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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 19 January 2007
ANY QUESTIONS?

TX: 19/01/07 2000-2045


PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Tessa Jowell
Caroline Spelman
Shirley Williams
Simon Heffer

FROM: Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, London


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to London and to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Almost 180 years ago it was founded as the first hospital to accept patients without a letter of recommendation. It now boasts a host of local and specialist services. Like others it ended last year in debt, but it's now on course to pay of those debts at the end of this financial year. It's about to launch a public consultation into its plan to become an NHS foundation trust - the slogan: "Your hospitals in your hands".

On our panel: Tessa Jowell's been in Parliament for almost 15 years, now as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport she's responsible, among other things, for introducing 24 hour drinking, casino gambling, not to mention the BBC licence fee. She's shaking her head as if it's not true.

Shirley Williams was a member of the government led by Harold Wilson and then James Callaghan. Until recently she was the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords where she sustains a formidable reputation as one of this country's leading parliamentarians.

Caroline Spelman entered the Commons in the 1997 election, defying the odds against the Tories. She's now Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in which role, this week, she inadvertently revealed her credentials as a former research fellow at the Centre for European Agricultural Studies. Asked about the government's initiative to promote singing in primary schools she suggested teaching them One Man Went to Mow. Were you aware, Ms Spelman, of the agony you were going to cause teachers all over the land if that was to come into force?

SPELMAN
It wasn't intended to cause pain, it was simply the first song that came into my head.

DIMBLEBY
Simon Heffer is on the right of the political spectrum and as readers of his column in the Daily Telegraph, where he's also Associate Editor, will know, he's a fierce critic of the leader of the Conservative Party, writing, inter alia, "I try not to get angry with Dave but sometimes it's terribly difficult." Mr Cameron is said to be gratified that he's so persistently under Heffer fire. Our panel. [CLAPPING] Our first question please.

HUTCHINSON
Mike Hutchinson. Is the cash for honours inquiry closing on Tony Blair?

DIMBLEBY
Ruth Turner, Director of Government Relations in Number 10, was arrested by police on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Was later released on bail. Simon Heffer.

HEFFER
Well no one's been charged and until somebody is we won't know for certain whether this long investigation is going to bear any fruit. But I suspect that some wrong has been done and I suspect that it's not an accident that a number of distinguished businessman felt that they had done a deal with representatives of Mr Blair to lend money to the Labour Party that would be converted into a permanent donation and in return for which they would receive honours. This could be very difficult because I suspect that no one has acted in this without the authority of somebody else and it must be very difficult for the police who are investing this to trace, as it were, the chain of events. I know it's been said that ever since Lloyd George's day people have either sold on as outright or have offered inducements for people to give money to political parties but I do feel that we've had a government for the last 10 years that has played fast and loose with, shall we say, propriety in many respects - we've had a number of ministerial resignations to bear witness to that. And I think probably somebody got rather casual in trying to raise money for the party in saying well you know we have a certain amount of patronage let's use it. I don't know whether it's closing in on Tony Blair or not but certainly if I were in his shoes I would be very nervous for some of the people around me.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
Yes it is getting closer to the Prime Minister and there's something that smells rotten in the state at the moment. It's absolutely crucial that the responsible person shall take the blame, whoever that may be, and not pass it off on lesser junior figures. But let me say one other which is rarely said. As a member of the House of Lords, conscious that the House of Lords in many respects has become an absolutely crucial scrutinising chamber, we have many, many of that house of all parties and none - the cross benchers - who have given up considerable sums of money in order to work in the public service, who are deeply dedicated to it, who care very much about their reputation as public servants and it is appalling for us - appalling - that people should come into the chamber simply through having paid money or through having some crony friend in whatever is the government of the day. And I say with great force that I think the House of Lords has been a crucial factor, particularly in protecting our civil liberties, that I deeply resent the idea that people come to the House of Lords without having actually proven themselves as people who will be good members of that house. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Ruth Turner works at Number 10, is the inquiry closing in Tessa Jowell on Tony Blair?

JOWELL
Well I think, you know, I agree this may be the first and last this evening with Simon's opening comment which is it's very important to remember that although there has been a flurry of speculation and allegations in the media no charges have yet been brought against anybody. And I'm quite sure that nobody here actually knows Ruth Turner. I'm slightly - I know her ver well - I'm slightly bewildered as to why, given that she has - as has everybody else who has been drawn in any way into this inquiry - cooperated fully with the police at every turn - as to why she was woken this morning at 6 o'clock by four policemen knocking on her door, arrested and then released without any charge. She has fully cooperated and she is a person of utter decency and consciousness and I am surprised. But ...

