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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 26 January 2007
PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Jon Cruddas
Tim Yeo
Lynne Featherstone
George Pascoe Watson

FROM: Langtree School, Woodcote, Near Reading


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to South Oxfordshire and to the village of Wodecote, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty some six miles from Reading. We're the guests of Langtree School, a comprehensive with 520 students and a specialist performance arts college with a strong academic record and a string of achievement awards from the DFES.

On our panel: Tim Yeo was a Tory frontbencher until 2005 when he resigned to campaign for what he called extensive change in the party. He is still on the backbenches but influential as the chairman of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

John Cruddas led the Labour Party stampede to succeed John Prescott as Deputy Leader of the Party. An erstwhile Blairite who worked for him at Number 10 he's campaigning now to strengthen the links between the party and its grass roots.

Lynne Featherstone was successful in business until she entered Parliament at the last Election, where she now speaks for the Liberal Democrats on international development.

George Pascoe Watson is the political editor of the Sun newspaper. In this role, in the last couple of days, he's been lambasting the Home Secretary, under the headline John Reid's Brain is Missing for his alleged - alleged abysmal failure to solve the prison crisis. The paper has now opened a missing brain hotline [Laughter], promising to send a matchbox to whomsoever finds the missing organ which - which Mr Pascoe Watson has described as walnut sized. He is the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]

And I should say straightaway that the Any Answers number, Secretary of State John Reid, Home Secretary, is open for you, the Any Answers number is 08700 100 444.

First question please.

MOORE
Margaret Moore. Should the government focus its attention on why our prisons are full rather than advising judges to issue non-custodial sentences?

DIMBLEBY
Tim Yeo.

YEO
Well the short answer to that is yes it should. This has been a good week for criminals I'm afraid and a bad week for the public and the police and indeed even the prosecutors who can do a lot of good work now and see it all come to nought when serious criminals are not actually sent to jail at all. I'm afraid at the root of the problem is we have heading the Home Office a weak man who wants to be thought of as a strong one and the key to John Reid's personality I thought - when he was Health Secretary - and he caved in on every negotiation, he is the man who is responsible for paying the family doctors much more money for doing less work. And at the Home Office what he's done is what David Blunkett did, he's chased headlines in the Daily Mail instead of running the department. And the result of all that is that the serious business about giving our prisons capacity up, the government itself forecast four years ago that the number of people in prison would be what it now is, they did nothing to build the prisons. So there's serious culpability on the part of the government and they should of course be focusing on how we can reduce crime. The figures only this week show that armed robberies are up, serious crime is rising in a way that quite understandably worries the whole country.

DIMBLEBY
But given the fact of prison overcrowding are you seriously saying it's John Reid's fault that there's prison overcrowding, he's only been in the job for several months?

YEO
No I'm not saying it's his fault but he's done nothing in the nine months or so he has been in the job to address it because he is always focused on the headlines. He's chasing the good stories in the Daily Mail, instead of getting on with the unglamorous work of actually tackling the real problems.

DIMBLEBY
John Cruddas.

CRUDDAS
I would disagree with that, I mean I think that the questioner gets it right on the money actually in terms of the real question here is the long term question of are we locking up the right people. I was amazed, I was talking to a colleague of mine who's involved in the prison service the other night and he told me that 80% of people who go into prison either have serious mental health issues or serious drug dependency issues. And if you add alongside that those who go in on remand, as well as young offenders - and there was a big issue in the press today - then I think those throw up real issues in terms of who we are actually locking up. I take the point about outstanding poor prison planning that's been occurring. I think we have to be aware though that the government has increased capacity by about 20,000 over the last few years and is anticipating increased capacity by another 8,000. So I think we have to place this short term problem in perspective in terms of the overall increase in capacity. However, I do accept the central premise of the question that we should be having a real debate about who we lock up and what sort of alternative provisions there are to stop this cycle of reoffending and the sort of vortex of dependency and criminality.

DIMBLEBY
When you have two judges [CLAPPING] when you have two judges effectively saying that they've released two criminals who they would otherwise have sent to prison or at least held in custody because of the impact effectively of the Home Secretary's letter to them and John Reid responds that he was simply reminding them of the guidelines, what do you make of that?

CRUDDAS
I couldn't quite understand what the judge was actually saying. I mean if I was a judge and I thought the person - this was a remand issue actually - should be sent to prison I would not have compromised that view whatever because you have to judge it on the merits of the proposal in front of you in judging that case. Therefore I would not have been swayed by the memo sent to me and indeed as far as I can understand it - and I'm not holding a candle up for John Reid here - there was no change in terms of the guidelines sent to the judges. So therefore I can't understand why the judge - and I think there's a bit of mischievousness being played out here - why he did not ensure that the person - if he felt he should be - was put in jail straight away. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
George Pascoe Watson.

