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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  20 June 2008


PRESENTER: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

PANELLISTS:
NICOLA STURGEON MSP: Deputy First Minister

WENDY ALEXANDER MSP: Labour leader in Scotland

DOMINIC GRIEVE MP: Shadow Home Secretary

ED DAVEY MP: Liberal Democrats' Foreign Affairs

Spokesperson

FROM: James Watt College, Lauchlan Way, Kilwinning, North Ayrshire KA13 6DE


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to North Ayrshire where we are in the town of Kilwinning at the James
Watt College named after the inventor of the steam engine which celebrates its centenary this year. We are on its new campus where it provides a start of the art facility for some 6000 students. Kilwinning is both thoroughly modern and thoroughly ancient with origins that go back to the 7th century when it was one of the earliest Christian settlements in Scotland indeed it derives its name from the colonists first Holy Father St Winning. One of his successors Abbot Bernard or Bernard is renowned as the author of the historic declaration of Arbroath in 1320 in which he wrote “We fight not for glory, nor for riches nor for honour but only and alone for freedom”. The declaration of independence of course from England which it is said influenced the drafting of the American Declaration of Independence and which will surely resonate with every member of this panel regardless of their perspective.

On our Panel Nicola Sturgeon is the Deputy First Minister in the Scottish Government and Deputy Leader of the SNP. Wendy Alexander is the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and of the Opposition therefore in the Scottish Parliament. Dominic Grieve was the Shadow Attorney General and for the time being he still is but a week ago he was catapulted into the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Home Secretary following the resignation of David Davis to fight a bi election on the issue of civil liberties. Ed Davey both Foreign Affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and his party’s effective General Election coordinator as Chair of Campaigns and Communications. He is the fourth member of our Panel.
(APPLAUSE)
Our first question please

RICHARD WILKINSON
Good evening Richard Wilkinson. Tom Harris Transport Minister and Glasgow MP is under fire after berating voters for being so bloody miserable in the face of the economic downturn. Could the panel hazard a guess why people might feel that way.

DIMBLEBY
Wendy Alexander

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well I heard Tom Harris talking about that this morning and he was at pains to suggest that he understands why people are a bit concerned about fuel prices, have concerns about rising food prices, the credit crunch, just that the world is moving into difficult times and they are globally difficult times. He didn’t say although I perhaps will say that you know of the G7 countries we are growing or expected to grow the second fastest so there are fundamentals here but I think that is maybe not an issue this evening but I think the point he really made is that in Scotland and in Britain the things that effect people in their lives aren’t always what is happening in the economy and whether we are up or down or depressed or happy or the degree of well being we feel are about things like well being, health, suicide, depression what is happening in our families and there has been a lot of talk about that in Scotland.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think that people are being slightly too quotes “bloody miserable” than they need to be?

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well I hope that we don’t talk ourselves into recession. I think it is important that the British economy and the Scottish economy continue to grow but I think we have also got to understand the anxiety that people feel after 10 years of prosperity the world as a whole is facing, the Bank of England is saying we are facing much more turbulent times than we have known in the political memories of many of us.


DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well I think we are very entitled to feel miserable. The economic downturn may not be caused by the government but the problem is that the government has been improvident. In the years of plenty it has failed to put aside enough money to prepare for years of economic downturn and even conned itself into believing that it wouldn’t happen. And now we have a situation where it starts by putting, by getting rid of the 10p tax rate, then it has to find as a sort of desperate resource for the Crewe and Nantwich bi election £2.7 billion of borrowed money. It is going to be £40 billion over borrowed from its projections two years ago and prices are going up and taxes are impacting particularly because of the rise in fuel prices.

DIMBLEBY
And yet we have now reports that the spending boom is higher at over 3% than it has been for 20 years so why are people both feeling, if you are right, I don’t want to keep using the adjective miserable when they are still spending apparently and the consumer boom is underway.

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well I found that fascinating. I read it in The Scotsman as I came here in the car this evening and it is curious and of course it is particularly curious because we have a credit crunch and in fact we have a large number of people who are heavily over committed financially. Now whether this is a sign that they are suddenly more joyful or a sign that people are being reckless I think is something that we will have to wait two or three months in order to find out. I certainly don’t want to talk people into recession but we have a serious economic crisis which is going to last, on the Bank of England’s projections, for probably 12 to 18 months and in fact unlike virtually every other Western European country we are going into it woefully unprepared. The other thing I might say is that after 10 years people are terribly fed up with being over regulated. It is a much wider issue but my goodness on the Crewe and Nantwich bi election on the doorsteps I can’t tell you how angry people were with the Nanny state.

