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BBC's Question Time in Lincoln tackles issues of immigration, the high street and horse meat

By RButcher__LE  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

  • David Dimbleby takes a question from the Lincoln audience at Question Time. Picture taken by Steven Haddock, www.stevenhaddock.co.uk

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The future of Lincoln's high street, the migrant population of Boston and burgers made with horse meat were just some of the topics discussed on BBC's Question Time. 

David Dimbleby hosted the hit politics show from Lincoln's Drill Hall. 

Tonight's panel included MP and chairman of the Conservative party Grant Shapps, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Labour MP and shadow secretary for energy and climate change Caroline Flint, chairman of Business for New Europe Roland Rudd and professor of classics at the University of Cambridge Dr Mary Beard. 

Some of the other topics which caused lively debate among the panelists and the hundred-plus audience members included Britain's membership of the European Union and the potential for British troops in Mali. 

With jobs in Lincoln and across the county at risk with Jessops, Blockbusters and HMV all collapsing into administration since the start of 2013, the first point of debate was whether the internet was killing off high street stores. 

Using HMV as a particular example, Mr Rudd predicted that to remain on Lincoln's high street, it needed to evolve its service and offering. 

He said: "There is a role for a shop like HMV and one of the things I hope that comes out of this administration is a new HMV. 

"There is a role for it and people do want to browse and choose as well as shop online. 

"It's gone from an extraordinary success story to a terrible disaster economically. It wasn't well managed and it has suffered from that. It's important for the high street because we can't just rely on online. 

"If you can get a different HMV to come out of this and for it to be slimmer and quicker, it can work."

Mr Farage, who was spotted in Lincoln's Bailgate area earlier this afternoon, stated that he did think the internet was killing off some of the biggest chains and stores, but that there were also other factors to blame. 

"There are two other factors," he said. "One of them is supermarkets. You go into them now, you look at the price of children's clothes and they're astonishing. Mothers and fathers will buy their children's clothes from supermarkets because they're saving a lot of money. 

"The second is these out of town shopping centres. But I prefer the high street. I like to meet people and walk down the high street. And I don't always wear a rosette doing it."

When one question was asked about the potential for an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants next January, and whether or not Britain's public services could cope, Dr Beard made reference to a report published by Boston Borough Council. 

"The most impressive single document I've read on this issue comes from Boston council and it's the task and finishing group report about the population change in Lincolnshire," she said. 

"It answers the question about public services and looks very carefully about the changes in Boston over the last ten years. 

"It does identify particular management issues with an influx of any kind of population, but what it makes absolutely clear is that we can cope with this and benefit from it. 

"It's very clear, for example, that European migrants have a low use of the benefits system, a low use of the health care system and they take very, very small amounts of social housing. Only one per cent of social housing is actually occupied by people who are economic migrants. Public services can cope."

But one woman from the audience counter-argued and said that Boston's own high street was becoming like a "foreign country". 

She said: "I have a family that lives in Boston and we have land at Boston. We've had major issues with workers, they've nowhere to go and are camping on our land. 

"We can't move them off because the police aren't interested. Boston, its surgeries and hospitals are at breaking point because of these people coming into the country and nothing is being done. 

"There are hardly any locals here anymore because they're all moving away. It's got to stop."

And after debating whether or not migrant workers were moving to Lincolnshire to take up low paying jobs, the UKIP leader Farage said: "Before 2004, the cabbages in the fields of Lincolnshire were not rotting, they were still being picked."

In between discussing Britain's position in Europe and whether or not the country should send troops to support the French in the Mali conflict, one audience member Carol Jackson asked if, in times of austerity, horse meat should be introduced as a cheaper alternative to meat. 

Dr Beard answered in the positive. She said: "I've eaten horse meat and much enjoyed it and I'm sure the horse meat trade is thankful for all this publicity. 

"What is extraordinary is how we still define ourselves according to which animals we are prepared or not prepared to eat. The horse has divided Europe but I had it deep fried in Slovenia and it was gorgeous."

Meanwhile, Mr Farage took the opportunity that the next food scandal to hit the country would come from salami made of donkey meat. 

He said: "I think the real shock is that this was discovered in Ireland, but not discovered here. We have big supermarkets selling large quantities of this but no one has picked up on it. 

"I do think this won't end with horse meat. I'll make a prediction - the next big one will be how much salami is being imported into Britain made from donkey meat. I think the consumer deserves to know what is in the meat they buy."

BBC Question Time in Lincoln will be repeated on BBC2 today at 10am. 

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