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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 22 February 2008


PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS:Matthew Taylor
Pauline Neville-Jones

Ziauddin Sardar
Paul Marshall

FROM: The Bath Literature Festival, Bath


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to the City of Bath where we are in the famous assembly rooms, once the hub of the city's Georgian life, well known to Jane Austen and later the location for a series of public readings by Charles Dickens. This week it is appropriately the hub of the Bath Literature Festival which has grown in recent years to become one of the very best of its kind with a feast this year of over one hundred events and a galaxy of artistic and literary stars, which this year includes Martin Amis, Margaret Drabble, Eric Hopsborne and Terry Pratchett.

And on our panel: Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones was a senior diplomat who also chaired the joint intelligence committee. She now advises David Cameron as his shadow security minister.

Matthew Taylor was a senior advisor to Tony Blair and the head of the Downing Street unit in the run up to the last election. Today he's the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts.

Paul Marshall is a city high flier, a hedge fund manager responsible for assets worth some $15 billion. He's also a busy philanthropist - a sponsor of seven city academies through his company and a founding trustee of the children's charity ARK, the largest provider of HIV treatment in South Africa. On top of that he's an active Liberal Democrat who chairs its policy think tank Centreforum.

Ziauddin Sardar is the author of 40 books, among them as co-author Why Do People Hate America? And his autobiography Desperately Seeking Paradise - Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim. Described by the Independent newspaper as Britain's own Muslim polymath, he was born in Pakistan but has lived in Britain since childhood. He's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]

Could we please have our first question?

LEES
My name is Sally Lees and the question is: Should there be a DNA database in the light of recent court cases?


DIMBLEBY
Pauline Neville-Jones.

NEVILLE-JONES
Well we clearly - we do have a DNA database, the police has a DNA database. The issues that arise about that database I think are who's on it and for what reason and for what purposes can it be accessed and who can do that and who gives the authorisation. Because one knows that information is an extraordinarily valuable thing but there are also issues of privacy and rights of the owners that arise. One of the problems with our current database is that it contains the names of people who are not - who have not been convicted of anything at all but for some reason or other have had contact with the police - they may have had contact with the police in the guise, for instance, of a witness. And then names stay on and it's extremely difficult, if you are an individual, actually to get your name off if you pursue the issue. Clearly in this case what people are talking about I think is the extent to which it is useful in the cases of pursuit of suspects and criminals actually to be able to identify a suspect as the person who actually committed the crime. Clearly that is a great utility in society and we've just had a demonstration of it. The issue that arises is do you want to put everyone therefore on the database in order to have that facility? My answer is no. For me the question is where does the cut off line lie? As I say at the moment we don't have a cut off line, we need to regulate that, the question is where do we do it. And opinions vary on that, some people say anybody who's been convicted of an offence should therefore go on it, others say only serious offenders and some say only violent offences. Now that's the debate I think that we do need to have, is at what stage are you then on the database for life, probably not able to get off it? And I think one needs to think hard, you know, about what kind of society we want to develop.

DIMBLEBY
At the moment you've got in the way exactly as you described there some four million people on the database, you say the choice is to decide where the line should be, where should it be - serious offences, violent offences, convictions?

NEVILLE-JONES
I certainly think - I wouldn't say any conviction, I think for me it is question it's serious offences and I think the question is what's the definition of a serious offence? And it may be the extent of the custodial penalty that's involved or it may be the nature of the offence. I certainly think that if it's a violent offence I think there's a pretty - there's a pretty clear case. But we do need to think about this and I might say that we are the only country at the moment, among, talking about comparable democracies, that actually maintains a database where people's names are on it who've been convicted of nothing at all and are simply there as a matter of chance. And our children's DNA is going on and our children's fingerprints are going on as well and these are things that you know as a free society we need to think about very hard - do we want to see this development?

DIMBLEBY
Thank you.

NEVILLE-JONES
And my answer is no.

DIMBLEBY
Ziauddin Sardar.

SARDAR
Well I mean I would ask can we trust the government with yet another database? Are there not enough DVDs with all sorts of data, laptops with all material of personal information flying out there in the ether, waiting I suppose at some post office to be collected by some bureaucrats, do we need some more information - personal information to be out there? I have qualms about it, I'm not quite sure. But at the same time I think I do realise that in certain cases having a DNA match does help, in the case of the right case - the five prostitutes who were murdered. I think he was - it was his DNA that actually eventually was responsible for him being caught. So I think there has to be a certain level where it - where if you're charged or if you're convicted then you ought to be on a database but this should be a universal phenomena, I would be totally against that.

