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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 11 January 2008
Chairman: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Ed Davey
Michael Gove
Malcolm Wicks
Saira Khan

FROM: Norton Knatchbull School, Kent


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to Ashford in Kent which prides itself as the sunniest county in the United Kingdom, a reminder well worth having this weekend. We are the guests here of Norton Knatchbull School, a boy's grammar which is a specialist language college and has a national reputation for its jazz bands which make regular appearances at the schools' proms in the Albert Hall.

On our panel: Malcolm Wicks entered the Commons in the 1992 Election. Since 1999 he's had a number of ministerial posts but as the minister of energy at the Department of Business, a post he's held now for two years, he's in the public eye of the nuclear storm at this moment to a degree that he's not yet I suspect experienced.

Michael Gove starred as a journalist on The Times, where he still pens a column before he entered Parliament in the 2005 Election. He now stars as the Shadow Secretary of State for Schools and is tipped by Michael Portillo, no less, whose biography he wrote, as a future prime minister but he says: I really don't have what it takes. Do you mean that?

GOVE
Oh completely, I would be totally unsuitable as Prime Minister of this country, believe me.

DIMBLEBY
And by extension the Secretary of State?

GOVE
Well it's up to whoever does become Prime Minister after the next Election to decide what my appropriate level is. The one thing that I am reassured by is the knowledge that whatever happens I will not be the Prime Minister and I hope everyone else here is reassured by that thought as well.

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey's been tipped as his party's leader but he didn't run against Nick Clegg. His reticence has been duly rewarded - he's now the spokesman on foreign affairs to the Liberal Democrats and the party's chair of campaigns and communications.

Saira Khan is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants who came to this country in the 1960s. She played a starring role in BBC 2's The Apprentice, where she even put Sir Alan Sugar in his place. She's now a filmmaker and television presenter and an outspoken campaigner for what she describes as mainstream Islam, seeking to build - I quote - a new brand in the way Muslims are seen and portrayed. She's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]

Our first question please.

GOODMAN
John Goodman. Why are cabinet ministers allowed to break their own laws?

DIMBLEBY
It is alleged that Peter Hain, in relation to that £100,000 money that he was given which he failed to declare, has breached the criminal law. Ed Davey.

DAVEY
Well they shouldn't be allowed to. We do have two investigations now pending - one by the Electoral Commission and one by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner - and of course we'll have to see the results of those, that's the fair way to make a judgement. But when Peter Hain tells us he forgot to register it, it seems rather a large amount of money to forget. And it's rather worrying given that he's a cabinet minister in charge of a budget of billions of pounds, let's hope he doesn't forget where he's put that. So I really do fear that cabinet ministers are certainly it appears in the Labour leadership election weren't paying enough attention to what they ought to do -abiding by the rules.

DIMBLEBY
If he has breached the criminal law, which on the face of it he appears to have done, not least by confessing that he didn't register, as he is bound to under the law within 30 days, should he remain as a cabinet minister?

DAVEY
I think his position will become very difficult if the two inquiries show that he flouted the rules in such a blatant way.

DIMBLEBY
Saira Khan.

KHAN
They shouldn't be allowed to break the law and it makes me just look at politics, it makes me feel it's sleazy, it's dirty politics and it just makes me mistrust the government and politicians. Interestingly enough I actually read that under the Electoral Commission, under the current law, the Electoral Commission has no powers to penalise individuals or parties for failing to fully declare donations. I think that is a little bit out of date and something should be done about that. But yeah I just can't understand an intelligent person, who's been voted into government, saying oh I forgot to tell you about the £100,000 and no idea who gave it to me, just doesn't make sense. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Minister, under the law, under your own law, it is a criminal offence, is it not, to fail to declare your interests within 30 days?

WICKS
Well look the answer to the question is that the laws of this country and the rules governing these things are for everyone and that includes the most powerful, it includes cabinet ministers. I genuinely don't know whether the law has been broken as such but the Electoral Commission are looking into that. Peter Hain has made an apology, he's explained what happened, he said that he wasn't looking at it closely enough and that's clearly the case. And there is an investigation taking place. Now Peter is not only a ministerial colleague of mine, he happens to be a friend, I regard him as a man of great integrity, he's got himself into - I do regard as a man of great integrity - he's got himself into a very difficult position. Can I just add one other thing Jonathan at this juncture? To say that - and this is a criticism, if you like, of my own party, maybe other parties need to take heed as well, it seems to me it's a perfectly reasonable ambition for a member of parliament to want to be deputy leader or leader but it shouldn't take having to raise tens and tens of thousands of pounds to run a campaign, there must be a way for all parties to say as long as you've got support from a group of members of parliament we the party will fund a reasonable campaign. And I think that's one of the lessons that I draw as a member of the Labour Party.

