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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  08 August 2008

CHAIRMAN: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY



PANELLISTS:

LORD (Paddy) ASHDOWN, former leader of the Liberal Democrats

BILLY BRAGG, Musician

JILL KIRBY, Director of centre right think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies

STEPHEN BAYLEY, Designer

From Norton sub Hamdon Village Hall, Norton sub Hamdon, Somerset TA14 6SG



DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to Somerset and to the village of Norton sub Hamdon which lies beneath Ham Hill where you can find the largest Iron Age hill fort in Europe. We are in the village hall as the guests of the newly formed Norton Music Festival. On our panel one of the locals the former commando officer, former UN High Representative in Bosnia and perhaps better known as former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown who sits in the Upper Chamber with the fitting title of Baron Ashdown of Norton sub Hamdon. With him three commoners, Billy Bragg, who joined the British Army then bought himself out even before he had finished his training thus sparing the Armed Forces his services as a future tank commander. He has gone onto enjoy a very successful career as a singer and songwriter and to achieve rare prominence as a serious political activist and would be constitutional reformer. Jill Kirby is a lawyer, writer and analyst who has advised the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne as a member of his Tax Reform Commission now though she is the Director of the Centre for Policy Studies. Stephen Bayley was the first Director of the Design Museum who later went on to become a creative Director, the Creative Director of the new millennium experience which is supposed to have become a great celebration of the 21st Century. It didn’t last long however leaving after a spectacular falling out with Peter Mandelson the Minister responsible. As a result he can take no credit or blame for the fiasco to which the very word Dome is now umbilically attached. Today he writes about architecture and design for the Observer and delights in expressing iconoclastic opinions which may or may not be calculated to cause verbal fisticuffs. For vis “the looming prospect of recession austerity is a good thing, an inspiration not an impediment to genius”. He is the fourth member of our panel (APPLAUSE)

Our first question please.

ANDREW LARPENT
Is the conflict between Russia and Georgia any of our business?

DIMBLEBY
Paddy Ashdown?

PADDY ASHDOWN
Yes Andrew I think it is because I think that this thing that has burst into flames today could spread and if it does spread I don’t know where it ends. Look it has been brewing up for a long time. Georgia being tempted into NATO, Russia regarding Georgia very much as part of their sphere of influence, sees this as an aggressive move. South Ossetia trying to break away for some time encouraged by the Russians who have declared the majority of the population of South Ossetia Russian citizens so opening the way for them to use the oldest and hoariest of all excuses, they are going into protect their citizens, exactly the same as the Americans used for instance in Panama and then sitting alongside there is Abkhazia and I see that contrary to the 2007 Moscow Agreement ,Abkhazia is now gathering troops on Georgia’s border. If there were to be a conflict and it seems now very difficult to stop it, you can call for restraint but I doubt from what has been going on that restraint will be easily arrived at. I see President Bush this evening actually called for a ceasefire. Well that is the kind of thing you have to do but I think the chances of it happening aren’t great. Then I think you could see a full scale war between Russia and Georgia, Abkhazia joining in a widening conference in the TransCaucuses one of the most fragile areas in the world and by the way since Georgia is close to joining NATO potential NATO involvement so this is extremely serious.

DIMBLEBY
Are you saying given the massive preponderance of Russian force over Georgia that NATO when you say drawn in, could be drawn in in a military way to protect the present members of NATO so you could get a sort of East West conflict in military terms?

PADDY ASHDOWN
No I don’t think that is likely. I mean you can never discount anything particular Jonathan I don’t think that is likely, probably one of the reasons is that most NATO nations, certainly the European ones now depend on Russia for their supply of oil and I don’t believe that such a confrontation, hot confrontation face to face on the ground in Georgia is likely but I think what it would do is very significantly deepen the already hostile relations between Russia on the one hand, a very aggressive and assertive Russia on the one hand and NATO nations on the other and Europe on the other. So, in terms of its relations with world peace, its possible implication for oil and a widening, about 75,000 civilians in South Ossetia who are now in severe imminent dire danger many of 100’s killed today according to some reports. This is an extremely serious situation unless it can be calmed down then we need to recognize this is one of those fault lines in the world which makes it one of the most sensitive the TransCaucus regions of the world today and I wish I could be more optimistic but it looks to me extremely worrying and it does concern us it should concern us.

DIMBLEBY
Jill Kirby.

JILL KIRBY
I agree with Paddy that it certainly should concern us although not in the sense that it should concern us so much that we have to go and do something about it I trust because I think there is very little we can do about it except watch as rather uneasy spectators as Russia flexes its muscles and yes we potentially have a very explosive situation. But what I think we can’t do is intervene in any way or make threatening noises we simply have to watch and wait and hope that the reports crossing our screens won’t involve repressive action that we saw in Chechnya and the misery that followed. So yes one is concerned about any number of things that happen in these very precarious regions of the world but concern in the sense of involvement or making statements that we could actually in any way hinder or help I suspect we shall have to stand back and hope for the best.

