David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Tottenham, London. Panellists include Justine Greening, Chuka Umunna, Jenny Jones, Peter Hitchens and Victoria Coren Mitchell.
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This is London and welcome to Question Time.
You may be watching, you may be listening on the radio,
welcome and welcome to our audience here and, of course, to our panel.
Tonight, our panel is
the Conservative International Development Secretary
Labour's Chuka Umunna, who returned to the back benches
rather than serve in Corbyn's shadow cabinet,
the Green Party's first appointment to the House of Lords, Jenny Jones,
the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens
and the writer, broadcaster
and professional poker player Victoria Coren Mitchell.
And as ever, if you want to join in the debate
and the argument that goes on here tonight, you can text
or tweet our hashtag, "bbcqt", you can follow us at @BBCQuestionTime,
text comments to 83981, push the red button to see what others are saying.
Let's have our first question from Zayid Ahmed, please.
Would you support junior doctors if they decide to go on strike?
Would you support junior doctors if they decide to go on strike?
Well, I think what needs to happen
is people need to get around the table
and talk through to getting a proper solution
to this junior doctors contract change.
What we're trying to do is make sure
that the NHS can work seven days a week
and really provide outstanding services. At the same time,
we also know that many junior doctors are completely overworked
at the weekend and in fact there are some that work over 91 hours a week.
So these two things go hand in hand.
Three years ago, the government started negotiating with the BMA.
Clearly we've not reached a conclusion with them yet.
Jeremy Hunt put a new, revised offer on the table yesterday
and I think what we all need now is for people to perhaps set aside
the discussions and the arguments that they've had up until now
and just get round the table
and work through these differences, because in the end...
Would you oppose them if they decided to strike?
Would the government say, "That's not right, you shouldn't,"
or would they say, "Well, we've done our best,
"you've got an absolute right to go on strike."
I've talked to junior doctors in my constituency
and I understand their frustration,
so I just think in the end they're hugely committed to the NHS
and I think the best thing we can all do
is actually get round the table and talk, find a resolution
that means they don't feel they need to do that any more. Victoria.
Now, as I understand it, it's rather difficult, though,
for them to get round the table and negotiate,
because haven't they been told by Jeremy Hunt
that if they don't basically agree all the proposals,
it'll be imposed on them?
So I think they're allowed to quibble with one thing out of 23.
How can they sit down and negotiate?
They're being too... APPLAUSE
To answer the question, I would.
I'd support them if they went on strike,
because not just the issue of, obviously,
the immediate medical question,
do you really want to be treated by somebody
who's working a 91-hour week?
When you try and do the maths of how many hours that is a day,
it's sort of terrible. There's a bigger question as well, though,
which is, I believe the idea is to define overtime as after 10pm
I think most of us are worried, in the age of mobile phones
and the internet, I think we probably all worry
where does work finish and life begin, don't we?
When is our home time?
Doesn't matter about doctors or anything else -
if the government is ready to define home time as after 10pm and Sundays,
is think our way of life generally is going to be sunk.
The French go on strike
if their lunch hour is cut down to four hours from the normal five,
so I think if doctors are going to be in the vanguard of saying,
"No, I'm sorry,
"if you're not at home by 8pm and on a full weekend, you're on overtime,"
if they're going to defend that, good luck to them.
I'm a junior doctor and I've been balloted for strike action today
and thank you, Victoria, for bringing up something
that not many people are aware of.
The government is quite ready to say
that the BMA won't come back to the table.
What a lot of people do not realise
is that the BMA is unable to come back to the table
until we agree to 22 non-negotiable preconditions.
In my view, that is not a negotiation.
Hold on a second.
Hold on a second, Peter Hitchens, then you can come back.
I don't think doctors should ever go on strike.
I just don't think it's something they should do.
It's one of those things where you have to say,
this is a job which requires you to be available at all times.
It doesn't mean I don't sympathise with the case,
it just means I think the strike weapon is not one you can use.
The other thing which seems to me to be very noticeable
is that the doctors have completely ceased to trust Mr Hunt
and there doesn't seem to be any real communication between them.
I very much hope that the government finds some way
of reaching a settlement which doesn't involve the doctors' strike,
for the sake of all the patients who will suffer as a result of that,
because they will.
I remember as an industrial reporter,
any pledge one ever had from any group that the public
would not suffer from any withdrawal of emergency service
was never actually fulfilled.
It always does hurt people, so I think it should be avoided,
but I think it may have to be avoided by Mr Hunt departing
and being replaced by somebody better able to negotiate.
Let's... Yeah, finish your point.
What are these...? You say you're only able to negotiate one point?
Yes. Which is that? I can't remember off the top of my head
which point exactly it was, but there were 22 non-negotiable points.
What I wanted to say was
that we have 50,000 junior doctors whistle-blowing.
Jeremy Hunt says he endorses whistle-blowing in the NHS.
We are standing up and saying this contract is unsafe,
it's going to be fatal for the NHS
and he will not listen to these 50,000 whistle-blowers. OK.
You up there, second row from the back.
I also agree that, obviously, if they do go on strike,
it's not a good idea, but I think that it actually shows
how bad the situation is that these people
who know how important their jobs are
think that the only option is to go on strike,
because they're obviously not being heard
and issues aren't being sorted out,
so they believe that striking is the only option
and that just shows how bad it really is. OK.
And you, sir, in the second row.
Is a strike really the best way to get the public onside anyway?
When the Tube drivers did it,
it didn't really win me their support
when I had a three-hour journey home from work.
You think they would be wrong to strike?
Not necessarily wrong, but it's not going to win their support from me.
Chuka Umunna, what do you think?
I agree with what the lady just said.
Which lady? The last contributor.
I don't support strike action, because it's going to disrupt
the services provided to my constituents,
but I'm certainly not going to condemn the doctors for doing it
and, really, this is emblematic of the cack-handed approach
this government has adopted in relation to our NHS generally.
Dr Sarah Wollaston... APPLAUSE
Dr Sarah Wollaston is the Conservative chair
of the Health Select Committee in the House of Commons.