DIMBLEBY
You say that he's in a difficult position, if it transpires that what appears on the surface to be the case by almost definition, because he's conceded what appears to be a breach in the law, if it transpires he has breached the law can he - even if it was inadvertent - remain - remain in high office given what you said - it applies to everyone?

WICKS
Jonathan inquiries are taking place and it's just like any other inquiry, whether judicial or not, I'm not going to pre-judge that but I ...

DIMBLEBY
He shouldn't leave before he's pushed?

WICKS
I think he's been a very successful member of this cabinet and government and I hope he stays in that position.

DIMBLEBY
Michael Gove.

GOVE
Well I admire Michael's chivalrous defence of his colleague, you wouldn't expect anything less from someone in the same party who's worked with a colleague as closely as Malcolm has. And I think it's also important that we recognise that no politician can afford to get on their high horse here. That all political parties have made mistakes when it comes to party funding and as a result we're all to an extent compromised by what for many people looks like a wholly sleazy process. Having said that it looks on the surface of things as though Peter Hain may have gone further than most in the way in which he sought to solicit or some of the people on his behalf sort to solicit donations through a rather curious route. But anyway as Malcolm says ..

DIMBLEBY
This curious route - is this this think tanks that no one's quite certain what it is, through whom two donations were channelled to him and those individuals say that they didn't know that those funds were being channelled to him but Peter Hain says all those who donated did know?

GOVE
Quite, it is curious but as Malcolm says an investigation is going on at the moment and it would be inappropriate for me to pre-judge it. Just one final thing that I would say. The onus is on all of us as politicians to try to restore faith in politics. And one of the ways in which we should do is by being proportionate in what we say about this, we've got to work hard within our own parties to ensure that our funding is in good order, we've got to be tough on those who flagrantly break the rules and we've also got to move to a new regime for funding where we ensure that we are as open and transparent as possible.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] John Goodman you want to come in on your own question.

GOODMAN
Well I just think it's unbelievable the example that this sets the rest of the country. We have to obey the laws, so should politicians, it's just incredible that they can get away with it. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
You may have thoughts about that or any of the other issues that we're discussing. If you do the number to ring for Any Answers is 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. That's after the Saturday repeat of Any Questions. Our next programme please.

SPELLER
John Speller. Given the well documented threat to our planet from burning fossil fuels does the panel welcome the government's decision to turn again to nuclear energy?

DIMBLEBY
Michael Gove, it was for your party not so long ago a last resort, now you're completely in step with the government?

GOVE
Not completely but I do believe that nuclear power is very, very likely to play a bigger role in the broader fight against climate change. I think when it comes to looking at our energy needs in the future we need to be pragmatic. There are some folk who are ardent advocates of nuclear power come what may, there are others who seem almost theologically against it. To me nuclear power is a technology, like the Apple Mac, you're not ideologically opposed to the Apple Mac and ideologically in favour of Microsoft, you look at each technology and ask what can it deliver. Now nuclear can deliver energy in the future which will not contribute to climate change, there are big questions about the cost of nuclear power in the past which means that we are determined to ensure that nuclear power doesn't receive limitless state subsidy or any state subsidy at all for that matter...

DIMBLEBY
No state subsidy under any circumstances of any kind?

GOVE
We don't believe that there should be subsidy for nuclear power, no. We believe that nuclear power should compete openly against other forms of energy generation, in particular we believe that the future lies with decentralised energy generation. Essentially if you look at those European countries which are forging ahead successfully in preparing for a post-carbon future they're relying on decentralised energy provision, micro-generation essentially, in order to supply their energy needs. But we have to recognise that at the moment something like a fifth of our energy is generated by nuclear power, many of those stations are coming to the end of their natural life and it would be very difficult to see - I'd be very interested if anyone can tell me different - very different to see how we can continue to keep the lights on without nuclear being part of the mix.

DIMBLEBY
So where do you disagree - you said do more or less really with the government, where precisely do you disagree if at all?

GOVE
Well I think the government have left the door open to potential subsidy.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Minister.