DIMBLEBY
Billy Bragg

BILLY BRAGG
I think unfortunately for reasons that partly Paddy has touched on the surround of Russia with NATO satellite allies which has really been the policy of the United States of America since the end of the cold war has been felt to be provocative by the Russians and our connections with Georgia encouraging the Georgians does mean we do have to take some responsibility for this and Paddy also touched upon our reliance on both gas and petrol from Russia as Europe is a client should Russia decide to turn off the taps as it has done before that will be one of our issues and I think that overall I think we are having to learn that we live in a different geo-political world. We have seen also today that the Chinese opening their Olympics expressing both their artistic but also I think their power in the world we have to accept that Russia, China, to some extent India will be the engines of economic and population growth in the 21st Century and I don’t think we will be able to ignore things that go on there.

DIMBLEBY
Stephen Bayley?


STEPHEN BAYLEY
Yes well I think it is our business in the moral sense. I mean obviously as all of the other speakers have said it is clearly something of immense concern but I think you also have to be pretty aware that you know Russian respect of our opinion on anything can probably be demonstrated by its recent rather somewhat insolent treatment of British Petroleum. Um you know and I also think that you know it is absurdly aggrandizing to think we could have any I believe any influence in this area. I mean our recent history of being a global policeman has been somewhat melancholy and I think we have lost too much moral credit and too much credit through clumsy interventions elsewhere so not I think here I think we have to look on somewhat aghast.

DIMBLEBY
Paddy Ashdown

PADDY ASHDOWN
Just to pick up Billy’s point. I doubt if Russia will be an economic power in the future they have got internal weaknesses which I think will be exposed sooner or later but there is a very important point he made Jonathan and Andrew and it is this. I think history will say we missed one of the greatest opportunities for world peace when we chose at the end of the cold war to humiliate Russia rather than to make a partner of Russia and it was the attitude in particular of Washington who decided they would be that they would be triumphalist at the end of the Cold War that humiliated Russia and humiliated Yeltsin and Putin is the result and the consequence of today and the worsening relations is in many ways part of a dragon’s teeth that we ourself sowed when we chose not to follow Churchill’s great dictum “In Victory magnanimity” rather than “in Victory humiliation” and this is the consequence of that and it is going to be painful and it ……(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Our next question please….


BILL CASWELL
Does the panel think Gordon Brown should have joined George Bush in condemning human rights abuses ahead of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony?

DIMBLEBY
Jill Kirby… he said amongst other things for those that didn’t catch it “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists. We press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs”.

JILL KIRBY
Yes in the sense that I think that anyone concerned about human rights abuses in China and indeed the multitude of abuses that are being concealed for the duration of these Olympics should be prepared to speak out about it. It seems to me that to expect Gordon Brown to make a decisive statement about anything would be asking rather a lot and then there is the question of actions speaking louder than words. Now in fact George Bush has gone to the Olympics whilst at the same time I think making clear his wish to distance himself from the Chinese regime and hope for better things and Gordon Brown said he was going to go to the opening ceremony I seem to recall at one stage and then said actually no he wasn’t going to go to the opening ceremony he was going to go to the closing one and somehow seemed to hope that by choosing the latter rather than the former he was making some kind of a statement but along with so many of his actions over the past few months it seems to me that he has not been able to decide which side of the fence to come down upon and has actually gained no credit whatsoever and nor has he left anyone in, Jonathan you are catching my eye, nor has he made it clear what he really thinks about things.

DIMBLEBY
Given that what would you have liked to have seen him do in respect of the opening ceremony. Speak and then go or speak and not go?

JILL KIRBY
Speak and not go. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Stephen Bayley


STEPHEN BAYLEY
I think that is absolutely right. I greatly admire that Stephen Spielberg’s principal refusal to refuse to carry on with his job of orchestrating the opening ceremony. I think, I am deeply distrustful of any government which for the duration of the Olympic Games bans dancing in gay bars for instance but even worse than that you have to, there are some spectacular architecture of course in Peking but you have got to remember that it was actually created by you know slave labour and by an administration which delights in criminal levels of polluting activity. I think we have been much much much too polite to China, notwithstanding what Paddy just said before about us being beastly to the Russians. I think we have been much much much too polite to the Chinese and been very aware of their sense of victim hood and I think you can participate in the Games but I absolutely do think you should protest as well. I think Gordon Brown should have said something and he didn’t remember that dictatorships and the Olympics always go hand in hand and somebody should have spoken out against that.

