David Dimbleby presents topical debate from London. On the panel are Nick Boles MP, Cat Smith MP, Patrick O'Flynn MEP, Camilla Long and Kelvin MacKenzie.
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Tonight we're in London, and this is Question Time.
Welcome to the first edition of 2016,
whether you're watching on television,
listening on Radio 5 Live, welcome to our audience here,
and of course to our panel sitting round our shiny new table.
The Conservative Skills Minister Nick Boles,
Labour's Cat Smith,
who worked for Jeremy Corbyn, was elected an MP last year,
and is now Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities,
the Ukip MEP Patrick O'Flynn, who stood down
as the party's economics spokesman after criticising Nigel Farage,
the Sunday Times journalist and film critic Camilla Long,
and the Sun columnist and former editor, Kelvin MacKenzie.
And I should as always just remind you,
if you want to get involved in this debate,
we're now on Facebook, Twitter - our hashtag is #bbcqt -
you can follow us @BBCQuestionTime.
You can text comments to 83981,
and press the Red Button to see what others are saying.
So let the argument begin,
and our first question tonight from Richard Salmon, please.
Are junior doctors justified in taking strike action?
Very straightforward, simple first question for the year.
Are junior doctors justified in taking strike action?
Well, the first thing to say is of course
they absolutely have the right to.
I'm disappointed that they've chosen to,
and I fear that they have been misled by the BMA leadership.
Because what we're trying to propose
is a new contract that is safer than the existing contract.
The existing contract allows junior doctors to work
for 91 hours in a week - that is six 15-hour days, and that is unsafe.
The new contract we propose
would allow them to work 72 hours a week,
would reduce the numbers of consecutive nights,
reduce the number of consecutive weekends,
and I believe it would be a safer contract,
but also, it would give junior doctors the same level of pay
as they are getting now unless they're working unsafe hours.
We're not trying to save money on this contract -
we're trying to make a safer contract that will deliver
a seven-day-a-week NHS, and I hope we can persuade junior doctors
to ignore the BMA, to come back to work and agree on a new contract.
Boris Johnson said the BMA was in the grip of advanced Corbynitis.
Is that your view of them?
Well, I mean, I think it is
true that a large number of people involved with the BMA leadership
are very much self-identified as left-wing people.
But I don't want to insult junior doctors, who after all
are some of the most qualified and educated people in the land, with
thinking that they're not making up their own minds about this.
I just fear that sometimes the information given to them
has not been strictly accurate.
There was a calculator on the BMA website
which they have now taken down because it was misleading.
It was pretending that certain things were going to happen
under our proposals that were not going to happen, and it's important
that people are given the true information
-before making their choices.
A point from you and then I come to Cat Smith. Yes.
I'm a junior doctor,
and I would very much like to say I have not been misled by the BMA.
My medical training gives me the opportunity to evaluate
evidence, and I have looked at the government's proposals,
and I have looked at what the BMA have said, and so, categorically,
98% of the people that voted for a strike were not misled by the BMA.
Secondly, I would like to say we all want a safe contract,
and thank you for saying that we want a safe contract.
There are two main issues regarding the contract
which are particularly concerning junior doctors.
The first one is the safeguards that are currently in place,
which the current Health Secretary proposes to take away.
I know that he suggests that there is a guardian
that will be put into place,
however, currently we have financial penalties that are put on trusts.
If junior doctors as a group of junior doctors are seen to be
overworking, these trusts face financial penalties -
these will be taken away.
The current proposals do not offer that.
Can I just say, the current proposals also do not
show that there is a robust mechanism to ensure safeguards.
Thirdly, the current proposals do not say that this is
an independent guardian that will be jointly appointed with the BMA.
A lot of points there, and I'm not sure people will follow them all.
I'm afraid I would have to say that I'm completely horrified
that doctors are prepared to strike.
I think it's...
You know, doctors took an oath, the Hippocratic oath that they
would not do anything to bring harm to their patients, and I think
they have totally abandoned the duty of care by doing so.
Um... I find it very, very difficult to get past this point.
I don't understand how, as a doctor,
you would be perfectly happy to leave your...
You know, your patients, and even go up to the point where
emergency services are potentially going to be affected by this.
Um... I think it's a disgrace, the way that both Jeremy Hunt and the
junior doctors have allowed this to become a political football.
Nowhere else in the world does health care become
politicised in this way.
Um...and I think...you know...
Yes! What would you like to say to me?
-I would like to say to you, have you been to...
-No, you've had your say.
Do you think, when she says it's dangerous what is being suggested...
-And I'll tell you...
-When she says it's dangerous, is it wrong,
-even in those circumstances, to strike?
Yes, I think it's wrong to strike because I think that when you
strike, you are definitely putting your patients at risk, whereas...
-You know, there's... You don't quite know.
-All right. Cat Smith.
Nobody wants to see our junior doctors on strike, least of all
those junior doctors, because the junior doctors I know...
..went into that profession to care for people.
I don't know any junior doctors who went into it for the money -
they went into it to support people in their hour of need.
The BMA is not a radical trade union.
This is a trade union that has not been on strike for 40 years.
This strike has been pushed by Jeremy Hunt,
the Tory Health Secretary, who is refusing to get
back around the negotiating table and speak to the junior doctors,
who frankly are doing this because they want their patients to be safe.
They don't want to be working longer hours.
We don't want to go back to the bad old days of the 1990s...
-But don't you understand that to the person in the street...
-..with tired doctors.
First, we don't know...what the doctors are striking about.
-They've been very clear.
-To me, no...
-They have been very, very clear.
To me it looks like you are striking about money, striking about pay.
-No, let's be clear...
This is a strike that has been called...
No, to the person on the street, that's what it looks like.
