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Today on The Big Questions...
The perils of flirting at work,
the right to asylum
for persecuted Christians,
and raising property taxes.
Good to see you.
Good morning, I'm Nicky Campbell.
Today, we're live from
Appleton Academy in Bradford.
to The Big Questions.
Last Sunday night,
the Golden Globes Award ceremony
was a sea of black as the nominees
and star-studded audience
displayed their support
of the Time's Up campaign
against sexual harassment.
But in France, they see
things rather differently.
100 French women, led by the actress
Catherine Deneuve, dubbed the MeToo
campaign puritanism fuelled
by hatred of men.
All they did was touch a knee,
try to steal a kiss or talk
about intimate matters.
We defend a right to pester,
which is vital to sexual freedom.
Most of us know there
is a line between flirting
and sexual harassment,
but not everyone draws
it in the same place.
And new guidelines for employers
issued by the Equality
and Human Rights Commission make
clear unwanted conduct does not need
to be directed at the person
offended but can just be
witnessed or overheard.
Jokes, looks, gestures,
discussing your sex life
with someone else, intrusive
questions or direct propositions
are all potentially
unlawful sexual harassment.
Is time up for flirting at work?
Solicitor, Nick Freeman, puritanism,
are you worried we are entering very
difficult terrain here?
Yes, I think
we are about to embark upon
immediate reaction to what is
happening in Hollywood. Flirting is
very healthy, part of our natural
dynamic and to take that away from
us destroys part of who we are.
Flirting has a very specific
definition and it is something that
is playful, not serious. I accept we
need to be sympathetic on the effect
it has on the person directed to the
people around us but it stimulates,
energises and more people meet and
marry in the workplace as a
consequence of flirting than
anywhere else. For example, it is
much safer than meeting somebody
online. That is a very healthy way
of establishing a relationship. You
see their true self, someone under
pressure, you have time with them
and you can then assess underside,
do I want to have a relationship
with that person? -- and decide. The
statistics, 14% of people get
married from meeting at the
workplace. And those marriages are
It is a very
important... It is important,
playful, innocent, that is what
something is sinister, it is a
Who disagrees with
that? There is a clear line?
actually agree with some of what
Nick has said. Harassment and
flirting or two separate matters
completely. The MeToo campaign was
born out of the Harvey Weinstein
scandal, unwanted sexual harassment
and advances within the workplace
and out as well, why are we
conflating the issues? We know what
flirting is and it is innocent and
banter, Nick said, it makes but they
go quicker, but we are talking about
harassment, the fact women have not
been able to come forward in the
years, decades, whatever, and now
there is a real movement, an
opportunity for women and men as
well who have been victims of
harassment to come forward and tell
the world what has happened. The
fact we have only been able to
scratch the surface with people
using the #MeToo, there will be
millions more across the world who
will now be able to come forward and
tell the world what has happened to
Many people have had concerns
that the line between sexual
harassment and flirting is rather
ambiguous and can be subjective.
we test this. Angela is here to talk
specifically about this. Working in
an office, if I said you had a nice
I would wonder when your next
optician appointment was! I would
say, you are looking particularly
gorgeous this morning. I would
preface my comments by saying, the
goalposts are very movable. There
was a fizzy drinks campaign
predicated on the notion a bunch of
women stood at the window and
watched the window cleaner get his
kit off and have his fizzy drink. I
get offended if I walk past a
building site and they do not wolf
whistle. I say, shall we do that
again? In all seriousness, there is
a big difference with women. I
agree, we should not conflate the
two. There is a difference between
sexual objectification and
persistent unwanted attention. Some
of the offences people have been
accused of have been so lightweight,
the grazing of a hand on the knee,
calling somebody gorgeous, it
energises the workplace, like Nick
says. I do not want to live in a
dull world where men and women
cannot talk to each other. Women are
quite canny as well. If a really
attractive man flirts with her in
the office and says nice things,
that is flirtation. If it is a fat
It is someone touching
your knee flirting?
It depends who
it is. If you have a really nice
looking man who grazes his hand on
your knee and maintains eye contact,
that is flirting. If you are
16-year-old girl and a man in his
50s does that, far more powerful, it
is inappropriate. We cannot be
Abdullah. A number of
studies have shown that for 30 years
the perception of sexual harassment,
defined as unwanted romantic or
sexual advances, it varies depending
on the attractiveness of the person
instigating it. The problem is, when
you define it as unwanted romantic
or sexual advances, you are
expecting people to be psychic, to
know whether there advances are
wanted before they make it which is
a problem. It stems from, my
personal critique, of sexual
personal critique, of sexual --
secular liberal societies, you do
not have defined... Since Victorian
times, you had a bit more
conservative values in the UK, for
example, in the middle and upper
necessarily, but in terms of social
decorum in the UK among middle and
upper classes, it was different.