DIMBLEBY
Billy Bragg

BILLY BRAGG
I think the interesting thing for me about the opening ceremony if any of you saw it there was absolutely no mention whatsoever no imagery from the Maoist period and it is clear that whilst not yet being able to actually have a democracy still being a dictatorship and still repressing human rights there are elements within China who are trying to move forward and I thought it was very interesting the architect of the Birds Nest Stadium refused, a guy named Ai Wei Wei, refused to go to the opening ceremony because his own father had been a prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. Now someone somewhere must have know that when they gave him the contract to build but ultimately they felt it was possible for him to express something about China that was modern and forward looking. I should imagine within China, the little I know about it there are incredible forces at work some trying to drag the country back to the past, some trying to move it forward, it is a huge not yet fully industrialized nation and it is going to be a very very painful process but whilst I would like Gordon Brown to have said something about human rights I would have preferred him not to have participated in any way in the farce of having the Olympic flame run through the streets of London that was ridiculous with the Chinese security guards it just showed what utter control freaks they were. I do think that whilst addressing issues of Imperialism there and addressing important issues of human rights and democracy we do have to encourage those elements in China who are trying to become part of the modern world. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Paddy Ashdown


PADDY ASHDOWN
Am I the only person who found something quite offensive really in President Bush’s speech in Thailand, good speech by the way made 24 hours after that ridiculous military trial of the people in Guantanamo. I mean what do you make of this? (APPLUSE) When the great sadness is and I hope it will be changed in the next presidential elections I think either of the new presidential candidates, whichever one is elected, will change it. America was once the world’s foremost power in favour of human rights and civil liberties and the catastrophic loss of that reputation in the Bush era has been terrible so I think his speech was a good one but I have to say you have to wonder whether or not many who have heard it would have said “hollow words”. Now Gordon has decided to be even more calibrated. Bush has decided to speak in Thailand and then go, Gordon has decided to go at the end. What is it saying Jill asks? Well let me tell you what it is saying please come to London that is actually what it is saying and I don’t think that is an appropriate answer. Clearly we want the maximum attendance at London but these are very very serious issues. The Chinese now say to us you mustn’t lecture us on human rights because you have no right to interfere in our country. Excuse me we are not saying that. You made a promise, when we said the Olympics would be in Beijing that you would do a number of things of which putting human rights right in China is one. We are not interfering in your country we are saying live up to your promises. So I think that whilst I take the view that athletes should not unless they feel particularly empowered to do so I don’t think we should require of athletes political statements if they want to that is fine I don’t object to that but I don’t think that should be required of them but politicians certainly should. There is no doubt that China is using the Olympic Games as a mechanism for making a global political point in favour of China that is their entitlement. It is also our entitlement to say in a respectful, polite but nevertheless firm and determined manner you made some promises about human rights they are not being fulfilled. Things are a little better in China as a result of the last year, it is easier to be a Christian and a Muslim than it was but it is still very very difficult. They swept the disregarded and the unwanted from the streets, people who are making protests have been basically cordoned off, some of them locked away. If we don’t make a noise about this and if our leaders don’t make a noise about it the result will be that when this is over China will go back to its darkness on political rights and that is not what should happen and I think it is a failure of Gordon Brown and a failure of political leadership in the West that they have failed to make this case as powerfully as they should

DIMBLEBY
Briefly but to be precise you would have had Gordon Brown (a) say something very tough and then go to the opening or not go to the opening.

PADDY ASHDOWN
No I think you say something tough and then you don’t go If Chancellor Merkel can do it I am sure Gordon Brown can summon the courage. (APPLAUSE)



DIMBLEBY
A reminder of the Any Answers number on that or any of the other issues that we are discussing after the Saturday broadcast of this programme. It is 03700 100 444 and the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.


NIGEL NICHOLS
Has the Chancellor been incompetent in the way he has approached the stamp duty question?

DIMBLEBY
Can I ask you? I suspect that a belief that he has been underlies your question. Is it the confusion that you think may have been….

NIGEL NICHOLS
I think he has caused confusion by speaking out before he has got a policy to talk about. He has decided to give interviews but he has got nothing to say so he has just caused panic in the property market.

DIMBLEBY
Stephen Bayley

STEPHEN BAYLEY
I did Jonathan make you promise not to ask me a question about stamp duty because it is something which I am ignorant about

DIMBLEBY
You know what it is

STEPHEN BAYLEY
Not really but it won’t stop me very rapidly fabricating an opinion.

DIMBLEBY
You seek to build great buildings but you don’t actually ever in your life pay something called stamp duty

STEPHEN BAYLEY
I may have done I don’t know. In my fragile, my very fragile understanding of the issue just points me I think that Darling is playing a pitiful attempt of catching up with that very very clever initiative of George Osborne you know several months ago adjusting the threshold of the inheritance tax and it is not a properly thought out policy it is just yet another bit, a witless gesture, a sign of panic. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Billy Bragg has the Chancellor been incompetent in relation to stamp duty?


