06/04/2017 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs topical debate from Gillingham. On the panel are Suella Fernandes, shadow Diane Abbott, Tim Farron, Jonathan Bartley, Michelle Dewberry and Gerard Coyne.

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Welcome to Question Time, which tonight comes from Gillingham.


And we have a full house tonight. co-leader of the Green


Party Jonathan Bartley, Gerard Coyne, running for the


leadership of the Unite union, and businesswoman and broadcaster


Michelle Dewberry. APPLAUSE.


Thank you, and of course you know this well from home, you can take


part in the debate either on Facebook, Twitter or text, or push


the red button. I have asked the panellists not to speak at too great


length because I want you to have the opportunity to -- tonight. Our


first question. Labour proposes tax -- taxing private school fees to


fund school meals for all children, is this fair? I think this is an


example of a half baked Labour gimmick and I think it is misjudged.


The evidence behind it is very doubtful. It was piloted in two


areas of deprivation, new and Durham, and the expert behind the


research said it would be an overstatement to roll it out


universally around the country because it would be very expensive.


I also don't think it is fair to put VAT on independent schools because


many of them will close. About half a million children go to these


schools, if they close they will be going to state schools which puts


pressure on state schools. I think the Labour Party need to go back to


the drawing board, think about how this money can be better used, and


getting more teachers and raising standards, and actually think about


more effective uses of the money. APPLAUSE.


When the Tory leadership campaign was on, you voted for Michael Gove,


didn't you? I did. And it was his idea VAT should be put on school


fees. Well, I do support Michael Gove in many ways but I do disagree


with him on this. The independent sector does provide some good


services and we want to encourage them to do more to support smaller


schools and state schools, but I don't think imposing VAT on them is


the right way to improve standards in all of our schools which is what


we really want to see. Tim Farron. In terms of what the money will be


spent on, free school meals for children throughout primary


education, this is staggering news that the Labour Party had a good


idea. I say that because the Liberal Democrats when we were in coalition


made sure preschool children do have free school meals. Why are they a


good idea? Firstly it increases educational attainment for young


children, it also deals with the Tickner of being on free school


meals for everybody, plenty of evidence also that coming off free


school meals if you take a low-paid job means it is a benefit trap...


The question is about putting VAT on private education. I don't think the


Labour Party have done their homework. The danger is if you try


to raise the money to pay for this from children going to private


schools and the outcome is that fewer people go to private schools,


there won't be as much money in the system. The real issue is there is 3


billion being taken out of our schools and we are losing thousands


of teachers in the next three years, that's the priority.


APPLAUSE. Actually this idea was in the Green Party manifesto in 2010,


and we would go further and remove the charitable status from private


schools and make them pay corporation tax, and also a lovely


because they are getting huge benefits from teachers in teacher


training, then they go to the private schools and the private


schools get those teachers for free. It's only right they pay a levy. It


is fair, if you give universal free school meals to children you are


providing that collective sense, it is important we see education in its


broadest sense as communal togetherness, but it also means we


can claw back the extra money we need through progressive taxation so


the richest may be getting the free school meals but they also pay and


it goes back into the system. Universality is an important point.


I know some people that send their kids to private school, not many but


I know they work really hard to get that money together to give their


kids the best education. Diane knows how expensive it is. This means they


won't be able to do it, but you work hard for your kids. It is well-known


Diane sent her child to private school, what do you make of this? I


think it is perfectly fair. And as you say I sent my son to private


school and I would have been happy to pay more for the scheme like


this. The first thing about universal free school meals is it


helps working families, who are just getting by but they are not eligible


for free school meals because they are not on benefit. The other thing


no one mentions is there are important health benefits. If you go


to Sweden, they have completely free school meals and they have much


better public health outcomes than we do. Finally, as you have herd, it


improves academic outcomes. It is completely fair, very good idea and


I think it would prove to be very popular.


APPLAUSE. Was it one you stole from the Green


Party? Did you steal it from Michael Gove? No, we didn't steal it from


anybody, it has been brought in in Islington and Southwark for many


years now. We already have this in infant schools because when we were


in Government we did it, the main difference is we want to be in


power. What I don't understand is why we are having this discussion


because surely it is the parents' responsibility to feed their


children, not the state. Gerard Coyne. Yes, it is fair, and possibly


as one of the few members of this panel that went to comprehensive


school, I have never understood why private schools have charitable


status. Many are operating like businesses and I think they should


be taxed like businesses. The money should be reinvested in the state


sector. As a teacher I'm extremely concerned about class sizes and as a


parent as well, and I absolutely agree that if you are to tax and


make private school education more expensive, unfortunately it is going


to punish those parents perhaps unlike Diane who are just affording


to send their children to those schools, and therefore they will go


into state education. I'm lucky I am in a school that is committed to


keeping class sizes low. And you think there would be a real problem?


