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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 6 March 2009

CHAIRMAN: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

PANELLISTS:


SADIQ KHAN MP:
Communities Cohesion Minister, Dept Communities and Local Government


Rt Hon THERESA MAY MP:
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions


BARONESS JANE BONHAM-CARTER:
Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson in Culture, media and sport

NICK COHEN:
Columnist on The Observer and author

From: The Brookes Lawley Building, Institute of Cancer Research ,
Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5NG.

DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to the London Borough of Sutton where we are the guests of the Institute of Cancer Research which celebrates its centenary this year of its partner the Royal Marsden Hospital forms one of the top four cancer centres in the world. The Institute can claim to have been responsible for many of the advances made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Indeed we are in the Brookes Lawley Building, a Lecture Theatre here, named after the two scientists from the Institute who were the first to show that cancer is a disease that has a genetic base. On our panel, Sadiq Khan is the son of a bus driver who grew up on a council estate in South London. He became a lawyer co-founding a human rights legal firm which specializes in actions against the police. He represented a detainee at Guantanamo Bay and he chaired the civil rights organisation Liberty. In 2005 he was elected to Parliament where he very soon won the Spectator’s coveted newcomer of the year award. Since then he has been critical of the government’s anti-terrorism measures. He once signed an open letter to Tony Blair saying British foreign policy was putting civilian lives at risk in Britain and abroad. You might think therefore that he would be out of favour. On the contrary, he became a Junior Minister in 2007, then a Government Whip. He is now at the Dept of Communities and Local Government also as a Junior Minister.



SADIQ KHAN
Of course not Jonathan. I am as aggressive as I was before as you will find in the next hour.

DIMBLEBY
He is joined by the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions Theresa May; the former Television Producer, now Liberal Democrat spokesperson in the Lords on broadcasting, Jane Bonham-Carter, who is incidentally the great-granddaughter of the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith; and the Observer Columnist and author Nick Cohen. He is the fourth member of our panel. (APPLAUSE)

Our first question please.

DANIKA BARLEY
Is quantitative easing just another stab in the dark attempt to save the economy?

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May. £75 billion now and maybe £75 billion later if this doesn’t work we are told.

THERESA MAY
Well I think it is something of a leap in the dark in that it is we are in unprecedented times and I support the fact that quantitative easing is taking place, that the decision has been taken that needs now to happen. We have always seen it as a last resort but I think the fact that the decision has now been taken that it should happen shows what a desperate state we are in and shows how the other measures that the government has announced that they thought were going to have an impact have simply failed to have an impact and we have been saying for some time now that absolutely crucial to the current crisis is the need to get credit flowing through the economy. That is why we proposed before Christmas a £50billion national loan guarantee scheme to get credit flowing through to businesses to keep business afloat and help them to keep people in jobs. Now the government adopted a pale imitation of our loan guarantee scheme. They announced various other measures. Sadly for all of those measures actually most of them aren’t in operation yet. I mean they announced a loan guarantee scheme in mid January. It was due to start last week and it still hasn’t started. There are various other things that they have announced like the internships for graduates that are not in place yet. So what we have seen from the Government is lots of announcements but actually not doing anything, not taking action. The one thing we know about this quantitative easing is I am sure is because the Bank of England is going to be actually operationing control of it is at least it will happen so maybe we will now see some money getting flowing through the economy and actually see some impact.


DIMBLEBY
Is it the case that the conservatives at least have bought into as it were the phrase quantitative easing which most people refer to as printing money. You accept you want to use this term quantitative easing which is new I guess to most people in this country that that is what we are all going to say now quantitative easing.

THERESA MAY
Well that seems to be the term that is used, being used. To be a little flippant about it Jonathan I rather liked the cartoon I saw in one of the papers this morning where the man was saying to his wife that he thought that quantitative easing was something that you bought from the chemist. (LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
Jane Bonham-Carter

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Well picking up on that point Jonathan I seem to remember many years ago something called the community charge. There does seem to be a political will to call things something that aren’t obviously what they are. I mean global warming we know that means climate change but anyway having said that I agree with Theresa we seem to have run out of conventional weapons and this I think is the way forward. The problem is we have still got the middle men, the banks, and do we trust them to be the agents of passing on this money which is what is so important. I mean I was reading something today about an old mining community which had developed a packaging company where there had been serious unemployment and they had now got a business going. They cannot get the credit to keep the packaging company going. The struggle is not with the cost of borrowing it is with the availability of money and can we trust the banks to actually pass this money on. I wonder whether we shouldn’t think about full nationalization of RBS and Lloyds to make sure the money actually gets to the place it needs to get to.