BILLY BRAGG
Of course he has. As has his spokesmen. They have all been denying that he said anything. Someone somewhere has been dropping huge hints, the housing market is in such a desperate state at the moment people are clutching at any straws, any opportunity they might have to save some money in the transactions. We have been hearing plenty of evidence over the last few days of people cancelling sales in the hope of saving some money. Everybody knows that these kind of announcements can only be made during budgets or pre budget speeches it is not really ever been the done thing to suddenly pull these things out of a hat like a magician and when it has been tried before by John Major in the early 90’s it didn’t work at all. First Norman Lamont had a holiday from stamp duty, that didn’t work, he put it back on again, it still didn’t work I mean we are we really are in it deep folks and fiddling around with a few percentage points here and there isn’t going to make a difference, the reality is we are in for a rather painful correction and we can’t pretend to ourselves that we haven’t known for a long long time that this was coming. People getting mortgages on 125% of the value of their property you know this is some terrible kind of voodoo economics and yet we have been encouraged to believe that everything is OK in society as long as our house prices go up. (APPLAUSE)
It is going to take so much more than whatever the Chancellor can do to resolve this issue. People are very nervous and what has happened in the last few days I fear has only led to people feeling more nervous.

DIMBLEBY
Who in our audience here has based their finances on the belief that house prices were going, it is a rational decision, many analysts would say that house prices were going to go on rising and have made an investment accordingly. Who, and therefore feels caught in this, who feels trapped and caught by this financially?

Wow!

Not one hand has gone up. Norton sub Hamden.

BILLY BRAGG
What is your advice for the Chancellor?

DIMBLEBY
I think definitely the Chancellor needs to see you. A public meeting here. But to come back to the serious point. What the Chancellor said, he said he was looking at “a number of measures” and “number of options”. The treasury statement describes the speculation that that might include as was put to him stamp duty as simply wrong. Paddy Ashdown.


PADDY ASHDOWN
Well before I address it I just love the Stephen Bayley answer. Sorry don’t know. I remember addressing, I hope you will allow this little story I remember addressing a village hall not far from here and about as crowded as this before the 1983 election full of farmers and the farmer at the back shouted out “what do you think about the price of barley Paddy?” And I said I don’t know anything about the price of barley and he said “I am voting for him”. I couldn’t work out why. So I went to see him afterwards and I said well I couldn’t answer your question “that’s right he said I asked the other two about the price of barley and they went on for half an hour and we don’t grow barley within 200 mile of here” he said.

(LAUGH)
DIMBLEBY
Do we presume from your accent he came from the West Country?

PADDY ASHDOWN
Since when I have always tried to adopt the Bayley answer if you don’t know the answer to a question say so. On this one unfortunately being an ex politician I do know the answer and I am going to join the Billy Bragg party because he is entirely right. There is a temptation to take off stamp duty, it won’t work it is worth about £6.5 billion. The conservatives say we should take off stamp duty because it is going to be very popular but they don’t tell us where they will get the £6.5 billion from it will be tempting people to buy houses, particularly young people, to buy houses on a falling market and it will be taking tax off property and that is what got us into this process in the first place that property has never been taxed in this country and if you are to remove the only tax there is I think it will generate a worse problem not a better one so I wish the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer or whoever it is would make up their mind it is absolutely true that that is creating unnecessary uncertainty in the market but would I take off stamp duty no I would not.

DIMBLEBY
It is quite difficult to get into the politics of this. You are a former politician but the questioner said has he been incompetent? If he is asked a particular question as Chancellor before the statement he makes in the autumn it is quite difficult for him to rule out something isn’t it because he is asked to rule out the next thing as well.

PADDY ASHDOWN
I don’t recall that is just about the one argument they haven’t used so far. What they have said is we are thinking about it. What they have not said it no Chancellor of the Exchequer can ever tell you what he is going to do in the budget before he does it in the budget.

DIMBLEBY
So the incompetence is there?


PADDY ASHDOWN
Well I think the incompetence is very clearly there but look if they were not going to be thinking about doing this they would have said so and they oughtn’t to be thinking about doing it because it is not a wise policy.

DIMBLEBY
Jill Kirby

JILL KIRBY
Well, Alastair Darling actually has form when it comes to taxation measures which he might or might not implement and sometimes he announces something and then he just changes his mind afterwards about it and in the short time that Alastair Darling has occupied Gordon Brown’s chair as it were and possibly at the behest of Gordon Brown announced or de announced a number of measures, very much in the Gordon Brown pattern actually. This is just another along the lines of not really wanting to rule anything in or out but as a result creating as you have said already great uncertainty in a very dangerous situation where we have a falling market but you know we have seen it happen before. Alastair Darling created uncertainty in just about every area of taxation he looked at in the brief time he has been Chancellor so it is not all surprising but it nevertheless it is worrying and very unsettling and it is clear that people are now going to pull out of transactions in the hope that there may be a stamp duty break and he has got to make his mind up how he can deal with it and quickly.