Yes, there's only so many places, people struggling to get their


children into schools anyway, it will only increase the pressure. I


think VAT on private schools is long overdue, it should have been put in


place a long time ago. In terms of whether this is the right way of


doing it, when Labour were asked what would be the capital


expenditure needed to get all of these private schools with the


proper catering facilities to do this, they had no idea of the cost


of the capital expenditure so the policy needs a lot more thinking


through. I think the real injustice is not taxing the private schools


but the fact we have a government which is complacent with children


going to school hungry because the parents are not being paid enough.


There are plenty of families working maximum hours but they are not being


paid enough to feed their children the appropriate amount.


APPLAUSE. I am also a teacher, I have been


teaching for 17 years now, I teach in the secondary sector. It can be


very hard to teach children that have not eaten. The dynamics in the


classroom can be seriously affected, you get students who are tired, they


fall asleep, that then comes back onto the teacher in terms of us


having to motivate the students and get them engaged. Sometimes you try


your best to do that but because they have not had breakfast or


lunch, it can go the other way and they can become hyperactive.


I think there are currently three years of schools that get free


school meals and I think it is unfair that only half the school is.


The idea behind putting VAT on school fees, which is the point,


nobody thinks children should go to school hungry, but the idea is


whether that on private education is the right way. I think it is. I


think we should go on to another question and have a question from


Natasha Khan. What action can we take to prevent the Assad regime


executing another chemical attack on their own people?


APPLAUSE. Suella Fernandes. I think the images we have seen this week of


women and children being killed, shows this is a chemical attack by


President Assad, they are unforgettable acts of monstrous


brutality which are unforgivable. I'm very pleased the UK is taking a


lead in trying to get the international community to take


action. We have helped to convene an emergency session of the UN Security


Council to talk about this, and we have also co-sponsored a UN Security


Council resolution to condemn this. I think the international community


coming together in this way will send a strong message that Assad has


to go. What did you say? That's the microphone to the lady. You haven't


answered my question, with all due respect. Statements of condemnation


are all very nice, what action can we now take? These people have


suffered long enough. APPLAUSE. There are options. Don't


forget, in 2013 military action was considered by Parliament against


President Assad, but I have to say members of this panel voted against


that action and maybe we wouldn't be in this situation if Parliament have


secured that action then so we are where we are. Diane Abbott.


Of course we want to take action but I have to remind you that Western


countries going into the Middle East and countries like Afghanistan


trying to stop humanitarian outrages have not been a happy history, and


in almost every case there has been more violence and more humanitarian


outrages than before they went in. And that's why I wasn't willing to


vote for other women's children to go to war in Syria. In the end the


only people that Assad is going to listen to are the Russians, and


internationally we must put pressure on the Russians to call their state


to heal and stop this atrocity. We have had two American presidents,


Obama in 2012 saying a red line was chemical weapons, nothing happened,


we now have President Trump saying this chemical attack crosses many


lines, many, many lines, repeated. It's not funny, it is the way he


talks, but you have two presidents saying something should be done. If


the UK Government won't take military action, do you think the


Americans should? I can't speak for Donald Trump, as


you can imagine. Yes, I can imagine. The European Union with Britain...


America, people that understand about foreign policy in America know


that in the end, only the Russians will pull Assad back and it would be


deceiving this audience to say that putting British troops on the ground


would have a good end. APPLAUSE.


You, Sir? We all laugh at President Trump but maybe he could do some


good. He can't be any more disastrous than Obama because it was


Obama that withdrew all the troops from Iraq create ago vacuum of


power. We have North Korea launching missiles into the ocean now. We have


got Isis killing people across Western Europe and Assad


slaughtering his own people. How much worse can it get? Militia Snell


I don't want the UK to go to military war with Syria. I just


don't want the consequences of that, I just don't want that to happen. So


a couple of points on this. I think you cannot tell somebody there is a


red line and if you cross it do absolutely nothing about it because


when you do that, it means that people know that they can act with


impunity which is the situation we are in now. So Syria, they're a


member of the chemical weapons convention, they're a consequences


-- there are consequences that should be happening. For example,


the UN Security Council's imposed sanctions and Russia's blocked them


seven times now which is absolutely outrageous. Action number one that


we should be taking is, we should be following on with the sanctions,


Russia have to stop blocking them. That's point one. Point two, we have


got an opportunity with Donald Trump, we have a brand-new Trump


administration, he can redefine his red lines and make it absolutely


clear, this is our red lines and if you break them, there will be


consequences, then what you do is follow up with the consequences, end


of story. APPLAUSE.


