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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  04 April 2008


PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby


PANELLISTS:

Rt Hon RHODRI MORGAN AM: First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales

HELEN MARY JONES AM: Plaid Cymru Health spokesperson

CHERYL GILLAN MP: Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Dr EVAN HARRIS MP: Liberal Democrat Science and Technology Spokesman


From: Institute of Welsh Affairs at the Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University.


DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to Cardiff Business School which this year celebrates its 125th anniversary. We are at the University’s largest academic centre the Cardiff Business School which has students from 60 countries and staff from 28 and we are the guests here of the Institute of Welsh Affairs which as its name suggests is a major think tank with its focus on Wales. On our panel the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales, Rhodri Morgan who leads the Assembly’s power sharing coalition with Plaid Cymru. This is the first such venture in the history of Welsh politics and it is occasioned in part by Helen Mary Jones who beat Labour at the last Assembly elections and now speaks for her party on Health. Cheryl Gillan was born in Cardiff and went on to become a Westminster MP entering the Commons in 1992 and after holding a number of Front Bench jobs is now Shadow Welsh Secretary. Evan Harris studied medicine and went on to become a hospital Doctor. He entered the Westminster Parliament in 1997 and now speaks for the Liberal Democrats on Science and Technology. He is the fourth member of our Panel (APPLAUSE)

Our first question please…..

SUE KELLY
A young man earning £12,000 per year will have to pay a further £64 tax from next week. How do these figures fit in with Labour values?

DIMBLEBY
This is the cut in the basic rate by abolishing the10p lower rate which comes into force next week. Rhodri Morgan….


RHODRI MORGAN
It’s not good. I don’t think it was the correct tax change to make. I say that as First Minister for Wales because there are probably above average numbers in the10p who are effected by that particular change in Wales and it is going to hit people who are just getting into the labour market and paying tax for the first time and obviously if you have children you are protected by the child tax credit if you don’t have children
You are not. So the overall pattern of the economy since 1997 has been extraordinarily beneficial with huge numbers of additional jobs created but some tax changes in some years don’t look terribly clever to me and this is one of them.

DIMBLEBY
So you if it is continued with and if there is a backbenchers revolt your heart and your mind will be with those back benchers in revolt

RHODRI MORGAN
Yes if I was in the House of Commons I would be supporting the early day motion and the proposed amendment to delete it.

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan?

CHERYL GILLAN
Yes well if you were reading the Evening Standard as I was coming down on the train from London tonight you would see that Gordon Brown is coming back from Bucharest to what appears to be an open revolt in the Labour party. Quite frankly. it certainly shows that the government is in disarray as a serious economic crisis looks as if it is looming. I believe the figures are that if you are a single person earning under £18,000 you are going to be worse off as the 10p tax rate is abolished and as the 22p rate goes down to 20p but I think this just reflects a general feeling amongst everybody that the cost of living is going up absolutely astronomically under this government particularly if you start to look at the cost of our council tax bills as they fall on to the floor and I don’t know how many of you have been out shopping recently but certainly when I go out shopping I notice in my shopping basket the price of butter has gone up, the price of bread has gone up, to fill up your car you will find you are paying more to put the petrol in your tank and there is no point in this government telling us that we are facing a 2 to 2.5 % inflation because in the cost of living as far as I am concerned we are experiencing vast rises in the cost of our living.

DIMBLEBY
Just to bring us up to date with the BBC reporting that Mr Brown has assured the former Labour Whip Greg Pope who tabled the Commons motion and had 30 immediately 30 Labour MP’s in support he will look again at the impact of those changes and Mr Pope has withdrawn the motion accordingly.

CHERYL GILLAN
Well I think Gordon Brown is dithering yet again because once he has laid out a plan and signaled it so far in advance if he then can’t stick to his guns then it just shows another piece of evidence of this Prime Minister dithering.


RHODRI MORGAN
You can’t have it both ways Cheryl you are either criticizing him for doing it or you are criticizing him for being inflexible when the evidence shows that it is not a great move.

CHERYL GILLAN
He has had a long time to think about this……

DIMBLEBY
Can you explain though Rhodri Morgan; it was his last Budget that introduced this shift. Someone with his reputation having to look again at the impact is rather curious because as the former Chancellor presumably he would have
Known the impact when he introduced the change

RHODRI MORGAN
Yes but I have never prepared a Budge I have never been a Chancellor of the Exchequer but when you are going through about a thousand different tax and different credit measures I don’t think it is fair to say that you are dithering if you agree if one of the measures that you have made bringing the income tax right down from 22% to 20% while actually abolishing the 10p introduction rate of income tax was not the best response to current economic conditions

DIMBLEBY
Evan Harris….

