BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.



BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

PROGRAMME FINDER:
Programmes
Podcasts
Schedule
Presenters
PROGRAMME GENRES:
News
Drama
Comedy
Science
Religion|Ethics
History
Factual
Messageboards
Radio 4 Tickets
Radio 4 Help

Contact Us


news
ANY QUESTIONS
MISSED A PROGRAMME?
Go to the Listen Again page
Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 12 January 2007
PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Tony McNaulty
Dominic Grieve
Norman Lamb
Caroline Lucas

FROM: Campion School, Hornchurch, Essex


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to Hornchurch in the London Borough of Havering where we're the guests of the Campion School, which is a Catholic science college, founded by the Jesuits in 1962. It provides education for the male offspring of Catholic families up to the sixth form level, after which it becomes mixed and also non-denominational. But it's proud to be a committed Christian community.

On our panel: Tony McNaulty is a minister in the eye of the storm. In this particular instance for his alleged role or non-role in the failure to put hundreds of criminals sentenced abroad on to the police files in this country, which means apparently that an unknown number of murderers or paedophiles might be working in no one appears to know quite where. As the Home Office minister responsible for the police he's inevitably under close scrutiny not least by the opposition parties, the Shadow Home Secretary has said that his position would be untenable if it transpired that he knew of the scope of the problem but did not act on it.

Dominic Grieve is the Shadow Attorney General and he also speaks for his party on community cohesion. Not so very long ago he showed that he is a can do politician when he chased a vandal who had attacked a bus shelter and made a citizens arrest.

Caroline Lucas has just been arrested for behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace when she joined an anti-nuclear demonstration at the Trident submarine base at Faslane last Monday. She's an MEP for the Greens and her party's principle speaker.

Norman Lamb worked closely with Sir Menzies Campbell as his chief of staff until last month when he was appointed by the leader of the Liberal Democrats to the post of chief health spokesman. So far Mr Lamb has to my knowledge neither made an arrest nor been arrested - is that right?

LAMB
Thankfully so.

DIMBLEBY
He's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING] Our first question please.

KEYSALL
Paul Keysall. In a speech today Tony Blair said that there are two types of nations - those that fight wars and do peacekeeping and those that just do peacekeeping. What type of nation should we be and what are the implications of this?

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
Well I think we should be a nation that does peacekeeping, I think we should be a nation that doesn't exacerbate conflict by setting up illegal and immoral wars that go - that we go to war on a pack of lies, I think Tony Blair is someone who should be indicted for war crimes. [CLAPPING] Now I think this is a vitally important debate but that Tony Blair is absolutely the wrong person to initiate it, he's the wrong person for at least two reasons. The first is that he doesn't listen to what we say anyway and you can see that by looking at the two million people that marched on the streets of this country against the Iraq War back in 2003 and I don't see him taking very much notice of us then. And secondly, he is the person that has done probably most, other than George Bush, to undermine the whole concept of humanitarian intervention. Because what he did with that illegal war in Iraq was basically to undermine any notion that one can intervene for humanitarian reasons, instead it just looks like a grubby war, it looks like a war that was out for self interest - for oil essentially - I think he has done a huge disservice. And so the idea that he should be setting up this debate now I think really is much more about trying to have a posthumous justification, if you like, for that war and much less about really wanting a serious debate, I think he just want to tie Gordon Brown's hands. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
Well I interpret this remark rather differently. I think the reality is that you can't do peacekeeping properly unless you have military personnel who are trained to do war, it's something which Britain has learnt a long time ago. You simply have peacekeepers, they're dependent on the countries which can do wars for their logistics, their transportation. And whether you want to try and intervene in Darfur or humanitarian relief you can't do it if you don't have the logistics to carry it out. And to that extent I think actually what he is saying is right. I didn't interpret it as being a question of whether Britain should do wars as well as peacekeeping. Clearly our task in life is to try to avoid doing wars.

DIMBLEBY
He did say - he did say - I summarise part of it in inverted commas - there were two types of nations and other ways like ours, those who do war fighting and those who've retreated to peacekeeping alone, which seems to suggest that for him the distinction which you've just said is not a valid one is absolutely valid.

GRIEVE
Well very difficult to gauge a speech which I haven't heard but I have to say that he's absolutely right when he says you cannot be efficient peacekeepers unless you have a war fighting capability. I'm absolutely sure that that is a sensible statement which would be echoed by any senior military officer. But that doesn't mean that we've got to spend our time hoping to go round the world doing war fighting and we should avoid doing war fighting and peacekeeping is a way in which we can prevent that happening.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Tony McNaulty.