DIMBLEBY
Do you think the police have behaved inappropriately - they could have just knocked at nine o'clock?

JOWELL
No I don't think - I don't think that I should say anymore than that because this is the subject of a continuing inquiry which I underline everybody who has in any way been involved with has cooperated fully. But there is - I mean I would just make a second point, which is looking beyond this because there are leading figures in every one of the major parties who in one way or another have become - have become involved in this. And I am concerned about the damage that this does to politics, I am concerned that people turn away and think that all politicians - politicians as a class - are sort of sleazy, in it for themselves and there are all sorts of murky dealings. And that is not the motive force of any of the leaders of any or the people who seek public office I don't think in any of our political parties. And I think that the call for a new kind of politics I hope will be prompted by the eventual conclusion of this inquiry.

DIMBLEBY
Given what you've said about the sleaze, is it inevitable, fairly or unfairly, that that mud particularly sticks to the Prime Minister, damaging his reputation?

JOWELL
No I don't but I don't think that that is inevitably - inevitably the case. And I would just underline - we're all constrained by what we can say or speculate at this stage but everybody has cooperated and I hope that this inquiry, because it is destabilising and it is obviously damaging, is as quickly as possible brought to its conclusion, whatever that may be.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Caroline Spelman.

SPELMAN
Well I think the allegations have done damage, not just to the government actually, it's done damage to the political process and the damage requires a response. And that is why all the political parties well aware that there is no appetite amongst taxpayers to fund political parties have had to rethink - are going to have to rethink how they raise their funds. And that is why David Cameron has proposed that since we shall continue to have to look for funds and donations there should be a cap on those donations of £50,000.

DIMBLEBY
Do you believe that the inquiry is or is not, as the questioner asks, closing in on Tony Blair?

SPELMAN
Well there's no question that an increasing number of allegations have seemed to home on down on Number 10. But he's prime minister, he's in charge, he's responsible for what has happened in this country during his period of leadership. But what I am trying to do is explain that from a cross party point of view we recognise this damage has been so significant that all of us have to make changes. And we challenge the government to put a cap on donations of £50,000 because otherwise we're all too beholden to one large donation and that that should extend to the funds provided to trades unions.

DIMBLEBY
Quick one on that Tessa Jowell - is there a good case for capping the trade union funds in order to bring down the figure to 50,000?

JOWELL
No I don't think that there necessarily is but as Caroline knows Hayden Phillips is considering reform of party funding at the moment and I think that we should await his report, I think that the resolution of this must be a resolution to last that attracts cross party support.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
Two quick points. The first is that I've seen American federal politics wrecked by the sheer amount of money pouring into it. We have to be very, very tough indeed about the limits that we spend in elections. And the second point is. I mean let's be quite blunt about this - the Prime Minister's a brilliant man but we've had Iraq, we've had the Saudi Arabian inquiry - there's a sort of sense in the country that we're not being played with absolutely straight by Number 10 and that's what underlies at great deal of this. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Simon Heffer.

HEFFER
Whether a cap is introduced or not I think it's time for us as a mature democracy to start asking the question what is this money for. The answer is it's for spin doctors and it's for propaganda. And I'd much rather the next election campaign and all subsequent election campaigns fought on very small budgets and relying on politicians going out and meeting people and using their words and themselves to sell their party and their policies, rather than relying on overpaid over priced and hideously dishonest spin doctors and propaganda campaigns which is what this money is for in the end. [CLAPPING[

DIMBLEBY
You posed the question Mike Hutchinson.

HUTCHINSON
Yeah I just have one small piece of advice for the Prime Minister and that is the longer he remains at Number 10 the easiest it is for the old bill to find him should it be necessary. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
He may or may not be grateful for that piece of information. Any Answers is for you after the Saturday edition of Any Questions if you have thoughts about this or any of the other issues that we're discussing. The number to ring is 08700 100 444, the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Could we please go to our next?

JENNINGS
Gerard Jennings. Big Brother, a major international incident or an eight day wonder?

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams - Big Brother, a major international incident, we're asked, you are asked, or an eight day wonder?