PASCOE WATSON
Yes you can discuss and debate who is in prison and why they're in prison and obviously that's a really crucial issue. But the more pressing issue I think and that we've tried to reflect in the Sun this week, is that very bad people are not going to jail right now because of this government's failure to build enough prison places. Tim is right to point out that this has been pointed out to them time and time again by politicians, by their own advisors, not least by the press and the Sun. John Reid promised that he would bring in prison ships, he promised that he would turn MOD sites which have been disused into prisons, none of that has actually happened although he repeatedly tells us that he's in talks about it. And Gordon Brown, as far as we understand, has released enough money over the last 10 years to actually build the prison places which are necessary. This government has been told that over the next 10 years the prison [indistinct word] should be at about 100,000. Now you can argue whether that's a good thing or a bad thing but the fact is when you have paedophiles being freed by judges to walk the streets where our children could easily be attacked then that's an extremely dangerous situation. And the first rule of any Home Secretary is to protect the nation.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Lynne Featherstone.

FEATHERSTONE
Well I think everyone's been shocked to hear John Reid's get out of jail free card, well not even go to jail in the first place, to those who one might think should actually be put in jail, that's the whole point that criminals who are dangerous or persistent should be jailed but there's a whole other raft of measures that should be in place for those who shouldn't be jailed. And right now I mean I think John Cruddas is right about 50% of people in jails have mental issues, about 10% of which are truly serious. The whole point of sending people to prison is to stop them going to prison again. If there's no work our reoffending rates are around about 60%, very little is actually going on to stop people going back to prison. You cannot build your way out of criminality, in the end the whole point of taxpayers' money going into prisons, which is hellishly expensive, is to make them reform and learn the error of their ways and be educated, grow skills and you know you're seven times as likely to reoffend if you don't have a job or can't get a job when you come out of prison. So I would prefer the government to put more effort into making sure that people didn't reoffend, not simply thinking that building prisons, even if they had planned for it and had got it together, was the answer. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
In the introduction the audience was quite entertained by the Sun coverage, do you think it helps John that - helps public debate about these very difficult issues by hounding the Home Secretary as being brain dead?

CRUDDAS
I'm not sure actually - on quite a serious note - there is a comical side to it and the Sun is brilliant for this but I'm worried about the Sun builds them up and then knocks them down and that's the sort of currency we had in terms of analysing politicians. And that actually makes politicians react to that sort of agenda as well and I sort think it's sort of poisons the well in terms of public service in this country actually. I think there are very important issues there [CLAPPING] - every politician I've met actually, irrespective of political parties, from my experience goes into this for the right reasons - to make a contribution - and there's a strong sort of ethic of public service that I've found across the whole political class actually. And I find it really uncomfortable and I think there's a real danger that people will just not step up if this is the way the currency of political debate now. And I don't - George is a friend of mine and I think the Sun is a brilliant paper but I am worried about the terms of debate increasingly drifting away in terms of a populist almost sort of celebrity culture, sort of Pop Idol politics and that turns me off personally and I think it doesn't help the country either because we're grappling with complex serious issues.

DIMBLEBY
But your friend is poisoning [CLAPPING] your friend is poisoning the well, you've poisoned the well George Pascoe Watson?

PASCOE WATSON
Well obviously I'm bound to say we're not poisoning the well. I hear the criticism and unfortunately in the role of a newspaper like the Sun which has a vast readership which reflects many, many voters, probably many, many voters who don't necessarily support you at general elections, who pay their taxes in this country and expect their streets to be safe, expect that they can have an economy which they can rely upon and expect the elected people who they send to Westminster to actually represent their views. And sometimes they need a harsh friend, like the Sun, to stand up for their rights because let's face it very often MPs and particularly ministers in government very quickly lose sight of why they're there in the first place. We witnessed that at first hand and I'm sorry if people find what we do a little bit harsh but the reality is it gets results.

DIMBLEBY
Is the Home Secretary still talking to you?

PASCOE WATSON
Well he threw me a walnut whip, if that constitutes talking I don't know.

DIMBLEBY
Tim Yeo.

