grammaire anglaise > vocabulaire > mots de liaison > rhétorique > débat, argumentation, critique
The Guardian p. 11 5 March 2007
Covid-19, Confusion and Uncertainty
It will be a difficult road
back to any kind of normal living.
By Charles M. Blow
April 22, 2020
Do you feel lost and anxious about the coronavirus crisis and the
murky future that rises in its wake? You are not alone.
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter
(@NYTopinion), and Instagram.
Covid-19, Confusion and Uncertainty
The Forgotten Millions
December 6, 2012
Let’s get one thing straight: America is not facing a fiscal
crisis. It is, however, still very much experiencing a job crisis.
The Forgotten Millions, NYT, 6.12.2012,
To be or not to be? It's not our choice
oppose any form of euthanasia
A bill making it possible to help the terminally ill to die is going to the House of Lords tomorrow. I recognise that many readers of The Observer will support it. Lord Joffe, who is moving it, once expressed great surprise to me that, whereas we would agree on all the great liberal causes, I would not be supporting him on this one.
I oppose his bill not
just because of its social effects and impact on doctor/patient relationships,
but because, at its heart, is a flawed understanding of what it is to be a human
being, one that places an excessive emphasis on personal autonomy to the neglect
of our mutual interdependence.
To be or not to be? It's not our choice:
Full text: Tony Blair's speech
Speech given by the prime minister in Sedgefield,
No decision I have ever made in politics has been as divisive as the decision to go to war to in Iraq. It remains deeply divisive today. I know a large part of the public want to move on. Rightly they say the Government should concentrate on the issues that elected us in 1997: the economy, jobs, living standards, health, education, crime. I share that view, and we are. But I know too that the nature of this issue over Iraq, stirring such bitter emotions as it does, can't just be swept away as ill-fitting the pre-occupations of the man and woman on the street. This is not simply because of the gravity of war; or the continued engagement of British troops and civilians in Iraq; or even because of reflections made on the integrity of the Prime Minister. It is because it was in March 2003 and remains my fervent view that the nature of the global threat we face in Britain and round the world is real and existential and it is the task of leadership to expose it and fight it, whatever the political cost; and that the true danger is not to any single politician's reputation, but to our country if we now ignore this threat or erase it from the agenda in embarrassment at the difficulties it causes.
In truth, the fundamental source of division over Iraq is not over issues of trust or integrity, though some insist on trying to translate it into that. Each week brings a fresh attempt to get a new angle that can prove it was all a gigantic conspiracy. We have had three inquiries, including the one by Lord Hutton conducted over six months, with more openness by Government than any such inquiry in history, that have affirmed there was no attempt to falsify intelligence in the dossier of September 2002, but rather that it was indeed an accurate summary of that intelligence.
We have seen one element - intelligence about some WMD being ready for use in 45 minutes - elevated into virtually the one fact that persuaded the nation into war. This intelligence was mentioned by me once in my statement to the House of Commons on 24 September and not mentioned by me again in any debate. It was mentioned by no-one in the crucial debate on 18 March 2003. In the period from 24 September to 29 May, the date of the BBC broadcast on it, it was raised twice in almost 40,000 written Parliamentary Questions in the House of Commons; and not once in almost 5,000 oral questions. Neither was it remotely the basis for the claim that Saddam had strategic as well as battlefield WMD. That was dealt with in a different part of the dossier; and though the Iraq Survey Group have indeed not found stockpiles of weapons, they have uncovered much evidence about Saddam's programme to develop long-range strategic missiles in breach of UN rules.
It is said we claimed Iraq was an imminent threat to Britain and was preparing to attack us. In fact this is what I said prior to the war on 24 September 2002:
"Why now? People ask. I agree I cannot say that this month or next, even this year or next he will use his weapons."
Then, for example, in January 2003 in my press conference I said:
"And I tell you honestly what my fear is, my fear is that we wake up one day and we find either that one of these dictatorial states has used weapons of mass destruction - and Iraq has done so in the past - and we get sucked into a conflict, with all the devastation that would cause; or alternatively these weapons, which are being traded right round the world at the moment, fall into the hands of these terrorist groups, these fanatics who will stop at absolutely nothing to cause death and destruction on a mass scale. Now that is what I have to worry about. And I understand of course why people think it is a very remote threat and it is far away and why does it bother us. Now I simply say to you, it is a matter of time unless we act and take a stand before terrorism and weapons of mass destruction come together, and I regard them as two sides of the same coin."
The truth is, as was abundantly plain in the motion before the House of Commons on 18 March, we went to war to enforce compliance with UN Resolutions. Had we believed Iraq was an imminent direct threat to Britain, we would have taken action in September 2002; we would not have gone to the UN. Instead, we spent October and November in the UN negotiating UN Resolution 1441. We then spent almost 4 months trying to implement it.
Actually, it is now apparent from the Survey Group that Iraq was indeed in breach of UN Resolution 1441. It did not disclose laboratories and facilities it should have; nor the teams of scientists kept together to retain their WMD including nuclear expertise; nor its continuing research relevant to CW and BW. As Dr Kay, the former head of the ISG who is now quoted as a critic of the war has said: "Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of Resolution 1441". And "I actually think this [Iraq] may be one of those cases where it was even more dangerous than we thought."
Then, most recently is the attempt to cast doubt on the Attorney General's legal opinion. He said the war was lawful. He published a statement on the legal advice. It is said this opinion is disputed. Of course it is. It was disputed in March 2003. It is today. The lawyers continue to divide over it - with their legal opinions bearing a remarkable similarity to their political view of the war.