WILLIAMS
I'm afraid deep damage, it's not going to simply blow over and it's not going to blow over for two reasons. One because it shows the United Kingdom in a very bad light - to actually have a country where to become a celebrity you have to use the roughest and foulest language you can find and to become a celebrity you have to bully other people to the maximum you can do is not something frankly that's going down to the credit of the United Kingdom. It's completely contrary to the way we like to see ourselves, the way that Gordon Brown tells us we are. I'm not sure we are. But let me make a second point really quickly. I don't blame Jade and Jo and all the rest of them particularly, I think they're being used, I think they're puppets on a string. What I do blame very much is the people that pull those strings, who create situations where artificially a situation of confrontation, bullying, anger, hatred is created and then blame the people that [indistinct words] in that and make a great deal of money out of it. I find it profoundly unattractive and the sooner it gets dealt with the better, among other things by not giving slices of the BBC's money to Channel 4. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Simon Heffer.

HEFFER
I realise now that my life is going to fall into two different segments, there's the segment which was ran from my birth until I think last Tuesday when I didn't know who Jade Goody was and had never had the pleasure either of seeing or hearing her and the three rather haunted and miserable days since when she has encroached upon my moral and mental radar. I have never watched a second of any of these programmes for the same reason that had I been alive in the 18th Century I wouldn't have gone to watch bear baiting or gone to watch the lunatics at the bedlam asylum, it's just not the sort of thing I think polite people do. And while I entirely agree with Shirley that the people who put this programme on and who I think get a chunk of the licence fee for doing it should be held up to the most rigorous public scrutiny and indeed I think the whole future of Channel 4 as a publicly funded body must be called into question by this disgusting programme. I'm also concerned that we have a public who want to watch it and I don't want to judge anybody else's cultural taste but I think that if you are the sort of person who wants to sit down for three or four hours and watch this unmitigated rubbish and this disgusting spectacle of self and mutual humiliation then you should down also and ask yourself what sort of person you are. I don't know whether this is an international incident, I can understand that it's upset our Indian friends. I have a limited amount of sympathy for this rather lovely actress who has been the victim of this ...

DIMBLEBY
Shilpa Shetty.

HEFFER
... Shilpa Shetty, she's undeniably far more intelligent and far more articulate than the women who've been persecuting her, mine you my wife's dog is much more intelligent and articulate [CLAPPING]. But if she is so clever why on earth did she go in here in the first place? I'm sure that money is an issue but I must say that I'd rather put my children up chimneys than earn money in this way. I don't think it's an international incident, I think it probably is an eight day wonder. I feel embarrassed as an Englishman that our Indian friends have taken offence at this and I do hope that damage can be made up, no doubt when they come over here and beat us at cricket in a few months time, they'll get their revenge. But I do think the serious point from this is that Channel 4 needs to look at itself and ask whether this degrading disgusting spectacle is really commensurate with it being a publicly funded body, I would say absolutely it isn't. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Spelman.

SPELMAN
Well it did cause riots in Northern India but I think that's not disconnected from the fact that a lot of our media are in India with the Chancellor and that probably increased the attention on the connection to India. I did actually, unlike Simon, I did sit down and watch it on Wednesday evening because I felt sure it would come up on this programme and I didn't enjoy it, we were led to believe there was going to be an almighty row on the programme and this centred on whether or not three oxo cubes should be used to make a roast chicken. I cannot believe how banal was the source of the discontent. And looking at it I thought it's primarily a case of jealously, Simon's already said that Shilpa is an intelligent woman and the fact is she's very beautiful and I think I probably can say this of my own sex that this can cause a little jealously amongst women when a very beautiful and talented woman walks into the room and I think Shilpa should probably have encountered that reaction from womenkind even in her own country. But ...

DIMBLEBY
You said jealously, does that mean you in this question about whether it is racism as opposed to class or cultural jealously?

SPELMAN
There were very clearly racist remarks made but watching the behaviour actually of the pack - there were three women who together had decided to hunt in a pack and I think they should take the criticism together. But actually the answer to this lies with us - I would not wish to watch it again, I found it a vulgar programme, an offensive programme. And the answer to this is to switch it off. And actually I think as regards an impression of our country I think it's the fact that 30,000 people went to complain to Ofcom about the offensiveness of this programme that says much more about our country in fact.