DIMBLEBY
I think I'm right that the police in charge of the Mark Dixie case, the other case that was convicted of Sally AnneBowman's murder, that they would have got him on the same day had they had a more effective DNA database.

SARDAR
I think if you - I mean in both of these cases these people had previous convictions and if you have a previous conviction and you are - then clearly I think you ought to be on a DNA database and that will be helpful. But as a general population we don't need a database of all and sundry. The vast majority of people have done nothing and there's no reason for them to be on any database whatsoever.

DIMBLEBY
Matthew Taylor.

TAYLOR
Yeah there's a question here about what we do think should happen, there's a question about what we think will happen and I think it's inevitable that we'll end up in a situation where DNA and biometric information is available on all of us. I think that - I think I'm right in saying that in relation to Steve Wright, the Ipswich murderer, his DNA was taken from a relatively trivial offence that he had committed. So if we had had a threshold at a higher level then we wouldn't actually have had the information in relation to him. I think the important issue is as Pauline has suggest, the important issue is the supervision of this system and to ensure that the information that is gathered is used - is used appropriately. And one other thing that I think's important to remember in relation to our concerns about civil liberties is that DNA has also been used to release people who've been subject of miscarriages of justice. So it's not simply being used to catch people, it's also being used to ensure that people who've been wrongfully imprisoned are released.

DIMBLEBY
Why do you say you think it's inevitable that there will be a DNA database of all of us?

TAYLOR
Well we're moving towards biometric passports and ID cards, so we're moving towards biometric information being held. And I think that ultimately although we have civil liberties concerns I think those are best met by having a proper system of supervision to ensure the information is used properly. You could argue well you should only be on the DNA database if you've committed a crime but you know do we want to have to have two types of citizens, if you've committed a crime when you were 17 that you should be marked out from your other citizens for the rest of your life? So I think the important thing here is that we are - and the other thing that I think is important is in relation to deterring crime we talk a lot about sentencing but actually the thing that deters crime is the certainty of being caught and so actually very effective mechanisms which may mean that criminals know there's a good chance of being caught have a power.

DIMBLEBY
Paul Marshall. Just Paul Marshall then I'll come back to you Pauline.

MARSHALL
Well we've had two pieces of news this week really about DNA. There's the news around the two murder cases where they clearly would have been helpful to finding a solution and then there's the news about another cock up where the 4,000 pieces of DNA data from Holland left un looked at for close to a year. And that of course is a reminder of all the problems we've seen in the last three to four months with data. The government loves databases, Gordon Brown loves databases, but you have a whole host of giant databases now developing within government which we can have no confidence at the moment are being used properly. The practices in the civil service at the moment in terms of how data is protected and distributed are dreadful and not remotely comparable to what goes on in best practice.

DIMBLEBY
What conclusion do you draw from this in relation to where there should be one?

MARSHALL
Well I think that before there's any discussion at all about database - about a DNA database we need to be much more confident about how data is looked after. Having then said that the UK has the largest DNA database in the world...

NEVILLE-JONES
Oh yes by many ...

MARSHALL
... four million, larger than the United States. So I'm very reluctant to look at it as something that's inevitable. We're already well ahead of the game in terms of everybody else, combining both criminal offences and take people without offences and we have no confidence about that data being used properly. So where we are at the moment I think we just hold off.

DIMBLEBY
Pauline Neville-Jones, you wanted to come in, Matthew Taylor says it was inevitable given that we're moving towards biometric passports.

NEVILLE-JONES
Well I mean I think you know the inevitable is only what you fail to avoid and I think we should fail to - we should fail to go down the road of a database for everybody in the country. I don't actually think that that's something that a free society should actually want to have. The whole question of biometric identifiers is something slightly different. It's clear that in order to travel we are going to have biometric passports, what that does is actually to give a reasonable degree of certainty, not total certainty, but a very high degree of certainty that the document that is presented actually is the - belongs to that person and once they have actually decided that this is the identity they're going to adopt they then can't suddenly adopt another identity. So it does actually give you a certainty about identity. Now DNA, seems to me, DNA in the possession of the state is a question of your trace on the information owned by the state or possessed by the state - it's your information possessed by the state. And the question is for what purposes do the state then use it and we come back to what's just been said by my neighbour - we don't have the surety that actually at the moment the state is using all this information for the purposes for which it's given, it's collecting too much and it's being careless with it.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. [CLAPPING] If you have thoughts about that Any Answers may be for you after the Saturday broadcast of Any Questions. The number to ring 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next please.