DIMBLEBY
Should there be, we have heard two voices saying it should not be, should there be a stamp duty break would it help or not in your view.

JILL KIRBY
I don’t think a stamp duty break is the answer I think it is another iniquitous tax which actually does not really have any logic about it it is just an opportunity for the government to suck money out of us at a time when that money is changing hands and I don’t think there is a justification for the structure of stamp duty as it stands and indeed I have considerable sympathy as you might imagine for the conservative proposition that stamp duty should be lifted from first time buyers at a time …..

DIMBLEBY?
Where would you get the money from Jill? That’s the question

JILL KIRBY
At the time when that proposal was announced by the conservatives was at a time when clearly first time buyers were struggling to get on to the housing ladder. the difficulty now of course and what the Chancellor should pay attention to that we shouldn’t be encouraging first time buyers on to the housing ladder we should be encouraging them to hang about a bit, rent until we find out what is going to happen.


DIMBLEBY
So leaving aside the affordability question for a moment if you believe in principal that it should be abolished as a tax but you have a falling market with all the associated problems what would you do now if you were able to advise the Chancellor to cope with that problem?

JILL KIRBY
I wouldn’t even suggest at this point that we should be altering stamp duty because it simply is not the right moment for the housing market to make any announcement of that kind and I think he would have been better to completely rule it out or else to introduce it immediately. I mean he must have been well aware and Caroline Flint today speaking at lunchtime must be equally aware

DIMBLEBY
The Housing Minister

JILL KIRBY
Yes equally well aware by stoking up this uncertainty they are making matters worse.

DIMBLEBY
So what would you do? I s there anything that can be done or has it just got to run its course?

JILL KIRBY
I think now they have got into the position they are into they should make an announcement forthwith that makes it very clear one way or the other. It is not something they can leave in abeyance until November.

DIMBLEBY
I am sorry I mean the bigger policy terms. What would you do if you could to ease the growing problem of falling house prices and people not being able to get on to buy houses at all.

JILL KIRBY
In tax terms or general policy terms?

DIMBLEBY
Whatever terms you as an economic analyst would think

JILL KIRBY
I think there is very little the government can do. The government has got us into this hole and at the moment it is still digging. But I don’t think there is very much they can do to get us out of it except to wait and see what happens to the market.


DIMBLEBY
Now Stephen Bayley you have heard your panellists and are now very informed do you have a view?

STEPHEN BAYLEY
Yes not on stamp duty as I am humiliated and humbled by the expertise surrounding me but I just wanted to add a foot note to the learned treatises and it is just this. It is clear the underlying question is all about property prices but it is very curious that falling property prices are regarded as economically disabling but falling energy prices are regarded as economically stimulating. It may not be a bad thing if property prices fall.

DIMBLEBY
With that thought I invite you again to the Any Answers number. It is 03700 100 444. Could we go to our next?


BOB FILL
Is the National Institute for Clinical Excellence true to its name by proposing to make certain drugs unavailable particularly when Europe does otherwise?

DIMBLEBY
Do you have in your mind the thought the most recent example of this issue is the kidney cancer, the renal cancer?
Billy Bragg.

BILLY BRAGG
I think this is a great shame for us as a nation for the National Health Service and for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. I mean people who are in the situation where they have paid through their lives, paid contributions to the National Health Service are now standing to be denied the treatment that they seek when they are facing a life threatening illness and I think it is utterly immoral quite frankly. We have to as a nation find a way to help people when they are in times of great difficulty and (APPLAUSE).
I have never believed in a system as they have in the United States of America where people pay for medicine and we are all aware, those of us who have read these reports, the high price for these drugs but who can put a price on a person’s life? Who can put a price on a person’s opportunity to spend more time with their children or perhaps see their grandchildren? Who is going to sit and look people in the eye and say well yes you know we can’t afford it because when that person says we they do mean all of us they don’t just mean me sitting here representing the Local Health Authority so I think we as a nation have to actually undertake to do whatever we can as far as we can with the drugs that are available, the best drugs that are available, on the day. Surely that was the principle that the National Health Service was built on often by people who are now in their retirement years. They of all people deserve to support the National Health Service.

DIMBLEBY
Whatever the cost of those drugs?