She is herself a former GP
and she has criticised the Health Secretary
for basically negotiating in the media
with the doctors, without properly negotiating with them direct.
Is what he's proposing wrong, apart from the way he's negotiating?
Peter says his way of negotiating is pretty hopeless,
but what about the issue of increasing the pay by 11%?
Well, my biggest concern, and the junior doctor -
I didn't get your name, I'm sorry - just touched on it,
listening to the junior doctors I have in my constituency
and also seeing some of the reports...
Look, the pay, actually, I don't think is necessarily
the biggest thing here for many of the junior doctors concerned.
You don't become a doctor because you want to make money.
You become a doctor because you want to care for people
and save lives,
but the issue here is that one of the things they're going
to be doing is taking away the financial penalty
which applies to hospitals where they overwork junior doctors
and this obviously acts as a deterrent
and prevents our junior doctors becoming so overworked,
so exhausted that that impacts on the treatment that we're getting.
That is a big concern.
I think the second thing is in a recent survey,
I think 70% of junior doctors are saying that
if Jeremy Hunt does what he is threatening to do,
which is impose what is currently on the table on junior doctors,
70% of them say they will go abroad.
I'm also worried because of the changes with have been made
to the rota-ing for weekends and evenings and how you get paid,
that you're actually going to find that it's very hard
to find junior doctors prepared to do that.
But as I said, this comes on top
of a wasted ?3 billion reorganisation of the NHS
we were promised we wouldn't get, rising waiting lists
and it's being handled in a completely cack-handed manner.
It's disgraceful. You, sir.
Are we not taking a very short-term view here,
where we try and save a bit of money
and then end up driving incredibly skilled, well-trained,
young professionals that want to dedicate their lives
to working in the NHS and drive them away
because the morale within staff that work in the NHS is being depleted
day after day, not only by politicians that say
that it's about money, which it completely isn't,
but also with just being overworked and drained
and that is a pathway to destroying the NHS.
Jenny, I'll come to you in a moment,
but Justine... APPLAUSE
..can you answer his point?
Two things - first of all, this isn't actually about money,
it's not about saving money and, actually,
junior doctors will be for the first time having a cap
on the amount of hours they can work
so that they don't have to work unsafe levels of hours,
as they do now and, in fact,
if you go on the NHS Employers website,
there's actually a pay calculator there where you can go
and check directly, if you're a junior doctor,
how this new contract is going to affect you and, actually,
overwhelmingly, junior doctors will be doing better.
They certainly won't be doing worse.
Doing better in terms of the money or the hours they work?
Well, we'll be capping the hours.
At the moment, there's around 500 junior doctors
who routinely end up breaching hours.
Can you guarantee, Justine, therefore,
that after the contract comes into effect,
on the whole, junior doctors will be working less hours
than at the moment?
Yes, in the sense that... You're giving a guarantee? ..at the moment,
at the moment,
junior doctors in some cases are working over 91 hours a week.
That's not good for them and it's not good for the NHS.
Because they're forced to or cos they choose to?
Well, partly because of the way the system currently works
and one of the problems around that
is how the junior doctors' contract worked,
but I'd like to just come back to the point that the lady over there
was making, which is I think, actually,
we do need to get back round the table
and work our way through this in the end.
We can have a debate on Question Time,
but what's really going to fix this is the BMA getting back round
the table with Jeremy Hunt and I hope that over the coming days,
that can happen... Do you think that Jeremy Hunt
can remove this ridiculous gun to the head
of the 25 non-negotiable points in order for them to negotiate?
The BMA will get back round the table
as soon as Jeremy Hunt removes the preconditions
and we have negotiation. I want to come back to you afterwards
to see what you made of what Justine said.
Jenny Jones. This 11% pay rise sounds very good
until you look at the conditions and then you understand, actually,
that to get a decent salary,
junior doctors are probably going to have to work even more hours
and that is definitely unsafe.
There's also the fact, of course,
that junior doctors are probably nearly at the end of their tether,
they are exhausted, and they could easily decide to go abroad.
That means all of our investment in their training, in their education,
has gone and it's wasted, so this, actually, is a very false move.
We all know the NHS is understaffed,
underfunded, under-loved, undervalued,
and it's time that this government,
instead of trying to break it down piecemeal and sell it off,
actually understood it's a real, real social asset
and should be supported.
And yes, I will support the strike.
WOULD support the strike, if it happens.
It was a really eloquent defence of doctors
and the difficult situation they're in from you, Chuka,
but at the end of the day,
how can you as a supposedly Labour MP,
when doctors are in this position,
when they're not being negotiated with, when they're out of options,
not support their right as a body of workers to strike?
Your party was built on unions.
I support their right to strike
and I'm not condemning them for going on strike,
but, equally, I represent 100,000 people and I want to make sure
that they can benefit from the services
that they need to be healthy.
Ultimately, I owe my ultimate duty
to the constituents that I represent.
All right, I'll take one more point, then we'll go on to another question.
Women in the second row from the back, there.
I've got two points - first of all, I work in a hospital setting
and I work with doctors
and the other day,
I was just really struck by one of the doctors
who was already on shift and she said, "Just another 12 hours to go,"
and you could see that that was a struggle for her
and she said the way to cope is caffeine and chocolate
and like I said, I was just really struck by that.
The second point I just wanted to make, or ask,
was if not strike, what's the alternative?
This is the key thing. I'm afraid this is just a lot of hot air
and it is true what the chap said - your exact words were,
"I wouldn't support the strike, but I wouldn't blame them for doing it."
We just can't have this from politicians -
"I love everyone, everyone's right, no-one's wrong."
You're so firmly on the fence... Victoria...
Victoria, it's very easy for you to say that,
but I represent people who often will be in need
of very serious treatment and if I was to support strike action
which was to hinder the treatment that they were getting,
that would be the wrong thing to do, in my view.
It's not easy for me to say that. It is easy for you to say it.
No, it isn't - I need doctors, I've got a baby,
I want doctors to be available...
It will get a clap, but in the end, it's not going to do anything.
No, it won't get a clap.
That chap there who said it's quite understandable that striking
is not the way to get public sympathy -
it never is, it's always the double bind
that workers have been trapped in.