But let's be clear. Once this row dies down, another will take its place and then another and then another.
All of it in the end is an elaborate smokescreen to prevent us seeing the real issue: which is not a matter of trust but of judgement.
The real point is that those who disagree with the war, disagree fundamentally with the judgement that led to war. What is more, their alternative judgement is both entirely rational and arguable. Kosovo, with ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians, was not a hard decision for most people; nor was Afghanistan after the shock of September 11; nor was Sierra Leone.
Iraq in March 2003 was an immensely difficult judgement. It was divisive because it was difficult. I have never disrespected those who disagreed with the decision. Sure, some were anti-American; some against all wars. But there was a core of sensible people who faced with this decision would have gone the other way, for sensible reasons. Their argument is one I understand totally. It is that Iraq posed no direct, immediate threat to Britain; and that Iraq's WMD, even on our own case, was not serious enough to warrant war, certainly without a specific UN resolution mandating military action. And they argue: Saddam could, in any event, be contained.
In other words, they disagreed then and disagree now fundamentally with the characterisation of the threat. We were saying this is urgent; we have to act; the opponents of war thought it wasn't. And I accept, incidentally, that however abhorrent and foul the regime and however relevant that was for the reasons I set out before the war, for example in Glasgow in February 2003, regime change alone could not be and was not our justification for war. Our primary purpose was to enforce UN resolutions over Iraq and WMD.
Of course the opponents are boosted by the fact that though we know Saddam had WMD; we haven't found the physical evidence of them in the 11 months since the war. But in fact, everyone thought he had them. That was the basis of UN Resolution 1441.
It's just worth pointing out that the search is being conducted in a country twice the land mass of the UK, which David Kay's interim report in October 2003 noted, contains 130 ammunition storage areas, some covering an area of 50 square miles, including some 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets and other ordnance, of which only a small proportion have as yet been searched in the difficult security environment that exists.
But the key point is that it is the threat that is the issue.
The characterisation of the threat is where the difference lies. Here is where I feel so passionately that we are in mortal danger of mistaking the nature of the new world in which we live. Everything about our world is changing: its economy, its technology, its culture, its way of living. If the 20th century scripted our conventional way of thinking, the 21st century is unconventional in almost every respect.
This is true also of our security.
The threat we face is not conventional. It is a challenge of a different nature from anything the world has faced before. It is to the world's security, what globalisation is to the world's economy.
It was defined not by Iraq but by September 11th. September 11th did not create the threat Saddam posed. But it altered crucially the balance of risk as to whether to deal with it or simply carry on, however imperfectly, trying to contain it.
Let me attempt an explanation of how my own thinking, as a political leader, has evolved during these past few years. Already, before September 11th the world's view of the justification of military action had been changing. The only clear case in international relations for armed intervention had been self-defence, response to aggression. But the notion of intervening on humanitarian grounds had been gaining currency. I set this out, following the Kosovo war, in a speech in Chicago in 1999, where I called for a doctrine of international community, where in certain clear circumstances, we do intervene, even though we are not directly threatened. I said this was not just to correct injustice, but also because in an increasingly inter-dependent world, our self-interest was allied to the interests of others; and seldom did conflict in one region of the world not contaminate another. We acted in Sierra Leone for similar reasons, though frankly even if that country had become run by gangsters and murderers and its democracy crushed, it would have been a long time before it impacted on us. But we were able to act to help them and we did.
So, for me, before September 11th, I was already reaching for a different philosophy in international relations from a traditional one that has held sway since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648; namely that a country's internal affairs are for it and you don't interfere unless it threatens you, or breaches a treaty, or triggers an obligation of alliance. I did not consider Iraq fitted into this philosophy, though I could see the horrible injustice done to its people by Saddam.
However, I had started to become concerned about two other phenomena.
The first was the increasing amount of information about Islamic extremism and terrorism that was crossing my desk. Chechnya was blighted by it. So was Kashmir. Afghanistan was its training ground. Some 300 people had been killed in the attacks on the USS Cole and US embassies in East Africa. The extremism seemed remarkably well financed. It was very active. And it was driven not by a set of negotiable political demands, but by religious fanaticism.
The second was the attempts by states - some of them highly unstable and repressive - to develop nuclear weapons programmes, CW and BW materiel, and long-range missiles. What is more, it was obvious that there was a considerable network of individuals and companies with expertise in this area, prepared to sell it.
All this was before September 11th. I discussed the issue of WMD with President Bush at our first meeting in Camp David in February 2001. But it's in the nature of things that other issues intervene - I was about to fight for re-election - and though it was raised, it was a troubling spectre in the background, not something to arrest our whole attention.
President Bush told me that on September 9th 2001, he had a meeting about Iraq in the White House when he discussed "smart" sanctions, changes to the sanctions regime. There was no talk of military action.
September 11th was for me a revelation. What had seemed inchoate came together. The point about September 11th was not its detailed planning; not its devilish execution; not even, simply, that it happened in America, on the streets of New York. All of this made it an astonishing, terrible and wicked tragedy, a barbaric murder of innocent people. But what galvanised me was that it was a declaration of war by religious fanatics who were prepared to wage that war without limit. They killed 3000. But if they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000 they would have rejoiced in it. The purpose was to cause such hatred between Moslems and the West that a religious jihad became reality; and the world engulfed by it.
When I spoke to the House of Commons on 14 September 2001 I said:
"We know, that they [the terrorists] would, if they could, go further and use chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction. We know, also, that there are groups of people, occasionally states, who will trade the technology and capability of such weapons. It is time that this trade was exposed, disrupted, and stamped out. We have been warned by the events of 11 September, and we should act on the warning."
