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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  11 April 2008


PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Alan Johnson

William Hague
Shirley Williams
Dr John Sentamu

FROM: St Aidan’s Church of England High School, Harrogate


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to Yorkshire, to Harrogate and to St Aidan’s Church of England High School which has the honour of being the highest achieving comprehensive in the country. No less impressively it’s celebrating the thirty fifth anniversary of the formation of a Sixth Form Association with St John Fisher Catholic High School which now has the largest cohort of sixth formers – over a thousand – in England. On our panel Alan Johnson, former postman, trade union leader, is now in his fourth Secretary of Statehood in less than four years as Secretary of State for Health. William Hague inherited what was then a poisoned chalice when he became leader of the Conservative Party in nineteen ninety seven. It lasted until two thousand and one when he returned to the back benches. Latterly he’s returned to the front bench as Shadow Foreign Secretary. He’s also the author of two acclaimed biographies – William Pitt The Younger and William Wilberforce. He seems rather keen on Williams. Perhaps his next will be on Shirley Williams.

HAGUE
You never know.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams became a Labour MP in nineteen sixty four. She went on to co-found the Social Democrats and became their first MP. Then came the merger with the Liberals and she became one of the leading lights of the new party. Until recently she was the Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords. Dr John Sentamu was born in Uganda but read theology at Cambridge and moved on up through the ecclesiastical ranks until he became Archbishop of York in two thousand and five. No cleric in this country has a higher profile. By way of example the audience here in this school has noticed that he’s not wearing his dog collar. The reason – he cut it up on television in protest at Robert Mugabe’s rule and said he’d not wear it again until the Zimbabwe president was off the scene. And to raise funds for a charity that supports the families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan he’s soon to make his first parachute jump. I suppose we should say Archbishop God speed you on your way but not too fast.

SENTAMU
I want to get back to earth when I jump off. So yes, yes please.

DIMBLEBY
Our panel. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
And our first question please.

CROSS
Sandra Cross. Should it have needed a High Court ruling to confirm that service personnel have a human right to proper equipment and kit?

DIMBLEBY
William Hague.

HAGUE
No is the short answer to that. It shouldn’t have needed a High Court ruling to give the government that message. There have clearly been some serious deficiencies in the equipment of the armed forces, in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in the early stages I think we have to be fair to say. They have put some of those things right over time. But we’ve heard of deaths when people were not, did not have the body armour. We had that case that we’ve heard about today. Our armed forces do the most fantastic job and they should be the best equipped and trained in the world. And that is what they have every right to expect. Whether we can extend human rights legislation however into every aspect of military conduct or combat, I think that is a much more difficult area. But it shouldn’t have been necessary to have that ruling today.

DIMBLEBY
The, as I understand, or as has been interpreted in this ruling, it doesn’t relate to every area but whether or not the human rights legislation should apply in relation to the equipment that soldiers have once they are sent into battle. Do you think that the human rights legislation should apply to that specific circumstance?

HAGUE
I think that will be a difficult area. As I say I think this something that governments should get right in the first place. But whether one could say in the circumstances of an even greater war that troops could not be sent into combat if the equipment was not, if all the equipment was not available, well I’m not sure we could ever be placed in that situation. So there is a limit to how far you can extend human rights legislation. But certainly the government should be doing a far better job of equipping our troops than they have done over the last six years.

DIMBLEBY
Alan Johnson.

JOHNSON
No I don’t think it takes a court decision to give our troops the best equipment. And actually if you look at any stage, over the last sixty years of conflict, you will find a situation where it’s very difficult, because the technology is always moving forward, to ensure that all our troops get the very best equipment at the same time. What Des Browne referred to today was that two years ago, because we were moving into theatres of war in a way that’s probably unprecedented in both Iraq and Afghanistan, there were difficulties then. Those have been overcome. In terms of the money that’s being spent, I was with the forces in Manchester last Friday celebrating the centenary of the Territorial Army and troops there were saying about the excellent equipment that they’re getting on the front line. I think for the reasons William says we will probably appeal this decision. It is about Articles one and two of the Human Rights Convention and actually some points in the judgment were contradictory. That’s obviously being considered because the judgment is very fresh today. But no, I do not think it should take court orders to give our troops the best equipment and I would say we are giving our troops the best equipment.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
When Lord Drayson became Minister For Defence Procurement things at Department Of Defence looked up a great deal. He was a business man who knew what he was doing and he’s now as you know whizzing round on the motor racing track. But he was very effective in actual making sure that the defence procurement, huge budget, was spent in a sensible way. I think we rather short change our troops. And I’m not going to choose between different parties in government. It isn’t only the lack of adequate equipment and it is, as William said it’s getting better and as Alan said it’s getting better. But it’s still not all that good. For example I tried to the other day get the government to agree it would make some helicopters available for Darfur where they’re desperately needed to get troops there to try and vent the forthcoming genocide which is once again being worked up. And the answer from the government, the Ministry of Defence was “We haven’t any helicopters to spare at all”. Well it’s not really a good enough answer. We’re quite a wealthy country. We have very big responsibilities including to maintain the peace and to stop genocides which is part of human rights as well. And I think therefore we have to ask some very deep and searching questions of ourselves about whether we’re not sending people into combat, let alone into peace keeping, without the adequate means to do the job we’ve asked them to do. And I think that’s not good enough.