Women knew their place. In Victorian
We are talking about social
etiquette and decorum. Why do you
always have to turn it, whenever the
religious person is speaking?
Women's place was different in
What is going on,
what with things like, not in
Victorian times, back in maybe the
The 60s, the days of
miniskirts. You you just stirred and
admired and days of typing pools as
well and loads of girls and I worked
in the West End for a while, it was
a wonderful time. But the difference
between flirtation of course and
sexual harassment is the difference
between ping-pong and Rugby Football
League not the same thing at all.
Going back to Victorian times, the
lady would have a fan, flirtation
with the fan. A wonderful way of
wonderful code. We all agreed
flirting is a good thing otherwise
no woman would ever get asked out to
dinner, you have to get through the
flirting, cannot suddenly say, would
you like to come out to dinner
tonight, I promise not to touch your
knee? One very quick thing, I would
be interested to have the view of
the panel, I was attached to the
Royal Navy at sea on HMS Illustrious
and when women went to see, the
Royal Navy came in with the no
touching rule which is quite
definitive and you can work that
out, it is not airy-fairy like the
Equality Commission nonsense. I have
never heard so much nonsense.
are so politically correct, Godfrey.
No touching rule. That is the rule.
It works for the Royal Navy. I think
it would work in the office.
definition of sexual harassment is
unwanted sexual advances, not
touching necessarily. We all agree
it is wrong and criminal.
It is the unwanted advances
which causes the ambiguity.
If it is
unwanted, it is a criminal act. You
cannot have the wishy-washy nonsense
from the commission. Totally
subjective. That will cause trouble.
Angela. I will be with you in a
second, Susie. Some women like it?
There is a whole culture of
predatory... We are generalising, a
lot of broad terms. Nobody deserves
to be sexually objectified or
harassed. Accept that as given, the
law is clear. But there are women
whose stay is enlightened,
invigorated, by the attention of
other men -- day. There is a whole
cohort of predatory women who enjoy
exerting their chemical, hormonal,
sexual, call it what you will,
influence. I was in an office that
other week, young chap, late 20s, I
had not been in for few weeks, I
said, hello, you are looking
gorgeous, did you have a lovely
Christmas? I like your jacket. I am
not so much more powerful than him,
I am older, just, but the fact is,
women seem to have... There is
latitude where women are concerned.
We have to have a more level playing
You say some women like it
and OK, some women do. But not
everyone does. The bottom line is
that if you are making a comment at
someone, there is a potential chance
it might make them feel
uncomfortable, just do not do it. In
the workplace, we are all adults, we
are not teenagers. If you are going
to say something that might
potentially... You do not know what
previous experiences that person may
have had that may warrant them to
become uncomfortable, and if you are
going to say something...
had just lost their dog the week
before, you say, I'm having a dog's
life at the moment, it be upsetting.
We have to be empathetic. We have to
be aware of the effect of what we
say and do has on the other person.
If someone suggest something
slightly inappropriate to you and
you show it is inappropriate, they
should immediately picked up on it
and say, sorry, move on.
person feels in a place to do that.
Sometimes someone might make a
comment, it might make them feel
uncomfortable, not every person at
the receiving end may feel in a
position to say, hang on, that does
not make me feel comfortable, can
you not do that?
Through the day, we
will be uncomfortable sometimes. We
will not die, fall over backwards.
Sometimes we will be made to feel a
little bit uncomfortable, we roll up
our sleeves, get on with it.
some people wanting to talk.
cannot accept what you have just
said. Nobody has a right to make
another person feel uncomfortable
and nobody has a right to say to
another person, get over it, it is
OK, take it like a man, completely
unacceptable. If it is a genuine
would be harassment.
agree with you, Nick. The
recommendation is, you could see it
happening to somebody else and you
could then reported, would you
report it if you saw it happening?
For me, sexual harassment is very
subjective. What is sexual
harassment for one person is not for
another person and what outrages me
might not upgrade somebody else. We
have to keep that in mind. Going
back to what Angela says, not every
single woman wants to be sexually
harassed and not every person enjoys
the sexual attention. It is wrong to
say things like this because you are
giving the message, you are
You are harassing me!
want to go to the audience. I am the
sensitive flower here. Some ladies
wanted to talk in the audience.