..with the vast support of junior doctors, because the contract that's
being offered is going to force junior doctors to work longer hours,
because the financial incentive currently in place to stop hospitals
overworking our junior doctors is not included in this contract.
And as for junior doctors who are on strike, well, actually,
a lot of them are unable to go on strike cos they're scheduled
to work emergency hours, and I've seen examples.
This woman here is indicating that she's one of these junior doctors.
And there's been junior doctors on picket lines who have left
those picket lines to support people with first aid,
because actually, what they want is the best for the NHS
and the best for the patients that...
Well, they can't, they simply can't, because they're striking.
The man up there with spectacles at the back,
in the second row from the back - you, sir. Yes.
I come from both angles, cos I'm a patient, and actually having
appointments at the weekend would be very, very convenient to me.
I also have a girlfriend who's a junior doctor.
And I think generally as a society we don't value doctors enough,
and actually, those comments, Camilla,
all they do is make doctors feel like they're...
And they make them feel like they don't actually want to do the job.
And surely, we as a society
don't want our doctors to... to feel like that.
I mean, Camilla, would you want to be treated by a doctor
who felt they were undervalued and underpaid?
No, obviously I wouldn't want to be treated by a doctor who felt
undervalued and underpaid.
However, I really don't believe that we're...you know...
I spoke to a friend of mine who is a junior doctor yesterday,
and he was perfectly honest with me,
and he said what it came down to was the terms of the pay,
and the fact of the matter is, because the pay is not good enough,
they're going to have to work extra hours in order to make it up.
OK. Patrick O'Flynn.
I just have to disagree with the gentleman in the audience
who says doctors are undervalued.
I think if you look at the opinion polls,
doctors are held in incredibly high esteem,
and the NHS is the most popular public service in the world.
But with such high esteem I do think comes a level of responsibility,
including, actually, on government ministers,
that it's not unreasonable when we deliver health care the way
we do in this country - which is fantastic
and which is part of who we are as a country - that the
people on the political side who are accountable for the spending try and
make sure that it modernises, that it keeps pace with the times, right?
So delivering "a seven-day-a-week NHS,"
slightly insulting, because of course it IS seven days,
but he means at an appropriate and even level of resources
and care - that's not an unreasonable aspiration, right?
But the problem is,
the NHS now is under enormous strain with increased demand.
The time to do these reforms, I think, was 15 years ago
when all the money was pouring in under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
and the contracts drawn up then were widely perceived
to have wrecked productivity in the NHS.
So I think at the moment, Jeremy Hunt,
I don't think he's ill-meaning,
but the government needs to identify extra resources.
It made blithe comments during the election about eight billion
a year extra without a plan.
We in Ukip were going to put a third of the net savings
from leaving the EU - three billion a year extra - in.
We would look at putting some of the foreign aid savings
into actually funding the NHS,
so he's asking it to run when it's struggling to walk
because of the sheer demand on the NHS and people who work in it.
The person up there on the third row from the back.
-I'm also a junior doctor...
-You're a junior doctor?
Is there anybody in the audience who isn't a junior doctor(?)
..and I just want to go back to this seven-day services issue.
We provide a seven-day emergency service.
In the press, again and again and again, and coming
from the government, there has been this demand for a seven-day service.
We provide a seven-day emergency service.
What is not provided is a seven-day elective service.
If that was to be provided, our finite resource - we are
a finite resource of trained doctors - would be
spread over six or seven days instead of five at the same level.
APPLAUSE Just explain - elective service.
So this is things like outpatient clinics
and nonemergency surgery.
So, the number of doctors working,
at the moment, we do have fewer doctors at the weekends
because they are providing emergency services only.
If we were to be spread throughout the seven days,
that would deplete our numbers, Monday to Friday.
That would sacrifice patient safety, because we are pushed already.
OK, well, let's just take that point. Kelvin MacKenzie.
Well, I presume you could hire more doctors.
There's nothing wrong in doing that.
I think one of the issues that has emerged in all this
is the enormous hours which doctors work.
I mean, the idea of 92 hours being reduced to 72,
I don't want to see a junior doctor at a hospital.
I mean, by the way, when you use the word junior doctor,
you mean junior doctor after registrar.
I mean, you start at 23,000, you go up to 70,000.
It's not as though you're on Poverty Street.
The issue I have here is, I would be in favour of reducing
the 72 hours down to what I consider a normal working week,
which would be 50 or 55.
Do you want to be treated by a doctor that has done 92 hours?
I am wholly and completely in line with Jeremy Hunt on this issue.
The truth about the matter is that the doctors...
There is about, apparently, 1% of the doctors, junior doctors,
actually work these kinds of hours in order to get the overtime money.
That day must end. You've had an 11...
I mean, there's enough of you in the audience,
enough junior doctors in the audience.
I've never seen so many doctors in my life.
You got an 11% pay hike,
you're already on something between 23 and 70,000.
As far as I'm concerned, I have never seen the NHS better,
either at GP level or at hospital level, for my immediate family.
It's utterly fantastic and my advice is get back to work,
take what you can in this latest round of talks,
which I think are going on today, and get back to work.
If I were Jeremy Hunt, I'd turf you out,
because I don't think you've got the public on your side
and I think this strike is on the edge of collapsing.
Let me hear from someone... You were applauding that point.
Do you want to, what's your view about it? The man in the very front.
If I get sick at the weekend, I want to be treated at the weekend.
And I don't believe that doctors, who are very well paid,
I don't believe that I should have...
There's more chance of me dying at the weekend, so that's a fact.
-WOMAN IN AUDIENCE:
-It's not true. This is not true.
Doctors, doctors, please, stop waving your arms about.
I find it a bit irritating that doctors are interfering with
-patients who are trying to say something.