DIMBLEBY
If there is, as the Secretary of State’s indicated, an appeal and if that appeal goes against the government then it would actually be a human right under Article one and two for soldiers ..

WILLIAMS
True.

DIMBLEBY
.. to have protection at least in this limited respect of their equipment and weapons once they’re off their base. Would you like that to be the case?

WILLIAMS
Yes. But I think there is a problem – William’s right about this – that if you have a sudden emergency then it may not be possible to meet it. But I think you’d have to show good intention. And I think probably the European convention would be able to do that if you then went on to try and meet it as quickly as possible.

DIMBLEBY
Archbishop.

SENTAMU
I don’t think that actually our soldiers should go into battle with defective equipment. I think that’s not acceptable in modern theatre. So I would have thought that if anybody knew that this equipment was defective it should be for them to try and actually put it right. And secondly I would say that when things don’t go right thank God for our courts because in the end they rule on areas which could become a bit, very difficult. And then finally I want to say that in terms of people in combat the Human Rights Act doesn’t simply give a right, actually uses the phrase of proportionality. So you need to know, before you went into battle, was it clear that x, y, z wasn’t available. And I would have thought it’s a very good ruling that actually human rights laws can apply to troops serving abroad, not just in this country. And I think it’s a very good test of the facts, test of the law and I welcome it most strongly really.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. If you have thoughts about that, any answers maybe for you after the Saturday broadcast of this programme, the number’s 08700 100444 and the email address – any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Could we please go to our next question.

HITCHEN
My name is Andrew Hitchen. In the light of yesterday’s High Court judgment should the enquiry by the Serious Fraud Office into the Saudi arms deal be reopened?

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
Yes. And I want to start with a little story. On one evening in December ninth two thousand and six I was sitting in the House of Lords. It was the last day of the session. Christmas about to come. The House of Lords and the House of Commons was about to disappear off on holiday. And there crept into the chamber literally in the last hour of the last day of that day a very embarrassed Attorney General who then got up and made the statement that the investigation into BAE’s possible misuse of funds with regard to the Saudi Arabian project was now going to be suspended. We thought it was amazing. I remember my colleague Lord Goodheart got up and said it was a form of political blackmail to suggest that you would throw away the course of law, of the international law, by simply threatening that you wouldn’t cooperate any further. I have to say, straight forwardly, that there was no support from the other major opposition party, the Conservative Party. There hasn’t, wasn’t then and there hasn’t been since. We took up the argument that there ought to be an investigation. And there’s a link too which I ought to mention very quickly. And that is that the OECD, the organisation of rich countries which has a specific charge to deal with corruption and bribery, partly because of its impact on terrorism and other things, has found, has asked Britain for ten years to pass effective anti corruption legislation – for ten years. They came here last week to ask us, say that the time is running out and what were we going to do. The answer was still some time but not yet. It is appalling to see a country like our own become – I hope I’m not, hasn’t ... to say a banana republic, but a country which I was proud of as seen as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, allowing itself to sink into this and not to pursue proper enquires to stop that kind of thing. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Secretary of State the, the High Court was excoriating in its judgement, accusing ministers of buckling and saying it is obvious that the decision to halt the investigation suited the objectives of the executive, i.e. the government. Stopping the investigation avoided uncomfortable consequences, both commercial and diplomatic. Do you believe that it should be reopened?

