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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 05 December 2008

CHAIRMAN: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

PANELLISTS:

BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS MP QC: Labour backbencher

GREG CLARK MP: Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change


LYNNE FEATHERSTONE MP: Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson on Youth & Equality

LIONEL BARBER: Financial Times Editor

From: Woking High School, Morton Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 4TJ


DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to Woking in Surrey where we are at the High School which is a specialist Technology College with 1200 pupils. The school takes pride in its emphasis on community values and inclusiveness. On our panel Bob Marshall-Andrews has been in Parliament since 1997 though his high profile as a dissident, from time to time Labour MP, makes it seem somewhat longer. A QC and Recorder by profession he has also written two novels. Lynne Featherstone was a Haringey councillor as the Victoria Climbie tragedy unfolded. As a local MP she has also been to the fore in the case of Baby P. Elected to Parliament at the last election she speaks for the Liberal Democrats on Youth and Equality. Greg Clark also entered Parliament in the 2005 election after serving 3 of his Party Leaders as Director of Policy. His upward progress has taken him into the Shadow Cabinet with the Energy and Climate Change brief. In the same year, 2005, Lionel Barber who previously worked in Europe and the States for the FinancialTimes was promoted to become Editor of that highly and particularly nowadays influential journal. He is the fourth member of our panel.

(APPLAUSE)

Our first question please…

SIMON LEWIS
In the wake of the Baby P and Shannon Matthews cases do the panel feel that it is Britain’s under class rather than the working classes that deserve our attention?

DIMBLEBY
Lynne Featherstone.

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
That is a very difficult question because how much it is the very extreme families that cause these devastating effects on the children that they have and how much it is the broken society or the under classes as you say is arguable. I was quite uncomfortable with the idea that this was anything to do with the broken society because I think the families are extreme. And I think there really is an issue around child protection in this country because I think what staggered me along with everyone else was how when a child is on the at risk list or a family has come to the notice of social services that it still can end in tragic consequences or not be discovered and that is the real issue for me here. How do you intervene and what is it that is going to be done now as an outcome from all of the furor and the British public’s outrage and the media spotlight. What will actually change and Ed Balls investigation and the damming, I have never read such a damming report, as in Haringey but the proof of the pudding will now be how does it go forward, how can we imbue our social services, our social workers with the zeal and the mission to make sure that they never again are fooled by a parent, that they have what Lord Laming said after Victoria Climbie which was to use your critical faculties not to be swayed by what you see around you. There are so many issues raised by these cases that it needs from my view still a much wider, raised so many questions that I still believe that we need a public enquiry and I still believe there was something called a serious case review that is written internally when these things happen and I still believe that needs to be published because without which we cannot look properly at what was the cause.

DIMBLEBY
Do you in the question do you accept the concept that there is an underclass as opposed to large numbers of people in what in addition is called the working class and that under class is disproportionately represented in the kinds of problems. Our questioner is nodding his head now. In the kind of awful problems like this.

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
No I don’t really accept that. I think there are a huge range of children either left with or taken away from parents including middle class parents and other sorts of parents and I think these are extreme cases but when we only listen to these cases we do ourselves a disservice because of all the other cases that are very near and need actually state intervention.

DIMBLEBY
Greg Clark

GREG CLARK
Well Jonathan I think that when we talk about systems and classes I think that can distract us from the real story here which is a human story. I don’t know about your listeners but when I saw the beautiful photograph of Baby P and the cheeky school girl grin of Shannon Matthews my thought was what a tragedy it was there was no one there to love these children and I think it may be too much to ask a system to provide that love but really what it ought to provide is some people who can be the champions of the interests of those children, can stand up for them and can battle for them against the odds so the failings that I see I wouldn’t put down to class or systems. I think the system has in some ways dehumanized this case and I think it should be possible to so reform the system to put back to individuals the responsibility and the ability to follow their vocation and to fight for abused children and indeed vulnerable adults when it takes, when it is necessary and we need to put that human touch back in the heart of what has become a hopelessly bureaucratic system.

DIMBLEBY
Are you saying that social workers have been dehumanised?

