15/05/2014 Question Time


David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Coventry. On the panel are Esther McVey MP, Lord Ashdown, Caroline Flint MP, Humza Yousaf MSP and Tim Stanley.

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Tonight, we are in Coventry, and welcome to Question Time.


Good evening to you at home, welcome to our audience, who will be putting


questions to the panel who do not know the questions until they hear


them from the audience. The panel, Conservative employment Minister


Esther McVey, Labour's shadow energy Secretary, Caroline Flint, the man


who is spearheading next year's Liberal Democrat general election


campaign, Paddy Ashdown, the SNP was Mike Humza Yousaf, the Scottish


Government's external affairs minister, and the Daily Telegraph


blogger, Tim Stanley. Thank you very much, and the first


question from RM has shimmy, please. Should Gary Barlow hand back his


OBE? Should Gary Barlow hand back his OBE, the Take That singer with a


huge amount of tax avoidance which apparently has to be paid back.


Should he also hand back his OBE? Humza Yousaf. It is a good question.


I have to say that Gary Barlow's OBE, frankly I do not care about it.


He should return the ?20 million that he has avoided paying. I am


going to get a ribbing for this back home, but I have to confess my


guilty pleasure. I am quite a Take That farm and I have the albums at


home. Let me tell you why this is significant. Firstly, we have a UK


Government that tells us the reason for their austerity cuts, the cuts


that are hitting the disabled and the poorest in society, they are


because they don't have a penny in the budget. And they say that while


there is ?35 billion of tax that has not been collected. How can you have


no money and yet have ?35 billion of tax not collected by the government


because HMRC and the government cannot get their act together? The


second point to make on this issue is what has characterised the UK


Government over the last four years is how it treats the wealthiest in


society versus the poorest in society. If you had a dispute with


HMRC, you would have them sending letters, the government sending


notices, you would probably have them knocking on your very door. The


disabled and the poorest are relentlessly pursued to get them


back into work. In Scotland we had a blind diabetic, Henry Sherlock, who


was bullied and harassed to get into work. You are moving rather far away


from tax avoidance. If you are a millionaire and avoiding tax, you


don't get a slap on the wrist, not even a tickle. That is the hypocrisy


of it. Esther McVey. Well, the flaw in that logic is the fact that we


are going after millionaires to get the money to make sure they pay the


tax, and celebrities, to make sure they pay their tax. More than ever


before, this government is making sure that people are paying their


tax and not avoiding tax. And it is only fair and right that each and


every one of us here pays our tax bill, because that tax bill enables


us to have the NHS we want, the schools that we want, the transport


that we want, everything that is right in a good, solid community and


country. So it is right we go after that. It is important that we go


after that money. But, the question as to whether he should hand back


his OBE, no, I don't think he should. That was for so much charity


work he has done, so much that he has done for the music industry.


That was separate. If I had the offer of an OBE or ?63 million and I


was the government, I would be taking back the ?63 million. The


woman in the striped shirt. Esther McVey says they are going after


millionaires and celebrities, but are they also going after


corporations that avoid massive tax bills? Let's stick with Gary Barlow


for the moment. It is a bit rich for the Conservatives to say they are


going after tax money. George Osborne did not come into politics


to take money off rich people. He is doing it because we are telling him


to. Jimmy Carter got abuse for his tax affairs, and yet yesterday in


Parliament David Cameron made a joke about Gary Barlow. He should not


give back his OBE, we should take it back from him. The gentleman is


quite right, because when it was a comedian in the spotlight, David


Cameron said it was morally wrong what happened there. But when it has


come to Gary Barlow, he has taken a different tack. It seems to me that


probably everyone here and people watching, most of us pay as we earn.


We pay our tax, and what we have not got its access to accountants and


others who can find a way for us to hide our money. I am not that


interested about the OBE, although it might be worth checking out


people's tax situation before we award one. But what I do think is


that Gary Barlow and the many others like him should not only pay that


tax back, but where it is proven they should pay penalties as well.


Hang on a second. You said something quite serious. They should pay


penalties? Let's be absolutely clear. As I understand it, tax


avoidance schemes have two be registered with the HMRC, and then


they decide whether to accept a scheme. So there is not a criminal


offence. Why should you pay a penalty? If these things are found


to be wrong and beyond what HMRC are saying, they should pay penalties as


well. People are fed up of seeing wealthy people and corporations


getting out of their tax obligations. The fact is your


government, David Cameron decided to give a tax cut to people earning


over ?150,000 a year, even though you wanted to harm people through


the bedroom tax. A brief answer to that. To point out the factual


inaccuracies, we have tightened the rules, we are getting more in than


ever before and we have increased the penalties. Because we all know


that money should come back to the British public. So factually


inaccurate, Caroline. I agree with the point you are making about the


top rate of tax. I think it comes down to the question of an optimal


rate. If it is set to hide, it does deter rich people away. -- if it is


set to high. There has to be a decision where the top level is set,


otherwise rich people move abroad. What do you think about Gary Barlow?