BILLY BRAGG
Frankly yes. I am afraid it has to be as I said I don’t think you can put a price on a person’s life (APPLUASE)

DIMBLEBY
Jill Kirby


JILL KIRBY
Well NICE is one thing that the National Institute certainly isn’t and it doesn’t seem to me to have very much to do with clinical excellence. It is as far as I can gather at the moment very much a body which tries to work out if you can put a price on a life and where you can put a price on a few months of life but it doesn’t appear to be informed by a great deal of expertise about the relative clinical value of particularly the cancer drugs involved here which clearly can have a dramatic impact on peoples lives and on the conditions of those taking them. It doesn’t seem to me to be a very clever way at arriving at a decision on which drugs should be available through the Health Service. I think there are much bigger problems here about how we do work out how drugs should be available at a time when the Health Service is in effect rationed as indeed it always has been rationed. It used to be rationed through waiting lists it is now rationed through drug availability and the question whether one should be able to make top up payments doesn’t really solve the problem because there will always be people who can’t make those top up payments. We have clearly got to rethink how we organize our ability to purchase the drugs that are increasingly available and the increasingly sophisticated ways of saving lives and improving the quality of life which are now on offer to us but NICE is not the answer it is an expensive bureaucratic body which is anything as I say but nice and has clearly failed …..

DIMBLEBY
Is it your instinct and you speak in terms of retaining the public purse financing it that it can be achieved without cutting other important services.

JILL KIRBY
I think this question of cutting services Jonathan the part of the budget which we allocate to drugs actually is remarkably low in comparison to other European countries but then it is interesting that in many other European countries we have a more mixed basis of financing the purchase of those drugs and more competition between for example the social insurance providers of health care who will create a demand and therefore actually have an impact on the price of drugs. I don’t think actually that the model that we worked in this country is necessarily very helpful or very well able to accommodate to the current and future demands of much more sophisticated drug treatments and I think we have to ask ourselves whether the model is broke and whether we really need to start all over again and look at better ways through the public purse but in a much more diverse and patient centric if you like, or clinically centric way of funding the drugs which are out there.

DIMBLEBY
Stephen Bayley (APPLAUSE)


STEPHEN BAYLEY
Well I very much agree with what Jill just said but I think you need the combined wisdom of Solomon and a Vishnu to answer this because underlying the whole problem is this terrible, terrible thing the utopian promise of the National Health Service there is a terrible mismatch between that humane idealism and the extraordinary variety of new treatments coming up and it simply is unaffordable so new solutions may be required but basically I detest NICE and all it represents because it seems to me to represent the McKinsey view of the world, the McKinsey management consultancy who famously said you can measure anything and if you can measure it you can manage it and that is completely, totally, 180 degrees wrong because all the most important things in life, beauty, poetry, love, peace actually can’t be measured, even in the quality of life business who is to calculate that. There is a marvellous article in today’s Times by Jonathan Waxman this Professor of Oncology at Imperial College you know in a health crisis I would far rather be judged by a caring physician like Prof Waxman rather than by a management consultant. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Can I just ask you, which I will put to the other panellists, given that if you take Alzheimer’s and there is a contest between public resources going in to finding better ways of coping with or treating or discovering the drugs for Alzheimer’s on the one hand and the price is, hypothetical of course, because that’s what one deals with in this, the price is the inability to provide drugs for the numbers of those who are suffering horribly from kidney cancers. How do you, what does Solomon do under those circumstances?

PADDY ASHDOWN
I mean that is the centre of the question and here I’m going to have to disagree with my colleagues on the panel, all of them as it happens, erm not an unusual position. Look Jill says it’s important to organise ourselves and I happen to agree with her actually there is a case for more competition, there is a case for giving place for greater choice, there is a case for having more local control of hospitals, we would make better use of the money if there was but none of this is going to absolve you from the end decision you have to make. Within a given amount of money provided by the tax payers you have got choices to make, ladies and gentlemen, and we ask NICE to do that, I don’t share Jill’s view of NICE, I do not believe it is lacking in expertise, it is stuffed full of expertise, I think they’re a collection of people who by and large are extremely expert at the task we’ve asked them to do and a very very tough job it is. You can’t deal with this question without dealing with the specific and the specific is about this this kidney cancer drug. The cost of this for a years application is thirty thousand pounds, now for thirty thousand pounds I think you can do I can’t remember, something like ten hip replacements. You have to make a choice within a given budget and Jill there will always be a given budget however you organise yourself between those things that you can afford and those things that you can’t. We ask NICE to make that choice for us, now whether we’re right to do so is a different matter they’ve got quite a sophisticated mechanism for doing so and they have arrived at the constraint at the decision that within the constraints of the present health service budget you may be with Billy you may want to put more money into the health service, fine, I’m with that too, but at the end of the day, they still have to make that choice and they’ve made a choice which says we can do more with thirty thousand pounds. For many more people to deliver a better result than spending it on somebody to extend their life, and I was looking at the figures, it’s about eighteen months to two years, now that’s very important for that person and it’s easy to say that you can’t put a value on human life etc but somebody has to make that choice and it doesn’t matter how you organise it, the question isn’t how do you organise it, how much money are you going pay? And if you as tax payers have a limit on the amount of money you’re going to pay with the public purse you’re going to end up with difficult issues like this to solve. I happen to believe that tough, difficult and painful for some though this is, it’s probably within our present constraints in the health service, the right decision.