EVAN HARRIS
Well it was a disgraceful move, a disgraceful move because of its unfairness and the way it was hidden because as Rhodri says this is the language, it was abolished it wasn’t abolished Rhodri as you know it was doddled and I think that the fact that they hid it in that budget and it was spotted actually by Menzies Campbell in his response and wasn’t spotted by David Cameron in his response. Where were these Labour MPs when we were voting against they weren’t as far as I remember in the lobby with us and if it takes them over a year to realize that something as basic and unfair as doubling the tax rate for the poorest tax payers it shows that either they are suddenly well they don’t read what is actually happening and they believe their own spin or their party’s own spin or that something has changed in the mood of the country that they are cottoning on to and we have a fundamental flaw in the way this country looks at taxes. There is an obsession with lower taxes; it is usually about cutting the rate of income tax which is the only fair tax while council tax the most unfair tax goes up relentlessly. The Lib Dems have been campaigning for years not about higher or lower taxes but about fairer taxes, abolishing council tax and doing something to help the poorest of income tax payers and this was the opposite to what I thought Labour stood for and I think it is pathetic that they are either so incompetent didn’t realize it was happening or that they are now only thinking of reviewing it when they have been found out, it is poor Government and it is just unfair. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Helen Mary Jones….


HELEN MARY JONES
Well to go back to Sue Kelly’s original question I am not sure I know what Labour values are or supposed to be any more after 10 years of chopping and changing their policies, turning their back on socialism to appeal to Middle England leaving their traditional supporters behind. I don’t know what they stand for any more. Rhodri Morgan you simply cannot get away with the suggestion that when Gordon Brown put this in his budget he didn’t know what he was doing. Anybody could see that what he was doing was doubling the tax rate for the poorest tax payers. Now we are surrounded at the moment by rhetoric which I am sure we all support about trying to get people off benefits and into work. I think that Rhodri Morgan is right when he says this will have a disproportionate effect on our constituents here in Wales because so many people are on low wages. I know of one family in my own constituency in Llanelli where a disabled parent who has struggled to get back into work is now having to seriously consider whether she can carry on until because this is the year her child becomes 18 so she doesn’t get that benefit any more and can she afford to carry on working on a low wage or would she actually be better off on benefit. Is that what Gordon Brown wants to happen?

EVAN HARRIS
That’s exactly right it is the poverty trap being made worse and I have to tell you in Westminster we very rarely get to discuss the tax rates of the poorest tax payers there’s an obsession between Labour and Tory about who can cut inheritance tax the most which is the tax paid by the richest. 5%, 6% maybe10% of the stakes and that just shows I don’t know why it is perhaps they are chasing legacies or donations but it is just a corruption of what the tax debate ought to be about.

DIMBLEBY
Rhodri Morgan has conceded that he thinks it’s a lousy move and presumably therefore if indeed this is the case he is in effect going to say I am going to drop it or get the Chancellor in some way to get rid of it but if that happens you will be very gratified or not?

RHODRI MORGAN
I will be delighted. I will just say two things in response to or rebutting Helen Mary’s charge that Labour doesn’t have any values any more. The Gordon Brown’s budgets if we take them altogether between 1997 and 2007 had a very clear set of values and that is to redistribute income from the better off to the less well off sometimes by stealth so you don’t frighten the horses away as has happened with Labour governments in the past and you are also then looking at the true objectives and this is where the government got its nether garments in a twist in making the changes to income tax and tax credits and abolishing the 10p rate.. Two things they were trying to do at the same time one was to increase the premium on children to try and catch up with the objectives on the abolition of child poverty by 2020 so if you have children you are well protected but then of course you forget about what about those without children. That is workers of 18 or 19 or 60 to 64 and so on and they are therefore not protected by the child tax credit and I think that is where the confusion arose

DIMBLEBY
Just going back to the point that has been made by Helen Mary Jones is it not extraordinary that a Chancellor with the values of Labour should not have recognized the consequence of doubling the 10p rate for some 5 million families?

RHODRI MORGAN
I am not a mind reader well when you say families you are wrong it is not families it is usually single individuals, or childless couples or you know in general if you say families and meaning those with children you would be wrong I think this is where the confusion arose in the government mind

DIMBLEBY
5 million families in one way or another are affected is what the general consensus is of the economists Sorry….

HELEN MARY JONES
Rhodri Morgan cannot have it both ways. Either Gordon Brown was an efficient Chancellor and an efficient Prime Minister who knew what he was doing in which case he was wrong or he didn’t know what he was doing in which case he was incompetent and frankly I don’t want to be governed by somebody who is wrong or incompetent (applause) And can I say Jonathan that I think it is appalling that Labour values are to tax people by stealth in other words if they can get away with it without you noticing, it must be alright that is appalling.

RHODRI MORGAN
I didn’t say it I said to redistribute by stealth from the rich to the poor

EVAN DAVIES
The gap between the rich has got wider under Labour that is for sure.

