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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 13 April 2007
PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Peter Hain
Cheryl Gillan
Adam Price
Lembit Opik

FROM: All Saints Church, Oystermouth, Swansea


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to the seaside village of Mumbles, which this year celebrates the fact that 200 years ago the Mumbles Railway became the first licensed passenger railway in the world with its horse drawn rail mounted carriages service between Mumbles and Swansea. Today it prides itself as the gateway to the Gower Peninsular, which just over 50 years ago was designated as the first area of outstanding natural beauty in Britain and which attracts those who like the more traditional sort of seaside and rural holiday.

We are at All Saints Church in Oystermouth as the guests of Mumbles Community Council. On our panel:

Peter Hain is Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, from which the latter place he's been asked to clear his desk and get out by the combined might - believe it or not - of Sinn Fein and the DUP. Are you getting out as fast as possible?

HAIN
Absolutely - that's my job.

DIMBLEBY
Gives you plenty of time to canvas for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party doesn't it.

HAIN
Too busy voting - getting the votes in for the elections actually.

DIMBLEBY
Adam Price sits in the Commons for Plaid Cymru, as the MP who campaigned for the Prime Minister to be impeached over the invasion of Iraq, he's the holder, among other things, of the coveted spectator inquisitor of the year award.

Cheryl Gillan is the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, although she holds an English seat at Westminster. Nonetheless she was born in Cardiff and mirabile dictu: wonderful to relate, she knows how to sing the Welsh National Anthem.

Lembit Opik describes himself as a libertarian in the classical Liberal tradition but despite that, or even perhaps because of that, he failed in a recent bid to become president of his party. But is doubtly consoled by the fact that he speaks on Welsh and Northern Irish affairs for the Liberal Democrats. He's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]

Our first question please.

ELLIOTT
Don Elliott. If the buck stops with the Minister of Defence, is now the time for him to consider his position over the payment for stories shambles?

DIMBLEBY
Adam Price.

PRICE
Oh yeah I think it's been a pretty unedifying spectacle for all those involved, hasn't it, I mean it's difficult to see why Des Brown should not resign. He's demoralised the armed services, he's demeaned the country and he's, I think, admitted of course that he has the responsibility, the buck stops there, but he hasn't followed through with the consequences of that. And he said that he wasn't content, he knew some days in advance, and yet he didn't act on that. He's said there's not going to be a naval board of inquiry into the actual incident itself and what he said was that it's not for us to second guess the decisions made by others. It may not be for us but it is for him, as Secretary of State, to second guess those decisions. Ultimately he has the responsibility, it went badly wrong and the honourable thing for him to do now is to resign. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan.

GILLAN
Well I think resignation is the easy way out because if he does resign he won't have to come into the House of Commons on Monday and make a statement to the House about what went on. And I think it is absolutely essential that he presents himself in the House of Commons and that we can ask questions of him as to how this decision came about. There are two issues really here that we have to consider. First of all, what actually happened to our sailors and why were they captured and those questions certainly need answering in terms of the resources that have been made available to our troops; the rules of engagement - whether we had enough helicopter cover, how they got captured in the first place. And then secondly, how this terrible decision was made whereby on the one hand they were allowed to sell their stories and then when it looked as if it was a bit unpopular in the press and everybody started to criticise the Minister, surprise, surprise, came out of his Easter revery and decided to reverse that decision. I think that there are many questions that this minister needs to answer and if he resigns and the buck stops at that stage then we will not get to know those answers. So no I don't want him to resign yet, I want him to come and answer to Parliament as he should properly for this terrible debacle. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Secretary of State.

HAIN
Well first of all Des Brown is going to make a statement to Parliament on Monday. He'll answer questions from all the MPs here if they wish to ask them and everybody else and that's quite right. Because there are two things that went badly wrong here. First of all those marines should not have been captured and Des Brown has made it clear that he's instituting immediate procedures, along with the Navy, to make sure that that doesn't happen again because it mustn't happen again, it shouldn't have happened. The second thing that went badly wrong was the handling of the captives when they returned and the subsequent payments for their media accounts. So that's that and I don't think there should be any, as it were, equivocation on either of those two points....

DIMBLEBY
... Just on the second of those points, was it - on the second of those points - was it a very damming - I mean how bad a cock up was it?

HAIN
Well as I say in terms of the capture of the marines in the first instance that shouldn't have happened and then subsequently as the Prime Minister said, as Des Brown has also said, taking responsibility for it, that the process of media - media payment for the stories shouldn't have happened either. But can I just make one other point and get this into perspective? You know this situation arose in terms of the media with newspapers and other media outlets bidding for these stories before they'd even returned, while they were still in captivity and harassing the families and trying to put up loads of money to try and get their stories. Then when they return some of the very newspapers that are now attacking other newspapers and these marines for the way they've given up their stories were actually bidding substantial sums of money for that precise thing. And when I see one of the newspaper columnists in one of these newspapers attacking Fay Turney, I don't think she should have been paid for the story by the way, attacking her on the grounds of her weight and saying that she should be a member of a Celebrity Fat Club, I just say these are people who served their country in dangerous conditions, they should not be vilified in this way, maybe they behaved afterwards in a way that people have accepted should not have happened, they should not be vilified in this way and they should not be attacked by the media - a hypocritical media which sought to buy their stories in the first place.

