Oakmead College of Technology, Bournemouth
Welcome to Bournemouth, where we're the guests of Oakmead College of Technology, which with that specialist status not only offers its 1,300 students the core national curriculum but plumbing, bricklaying, childcare and many other things, not excluding, of course, media studies as well.
On our panel: Andrew Adonis worked for the Financial Times and then for the Observer as a columnist before entering the shadowy world of Number 10 as a member of the Prime Minister's policy unit and later as head of policy. Shadowy perhaps he's been influential and controversial, being widely seen as the architect of the Prime Minister's education strategy. Now elevated to the Lords, as minister for schools with a special responsibility for primary schools and city academies, he has admirers and critics in abundance. So far he's rarely submitted himself to interviews and his public announcements are few and far between, but thanks be, he's emerged from that self-imposed semi purdah for this programme.
Damian Green is on the left of the Conservative Party, a fact which he confirmed when he resigned from the front bench before the last election, accusing Michael Howard of "willfully" - that's in quotes - taking his party to the right. For this reason he raised eyebrows at Westminster when early in the leadership contest, after the last election, he plumped for David Davis, citing the fact that his man had been brought up on a council estate by a single mother and this was evidence that the Conservative Party had changed.
Julia Goldworthy studied history at Cambridge before working as a parliamentary researcher. Then at the last election she won her Cornish seat from third place from Labour and entered the Commons as one of the youngest MPs in the House at the age of 27. She now speaks for her party on health.
Geoff Mulgan is an ideas man who founded one of the famous think tanks called Demos. In 1997 he joined the Number 10 policy machine where he succeeded Andrew Adonis as head of the policy unit. He left last year to become director of what is now called The Young Foundation. In a sentence or so, Geoff, what is the Young Foundation?
MULGAN It was the vehicle to which a man called Michael Young created dozens of organisations like the Open University and Which, pioneered things like extended schools and NHS Direct, which we're now relaunching this year.
DIMBLEBY Thank you. And in his time at Number 10 he acquired the impression that politicians exaggerate what can be achieved in the short term but underestimate what can be achieved in the long term. And he's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]
Our first question please.
Ryan Miller. Would the panel like to see Tony Blair swing a handbag at European leaders to demand our money back?
DIMBLEBY Damian Green.
GREEN I'm not sure that the sight of the Prime Minister swinging a handbag is one I'd particularly like to see on aesthetic grounds, but yes he should certainly actually be doing his job in the way that previous prime ministers have done and actually negotiate a decent deal for Britain and not do this peculiar pre-emptive surrender that he seems to be doing of giving away the rebate, or at least part of the rebate, without getting anything very significant in return. We didn't need to negotiate the rebate at all, it's there in perpetuity. And there was a huge chance after the rejection of the EU constitution by France and the Netherlands actually to have a serious negotiation about the way that Europe was going and that serious negotiation should have started with a proper radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which takes 40% of EU spending but only accounts for 4% of EU output.
DIMBLEBY Are you saying he should not have moved on the rebate unless France, which was not going to move on the CAP, had moved on the CAP, even if that meant no budget deal in December?
GREEN I think it's much better to have no deal than to have a bad deal. And it would be a bad deal not just for the British taxpayer, it would be a bad deal for the new countries in Central and Eastern Europe whose democracy we should be enhancing and protecting. And it would be a bad deal for poor countries around the world who need a reformed Common Agricultural Policy so that they can actually send their agricultural goods to us and actually get out of poverty. So this failure is going to be a bad deal all around the world.
DIMBLEBY A pre-emptive surrender, it's called, by Damian Green, Andrew Adonis.
ADONIS Well let's be clear there's no question of Britain surrendering the rebate in the sense of the mechanism which ensures that contributions to the European Union are fair. We will keep that and that will not change. The issue which is being discussed this weekend and will continue for the next few weeks is whether Britain is prepared to make its fair contribution to the rebuilding of Central and Eastern Europe. Now Damian said that he didn't think we were getting anything in return, I think that's a very narrow minded view. We have a massive interest as a country and as a European Union in the development of democracy, free markets and prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe. In my lifetime one of the most magnificent events that has taken place is the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the development of freedom and the potential of prosperity in this half of Europe which was under the yolk of Communism and not free for so long. I believe, as Mrs Thatcher herself said after the Berlin Wall collapsed, we have a pressing moral obligation to help Central and Eastern Europe and I think it would be a betrayal of our national interest and our European commitments if we did not give that proper support to Central and Eastern Europe in rebuilding their economies, rebuilding their democracies and forging the basis of those societies to thrive in the future.
DIMBLEBY Minister, the rebate is about £3.25 billion, the effect of what he is proposing - and that's a net return - the effect of what he is proposing is to reduce the net money coming back to this country, is it not?
ADONIS The rebate will increase in terms of the amount coming back, that's very clear, no one is disputing that. The issue is whether some part of that increase, which Britain will receive in future years ...
DIMBLEBY What about the net sum - what about the net sum that returns to the UK from the European Union as a result of this proposal that he's put forward?