GREG CLARK
I think that one of the important things in this is that I think we have to end the almost ritual abuse of social workers. Social workers do a fantastic job with some of the most difficult problems in society and one of the tragedies would be if people were put off this vocation but what we know from the case reviews that we have seen and disgracefully what we know from years ago when we had the Victoria Climbie case was that a lot of the procedures were put in place, social workers are required to fill in forms, tick the boxes and spend more and more time doing that and not doing what they came into the profession to do which was to fight for children and vulnerable adults. We need to get back to that.

DIMBLEBY
Lionel Barber

LIONEL BARBER
Well I think it is obviously very hard for us to imagine how after the last 10 years of prosperity you could see this kind of child abuse and instances of families that are clearly marginalized. There are many important questions about both cases. For me the most poignant is how in both cases the mother was capable of treating the child with such neglect and abuse and there was a failure of imagination on the part of the social services and that is perhaps understandable but nevertheless in the case of Baby P there were 78 separate instances where the social services were aware of there being potential abuse. Another question which is important is should we be encouraging a system where parents of children from broken families or a mother is given extra welfare payments the more children she has. I mean the woman, the mother of Shannon Matthews had 7 children and was receiving £400 a week, the state assumption is well if you have the extra kids you need more money but in this sense it was completely wrong.

DIMBLEBY
But are you saying that you believe that particular individual or individuals like her would have had less children if they weren’t getting that money doesn’t that rather beggar belief given the character of the individual?

LIONEL BARBER
I can’t speak to that directly. All I am saying is that the decision, there was an incentive almost to have extra children so you can have extra welfare benefits.

DIMBLEBY
But the but the if … you would withdraw benefits from the third child or what?

LIONEL BARBER
I think that I would, we would have to look into taking the children into custody because she clearly wasn’t a fit parent.

DIMBLEBY
Bob Marshall-Andrews

BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Can I address the question directly because it is an extremely interesting question because it centres on class and class structures and the protections that were within class structures? The working class of which I certainly had some considerable experience, the working class had its own solidarity, its own communities and within that solidarity and those communities there were disciplines that existed. The question that you are addressing is whether we now have a dysfunctional group and class of people who it is extremely difficult in those circumstances to monitor and to deal with and the answer to the question simply I think is yes very much so. Our class structures have changed almost beyond recognition for a large number of reasons. Now having said that and which is directly relevant to it can I just say something about social workers? Because as a politician it is sometimes tempting to welcome the idea that there is a class of people that are more loathed than you are. (LAUGH) But may I just say something for social workers. Social workers do an ill paid job, a vocational and dedicated job in the most difficult and trying of circumstances. They, day by day, live with dangerous violent, dysfunctional, manipulative and deceitful people. They have to take agonizing decisions not about what is best for a child but what is least worst for a child that they see. Those are not decisions that I would wish to take and the other thing that they have to live with as well is the prospect of being pilloried and vilified in hate filled campaigns by some elements of our national popular press which is not something which adds to the national debate at all, egged on by editors sitting in highly paid offices who would not be driven down the streets in which these social workers operate let alone get out of the cars that they are in and one of the most (APPLAUSE) distasteful things in the whole of the dreadful saga of Baby P was in the press conference which was held by the Minister Ed Balls in an atmosphere, a quiet atmosphere of horror as people contemplated the pain and the torture that was inflicted upon this child before they died in it. In the course of the conference a reporter no doubt on the instructions of his Editor attempted in a question to glean some credit for the Sun newspaper. It was a despicable thing to do and I am very sorry that my Minister Mr. Balls did not have the courage (LAUGH) in these circumstances to treat that question with the contempt that it deserved.


DIMBLEBY
Let me go back. You posed this Simon Lewis do you think more attention should be paid to the what you describe as the under class rather than the working class?

SIMON LEWIS
I do I think we have a growing group of people who appear to be cut adrift from mainstream society and I think that we ignore this divide at our peril

DIMBLEBY
Thank you if you have thoughts about that Any Answers may be for you after the Saturday broadcast of this programme. The number to ring is 03700 100 444 and the email address is any.answers@bbc.co.uk. We go to our next please.