He should handle all the money back, but he should keep his OBE, on the


grounds of how much he has done for the UK, in terms of charity work and


obviously services to the music industry. He has done nothing


illegal. If I had ?63 million and I could afford to pay accountants to


help me not pay as much tax as I possibly could, even earning ?40,000


a year. If I could get someone to do that and save me money in my pocket,


I would do it, and I am sure 90% of this audience would do it. Paddy


Ashdown, do you want to pick up on that? I want to pick up on the point


which Esther McVey made. He received the OBE for other things and I think


the case for that stands. Should it be removed? No. Should he pay the


penalty for the steps he has taken to avoid taxation, yes. That is


where we should concentrate. That is my view. Humza's point, as usual,


parts company with fact and reality. The government has disastrous cut


the deficit, it is the poor that have paid the price. No, it is not.


As a result of the work done by the Liberal Democrats, 25 million people


have had ?800 less in taxation every year. 2.7 million of the lowest paid


have been taken out of tax altogether. There is now 2.5 million


being paid to the families of the poorest pupils in pupil premium to


help them with education. Pensioners in this country are now getting ?600


more in their pension annually than they ever got under Labour. Quite


the contrary. What we have seen is the deficit cut by one third already


and by half by next year, while the economy is now growing faster than


ever before, and there is 1.3 million new jobs being created and


1.5 million apprentices. And tax avoidance as an issue? Tax avoidance


is a very big issue but it is true to say this government is pursuing


that with more resources than any previous government has done. Every


government wants to tackle tax avoidance. Of course it is a big


issue and anybody who avoids taxes should be pursued. It is not easy


but the government is devoting resources to that on a larger scale


than we have seen before. But the central point is that the tough


action the government has taken has cut the deficit, has begun to repair


the economy that was trashed by Labour, while at the same time


getting the economy to grow by 1.7% and probably more than that by the


time the election comes, and 1.3 million new jobs. That is not a bad


record, and it is not on the backs of the poor. Someone said to me a


couple of days ago, should Gary Barlow give back his OBE? And I


replied, Gary Barlow has an OBE! It is not just for services to the


music industry, because that would be an irony too far. It is also for


charity work. He is not a bad man and has done it and is not a bad man


and has done a comment as amount for this country for which he and was


rightly rewarded. If the allegations are true, he took advantage of


something which is perfectly legal. We might not become the ball with it


and that is understandable, and some people may even be quite angry with


it, given how much he makes. Some people are applauding. But he has


done something that is perfectly legal. When a tax system that is


incredibly compact or avaricious, it encourages people to take advantage


of such loopholes and to move their money overseas. Loopholes which


previous governments have encouraged in order to get rich people to stay.


If the tax system were simpler and taxes were lower, those people would


be more in plot -- inclined to obey the rules totally, not move anything


overseas and do the right thing. If we bring taxes down, as this


government has done for some, you actually find that income goes up.


So let's lower it, simplify it, and this sort of thing won't happen.


You can join in the debate on text or Twitter. The red button is the


one to push if you want to see what people are saying. Elizabeth


Kimberley, please. Is Michael Gove and ideological obsessed zealot, and


should he be reined in over his free schools policy?


These were quotes attributed to Liberal Democrat sources over a row


over funding free schools at the expense of other school 's,


extensive quotes about him acting in a way that was nothing short of


lunacy. Caroline Flint, do you agree with ideological obsessed zealot who


should be reined in? There are 22,000 state schools of which free


schools represent less than 1%. I wish there was more discussion about


the 22,000. But what we have seen in the last week is a situation where


we have had Michael Gove and Nick Clegg at each other's throats over


education policy. Nick Clegg has his free school meals policy, and


apparently funding for that was not worked out and was being trashed by


the Tories. On the free schools, we now find there is an 800 million


black hole in which they have had to raid money from primary schools to


fill the gap. RU in favour of schools? I am in favour of


academies, and what we have said is that if we win the next general


election we will have three tests in place. One is that schools should be


in areas of need. One of the problems with free schools is that


two thirds of them are secondary schools, which does not help primary


schools, and they are not in the right places to help the need for


primary school places. Secondly, we need oversight to deal with some of


the problems that have emerged. Thirdly, we believe you should have


qualified teachers in all schools, or people working towards


qualifications. The problem is that in the last week what we have seen,


and I can't quite work out whether it is just Liberal Democrats and


Tories trying to differentiate themselves because there is an


election next week, or whether it is incompetence. I feel it is a bit of


both. Paddy Ashdown what do you make of the Liberal Democrats accusing


Michael Gove? There has been hot-headed language on both sides.