ADONIS Well if we do agree to give part of it for the reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe now of course we will get less than we would have done if we didn't ...
DIMBLEBY That's what I was trying to establish.
ADONIS Of course that's true, the question is whether that's the fair and right thing to do. And it's a fundamentally different thing from subsidising French farmers.
DIMBLEBY Thank you. Julia Goldsworthy.
GOLDSWORTHY I think if things are left as they are now then Britain will go from being the second highest contributor to the second lowest over a period of years. So Tony Blair had to do something and he had a real opportunity to do something and negotiate a decent deal. And at the beginning he said it would be in return for CAP reform but he's totally failed to offer any kind of substantial changes. So instead of leaving some great legacy of overcoming this problem he's being left with the tag of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
DIMBLEBY And what do you think of the Sheriff of Nottingham?
GOLDSWORTHY Well it's the opposite of Robin Hood isn't it, and I'm sure that's not the legacy he'd like to be remembered by.
DIMBLEBY Dr Mulgan .
MULGAN Well I don't envy anyone this weekend, negotiations in Europe are a cross between multidimensional chess and herding cats. And I think we have to remember the background to this. We got the rebate back in 1984, in part because we were quite a poor country then, we were a relatively poor country in Europe and the reason why I suspect we won't be able to sustain the rebate is we're now quite a rich country. Partly because we've been members of the European Union but also because we brought in, as Andrew said, all the other countries from Eastern Europe which are relatively poorer. Now where I agree with Damian is I think this year was a great opportunity for Europe to rethink what it was doing, where it was spending money. If we were starting now there's no way we'd be spending 40% of the budget on farming, we would be investing money where it's needed in cities, addressing poverty, technology, the industries of the future and I think it's very sad that that debate has effectively been blocked by, I think France, in particular, Germany to some extent. Tony Blair has tried to get Europe to raise its sights but that has not been possible this year. We have to have that debate at some point and I think we can't separate out the British rebate from that bigger change to make Europe relevant to the people of Europe.
Do you agree with Damian Green when he says it doesn't matter in the end if we don't get a budget, if the price of that budget is no reform to the CAP?
MULGAN Well I think it's legitimate for any leader to play pretty hard ball but at some point we will need a budget.
DIMBLEBY We will need a budget at some point. Damian.
GREEN But not by December and that's the problem. I think one of the binds Tony Blair's put himself in and the rest of us in is that he's insisting on getting any deal by December so he can chalk up an apparent success for the British presidency of the EU and that's rendered him in rather a weak negotiating position. And at the risk of cross party consensus breaking out I want to pick up something Geoff said, that he mentioned the deal that Margaret Thatcher...
DIMBLEBY Get a non party now except in a formal sense, that's what he claims anyway.
GREEN I'm sure he is non party now but he did used to run Tony Blair's policy unit so I think we know where he's coming from. But he's right when he talked about the 1984 deal that Mrs Thatcher got and I point out as a history lesson that one of the most creative and constructive periods Britain had in Europe when we helped drive through the single market in the mid-1980s came after that deal - the Europeans had two years of Mrs Thatcher swinging her handbag, of insisting that Britain get its rights, which she did. And then we moved on with Britain in the lead and Europe doing something very, very constructive that we all wanted to see Europe doing. So negotiating tough in Europe doesn't mean being anti-European, it actually helps the whole Europe move forward and I think that's a lesson Tony Blair should learn.
DIMBLEBY Andrew Adonis.
ADONIS I think I would just add though that it's thanks to Britain, and this is both the last government and this government, that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have come into the European Union as rapidly as they have, it's been a prime goal of British policy to see that Central and Eastern Europe is fully embraced within the European Union. And we cannot divorce the future of Central and Eastern Europe from the negotiations taking place ...
DIMBLEBY Julia Goldsworthy.
GOLDSWORTHY We had a very similar problem a year ago, and it's actually an argument against the six month EU presidency because there is no continuity and everything always seems to then get left to the very last minute.
DIMBLEBY Thank you. We'll go to our next.
Ian Malcolm Walker. Our league tables justified when the winners don't want them?
DIMBLEBY You're referring not least to the primary schools, where everyone who did really well, said what an awful problem the league tables were. Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN Well when league tables were first introduced lots of people were against them - the teachers, the unions were largely hostile and basically I think the parents wanted them and wanted to find out more about schools. The problem with league tables is they don't tell you all that much, they tell you some fairly raw information about exam results. But if you really want to understand the school you need to know more about sports and arts and music, what the ethos of the school is. I think the answer to this question isn't to try and bury information we already have, the information which is in league tables, I cannot see any circumstance in which parents would want to have less information to compare their schools. And particularly, I have to say, where I live my local school my parents thought was quite a good school until the league tables showed them actually it was a very bad school and they had a right to expect much more. I think we should be arguing for better information, more knowledge for parents, not less.
DIMBLEBY Thank you. Damian Green.