RHODRI MORGAN
That’s rubbish it doesn’t stand up statistically

DIMBLEBY
Well we will leave that issue there as there are many others to discuss although there is a passing note that those who are living in other parts of the United Kingdom will find intriguing the relations of two leading members of a coalition government in Wales

HELEN MARY JONES
Well if I could just say about that Jonathan our One Wales Agreement says in its first paragraph that we will work together in the Assembly and we absolutely reserve the right to campaign each other that is grown up European politics where you have fair votes and coalitions (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
And we will go to our next question please


DAVID HOARE
What is the point of asking for advice of an independent panel of advisors and then disregarding it?

DIMBLEBY
This I presume is in relation to the Advisory Council on drugs who said that cannabis should remain or we believe has said that cannabis should remain a class C drug but the Prime Minister has made it clear that he believes it should go back to being a class B drug

Evan Harris….

EVAN HARRIS
Well I agree with the questioner it is crazy I am on the Science and Technology Select Committee as was and we did an enquiry into something called evidence based policy making and we had government minister after government minister say that what they wanted to do was ensure that their policies were based on evidence and asked for expert advice and it was something that was capable of having evidence adduced to it and they would then follow that and we did a particular strand on drug classification and it is quite clear, and I have got the last report that the ACMD that’s the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs did on cannabis and they say quite clearly that there is no basis to put it in to class B, there is no basis and indeed it is counter productive because once you say this is a class B type drug and people that it isn’t it then undermines the credibility of the whole drug classification system. There is no evidence, in fact what we know is when it was reduced from B to C use fell and there is no evidence that moving it up to B again will make use fall further. The two are disconnected and the ACMD were very clear that there is no evidence that you can actually deter people with the classification and specifically there is no basis, and we looked at this as well, the Select Committee, the all Party Select Committee unanimous report said that there is no credible scientific basis for using criminalization of 30% or more of young people as a way of sending out a signal. It doesn’t work and I think it is a crazy idea to well may be you could reclassify it to B but you should then say you are not going to listen to the experts but to ask the experts to do the work and say in advance that you are not going to accept their view is I think corrupting the whole idea of whether you are going to have proper evidence based policy and what matters in drugs policy is what works to help to protect the health of people and we know that education works not gesture politics by politicians thinking that the classification of a drug is a sign of machismo, it isn’t, it is a failed policy the one that Gordon Brown wants to pursue and the experts will tell him that. (Applause)

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan?

CHERYL GILLAN
I think the position today is that the Government’s cannabis policy has certainly descended into chaos, there is no doubt that this shambles has occurred because Gordon Brown seems to be incapable of making a decision, he ordered a review which was the soft option at the time when it became apparent the reclassification down to C was not working. I have to say that if he was not going to accept the recommendation though of the Advisory Council on the misuse of drugs then why didn’t he act straight away. If he is now going to act to reclassify back up to B which is what I think he should do incidentally…. I think he has wasted time.

DIMBLEBY
Leaving aside that particular thing, the question still applies what is the point of asking for advice would you get rid of the Advisory Committee or would you feel free to ignore it if you believe it should go back to B

CHERYL GILLAN
Well I have always thought it should remain at B

DIMBLEBY
So you would ignore the Advisory Council like Gordon Brown is proposing to


CHERYL GILLAN
Well I certainly wouldn’t have dithered and ordered a review.

DIMBLEBY
No on the question of substance you would ignore it.

CHERYL GILLAN
I would absolutely never have reclassified it down to C because cannabis is so much stronger and I believe that there has been a huge increase in drug related crime and we certainly, have got in this country 35% of our children have tried drugs and I do believe that the policy of reclassifying it down to C sent the wrong message to young people

EVAN HARRIS
Would you ignore expert advice like he did over BSE you know where that led (APPLAUSE)

Its Any Questions answer the question Cheryl Jonathan asked it twice

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl has answered it in her own way and if she doesn’t seek to elaborate the answer

CHERYL GILLAN
I would never have downgraded the classification in the first place.

DIMBLEBY
No I won’t persist with it because others may. Helen Mary Jones

HELEN MARY JONES
Well I think it is very dangerous for politicians to ignore expert advice when they have asked for it and in this particular issue we need to think about what we are trying to achieve. We want fewer people to use mind altering substances but as Evan Harris has said about 30% of young people do use cannabis, they look at us middle aged, middle class politicians most of us who drink more alcohol than perhaps we should, many adults who smoke and we are using legal mind altering substances and telling them their choice of mind altering substances is wrong. I think the whole policy is a mess as Evan Harris has rightly said when you had the reclassification you actually had a slight drop in reported use. I don’t think the two things have got anything at all to do with each other. I think we need to highlight harm reduction style education, I think there may and we need to have a debate about this but there may be an argument and Cheryl Gillan makes the very valid point about the different strengths of cannabis and that people don’t necessarily know what they are using. That can be very very dangerous; you could argue that the best way to deal with that is to decriminalize it so you can control the strengths of the substance. Now I am not saying that that argument is made but I think we need to have a proper mature debate about this

DIMBLEBY
Does that mean that at the moment you have no view about whether it should be a class C drug or be criminalized or decriminalized?