WICKS
Well this has I suppose been the main question on my mind now for two, two and a half years. I started off the energy review, describing myself as nuclear neutral, I wanted to look at the arguments. I've become an advocate of nuclear energy, not as the whole answer but as part of the answer, in terms of energy supply in the future. Now I'm not gung ho about it, I wish in a way there was an easier solution. If I could firmly say to this audience and to listeners that I thought there was an easier solution, if I thought that more renewables alone and more energy efficiency would do the trick then I'd advocate that but I can't honestly say that. I'm worried about two things. One, we talk a lot about, not least on this programme, climate change and global warming, I truly believe the science on this, more and more people do, even in the United States, that climate change is the biggest threat to the planet. So we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and have cleaner and greener energy. I believe that nuclear is part - not the only solution - but part of the solution to that. Second thing, which if anything I worry more about, is what I would call energy security. We've been blessed in this country of having oil and gas from the North Sea in abundance, even since the days when Ringo Starr first started singing in the '60s and we've had plentiful supplies. There's still a lot there but it's now in decline and when you look at where energy could come from in the future and you look across the world where it is then to put it in careful language they're not always the countries most associated with human liberties and democracy. And I don't want to see our country becoming over dependent on foreign countries for our energy. I want more ..

DIMBLEBY
Okay.

WICKS
... home grown energy and nuclear, alongside renewables, is part of that. So Jonathan for those two reasons I've come to the view, not in a macho way, but as part of a mix I think nuclear has a part to play and that was the real burden of our announcement this week to the House of Commons.

DIMBLEBY
I'll come back to you in a moment. [CLAPPING] In a moment if I may on the question of subsidy but I'll bring in our other two panellists first. Saira Khan.

KHAN
I have a problem with nuclear energy. I think there is a part to play but in my mind the key question that is not being answered is what is going to happen to the waste, what is going to happen to the waste [CLAPPING] of the current plants that we have. And you know I want - you start looking at this, you start reading the pros and the cons - where's the waste going to go, how's it going to be safeguarded and can you guarantee that for future generations that waste is not going to be a problem. And you can ask that question and I'll tell you you get nowhere. So until that question's resolved I'm not going to support it wholeheartedly.

DIMBLEBY
On that specific question back to you minister.

WICKS
We need to answer that question anyway, nothing to do with new nuclear, what about old nuclear, we've had nuclear for several decades.

DIMBLEBY
Is it wise to go ahead with new nuclear before you've solved the problem of old nuclear?

WICKS
Well I think we are beginning to solve that problem, we've had an expert committee - the Coram Committee - reporting to the Department for the Environment, they have recommended very firmly that the deep geological disposal of nuclear waste. In other words we store it very, very deep under the ground, that is the long term proposal.

KHAN
But what's the impact of that on future generations?

WICKS
Well Saira, the people have looked at it and they have concluded that that is the safest way of doing it. But Saira we have to do it anyway. I mean when I look back ..

KHAN
We don't have to do it, there's lots of other ways of doing it.

WICKS
Saira, we have to do it because for several decades, as you know, we've had nuclear energy, it's about 19% of the electricity in this school at the moment, 19% of our electricity comes from nuclear now ...

KHAN
That's not all of our energy, it's 19%.

WICKS
Saira, we have a duty to dispose of the waste that exists anyway, you may not like it, you may want to dodge the question but I'm proud of the fact that this government is finding a solution to the nuclear waste we've got and that will be the same solution to future nuclear waste.

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey.

DAVEY
Well on nuclear waste, first of all, the Coram Committee that Malcolm was referring to said that before you produce more nuclear waste you should of the morality of doing that, given the costs and difficulties that we've got disposing of the nuclear waste from the last 50 years. I've taken a cold rational and hard headed look at nuclear power too Malcolm and I've rejected the case, the Liberal Democrats have rejected the case because it's way too expensive, it's extremely dirty and is not the answer to climate change. If we were extremely successful and we built 10 new nuclear reactors by 2025, which is probably very unlikely, but if we managed to achieve that we would cut our carbon emissions by a mere 4%, that's far too little, far too late. We've got to invest in those technologies that can deliver much bigger cuts in carbon emissions, much quicker.

DIMBLEBY
And in the timescale you believe it is possible to have what is called the base load, secure energy, for electricity without going to a carbon emitting form of energy over the next 20 years?

DAVEY
Absolutely, not just through renewables, not just through energy efficiency but by making, for example, many of our existing power stations far more efficient. If you had decentralised energy, as Michael was talking about, with combined heat and power you can get far more efficient use of energy. Now I do want to deal with the point on energy security because I think it's an important point. And fortunately a lot of people are mixing up the difference between nuclear's contribution to electricity generation, which is 19%, and its contribution to energy demand in the UK, which is just 4%. Our oil and gas - 86% of our oil and gas is used for purposes other than electricity - for transport and for heating. We're not going to solve the security problem for that 86% of the use of oil and gas with nuclear power...