Something Angela said, I saw you
shifting in your seat, shaking your
It was about the workplace and
we are not teenagers. Well, my
workplace has a lot of teenagers it
is a college, and therefore, this is
a difficult area for us because part
of our job is helping those young
people learn some of these
boundaries before they get into the
workplace. This is a more complex
area for us. It is one we have to do
a lot of observation, give a lot of
feedback to students and deal with
potentially very difficult issues. I
feel that this debate needs to take
into account that not everybody is
good at picking up social cues. Not
everybody understands where the
boundaries are. We need to teach
people how to say no in a nice way,
in a way that respects the other
person, but it is a very clear no.
It is very difficult territory.
Good morning. As an employer, the
last thing I want is a reduction in
productivity because some of my
employees don't want to come to
washing because they're afraid of
being harassed. My own personal
moral values come into that. I
wouldn't want to go around harassing
people. I certainly don't want any
of my employees to be harassed. But
it is a minefield when it comes to
this new equality legislation.
is acceptable flirting and
compliments we're hearing about in
the office which edge towards, to
use an old fashioned word from the
sixties, saucy. Is that all right in
the office? Let this gentleman
answer and isle' be with you.
think flirtation can be healthy. A
flick of the hey a whiff of perfume
as somebody's passing by or a brush
of the shoulder is OK.
I smelt your
scent earlier on! LAUGHTER SKAPTS IT
WAS VERY DELICIOUS.
WAS VERY DELICIOUS.
Isn't it allowing
political cricketness to get out of
hand? I've worked in offices all my
life. I've seen people come in,
ladies come in with a new hairstyle.
I've said, you look nice today.
Might have a new outfit. You look
great. I've worked with young people
and occasionally when they've come
up with a really good way of dealing
with a problem, I've said well done
and touched them on the shoulder.
What's wrong with that?
nothing politically correct or
incorrect about this. It is about
humans treating each other with
it lacking in respect to say they've
a nice hair do?
It's get to that that
There should be different
standards if you're significantly
senior to other people in the work
department. If you have the ability
to influence that person's career,
by definition, that person's
potentially vulnerable or feel they
could need to pretend things are OK
when they don't.
I've raised the
morality issue. Mark, there are many
things you are not on the same page
as Abdullah on. Maybe there's some
condition ex-here. You think one of
the problems here is that men don't
accept Christian teaching, no sex
That's right. You
mentioned a caricature of life in a
Victorian era which was by no means
perfect and there was a hip ok Si.
Sex was given its proper value in
marriage. Today, we don't say sex it
just for a man and a woman. It would
mean our whole approach to flirting
was much more nuanced. We need to
get back to the bible's teaching. We
can't do that. In Victorian era, the
only way to live a truly Christian,
God-pleasing life as Jesus Christ
said, you have to be born again.
With a new nature. The old nature,
we see in people like Harvey
Weinstein. The bible says we're all
corrupt in our hearts. The way to
avoid office flirtation is to go
back to our Christian roots.
You can't put
handcuffs on natural communication
and natural action. We're humans.
And we're sensual animals?
It stimulates who we are. Once it
crosses the line, it's not flirting.
No sex after marriage is the
Speak for yourself.
say there's no sex after marriage,
Too much information. Thank
I'm trying to run the
discussion here and concentrate.
Susie, did introduce Susie.
is saying in this campaign no-one
can flirt with each other in the
office. I do agree with you on a
level that there is nothing wrong
with flirting. It's harmless. It
doesn't even necessarily mean two
people are necessarily wanting to
take their relationship to another
level. It is harmless interaction.
But, there is a line between
flirting and harassment. That line
is, you know, subjective to every
person. What makes one person feel
uncomfortable may not for the next
person. In that case, then, just
don't do it. In termsp
If in doubt?
Yeah. If you're going to make a
comment to someone think, oh, well,
is that person giving me some sort
of signal that might make me or
means that comment is warranted?
I establish, how do you establish
there is a mutual sexual interest?
How do you establish that?
think everyone's been in a position
where you've had that mutual
connection with someone or chemistry
with someone and flirt something a
misunderstand and misinterpret each
other's cues all the time. It is be
consistent. Either we ban all
flirting in the public arena, remove
sex from the public arena full stop
or have a dedicated system of
courtship. Or you allow flirting up
to the point of criminality. Yeah?
At least be consistent if you have
this halfway position, you subject
everyone to the unnoble
interpretation of every other person
based purely on how that other
person interprets an initial advance
not a repeat advance.
there's two more debates. Plenty
more time to express your opinion.
You've had your hand up. One
sentence from you on what you think
about this. You will have the last
There's the taboo of sexuality
and a natural humanistic nature to
be attracted to the opposite sex. We
haven't discussed same sex
flirtation. The campaign about
speaking out is the parallel between
speaking about flirting and then to
the extreme about being abused and
disclosure and that whole subject
matter around disclosure and
speaking out whether it be a male or
female and the concept of culture,
tradition and religion. There are
traditional methods of flirting when
you're wearing the hijab or burqa.