HELEN MARY JONES
I don’t think it makes any difference because I don’t think that when a person is smoking cannabis or eating it or whatever it is that they do I don’t think they are thinking I will get five years if it is a class C and I will get 10 years if it is a class B. It’s completely missing the point. I think we need to have a proper debate about the whole way in which our culture uses mind altering substances. I am more worried to be hones Jonathan about the level in which young people in Wales binge drink than I am about their cannabis use.
(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
It doesn’t alter your argument at all that the maximum penalty for a class B is actually 5 years and a class C 2 years.

HELEN MARY JONES
Well you see even I didn’t know which suggests that, and I have been preparing for this programme so it suggests that young people buying on the streets of Cardiff tonight certainly aren’t thinking oh is this a class C or a class B?

DIMBLEBY
Rhodri Morgan….

RHODRI MORGAN
Well there are two points here, one is the general point about whether expert views should ever be rejected by political leaders and I am a fully paid up member of the political leaders trade union on this as you would expect (LAUGH) experts should be on tap and not on top, you can’t subcontract the political responsibilities of government on a group of experts, you listen to what they say but you have to have the right to reject it. Now on this specific point, I first became an MP in 1987, 20 years ago, very shortly after that 19 years ago I became aware that cannabis was changing its nature and this sort of skunk, weed sort of double, triple, quadruple strength cannabis was coming on to the market and it has changed certainly my view of whether cannabis is a soft drug, or sometimes is a soft drug but sometimes it is not so soft and does have mental health implications. That’s the problem are you talking about the old cannabis, the old soft drug cannabis which it may have been right to downgrade to a class C or are we talking about skunk weed the much more powerful ones the mental health consequences for young people are pretty bad and I want to heavily discourage young people going in for…..


DIMBLEBY
Evan Davies is the scientist and doctor

EVAN HARRIS
I am Evan Harris…


(laugh)

CHERYL GILLAN
Promotion or demotion

DIMBLEBY
It takes a choice and I apologise…

EVAN HARRIS
That’s alright

DIMBLEBY
Evan Harris the point is as I understand it that they are making the Advisory Council is that the alleged greater damage that skunk does, there isn’t evidence for it and that is why it ought to remain class C. I mean Evan Harris…


EVAN HARRIS
What is quite clear is that if enforcement has done anything it has stopped import of 5% THC that is the active ingredient containing marijuana from Morocco and now the cannabis is home grown in smaller quantities often for personal use and it is 10 to 15% and that has become more common but the point is that the increase they found previously, the increased risk of schizophrenia is 1% life time increase. Now that is significant enough for me to advise people never to smoke cannabis and education does work and what we do know that criminalizing young people, forcing it underground and giving criminals the ability to make money in the black economy is not the way to tackle the problem. In Holland where they did decriminalize they had much lower domestic use of cannabis than we have here where we have criminalized so I am interested in what works

DIMBLEBY
And of course class C is still a criminal offence. Our questioner David Hall you put it

DAVID HOARE
Well I find myself agreeing with elements of Plaid and elements of Liberal Democrats but I think the question is more about if you are going to ask people to scientifically and you know evidentially prove something and then completely disregard or ignore, choose to ignore then there was no point in asking them to do the research in the first place and people should have the courage of their conviction to follow what they believe.


DIMBLEBY
Thank you very much. Let me ask the audience here in terms that it is now class B and we have the case for and against it being sorry Class C the case for and against it going back to B. Who thinks that the advice of the Advisory Committee should be taken and it should remain and it should remain class C would you put your hands up? Who believes to the contrary that Gordon Brown is quite right to say for whatever reason, sending the message that it should go to class B. Well in this particular audience here in Cardiff University overwhelmingly the view is that the Prime Minister should follow the advice of the specialists.

Yes Cheryl Gillan

CHERYL GILLAN
Jonathan just to say that ACPO announced, that is the Association of Chief Police Officers having looked at this very carefully and they are responsible for the enforcement. They announced supporting the return from C to B because they believe that the downgrading has done a lot of damage.

EVAN HARRIS
The police want 42 days detention fortunately the police don’t run the country politicians run the country (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
You may have thoughts about what we have discussed and what we will discuss. If so after the Saturday edition of Any Questions? Any Answers? May be for you. The number to ring is 08700 100 444 and the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next please……

MICHAEL DAVIES
Should Gordon Brown receive the Olympic Torch at the weekend?