DIMBLEBY
Just on that one point - just on that one ..

DAVEY
Nuclear power does not sort the security problem out.

DIMBLEBY
On that one point - the security issue.

WICKS
Can I just say when Ed talks about these small percentages just think what would have happened in Britain to carbon emissions if we hadn't had the nuclear reactors we've had. Now if instead of nuclear electricity that had been replaced by gas, and it's far worse if it was coal, that would have created 5% more carbon emissions. Now Ed might say what's 5% - that's the equivalent of the carbon emissions from one third of the cars on our roads at the moment. If we'd replaced it not by gas but by coal and in practice it would have been a mix we would have had far more damage to our climate and that's a reality that Ed has to face.

DIMBLEBY
We're starting from where we are now in this context, so the question put by Ed Davey is you're not actually - it's a sort of slight of hand to say that you're solving a security issue when so much of the energy comes from insecure sources because it's imported.

WICKS
I mean in the future we've got to get the balance right - we're going to have to import lots of gas and coal and oil but we need to do it from different countries through different supply routes. But Ed I think talked about 2020, I mean obviously there's issues about energy supply up to 2020 but in terms of climate change we're in it for the long haul. Now we've got a target that we should see a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and I see the new fleet of nuclear reactors as making a major contribution up to the middle of the century. Often politicians are accused of thinking only a week or two ahead, sadly - or rightly in this area - we've got to think tens of - tens of years ahead, 20, 30, 40 years ahead.

DIMBLEBY
Let me put Michael Gove's point to you, about subsidy. You say that there will be no subsidies except in what you describe as extreme circumstances, when public funds might be available, without defining what those circumstances are. But you also say that you want to give greater certainty to investors, the only way you can achieve that is by forcing up the cost of carbon which will make other sources of energy much more expensive for the consumer - isn't that the case?

WICKS
Well look when we say that the taxpayer's not going to subsidise it we really mean it and the energy bill which I'll be taking through the House of Commons with John Hutton has clauses in it to make sure that the new nuclear reactors of the future they'll put aside money every year to pay for the eventual decommissioning and the waste.

DIMBLEBY
But the question - the question I put to you, which is Michael Gove's point, the precise question - if you are controlling the price of carbon unilaterally, which you are promising to be ...

WICKS
No we're now, no, no Jonathan we're not. What we're saying is that - I mean it gets a bit technical - but a thing called the emissions trading scheme, which is European wide..

DIMBLEBY
But unilaterally up the effective cost of carbon, which puts up the price effectively to the producers of coal and gas.

WICKS
We've said that if the emissions trading scheme European wide doesn't produce a good price, a higher price for carbon, we may have to take unilateral action. But we're pursuing it through Europe. But Jonathan as you know this is not just about nuclear, we need to have a good price for carbon to bring along the renewables, and also this gets a bit technical, the carbon capture and storage plants that we need in the future. So when we do burn coal and gas and oil, as we'll need to do worldwide, we can strip out the carbon, so we don't damage our precious planet.

DIMBLEBY
Saira next.

KHAN
The thing about this funding is first of all just in a week they said that you know these plants were going to be fully funded by private companies. Now they're saying you can have full share - they have to come up with full share of the cost. Now that's hardly the same thing - sharing the full ..

DIMBLEBY
This is the decommissioning costs.

KHAN
That's right yeah. So you know who's paying for decommissioning.

WICKS
Saira, it is the same thing.

KHAN
It's not the same thing, it's not the same thing as saying it's going to be fully funded to sharing the cost.

WICKS
No, no I think you've got a bit mixed up in the word full share. I mean what we mean is that if you've got a new nuclear - no if you've got a new nuclear reactor and it produces a quantum of waste that it will and that costs x pounds to dispose of they will pay the x pounds, they'll pay the 100% cost of the waste that they've produced. That's what we mean. I don't want there to be any ambiguity about this. These are not weasel words. I'm absolutely determined that the companies themselves will pay 100% of the cost of reactors.

DIMBLEBY
Quick word from Ed Davey and then we'll move on.

DAVEY
The government is totally underestimating the ability to reduce carbon emissions through renewables, through combined heat and power, through energy efficiency. Woking District Council believe it or not have reduced their carbon emissions by 77% through those types of measures. The truth is the government have been lobbied into submission on nuclear by the nuclear industry.

DIMBLEBY
Let me go back to our questioner, John Speller, we of course are not that far from Dungeoness which is a source of employment in this area.