JULIAN THOMAS
The Prime Minister has said he has a great deal of confidence in the speaker of the House of Commons is that the view of the panel?

DIMBLEBY
Greg Clark?

GREG CLARK
Well I think everyone wants to have confidence in the speaker of the House of Commons he should be a figure that should be admired by everyone and beyond reproach. We have a strange situation here in which the speaker has given a statement to the House of Commons in which he says that the police didn’t inform either him or the Serjeant at Arms that they required a warrant in order to be given the right to search the House of Commons and the Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says the opposite. He says they were informed that they needed a warrant. And so we have got an extraordinary situation here. We have got two accounts that are completely contradictory and I think it is very unedifying for this to be taking place so until we know who is right; it is difficult to answer the question directly.

DIMBLEBY
Your judgement isn’t affected by what we already know namely that one way or another the office of Damian Green was searched without a warrant and that the Serjeant at Arms apparently did not ask that there should be and the speaker apparently did not realise the question himself.

GREG CLARK
Well I think the Speaker said that he thinks that was a mistake and he regrets that happened that way but whether they were informed we don’t know but I think the issue here is why is it important that an MP’s office should be raided or not with or without a warrant? And you know I couldn’t give a fig for the dignity of MP’s but what I am concerned about is the confidentiality of constituents’ information. I have in my files a letter from a serving police officer a constituent of mine who wrote to me expressing concern that a particular police station was subject to corruption. Can you imagine the consequences if my office were raided perhaps for some other reason and his colleagues were to come across that letter which he sent to me in order that I could ask questions and pursue it? It could be the end of his career. H could be intimidated probably both of us could be arrested. Now, so when we talk about the procedures and the principles and whether a warrant should have been there. I think we need to assert a principle very strongly that the information that constituents send to their MP if they expect that it is there in confidence that shouldn’t be a matter of misleading they shouldn’t be duped. It should be dependably confidential. (APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY
There is a sort of traditional convention that the speaker is not criticized that has come into significant disuse over the last few days. When you say that you are not able to say whether you have great confidence is that because you genuinely don’t know or is it because you don’t want to abuse the convention at this point.

GREG CLARK
Well I don’t think it is a good thing for members of Parliament to be abusing the referee any more than it is in another circumstance and another contest that is the wrong thing, I think you should be careful about doing that especially when we do have these contradictory accounts that I think we need to get to the bottom of very shortly.

DIMBLEBY
Lionel Barber

LIONEL BARBER
Well before we nail any scalps to the wall and we don’t do that at the Financial Times of course I would say that it is pretty hard to have confidence in the Speaker who practices a kind of hear no evil speak no evil approach when the police enter the Houses of Parliament without a warrant and appear and evidence is pretty strong here that they misled or were economical with the truth in establishing the grounds for entering the premises. Second the speakers performance and I can speak here because I am a non MP and I hope I am not going to be taken off to the tower but the fact is the Speaker’s shoddy shuffling of the blame on the Serjeant of Arms was pretty damming and he should have asked much more serious questions. (APPLAUSE) He should have asked much more serious questions on the night before when he was apprised the police were likely to enter the premises.

DIMBLEBY
Bob Marshall-Andrews

BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Yes whatever the Parliamentary convention I have no confidence in the Speaker any more as (APPLAUSE) As a result of what has happened with Damian Green I think it is worth just for a moment looking at the principle involved here. Members of Parliament have split personalities, some of them literally so but in political terms, as individuals we enjoy no privileges and no rights that are not enjoyed by normal citizens and nor should we but that is not the same for the office. The office does not belong to me it belongs to the people I represent. When I leave Parliament in the fairly near future that office will go on and it will be inhabited by somebody else but the office will be there and the office is of immense importance in Parliament and one of the most important things is that that office should be sacrosanct and we should be allowed to do our principle job, our main job which is to hold the government to account, to relentlessly hold the government to account. To be a nuisance and a pest and an irritation to government is out job. That is why we are there and in particular if it appears to us that the government is not revealing information that it should reveal. I am not talking about official secrets, I am talking about information which should be revealed and if Members of Parliament come across that and use it that is their job and an attack on that job and that office is not an attack on them it is an attack on the people who they represent. It is of immense importance and there is no greater attack than raiding the office and removing files at the behest and with the consent of the Speaker and that is in a very real sense that is an outrage. From the point of view of the Labour Party let me say this at once and it grieves me to say it, this is devastating for us because we have a pretty vile reputation when it comes to civil liberties, we do and people will undoubtedly see this as being an extension of that particular pattern and it grieves me that it is so. Because this government has done many good things but this is a matter on which is will flounder and that is a matter which concerns me very much. Finally may I say this just for myself I have absolutely no wish to waste police time particularly if it is important people such as the Special Branch or the anti terrorist unit and so I have taken the caution of putting a little note on the front of my door in the house of commons indicating clearly where the files that they may be interested in (APPLAUSE) can be found.