JOHNSON
Well the judgment didn’t say it should be reopened but it may because they’re sitting again some time after April the twenty fourth. That may be the outcome. Look this issue goes back a long time. The Al Yamamah contract was signed in nineteen eighty five. There was a National Audit Office investigation in nineteen ninety two which found there was no corruption. Back in two thousand and four the Serious Fraud Office starting a, started a fresh enquiry. Now, I’m not going to comment on the judgment. We’ll have to consider the judgment and consider where we go from there. What I do know though is that any government, a prime minister and attorney general, must have the ability ultimately to decide whether the continuation of an enquiry of this kind would jeopardise the lives of our civilians and our military personnel and jeopardise national and international security. That’s why Robert Wardell the head of the, of the org.. of the Serious Fraud Office, that’s why Robert Wardell, that was his specific reasons for calling off this enquiry. It’s not the first time it’s happened. It happened Patrick Mayhew when he was attorney general, did not prosecute in Northern Ireland because there was a serious risk to lives if he had continued to do that. It doesn’t matter, and surely you know we, we have carried the OECD Treaty on anti bribery into British law. We did that in two thousand and two. We pursued Litvinenko in Russia where it’s had economic effects on this country but we’ve done that in order to pursue justice. In this case there was, you know the prime minister and the attorney generally have to do very difficult things. And the Serious Fraud Office’s decision was to pursue that any further would jeopardise the lives of our civilians and our army personnel. And I think if you remove that in any way, that power, then you are taking a very dangerous step.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think that the electorate should take at face value that the prime minister’s statement to the effect that lives would be at risk was the whole story ..

JOHNSON
Yes.

DIMBLEBY
.. and that questions about corruption, embarrassment, the city, the extent to which BAE might or might not have been guilty of running a huge slush fund of which allegedly the principal beneficiary, allegedly said if you don’t call off the hounds then we won’t cooperate with you, that that shouldn’t also be perhaps regarded by the electorate as significant?

JOHNSON
But why would anyone think that decision was not going to be made on that basis? Listen, I was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I went through that procedure at the time of seeing those papers. It was very clear. You might doubt, you might argue that the Saudi Arabians shouldn’t have felt this way. But they said, on something that’s been going since nineteen eighty five, if you continue these investigations we won’t cooperate with you on a security basis. They said that on the, that, that that, that the continuation of that enquiry would lead to a, a serious situation with our security forces. Now you might like or dislike that decision. But on the basis that you may not get to a result anyway, that this is a case that was twenty years old and that you know the chances of getting to the bottom of it were very slim anyway, the decision to call that off was made in the best interests of the country.

DIMBLEBY
If the, in fact the, the court does quash the decision to call off and says it ought to be reopened, will the government in fact go along and allow the SFO to continue or ask the SFO to continue?

JOHNSON
I can’t answer that tonight Jon. It’s not my decision. And indeed we haven’t discussed this in Cabinet yet. But I, I mean the Cab..., the government will have to look at this judgment very seriously. Of course they will.

DIMBLEBY
Archbishop.

SENTAMU
I think the problem is that nineteen eighty nine, the National Audit Office launched a probe into the possibility of bribery, and the, of those allegations, and the report actually was never published. Had it been published probably won’t be where we are. But it was never published. And I would have thought that this country’s greatest reality is that there is a separation between the judiciary and the executive. And I find it quite not acceptable that an investigation is taking place and in mid straw you said yourself well we’re going to stop it. You’re becoming an investigator yourself. You’re becoming judge and jury and executioner in the same place. And as far as I’m concerned the investigation should continue because it seems to suggest that somehow the prime minister knew the outcome of the investigation. How can he when it’s not been concluded? So for me please open it up again and let’s see what happens. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
In that context William Hague the judges amongst other things said surrender of which they accuse British ministers merely encourages those with power dot, dot, dot, to repeat such threats in the knowledge that the courts will not interfere with the decision of a prosecutor to surrender. Should it be reopened?

HAGUE
I think the answer to that question now depends on the account the government give of themselves. Because they are clearly going to have to say more about the reasons involved here. If we ask ourselves – this is partly what the other panellists have been debating – should there ever be a power for governments to set aside an investigation because they think there is an overriding impact on national security then I think the answer to that is yes as Alan Johnson has said. I don’t think that governments should be forbidden from doing so. There’s a moral consideration on either side. The upholding of the law. But on the other side the lives of British citizens in dealings with a foreign power. Very difficult situations. But of course that power should only be exercised in very exceptional circumstances. And the question is really is this one of those exceptional circumstances? It’s very troubling that the government having said this was for reasons of national security, have not been able to convince the High Court that it was for such reasons. And no doubt the government are very troubled about that. Now that means they either have to appeal or they have to come to parliament with a fresh account of why they suspended the investigation and asked for the support of parliament. And really the rest of us can only then judge on that basis. What I am worried about – I don’t want to go on for too long – but is that in the government’s new Constitutional Reform Bill the replacement of this power, putting this power on a clearer basis, doesn’t seem to leave any room in the future for legal challenge. And I think that would be a weakness. Because there’s always got to be a safeguard against this power being used capriciously by the attorney general in some way.