DIMBLEBY
Minister

SADIQ KHAN
Can I say I was listening to Theresa with interest and I would take a lot more seriously what she was saying if she wasn’t a member of the Hokey Cokey party. I mean they were in favour of us helping out Northern Rock; they changed their mind on that. They were in favour of us re capitalizing the banks and they changed their minds. Today Theresa is saying she is in favour of this measure and I wait and see and hold my breath before she flip flops on that one as well. Let me just be clear. Look what is quantitative easing? It is basically increasing the money supply. The basic function the Bank of England has is to have price stability and whereas previously we have had concerns about inflation the concern all the experts tell us now is deflation. And I say two things. One today we heard from America an announcement from President Barack Obama that their unemployment levels just during the course of recession, 4.4 million people have lost their jobs, this is not the panacea that will solve all the ills that exist in the UK and around the world but it will be part of the solution and Theresa………

DIMBLEBY
You say it is part of the solution. Is it right to say that you don’t know whether it is part of the solution until or unless the banks use this money to make it easier for people to borrow.

SADIQ KHAN
Jonathan, Jonathan we made the announcement of the asset purchase facility which leads to the bank being able to do this on January 14th. Six weeks later they used the tools given them at their disposal and over the next three months they will start releasing and increasing the cash flow and will have to make sure that the average person on the street, small business, medium to large businesses see some of the fruit…

DIMBLEBY
Excuse me why do you have, if £75 billion is going in and this is going to do the trick and it is not there fore a stab in the dark why do you need to have in the background another £75 billion?

SADIQ KHAN
Jonathan I have already said this is not the panacea. It is part of the solution along with other measures.

DIMBLEBY
It may not work

SADIQ KHAN
And by itself no one measure will work Jonathan, it is part of a package, for example we know that on April 2nd the 20 richest countries around the world will be coming to London in the London summit. What we need as part of that summit is, for example, measures around closing the tax havens, what we need as a result of that summit is dealing with some of the protectionist measures that exist. What we need as part of that summit is dealing with some of the regulation problems internationally that exist. No one tool by any government will solve this problem. This is an international problem that needs serious politicians to make tough decisions.

DIMBLEBY
Nick Cohen

NICK COHEN
Well Jonathan I agree with the implication of your question that quantitative easing is the kind of woozy fluffy technocratic term that people in power use when they want to befuddle rather than enlighten the public. This is printing money. I also agree with the other panellists that it is a dangerous step we have to take. What worries me is our political leadership almost the psychological of our political and economical leadership. Think about Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling, Mervyn King, leader of Theresa’s Party, leader of Jane’s Party, members of the monetary policy of the Bank of England. They all believe to various extents in what is called Washington consensus. They thought by targeting inflation, manipulating interest rates they could keep the economy stable. Everything they thought they knew has been proven wrong. It has all blown up in their faces and now they are doing things they would never imagine they would have to do, cutting interest rates to the lowest level for 300 years, lowest level ever. Massively increasing our debt. Pumping money into banks whose chairmen and Chief Executives they used to treat as lords of finances. Now finally they are printing money. Now I don’t know about you but if you see people who suddenly break all their taboos they can be like a teetotaler hitting the bottle for the first time in that they don’t know when to stop. This is a huge amount of money they are pumping into the economy. It is more than the Japanese did in the 1990’s when it didn’t work. It is more than proportionately given the size of our economy Benny Barnham administration and Bernard Mackie at the Fed is doing now. What I want to know from the government if it doesn’t work we may not be in as I think Jane and Theresa says a credit crisis, a liquidity crisis that might have passed. We might be in a solvency crisis if the banks and its financial institutions as well who are doing this. The government isn’t rightly just trusting the banks. They might want to lend but they might not be able to find good credit risks to lend to. In that case I hope that Mervyn King and the others are not giddy with breaking taboos and will stop this and not just say OK let’s have another beer let’s have another one of these wonderful new drinks and print more money because all of this is going to have to be paid for. You and your children are all going to have to pay for this.

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Can I just say Nick that you included me, my Party, in this condemnation of not anticipating what was going to happen but as you know well Vince Cable was

NICK COHEN
I apologise. That was unfair, that was unfair.

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Thank you.