Transport workers, doctors - they want the same thing as we do,
safety, but how to go about getting it?
Their means of getting it will alienate people,
it won't get support, but they're stuck.
No-one will listen.
But what is the alternative? There is no alternative.
They need to strike.
We'll go on, I want to get through some questions,
but just before we go to the next one,
Stoke-on-Trent next week, Belfast the week after that,
if you want to make a note of it.
Stoke-on-Trent next week, Belfast the week after it.
The details are there on the screen and I'll give them at the end,
but let's have a question from Gary Wilson, please.
Following the suspected bombing
of a Russian aeroplane in Egypt this week,
is it time to take full military action against IS?
Peter Hitchens. No.
First of all, it's suspected and not proven
and we shouldn't rush to do things of this kind.
Secondly, the idea that taking military action
against Islamic State is going to reduce the terrorist risk
is an absurdity.
The military action which this country
and the United States in particular have taken in the Middle East
and the other interventions which we've undertaken in the Arab world
over the past ten or 15 years and indeed in Afghanistan
have increased the risk to us repeatedly.
We have no idea what we're doing in these places.
We destroyed the stability of Iraq
and replaced it with the chaos out of which IS grew.
We've destabilised Syria and turned millions
of reasonably contented people into corpses and refugees,
we wrecked Libya and turned that into a failed state
with our brilliant intervention there.
What is it that makes us think, still, after all these stupid,
unforgiveable failures of incompetence and ignorance,
that we are going by another military intervention
suddenly to make it all right?
It really is time that as a country we realise that we have...
Well, Justine Greening, your Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon,
said today it was morally indefensible Britain was relying
on other countries to bomb Islamic State targets.
The French didn't agonise over it, he said,
but it's morally indefensible for us just to stand back.
What's your view? First of all, Isil is a threat to the UK.
We've seen that and we need to take steps to deal with it.
At the moment,
we're part of the coalition action against Isil in Iraq,
but, of course, Isil's also in Syria
and we're not able to be part of taking action against them,
so we've got half a strategy, which is why what we want to do
is build a consensus so that we can win a vote in Parliament
to actually have a proper strategy that means we can also play our role
in trying to tackle Isil in Syria and in the meantime,
the other thing we need to see is for the Russians to actually be part
of that coalition tackling Isil,
rather than doing what they're doing at the moment,
which is actually bombing the Free Syrian Army
and the Syrian moderate opposition
is going to be part of Syria's future,
so they shouldn't be taking action against them.
Can I just challenge that?
This constant chorus from the government
about these "moderates" in Syria.
The "moderates" in Syria are exactly the same people who they urge us
to be on guard against in schools and everywhere else in Britain.
They're not moderates - they're utterly and completely dedicated
to the extremist Islamic cause
and we propose to back them, because, actually,
British foreign policy is not made in London any more.
It's made in Saudi Arabia
and our... APPLAUSE
Our attitude towards all these things is governed
by our desire to please Saudi Arabia and no other sense at all.
Justine, just reply to that,
then I'll come to you in the second row. Thank you.
I actually met the leader
of the Syrian moderate opposition in Parliament yesterday.
He wasn't the kind of person that you've just talked about.
These are people who are standing up against a brutal Assad regime
that's barrel bombing ordinary civilians in Syria.
They talked to me about how there are half a million Syrians now
who are totally cut off from any help that can be provided to them
and they need the rest of the world to provide assistance,
and also to help them tackle Isil too, so that in the end of this,
when we do reach a political settlement,
there's a Syria there for them to build a future again in.
How can you... Hang on.
No, I'm sorry,
how can you claim to be against the supposed tyranny of Assad
when this week, your Prime Minister has welcomed the leader of Egypt,
who recently killed hundreds of his own people and runs a regime
if not as repressive as Assad, similarly repressive?
How can you claim to be principled in this matter?
You, sir. You're not.
Let me just say I'm fed up with all these wars in these countries.
They need to come to an end. Let me say to you, Chuka,
that Tony Blair was responsible for the Iraq War,
he needs to be in jail.
Let me say this - Jenny Jones, your own leader told this nation,
she said, "Oh, if you're part of Isis,
"you're not a risk to this country."
Let me say this - they are a risk to this country
and if they go to another country,
they should never be allowed back in this country again.
It's immoral that they are. All right.
Chuka Umunna, perhaps you'd start on that and then, Jenny Jones,
we'll come to you.
Well, I mean, I didn't support the action in Iraq that happened
under the last Labour government - I was opposed to it.
But I think, taking a step back, there are instances
when the international community should have intervened
and acted but sat on its hands, like in Bosnia-Herzegovina
and also Rwanda, where I think, looking back with hindsight,
we would have preferred that the international community acted.
So I think to take a view that all military intervention
and action is necessarily a negative thing and cannot save lives
and cannot make a positive impact is wrong.
I don't have anything in principle...
I don't have any principal objection to military intervention,
if the questioner was meaning
whether or not there should be a military intervention in Syria
going beyond Iraq, but I think the key question is whether it can
save lives and whether it can make a positive difference, and for me...
The things I'm most concerned about -
what is the legal basis for the intervention?
I think on the whole you would want a UN resolution.
Is there support amongst the international
community for intervention?
Particularly the powers in that area - Turkey, Qatar,
others in the region.
What are the military objectives and are they achievable?
What is - importantly, learning the lessons from Iraq -
the plan for after?
And once we have been given the information to make
a judgment on that, then you can judge whether military
intervention on the part of the UK would actually make a difference.
Justine talks about what the government would like to do,
what it wouldn't like to do.
It hasn't actually put a proposal to the House of Commons
to consider yet. I think it's at that point that we can actually make
a judgment as to what to do.
But floating ideas and trying to put feelers out in the media
or talking to Members of Parliament...
Formally put forward some proposals and then we can consider
whether it's the right thing - not just in our national security
interest - but whether actually it can make a positive difference.
That's a proper way to do it, in my view.
Jenny Jones. Bombing anywhere... What's your answer for his point?
..is never an answer.
The fact is, the US has been bombing Syria for 14 months
and the situation has not improved, and if anything,
it has got much, much worse. I want to pick up on something Peter said.