DIMBLEBY
Because under the Constitutional Reform Bill the prime minister would automatically at any point directly be able to say this investigation shall not continue. Is that what you’re saying?

HAGUE
Yes. And it doesn’t appear, in the way that that Bill is drafted that that would be under, that would be open to a legal challenge in the way that this has been. So why I sympathise with the, the existence of that power – I think it’s very important – and can see the difficulty of the government’s situation in this case, they mustn’t shut out dissent on these matters in the future. We’ve got to have room for that legal challenge to ministerial decisions.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
Well I accept the point that’s been made by William. But let me be quite precise. The attorney general has subsequently said that he did his best to argue that the procedure should have continued.

DIMBLEBY
The former attorney general Lord Goldsmith.

WILLIAMS
The former attorney general Lord Goldsmith. Lord Goldsmith made a public statement that he argued with the prime minister, the former prime minister that the effects of letting this, of closing down this enquiry would have huge damage on the rule of law. Mr Wardell who has been picked out by the judges as having a special responsibility also argued with the prime minister. In both cases the two man were persuaded or otherwise influenced to decide to drop their arguments that were very strongly in favour of the overriding importance of the rule of law. If you look at the argument from security there are two great weaknesses in it. And I take Alan’s point, you have to take that into account, of course, seriously. The first one is that if it’s so concerned with security how is it that the United States is presiding over, at the present time, a legal case against BAE in the United States, a country which is even more conscious of security issues than we are? One has to say that that issue has not been raised there at any time. And the second point I would make which is William’s point, I think it would be absolutely disastrous if the new Constitutional Bill included this extraordinary power to simply set aside the rule of law if it’s not convenient from your point of view. There is an exceptional procedure in the OECD international code with regard to bribery and corruption which we have never attempted to use and we did not attempt to use over BAE. I’m afraid the case against the United Kingdom is very powerful. And the case against the former prime minister in my view is overwhelming. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Should the enquiry be reopened? Andrew Hitchen, you put the question.

HITCHEN
I feel very strongly that it should be reopened. And I find it very troubling that under the new Constitutional Reform Bill in cases of national security it appears that judicial review will not be permitted.

DIMBLEBY
Let me ask our audience here. Who believes on the basis of what you’ve heard, this discussion, should the issue be reopened, the enquiry, by the Serious Fraud Office? Would you put your hands up if you believe it should be reopened.

If you believe that it should not be reopened would you put your hands up.

The overwhelming majority of this audience, not scientifically selected of course, is that the case should be reopened.

We’ll go to our next question please.

SAVILLE
My name is Dean Saville. Does the Archbishop expect to resume wearing his dog collar any time soon?

SENTAMU
I am a prisoner of hope. Absolutely a prisoner of hope. A day is going to come when my collar will be worn. Because I believe that Mugabe is living on borrowed time. And the country may go through quite a lot of difficulties. But of course he is very good at ... to difficulties. The first thing, he blames the white man for all the ills of Zimbabwe which to me is not true. Secondly then he uses a lot of force in order to have his will. And already we know that he’s fiddling the last election. And so my hope is that the international community will see this still as really a national, an international question, not just an African question, not just Zimbabwean question. And you know what is amazing, in December two thousand and three, in Leeds, on this programme, I was asked this same question – I hadn’t cut my collar yet – by Stuart Andrew and I said the same thing that I’m saying today. So a day is coming, just like I believe with the days of Jesus, there was a resurrection, a time is coming when Zimbabwe will be liberated from such oppressive stuff.

DIMBLEBY
Given that you said that four years ago, how much cause for hope does that give anyone who’s listening to what you’re saying, that it’s going to be within, not a natural cause that takes him away?

SENTAMU
Well I remember when we were campaigning against apartheid and people saying oh it’s now nearly thirty years since you started. This is going to happen? Well I’m one of those people who say pray. And then people say “Why do you pray?” is indeed ... coincidence. Well former Archbishop of York William Temple said “The more I pray the more the coincidences happen”. And this is going to be one of those. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
The Secretary of State.