WARD
Joshua Ward. Is extraordinary rendition a good karoke act or something more sinister?

DIMBLEBY
Extraordinary rendition a good karoke act or something more sinister? Matthew Taylor.

TAYLOR
Well I think extraordinary rendition is a misguided policy which came out of a particular period in which there was a sense of hysteria which gripped security services, particularly in America, arguably in other parts of the world. I can understand at the time the kinds of pressures that people were under and genuine difficulties, if you felt that somebody had information of a terrorist attack that was going to take place and you wanted to get that information in order to protect the public you can see the lengths that people would be willing to go. However, I think that acts like rendition and the use of torture in the end are deeply counterproductive because they contribute to a loss of faith in the argument and the values of countries that are using those tactics. So I think it was a mistake. Clearly the UK has had this week to admit two of these prisoners went through UK base. But I think the lessons need to be learnt from that and judging from the conversations that take place in the American election I think we will see a different - a different emphasis in American security policy in future.

DIMBLEBY
You of course were inside Number 10 during this period, are you surprised by the failure of the British to be more curious perhaps about what they were being told by the Americans in relation to Diego Garcia and other possible cases that there may be?

TAYLOR
Well Diego Garcia is a strange place, I mean it's basically a US base with a very small number of UK personnel on it...

DIMBLEBY
It's British territory.

TAYLOR
It's British territory. I think as far as we can see it was a genuine oversight and it's a question of the US not providing information to the UK and it does seem that the government is genuinely embarrassed about the way in which this has come out this week and has tried to make a clean fist of it.

DIMBLEBY
Extraordinary rendition - Paul Marshall.

MARSHALL
Well I hope it was just an innocent mistake, time will tell. This disclosure is a great vindication for Sir Menzies Campbell who in the last year and a half was really banging on about this and asking a lot of questions in the House. It does - for the UK it's fairly humiliating in terms of our status, vis a vis the United States and the nature of our relationship with them. Imagine what would have happened or what we would have felt if the planes had touched down in one of the UK bases - Millford Haven or Prestwick, how we would feel about that. So I think it is ...

DIMBLEBY
Do have - some of your colleagues have doubts that they may still have happened and that this oversight may not merely apply to Diego Garcia but maybe other places including possibly Prestwick?

MARSHALL
I mean I don't know but we do know that according - Europe itself has analysed - European Parliament - the number of CIA flights that have flown over Europe, we know there are upwards of a thousand flights - extraordinary rendition flights - that have flown over Europe. And it may well be that things have - planes have touched down in the UK. I hope for the status of the country that that's not the case and for the status of our relationship with America.

DIMBLEBY
Ziauddin Sardar.

SARDAR
Well it is a karoke act in the sense that the British government has been mouthing, if you like, the words of songs of America. We seem to not just believe what they say, no matter what they say, we just simply say it must be done, without questioning them. But also seem to be doing a lot of if you like fighting on their behalf both verbally and physically. So in that sense it is a kind of a fake act, it is a karoke. But of course it's also very serious in the sense that it undermines every human value that we believe in, everything we think that's supposed to be civilised it undermines that. And let us think what is going on. I mean some of these people who were extraordinary rendered were people like taxi drivers picked up from Kabul, you know, 14, 15 year old teenagers. So it's very, very serious. And I don't think that just - that we have heard enough - that we've had the end of this because this is only two cases have come out, I suspect there's a lot more to come out. And of course there's another illusion involved here and that's I think - Matthew alluded to that - that Diego Garcia is a British sovereign territory, it's nothing of the sort. I mean you know we pretend it is a British sovereign territory, it's maintained, rules, controlled, managed by Americans and so why should they tell us anything that is going on there, it is surprising that it has eventually come out.

DIMBLEBY
Former chair of the joint intelligence committee, were you surprised, I mean Jack Straw said in - as Foreign Secretary - the US would not render a detainee through UK territory or air space without our permission. Were you taken aback to discover that exactly the opposite had happened?