DIMBLEBY
You say it would do great harm to the Labour Party there have been slightly different views expressed about the confidence in the Speaker from the Prime Minister and from Harriet Harman who refused to express her confidence in the Speaker. The Home Secretary said that she had nothing to do with this; she didn’t know it was happening so why if that is the case should the Labour Party suffer. Do you believe the Home Secretary when she says she knew nothing about it?

BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Yes of course I do, of course I believe the Home Secretary. The problem is with our record millions of people will not. And that is the problem to which I allude but if you believe what the Home Secretary said it is still deplorable and what has happened I am a criminal Barrister I mean I defend criminals in my other life and after a crime has been committed there is a pretty well known mantra that those who are suspected saying no not me guv no I never knew anything about this or strike a light was that going on oh dear dear dear nobody told me and my permanent secretary knew oh good Lord no he never told me. That is not the way the government should behave it brings us all into disrepute and unhappily and I say this and I mean it it is my Party that is going to take the main stick for this and we must not turn this into a party political issue. I saw Lord Mandelson the other day saying this is a party political issue. It is not. The sanctity of Parliament and what it represents is not a Party issue it is an issue for us all. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
And just one more thing when you say you have no confidence in the Speaker do you believe that the Speaker should resign, stand down?


BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Yes I do, I really do. Funnily enough I like Michael Martin and I think he is a much better Speaker than most people give him credit for but this action in allowing this to happen in the House of Commons I frankly do not think he can recover from or should

DIMBLEBY
Lynn Featherstone

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
I think Bob puts the constitutional argument perfectly and the shock that we all feel however for myself I am even more shocked by this sort of mess that has gone on in terms of no one actually knowing what was appropriate or who did what when or who should have said what to the police or whether the police had the right to do that and then I move on mentally to think about what the government has actually said which was that there was a series of leaks and therefore they had to look into them and in a sense you can understand that, it seems logical however as Bob Marshall-Andrews said the problem is with this government with the track record on civil liberties that they have with the 42 days detention and ID cards and all of those issues it makes you wonder and therefore it makes it difficult to only think it is about the right stuff. Now I have only been an MP for 3.5 years so that is relatively a short time and what I am overwhelmingly shocked at since I arrived in Parliament is what I regard as the abuse of power and that is that we never get time to debate things properly. That amendments are selected by the partisan side of the House and therefore you never have the debate, Labour can always win when it comes to a vote but all of these things take away from democracy and I think what you see in all of the events that have happened in terms of Damian Green are the outcome from a Parliament that no longer works that has no real power to hold the executive to account and that is why the leaks are important. (PPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Quick word Greg Clark

GREG CLARK
Can I just give you an example of the context in which we are operating? In my previous position I shadowed the Cabinet Office and I asked for a copy of the Cabinet Office’s staff magazine. Perfectly reasonable thing you think for somebody shadowing that department. Do you know what happened? I got a letter from the Freedom of Information office saying that this was a very difficult decision to make as to whether it is in the public interests for me to see the staff magazine presumably available on the coffee table and that they would aim within 20 days to assess the balance of interests. But in this case in your case we estimate it will take an additional 20 days to take a decision on where the balance of public interest lies. That was in May. I have had a letter every month since then saying it is still very difficult to decide whether it is in the public interest to disclose the Cabinet Office staff magazine so no wonder opposition politicians need to rely on information coming through circuitous routes.