From September 11th on, I could see the threat plainly. Here were terrorists prepared to bring about Armageddon. Here were states whose leadership cared for no-one but themselves; were often cruel and tyrannical towards their own people; and who saw WMD as a means of defending themselves against any attempt external or internal to remove them and who, in their chaotic and corrupt state, were in any event porous and irresponsible with neither the will nor capability to prevent terrorists who also hated the West, from exploiting their chaos and corruption.
I became aware of the activities of A Q Khan, former Pakistani nuclear scientist and of an organisation developing nuclear weapons technology to sell secretly to states wanting to acquire it. I started to hear of plants to manufacture nuclear weapons equipment in Malaysia, in the Near East and Africa, companies in the Gulf and Europe to finance it; training and know-how provided - all without any or much international action to stop it. It was a murky, dangerous trade, done with much sophistication and it was rapidly shortening the timeframe of countries like North Korea and Iran in acquiring serviceable nuclear weapons capability.
I asked for more intelligence on the issue not just of terrorism but also of WMD. The scale of it became clear. It didn't matter that the Islamic extremists often hated some of these regimes. Their mutual enmity toward the West would in the end triumph over any scruples of that nature, as we see graphically in Iraq today.
We knew that Al Qaida sought the capability to use WMD in their attacks. Bin Laden has called it a "duty" to obtain nuclear weapons. His networks have experimented with chemicals and toxins for use in attacks. He received advice from at least two Pakistani scientists on the design of nuclear weapons. In Afghanistan Al Qaida trained its recruits in the use of poisons and chemicals. An Al Qaida terrorist ran a training camp developing these techniques. Terrorist training manuals giving step-by-step instructions for the manufacture of deadly substances such as botulinum and ricin were widely distributed in Afghanistan and elsewhere and via the internet. Terrorists in Russia have actually deployed radiological material. The sarin attack on the Tokyo Metro showed how serious an impact even a relatively small attack can have.
The global threat to our security was clear. So was our duty: to act to eliminate it.
First we dealt with Al Qaida in Afghanistan, removing the Taliban that succoured them.
But then we had to confront the states with WMD. We had to take a stand. We had to force conformity with international obligations that for years had been breached with the world turning a blind eye. For 12 years Saddam had defied calls to disarm. In 1998, he had effectively driven out the UN inspectors and we had bombed his military infrastructure; but we had only weakened him, not removed the threat. Saddam alone had used CW against Iran and against his own people.
We had had an international coalition blessed by the UN in Afghanistan. I wanted the same now. President Bush agreed to go the UN route. We secured UN Resolution 1441. Saddam had one final chance to comply fully. Compliance had to start with a full and honest declaration of WMD programmes and activities.
The truth is disarming a country, other than with its consent, is a perilous exercise. On 8 December 2002, Saddam sent his declaration. It was obviously false. The UN inspectors were in Iraq but progress was slow and the vital cooperation of Iraqi scientists withheld. In March we went back to the UN to make a final ultimatum. We strove hard for agreement. We very nearly achieved it.
So we came to the point of decision. Prime Ministers don't have the luxury of maintaining both sides of the argument. They can see both sides. But, ultimately, leadership is about deciding. My view was and is that if the UN had come together and delivered a tough ultimatum to Saddam, listing clearly what he had to do, benchmarking it, he may have folded and events set in train that might just and eventually have led to his departure from power.
But the Security Council didn't agree.
Suppose at that point we had backed away. Inspectors would have stayed but only the utterly naïve would believe that following such a public climbdown by the US and its partners, Saddam would have cooperated more. He would have strung the inspectors out and returned emboldened to his plans. The will to act on the issue of rogue states and WMD would have been shown to be hollow. The terrorists, watching and analysing every move in our psychology as they do, would have taken heart. All this without counting the fact that the appalling brutalisation of the Iraqi people would have continued unabated and reinforced.
Here is the crux. It is possible that even with all of this, nothing would have happened. Possible that Saddam would change his ambitions; possible he would develop the WMD but never use it; possible that the terrorists would never get their hands on WMD, whether from Iraq or elsewhere. We cannot be certain. Perhaps we would have found different ways of reducing it. Perhaps this Islamic terrorism would ebb of its own accord.
But do we want to take the risk? That is the judgement. And my judgement then and now is that the risk of this new global terrorism and its interaction with states or organisations or individuals proliferating WMD, is one I simply am not prepared to run.
This is not a time to err on the side of caution; not a time to weigh the risks to an infinite balance; not a time for the cynicism of the worldly wise who favour playing it long. Their worldly wise cynicism is actually at best naivete and at worst dereliction. When they talk, as they do now, of diplomacy coming back into fashion in respect of Iran or North Korea or Libya, do they seriously think that diplomacy alone has brought about this change? Since the war in Iraq, Libya has taken the courageous step of owning up not just to a nuclear weapons programme but to having chemical weapons, which are now being destroyed. Iran is back in the reach of the IAEA. North Korea in talks with China over its WMD. The A Q Khan network is being shut down, its trade slowly but surely being eliminated.
Yet it is monstrously premature to think the threat has passed. The risk remains in the balance here and abroad.