It's not my style of politics. I don't agree with some of the more


colourful adjective used by either sides. Not the politicians


concerned, their supporting staff, they are the ones who can let loose


a bit and the press will pick it up. I don't think that is the issue,


frankly. If some officials want to use overheated language, fine, let


them do so. There is a rift? Certainly not over school meals and


the principle of free school meals from September you will get that.


It's a very significant advance. I don't say every school will be in a


position to deliver from September. 90-95% will. That is a significant


move. I'm proud it's the Liberal Democrats who led it, with the


support of the Conservatives, very clearly expressed. On the issue of


free schools. I'm glad Caroline Flint told us the Labour Party is in


favour of free schools. There has been doubt about this as they went


backwards and forwards in the last year. They have come clean. I'm


delighted about that. I am too. It offers choice. Who delivers is not


as important as what is the standard of the education that is delivered.


Provided it's universal access, free-for-all to go to, paid for from


taxation and subject to proper inspection and quality control.


Those are the three concerns I have. Now, what worries me about the free


schools is not the principle, I'm in favour of that. In the way it has


been enacted. We are now facing a very serious pressure on school


places. There are some local authorities who will not this year


be able to provide their statutory duties to parents to provide places


for their children. At that time, to take ?400 million out of the funds


for basic needs, and put it into try and fill ?800 million black hole in


the free school budget, seems to me to be wrong. We have said so. I


think it's right that we should. The job of the Liberal Democrats in this


Government is to hold people to account when they move in directions


that we think are not fair. Now, I agree with free schools, but the way


that this has been enacted so far, the shift of that money from where


it is desperately needed to face a crisis, to fill a black hole in an


area which is not, I think are gives it a bad reputation. It's very well


you saying that. We are in agreement on that. The truth is, the Liberal


Democrats signed up to this policy. No. They signed up to the budgets


being set. Clearly, the budgets weren't thought threw. That is why


primary school money in the state sector is being raided right now.


There is not a single thing that Liberal Democrat MP or a member of


the Government sitting on the benches with the Conservative


ministers can do about it. That is wrong. What will you do about it?


You would have signed up to the policy too. It's not the principle


of the policy? No. You said you were in favour of free schools, are you


not? Is This is about the budget. No the principle of free schools, are


you in favour of them or not? When the policy was set up, it was not


about endangering other funding for primary schools that weren't free


schools. What has happened, as you quite rightly said, there is an ?800


million black hole, 50% of under spend has gone to pay for it. 50%


coming from the basic needs budget from primary schools. The Liberal


Democrat ministers haven't been doing the job they should be doing.


Auto who identified this but Liberal Democrat ministers. Tories are


accused of having taken this money out and left a black hole behind.


Michael Gove is accused of being ideologically obsessed what do you


say about the argument from Paddy Ashdown and Caroline Flint? Driven


and determined to make sure we have excellent education, I would say,


yes. Caroline, when you know Labour's record is that one in three


kids left primary school unable to read, write and do maths. What was


it like in 97? We fell down the tables in maths, English and


science, it's not accept. What we want to do is make sure all children


from all backgrounds get the best possible education that we can have.


That is why he is driven. That is why he is focussed. This is a lad


who was adopted. Went to a comprehensive school. Worked up to


Oxford. Of course he is driven and focussed. He wants to make sure that


everybody has that opportunity to succeed where they can. Free


schools, well, 80% of them are built now and made in areas of economic


deprivation. 0% are in areas of absolute need, where parents, staff,


teachers have come forward and said - we want to build these schools for


our kids. -- 70%. That is the reality. The money for new places at


schools have doubled. ?5 billion. Wrong there. We would all agree we


want to make sure our kids get the best education something they


weren't getting under Labour. What about the ?400 million that Paddy


Ashdown referred to, wrongly taken out of one budget - Wasn't wrongly


taken out of a budget. If people need the schools and people want to


support those schools, a and parents and teachers are saying this is what


we need in our area, they are the people who should have the say. We


need to do that. This is a protected budget. It has doubled for new


school places by ?5 billion. The main parties aren't actually


listening to parents. 207,000 people put in a protest to the Government


to change a policy that was introduced in September last year.


The main parties aren't listening to adults make -- sorry, decision


abouts things and not talking to us. Was the policy? School attendance


policy was completely ignored by the department - the petition for the


school attendance reversal. You, sir, at the back. I think it's not


so much the opportunity for parents to choose the school, it's the


consequences of those schools choosing against the other schools.


The 2,000 are getting more than the 22,000. 200. The 200, even worse!


OK. Over here. You, sir. Yes. When you look at this, there is a


fundamental contradiction. Local authorities are legally bound to


provide school places and, at the same time, they are banned from


opening schools of their own. You end up with schools with Portakabins


on the car park or office blocks being converted. That will not give


us good universal education. You, sir, second row from the back.


Esther said about different numeracy problems, dropping down in the


tables, that is with Government intervention. Surely the Government


should butt out and let the teachers teach.


APPLAUSE The sliding down of the league


tables took place in the latter years of the Labour Government.