DIMBLEBY
Is the Ministry of Defence, is the Navy, is the Secretary of State for Defence, is the combination, so feeble that they are unable to resist media pressure to the point where you are driven on the face of it to explain the failure to abide by the traditional precedent in relation to serving officers, serving men and women, and say okay let them speak because we can't stop the pressure - isn't that feebleness of a high order?

HAIN
Jonathan, I've already said this shouldn't have happened, I'm not seeking to defend it. But I'm also seeking to say that these are people who served their country in dangerous conditions, went through a terrible ordeal, as we now know, unlike Iranian propaganda at the time and I think it's right that their accounts revealed in the media. But let's just have a sense of - if we're going to be attacked then fine the government's there to be attacked, it has accepted responsibility and I'm doing so tonight as others have done - the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary ...

DIMBLEBY
One more thing just before I go ...

HAIN
But I just would expect a little more humility from those same newspapers that are attacking the marines who sought to bid for their stories in the first place.

DIMBLEBY
One more thing before I bring in - before I [CLAPPING] before I bring in Lembit Opik. The question says should he consider his position - if he takes responsibility, although he said something like I don't want to hide behind the fact the decision was taken by the Navy, suggesting ...

HAIN
But he's not hiding, he's come into Parliament and asking all the questions of people ...

DIMBLEBY
... should he not, if the buck stops, and it is the debacle it evidently is and you can see that it is, should he not consider his position as Plaid Cymru suggests he should?

HAIN
Well as I say this was a story that - and a sequence of events that shouldn't have happened, I've said that, the Prime Minister's said that, we all need to learn the lessons from it. I don't think anybody acted in bad faith, I think the Navy originally sought to handle a difficult situation where contracts, as I understand it, were already being exchanged with the media and all the rest of it, and it is a situation from which lessons should be learned. Now I'm sure Des Brown, who's a very straight minister, will come to the House explained what happened, answer all the questions and then Parliament will decide whether the questions have been answered in an acceptable way. That's the way democracy should work.

DIMBLEBY
Lembit Opik.

OPIK
I think that the minister should consider his position if he wants to but I don't tend to call for resignations all the time, it's a quick headline but I'm not sure it's a matter for me - it's between the government ministers, as I say, themselves. But what I really want them to consider is who's running this country - the government or the media? If Des Brown can say - and I quote him now: "Some of them would find ways to sell their experiences anyway" and use that as a justification for saying so therefore we won't even demand confidentiality from our civil - our public servants in the army, then the government is ceding this power to the press. Now I do agree with Peter Hain that the press have been morally inconsistent by trying to buy the stories and then using those stories the fact they've achieved that objective to slam the government. But that does not excuse the fundamental problem here. I don't expect perfection from ministers or from anybody else but I do expect consistency of principle and the fundamental principle here is that you cannot allow the operational activities of our military forces to be auctioned off in, for whatever reason, auctioned off in the media. The great mistake here is the green light this sends for future precedents. Now it may already be too late on that but the real question here is how on earth can any minister have ever considered that it was acceptable to tell stories and what message does that say for our very opportunistic media for the future. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan.

GILLAN
I think there are two further points that need to be made and looked at as well. Is first of all that there used to be directors of communications for each of the services which the Labour government removed, which was the buffer between our armed services and the media. And then what happened to Press Complaints Commission offer because whilst the hostages were still being held illegally in Iran they knew they were going to be bombarded with press requests for their stories - naturally - and they actually offered the government to step in there and be a buffer between - after all our men and women that are trained to be sailors and marines certainly not trained to be press spokesmen on behalf of the Labour government. And I want to know what happened to that offer because it wasn't even replied to, as I understand it. And I think the government is in dereliction of their duty towards our serving officers and men and women that are putting their lives on the line ...

DIMBLEBY
Adam Price.

PRICE
I think Peter Hain is absolutely right to point to the hypocrisy of the tabloid press in this country but the problem is of course is the government, through its emphasis on spin, has become embroiled with that culture. You know when you sup with the devil you should make sure you have a very long spoon. And I think that certainly the MOD, for instance, the same press office that decided to leak the name of David Kelly has also been involved in this decision and apart from the issue of Des Brown's position I think there is a serious question about systemic failure in the MOD because it seems to me that somebody decided that there was an opportunity here to actually get some propaganda capital back that they thought they'd lost to Iran, that they could turn this into position spin for the government and that has had disastrous repercussions, not least to the individuals involved themselves. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Our next question please.