These days decisions about it come thick and fast, and while they are not always of the same magnitude they are hardly trivial. Let me give you an example. A short while ago, during the war, we received specific intelligence warning of a major attack on Heathrow. To this day, we don't know if it was correct and we foiled it or if it was wrong. But we received the intelligence. We immediately heightened the police presence. At the time it was much criticised as political hype or an attempt to frighten the public. Actually at each stage we followed rigidly the advice of the police and Security Service. But sit in my seat. Here is the intelligence. Here is the advice. Do you ignore it? But, of course intelligence is precisely that: intelligence. It is not hard fact. It has its limitations. On each occasion the most careful judgement has to be made taking account of everything we know and the best assessment and advice available. But in making that judgement, would you prefer us to act, even if it turns out to be wrong? Or not to act and hope it's OK? And suppose we don't act and the intelligence turns out to be right, how forgiving will people be?
And to those who think that these things are all disconnected, random acts, disparate threats with no common thread to bind them, look at what is happening in Iraq today. The terrorists pouring into Iraq, know full well the importance of destroying not just the nascent progress of Iraq toward stability, prosperity and democracy, but of destroying our confidence, of defeating our will to persevere.
I have no doubt Iraq is better without Saddam; but no doubt either, that as a result of his removal, the dangers of the threat we face will be diminished. That is not to say the terrorists won't redouble their efforts. They will. This war is not ended. It may only be at the end of its first phase. They are in Iraq, murdering innocent Iraqis who want to worship or join a police force that upholds the law not a brutal dictatorship; they carry on killing in Afghanistan. They do it for a reason. The terrorists know that if Iraq and Afghanistan survive their assault, come through their travails, seize the opportunity the future offers, then those countries will stand not just as nations liberated from oppression, but as a lesson to humankind everywhere and a profound antidote to the poison of religious extremism. That is precisely why the terrorists are trying to foment hatred and division in Iraq. They know full well, a stable democratic Iraq, under the sovereign rule of the Iraqi people, is a mortal blow to their fanaticism.
That is why our duty is to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan as stable and democratic nations.
Here is the irony. For all the fighting, this threat cannot be defeated by security means alone. Taking strong action is a necessary but insufficient condition for defeating. Its final defeat is only assured by the triumph of the values of the human spirit.
Which brings me to the final point. It may well be that under international law as presently constituted, a regime can systematically brutalise and oppress its people and there is nothing anyone can do, when dialogue, diplomacy and even sanctions fail, unless it comes within the definition of a humanitarian catastrophe (though the 300,000 remains in mass graves already found in Iraq might be thought by some to be something of a catastrophe). This may be the law, but should it be?
We know now, if we didn't before, that our own self interest is ultimately bound up with the fate of other nations. The doctrine of international community is no longer a vision of idealism. It is a practical recognition that just as within a country, citizens who are free, well educated and prosperous tend to be responsible, to feel solidarity with a society in which they have a stake; so do nations that are free, democratic and benefiting from economic progress, tend to be stable and solid partners in the advance of humankind. The best defence of our security lies in the spread of our values.
But we cannot advance these values except within a framework that recognises their universality. If it is a global threat, it needs a global response, based on global rules.
The essence of a community is common rights and responsibilities. We have obligations in relation to each other. If we are threatened, we have a right to act. And we do not accept in a community that others have a right to oppress and brutalise their people. We value the freedom and dignity of the human race and each individual in it.
Containment will not work in the face of the global threat that confronts us. The terrorists have no intention of being contained. The states that proliferate or acquire WMD illegally are doing so precisely to avoid containment. Emphatically I am not saying that every situation leads to military action. But we surely have a duty and a right to prevent the threat materialising; and we surely have a responsibility to act when a nation's people are subjected to a regime such as Saddam's. Otherwise, we are powerless to fight the aggression and injustice which over time puts at risk our security and way of life.
Which brings us to how you make the rules and how you decide what is right or wrong in enforcing them. The UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights is a fine document. But it is strange the United Nations is so reluctant to enforce them.
I understand the worry the international community has over Iraq. It worries that the US and its allies will by sheer force of their military might, do whatever they want, unilaterally and without recourse to any rule-based code or doctrine. But our worry is that if the UN - because of a political disagreement in its Councils - is paralysed, then a threat we believe is real will go unchallenged.
This dilemma is at the heart of many people's anguished indecision over the wisdom of our action in Iraq. It explains the confusion of normal politics that has part of the right liberating a people from oppression and a part of the left disdaining the action that led to it. It is partly why the conspiracy theories or claims of deceit have such purchase. How much simpler to debate those than to analyse and resolve the conundrum of our world's present state.
Britain's role is try to find a way through this: to construct a consensus behind a broad agenda of justice and security and means of enforcing it.
This agenda must be robust in tackling the security threat that this Islamic extremism poses; and fair to all peoples by promoting their human rights, wherever they are. It means tackling poverty in Africa and justice in Palestine as well as being utterly resolute in opposition to terrorism as a way of achieving political goals. It means an entirely different, more just and more modern view of self-interest.
It means reforming the United Nations so its Security Council represents 21st century reality; and giving the UN the capability to act effectively as well as debate. It means getting the UN to understand that faced with the threats we have, we should do all we can to spread the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, religious tolerance and justice for the oppressed, however painful for some nations that may be; but that at the same time, we wage war relentlessly on those who would exploit racial and religious division to bring catastrophe to the world.
But in the meantime, the threat is there and demands our attention.