GREEN Yeah I agree with all of that. I think it's dangerous to try and assume that professionals are always right. I think teachers should be allowed to get on with teaching and I think politicians have interfered too much and tried to micro-manage in too great a detail. But the other half of this bargain, if you like, if politicians withdrew a bit and just set the framework, is that what happens in schools needs to be perfectly clear to parents, that parents and their children have the right to know what's going on inside the school. Now does a crude measure of what happens in the exam tell you everything about a school? Of course it doesn't but it is a very significant piece of information. And I think what's been interesting is that league tables were started and were regarded as something very arcane and now if you travel on any commuter train the day the league tables come out you see people almost discarding the main bit of paper and leafing through the league tables, it's genuinely a piece of information which governments of both parties have wanted to make available to parents, which people eagerly seize on. And I think if you tried to take them away now people would get very suspicious, people in the modern world expect openness, expect transparency and they get more of that with league tables. Sure they need better information, they need more information but what we must be absolutely clear about is that a school, like any other public institution, needs to be open and transparent.
DIMBLEBY Thank you. Is it a trifling embarrassing, minister for schools, that the head of the school that came out top - Combe Church of England Primary School in Oxfordshire - attributes her success to the fact she ignored virtually everything that you represent and stand for?
ADONIS I think [CLAPPING] I think that's a trifle of an exaggeration, if I may so, Jonathan. And also I think it's probably more embarrassing for us that it was in David Cameron's constituency and I think people were asking whether he'd made some personal contribution to this success. So far as the performance tables are concerned, let's be absolutely frank about this, there are some teachers who would still prefer that they weren't published. I meet very few parents of whom that's true. And in fact most teachers and head teachers now fully accept and welcome the fact that they are properly accountable in terms of information that they make available. The issue for them is whether it should be published in newspapers and they find that rather crude and hard edged, but of course it's the newspapers that publish that and as soon as you make the information available school by school they will do that whether we want it or not, there's simply no way we can control that. But the schools do accept they should make this information available and they take great pride in that information too. This afternoon I was privileged to go round this school which we're in this evening - Oakmead College of Technology - and saw much fantastic work taking place here. And Dr Minnard, the head teacher, gave me her prospectus, and her prospectus - the first page of the prospectus has the results that the school has achieved last year. Taking great pride in the fact that there's been a huge increase in numbers staying on beyond 16 who are now going on to post-16 courses, A Levels, AS Levels and vocational courses and setting out in detail the results for pupils. This is now what almost all schools simply accept as a fact of life, they welcome it and they take great pride in the success of their schools, as they achieve it year by year.
DIMBLEBY Lord Adonis it's very smart of you, it's normally what an MP or an aspiring MP does is to make sure they come and flatter the school in which they're appearing, very impressive. Julia Goldsworthy.
ADONIS I take my responsibilities seriously.
GOLDSWORTHY Isn't the most important thing is how useful that information is for parents? And this government obsession with being able to put everything into a national league table, whether it's a school or whether it's how your son Johnny did at age 7 in his SATs, he was very pleased to know that he came two millionth six hundred and ninety seven thousand, four hundred and third in the government - in the whole of the country. I mean what's actually useful to the child and the parent? It's probably actually having a detailed report from the teacher who can give them actual detail about that child's progress. And the very fact that the top schools said they found it irrelevant and some of the bottom schools had satisfactory Ofsted reports, shows that it certainly doesn't show the whole picture.
DIMBLEBY So would you retain them or would you [CLAPPING], say in a year or two's time you have responsibility for this, for your party, would you say let's get rid of them altogether or what?
GOLDSWORTHY Well it's these regular tests on children at certain ages, by far the best thing is for the teacher to have a portfolio which goes home to the parents - to the child's parents, that tells them exactly how well they've developed. And I think people would then realise that it can be very misleading these league tables and very demoralising for parents, pupils and staff.
DIMBLEBY Ian Malcolm Walker, what do you make of them, you put the question?
WALKER The issue isn't about whether the people get information or not, the issue is whether that information is meaningful. Chelsea are top of the Premiership but that doesn't tell us whether that's because José Mourinho is the best manager in Britain or Roman Abramovich is the richest owner in Britain.
DIMBLEBY Let's ask our audience here which I presume includes parents and maybe teachers. What do you think - I mean the question that Ian put is are league tables justifiable when the winners oppose them, who thinks that the league tables are justifiable, would you put your hands up? Who doesn't like them? Now nearly - overwhelming people here don't like them. Who reads them when they see them published in the newspapers, would you put your hands up? There you see - you hate it all and you read it all. You've got thoughts about that Any Answers is for you, 08700 100 444 after the Saturday edition of Any Questions. The e-mail address is email@example.com. But I just want to go to the minister, just briefly, on this. Mrs Jones, is a very articulate woman and doubtless to your delight was all over the airwaves today talking about her views about the government strategy. She says: Government strategies were eroding teachers' confidence. She ignored, specifically she ignored, the flagship literacy and numeracy strategies. The government has got it wrong - they advocate one way and then a few years later they suggest another way. Do you get some sense that that's how teachers and head teachers do feel about things?