YEO
I think that we've got to remember that historically newspapers have said pretty nasty things about politicians for decades and I've certainly been on the receiving end of some stick from the Sun from time to time. I think the country gets the newspapers that it wants. The Sun would not print what it does and be a highly successful newspaper if the public didn't continue to buy it in absolutely vast numbers. So it's all very well for people to applaud a criticism of the allegedly declining standards in the media, those standards would stop declining pretty fast if consumers didn't buy the papers which people say are leading the decline. So I don't think we can really complain about the Sun or the other papers. And in an age when political blogs on the internet are becoming commonplace the idea that we're all going to suddenly be polite to each other seems to me completely outlandish. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
In this context, Lynne Featherstone, you said just now, you used the term dangerous or persistent to describe those who should be sent to jail, we've got these two paedophiles on remand who have not been kept in custody and you have the News of the World royal editor, I think he's called, Clive Goodman sent to jail for four months, do you think that these anomalies or - sorry let me rephrase that - do you regard that on the face of it as anomalous or do you think that they're equally dangerous persistent criminals or non-dangerous non-persistent criminals?

FEATHERSTONE
I think they're completely different issues. In terms of the sentences given to the editors, I mean that is clearly making an example of a practice that has gone on or is thought to have gone on and it's an exemplar process where they're saying to the world this is unacceptable to tap in to whether it's the Royal Family or whatever, it cannot go on anymore in the media, it is the debasement too far for the journalistic world. And I think it's clearing it up so it's sending a different message. Whether that's fair in comparison is a whole other issue. We're all shocked by paedophiles who are persistent being let go.

DIMBLEBY
Will it work George Pascoe Watson?

PASCOE WATSON
Will what work?

DIMBLEBY
The fact that Clive Goodman's gone to jail for four months and the editor of the News of the World has resigned as a result of the sentence?

PASCOE WATSON
Well I don't know, all I can say is that Clive Goodman was as far as I'm aware acting on his own, he did what he did, it's not a practice that anybody on the Sun has done, does do, or would do. The ...

DIMBLEBY
Ever? [AUDIENCE NOISE] Ever? Has never happened to your certain knowledge?

PASCOE WATSON
To my certain knowledge that has never happened. The News of the World has apologised profusely for what happened...

DIMBLEBY
So it happens in one Murdoch newspaper or did but not in another - the sister paper - is that what you're saying?

PASCOE WATSON
That is exactly what I'm saying. The News of the World has apologised profusely for what has happened, it's an extremely grave situation, extremely sad situation [AUDIENCE NOISE] and the editor of the News of the World has resigned tonight, he's paid the ultimate price, he's taken full responsibility. As I say as far as I'm aware it's not something I have ever known happen on our newspaper and it's, as I say, it's not happened on the Sun.

DIMBLEBY
We'll go on to our next question.

QUINTON
William Quinton. How many days off through illness is reasonable?

DIMBLEBY
The context of this I presume is the threatened BA ...

QUINTON
The British Airways strike yes.

DIMBLEBY
Where one of the big issues was the T&G members saying that the new regime on sickness pay has forced them to work when they are ill. You're a T&G man John Cruddas.

CRUDDAS
I am actually, a longstanding member and ex-lay activist and officer of the union. This is - I mean industrial relations at British Airways have been notoriously difficult for a number of years, I remember Bob Ayling and we had the strikes and then we had other - we seem to have a sort of regularity to these disputes. Willy Walsh the Head of British Airways I mean he has a bit of reputation as a bit of a hard man who's picked his fights with the unions in the past. I would say look this is not the 1970s, I mean these are cabin crew, some of whom are notoriously quite badly paid. I mean there are issues about time off and sickness but they're the subject of negotiation. And as far as I understand it the T&G thought they were fairly close to a deal but then there was the sound of sort of goalposts shifting around them. My view about this is that look if you look at the amount of people who voted and how uniform they almost voted for the industrial action there are some big managerial issues that they need to sort out here because these - in today's climate you don't vote in those numbers for industrial action if there are not substantive issues that need to be addressed. I would simply say look rather than affect the public in this way why don't we lock them in all in a room throw away the key and ensure they talk until they reach an agreement before there's any strike action.

DIMBLEBY
British [CLAPPING] British Airways says that as a result of the new regime there's now 12 day average taking days off through sickness rather than 22 days, suggesting that pulling a sicky or so called duvet days were there. Would you recognise that as being likely?

CRUDDAS
I mean look it's quite possible, I don't know the specifics of the dispute and I don't know the history and the sort of - I don't actually know a lot about the sort of environment within these cabin crews. I mean all my friends they say to me that you actually are inclined to get quite sick if you travel a lot on aeroplanes because of the whole sort of environment within them. Look it's something that needs to be addressed by both the management and the unions and they should get on and sort it out and not jeopardise public support, a. for British Airways or inconvenience in terms of their travelling arrangements.

DIMBLEBY
Tim Yeo.