MCNAULTY
I think I would broadly agree with Dominic in the sense that we would all aspire to be the peacekeepers rather than the war fighters but you can't be adequately peacekeepers without being war fighters or at least have that capacity because for every Iraq or Afghanistan where we are now there's an Afghanistan immediately post-9/11, there's the Bosnia, there's a Sierra Leone, there's a potential in terms of Darfur if the OAU intervention isn't quite appropriate. So the - I think the strongest capacity for us to be peacekeepers is if we do maintain and then aspire never to use in the future that war fighting capacity, and I think it's that balance that he was referring to.

DIMBLEBY
He also said - again I summarise but I think accurately - that it was ludicrous to suppose that for instance the invasion of Iraq would inflame Muslim opinion because so many Muslims wanted Saddam Hussein gone. Is there an element here, as Caroline Lucas was suggesting, that Tony Blair is really saying, by setting up this distinction, you either retreat into being irrelevant or you support the invasion of Iraq?

MCNAULTY
No I don't think it is that stark. I think in part the coded message, if you like, and why should I interpret codes that are or aren't there, it goes to what many of our colleagues are doing given that they're in Afghanistan but have criteria that means they're more peacekeeping and not war fighting and that is causing some degree of frustration. So I don't think he is setting up as either/or and somehow trivialising the role of just the peacekeepers. I think it is more complex than that as events around the world have shown.

DIMBLEBY
Norman Lamb.

LAMB
We clearly have to maintain the capacity to defend our country. And there's been a lot of evidence, particularly coming out of the armed forces, that they are under enormous strain because of the pressure that has been placed on them by having to fight in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We also of course need to have the capacity to intervene on a humanitarian basis when the need arises and our record, the Western world's record, on that basis is pretty disgraceful. Rwanda - I did a lot of work in the last Parliament on the Democratic Republic of Congo - some four million people died there in a civil war and the West largely stood by and watched. But the great paradox I think of Blair's position is that by this disgraceful war in Iraq, which breached international law, he has undermined the capacity to intervene in humanitarian crises. The Western world stands by as Darfur is destroyed - three million people I think displaced, 2 or 300,000 people died, the West has done very little, that is a disgrace. And the blood is on the shoulders of both Tony Blair and George Bush for having got the world into a very dangerous position as a result of what has happened in Iraq.

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve. [CLAPPING]

GRIEVE
I just wanted to pick up the rather weird comment which the Prime Minister then said about Iraq and how everybody would have to approve of what took place ...

DIMBLEBY
No, no he didn't say that, I was proposing did he mean that, he certainly didn't say that everyone would have to approve.

GRIEVE
It is an odd comment because I mean on the face of it the truth is our failure to carry out adequate peacekeeping in Iraq after the invasion, particularly by the failure of the United States, is one of the primary reasons why it has gone so badly for us and is a disaster, there's no other way of looking at it. Leaving aside the fact that the Prime Minister misled Parliament to succeed in getting the vote in the first place, which was appalling, the end product is regrettable and actually shows the problem when you don't put peacekeeping and you don't have adequate resources to carry out the peacekeeping having done your invasion.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
Well what I wanted to hear Tony Blair talking about was actually conflict prevention and recognising our own role via the arms race, which Britain is absolutely fuelling or via our economic policies or via the fact that we're out there trying to get oil. If you looked at the number of wars that are actually caused because of our fight for fossil fuels you would see that there's an awful lot. So I think what we need to be looking at is ways in which we can really intervene in conflict prevention, ways in which we can identify where the real threats are and certainly there's a much greater threat from climate change, rather than spending £76 billion on Trident we should be investing that in genuinely addressing climate change. And one last very quick point ...

DIMBLEBY
Just very quick.

LUCAS
Very quick. Well if you want to know is Tony Blair going to follow the US example here, since 1949 the US has bombed China, Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, the Congo, Peru, Louse, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Libya, El Salvador, Panama, Iraq ...

DIMBLEBY
You were reading that off a list not out of your mind, yes.

LUCAS
I was reading out a list because there's 19 countries, you can't remember them, but honestly if that's the kind of foreign policy Tony Blair wants then I am very, very depressed indeed, it's a very bleak future that we face.

DIMBLEBY
Paul Case, you put the question.

CASE
Yes, my concern is that if we are going to fight wars we need to continue to make the necessary long term investment in manpower and resources and we don't seem to be doing that.

DIMBLEBY
Okay. I think I'm going to leave that there with the panel's consent and even without their consent because we have to move on, with a reminder of Any Answers after the Saturday edition of Any Questions, if you've got any comments on what you've just heard or what you're about to hear the number to ring is 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.

MURPHY
Gary Murphy. Is the Home Office or the ministerial team - which one isn't fit for purpose?