DIMBLEBY
Well an increasing number of people have been watching the programme at the same time. Let me ask - before I come to the Secretary of State - our audience. Who has seen part of this, what the panel described as a horrible experience, who's actually seen it, would you put your hands up? Who hasn't seen it at all? Of those who have seen it, the great majority have not seen it, how many of those who said they haven't seen it actually have seen it but feel, given what's been said, they don't want to acknowledge it? No one - everyone's too sharp, they haven't put any hands up. Those who have seen it - and given what Caroline Spelman has said - who would go out of their way to avoid watching it again? I would suggest there's about a third of the audience who said they had seen it. Who would not now watch it again? A small proportion of those who said that they had watched it would not watch again. Secretary of State is it a major international incident or an eight day wonder?

JOWELL
Well I think it risks being a bit of both. I mean certainly the immediate row will die down but I do think that unless there is a very clear sense - and I think Caroline's right about this - that we are a decent country that abhors this kind of sort of racism as entertainment then I think that there is a risk that a stain will settle that will last. And I have watched it, I think it's horrible television actually, I think that just because the portrayal of particular kinds of relationships that may exist in real life are possible is not a reason to put them on television. And the sort of bullying behaviour that we've seen the housemates engage in is the kind of bullying behaviour that young children are suspended from school for. And so there's a great sense of two standards here - it's not entertainment but thankfully - I think thankfully for everybody here - it's not a Secretary of State that decides what's on television, that's left to the regulator. But I think - but I absolutely share the sense of disgust at the way in which Shilpa Shetty has been treated and the whole way in which this series has been allowed to develop. And also I think that don't underestimate the extent of editorial intervention and that kind of manipulation in what is meant to be unbridled reality TV is also I think very disconcerting and cynical.

DIMBLEBY
Two points if I may before - you observed that it was exploitation and it was racist as well, what do you make of the fact that Shilpa Shetty apparently has made up with Jane - Jade Goody and says she didn't think there was any racist element in this, after apparently having some - well we're told had contact with the editorial people of the programme?

JOWELL
Well David I can only speculate like that in exactly the same way as anybody else speculates with perhaps a degree of scepticism and I think that the proper impact on Shilpa Shetty of this kind of behaviour has got to be subject to proper debriefing and care and appropriate action whenever she and the other housemates leave the house.

DIMBLEBY
The second question raised by two members of the panel and others. Is there a question mark or a bigger question mark now than there was over the funding of Channel 4, either through the subvention that exists now or by transferring to the Channel 4 some of those monies that might otherwise have gone to the BBC?

JOWELL
No I mean let me - let me explain that. I mean no there's no question over Channel 4 about that, Channel 4 is funded by the commercial revenues principally from advertising, it doesn't receive public funds in the sense that the BBC does. What I announced yesterday when announcing the BBC's licence fee settlement was a possibility that in order to ensure that Channel 4 was able to be part of switchover that Channel 4 may receive some licence fee money specifically to help pay with that.

DIMBLEBY
Is there any question mark - is there any question mark over that because of the Big Brother programme that Channel 4 ought to take into account?

JOWELL
No absolutely not, no absolutely not. I mean that was announced yesterday and that is to enable a very clear policy to be achieved which is that digital switchover makes digital television available to everybody in this country.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
I just hope that it'll be the minimum required. But having said that one other thing to say and that is I think one journalist used the phrase brilliantly that this was in effect human bear baiting, what goes on in the Big Brother house, and if it were a bear and not a human being it would undoubtedly be regarded as outrageous.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Spelman.

SPELMAN
I just wanted to add that the Channel 4 management must take full responsibility for the edited version that they put on - on the programme because they give selected high - what they call highlights, I would say lowlights, they say at 4.08 the room mates are doing such and such and they choose what we see at that slot, you can watch it on the internet but the majority of people, a lot of young people, are watching those selected highlights and that includes some extremely offensive behaviour.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. I'm going to move to our next question please.

CLARKE
Andrew Clarke. Following the government's recent decision to reduce the number of new casinos from 40 to 32 do the panellists belief this should be further reduced to none at all?

DIMBLEBY
Secretary of State I just want to - I'm not going to come to you to answer this question, can you just in factual terms - is it the proposal that it's from 40 to 32?

JOWELL
There will be one regional casino and then there will be separate licences for what are called large and medium sized casinos.

DIMBLEBY
The regional one is the one that's been called the super casino?

JOWELL
Yes.

DIMBLEBY
Okay. Caroline Spelman on this.