DIMBLEBY
Nicola Sturgeon

NICOLA STURGEON
If I can start by being fair to Tom Harris. I heard him on the radio this morning as well. He was at pains to apologise and I take him at his word that he was trying to make a serious point but I think he was doing it in an incredibly crass way. People are not miserable, people are struggling and finding it really really hard to cope with the consequences of the economic position just now. You know you don’t speak to anybody, any individual, any part of the economy, anybody in the public sector who is not feeling it really hard because of the increased fuel costs and yes for sure alot of the underlying causes of that are global but people are really angry that Gordon Brown and the Labour Government are not prepared for this; that they have done things that seem to have made matters worse like the 10p tax rate and worse of all they are not doing anything to help. And while the rise in oil prices means real pain for people it actually means real gain for Alastair Darling. He will rake in this year £5 billion more than he expected from oil and my view is quite simple. Some of that additional revenue should be used to ease the pain that people are feeling and I think if Labour were to do that rather than accuse people of being miserable then they might find it won a lot more favour.

(APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY
Just before I come to Ed Davey. On that Wendy Alexander £5 billion as it were windfall because of the increase in the price of oil would it be quite a good thing to ease the pain which you acknowledge was there by lifting the burden of tax on fuel for instance.

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well I would like to make it clear that we are going to look at the fuel price escalator as we did before but of course high oil prices don’t benefit anybody when you see high oil prices going up you also see, as you get slow down in the economy, less receipts coming in from that income tax and every other sort of tax. So I think as before the Chancellor has said we will look at what is happening to oil prices but the important thing is to have a Prime Minister who globally is putting his energies into getting OPEC to get production up and start dealing with the production problem.

DIMBLEBY
You think he will have a cat in hell’s chance of having any impact do you?

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well I think we need to start dealing with these issues globally. The truth is that oil prices have gone up you know 80% around the world, petrol prices are up 20%, global food prices are up 60%, they are up 10% at home. We have to tackle this through Europe, the G8, these are global problems and we kid ourselves if we think they can be solved at home. We need to be out there solving them on the global stage.

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey

ED DAVEY
Wendy you have just explained why your colleague Tom Harris was wrong to say this. People have got a lot to be miserable about with the prices going up as you have just described. And I read his article. He was saying that people have got DVD’s now, satellite TV, they have got internet they should be happy. Well I didn’t know that new Labour created satellite TV and the internet that is a new one for me. I think people are quite right to be not just annoyed about what is happening in the economy with these global price rises but annoyed with their government. As Dominic said it was this Government not the international community that doubled the 10p rate of tax which hit the lowest paid so hard it was this government which took us into an illegal war in Iraq. It was this Government that are treading on traditional British liberties like pushing through the House of Commons, possibly bribing Ulster MP’s over the 42 days detention without charge. Now frankly if I was a member of the public looking at this from afar I would be really annoyed with my government and I would be miserable that there is a possibility that they have got two years left in office.

(APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY
OK I will leave that there with a reminder of the Any Answers number after the Saturday broadcast of this programme. It is 08700 100 44 and the email address any.answers @bbc.co.uk. If you have thoughts about this or any of the other issues we are discussing Our next please.

FINDLAY MACDONALD
Good evening Findlay Macdonald. Is the purpose of a referendum to keep asking the question until you get the answer you want?

DIMBLEBY
The European Treaty of course and Ireland. Dominic Grieve.

DOMINC GRIEVE.
Well it seems that is what the Eurocrats in Brussels think and it really worries me because all the evidence of the last 10 years is of this growing divide between division of Europe in Brussels and what people in the countries of Europe actually want and this repetitive pattern of not listening to what people are asking for and then trying simply to get what the Eurocrats want round the back of the people will end up in creating a split which endangers the European Union which is actually an institution in which I happen to believe. And it is very worrying. We have just been through a ratification process which in times has been frankly utterly farcical. The Bill we have been looking at is the constitution, it is just the constitution reworded to try and make it look so unintelligible that nobody would be interested in reading it. It has got bits in it which are completely unnecessary to achieve proper economic co operation like putting in criminal justice co operation in a way,I believe in criminal justice co operation, but in a way which will actually endanger the economic co operation if that ever goes wrong and fetters national sovereignty which is a terrible thing to do and unnecessary. Then the Irish people come along and say no. And the attitude in Brussels is oh well we will just have to get round this. It really is wake up call time and the fact is that if this question was put to a referendum of the British people it is quite clear it would be overwhelming rejection and I believe in fact it would be overwhelming rejection in quite a few other European countries as well. After all Ireland isn’t associated with being a place of Euro skeptics or Euro phobes so that they should have rejected it perhaps somebody should actually pay some attention and think there is another model for Europe one that will bring us together and in fact not lead to this constant split which will endanger the European Union if it is allowed to continue

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Ed Davey, Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats.