NEVILLE-JONES
Well the government have reported to us on several occasions that they were given very firm and repeated assurances by the Americans this wasn't happening and we have to say that it is the Americans who fessed up and revealed these two cases. It does open obviously a much wider issue and I'm glad to be able to support the government in the action it's now taking, I think they could have been perhaps more curious and more enquiring about these assurances they were given, nevertheless, what they're now doing is they say they are going to look at all the possible cases, take account of all the investigations that outsiders have done and put a list to the Americans and ask for answers in all these cases. Now I think this is a good thing to do actually, because I think this issue has to be cleared up. Let us be clear, it's not that you can never render anybody, I mean deportation for somebody to face charges if they're accused in a proper trial is a perfectly acceptable form of rendition. What we're talking about here obviously is people being picked up and I think we might say there have been probably cases of state kidnap. People being picked up, taken to undisclosed places for the purposes of undisclosed interrogation and then with unknown outcomes and we know one of these two cases one person is not in Guantanomo Bay, the other person is in Guantanomo Bay. What is - what is damaging about this? There are several things that are damaging about this. It undermines and it corrodes trust between allies, it undermines and corrodes the reputation of the West. If we don't stand for the rule of law we stand for very little. This is our great weapon, this is our shield and our sword in life. And the other thing is that actually the world looks to us for those kinds of standards and if we don't meet them actually at the end of the day the kind of ideological fight that we're engaged in now with those who wish actually to challenge our values gain the points. So we have to practice what we preach, we must live by what we stand for. One of the things I would dearly like to see happen is that the United States would agree with the rest of the world about what constitutes torture because this lies underneath all of these [CLAPPING] , we think and we're right to say that water boarding is torture, now the US don't agree and they haven't accepted it. This actually, as I say, corrodes our stand and our reputation. So I think there's a great deal lying behind this particular episode which I hope we can start a dialogue and we can actually go further down the road of actually saying what we are actually going - not only we're not going to have this procedure and we're certainly not going to countenance it within the UK jurisdiction but actually that we can get to the more - the more basic fundamentals about what it is we stand for and what we're going to outlaw.

DIMBLEBY
Briefly if you would but from what you've said do you believe that the - that the United Kingdom, given what you've said, has to be more askance - if that's the right term - in relation to the United States than perhaps has been the tradition?

NEVILLE-JONES
I think on this one we have to make our position clear, yes. Actually I don't think we have been so backward in that, I mean I think we've made our position clear as a nation between the political parties what we think about Guantanomo Bay and I think we should continue to do so. What we must do now however is get this issue cleared up and actually be clear about the fact.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Our next question please.

MANNING
Geoff Manning. In the light of the 17th suicide in Bridgend, how can it be that in one of the richest countries in the world young people seemingly have so little to live for?

DIMBLEBY
Ziauddin Sardar.

SARDAR
I assume you're asking me because you think I'm young. Even if I was I would still have a lot to live for.

DIMBLEBY
It wasn't the first thought in my mind, I have to confess.

SARDAR
One of the first things to say is that the things that I have read about Bridgend in places like the Sun and the Daily Express are far removed from the Bridgend that I visited three or four years ago, it's a beautiful place, it's one of the best parts of Wales. And anybody living there should consider themselves very lucky. Except any young person living in Bridgend probably has no hope in hell of actually finding a job. It is also one of the most dilapidated in terms of economically blighted areas of Wales. And I think that is a problem in many of our inner cities and many of our kind of old industrial towns, not just Bridgend but places like Oldham, Rochdale and so on and so forth. What has happened I think is that somehow - I mean Paul would say a great deal about it - but somehow the job of economics used to be to provide employment for poor, to improve the life of inner cities and so on and so forth but it seems to me that contemporary economics has decided that the poor just do not matter, that all the economic development that takes place, that takes place in certain megapoly cities and nothing happens in other areas of not just this country, in most countries. So I would say that - that the young people in Bridgend I think probably suffer disproportionately with things like unemployment, lack of social cohesion and so on and so forth because of - largely because of economic deprivation. There's also a bigger issue and that is I think relates not just to young people in Bridgend but it relates to young people all over Britain is that if you have a society that is obsessed by conspicuous consumption and credit well it doesn't provide you with much hope does it, you don't have to be young to be pessimist. I get very pessimist when I look at what's going on in terms of consumption and credit in our society.