SPELMAN
Well I make no secret of the fact that my party is not a fan of the casinos. We have reluctantly agreed there should be one pilot super casino and everyone is waiting to hear where that should be. But what informs my judgement on this is that - in part I'm responsible for regeneration on our shadow team and I've looked very carefully at the evidence to see whether casinos have the regenerative effect that the government claims that they would have. And regeneration consultants Hayden Aitkin did some very detailed work on what their assessment would be of the regeneration impact on Blackpool and Birmingham, close by me, and they came to a very negative result, that the actual benefit to the community in terms of regeneration would be minimal with the introduction of a casino. And over and above that I have serious concerns about the proliferation of casinos. We're a heavily indebted nation, lot of personal debt, people might be tempted by gambling to try and get themselves out of debt in that way, though that would be extremely ill advised. I am very concerned about compulsive gambling and what this will do to many vulnerable people who otherwise might not be in a position of walking into a casino. So fundamentally I'm deeply sceptical and I am critical of a government that has brought us 24 hour drinking, which is I think a serious problem with the culture of binge drinking that we have, and looks like it's at the same time going to turn us into a nation of gamblers - drinkers and gamblers - and it makes me very concerned that the government is going down this route on the grounds that it will bring regeneration.

DIMBLEBY
Simon Heffer.

HEFFER
Well let's be clear if you want to lose your shirt there's plenty of opportunity to do it already without anymore casinos, there are betting shops, there's the lottery and you can go and spend your entire week's earnings on lottery tickets if you want to. And there are football pools. I mean there are enormous ways that you can spend as much money as you want trying to win money and probably not doing so. The only reason we have such a flourishing bookmaking industry in this country is the bookmaker always wins and I'm amazed that people who gamble haven't worked that out. I'm very much against these casinos and I'll tell you why. I feel that there will be a certain amount of human misery caused by them, I think the likelihood is there'll be more misery than happiness caused by them. And I want to know what's going to happen to the families of people who do lose their shirts in these casinos. Now it already happens - we ran a story in the Telegraph about six months ago about somebody who went on the Internet with his father's credit card one evening and lost £30,000 in a couple of hours using an unregulated website from abroad. I believe our gambling websites in this country are regulated but you can still lose several thousand pounds in an evening if you want to. And I just think we need to wake up as a nation to the problem of gambling, we devote a lot of attention, probably quite rightly, to addictive smoking and addictive drinking and overeating. I think the next one that needs to be picked off is addictive gambling, which clearly there's already signs it is a serious problem. I don't think casinos will help it and I don't think they're really the cultural direction that a civilised government should be taking this country in. And above all I'm rather bemused that a political movement like the Labour Party which has its roots in methodism, one of the most sort of puritanical religions in our country, should now not just embrace, as Caroline has said, 24 hour boozing but also as much gambling as you can put up with. We will have a serious social problem if we extend gambling and I do want us to wake up to it very quickly. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Those kind of concerns, Secretary of State, have been aired by the BMA because they say that gambling should be treated like smoking and alcoholism as an addictive, by others saying there are going to be more and more gamblers, by the police saying it's going to increase gambling for children, according to the Met's gaming unit that's been looking at this. Why do it?

JOWELL
Well if all the claims that have been made about the changes in gambling legislation were actually true I'd never have supported the legislation. I mean let me just begin with the claims, the assertion, about 24 hour drinking. In fact less than 1% of the nearly 200,000, 180,000, licensed premises in this country have licences for 24 hours, the majority of those are supermarkets and pubs which use them for special occasions, particularly at New Year. So this is not the introduction of 24 hour drinking, anymore than it is a gambling free for all. And there are great similarities recognising the risks of increased drinking but more particularly the risks of increased forms of gambling, particularly gambling on the internet. I mean Simon is absolutely right about the methodism and sense of dislike that many people feel about gambling. The fact is that millions of people in this country do gamble ...

DIMBLEBY
And you're promoting that.

JOWELL
No ...

DIMBLEBY
By the legislation?

JOWELL
No, David ...

DIMBLEBY
Jonathan this time.

JOWELL
Jonathan, I'm always ...

DIMBLEBY
Worry not. I know with you it's not deliberate.

JOWELL
Was - it is absolutely not the case that the government is promoting gambling. What we are doing is recognising that there are more gambling opportunities and that unless proper protections are put in place people will be at risk and we will be unable to meet all the concerns, which I share, for instance that the BMA have raised. That's why the gambling legislation is overall about protecting vulnerable people and children, keeping gambling [AUDIENCE NOISE]...yes it is....

DIMBLEBY
Let me ask you, Secretary of State ...