That is the struggle which engages us. It is a new type of war. It will rest on intelligence to a greater degree than ever before. It demands a difference attitude to our own interests. It forces us to act even when so many comforts seem unaffected, and the threat so far off, if not illusory. In the end, believe your political leaders or not, as you will. But do so, at least having understood their minds.Full text: Tony Blair's speech,
Speech given by the prime minister in Sedgefield, justifying military action in Iraq
and warning of the continued threat of global terrorism, G, 6.3.2004, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/mar/05/iraq.iraq
Le texte suivant, extrait du Hansard du 14.1.2004,
comprend de nombreux tours de rhétorique parlementaire.
Plusieurs échanges font référence
à l'enquête Hutton sur le suicide du Dr Kelly
(contexte : guerre en Irak, armes de destruction massive).
Face à un Tony Blair en difficulté,
le nouveau leader de l'opposition Tory, Michael Howard,
est en grande forme.
Il faut avoir entendu Howard répéter avec délectation "here or there"
pour savourer ce grand spectacle politique.
Ecouter et voir des extraits :
The Prime Minister was asked—
Mr. Bellingham : Does the Prime Minister recall that during his recent visit to Iraq he was reported as saying to our armed forces that morale was high and that they would always receive the best possible equipment. If that is really true, why has Colonel Tim Collins just announced his resignation from the Army, citing among other factors very low morale and chronic equipment shortages?
The Prime Minister: Colonel Collins's decision is obviously a matter for him, but I believe that that the morale of our armed forces is high. Certainly, the armed forces I met down in Basra are proud not merely of the work that they did in defeating Saddam Hussein, but of the work that they are now doing on rebuilding Iraq.
As for British defence spending, the hon. Gentleman will know that after many, many years of cuts under the previous Conservative Government, defence spending, in real terms, is now rising under this Government for the first time in a very long time.
Q2.  Mr. Neil Turner (Wigan) (Lab): Writing in his diaries of a discussion on the timing of the 1992 election, Woodrow Wyatt quotes the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) as saying: "Unemployment never matters." The new deal, the New Opportunities Fund, the coalfield challenge and the working families and child tax credits have all contributed to a fall of 700 in unemployment in the Wigan borough. That is proof that the 16th forgotten credo of the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not be followed by this Government. But we do have a problem in places such as Wigan—
Hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Speaker: Order. Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman—I can handle it. He should end with a question, now.
Mr. Turner: We have a problem with skills in the area—
Hon Members : "Question mark."
Mr. Speaker: Order. I call the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister: I think that my hon. Friend was about to ask whether we would pursue policies that
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reduced unemployment. I am pleased to say to him that today unemployment has again fallen substantially. We now have 1.7 million more people in work than in 1997; long-term unemployment is at its lowest level for decades; and when we talk about waste in Government spending, let us never forget the billions that used to be wasted on people lying on the dole doing nothing, while now, as a result of the new deal, they are at work.
Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Will the Prime Minister now finally confirm that he will lead for the Government in the debate on the Hutton report?
The Prime Minister: As I said at the weekend, the details of the debate—whether there is a vote on it and who speaks in it—will be decided at a later time and announced in the normal way. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to be patient, but I can assure him that I have absolutely no intention of doing anything other than leading the Government's case on this issue. That is important, and I look forward to doing so.
Mr. Howard: I am very sorry that the Prime Minister cannot give a straight answer even to that question. Last week, the Prime Minister said that he was looking forward to the debate—now, he has got cold feet. When the Prime Minister was asked by Sir David Frost on Sunday about his use last week of the word, "totality", he said that it meant
"everything that has been said. Not just taking one bit out, here or there".
Now, does that mean that some bits out "here or there" of what the Prime Minister said on 22 July were not true?
The Prime Minister: No. It does not. It means that when we have a report that we know will be published in the next few weeks, it is sensible to wait until it is published before we debate it. It is obvious from everything that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said in the past few days that he intends to prejudge the report. I do not intend to do so.
Mr. Howard: No, that will not do. I am asking the Prime Minister about what he said in the House seven days ago and in a television studio three days ago. Let me put to him a simple and straightforward question. On 22 July, he denied authorising the naming of David Kelly. Does he stand by that statement or is it one of the bits out "here or there" that he wants us all to ignore?
The Prime Minister: No, it is not. What is important, as I said in the House and again at the weekend, is to wait for the report. That may not do for the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I am sorry about that—but in my view, when we have a report that is about to be published, most people will regard it as sensible if we wait until the day of publication to make our judgments. It is perfectly obvious, not least from the 50-page document that the Conservative party issued a few days ago, that Conservative Members intend to make up
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their minds now. It does not matter what the report says; they have already made up their minds. I shall make up mine when the report is published.
Mr. Howard: But the Prime Minister has not answered the question. It is a simple question and the answer is either yes or no. I shall give him another opportunity. On 22 July, he was asked:
"Why did you authorise the naming of David Kelly?" He replied, "that's completely untrue."
Does he stand by that statement—yes or no?
The Prime Minister: I stand, as I have said on many occasions, by all that I said on the issue, but I believe that judgment should await the inquiry report. After all, the issue that is being raised is precisely that into which the inquiry is looking. Let it look into that and let us then have the statement and the debate on the basis not of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says but of what the judge says.
Mr. Howard: Does the Prime Minister have the faintest idea of how much damage he is doing to what is left of his reputation by refusing to answer this simple question? He has not answered the question and the country knows it. I will give him one last chance. I shall carry on asking the question until we get a straight answer from the Prime Minister. On 22 July, he was asked:
"Why did you authorise the naming of David Kelly?" He replied, "that's completely untrue."
Does he stand by that statement—yes or no?
The Prime Minister: I have already answered it. I say again that those are precisely the issues that the inquiry will examine. The judge has all the material that he needs. It is completely absurd for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to raise issues about my integrity before the report has been published.