There has been a mild improve am since Gove took over. If Michael


Gove is an Ied log, I will be honest, I'm fanatical member of his


barmy army, I think he's marvellous. If you take the case of free


schools. If you take the case of free schools. The reason why so much


money has to be diverted towards them is because they are popular.


Since the policy started 300 have been set up. Three people are trying


to get one place. If you get into a free school, that school is twice as


likely to end up being regarded as outstanding as a normal school is.


They are incredibly successful. You in Coventry will get two new free


schools, I believe, faith schools, one Muslim and one seek, they will


take -- Sikh, they will take 50% of people not from those faiths. You


are fortunate. The statistics show those schools outperform the


so-called normal schools. The whole principle of Michael Gove's approach


is to hand power back to teachers and parents, it's not about taking


it away from them, it's about empowering. The parents set it up.


You will have to persuade the woman here in the front who has been...


Happily. Have worked in it for four years. I'm leaving after four years.


The man in control does not what he is doing at all.


APPLAUSE He is not interested in the


profession. Why are so many parents setting them up? Why do you say


that? I feel like he - he's making decisions and he doesn't know the


profession, he doesn't understand the stresses and the pressures we


are under at all. He hasn't worked in it. I don't understand how he is


making decisions based on no experience whatsoever. No wonder


they are going wrong? Jeremy Hunt is minister for health, he is not a


drchlt you run a ministry, you come into it with ideas and general


experience when it comes to administration. Have you seen what


he is doing to the health service of England? That's where we are going


wrong! Is Scotland is in a different position on this. We will hear from


you. The woman in the third row, yes, from the back. Oh, hello! Yes,


I mean, I just like to pick up on that point. I think absolutely the


problem is that Gove does not listen at all. He doesn't listen to


teachers. He's constantly rubbishing teachers and student students'


achievements, he doesn't listen to educational experts. He dismiss what


educational experts say if they disagree with them, he regards them


as raving marxists. I want to pick up on testing. And Pisa testing.


Recently in the Guardian there was a letter from a large group of


academics, international academics, who were question - it was a letter


to the Director of Education for the OECD, saying, what is going on here?


Why are these tests dominating education worldwide. Do you want to


answer the point she made about - you have said quite a lot. About the


Goef point, he doesn't listen. That was your point, wasn't it? I know, I


have been out with him on tours that he gets around the country, he meets


with people. He meets with kids. He meets with parents. He meets with


teachers. Does he act on it All of that is part of a listening examiner


countries. You have the best schools and have kids getting the best


education it's vital you listen to everybody. I'm sure, you know, he


would be disappointed if for you to think that way. I do know that this


is something that he is most passionate about and what he came


into politics to do. He loves the subject and wants to help people. If


he thought you felt that way, maybe he has to do something about maybe


how he has come across to you. That isn't the case. The guy really


cares. If he wants to talk to me, I would be very pleased to talk to




It's PR. I can set up a date between the two of you then! A PR matter for


Goef really? Presental improvement. We have stopped the tumbling down


the academic tables. We are starting to go up. He has got that right. He


is there to change things. People have put them there. Teachers are a


unionised special interest. They are resistant to change. That is


entirely understandable - How rude! It's changing every four years! When


Tim said he was part of the barmy army, I think the barmy party


(inaudible) I'm an outside observe server coming from Scotland. In


Scotland we don't have free schools we have education controlled by the


Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. Caroline Flint got it


correct. These manufactured fights and arguments that they are having


between the coalition are because there is a European election of


course and a general election in one year's time. Let me give you a


Scottish perspective on that. The Scottish perspective is, since the


Liberal Democrats leapt into bed with the Conservatives, they lost


two-thirds of their seats in the Scottish Parliament. They lost over


half their local council election seats, by all projectionses they


will lose their single member of the European parliament. My only plea to


the audience here, this is an issue issue. My only plea to you, that I


have seen from the outside, what they have done with university


education, charging students up to ?9,000, in Scotland we decided not


to do. That my plea to you is - do not allow them to create a two-tier


system of education. Make sure you protect your children's education.


It's a right and not a privilege. E.. It


APPLAUSE -- It's good to say about funding


for schools. Catholic schools have to fund 10% themselves. They are


struggling to do it. It's affecting the education of children. What will


be done about this? All right. I will take a point from you. Will


Goef listen to parents? He hasn't listened to us. He had people in the


country screaming at him to change a policy. You saying the free school


policy is not approved of by parents. Why do so many parents


apparently queue up to go to free schools. He listened to one group of


people and listened to you and agreed with the other group of


people. That is how decision works. What parents are concerned about,


I'm agreed with Esther on this, it is right that everyone has an access


to a decent state school education. That is what parents want. Let us


have some of the discussion about the 22,000 schools rather than the


obsession around 200 schools that are called "free."