DIMBLEBY
The Home Office or the ministerial team. Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
Well it's the ministerial team I'm afraid but actually in fairness to Tony and the others it's not Tony - they're the victims of the system that this government has introduced. The Home Office traditionally has been a rather quiet sleepy dinosaur of a department with rather long faced people knowing they have to do a very difficult job in different circumstances. The government over nine years has turned this department upside down, legislated endlessly, putting through criminal justice led bill after criminal justice bill all to hoodwink the public about continuous activity. And what it's done is to wreck the administrative capacity of the department. And that's why Charles Clarke had to resign because of the fiasco over foreign prisoner releases, administrative failure, and that's why the government is now in this terrible pickle over this question of the 27,000 dossiers that were sent back from various countries for people who should be on the police computer. These are the errors and I'm afraid the government's continuing because it's not frank about what's going on. We ought to see, Tony, the letter that was sent by ACPO, why can't we see it when the government so constantly - so constantly publishes any letter which it thinks is to its advantage. And it would be nice to know was Home Office practice followed, has it been abandoned, a letter like that, to a government minister of state, ought automatically have gone to the Home Secretary. Tony might like to tell us this evening whether that letter in fact was sent through to his office. Why aren't we being told that, that would be the proper procedure and if it didn't happen it's another illustration of the way in which this department has been wrecked by this government. So I don't blame the Home Office as an institution, it has been wrecked by the people who've been running it I'm afraid for the last nine years and how we're going to put it back together again I sometimes have nightmares about. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Minister, you did receive this letter from ACPO that is causing so much controversy?

MCNAULTY
If I could go through it - my office received the letter, it's in the criminal record bureau area rather than the areas I'm responsible for, so was passed on to my colleague Joan Ryan ...

DIMBLEBY
And she read it?

MCNAULTY
And she read it and responded and I'll come back to that if I may. On the broad point I certainly do think the ministerial team are fit for purpose, I would say that wouldn't I, but I actually mean that. John Reid never actually said that the Home Office itself wasn't fit for purpose, he said when he arrived that he thought there were systems and process, elements inside the Home Office, that weren't fit for purpose, that sort of rounded as damming the whole department but I don't think that is the case. Dominic's probably not right to the extent that it was never a quiet backwater and over time by stealth sort of grew and grew and grew like topsy and was responsible for all sorts of things that it isn't now and I know in part the question prompts whether it's too big and that's a sort of debate. In terms of the elements of this week there are probably three and I'm sorry if it sounds complicated but I will get back to the point about the letter. There is the issue, very, very serious issue, about the administrative failure that Dominic alludes to in terms of the twenty seven and half thousand backlog of notifications of British UK citizens who have offended overseas. Then secondly is the process undertaken by the Association of Chief Police Officers from last May to resolve the wider issue of the interchange of conviction information across Europe. And thirdly is some of the problems emerging from that process, which is why the Association of Chief Police Officers were at the select committee this week. The letter refers to a letter from a Lancashire police assistant chief constable ...

DIMBLEBY
From ACPO, within ACPO...

MCNAULTY
With his ACPO hat on, Association of Chief Police Officer's hat on, talking about the background and efficacy of the new ACPO led process that followed on from a European ...

DIMBLEBY
So you've now seen this letter?

MCNAULTY
I've now seen it, I saw the letter Wednesday but it was passed, as is entirely normal if it's not someone's area, on to my colleague who answered and answered it in a most - an entirely appropriate fashion.

DIMBLEBY
Let me just pursue this a bit. When it came into your office your civil servants decided it wasn't your bailey wick and it should go therefore to Joan Ryan, the junior minister responsible for that.

MCNAULTY
Which is entirely normal and a routine process.

DIMBLEBY
I'm just trying to clarify exactly what happened. She decided not to show it to the Home Secretary. In retrospect was that an error?

MCNAULTY
Joan has said herself, publicly, that she didn't refer it to the Home Secretary ...

DIMBLEBY
She thought it wasn't serious enough.

MCNAULTY
No, she didn't say that bit, in her response to the letter she says in terms that ACPO should keep the officials apprised of how the new system is working and what difficulties there are within the European context partly because we are moving towards an European context - biometrics, fingerprints and things like that - to get all the better record and elements like that ....

DIMBLEBY
Okay she didn't show it ...

MCNAULTY
The broader term about whether it should be published - I would be more than happy for the letter to be published when the inquiry is complete, there is an inquiry and the inquiry needs to ...

DIMBLEBY
Let me - I'm going to bring the others in - I'm going to bring the others in, in just a second, to make their points. I just want to get the - this clear what happened. You are saying that you didn't see the letter and you knew nothing about this issue until the evidence before the select committee on Tuesday?

MCNAULTY
About the backlog and there's nothing in the letter about the backlog. There is - because the inquiry is unfolding now ...

DIMBLEBY
Well can I just put ...

MCNAULTY
... people did know about the directive, the solution to the directive, the contract by ACPO and all those elements that put the new process in place.

DIMBLEBY
Can you confirm for us whether or not ACPO's statement, that it's made public, is true - general progress was discuss along with how best to deal with the historic notifications - the 27,000 - which in most people's minds would be the backlog - and we indicated that we would need to expand the team. You're saying that you ....