Tim Farron I'll come to you in a moment. The American Secretary of


State tillerson said this evening that steps are under way to remove


Assad, do you have any confidence that the Americans could actually


remove? The Kremlin tonight has said that its support for Assad is not


unconditional so that is interesting. But Natasha's question


is, what will we actually do. Michelle's talked about something


that we could and should do. Fundamentally the thing that we


could do quickly a UN Resolution is to create a no-fly zone and


humanitarian zone within Syria. You could use, included in that mission,


UK planes that are already in the region because I absolutely accept,


as Diane says, and as others I'm sure believe also, that a unilateral


action here by Trump or by the UK and America together would very


likely be counterproductive. However, doing nothing would be just


as appalling. Is there a possibility that civilians could be killed? Is


there an uncertainty about that? Is there an absolute certainty that


Assad will continue to murder his own people? And gas children as we


saw in the news this morning like the kids who I saw escape from Assad


when I met them on Lesbos a few years ago, yes, absolutely that will


happen. That's the certainty. The only thing that is unacceptable is


that we do nothing. APPLAUSE.


OK. You, Sir? Surely part of the rob is the fact that we have a UN which


all the panel have mentioned, which is proved over time to be toothless,


spineless and never actually achieve anything. We get UN peace-keeping


forces, they don't do anything. We get UN Resolutions, we get word of


condemnation spoken from the UN but nothing is actually ever... You


would rather see what, the Americans answer and the... I'm not sure how


exactly you would solve the problem, really, but there needs to be


cooperation between international forces and overall, globally


accepted international police force that is prepared to go in there and


say, if you breach human rights, we will come and get you. All right.


Gerard Coyne? Natasha, I think anyone that saw that father putting


his two sons and the rest of his family who had died choking to death


on souring gas, could not help but want for some action, you know. That


is absolutely what everybody in the British public with some of those


images would be thinking. The real city that when we look back at 2013


and have hindsight on that, there was equally at that time an outrage


about the gas attack and an international consensus. There was a


lost opportunity around that international consensus and filling


that gap was Russia. After that, it happened. The fact that that gap was


then taken over by Russia's intervention in support of Assad


caused the situation to get worse. What we now have to do is build that


international consensus again to make sure that nerve agents like


Sarin are never, ever used again. And that is not... But how? That is


not necessarily about troops on the ground. That is the point I'm


making, lots of words but how? It's not about having troops on the


ground but it is about the fact that the United Nations definitely has a


role in this. Yes, but it's it'sless. The reality is, without


the UN involvement in that, you are not going to get the consensus. Yes,


but you need the UN to do something. Jonathan Bartley? I share your


frustration and we are all in agreement that there is no easy


magic wand we can wave. What is frustrating is that there is no


long-term plan from this Government. We had votes in 2013 and 2015, we


have known this has been going on for six yearings, what could we be


doing? Freezing the assets of those with blood on their hands, the


Russians and the banks, we could be doing that. We could be having an


arms embargo on the Middle East. There aren't arms directly going


into Syria. If we are bombing Daesh, as we are in that area, we should at


least be taking our fair share of refugees.


APPLAUSE. The man in the white shirt in the


back row on the far side? Are you suggesting that we are going to risk


going to war with Russia to intervene over Syria?


I think that's what we are actually talking about. You are talking about


troops on the ground, or, you know, no-fly zones. If you have a no-fly


zone, American planes will be shooting down Russia's forces. I'm


not sure that we are going to be willing to go to war with Russia.


That is the problem with a no fly zone, people think it's an easy


option. There are Russian planes above Syria. We'll be tangling with


Russian aircraft. I think we have to realise that there's no simple


answer but I think issues like freezing Russian assets, you know,


London is a money-laundering centre. We have tried freezing Russia's


assets or Ukraine, Crimea. We need to do it properly. You, Sir, in the


checked shirt? Clearly Assad's regime has been abusing their


citizens, similarly to Saddam Hussein did, but Isis are actually


already on the ground there. So if we intervene, as we did in Iraq,


everyone knows the mess that's been created. How on earth is it going to


be any better than Syria, given that Isis are already there?