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May

THERESA MAY
I wanted to come back on something that Sadiq said, a couple of things that Sadiq said. First of all to put the record straight because he said we had flip flopped on Northern Rock and we had flip flopped on recapitalization and that is wrong. On Northern Rock we took a different view from the government about the route that they should take to provide support for Northern Rock. We wanted a bank of England led administration. On recapitalization we have supported the government as we said we should but I come back to the point and it was also came out in what Sadiq said he referred to money would now be lent out over the next 3 months. We said back in November we wanted a £50billion national loan guarantee scheme. If that had been put in place then money would have been flowing through the system, businesses would have been saved and people would have been kept in their jobs.

SADIQ KHAN
I mean Theresa there was a pre budget report in November and there was guarantees made to small businesses, banks would get the guarantee to secure small business. Let me give you another example

THERESA MAY
But Sadiq

SADIQ KHAN
Let me deal with another point you made you said we announced internships for graduates it has not happened Theresa that is because the graduates have not graduated yet. It is March and last time I checked they graduate in June or July I mean come on get real Theresa.

THERESA MAY
Well Sadiq I can tell you there are lots of graduates out there who graduated last summer who still haven’t got a job and could probably benefit from an internship scheme if you wanted to put it in place but it is not in place.

DIMBLEBY
We will go at that point to our next question please.


TIM CROWLEY
What part of the word sorry does the Prime Minister not understand?

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Sadiq Khan

SADIQ KHAN
I had the job, Tim, of being a Whip during the 10p fun and games when in fact Gordon did apologise, put his hands up and said look I made a mistake in relationship to the 10p announcement, and he took steps to ameliorate some of the problems of doing so. If you follow the thesis of your question it would mean firstly that the responsibility for the recessions that have taken place in Japan, in Germany, in Italy, in France, in USA. We have had an announcement of 25 million job losses in China, all fall at the door of the Prime Minister and that just isn’t the case. The mechanisms we had before ‘97 were self regulation and we put in place a process of regulation from ‘97 now in hindsight.

DIMBLEBY
Can I go back to our questioner because if I can interpret your question he is not saying he is responsible for it all but that he must bear personally some responsibility as many people have said and why doesn’t he say sorry is that your question?

TIM CROWLEY
(INDISTINCT)

SADIQ KHAN
Well lets be clear Tim when Gordon was talking about the light touch of regulation in the ‘90’s and the early part of this decade he was being resisted by others who were saying even that was too much and it was him if you remember if we are going to go back in time who in ‘97/98 was pleading with countries around the world to have an international system of regulation which nobody wanted to take notice of. And what are we doing at the G2 on April 2nd talking about international regulation

DIMBLEBY
So to cut to the chase on this because we could elaborate around the point he has in your view nothing despite what you hear form public opinion, from members of his own Party, your Party he absolutely has no reason himself to say I am sorry and we now move on from where we are.

SADIQ KHAN
No we are all sorry for job losses




DIMBLEBY
No that is a different point as you well know. Let’s not because that if I may courteously put it to you if you say we are all sorry for job losses that is making quite a different point from asking whether or not an individual which is our questioner asking does, what does he not understand that makes him unable to say sorry.

SADIQ KHAN
Jonathan the easiest thing to do to please an audience whether it is this one or commentators or the public is to say sorry for something that you are not sure you are being asked to say sorry for. The point is this there has been a collective failure over the last period in dealing with some of the problems that have led to where we are today. Hindsight has been wonderful in us being able to recognise where we have under estimated some of the problems that existed and there needs to be some humility on the part of myself and my government but some of the problems that we are experiencing today were on our watch and of course I am sorry for that.

DIMBLEBY
You are sorry for that? Jane Bonham-Carter

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
To be honest I think this sorry thing is a slight distraction and I think it is a distraction that the conservative party are using because I don’t hear many solutions from them. Also of course it is allowing Gordon Brown to, all those who want to replace Gordon Brown or to get his job to say sorry for him in many many different ways as we have heard from Ed Balls and so on.

SADIQ KHAN
Jane can I say I am not after his job.

(LAUGH)

SADIQ KHAN
Gordon if you are listening I really am not.

(LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
If it is no big deal to say sorry what is the big deal in refusing to say sorry. Why not just say it. If people, if you genuinely feel that you have responsibility. Is it a particularly political politician’s problem that you can’t sorry or is it something that we are all the same in this


JANE BONHAM-CARTER
I don’t have a particular problem about saying sorry. I do actually think. I don’t know Gordon Brown but I do feel that there is something incredibly deeply personal about his inability or lack of desire to say sorry because he doesn’t think he should somehow. but also I think there is a political game going on that if he does it will be of huge benefit to the conservative party.