MCNAULTY
No that's conflating two points - that's ....

DIMBLEBY
Well treat them as two separate points, they were saying ...

MCNAULTY
No, that's in the context as I understand it of the meetings officials had with ACPO to discuss the efficacy of the contract and securing more resources ...

DIMBLEBY
And you knew nothing about these meetings either?

MCNAULTY
No I didn't, which is what ....

DIMBLEBY
And Joan Ryan knew nothing about these meetings?

MCNAULTY
No she didn't. But the letters says - the letter says ...

DIMBLEBY
Do you know anything about what goes on in your department minister?

MCNAULTY
The letter says very, very clearly what progress there had been, how things could be better done with biometrics, etc. etc. and Joan asked for an update, an ongoing report, around that issue. The key reason - the key message to get across though is clearly since last May there have been processes in place that now go through these notifications and deal with them properly but there are still issues with some European countries. As I understand it, for example, there have been since last May no notifications of any UK citizens causing any crime at all in Spain or Greece and that - just intuitively that doesn't sound right, so there are still elements of the process in terms of the interaction of information ...

DIMBLEBY
At the moment there are some 260 - if I understand it correctly - some 260 criminals who are potentially dangerous, certainly serious offenders, who are sentenced abroad, including some 25 rapists, 5 murderers and 29 paedophiles, as a result of this, whatever the explanation may be. Norman Lamb.

MCNAULTY
That's not entirely accurate in the sense that ACPO have sieved the twenty seven and a half thousand, pulled out the most serious and about half of those most serious 500 or so that you refer to have and are being dealt with by both ACPO and CRB in a most efficient way. The other half ...

DIMBLEBY
But you still - you still don't know yet how many are out there who are a potential threat?

MCNAULTY
The Criminal Records Bureau are doing that work and were trying to do it by the end of this week, as the Home Secretary indicated, and will continue to do that. The other half of those though I should say are because there's not sufficient information, it's not that every single notification has all the elements that they need to record it appropriately on the police national computer. So it's more than just the issue of the backlog, although that's a very serious issue.

DIMBLEBY
So you have nothing to apologise for?

MCNAULTY
I apologise for the failures that there have been in terms of ministers not knowing about the backlog, I think that's right and should not have happened in public policy terms. I don't apologise for ACPO having in place now what we think is a very efficient system. But Caroline and her colleagues will have to do more in a European context to make that all the more robust and bring in biometrics and others for the core issue of public safety.

DIMBLEBY
Norman Lamb.

LAMB
Well I was thoroughly confused the other morning when Joan Ryan appeared to be saying - as far as we know we didn't know. There are two issues here. First it's the handling of the matter since the letter came in last October and whether ministers were aware - and it seems to me fundamental that the letter should just be published, what possible reason is there to delay publication until the end of the inquiry. If they have nothing to hide publish the letter. [CLAPPING] But the other issue is - and it would be comical if it wasn't so serious - the fact that all of these cases, where people - British citizens - have been convicted of sometimes very serious offences abroad have been left sitting in boxes in the Home Office for years and years. Now that is scandalous. And it does to me suggest a department that isn't fit for purpose and a set of ministers who are perhaps not fit for purpose. And I rather agree with the point that Dominic's made. It seems to me that the fundamental problem with this government has been that in its period of office it's introduced something like 3,000 new criminal offences, it's introduced endless new criminal justice acts, it's failed to implement may of the measures that they've introduced in legislation and in some cases they've repealed them again before implementing them. And so that is where their focus has been and I think for many people they would take the view that it would have been much better to administer the existing system better and ensure that real criminals were brought to justice, rather than trying to look tough by endlessly implementing new criminal justice measures.

DIMBLEBY
Carolilne Lucas.

LUCAS
Well I have to say I'm tempted to say that this whole government doesn't seem to be fit for purpose when you look at all the other scandals that have been happening this week. But in terms of the question - was it the Home Office as an institution or was it the team of minister - I mean the Home Office as an institution clearly does seem to be completely out of control, that this latest blunder is only one in a whole serious that would really be farcical were it not so serious. I mean April last year we had the thousand foreign criminals who were deported, which were not actually considered for deportation. We had last May the five illegal immigrants were found cleaning the offices of the immigration office. Last week we had people absconding from open jails, this week we've had more people absconding from open jails plus the scandal of the issue we're talking about today. So it does seem to me there's something wrong with the institution. But when it comes to the ministers of course the irony is in a rather surreal way that we don't really know how much they are to blame because of this letter. You know we're talking about a letter that none of us have seen, well you have Tony but you're not going to tell us what's in it, and it would be awfully helpful for a government that tells us that freedom of information and transparency is one of its priorities to actually come clean on this one when it matters and to publish it now, it is crazy that it refuses to do so.