DIMBLEBY
Paul Marshall.

MARSHALL
[CLAPPING] I think I agree very much with Ziauddin. The - there's a school, I think it's not that far away from Bath, Wellington, where the head master has a focus very much on the full person of the child, not just academic or physical but also spiritual and emotional. And at the moment that's a unique approach to education or a fairly unique approach. And I think that the big issue that really matters for a lot of children is self esteem and a belief in their potential and what they can do in this world and they are offered unfortunately by the media images and idols which are inaccessible to them and which create a massive gap between their existence and the existence they aspire to. And we have an education system which doesn't necessarily provide them a route to get from where they are to the kind of dreams and aspirations that society gives them.

DIMBLEBY
But there's quite a gap isn't there between that, if you are correct, and the extreme despair or depression that leads an individual, a young person, to take their own life?

MARSHALL
Well I...

DIMBLEBY
Or not?

MARSHALL
... this is very sensitive territory to make too many strong generalisations about that. There was some coverage in the paper about the Goethe novel, Sorrows of Young Wherter, which clearly - which sparked off a suicide chain across Europe and that was not amongst despairing poor people, it was amongst the very middle class bourgeois people who could read in the 18th Century. So I'm not sure that it's about - I'm not sure that it's about just real material poverty, I think it's about a different set of needs which are not being met by our society. I think that the media does have an important part to play and there is also this element perhaps of creating fame for a day, it's almost like by committing suicide you achieve perversely a sort of fame. And I don't know what the motivation is for these children but I know that society is not giving them the answers that they need.

DIMBLEBY
Pauline Neville-Jones.

NEVILLE-JONES
I confess to being absolutely mystified by this and deeply - deeply upset at the thought of young people taking their own lives. What we seem to have witnesses in - witnessed in Bridgend and let's hope there's no more, is not actually unprecedented, that has occurred in other parts of the world. And it's been known to happen in Japan, for instance. And I know this argument about whether the internet's involved or not and perhaps it isn't but there's no doubt that the internet, if it is used in relationships between young people, actually can induce a sort of cult atmosphere in which the mindset of a group is developed in a direction which leads in the end to sort of nihilistic sort of self destruction. And that is indeed certainly the way it has occurred in one of two other parts of the world and I certainly know there has been the case in Japan. I don't know if that's what's happened here but certainly one cannot help feeling that there are extremely powerful influences on young minds which have taken them very quickly down a road, that young man I know wants to come in.

DIMBLEBY
Could you take the microphone to one of our previous questioners? Please feel free to come in.

WARD
Thank you. As a young person myself there is a great deal of - I think there's a sense of monotony. Our entertainment is made for us, we are given the staple iPod, we are given the internet and we are able to find things within that. Our schools are dedicated to results. So we have - I think I definitely agree with Paul, we need to access the more spiritual and the more personal needs. As seen in the past people used to play, as in they used to make their own entertainment - that's gone. We are given what we are meant to do - here's a computer game, you can play it. I think that's the whole thing that's happening at the moment and it's just kind of - it's the monotony of life.

DIMBLEBY
May I ask how old you are?

WARD
I'm 16.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Do you want to carry on your point Pauline?

NEVILLE-JONES
Well I mean I think something rather powerful's just been said which is that people actually are not finding satisfaction in life. But there's still a gap, that you pointed out, between being bored and actually thinking my goodness I'm going to end my life.

DIMBLEBY
Matthew.

TAYLOR
Yeah I think we've got to be a bit careful Ziauddin about drawing deterministic parallels in relationships between economic circumstances and suicides and suicide is a sort of idiosyncratic social indicator, actually suicide levels in society are at the lowest levels they've been for decades. And as Paul reminds us there have been sort of suicide epidemics which are related to books in the past but also to suicides that take place in television drama or whatever. But I fundamentally agree with Paul's point which is that there are a set of issues around psychological well being which are not fundamentally being addressed in schools. Young people face different kinds of challenges in relation to the way in which families are changing, the ubiquity of the modern media and information, diversity of society and I think that schools are going to have to take on much more of a task in relation to the emotional resilience and psychological well being of young people. And I find when I go to schools that they do really interesting stuff in relation to standards, there's some innovation - some innovation in the curriculum but they still feel as institutions pretty dysfunctional. So I think if there was one thing that we could attend to which I think would have a small impact on the suicide because it is such an idiosyncratic indicator but would have a much broader impact upon the general well being of young people is if we try to develop to make sure that schools were intelligent communities which built up young people's sense of self esteem and self worth. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Geoff Manning, you put the question, do you have a thought about ...?