ED DAVEY
Well I actually think that if the Irish Government eventually decides to put this to a second referendum I think the Irish people are likely to vote no again and I say that as a pro European who actually supports the Treaty. The Treaty is meant to make the European Union more democratic, less bureaucratic, help it tackle issues like energy liberalisation which would in theory would bring down the cost of energy which is troubling people at the moment but it looks like that it is going to have a real problem getting through, not just because of the Irish “no” but we hear now that the Czechs may well not ratify it, there is a case before the German constitutional court, the Polish President may not want to sign it. I am disappointed but I don’t think it is actually going to happen

DIMBLEBY
Of course you as Liberal Democrats wouldn’t have given, touching on the British but presumably if you are an Irish politician as it were you would be opposed to the voice of the Irish people having been heard as you have been opposed to the voice directly of the British people being heard.

ED DAVEY
You know we argued for a different referendum on …. on the Lisbon Treaty no but I think pro Europeans have got to stand back from this. They have got to learn lessons as Dominic was saying and it may well very be much in the pro European cause if we say OK people are rejecting this we have got to go and think again because the pro European cause is so important. It is in Britain’s national interests that Europe is a success. It has brought peace for the last six decades; it has massively improved prosperity in Britain and Western Europe. We have brought in countries that had dictatorships in the past, in Southern Europe, in Central and in Eastern Europe and if we are going to tackle climate change, if we are going to tackle international terrorism if we are going to deal with international crime we have to work with our international partners and the European Union gives us the chance to do that so maybe the Lisbon Treaty won’t go through but we have got to make sure that the European Project gets its message over, explains itself better and remains strong because it is in the interests of everyone in this room tonight.

DIMBLEBY
Nicola Sturgeon

NICOLA STURGEON
Well like Ed I am passionately pro European but it is because of that that I find the attitude of the European Union and the bureaucrats who run the European Union and some of the political leaders so deeply disturbing. I was appalled when I switched on the radio this morning to hear the European Union announce that they decided not to take 4 months to try to reflect on why Ireland might have rejected the Treaty but to give the Irish government 4 months to convince the Irish people that they were wrong all along. That is absolutely appalling arrogance and they really do I think run the risk of further undermining confidence in and support for the whole European project. I mean there is no doubt that there has got to be a pause in this process now for political and democratic reasons. The only time this Treaty and it is the same as the constitution was, has been put to a vote and people have rejected it. And politicians can’t ignore that. There is also the legal issue. It can’t be ratified unless every member state ratifies it and I think that other leaders should stop pretending otherwise so there should be a step back now and I hope also there will be a step back on the part of the Prime Minister. I suppose I am reasonably pleased to hear tonight that he has decided, although he should have decided this a long time ago, not to press forward with ratification until the outcome of the court case in England but it is absolutely outrageous that having promised a referendum on the constitution Labour are now refusing to give the people of this country a referendum on a document which is virtually identical. There must be a referendum and certainly from my Party’s position we are very pro European but there are significant problems with this treaty the most significant one from Scotland’s point of view is that it would hand exclusive control over our fishing industry to Europe and Europe has been no great friend of our fishing industry up to now so we shouldn’t trust it in the future either.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Wendy Alexander

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well the British Government have been very clear that we need to listen to the Irish and the Irish Government and they have also been absolutely clear that this Treaty will not go through unless you get all 27 countries signing up to it. I think it is right that there is the reflection that is now being suggested but I thought one of the encouraging signs was that yesterday you saw the European leaders spend I think 33 of the 36 hours they spent together talking about the real issues of what was happening to food prices, fuel prices, international migration and climate change

DIMBLEBY
…. so the Treaty that the Government has spent so long seeking to get through Westminster isn’t a real issue?

WENDY ALEXANDER
No I think what the people want is just to be talking about the real issues that touch them and not getting institutional housekeeping out of proportion and what has happened is that in Ireland people have said we don’t like this and that does need to just be reflected upon while the real issues people want Europe doing something about whether it be fuel prices, food prices international migration, climate change are what our leaders should be talking about collectively.

DIMBLEBY
Does it matter much either way then whether or not the Treaty in one form or another goes ahead or doesn’t?


WENDY ALEXANDER
Well I think institutional housekeeping should be kept in its place because that is what frustrates people, what people want is Europe working together on the really big global challenges that we have already been talking about.