DAVIES
Ivan Davies. America sacrificed 56,000 lives in Vietnam before withdrawal, how many lives is the British Prime Minister willing to sacrifice before withdrawing his troops from Iraq?

DIMBLEBY
This is in the week in which the International Committee of the Red Cross said every aspect of life in Iraq is getting worse and the situation is unbearable. Peter Hain.

HAIN
Well the way in which - and we all saw this yesterday - four soldiers returned in coffins to Britain was extremely sad and extremely tragic. And anybody who knows anything about war knows that this sort of thing happens. I mean my father was wounded in the Second World War and whatever view you take on the Iraq War and I think the country is clearly very split on it, I think there's probably a majority to support the invasion at the time but it seems to me that opinion has shifted very substantially against the war since and I think we ought to just acknowledge that that's the case, members of the government who take responsibility for that as well. But I think the answer is that what we need to do is draw down our troops, as we're intending to, as quickly and as safely as possible. Already three regions have been returned to Iraqi security control, two of those British, two more are planned to be handed over to the Iraqi security forces in - later on this year. And that will leave us in a position where we can draw down more forces and then we can see a strategy for ensuring that local security's taken over by those responsible in Iraq and that's where we want to get to. And you know when you saw - the incident also with the attack on Parliament and remember that awful - it was an absolutely awful attack, an indication of the terrible situation there. But 12 million people voted for those MPs to be elected to that parliament, facing suicide attacks and bombings and bullets, and I think those MPs should be allowed to get on with conducting Iraq's affairs in the most democratic way possible and should be supported on that. And terrorists attacks like that at the very heart of Iraq's democracy should be totally opposed.

DIMBLEBY
Lembit Opik.

OPIK
The mess we're in in Iraq is what happens when the government decides to go to war and then decides to create a dossier of evidence once they've made the decision. That was the wrong way round. [CLAPPING] It seems that hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq have now died as a result of this, you may have heard on the news yesterday that while this bombing - tragic as it was - was reported many bombings aren't even making the news. So we have created effectively a civil war situation. And it was avoidable. The reason that I and the Liberal Democrats voted against the war was because in our judgement the evidence simply didn't support the case for war. We actually said then that it would make things worse not better. No satisfaction in being right because people are dead but we were accused of opportunism in taking that position. Unfortunately the Conservatives could have prevented this from happening but they decided to go in with the Labour Party and that was a matter for them at the time. To Plaid Cymru's credit they also voted against the war. But the great tragedy is anyone who looked at the facts back then or anyone who listened to the two million people who marched through London saying Mr Blair think again, knew that this was leading to a catastrophe. You don't make a country more peaceful by declaring way in a situation where it was already being condemned.

DIMBLEBY
Is it responsible for the leader of your party to call for a fixed timescale - a fixed date of departure?

OPIK
Yes I think so because bear in mind that even the most senior man in the British Army - General Dannatt - says our presence there is making things worse not better.

DIMBLEBY
But he didn't call - he doesn't want a fixed date, he actually disagrees with Sir Menzies Campbell on that.

OPIK
I understand that but the reason I take the same view as Menzies Campbell is because we can't keep pretending that everyone involved in this on the terrorist side is insane, anymore than we could pretend that they have no motives. And although this is an awkward thing to say I suggest that if we spent more time understanding the motives behind the terrorism and behind the violence then we might have an outside chance of finding a peaceful solution. But I promise you one thing we will not find a military solution to a peaceful Iraq and that's not because I ever supported Saddam Hussein but it's because I support the kind of peace process we've used in Northern Ireland, in which Peter Hain has been very successfully involved, which actually addresses the motives of terrorism. At the moment our presence there and the American presence is a recruiting sergeant for terrorism and it's not going to create the peace that so many of us want to see for Iraq. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan.

GILLAN
Lembit obviously knew much more than the rest of us in Parliament when the Prime Minister came to Parliament and told us in a very cold and dispassionate way, as I thought as I sat there, that there was a real problem and I listened to the speech again recently and I believed that weapons of mass destruction could be deployed within 45 minutes. I discounted the fact it was a Labour prime minister because I thought it was a prime minister that was telling me that and I thought that no prime minister of the United Kingdom would come and urge us to take military action unless it was very serious. And I voted for Iraq and I'm very sorry, I believe I was misled.

DIMBLEBY
And the situation now?

GILLAN
Absolutely, having said that we are now with troops deployed in an area where circumstances are getting worse, we have already got a timetable for withdrawing at least 1600 troops, as I understand it. And I believe that the withdrawal should be based on the conditions on the ground and as and when it is sensible to draw down. We need a candid military assessment and advice from the military and I'm particularly pleased that we've got the decision to hold a conference with the neighbouring countries under the UN Security Council, that we called for, that is going to look at how we can bring peace to this country. There's no point in setting a date and walking out because things will only get worse. ...

DIMBLEBY
The date is November - is that correct - November of this year.