MANNING
Well everybody's heart goes out to the community in Bridgend and I guess we'd all like to do something to help them and one practical thought I had was could it not be arranged that families in Bridgend could be befriended by families elsewhere around the country to where it seems appropriate provide some sort of respite, you know, people gain some trust in each other and the families - like being evacuated during the war - go away from the battle scene.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. If you have thoughts about that the number to ring for Any Answers 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.

COLLIER
Peter Collier. What purpose is being served by the inquest into Princess Diana's death?

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Paul Marshall.

MARSHALL
I - there was a comment by the coroner earlier this week that one should be very careful about any comments on the case because you might be found in contempt of court, so I don't think - Jonathan will have to guide us about exactly what we're allowed to say or not...

DIMBLEBY
I think you should feel relatively free and if I judge correctly or incorrectly I will hint in your direction that you may put yourself or me at risk.

MARSHALL
In that case I think in this case I think there are two possibilities, either it is a conspiracy involving the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the French medical services, the French security services, the British security services or Mohammed al Fayed is slightly - slightly out to lunch. And so I think there's very little ...

SARADAR
Can you define the nature of the lunch?

MARSHALL
... or is it the Ritz I think. There's very little purpose at this stage being served by it, it's cost £6 million so far of taxpayers' money which could be spent on other things in a court system which is very clogged up and where there is a big shortage of funds. So I think that maybe what we should do - the only people who are benefiting from it of course are the media, so maybe we should have some kind of levy on the red tops to fund any continuing case.

DIMBLEBY
Pauline Neville-Jones.

NEVILLE-JONES
One of the individuals is obviously out to a very expensive lunch at our expense. I think - I suppose in the end the coroner's inquest will actually deliver a verdict on how Princess Diana died, that is the formal purpose of this extraordinary proceeding. And it seems to have gone down a very, very tortuous route in order to get there. I hope to see it come to an end as fast as possible. [CLAPPING] Can I just say one other thing?

DIMBLEBY
Matthew Taylor. Yes of course.

NEVILLE-JONES
One other things - which is that I think that this is a really agonising thing for those - her two sons to have to go through. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Matthew Taylor.

TAYLOR
Yeah I think it's pretty hard to watch somebody who's - as well off as this despite the fact that he's clearly in a terrible state of mourning for his son to see this amount of money being spent by the state on this case when actually we have a huge problem about the affordability of access to justice for poorer people, of a legal aid system that is creaking. And it seems odd that we can find £6 million for this case when as I say there's so many problems about access to justice. [CLAPPING] Having said which it's interesting how often a conversation issues around modern technology comes up - but one of the characteristics of the modern world due to the internet is the proliferation of conspiracy theories. And so I suppose there's one thing that would be worse than sitting through this sort of farcical process and that is having to put with decades of made conspiracy theories circling - circulating on the internet. So if one thing is achieved by this it is hopefully that it will suppress to some extent the insatiable desire of people to come up with such theories.

NEVILLE-JONES
I wonder. I wonder.

DIMBLEBY
Pauline's saying I wonder.

NEVILLE-JONES
I wonder, yes, absolutely, whether it will.

DIMBLEBY
Ziauddin Sardar.

SARDAR
Nothing has been achieved or will be achieved by this inquiry full stop.

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

SORRENSEN
Nick Sorrensen. What question would you wish to see included in a test of British citizenship?

DIMBLEBY
There is to be a green paper soon which will have additional requirements for those who seek British citizenship, it will take longer, among other things, people will be able to demonstrate their suitability by doing community service. Matthew Taylor.