OK. I would hate for us to do military action in Syria at the


moment. I would personally be afraid of the ramifications, that would be


my absolute last resort if I was ever to be in charge of those


decisions which I hope never to be. There is an issue though, we are all


of us, stung and affected by the Iraq war and the sense that there


was an illegal and I would say counterproductive British


involvement leadership of that war, and that's made us and politicians


and maybe society as a whole squeamish about intervening when


they jolly well should intervene. The reality is those people will be


continued to be killed by Assad unless he thinks something is there


to stop it. Your party voted against the war? Because it was illegal and


counterproductive. We led the cause for intervention in Kosovo. So what


are you saying about this one, let us be clear? We should be using the


United nations to take action to make sure we police a no-fly zone.


Who will police it? The reality is, on the ground, who knows what is


possible but all credible options should be looked at because the


message Assad has got so far is that he's got complete immunity. I've met


refugees, whether in the Far East of the continent in Greece or indeed


here around the corner in Gravesend. I can't look those kids in the eye


and not want to do something about the cause of their misery.


APPLAUSE. Right, we must go on and leave that


extremely distressing question. Just before we go on, I should say about


Question Time's plans so that you can make a note if you want to. We


are not going to be on the air because of Easter in the next two


weeks. We are in oaksed for on the 27th, the week after that we are in


Wigan and there is the address on the screen. I'll give it again at


the end. Oxford and Wigan thee and four weeks from now. Flick Foreman,


please, your question? Why are we paying for brex it? We voted to


leave so just leave. APPLAUSE.


All right. Why are we paying for Brexit, we voted to leave so just


leave? You voted to leave didn't you? I wanted us the take control


over our own laws and boreders and to get out of the jurisdiction of


the European Court of Justice. I'm really glad that the country also


saw that... Yes, but what about the question? So, in terms of paying to


leave, I don't think that there is any kind of paying to leave. We are


going to be gaining by leaving. We've seen today that there are...


You believe the boss? I'm very pleased that the... Hold on, hold


on. Make your point? There is talk of boar rogue ?50 billion to leave


to EU. The leaving fee? Yes, the leaving fee. There are better ideas


to spend that money, the NHS, social care and me, I'm a was pill, I want


my pension -- WASPI. The Government keeps saying there is no money for


this country. We are desperate. Why should we go without our pensions so


that we can give the European Union ?50 billion? Not on my watch.


Have another go? It's been manufacturered, this, and it doesn't


seem likely that there will be such a Bill for ?50 billion, it's part of


project fear, health warning, don't believe it. You know, we pay into


the European Investment Bank and so actually we are going to get a wind


fall from leaving, so I think that the scaremongering about having to


pay to leave is just not true. We have a lot to gain. Our best days


lie ahead and we are going to be enjoying the freedoms and enjoying


the benefits that we gain from leaving.


APPLAUSE. Gerard Coyne, do you think we should


pay to leave? The reality is that we are going to hear a lot of this over


the next two years where, as a negotiator I recognise where once I


one side puts something forward, another side puts something else


forward. You are going to see negotiations for some time. My


concern is the uncertainty around the Brexit process, which is an


issue for my members and for industry in the country in general.


Actually, the sooner we put the suggestion around having to pay to


leave or indeed whether we have assets in the rest of the EU that we


can claim back, as soon as we get that out of the way and get on with


the process of actually making sure that industry and the employment and


economy of the UK gets on with the job, then that's the most important


thing for me. We are going to see a lot more of this.


You, Sir, in the second row from the back? The man with spectacles? I


read that the European Union believed that they have


international courts on their side to be able to force Britain to pay


this leaving fee-type thing. Is this correct? Is Do you think we should


ignore legal opinion on it? The UK legal courts are saying that we


don't have to pay it, but international courts are saying we


do have to pay it. Michelle Dewberry trained as a lawyer, who do you


think? I didn't train as a lawyer but I did vote. We are far into the


Brexit process and I want to almost just calm down a little bit and not


get so hysterical about every single thing that'll come from either side


of the fence because we are entering into a negotiation. We are about, I


don't know, a couple of days into setting out our ideas of what the


negotiation could look like. So far we have had stories about


potentially going to war, we are talking about divorce bills and it's


just like, calm down. So I think what we need to do is just, we are


in a negotiation, lots of people are going to be asking for lots of


different things, they probably are not going to get them. Terminology


is quite important. We are not divorce billing or paying to leave,


will we have some contractual commitments that we will have to


pay? Possibly. Are they going to be ?50 billion? I don't know. And nor


does anybody else. So don't get swept away with the kind of hysteria


that's surrounding it. Keep calm and see what happens.


APPLAUSE. The man in the grey. I can't help


but feel that this topic of conversation only fans the flames in


the sense of we have the far right, the National party in France at the


moment, we had elections in most parts of Europe within the EU, they


seemed to go towards the right-wing populism thing. The world is


watching what we are doing at the moment and they will be saying, look


what they are making the UK do paving this massive bill. They are


trying to treat us like this, we need to get out of the EU, all they


want is our money. I think it's important to raise the


question why the Remain campaign didn't set up these issues in the


referendum campaign. If they were set out more clearly and succinctly,


the short-sighted decision that was made in terms of voting to leave


would not be made. I would like to see a more positive EU campaign.