JOHNSON
Well I think Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential election. And it seems – I don’t know whether it’s because John cut up his dog collar. But I think the days of Mugabe are numbered. I can see no other reason why. We know that Zanu P.. PF lost the elections to the Assembly and the Senate. We know that. Because they had to pin the results up outside the polling stations. And plenty of people took photographs of them and it’s on the internet and it, they found it very difficult to fiddle that. Why almost two weeks later would we not have heard the result of the presidential election? There were only three candidates. And so this idea – and I think, I think the movement for democratic change were right to say that they wouldn’t open a run off. Under the, under the Zimbabwean Constitution the run off is there if neither candidate got more than fifty per cent. It’s not there because the incumbent wants to have another go to see if he can win it second time around. So I think that the pressure that’s been brought to bear on Zimbabwe by you know the kind of things that John has done, the publicity that’s been given, now means it’s not just the old colonial shadow that he can refer to. Countries all around the world are now condemning Zimbabwe. And as soon as Mugabe goes it’ll be a very good day for democracy around the world. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
I think we’re going to be all in agreement on this. But I’ll just add a couple of things. I’m a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe. And we wrote today to President Mwanawasa of Zambia, he’s the President of Zambia, who’s going to conduct the South African, the SADC development group meeting on Saturday. And there’s really two things to say. And one is it’s wonderful that at last some powerful African voices, that of the President of Zambia, that of the Leader of the ANC, Mr Zuma, are beginning to speak out. It’s been a long time I have to say. But at long last the voices are being heard. And the second thing to say – and nobody’s said it I think much – is that the amazing evidence of the people of Zimbabwe standing for hours to vote, not resorting to violence in the case of those who supported the Opposition, not attempting to try to find ways round, to fiddle the vote, is very impressive indeed. It reminds you of those tremendously long queues in South Africa at the time of the coming of Mandela to government. And I think one has to give credit to Africans for their astonishing patience in many cases in believing in the idea of democracy.

DIMBLEBY
If he, despite the evidence, insists on holding on and uses all the force that he can muster to do so, what would you expect or how would you expect that majority of voters in Zimbabwe who supported the Opposition to behave? Because they will have stood as you said in queues. What do they then do?

WILLIAMS
I think there’s a real danger that the thing will turn to violence. I think it’ll be a great, a great discredit to all of us if it does. And I think myself that already Mugabe’s effectively over. The important thing about the voice of Africans is that more and more Africans outside Zimbabwe are coming to see that themselves and to condemn any attempt by him to hold on any longer. The danger is that he’s got the support of the army so far. And I think that one of the useful things that could be done is that those who know the Zimbabwean Army, and there are people senior in the British military who know Zimbabwean military officers, should make it clear that this is constitutionally completely improper. They should not be supporting an illegitimate president.

DIMBLEBY
Shadow Foreign Secretary.

HAGUE
Well there are two signs of encouragement I suppose that we didn’t know a week ago. One for the reasons Alan Johnson’s mentioned is that we know now that Mugabe didn’t win the election. That is the only explanation of how he has behaved. And we also know that neighbouring countries are now more exercised about this as Shirley has said. And they of course are in the driving seat here. If we are realistic there isn’t that much that we can do directly to change the course of events. But there’s a lot that they can do.

DIMBLEBY
What can they do?

HAGUE
And the meeting that they are having ..

DIMBLEBY
What, what can they, what, what can they do?

HAGUE
Well they, for instance they have given, some of those countries have given a lot of tacit support to Mugabe. And have really given economic sanction and support to his regime. Changes in that, even if it wasn’t a complete reversal of that, would have an enormous impact. But there is an important thing that we should be doing now which is that it’s now clear that whether it’s next week or next year, whenever it is, the day after Mugabe is on the horizon. And there is going to be a golden hour to do a lot for that country. And we should now be preparing the way for the UN and the World Bank to be going in to assess the needs, to host a donors’ conference in Europe so that international aid can be delivered in the best possible way. To be ready to assist millions of people, refugees from Zimbabwe who might want to return. To train security forces in observance of human rights and so on. All of these things need planning for now because there is going to be a golden hour. And in the golden hour of other countries where dictatorships have been overthrown we haven’t been very good at planning for it. So we should get on and plan for it now. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams. Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
I wanted to come in and I very much agreed with what William Hague has just said but I want to add one thing which I think is very important. There are thousands of Zimbabwean refugees here in the United Kingdom right now. Many of them are fairly highly qualified because they came as students and some of them have graduated as students. We ought now to be trying to bring these people together to see what they could contribute back to their own home country because they are the key, the government in exile if you like, which could mean that we quite quickly got over some of the real suffering and pain of Zimbabwe which would take a very long time if it was actually some kind of occupation. And that’s the last thing we need. So I agree with William but I think there’s this bit to add as well.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. John Sentamu.