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve

DOMINIC GRIEVE
I find this a bit extraordinary you see. If the governments hadn’t take the position they did on the referendum and if Ed Davey’s mob hadn’t ratted on us and on their own promise to hold a referendum we could have one and in the course of that we could have the very debates about the sort of future shape of Europe we want which now I am beginning to hear is the sort of debate that these people want to have about how we shape the future of Europe so we are about to do it all over again. We will go into that process of debate thanks to the Irish, if Nicola Sturgeon is right, because they have held out for their rights but we will go into it without actually having gone out and consulted you about the shape of Europe which we could have had in the debate on the national referendum and it will be left to the elite all over again and we will make exactly the same mistakes if we are not careful.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Quick word Ed Davey.

ED DAVEY
I f Lisbon does fall there are still lots of question marks left open because over the last few years the European Union has grown in size massively . It used to be a union of 15 states it is now a union of 27 states and how one manages that when people are able to move from Eastern Europe through to Western Europe is a real question. I will give you one key issue which the Lisbon Treaty wants us to deal with. It wanted to deal with the problem when people are committing crimes across the European Union, drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings, bringing illegal arms on to our streets. It wanted to help the European Union countries to get together to deal with international crime. If we lose the Treaty which I think it is quite possible we may well do we won’t be able to do that. There will be no framework in place so it will leave some serious questions about how we deal with international crime.

DIMBLEBY
Let me go back to our questioner Finlay Macdonald.


FINDLAY MACDONALD
I am just a bit cynical about the purpose of referendums. I can think of the other referendums we have had. We have had the referendum of voting for independence in Scotland and that was a no answer to that and then we had a second referendum when we didn’t like that answer and it became a yes and I remember in the 60’s voting for an economic community but never voting for a European Union. We have never had that referendum.

DIMBLEBY
OK I think we will leave that there. Thank you very much and go to our next question.

JOHN FERGUSON
My name is John Ferguson can I ask when is the right time for a referendum on Scottish independence. Should we to coin a phrase “bring it on?”

DIMBLEBY
Should we “bring it on”? I am not going to come straight away to you Wendy Alexander. Should we bring it on Ed Davey?

ED DAVEY
Well the Liberal Democrats fought the Scottish elections arguing that there shouldn’t be a referendum on Scottish independence and we were arguing at that time that that election was a chance for people to vote on that issue because there was I think two parties if I am right in my Scottish politics, the Green Party was calling for that am I right Nicola? As well as the SNP and we argued that if people wanted that there were parties that they could vote for and I followed the Scottish elections quite closely. It was clear that that was a very big issue during the elections so we aren’t advocating for a referendum for Scottish independence. We do believe that there should be improvements in the way Scotland’s Government works. We think Scottish Parliament should have more powers devolved to it because we think that the settlement that was agreed 10 years ago should be improved.

DIMBLEBY
On the issue of the “bring it on” question the SNP came to power committed to offering the people of Scotland a referendum. It won the election you believe still that they, you would seek to insist that they reneged on that?

ED DAVEY
No the majority of people who voted in the PR system, let’s remember that, in the Scottish elections voted for parties who were opposed to referendum.

DIMBLEBY
So the fact that they won the election on that commitment is neither here nor there.

ED DAVEY
No, I think that the majority of the people who voted for parties who were opposed to that. It is a very clear, a very clear position

DIMBLEBY
But you have very often have a government elected in the United Kingdom where the majority of votes or the majority of people who vote, vote against the government, because of the collection of other parties under the system so……

ED DAVEY
As you know Jonathan the Scottish Parliament works on a proportional representational system the UK Parliament works on the first past the post system

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well a referendum isn’t a political gimmick and a referendum on independence is a very important thing and on the whole I think that my experience is that these things tend to merge with themselves. At the moment there is plainly not a majority in the Scottish Parliament which is the sovereign body to determine whether a referendum should be, I know Westminster would decide but in reality if the Scottish Parliament were to have a majority view on that Westminster would have to listen very carefully but at the moment that is not at all clear and on the opinion polling evidence the overwhelming number of people polled do not want independence.

DIMBLEBY
So what would be the criteria for you that would make you say yes we have to listen so carefully we have to support the principle of a referendum?

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well I think the first criteria for me as a Westminster MP is listening to what is going on in the Parliament in Edinburgh

DIMBLEBY
But that just begs the question that I was asking. What is the basis on which, you are listening OK , you have got your ear to the ground, what would be the criterion then that would make you say yes I have listened so clearly I know that is what they want.