ADONIS She didn't actually say, Jonathan, that she ignored them, she said she didn't make use of them in all her years. She said she had drawn on them but she didn't make use of them in all her years.
DIMBLEBY She used the word ignoring ...
ADONIS Yes but if you look at what she said as a whole she did not say that she ignored it entirely.
DIMBLEBY But the general drift of what she's saying do you - let's withdraw entirely ignoring - certainly hadn't intended to suggest - she ignored a significantly important proportion of what you are doing. Obviously you think it's important but the interesting question is do you - when you've got a head teacher or other head teachers, you come across them all the time, saying that kind of thing does that give you pause for thought or not?
ADONIS But actually not very many head teachers do say that in my experience.
DIMBLEBY Just the exceptional ones who are at the top.
ADONIS And of course the most - most head teachers and teachers make very good use of the literacy and numeracy strategies and they've made very good use of the materials and the literacy hour, which takes place in all schools in the country, is now one of the most popular things we've done with parents.
DIMBLEBY Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN Well I quite welcome her saying this and I think it was Katherine Hepburn who said if you follow the rules you miss all the fun. And often the best leaders are the people who break some of the rules. What we want in most of our public services is clear accountability for results, if it's a hospital or a school or police force, but a freedom so people can do things better by breaking the rules by having a different way of organising schools it shouldn't be for Whitehall to tell people how things are done. [CLAPPING]
DIMBLEBY Thank you. We'll go to our next question please.
David Lapedbin. Should unelected members of the House of Lords hold ministerial office?
DIMBLEBY There's someone on this panel who'll think you're getting at him. I'll come to him last. Julia Goldsworthy.
GOLDSWORTHY Well some of the members of the House of Lords have incredible experience, which it would be a real shame not to lose [sic]. And some of the spokespeople that I respect most in the party - in the Liberal Democrats are in the House of Lords. So I think if they have that expertise and authority then it shouldn't necessarily matter because ultimately you are holding the government to account. So hopefully there should be direct accountability through the democratic accountability of the government.
DIMBLEBY Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN Well to turn the question round - should only professional elected politicians hold ministerial office, I think actually our country would be the poorer if - and I'm almost alone on this panel in not being a professional elected politician, if only they could hold office. We have a very strange House of Lords at the moment - a weird mix of old hereditary landowners and party donors and rather strange people who appear form nowhere but it does at least provide us a wider pool of talent to draw on. And I think - I think it's sad to see countries where the only people taking decisions as ministers are lifetime career politicians, which is too narrow a base to run a country on.
DIMBLEBY Damian Green.
GREEN Well at the moment only unelected members of the House of Lords can hold office in the House of Lords. We have two chambers of parliament and you need ministers in both houses to put through and explain government legislation. So by definition the people in the House of Lords doing it are unelected ministers. I think it does raise the very important question of what do we want as a second revising chamber. I think that the second chamber should be largely elected, I do think that in a modern democracy the idea that half our legislature is entirely unelected is something that we would regard as peculiar if it happened in any other country. So I don't think we should have that here, I think we should move to a position where we do try and keep the expertise in the House of Lords of people who don't want to become professional politicians but that should be part of it maybe 20, 30, 40%, you can argue the percentages, but I think that in a modern democracy the people who should take decisions should be democratically elected.
DIMBLEBY Are you saying that if you kept that 20, 30, 40%, and for the purposes of argument if Lord Adonis, because of his experience and knowledge, was part of that, that you would welcome his wisdom there but you wouldn't have him - the government wouldn't be allowed to have him as a minister?
GREEN No I don't think you should have, if you like, two tier membership, I think you should have a second chamber but that the bulk of it should be elected, obviously on a different system from the Commons and on a different cycle, so you weren't just replicating the two chambers. But that you would want some infusion of expertise and it would obviously be up to the government of the day to decide who actually sat on the front bench and took ministerial responsibility. So I wouldn't wish to deprive Andrew of his job necessarily, I mean I would do because I'd prefer there to be Conservative ministers in the House of Lords, but personally I think even if he weren't put up for election he should be a minister if people thought he was fit to do it.
DIMBLEBY Well so far - so far it's all for one, is it one for all Andrew?
ADONIS I'm very pleased by the vote of confidence I had from Damian. I thought his job in politics was to try and get me out of office but no doubt he'll devote himself to that in due course. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to express a view on this actually since it's directed largely at me. I'm happy to submit myself to the judgement of others in that sense. But we do have an unelected second chamber at the moment and while we've got it it's sensible that we make use of it and it does enable us to bring people in from outside the mainstream of politics. I say we have an unelected second chamber, in fact there are elections which take place in it, we have these bizarre elections of hereditary peers because there are still 92 of them. And I think one of the more amusing and arcane elections that take place in the country at the moment are the elections that take place every time a hereditary peer dies to fill one of those 92 places. So alas I have less of an elected credential in the House of Lords than some of those hereditary peers who have managed at least to get themselves elected by other hereditary peers.
DIMBLEBY We'll go to our next question.