There's a whole dynamic.
five debates worth in that. Thank
you very much indeed. Thank you.
If you have something
to say about that debate,
logon to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions
and follow the link to where you can
join in the discussion online.
Or contribute on Twitter - #bbctbq.
We're also debating
live this morning at
Bradford's Appleton Academy,
should persecuted Christians
jump the asylum queue?
And would higher council taxes
on empty and second homes be fair?
So, get tweeting or emailing
on those topics now,
or send us any other ideas
or thoughts you may
have about the show.
This week, the annual
World Watch List of countries
where Christians face religious
persecution was published.
It reports how over 200 million
are currently being beaten,
killed, forcibly detained, denied
education or job opportunities,
having their children abducted,
their churches and homes
bombed and burned.
North Korea, Afghanistan,
Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan
are the five worst offenders,
but India is not far behind
and Egypt has risen fast
through the ranks this past year.
Many of the countries listed have
strong links to Britain
through the Commonwealth
or through our shared history.
There have been calls to give
priority to Christian refugees
in America, by President Trump,
and in Australia too.
Should persecuted Christians
jump the asylum queue?
Mark Mullins, why should they?
Everybody who has a risk to their
life should be, as a result of their
religious views, should be welcomed
to this country. There is a problem
though. If they support the very
violence they're fleeing from they
will bring trouble to our country.
That's the problem we face. The
What or who are you talking
I'm talking about those,
well, those who flee persecution by
a religious group, it may be their
own religious group. They may
support violence to other religious
groups. I don't really think I need
to name them. We all know who they
are because the debate's not about
that. But it is about our own
heritage. The reason we have such an
open policy, and rightly have an
open policy of tolerance to people
of other faiths is because we go
back to the middle ages where a man
called William Tindell translated
the bible because we...
Are we still
a Christian country?
Can I quickly
finish this point. As a result of
his translation of the bible he was
hunted down and killed in 1536. They
couldn't keep the bible out of this
country. As a result, over the next
couple of centuries, the religious
wars that ensued led to in 1689 The
Glorious Revolution and a freedom of
religion, the tolerance act in 1689.
That was the beginning of freedom of
religion for non-confirmist, dues,
eventually for Roman Catholics and
where we are today, that's based on
our biblical heritage.
should make us a special haven for
all the God's children. Sorry
pointing at you.
I'll point back.
Please do! Should we not prioritise
atheists in Pakistan who are subject
to the most disgusting blasphemy
laws and are suffering so much?
you mind if it...
Why not prioritise those people?
I be political. Pakistan is where
Christians, I know this first-hand,
Christians are facing persecution.
They are being shot for
So are atheists.
What's the difference?
The door is
shutting to Christians around the
nation. That's because we know that
from the Open Doors report. The
reason you had this debate today. We
need to make sure we keep an open
door to Christians. As I said to
you, anyone with religious views,
including atheists who are genuinely
facing a fear to their lives.
Christians first and foremost?
must not forget our duty.
is to Christians.
I'm a Pakistani.
I'm Pauled at the record Pakistan
holds being on that list in general.
It is not just the Christian groups
persecuted. Pakistan has a long
history of persecuting anybody who
doesn't fall into the main category.
Even now, sitting here and
criticising blasphemy laws, I could
have a massive target on my head
when I go to Pakistan next. It is
very difficult to talk about. But we
should be cheap as a place where
people can come as a safe haven.
We've a long history of persecuted
minority groups coming here for safe
haven. Some were turned away. The
Jewish during the Holocaust. We have
to actually look at the pigger
picture here. We're living in a
world where there's wars going on,
persecution going on. There's a lot
of sectarianism going on as well.
is about human beings not their
It is about human
Lisa, welcome to the big
questions. Prince Charles spoke
eloquently about this. The
persecution suffered by Christians
across the world is absolutely
horrific. When it says, when any
western minority says we are
persecuted we hear it from
Christians, Muslims, it gives light
to the very word persecution. This
is persecution. Shouldn't we
prioritise these people?
first of all, persecution of
Christians is growing rapidly. The
scale and severity is growing. We're
having to monitor more countries in
order to find the 50 where it is
hardest which forms our World Watch
List. That's across Asia, the Middle
East and sub-Saharan Africa. We're
there at village level withp
communities and underground networks
where to be a Christian. In North
Korea they have a saying, to choose
Jesus ask to die. Should we
prioritise Christians. We need to
prioritise people on need. However,
you're quite right, awful things
happening with that atheist blogger
in Saudi sentenced to 1,000 lashes.