YEO
Twenty two sounds an awful lot to me. I think in most businesses I've been involved with you can usually benchmark this, you know what the industry average is, and if your organisation has a performance which is way out of line with the industry average then something is wrong and management is entitled to try and address that and if they have to do that by rewriting the terms on which their staff are working that seems to me a perfectly natural and rational response. So I think it's a question of working out what other people are managing with and seeing if your organisation is out of line. I think - I mean I take John's point about some jobs are more prone to illness, some actually - people take more time off because they're not terribly interesting jobs, I mean most of us here are lucky enough to have the sort of jobs it's actually fun to go to even if you're not feeling very well, I personally would rather go to work than not go to work. But I realise that a lot of other people are not in that happy position.

DIMBLEBY
Lynne Featherstone. [CLAPPING]

FEATHERSTONE
On the way here I was listening to this on the news and there was - someone brought up the example of the fact that the cabin crew take exactly the same air in, because they were saying that the germs come from the air inside the aeroplane, as the pilots but the pilots have very little sick pay - little sick days off, so you have to assume there's something to do with the differential in salary as well....

DIMBLEBY
Because cabin crews start off at something like 10,000.

FEATHERSTONE
Yeah, you know so there's obvious management issues going on. What I would say two things is, one, I can't bear it when they only strike when it's half term or holidays, that drives me absolutely mad [CLAPPING] and the second thing that I always feel about industrial relations was that not only should they put in a room to negotiate but that we should have a camera in on that room so we could actually see those arguments unfolding. Because you know what it's like, you see people coming out of negotiations and it's as if they haven't been in the same room, they have completely different ideas as to what was said, what was agreed and so on and I've always thought the solution is to let us watch and judge for ourselves. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
George Pascoe Watson.

PASCOE WATSON
Well I do think it's odd that British Airways still has 12 days sick as its sort of average when the national average is 7, I think that tells a very big story. Willy Walsh at British Airways is trying desperately to get British Airways into shape before it moves its headquarters to Terminal 5 when it's finished and I think he's doing the right thing by trying to ensure that British Airways remains a world class top of the tree flag carrier for the country. And to be really pressed into getting paid days off because you have a cold or diarrhoea sounds a little bit limp wristed to me, even if people do get ill because they're going on long haul flights quite a lot of the time, that's got to be something which you would have thought the management of British Airways has already taken into account. I think that we're long past the days of industrial action and striking in this country, or at least we should be if we want to maintain competitiveness in today's economy. And I wish Willy Walsh well on it.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. [CLAPPING] It would be good to hear from either management or indeed airline staff, cabin crew, in Any Answers if you want to ring in, the number is 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address is any.answers@bbc.co.uk, that's after the Saturday edition of Any Questions.

Our next please.

CANAL
Richard Canal. Does the panel think that the Catholic church should be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation?

DIMBLEBY
Lynne Featherstone.

FEATHERSTONE
No I don't but I think it's a very difficult and sensitive issue and a clash of principles. But I think if you have anti-discrimination law in a country you have to observe it. I mean obviously I think we've been thinking of this over the last few days and there were two things I thought really. One was an anti-discrimination law if it doesn't test you, if you're not adverse to it, then it really isn't changing anything. The - you have to change your opinion to do something that is difficult, if it is easy then you are not really discriminating and there are so many bases on which many people would argue that they had a right to discriminate because of a person belief, a cultural background or whatever. And I think the minute you begin to exempt one you must exempt all and that is a hiding to ruining the Equality's Act. The second thing is [CLAPPING] the second issue is I think it's very difficult when you think in the abstract and I'm sure many people listening tonight will have some issues and some concerns in terms of a gay couple being able to adopt a child, I think that's just because it's a new thing, it's a new tradition and it takes a while for change to embed. But if you stop it being in the abstract and you think about friends of yours who are perhaps in gay couples and you begin to make it a human thing, thing, and a loving thing and you relate it to people you know then you stop the demonisation of it and you begin to understand that what is most important for a child is a loving home regardless of the combination. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Tim Yeo.

YEO
Well I broadly agree with Lynne, you can't make exceptions to the law for one organisation, we'd rapidly get into a situation of complete chaos if we tried to do that. As far as adoption is concerned, the key point at all times is that the child's interests must come first. About 15 years ago I was the minister responsible for adoption and I looked very carefully at the issues around whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt and I was quite persuaded - quite quickly persuaded that it was right to let gay couples have the opportunity to adopt because there are some children whose best interests are served by allowing that to happen. As long as we always relate adoption policy to the interests of the potential adopted child then I think then you just have to flow logically from there and you recognise you want to widen the pool of possible adoptive parents as wide as you can and certainly in terms of the law - you can't have one law for a Catholic adoption society and another law for a different one.

DIMBLEBY
And even if the [CLAPPING] even if the effect of that, as it is said by some, would be that particular children would not be adopted, maybe the difficult children, because the Catholic church will not breach its own faith principles, that's a price that has to be paid?