I just want to correct Humza again. If the university student loans


system is so bad, how can it be, and by the way the student fees system


introduced was more generous than that under Labour, but how can it be


that the number of students going to university has not come down as


everybody predicted, but it has gone up? And how can it be that the


number of students from the poorest families are much higher as a


proportion in England than in Scotland? The system you are


claiming does not help the poor is actually ensuring that a higher


proportion of poor students are going to English universities than


hard today going to Scottish ones. Why did Nick Clegg apologise?


Because he was right? That would be a first. Because the promise made


before the election was a promise we should not have made. It is not an


apology for the policy but for making a promise that was


inappropriate in the economic circumstances at the time. That


apology is not accepted. Let's go on. Can any possible good arise from


the Prime Minister's visit to Scotland today? In the light of the


referendum that is coming in the Scotland, can it possibly do any


good? Humza, perhaps you should start. He has obviously come to


Scotland because of the referendum. My only regret is that he is only up


for two days. I wish it was five. I would have paid for his


accommodation, because every time David Cameron or a Tory grandee


comes to Scotland to say, the earth is going to swallow you up if you


become independent and thunderbolts will come from the sky, and you will


not get Doctor Who on the television, all of these scare


stories that they have come out with, we have seen time and time


again over the last six months especially that the campaign to


support independence, the yes campaign has increased, and support


for the no campaign has begun to diminish. It worries me greatly when


I see the polls of the UK general election, because I do not want


another Tory government. That is why I support independence, because I


want to see in Scotland people get the government that they elect. How


absurd is it that David Cameron has come to Scotland? He has one MP in


his party, one MP in the entire country. As the old joke goes, if it


wasn't so tragic it would be funny that there are more giant pandas in


Edinburgh zoo than there are Tory MPs in the entire country. Let me


just finished this point... What was the percentage of Scots who voted


Conservative at the last general election? I don't know the exact


number. You are saying the Prime Minister has no right to go to


Scotland. I didn't say that. I actually said I would liken to come


to Scotland for even longer. I am quite aware that I am speaking to


running dish audience about Scottish independence. Let me put it like


this to you. -- to an English audience. Whether you are here, or


in Bradford or Newcastle, let's face it, like Vince Cable said, London is


a giant sucking machine draining the rest of the UK. The politics of the


Westminster establishment is entirely prioritised by the needs of


zone one and zone two in London and the south-east of England. If you


have the chance to get rid of a Westminster elite that is scandal


ridden, that is London obsessed and London centric, I bet you would take


it in a heartbeat, too. I think it is too long that the English have


been locked out of the debate about the union and I am pleased we are


going to finally be a part of it. I think the Better Together campaign


made a huge mistake, the people saying let's stay together. They


decided to focus on economics, and that turned into essentially


economic blackmail. They said, if you become independent, you will


starve. That, rightly, offended the Scots and I think it is behind the


increase in support for independence. We now have to return


to what the debate should be about, which is about the emotional,


cultural, political reasons for the union. As an English person who is


proudly pro-union, I would like to take this opportunity to say what


they are. This is the most successful experiment in


multiculturalism in history. For 300 years it has made us wealthier,


improved our culture, made us better, more tolerant people. There


are people across the globe who look at us and marvel at the wonders and


riches that we have. And it is so amazing to think of ourselves as a


family, Northern Irishman Welsh, English, Scottish. Very different,


bickering, as families always do, but United through walls,


depressions, recessions, and coming out of its strong because we are


brothers and sisters. Please, Scotland, I say this as an English


man so passionately, please, don't leave us, we need you. Well said. So


it was a good idea for the Prime Minister to go to Scotland? I think


so because he is Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom. As a


Scotsman living in England I see it from both sides of the fence. But


recently, I think yesterday, George Osborne was quoted as saying that


Alex Salmond was a bully, bullying people into a yes vote. Is George


Osborne not as much of a bully, bullying the Scots by saying they


won't have a currency union if Scotland vote yes to independence?


300 years together, it is like a long relationship, and sometimes


when you have been in a relationship with somebody you think, how are we


going to stay together? Sometimes you've -- you give warnings,


cautious words, whisper sweet nothings to make sure you stay


together. So you will be saying things like, can you afford this,


will you be able to do this? This is the downside should you leave us. I


don't think that is bullying. I think it is somebody who cares about


you saying, there are all these things to think about. Because it


might be... Hang on a second. You might be making your name on the


back of this, and the SNP might be making their name on the back of


this, but actually this is a huge history of people who have been


together for a long time, and I do believe we are Better Together.


Yes, our cultures are different and we have differences between us, but


that is what makes us great together. So I would stay together,


but I would also heed the warnings. With a name like Esther McVey, I


have relatives up there, and I would heed the warnings and listen to how


it could work together. But we should listen, too, in England. We


need to know why we are rubbing up against each other, why it is not


working so well at the moment. There is time for us to listen and get it


right as well. But let's get it sorted. Sometimes it is just better


to divorce. There is no point continuing in a relationship that's


not working. That's get divorced and move on.