I don't think that... The facts are there,
-people do die, are more likely to die at the weekend...
..because there's not enough consultants
-and relevant doctors in hospitals, so that's why.
Are there any more patients rather than doctors who want to just
comment on this? Because clearly we've got more than...
Yes, you, sir.
I just think it's reflective of the cynicism of our government
where they're prepared to go after good, noble doctors who are there to
give a service, and they're saying that they're not being paid enough.
Well, I'm happy to see doctors paid a lot of money
cos they do a job which I'm happy to pay for,
rather than someone in the City making money for the sake of it.
-It's absurd, the cynicism you have.
-I'll come to you first. Yes, brief point.
I would like to just challenge Camilla and...
-I beg your pardon, I can't remember your name.
Horrified that you should be misleading our public,
might I say, and with you, I think
this issue about the BMA misleading us,
I want to point out to the public of this country that Jeremy Hunt and
the government have systematically misled the entire country.
This man talking about dying at the weekend,
I am horrified to hear that.
People have actually died
because of what Jeremy Hunt has said in Parliament about 11,000 deaths
each year, which he attributes to junior doctors.
I am so sad that you have taken that on from this government.
It is not true.
The paper that he quoted from, let me tell you,
he got the data a month before that paper came out. Let's ask why.
What he regarded as a weekend was a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.
That is not a weekend. A weekend is Saturday and Sunday, is it not?
He said that people were dying on Saturdays and Sunday.
Now, if you look at that paper, on a Saturday and a Sunday,
actually less people were dying,
and he spoke about it as though we were only speaking about people
dying on the weekends, when the paper looked at 30 days.
-Don't wag your finger at me, I think you've made the point.
APPLAUSE Chris Boles.
Nick Boles, sorry. Nick Boles.
Nobody seems to know my name, but that doesn't matter.
I'm sure that this evening there are going to be occasions
when I'm going to be asked to defend cuts in public spending,
and I just think it is kind of important that everybody
understands that if the contract that we are proposing
comes into force, we will not save a penny.
The amount that we spend on junior doctors' pay
will not be one penny less than it is now,
so how can it be such an appalling contract
if it's not going to be saving any money
and it's going to be reducing maximum hours from 91 to 72?
The truth is that what we're trying to do is to even the patterns
of work so that, yes,
there are more junior doctors working during normal hours,
during the weekend, and obviously there is a debate about these
figures, but I think that there are lots of people who do
believe these figures, which suggest that you are
20% more likely to die from a stroke
if you have that stroke at a weekend,
that you are more likely, in childbirth, to lose a child
if you have your child at the weekend.
And I think that a lot of us know from our own lives that, frankly,
if you have something that isn't absolutely an emergency, you
actually try and wait for the week, because you know that the
consultant will be there, you know that it'll be the full depth
of resource, that it won't be a junior anaesthesiologist, it will be
a consultant anaesthesiologist who's looking after you.
We are not trying to save money on this.
We're putting more money in the NHS.
We're just trying to get a better service for the British people
who are paying a lot for the NHS.
Just because, Nick, you believe something
-does not mean that it's true.
And we've heard from some junior doctors tonight
who have made that very clear.
When it comes to decisions about the NHS, I'm going
to go with the junior doctors who work very hard in our NHS to
deliver these services, and I just want to pick up on a few things.
There were some comments made about the public support.
Junior doctors, I do believe you've got the public support.
I think that you absolutely have that...
..and you have my support on this issue.
And as for this fact about weekends being more likely to die,
It was based on rubbish data, frankly,
and also, to explain it in layman's terms,
if you're sick on a Wednesday, then you don't think about it twice.
You'll go along to hospital. But if you get sick at a weekend,
there's quite a lot of evidence that suggests that you think twice,
so by the time you arrive at that hospital,
you're much sicker than you would have been had you arrived on a
Wednesday, so that's why the figures might look slightly different.
-So if you had seven-day doctors...
-You wouldn't have that.
-..and you felt sick, you'd be all right going in.
We do have seven-day NHS.
Anyway, we're going to move on now because we've had an airing of that
and we've got a lot of questions in the lists here,
and we're not just negotiating this doctors' deal on Question Time.
I should just say, by the way, if you want to come to Question Time,
we're going to be in Belfast next week, and the week after that,
we're going to be in Stamford in Lincolnshire.
The details on the screen of how to apply, so do come if you'd like to.
Abu Hassan, please, has our next question.
Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?
Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?
The question we're going to be all asked to answer this year or next.
Well, I would say that, erm...
I'd like to preface this by saying that it's such a complicated
and nuanced issue that even people who pretend to know what the
answer to this question is, probably don't know the answer to it.
I don't think any of us have read the Lisbon Treaty
or the Treaty of Rome or anything like this, so over the next few
months, you're going to hear a lot of people saying jump one way or
the other, but actually not really know what they're talking about.
-So what are you going to do for the next few months?
-I would say...
Are you going to read everything? Are you going to read the Lisbon Treaty?
Yes, of course I am! No, I would say, I would...
Looking at the economy of the country at the moment,
I would say the best thing to do would be to remain,
just because if things are going to become unstable in
the next couple of years,
we don't want an extra added problem at Brexit.
We don't want to have to be negotiating our way
to an isolated state with any downturn problems.
We are still in economic difficulties.
I think it would only complicate the matter and make things much,
much more difficult.
So you talk about everybody being ignorant,
-but that's enough of a reason for you?
-I'm going to vote in it, so...
-You are going to vote?
The man in the checked shirt?
I would agree with some of that.
I've tried to learn about the European Union myself,
especially how the parliament works.
There's a council of ministers, there's a commission
and the whole procedure for how laws are passed,
it is incredibly complicated.