DIMBLEBY
Helen Mary Jones?

HELEN MARY JONES
I don’t think so. I mean I have to say in this broader context about China and Human Rights I think there are only two logical arguments here either we think that sport and politics should be kept completely separate which I don’t think in which case it is perfectly for Leaders to participate in all the ceremonies and so forth or we do think that sport and politics do have an impact on each other and I believe they do and I think the ban against the Springboks had a huge effect on white opinion in South Africa, against Apartheid, it really did make some people who hadn’t thought at all, think. In that case I am not entirely sure that the Olympics should be going to China at all. Given that they now are and given we are as it were stuck with it I think the most that political leaders can do is to make appropriate symbolic gestures of disapproval. I certainly don’t think that Gordon Brown should receive the Olympic torch. I support what many people have said about boycotting the opening ceremony, I think it is too late now and too much to ask our athletes not to go especially bearing in mind that for these young people it may be your only chance for an Olympic medal. They are not the ones who made the decision about where the Games should be I don’t think the Games should be there at all but I think that now we are in the position that we are in I think that political leaders should show their disapproval but lets not pretend that this situation in Tibet has arisen overnight. We have known all along that the Chinese have got a lousy human rights record so don’t let’s pretend that we are surprised as I think that is disingenuous. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Rhodri Morgan….

RHODRI MORGAN
I can’t see how he cannot receive it because it is a baton that is passed on from one Olympic city to the next Olympic city and as it happens London won to general acclaim the Olympics for 2012, that has got nothing to do with how Beijing won it for 2008, it just happens that after Beijing comes London, therefore, we are part of this chain in which the Olympic torch is handed on and you know I think it is very difficult to say that somehow or another you can claim to opt out of this, you are in the Olympics, you are part of it, we are, after this August we are the next Olympic host country, London is the next Olympic host city therefore we are stuck with it. I really don’t think he had any choice

HELEN MARY JONES
But Rhodri Morgan surely somebody needs

DIMBLEBY
Hang on hang on let me bring in our other Panelist I want to keep going if I may Evan Harris?


EVAN HARRIS
Well I agree with Helen Mary with everything she said and therefore I won’t repeat it. I will just add one thing, two things. Firstly I don’t think that just because we are part of a chain it means that we should accept the Chinese, be seen to miss a chance to make a point to China about their policy not just in Tibet but in Darfur and indeed in the way they repress journalism, both foreign and domestic journalism and free speech in China. Secondly I would say that the Chinese have reneged when they were given the Olympics they gave a pledge and I quote and this is what the Deputy Mayor U Jing Ming said “By applying for the Olympics we want to promote not just the city’s development but the development of society including democracy and human rights” and that is a pledge that has not been meant and I think my party leader Nick Clegg was quite right to write to Gordon Brown to say on that basis the unmet pledge from the Chinese he should disassociate himself from the political side of what should only be I think a sporting event.

DIMBLEBY
And that he should not therefore go? That he should not go himself to Beijing when the Olympics take place

EVAN HARRIS
Yes I think that follows, I think that follows fortunately he is not representing the country as an athlete….he would still be on the starting blocks when the race has finished.

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan

CHERYL GILLAN
Well when Gordon Brown went to China forgive me if it wasn’t very obvious but I don’t believe he really made our views felt to the President of China when he was there and I think it would be a golden opportunity to accept this torch that is passed in the spirit that it is passed but to stand on the steps of no. 10 Downing Street and make it in no uncertain terms that we expect China to improve their position on human rights it is a golden opportunity for him to take the press and use the press properly, to call for the end of the repressive measures and to let his voice be heard loudly in the international community so I look on it as an opportunity for us to put that point across which is what David Cameron did very clearly when he went to China recently.

DIMBLEBY
What do you make of that thought that he should accept the torch at Downing Street but make a very clear statement at that point using the publicity to criticize? Rodhri Morgan

RHODRI MORGAN
I have no problem with him doing that because I think he has to take every opportunity to raise issues about Darfur, Tibet and human rights in China and Cheryl says she knows what went on between Gordon and the Chinese authorities when he made his visit there I don’t to be honest but I am clear that he and David Miliband have pressed the issues of Tibet, human rights, Darfur and Zimbabwe where once again Chine is one of the marionette, puppeteers behind Mugabe as well and we have to try and use every opportunity and the Olympics is a unique opportunity to push China in the direction that their own population wants them to go into.