Sorry, I didn't get your name. I think we have seen a right-wing coup


in this country already with the Government pushing a right wing


Brexit. The issues we have seen... It is not an extreme Brexit. The


issue over Gibraltar I think will be a symbol of the problems with this


process. Gibraltar either have to sacrifice their sovereignty, which


they don't want, or they have to sacrifice the freedom of movement on


which their economy depends. 12,000 people come into Gibraltar everyday


to work and their economy depends on it. Think about Ireland and the


issues around the border there, we are one week into Brexit and I think


the wheels are already coming the Brexit bus. Tim, I'm coming to you,


eat you say the wheels are coming off the bus, you know how the


country voted, should that be ignored? They didn't vote for a


country that was less prosperous. How do you know how prosperous the


country will be? How do you know what people voted for? The


Government has already said we will have to lose potentially a third of


our environmental protections. You are assuming people voted the way


they did, you don't like the way they voted so you are assuming the


worst motives. Maybe they knew what they were doing. You cannot say they


didn't know what they were doing. Both sides voted in good faith, and


I think there was a terrible referendum campaign and people were


misled, but we did have the option of staying in the single market and


leaving. This version of Brexit which the Government are pushing


forward... Stop talking down our country, stop patronising voters,


let's be more positive. Tim Farron. Am I right in saying if we don't


leave the European Union we don't have to pay ?50 billion? If so, I


will hire a bus and stick it on the side of it. If you lose, you should


accept the result with good grace and you don't give up. If you


believe... Not my figures but the Conservative government's figures,


of course I would resist a one-off ?50 billion payment, but the


Government 's own figures saying 100 billion extra per year in debt


because of the choice of a hard Brexit. Theresa May is not enacting


the will of the people. If you are being generous she is interpreting


the will of the people. The single market was not on the ballot paper,


maybe you wanted out of it, maybe not, we don't know because you


weren't asked. That is why, if you want a Democrat you do not want to


allow the politicians to rubber-stamp this stitch up in two


years' time, you want the people to decide. I just wanted to ask, do you


think Brexit will have an impact on the NHS workforce at all? Diane


Abbot. Responding to that specifically, we have in the NHS and


social care workforce I think it is 80,000 social care workers and


40,000 doctors from the EU. If we had an end of free movement


tomorrow, certainly social care in London and the south-east would


collapse so it will have an effect. The problem is even before we have


gone into negotiation, EU doctors and EU social care workers are


leaving their jobs. Universities are finding people from Europe are not


applying for jobs so it is having an effect now. Let me say this in


response to the question about will we have to pay. The Labour Party


voted to trigger Article 50 because we respect the result of the


referendum. I am one of the few members of Parliament who voted


against the Maastricht Treaty because there are elements of Europe


I have always been sceptical about. Gerard said there is uncertainty,


one thing that is certain is we have Treaty obligations to the EU. These


are legal obligations, and I don't know how much money we are up for


for having signed this treaty, but they are treaty obligations. The


other thing that is certain is this, on the question of freedom of


movement, and people have different views about freedom of movement


because they see it as a euphemism for immigration and such, but on the


question of freedom of movement, without it we will not have access


to the single market and thousands of Gerard's members will lose their


jobs in companies like euro Eurobus. There is a lot of fear and


worry about this but some things are facts and the importance of access


to the single market is a fact. Just to come back on the issue around


freedom of movement, I have said that somebody who voted for Remain I


have accepted the result of the referendum and said OK, we face up


to the of that. One of the realities around that is you cannot have


access to the single market without freedom of movement, and most


people, certainly in the context of the discussion after the referendum,


felt migration was an issue and that's why they voted. In terms of


the specific issue around the NHS, I have argued the case we should


ensure those European migrants who are here should stay, just as the


same situation for UK nationals living in the EU. We have a golden


opportunity in terms of its skills agenda for our nation. For too long,


two decades, employers have had the opportunity to recruit outside of


the UK, they have taken skills off-the-shelf from Europe instead of


investing in the workforce and the long-term unemployed. We now have


the chance to do that and we should not waste


two years, we should start the process now. I would like to ask


Diane Abbott, you say you respect the will of the people, but do you


have any remorse or apology to make for the disgusting lie you made


against me and millions of innocent people who voted Leave when you said


that because they voted Leave they don't like the look of foreign


people, they must be racist or xenophobe. I voted to leave not


because of the colour of their skin, it was to leave the European Union.