TAYLOR
As this test gets more challenging I saw a letter in one of the newspapers today suggested that everybody - it was like the DNA database - everyone in Britain should be forced to take the test and people who don't pass it should be thrown out of the country, it would deal with the shortage of housing overnight. Look I think the really important thing is the English language to be honest and in terms of the particular questions around history and conventions and social norms are important but by far and away the most important thing and the government has been emphasising this again this week is that people who come to Britain learn the English language and are committed to learning the English language. And that's not for reasons of kind of jingoism, that is simply because participation in society depends upon having language. And I think that for far too long in some sort of bizarre and rather twisted notion of multiculturalism, it's not really what multiculturalism is about at all, we had the idea that it was fine for people to try to live in this country without having English language and that was a mistake and I'm glad to see the government is now addressing it.

DIMBLEBY
Ziauddin

SARDAR
I will put the following question - how long is the cricket pitch? For a very simple reason because cricket has - cricket has to do something with morality as well as well as gentlemanly rules, of course it also has something to do with Tebbitt but we'll forget about that. And it also has something to do about empire and colonialism. So the person who can answer that question will know a great deal about British colonial history, whether multiculturalism worked or not and ...

DIMBLEBY
Do you think - excuse me - do you think if you're a Polish immigrant who seeks citizenship and you learn that the answer is - let us say for the purposes of argument - 22 yards, you will thereby understand British empire history?

SARDAR
To learn that answer you'll have to read a little bit about cricket history and I think cricket teaches you a great deal about how to be British. Unlike football. The answer could be - answer has to be in yards, no answer has to be in yards and not in metres, that is cricket we're talking about.

DIMBLEBY
I know you regard this as an extremely serious issue, do you believe that it is right to make the tests more challenging than they have been in the past by one means or another?

SARDAR
No because I actually took the test, there's a little book that you can get, and I tell you I couldn't answer eight out of nine questions or ten question, I mean the test is pretty hard and it asks some incredibly obscure questions. I mean I may know my British history and some of the stuff I just couldn't answer. So I think if we're into real obscure questions then you might as well ask how long is a cricket pitch. And I keep coming to - coming back to that because I think it is a very important question, it teaches us a great deal about how to be British.

DIMBLEBY
New version of the Norman Tebbitt test. Pauline.

NEVILLE-JONES
Well I agree with Matthew, I think that the single most important attribute of thing of anybody who wants to be a citizen in this country is that they should speak the language. It's the route to our society, it's the access to everything that this country can offer and stands for, it is how you get on and how you become self reliant and all of those things are very important. I think if I were going to add anything else I think it would be I will want to know that the applying citizen was a good character, I mean I think that you know being the right side of the law on the whole is something that is quite desirable and there's no particular reason I think why we should take people into the country as citizens if they actually have broken the law.. and broken the law in serious places.

DIMBLEBY
Does community - does community work seem like a relevant test?

NEVILLE-JONES
I think - I would apply only one positive test to do is speak English and otherwise it's a negative test really. Have you kept your nose clean? I don't want to turn citizenship into an obstacle course, which actually makes it difficult to pass citizenship. And frankly some of these questions that are being asked half the people in this room who are educated actually couldn't necessarily give the correct answer, I don't think I could to all of them. And I don't think that's the way we should proceed. So I think it's much more to do with what kind of person are you than are you actually learned in all of these particulars. There's an issue lying under this of course which is the numbers of people coming in to the country and all the rest of it - I mean this is a very tiny part of the whole question of integration of people into our society which is a much, much bigger question than the formal test for citizenship and it's on that sort of issue of course where a great deal of interest and intelligence has to be devoted in the development of public policy because we're a long way from creating a single society that really coheres. And that's the real issue I think rather than the question of formal citizenship.

DIMBLEBY
The citizenship issue is quite relatively unimportant except in relation to the ability to speak a language that everyone understands?

NEVILLE-JONES
I mean it's not unimportant in that - I mean I think that one doesn't want to have I think in one's society a very large number of people who feel no particular allegiance to the organs of the state or to the royalty and regard themselves as permanent visitors - don't want to see that, no, I think you know you want to see your people and your society joined up to it. But what I'm saying is that underneath the whole question of a formal ceremony and that sort of thing there's a much, much bigger issue which we need to tackle which is what kind of single society do we have.

DIMBLEBY
Paul Marshall, then I bring in both of you again.

MARSHALL
Well I think as we're in Bath I think we should have a question how long is a rugby pitch or indeed how many players are there in a rugby union team. But actually seriously ...

DIMBLEBY
For those who now are desperately seeking the answer just give them it swiftly - both the answers to both questions.