HELEN MARY JONES
I think that people are kidding themselves here the Chinese are not going to change their human rights record now. The opportunity to make them change was the condition to send the Olympics there in the first place now the Olympics is going and I think Evan Harris is right it should become a purely sporting event. That torch should not go to No 10 Downing Street; it should go to Wembley it should go to a sporting venue and be received by a leading sportsman or woman. Our politicians should disassociate themselves from this because I think frankly it is a bit of a grubby episode and it would be much better… I am convinced as Rhodri Morgan says that they do take every opportunity to do it from the Chinese but its not working is it. (Applause)

DIMBLEBY
We have heard the case for receiving the torch and not who thinks he should receive the torch and make use of it maybe by making a public statement. Who thinks he should receive the torch. Hands up. Who thinks he shouldn’t receive it now? Overwhelmingly this audience thinks he should not accept the torch.

EVAN HARRIS
I thought they were sending it by Terminal 5 and it was his way of making sure it never got into the country…… (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Our next question please….

BARRIE GODFREY
Thank you. Do the panel feel we are witnessing the end of Robert Mugabe and the Zanu-PF administration and what do they think the future may hold for Zimbabwe?

DIMBLEBY
We don’t yet know at this moment whether or not there is to be a run off between the two. Cheryl Gillan.

CHERYL GILLAN
I do hope so, I really hope so. I went to Zimbabwe a few years ago and I stayed on an occupied farm. I was absolutely horrified at the devastation that that country has been put through. I think that it is important that a peaceful solution is found and I am very pleased having met Morgan Tsvangrirai and talked to the MDC that they appear to have triumphed in the polls. I hope their votes are not going to be stolen again by Mugabe in this run off. There is no doubt that this country is in absolute ruin through one man’s ego and one politician determined to stay in power. You cannot imagine the devastation of the country that was the bread basket of Africa and actually one of the most pleasant places to visit and a thriving vibrant place and now it is absolutely beyond the pale, a wasteland and I very much hope we are seeing the end of Mugabe and I think we would all agree on that. It is totally a non political thing; it is something that I think we all wish for. I want it to be done peacefully and then I want the United Kingdom to contribute towards the rebuilding of Zimbabwe, to help them put that country back together and hopefully get it back to what it was before.

DIMBLEBY
Rhodri Morgan

RHODRI MORGAN
Well I agree with everything that Cheryl has said. Probably Zimbabwe although it does have these remnants of democracy in that they do have elections, although the government then does its best to steal them by rigging it is probably the worst run country in the world. To have a country where the economy is shrunk to half its previous size and you have an inflation of 150,000 per person per year. I mean the country is in a state of meltdown, implosion and so on and all it has left really is this vestige of democracy. Mugabe has never had quite the nerve to be a true Idi Amin dictator and abolish elections altogether so every 4 years they get a chance and then they rig the election and they put enormous pressure on people to vote for Zanu-PF but there is just this little vestige that prevents Mugabe joining the club of the true dictator who simply abolish the elections so we earnestly have to hope that this time his leaders you know the army and the head of security and so on will go into see him one day the so called men in suits in Tory Party terms and say Robert you are 84, you’ve been around too long, the country is imploding, we can’t afford anything, the lights don’t work etc your time is up. Time to go but whether he will do that well how the hell are we supposed to know?

DIMBLEBY
If there is a run off there is said to be great concern that he will bring out the repressive force of the so called veterans and so forth into intimidate people. There are a lot of questions on this some of them added to this one as it were. Is there anything that Britain or the outside world in that process can do or not?

RHODRI MORGAN
Well only moral persuasion clearly really, not invasion and I mean really. The problem is this. South Africa has enormous power but South African, the average ANC voter in South Africa actually thinks of Mugabe as a genuine freedom fighter which he was whereas Thabo Mbeki actually studied for a PhD in the University of Sussex while the freedom fight was going on so that weakens Mbeki’s ability to simply pick up the phone and say Mugabe you are ruining the reputation of Africa go. He can’t do that because Mugabe went through the freedom fight and therefore has got a moral authority in Southern Africa which the implosion of the country and the 150,000% inflation and the shrinkage of the economy to half its previous size and the devastation of public services, people then ignore that and say but you have got to remember he was a great freedom fighter in his time which Mbeki wasn’t and it does reduce Mbeki’s authority because that is where the authority should be coming from and unfortunately Mugabe hasn’t got it.

DIMBLEBY
Helen Mary Jones

HELEN MARY JONES
Well I think as both Rhodri and Cheryl has said we must all profoundly hope that at the very least this is the very beginning of the end that the citizens of that country have suffered absolutely dreadfully. I think there are some hopeful signs. There is the risk of the militias being fought out but there is also evidence that the army would not back Mugabe. Different situation from what it was 4 years ago and the militias would be ill advised to take on the army because that is one of the vestiges of a well organized state as Rhodri Morgan has pointed out you know there is still a judiciary in Zimbabwe, there is still a disciplined military force as well as these militias. So I think these are good signs. I absolutely agree with Rhodri Morgan that the one thing that no nation must do is interfere militarily because we have seen what happens in Iraq when other countries try to force regime change and there are 10’s of thousands of Iraqis dead because that is what the West has chosen to do. So one thing we certainly mustn’t do is get involved. I think to respond Jonathan to your point

DIMBLEBY
If you are swift we must move on….