YEO
Yes I think it is because I think that the potential consequences of trying to make exceptions are so grave and it doesn't require much imagination to see where it might lead. And I also think that parents who really want to adopt, whether they're gay or straight, I think that they will find another agency. I mean the truth is that there are some children, particularly multiply handicapped children, who are not the most obviously easy children to place and it needs courageous and loving parents who may be heterosexuals, they may be gays, but there are parents there and they will find an agency who's willing to act for them.

DIMBLEBY
George Pascoe Watson.

PASCOE WATSON
Yeah I think it's right that if a law is passed the law must be upheld for everybody, otherwise how can anybody respect the law itself. But I think what's interesting about this issue this week is that it's a bit of an own goal by Labour, there was no actual requirement, nobody was screaming out for this legislation to come through, what had happened [CLAPPING] what had happened for years is that gay couples were able to adopt and were doing it very successfully up and down the country, whatever your view happens to be about that issue and of course now the government has brought in legislation, it's created a big, big headache and more importantly I think in a political sense it's exposed a certain weakness about the Prime Minister with cabinet ministers coming out openly this week and making it absolutely plain that they've stood up to him and it looks like they may well change his policy on this on that's not a good position for him to be in.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] John Cruddas.

CRUDDAS
In terms of Richard's question I agree with him, I mean if you have Equalities legislation you can't have - it seems very difficult to have opt outs from Equalities legislation because that contradicts what you're trying to do. And I agree with a lot of the comments that have been going on. It seems to me however there is a deal that you could agree in terms of the introduction of such legislation, be it in terms of the phasing in, in terms of Catholic agencies, or in terms of people who might work for Catholic agencies not being Catholic themselves who deal with the question of gay couples. That is not beyond our collective wit to sort out. What worries me about this, however, and I should add, is a sort of undertow to this debate which sort of is somewhat intolerant to people of religious faith in terms of public service in this country and I find that quite difficult to stand up for, especially when I think what George was saying there have been elements in the government which have been a bit too eager to stake out territory in this debate before we've actually formalised the formal government position through the cabinet and I think that sort of feeds into a sense - a sort of secular sense of intolerance around the whole question of Catholics or people of faith in public life. And you could take it to the logical conclusion which some would even question the legitimacy of people in - with faith in public service and I find that very, very difficult.

DIMBLEBY
You are a Catholic are you not?

CRUDDAS
I am, I am a Catholic.

DIMBLEBY
You are a Catholic?

CRUDDAS
I am a Catholic and I was brought up - and the reason I got involved in the trade union labour movement was precisely because I was brought up in a very strong Irish Catholic family which preached a sort of radical social obligation or vocation on you in terms of helping the most vulnerable, the poor, the dispossessed and the like and I transferred that into why I joined the Labour Party as well. Now at times ....

DIMBLEBY
Do you - do you ...

CRUDDAS
... it's difficult to reconcile your Catholism and your Labour tribalism as well but that's why you have to work things through in a sense of you know tolerance for people with different belief systems. Tolerance ...

DIMBLEBY
Is your - as a Catholic do you share the views of the cardinal about this, is your faith of that character which says that the practice of homosexuality is a sin and would you ...

CRUDDAS
No.

DIMBLEBY
You don't?

CRUDDAS
No I don't share that - I don't share that. But I do respect the role of the church in advocating and reflecting its teaching in the public domain and I wouldn't question the legitimacy of that. And I think actually if you peal beneath the veneer of some of this debate there is a sort of - a lack of tolerance for those contributions in the public sphere.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Lynne.

FEATHERSTONE
I mean I think it's wrong of the church to threaten the government, I think that's unacceptable. But I wanted really to go back to the point that George made that this is really quite symbolic in terms of the weakening of the Prime Minister because there have been many times, I imagine, when he has not been at one with his cabinet and yet this time, when there were obvious arguments, he didn't - he was unable to steamroller it through and they used it to put in the knife and to say no longer - we're no longer capitulating.

DIMBLEBY
John Cruddas, you're nodding at that. Just on this, because it's been much in debate, would it help, do you think, if the Prime Minister was, as he's being apparently urged to do by many, give us the timetable now when he's actually going to go rather than us being on tenterhooks about it?

CRUDDAS
No I don't actually, I think it's quite likely that by the middle of the year he'll be gone and I don't think there should be any stampede for the door. I think he's - he looks like there's still an energy and vitality to his leadership. There was bills published today and I don't think that's the issue here. I mean I think there is a danger - the issue I would raise is the behaviour of some who appear to be both in the cabinet and outside of the cabinet simultaneously in terms of the briefings they're performing to journalists.