DIMBLEBY
Thank we will go to our next question.


PETER COLLINS
Why are prudent savers being penalized for the actions of reckless lenders and borrowers?

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber. A definitive answer

LIONEL BARBER
We have a lot of readers who are prudent savers and I want to speak on their behalf tonight. Clearly with interest rates heading towards zero there are a lot of people particularly pensioners who are going to be hard hit. Sums of £1000 just pennies on interest rates over the next year, on the other hand those people who were securing mortgages sometimes on false salaries these so called self certified mortgages what a euphemism that is or people with salaries leveraged up to 5 times, 6 times their salary these people took undue risk and unfortunately they are being bailed out. Now why? The reason is because we are in a very very serious economic situation. The Brown boom and it has been a boom and he did say he was going to abolish boom and bust but he didn’t. The Brown boom is over and we are now heading into a period of deflation where the government, government borrowing the GDP is going to be 8% of GDP next year and so there is going to be a dramatic reduction in living standards in this country it is going to be really tough and unfortunately that is the price that those people who have saved who have behaved prudently are going to have to pay. And it is very unfortunate. The alternative is even worse.

DIMBLEBY
And there is no way out for those people. There is no way that government action can come to their rescue to the extent that they have come to the rescue of those with mortgages.

LIONEL BARBER
No there are still savings accounts that you can invest in which will offer above 5% but you have to lock your money up for at least a year.

DIMBLEBY
So no good for income

LIONEL BARBER
Exactly that is the problem and I think that no they are very exposed, very exposed and we should make reference by the way given that you are talking about savers being hit, this latest wheeze by the government announced this week for a mortgage interest holiday for mortgages up to £400,000 this is one of the sketchiest ideas I think I have ever come across. Nobody knows how it is going to work and that is a real license for abuse and I think you will find it will hardly benefit anyone.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Lynn Featherstone

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
I mean I do feel sorry for savers in this environment because they do seem to have got the very short end of the stick but on the other hand you kind of welcome the interest rate cuts because if we don’t get the economy going then it is doom and bust and doom and bust. The problem is bankers, and I think they are. I don’t know words to find about them not passing on that cut in interest rates to the borrowers but nevertheless we need banks to survive and not all banks are behaving in the same way so I think we have to look differently at the way the different ones behave. However for those who will not lend and cannot lend then the liberal democrats are suggesting that it is time that the government looked at direct lending because otherwise the businesses will not survive because the banks are simply not lending and that is the crucial thing to getting the economy going. But I would just add one further thing which is about I get slightly nervous about returning to the way we were before this all happened and the total encouragement to simply go on spending and go on spending and I think as a nation we are going to have to look at ourselves and see what level of economic growth is actually commensurate with the sorts of lives we lead and I think we are all going to have to be involved in that and discuss it and perhaps change forever the way that we actually look at things.

DIMBLEBY
Bob Marshall-Andrews

BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Yes the very simple precise answer to the question as to why this collateral damage is being metered out to people who do not deserve it in technical terms is simply because the banks after all the financial crisis clammed up and refused to lend despite the fact that billions of pounds of public money was being pumped in. There is a savage irony here because the reason why, one of the main reasons why we are in this terrible mess was the voracious appetite of the banks to lend which created a reflexive mechanism which drove up house prices absolutely wildly and as house prices went up the instinct to lend became more and more in order to write derivative paper it was then parceled up into bundles sold to each other in order to generate fake profits and eye watering bonuses. That is what happened and it was unhappily almost completely unregulated. Now that is where we are going. It mustn’t happen again because in effect what it was was the privatization of profit and when the whole thing went wrong the socialization of loss and that is what happened and it mustn’t happen again.
(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
What is your answer to Peter Collins’s question Greg Clark?

GREG CLARK
Well I think one of the reasons we are in this mess is that we haven’t saved enough in the past and that is one of the factors that Gordon Brown is responsible for because it is not just a current crisis for savers. Everyone I am sure in this hall and listeners will remember that one of Gordon Brown’s first acts as Chancellor of the Exchequer was to raid the pension funds by £8 billion. He took £8 billion out and he justified by saying that the stock market is doing very well at the moment. I mean how short sighted was that? And then he has followed it up, there will probably be people here, policy holders with critical life. He has taken no interest at all in the damming ombudsman’s report on that so I am afraid to say that Gordon Brown throughout his 10 years plus in government has had contempt for saving and now we are reaping in the consequences of that.

