The Trustees of the Jubilee Institute, Rothbury, hosted last week’s edition of Any Questions?, BBC Radio 4’s popular current affairs discussion programme.
In total, 200 people crammed into the hall to present their questions to the panel of expertswhich consisted of David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science and Hilary Benn, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; journalist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch; and economist Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs.
The panel was chaired, as usual, by Jonathan Dimbleby.
Di Jevons opened the discussion asking what steps should the Government take to ensure that elderly people entering care homes are indeed cared for?
While the panel agreed that stories of abuse were shaming and proper regulation and training were needed, not all were agreed on the solution.
Perhaps the most telling point was made by Lesley Riddoch, who said that if we run our care homes on a philosophy of cutting corners, intimidating workers and paying as little as we can get away with, was it any surprise that we got poor standards of care?
With reference to Energy Secretary Ed Davey’s comment that he wears a jumper at home to keep his bill down, Margaret Kirby asked what colour jumper would be most effective against the cold, red or blue? Hilary Benn wanted a future Labour Government to take advantage of a price freeze. Mark Littlewood looked to the removal of taxes and regulations that put prices up and David Willetts wanted it to be easier for people to shift to low-cost tariffs.
The questioner, in response to an invitation from the chairman, said she wanted to see a renationalised energy industry and received loud applause.
On a related theme, Peter Walklet asked whether we should be welcoming or concerned about Chinese firms wanting to own or run key British infrastructure, particularly in relation to nuclear power.
There were very divergent views. Mark Littlewood welcomed the idea, Lesley Riddoch was unhappy about putting our national assets into the hands of a nation with a ‘dodgy human-rights record’ and a very different outlook from our own.
Pat Lewis wanted to know if, in the event of a yes vote for Scottish independence and after a long history of fighting to keep the Scots out, we should swallow our pride and ask to join them.
The two politicians wanted to keep the Union, but Lesley Riddoch said Scotland would welcome us with open arms. Mark Littlewood said he would be perfectly happy with Scottish independence and we shouldn’t be scared of it.
On a lighter note, Heather Lister asked if, after their journey here, the panel agreed that this part of the world is desolate. Mark Littlewood said he was more of a city man, but all the others agreed it is a beautiful part of the world.
It was a momentous and hugely enjoyable occasion and one which the people of Rothbury are proud to have hosted.