BILLY BRAGG
Yeah but you’re looking…(APPLAUSE) You’re looking at the bottom line.

PADDY ASHDOWN
Billy you have to look at the bottom line!

BILLY BRAGG
No. Humanity has no bottom line.

PADDY ASHDOWN
Ok so so you know we have a procedure which is now going to cost a hundred million pounds Billy that will save your life for a year, do you say yes you’ve got to pay for it?

BILLY BRAGG
Well you say…

PADDY ASHDOWN
(interrupting)Yes or no?

BILLY BRAGG
If you if you don’t have enough money in the National Health Service then you have you’re priorities wrong, you’re spending the money…

PADDY ASHDOWN
(interrupting)No matter what…

BILLY BRAGG
…in the wrong place.

PADDY ASHDOWN
No matter what the cost or how limited the benefit?

BILLY BRAGG
That’s what the National Health Service was set up to do, I still believe in that principle that’s why I pay my money into it, that’s what I believe in.

PADDY ASHDOWN
Well I love you and admire you Bill (APPLAUSE) but I’m afraid I can’t go along with that as a practical proposition.

DIMBLEBY
We’ll go to our next question.


DAVID BELL
Do the members of the panel agree that the greatest threat to Britain is a flu pandemic?

DIMBLEBY
The Government has released information about what it regards as being the major threats er that face the country of which at the top because I think of the allocation of resources and the rest comes a flu epidemic. Jill Kirby?

JILL KIRBY
Don’t don’t you just love this I mean the Government’s thought long and hard and it’s decided to try and frighten us all by telling us something that it is not it can claim it is not responsible (laughter), there’s probably only one thing left. There’s just about I suppose a hurricane or something like that but this is about the only one thing left that it reckons we can’t pin back on them. And so we’ve all now got to lie awake at night worrying about the flu pandemic. I don’t know whether this is bird flu or a different flu or whether this is the flu that means we’ve got to have all our toddlers vaccinated so that our old people don’t die or whatever the last scare was um I don’t propose to lie awake at night worrying about the flu pandemic but I do you know have to admire the government’s cheek really in presenting us with that one to chew on in the hope that we might be distracted from all the other things (laughter) that it’s landed us with.
(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
If you do lie awake at night or even if you if you don’t what do you think is the greatest threat then facing Britain, if any? (Laughter) There were murmurs from the audience which erm sounded as if the surname had a colour. (laughter)

JILL KIRBY
Putting words into my mouth I think Jonathon. No I think I think that the government, the Prime Minister who had abolished boom and bust, who reassured us we would never face the kind of economic uncertainty that those wicked Conservatives had led us into um for whom who told us that everything now was going to be fine and cosy and we were all going to have a good standard of living, nothing to worry about no more repossessions, nothing was going to go wrong. Somehow now wants to avoid the blame and get us worrying about something else then I think it’s actually a bit low to drag this one out right now, I for one am not prepared to be distracted, I’ll find plenty else to worry about at night Jonathon thank you.

DIMBLEBY
Paddy Ashdown.

PADDY ASHDOWN
If it was one of those political programmes I’d say that the greatest threat to the county is forgetting what it was like under the Tories.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
But it isn’t one of those programmes!

DIMBLEBY
Does that mean you think the leader of the Liberal Democrat’s should ally himself against the Tories onside of the Labour party to hope that that gets the Conservatives out? (Laughter)

PADDY ASHDOWN
I think that the people of this country Jonathon should have the good sense at last to elect a Liberal Democrat government (Laughter) Let me answer let me answer…

DIMBLEBY
(interrupting) I thought you said you were a former politician!

PADDY ASHDOWN
Let me get on to the, no the greatest threat to this country without a shadow of a doubt and the greatest threat for the whole of humanity is global warming and it knocks this into a ….. I mean look global warming is unless we can do what looks to me no leader and no collection of world leaders is able to do very quickly, has got the leadership to do, turn this thing round, millions millions are going to die and people will look back on us as the generation that had the last chance to stop this happening and they’ll look on us as people who were morally completely bankrupt in our failure to tackle this issue. I have absolutely no doubt the danger of pandemic flu is doubtless quite great if it were to take hold but the biggest threat to us in this country to our way of life and to humanity in general is undoubtedly our complete and abject failure to tackle the issue of global warming and with some of the very painful solutions that go along with that.
(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Steven Bayley.