SPELLER
We're not far from Dungeoness no and I guess that I'm a little biased because of that but we're also only about 45 miles away from the French coastline and France has been generating 80% of their energy for many decades through nuclear energy and I'm pretty relaxed about it myself and I think France is a salutary example to look at.

DIMBLEBY
Just as a very informal show of hands, this is extremely complex territory, you may feel that you were not - didn't participate hugely in the public debate there was supposed to have been for months, who thinks there was a big public debate in which you participated, would you put your hands up? Right, no hands have gone up. Who given whatever debate there has been ..

WICKS
Jonathan, can I just say, I mean I heard a little thing on the radio earlier today, you're being slightly sarky about the public debate..

DIMBLEBY
But I've just tested this audience, none of them felt they participated in it.

WICKS
You know we've had [CLAPPING] do you know I've broken rule number one - never quarrel with the presenter because he's the audience's friend, I do know that. But I'm trying to be a bit brave tonight. We had nine meetings in nine cities across the country talking through the issues with samples of people randomly drawn from the electorate, we really have tried to engage the public. And surely most of us have recognised that over two years now the nuclear issue has been quite a question and I think we've had different ways of presenting our view Jonathan.

DIMBLEBY
Fine, let me just ask this question, where we are now, who is with our questioner in this audience - it's an informal question - who's generally rather sympathetic to the need to go, as it were, nuclear in the way that the minister has described, would you put your hands up? Those who are not in sympathy with that proposal. Well in this audience the overwhelming majority of the audience is sympathetic to the minister's proposition in broad terms.

WICKS
.. huge regard for the people of Ashford. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
You may have thoughts about that 08700 100 444 is the Any Answers telephone number. Our next question please.

GROCOTT
John Grocott. Should Tony Blair be allowed to earn such a high income for JP Morgan only a short while after leaving office?

DIMBLEBY
It's said that he's going to be earning something between £500,000 and one newspaper has it today, it says from an informed source or something like that £2 million a year. Saira Khan.

KHAN
Yes he should because we live in a free economy, he's - if they think he's worth that much money then why not. If he's got the skills, if he's got the contacts, if he seems a valued member of their board, absolutely why not, I absolutely think it's fine. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
One of ..

KHAN
If they offered me a job at that I would do exactly the same.

DIMBLEBY
One of your colleagues, Michael, Gerald Howarth says it'll be viewed with some contempt by the armed forces, this decision of his to take the job.

GOVE
Well I think that ex-prime ministers have got to make a living somehow and when you consider some of the things that Tony Blair might have been invited to do but I think working for a bank is perhaps at the more respectable end of the spectrum. And I think that inevitably people's view of this job will relate to their view of Tony Blair. If you think back on past prime ministers I don't think anyone would have begrudged Winston Churchill a guilded retirement because there was a universal feeling that he'd done great service to this country. There are some other politicians I can think of, and I'll name no names, who I imagine most people would have been happy to see in the gutter at the end of their career. In Tony Blair's case I suspect that most people's views will be coloured by what they think of him. For those people who think he was a not half bad prime minister they'll probably say yes, like Saira did, fair play to him, let him compete in the market place. For others, who have a rather more jaundiced view of his record then I think that they might resent the large amount that he's making and I think they might also think it says something about public service that people seem to go into politics in order to become richer afterwards. But up - forgive me - it's up to individuals to make their choice based I think inevitably on their judgement of Tony Blair. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey.

DAVEY
Of course if the - if a prime minister - ex prime minister goes through the right procedures and talks to the Cabinet Office and meets all those regulations that there are then there's no reason why they shouldn't earn a large salary with an organisation outside. But it does - it does raise some questions and I think that they should be put. I mean it's almost as if you know we should ask people to pay to be prime minister because they're investing in their future, they make such a major amount afterwards. And let's remember a lot of the lucrative contacts that JP Morgan are paying for were made when Mr Blair was doing public service, they were contacts when he was serving the people of Britain. So it's almost as if we should have a share in it, maybe we should have a tax on ex prime ministers. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
In the words - memorable words of Peter Mandelson minister, are you one of those in your party who are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich?