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Just to go back a little bit one way of looking at it I think is the way in which past politicians said is when there is a majority of MP’s at Westminster who want from Scotland who want independence that is the time when you have a referendum to determine it. I actually think the issue is a bit more complicated than that because of the absolutely critical role of the Scottish Parliament which is a result of the devolution settlement we have to listen to but as I say I speak to my colleagues in the Edinburgh Parliament and there is no evidence from their point of view of a parliamentary majority in favour of independence and in those circumstances it is a bit difficult to see that a referendum is serving any purpose, real purpose other than in fact being a political gimmick but if the voice coming from Edinburgh changes then we at Westminster must listen to that.

DIMBLEBY
Wendy Alexander should we still bring it on the referendum?


WENDY ALEXANDER
I think we should get on with it in Scotland I mean we have our first Minister who claims he has a majority for independence but simply won’t get round to putting the issue to the people. That causes uncertainty, I think that is damaging. I don’t doubt that the vast majority of people in Scotland want to stay in the United Kingdom. I also don’t fear their verdict. I mean I worked for Donald Ure he brought forward proposals for Scottish Parliament. We did it in the first six months we came to power and I don’t think it is in Scotland’s interests to have this continuing uncertainty. We are going to have a referendum, get on let the people of Scotland speak because ultimately whether you remain part of a sovereignty or not is a decision for the people and not for the politicians and we shouldn’t be leaving it until the very last few months - get on with it.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Have you just, the Prime Minister said very unambiguously I am not persuaded of the need have you since persuaded him this would be a desirable course of action?

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well we are not asking Westminster to hold a referendum for us we are saying to Alex Hammond you claim that a majority of Scots believe in independence so why are you so scared to let Scotland choose.

DIMBLEBY
What is the view though of the Prime Minister if you know it now has he changed his mind you are speaking very unambiguously or are you still at odds with him.

WENDY ALEXANDER
He hasn’t asked the Prime Minister’s view of what should happen in Westminster I am not a politician in Westminster. Leading Labour in the Scottish Parliament we have the SNP saying that they are going to bring forward the referendum bill after the next general election. I think they are about freeing their relationship with the United Kingdom, they have been elected with a referendum policy get on with it and let the people of Scotland be heard.

DIMBLEBY
I don’t wish to misinterpret you, you have spoken very clearly. What you appear to be saying is that in the end it doesn’t really matter on this issue what Gordon Brown the Prime Minister things because I am not going to change my mind on it.

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well I have made my position clear. The SNP have said they are unwilling to bring forward their own referendum bill, we have said bring it on, and they said no, no, no

NICOLA STURGEON
You haven’t even said if you will vote for it or not

WENDY ALEXANDER
I have said that we will support the right of Scotland to choose

NICOLA STURGEON
Will you vote for a referendum bill in 2010?

WENDY ALEXANDER
We will support a fair choice on…………

DIMBLEBY
Nicola Sturgeon

WENDY ALEXANDER
Why will you not bring it on Nicola, why?

NICOLA STURGEON
Well let me tell you we fought an election and won an election on a manifesto commitment to introduce a referendum bill in 2010, now Wendy Alexander gets up every week repeatedly ad nauseum in the Scottish Parliament and says things like SNP government fulfill your manifesto commitments. well we intend to fulfill this manifesto commitment

DIMBLEBY
Why are you frightened of bringing it forward if it is a matter of principle essentially why are you frightened of doing it now


NICOLA STURGEON
Jonathan we said 2010 for two reasons, firstly because we think it is right and we think people want to see how the SNP does in Government and the verdict so far seems to be pretty good thank you very much but secondly because …

DIMBLEBY
You meant you want it to be after the next general election do you?

NICOLA STURGEON
We didn’t know at that time when the next general election could be. It looked for a wee while last year that it might be October until Gordon Brown decided he didn’t have the guts after all

DIMBLEBY
Well it would still be after the next general election, it could hardly have been 2010 could hardly have been before the next general election seeing the last general election was in 2005.

NICLA STURGEON
If Wendy Alexander doesn’t know what is in the Prime Minister’s mind I don ‘t know how on earth I am supposed to know it but can I say the second reason is this; we think there should be a full debate on independence. The SNP knows where it stands on independence we think Scotland should be a normal equal independent country and we could probably do a bit more about some of the economic issues we are facing just now than London is doing but we will stick to our manifesto commitment. You know if we were to change our position every time Wendy Alexander changes hers then we would be in as big a mess as she is and I don’t advocate that. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
We could pursue this I am tempted only to ask just one more question of Wendy Alexander. just to clarify for historical purposes did you believe when you made your statement publicly bring it on had Gordon Brown then made it clear to you one way or another what he thought about whether it was a good idea to bring it on after the catastrophic defeat in the local elections after losing the mayoralty of London. It was not thought by some at Westminster to have been the best moment if I can put it like that. Did he tell you to go ahead with it or did he tell you unambiguously don’t go ahead with it.