I would like to know why people in England and Wales are not getting a


say on this. It is just for Scotland to vote, but the whole of the UK


will be completely changed. So why doesn't everyone else get a say?


Because that is the way these things are done, I'm afraid. Tim, it pains


me greatly to have two agree with a columnist of the Daily Telegraph.


Imagine how I feel right now. You said all the things I would wish to


have said. If part of the nation wishes to separate, that part takes


the decision, not the nation as a whole. That is the historical


principle. You may regret that we don't have a voice in this. Does


that apply to the Ukraine as well? It would if there had been a proper


referendum but there never has been. But we will get on to that later.


The gentleman at the back, you said if it isn't working we should get a


divorce. There is no union I camping cover in history that has worked


better than this, for 200, 300, 400 years. Let's start off properly. The


Scots are a great nation in their own right. They have a fantastic


great, individual national history. They have a national education


system, a national system of law, different and in some ways better


than ours, so they are entitled to have this debate. A should be


treated with respect in having this debate and they are entitled to make


this choice. Those who argue that Scotland could not survive by itself


are talking nonsense, in my view. The argument is not that Scotland


can't do this but that we are Better Together. And what worries me most,


Humza, listening to you, this is a rhetoric that might suit Scotland if


you are debating there, but I cannot listen to your language without


being worried about the infusion of hate that is in there, hate of


London, hate of this filthy elite, hate of the South, it is the


language of division. And the reality of it is that we have made a


fantastic success, in 400 years, of Great Britain, because we have put


aside our divisions and worked together. I am desperate for


Scotland to say no to independence because we will be stronger as a


country, but I passionately believe that they will be too. All of those


great things that are Scottish and make such a contribution to us, they


would be lost to us. This would be a disaster. But whatever happens,


Humza, let's have a more civilised debate than the kind of argument you


are using, rather than this argument of hate and division.


APPLAUSE I have the greatest respect for Lord


Ashdown and what he says. But it is not hatred and division.


When you talked about the greatest economic union, I am just telling


you the stark reality on the ground. We have 85,000 people, the


majority of them in a disabled household, who have been hit by the


bedroom tax. It is not Better Together for them. Immigrants who


have been told to go home by government-sponsored posters, it is


not Better Together for them, Lord Ashdown. Pensioners who have been


saving for 50 years seeing their pensions decimated, it is not Better


Together for them. My point is that all of those decisions are made by a


coalition government that we did not elect. The problem with David


Cameron coming to Scotland is that he has the audacity to say he is


going to debate Nigel Farage, someone who does not have a single


MP in Scotland. UKIP have never even saved the deposit. But he won't


debate with Alex Salmond, the democratically elected head of the


Scottish Government. That is audacious and absolutely


unacceptable. I think the Prime minister is entitled to visit


Scotland, because he is the Prime Minister. And I have to say, what


Humza and Alex Salmond would love is to make this debate all about Alex


Salmond versus David Cameron, because that is what they want to


do. They want to have it as a debate about Scotland versus Westminster.


But that isn't the issue here. The vote in September is for Scots to


decide if they want to separate and leave the United Kingdom. That is


the question on the table. As Paddy and Tim have said, I think we have,


as a union, been very successful. And I am very proud that it was a


Labour government that sort through the devolution for Scotland and


Wales. I think we can be relaxed and confident about the choices that


Scotland might make that might be different to here in England, or


different to Wales or Northern Ireland for that matter. But at the


same time not lose sight of the cultural and emotional links, but


also the economic links that make us Better Together. And I don't think


we should allow the SNP to let this debate be one about Alex Salmond


versus David Cameron. That is not the issue. What they cannot have is


a situation where they want to promote Scotland leaving the UK and


think they will not have any consequences, because it will be


very different. I hope that when Scots come to think about this and


all the issues, I really hope that they stay with us. There are a


number of people with hands up. I just want to say that I am pro


union, but I agree with Humza that this issue is so important that the


leaders should debate with Alex Salmond, all of the party leaders


should get together and debate. It is crucial for the future of my


daughter and the UK that she is going to grow up in.


I agree with Paddy and Tim. The trouble is, the Better Together


campaign is symptomatic of what is wrong with British politics, a


constant focus on negative campaigning. Labour's election


broadcast recently was a good example of that. There is a constant


moaning and groaning about what other people are doing, instead of


promoting the positive, which is what the Better Together campaign


should do. A question for Humza. If you believe


so passionately that Scotland should be independent white, if you get


independence, do you want to join the European Union? -- why? Sure.


Then the 28 countries of the European union wouldn't be


independence. They are. The difference is, they had the choice.