WICKS
No I'm not relaxed about that because I want the world and Britain to become a more fair and a more equal society, so I'm actually not relaxed about inequalities as a matter of fact, I suppose that's why I'm a socialist in the Labour Party. Look on this issue and Michael - Michael - Michael Gove spoke wisely about this earlier, at a time when many in the public - and I can understand this - think that politics is sleazy, those of us who actually think that probably we've got one of the most honest systems in the world, need to think through all the implications of this and I think just as we do have rules, that are sometimes breached and there are scandals, but we have rules to make sure that when we're active in politics, certainly as ministers, that we don't have commercial interests then I think there is an issue about when you retire from politics what commercial interests, if any, that you take up. I do think there's an issue. Now Ed rightly has said the Cabinet Office have rules about this, you can't suddenly become - you can't suddenly become the minister for transport and then next day running some bus company, there are rules about this. But I just think it behoves any politicians to think this through about their retirement. So look we've discussed nuclear energy and I've said what I've said and some will agree and some will disagree, it would be entirely wrong if in three years time I retired and was offered a directorship for a nuclear power company. I shouldn't be offered that and I wouldn't do it. So that's my own personal position.

DIMBLEBY
But that's a very strong position to take because it's not a position that all ministers have taken in the past.

WICKS
I was asked my view and that's my view. But I'm talking about the generality here, I'm not talking about Tony, Tony will have thought these things through. He is actually quite a young man, we're into an era of relatively young prime ministers, although I'm not sure the next one's going to be that young by the way Michael. But we're into an era - we're into an era of young prime ministers and it's not unreasonable that when they retire from politics they use their experience. And I've got a great regard for Tony but I think in terms of the generality we need to think through, if you like, the life cycle issues here about when politicians retire so that we can start to recreate some respect for politicians because actually our democracy's not a bad thing and we need to uphold it and develop it.

DIMBLEBY
Does it worry you at all a number of newspapers have raised this particular point, that the JP Morgan, for whom he's doing this part-time work, has been given the task of running the new trade bank of Iraq, which is raising billions of pounds in trade guarantees for those who would invest in Iraq? Now no one's suggesting that that's improper but it does - is that the kind of thing that would make some people, do you fear, feel yeah there's something rather uncomfortable about that sort of swift move?

WICKS
Well actually I didn't know that and I mean I really don't want to comment on what one ex politician is now doing, I really don't. But I'm more interested in the general principles and I think I've made my own position clear. But I think it starts to go wrong if someone who's had a direct experience as a politician then uses that very direct experience, as opposed to the general experience, for commercial purposes, that troubles me.

DIMBLEBY
We'll leave that there and go to our next question please.

TAILOR
Tessa Tailor. Do members of the panel agree with the Bishop of Rochester that Islamic extremism and multiculturalism have resulted in no go areas for non-Muslims?

DIMBLEBY
Saira Khan.

KHAN
Mmmm, I did read quite a lot about what the Bishop of Rochester said and what puzzles me a little bit about this is that he didn't actually give examples of these areas of where you know non-Muslims can go. So having a debate about it I don't understand how you can say something without giving evidence or examples of. I come from the Muslim community, I'm very close to it, we do have problems in the Muslim community and yes I would say that there are some areas which maybe uncomfortable for people to go into because they might have perceptions or whatever. But in general I think in Britain, I think in general, most places are safe to go. There are some areas that I wouldn't go and it's got nothing to do with non-Muslims live there or Muslims live there, you wouldn't see me walking around at night through some parts of inner city London because I just find it a bit unsafe and perhaps not very - it's just not a safe place to go. But I actually disagree with what he's saying because he hasn't provided concrete evidence of where these places are.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think he's [CLAPPING] do you think in some way he's talking about a psychological disposition rather than a physical threat or a physical fear that people will feel that somehow they're going to meet antagonism - is that what he's getting at do you think?

KHAN
Well I think you know again if you talk hypothetically you're just going to raise more and more stereotypes. You know if you see a man in Bradford wearing a turban, big beard, and who's got baggy pants on, you know, we're all supposed to be quite scared of that because he's supposed to be an extremist and I think we have to be very careful of that because if we start drawing those kind of parallels then we're living in a scary society and also not representative I think of how most people feel about other cultures. On multiculturalism I believe that multiculturalism has completely failed in this country and I think previous governments have had a big part to play in that. And I think the thought - the way forward is integration and making people feel and understand what British values are, what it means to be British and actually embrace that. I'm not saying we don't welcome other cultures, I'm saying we must feel part of a common cause and respect common values living in Britain. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Malcolm Wicks, what did you make of what the Bishop said?