WENDY ALEXANDER
What I did was speak on behalf of Labour in the Scottish Parliament to say to the SNP why are you so scared to let Scotland choose and that question still hasn’t been answered.

DIMBLEBY
So he didn’t give you the go ahead? In fact he could well have said don’t.

(APPLAUSE)

We are going to our questioner on this





ANNE CAMPBELL
Good evening Panel, Anne Campbell. What assurances can you give the Scottish public that our hospitals are safe, given the recent deaths from C diff at the Vale of Leven?

DIMBLEBY
I will come to you if I could because you have the health responsibility in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. Against the background which we know because there has been another death, 9 deaths and linked to 9 other deaths and 55 cases if I am right between December and June. What assurance can you give the Scottish public now?

NICOLA STURGEON
Can I say firstly the situation at the Vale of Leven is deeply concerning that is why earlier this week I took the decision to establish an independent review of the situation there and I want to come back in a second to the situation at the Vale of Leven but in answer to the question about assurance. Last year one of the first things I did as Health Secretary was to publish probably the most in depth report anywhere in the world as to the extent of infection in our hospital and it was a concerning document. It said that about 10% of people in our acute hospitals will get an infection and believe me that is far too high and that is not a situation I am prepared to accept or simply to live with but in terms of assurance I do think well not to diminish that it is important to point out that that means 90% of people in our hospitals have perfectly safe treatment and I think that is an important message of assurance for the general Scottish public; In terms of the Vale of Leven I don’t want to pre judge the independent review that we have established an independent review that now has cross party support but the initial report I received from Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board about some of the circumstances alarmed me deeply. It would suggest that the surveillance systems that should be in place to make sure that the number of cases and deaths from not just C difficile, for other infections, was not working properly at the Vale of Leven but also that some basic hygiene and infection control procedures were not working properly. These are incredibly serious issues and that is why I think it was right to establish an independent review and we will act on any recommendations that that review makes.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Wendy Alexander

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well of course it is a good thing that Nicola has got around to agreeing to an enquiry it was something that Labour called for first in the Scottish Parliament because we had anxieties about this.

NICOLA STURGEON
This is not about Party politics Wendy this is about people dying in a hospital.


WENDY ALEXANDER
Absolutely. I want to lay down some of the things I want to see happen. One of the reasons we should stay in touch with the Health Service in the rest of the UK is that there is no such thing as tartan C Difficile or tartan MRSA and one of the things that I think we need to get good at just learning the very best information there is out there. The Chief Medical Officer in England and Wales issued mandatory guidelines last April and in January on the reporting of C Difficile and I want to see us take that forward in Scotland. It also happens in England, in February of this year there was a consultation on infection control of C Difficile and I want to see that happening as quickly as possible in Scotland and I also want to see us move to the position where in the rest of the UK they have succeeded partly through deep cleaning to moving us towards a position where MRSA will have been halved and that 5000 matrons will have been appointed so there is a menu of 5 things that are happening in England and Wales and I think we could fruitfully look at in Scotland

DIMBLEBY
One of your Labour colleagues whose constituency embraces the hospital has asserted that officials had urged Ministers to introduce tougher measures way back in February I will come back to you Nicola Sturgeon on that . Do you share her view that that is what officials did as leader of the party?

WENDY ALEXANDER
Well officials certainly were aware of the consultation in England on infection management and it is true that there were mandatory guidance from the Chief Medical Officer in England. We don’t have …..

DIMBLEBY
In Scotland this is a very important issue as it is for the United Kingdom generally and Miss Bailey told MSP’s that after this meeting with their British counterparts which was on February 14th they returned and she says they urged Scottish Ministers to assume new advice to Health Boards to include the latest scientific information she went on. Do you believe that she is correct in asserting that Ministers were so advised?

WENDY ALEXANDER
I certainly know that there was a consultation issued in February in England on infection control and it is for Nicola to tell us whether she was made aware of that by officials

NICOLA STURGEON
Well I can tell you the answer to that is no so will you retract the baseless accusation, one of many baseless accusations that have been made this week to try to turn this into party political debate instead of all of us focusing on the real issues

DIMBLEBY
When did you first know about the severity of the problem in Scotland?


