Kent on Sunday (www.kentmedia.co.uk) 2nd March 2008
GORDON Brown has answered a series of questions from Kent on Sunday readers on subjects ranging from immigration to long-term care for the elderly. On February 3, Kent on Sunday first invited readers to quiz the Prime Minister about the big issues affecting their lives.
This week, KOS Media journalist Jamie McGinnes went to Downing Street to hand over a selection of some of the scores of questions received by post, fax and email. He gave Mr Brown a framed copy of the February 3 article, with the headline ‘Ask Gordon’.
On Thursday, a Downing Street spokesman revealed the Prime Minister would be putting the finishing touches to answers that evening. They were sent to us on Friday.
Mr Brown said he had found the questions and answers exercise very worthwhile.
“I was delighted to be able to answer readers’ questions from Kent on Sunday,” he said.
“I’m sorry that I have not been able to answer all your questions, but please do write to me at 10 Downing Street if you have other issues you want to raise. I want to hear from you.”
Mr Brown added: “There are some real challenges ahead for Britain as a country, every one of which has an impact on people in Kent – whether it is providing more affordable housing, improving our health service, making sure all our young people have the skills to get jobs in the future, making our streets safer for decent people, or protecting our environment.
“I believe that we can only meet all these challenges if we do more to listen to local people across the country and give them more power to take decisions themselves on the way their local services are organised and funded.”
Kent on Sunday is today publishing some of the answers given by the Prime Minister to readers’ letters. The rest will be printed next week.
QUESTION: Dr Sean Gabb, 48, of Deal asked: Before the last election, the Government in which you were the second most senior member promised us a referendum before seeking to ratify a European Constitution. The Treaty of Lisbon is, according to other European heads of government, between 90 and 98 per cent identical to that constitution. Why, then, are you now denying us our referendum?
GORDON BBROWN REPLIED: I was the first person to promise that if we decided to join the Euro, that would be put to a referendum of the British people, and if the agreement we reached in Lisbon had the same impact on the UK as the original proposed Constitution, then of course we would have had a referendum on that too.
But the fact is that all 27 member states agreed to abandon the constitutional concept, and that is explicitly written into the Lisbon Treaty. It is also a fact that for every other member state, the terms of the treaty go further than they do for the UK.
That is because we were able to negotiate our red lines in respect of the treaty’s proposals on social security, justice and home affairs, and a charter of fundamental rights. We also guaranteed our continued sovereignty over foreign policy.
There is a comprehensive and detailed debate about the treaty going on in Parliament at the moment, and I think that is the right place for any concerns to be raised.