WICKS
Well I rather think there are one or two bishops around who like their media coverage and I think this particular chap might be one of them because I've noted one or two comments he made. I don't think it was a very sensible statement at all, I thought it was put in a very extreme way. I think the issue, however, is that we do have to make sure that given the post-war patterns of migration to this country we have to beware of the development of segregated communities. Now I represent a community not altogether far away in Croydon where there is a large Muslim community, also West Indian, Hindu community etc., where there isn't the segregation, there might be a tendency for certain communities to live in certain parts of Croydon but by and large we're a very integrated community in all sorts of ways. I think in other parts of the country, parts of the North of England, this is not the case and you can go into some cities and one end will be more Asian and one end will be more white and that starts to worry me when physically there becomes territory because it means that the extremists in all communities, including the white community, can then make a charge in terms of racism. And can I say on racism and I think there was a case today that supports this, we have to recognise that racism isn't just about white people being mean to black and Asian people, it can be the other way round as well. And I do worry about physical segregation and only in that sense do I think this is an important issue. But I think it behoves wise people, including, if I may say so, clerics, to speak wisely and calmly about this matter. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Michael Gove.

GOVE
I think Malcolm's point about using moderate language and being careful with the words that one chooses is very well made. But in speaking - in responding, rather, to what the bishop said I think we should all recognise that he spoke with, I believe, honest intent, he's someone who cares deeply about these issues, his background is of course Pakistani and his family - his father I think - converted from Islam to Christianity, so he understands religion and the clash of cultures and the problems that it raises. And I think as Saira, quite correctly, pointed out there are challenges that we have to face up to in modern Britain. The vast majority of British Muslims are mainstream and moderate and an immensely valuable part of the tapestry that is modern British society. Our society is richer for their being part of it. But at the same time there's a minority within Islam that seeks separatism, as a deliberate political strategy. I'm sure all of us were shocked in the aftermath of 07/07 to discover that the four young men who took their own lives and were responsible for the deaths of 50 others were British citizens, who had been brought up and raised in this country. And I think many of us must have asked ourselves how could this happen. Part of the answer, only part of the answer, is a politicised form of Islam, fundamentalist Islam, that's become an ideology that has bewitched certain young men's minds and has led them to believe that their first identity is Islamic and not British. I think that is a tragedy. Britishness is an identity of which we should all be proud and we can all be proud and it's important that we stress that at every available opportunity.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Given what you've just said and as Shadow Secretary of School, Families, etc., do you believe the bishop has any grounds for saying that there are no go areas?

GOVE
I don't want to get drawn into criticising the precise form of language that he used because I think in choosing ...

DIMBLEBY
Do you think there are any no go areas?

GOVE
I think in choosing our own words carefully one of those things is that when someone enters a debate like this and their intent - as the bishop's intent - is clearly to try to move towards a more unified country then if the form of words he uses is less than perfect let's not criticise the words, let's have an honest debate and try to reach an appropriate consensus about how we can unite our country.

DIMBLEBY
But you as a responsible politicians would not use the term no go areas?

GOVE
I haven't used that term, so you can draw the appropriate conclusion.

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey.

DAVEY
I mean I agree with much of what's been said but I do think the bishop needs to think carefully about the words he chooses because this debate is so sensitive and people can seek to misuse these words for evil means. So I think it really is important that we aren't alarmist, that people, such as bishops, don't go over the top. The general debate's gone on about how we integrate, whether multiculturalism is working. I'd like to be more positive and optimistic about what's going on in our country. If you go into Kingston Hospital you'll meet Zimbabwean nurses, you'll meet Pakistani doctors, you'll meet Iraqi radiologists, you'll meet Polish cleaners. People from all around the world, from many different religions and faith are working together in our NHS. We are integrating effectively. Now Malcolm was quite right to be balanced, to say that there are parts of the country, there are some towns, particularly in the North of England, where that's not working right and we've clearly got to address that, we've got to make sure that those communities integrate better. But let's actually celebrate a lot of the success because the British values of tolerance are working.

DIMBLEBY
Very briefly you wanted back Saira.

KHAN
I think the question was you know he said there were no go areas, and my point is if you're going to say that what are the areas, tell us so that we can kind of have a look at it.

DIMBLEBY
Invitation for the Bishop of Rochdale to come to Any Answers, 08700 100 444 or send us an e-mail any.answers@bbc.co.uk. We'll go to our next please.

JOLLY
Hi Jim Jolly. After Hugh Fernley Whittingstalls recent endeavours to persuade the public to support free range chickens are the panel in favour of improving the welfare of livestock over labour intensive methods to provide cheap food?

DIMBLEBY
Jamie Oliver's making the same point on the BBC, this is attempting to persuade the public to support free range chickens, improving welfare of livestock over the labour intensive - the battery methods - to provide cheap food. Malcolm Wicks.