MARSHALL
I haven't got the faintest idea. Which is why we clearly can't have a question like this to define your citizenship. And I agree with what's been said about English and we have to invest in giving people the potential - the possibility to learn English. One of the interesting statistics is that by the age of 11 in our schools now children who start with English as an additional language are out performing children who start with English as their natural language. So that is very good news. But equally we have to help the adults and people who have not been in the education system to learn English and I'm glad to see the announcement this week that there's going to be a little bit of money spent on that, having cut it - having cut the budget for English language teaching last year.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Part of the answer is 15 but that isn't the length of the pitch but I don't know the rest so someone ring in in Any Answers please and tell us what the length of the rugby pitch is. You both wanted a quick - Matthew first.

TAYLOR
No I was going to confirm Ziauddin's view the difficulty of this challenge and I actually recall that when I worked in Number 10 there was a Turkish woman who worked in the cafe at Number 10 who was doing the citizenship test and she had great fun because every day senior civil servants and cabinet ministers would go down for a cup of coffee and she would ask them the questions that she was having to bone up for this quiz and nobody could answer them at all and caused her immense - I think she may have asked the Home Secretary one of these questions.

DIMBLEBY
Very swiftly if you would Ziauddin.

SARDAR
Which is precisely my point.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. If one of those home secretaries wants to come into Any Answers to explain themselves away the number to ring is 08700 100 444. We've just got time for one more.

CROWTHER
Jean Crowther. Bath Literature Festival starts tomorrow, if you could wave a wand and bring any author, past or present, to come and speak about their latest publication, who would it be?

DIMBLEBY
Who would like to start on this, you look as if you might like to Pauline Neville-Jones.

NEVILLE-JONES
Well I think I find that very hard indeed, let me think.

DIMBLEBY
Any.

NEVILLE-JONES
Any, any, any.

DIMBLEBY
From around the world from past or present.

NEVILLE-JONES
Present, yes. I think I'm going to have to pass.

DIMBLEBY
You can invite Shakespeare, you can invite Dickens, you can invite Jane Austen, you can invite George Elliot, you can invite Ziauddin, you can invite Matthew.

TAYLOR
I'd be happy to come.

NEVILLE-JONES
Well I think I'm going to have Jane Austen.

DIMBLEBY
You'll have Jane Austen?

NEVILLE-JONES
I'll have Jane Austen, yes, I think she'd be very interesting.

DIMBLEBY
Ziauddin, who would you?

SARDAR
I would invite all the authors of Arabian Nights and I think [CLAPPING] at the last count there were several million and Bath will be just full of jugglers, genies and fairies and wonderful people who made up stories and the whole town will be transformed, it could be the best thing in Britain.

DIMBLEBY
Seven million people at the festival, it would be absolutely fantastic. Matthew.

TAYLOR
I'm sort of stuck between Richmal Crompton - I'd love to see William and how he would thrive in the modern world really, how he could bring ....

DIMBLEBY
William the Conqueror or Just William or ...?

TAYLOR
Just William - Just William. How would he live in the world of social networking and ASBOS and alcopops - can you imagine him and Ginger and the Outlaws in the wood knocking back the alcopops before they put on their hoods and tried to evade the local community service officer? I think the other person I'd want to bring back would be Charles Dickens because I think actually when we look at our modern concerns with inequality and also with those kind of issues I just talked about - alcohol abuse and overeating - I think he'd be a fantastic social - give us a fantastic social commentary on the ills of today.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Of course in the case of William he may have been the author of his own troubles but Crompton was the author of the William books. Paul your last go.

MARSHALL
I - just to surprise you all - I would invite Bob Dylan because [CLAPPING] ... thank you a fellow music fan.

TAYLOR
Just to cheer us all up Paul is it?

MARSHALL
I think his book chronicles is just a wonderful book full of poetry and he's somebody who keeps everything in poetry, even in his life he won't talk, he won't do anything that anybody can predict. So he wouldn't come. But at least you can dream.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. You all have your own thoughts, if you want to share them think of Any Answers 08700 100 444, the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Next week we're going to be in Westcliffe-on-Sea. Amongst our panel will be Steven Timms who's the minister of employment and welfare reform and the Liberal Democrats spokesman on housing Lembit Opek. Join us there. From here at the Bath Literature Festival in the Assembly Rooms in Bath goodbye. [CLAPPING]
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