Alan Fendley. The Home Secretary announced that carrying 500 cannabis joints would not carry a penalty for trafficking. Does this not send mixed messages to young people about the use of drugs?
DIMBLEBY Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN It did sound like rather a lot, even for someone like Pete Docherty I thought. I think the government's got a very difficult job on cannabis at the moment. What we know is that there are many millions of people who use it regularly, four or five million so we're told, most of them with no apparent harm, no greater harm than drinking. And yet we also know there's a small number who are seriously affected by it, particularly by the stronger strands which have become available in the last 10 or 15 years and psychologists telling us that this does push some people over into psychosis. Now the real question is what should be done in terms of the legal status of cannabis or that's what people are raising. The evidence from around Europe is that in fact that changing the police treatment of cannabis or changing its legal definition isn't actually going to help with this at all. And if you look at the Netherlands where cannabis has been more widely available than anywhere in Europe for longer fewer teenagers smoke it than they do here. So there's very little reason to think that toughening up the law will actually have the desired effect. What is clear is that there does need to be public education to teenagers about the potential risk and done in a tone which is credible, not like so much of the drugs education of the past which often had the opposite effect of what was intended, in terms of glamorising drug use. So this particular thing about 500 joints does seem slightly peculiar, I think we do have different practices around the country in different places and - but in some ways I think governments do have to operate in some ways a sort of dual policy, on the one hand relatively tolerant of the many millions of people who are using cannabis with no harm but also trying to ensure that where there is harm that's reduced.
DIMBLEBY Damian Green.
GREEN It was peculiar. One of the minor and amusing peculiarities about this was that how many joints there were depends on what newspaper you read. Actually you got Charles Clarke talking about the amount of cannabis and I think the newspapers said - some said this would make 300 joints, some said it would make 800 joints, which suggests that ...
DIMBLEBY What's your own detailed assessment?
GREEN Since I have to make the dangerous confession of any politician these days which is that I've never smoked cannabis I don't know, all I know is that clearly some journalists are more generous than others. But there is a very serious point behind this which is it's yet another example actually of sort of incompetence by senior ministers. For instance, we've mentioned alcohol already, at the same as you're allowing 24 hour drinking you're saying that the drink driving - the anti-drink driving Christmas campaign is this year going to say that you should drink not at all, never, nothing if you're going to drive. That's clearly one quite serious mixed message. And similarly if you are trying to tell young people that drugs are bad for you then setting limits like this, saying this is what we will regard as personal usage rather than dealing, sends a ridiculous signal because that appears to say okay that's what's fine, you won't expect the law to mind about that if you're carrying this about over borders. And it wasn't just cannabis it was other drugs as well - it was class A drugs like cocaine. And the amount apparently allowed for personal use there was horrendously large. So I think it's incompetence in that the numbers that they've produced seem ridiculously large and also I think you'd be legitimately confused as to what the government's attitude was to cannabis. We've seen them degrade it, we've seen them allow to be sold more or less freely on the streets in Brixton against the opposition of the brave local MP Kate Hoey who made the very good point that they bet they wouldn't allow this to happen in Islington because it's a rather nicer area where you wouldn't want the drug dealers that you see on Brixton High Street at all hours of the day and night now. And I just think that the government actually needs to think through drugs policy from scratch. I sit on a commission at the Royal Society Arts is doing on drugs and one of the key things that we're finding is that just using the criminal justice system is clearly not working, we should clearly try and treat drugs much more as a public health issue as well and actually look at the health implications of what people are doing. Treat illegal drugs in some ways in the same way as we treat legal drugs and actually try and educate people, particularly young people into the sensible use because without that we'll continue to have a worsening drug problem in this country.
DIMBLEBY Minister, to pick up on what Damian Green said, it is the case that in Brixton the police are just about to adopt a policy, which is anyone caught with any amount of the drug will face arrest under the strategy. Would you concede there is an element of confusion as a consequence of the initiative?
ADONIS Well I think it's absolutely right that the police should make these judgements and we should leave them to do so. But where I do agree with Damian is that we need to see education in drugs in the rounds and it's particularly important that that education starts properly in schools and at the age when trafficking starts and when children are first exposed to drugs so that they don't get into the habit and don't get into the networks which lead to all the problems thereafter. So though I think that in the particular instance that we're talking about this needs to be left to the police and these are often difficult judgements that they have to make. We do need much better drugs education in schools, so that we don't get more young people getting into the habit at such an early age.
DIMBLEBY But just on the question - it is the case that the advice from the Home Office is that if you are in possession of no more than that weight of drugs - 500 joints or whatever it may be - then you won't be prosecuted for possessing them. That - does that make it simpler for the police or more difficult when you said they should have their individual strategies for confronting the problem?
ADONIS Well I think this is a judgement that they need to make, it's very difficult for us to second guess those, beyond giving them broad advice on how to proceed. But I certainly wouldn't accept that you treat one neighbourhood in a different way from another, I think we do need consistency in this area.
DIMBLEBY Julia Goldsworthy.