There are parts of it which are very, very simple.
Are we in favour of mass non-selective, wide-open,
double-door immigration in this country
or do we want an immigration policy?
Are we happy with an external political power
imposing legislation without any of us getting to vote on it?
Yes, there are complications, especially how the institutions work
and so on, but there are some basic principles on the table
which are very quite simple to understand and which people can
take a view on and the answer is quite obvious in this case.
Well, I've always been in favour of exiting Europe.
I've never believed that individual nations
can't create their own wealth and laws
without somebody from across the water dictating to us.
For instance, Japan or Australia or the United States,
they don't have to be part of any collective.
I suspect that the vote in,
we'll say potentially Nick may know
or the Prime Minister when he comes back,
probably potentially in the summer or the autumn of this year,
will say, "I've done my best and it's not quite good enough,
"but I'm telling you as the Prime Minister that you should stay."
That will be a very strong argument for ordinary people to hear it,
I suspect from David Cameron, although I suspect
if they heard it from Jeremy Corbyn they'd vote no at about 100mph.
However, I have one question - I believe that the answer will be that
the country right now would vote for remain.
However, when and if the migration issues from the Middle East,
which I saw the other day that
the German interior minister forecast that
the number might be as high as ten million this year.
If it continued to develop
and this happened with North Africa as well, I just wonder whether
the migration issue will become so large that people would say,
"Thank you very much, Mr Cameron, but actually,
"we are concerned at the changing potential values and numbers
"in our country," and that they might vote no.
But at the moment, I would say that our country would vote yes.
-OK, thank you very much. Anybody else here got a view? You, sir?
I don't quite understand how anyone can make a decision on this
until we know what the deal is.
What we have here is, the Prime Minister's negotiating
and when he comes back,
he'll give us a deal which we can actually vote on.
If we don't know that deal,
how can we say we want to be in or we don't want to be in?
There were some people who'd say that regardless of the deal,
it's better to be in, wouldn't there?
Not everybody prescribes to the idea
that you have got to have a renegotiation.
If you are happy with the arrangement at the moment,
then clearly you want to stay in.
If you are unhappy, you don't.
Whereas if you haven't heard
the possibility of a better situation or not,
-how can you make a decision?
-Where do you stand on that?
Do you think he could bring back something that would satisfy you
-to stay in, or are you so sceptical about it...?
-I stand with Boris.
Boris is saying that if we get a deal
which is better than we've got at the moment and is acceptable,
then we'll stay in, and if we don't, and if it's some sort of a fudge,
then, for me, I would be quite happy to move.
When you say you stand with Boris,
he's one of those politician's who's just become Boris now.
Which of the many Borises in Parliament?
-I think you know who I'm talking about.
Person at the back there, yes?
The exports that we make to the EU support four million jobs in
the UK and contribute £200 billion to our economy a year.
How would the panel propose we fill this gaping hole in
the economy that would be left?
-That issue doesn't arise.
We can carry on trading with the EU or with EU countries
whether we belong to a political union or not.
One of the fundamental premises of the EU is the free movement
of goods, services and people.
Our exit could potentially put all of that at risk.
Many of the biggest exporters to the EU are not in the EU.
China, America, they do perfectly well selling to the EU.
I think it was Digby Jones, the former boss of the CBI,
who said if we left the EU, Angela Merkel would make sure
there was a trade deal in place in very short order.
We are the Eurozone's biggest export market in the world,
we have a massive trade deficit with the EU.
We buy £70 billion worth more of their goods
and services than they buy of ours.
We have protection under World Trade Organisation rules.
The average tariff barrier around the single market now
is down to between 1-2% of purchase price of goods,
so even countries without trade deals with the single market
and the EU manage to sell goods and services perfectly properly.
What do you say to the gentleman up there?
He said he is waiting to see what Cameron comes back with.
He says he doesn't know what the deal is, I think we do.
We know what David Cameron is asking for, don't we?
And I assume David Cameron will get what he's asking for.
And there'll be a spin operation around that.
He's not asking for British Parliamentary sovereignty
and I don't know about all of you, I want to live in a democracy
and I believe in Britain
and I believe that Britain is good enough and strong enough
to run its own affairs, and that's my fundamental point.
On the economy, we have nothing to fear,
we need to get back control of our borders and to have an
immigration policy in the national interest based on points, aptitudes
and attitudes of people who come here.
-Fundamentally, we need to be a democracy.
-This is a democracy.
A very quick point. One very quick point on democracy.
On the flooding, it turns out there are regulations from the EU
that stop us dredging the rivers
that have arguably made the flooding worse.
We can't do anything about that.
I want the people who've been flooded to say,
"Well, sack the politician who did that and choose another lot,"
or the politicians who did it
to debate why they did it and win the debate.
You can't sack the European Commission, it's unelected,
-we are not a democracy.
-Fine, you've made the point.
Nick Boles, you were in charge of planning.
Is it true what he says?
No. It's interesting.
I have no love for the EU at all
and much of what it does drives me round the bend.
When you say you have no love for it,
you want it abandoned like a lover that you no longer love?
I envy people on both sides, their certainty.
Those who are passionate about the EU,
like the lady at the back who thinks our destiny is there.
The Prime Minister is passionate about it too.
No, the Prime Minister isn't passionate about it.
-He says he's going to say we should stay, whatever happens.
-He absolutely does not say that.
He told Rupert Murdoch at a party I was at just before Christmas,
I just thought I'd tell you. A bit of a gossip.
-He said that... Engagement party!
He's polished his game up, hasn't he? Amazing, really!
He described himself to Rupert as a Eurosceptic. So there we are.
-Which is an amazing thing.
Everybody in the Conservative Party is Eurosceptic.