SENTAMU
When Amin was behaving very badly quite a lot of countries in the world reduced Ugandan embassies to an intra-section. In other words were not being given diplomatic rights. Which meant that all the kind of laundering money and bringing in goods through the embassy back were stopped. That’s actually what hurt Amin in the end. And I want to suggest that actually Zimbabwean embassies should be reduced to an intra-section so that goods and wonderful things are not being taken through the diplomatic back. That’s how money’s being laundered. And actually prop up the government that way. And the other thing I would say remember, the fear is that Mugabe may face a trial over the massacre in B... in a system we call G... where seven thousand were actually massacred. That scares him.

DIMBLEBY
On the first point do you think there’s a strong case for saying reduce the status of the Zimbabwean Embassy and presumably around the world to the, a visa organisation?

JOHNSON
Well we have to look very carefully at how we go forward on this. I mean I think William’s point is absolutely right about how we deal with the aftermath of Mugabe’s disappearance, hopefully. And I think in that context we give two hundred million pounds, on the financial side we give more money than any other country in the world to Zimbabwe. We made it clear that we will increase that once Mugabe’s gone. But I thought Shirley’s idea was very interesting, how there’s three million Zimbabweans living in exile. Only two and a half million voted in the election last week. If you included all the people in exile I mean it would have been a lot bigger majority against him than we suspect it is.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. The Any Answers number 08700 100444 if you want to discuss that or any other issues after the Saturday broadcast of the programme. Can we have our next question please?

BIRKIN
My name is Susan Birkin. In light of recent international protests was the IOC wrong to award the two thousand and eight Olympics to China?

DIMBLEBY
Alan Johnson.

JOHNSON
No. I don’t think they were. And I think it’s perfectly possible to support the Olympics, to support the symbolism of the torch and to make it clear that you abhor the human rights record of China and in particular around the issue of Tibet. This happened in other countries before. I doubt whether – Tibet has been an issue for the last fifty years. I doubt whether it would have had the profile and the international attention that it’s now receiving if China wasn’t going to host the Olympics. So I think it’s absolutely, I think it was the right decision to award the Olympics to China. Indeed the Dalai Lama has said that he doesn’t want to see any boycott of the Olympics. I think he understands full well that this is an opportunity actually for the international community to make their views felt and heard because the Olympics automatically attach.. attracts so much attention and so much political attention that I think it will actually help the situation of human rights in China rather than hinder it.

DIMBLEBY
Given that it is a highly political Olympics – it can’t be otherwise – do you support, personally support those athletes and others who when they’re there make it very clear that they oppose China’s human rights policy, oppose what is happening in Tibet in whatever within the law form that may take?

JOHNSON
Within the law, yes. I mean that’s happened at other Olympics in the past. But I think if you, that what’s happening with China now is I think what happened in the Eastern, in Eastern Europe in the past. That as they see more of economic progress, as they come into the world – they’re now members of the WTO as well which I thought that was the right decision as well – gradually their people see more and more the suppression of political freedom in their country. And I think if you just isolate China and say we’re not going to award the Olympics to you, we just completely leave them isolated then all that will lead to is that there will be a complete inhibition within that country to do anything about addressing these problems of human rights at all.

DIMBLEBY
William Hague?

HAGUE
I think the, the challenge with China and international diplomacy is to get them to accept ever increasing international responsibilities. We have to work with China one way or another. They are members of the UN Security Council. If we want to stop nuclear proliferation in the world we are going to have to work with China. And I think what a lot of us say, certainly what I said and David Cameron said when we went to China is look, we know you need energy resources out of Africa, but if you’re taking them out of Sudan that is going to focus attention more and more on what’s happening in Darfur. And if you’re supporting the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe you are going to get more and more attention on that. So look China, you have to start behaving as a, as the growing world power that you are, in a way that stands examination in the court of international opinion. And I think for the reasons overlapping with what Alan has said, giving the, them the Olympics is part of that. Actually this has focused on more of their policies. One of the reasons there is focus n Tibet now is because of the Olympics. And so I think that is a good thing. It means of course we should not then boycott the Olympics having given it to them. But we should be clear and consistent with China. And I think the only thing they respect is clarity and consistency. We want good relations with their government. But at every meeting with their representatives we should talk about human rights, about Tibet, about what is happening in Darfur. And if we’re consistent with that over time as well as wanting to work with them on big global issues then we will get their respect and cooperation. So I think that is the right approach.

DIMBLEBY
Archbishop.