NICOLA STURGEON
About the severity of the problem, about the scale of the problem as we know it now was on Tuesday 10th June I was aware about the C Difficile problem at the Vale of Leven. They had identified that on 21st May

DIMBLEBY
…. Is there not something wrong when officials somehow fail to tell the Minister responsible of such important …?

NICOLA STURGEON
With respect Jonathan I don’t always recognize the claims that come from labour. I want to act on any recommendations that improve the position in our hospitals you know to listen to Wendy you would think we didn’t have any guidance on infection. We do, we have very robust guidance in place it is under constant review and I will be prepared to learn lessons from anywhere about how we can further improve that. The problem in terms of surveillance and reporting, it doesn’t appear to be around the national reporting systems, the problem appears to be that things weren’t being picked up in the Vale of Leven in order that they could be reported nationally and that is a very serious issue that we have to address. On the issue about deep cleaning because this is important we shouldn’t see these things as a gimmick any hospital in Scotland can be deep cleaned, hospitals are deep cleaned when necessary but we can’t see deep cleaning as a one off solution you can deep clean a hospital one day and unless you have good hygiene mechanisms in place then it won’t be deep clean the next day and in terms of MRSA we are ahead of the rest of the UK in introducing MRSA screening, this local health board is one of the pilot areas to do that screening programme this year.

DIMBELEBY
Ed Davey?

ED DAVEY
Well I find it quite shocking that people are dying in our hospitals whether in Scotland or the rest of the country, the rest of the UK from hospital acquired infections and in the 21st Century you would have thought the government, either the Scottish Executive or the Government down in Westminster, should have got a handle on this and I think people are quite right to be cross and worried about this.. Now it may well be it is an issue about cleaning. The Prime Minister goes on about deep cleaning. I know in my own hospital in Kingston the issues about how you deal with the contractors who have been brought in through contracting out to clean the hospital I think there are some real issues about the management of those contracts. There are issues about the use of antibiotics because sometimes they are used in the wrong way and some of these bugs get resistant to the antibiotics and that is an issue across the NHS and there are also issues about how you manage people who are coming in to the hospital whether they are patients coming for an overnight’s stay to check whether they are actually bringing in MRSA or C Difficile or any of these other infections and dealing with all the visitors. One of the things that strikes me as very odd is that we have rather lax visiting hours these days. I remember visiting hospitals when I was a boy and the sisters and the matrons really controlled the visiting hours and made sure that people didn’t have such access because of the danger of bringing in infections so I think that we have got to look at this far more comprehensively than has been done to date.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Dominic Grieve

DOMINIC GRIEVE
I am delighted my Scottish colleagues have supported the cross party enquiry. As an English MP perhaps I can just make this point. We have had this problem in a hospital serving my own constituency and patients dying and the government’s reaction was initially that this was serious management failure, the hospital wasn’t meeting its standards of hygiene and eventually we had the report and when the report came out of course it highlighted those things but it also highlighted that the targets which central Government were setting to the hospital management boards in terms of patient treatment were a direct contributor to the problem because of the inability to maintain hygiene in an environment where the demands for patient treatment were so intense and the normal clinical routine had been interrupted. So, I am afraid this turns out I don’t know how this is in Scotland where circumstances may be different but the potential for the political fall out of this is there because the lesson I derived from this is that if you leave the clinical governance to the hospitals and you start removing the pressures you are more likely to achieve the outcomes which remove this kind of problem and merely lambasting hospital staff or even management and we are quite fond of lambasting hospital management is not in fact the answer. I am afraid we have been skewing the process and this is one of the reasons why we are ending up with this type of problem and I hope very much that your enquiry is able to look into this objectively and actually looking around at how these problems arise and why they are now so much more frequent than they were in the past.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
A reminder of the Any Answers number on that or of course on any of the other issues 08700 100 444. Our next question please.


DAVID ARCHIBALD
Good evening Panel. David Archibald.
What does the panel believe the meaning of 42 is?

DIMBLEBY
Which I am advised is a smart reference to the Hitchhikers Conclusion to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but I think the context may be slightly different. It is obviously the detention issue. Dominic Grieve