It's simply a question of whether we think that, on balance,
it's safer and better for Britain's security to be in or out.
I find it difficult, but my view is, if the Prime Minister,
who is not in any way starry-eyed about the EU,
if he comes back after months and months of discussion
and says that he's secured enough to recommend that we stay,
then I'll back him because I think he's much closer to it
than most of us, he's trying to get the best deal for Britain.
This is the guy who vetoed a treaty, reduced our budget contributions.
He stood up against the EU meddling,
more than most Prime Ministers have done.
If he stands in front of the British people and says,
"I think we are better off in," then I'm going to support him.
He agrees with Chris Grayling, then, cos Grayling says,
"Simply staying with our current terms of membership unchanged
"would be disastrous," and you are saying the Prime Minister agrees,
so Grayling and he are on the same side, far from being a division?
You are very cleverly putting words in my mouth.
I don't agree with any of the words that you have just said.
What I am saying is that the Prime Minister's hard-headed about this.
He has no romantic attachment to the EU
but he's also very clear about Britain's national interests
and let's face it, in the '70s when we joined,
this was a bit of a basket case.
can we really not admit that we are actually a better off country now?
We're more prosperous, we're creating millions of jobs,
our unemployment rates are as low as it's ever been,
so clearly being part of the EU, for all of its irritations,
it hasn't stopped us prospering as a country...
There isn't a QED between our wealth creation and the EU,
you're not suggesting that, are you?
I'm not suggesting a QED, but I'm suggesting
that for those of you who are certain about leaving,
you have to persuade us that the world outside is going
to be as benign as the world inside.
The onus is on you, you're the ones asking for a change.
And we're just saying,
if the Prime Minister can secure protection for those of us who are
not in the Eurozone, which is one of his key aims,
control over the access to in-work benefits for recent migrants,
if he can secure those changes and he comes back and he says,
"Do you know what? It's not everything we want
"but this is a good deal, we should stay in,"
then I think a lot of the British people
-will want to back him and certainly I would.
Man up there on the right. You, sir.
The man behind you, actually.
There, yes. Go on.
A lot of professionals of British institutions are saying that
a Brexit would actually be quite dangerous for the economy,
such as the chairman of BT.
Bloomberg is already reporting that there may be a decrease
in investment coming into the UK as a result of fears of a Brexit.
What's your view?
My view... I work in this field and I have to say, I agree.
The pound is already losing its value against the dollar
and a lot of people are scared, they don't know what's going to happen
and it causes a lot of uncertainty.
What do you think of the renegotiation, or the discussions?
I think it's certainly a good start
and I hope that it achieves enough to convince British people
that a Brexit would be dangerous for our economy
-and dangerous for this country.
This is just the same scares we had over the euro, isn't it,
15 years ago? If we didn't join we'd be in trouble.
You talk about a currency losing its value, look at what's
happened to the European single currency over the last few years.
For anybody to say that coming out of Europe would be completely
painless is probably a little bit over-optimistic,
but despite that we are a strong country,
we can move forwards by ourselves and when we do well,
when we are prosperous, as Nick said,
we were hit with another massive bill for three billion.
There you are, you've done very well, now pay us even more money.
Do you think it will be a close-run thing, the referendum?
I think it will be very close.
I am actually with Kelvin - I think on the balance of things,
unless immigration or another large issue,
perhaps something on the scale of what happened in Cologne recently,
happens closer to us, then I think it will be close-run but remain in.
Person at the very back on the left there.
Yes. There's nobody behind you so it's you.
So, there are two really important reasons for me why we need to stay.
First of all, the European Union is the longest,
most successful peace process that there's been.
This was a continent that was
ripping itself to pieces 70 years ago.
Also, the kind of things that this generation will have to
tackle have no respect for borders.
So things like climate change, we are much
better off staying in the European Union and tackling that together.
The other thing I want to say about people that tend to want to leave,
the European Union just tends to be used as an excuse
for people like you to sit on your hands and not do anything -
you just say it's the EU that mean you can't do it.
-And actually, if we left, I don't think that would change.
It's great saying that cutting the borders and everything,
if we leave the EU, will be good for the country,
but what about loss in tourism that we have?
I mean, there's 500 million people out there in the EU...
We're not proposing to turn into North Korea, sir.
People would still come on holiday.
No, we're not going to turn into North Korea...
-You would quite like that, though, wouldn't you?
It's the younger generation now, and we like to travel and see the world
and experience everything. If we leave the EU and cut off...
Well, not fully cut off that tie, it will be more difficult for us
to get those people in, to give more money into the economy from tourism
and then for us to go and experience them countries as well.
All right, Cat Smith.
I think several members of the audience have made some very
good points about the risks of leaving the EU,
and we've heard from Ukip, here, a playing down of those risks.
Labour's position on the EU referendum is absolutely
crystal clear - we support being in the EU and before I go any
further, I will say this is not without any criticism.
We absolutely don't think that the EU is everything it could be -
it could be so much better.
There are many things I don't like about the EU,
so I'm going to start on them first and I will say the issue
with our public services and TTIP.
I love the NHS,
I'm sure that all the junior doctors in here do,
and I want to see it be successful and I'm worried by competition laws
which threaten our National Health Services.
It bothers me immensely that we can't provide state aid to our steel
industry in this country to support the jobs up in the north-east.
We do need better transitional controls
when more countries join the EU, but I believe that as workers
and as consumers and for the environment,
we should be part of an EU, a reformed EU.
I think we can do it better, I think at the moment it operates too much
in the favour of big business and not enough in the favour of workers
and I'd like to see a reformed EU where the people came first
and not the big money.
Do you think any of those things are possible?
Supporting the steel industry, for instance?
I'd be interested in that point about the steel industry.