DIMBLEBY
But you are not suggesting are you given what Lionel Barber has just said that a conservative government given where we are now could do anything to make the life of the saver less alarming than it is going to be for many people.

GREG CLARK
Well I think we need to encourage people to save. I think we need to think through the long term. I don’t buy this line that you need to

DIMBLEBY
But hang on if you are a saver now, if you are a pensioner now and you are dependent on your, the interest from your investment it is not much help to say we have got to invest in saving for the long term is it? I mean you have got people who are living their lives dependent on the £100 per week they may be getting.

GREG CLARK
I quite agree Jonathan at the moment the cut in interest rates is going to affect savers very badly. We have announced policies that I think will help people to some extent. We have said that the council tax should be frozen for two years which will be a great benefit particularly to pensioners who often rely on fixed incomes but you are right we are in a mess. In Lionel’s paper today it said that Europe is in bad shape but nowhere more so than the UK so these are the consequences that have come from 10 years of pursuing the wrong route being contemptuous of the motive to save, spending too much and look where we are now.

DIMBLEBY
Lionel

LIONEL BARBER
We should also look at the value of pensions and how they have been affected by the slump in equity markets so people are facing a double squeeze. People who have actually tried to be responsible in planning for retirement, many are having to defer that, however, the conclusion is, must be that it was better to cut interest rates dramatically in order to put more money into the economy so there is a chance of some recover late in 2009, we should be clear about that.

DIMBLEBY
And is there some comfort that savers may have which is that if that recovery or when that recovery comes, interest rates are likely to rise again or will have to rise avoiding stagflation in the process but will have to rise because of the huge overhand of debt.

LIONEL BARBER
Almost certainly and obviously there is a huge amount of money going into the economy next year with the VAT cut and public spending all this that the government is doing and I think that is the right that is definitely the right response. The problem is how do you get back from 8% of GDP government borrowing the only way is going to be freeze public spending and other really drastic measures and guess what the really good news or the bad news is it could be a conservative government that is going to have to pick up the tab.

DIMBLEBY
No you can’t for a second. Peter Collins you put the question.

PETER COLLINS
I agree it was the right thing to cut interest rates but I also agree with Lionel Barber that I think it is a bit of kick in the teeth to savers to give this extra support to the e mortgage holders particularly up to £400,000 where they might have over borrowed and what I thought was particularly disappointing is that the conservatives and the liberal party sorry the Liberal Democrats also supported this help for mortgage borrowers and I think it is unfair picking on the mortgage borrowers to help as opposed to savers.

DIMBLEBY
Now I know that the panel wants to come in but I am going to let you hang dry as it were I am afraid on this as I must move on to our next question Thank you for that.


MIKE ASKERN
A member of I’m A Celebrity recently stated that children need more positive role models what qualities do you think a role model should exhibit and who do you think is a good role model for today’s youth and why?

DIMBLEBY
Bob Marshall-Andrews?

BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Funnily enough we were discussing this earlier today. I will tell you something that happened. The English cricket team universally no fall out at all agreed that they were going to go back and tour India, whatever the risk they were going to go back and they are in Abu Dhabi now and good. I found that enormously uplifting, exactly where you are going sportsmen of course for young people are huge role models. I mean they are. Some of them behave deplorably badly, they undoubtedly do and I think they have a terrible effect but seeing something like that I think is very uplifting. We are of course going to get slaughtered in India. (LAUGH) but which makes it in a sense all the better that they should have chosen to do so. I think it is a very serious question and it is something that absolutely everybody in public life however minor the role needs to address very carefully indeed in what we do because we do have a risk at the moment of disaffection with young people. they are subject to many many influences which are not of the best and so we do need to attempt all of us to try and do that but as I say hearing that yesterday that the English cricket team was going out there made my day. It was an extremely liberating thing and young people will say good excellent