JOWELL
... keeping gambling crime free and keeping gambling fair.

DIMBLEBY
On that - on that particular point how do you answer what Detective Inspector Darren Warn of the Metropolitan Police's Gaming and it says in a report that has got out although it wasn't meant to, when he says that these casinos, super casinos, would, quotes, "increase access to gambling for children and vulnerable groups", is he wrong about that?

JOWELL
No, he is wrong about that because those - well I mean let me just deal with the facts here. I mean every single gambling licence which is issued, there will be seven medium casinos, there will - sorry eight medium casinos, eight large casinos, one regional casino - each and every one of the licences that will be issued for those casinos will require social responsibility and a commitment to ensure that gamblers are protected. There will be - that people will be directed - no people will be directed to Gamcare and other organisations and every single bit of change in legislation - every single bit of change in legislation, if it proves to give rise to harm will be rescinded.

DIMBLEBY
Is the Treasury going to benefit? This audience doesn't seem to think that the public's going to - is the Treasury going to do well out of this?

JOWELL
Well that - that remains to be seen. [LAUGHTER]

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
It won't do badly or it wouldn't have let it go ahead, that's the nature of the Treasury. What worries me, I mean we're sitting here in a hospital and the price that is going up and up and up to the NHS from binge drinking, from gambling, from the things that are in a way - the human vices - is incredible, in fact I think it might even break the NHS at some point if it continues. Smoking is the opposite way and has been I think immensely beneficial. Now I think gambling lies deep in human beings, I accept that what you said and Tessa said, I think I can gamble by calling you Jonathan, but I think that you and what Tessa said are right. But what I don't understand, I really don't understand, is the argument for making huge gambling centres which are we know already attracting some of the most skilled gambling entrepreneurs in the world, many of them from countries with a distinguished record of seeing gambling bring with it a very large wake of criminality. And I cannot understand why we would think that bigger and bigger casinos is somehow going to deal with the criminal aspect and the criminal aspect is desperately important.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. I want to ask [CLAPPING] you've heard that discussion, members of the audience, on the gambling bill, who finds themselves in general in favour of this introduction of the gambling bill, would you put your hands up? Who finds themselves against? Tessa Jowell by about 99.5% to .5% you find yourself flying in the face of public opinion, does that, very briefly, does that worry you?

JOWELL
The legislation is now in place and all the hands that have gone up can be of people who can register their wish to ensure that there is no casino in this local authority because every local authority will have to consult with the public about whether or not they want a casino. So taking a sample it doesn't surprise me at all of residents of Hampstead, they clearly don't. Just as ...

DIMBLEBY
What's wrong with the residents of Hampstead?

JOWELL
... have used the licensing legislation so skilfully to ensure that the opening hours meet the preferences of the local community.

DIMBLEBY
Quick word Simon Heffer.

HEFFER
I'm enormously worried by the logic of the Secretary of State's argument that millions of people are gambling and therefore we should have more, as she puts it, controlled or regulated areas to gamble. It's like saying more and more men are using prostitutes therefore legalise brothels or more and more people are taking drugs therefore legalise places where you can sell drugs, it's a very dangerous argument.

DIMBLEBY
We will leave it there with a reminder of the Any Answers programme after the Saturday edition of Any Questions where the number is 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.

MCQUIRE
Simon McQuire. Should GPs pay be capped?

DIMBLEBY
The Secretary of State Patricia Hewitt said that a limit should have been put on the GP contract, which wasn't and says there is going to be an effort in the next round to cap the profits of GPs. Tessa Jowell, should those profits be capped?

JOWELL
Well I think what, as I understand it, Patricia Hewitt has said today is that in retrospect there should have been a cap on the profits of - that GPs took from their practices. I gather that the negotiating body, on behalf of GPs, has agreed to enter into discussions. I mean the important thing for patients is that GPs' services, which are such a critical part of primary care in this country, are available when patients need them and that they're run with the best interests and the convenience of patients in mind. So I think that the best thing is that these discussions proceed and that the patients' interests prevails.

DIMBLEBY
And do you think there should be a cap, was the question?

JOWELL
Well the question was about a cap on salary but my understanding is that the issue was about a cap on profits.

DIMBLEBY
And do you think - given that the contract is in place do you think there should be a cap on profits even though it wasn't introduced as part of the contract, do you think it should be?