What would you do? You'd rather check out for...
To try and what? To keep people in work?
Most countries actually support the manufacturing industries
-across the world.
-I'm asking you, Cat.
You're the Shadow Minister, how would you do this?
Where would that money come from and why would
we make steel that nobody wants to buy at any price?
That is the problem.
-I mean, we're always, always...
From the left, we always get the same thing -
turn on the printing machine. But today, that's not going to work.
Explain to this audience how their money is going to keep
people in work, which is what you're arguing.
I think it's always funny how you manage to find money for war
but you don't find enough money to support the people whose country...
-Right, is that what you're saying?
That you would rather create steel in one part of the country...?
It's about priorities and I want to be on the side of the working
people in this country who quite frankly are struggling right now.
-They are not struggling right now.
There's a reason we see an increase in food banks.
They are better off now than they've ever been.
Come with me to my local food bank and I'd be more than happy to
show you the families that they are feeding.
You are in London, the global capital of the world.
Don't talk over each other cos nobody will hear the points
you're making, which you both think are important.
Cat, how can you say that you're on the side of working people
when even now, the governor of the Bank of England is admitting
that untrammelled freedom of movement for working-class jobs
has caused massive wage compression over 10 and 15 years
for working people in this country?
I don't think Labour stands for working people whatsoever -
you're just part of a great metropolitan clique these days.
We're absolutely not.
I never said that I like absolutely everything about the EU,
I said I wanted a reformed EU,
which worked better for the people of this country.
All right, you, sir, there.
Is the best situation not to try and get a deal
and if we are unable to get a deal then we leave?
But with the picture that has been painted at the moment with
the possible downturn that's coming in the next few months and with the
migrant crisis, are we not safer to remain in at the moment,
and then if we can get a better deal for ourselves we stay,
-if we can't then the inevitable answer is that we leave?
It's the first Question Time of the year
and I'm sure we'll be having this every week, so I'm going to move on.
Thank you all very much. Let's go on to a different question.
Alex Bisby has it, please. Alex Bisby.
Given London's housing crisis,
when will we start introducing a rent cap?
London's housing crisis,
and I suppose other parts of the country as well.
When will we start introducing a rent cap?
Cat Smith, are you in favour of capping rents?
I think that when people talk about rent caps it's seen as being
something quite radical, but actually,
the regulation of the private rented housing sector is something
which happens in Berlin and something that happens in New York,
and I hardly think that those governments are necessarily
the bastions of socialism.
The truth is that London is in the grip of a huge housing crisis
and we've got a Prime Minister who calls an affordable house
in London as being valued at £450,000,
which is absolutely staggering.
98% of boroughs in this country...
If you were a couple and you were earning this government's new
living wage, if you were earning that,
in 98% of boroughs across the country you would not be able
to afford these so-called affordable houses,
which happen to be £250,000 in the rest of the country.
This government has no plan for housing
and I do feel for...particularly young Londoners,
I feel for the people that are working on average salaries -
social workers, teachers, nurses.
How are they going to be able to afford to live in central London?
And all we hear from this government is talk about demolishing
housing and not building housing.
All right, Nick Boles.
Well, I'm absolutely not going to deny that there is a housing crisis
in London, it's been going on for a very long time
and we need to do a huge amount to address it,
but I fear that Cat is selling you an absolutely terrible remedy.
Rent caps will have a very simple result,
which is those people who own property
and rent it out will no longer rent it out, they will sell it.
And you might have noticed, there are lots of people
all around the world who are only too happy to buy London property.
So you would have less property available to tenants in London
and what happens when you have less property available
is the price goes up.
We need people to be building more,
we need the government to be supporting the building of more
and we also need to be helping people not just to rent
but helping people to buy property.
I bet you everybody on this panel probably owns their own home.
And why? Because most people want to own their own home.
So why do we think that somehow renting is good
enough for some people but not good enough for us?
We should be helping people, yes, who rent,
but we should also be helping people buy and that's what we're doing
with Help to Buy, help with the mortgage,
help with getting your deposit
so that you can get onto the housing ladder.
But you're not sympathetic to capping rents?
No, not just not sympathetic, it would be a disastrous policy
that would absolutely hit the people who most need help with housing.
-So why is home ownership falling?
All right, you, sir, up there.
Two in from the... Yes, you.
Yes, so, my partner and I
have been renting a flat in Brixton for the last three years.
Fortunately our landlady has not put our rent up too much, which is
obviously fantastic, but we're in a situation now where she's due
to sell the property, it's way beyond the price that we can afford
to pay for it so we're looking to go a bit further outside
the centre of London and pay slightly less rent,
which is offset by, of course, increased transport costs.
My question, I guess, to the panel is,
we've both been working really very hard for the last four years
as professionals, got two degrees each between us -
what is being done for people who have done all that effort
and done exactly what society have asked of them
and yet can't get the opportunity to buy a home?
You know, I think that point you've just made could be replicated
right across London
and the truth about the matter is the government -
whichever government it is,
whether it was Blair, Brown or whether it's Cameron or even,
in a funny way, Thatcher, nobody has dealt with the issue.
Our country is bringing in 300,000, 400,000 people a year, right?
And the truth about the matter is, there are too many of us
wanting to rent and too many of us wanting to buy
and we are going to have to deal...
As long as we have green belt
and we have a no high-rise outside London policy by the local councils,
we are never going to build enough homes for our people
and I really sympathise with your problem and it is absolutely wrong.
And if I am a Tory minister...
I mean, I don't know how the Corbynistas view it,
they'd probably have us all living in bloody North Korea anyway...