DIMBLEBY
Who? Who have you got in mind?

CRUDDAS
I don't know because it's never - actually I'll ask George because the journalists tend to know more about this than politicians ...

DIMBLEBY
And he certainly won't tell you.

CRUDDAS
... in a non-attributable basis.

DIMBLEBY
Okay, okay. I'm going to bring in our questioner, Richard Canal, what's your own view?

CANAL
I wanted to pick up a couple of things that the panel mentioned there. I agree entirely with what Lynne said about the need for anti-discrimination legislation, if it's easy then there's no purpose in the anti-discrimination legislation and I would wholeheartedly support legislation that treats everybody of every description equally. I have personal interest though, and picking up something Tim said, I've personally adopted three young girls from a Catholic adoption agency - I'm not Catholic myself - I have three amazing beautiful wonderful daughters as a result of the hard work and effort that that Catholic adoption agency put in. They're a charitable organisation and I think it would be a tragedy if their expertise, commitment and hard work was lost in this debate. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
That's an immensely powerful sentiment but you've, as it were, put yourself on the hook of a dilemma haven't you because you agree with Lynne Featherstone about that, do you take the view that the Catholic church should adapt therefore or the adoption agencies and accept gay couples or would you give - to go back to your own question - exemption from the legislation to the Catholic adoption agencies?

CANAL
No I think I agree with all of the panellists in their view that anti-discrimination legislation has to apply equally to all, that's the point of it. And I am, as you say, [indistinct word] dilemma and then as Lynne put it in a clash of principles there and I think it's going to take some working out to make sure that those skills and that expertise and the interests of those children that come through the adoption agencies are not lost in the debate.

DIMBLEBY
Can I just ask - thank you for that - can I just ask our audience just by a quick show of hands? Who thinks that - you've heard the debate - that the Catholic church should be exempt in this respect from the Equality Act, would you put your hands up? Those who think they shouldn't? Well here overwhelmingly this audience is against the Catholic church being exempted. We'll go on to our next question please.

MORRIS
Alistair Morris. Should the UK follow the example of Spain and ban ultra thin models on the catwalk to ease pressure on young girls over their body size?

DIMBLEBY
The UK has actually said it's - the British Fashion Week said they're not going to follow that lead, as it were, from Milan and from Spain. George Pascoe Watson.

PASCOE WATSON
It's a really important issue, as we know, from not just the fashion industry but also in the newspaper and magazine industries. Models are going increasingly thin and to my mind, to my eyes, they look worryingly ill and they're sending very bad signals to young girls in our society who genuinely are concerned about the way they look, very much to the detriment of their health and it is a real problem. Should the British fashion industry ban them? I personally think that the fashion industry should encourage a change in the way of what is the fashionable look, if you like, for the time. That's not something which needs government legislation, it's something that everybody in the fashion industry could presumably do quite easily just by agreeing to move to a certain shape and form which is a little bit healthier and sending a healthier message. It is a problem. We get lots of letters in our post bags at the Sun about this kind of issue, worried parents, worried girls. And it is definitely something which I think maybe a responsible attitude needs to be taken towards it.

DIMBLEBY
Lynne. [CLAPPING]

FEATHERSTONE
I have two daughters and I can tell you, you spend your entire time as a mother worrying that at some point they're going to take off into anorexia nervosa. I mean my two haven't, thank goodness, but friends of mine with daughters who have have had the most terrible time. And I have absolutely no doubt that while the fashion industry is not totally responsible for what goes on it does not help when the aspiration is double zero and when you have the stars who insist on eating nothing and that is glamorised. I mean I say to girls out there go for someone like Kate Winslet who not only is glamorous and beautiful but a reasonable size and has a brain as well. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
It's a kind of naive question but do you understand why fashion models, who are employed, are required to be so thin? Is it because clothes in some way look better, is it because they think that women want to look as thin as that, what's going on, would you guess, if you can?

FEATHERSTONE
Well there's a complete obsession. I mean clothes undoubtedly hang better on someone who is slim than not slim but you do not have to look like a skeleton, in fact I think it makes clothes look revolting. And it bears no relationship to the real market and I think any sensible manufacturer, if they were really clever, would wise up, use a better model and set, as George said, a new fashion and put an end to all this absolutely horrific role model, which is a role model to death. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
John Cruddas.

CRUDDAS
Yeah I'd echo what Lynne said. I think there's something almost life denying about the sort of skeletal features of a lot of these models and I cannot - I don't know anyone who finds them in any way a sort of - and I mean that in a sort of seductive image, you know, in terms of the figure. I was pleased in terms that I was catching the train over here today and I read, in terms of London Fashion Week, that the guy who runs Arcadia - Philip Green - had actually come out today and said look there's zero zero models are just not good enough and we want a different type of model and I welcome that and I welcome people stepping into the sort of public debate in this and saying look we cannot sort of sanction this, we have to change this because this sends out appalling signals to young women in our communities and I think we have to actually really register a debate and our profound concerns about the nature of these images that we see.