SENTAMU
I want to agree with all that has been said so far. And of course the trouble of the torch has been a PR disaster for China as well as the IOC. I mean complete disaster. They’ve not ... regretful that human beings have been out protesting because China has never experienced that kind of level of you know people saying “We do not like the way you’re treating Tibet. We do not like the way you are treating human rights”. Was the IOC wrong in granting? I don’t think so. Because after all China is a member of the Security Council. And I think it is more engaging with them. And in terms of tread we should work very harder to make sure that not only do we take the soft option on sports but actually the trading links we should be more robust about. If you’re going to trade with us then it is important you clean your act out. And that human rights is a God given right for everybody not just those who are in power.

DIMBLEBY
Are you saying that if you don’t see an obvious and clear improvement in relation to human rights then you would introduce trade boycotts or you would not trade?

SENTAMU
I would say that has happened. It’s happened to other countries. And I know it’s a big question. But you see it is easy to pick sport out because it is, it’s really not all that, going to hurt much. But trade is what is going to hurt most people. And people have got to be more robust about if you’re going to trade with us then there’s some kind of expectation that human rights actually is a necessary thing. And people should make sure that these conversations are happening and taking place. It’s the only way you’re going to do it. So don’t stop the dialogue but be robust because if, you know if you’ve got a friend who you never criticise really that’s not a friend at all are they?

DIMBLEBY
Can you imagine Shirley Williams, just to pick up, that point, before picking up the main point that any British government would in fact use trade as a weapon to challenge China on human rights?

WILLIAMS
I think it’s highly unlikely. And I agree with all my fellow panellists that it was right to give the Olympics to China because it is part of what both Alan and William were saying, bringing China into the international community. But I actually think the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, in making that decision were extraordinarily naive. Because I think what it gave them was a responsibility which they were obliged to carry out. And let me give an example of where they could even now carry out I think a major responsibility because they’re the people that are meant to manage the Olympics. It’s not the host and it’s not the visitors. It’s the IOC. And they insist on it themselves. The proposal as you know, the next leg of the torch being taken round the world, after the travels through Latin America, are to go into Tibet, to run through Tibet and to go up Everest and down again. I can think of nothing more offensive if I was a Tibetan than to see people who swear themselves to believe in the values of the Olympic ideals which include human rights, going through my country, my suppressed and oppressed country, flagging up the hypocrisy if you like of this ideal. The IOC which incidentally has on it two British representatives, Mr Craig Reedie and I think I’m right in saying the Princess Anne could raise the issue of saying that in the light of what’s happened already they would strongly advise China not to carry the torch through Tibet. And they could even say that they were opposed to carrying the torch through Tibet. I really think it’s so offensive. It’s so throwing petrol on a fire that’s already burning that the IOC ought now to behave responsibly, to allow the Olympics to go ahead but to say that they would ask the Chinese government, they would ask them to understand why they are now banning that.

DIMBLEBY
But I put to you the point about what was realistic. Is it realistic to suppose that, that China under these circumstances would say okay we’ve got the message. We’re not now going to claim Tibet as being part of China in the way that every other ..

WILLIAMS
No they will claim it. And the Dalai Lama – and Alan was making this point about them accepting the Olympics. The Dalai Lama has agreed that Tibet is part of China. The issue is one of how much autonomy they have, particularly over religious issues.

DIMBLEBY
But it would be China, you’re inviting China to withdraw from its present political stance in relation to Tibet.

WILLIAMS
You’re inviting China to go some way to doing that. I mean offensively running through Tibet is more even than simply saying that they’ve got to be part of China which all of us agree it is.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. This question was put by Susan Birkin. Can I ask the audience was the IOC right or wrong? Those who think it was right to award the Olympics to China would you put your hands up.

Those who think it was wrong.

Again an overwhelming majority here believes that it was wrong. We’ll go to our next question please.

PEARCE
Russell Pearce. In these days when “could do better” is banned, what positive target setting, formative report, would the panel give Gordon Brown for his first term?

DIMBLEBY
You’re not allowed to say “could do better”. What report, positive target setting formative would you give Gordon Brown for his first term? Alan Johnson.

JOHNSON
Brilliant. Ten out of ten. Top of the class. I think Gordon’s done very well. I think in terms of the ..

DIMBLEBY
It’s coming as a great surprise to everyone listening.

JOHNSON
Well – yeah. Not to Gordon I hope. Who was it who said – I think it was Macmillan wasn’t it who said you know “Events, dear boy, events are the things that mess up a premiership”. And we’ve had a lot of events since Gordon took over almost a year ago. I think he’s, I think he’s dealt with them very well. I think in this age of kind of, I suppose a PR age where politicians are meant to be very PR friendly, that’s not what Gordon does I’m afraid. That’s never going to be what Gordon does. He’s not a PR man. He’s a very deep and serious, he’s a deeply serious politician. And I think that he’s going to be there for at least ten years. And I shall mark his report every year. And I, I think ten out of ten is just the start. If I could go any higher I would.