HELEN MARY JONES
I don’ t think it is right for Britain to interfere precisely for ex colonial reasons that Rhodri Morgan has brought forward but I do think there is more that Southern African leaders could and should be doing. I take Rhodri’s point about perhaps M Becky’s lack of authority but there are others who could bring influence to bear and I very much hope that they are doing so now as we speak.

DIMBLEBY
Evan Harris

EVAN HARRIS
The question was I think are we seeing the end of Mugabe and I am not optimistic frankly that this is going to end well. The signs are ominous. I heard in the news that the Zanu-PF are going to contest the results of 16 parliamentary seats. I don’t think Mugabe would indicate that he is going to fight a run off unless he thought he was going to win it by hook or by crook, well by crook and the failure of the electoral commission to publish the results. Every day that goes on shows there is something nefarious and once they have started that process, once they have started interfering in that process then they are going to follow it through so I fear the worst. Obviously we all hope that it is going to end well and if it ends well then Mbeki can say his strategy of doing very little or quiet diplomacy has paid off but if it doesn’t then he will have responsibility. He is not up for election now again so he has got nothing to lose. I don’t accept his excuse. I have spoken to South Africans who don’t accept that Mugabe is of the same any where near the authority that the ANC have in South Africa so what Britain should do is plan now for the post Mugabe regime as the problems in that country, the life expectancy, it is so terrible that we have to hit the ground running as soon as we are able.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Barry Godfrey you asked.

BARRIE GODFREY
Yes Jonathan. I feel that depending on the result of the election which is supposed to be declared this evening whether you believe it or whether you don’t. The only people who can influence the outcome there externally are the other South African states and they should be saying to Mugabe in God’s name go and go now and spare your people the future torment. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Our next please…





JOSHUA PARRY
Will Labour keep their promise of a referendum on full law making powers before 2011?

DIMBLEBY
This is for the Assembly. Will that promise be kept Helen Mary Jones?

HELEN MARY JONES
Yes I believe so I mean to explain the process to listeners outside Wales the government is setting in place the mechanism of constitutional convention to measure public opinion but also to give people advice about the current settlement and about how, the way that things work now which is very very complicated with some areas being fully devolved and other areas not being fully devolved and I won’t go into the technicalities there but there is clear commitment. If that convention comes back and reports to the Government that there should be a referendum, there is a clear commitment that that should go forward. I want to put one point forward about why I think that needs to happen quite quickly because all the opinion polls, all the evidence that we have got suggests that very shortly we will have a Conservative government at Westminster now you could argue that while you had Labour in London and Labour working with others sometimes working alone in Cardiff, this half way house that we have got now was a workable mechanism but I certainly don’t want to find us in a situation where we have a right wing Conservative government, you know lets be hones cut David Cameron and Cheryl and all the others in half and Thatcherism is still running through there. I do not want to see the will of the people of Wales through the Assembly being frustrated by a Conservative government that doesn’t, that may not we don’t know, that may not want the Assembly to be able to deliver its own policies. That’s why I think there is an emergency and that is why I think the referendum has to take place before the next Assembly election

DIMBLEBY
Just hold it there, hold it there because we need to get everyone else in as well. The promise would be maintained if there were a conservative government before 19, before 2011

CHERYL GILLAN
Thank you Jonathan. First of all can I just say that I have right from the start when David was appointed our leader, he said we were the party of devolution and I have given every support to the excellent conservative group in the Welsh Assembly. However I do have to say that there is a very divided picture between the two parties that are in Government in the Welsh Assembly not least because Peter Hain himself before he stepped down I believe as Secretary of State said that he didn’t want to be bounced into an early referendum and certainly he has said since stepping down that if a referendum is held before 2011 that it would be defeated. I think it is very important Helen Mary that before any more powers are devolved to the Welsh Assembly that the people of Wales are consulted and I have been quite steadfast about that all the way through. We have nothing to fear from consulting the people of Wales and the people of Wales must be consulted in this referendum if further powers are to be passed down to the Assembly so we can certainly agree on that.

HELEN MARY JONES
Absolutely. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Rhodri Morgan?

RHODRI MORGAN
Yes preparing for a referendum is going on now, the establishing group of MP’s and AM’s. I think Helen Mary chairs it? It has been meeting and that has been going remarkably well Plaid Cymru and Labour and therefore we hope to get the Convention up and running in the Summer and that will prepare for a referendum before May 2011 subject to only one condition the state of Welsh public opinion appears to be favorable towards holding a referendum and winning a referendum. There is no point in committing yourself to a date for a referendum and entering that tunnel from which you cannot retreat unless you are fairly sure that the state of Welsh public opinion is ready

DIMBLEBY
And you judge that on the opinion polls the politicians so often revile when it comes to saying the only poll that counts is the decision.