DIMBLEBY
Tim Yeo.

YEO
Well I agree with what the other panellists have said entirely. I think this is a very bad role model, it can lead young women into very miserable - miserable chase to become thinner and thinner. What puzzles me about it, not only do I agree that skeleton like models do not show clothes off to great advantage, relatively slim people do but not skeletons but my experience as a man is I don't particularly find skeletons physically attractive either, I prefer - I can say this on radio - I think that most men would prefer a model whose figure is a little more apparent than some of the skeletons who are now being used by the clothes designers.

DIMBLEBY
But the men aren't buying the clothes are they, it's the women?

YEO
Well speak for yourself Jonathan.

DIMBLEBY
Oh you're buying - well I won't pursue this any further with you. Tim Yeo buys the clothes off the - okay we'll leave it there.

YEO
Not all of them, of course not all of them but I think ...

DIMBLEBY
Yeah but you know the point - it's women - you think that there is some mismatch between what women actually know men like, if they're dressing for men rather than for themselves, don't they dress themselves?

YEO
Yes but I think - what I'm trying to say is that I think a lot of women are aware that men do not find a skeleton like figure particularly interesting or attractive and therefore the temptation to get very thin is purely driven by the fashion industry and a young woman who's trying to appeal to a range of young men will think that actually to be a little - have a little more weight than that is a good thing.

DIMBLEBY
Lynne. [CLAPPING]

FEATHERSTONE
I still think there's a kind of striving, it's something that women have got to learn to deal with, there's a striving for some kind of image, the unattainable image, and it's not - I don't want it to be about what we look like, I want it to be about what we are. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Thoughts on that - Any Answers 08700 100 444 and once more the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next please.

WALKER
Janet Walker. Should Britain ditch Greenwich Mean Time?

DIMBLEBY
You've tried to bring it to pass Tim Yeo.

YEO
Well the answer is I'm afraid yes it should. Greenwich Mean Time is of course relatively recent anyway, we only had standardised the time in the second half of the 19th Century in Britain. But there are three benefits from doing what my bill today, which unfortunately didn't get through, that is making the clocks later by one hour throughout the year, GMT plus two in the summer, GMT plus one in the winter. The benefits are firstly saving a hundred lives every year on the road and 300 serious injuries and the transport minister admits that the figure is correct. Secondly, a reduction in electricity consumption, therefore saving energy and reducing carbon emissions, something which we're aware of in a way today we were not 40 years ago. And thirdly an improvement in the quality of life for everybody - longer evenings in which older people who are nervous of being out after dark can go out and enjoy a better social life and in which youngsters after the school day is over can go out and play some physical sport which would have a lot of benefits as well. So there's a quality of life advantage as well. For those reasons I think the case is absolutely overwhelming and tragically in the debate today in Parliament the Scottish tail was allowed to wag the English dog and because of the views of a relatively small number of people in Scotland both the government and indeed I think the opposition front benches were nervous of backing a bill which has majority support from the public. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
George Pascoe Watson - Scotsman.

PASCOE WATSON
As a Scot yeah. In Scotland this has been something which has always been talked about and has always been rejected. I mean I'm broadly in favour of it but then of course I live in London so it wouldn't affect me that badly. I know that in Portugal they did a similar experiment with all the same reasons that Tim has cogently put forward but in fact the Portuguese dropped the experiment after a few years because they discovered that it was extremely badly affecting school kids performance because they were permanently exhausted because of course they stay up so much later because it doesn't get late - dark until about 10 o'clock at night and therefore they couldn't sleep and teachers were actually genuinely reporting that performance was nose diving as a consequence.

DIMBLEBY
Portugal is quite a long way south of the [indistinct words] Scotland.

PASCOE WATSON
Absolutely but it is the only place we know which has the same time that we live to, so all I can say where it's practically been tried it didn't work. However, I think Tim it's probably quite a good idea and let's give it a bash. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
John Cruddas.

CRUDDAS
I know Tim said that the opposition - his opposition opposed this bill. I actually came into Westminster to vote for it actually and I did vote for it and I think there was only 30 odd of us who did.

YEO
Thank you very much. [CLAPPING]

CRUDDAS
Because - and all power to his elbow in this. I mean it was what they call, in technical terms, a second reading debate which was to vote on having a debate about this and it seemed to me that was absolutely the critical issue here because I've received a number of letters in this saying that this could save a thousand young people's lives, now if it saves one that would be enough for me to support this bill. And I support Tim and I wish him all the well. There are issues about Scotland but that's just sort of testimony to why we need to discuss this in a full and frank way and look at the implications of it and if it will save one life then we should do it.