GOLDSWORTHY But the government aren't allowing the police to judge what they think is appropriate. This measure is in danger of becoming a charter for drug dealers. So they know they don't have to - if they carry less than a certain amount then they will be done for possession and not for dealing. And the real danger is that it's actually - it's the total opposite of allowing the police to judge what they consider to be appropriate. And it does make you wonder - what on earth are the government doing? On the one hand we're setting these huge limits for hundreds and hundreds of joints that you can carry for personal possession but at the same time we're extending the drinking hours and they're trying to ban smoking in public places, depending on whether or not they serve food or not. Now quite what impact food has on your susceptibility to develop lung cancer from second hand smoke I'm not sure but it does make you wonder how all of this adds up and joins up.
DIMBLEBY Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN The reason we're here is mainly the influence of the police who have been I think on this debate generally ahead of the politicians and ahead of the media. They've been arguing, many of them, for years they don't want to waste their time picking up small users of cannabis when that really doesn't do very much harm to those individuals or anyone else, to divert police time and court time away from serious crimes on to cannabis it would be very, very foolish and I think it would be a great shame if we did see a reversal there. I hope we are moving towards a much more adult and mature conversation about drugs in the way that Damian described it, not trying to see everything in terms of criminal justice and coercion. And I hope the fact that David Cameron may well be elected Tory leader in the next few weeks, despite apparent evidence about him taking drugs, is a sign we're beginning to grow up on this issue.
DIMBLEBY Julia, you wanted back in.
GOLDSWORTHY I wanted to come back to follow up very quickly what Andrew Adonis was saying about education. Of course drugs education is very, very important but for the vast majority of young people the most dangerous substances that they're going to be exposed to and see people using and abusing regularly is alcohol. And at the moment the emphasis simply isn't there on making sure that people are aware of these issues as much as they more issues about drugs.
DIMBLEBY We'll leave that with a reminder for you of the Any Answers number 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next question please.
John Moore. Would members of the panel be happy to work until they're 69, particularly if they had a stressful job?
DIMBLEBY I'm going to go for the youngest member of the panel. This is the proposal from Lord Turner which has caused a certain amount of debate, would you be happy?
GOLDSWORTHY I certainly would be happy to work until I'm 69, but then I suppose I might change my mind a few years down the line. I think the Turner Report, it's analysis essentially is correct and it has the right long term vision that there is a ticking time bomb with pensions at the moment and that the current situation is not going to be sustainable. So if you do want a sustainable solution which I agree is going to be a basic state pension based on citizenship, perhaps on residency, which is going to end the terrible inequality that there is at the moment between men and women, then I think it's the trade off which means most people may have to work a little bit longer is a fair one if it means that men and women get a decent pension and that you know that when you do retire you will have a decent state pension, you won't be means tested and that pension will be linked to earnings and I think that's the most important thing.
DIMBLEBY Andrew Adonis.
ADONIS Well I've just become a member of the House of Lords at the age of 42, which makes me a positive youth in that assembly and led one of my colleagues to describe me as child labour. And I think God willing I probably have 40 or 50 years worth of productive employment there. And they aren't - and they aren't very keen on the idea of a retirement age at any level. So I'm not sure that I'm qualified to express a view on it in that sense.
DIMBLEBY It was stressful - was the word that was being used.
ADONIS But in terms of the question itself of course the issue we've got is how we make pensions and a proper lifestyle for retired people with proper levels of support viable in the years ahead. And what Adair Turner was arguing, and I thought very persuasively, in his report was that for - I mean we're talking about decades ahead at the moment - as life expectancy rises and its projections are that by 2050 life expectancy will have risen by another three or four years, as life expectancy rises is there a trade off which we should discuss as a society between a somewhat higher retirement age, which would kick in at that stage, and a much more secure pension that people would receive, including a pension the second pension he talks about that would be linked to earnings and so would actually keep pace with people's living standards. That seems to me entirely the sort of debate which we need to have if we're going to have a decent society in the years ahead.
DIMBLEBY Do you find it persuasive when he argues very unambiguously against means testing?
ADONIS Well what he argues in respect of means testing is how we design a system for the future. He recognises that means testing has been an essential way of raising the living standards of poor pensioners which has taken place since 1997, with the introduction of the pension credits lifting two million pensioners out of poverty....
DIMBLEBY His logic is to phase out at the least means testing.
ADONIS That is his report and that is something that we need to debate but he does not say that we were wrong to introduce the pension credit and support for poor pensioners who were being left behind in terms of their living standards relative to the rest of society. And I think we should take great pride as a government in what we have done to increase the living standards of that 25% of pensioners at the bottom who were really falling behind the rest of society in terms of their living standards.
DIMBLEBY Damian Green.