GILLAN
It will give a timetable for insurgence and a timetable for insurgent activity and I think that's quite wrong. I think you need to listen to what the military advisors and saying and I particularly think that we need to rapidly build up the capabilities of Iraqis, so that they can take over their security and peace keeping and we need to look at an internal settlement between the Shias and between the Sunnis and between the Kurds. I think it is really important that we don't make rash promises ...

DIMBLEBY
Quick response from Adam Price.

OPIK
Very simply first of all I saw the facts and there was no way on earth the facts showed that there was a 45 minute threat of impending doom from Iraq. It was nonsense and anyone who comes from a business background would have rejected that dossier on the basis of insufficient - actually non evidence. But the other point you're making very simply here - we are part of the problem, the idea of having a date for withdrawal will be noted, it takes some of the heat away from the situation and it puts us under pressure to have more of a negotiated settlement with regard to the Middle East. I'm sorry that you voted for the war at the time, I think that was the wrong judgement but now we're in the mess we have to actually look forward and the only way we get peace is by giving them a commitment that we're going to get out of this and stop making things worse. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Adam Price.

PRICE
Well I agree with Lembit and Cheryl, the case for war was made on the basis that it was a preemptive attack to prevent war. We now know it was a preemptive lie to promote a war and that's a terrible stain on this government. And the deception that took us to war has continued ever since. We saw when the Lancet produced their study in November last year telling us of the estimated deaths of 655,000 Iraqis, Downing Street said that study was fundamentally flawed. We now know that the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, Sir Roy Anderson, backed the survey in his advice to government saying that it was robust and close to best practice and other officials said the same.

DIMBLEBY
Would you like - can I just ask a very quick comment on that Secretary of State, because this was a very heavily publicised report and it was rubbished in effect by Number 10 and it is the case that the Chief Scientific Advisor, as we've just heard, said it was robust and sound, just a quick comment with perhaps the benefit of hindsight?

HAIN
Well if I just go back first of all on the point. When I was in the Cabinet I got briefed about the intelligence, I wasn't interested in regime change, the intelligence was clear to me, was believed - by the way - not just by the Cabinet, not just by most in Parliament, by the Russians, the Germans, the French, right across the world, including those countries, those three countries, who opposed our decision to invade and topple Saddam. And I thought it was pretty serious, including Saddam's attempts to acquire nuclear capability. I will not accept people questioning my honesty in making that decision, you can say it was the wrong decision and you can say what has happened since vindicates your point of view but I don't accept that it's a question of honesty or dishonesty...

DIMBLEBY
Now to this point ...

HAIN
... honestly disagree on the original decision without trying to say that people were acting in some kind of underhand way.

DIMBLEBY
Now a quick response to the point that's just been made which is about the numbers of those who have actually died in Iraq, that Adam Price has just made.

HAIN
Well I mean I accept that there's an argument there and I accept that it's very difficult to determine exactly how many have died. What is absolutely clear is far too many have died, just as far too many died - a million people - under Saddam's murderous rule. I mean this is a very, very difficult issue and continues to be.

PRICE
But Peter.

DIMBLEBY
Continue Adam Price.

PRICE
But Peter why was the study rubbished by government ministers when your own advisors were telling you that it was robust and sound and using tried and tested methods for coming up with the figures in conflict zones? This is the kind of deception that is giving politics and politicians a bad name in this country.

HAIN
Adam, all I can tell you, absolutely straight up, whether you believe me or not, whether the audience believes me or not, I did not see that advice and I don't know what decisions were made in terms of the people who were actually talking at the time on behalf of the government about that.

DIMBLEBY
Okay let's leave that point there and continue with the principle point which you were moving on to which is what should happen, I imagine, what should happen now.

PRICE
Well I think if we look at the evidence on the ground it's clear to me that the policy of the so-called surge - the Baghdad security plan - at the moment, at least, is failing. We saw actually that the casualty rate for coalition forces is higher now than it has been at any point since the invasion. And we saw the terrible attack on the parliament yesterday as well an incredibly poignant symbolic attack - the Sarafiyah Bridge over the Tigris, which is a symbol of Baghdad's identity, was destroyed by a truck bomb.

HAIN
But accepting that Adam what are you saying - we get out tomorrow?

PRICE
No, no, no we have to - the current policy is failing, there is [TALKING OVER] ... what I'm saying is there is no military solution.

HAIN
What's your solution?

PRICE
Instead of a military solution we need a diplomatic solution, we need a proper national reconciliation process within the country, we need to bring in the neighbouring states.

DIMBLEBY
Adam Price, given that everyone - given that everyone would like a diplomatic solution, everyone would like internal reconciliation, you are now, for the purposes of this particular argument, the British Prime Minister, what do you do with the troops that are currently on the ground - do you follow Labour policy or do you get them out quick?

PRICE
No, no we have to bring them home, we have to bring them ...

HAIN
When, when?