You have caused so much distress and hurt to me, it is a disgrace. One of


the people I most admired in politics was Tony Benn and if he was


alive today he would have voted to come out of the EU, so I would never


say people would vote to come out because they were racist... The


month after the accident vote we had a 41% rise in race hate, we saw the


terrible killing of the Kurdish boy in Croydon. I'm not saying there


weren't good reasons to come out, but let's be clear about the rise in


hate crimes that we have seen since. It was very irresponsible of you to


stir up this unfounded suggestion that people who voted to leave the


European Union are somehow racist, and that the awful killing in


Croydon was motivated by Brexit, there is no proof of that and it is


irresponsible and disrespectful. APPLAUSE.


Suella, you are not listening to me. I would never say people like Tony


Benn were racist, and it is not me saying there was a 41% rise in hate


crime, it was the Metropolitan Police. Do you think they asked


erring up hatred? When we say hate crime, you have websites where


people can press big red buttons and register a hate crime because people


conceive they are getting logged, validated, and I am fed up with


Brexit getting the blame for everything. I want to make a point


and it is not about hate crime, I'm taking it back to something else. I


have heard you talk about extreme Brexit, you talk about hard Brexit,


and I am fed up with it. We were asked if we wanted to be in the


European Union, yes or no. I voted out, it doesn't make me better or


worse, more intelligent or less intelligent than anybody else, it


makes me untitled is my opinion. Brexit for me means leaving the


European Union, it doesn't mean me moving house, it is not extreme, it


is not hard, it is Rex it, we are just leaving the EU and its


associated bodies. APPLAUSE.


The last week should have proved to you that it is not that


straightforward. The bottom line is this, when this point is proved is


that Brexit has divided the country in a cultural way, in a nasty way,


and it breaks my heart. I want Britain to be united in or out of


Europe. Being in the single market is worth ?100 billion a year to the


United Kingdom, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that. If I was


the Prime Minister of a country that had a score draw, people have voted


Leave but narrowly, what would you do? Go for an extreme Brexit or try


to bring the country together and have a modest approach towards


having a membership of the single market? That is what you would do if


you are trying to bring Britain together and not divided. Tim,


regardless of you cannot go through Rex it kicking and screaming or not,


we are leaving the EU, so it's a natural time to make us come


together, not go against the Government, and we are leaving,


regardless of the single market or not. Get over it. We had a


discussion. I respect your view is different


from mine, but what I would like you to do is, if you believe strongly in


your view, put it in the manifesto, and we can decide, have another


referendum and people will decide if they want to vote for it.


For me, we should ask the European Union to justify their demand. I


think there is a whole area of policy areas where we should


negotiate, we cannot work on our own, but we should bear in mind that


the European Union is only 7% of the world population. Diane Abbott, you


deliberately, just like Nick Clegg two weeks ago, you are confusing


access to the single market... The statement you made is factually


incorrect. We must move on to another question. With benefits cuts


on the sick, disabled and vulnerable, are we returning to


Dickensian times? APPLAUSE.


The benefits cuts that take effect today, affecting Windows and third


children, all the rest of it. Gerard Coyne. Yes, we are, I think so. The


reality is we are facing a situation where there are 13.5 million people,


defined by the Rowntree foundation as being in poverty. 7 million of


those in the UK are working at the moment so the reality that the


attacks on tax credits that come through this week will have a direct


impact on so many families in this country, added to which some of the


measures brought in in relation to the two child limit, it has been


reported in the news today that there is an eight page document that


is required if you are going over the two child limit, if you have


been a victim of rape or forced her worst sex. That is unbelievable, it


is barbaric to suggest that somebody who has endured that has to justify


claiming benefit over that two child limit, so yes we have gone


backwards. Sewell? -- Sewell la? We need to


make it fairer and distribute it amongst the people who genuinely


need it but also help them on to working so that work pays in a


fairer way -- Suella Hernandez. The changes we are seeing today do that.


They try and resolve historic unfairness whereby those people


who're in the middle, so we have got people who can't work, people who


can, people who're disabled or ill but can do a bit and are on the


route to working. This is about redistributing and making it fairer,


a more sustainable way for providing for them so they can get back into


work. We need to be reasonable with how we spend benefits and welfare


because we need to make work pay. That is what gives people the


dignity, making people more able to work even if they've got


disabilities, even if they've got illness but also supporting those


people who're vulnerable so they don't feel they are being abandoned.