Christians are not the only ones
suffering. There is a scale of
persecution happening to Christians
around the world that's enormous at
the moment. One of the things, I've
been in Iraq and Beirut where people
have fled Syria. What we often find
ask the Christians don't have the
mobility or confidence to register
with the UN to apply to get out of
the country. Where the UK's
providing aid in places like
niningeer ya and again into Syria --
Nigeria. Where that's distributed by
Islamic local governments, the
Christians are not accessing the
aid. If we want to be fair, ensure
Christians are equally heard when
considering who should be given
asylum, the UK needs to become much
more religiously literate and make
sure they are hearing from everybody
and then choosing on that basis.
Radical Islam increasingly gets a
stranglehold in places like Sudan,
Tunisia, this is more dangerous for
Christians. North Korea, top of the
list, to be able to choose Christ,
is to choose death.
Iraq, Yemen, a bit of a pattern,
some would say. Countries the West
been last month, 10,000 people were
massacred in Burma. In Central
African Republic, the militia have
told Muslims they should convert to
Christianity uber-die, they are
massacred 13 Muslims in the mosque
-- or die.
-- or die. Christians... They even
eat Muslims as well. In no
circumstances... Who eats Muslims?
Lisa has done the research. In the
Central African Republic, those
people, although they are classed as
Christians, they are much more
animist in their practice. It is
said by these reports, while
Christians the most persecuted group
in the world? Many groups... People
from all different groups are
persecuted in very large numbers. We
have to tally it up as to which
particular denomination or
religionist. It is pretty bad for
Christians. And it is based on
village level detailed research.
What I would say is...
Muslims are not persecuted by... No
one is saying they are not
persecuted. Lisa. Why are we playing
this game as to which?
It is not a
In India and Nepal, Muslims
are absolutely persecuted,
are absolutely persecuted, in
Vietnam, but across the world, for
Christians, the scale of persecution
is incredible. Working with partners
in North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria,
Iraq, we provide trauma counselling,
not just for Christians, but
equipping the church to serve the
whole community. Of course, if you
are a Shia in Saudi, a Sunni in
Iran, that is certainly true. The
bigger issue is, between us, it is
not about people competing with each
other, we need to be really serious
about establishing an environment
where people can have any faith or
no faith and be treated with
We are talking about this because of
the report, something we have not
addressed before, the scale of the
persecution of Christians. Godfrey
Bloom, you said Muslim countries
should look after Muslims. What do
We have to be pragmatic.
We have to bear in mind that England
is one of the most crowded pieces of
real estate on the planet, it is a
welfare state, the state is
responsible for education, welfare,
pensions, so consequently, there is
only a limited amount of people you
can give sanctuary to. We need to
understand that. We need to be
pragmatic. We cannot be apple pie
all the time. That is something we
have to bear in mind. We also have
to bear in mind we give vast
quantities of aid to places like
Pakistan and Nigeria.
Or Bongo Bongo
Land, as previously mentioned.
of these places are pretty dodgy.
You must've forgotten. You used the
term Bongo Bongo Land. It was
offensive then, it is offensive now.
I forgot you had used that term.
us all go and shoot ourselves.
apology would be fine.
You will not
get an apology from me, dear lady.
We are spending £1 billion a month
in foreign aid, we are scattering it
all over the globe, but it comes
without caveats. We have to tell
Pakistan, there will be no more
persecution of Christians, atheists,
otherwise... Nigeria has to do
something about it. We cannot go
giving these people money, wringing
our hands and bursting into tears.
Some of these places are evil and
need sorting out and they must not
have tax payer's money anymore.
you are saying is completely wrong.
What you are saying is, withdraw
cash, hold back help, get these
people to sort out themselves. What
we need to look at is what is
happening on the ground, the lady
said, people being persecuted. It is
not about separating different
groups into Christianity, Muslim
groups. We should look at how we can
Is it the rise of
fundamentalism across the world,
religious fundamentalism, in all its
guises? And the parallel growth of
sheer hatred and intolerance?
us against them type of politics. We
need to tackle these politics and
the messages the leaders are putting
out and I include Donald Trump in
I thought you might. Let me go
to the audience. I will be back with
you. We have had some hands up.
Gentleman with the headphones.
wanted to address the person that
mentioned that the West is
responsible for essentially the
that make sense, they are killing
people in their own country? People
in the country who have a different
religion, how are they responsible
for what the West are doing?
provide a response? At the very
You will, but I will go to
the audience and come back to you.
Going back to the question, should
Christians be able to jump the
asylum due? In the universal
declaration of human rights, one of
the key articles is everyone is born
free and equal -- the asylum Q. You
have people fleeing countries for
months and years and if you were to
push them back to make way for
Christians who had been persecuted,
any persecution is wrong, that
cannot be denied, but if we were to
push them back in the queue, we
would not be treating them as if
they were equal. We need to sort out
the problems collectively.