STEVEN BAYLEY
Yeah I agree for once with absolutely everybody, the its like bird flu isn’t it it’s now going to be Spanish influenza I mean I don’t discount the horrors of it but it is clearly a cynical piece of news manipulation. What Paddy Ashdown said is absolutely right but it’s more than just global warming the biggest threat I mean global warming is just part of what I see as a larger problem affecting this country and that’s to say the little wanton callous ignorance pose do forgive me Paddy, you’re an ex-politician it’s fine, most politicians share about the whole of the environment, there’s this nothing more than any country or civilisation which doesn’t passionately care about the state of things whether it’s the roads the buildings, you know the countryside, the state of the city, it’s every bit as important as the countryside, is lost. You know, for me the actual environment, I don’t just mean climate change and carbon and the rest of it, the everything we do, the physical world out there that is politics.
(APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY
Billy Bragg

BILLY BRAGG
Without without wishing to disagree with any of my fellow panellists because I agree with more or less everything that they’ve said. The thing about Global Warming and I believe passionately, it’s a great challenge to us is it isn’t going to happen next year, whereas as a flu pandemic may happen next year. It’s the sort of thing that could happen in a period of months in a, in a perhaps even in a period of weeks some catastrophic plague like pandemic could start to move towards us and whilst I do want my government to do as much as it can about global warming I would really like them to be thinking about problems that might face us in the short term and I would think I would consider the possibility of some maybe not flu but some sort of pandemic would be something that a government should really be thinking about in the short term.

DIMBLEBY
A number of commentators have pointed out that although there’s been a great deal of attention by government and others directed against the possibility of a terrorist attack that while they think a terrorist attack is possibly more likely than a flu pandemic the greatest threat is a flu pandemic I think in the terms of in the newer future. You would share that view?

BILLY BRAGG
I want you to think about the possibilities in our globalized economy for people to travel around the world very very quickly the sort of a way that that could undermine er you know the global markets the way that it could deeply affect the way that we complacently live our lives and carry on as if everything’s going to be OK that we’ve got everything sorted out I mean short of a nuclear strike on out country I would think it could be one of the things that would possibly you know in the realm of possibilities could happen next year.

DIMBLEBY
Given what you said Jill Kirby and the fact of what happened when there appeared to be no petrol in the pumps or when there was a possibility of there being a shortage of food in the shops do you take on board what Billy Bragg was saying regardless of whether you think it was a cynical exercise.

JILL KIRBY
Well I’m rather thinking if we have a flu pandemic Billy that might solve global warming cause you’d all stop travelling and stay at home and quite a lot of people would die and so we’d have we’d have less of the carbon foot print so that actually might be quite a handy solution so lets all lets all die of the flu and then we needn’t fret about how much carbon we’re burning. (laughter)


DIMBLEBY
On that note which may prompt some calls and emails (laughter) um we just…

BILLY BRAGG
(interrupting) and a fight afterward as well perhaps in the green room..

DIMBLEBY
And and maybe a fight afterwards we move swiftly we can just get in one more question


REVEREND PETER THOMAS
Reverend Peter Thomas. Following Tory Colin Moynihan’s rowing silver medal, Lib Dem Menzies Campbell’s Olympic track appearance, and rumours that Labour’s Gordon Brown may be for the high jump (Laughter), which Olympic event might the panellists wish to enter?
(Laughter)

DIMBLEBY
Which would you like to enter? You haven’t got much time, Steven you want to come in on this question what do you want to do?

STEPHEN BAYLEY
Opportunism. (Laughter)

DIMBLEBY
The opportunism event. Um Billy Bragg?

BILLY BRAGG
Oh I think I I’m not sure I could qualify for it I think er tickling my kids is something I’m probably but up to Olympic standard I think. I realize it’s probably not on the…

DIMBLEBY
Do you think you’d get a gold medal if tickling was allowed?

BILLY BRAGG
I could probably tickle for England if there were a team.

DIMBLEBY
UK tickling champion. Um Jill Kirby?

JILL KIRBY
I’m I’m tempted to say that I’d head for the moral high ground and get well out of China and anything that involved me competing in the atmosphere there at the moment erm and yeah get up on the high ground and look smug an and keep well out of it.

DIMBLEBY
Lord Ashdown?

PADDY ASHDOWN
Er Peter you are speaking to the Royal Naval Champion circa 1959 for throwing the hammer (laughter) Now not a lot of people know that as Michael Caine used to say (laughter) so I think I’ll stick with it.

DIMBLEBY
How far did you throw it?

PADDY ASHDOWN
Not very far. (laughter)

There were only there were only four of us in the competition (laughter) but I won I won.

DIMBLEBY
Everyone will want to congratulate Lord Ashdown on that if not for his many other achievements. We’re going to go on I’m afraid and out of this programme with a reminder of next week where we’re going to be in Ottery Saint Mary in Devon with Tim Smit Chief Executive of the Eden Project, Iain Dale Political Commentator, Mary Beard who is Classics Professor at Cambridge University, and the Editor in Chief of the Readers Digest, Sarah Sands. Hope you can join us there. Thank you for joining us here in Norton sub Hamdon celebrating their new music festival. For now goodbye.
(APPLAUSE)

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