PRICE
Immediately, that has been our policy for a number of years Peter, because ...

HAIN
Turn your back on people, regardless of the Iraqi security forces ability to take control of the situation, as they are in a number of regions, as I explained earlier, you'd just turn your back on them.

PRICE
Well what you must do - what you must do Peter is replace the coalition forces that were part of the invasion and are therefore a target for the insurgency with forces from neighbouring countries, from other countries that were not part of the invasion force.

DIMBLEBY
Lembit Opik.

OPIK
[CLAPPING] Can I just point out to Peter Hain two things? One is that it's no surprise people are sceptical about the government's motives at the time because it was your government, your prime minister, who accused us of opportunism for opposing the war in Iraq. Well that sticks in my craw a bit because we were following a principled position but you didn't give us the respect that we were following our conscience. But the other point here is, you still don't seem to accept that our presence there is part of the problem. And by putting a date ...

HAIN
I'm not challenging - I'm not challenging that point, I'm saying that the difficulty is moving whatever you think about where you got to up to now and I agree with Adam and anybody else who feels we should negotiate with Syria and the other regional powers - the Saudis - difficult negotiating with the Iranians on this since they're actually behind a lot of the ferment and are supplying it with a lot of the most vicious capabilities. But we need to bring them in as well and we're trying to do that.

OPIK
Well all I'll say is I think that by having a fixed date, as Menzies Campbell and the Lib Dems have said, by having a fixed date you actually contribute to the solution.

DIMBLEBY
Okay, you've made that point. I want to go to our questioner - Mr Davies, what's your own feeling?

DAVIES
The Prime Minister should set a fixed date for withdrawing troops from Iraq, the sooner the better. Therefore many lives would be saved.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Thank you - we'll leave that there with a reminder of the Any Answers number: 08700 100 444, the e-mail address: any.answers@bbc.co.uk, that's after the Saturday edition of Any Questions. We'll go to our next please.

HOWARD
Vanessa Howard. Was Prime Minister Blair right to blame the recent spate of black teenage murders on black culture?

DIMBLEBY
This was in a speech in Cardiff where he said that in his closing time in office he had run the risk of lurching into complete frankness and he spoke approvingly of a pastor who then disagreed with the solutions that were proffered by the Prime Minister - a black pastor who had told him not to pretend for political correctness that it was not a black problem. That's the thing you have in mind. Cheryl Gillan.

GILLAN
Well we all remember the sound bite don't we - tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime - I think nobody of our generations will ever forget that sound bite and certainly they have not been tough on the causes of crime. And what we're seeing on our streets and amongst our teenagers is the result of not being tough on the causes of crime. I think probably this government has tried to solve it by legislation top down, top driven solutions, when there should have been bottom up solutions. We're seeing a lot of family breakdown, we're seeing a lot of educational failure, we're certainly seeing a lot of drugs. And that has been going on for some time.

DIMBLEBY
The questioner is asking about black culture.

GILLAN
I'm just getting there - I'm just getting there. And there is no doubt that it does affect the black community disproportionately but it also affects all our communities. And there's no point in just blaming it on one section because it affects us all in all our communities throughout the country. So yes it is a problem amongst black teenagers and amongst the black community but it is in all our communities sadly and it is spreading.

DIMBLEBY
And just on the question of the - of the response to it - the Prime Minister said that there needs to be a significantly tightened law on knife and gun gangs, are you saying that you don't believe that there is a need significantly to tighten the law?

GILLAN
Jonathan, I've heard it all before, I think that we had - how many pieces? - 50 pieces of Home Office legislation tightening up and what has happened? We have an increase in violent crime, we have an increase in gun crime and we have an increase in the use of knives. What we need are solutions that come from the communities. We need to have certainly more encouragement of voluntary organisations working with the communities. We need parental support. We need to have social responsibility within our community and not always this top down, top government driven solution which in fact has only exacerbated the problems. I think that they have done very little in 10 years. I remember when I was a schools minister we had to close a school in London that was not performing well and when they went into the school they opened the cupboard and in the cupboard was a box full of knives that had been confiscated from the pupils at this school. Now that was 10 years ago, it's not been something that they didn't know about but they've not produced the solutions in the community that I think the communities deserve. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Adam Price.

PRICE
I don't personally think you can locate the reasons for the rise in knife and gang culture just in one section of society. Where there's underachievement - and there is a problem with black Afro Caribbean boys in particular - where there's underachievement, where there's alienation, behaviour will deteriorate. But I think it's insulting to suggest, if that's what the Prime Minister was doing, that young black men and boys are somehow more culturally prone to violence than anyone else. And the black community feels marginalised and a part of this is a result of marginalisation. And you know other communities feel marginalised, think of young Muslim Pakistani and Bangladeshi youth - they feel alienated and that is also expressing itself in terrible ways, as we saw on July 7th. So I think that of course the black community should take responsibility but the white community has to take responsibility, we all should take responsibility and most important of all the Prime Minister should take responsibility because he's presided over this rise in alienation and marginalisation among young people. And to hear the Mayor of London talking about metal detectors in schools - what statement is that on our society. It's the kind of thing we used to see in America in the 1980s and thank the lord that we never would have to cope with that in our society. That's I think an indictment not on society alone but it's an indictment on politicians as well. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Secretary of State.