One of the changes you are bringing in today is about the employment


support allowance, the work related activity group. These are people who


this Government accepts are too sick or too ill or too disabled to work


at this moment. And you are introducing a 33% cut in their


benefit today. That is despicable, outrageous, that you would talk on


the one hand about getting people into employment...


APPLAUSE. If you told me 20 years ago that we


would be living in a country where there are a million emergency food


bank parcels given out a year, 100,000 people relying on food banks


to get food for their families, I would not have believed you. How've


we come to this state? These are people who're in work. I want to


finish this, because these are people who're in work trying to work


but who aren't being paid enough either through benefits or work,


it's despicable. APPLAUSE.


Actually, what we are doing is using the money more effectively. Personal


support packages, costing ?330 million will be there for people


who're disabled who want to work. We have introduced the taper on


Universal Credit so people will be able to keep more of what they earn.


You have got to look at it in the round. It's got to be reasonable and


we have got to make it fair. Diane Abbott, what do you make of the


changes, particularly to the third child, widows down from 20 years of


support to 18 months. Is he right to point to the employment? The changes


are the Tories are making are cruel and unfair. We are living in a


society where people on welfare are being demonised and people forget


actually that maybe 40% of people on welfare are old age pensioners, not


WASPI women as the lady mentioned there, but they are pensioner,


another 10-20% are taking in-work benefits but bit by bit with


programmes like Benefits Street and the way politicians are talking, we


are encouraged to demonise people. As for the idea that we want work to


pay, work is not paying. That's why thousands of people, working people,


every week have to go to food banks. We have got more people in work, the


national living wage has gone up and that's because of the strong economy


that the Conservatives have overseen. What sort of work, Suella?


Under Labour, unemployment rose. Michelle Dewberry? I support your


view in terms of getting people into work and the rest of it and I'm a


fan of that, that is brilliant, but you have to also understand there


are some people for whatever reason who're not able to work and it makes


me feel really uncomfortable actually that we would tackle those


people that for whatever reason need that welfare to support themselves,


support their family, going after disabled people while simultaneously


not investing the same amount of time and energy, the lad corporates


who're avoiding tax and evading tax. APPLAUSE.


Tim Farron It's really important to remember who it is that gets hit by


this, this is people with Alzheimer's, young people,


18-21-year-olds who without Housing Benefit all the housing charities


say there'll be a rise in street homelessness as a consequence of all


of this and people who've lost their husband, wife, father or mother of


their child losing vast amounts of support. This says something really


horrible about Britain, Cruel Britannia. We should be ashamed of




I am somebody who wants a strong economy and all the evidence around


the world is that the countries with strong welfare safety nets allow


business people, entrepreneurs, to take bigger risks because they know


they won't fall too far. If you have an ever-shrinking state, an


undermined welfare state which unpicks all the things that were put


together after the war, then you make a harder environment for


business people to do well. This is bad for our morality as a country


and our success as a country. APPLAUSE.


Some points from the audience then we'll move on. You in blue? You will


be saving over ?500 million with these tax cuts, where will that


money be spent? ?5 billion a year. I think it was directed at Suella.


Sorry. If we are talking about cuts in corporation tax, that's been


spent over and over by Labour. We have got to reduce public spending


and I'm glad that under this Conservative Government we have


managed to cut the deficit by two thirds and get our house back in


order. A strong economy underlines everything that we do when it comes


to Public Services. By tackling the weakest members of society...


APPLAUSE. No. We are providing packages for


people who're disabled and who want to get back into work, we are


investing in our NHS and our schools. That's all because we've


got a strong economy. Trust any of these parties and I trust you, I


tell you, we'll see the economy tag and it will be job losses that will


suffer at the end of the day. The man in the white shirt at the back?


The simple solution showerly is to spend our overseas aid money on our


own people -- the solution surely. You think that would... It would


alleviate a lot. You are meant not to disagree with the public but I


disagree. My sense is, who are the people we should at least target to


save money, the poorest people in the world, I don't think so. What


does that say about Britain, just as much as targeting the bereaved,


those with Alzheimer's and those that need Housing Benefit. If we


contract our economy, we should tax those who've got the most, not the


least. APPLAUSE.


We've got four or five minutes left. Jennifer's question, please? Should


Ken Livingstone be expelled from the Labour Party? Ah! Should Ken


Livingstone be expelled? I wonder who we should go to on this first?


Diane Abbott! LAUGHTER.