GREEN I'd love to work till 69 and beyond but I'm slightly dependent on the people of Ashford continuing re-electing me to enable me to do this moderately stressful job. I think the Turner Report throws up a huge number of important issues, of which the retirement age is only one. I think we'll clearly need to move to a more flexible retirement age, I think that retirement age must be fair between the public and private sectors. And if we do get to a stage where we're having some years where in the public sector you're retiring at 60 and in the private sector you might be retiring at 67 people will find that unacceptably unfair. I think the system needs to become fair between men and women because women who give up their careers for a time to bring up children are treated particularly unfairly by the current pension system and I think, the point Jonathan was just making, that means testing clearly has no place in the long term. This has been the government's big idea about how to deal with this problem and it simply doesn't work because it's too complex and many, many relatively poor pensioners don't take up their pension credit. But most of all because it discourages saving. If you know that if you save then the government is going to take a chunk of that then you think it's not worth saving. And we're not saving enough already, so to introduce a system like the pension credit which actively discourages people from saving is just madness. Now the Turner Report is a serious and admirable piece of work. I think we need to proceed on a cross party basis on this, clearly this is a problem that's going to be with us for decades so we want to establish a genuine national consensus. The first thing clearly we'll need to establish is a consensus between Gordon Brown and the rest of the government because the rest of the government think this is a good report and Gordon Brown has spent the last two weeks rubbishing it. And the final point I'll make is that any government should not try and do severe shocking unexpected things to the pension system and one of the single most damaging acts this government has done was Gordon Brown's early £5 billion raid on the pension funds which actually lowered confidence in saving for pensions and as a result has damaged the long term wealth of many, many people in this country. [CLAPPING]
DIMBLEBY Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN My predecessor worked till the day he died at the age of 86 and he said two things about ageing which I think are very relevant to this. One was he said: As we grow older and by and large most of us can expect to live 10 or 15 years longer than our parents we should always mentally adjust our ages. So when we're 60 we're more like what was 50 for our parents, when we're 70 we're more like 60. And therefore a retirement age of 69 is not such a terrible thing. But he also said: We've got to move away from this idea that you work full time in a full time job and then suddenly you do nothing, instead we need to move towards lives where people can scale down their work, do less stressful work, less physically onerous work but there's no reason why at any point in life you should doing any work whatsoever. And generally activity is good for people in old age. Now I think Adair Turner has done a very good job in creating a debate about pensions, god knows it's pretty hard work getting people interested in pensions and we have had an amazingly lively debate. I think people are recognising that with longer lives, which is an amazing achievement of our era, we will have to save more, we probably will have to pay higher taxes and we will have to work longer as well. I think the key thing now is whatever comes out of this has to be a cross party consensus, it has to stick for 10, 20 or 30 years and people have to have confidence that this is for real and it's not going to be tinkered with or changed by future governments.
DIMBLEBY Did you when you heard Damian Green talk about apparent divisions within the Labour hierarchy about this, not only between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, as a now detached observer do you detect any difference of perspective between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor?
MULGAN Well I think there will be a pretty lively argument, some of it's spilled out into the press, I don't know the exact truths. I think what Gordon Brown is saying is that one of the great achievements of this government I think has been to improve the lot of the very poorest pensioners. And I think old age poverty is a more serious problem in some ways now than it was a generation ago because old people are more likely to be isolated, more likely to be cut off from friends and family. And I think he's right to be asking what will be the effect of any new regime on the poorest. And I doubt we'll be able to move entirely away from means testing.
GOLDSWORTHY But of course 30% of people entitled to pension credit currently don't receive it and by the time you go a few years further down the line 75% of pensioners are going to be entitled to it anyway, so is it actually going to be efficient to means test all of those people rather than give it to them automatically?
GREEN And the real issue of poverty is increasingly concentrated in the most elderly pensioners, it is the over 75s, the over 80s, who are really very, very poor and they I think deserve a better deal than we give them.
DIMBLEBY John Moore, you put the question.
MOORE I'm not sure that any of the panel really seem to understand the stress that's involved in some long term careers. I was a teacher until my late 50s, if I was still teaching at 68 or 69 I can't think it would be a good thing either for myself or for my pupils.
DIMBLEBY What about the point that was made I think by Geoff Mulgan that full time, part time, different kinds and different ways of working, flexible working, would make a difference do you or not?
MOORE Yes I'm sure it would. But then there's all sorts of other things involved about final pension, final salaries for pensions and things like that.
DIMBLEBY Not every here would be affected by the change but as you look at it what do you think about raising the age to 69, would you put your hands up those who accept that it's a good and sensible thing to do, hands up for that view? Those who think that it wouldn't be a good idea? I say roughly, in fact slightly more in favour than agin. We'll go to our next question please.
ADONIS So it maybe that only the young ones at the back should be qualified to vote since they're the ones who would face the older retirement age.
DIMBLEBY Well okay. Anyone under the age of 25 - there are some people under the age of 30, several, what about the under 30s, are you in favour of working till 69, would you put your hands up, the under 30s? Those who are against? Well the under 30s are in favour.
ADONIS We see strong support for Lord Turner.
DIMBLEBY Very responsible under 30s from the perspective of the government minister. We'll go to our next question.
Emily Bullock. Does the panel believe we can make necessary reductions in carbon dioxide emissions without building new nuclear power stations?