Since he has raised my integrity and effectively accused me of telling lies, I hope that if the report does not find those charges proven, he will have the decency to apologise.
Mr. Howard: If the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. I do not want any shouting at the Leader of the Opposition. Let him ask his question.
Mr. Howard: If the Prime Minister takes that view of the charges that I have been making, why on earth has he not answered the very simple, straightforward question that I have put to him today? Is it not the case that the whole country has seen this afternoon just how desperately dodgy the Prime Minister's position has become?
The Prime Minister: I think that what the whole country has seen is the total opportunism of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is prepared to say that we should make judgments about this matter before the inquiry report has even been published—
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[Interruption.] Yes, that is precisely what the Conservative party's 50-page document has done. We all know that, on the day the report is published, he will stand at the Dispatch Box and call for my resignation. He will do that whatever the report says, and I only hope that the effect—[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the Prime Minister answer.
The Prime Minister: We know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will do that, and I only hope that the effect on my team's performance will be as dramatic as the effect on Mr. Houllier's team's performance when he called for his resignation.
Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister share my worry that the continued political stalemate in Northern Ireland and the suspension of the devolved political institutions in the Province will have a serious impact on the economic progress that we have witnessed there in the last year?
The Prime Minister: I am sorry, but I did not quite hear the first part of my hon. Friend's question.
Mr. Luke: Does the Prime Minister share my worry that, following the elections in November last year, the continued political stalemate in Northern Ireland, and the continued suspension of the devolved institutions in the Province, we might see a negative effect on the Northern Ireland economy, which has progressed so well during the last year?
The Prime Minister: Of course, I entirely agree that it is important that we try to break the deadlock over this issue. My hon. Friend makes a point that will be most obvious to people in Northern Ireland, which is that whatever the difficulties of the past few years, the Northern Ireland economy has seen the most astonishing levels of inward investment, of growth in employment and the reduction of unemployment, and a reduction in terrorist violence. It is still important, however, that we try to make progress, and we will work with all the parties to do so. However, as I have said on many occasions, I hope that people in Northern Ireland understand that if we compare the situation there today, from the outside, with that of 10 years ago, we now see a scene of the most dramatic improvement. There is still a long way to go, but we will do whatever we can to break the deadlock and get the peace process back on track.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West) (LD): While there will be perfectly legitimate and pertinent questions to be asked of the Prime Minister when Lord Hutton's report is produced, I am sure that many people in the House and in the country will find just a little ironic the sudden enthusiasm of the Conservative party leadership to ask the very questions that they signally failed to ask when these matters were being debated, and when some of us were putting those questions.
I would like to ask the Prime Minister about that self-same interview that he gave at the weekend, in which he made a reference to his policy on top-up fees. He described those who would vote against his proposals as carrying out
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"a complete betrayal of the proper interests of the country".
How can it be in the proper interests of the country that, under the Prime Minister's proposals, a graduate student earning £15,000 a year will pay a marginal tax rate of 42 per cent., which is more than a millionaire pays? How can that be fair?
The Prime Minister: At the moment, most students have maintenance loans, and the present system for repaying them is far less generous than the system that we are about to introduce. The reason why I say the new system is good is that it will be good for the families of students from poorer backgrounds, because those students will get £3,000 a year support, and it will be good for all families who put their children through university, because up-front fees are going to be abolished. It will also be good for the universities, because they will get about £1 billion a year extra income. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal is to take that money out of a 50 per cent. top rate of tax. He has written to me recently to say that the Liberal Democrats' only spending commitment is to that top rate of tax, which will go towards council tax, university fees and personal care. [Interruption.] I am delighted, but perhaps when the right hon. Gentleman gets up again he will explain this. In this month's edition of the magazine Pensioners' Voice, his party's pensions spokesman makes £4 billion worth of commitments. That is why I say that his figures do not add up.
Mr. Kennedy: Not for the first time and, I suspect, not for the last, the Prime Minister has presented a caricature of what we propose. But let us return to his policy on the issue of the day, which is top-up fees. He said in his last general election manifesto that he would not legislate in this way for top-up fees. He has broken that pledge. He is now facing students with the prospect of crippling £30,000 debts on graduation. Where does that leave the age-old argument about equality of opportunity rather than ability to pay?
The Prime Minister: We do not accept that that is what we are doing. At present people repay, for example, maintenance loans of £20,000 a year at a rate of about £17 a week. Under our proposals they will not have to pay more than £8.60 a week in combined maintenance money and fees, and poorer students will end up receiving a £3,000-a-year subvention to help them with both fees and maintenance.
I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that in the end it is not irrelevant to quote to him what he has said he will spend on pensions, because all this is about priorities. I must tell him that in the end I think that a deal that gives universities more money, reintroduces maintenance support for poorer students and abolishes all up-front fees for families whatever their incomes is a good deal for Britain's universities and university students. It is important that we spend the money in that way.
I must say one more thing to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not agree with his policy on the 50 per cent. top rate of tax, but let us suppose that an extra £1 billion could be raised from a 50 per cent. top rate. I simply ask whether it would not be better—as his party's pensions spokesman is presumably saying—to spend that money on pensioners rather than an even greater subsidy for university fees.
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I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's policy is right in its own terms, and when he describes our policy as unfair he fails to take account of the massive widening of access that it represents for the people of this country.