WICKS
Yes I do support this move and frankly I mean I think I'd put my hand up and feel rather guilty that at home we don't take enough account in the shops of the chickens we buy and the eggs we buy and I think all of us need to move into a better position on this. There is a famous I think European Directive which will mean that this kind of battery farming will slowly but surely over the next few years be outlawed. I would like to see it move much more quickly in this country and can I say that it's you and me, the consumer, that is king or queen on this one. If we take more care, including me - I'm guilty - about the chickens we buy and the eggs we buy then I think the consumer can drive this one. This is very, very cruel, this is nasty stuff - the way we breed chickens and I think all of us must tackle it. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Who buys, in our audience, battery fed chicken meat, would you put your hands up? Who doesn't? Right. Of those who do, which is a minority, who's going to go on consuming? Who's going to stop it? Some are going to stop battery chickens, it's a minority of the audience who take that meat and a minority of that minority are going to stop. There's a poll for you. Michael Gove.

GOVE
Well we're an organic household as much as possible at home and I've a lot of sympathy with your view, and Malcolm put it well. I'd add just one rider - we have to be careful here not to be judgemental about folk who are perhaps in more straightened economic circumstances than you or I and for whom cheap food can sometimes be a lifeline. For those of us who are a wee bit better off yes absolutely, let's try and be ethical consumers but let's not look down the nose at those people who don't have much money to rub together and who frankly it's better if they give their kids protein, which is cooked healthily, no matter where it comes from. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Saira Khan.

KHAN
My - my issue is, is that when I go to the supermarket and I look at the way the chickens are displayed you can't tell the difference - they don't say this is a battery farmed hen, I mean the organic ones stick out like a sore thumb because they cost 50 quid but you know - so for the consumer, number one, it's very, very confusing and I think the government has known that battery farming has been going on for absolutely years and why can't they pass a law and say right stop battery farming okay and give everybody, regardless of their social background, a good chicken to eat? And secondly I think manufacturers have a moral responsibility and an obligation to ensure that we, the customer, are given good healthy food to eat. And I'm a bit surprised that the government are sort of saying yeah you know we should definitely think free range is the way forward but you've known that battery farming's been going on for absolutely donkeys years.

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey.

DAVEY
I agree with the rest of the panel, we've really got to improve animal welfare in the way we farm our animals and I think there's an opportunity for British farmers. In the past there's been many arguments that if we raise standards through regulations people will be able to import food and will undercut farmers and put the farmers out of business. But if we, through the EU, can raise regulations across the European Union but also try to make market better quality food, food that's been reared with a lot more compassion, then I think there's a real market opportunity for our British farmers so we can win for the consumer and win for the animals and win for the farmers.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. We can just squeeze on one more.

BOOBIER
Dean Boobier. Should Cameron, Clegg and Brown develop a teary eye with the voters?

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Unhappily very briefly. Should Mr Clegg develop that Ed Davey?

DAVEY
Well I think Nick has got a great smile and I think it's much better that he smiles than cries. The most important thing is politicians be genuine and sincere and [AUDIENCE NOISE] it is right?

DIMBLEBY
On that note - on that note I'm going to have to move swiftly on to Malcolm Wicks. Should Gordon Brown develop a teary eye?

WICKS
I'm just passing a handkerchief to Ed. I mean look after the next Election two of them will be in tears and it's too soon to say who that will be. Look I don't know, perhaps I'm the only non cynic here but I thought the Hilary Clinton thing - I think it was genuine, she was worn out, she was talking to a group of women, she was asked a question and I think she got a bit emotional and I think there's nothing wrong with that. If you do it genuinely I think that's fine. We are actually all human, even those of us who are members of parliament. But what you don't do is turn on the tap when you see the camera.

DIMBLEBY
Saira.

KHAN
I think the thought of powerful men crying is just fantastic and absolutely they should do more of it. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Don't weep at the thought Michael but should David Cameron?

GOVE
Well I think the thing about Hilary Clinton in the first instance which provokes the question reflects the sort of different political culture in America. And whether or not it was spontaneous or cynical in the Jerry Springer world that is the modern United States that sort of thing is calculated to go down well. I was brought up as a flinty Scots Presbyterian and as far as I'm concerned there are only two occasions when a man should cry - on his wedding day and in the darkened precincts of a cinema at the end of a Jane Austen costume drama. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Who in our audience would like more weeping politicians, hands up? Who doesn't want anymore weeping politicians? Oh you'd better not cry guys. That brings us to the end of this week's programme. Next week we're going to be in Ashted, Surrey with Lord Steel, Francis Maud, Mary Beard who's professor of classics at Cambridge University and Frank Field who was, as everyone I suspect knows, the welfare reform minister. Join us there. From here at Norton Knatchbull School in Ashford in Kent goodbye. [CLAPPING]

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