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well what it mustn’t be is 42 days pre charge detention. Because it is a figure plucked out of thin air. In fact it is about as plucked out of thin air as the meaning of life. Selected by the Government without any rational justification in order I am afraid to look tough when there was no evidence that we needed to go beyond 28 days and 28 days for me as a lawyer and somebody who believes in freedom is already a painfully long time even if I accept it may be necessary in the short term. I am afraid that we must try and defeat this measure because it is part and parcel of the process by which liberty is being steadily eroded in our country for absolutely no good reason. And this isn’t some decorative extra to our lives it is fundamental to the relationship between the state and the citizen and the relationships between one another. And our values are born of our freedoms. We talked earlier about the declaration of Arbroath and it is important actually in the context of Scottish national identity just like Magna Carta is for English national identity and we disparage these things at our peril and what we will do if we are not careful is that we will end up in 20 years time in a highly regulated rather authoritarian society where nobody is one wit safer. And that would be a tragedy. There are threats to us and terrorism is a very real one you have experienced it in Scotland, in Glasgow just as we have down in England but there are ways of fighting terrorism using the weapons at our disposal and our values as a free society is one of the most powerful weapons we have.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
You say that you have to defeat it is it going to be easier for the conservative Party to defeat it with David Davis on the back benches as an independent than as Home Secretary?

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well David Davis took a decision that he wanted to publicize this issue and also the wider issues of the erosion of freedom, DNA databases, and identity cards by triggering this by-election. I am going on Monday to speak at his adoption meeting and to ask his association to adopt him for the campaign and we will back him every inch of the way. And of course it is a risk strategy I have no doubt but he is going to have in the 3 week to try to take this to the widest possible audience but if he succeeds and I hope he does he will have done a very good turn for our country in actually focusing people on this issue.

DIMBLEBY
You said it was a risky or brave decision do you think that he has actually strengthened or is in the process of strengthening the case against because he made this decision?

DOMINIC GRIEVE
Well when he announced all Westminster village and the political commentators said the man is mad. All sorts of things were said and yet a week later we detected or I certainly detected a shift. It appears that the wider public, people like yourselves seem to think differently from the political commentators and the politicians. Now we were having a discussion earlier about possible splits between public and politicians over European referendums for instance and I think this is an important issue and all I can say is and David Davis is a colleague but he is a great friend and if he can do and achieve what I know he wants to achieve actually at the cost probably of his political career in terms of his Front Bench ambitions he will have done something great. And that is why I am going to speak on his behalf at his adoption meeting on Monday night.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Wendy Alexander

WENDY ALEXANDER
I mean I think it is true to say that there are many members of the public who admire a politician who stands down on an issue of principle for them. When we were having this debate last week I thought the principle was 42 days but we have heard from Dominic that it has moved on and we heard this week from David Davis that really it is also about the DNA database and it is really about CCTV and you know personally I think they are different issues. I like CCTV in the centre of our towns that make us safe in the evening and I do think that the DNA database is the way you catch criminals in the modern world and so I think the danger is we are now hearing that actually we are not in favour of CCTV cameras and we are not in favour of DNA databases and they are the issues that are really worthy of debate and knowing where the conservative party stands on a DNA database that lets us catch murderers and rapists who haven’t necessarily previously been convicted in the system and CCTV cameras that on evenings later on like this let us identify people who are perpetrating crimes in our city centres.

DIMBLEBY
Rather sad for some people then that your people aren’t campaigning in the by- election.


WENDY ALEXANDER
Well David Davis claims that he was standing down over 42 days but we have now got 3 other issues on which I imagine if we polled people in this audience they would have different sorts of views. I also say that I think that David Davis did it entirely as a matter of principle I now learn that because I am not in the Westminster village that actually he had been to see Nick Clegg beforehand and done a deal with the Liberals to make sure the Liberals wouldn’t stand and that slightly detracts from this is a big stance of principle.

DIMBLEBY
Very briefly I am afraid Ed Davey on this

ED DAVEY
Well that is absolutely not true. We took our decision when we heard what David Davis said because David was standing on a principle that the liberal democrats fundamentally believed in. We voted with the conservatives and others against the 42 days detention. My only concern is that there may seem to be splits in the Conservative Party. Clearly David Davis doesn’t seem to support David Cameron if you read and believe some of the things we are hearing at Westminster.

DIMBLEBY
Sorry we can’t do as much as we should on this. Nicola

NICOLA STURGEON
Yes I think it is a bit strange Labour claim to have public opinion on their side on this issue but won’t put it to the test by standing in the by-election. Now I am against the 42 days proposal on principle but the clincher for me is when the Lord Advocate in Scotland the Head of the Prosecution Service says it is not necessary. For me that should be end of argument and I think Labour have really lost the plot on this.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you and I (APPLAUSE). You never know the argument might continue next week. The former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, Lord Patten, the Chancellor of University, Simon Hughes for the Liberal Democrats and Anne McElvoy from the Evening Standard. Join us then but from here at the James Watt College in Kilwinning in North Ayrshire Goodbye.
[CLAPPING]

END OF TRANSCRIPT
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