DIMBLEBY
Greg Clark

GREG CLARK
Well I know that we are in the home town of Sir Alec Bedser so I think any support for cricketers as role models will be well received in Woking. But I wanted to go back in answering this question tone of the earlier questions which was talking about social breakdown and whether we are a fractured society, whether there is an underclass I think it was and actually one of the areas where we most need positive role models is in areas where people don’t actually see much positive around them and I think there is a particular need in some of our communities for positive male role models. I can point to estates around the country where there are very few young men, middle aged men who actually represent a kind of positive role model for young boys growing up and what are they supposed to do? All boys need to look somewhere to look who to emulate so what do they end up doing they look at their teenage brothers and their mates and they are probably not the best role models for a young boy growing up and what you see in communities up and down the country and I am sure it is the case in Woking is you see a lot of voluntary groups, groups like the scouts, groups like sea cadets who without being very pushy about this, without being very deliberate in seeking to provide a place for them to grow and develop and to see some positive male role models and I think these people are unsung heroes. They don’t do it because they want to set themselves up as super men but actually they have that effect and I think it is incredibly important that we support them

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Lionel Barber

LIONEL BARBER
My first instinct was to say Barack Obama because I think he (APPLAUSE) I think it was wonderful moment for American democracy to see the first African American become the first President of the United States. Expectations are wildly over there are, they are wildly out of touch but still this will inspire a whole generation of young African Americans around in the cities in America and outside the world. It gives a completely different image. If I was going closer to home frankly I would really like to see teachers be a role model in this country. I think they are tremendously under valued and they have the capacity to have a huge difference to this country and to educate younger people and to answer that first question about a marginalized people so I would like to nominate the headmistress or headmaster in Woking. (LAUGH)

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
I was going to say anybody would think he was a politician wouldn’t they?
The greatest bit of ingratiation you could possibly achieve.

LIONEL BARBER
We need readers here, we need readers.

DIMBLEBY
Lynn Featherstone

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
Well you stole it. I was going to say Barack as well because I think he is inspirational and I think that slogan yes we can is just one of the most brilliant sort of slogans you can possibly have for any campaign and it could be what is says – it is hope. Now when Nick Clegg made me youth spokesperson which I thought was very flattering given my advanced age I said I am going to be pro youth not anti youth because I think our young people are terribly demonized at the moment and quite frankly since having this position and I said I would be relentlessly pro youth not anti youth and going out what I meet is all the others we don’t hear about in schools, in scouts as you say, sea cadets but all of them and the volunteers the youth volunteering that goes on in this country is absolutely magnificent. So I think they are already wonderful. In terms of other role models what I think is quite interesting remember John Sergeant quite recently in Strictly who could forget. It was quite an argument about do you get rewards for effort like all those dancers who were trying and working and that was the argument against John Sergeant which will make me terribly unpopular for saying so because everyone loves him was that actually role models you want to see are those who strive and work and achieve and I think that message is quite important today.

DIMBLEBY
I will invite John Sergeant amongst others to ring into Any Answers on this 03700 100 444.

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
No I love him

DIMBLEBY
No you can’t get out of it now.

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
I love him, I love him

DIMBLEBY
You said you like him but you think he was lazy and idle and didn’t try as well as being good

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
Bang to rights what can I say.

(LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
We will go on to our next question


GEOFF SMITH
Is your DNA your property or the state’s?

DIMBLEBY
This arises I presume out of in part out of the test case in the European Court of Human Rights where it looks as though those who are, have not been convicted of a crime or have not been charged or have been acquitted can have their names removed. There are for those who don’t know

GEOFF SMITH
Or their DNA to be given back to them as it were

DIMBLEBY
Yes to be given back to them and not kept on record. At the moment there are 4.4 million individual profiles on the DNA database of whom it is said around 850,000 are innocent. There are 40,000 children with no criminal record and there are over 7 million apparently individuals on the national fingerprint database. Lionel Barber

LIONEL BARBER
It is my DNA and I want it back if I am on that list. I hope I am not so I absolutely would say yes it is my property and I think we have talked about civil liberties earlier this government and other governments need to be very careful about the way in which they are continually intruding in the private space. Last point quickly lovely postscript here all those Euro skeptics who hate Brussels, who hate the European Court and this and that they really had to eat humble pie this week because the European Court of Human Rights supported a cause very dear to them which is privacy. You only have to look at one or two newspapers this week it has been really quite endearing.