DIMBLEBY
Nick Cohen

NICK COHEN
In some ways I admire what the government has done since the crash of the Lehman Brothers. I deplore what it did before and I wrote about it at the time about the lack of regulating the city and bubbles in the housing market as indeed did Vince Cable as indeed many others. The idea that this wasn’t that people weren’t warning about this and this just came out of the blue is simply not true. The International Monetary Fund as early as 2006 were saying that Britain had bet the farm on banking on finance and had done that had attracted money from all over the world by not regulating banks and finance properly. The one thing ladies and gentlemen, you would expect a centre left government brought up on the histories of 1929 crash, and the Great Depression, the one thing you would think would be in their bones, the one policy you would think they would get right, you might expect them to get other things wrong but they ought to have been suspicious of bankers. As I say I mean Sadiq’s Party has behaved well since October of last year. All those measures I was throwing out to you a few minutes ago yes they have done all of that. What I see in them when I look at them closely and with some sympathy is they still believe they can put Humpty back together again. They still believe they can rewind the tape to 2007 that the old boom will come back the old debt will come back that is why you are hearing nothing from them and again I stress this from a centre left government not a centre right government ought to want to reform the banking system. You are hearing nothing from them saying we are going to get the high street banks out of the casinos….

DIMBLEBY
This is all very

NICK COHEN
I am sorry Jonathan I will answer the question in one sec. That is why they can’t say sorry. I don’t think he can mentally understand that the world of globalisation which begins in November 1989 the fall of the Berlin Wall ended in September 2008 with the clash of Lehman’s and that world has gone. That was Brown’s world that was the world he was King in and he is still desperately trying to put it back together again and not recognizing that a lot of his time as Chancellor was a bit of a waste of time

(APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY
Your lot Theresa May playing political games wanting him to say no so that you can say we were right and he is wrong?


THERESA MAY
No I think the reason for wanting the Prime Minister to say sorry for those aspects of the recession that he should be taking responsibity for is because until he says that one doesn’t know that he is actually admitting that mistakes were made and can learn from those mistakes and until you recognise mistakes that have been made you are not going to learn and be able to move on and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again. And of course I know that other countries are in recession and of course there are elements of the recession that we are in that are related to things that have happened elsewhere in the world. But Gordon Brown must take responsibility for the fact that this country was worse prepared going into recession of any major economy. He must take responsibility for the bank regulation that failed because it was the bank regulation system that he put in place and he must take responsibility for his Chancellor and then Prime Minister presiding over a debt fuelled boom in this country that has led us to the position that we are in at the moment.

DIMBLEBY
I suppose it might make it easier for him to say sorry and say we start off afresh if the Tories said and we are also sorry that we didn’t say anything about this debt led boom and we are equally culpable. (APPLAUSE)

THERESA MAY
Well I simply refer you back Jonathan to Michael Howard’s response to the budget in 2004 when he described it as a credit card budget from a credit card Chancellor. He was indeed raising the issues of the debt fuelled boom and we have been doing for some time

SADIQ KHAN
Just to do with Nick’s point about history and the sense of that. Nick before 1997 people just didn’t believe you could have social justice and economic stability and over the last 10 years even you would accept that that amount of investment in our public services, the schools, the hospitals, extra police, extra nurses, no more outside loos in schools,

NICK COHEN
I accept everything that Sadiq says but what the 1997 Labour Government did was to get the money for schools, hospitals and the police all of which I applaud they cut a bargain if you like with international finances and said come to London, you will get regulated here less than you do on Wall Street, less on Frankfurt, less in Paris for all your good intentions you were living off loose financial morals

SADIQ KHAN
If that is the case why did our recession begin after the US recession, after the Japanese recession, after the German recession, after the French Recession?

DIMBLEBY
This I am afraid I am going to leave that question hanging in the air because we must move on to our next but just with a reminder first of all of the Any Answers number on this or any of the other issues that we are discussing. It is 03700 100 444 and the email address is any.answers@bbc.co.uk. And of course Any Answers is immediately after the Saturday broadcast of this programme. Our next please.


JIM BATTY
What would it take for Pakistan to host international cricket again?