He said that we destabilised the Middle East,
and the big problem I have at the moment is we are not taking
responsibility for what we have done.
I was in Calais last Friday and met some of the 6,000 refugees,
many of them from Syria, but all from warzones.
These are people who don't want to be there -
they don't even really want to be in Britain.
What they want to be is back home, safe.
They want to be free from threats of beheading and crucifixion
and rape, and the fact is they are there
because we have been bombing at various times...
What action, if any, would you think we or other countries should take?
I think Justine was absolutely right -
the next step is that all the countries involved have to
sit down and find some sort of diplomatic means.
They have to start talking. They've got to stop bombing.
The idea that the US
and Russia are now bombing the same country is horrendous -
there could easily be clashes - so we have to sit down.
I am not a patient person and, you know, it's difficult for me
to say we have to sit down and talk but quite honestly,
bombing has not worked.
Isn't it worth noting that Isis was able to grow because of our
intervention and because of our destabilising of the region?
Surely if we intervene again this is going to give rise to
something even worse. And the woman behind you.
I think what has filled the nation and people around the world is
the unilateral...or ballot for interventions of these countries
and not working as a unit like they did with Nazis.
They were able to conquer Nazis when they came together as a body,
but everyone is going into things...
Different countries unilaterally -
Britain went into Iraq, America went into Iraq, Afghanistan.
Individual countries would never be able to conquer this, so unless
they come together as a body, they are going to create more problems.
I want to say that Isil is a new phenomenon,
not only because the Iraqi intervention,
the Western intervention. But now we have Isil in Libya,
we have Isil in Egypt where previously we didn't have any,
and that's because the West is not supporting the transition
to democracy in the Middle East.
The Gulf countries and the West have... As Peter said,
Sisi was here this week and this man has killed thousands of people
and he has been received with great honours in the UK.
Can you imagine that...?
You know, there's a risk of a bomb on a plane on the Russian jet.
Actually having...such a security breach having happened,
and he's presenting himself as the man of stability.
He's the one who's going to beat Isil in Libya,
and I think that that is absolutely...
It's not only military.
You don't have to bomb people in the Middle East to stop Isil,
you've got to stop people turning to Isil as a solution.
We want the ballot box back
and because the UK is welcoming a man who
threw our votes into the rubbish bin in Egypt,
then this is a very bad sign for the region
and I think something should... The opposite should have been done.
He should never have been welcomed here.
I mean, I don't have a sophisticated response to this. I think it's...
People find themselves in a terrible position. On the one hand...
The stakes seem so high - is it, as you say, like sitting back,
whether it's Bosnia-Herzegovina,
whether it's Germany invading Czechoslovakia...?
Is it sitting back and not helping when we could help
and letting people die? That's awful.
Or is it bombing and causing mass death and more instability?
That's awful. And I sort of...
I feel like 20 years ago we rather innocently imagined that the people
that took the decisions knew something we didn't
and were going to do something competent.
And what happened with Iraq was...
Even if they had a secret evil agenda to take
control of the region, they failed even in that.
And it was so incompetent that I think it's terribly frightening
to think the same sort of people are making the same
sort of decisions again.
And either way, a terrible mistake can be made,
and this is not a helpful binary answer to the question,
but I hope it's a reasonable summary of how most people feel.
I think the problem with Isil as a whole is the fact that
we don't actually understand it.
We need to, you know, to get more intelligence
and I think the only way that will be achieved is through
bilateral cooperation, if that's between ourselves
and the US or people like Saudi Arabia.
I think the best thing to do is attack this at its roots
and then go from there, as opposed to jumping in with pre-emptive
strikes which are going to ultimately cost millions of lives.
One thing I would like to say, sorry,
is be careful of the idea we need more intelligence.
One thing I do know - beware the politicians.
It's quite convenient for the government that the possibility
that IS is behind this airstrike comes in the very week
they're asking for greater powers of surveillance.
They want to read more of our e-mails and phone calls.
Beware the search for more intelligence because there's
other factors at stake that we may not quite understand.
You, sir, up there, and then we'll go onto another one.
I think Peter Hitchens is talking absolute nonsense in terms of Syria.
By not intervening we likely turned it into a bloody mess
and people have turned to extremism because of that.
Let him finish the point.
If you look at the facts, you will clearly see that Isis grew
because of the chaos that enveloped Syria.
That's why we're dealing with it now.
The chaos that enveloped Syria was caused
by external destabilisation...
It was caused by the Assad regime.
..which came out of the Gulf and was supported by the United States,
by Britain and by France in this curious belief that
the Syrian regime - horrible though it undoubtedly is -
was in some way, as we claim, worse than anyone else in the Middle East.
In fact, that's simply not true. Barrel bombs, we talked about.
Nouri al-Maliki, our friend in Iraq, has used barrel bombs in Fallujah.
There's hardly a Middle Eastern state...
Bahrain, in which we've just opened a naval base, uses torture
and hideous repression against its people
and we have no principled objection to that.
The idea that our objection to Syria is its tyranny is simply
not true, and the other thing about this is
the intransigence of the Syrian opposition, backed by us
and the United States and by the Gulf,
refusing to go to any negotiations in which Assad did not go,
has prevented any kind of attempted diplomatic solution now for years
and all the people who have been driven from their homes
and killed and maimed during that time can turn to those who said,
"We will not negotiate unless Assad goes,"
and say, "Why couldn't you make a compromise?
"Were our lives and our homes so unimportant to you by comparison
"to that that you were prepared to demand that forever?"
That's what has been going on. Jenny Jones, briefly. Intransigence.
Jenny Jones, very briefly.
I've worked and visited Syria many, many times
and the fact is that it was an incredibly stable country.
Considering it was a vile dictatorship and so on,
it was actually a very safe, stable country.
People were repressed, but actually they got on with their lives,
there was a lot of employment, food was cheap -
it was a good place to live, and believe me,
our bombing has made it one of the worst places on Earth to live.
Sean Wigan, please, your question. Sean Wigan.
How do we house the high number of immigrants arriving, considering
the shortage of council houses available for existing UK residents?