JOWELL
I think that - I think that the issue having been raised, the negotiations should proceed. I mean these - no I mean seriously, I mean seriously these are - these are judgements which are tied to all the targets that GPs and GP practices have to meet and the important thing is that there is a fair solution. I know that before the new GP contract was put in place there was a great sense of grievance among GPs that they were being asked to do more and more and more without being probably rewarded and it may be time to look at that again. But I think that has to happen first.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Spelman.

SPELMAN
Well I don't think capping will solve the issue. The government now feels it was too generous in its negotiations towards GPs for their salaries but that is just a symptom of the dreadful mismanagement that we have seen of the NHS. I mean here we are in a hospital, no doubt there may be a doctor in the audience, and there may be some trainee doctors in the audience and you know that's the point - what young people are seeing that will be thinking about medicine as a discipline, for which they'll have to commit seven years of study, is that - they see a kind of stop/go process. I mean one minute we're desperately trying to recruit them and get more of them and they see a rise in their salary and the next minute there's a discussion about those salaries being capped and people who've gone through long training to become a doctor or a nurse or a physiotherapist are now finding they can't get jobs. This is chronic mismanagement, it must be very demoralising for people who work in the NHS. And we need trained staff, we need the doctors and we need the stream of young people coming forward to serve our country in that way. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Simon Heffer.

HEFFER
Well for the reasons that Caroline has just said I'm entirely in favour of professional people - whether they're doctors or any other profession - making as much money as they possibly can, not least because if [CLAPPING] if you, yes there are doctors in the audience, we can tell that, if you - if you do devote a large proportion of your life to training for this - and we all know that doctors do work extremely hard and often very antisocial hours - they deserve to be rewarded for it. I'm also under the impression that unless this government is even more blisteringly incompetent than I thought it was that there remuneration had been agreed on a series of sort of item of service fees and that you only earned a shed load of money if you actually work extremely hard and do lots of things for your patients. Now I think we should all be in favour of GPs doing as much as possible for their patients and if that means at the end of it they can bank a lot of money and clear off to the Bahamas then good luck to them. The one thing that I'm worried about though was that rather wonderful story a couple of weeks ago about the GP who went away for the weekend and flew in his locum from I think Venice to somewhere in the remotest part of Scotland, of course being the NHS the sat nav didn't work and this poor locum was driving round Scotland for several days looking for his practice which I think he eventually arrived at about two days after the other chap got back from his holiday. But - so I think there are one or two things not going quite right with the National Health Service at the sharp end. But no if GPs are earning this money they, I hope, have earned it fairly and good luck to them.

DIMBLEBY
For the record I'm not sure that it's clear that the sat nav in question belonged to the NHS. Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
I think Simon's trying to endear himself, he must need an operation.

HEFFER
I've already had it Shirley.

WILLIAMS
Let me back very strongly what Caroline said, I mean I think that the negotiation of the GPs' salary was seriously mishandled. The GPs I know didn't expect to get the kind of money they got - I'm not saying they don't deserve it but they didn't expect that much. And there wasn't a proper discussion about the balance between the payment made and the services offered by GPs. The trouble was that when the salaries went up a lot they was still no proper discussion of the issue about what the service was going to be and how much it covered, for example, weekends and evenings. So what you got was a settlement which actually largely disrupted the NHS this year by producing one deficit after another. We know that the Royal Free has leapt out into the sunny uplands of the trust status but a lot of others haven't. And they are now faced with deficits which mean they're having to put off operations, to have empty beds, to do everything that makes the NHS look very badly run. This infuriates me because I still think the NHS is probably one of the most efficient health services in the world in terms of the share of GDP that it demands and in terms of the quality of the service that it offers. But it has been, I have to say sadly, very badly mishandled in the last couple of years and I think the capping is a lousy way out, taking money back from people when you've paid them is not a very good way to create good relationships. So it may be that all one can do now is to talk in terms of the share of the practice, earnings that go in the shape of what can go to the GP, but I think the real lesson here is that we must make sure that in future negotiations are much more seriously conducted, much better conducted and in addition that the patient interest is taken into account as well as the interests of both doctors and of the National Health Service Department of Health.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. [CLAPPING] Our next please.

BROADBENT
Pete Broadbent. Is the settlement that's been reached between the government and the BBC fair?

DIMBLEBY
It was a lot less than the BBC wanted, it will go from £131 to £151 by the year 2012 - is it fair Simon Heffer?