DIMBLEBY
Jane Bonham-Carter

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Well I as well as reading the critical press I have been reading the sports press on this and one of the things that they are saying is that cricket is everything the extremists hate because it brings people together, the Pakistanis together in you know united group and of course that is not wheat they are about. They are about division and I think it is particularly sad that cricket was targeted because in a country that is undergoing terrible problems it was a link with the outside world. I think it is interesting that as you probably know in this audience the Indian team were meant to be playing Pakistan and pulled out and I suspect that this had been planned for a long time and what we have to look at is what is going on in Kashmir. I would be interested to hear what Sadiq has to be say about his but that there is a problem that we don’t really hear about a lot in Kashmir that is fermenting problems above an beyond the other problems in Pakistan. I just hope that you know that it is a big thing to ask of athletes but that they can rise above the security problems and support Pakistan and continue to play matches in Pakistan.

DIMBLEBY
Nick Cohen

NICK COHEN
That was a very very big question. The short answer is that it needs to be a safe country. Sadiq will correct me if I am missing anything from this list but here goes to become a safe country Pakistan needs to take on the corruption of its political system, it needs to take on those elements in its military and its intelligence services who are in league with militant islamists and want to build a kind of greater Pakistan including Afghanistan and Kashmir. It has to revise and renounce the shameful deal, the absolutely shameful deal that is done where the Taliban and militant Islam swap valley which has handed over 10’s of thousands of women and girls for one of the most violently misogynist movements on earth. It needs to reach accommodation within India over Kashmir and ideally form a south Asian version of the EU, a free trade area where nationality matters less. Above all it needs to end the process which some people argue, I don’t, began the foundation of Pakistan but certainly began the Zia dictatorship where nationality and militant Islam become one and you are somehow a traitor or can be used by the religious rights people if you hold normal secular liberal values. That is an awful tall order and a colleague of mine said if you want to see, if you want to take a guess on which country World War 3 is going to start Pakistan isn’t a bad place to start looking (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May


THERESA MAY
Well of course as Nick has just said the simple answer to the question is for Pakistan to be a safe country or a country where people going there to play cricket felt that they could do so in safety. The sad thing of course is the attack that happened on the Sri Lankan team is that they felt they were going to be safe, they thought that they had been promised that support and security that was going to enable them to be safe and to play there. I think that picking up the point that Jane has made about the issue of cricket and its impact I think one of the things that is important is that Pakistan is not somehow pushed out of the international cricket scene because of this and that it is possible for Pakistan to play its matches against other countries albeit in a neutral place somewhere where it is able to go so that they can still maintain that playing of cricket but of course it is necessary for the Pakistan government and it will need international support to be able to take action to bear down against the extremists and the terrorists who are within its territories and there are of course part of Pakistan such as the federally governed tribal areas where it has sadly very little ability to govern at the moment in terms of having an impact and I think we have to look very carefully at that. We have to ensure that Afghanistan, NATO and Pakistan are working together on the issues of cross border movements between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So I think it is a very worrying situation, it is a very grave situation and Pakistan will need support from the international community to do what is necessary.

DIMBLEBY
Sadiq Khan

SADIQ KHAN
I mean for those in the audience who don’t know my parents are of Pakistani origin and I spend a great deal of time visiting the family and friends. And the first thing I say is you can’t punish the country or the millions and millions of people in Pakistan who completely condemn terrorism and think it is outrageous, what happened in Liberty Square in Lahore where 6 policemen were murdered, a driver was murdered and Sri Lankan cricketers were injured, and the idea that we would condemn a country or its people because of the acts of terrorists is frankly unacceptable and when you have been to that country and you have seen the passion with which they have held cricket. I mean I have been bowled by a 12 year old and been hit for a 6 by a nine year old and they love cricket and the reason it is so serious, the reason why I don’t disagree with much of what my 3 panel members have said is that this was terrorism. We don’t know who did it. Whether it was ??? or Al Qaeda but it looks like from the images that they were people of Pakistani origin. It is not like Munich in ‘72 where you got outsiders going in and committing acts of terror and mayhem but Pakistan does have serious problems. 75% of the terrorist’s trials taking place in the UK today have a link with Pakistan. That is a problem. More money is spent by the government of Pakistan, twice as much on its military than on education, the illiteracy rates are phenomenally high that is a problem. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said Pakistan is in a state of war, that is a problem. But to answer the question which is what can Pakistan do to hold a major sporting even. I hope the 2011 World Cup is able to take place in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka as is intended. I know sport can be a unifier. I know that one of the reasons that the Olympics came to this country in 2012 is because all the diverse nationalities in our country are untied by sport. We know how passionate we were when we won the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics in China. I remember how proud the Pakistanis when they won the world cup in 1992 and so if we can use sport as a springboard to try and get Pakistan off its knees I think that is no bad thing. I think we should play our part in doing that.