DIMBLEBY
John Sentamu.

SENTAMU
Since I don’t like targets because they’ve been a bane particularly for schools and league tables and all that kind of malarkey I wouldn’t suggest it for Gordon. [CLAPPING] What I would say is that we through a very difficult time in terms of economy. We are part of a global market. You cannot escape from it. At least the IMF expects that actually our growth is going to be one point six whereas in the Euro zone is only one point four and America point five. Which actually means that the economy in spite of the difficulty is doing well. I know some houses are being ... repossessed but not to the same extent in nineteen ninety when also the interest rates were twice what they are now today. So all I can say to Gordon you promised open government, you opened, you promised that things would be said in parliament before they’re said on the airwaves. Please keep that promise and give us more and more open government.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley Williams.

WILLIAMS
Well I’ve got a lot of – two things really. One is, when I listen to Alan who after all was famously a Secretary for Education, I understood better than before what league tables were all about. When I listened to John Sentamu and I tend to agree with what he said very much, there was that very impressive speech that Gordon Brown made very shortly after he became prime minister which set out a whole series of constitutional reforms. And the key thing about those reforms, they had two aspects. One was taking responsibility back to the prime minister and in a sense underneath the, underneath the forward writing there was an insinuation, I think correctly, that the former prime minister had made too many decisions almost on his own or with a handful of friends. It was a break down of the system of cabinet governments and that was to be put back. And I think it has been put back. The second point was a number of constitutional reforms, all of which gave more power to the people of this country. And if he keeps that pledge – and it’s too early to say – it would be a major benefit because one of the things that really frightens me about Britain today is that its incredibly centralised state with almost everything flowing from Westminster and Whitehall. I’m afraid that was also true under the Conservatives. It’s just gone on to the point where local government is virtually dead, where local politics is very much curtailed and sterilised, and where people have got less and less occasion to influence effects. And I think that’s a very sad way to go. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Ten out of ten, nine out ten William Hague?

HAGUE
Well I think the report should say at this point he could be very good at doing something completely different. But at the moment he’s in the wrong school or the wrong profession or whatever it may be. I was amused by, very much amused by Alan Johnson’s defence “He’s not a PR man you know .. That’s why he’s unpopular. He’s not a PR man”. I can hear myself saying that in the past about, in the dying days of the last Conservative government, you know “The reason we’re not doing very well, we’re not good at very, public relations. We concentrate on the substance”. But what is catching up with Gordon Brown now is the substance. The abolition of the ten P tax rate. This is nothing to do with PR. This is kicking people when they’re down and they can really feel it. So this boy very soon should be doing something totally different I think. [CLAPPING]

WILLIAMS
... as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

DIMBLEBY
Russell Pearce you put the question. How would you mark him and why?

PEARCE
It seems to average out at about a C plus on the panel there I think. But I, as a teacher, I would like William Hague to write my next set of reports for me. I like that.

DIMBLEBY
Are you a teacher?

PEARCE
Yes.

DIMBLEBY
He got ten out of ten. That’s not a C plus is it nowadays?

PEARCE
Favouritism.

DIMBLEBY
Okay. I, I think we can just squeeze in one more. But you’re going to have to be faster than we would like in your answers I’m afraid.

LEACH
Mick Leach. What is the greatest leap of faith taken by each member of the panel?

DIMBLEBY
Apart from the one you’re about to take first of all. John.

SENTAMU
Coming here. [CLAPPING] But excitement is that this is one, really the top school in terms of education in our country. So I came fearing, frightened, but I met some young people welcomed me so well, so all my fears disappeared.

DIMBLEBY
Shirley.

WILLIAMS
Like John outclassed by everybody at St Aidan’s. But I would also add starting with others a new third party.

DIMBLEBY
Which one? [CLAPPING]

WILLIAMS
Jon look at your reference books. I won’t be talking to you again for quite a long time Jonathan.

DIMBLEBY
Alan Johnson.

JOHNSON
Supporting Queen’s Park Rangers for the last fifty years.

DIMBLEBY
William.

HAGUE
To witness the heaviest defeat of my party in the entire twentieth century and immediately volunteered to be the leader. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Unhappily that brings us to the end of this week’s programme. Next week we’re going to be in Chalfont St Giles with Caroline Spelman who chairs the Conservative Party, David Laws for Liberal Democrats. Frederick Forsyth the writer. And another secret missile which I can’t yet identify. Join us there. Thank you for having us here. And goodbye.
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