DIMBLEBY
What stands in the way?

MCNAULTY
Much of what's in it is in the newspapers already in one sense or another.

LUCAS
Put the rest of it there, why not?

MCNAULTY
As I've said I think that's a matter for the inquiry and it's certainly a matter for the Home Secretary not for me. The whole purpose - I've said personally that ....

LAMB?
Do you support publishing it now?

MCNAULTY
no, when the inquiry's finished, you must - this is serious to the extent that there are processes, individuals, ministers and civil servants and a whole host of historic elements to go through on the one hand to really decide exactly what happened and I think in terms of fairness that needs to prevail. I'm more than happy with what the letter says, the responses and the rough characterisation of it ...

LAMB
Can I try and get one other commitment out of ...

MCNAULTY
... and as importantly, let me just say Norman, as importantly because this is an important point get in ACPO and the CRB to deal with the matter in quick order, as the Home Secretary's done, is equally part of the equation.

LAMB
Can I get one other commitment out of Tony? Will he undertake ...

DIMBLEBY
What commitment do you think you've got so far?

LAMB
... yeah absolutely, I'll try on another one. Will he undertake to ensure that all of the findings of the inquiry are published because the Home Secretary failed to answer that question at the time? And the second point ...

DIMBLEBY
No, no let's just stick with that otherwise ...

LAMB
Can I come back to the next one?

DIMBLEBY
Possibly.

MCNAULTY
As I think is entirely normal and would prevail in this case as well - the inquiry outcome and all that can be published will be published.

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
There's one thing that Tony's said that ...

MCNAULTY
I know that sounds like weasel words but to be honest [talking over] ... at least some of the documentation gone through in terms of files, confidentiality and all that, may well be unable to be published in the public domain, that's a caveat that hopefully you'll forgive me for if nothing else.

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
There's one thing which Tony said that I really find quite extraordinary - the letter said - the bit we've seen - the Home Secretary may wish to know about this. He's now told us that Joan Ryan decided to break the normal administrative habits of the Home Office by not passing this letter to the Home Secretary who's the very man who came into office telling us he was going to clean up all the problems of the Home Office, he knew it wasn't fit for purpose and he wanted a detailed analysis of everything that was going wrong. So we already seemed to know there was one ministerial intervention which has caused chaos in the accepted practice of the department. The second thing is this: I don't understand this business of the 27,000 dossiers not going on the police computer. Maybe it only Joe Bloggs on it but all those people who were prosecuted for serious offences abroad British consulates would have known who they were, where they lived, who their next of kin were [CLAPPING] and yet they succeeded in accumulating in the Home Office, apparently, for a long time before they were handed to ACPO to process. Now there's another systems failure that I really find inexplicable and I hope you have an answer to it.

MCNAULTY
It's simply not the case that you can put any old bit of data from a notification on something as crucial as the police national computer.

GRIEVE
... it was only other European countries.

MCNAULTY
That's precisely - that's precisely what I said - that's precisely what I've said - ACPO are now doing in terms of inquiries ...

DIMBLEBY
Okay, we'll have to ...

MCNAULTY
It's not, as John Denholm said, as easy as saying it says John Smith, burglary, Germany, take the first John Smith out the phonebook.

DIMBLEBY
We could - I'm sorry - very, very briefly.

MCNAULTY
... very, very serious piece of kit in the police national computer.

GRIEVE
One other thing that the Home Secretary didn't answer when my colleague Nick Clegg put it: what about offences committed in Thailand and the United States - these haven't been mentioned here, are they sitting in boxes somewhere in the Home Office?

MCNAULTY
They're dealt with differently than this convention under the European Council of Europe and are down to international ...[talking over]

DIMBLEBY
Can you - can you say with confidence they're not sitting in boxes and that they are on the computer?

MCNAULTY
I can't no, to be perfectly frank, no honestly, honestly ...[CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Let us - I'm afraid ...

MCNAULTY
In terms of the integrity and understanding of every single international agreement with every country outside the European Union and every single bit of those notifications on the police national computer I would be wrong and lying ...

DIMBLEBY
Hold it, hold it, hold it - we are going to have to pause there, we could have a whole unselect committee on this but we're going to go on to our next question with a reminder of the Any Answers number which is 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.

MITCHELL
Jane Mitchell. Should a member of the government have to sacrifice what she considers to be her child's best interest for a principle?

DIMBLEBY
Norman Lamb.