There is an argument... Yes or no! ? There is an argument about talking


less about Ken Livingstone because he actually enjoys it. OK. But what


I would say is this - Ken's insistence on making totally


spurious and hurtful and hate-mongering links between Hitler


and Zionism has appalled most of us in the Labour Party. What's worse,


he keeps on repeating it. He keeps on repeating it. I do not have a say


of whether he gets expelled but he's coming up once again before our NCC


who are the Labour Party body which decides on these things... Why


weren't they able to decide this time? Why do they have to do it all


over again, the third time he's been up? It says a lot about the Labour


Party. No, it says a lot about Ken Livingstone. Diane, just explain


that the NCC makes the decision. Nay take the decision? Yes. Why did they


take the decision they did? I didn't see the evidence in front of them. ?


You have just described the evidence. No, no, no, no, no, I


didn't see the entire evidence. Ken is prepared to go to court. They


clearly didn't feel they had a strong enough case. But it's going


to come back in front of the committee. But let's be clear, the


Labour Party is appalled by - not just what Ken's said, but he's kept


repeating it. Yes or no? If he is expelled from the party, and, you


know, let's be clear, the Should he be expelled? If Ken is I don't think


you are going to get the answer yes or no. Should I answer the question.


What is your view? Yes he should go. OK. Why do you think he should go?


It's an affront to the six million Jews that lost their lives and their


families in the Holocaust. What is going wrong? There is an issue about


anti-Semitism. During my campaign to stand for General Secretary of


Unite, I've been subjected to hate crime as a result of speaking to a


Jewish newspaper. Now, that is a real issue and if we don't deal with


it, and we don't send a clear message as was said by the member of


the audience, he has to go and we should show him the door and Diane,


we have to kick him out. OK.


All right. Tim Farron briefly? Yes, he should go. It's very clear that


whether Ken is an anti-Semitic person or not, his rhetoric


undoubtedly breeds exactly the kind of thing Gerard is talking about and


gives people on the far right too succour to believe it's OK to say


this kind of stuff. It's quite sad. Whatever you think of his politics,


he was a pretty good Mayor of London, this was a relatively


serious man who 'll now be remembered as somebody who's some


kind of borderline racist, what a massive tragedy. Has he changed


since you worked for him? Or worked with him? No, Ken was a great Mayor


of London, he really was. And it's very sad for those that have known


him for decades to see what has happened. But when Gerard says that


the Labour Party has a problem with institutional racism, I'm sorry that


you feel... I said anti-Semitism. One and the same. When you say that,


I'm sorry you feel the need to attack your party. I'm proud of the


Labour Party's record on fighting racism and anti-Semitism. That's why


I feel Ken Livingstone needs to be dealt with hopefully with a little


less talking. I would prefer if he dealt with this issue properly.


Suella briefly? A Labour Party issue? It's bigger than Ken


Livingstone, he should apologise and should be expelled. They have had a


problem with it, Shami Chakrabarti wrote a report about anti-Semitism,


it's renowned by a whitewash by the Jews and she was awarded with a


peerage. That sends a toxic message that it's OK. Have you read it? Have


you read it? Jeremy Corbyn says he's friends with Hamas and Hezbollah,


he's got a liberal lack of moral leadership, that's the cause of it.


He needs to develop a backbone and take action so show that zero


tolerance is a reaction, not an illusion. You wanted to speak on


this point? Do do think he should be expelled. I won't make political


points but there is an issue we have to address as a country around


anti-Semitism and the rise in hate and we have to face up to. I don't


believe the referendum, going back to that, I don't believe that was


the cause of hate crime. It's like the geneny came out of the bottle


and it's about decades of this whipping up and not challenging it


hard enough and we are reaping what we have sown. There is a broader


question we must address as a country. Michelle?


APPLAUSE. I think that the Labour Party is


letting people down so much now in so many different ways and this is


just another example of it. I think that if you think that somebody's


done something wrong, and they're deemed to have done something


wrong... Are you saying Ken is an anti-Semitism person? It doesn't


matter, he's bringing your party into disrepute. Your party is a joke


for numerous different reasons. This is just one of them and you have got


to get some credibility, some backbone. He shouldn't be there and


I'm sure you know that as well as I do. I'm going to have to stop this


because our time is up. I'm sorry about that. Apologies to those who


have your hands up. Question Time will be back after Easter. We take a


two-week break now. We are in Oxford on April 27th and Wigan on 4th May.


The website address is on the screen and the telephone number if you want


to get in touch to take part. Question Time extra time goes on.


Here in Gillingham, the debate ends, so thanks to the panelists, and all


of you who came here and, until 27th April, good night.


David Dimbleby chairs topical debate from Gillingham. On the panel are Conservative MP Suella Fernandes, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley, businesswoman and broadcaster Michelle Dewberry, and Gerard Coyne, the West Midlands secretary of the Unite union who is a candidate in the election for general secretary.

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