James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab): Harold Shipman took his secrets to his grave yesterday. He thereby robbed my constituents of the one consolation that he could have given them, which was the truth about what he had done. Does the Prime Minister agree that the one comfort that the House can give my constituents and the families of the victims is the knowledge that we will do everything we can to make sure that lessons are learnt? Does he agree that there should be a full debate in the House on the findings of Dame Janet Smith's inquiry into Shipman's murders, and will he establish a cross-departmental team to ensure that its recommendations are implemented and reported on publicly, so we can be certain that this tragedy will never happen again?
The Prime Minister: I entirely agree with the first part of what my hon. Friend has said. It is right for us to express our deep sympathy for all Dr. Shipman's victims' families, and to say that this must be a very difficult and emotional time for them.
Dame Janet Smith is currently completing her inquiry, and we expect to receive her final report in the summer. I cannot yet say exactly what the arrangements for a debate in the House will be, but I am sure that there will be a proper opportunity for Members to debate the inquiry's findings. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to suggest that the moment we have those findings we must ensure that we in Government are geared up to implement them fully.
Q3.  Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): Given that my constituency and others are seeing an influx of travellers who buy green-belt land and then illegally develop it, with the planning laws able to do little about it, and given that, despite the support on both sides of the House and meetings with Ministers, the Government blocked my private Member's Bill which would have strengthened the planning laws and also reduced confrontation within communities, will the Prime Minister now meet me to discuss a growing problem that is causing anguish to many people?
The Prime Minister: I am always happy to meet hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are going to take forward planning legislation, and I am sure that some of the issues that he raises will fall within the scope of that Bill. It is absolutely vital, however, that we make sure that the planning laws are properly and quickly enforced. At present, there are two issues in relation to planning. One is that the planning system does not move quickly enough when it needs to do so to give planning permission. The other is that it often does not enforce the planning system quickly enough when the planning system is breached. Our Bill will address both those issues.
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): While welcoming the news that waiting lists and waiting times are decreasing in our hospitals, I have a particular
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concern about certain areas such as orthopaedics and cataract surgery, in which it appears that waiting lists are still unacceptably long, perhaps because staff cannot be recruited for those specialties. What can be done to tackle those areas in which unacceptably long waiting lists persist?
The Prime Minister: As my hon. Friend will know, the announcement of new diagnostic and treatment centres by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will have an impact on improving people's ability to get access to operations speedily. What we are doing effectively is increasing capacity within the system, as that is important. We need more capacity within the NHS, more nurses and more doctors, while at the same time giving patients greater choice and opening up diversity of supply within the health service, which we will continue to do. The news on health service waiting lists is good, not least because not merely are the lists now something like 200,000 below the level that we inherited but only about 360,000 people on those lists are waiting more than three months. That is still too many, but what it means is that many of those long waits that we used to see, of a year, 18 months or two years, are a thing of the past. We must progressively reduce that maximum waiting time, until we reach the point, in 2008, when the maximum waiting time will be three months.
Q4.  Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): Given today's reports that half the extra taxpayers' money taken to spend on schools and hospitals—some £70 billion under this Government—has patently failed to improve public services, with one Cabinet Minister saying,
"We have faffed around for ages, commissioning report after report and there has been a spectacular failure in our ability to deliver, despite swamping the nation in new laws",
why on earth should our constituents continue to stump up even more in taxes to subsidise Labour's waste and failure?
The Prime Minister: First, I do not accept in any shape or form that that money is being wasted in our public services. For example, in the hon. Gentleman's education authority, there has been a spending increase of £590 per pupil. Does he call that waste? There has been a massive increase in capital allocations in his schools, 520 more teachers have been appointed, the primary care trust has had more than £214 million in funding, waiting lists are down, and his unemployment figures have fallen because of the new deal. Why is that all wasted money? Why do the Conservatives talk continually about waste in public spending? It is because they are against the public spending itself. Let us be clear about what is happening: the money in schools and hospitals is delivering a better service for people, and the Tory party's purpose is to run down support in our health service and in our state schools, because were it ever to get its hands on the levers of power again, we would be back to cuts and a downward spiral in public services.
Mr. Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the social and economic well-being of
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this country requires that more, not less, able people from all walks of life enjoy the opportunity of going to university?
The Prime Minister: I do agree with that. It is important that we recognise that in the early 21st century virtually every successful country will be widening access and participation in universities. The Conservatives say that the aim of getting 50 per cent. of people under 30 into university is hopeless and unachievable. Actually, 50 per cent. has already been achieved in Scotland and in many other parts of the world, and we have 43 per cent. today. It is therefore absolutely possible to achieve that aim. What is more, it is necessary that we improve both access to university education and to vocational training in the years to come. Otherwise, this country will be a poorer place.
Q5.  Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): May I ask the Prime Minister a very simple question? In 2001, when he launched the review of higher education, one key objective was to tackle student debt and the perception of debt. Given that the current average debt is about £9,000 and will have risen to more than £30,000 by 2010, how will he meet that objective?
The Prime Minister: Let us get the facts clear. A £12,000 maintenance loan is available at the moment. Even if the full fee of £3,000 is paid, there will be £9,000 over the average university course, even at the top level, so let us not pretend that debt is not known at the moment, or that the figure of £3,000 is higher than it actually is. The hon. Gentleman asks what we are doing to help families in those circumstances, and we are doing two very important things. First, we are saying that no family now will have to find those fees as their children are going through university. It moves to graduate repayment, which is a massive change, particularly for families with more than one person at university. Secondly, the graduate repayment of the maintenance loan and of the fee combined is infinitely more generous than the current one. That is why it is a good deal for students. I do not think it unreasonable or wrong to ask students—provided that the public carry on investing a large sum of money in our university system—to make a modest contribution back into the system when they are able to do so, linked to the ability to pay.
Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich) (Lab): I recently visited the excellent Sure Start scheme in West Clacton, in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to all those who have made that scheme such a success, and will the Government consider expanding and investing in such schemes even further? If there is any spare cash in the education budget, that is where it should go, which is where it is needed.
The Prime Minister: The point that my hon. Friend makes is right on two counts. Sure Start is helping about 400,000 of the most disadvantaged children in our country, but he is right to say that if we possibly can, we should look to extend and expand the Sure Start programme. It has been of enormous importance not just to children; it has helped a lot of parents as well, but of course, it is one of the things that the Conservative
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party has pledged to cut. I simply say to people that it cannot be right, when we are making a huge investment now in some of the poorest communities, which is manifestly working, to withdraw that support. The final point that my hon. Friend makes is also right. When looking at where we spend money, it is important that we recognise that we should spend it on under-fives and those people who need adult skills, as well as on those at university.
mots de liaison > débat > autres énoncés
Nokia's Visual Radio service will mean users will be able to purchase songs they hear on their phone's FM radio with one click using a two-way GPRS channel to handsets. Visual Radio displays pictures during the news, weather maps, sports results and so on, synchronised with the radio broadcast. KissFM in London is trialling the system.
Ironically, however, more complex handsets provide fertile ground for new applications. Until the mobile industry makes it easy for consumers to purchase music on their mobiles, there is a window of opportunity for software developers to create programs to allow illegal file sharing.
Furthermore, handset makers could threaten the music industy. Although mobile operators have strict guidelines on how phones should function - Vodafone's list is more than 3,000 pages long - some makers are already tempted to give consumers unfettered functions.
Music to the ears:
Technology-rich mobile phones are paving the way for the sharing of files, Napster-style.
But the music industry will fight to protect its revenue. Mike Butcher reports,
Will children in 2010 ever pick up a book?
Jim Johnson writes:
I take Tim Saward's argument very seriously; he is almost entirely right. But not only do I find it easier and more comfortable to move around a book, I can and do do it with a book printed, made in the 19th century. The Domesday Project can no longer be seen because the technology is out of date. I can't listen to my old reel-to-reel audio tapes. How long does Tim give the virtual monitor? I want the technology to develop but its lifespan is a big problem.
Tim Saward, British Library, responds:
As a matter of fact, the Domesday Project has once again been decoded, which I think demonstrates there is hope. I think it's analogous to material on paper, really. The material survives where there is sufficient will to make it survive. There is a sort of "economics of storage" at work, which is based on demand to a certain extent. But of course in the digital realm, once you have one readable copy, it is very much easier to protect the content by multiple reproductions, and the more demand there is the more copies are likely to exist. But in the paper realm, where copies are rare, demand leads to handling, which leads to deterioration. The circle is vicious. The most battered books falling apart on our shelves are the ones we have read and loved most.
British Library, school page, 17.1.2004, http://www.bl.uk/services/learning/teachers/dis0020.html
Dark matter was proposed more than 20 years ago when it became clear that all the galaxies behaved as if they were far more massive than they seemed to be. All sorts of explanations - black holes, brown dwarfs and undetectable particles that are very different from atoms - have been suggested. None has been confirmed.
But dark matter exists, all the same. The dark energy story began in 1998 when astronomers reported that the most distant galaxies seemed to be receding far faster than calculations predicted. A study of a certain kind of supernova confirmed that they had not been misled: the universe was indeed expanding ever faster, rather than decelerating.
Science breakthrough of the year: proof of our exploding universe, G, 19.12.2003, http://www.guardian.co.uk/spacedocumentary/story/0,2763,1110244,00.html
In contrast to Mr Bush, Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, won significant backing as the leader most capable of "doing the right thing regarding world affairs."
Muslim world reveals its fear and loathing of US, FT, p. 1,4.6.2003
However, what is paramount now is the message the coalition sends to the Iraqis and the wider Arab world.
Freedom for Iraq still the only aim: Tony Blair must push for democracy, O, p. 32, 30.3.2003.
With the benefit of hindsight we can see that television should have shown the coalition generals some indulgence, given them more of a chance to keep up with the requirements of live television. On the other hand, the feeling that the best conflict is a nice short one which concludes with unequivocal surrender is neither new nor egregiously unprofessional.
And now over to Fairford where there is nothing to see, GE/GE2, p.2, 27.3.2003.
Gulf war, when relatively few British people had access to CNN's unprecedented,
And now over to Fairford where there is nothing to see, GE/GE2, p.2, 27.3.2003.
Which is not to say, of course, that the weather is insignificant in war.
And now over to Fairford where there is nothing to see, GE/GE2, p.3, 27.3.2003.
First, let's put this into perspective: a Metropolitan police spokesman has said that gun-related crime only accounts for 0.003% of all crimes they deal with.
Better drugs will cut gun crime, GE, p. 8, 9.1.2003.
In spite of it all, Mr Raissi, who declined an offer of £30,000 to talk to the tabloids, says he still has faith in British justice.
Freed pilot tells of prison ordeal, GE, p. 1, 15-2-2002.
In a sense her business model is formalising and updating a more familiar form of gentlemanly capitalism.
Net’s queen bee still buzzes, O, Business pullout, p. 18, 28-4-2002.
Contrary to popular belief, she says,
there’s plenty of money out there.
Of course, parenting is tough.
Hitting your kids is simply wrong, O, p. 27, 28-4-2002.
Having said that, though…
Hansard (House of Commons Daily Debates)