We have a lot of questions about housing here in Tottenham tonight.
How do we house the high number of immigrants arriving,
considering the shortage of council houses available to UK residents?
Well, I think two things. First of all, it's not just homes for rent.
It's obviously homes that people want to buy.
But ultimately, we've got to build more homes
if we're to deal with both the situation
of an inflated housing market, but also high rents.
One of the problems we've got in the area that I represent,
particularly in an urban centre like London,
I represent one of the constituencies in Lambeth,
is that we simply do not have enough space to build more homes.
And one of the challenges that our council is facing,
it wants to increase the number of homes,
but the only place it can actually build them
is on existing council estates.
But ultimately, we've got to invest in that.
We've also got to sort out the planning rules.
But in the rented sector,
as we see the private rented market increase as a share of the tenure
that we have here in London,
we've got a Wild West situation
where, frankly, people are being ripped off by many landlords,
are facing exorbitant rent increases
and there isn't proper regulation in the market.
Which is why one of the things we were proposing to do
in the lead into the general election
was to cap the amount of rent increases that people are facing,
but also stop these agents charging these extortionate fees
every time you're moving home.
So far, we've seen no action from the government
to do anything about this.
When, actually, I see many, you know, many constituents
who, for them, never mind they're not being paid enough in their work,
but housing costs are taking up most of their income.
But is your question about immigration as well as about housing?
No, it's more in regards to housing, more than immigration.
Probably more in line.
Because I work for the criminal justice system
in a probation hostel
and, over a number of years,
it's quite difficult for residents moving on to obtain housing.
And I'm just wondering,
if it's so difficult for the existing UK residents
to get council properties,
how are we then housing the immigrants coming over?
OK, you in the front row?
Yeah, I actually used to live in rented accommodation
in London for a few years
and I've just moved to the East Village in Stratford,
which is the old Olympic accommodation.
Now, that's owned by a housing association.
It's got capped rent on inflation and the difference I saw there,
which will be negligible, 1.5% increases,
against a 10% increase in my last place in Clapham
with no, any improvements made at all, that's got to be the solution.
It's the only solution.
OK. And you? I work as a nurse in Islington
and the amount of patients that we have to see
that need housing sorted out through the council
and the amount of time that takes up.
So I spend probably 30% of my week in the council,
trying to sort out housing.
But then, you know, it affects their mental health problems, as well.
And it's just the whole system needs to be sorted out.
It does. And one of the problems is,
we should be building around 50,000 new homes,
at least 50,000 new homes a year here in London.
And yet, under the current mayor,
we've seen a build of around 20,000 new homes.
And unless you build more, you invest more
and also address some of the planning constraints,
we are not going to be able to get a grip on this. All right, Victoria?
It's a knock-on effect.
Because then what happens is, like,
we know how strained the NHS is and, as a nurse,
I'm having to spend my week in the council
because there's problems with the council.
So less patients get seen by me, there's less treatment being done,
because I'm spending 30% of my week in the council.
So it's a knock-on effect.
OK, you, sir, up there on the right?
I've got to be honest with you, spare us your crocodile tears.
Because it was you, alongside the Tories,
that sold off those council houses,
that drove those people
back into the hands of those unethical landlords
that, you know, you seem to be crying for.
You know, if it wasn't for you carrying out Tory policies
that drove those people into the hands of those landlords,
we wouldn't have this crisis right now.
I'm sorry, that's garbage, rubbish. That's not true.
So I think, for me, it's really important
that young people growing up in London
do feel like they've got the chance to get on the property ladder
and that means doing three...
SOME OF THE AUDIENCE OBJECTS
It means doing...
It means doing three things. One is getting on with building more homes.
And actually, over the last few years,
we have seen more council homes built.
We've have seen more affordable homes built.
No, no, no, I'm sorry.
The idea of young people...
If I can just finish?
So part of this is building more homes,
including starter homes, which will be at 80% of the market value.
Alongside that, then, it's helping young people
be able to get the deposit that they need
to be able to buy those homes, as well.
Which is where Help to Buy is making a big difference
in reducing the amount of deposits that people need.
And the last thing, though,
is around many of the housing estates
that are all in our local communities,
which I think, over the coming years,
have a real chance to be regenerated,
providing better and new housing stock for existing residents.
But also, giving us the chance to create more homes
and more housing for new people growing up in communities...
But you say that. Why under the coalition...
But housebuilding is at its lowest,
according to the government's own figures, since the 1920s.
We've built 600,000...
However many you've built, its lower than it was in 1920.
The lowest since 1920.
We've built 600,000 new homes since 2010.
And, actually, housing starts in the past 12 months...
How many a year is that? Since 2010?
Housing starts in the past 12 months...
Sorry, housing planning that's been given permission
in the last 12 months is over 250,000 units.
So there are homes being built.
But I think we're dealing with
quite a long-term generational lack of homes that have been built,
especially in London.
And it's taking time to get that turned around.
But is being turned around,
which is why more affordable homes are being built,
more council homes are being built... OK.
And, actually, we are seeing people
being able to get into the housing market.
The person up there in the second row from the back. You in blue?
Hi. I used to live in Lambeth,
actually opposite your surgery, Chuka.
I'm having to move out of London.
I earn a decent wage, I'm a Londoner,
but I can't afford the rent.
And you say there's no room to build more houses.
But if you get the bus around Lambeth/Wandsworth,
there's plenty of room to build luxury apartments, luxury flats.
I can't afford them.
Yeah, you're saying, you're quoting figures, 50,000 targets,
20,000 houses being built.
But like what was just said,
what percentage of those houses are affordable?
All these figures...
20,000, are they all affordable housing
or a percentage of that is luxury housing?
And the man next to you?
Chuka can talk about the number of houses being built,
but when Labour were in power, they only built 13,000 houses.
There were more houses built in the last year
when Margaret Thatcher was in power, council houses.
I'm sorry, that is not a figure I recognise. Before the crash...
You might not recognise it, but it's true, though.
Before the crash,
we were building around 240,000 new homes a year across the UK.
Not council houses.
Now, in terms of the council houses, to pick up on my former constituent.