DIMBLEBY
And Greg Clark your Party would abolish the Human Rights Act which derives directly from the legislation which that Court implements.

GREG CLARK
Well I don’t think we should have to go to Europe to have our fundamental human rights protected. I (APPLAUSE) I completely share the concern that you know we have got a long tradition here, we are innocent until proved guilty and the idea that we should, anyone can have a brush with the law in their teens I think one of the cases was, never charged with anything and they are on the police database forever I think goes against that tradition and if we are saying Lionel that we have got to contract out to Brussels I think that is a very sad day indeed.

LIONEL BARBER
That’s not what I said


GREG CLARK
Well if I misunderstood you I am sorry. But I think we should assert this right. I think we should assert it very robustly here in Parliament. I think the Scottish for example has found a way to allow the police to have a database during an investigation into a crime but once that is completed then if people have been found innocent or have never been charged then their records are removed.

DIMBLEBY
What do you make of the ACPO to Chris Simmons who is the Staffordshire Chief Constable who has said that this ruling “can have a profound impact on the way in which the police service makes use of DNA technology to protect the public and tackle crime”?

GREG CLARK
I am sure it will and if you want to have a debate about it I mean the logical implication of that is that it is convenient to have everyone’s DNA on the database. Of course that would help police in catching criminals but if we are going to do that let’s have a debate in Parliament to see if it is desirable whether all our DNA is on a police database. I don’t think it is legitimate just to assert the right to put the DNA of people who have been found not to be guilty on a database without this being subject to scrutiny without being subject to a decision by Parliament. It is a bit like ID cards, I think if we are going to do it then we should have a debate about it and I know where I stand in that debate.

DIMBLEBY
Lynn Featherstone

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE
Well I would personally like to kiss everyone of those 17 human rights judges who gave this verdict. I think it is one of the bravest and strongest verdicts we have had and moves against everything that the Labour government has tried to do in taking away out civil liberties. I have campaigned long and hard myself on the removal of innocent people on the DNA database not only are there thousands and thousands of children on it but in terms of the black and ethnic minority community almost half of the black and ethnic minority community are on the database and they are mostly innocent. There is no evidence that they should be there more than anyone else and therefore it is sort of they might commit a crime another day it is that whole thing that we get from the government that you might be guilty and you are guilty until you are proven innocent and it causes immense harm

DIMBLEBY
Bob Marshall-Andrews?


BOB MARSHALL-ANDREWS
Yes strangely enough of all the manifest civil rights issues that have been raised certainly by this government in the last 10 years this is the most difficult funnily enough because DNA is an investigative technique. It is virtually fool proof and is immensely usefu8l and on its own, seen in isolation it may be the subject of quite careful debate, however it is not. It is not alone and in isolation. It comes a part of a much wider package of data basing, of the state taking a completely different relationship to the citizen that it certainly did when I started to learn about constitutional rights and constitutional history and implicit in that is the whole question of identity cards and the huge database that lies behind it and I think actually in truth that people have not really quite masked yet jut how awful this legislation is and I was pointing out to one of my constituents the other day who said I don’t mind having an identity card and I said you do realise that if this really takes off you are going to have to go to a centre, a special centre in order to have your eye colour taken to be photographed in order to have your head measured and he said I am not going to take my wife to have her head measured. And I said good, that’s right that’s excellent or yourself. And not since the Domesday Book would we be in this position so the answer is yes this is a brave blow and one which is to be commended.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you very much and I am afraid that is all we have got time for this week. Next week we are going to be in the West Midlands with Phil Woolas who is a Minister in the Government, Pauline Neville-Jones the Shadow Security Minister, Lib Dem spokesman David Laws and the Political Editor of the Spectator Frazer Nelson. Join us then. Before that don’t forget Any Answers once more 03700 100 444 is the number. The email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. From here at Woking High School. Goodbye.

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