With the European Union that is a fantastic point we don't get our


choice. Our voice heard at the top table in the European Union. I agree


entirely with this lady. This is a debate between negative and


positive. Look, Scotland is a wealthy country. We could be the


14th wealthiest country in the world. Create a fairer and more


social just welfare system. We Coe get rid of nuclear Trident missiles


on our soil and invest that money in public services. It's a debate about


unlocking Scotland's future. We will not separate and dwoors, take a


chainsaw down to Carlisle and drift off into the North Sea. It's not


about Celts and anthems. It's about creating the system to help the


poorest, not at the expense of the poorest. I believe the Better


Together campaign have been too negative. That is why they are


haemorrhaging support. Not true. It's not Better Together for us who


have to pay for prescriptions and have university fees that Scotland


don't? You don't pay. You think Scotland should go its own way? If


they do. Hopefully, it will be for the better for the rest of us. For


England. The man there. I find it ironic that Tim and Paddy were


talking about the greaty multi Kewellure experience. Tim talked


about the need for greater immigration controls in his column.


He is talking about the multi-cultural experience with


Scottish people. Are we only to let people in if they come from the


right country? APPLAUSE


First of all, thank you for reading. I really do appreciate that!


Although, obviously, I wish you hadn't now! No, what I'm talking


about is the need for control when it comes from immigration from the


European union. That is a specific debate. What we are discussing here


is policy. The there is is a criticism of Tory party policy to


vote for Labour not leaving the union. There are plenty of people


who don't like the bedroom tax, they don't seek independence, they are


seeking to change the policy. If you don't like the policy change it is a


a country, let's not split off because we disagree with something


London - The man there. I'm not one of David Cameron's favourites, or he


is not one of my favourites! He is the UK Prime Minister, he can go


where he likes. What I'm pretty sure, if Aberdeen and its oil


industry was south of the border we wouldn't be having this discussion


now. Tim, whenever you are on, can we all have some? O OK. Another


question. Emily McFadden. The International Criminal Court has


announced preliminary investigations into allegations of the UK's


systematic abuse of Iraqis. To what extent should politicians be held


accountable for the actions of our soldiers? The first part of this,


the ICC announcing preliminary investigations is well-known. The


question is, to what extent should politicians be held accountable for


the actions of our soldiers. Paddy Ashdown? They should be. If


politicians give the orders which soldiers then carry out, then they


absolutely should be. The let me take the case of the ICC, if I can,


then see if I can illustrate it with a small story. The I krvp, it's a


prim examination, not an investigation. Secondly, there are


robust systems in Britain for investigating it. It is


investigating 43 cases of individual soldiers who acted beyond the law.


The law set by politicians, of course. That is out of about


140,000. The ICC is claiming to seek to investigate something which I


think, first of all, the British Government rejects happened.


Secondly, it ma it the case it is already investigating these. We are


signatories to the ICC. We should observe and respect the ICC in its


decisions. It's in our interests to do so. Not only legally, but also in


terms of the interest of our country. Let me give you a story, if


I can, briefly. In 1996 I was in the village in Kosovo when we were


bombarded by the main battle units of the Serb army, tanks and heavy


artillery. I was with Kosovo Albanians in the villages there, it


was extremely unpleasant. On the following day I went to see


Milosevic. I took the Geneva Convention. I said, what I witnessed


yesterday was a clear breach where it touches on the rights of


treatment of innocent civilians by an order force you could be brought


to the Hague. The next time I saw him was when I gave evidence in the


Hague for the Milosevic's trial for that day's work I witnessed. The


fact that you have a Lou law that can bring a politician to justice


for a breach of international law and it's oldest version, the gee


Nina convention make it is a safer world -- Geneva. That same day


before I saw Milosevic I spoke to the Serb artillery commanders who


bombarded us in those villages the day before. What I discovered was


that those artillery commanders were more frightened of being indicted by


The Hague tribunal than they were of being bombed by NATO. I said to Tony


Blair, have them indicted now. If you have a court like this. If you


have a system of international law like this. It delivers justice to


those who breached after the event. It controls the actions of tyrants


and torturers and murders during the course of the war. That is why it it


so important. Whatever our position in Britain we should adhere to the


prescriptions of our court. It's in our legal duty to do so and in our


interests to do so well. You, sir. I'd like to say I think it


is rich and very sick that politicians continually avoid these


sort of trials and blames when, you know, we have Tony Blair that


started sending our young men to war. Young men that, by the way, are


trained to be aggressive. Are trained to view the enemy in a


certain way. Young men who volunteer their own lives for the good of our


country. When these people make mistakes, as everyone does in all


walks of life, these men are singled out and ridiculed in the media and


quite often sent to military prison. They lose their pension, benefits


and everything else. Meanwhile, the politicians just get away scot free.


We seem to be chasing wars in countries and this debate hasn't


been had before. There are is all sorts of oil and everything else.


When hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria get kidnapped, where are our


forces there? Surely we can go in and get them back. You mentioned


Tony Blair. Caroline Flint you are a great supporter of Tony Blair's.