HAIN
Well of course I agree with Adam that it's an indictment on the way things have gone but if you look at what we've done as a government and then you look at what we still need to do and then I'll answer specifically about the Prime Minister's speech because I was in Cardiff City Hall to hear the whole of it and I think it's not been put in context. But the first thing we've done is injected huge resources into Sure Start, the most deprived youngsters to make sure that they and their parents, often single parents, have got the support, where those single parents were vilified by the likes of John Wedward and the Tories under the last government, including in Wales. We've put much more resources into youth funding, into New Deal for Communities, and I just don't recognise Cheryl's description as top down - these are all bottom up initiatives, run by local communities. Now you can always do more and to do more you have to keep spending more and publicly investing more which is not what her party - the Tories - propose because they plan - intend to cut our spending plans. So I think we need to deal with the problem at that end and try to get more jobs, as we've been doing, and deal with deprivation. But the point, having said all of that, that was being made by the Prime Minister and I think it's one we've just got to look at fairly and squarely is that this problem of knife crime and gun crime is particularly prevalent in inner city black communities, whether it's in London or whether it's in Nottingham. And there is a particular problem there which needs to be addressed and that was what the black pastor that he quoted was saying. The black pastor subsequently said - although accepting that he'd told the Prime Minister that - that you have to deal with the root causes of deprivation, which we're trying to do but it's incredibly difficult.

DIMBLEBY
He said specifically that he was opposed to the Prime Minister's proposal that the law should be tightened up in relation to knife and gun crimes.

HAIN
Well I'm not because I do think the way that kids are carrying knives these days and the way that others, despite the fact that we banned firearms, the carrying of firearms, hand guns rather, and brought in tough anti-crime ...

DIMBLEBY
How would you tighten it up - what - I mean I know - I'm not asking you to write the legislation but in principle how do you, given that there have been these 50 pieces of legislation, given that there are already constraints on guns and knives, what more can you do?

HAIN
Well we've got to look at everything that we need to do, including - you attack Ken Livingstone for talking about metal detectors, none of us like this but the truth is children in - especially in some London schools - are bringing knives into the classroom, well you've got to deal with that. So it's a combination of dealing, making sure the legislation is dealing with some of these new types of crimes, despite the fact that crimes overall have fallen substantially in the last 10 years and there are 8.6 million less crimes against adults than there were when we came to power, so there's been a lot of progress. But these new forms of crime, which I accept are there and are part of the society regrettably and tragically in which we're living, have got to be tackled as well but you don't just do it by the anti-poverty measures, which are essentially, you also do it by recognising there are particular problems in particular communities and trying to deal with them.

DIMBLEBY
Would it have been a good thing if the Prime Minister had lurched into complete frankness rather earlier in his rule?

HAIN
Well it was a sort of joking remark in which he was a question at one stage in the lecture and he was saying that he's going to be leaving shortly and he humoured the audience about that point.

DIMBLEBY
Lembit Opik.

OPIK
A metal detector will not detect a mindset predisposed to violence. The colour of a person's skin does not indicate a predisposition towards violence. About the statistics - well Peter agrees with that, the problem is while the statistics obviously show that there's an issue in the black community to ghettoise the problem, as we have seen so many times before, simply affirms the difficulty. There are lots of white kids, Asian kids, Chinese kids, as we've already heard from Adam Price, who have been involved in violence. And what we are completely failing to do is to recognise that we are dealing with attitude change and you don't achieve that simply by taking away the weapons. My view is the solution exists out there. There's an organisation called Youth At Risk, they do something which sounds perhaps namby pamby, too liberal, they say it's called tough love. And what they say is they will work with these individuals to challenge their behaviour and they don't make a categorisation about the colour or the culture from which the individuals come from. Now that may not satisfy people's needs for retribution but if we're serious about making a social intervention here that makes a difference then we have to make the investment, probably on a one-to-one level with these people, to give them hope, to give them a reason to be involved in mainstream society. And I think the worst thing we do is pretend that by introducing tougher laws and pointing the finger at one part of British culture we're actually going to make the thing better, instead of simply ghettoising the issue further. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Our next question please.

MORRIS
Janekin Morris. Will Labour candidates in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly and other UK elections suffer the consequences of Tony Blair's long goodbye?

DIMBLEBY
Lembit Opik.

OPIK
Well that's really up to the voters, up to you in this room and up to the people around Wales. But what I hope that will happen at the Welsh election is that thereafter the people of Wales will benefit from the wonderful new dawn that the Liberal Democrats offer this fine nation. [CLAPPING] I'm not one into personality politics and perhaps the one person who's qualified to make the observation about Labour itself is Peter Hain. But what I would say is ...