HEFFER
Oh I think abundantly so, I work for a media company and we'd love to have the sort of money that you and the BBC get and have our remuneration going up over the next few years, even if it is below the rate of inflation. I think the BBC was designed in an age where there were very few media, there are now a multiplicity of media. And I think there's got to be serious review at some stage in the next 10 years of what the BBC is for because it strikes me that a great deal of what it does either replicates what can be done by the private sector or could easily be done by the private sector. I'm the first to admit that there are things the BBC does which are brilliant public service broadcasting - Radio 4, of course, is one of them; Radio 3 I think is a great national treasure - as for the rest of it I'm rather bemused. And I think that in an age where you have thousands of television channels on satellite television, where you have digital radio with lots of independent stations putting things out, the - and of course websites, the BBC has a very strong internet presence and we have a very big web operation at the Daily Telegraph which is unsubsidised and has to compete with your subsidised one at the BBC. So I think it's a very fair settlement and I think it should be the precursor of a big review of what the BBC does because I don't think we can go on living in an era where people pay a tax to have broadcasting.

DIMBLEBY
Secretary of State - the BBC Director General said it's disappointing, difficult choices, they were expecting 400 million rather - they were expecting 2.1 billion to invest and they've only got 400 million, something has to give. Fair?

WILLIAMS
Who are you looking at?

DIMBLEBY
I'm - the Secretary of State. I mean you aren't at the moment Secretary of State Shirley, I did say Secretary of State.

WILLIAMS
I didn't think I was but I couldn't see what way your eyes were turning.

JOWELL
Yes this is a fair settlement.

DIMBLEBY
How remarkably uncharacteristically monosyllabic. I will allow Shirley Williams now to come in as the non-Secretary of State and maybe you'll want to respond. Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
No it's not. End of the mono [CLAPPING] Two things to add. First thing: I couldn't agree less with Simon Heffer ...

HEFFER
Oh Shirley.

WILLIAMS
I think - well I don't always disagree with you Simon but I do on this one because there's no doubt in my mind that the BBC is one of the greatest assets of this country and so seen throughout most of the world. [CLAPPING] Number two: I pay credit to Tessa because I think she fought a very good battle on the Olympics with the Treasury and won that battle, it was not easy to do. I think on the BBC she lost that battle because the amount of money - well I know you don't agree but I've been very nice on the first one...

JOWELL
Doesn't mean you can't be accurate on the second ...

WILLIAMS
I'm going to be very accurate and very precise. Out of the amount which is less than the rate of inflation, only a little less but a little less, that the BBC was given for the purposes of digitalisation which was £600 million to digitalise the media for the more vulnerable groups - the elderly and the other vulnerable groups - there was a slice to be taken out of the licence fee that had been granted to the BBC. The BBC has no knowledge and neither have the rest of us about whether 600 million will be enough, they have no knowledge of what order and series that will follow, in other words will much more of it fall in the first and second year than in the third and fourth years, which means makes their planning almost impossible. In addition to all that there is no commitment by our dear friends the Treasury, and I don't blame in any way Tessa for this, to say that they will make up any shortfall that they are agreeing to now by the slicing it out of the licence. I think it should never have come out of the licence and I think it should be fully reimbursed if it falls short, as it will do, of the cost of digitalising for vulnerable groups.

DIMBLEBY
Caroline Spelman.

SPELMAN
Well I through Tessa would like a question to go to the Chancellor because this increase in the licence fee is justified on the grounds of the costs of the digital switchover but the Treasury does stand to gain from the freeing up of the old analogue spectrum. So we can't answer about whether or not it's fair until we know how the economics work. I know it took an awfully long time, incredibly long drawn out process, to get to this point but fairness - the Chancellor's the one who needs to answer that question, I think it's a stealth tax.

DIMBLEBY
And unhappily the Chancellor is communing with Mahatma Gandhi and others at the moment and therefore is unavailable to comment and we're just about out of time. Do you take that - it's another of your chances to say yes or no - do you take those points on board at least Secretary of State?

JOWELL
They all have been taken on board and can all be answered, this is a very good, fair settlement for the BBC and for the licence fee payer.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. That does bring us unhappily to the end of this week's programme. Next week we're going to be in Langtree School in Reading with John Cruddas, who's standing for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party; Tim Yeo, who chairs the Environment Audit Committee for the Tories; Lyn Featherstone who speaks for the Lib Dems on international development and the political editor of the Sun George Pascoe Watson. Join us there from here in the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead goodbye. [CLAPPING]

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