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Sunday, 1 December, 2002, 14:18 GMT
"No to war" with firefighters
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Charles Clarke MP, education secretary

Sunday 24th November 2002

On Sunday's programme, the TUC leader John Monks warned the government not to go to "war" with the firefighters, in a re-run of the miners' strike during the 1980s. Speaking as the strike by the Firebrigades' Union entered its third day, Mr Monks told Sir David Frost: "You are not going to get a settlement that way." He went on: "You can have a settlement or you can have a war. It is a war that nobody will win. "The Government will lose, the unions will lose and the TUC will lose and we want to get out of that."

Click on the highlighted links to read the full transcripts.

Also on the programme, a leading member of the FBU said the union's negotiating team had been surprised when ministers intervened to veto the deal worked out between the firefighters and their employers last Thursday night. Mike Fordham, Assistant General Secretary of the FBU told Sir David: "Right through the night, the local government negotiators, who are in themselves a very experienced team, were in permanent contact with government ministers. That agreement was actually being checked line by line with ministers throughout the night...so it was a hell of a shock to us when we then find out that they've scuppered the deal."

Mike Fordham, assistant general secretary, FBU

Another guest on the programme - the Director General of the CBI, Digby Jones - urged the government not to give in to the firefighters. However, he said a 16 per cent deal, over three years, could be justified. "I don't see what is wrong with that as long as the modernisation happened and as long as it wasn't just a way, a fudge, an opaque way of getting them more money. They get four per cent as more money, every single penny after that has to be paid for by modernising the fire service."

Digby Jones, director general, CBI

On a different theme, Sir David interviewed the Education Secretary about the government's policy on charging university students thousands of pounds in "top up fees". Labour's 2001 manifesto pledged that they would not be introduced, but Sir David asked whether the government might get round that by introducing the legislation this Parliament, but delaying the introduction of the fees themselves until after the next election. "That's not what's intended, but it certainly is true that that could be done if we wish to do that," Mr Clarke said.

Charles Clarke MP, education secretary

The programme also included a discussion between Professor Gunther von Hagens and the chairman of the British Medical Association Ethics Committee, Dr Michael Wilks, on the merits of the public autopsy carried out by the Professor last week in London.

Professor Gunther von Hagens and Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA ethics committee

And for the newspaper review, Sir David was joined by the historian Lucy Moore; Matthew Taylor from the Institute for Public Policy Research; and the writer and creator of "Rumpole of the Bailey", Sir John Mortimer.

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