-Those of us who believe...
who like wealth creation, pushing on, getting on,
owning your own home,
I want to see Cameron do something which actually defeats
the argument of rent control because rent control becomes
quite an attractive thing to say at an election,
and we have got to either start trimming around the green belt issue
or we've got to start building high-rise houses.
We have got to do something.
Just to keep on going, "Oh, isn't it terrible?" with people...
I suspect in Brixton you could be paying
anything like 1,600, 1,700 a month for that.
It is an impossible amount of money out of after-tax earnings,
so I plead with Nick and his Cabinet
to deal with this issue,
otherwise I suspect in 2020,
as unlikely as it looks now,
a whole load of young people and not so young people
will be voting for somebody who looks pretty unelectable
right now, like Jeremy Corbyn.
I think Nick is being disingenuous
when he says that the government is really trying very,
very hard to solve the housing crisis.
I don't see any evidence that David Cameron has a single
idea of how deep this goes because it's not only 300,000,
400,000 migrants coming in wanting houses,
it's houses at the top of the scale that are being sold to
people from overseas and being left empty in Chelsea.
So what you've got is both ends of the scale,
you've got people who are competing with the entire world
to try and get their property.
So no wonder here in Limehouse an ordinary worker,
a social worker, a plumber, whoever,
cannot buy a small flat for £500,000.
It's a huge amount of money and completely ridiculous
and I think what they're doing is they're tearing up people's
hopes and aspirations by not controlling it, by not even
seeing that the top of the market is just as bad as the bottom of it.
In the late 1960s,
Britain built private housing and council housing,
around 400,000 homes a year.
Nowadays, all combined, we build less than 150,000 a year.
That is where the issue is. We need to be building more houses,
we need to be getting more people having apprenticeships
in plastering and electrics and that sort of thing,
and getting up to that 400,000 level again,
and do this by building lots more council housing.
The gentleman is right... The gentleman is right
that there is a supply side issue in Britain
but Kelvin MacKenzie is right, there is a demand side.
About 60% of what is known as new net household formation
is related directly or indirectly to immigration.
Incidentally, the last Labour government failed
both on the demand side and the supply side.
There was no immigration control
and no substantial home-building.
I agree with Camilla, this buy-to-leave, as it's called,
of rich foreign nationals in cities, particularly in London,
is an obscenity. My personal view is,
something drastic needs to be done about that.
One final point.
David Cameron made a speech this week about abolishing sink estates.
Now, to me, this government's got one terrible housing policy,
which it's proposing for council tenancies to be limited in time
and means tested, so the message to aspirational working people is,
if you get a job and get a higher wage and get on,
you are going to get kicked out of your house
or, at the very least, have your rent pushed up.
To me, that guarantees, before long,
every council estate will be turned into a sink estate.
The aspiration will be abolished, removed.
I remember when Bob Crow used to be criticised
for living in a council house when he was doing well.
To my mind, fair play to him, he was a positive role model,
and don't our council estates need that?
I think I remember Caroline Flint coming out with some statistics
that the number of working households on council estates
had gone down.
Now, means testing tenancies, it's a way to make that problem worse
and not better, and I think it's a terrible policy.
Hang on a sec. The man... Yes, you in the third row.
I think the issue isn't necessarily on the supply side.
In London, prices are high, places are being built.
I think the issue is, partly,
most of these flats are marketed abroad first.
They're being sold to wealthy foreign investors.
Shouldn't we keep a section, a chunk, of this housing for Londoners
and people in the UK? I'm not against foreign investment,
but I just think it should be an option.
-It's not even that.
-Nick Boles, is that an option?
-Sorry, what did you say?
-It's not even that.
I work for a social housing association. Listen, the government,
your Tory government doesn't like social housing.
They are getting rid of them.
First of all, they introduced Right to Buy
so that they can get rid of our stock,
and then the second thing they did,
they told us to cut our rent by 1% and maintain it for four years.
My employer is going to lose more than £20 million.
It's a very small housing association
and they are going to lose more than £20 million.
What does that mean?
Your government, what else did they do?
They said, "We are not going to give you any more grants,"
so there is no more council housing or social housing to be built,
and they are supporting private landlords,
who are the rich people who donate to your party,
some rich people or working-class people who are your supporters.
OK. Nick Boles?
Firstly, nothing I'm going to say is in any way
to suggest that there isn't a terrible crisis
and we haven't yet all got the answers
and we absolutely need to build far more properties,
not just in London, but around the country, than is currently going on.
Firstly, sir, I'm afraid it's just not true what you are saying.
Firstly, on the Right to Buy. Who are the houses being sold to?
They're not being sold to foreign buyers,
they are being sold to the tenants who live in them.
Let me finish, sir.
Secondly, who is benefitting from the cut in rents
from housing associations?
Well, sorry, the tenants who live in the houses are the ones
who're paying lower rents, which is something that I thought
the rest of the panel thought was a good idea.
Secondly, we have announced the biggest house-building programme,
affordable house-building programme, of any government,
and in the last five years, can I just say,
we have built more council houses
than in 13 years of a Labour government.
In the last five years, a Conservative government
has built more council houses than in 13 years of a Labour government
so, please, sir, we are trying our best to deal with this problem.
Also, Camilla, on foreign buyers, you are absolutely right,
but we have changed the rules so that now
you have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of a property
if you leave it empty for a very short period of time.
So, suddenly, all of those foreign buyers in the old system,
who were benefitting from the fact you didn't pay capital gains tax,
they now have to pay capital gains tax.
We are trying to stop it being quite such an attractive deal.
I'm so pleased you're cracking down on the rich people so hard, Nick.
I'm sure it will continue.
I want to move on.
We've got time for one more question which I want to take.
It's from Kevin Takooree, please?
Shouldn't all the police officers be allowed to carry guns
to better protect the UK
and help manage the ever-increasing terrorist threat?