LAMB
Oh well I was caught pouring some water there - apologies. Well look I don't criticise Ruth Kelly for the decision she took. When I went into Parliament in 2001 I very soon realised that the impact on your family is one of the really negative aspects of this job and I think that there's a real importance of protecting families from the pressures that we, as public figures, are under. We choose this job, our children don't. And so I found it rather difficult to take, to be honest, the fact that one child is in the public spotlight this week and all this is about is his best interests in his education. So I'm very cautious about criticising other politicians for decisions they take about their family. But this issue does for me highlight some real concerns about the way special educational needs are treated in this country. It is a Cinderella service. And [CLAPPING] and it's been one of the things that as a constituency MP has concerned and troubled me most when I've had to take up cases on behalf of constituents who can't afford to opt out of the system, who are left to fight for what they can get within the system. The ones who come to me are the ones who in a sense know how to fight the system, know how to get their MP on their side and they fight valiant battles for their children to try and get the special needs help that their children need. But I'm always ...

DIMBLEBY
In this - in this case the local authority says that it's got very good special needs set up, what do you make of that, that they would wouldn't they or that ....?

LAMB
Well all I know is that in my own county of Norfolk and there are lots of people involved in special needs who are doing fantastic work in schools but all too often parents fight and can't get hold of the help that their children need. And all of those parents who don't know how to fight for their children, those children are left at the bottom of the pile and that should really concern us all.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
I think the issue is less an individual minister's behaviour and more what it actually exposes, which is this gulf between what the policy is supposed to be and what it is in practice because it's very clear that there isn't the support that is needed for children with special needs and I think it's a real indictment of the government's education policy if she really did feel that one of those six schools that did have these Ofsted recommendations for being good or excellent, for whatever reason, if she really believed that none of those schools were actually going to be able to do a good job for her child then that's an extraordinary indictment of an education system over which she had control. Now of course she's lucky because she can actually afford the alternative, most people cannot afford the alternative. And I wish that instead of trying to protect her own privacy over this issue she'd actually chosen to speak out about it, to speak out and say what's wrong with this system because so many other people are still stuck within it.

DIMBLEBY
Okay.

LUCAS
Because of the one of the real problems - if I could just say - is that the charmed vision of inclusion doesn't work, it doesn't work because the resources aren't there and it doesn't work because we have such a competitive system now in our schools with our league tables and everything else that in too many cases a child with special needs is seen as a kind of blockage on getting those high league table results. And that is I think a real problem with this system. So we shouldn't be closing down special schools, at the moment I think we should be saying that for some children special school provision is still important. Of course integration is also important, but parents should have the choice. This government's going in the wrong direction on this and it's our children that are suffering from it.

DIMBLEBY
Minister.

MCNAULTY
[CLAPPING] The short and direct answer to the question I think is no, I take Norman's view, and to be fair what Liberal and Conservative spokesperson said at the time. She's a parent first and then a politician and I think that's right and proper. On the broader issue: I don't think it's as straightforward as should or shouldn't be closing special schools. I say no more for historic fact the Tories closed 200, there's about a hundred been closed over the last 10 years and I think it's beyond that. It's what is the appropriate mix for London Borough of Havering or wherever else for the children with special needs and more broader education in that particular borough. I know certainly in my own borough it's not simply integration and inclusion or special schools, there is plenty in the middle in terms of we have a range of high schools that are specifically geared to take pupils with particular needs, whether blind, hearing impairment and others, at that end, and I think that's right and proper, so it's a sort of halfway house between inclusion and separateness. But yes I don't think we've ever said it's absolutely integration and some children don't need that special provision in special schools but it's getting the mix and balance right in terms of resources, as Caroline said, as well as more broadly.

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
She did absolutely the right thing, we all have a duty to do the best for our children, if that means paying money she was right to do it. And I wholly support what she did. It does seem to me that it highlights another issue, not just about the number of special schools available however, but the question of the ethos. I mean the government's been in power for 10 years nearly but we're living in a world which is dominated by an inclusion ethos that I must say makes me very anxious. It's not a question of there not being special schools, I sometimes visit special schools that have spare capacity because it's not being taken up, yet up the road there is the primary school teacher who's pointing out the children in year 1 and 2 who are going to be a really serious problem when there are actually spaces available down at the special school for them but the culture is now so ingrained that they're not being taken up. I think - I hope - this is a real wake up call to look afresh at special needs in education because I happen to belief, and it's not a party political issue, that we've got it wrong. And the problem that she has had is merely a reflection of the extent to which this - we have got this whole thing wrong and let's try and put it right because thereafter it can be a matter of choice. And one thing is clear, some of us may pay for our children's education but we have a moral duty to provide for the education of those whose parents can't pay and also we actually have an absolute self interest in doing so because the future of our society is dependent on providing good quality education for all.

DIMBLEBY
Jane Mitchell, you [CLAPPING] you posed this challenge, what's your own view?

MITCHELL
Well I'm a teacher in this school and my view is that any parent should put their own child first, so I don't blame Ruth Kelly for that. But as far as the special needs issue is concerned I'm in favour of integration where possible - we have a number of special needs children that we deal with here - but I think the issue is the funding for support. As a teacher there is a huge amount of difference between having the support teachers who we have in the classroom and with some children there isn't the funding for them.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you very much. Yes, you wanted quickly Norman Lamb.