Christians being on Christian... The
chaos that has been caused?
Iraq was quite high up in the
persecution of Christians in the
report. However, under Saddam
Hussein, that was not the case. If
you go back even further, we see
that the oldest Christian
communities were in the Middle East,
the most famous Catholic saint,
Saint John of Damascus, wrote the
first invectives against Islam in
medieval Islamic Syria and nothing
happened to him. Radical Islam is
not the issue here, it is the
post-colonial countries where you
have nationalist or ethnic violence
created in the modern era by the...
One other point, in Pakistan, the
blasphemy law is not derived from
Sharia law, the rough formulation
was borrowed from the English penal
system, from the British colonial
Time to move on. Gentleman
there. Respond to that.
I will do.
Clearly, it should be based on need.
From a legal perspective, moral,
British values. Christian
perspective, it should be based on
need. There is large consensus here
for that. It is very important to
note in terms of things like
blasphemy that we have 13 countries
in the world where blasphemy and
apostasy, where you can be murdered
by the state for leaving your
religion or being nonreligious. The
UN special rapporteur on religion
said that atheists suffer some of
the most intense persecution. We
should not be getting into this
competition of who is the most
persecuted, we need to have
compassion and humanity, but we need
to understand there are different
things around the world and we need
to be challenging these structures.
Thank you very much. You are doing a
little bit of eye rolling when
Abdullah was talking.
mentioned the fact blasphemy laws in
Pakistan were a by-product of
something carried into when the new
state was formed...
we be moving on now? Why do we need
to feel so insecure about our
religion that somebody makes a
comment, we have to be outraged and
Lynch that person?
Can she just
Take the term imperialism
out of the conversation, let us talk
about what is actually wrong,
morally wrong or whatever.
what we are talking about. I am
saying what is wrong is that in many
of these secular nation states, we
are seeing sectarianism.
is essentially the fault of the
West? For transplanting these
attitudes? Charlie Hebdo is the
There is a very clear
Charlie Hebdo is the
fault of the West, people
interpreting blasphemy laws, laws?
It is not the result... We are
talking about the Middle East. You
mentioning blasphemy laws, we're not
talking about what happened in
France and the internal dynamic.
was seen as blasphemous. It was seen
I do not think
you would take a blasphemy law...
The reason that motivated them...
is against Islam. I do not agree
with Jeffrey in his approach to what
he said but I think one thing we
have missed out on in this
discussion is that what happens when
people arrive here, as the
granddaughter of an immigrant who
came at the turn of the century,
persecution from the Ukraine and
Russia, my late grandfather was so
grateful for what this country
gifted to him, he insisted on
becoming naturalised immediately, he
wanted to sign up to fight at the
outbreak of the First World War, he
was a stretcher bearer. To the end
of his days, he was grateful. There
is no such thing as competitive
suffering, no drop of more blood is
more painful, we have agreed on
that. Once you come to this country,
we have so many difficulties with
racial tensions, ghettos, all
different ethnicities, people have
to come here and respect British
values. When someone comes here
because of the level of suffering
and persecution, now you are here,
respect the way British people live.
Thank you. We will get on to what
the heck British values are at some
stage. We have done that before.
You can join in all this
morning's debates by logging
on to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions
and following the link to the online
Or you can tweet using
the hashtag #bbctbq
and tell us what you think
about our last Big Question too.
Would higher council taxes on empty
and second homes be fair?
And if you'd like to apply
to be in the audience
at a future show, you
can email [email protected]
We're in Cambridge next Sunday,
Newcastle upon Tyne on January 28th,
and Southampton the week after that.
Just north of Bradford, where we are
this morning, the magnificent
Yorkshire Dales national park.
With its splendid limestone crags
and caves, heather moors,
and characterful stone villages.
12,000 years ago, people came
here from Europe to settle
after the last Ice Age.
Now, the incomers come from cities
like Manchester, Bradford,
Leeds and further afield.
But many of these newer
arrivals aren't settlers.
These are their second homes.
So, they're not using the local
schools, shops and buses as much
as the full-time residents.
And they're pushing up
the price of property
beyond the reach of the locals.
Now the local councils
within the National Park
would like to charge second home
owners up to five times
more council tax for
the privilege of living there.
So, £8,500 council tax
on a second home in Band D,
instead of the £1,640 it would cost
a local full-time resident.
And the same idea could be extended
by local authorities to people
with empty properties elsewhere.
Here in Bradford, there are more
long-term empty houses than anywhere
else in West Yorkshire,
around 4,000 in all.
Would higher council taxes on empty
and second homes be fair?