DIMBLEBY
And do you think that will be possible even if a lot of these deep seated problems that you have touched and Nick Cohen touched on have not been resolved which clearly aren’t going to be resolved unless a miracle occurs between now and then

SADIQ KHAN
Well Jonathan, we have two options. We either turn our back on Pakistan but we know that is silly because an act of terrorism and people who have problems and are of Pakistani origin affects us on our doorstep here. Globalisation means that too it is the wrong thing to do. We need to help them. That means on the one hand helping them with development and education and illiteracy and on the other hand help them to fight the terrorists. Look if the Pakistan government can’t control terrorists within her own borders what chance do they have to control these terrorists outside their borders? And I hope that we do play our role in helping Pakistan not be a sporting pariah. I hope the World Cup is held in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka and I tell you what those Pakistan whoops our boys there.

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
I also think we also shouldn’t ignore in the condemnation of Pakistan the detrimental effect of the way the last American administration has been approaching it. And their incursions across the Afghan border into the tribal areas has further radicalized and isolated those people there and I hope President Obama is going to stop that, stop the drones attacking from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

NICK COHEN
It was Obama’s stated promise in his election campaign that he would increase those incursions. People demonize Bush and Liberals worship Obama. The truth of the matter is there isn’t a war in Pakistan, sorry a war in Afghanistan and then another conflict Pakistan it is going across the border. People refer to Pakistani/Afghanistan war that is what is going on. What America and Britain, our troops need to do is as Sadiq was saying is build up the democratic forces which are terribly weak in Pakistan and build up the democratic forces and find some common rules against the common enemy.

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Except a year ago they voted, the people voted overwhelmingly for a secular government in the North West frontier.


SADIQ KHAN
I mean Pakistan is in a constitutional crisis, the Supreme court has outlawed Nawaz Sharif from standing for office. His brother, the Governor of Punjab has been banned. They have real serious problems. Now we have got two options - we turn our backs or we help them and I think we should help them.

DIMBLEBY
We will go to the next question please.


ELIZABETH CHARLES EDWARDS
Which book would you have pretended to have read and why?

DIMBLEBY
This is in the context of a survey done for a company world book day which showed a massive majority of people, two thirds, fib about is the word they use about having read a book and the one that has been notably fibbed about is 1984, George Orwell’s 1984.
Nick Cohen which would you have pretended to read and why

NICK COHEN
Well I think after tonight the Penguin history of Pakistan (LAUGH) What I found weird about this survey, a lot of surveys something just strikes you as very odd I can understand people pretending to have read but never read Ulysses, or Proust or Dostoevsky which I ought to have read but never have but 1984 is a very easy read. It goes like a bullet, if you can’t read 1984 you should perhaps just give up on the whole reading business and buy something else.

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May

THERESA MAY
Well I can actually say I have looked at the list and 1984 was the only one on the list that I think I had read. The one that I always tried to read and never got beyond the first few chapters actually Madame Bovary which perhaps I ought to go back and try again. I am not sure what book I would say I would try to pretend I have read well I think certainly in my circles I sometimes pretend that I have read Lord Brake’s History of the Conservative Party but I haven’t

DIMBLEBY
Sadiq Khan

SADIQ KHAN
I have never managed to finish a Salman Rushdie book and one of the problems for obvious reasons you know I was always asked about Satanic Verses and stuff and I have genuinely tried to read it and I just couldn’t finish it. Rushdie is so bloody difficult to read. And it used to make me feel very thick and you know but I didn’t lie about it thought but I wish I had finished it.

DIMBLEBY
I should tell Salman that he can come in on Any Answers if he wants to. Jane Bonham-Carter


JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Well I hope I am not pre-empting a question that is coming up but I think everyone should read 1984. On the question of what book I have pretended not to have read. I have rather a lot of friends who write books and I have found myself in the position of I am not going to name names of having pretended to have read one of my friends’ books and learnt a rather sharp lesson so now if I do it, I at least read a paragraph so there is something that I can refer to.