RHODRI MORGAN
Absolutely but the point is 9LAUGH) if you look at what happened in 1979 when it looked as though it was pretty 50/50 and we lost by 4 to 1 to have the Assembly. Again in 97 Sept 18 1997 it is sort of engraved on all of our hearts, those of us who were in the yes campaign it looked as thought we were going to win that by 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1 and we won it by 50,000 you know .25 or .5 of a % so Welsh public opinion is quite difficult to read. What they say in a telephone poll or to somebody with a clipboard and doing market research is one thing what they actually do in a ballot box is different, therefore we have to be sure that they really mean in ballot box terms that they are ready to take this next step forward in devolution

HELEN MARY JONES
That is the point of the convention processes.

RHODRI MORGAN
Yes we agree on that. (LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
Looking from the outside Evan Harris what do you make of this Welsh debate?

EVAN HARRIS
Well it is an important debate and Liberal Democrats certainly support the provision of more powers to a law making, full law making powers to an elected, a fairer system than the vaguely proportional system there is at the moment but I have a feeling of déjà vu because I fought in the 1999/2003 government of Wales, I think that was Labour/Lib Dem. There was a Richards, a Richard Commission sorry that proposed exactly and it was never put to the people in a referendum possibly because there was a feeling that it wouldn’t be won and I accept you have got to be realistic about these things. The worry is of course that this will be done. It is gluing the coalition together, it will never actually be delivered and I think that people have to go out and sell it and I think it is wrong that people shouldn’t be able to have, that Assemblies shouldn’t be able to have some tax bearing powers, Scotland has it, never used it, I think there is scope to do that and I am a little confused about whether the conservatives who claim to be the Party of devolution support the idea of full law making powers and tax bearing powers.

DIMBLEBY
Let’s ask very simply and briefly does the Conservative party support that or not?

CHERYL GILLAN
In the same way that Rhodri has set up the all Wales Convention under Selwyn Parry Jones we are looking at this at the moment with Lord Wynn Roberts and we have set up our own commission to have a look at this and I think it is really important because the Assembly has got to prove itself and the Assembly has got to be the vehicle that the people of Wales want for law making powers

DIMBLEBY
So you are not sure yet that it has the maturity to have full law making powers

CHERYL GILLAN
I think that is probably correct but it is going to be up to the people of Wales, That is the important thing.

HELEN MARY JONES
10 years after devolution the Tories still don’t know what they think about it

CHERYL GILLAN
I have just said that it is going to be up to the people, it is not going to be politicians to decide it Helen Mary it will be the people.

DIMBLEBY
At this very moment it is up to me to get us into the next question which we just have time for.


JOSEPH SETCHFIELD
How do the Panel feel the Welsh nation should celebrate winning the Grand slam?

DIMBLEBY
The assumption is that everyone knows what it is to have won the Grand Slam. How would you Cheryl Gillan very briefly how would you expect the Welsh nation to celebrate this achievement?

HELEN MARY JONES
Me?

DIMBLEBY
Yes Helen Mary

HELEN MARY JONES
Well I think I have already done a fair amount of celebrating in Llanelli which is arguably one of Wales’s biggest rugby towns er we have done an awful lot of celebrating and we will continue to celebrate but I think it is important too that we don’t rest on our laurels because we have this history in Welsh rugby and Welsh sport generally to do terribly well, we are terribly proud of ourselves and then next season it is a disaster. I think the main way we can celebrate is to keep the coach (LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
Cheryl Gillan?

CHERYL GILLAN
She is Helen Mary I am Cheryl Gillan and I think the Welsh should celebrate with a nice pint of Brains Bitter

DIMBLEBY
Rhodri Morgan?

RHODRI MORGAN
Well by refusing to come down off cloud 9 and we have got Cardiff City against Barnsley and we have got the Ospreys against the Saracens and we have got the Cardiff Blues out in Toulouse. I have never known such a period for Welsh sporting euphoria

DIMBLEBY
Thank you and Evan?

EVAN HARRIS
I am a rugby fan and a Welsh rugby fan and one of the reasons I became a Doctor was because of JPR Williams. I thought I could be like him but I think the serious point here is the best way the Welsh should celebrate the Grand Slam victory is to sustain their form and beat South Africa which is a tough ask but they have never managed to sustain it in recent years and that will be the real test of whether this is a really great team

DIMBLEBY
On that challenge to Wales we have to end this week’s programme. Next week Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health, William Hague the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Shirley Williams. Join us with them in Harrogate now from the Cardiff Business School at Cardiff University, Goodbye.
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