DIMBLEBY
Lynne Featherstone.

FEATHERSTONE
[CLAPPING] I thought it was Tim's attempt to get in the good books of David Cameron as the sunshine boy. But obviously there are some really serious benefits, in terms of lives saved, without question, in terms of the environment, in terms of energy. It has been tried twice before and didn't work. What I think ...

DIMBLEBY
What do you mean it didn't work?

FEATHERSTONE
Well the public rejected it. But what I think we really need is the government to do some work ...

DIMBLEBY
When?

FEATHERSTONE
Oh years and years ago, I haven't got the dates on me, but it was twice tried.

DIMBLEBY
Just to check.

YEO
Yes the experiment was abandoned because Parliament didn't continue it in 1971, the public weren't given a chance, there was no referendum or anything like that.

FEATHERSTONE
Okay but what I think we seriously do need, so that we can maximise the benefits and minimise the dis-benefits is Parliament or the government rather to do some really serious work - Department of Transport, Scottish groups - to work out how we can maximise those benefits, use the sunshine, use the daylight, save the energy but not get into the dis-benefits for Scotland.

DIMBLEBY
Who in this school - here in this audience - would have - had they been MPs in the House of Commons - voted for Tim Yeo's bill, would you put your hands up? Who would have voted against? Well it would have been a shoe-in for the change. [CLAPPING] Our next question.

BARK
Debbie Bark. Were the grounds that descended on Branscome Beach this week evidence of Britain's commitment to recycling or a reflection of a materialistic something for nothing culture?

DIMBLEBY
George Pascoe Watson.

PASCOE WATSON
Well I'm afraid it's too serious to joke about. It was a very ugly reflection on the society which we now live in. For the life of me I have to say I cannot understand why the police stood by and apparently gave their permission for people to go on to the beach and to start plundering and looting, which is what they were doing. I'm sure the police have ways of finding some law, they tend to find some law when I've been driving to hold me back. There are always ways that the police can stop people doing this sort of thing, it was a very, very unpleasant sight. Of course the temptation when somebody puts in front of you a £12,000 BMW motorbike and a set of keys and says if you fill in this form and your name is Micky Mouse then off you go, that's a very tempting thing. But you know as we've seen real people had real possessions which they saw on their television screens and in their newspapers being strewn about on beaches and taken home. Very, very unpleasant scenes - ugly - and ugly side of Britain which I wouldn't want to see repeated and obviously it's now time to change that - the law - when it comes to wreckage for this sort of thing happening again.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Tim Yeo.

YEO
Yes I thought it was a deplorable display. I hope it's not a reflection on the British population in general. This was criminal behaviour, there's no other word for it and I thought it was all extremely regrettable. I do think that there is a tendency to think if you've found something in the street you might not ask too much about where it's come from, I think a lot of people now if their railway ticket does not get collected they might be tempted to use it again and so on. I think there has been an erosion of the attitudes towards low level criminal behaviour but this was really on a grand scale and I was shocked by it and I hope very much that it's not in any way typical of the attitudes around the country.

DIMBLEBY
What do you do if your ticket's not collected?

YEO
Quite a good question Jonathan but I'm in the happy position in London I'm now old enough to travel courtesy of the Mayor without paying anyway and when I take the train to my constituency I have to confess the taxpayer pays for that as well.

DIMBLEBY
Lynne Featherstone.

FEATHERSTONE
Okay, well I mean I've always been shocked when I've seen on the news people looting when there's a war or a disaster and somehow I didn't expect it of us and when I saw it on a British beach I thought it was the real proof that civilisation is only skin deep and I found it really worrying. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
John Cruddas.

CRUDDAS
Yeah I mean I agree with everything everyone's said actually - stealing is non negotiable, if they were my belongings being taken away I'd have been mortified actually and that's the way you have to look at these things. There is no justification for it whatsoever.

DIMBLEBY
George, you want a quick word.

PASCOE WATSON
One thing I would say which is a benefit - if that ship turns up to be empty in the next few weeks perhaps John Reid could turn it into a prison ship. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Which takes us back to where we started some 45 minutes ago. This is the end of this week's programme. Next week we're going to be in Eastbourne, Eastbourne College, with Iain Duncan Smith, of course the former Conservative leader; the Cabinet Office minister Pat McFadden; the founder of the charity Kids Company Camilla Batmangheldjh and the editor of the Spectator Matthew d'Ancona. Join us there. From here in Langtree School in Woodcote, goodbye. [CLAPPING]


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