, including everybody in it? Exactly. The point


is what you mean by "school"? I have a lot of time for Michael Willshaw.


He did brilliant work as teacher in Hackney, what he did for


disadvantaged children who before then had no hope, he is


extraordinary. He is genuinely concerned about that group of


children that you are talking about, David, who clearly are not getting


the kind of learning that they need, which is pretty basic at that age. I


don't think he is suggesting they should all sit down at tables and


recite their times tables. Which would be completely ludicrous. I


city on Frank Field's Early Years Foundation Trust, we are looking at


the huge disadvantage that kids from certain backgrounds start with at


the age of five. You know, you can't make up for that later. All the


studies now show if you arrive at school without those basic things,


without your basic vo calibry you are so far behind. You are overtaken


so quickly by children who have a better home life and who have


parents who provide those things. I think it's absolutely vital for


social mobility that we look seriously at that group of children.


But it's equally vital if we want to send them back to school, whatever


we mean by that, we have to absolutely top quality people doing


that job. I think just sort of sticking them in a factory, around a


desk, certainly isn't going to work. Yes, definitely I would suggest that


as a really good way forward. It would benefit parents, it would


particularly benefit single parents, in the main single mothers. Those


working-class children that don't have a house full of books. Parents


that have the time to engage with them. Because of the stress of


living on benefits, below the poverty line, ing three jobs, for


whatever reason. The rich kids, the kids from middle-class backgrounds,


wealthier backgrounds, should go to school with those kids from lower


social groups because it's a brilliant equaliser. I think that it


would be amazing for children to start mixing together across class


and races and cultures at such a young age before prejudices set in


and before disadvantage sets in. What do you make of the point about


should we allow them to be children for longer? I would accept that. The


way in which society has evolved is that the schools for two-year-olds


wouldn't be fully comprehensive in the way you describe. I'm sure


richer people would pay to send their children at that age to


private schools. If we had a proper comprehensive system and abolished


the private system then it would. Nobody is suggesting that. The


former Children's Minister said today, what next, he said SATS tests


for embryos? That's nonsense! Tim, has his own way of expressing


himself. I think he make as good point. I don't think - He does make


a good point. Don't think two-year-old children should go to


school. Let me tell you. I will get to the bottom of this. Willshaw


said, let's not pander to those who think children's childhoods are


being toll stolen... I agree there are huge social problems that we


face as a society. There is massive inequality that we face. I don't


think that is solved by forcing two-year-olds, every two-year-old to


go to school. I don't think... We should address social causes and not


force everyone to go to school. Speak to teachers in nursery and


reception classes and some even in the first year of primary school,


the kids come, not even being able to go to the toilet. Not being able


to hold knives and forks, let alone read a book. Not just for the


reasons Julie says, which are valid in terms of very poor parents,


parents need to take their responsibilities properly. I speak


as a parent and a grand parent. One. Things we have to do, we are


creating an enormous problem that stacks up for schools when they get


into schooling unless we deal with the problem - This isn't about...


APPLAUSE This isn't or shouldn't be about


sending two-year-olds to formal school. There are some very good


education systems in northern Europe where people don't start until six


or seven. The issue, several of the panellists identified, this enormous


gulf we find five or six you can predict how children will succeed or


fail. Somehow or other one has to counter that disadvantage. What my


side of the coalition has done done in the Government introduced a Pupil


Premium, it applies in school, also applies to pre-school and helps with


breakfasts or helping in nursery schools and helping those children


between two and five to get up to a reasonably equally playing field


when they are at school. Agree with the proposal? I agree with the


proposal of helping not children. It's not sitting two-year-olds in


formal classroom setting. That is not the issue. It's giving people


from disadvantaged backgrounds proper help, proper support, so when


they do go to school they are there on a level playing field. Time is


up. We must stop. Next week, we will be in West London, Harriet Harman


will be among the politicians on the panel. Sir Martin Sorree ll and


Billy Brag. We will be back on 1st May in Leeds. To make a note. Next


week, we will be in West London, and in Leeds three weeks away. If you


would like to come to either programme, as I always say, if you


can read it on your television, the address is there. #6 the telephone:


number: do apply. If you are listening on 5 Live this debate goes


on. As far as Bristol is concerned, this debate comes to a halt. My


thanks to all of you on the panel. Thanks to you the audience here,


until next Thursday, on Question Time, good night.




David Dimbleby presents the topical debate from Bristol. The panel includes Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable MP, Labour's former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain MP, Conservative MP Kwasi Kwarteng, associate editor of The Times Camilla Cavendish and Guardian columnist Julie Bindel.

Download Subtitles