DIMBLEBY Julia Goldsworthy.
GOLDSWORTHY I think what the industry needs more than anything now is a clear sense of direction and that's why the Liberal Democrats are saying we should make that clear decision - no - not to have anymore nuclear power. The fact is that it isn't as carbon neutral as people say it is because of course you have to get hold of the equipment and the materials and transport them. We've bailed out our nuclear industry many times before to the tune of about £800 per person in this country. So it's not cheaper, it's not necessarily anymore carbon efficient and if that money had been put into encouraging people to improve their own energy efficiency then just think of the difference that could have made. These are options that have to be explored first.
DIMBLEBY Geoff Mulgan.
MULGAN I've been immersed in these issues a couple of times and have come to deeply distrust anyone who's very certain about the answer to it. There are very strong lobbies on both sides, particularly from the nuclear industry, financed I may say by our money. And they have often been wrong in the past. They promised in the '50s almost free electricity and over the years swallowed up enormous amounts of public subsidy. If we had our time again, if we could rewrite - rewind the '50s and invested that money in wind and solar and wave power we would not really have a problem. Our problem is that now facing the need we have for cutting CO2 emissions in the next 20 or 30 years I don't believe renewables on their own and energy efficiency will square the circle, will fill the gap and we may need to have some new nuclear power stations. I certainly don't think they're going to be cheap, they will demand subsidies on the insurance and on the technology and on the disposal of waste and it may well be the right judgement still is not to actually go for new nuclear. But I suspect the fears from 10 or 20 years ago about safety are no longer as valid as they were and I think we should keep an open mind. It's possible we won't be able to solve the huge crisis of climate change without perhaps a lesser evil of some nuclear power. And I never thought I'd say that.
DIMBLEBY Andrew Adonis.
ADONIS Well I entirely agree with what Geoff has just said on this. I think there are only a certain number of variables here and we need to be very clear what they are. We're going to see a reduction by two-thirds in nuclear power in this country over the next 20 years, we're not going to - we have found it very challenging when it comes to meeting targets on renewables, we're at about 4% at the moment and have got a challenging target of 10% by 2020. But that's not going to fill all of the gap when you take also of the big decline that's likely to take place in coal in order to meet our CO2 targets. And the fact that we're now a net importer of gas. So we have to be careful to see that we get our gas supplies in a sustainable position too. Now when you put all of those together we are looking at an energy gap and we do need a mature debate about how we can fill that gap. And I think it would be wrong to rule out nuclear at this stage but equally we've said that we want to see that debate proceed and we won't publish proposals until next summer.
DIMBLEBY But Geoff went a bit further than that, because you said you were agreeing with him, he was saying that he doesn't think it can stack up by energy efficiency and non-renewables and therefore we will need - I hope I don't misquote him - we will need some element of nuclear.
MULGAN ... we should keep an open mind.
ADONIS I thought I heard Geoff saying he hadn't - he hadn't himself made up his mind but he thought we had to put nuclear in play as one of the options and I believe that is correct.
DIMBLEBY Damian Green.
GREEN The direct answer to the question is probably not, I suspect we will need to continue building some new nuclear capacity. I think we will end up needing a balanced approach, I agree with Geoff that we should probably have started on renewables much earlier. I think the real problem is that the renewables approach the government has been adopting is far too heavily based on wind farms - there are other technologies, such as solar power, which would be better. And I simply observe that next door to my constituency at Dungeness on the Romney Marsh they're all quite happy for nuclear power to continue, they are all virulently against the erection of a large wind farm which somebody's proposing there. They've lived with nuclear power for 40 years, they're quite happy with it.
DIMBLEBY Any Answers 08700 100 444 on that. And we can just get in one more I think.
Thank you. Susan Wilkinson. Christmas or winter festival - is this PC gone mad?
DIMBLEBY I'm going to ask you to answer in a mad speed, about 10 seconds a piece. Damian first.
GREEN We should continue to celebrate Christmas, Christmas can be celebrated both by Christians and by those of any other faith and none. It is a jolly good time of year, we should continue to call it Christmas.
DIMBLEBY Thank you. Julia Goldsworthy.
GOLDSWORTHY Please keep Christmas but please only celebrate it in December. I went to my first Christmas fair at the beginning of November and otherwise it becomes a very long season.
MULGAN My local school celebrates Christmas, Eid, Divali - we should celebrate all of these things, not become the lowest common denominator. But I agree with Julie - let's ban it before December please.
DIMBLEBY And Lord Adonis.
ADONIS I think that Christians themselves will be the people most tolerant of other people of other faiths calling their festival by whatever name they wish.
DIMBLEBY Thank you very much. That brings us to the end of this week's programme. Next week we're going to be in North Allerton with Dennis McShane who was the Europe minister until the election; Joanne Nadler, journalist and commentator and Chris Huhne for the Liberal Democrats and I guess there'll be a Tory in there as well of some stripe, we'll see. From now, from here in the Oakmead College of Technology in Bournemouth goodbye. [CLAPPING]