David, how much higher should they
Well, I think you're
slightly wrong there. It was a
minimum of five times. Not up to
five times. Let me paint awe picture
of the Rohrichier shales.
Population, 24,000. We've got an --
the Yorkshire Dales.
the Yorkshire Dales. An area huge
area. People 65 plus, twice the
national average. 15 years and
younger are a protected species in
the Dales. But critically, working
people, 18-44 way below the national
average. That's the demographic. In
terms of impact on services, all
kinds of difficulties. Problems in
schools. The butcher, baker,
candlestick maker. Banks, Post
What about restaurants and
trades men? Don't they bring
business into the area? These second
They do but they're a
particular problem with services. On
the housing side, we've 13,500
properties for a population of
24,000. No shortage of housing. A
shortage of affordable and local
needs housing. Of that 13,500, we've
about one in four, it's increasing,
that are semi occupied. One in four.
75% permanently occupied. The
national average is 96%. That's
causing immense problems within the
area. So, in terms of a proposal,
what we're suggesting is that we
approach Government as an area and
say, I'm tell you what, we've had
all these local national policy
initiatives. In terms of the
long-term decline of an area like
this, squat. They're just not
hitting the mark. So, what about
just for a five-year pilot, giving
us the powers to charged aingsal
council tax on second home ownsers.
Do you want to make money or keep
these people out of area?
objectives. One, two bring more
homes which are currently semi-yes
occupied back into permanent
residency. Two, dedirt second
homeowners from buying a second home
in the Dales. If a second homeowners
wants to have a home in the Dales,
they pay-for-that to make up for the
lack of economic spending that
they've got in the area.
problem with that, John?
all, I want to say, I have a 20-year
track record of supporting young
families, bringing them into the
Dales, retaining those that are
there. I'm particularly proud of
that as a local councillor. But, to
suggest we charge at least five
times council tax to second
homeowners smacks all over of the
law of unintended consequences. And,
most importantly, in my view, it
will harm the very cause it sets
stout to deliver, to retain and
attract young families.
Unfortunately, there's other ways
that can be delivered.
What are the
be, it will be damage the local
economy. Second homeowners spend
very freely in the local economy.
They probably spend more sometimes
than local families. They keep our
army of small firms, builders,
joiners, electricians, very often
run by local families, going. We're
making pariahs of people who support
our economy and I think it's hugely
unfair. It won't help the actual
young families themselves. The idea
that suddenly, a glut of houses on
the market at the lower price will
see young families take them on, I
think, is a fallacy. I think,
actually, it will harm everybody who
owns property in the Dales and
particularly those young families
who've elected to buy a property
OK. James, you're from Your
Space, you do a lot about empty
properties and the homeless. The
number of empty properties in this
part of the world is astonishing.
Liking at alternative models for
ultimately help homeless people?
Ultimately, yes. The tax is the
point of question. If you look at
the policy behind it, it is to try
to help local communities. There is
a strong correlation between second
home ownership and rising local
house price the. That does affect
communities, especially young
families and people who have grown
up in an area in a can't afford a
house there. If we're talking five
times the council tax, I am
interested to know is that money
going to be in vested into the local
community? Or communities groups
like mining in York that helps
deliver local housing, if the
council can work with local people
to help find, allocate sites,
The politicians who
propose this policy are conspicuous
by their absence here today. They
sent along a Chief Executive but
where are they to defend the corner?
Where are they to answer the
We've only a finite
number of chairs on the front row.
This is the problem. We already have
Nick, John, Asia.
You should have
invited the people putting it
forward, Nicky, if you don't mind me
I understand people will be
affected by this. But the housing
crisis is affecting lots of people,
it is not fair on lots of people.
This is a new group of people being
affected by the housing crisis. This
is dealing with the existing stock.
We are just not building enough
affordable homes. That is why second
home ownership is challenged. It is
a bold stick to bash people with.
Angela, bashing people with second
As the mother of students,
I'm concerned when they graduate for
ruin versity can they get on to the
property ladder. We are not building
enough social housing. An architect
friend of mine said the other night
only 4% of this country is built on.
There's an argument about green
belt. You take the train from
Manchester to London, you travel
through vast areas of open space. I
It's called agriculture.
There are farmers who own fields for
the sake of owning fields so they
can get their kit back from the
you hear that?
What I object to
about this disparity about council
tax, we have in this country of peep
liesing success. We don't like it
when people have money and they
spend it. What about people that
have... Hang on a second, with
respect, so what about people who
have second homes somewhere in a
lovely part of Wales or the
Yorkshire Dales? Because they go
there they don't take their money
abroad and spend it abroad on
holiday. They bring that money every
weekend they come. How do you
calibrate how much time somebody
spends in their home? If you have
money and the banks are rubbish and
it is not going to do anything if
you put it in a bank so you might as
well spend it on something that may
appreciate. You may be able to gift
it to your children and enjoy it.