What is your view of what he has just said? My view on the


International Criminal Court is that we absolutely are right to be


signatories to it. And, part of the task of the International Criminal


Court is where there is evidence of systematic abuse, and where


countries that are run by dictatorships do not have a legal


system to bring individuals, whether they are politicians, army


commanders, or whoever, to account, that is where the international


court can step in. I think that is absolutely right. Clearly, if we had


a situation in this country where we weren't following up on allegations


of misuse, torture, rape, or whatever, then, quite rightly, the


ICC would step in and take action. As Paddy said, we do have a system


of legal proceedings in this country, thank goodness, that will


follow these issues up and follow them through. That is absolutely


right. Is it necessary for the I krvp C to carry out any kind of


investigation? Is it because some people say rather shaming to find


Britains name among a list of nation - Because - because Let Caroline


answer the point. Because, it's perfectly right that if individuals,


a group of lawyers, or whoever, decide that they want to approach


the ICC, and ask them to look at a case, then that is quite right that


should be done. As Paddy said, that is exactly what is happening. An


investigation hasn't started. They are looking into the complaint that


has been made. It may be that actually it won't get any further


than this. Because we do have proceedings in this country that can


hold politicians and others to accounts. There are cases under way


at the moment. We need to be clear about this. I respect and will stand


up for the right for people to approach this court, just in the


same way as I would stand up for the right of people to approach the


European Court on human rights. That does not mean we should feel ashamed


at this stage. We should be proud of the fact that we have a legal system


that can bring people to task in this country. , sir, second row from


the back. We are quick enough to put our soldiers in the courts, not


quick enough to put our politicians in the courts in the same way.


APPLAUSE We are still waiting for the


Chilcott report some many, many years after Afghanistan and Iraq.


The one on the Falklands was completed in six months. Most of the


information that we believe is still being held back by Tony Blair and


Bush. It has been suggested that certain politicians, who shall not


be named, have not helped with that inquiry and have indeed helped to


delay it. Why can't they be named? I don't want to get in trouble! On the


philosophical point about who takes the most blame, soldiers or


politicians. I was disgusted by those pictures. Those soldiers


should face disciplinary action for what happened. Those two men were


under-fire. They had faced a terrible attack which is the


explanation that has been given for why they did what they did. It is no


excuse. They should still face discipline. Politicians created the


context. The context is the Iraq war. Since that war began 435


British service personnel have given their life. For what? For the


creation of a constitution that cannot guarantee the security of


women and their rights. For ople yum production which has reached the


highest it has ever been. And now increasingly for negotiations with


the Taliban, the very people we started the war in order to fight. I


think it's sad that politicians can make such terrible decisions, which


cost lives, and never ultimately face responsibility for it in the


court of public opinion. OK. Thank you.


APPLAUSE We have a a minute left of this


programme. I won't take long. I agree with what the gentleman at the


front has been saying, that Tony Blair in particular, the legal war


in Iraq has managed to get away with it scot free. The problem in this


country now, what we have done, a lot of good work very done


internationally, has been undermined by the fact that war has become the


first resort as opposed to the last resort. That is just completely the


wrong way round. In recent years, you know, we have been in conflicts


we shouldn't have been in. You can only take half the time. If you want


the ICC not to indict you, don't go into conflicts we don't have to be


in. Esther Mcvey. I think it was admiral Lord West who said this, I


agree. If anybody was can captured around the world the soldiers you


hoped would have captured would be the British soldiers, they are


fairer than anybody else. Better than anybody else. I say they go to


the highest standards in the world. So...


APPLAUSE If anybody has done anything wrong,


it is right for all of us to find that out and get it sorted out. It


is not systematic. It does not happen all the time. It will be a


rare exception because we do have the best people in our army. Here,




Thank you very much. The time is up for this edition of Question Time.


Next Thursday is election night. We have the local and the European


elections. Therefore, Question Time will come from the village of


Radlett near the BBC's Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. To that


programme, Chris Grayling comes, Jeremy Brown and the television


presenter Kirstie Allsopp. The week after that we will be in a


spectacular place the newly restored Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. You


don't have to take a flight as well. Nobody - there won't be people


queueing in the background. We are at Terminal 2, a fabulous site. If


you like to come to Elstree or Heathrow you can apply on our


website. Address is on the screen: You can call us:


if you are listening on Five Live the debate goes on on Question Time


Extratime, not here, however. My thanks to my panel and all of you


who came here to Coventry to take part. Until next Thursday, from


Question Time, good night. Ladies and gentlemen...


It's an honour to be here. Let's take a look...


..at the nominations. We're here to celebrate


a great 12 months for television. The BAFTA...


..is awarded to...


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Coventry. On the panel are Conservative MP Esther McVey, Labour's Caroline Flint MP, former Liberal Democrats leader Lord Ashdown, the SNP's Humza Yousaf MSP and Daily Telegraph blogger Tim Stanley.

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