DIMBLEBY
Nick Cohen

NICK COHEN
Evelyn Waugh would have sympathized with you Jane. Someone once asked him why do you give your friends’ books such good reviews he said it is so much easier than reading them.
(LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
You are clapping you think you are off the hook in this audience. Who has pretended to others to have read a book which they have not. Would you put your hands up? I don’t believe it. You are continuing with what is politely called fibbing. Only one person has put up their hand confessing all. Two hands have gone up. (Inaudible) You may not have heard that at home -he says “in Sutton we don’t say sorry”. Anyone else in Sutton who wants to ring in and say that they do that is another matter.

We will go on to our next please.


LIONEL GUN
Who should decide on the release of data from the Office for National Statistics? The office itself or the government?

DIMBLEBY
This relates to what has become a furious row between the Minister Phil Woolas and the Office for National Statistics over the figures relating to, or touching on questions of immigration, people born in this country. Who should decide it? Nick Cohen

NICK COHEN
I think the Office for National Statistics should decide. Gordon Brown has been getting a hard time of it recently not only here one of the best things of his career was to establish an independent statistical service but you feel like saying to him what part of independence don’t you understand. The misuse of statistics isn’t just their manipulation which you need for professional statisticians to guard against it is there timing for political effect. For instance there is the huge row that Downing Street got into with national statistics office about these figures on knife crime they rushed out. That was because Gordon Brown was going to visit the families of knife victims and wanted to be able to appear with statistics that seemed to show that the government’s efforts to clamp down on knife crime were working and the Office for National Statistics said no, no, no you can’t release them for political purposes because they are not ready to be released yet. and I think if you are going to have an independent statistical served you ought to give them allowance to do the job and funnily the politicians would find that belief in what they are doing would rise because the source of the statistics was trusted and they might end up being slightly more, having a slightly higher status in society.

DIMBLEBY
Sadiq Khan the Minister said that he was appalled at the release of the figures and he wrote in a letter that the decision to release the data was at best naïve or at worse sinister. Do you share that view?

SADIQ KHAN
No let me just deal, let me put the point because I think you have taken this out of context because look the first point is that ONS is independent and that it should decide a when it publishes it stats and also where it publishes and also Nick’s point about confidence is crucial. How can you as members of the public have any confidence in statistics if politicians control the statistics, both the ownership and when they are published? It is right and it is proper for the ONS to decide those issues. I think where you have taken Phil out of context I should declare interest as the Chair of the Fabian Society that plugged their oldest think tank in the world, on the website, great think tank. Phil was responding to criticism made of him and the Home Office. What happened was that people were saying that the Home Office had put out stats saying that 1 in 9 people were born outside the UK and were criticizing Phil indirectly of somehow being politically motivated. It was a defensive letter he wrote to Sunder the General Secretary of the Fabian Society saying hold on a sec that is really unfair it wasn’t me that put out the stats to stir things up it was the ONS. And whilst I wouldn’t agree with the language that Phil used, Phil is his own man and uses his own language. That was the point he made and especially when it comes to issues around immigration and bearing in mind the rise to the far right you have got to be sensitive about how you release statistics.

NICK COHEN
But surely accusing the Office of National Statistics of stirring things up is attacking them. You know they are doing their job that is what they are meant to do collect good statistics.

DIMBLEBY
Sir Michael Scholar who is the boss of the Office of National Statistics says he is “pilloried” and it was clearly in the public interests to put that information out. The letter says and I quote another part of this letter which the full letter has been published and I am not seeking to distort what is in there.

SADIQ KHAN
It is on the Fabian Society website.

DIMBLEBY
Exactly. The justification from the ONS it had out of schedule highlighted the figures two weeks earlier because it was “topical” is at best naïve or at worse sinister. So it suggests that, he suggests that the ONS was engaged in some sort of political activity itself.

SADIQ KHAN
Well Jonathan I can’t be more clear on this, it is for the ONS to decide what they research, when they put the figures out and that is a very important principle and if we are going to have the public have any confidence in stats it is a very important principle we should respect.

DIMBLEBY
So Mr Woolas should have got back in his box

SADIQ KHAN
No Phil was explaining and responding to criticism made against him.