Shouldn't all police officers carry guns to better protect the UK?
I think the Metropolitan Police have increased the number by 600 or so.
What's your view?
I think they should.
It will help better manage situations,
especially critical incidents.
It takes time, obviously, to make the call to armed police officers
to attend incidents, and times can mean
a matter between life and death.
Have you got a vested interest in this?
Are you in the police yourself?
I'm part of the Met. A special constable.
So you'd like all police officers to be armed?
Patrick, what do you think?
I'd be very, very sorry
if we've reached that position in our society.
I actually think that the senior officers in each force
round the country are probably best placed
to make a judgment on the number of officers
that need to be trained and armed.
That number has gone up a lot,
particularly in the Met, over the years.
But there are some places where gun crime is still very rare.
I think, also, many police officers would not agree with you,
that all police officers should be armed routinely.
So, yes, we probably need more to be armed more of the time,
but the proposal that you're putting, I think,
at the moment is too drastic.
But your point was that you have to wait for armed...
when there's an incident that demands armed officers,
-you have to wait for them to come. Is that your point?
I think in the high-risk areas in central London,
we all see there are a lot of armed police around a lot of the time.
-That is a response, isn't it, to the terrorist threat?
I come to Waterloo Station every day
and I would say, literally once a week anyway,
there will be people carrying...
There will be armed officers carrying very, very large guns.
It does actually reassure me, to be honest.
However, our country has had a massive history,
and we kind of get laughed at, I think, by the world
because we don't have armed police,
but I don't see any example of those places in the world
that do have armed police having anything but higher rates of murder.
The woman there. You, yes.
I think that one of the founding principles
behind the British police force is that they police by consent.
If you put armed officers on our streets,
surely we are moving away from that,
and I don't think that can ever be a good thing.
OK. And the woman there, on the left-hand side.
I've just come back from working in the States for 18 months
and I would say absolutely don't do it.
It's, culturally, in this country inappropriate,
and I'm pleased that it is.
Why do you think it's culturally inappropriate?
We just don't have a history of having lots of guns in the country,
and I think that's a really good thing.
I would absolutely agree. We are not America.
I think our policemen do an absolutely brilliant job
without having to resort to everybody having a gun.
I think it's important, psychologically,
for people who we see and respect in the community.
If we see all policemen with guns,
people will think it's part of our culture now,
part of being acceptable in our culture,
and I would definitely not...
Kevin, I must come back to you,
because we've had a lot of people
speaking against your idea.
Have you changed your view
from what you've heard
or do you still stick with it?
I will stick to my views,
that is my personal views.
I personally think that carrying guns,
especially in these, as I mentioned...
increasing terrorist threat,
might help deter the... For example,
a suicide bomber, that might help a lot.
To respond very directly, I don't think having armed police
would deter someone
who was determined to commit an act of terrorism.
It may help resolve the situation quicker.
However, I think this audience member here made a very good point -
that we have a system of policing by consent in this country.
Good policing, to me, is my PCSOs
and local community police officers
who know the community that I live in
and have a good relationship with those of us who live there.
They're the eyes and the ears for all our security.
OK. Nick Boles?
Kevin, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid we are all in boring consensus on this,
but I just want to say, I do disagree with you,
but you are doing an amazing thing being a special constable,
and, frankly, I don't have the guts to do it
and so even though I disagree with that idea,
-I salute you for doing it.
Just before we go, does anybody agree with what Kevin was saying
who'd like to speak before we end?
You do, sir? Yes.
-No, the man up there at the back.
I think to comprehensively arm the British police would be a mistake.
The Commissioner's increased the numbers in London.
Now, as far as I'm concerned, it's just a token gesture.
If you consider what happened in France,
all the police in France are armed, the Gendarmerie,
the Police Nationale.
It didn't prevent the deaths of 130 people.
Mumbai was the same.
And Lee Rigby in south London...
The police stood by until armed officers actually arrived on scene.
Members of the public approached the knifeman at the time,
so what I'm trying to say is that the only way that we can combat
a Mumbai or a Paris is good intelligence,
and then we can take them out before they actually attack us.
OK. We've got time for a last question,
the yes and no answer, from Bob Drury.
It's something that came up in the House of Commons this week.
Yes. Just put the question.
Do we need an English national anthem?
Do we need an English national anthem?
-I'll go around from the right to the left.
Jerusalem is a very good song!
-Yes, in addition to a British national anthem.
-You do want...
-I like Jerusalem. I would like to hear it sung more.
No, but I would love to see an English crowd
trying to sing Bohemian Rhapsody at the start of every match.
Yes, I would like to see it.
I like the way that the Scots respond to their anthem
and I would like us to have the same feeling.
Jerusalem would do it for me.
On which point, our time is up.
So, we are in Northern Ireland
next week, in Belfast,
with Labour's Peter Hain,
we've got Theresa Villiers with us
and the comedian Grainne Maguire,
and the week after, we're going to
be in Stamford, in Lincolnshire.
So, as ever, if you would like to
take part in Question Time,
that is the way to do it. Just apply.
There it is on the screen,
and the telephone number...
If you have been listening to this,
it may have been on BBC Radio 5 Live,
the debate carries on, as you know,
with Question Time Extra Time
with Stephen Nolan
and John Pienaar handling that.
We've finished here, though.
My thanks to our panel,
to all of you who came to take part in the programme,
from Limehouse, here in east London,
until next week, goodnight.
David Dimbleby presents topical debate from London. On the panel are Conservative business and education minister Nick Boles MP, Labour's shadow minister for women Cat Smith MP, Ukip's Patrick O'Flynn MEP, Camilla Long of The Sunday Times and former editor of The Sun Kelvin MacKenzie.