DIMBLEBY
Are you going to climb up from fourth position in the Assembly - is that your expectation?

OPIK
I never pre-judge the outcome but I think the future's bright - the future's yellow. And I also feel that if - I won't make a party political broadcast for my party ...

DIMBLEBY
No please don't.

OPIK
But I also think that ...

DIMBLEBY
We've got it.

OPIK
... the party's ...

DIMBLEBY
What is it - something's bright, the future's yellow?

OPIK
That's a start yes, and I could get sued by at least one mobile phone manufacturer for that. The serious point here is that there are four main parties competing in Wales, the Lib Dems - we have put out our stall as very environmental and very pro more devolution - equal powers to Scotland. I don't know how much influence the Prime Minister's personality will have in this but I do hope that we have a positive campaign here and certainly the Liberal Democrats run a positive campaign because we want to sell a good news story, we want to offer something. And I don't think we achieve that best by running the other parties down but I hope that you'll read our manifesto and if you like it then you'll vote for it. That concludes the party political broadcast. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
I'm sure yours will be just as brief Adam Price.

PRICE
Well ..

DIMBLEBY
.. I mean we see in Scotland that the Nationalists in Scotland look as though they might become the largest party, you're going to have to go quite a long way to have any prospect here from 12 seats to overtake Labour on 29, do you see any prospect of Labour being hit in the same way here as they are being in Scotland?

PRICE
Well I certainly hope the people of Wales will give Mr Blair the send off he deserves and I think there is an appetite for that out there, absolutely. But you know I think the Welsh Labour Party have been quite canny, of course he's only visiting Wales once during the campaign. I've offered to send him - pay for his train ticket because I've noticed every time he visits Scotland the SNP ratings go up. But I do think - and you wouldn't expect me to say this - obviously Iraq and the disappointment that people feel, I think, more generally about the lack of delivery on the great hopes when a Labour government was elected in 1997, after 18 years of Conservative rule, people hoped that the future would be better than the past and unfortunately those hopes and dreams have been dashed. And I think that people feel ...

HAIN
Were you saying it's no better than under the Tories ...?

PRICE
Well no, I think that anything is better than the Tories Peter and you know ...

HAIN
A hundred and forty thousand more jobs, thousands more nurses and teachers and police officers - is that not better? [AUDIENCE NOISE]

PRICE
I think the people - the people here tonight and more importantly on May 3rd will actually cast their own verdict on that ...

HAIN
Are you saying - can I get a straight answer to this question - are you saying Wales is not better than it was under the Tories, are you saying that?

PRICE
Well no I - I rejoice - I rejoiced when Labour won in 1997 - I rejoiced - along with many, many other people because I felt that finally we would begin to see a government that would actually put social justice at the heart of its policy, unfortunately that hasn't happened Peter.

HAIN
But we've transformed Swansea, Cardiff [AUDIENCE NOISE] .. are you saying that - are you saying Swansea today is not a better place than it was 10 years ago?

DIMBLEBY
I'm going to ask you to pause - in this audience - this is not a selected by party audience, it's people who wanted to come to the programme, who thinks, as Peter Hain says, that Swansea - we, i.e. Labour, has transformed Swansea, hands up if you think Swansea's been transformed? Those who think it hasn't been transformed? Well listeners will know that Peter Hain, if the election was to be held on the basis of that transformation, you'd be down - well down the bottom of the poll because most people don't think it's been transformed.

HAIN
... Swansea, let's see what the voters of Swansea say.

PRICE
Well look at the neurosurgery unit in Swansea, a key issue for the people here, defining issue, and surely we could have expected a Labour government to protect public services in our community and yet they won't tell us what's going to happen until - conveniently after the election. [CLAPPING]

HAIN
As it happens I'm campaigning for this to stay in Swansea, the neurosurgery unit, I am. But I just want to put this point: the ...

DIMBLEBY
Sorry is that saying it will stay?

HAIN
That's where I'm - what I'm pressing for.

DIMBLEBY
You're advocating that in Cabinet or wherever you can advocate it?

HAIN
Yes indeed and in the open as well.

DIMBLEBY
And if Gordon Brown emerges as leader you think ...

HAIN
This is a matter for Rhodri Morgan and the Welsh Assembly government, not for the Whitehall government. But the point that I'm making - the point that I'm making is the choice on May 3rd is between a Labour government, which is taking Wales completely in a different direction from under the Tories - more jobs, more investment in hospitals and schools - a lot of things still to do, the regeneration of Swansea and Cardiff and right across Wales, you see it for yourself everywhere you go including the valleys or a Tory, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat alternative government. That is the choice the people are voting for and I think when people see that choice very clearly, the other parties have said they'll work with each other to form an alternative coalition, I think they'll go for Rhodri Morgan's Labour government because that's the choice before them.

PRICE
Can I just ask? When you - when you make the point about keeping neurosurgery services in Swansea to your colleague, as Secretary of State to the first minister, what does he say - what does he say?

HAIN
That decision has not been made yet. But let's look at the big picture for Wales and look at the big picture for Swansea - there are more jobs in Swansea than ever before, more jobs in Wales than ever in our history - there are more nurses, more teachers, more police officers, more public investment. There's a lot more to do what you can be very clear is if the Tories get back into power in Wales all that work will not be done.

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan - Cheryl Gillan than...

GILLAN
I love the way Peter Hain wagged his finger at me and said if the Tories get back into power in Wales. Peter Hain has been going around Wales saying that the Tories are coming back in Wales and indeed I've been very grateful to him for the publicity that he's been giving us. But quite frankly I'm not so arrogant and I would add to what Adam is asking is what is going to happen to Morristan - is it going to be downgraded - which is one of the local hospitals here, what is going happen to Hill House and Fairwood Community Hospital - are those going to disappear? That's the real record of Labour in Wales. And I just have to say that yes I wish Tony Blair was coming here every day between now and the election because it would be the opportunity to remind people of the 10 lost years, of the 10 years that people have been betrayed by this Labour government and they've been betrayed here in Wales. And I hope they will go to the ballot box and give some of our hardworking Conservative Assembly members, that have really tried to keep Rhodri Morgan in check, a chance to do more for Wales. [CLAPPING]

OPIK
The question was really about Blair and in defence I don't go in for too much of personality politics, Blair's done lots of good things that haven't always been reported. He's been very supportive, for example, of a campaign to find a cure for motor neurone disease and involved in that. But it's not about personalities, it's about the manifestos and I judge parties by their record. I don't think Blair - I don't think the Labour Party in Wales has been impressive, it's been an unstable administration, it hasn't been inspirational. If you want to change it you're going to have to vote for it.

DIMBLEBY
And we've just got time for one more question.

BARRINGTON
John Barrington. Cheryl Gillan has already nailed her colours firmly and proudly to the mast. My question is: how would the members of the panel, including the chairman, make out with the words of the Welsh National Anthem?

DIMBLEBY
The chairman, mercifully, is neutral in this so he can't judge. How would you make out Lembit Opik?

OPIK
Some of the pronunciation's wrong but I've got all the letters in the right order, I can just about hold the tune.

DIMBLEBY
What about you - I think we know the answer from you Adam.

PRICE
I can even sing it, you know, maybe we could do a duet Peter - a musical coalition.

HAIN
Absolutely, absolutely.

DIMBLEBY
Can you do all the words?

HAIN
Yes of course I can and ...

DIMBLEBY
What's your singing voice like?

HAIN
Not like John Redwood, the last Tory ...

DIMBLEBY
No I think that was in everyone's mind.

HAIN
It's another reason why you don't want the Tories back in power in Wales.

DIMBLEBY
We're just about very nearly out of time but I've just got time to ask you - Secretary of State - back to touch on the last question: would your position be easier in Wales if the Prime Minister had gone earlier, which is what the question was?

HAIN
Well actually I think when people realise it's a choice between Labour running schools and hospitals, it's not about - the point about devolution is people in Wales make up their own decision on Welsh issues, like who should run your schools and hospitals, should it be Labour or a Tory, Plaid, Liberal Democrat coalition - that is the choice.

DIMBLEBY
Well as the question was put I'm going to ask the audience again: Would it have been - would Labour have an easier time of it now, given that they've got a pretty good set of challenges, if Tony Blair had gone earlier or would it make no difference - if he'd have gone earlier would it have made a difference, show your hands? Makes no difference? Well a lot of people don't have a view either way but most people who did vote think that it would make a difference if he'd one. Just - I've still got just a tiny moment more to ask you another question Secretary of State, [indistinct words]. Are you still ...

HAIN
I'm happy to oblige.

DIMBLEBY
Are you still strongly of the view that David Miliband would be daft to run against Gordon Brown?

HAIN
I take the view that Gordon's the outstanding successor, I doubt he'll have an opponent, I don't think he'll have an opponent but of course anybody can put up.

DIMBLEBY
Would you like an election or do you prefer not an election?

HAIN
I think it'll be healthy if there was an election but you have to get people to get the 44 colleagues to put you on the ballot paper to have a contest.

DIMBLEBY
So would you like it if David Miliband could get those 44 votes?

HAIN
No I don't think David will do it and I don't think he should because I think that Gordon is the better candidate.

DIMBLEBY
Okay we have to leave it there unfortunately. Next week with Eddie Mair in this chair the programme comes from Leeds with Hilary Benn as Secretary of State for International Development; the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis; for the Liberal Democrats Sarah Teather and Sir Digby Jones. Join them. Join us for Any Answers tomorrow - 08700 100 444. For now from here in Mumbles goodbye. [CLAPPING]

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