I'm sorry to be losing you. Yeah.
We're sorry to have lost you.
But, of course, the problem is,
going to your point about the space issue,
it's space that Lambeth actually owns.
They simply don't have the money,
given the cuts they've sustained, 50% of their budget going,
to buy up all the private land that you're talking about.
So that leaves them with their land to build on
and they don't have enough of it.
Do you think we should cut rents, though, like they do in Berlin?
I'm very sympathetic to exercising that control on rent,
which is why, you know, having a cap on the increase
that people are subject to by their landlords every year
was something that I was elected on.
That was a manifesto that I was elected on.
Are you in favour of controlled rents? I'm very sympathetic to it.
Sympathetic doesn't mean... Yes, yes! You are in favour? Yes, I am.
You are in favour? You'd vote for it? I would vote for capping rents.
OK, Corbyn would be with you on that one.
I think so. Yeah.
First of all, it needs to be said that the idea
that any young person, really,
unless they're the child of a Russian oligarch,
could live in London any more is preposterous.
It is an absolute pipedream.
You know, here in Tottenham, which is not central London,
in fact it's one of poorest places in Europe,
in Tottenham a one-bedroom flat can cost you ?400,000.
It's a stupid amount of money.
80% of it is a stupid amount of money.
No-one can afford to live here
and of course they could build more houses.
I don't know how many council houses were built in London
in the last year, probably about 40.
I mean, a ridiculous amount.
There needs to be a proper revolution.
And I know you would say it's easy for me to say
because I'm not a politician, but I'm not, and it is, so I will.
I think what has to happen is all of the young people
and all of the workforce just have to leave London.
They've just got to make themselves work somewhere else.
The Government has to find something to offer people
outside London to regenerate other parts of the country.
And they'll leave
and all these super-wealthy people with their iceberg houses
will be left with no nurses and no policeman and no firemen
and no-one to clean their houses
and no-one to deliver the mail to the houses.
The last thing I want to say, which is also very important,
is be very careful, though, about talking about immigration.
It's not about immigration. This isn't a population problem.
It's only very recently that London has returned
to the population level of 1945.
It's not the number of people, it's the cost of the houses
and the type that are being built.
All right. You, sir, at the front?
Yes? I actually work in the London property market
and I've got two quick points to make.
I mean, the Help to Buy scheme is a complete failure.
As, in order to qualify to buy one of these properties,
you need to be on ?70,000, ?80,000, ?90,000 at least.
So that's one point. The second point, I've seen rents go up
by at least 15 to 20% in the last two years, and wages are not coming
up to that level.
And that simply is a supply-and-demand issue.
You talk about building these houses, but where are they?
Where are they being built? Jenny Jones.
I've got so much to say on this that I'm going to trip over myself.
But, basically, what's happening here in London, the driving out
of people, it's not just
the cleaners and the baristas
and people like that who are on
low pay who are getting driven out,
it's academics, it's junior doctors,
it's all the sort of people that we need to keep our city going.
And there are all sorts of things we could do but we in general
are choosing not to do.
I've been watching Boris Johnson over the past seven and a half years
fairly up close and personal,
and he, when he came in, redefined affordable housing.
It's all very well talking about building affordable housing.
We all agree on that. But actually, affordable has to be
affordable for everybody.
It's not affordable if you earn ?80,000 and you can't buy it
if you earn any less. That's not affordable.
He redefined "affordable".
We should think about rent caps, of course we should.
We've tried things like landlord registers,
because of course a lot of people, if you're in rented accommodation
and you complain about your boiler, you get kicked out
because it's such a bad market for people who are trying to rent.
We should also be bringing empty properties back into use.
There's something called the Land Value Tax,
which is too complicated to go into, but that basically penalises you
for leaving a building empty for any length of time.
There's also, for example, social housing.
We should be building social housing.
I grew up in a council house in Brighton just after the war.
It was brilliant. My parents were on a really low income,
a hospital chef and a dinner lady.
Nowadays, they would never have access to that sort of...
Well, it's harder and harder for people like that,
families like that, to have access to social housing.
So many councils are building... Well, they're starting to build
social housing, but what they're doing, of course,
is they're selling off some of the flats
to offshore investors and people who see it as an investment.
Housing is for people who live in the city.
It is not something to make huge amounts of money out of.
All right. Thank you. OK. Thank you. APPLAUSE
Yeah, first of all, it's quite plain that our housing policy
in this country has been a catastrophe for many years,
and one of the things which has made it so
was the sale of council houses, which everybody says was wonderful,
which I think we must recognise was a disaster.
It destroyed a huge amount
of rented housing stock,
incredibly valuable to people
who had to work
and needed to move to work,
and replaced it with the absolute
catastrophe of housing benefit,
which currently costs more than the Royal Air Force to maintain
and is an immensely expensive way of trying to house people.
We've also repeatedly had governments which have sought
to cover up their failure to create a productive economy
by pumping up housing bubbles to try and sustain the economic figures
and make themselves look good, during which time
we have accumulated a national debt of ?1.5 trillion,
?1.5 trillion, completely unpayable.
And this constant use of housing bubbles
and of pumping money into housing
to try and save themselves from serious economic decisions
has been one of the causes...
Are you saying there's a motive not to build houses?
Well, the housing policy is not directed by any desire
to build houses.
The housing policy is directed to cover up for the fact
that they've failed to manage the economy of the country
over several decades.
And Victoria, although a lot of what she said
about housing in London was extremely sensible,
for Justine Greening to imagine that young people
can buy property in London...
This is the best government that hedge funds could buy,
and they obviously spend time with nobody else but hedge-fund managers
if they think that any young people can afford houses.
But the problem that we also face is that how can a country
which has such a major problem in housing, how can it conceivably
have a policy of undiscriminating,
non-selective mass immigration at the same time?
Is this not guaranteed to cause greater problems
than you already have?
To say the number of people makes no difference is absurd.
No, I didn't say the number of people makes no difference.
I said it would be wrong to imagine that the population of London
is too big because of immigrants
when it's only the same as it was in the '40s.