Why are you being penalised for that
In the audience. You had
your hand up. Good morning to you.
Thank you. This policy about
fundamentally looking after the
needs of local people. As a concept,
we can all be generally sympathetic
with that. With regards the
implementation, I can seaside effect
the that may be unintended. But it
brings into focus two other
fundamental issues. The first is
about intra immigration within the
UK. You could widen that to
immigration into the UK. The second
is trying to make our cities more
attractive to people, improving
standard, quality of living and
enhancing existing environments,
existing communities. I think this
is a bigger debate. At the moment
we're talking about the Yorkshire
Dales. I believe over the next ten
years or so, this will be a debate
that is extended into other aspects
of population control, population
management within the UK. We have
not addressed this.
Thank you very
much indeed. The lady with your hand
up, stripy top and glasses.
personal opinion is you only need
one home. If you want a second home,
you should pay more council tax.
Also, the situation in the Yorkshire
Dales, children and young people
that have grown up in that village
can't get on the property ladder or
properties available for them to buy
to stay where they are because
they've been taken up by second
Some are leaving, you
Susie wants to say something.
Angela raising a point penalising.
We are not penalising.
But you are.
We're saying we
need to spread that wealth. A lot of
these areas are underfunded anyway.
If you you've earned it.
This is a
really bad idea. It is a complete
distraction in the amount of houses
being built in this country. The
Government should let more houses be
built in their areas. Lots of times
the builders want to build more and
the council says no, they want to
protect the green belt or the
environment. What they mean is
they'll oppose any development in
their local communities. I
understand people have carnets about
infrastructure. A lot of developers
come in saying they want to build
You can't build over a
We're talking about
building over a per cent amming of
the land not being built upon.
green and pleasant lad?
A lot is
not. It is just sitting there.
Nothing being done with it.
Developers are ready to build more
homes for younger people and the
bureaucrats and council get in the
way. The process is very complex.
Better to use empty houses than tear
up agent woodland? What about this
specific prop bowsal whacking up
council tax like this?
impossible to enforce. Unless you
get a detective to see how many days
of the year you're in that second
We're missing the point here.
It is about the future viability and
sustainability of local communities.
What we're putting forward here is a
proposal for one part of the
country. I rec these problems exist
in the Lake District and many other
That's where why
we're talking about a pilot. For
every house built in the Yorkshire
Dales per year two are disappearing
into the part-time occupied market.
You can't build your way out of this
Of course you
If all the second
homeowners move out because the
extra tax duty is so penal, won't
that suppress the value of 75% of
the remaining property so the people
living there will have houses that
will be worth vastly less than they
were because they're inflated by the
second homeowner? Surely, the answer
is a balance. And a balance isn't at
least five times. Maybe it's twice
or two-and-a-half times and
encouraging some sort of cohesion
between second homeowners so they
will accept they're rich enough to
afford a second home they will
accept to a certain level they need
to contribute to the community? But
you're going to kill it.
answer that. You can't determine
what the result of a five-year pilot
is before you actually start the
At that price, you can.
talked about unintended
consequences. There will be a whole
range of consequences. That point
might have more validity if the
ignore the fact within the
constituent local authorities around
the National Park there will be
5,000 houses built over the next
five years. We're talking about 1400
second homes within the National
Park. This is not about second
homeowners. You can't get a debate
which differentiates between good
second homeowners and bad ones. Have
you to look at the consequence.
consequence of 5.2 million people
owning two, three, four or five
homes in this country when others
can't get on to the housing ladder.
I absolutely agree
with the basic principle that we
need to be itting something about
second homes. As the gentleman says,
it's having a disproportionate
affect on communities. We really
need to think about how are we going
to make the rural England
sustainable, viable and how it will
produce communities that are worth
living in and having. Because, one
of the things that has been, if you
like, one the disdisadvantages of
having a beautiful county, we've
tourism, people think, it is fan
fastic, I'd love to buy a house here
and come more often the that's one
of the down side. People can't use
village halls, nobody needs the bus
service, the local school closes.
But in rural businesses, they are
far more entrepreneurial than urban
ones. We need to move on to make
sheer we can put families in those
We haven't a lot of time.
Is there is a danger then that it
will only be the mega rich who can
have those second homes?
I would say
five times is far too many. If you
bought a Ferrari, you have to pay
more road tax and be able to service
it. If you you have a second home
you need to pay a premium.
you, thank you. See you next week.
We're in Cambridge. Thank you very
much for watching. Have a great