LAMB
I very much endorse that comment and I think that if possible inclusion is the right approach because it must be in the interests of the child themselves to be with other children, perhaps without those special needs, and it's also crucially in the interests of children to experience what a child with special needs has and for them to be together. But the critical thing it must for the parents to choose what is right for their children and for there to be the capacity within the system both to fund properly the support within a mainstream school and also to provide special schools where necessary.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. We'll go to our next.

SANDERSON
Ian Sanderson. Can the panel think of any circumstances in which the British government could use or plausibly threaten to use Trident?

DIMBLEBY
Well I think we need to - the one certainty is that if we are to replace Trident we need to do it in short order over the next couple of years. I would like to think that there was a definitive yes or no answer to the question but I have no idea what the world is going to look like in 25, 30 years time, I have no idea where the threats potential or real are going to come from in 25 years time and I think whilst at the same time working towards continued non-proliferation we do need to suitably equip ourselves for what the only certainty is will be a continually very, very dangerous world from informal or formal quarters.

DIMBLEBY
Norman Lamb.

LAMB
Well the view that the Liberal Democrats have taken on this is that we don't have to make a decision yet on replacing Trident. This is a very unsafe and uncertain world, I think an awful lot more unsafe than perhaps when George Bush first came to power in the United States and I genuinely mean that, I think that his tenure in office has made the world a much less safe place.

DIMBLEBY
Given that can you - the question is - let's go straight to the question - can you - can you - I'm looking at Ian Sanderson - you want an answer to your question very precisely - can you imagine circumstances in which the Trident missile could be used or even plausibly threaten its use - can you think any of those circumstances?

LAMB
Well if you have the weapon there then you have to leave your potential opponents in doubt that's the whole basis of the deterrence. I very much hope that when a decision is ultimately taken we will be in a position where the threats around the world are such that we can get rid of it. But I don't know and as the years go by we do face a whole multiplicity of threats, new threats, which weren't in existence just a few years ago. It's a very different world to when the iron curtain was there.

DIMBLEBY
Does that mean that at the moment you can't imagine circumstances where you could plausibly threaten but you might imagine those circumstances in the future because you don't know what those circumstances might be?

LAMB
I suppose that - I suppose that's right. What we do say though is that we need to, in a sense, in this country, take a lead in multilateral disarmament. We say that we can reduce the firepower by 50% now. It's - we've got more than we need in this country so we can take a lead and we should push other countries to follow us so that the threat is reduced.

DIMBLEBY
Can you think of any circumstances Dominic Grieve?

GRIEVE
Unfortunately I think I can. I think one's got to be realistic about it, we're living in a dangerous world and indeed one where nuclear proliferation is taking place, Trident is a missile, you can put different warheads on the top and I'm afraid, being blunt about it and being honest in answering your question, I think that there are circumstances where we might have to use nuclear weapons against a state that was threatening to use them against a neighbour or ourselves or had used them. And I think that we're burying our head in the sand if we can imagine that we can avoid that difficult ethical and practical question. Can I just pick up one thing? There's a lovely Liberal Democrat fudge about Trident - we can wait. Trident is the missile, there's no need to replace the missile till 2040, we're talking actually about replacing in the submarines without which you can't use them. So - and that is an issue where I'm sure the government is right, we have got to replace the submarines if we wish to maintain the Trident deterrent. It's not actually about going to a new generation of nuclear deterrents. But I have to say, very reluctantly, and something which must give great anxiety to anybody who's prime minister, or aspires to be prime minister, but there is the clearest evidence that there are individuals and states who would be willing to use nuclear weapons, it may well be that a nuclear weapon of our own will not provide a deterrent but I think in many cases it has been shown to do so and could do so in future and be the best safeguard that we can have.

DIMBLEBY
When you say plausibly threaten to use, you're saying that you, if you found yourself in that position, could make a threat that the other side might believe you would carry out?

GRIEVE
Well I think - I think on the whole I've learnt in life that you should not threaten to do something which you're not prepared to carry out. I think it's one of the absolute axioms actually of international relations because otherwise it becomes very quickly apparent that you're simply engaging in rhetoric. Now I have - I wish to see a nuclear free world, I don't wish to see nuclear exchanges and - but I would like to see a reduction in nuclear armaments but I have to say to you that I think we're living in a very dangerous world at the moment and actually in some ways more dangerous than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
Well I must say I want to distance myself from the pretty weasel words that we've heard so far on this panel. You asked a very direct question - do I envisage a situation where it would be proper to use Trident and my answer is no, absolutely not. And the reason for that is [CLAPPING] - the reason for that is that I think by keeping nuclear weapons we make the world less secure not more secure. If we're seriously saying that we envisage Britain's defence policy for the next 50 years to be based on the premise that we will threaten the rest of the world with mass destruction then we can't really be very surprised if the rest of the world decides to acquire nuclear weapons in order to protect themselves from that. And I wonder what possible moral authority we think we have going out there and lecturing Iran or North Korea or anybody else about not having nuclear weapons while we ourselves are actually upgrading them and replacing them. Because make [CLAPPING] make no ...