I don't live in London, and I recognise the existence
of other parts of the country, but there is absolutely no doubt -
and the recent projections show that our population is rising
towards 70 million at an astonishing rate -
there is no doubt that there are a lot more people in this country
than there used to be, and a great deal of them are the result
of uncontrolled mass immigration, which we will not control
and which, until we leave the European Union, we can't control.
If you think one should control the population
where it's too big, and the main reason, if the population
is too big, is because it's ageing, people are living longer,
how do we control that? Should we get rid of the old folk as well?
Well, if you have, as I say, a set of existing circumstances,
of which that may be one, which have caused a major housing crisis
and problems for almost anybody seeking to buy a house,
it doesn't seem to me to be sensible to bring in a very large
number of people who haven't got houses to live in at the same time.
Isn't that elementary? We don't have a housing crisis... Oh, no(!)
..because of immigrants but because we haven't built enough homes.
All right. We've got ten minutes, and I want a couple more questions,
or at least one more, if I can,
before we come to the end of the programme.
James Barton's question, please, next.
Are cuts to the police force endangering the public?
Cuts to the police force, are they endangering the public?
The Met here in London believes it faces cuts of up to a billion
over the next five years.
Jenny Jones, I think you're in a position to answer this,
because you're on the London Assembly police committee but you're also
defined - I think I've got this right - as a domestic extremist by the Met.
Is that right? So you're running the police,
who define you as a danger, presumably.
Yes, I was tagged as a domestic extremist by the Met Police.
I was on their database for ten years.
They've told me I've been taken off, but I've actually
reapplied for my file to find out if they actually have taken me off.
I've been a critic of the police for a long, long time,
but even I think that these cuts are starting to endanger the public.
The fact is, they were so fast, so savage - by a Tory government!
Who'd have thought a Tory government would slash at police
funding like that?
Nobody doubts there was fat to trim from all the police budgets,
but it's gone too far.
They were done so quickly, the cuts, that the
police themselves had no time to be strategic about the cuts.
They had to sort of slash and burn.
And that's no way to run any sort of police force.
And does it endanger the public? I think it does. I think it does.
The real problem for the Met Police in particular
is of course that they have a lot of other functions,
international and domestic, that other police forces don't have,
and the Government repeatedly doesn't pay them for it.
Assange, for example,
keeping him trapped in the embassy for all those years, ?12 million.
The Met hasn't seen a penny of it. At least, I hope that's still true.
But perhaps they will tomorrow, now I've mentioned it.
All right. You, sir, in the middle there.
It just goes sort of hand in hand with Tories just making stuff up.
I mean, the manifestos that I heard of in this election just gone
and the election in 2010 with the coalition said that there'd be more
patrolling generally in areas, and there definitely isn't.
My area generally, I'm lucky
if I call the police for anything and they actually turn up three
hours later, only to look around, walk around a bit
and then just move off again. So cuts are just a joke, aren't they?
And you, sir, in the white shirt there.
Thank you. Justine, I would just like to know, the Tories have always
had a very good relationship with the police,
so why are you making these cuts now?
If you look at crime across the board, actually, in London,
it's fallen dramatically over the last few years.
MURMURING IN AUDIENCE
At the same time, people who have been victims of crime are saying
they're more satisfied, actually, with how they're being dealt with
with the police.
At the same time as that, we also need to make sure that we
deliver on making sure our public finances are affordable
for the public, and that includes making sure that...
the policing we have is on a sustainable
footing in terms of how much money's going into it.
So we're trying to make these different objectives match up.
I think we are getting there. But we've been elected to try
and get the rest of that deficit that we inherited dealt with.
It doesn't do us any good to hand over a whole load
of debts to the next generation. We're getting on with doing that.
We've got the spending review in November, which will set out how
we're going to make the next set of savings in terms of public finances.
But I meet up with my borough commander
regularly in Wandsworth, and actually, they do
work very hard to look at how they can run themselves more
effectively, more efficiently, and I think it's wrong to say that the
changes in funding are just suddenly being put onto the Met Police.
They are challenging, they are difficult,
but actually, people are working to make sure
how we can make sure policing in London is able to continue
to be as successful in the future as it's been in the past,
but at the same time, it's done in a way
that has a sustainable level of funding
that's going to be affordable.
Hang on - you say that it's...that crime is falling,
but the figures for London on knife crime show a big rise.
Knife crime is up... 18% increase.
If you look at crime, violent crime, including on transport,
for example, you've seen year-on-year reductions.
So the reality is... Justine... ..crime overall has fallen.
We want to see those trends continue.
But at the same time, we've got to make sure that our police
is funded in a sustainable way.
Knife crime is up 14%, serious youth violence is up 8%,
youth gang offences are up 23%.
Is this because of cuts to the police?
Well, I asked this question.
I sit on the Home Affairs Select Committee.
We took evidence from a number of chief constables
and I asked them the specific question,
the question just asked - will the public...
"Will you be able to keep the public safe in the way that you have
"up to now, after these cuts?"
And they doubted their ability to do that,
particularly the chief constable for Lancashire.
There are two specific issues that I have.
We in London are facing losing more than 5,000 officers.
At the moment, there are proposals
to lose all of our Police Community Support Officers.
We have a particular problem in my borough, next to Justine's,
of serious youth violence.
Neighbourhood policing is absolutely fundamental
to preventing this gang culture capturing our young people.
Are you talking about the money that's provided
or about the way the police use the money? Two different... Both.
I asked the Met Commissioner, the Deputy Met Commissioner,
who we had in front of us, I said,
"How important is neighbourhood policing
"and will you be able to carry on the prevention work around gangs
"with the level of cuts sustained? Will that not be more difficult?"
He said that'll be very challenging. The other big issue we're looking at
in my borough is we've had quite a lot of...
We've got historic child abuse investigations.
Of course, it's not historic for the people who are the victims
and survivors of that.
But the money that is going into that
is being taken out of the general pot.
There isn't even a specific sum of money for this very serious issue
that has particularly come to the fore
over the last two to three years.
Actually, if you look at the Met, of the 30,000 referrers
that are expected from Justice Goddard's inquiry
into historic child abuse,
half of those are going to be in London.
They are not provided with any extra resources for the investigation.
I'll come to you, sir, in the front - briefly, you wouldn't make any cuts
in the pricing of...? We believe... Labour would spend...
You could make up to 10% cuts. That's it. You would make cuts.
Fine. I just want to make the point. They're cutting...
The original Met budget is going to be a third less
than what it was after those cuts.
We do not believe that the police can sustain that.
A contributing factor to our problems with the police
is mismanagement of what we can afford.
It is too top-heavy.
We've got chief constables, deputy chief constables
assistant chief constables, deputy assistant chief constables...
I'm not making it up, it's a fact.
No, no... It's a fact, it's a fact.
After that, you've got chief superintendents,
they've got superintendents,
they've got chief inspectors, inspectors,
before you get to sergeants, and then...and then...
Look at the salary of our own commissioner in London -
?400,000 a year.
And I'm not talking about the extras.
Compare that salary with that of the constable - ?28,000.
All right, Peter Hitchens. Thank you very much.
APPLAUSE I think we get the point!
It's a good point, but some years ago,
I got tired of listening to the police complaining about
how they couldn't do what they were supposed to do
because they didn't have enough numbers.
The truth is that, for some years,
there have been far more police officers in the country -
both per head of the population and in total -
than there were in the '60s,
when we had much more effective policing than we do now.
The reason for the problem is that the police... The '60s?
The Met was the most corrupt... They're very nice people.
They've very nice people but they do the wrong thing all the time.
If you are burgled or if you are robbed or if you are mugged,
the police cannot unburgle you or unmug you or...or unrob you.
Nothing... Are the cuts endangering the public, Peter, is the question?
We only have a short time. I know what the question is,
but if you just have cliched politics...
Let politicians run on,
but let anybody who has anything original to say shut up. No, Peter.
I will not shut up, because it's so important.
The police are supposed - and they were invented in this
country by Robert Peel - to do one thing.
To patrol, on foot, the streets to prevent crime and disorder.
That is something they no longer do.
If they will start doing that again, we should pay them
a king's ransom, all the money we've got.
But at the moment, they won't do it, they've vanished from the streets.
They only turn up after things have happened and frankly,
that creates a demand that could never conceivably...
I have the solution to this problem, it's very simple.
Like most people in London, or any big city, I don't see a policeman
from one month to the next,
but I can't move for traffic wardens.
They can patrol the streets, don't worry about that.
That's because imposing parking crimes
is a massively profitable business.
The traffic wardens are being gradually replaced by cameras,
which means greater income, lower outlay.
Spend the same money on policemen. All right. I'm going to do...
I'm going to take one last question round the table in the light
of something that happened this week from Tim Paramore, please.
Is the government turning our schools into joyless exam factories?
Briefly - "joyless exam factories".
This is the news that seven-year-olds are now going to be tested
to see how they're doing.
Justine Greening, but briefly, please.
No... Pace, Peter.
No, we're not, but what we do want to do is make sure
we have a good sense of where children have got to
as they pass through schools,
so that they're not all dealt with the same
and actually, across the board,
we can start to get a better sense of how well children,
individual children, are progressing through school
and how well schools are doing at bringing them on
and helping them to be in a position to reach their own potential.
Joyless exam factories - Jenny Jones, do you agree?
Absolutely, yes - childhood should be a time
when you learn to enjoy learning.
It should be full of joy and excitement and pleasure
and actually finding out about the world around you.
So the idea of constantly testing and assessing
and putting stress on seven-year-olds...
Why would we do that to our children?
All right - Peter Hitchens.
It is true that this is what they are and it's because,
rather that doing what needs to be done to the schools -
that is to say, bringing back
proper, rigorous education in the basics
and selection in secondary schools on academic merit -
they insist on constantly reaching for gimmicks
and on driving the schools and punishing the schools
with incessant five-year-plans and exhortation.
That's the only policy they have
because they will not, for ideological reasons,
do the only thing which would make the schools better.
Victoria Coren - thank you, Peter. Um... Yes, absolutely,
joyless exam - not just that.
Joyless exam factories all day and then hours of homework at night.
They can't even come home and play. It's awful. It's pertinent to me,
because I've decided as a result of this
that our daughter will not go to school at all,
it's too miserable - she'll be home-schooled.
My husband, unfortunately, thinks that means she'll turn out weird.
So...the debate continues. Learn to play poker at an early age.
I think that's the only way.
The woman in the very front, here, then I'll come to you, Chuka.
Just briefly. I just wanted to ask
where you saw the education system in five years' time.
I think that might take quite a long time to answer.
If you'll excuse me, we won't do that, but Chuka, very briefly.
Joyless exam factories? Or are you in favour of testing at seven?
No, I think there is a problem with turning into joyless exam factories.
The problems with our schools are not because our kids
are not doing enough exams and tests.
We need more teachers.
We've got loads of kids in overcrowded classrooms,
at the moment, and that should actually be the focus,
I think, as opposed to continually...
There a massive teaching recruitment crisis, exactly, as that lady says.
Resources... We've got record numbers,
record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession
and that's what the Government should be focused on,
not incessantly testing our young people.
I wish this debate could go on, but it can't,
because we only get our hour, though on radio,
it does go on a bit longer, I'll tell you in a moment.
But our time's up on Question Time.
We're going to be in Stoke-on-Trent next week.
We've got Sajid Javid for the Tories,
Lucy Powell for Labour,
the writer and activist Paris Lees
among those on the panel.
The week after that, we'll be in Belfast.
So if you want to come to Stoke or Belfast, go to the website,
call the number on the screen...
If you're listening on 5 Live,
as you know, this debate continues
on Question Time Extra Time,
but on here, my thanks
to all our panellists and to you, our audience.
From Tottenham in London, until next Thursday, goodnight.
The knives are sharpened and the heat is on. It can only mean one thing.
I've never, ever seen that!
Britain's best chefs are back in town.
David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Tottenham, London. Panellists include Conservative international development secretary Justine Greening, Labour's Chuka Umunna, the Green Party's Jenny Jones, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens and writer and broadcaster Victoria Coren Mitchell.