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May

THERESA MAY
The answer to the question is of course that the Independent Office of Statistics the ONS should be the body that decides when the statistics come out. We put an entire Act through Parliament to set up an independent body and it has to be allowed to be independent but as Sadiq has just said that the ONS should come first then perhaps then I assume he is going to talk to Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson who both insisted that knife crime statistics which Nick Cohen referred to should be published although Michael Scholar the Head of the ONS said they could not be relied on because they hadn’t been properly checked but they wanted to publish them because they thought they were going to show a good picture for the government and I come back to this simple point if the Government has set up an independent office of national statistics then it should hand over responsibility for deciding the statistics that are published and when to that independent ONS and it should not interfere and what clearly happened with those knife crime statistics is that Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson were interfering for political purposes.

DIMBLEBY
Jane Bonham-Carter

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Well I agree that of course an independent Office for National Statistics would be independent. I just wonder if it would have been better if the Minister had rather than attacking what figures they released tried to explain how he saw the figures were being misrepresented and mis….finished

DIMBLEBY
Mis finished. (LAUGH)

We will go to our next please


KATHLEEN BENTLEY
Do the members of the panel think compulsory retirement at 65 should be allowed bearing in mind the age discrimination act 2006 appears to state otherwise? The European court of Justice ruled yesterday against Age concern stating that the equal treatment directive allowed dismissal if there were legitimate aims linked to the social unemployment policy.

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May

THERESA MAY
I think that what we should be aiming for is a situation where we actually see retirement not as a single point but actually as a process. I think there are many older people who do actually want to be able to carry on in the work place. It looks like our questioner is one of those. And I have to say of course that as we look ahead with the situation that the pensions situation has been brought to there are many people who will find that they need to carry on working in the work place beyond what is seen as the normal retirement age. But I actually think there are some benefits as well beyond that to be able to move to a point if we can where retirement is more of a process rather than as I said…

DIMBLEBY
Do you believe that the law in this country should change so that someone who wished to continue working would not find them arbitrarily dismissed at the age of 65 and could find themselves going to the Justice court and be told that the law was right?

THERESA MAY
The law as it currently stands has now been clarified by the judgment that came out of Europe that the government is in order in that it is legal for the government to have a default retirement age but I am saying Jonathan that I think we all need to look at this and look to the future in trying to find a way in which we can make retirement less of a single point and more of a process but there will be those, what you have to have is a situation where an employer is still able to actually not forced to continue with a person in work who is not able to do their job properly because of their deterioration because of their age so there is a balance to be struck here but I think we need to stop looking at a single retirement age and we need to this is not something that can be easily written into legislation but it is just a way of thinking that we need to start adopting.

DIMBLEBY
Not as much time as we would like Nick Cohen

NICK COHEN
I agree with Theresa and with the implications of your question. I think you are dodging the issue on the real problem with retirement in Britain at the moment.

DIMBLEBY
The questioner

NICK COHEN
Yes I mean it is not raising the limit from 65 the real problem is that people in the private sector are working to 65 where people in the public sector are not doing physically demanding jobs as in the army or the police or the fire service are retiring a lot earlier on a lot better pensions. This is going to be a growing source of social tension in society the disparity, the unfairness between the public and the private sector and I think once we sort that out we can then go on to say well obviously some people should be able to carry on as long as they are not a burden on their employers. But that is, if you are going to look at big political questions coming up that is one steaming down the tracks.

DIMBLEBY
Jane Bonham-Carter

JANE BONHAM-CARTER
Very quickly I think we know we have an ageing population. It is absolutely crazy that the ageing population should not be able to continue working as long as it wishes to particularly as in my opinion the ageing population is increasingly youthful.

DIMBLEBY
And Sadiq Khan

SADIQ KHAN
Can I just, no older person should be discriminated against simply on the basis of their age. If there are issues about somebody’s performance in the workplace they can be dealt with by a capability or a conduct or other I think the point of the judgement as I understand it was to ensure that we phase into the change in the legislation in relation to not having an upper age limit to give certainty to employers when it comes to recruitment.

DIMBLEBY
Very swiftly Katherine Bentley what is your own feeling?

KATHERINE BENTLEY
I think you can’t have one set of rules that says it is allowed and another set of rules that says it isn’t

DIMBLEBY
Which could lead anyone who wishes to come in on Any Answers on that issue or any other. I can just swiftly give you the number again it is 03700 100 444 and the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Next week we are going to be in Northern Ireland where the panel will include Eamonn McCann the political commentator, the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Prof Monica McWilliams and the Professor of Politics at Queens University, Belfast, Lord Paul Bew and there will be another. You will find out who it is next week. For now here from here in the Institute of Cancer Research, goodbye.



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