DIMBLEBY
Caroline - Caroline Lucas would you - would you yourself feel safer if Britain had no nuclear weapons?

LUCAS
I would feel absolutely safer if Britain had no nuclear weapons because I think we should make no mistake that the threats that we really face are not from nuclear weapons, the real threats that we face are things like climate change - why are we spending £76 billion, which is what it has been estimated to cost when you include the 30 years of maintenance, £76 billion on something which most of us round here are saying we wouldn't even use anyway - it is absolutely obscene - and I think that we should be very clear as well that by keeping and updating our nuclear weapons we are contrary to international law - the nuclear non-proliferation treaty is made up of two halves of a bargain, the first part is that those who have nuclear weapons will get rid of them, the second is that those who haven't got them will not seek to acquire them. Now we can't expect other countries to keep their part of the bargain, not to acquire them, if we ourselves are actually upgrading them ourselves. So I think that by keeping Trident we're actually making the world an awful lot more insecure.

DIMBLEBY
Ian Sanderson, can you answer your own question?

SANDERSON
Well one point that hasn't been addressed is the question to what extent it is really an independent nuclear deterrent and how could we use it without the - in effect - being part of a United States effort?

DIMBLEBY
Because you believe it's tied in to - the technology and the authority is effectively tied into United States policy?

SANDERSON
Yes.

DIMBLEBY
Very briefly Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
I ask people this question, I may be given the wrong answer but I have been told repeatedly that it is just not correct to say that and that if Britain wished to use its independent nuclear deterrent it would be possible technically for us to do it. I emphasise the word technically, there may be all sorts of other reasons why we wouldn't, I hope - wish to do so or wouldn't be in the position to need to do so. But the suggestion that it can't be used independently is I believe inaccurate.

LUCAS
We depend on the US for every aspect of that kind of missile, you know it's been called rent a rocket with good reason, essentially what we're talking about here is borrowing the expertise from the United States, the idea that we could do anything with it on our own is really absolutely cloud cuckoo land.

DIMBLEBY
I want to ask the audience here briefly by a show of hands - who is generally speaking in favour of modernising or replacing Trident, would you put your hands up? Who is against? Well in this audience here, a large audience, there is a significant, if not large majority against the modernisation, the replacement of Trident.

LAMB?
I think it's a small majority actually.

DIMBLEBY
Okay, alright, I don't want to get it wrong, let me have the show of hands again - those who favour would you put your hands up, don't change your minds now, put your hands up, right. Those against. Well I would say if that's a small majority it's the kind of politician's small majority when you've just lost a seat. And I notice the minister nodded his head when I said it was a large majority. We can just squeeze in a very quick question.

SMITH
Fiona Smith. Following Mr Blair's holiday in the Bee Gee's Robin Gibb's house which entertainers house would the panellists like to holiday in?

DIMBLEBY
You are - you've just got - which entertainer do you want to stay with? This is one of those kind of going going gone questions, everyone's looking away, they don't want to answer, except - except I can see that Tony McNaulty really wants to answer.

MCNAULTY
I would have absolutely no idea, to be perfectly frank.

DIMBLEBY
Do you know any entertainers?

MCNAULTY
I don't - I don't. Rather I suppose depends on what - on how you would define entertainer but none spring to mind, I simply don't know any. I do take the broader point about I think so long as we offset and increasingly think about offsetting in terms of those long haul flights I'd like to take my wife and I think that'll do me.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
I'd like to stay with Mark Thomas who's the very good comedian with very good politics points but he also lives in London which means no flights because I don't take the point about the offsetting - offsetting basically just makes your conscience feel better, which we need to be doing is reducing flights.

DIMBLEBY
Right. Norman Lamb.

LAMB
Showing my age - I'd like to resurrect Eric Morecambe.

DIMBLEBY
And Dominic Grieve.

GRIEVE
My two sons aged 11 and 12 provide all the entertainment I ever want.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you very much and that does bring us, I'm afraid, to the end of this week's programme. Next week on the panel: Tessa Jowell, who's the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Shirley Williams, peer for the Liberal Democrats of course; the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Caroline Spellman and the Associate Editor of the Daily Telegraph Simon Heffer. That is in the Royal Free Hospital in London. Join us there. From here in Hornchurch goodbye. [CLAPPING]

Listen Live
Audio Help

Any Questions?

Episodes
Archived Episodes
News


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy