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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 07 December 2007
Chairman: Edward Stourton

Panellists: Vince Cable
Nick Herbert
Caroline Lucas
Phil Hope

FROM: Wootton Upper School, Bedfordshire


STOURTON
Welcome to Any Questions. We are at Wootton Upper School just outside Bedford. The school has a particularly distinguished record in the performing arts, which gives our panel something to aspire to.

Vince Cable has less than two weeks to go in his current job. The Liberal Democrats will announce their new leader on December 18th, but the way he's conducted himself, as acting leader, has won him admiration all round. Except perhaps from the man he called Mr Bean. And you've given every impression of enjoying your time as acting leader.

CABLE
Well it's certainly exhilarating but you're in danger of falling over at any moment.

STOURTON
Nick Herbert is the shadow justice secretary and has been asked by his party's leader to review prisons' policy.

Phil Hope holds the marginal seat of Corby by a whisker majority and enjoys the intriguing and, if you'll forgive me for saying so, slightly sinister sounding title of minister for the third sector, which makes it sound as if you live between the third way and the fourth dimension. But it actually means the voluntary sector, is that right?

HOPE
That's right because we've got the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector and we call it the third sector because it embraces charities, community groups and social enterprises.

STOURTON
And finally Caroline Lucas is one of the Green Party's two lead speakers, the two speaker system being of course one that's about to change because the Greens last week voted to have a single leader like everyone else. Please welcome our panel. [CLAPPING] And let us now have our first question.

HUNT
Patricia Hunt. Is Gordon Brown right to boycott the EU African summit because President Mugabe has been invited?

STOURTON
Nick Herbert.

HERBERT
I think he is right to boycott the summit. I can understand the reasons for doing so. I think there's a grave danger though that Mugabe appears to be the winner by being able to go. I happen to be sitting today next to a group of ex-pats from Zimbabwe who related to me their despair about what has happened to their country and Mugabe. The way in which the country has been plunged into economic chaos, the poverty, the fact that there is so little it appears the international community can do about this. We seem simply to have been playing some kind of desperate waiting game. And that as in fact what has happened is that Mugabe's tyrannical regime has continued. I think that Gordon Brown - I fear he was trying to send a signal early in his leadership that was something dramatic, that he wished to take some kind of stance without really thinking through what the implications of disengagement from this conference were. What he has done is left the diplomacy to our country in his absence but nevertheless I do understand why he felt that he wanted to take the stance that he did.

STOURTON
But to be clear you think he should have gone or shouldn't have gone?

HERBERT
No I think he - I understand why he didn't go, I think on balance he was right not to go but what I worry about is that we in this country seem so enfeebled in relation to the stance that we have been taking against Zimbabwe, we seem not to know what to do.

STOURTON
Alright. Vince Cable would you have gone?

CABLE
No I think he was absolutely right to stay away, absolutely right. I mean I haven't had many kind things to say about Gordon Brown recently but I think this - on this particular occasion his judgement was absolutely correct. I mean Mugabe's run a monstrous regime, it's impoverished the country, large scale torture, large scale killing. We shouldn't be doing anything whatever to appear to be underwriting that. I mean it isn't actually just Mugabe, there's also Bashir, who's the tyrant who runs Sudan and is responsible for the massacres in that country. So there were good reasons I think for staying away. And I would actually criticise also the African countries who've got behind Mugabe, I mean it's terribly short sighted of them, they think that because the Chinese are coming in, in the short term, and paying their bills that they don't need to worry about their relationships with Europe and I think that's terribly complacent. So yes the answer is Brown was right.

STOURTON
Caroline Lucas, you're an MEP, what do you think about this and what do some of your colleagues in Europe think?

LUCAS
I think that most people would agree that Gordon Brown was right not to go. As other people have said that Mugabe is a tyrannical dictator, that he has an appalling human rights record, frankly I think we should have got the Portuguese to arrest him when he landed in Lisbon and actually get him to the international criminal court in the Hague, that's where he should be, not sitting around in this meeting in Zimbabwe. [CLAPPING] But what I think is a pity is that Brown announced back in September that he planned not to go and I wish that he'd managed to persuade more of his colleagues in the European Union to share his position, it doesn't help that the EU once again looks divided on this and it would have been a very good thing if it could have been a much more strong position from EU wide, rather than just Gordon Brown. But overall as well about the summit what really grieves me about it is that it is a hugely wasted opportunity because we're hearing that the issue of Zimbabwe, the issue of Darfur, isn't even on the formal agenda, we're told it might get talked about in the margins of the meeting. I mean I think that is utter political cowardice that these issues really ought to be right on the top of the agenda when we're talking with our African colleagues. If we're talking about human rights in the abstract it beggars belief really how we can do that if just around the table we've got people like Mugabe who are responsible for most appalling human rights records. If you think about what's happened in his country - three million people are refugees now, four million dependent on food aid, the life expectancy has gone down by a half from the age of 60 in 2000 down to 35 now - it really is absolutely appalling.

STOURTON
But Phil Hope this is a bit of a turn up for the books really, the first question and pretty much everyone thinks your boss is doing the right thing.

HOPE
Well yes, I'm very pleased - I'm very pleased that the liberals, the Conservatives and the Green Party are in full support of Gordon Brown and I hope we can continue that theme throughout the. ..

STOURTON
Unlikely I suspect.

HOPE
... tonight. But the real point is it would have been an utter media circus if Gordon Brown had gone because Robert Mugabe and the others who are there would have milked this event for all that they could. I think we sent a very strong signal to Europe and to the world that we're not going to tolerate abuses of human rights, abuses of governance, abuses of torture and killing in a country which was once one of the most successful countries in Africa. And I think it's very important that the European Union and Africa do have good strong relationships but not on the basis of backing dictators like him.

STOURTON
What about the questions this raises about the Prime Minister's standing in Europe because as Caroline Lucas said he's the only one doing this and he didn't manage to persuade anyone else to come with him?

HOPE
Well I would encourage those European countries to look again at their policies in the way that they go about engaging with us. As I said I think we do want strong relationships between the European Union and Africa. We are playing a very strong role at the heart of the European Union to ensure that not only the European economy continues with strength on the way forward, leading the economic debate within Europe but also I have to say the environmental debate within Europe. And I also believe that our leadership on issues about making world poverty history, in other words what we're doing to increase aid to African countries, to improve trading relationships, to reduce poverty and increase education for children in Africa, there are many ways that this country - Britain - under Gordon Brown's leadership is providing real world leadership.

STOURTON
Well all that's as may be but it's still the fact that nobody else followed his lead on this particular issue.

HOPE
Well and that - therefore even more reason why we need to stand true to our principles, we know - and we've heard Nick, we've heard Vince, we've heard Caroline tonight - they're spelling out the atrocities and the governance that is going on in Zimbabwe at the moment and I hope European leaders will listen to Britain and Gordon Brown's leadership and I do believe despite it not being on the formal agenda Gordon Brown going - not going to this conference has meant that issues of human rights and good governance in Zimbabwe are now being discussed as we are discussing them tonight in a way that might not have otherwise have happened.

STOURTON
Nick Herbert, you talked about your frustration about what appeared to you to be the impotence of Britain to influence events in Zimbabwe, what would you have the government do that it's not already doing?

HERBERT
Well I think that's a very fair question and we have urged tougher action and that's why I think it's right for us to support the Prime Minister when he says that he won't go. I have always felt that the key to this lay in South Africa and in the attitude of the South African government to Zimbabwe and one of the many mysteries it's always seemed to me about the view firstly of Nelson Mandela and now of President Mbeki is why they won't take a tougher line on Zimbabwe themselves. And it is in that area of diplomacy that I suspect the government should concentrate.

STOURTON
Should be focussing on persuading South Africa to do more. Vince Cable do you have any other suggestions that you think the government could usefully follow?

CABLE
Well I think the buzz phrase is smart sanctions. I mean what's happened in Zimbabwe, as in other countries of a similar kind, is that a lot of the wealth now accrues in a handful of corrupt individuals of which Mugabe is the worst but many of the people around him have become enormously rich, their wealth is stored in Europe and I guess some of it's in British bank accounts and British property and what we should be doing is targeting those individuals.

STOURTON
Well it is obviously, from the response here, a subject on which people feel strongly. Those who wish to comment among our listeners on Any Answers 08700 100 444 is the telephone number, any.answers@bbc.co.uk for your e-mails. Let's now have our next question.

WALLACE
Bob Wallace. How can governments be made accountable for meeting their climate change emission reduction targets?

STOURTON
This of course in the context of the Bali conference on this subject which opened this week. Caroline Lucas I think you deserve the first shot at this.

LUCAS
Well binding targets are absolutely crucial. And what we've got to have is consistency from government as well and frankly when you see Gordon Brown - we've just been praising him on the last question but I'm afraid that's going to probably be the last time he'll get praise tonight from me - if you see what he's done on climate change, you know he made his special green speech on climate change on Monday of the week, by Thursday he was giving the green light on massive expansion of aviation, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. So it seems to me that there's a bit of - a lack of joined up government there. So we need binding mandatory targets. I think that the government frankly should be ashamed that business seems to be going further than government right now. We've had the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Trust coming forward, begging governments to say please put in place the kind of policy framework where we've got clear targets, where we know what the different kinds of expectations are and governments simply aren't doing it. Again it's an issue of political cowardice. And it matters so much - Bali is so urgent. We're being told by the latest intergovernmental panel on climate change that we've just got about eight years in which to put in place a policy framework which will ensure that emissions start to go down. And frankly the lack of urgency, the complacency of governments right across the board is really very shocking. So what we need out of Bali is both real ambition from the northern countries, we also need an understanding that it is the northern countries that are primarily responsible for historical emissions and therefore they are the ones that have to do most. So yes developing countries also have to take some commitments but essentially we've got to recognise that they are the ones who are going to hardest hit by climate change - they have the fewest resources to deal with it - and yet they are least responsible for it and I think that gives us even more of a responsibility to act.

STOURTON
The question is quite carefully targeted isn't it - how can governments be made more accountable for meeting their reduction targets - you haven't quite addressed that.

LUCAS
Well let me answer that as well, so much to say on this subject I wanted to get the other bit out first.

STOURTON
Sure, get the big speech out the way.

LUCAS
What they can do is actually face fines if they don't meet those targets and this is beginning to happen in the European Union now. Under the Emissions Trading System, which has all kinds of faults and flaws, which if we have another question we can deal with those, but essentially they're now beginning to build in some kinds of sanctions that if you don't meet your emission reduction targets the EU can begin to bring forward some sanctions on that. We need that absolutely firm and fast but we also need targets that are linked to the capacity of the countries to meet them. And that's why I say it's the rich countries that have to go furthest fastest and poorer countries need more space in which to develop but they also need technology transfer, they need a huge amount of support. But this is primarily an issue of political will, it's not a technical problem, it's not a scientific problem, it's one of political will and I hope that the march on Saturday, for example, there's a big climate change march on Saturday which I hope everybody will be at ...

STOURTON
Alright, yeah, that's enough free - that's enough free commercials. Phil Hope and if you could in the course of your answer address the accusation that Caroline Lucas made against the Prime Minister about Heathrow.

HOPE
Well I thought Caroline was being a little less than generous because we've just published the Climate Change Bill.

LUCAS
With the wrong targets.

HOPE
I didn't interrupt you Caroline, forgive me. And you neglected to mention that we are the only country in the world that has got a Climate Change Bill that will have as part of the legislation, built into the legislation, targets to reduce carbon emissions, this is a first. And I have to say the government is pursuing this particular policy with vigour. We are very well aware of the importance of reducing greenhouse emissions, of reducing the impact of carbon on the climate. And I have to say I think it has to happen at every level. Yes we must have international agreements, and I agree with Caroline actually that they should be binding, we've got to get there through consensus, but it's vital that we do that. I agree actually with Caroline that we should be talking about developed countries, like Britain, but also the other developed countries leading the way, given our historic legacy of what we've created in terms of carbon emissions and the effect that has had. But it's not just about national governments, international agreements, it's about everybody here, it's everybody out there making some personal decisions about how they choose to live their lives - it is about just the simple things of changing those light bulbs to long life light bulbs, it is about switching off the TV set and not leaving it on standby. It is about local councils too working with local communities to improve recycling rates, for example. And my job, as minister for the third sector - charities and social enterprises - I meet really clever, really intelligent, really exciting and dynamic organisations out there working to reduce waste, to improve the environment and to make our society a greener and more pleasant place to live.

STOURTON
I suspect we're going to get into competitive greenery up here on the panel but let me ask Vince Cable for his response.

CABLE
Well I'll join that competition. I think the first step is the government has to itself take this seriously and we had some testimony from last week that Sir David King, who was the government's scientific advisor, an eminent scientist, that he tried to warn of the seriousness of this problem, he used this phrase about climate change being a greater threat than terrorism. And he was suppressed, he was told to shut up and he's had to come clean and acknowledged the pressure that was put on him by the government that wasn't willing to take it seriously. I think to answer the precise question and the way to make government more accountable is not just to have targets in the long term but make sure that they're annual so they can be measured every year and our parliament is there to stand behind them and make sure that they're implemented. We've had an example of the lack of seriousness with which Gordon Brown approaches this, I asked him a question in Prime Minister's Questions a few weeks ago about it that Tony Blair had made the commitment, I think a year ago, that Britain would have 20% of its power in the form of renewable energy, new renewable energy not nuclear, within a few years time and Gordon Brown stand up and said well that's a very good target for Europe but it doesn't necessarily apply to Britain. And it was an attempt to slide out of a very firm commitment that the government had entered into. Now just one final point and I totally agree with Caroline that one specific area where the government is taking a terribly cavalier approach to this whole issue is the massive expansion of airports and particularly Heathrow. We know for a fact that this is one of the most rapidly growing areas of pollution, of emission, we know that the aviation industry doesn't pay proper charges, there's no taxation on it in the way that there is on motorists for example and that this is an area where the government should be trying to pull back demand in order to try and make a contribution to the global warming problem. But it's come under pressure from the industrial lobbies behind it and it's capitulated.

STOURTON
I think I let you get away with it without answering the point about Heathrow Phil didn't I.

HOPE
Let me make the point - I think one of the crucial ways of creating a low carbon economy, which is where we actually need to arrive at, I'm going to address this particular point about aviation, is through global carbon markets. And we do this through emission trading schemes, that many people will know about. And I just want to make the point that I think the solution is not necessarily to cripple our economy, which is potentially where Vince Cable is talking about going, I think that would be a huge mistake in terms of making sure we have jobs and prosperity in this country but it might be to think about how we can include aviation in the European Union emission trading scheme. And that way we can trade off carbon emissions against carbon savings elsewhere, so we can have the benefits of economic growth and contribute to reducing carbon emissions in the world.

STOURTON
Well both Caroline Lucas and Vince Cable are shaking their heads but we're going to hear from Nick Herbert before we go back to them.

HERBERT
Well firstly I agree with Caroline's criticisms of the government's will in this regard. If you look at what's happened to carbon emissions since the government came to office they've actually risen and the government had a manifesto commitment, in fact in three successive manifestoes to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2010. And last year they reduced that commitment very substantially. They've currently got a commitment to cut carbon emissions by 2050 by a minimum of 60%, which is fine except that I think we must be led by the science in this respect and all the science is saying that that won't be a sufficient reduction to enable us to meet the two degrees centigrade target, which was agreed by the government itself at the G8 summit this year. So it seems that a greater reduction is going to be needed. I think that should be achieved in the Climate Change Bill, which needs to be strengthened. But I'm happy, Ed, that we are having competitive greenery. This year, the former vice president of the United States Al Gore came and addressed the Conservative Party about this issue and I was really struck by one thing he said, he quote Mark Twain and he said: Do the right thing. And I think that it is - these issues actually transcend party politics, they are of global international significance about the future of our planet and that means that the government must take a lead here. Yes Phil, you're right, it does come to individual action but it is for this government, for the fifth biggest economy in the world, to take a lead, you've got to be bolder in this respect.

STOURTON
Okay. Caroline Lucas [CLAPPING] just very briefly if you could because I want to move on, we've a lot to get through, but you were shaking your head very vigorously during ...

LUCAS
Well on the Climate Change Bill first of all, of course I welcome the fact that we have a Climate Change Bill but it's got to have the right targets and Gordon Brown still isn't yet saying he's going to shift away from that 60% and until it's a much higher target then frankly it's deeply irresponsible to try to give the impression to the public that we're actually solving the problem, whereas the UNDP itself has said - the United Nations have said - that if all the countries went for this target that Britain is having it would us nowhere near far enough. And on aviation - this is a subject that I actually cover at the European Parliament - and what aviation in the emissions trading system is that what happens to aviation demand, by 2020 instead of growing by 143% it's going to grow by 138%. Now I hope you all feel that that's a marvellous achievement that was worth all the amount of work that's gone on there. I mean this is ridiculous, it's going to have no real effect on the aviation sector. And that matters because people have got to get away from the idea that flights for £10 from one end of Europe to the other are the way forward, we simply aren't going to be able to have those in the way forward in the future. But just one last point ...

STOURTON
Very briefly if you could.

LUCAS
Well David King, as someone else said, has said that climate change is a greater threat than terrorism and yes it is but why don't we have a fraction of the resources, the financial resources, the political commitment that this government spent on an illegal war in Iraq instead put into something like climate change we might have a safer world. [CLAPPING]

STOURTON
We're going to move on, we're going to move on because we could be here all night on that subject, I can see. And I'm going to ask for our third question now.

DAVIES
Keith Davies. My question is this: Have any of the panel been tempted to do a Reggie Perrin?

STOURTON
You're thinking canoeists here I take it. I'm going to let you choose which of you would like to address that first, any offers.

HOPE
Well not tempted to do that but I have had a secret longing - one of the skills I learnt when I was training shop stewards in negotiating skills, this is rather bizarre, was I learnt to juggle as one of the participants to my training course came along with all his juggling kit, he was working for a circus that was in negotiations. And he - the course was hopeless but we all learnt to juggle. So I've had a secret urge to run away to a circus and learn how to throw four clubs and catch them.

STOURTON
So it's not the experience of being in the government for the past couple of weeks.

HOPE
But juggling is a skill that a lot of government ministers do pick up quite quickly.

STOURTON
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
Well I love Reggie Perrin but actually the bit about Reggie Perrin that I love most was less the escaping and more the way in which he would look at someone and then - and [indistinct word] would come into his mind. And I must say that around the work that I do I often find myself - I won't go into details - finding other images coming into my mind as I ...

STOURTON
Would you care to share with us the images that come into your mind as you look round your fellow panellists?

LUCAS
Not right now, later towards the end of the evening.

STOURTON
Nick Herbert.

HERBERT
Well I think a former MP did do a Reggie Perrin, didn't he, Stonehouse did exactly that so it's happened in the past.

STOURTON
Clever to turn this into a party political issue I must say.

HERBERT
I was walking past the Treasury last week and suddenly from nowhere some big road works had appeared just outside the Treasury and it appeared that somebody was trying to tout and I wondered whether it was Alistair Darling seeking to make his escape. I don't think it'll be long before some senior Labour Party figures will be folding up their clothes on some beach and hoping that they will never be found again.

STOURTON
Vince Cable have you ever had this temptation?

CABLE
Well occasionally for a weekend to disappear but I'd like to get back into the action. I can think of people who I would like to disappear, which is a slightly different question. And I'm actually - I'm rather enjoying my job so one of my current fantasies is that perhaps the two contestants for the Liberal Democrat leadership might like to disappear in a canoe and leave me to it.

STOURTON
I think that's [CLAPPING] ..that's humorous but that sounds like a bit of news there, you would have liked the job would you?

CABLE
No comment.

STOURTON
We can take that as we will. Let us move on to our fourth question which is on a more serious subject.

CLARKE
Malcolm Clarke. What does the need to build more super prisons say about the increasing lawlessness of our society?

STOURTON
And this I suppose in the context of the news of Titan prisons being built holding I think it's two and a half thousand people each. Nick Herbert this is very much your beat.

HERBERT
Well I'm afraid it is a reflection of the fact that we live in an increasingly violent society, violent crime has doubled under this government, sentence lengths to try and deal with violent crime have increased and as a consequence the prison numbers have risen. But the problem is that the government failed to keep pace with the predicted demand. It was told in every year since it took office that it would need more prison capacity and it didn't provide it and the consequence is we've got really serious overcrowding in our prisons now and very high reconviction rates so that people are leaving prison because they're not being rehabilitated and are reoffending at the rate of two thirds - reoffending within two years in the case of adult offenders, in young offenders it's even higher. I disagree with people who say that we shouldn't provide this prison capacity because I have a very simple principle which is that sentencing should fit the crime not prison capacity and if the crime is out there then we have to be able to deal with that. Prison has three purposes: to punish offenders - and that is an important purpose to deter others at the same time - to incapacitate those offenders - to make sure they stay behind bars and out of harms way - but also to rehabilitate offenders. And it must fulfil all three of those things and I think the great failure under this government has been to rehabilitate. But those who say that we should simply not send whole swathes of people to prison, you know, prison is largely full, almost wholly full, of people who are violent offenders, repeat offenders and serious offenders. The idea that you could sort of put them on to other community sanctions which have a very low attendance rate which are not taken seriously, are not robust, is I think a nonsense. There are people who we could put in other secure accommodation - women prisoners should go into smaller secure units; serious drugs offenders should be treated in secure units and got off drugs, at the moment offenders are getting on drugs in prison which is a disgrace; and the mentally ill, seriously mentally ill people, should be treated in separate secure units. But prison is essential, what we must do is have prisons with a purpose and make prisons work again. [CLAPPING]

STOURTON
Vince Cable.

CABLE
Well that answer was completely contradictory, it started with a very strong statement about why we needed more places in prison and then listed major categories of people who ought not to be there. And my position on this is very clear: prisons are necessary, there are some people - a lot of people - who need to be in prison because they're a threat to society because of violent offences and of course we need prison. But when we actually look at the numbers and the numbers are being constantly expanded they're horrific. A half of all prisoners have some form of mental illness, a substantial percentage of them very seriously mentally ill. In women's prisons it's as high as 80% mentally ill people. And it's very obvious that if you have a problem with mental illness you need to tackle that, whether in secure institutions or in other ways. The number of drug addicts is about 10,000 out of the 90,000 prison population. In addition to that a lot of the people who reoffend - and we're talking enormous numbers, about half of all prisoners reoffend - a lot of this is due to the fact that the people who come out of prison have absolutely no way of making their way in the world. I saw a staggering statistic the other day that half of all people in prison have the reading age of an 11 year old or less. Now these people, you know, prison needs to be used for those people who have to go there to educate these people, to train them, so they don't come back. And so I think the answer is let's just build bigger and bigger prison capacity is simply a lazy response to a very real problem, that an awful lot of the people in prison shouldn't be there, an awful lot of the people who are in prison should be properly educated and trained so they don't come back.

STOURTON
Do you accept Nick Herbert's first point which is that prison is there and should be there to punish?

Sorry, I was asking you Vince Cable ...

CABLE
Sorry I thought you were asking Nick.

STOURTON
Yes, I thought you were deep in thought about that.

CABLE
No I thought you were looking to my ...

STOURTON
No, no I was looking at you - Nick Herbert made the point that prison should be to punish, among other things.

CABLE
Yes that is a perfectly legitimate objective. If somebody's committed a very serious antisocial offence, particularly involving violence, of course they should be punished.

STOURTON
Caroline Lucas.

LUCAS
Well I think that this proposal reflects really the enormous failure of Labour Party policy, that after 37 different crime and justice and police bills we've got a prison population that's actually already grown by 20,000 and now they're planning to add another 10,000 on top of that by 2014. So I don't think anybody feels any much safer as a result of that. So I think it just shows that Labour's policies haven't been working. It worries me a lot that Britain incarcerates more people than any other country in Western Europe, I don't think we're really going to say that the British people are innately more criminal. And as Vince has said, when you look at the reoffending rates, I mean they are deeply, deeply shocking, it's not only almost 70% on average but in certain groups of younger men, for example, between the age of 15 and 18 that reoffending rate is 82%. So it simply isn't working for the vast majority of people. What we need to do is to look, as Vince has said as well, about getting people out of prison that don't need to be in, shouldn't be there and I'm talking about people with drug problems - over half of new prisoners, 70% of new prisoners, go in with some kind of drug problem. People with mental illnesses need to be treated elsewhere, we need to have tough community sentences where people don't actually pose a threat. And we also just need to listen to some of the experts on this. And one of the things that worries me about this big, macho, titan, massive prison is actually when you look at what the experts say, like Anne Owers, who's the chief prison [gap] is that actually smaller prisons, more local prisons closer to the community are actually more effective, they work better, they're safer and they actually have a higher rate of rehabilitation.

STOURTON
Just returning again to the question, the idea behind it is whether the fact that we need these extra prisons or that they're going to be built is a genuine reflection of the fact that we are an increasingly lawless society, do you think that's true?

LUCAS
I don't think that's true, it may well be true that certain forms of crime, as Nick has said, has gone up but overall I cannot believe that we are overall more criminal now than we were before or that we're more criminal than other countries. I think what's changed is the fact that we've got a government that is so desperate to show that it's tough on crime and in this last week we've had this triple whammy of detention - new figures for detention - new prisons, new immigration figures, you know the government's desperate to move on to an agenda that it thinks it can kind of flex its muscles on. And it's just completely the wrong way forward and it's betraying the very people that need the support from our criminal justice system most of all.

STOURTON
Alright. Phil Hope.

HOPE
Well my constituents in Corby want to see us do both things - they want us to make sure that more people who commit serious or violent crimes are put in prison for their own safety and the safety of the wider community. They also want us - to see us do something about people who come out of prison to prevent them from reoffending. So we are doing both of those things - we're building more prison places, we're catching more people, they're being sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment because they've committed serious crimes - and I think that's right. So I think it's right for us to build more prison places in order that those people are taken out of communities so our communities are safer. But they also want to see that when people leave prison and go back into the community that they're reoffending goes down. And I was in Wandsworth Prison only a few weeks ago talking to prisoners there who were engaged in a project run by a third sector organisation called the St Giles Trust, which actually trains prisoners who are in for longer periods of time to give advice, information and guidance on things like drugs and things like health, on things like houses, to offenders who might be leaving that prison to go back into the community. And when the go out they need a job, they need somewhere to live and they need support from people like the St Giles Trust to ensure that they don't go back - back into offending again. They are having remarkably successful results and that's why we are supporting organisations like the St Giles Trust to do more of their work not just in one prison, not just in 20 prisons, in every prison if we can across the country where those kind of interventions make a real difference. And just one final point: is crime, in the way that Nick Herbert scaremongers in the typical way I know that Nick and the Conservatives all do, out of control? No it isn't. The facts are again in my constituency in Corby, as a result of police and police community officers with neighbourhood wardens working together in my local areas, covering the whole of my constituency, crime is falling - crime of theft of cars, crime of theft from cars, burglary, antisocial behaviour is going down because now we have more police officers, more uniformed officers on our streets, in our communities, that are a continual presence, that are reassuring people and the facts are crime is going down in this community and what we have to do is carry on giving the police the support they need to carry on doing that job.

STOURTON
There's a problem of - sorry didn't mean to cut off the applause but there is a problem of logic there isn't there, if crime is falling and we're getting - becoming a much safer country why do we need so many more prisons?

HOPE
Well as I say we're being more successful in catching people and those people that we're catching, for those serious and violent offenders, are spending longer inside prison in order that we can make our communities safer. There is no contradiction between an effective programme of policing and community - safer community teams - working in practical - because I've been out with them on the streets in my constituency, making a real difference, my community in Corby tell me this, there's no contradiction between doing that and the real impact that's having in some of the most poorest communities, I might add in my constituency, and the fact that we want to see more people if they commit serious and violent offences being put away.

STOURTON
Nick Herbert, quick response to that.

HERBERT
Well I sometimes wander what planet government ministers are on when they say that antisocial behaviour is coming down. [CLAPPING] Everybody knows that antisocial behaviour is not coming down, the government has not been able to do anything about it. The other thing which the government has done - and there was nothing, by the way, in the statement this week about rehabilitation - and trusts like the St Giles Trust, that you mentioned, are desperate for more money so that they could do more to rehabilitate people - the other thing that the government didn't mention this week is that because they have failed to provide sufficient prison capacity up until now they've had a policy of releasing offenders early before the end of their sentence and this year 25,000 prisoners will be released before the end of their sentence, not on their merits but simply because the government failed to provide sufficient prison capacity. Two thousand of those so far have been violent offenders and many of them have gone on to reoffend when they should have been behind bars. Frankly I think the government's management of this situation has been a disgrace. [CLAPPING]

STOURTON
Vince Cable and then we're going to move on to the next question.

CABLE
Well we've had arguments in the last few minutes, both for more prison places and more police officers, and that's raised the obvious question is of course where you get the money from. Gordon Brown was in charge of the country's purse strings for 10 years. And of course one of the most appallingly foolish decisions the government has made is to commit themselves to this compulsory ID scheme which is going to cost on some estimates £20 billion, quite apart from the impact it will have on people's liberties. And when we've got scarce resources, when prisons are desperately overcrowded and there aren't enough police officers the last thing we need to do is to get into some new high tech bungle that simply isn't going to work.

STOURTON
[CLAPPING] Next question - next question.

STARK
Graham Stark. Billy Connolly famously proposed replacing the National Anthem with the Archers theme tune. Do you think the National Anthem should be changed?

STOURTON
Now this is in fact quite a serious question because in the news this week we learnt that Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, who's advising Gordon Brown on citizenship has said that a number of people are concerned about some of the words in the National Anthem, in particular the verse which refers to a certain Marshall Wade and it says - Lord grant that Marshall Wade may be thy might aid, victory bring, may he sedition hush and like a torrent rush rebellious Scots to crush, God save the Queen. Nick Herbert.

HERBERT
No I don't think the National Anthem should be changed. It seems to me that the government can't see an institution in this country without wanting to tear it down. Why [CLAPPING] why doesn't the government leave this kind of thing alone and get on with the job which it was elected to do, which is to run the country properly, run our public services properly and so on? I think this foray into this area of Britishness with a statement of values and so on is a nonsense. I don't think Britishness can be reduced to one of New Labour's slogans. They're proposing to set up focus groups, at goodness knows how much cost, all around the country so that we can all get together and think up all of these slogans for how we're going to make ourselves more British. The BBC asked people what they thought a British slogan should be and I think the best one that came up was "Mustn't grumble" which kind of reflected - reflected ...

STOURTON
Sounds like an urban myth to me, I'm not sure that's true at all.

HERBERT
... the British temper. Yes the fifth verse or something of the existing National Anthem has got these lines about the Scots but nobody knows the fifth verse, we all know the one verse and that's what we want to sing. And it makes us proud to be British. I think there's one serious point which is that when our sports teams in England play we play the National Anthem and anthems are played separately in Scotland and Wales and I certainly wouldn't mind the idea of an English anthem specifically for our English sports teams. But please don't let's get - don't let's wreck the idea of our British National Anthem, it makes most of us proud when we hear it sung.

STOURTON
Caroline Lucas. [CLAPPING]

LUCAS
Well I'm afraid as a republican I definitely think we should scrap it. [BOOS] I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I did [indistinct words] but even the first verse I have problems with.

STOURTON
Because? Apart from the fact that obviously it's to do with the Queen.

LUCAS
Because it basically enshrines the monarch as the overriding person in our political life and I think there should be a clear separation between the monarch on the one hand and legislation and that process on the other. But also frankly we need something that's easier to sing, it is a nightmare trying to sing that, you can't feel joyful when you're singing that. I'm all for going for [BOOS] well let's try it but the number of times I've heard it sung with the most awful terrible notes and very, very dispiriting, I think we need something more uplifting and I think that we need - British values is more than just whether or not one sings the National Anthem, it's about tolerance, it's about good values and that's what we should be celebrating.

STOURTON
Phil Hope.

HOPE
Well let me just assure everybody that we are not planning to scrap the National Anthem and I'm proud to sing it when I'm asked to do so, particularly at occasions when we think about the contribution that our armed forces are making when they are representing this country and fighting on behalf of this country to protect our national interests. So let's kill that one stone dead now. I might add I don't know every verse in the way that you read them out there Ed - rebellion Scot's to crush - could be a bit of a problem. Corby in my constituency has got a very strong Scottish community and I want them to fully support the National Anthem when we use it. One thing I would say though, we launched the national youth voluntary programme last week, £75 million, to get young people to volunteer and I was trying to suggest what would be the anthem or the song that would launch young people doing more volunteering in their communities and I suggested Let's See Action by the Who, to which the young people said: Who are the Who? So maybe if people could come up with a theme for inspiring our young people to get engaged in their communities maybe that would be a better - a better discussion to have on this panel.

STOURTON
Just - I mean returning to this particular verse - referring to the rebellious Scots to crush - a bit of a problem in the Cabinet as well one would imagine.

HOPE
Precisely but I think we can enjoy the National Anthem for what it is, it's a proud part of our heritage, it should be a proud part of our future.

STOURTON
Vince Cable.

CABLE
Well I actually I agree with that, I mean I'm in favour of keeping the National Anthem, I've struggled to remember much beyond the first verse but it is an important institution. I was surprised Caroline criticised the music, I think it was Beethoven actually who composed it ...

LUCAS
Sorry but you can't sing to it.

CABLE
I think that there is a very important symbolic point here, I mean there is a real danger at the moment of the UK fragmenting, you know we've had a voluntary union of countries in Britain for hundreds of years and it's - you sense the cracks beginning to open up, there's a growing cessationist movement, not a majority certainly in Scotland, and you get a reaction in the form of English nationalism, which I fear the Conservatists sometimes try to play upon. And I think what we do need are symbols of British unity and the British National Anthem is a very good example of that and I'm very much in favour of keeping it.

STOURTON
Just very quickly, by way of - out of curiosity really, is there anybody in the audience at all who agrees with the proposition that the National Anthem should be changed? Not - oh hang on, well that's interesting, I would have thought from the noises earlier that none of you would have thought that but there are I suppose eight or 10 hands going up. Let's move on now to our next question.

SACTAR
Pavar Sactar. Has Jacqui Smith come up with 42 from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or is really the number of days police need to question terror suspects without charge?

STOURTON
This of course the latest idea for the detention of terrorist suspects without charge which we heard this week. Caroline Lucas you made a brief allusion to this earlier on.

LUCAS
Yeah well they just won't give up will they when they keep bringing this back and you can't help wondering what part of the word no the government doesn't understand. I mean we've come back - do we want 90 days? No we don't. Do we want 56 days? No we don't. Do we want 42 days? No we don't. We don't actually even want 28 days. And if you look at what some of the experts are saying they don't want 28 days or they certainly don't want an extension of that and they weren't particularly in favour of 28 days either. So it seems that the case for an extension simply hasn't been made and that if we did face a real emergency then we can use existing legislation, the Civil Contingencies Act we could call into being if we needed to. There are other things we need to be doing like bringing on intercept evidence and that kind of thing ... you're trying to stop me.

STOURTON
Only because we're running out of time and I want to make sure everybody gets a word on this. Nick Herbert.

HERBERT
I agree with that, I think the number has been pulled out of a hat. It's only recently that parliament voted to double the detention period. What I really fear about this is that it's not being done on grounds of national security, I fear that Gordon Brown is playing politics with this, that's why he first announced this some time ago. And really I believe that that is wrong, like spinning the troop numbers coming back from Iraq was wrong. These kinds of things should not be the subject of party politics, it's too serious for that. And I also believe that it would be highly counterproductive to move towards a system of internment for suspects without proper process.

STOURTON
Nick Herbert forgive me, Vince Cable.

CABLE
No it's a foolish and unnecessary proposal. Of course there's a balance to be struck between security and individual liberties but on an issue of this kind there has to be evidence that it's necessary. I think we've had over a thousand cases since the 2000 Terrorism Act came in, there's not a shred of evidence to suggest that any one of those cases would have been helped by having longer periods of detention. We already have the longest, I think, period of detention of the developed world. Very tough countries - Spain and the United States - have much a smaller period. And I think that the point that Nick has just made is also right - that once you start interning people without charging them you just create martyrs, it's utterly counterproductive and it's political inspired - this initiative.

STOURTON
Phil Hope, it doesn't sound as if you have convinced anyone or you collectively have convinced anyone who was opposed to this idea before the latest proposal was put forward.

HOPE
Well the first duty of a government must be the security and safety of its citizens and on two occasions in the recent past we've come to a point where we've run very close to those 28 days when the police need to have more time to do their investigations and they need to have that person who is a suspect terrorist, who's threatening to bomb and to maim thousands and thousands of people, two occasions when we've come close to running out of time to gather in evidence before charge. The proposal to extend that to 42 days has got a triple lock of saying this only can happen for a short period of time, that the Home Office have to receive an application from the DPP - the Director of Public Prosecutions - and the police, it can be subject to judicial review and we're suggesting it should come back to Parliament for a vote in Parliament as well. And I think that those safeguards built in, safeguards to safeguard the civil liberties that we are here to protect, then I think we are right to take broader proposal to give the police the powers they need to arrest and convict these criminals.

STOURTON
We must leave it there. Jonathan Dimbleby will be back next week but from Wootton Upper School goodbye. [CLAPPING]

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