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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Northern exposure?
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

On Politics Show, on Sunday, 24, October 2004, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Rt Hon John Prescott MP, Deputy Prime Minister
  • Roger Knapman MEP South West Region and leader of the U.K. Independence Party

Discussion with John Prescott MP and Roger Knapman MEP

John Prescott MP
Rt Hon John Prescott MP, Deputy Prime Minister

Jeremy Vine: And I'm joined now by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the architect of English regional devolution.

Conservative policy is opposed to regional devolution, but they preferred not to take part in this programme; instead, we're pleased to be joined by Roger Knapman, Leader of the UK Independence Party, which also opposes regional assemblies.

Mr Prescott, first of all, coming to you on the last point.

John Prescott: (overlap) I feel deprived here, why won't the Tories debate with me about regional devolution. I welcome Roger, he, he's an ex Tory MP anyway, but who, who, he's now, they appear now to be talking with the Tory party on devolution as well as Europe. I make my point.

Jeremy Vine: I've got a statement from the Conservatives here and they say it is the No Campaign in the North East who should determine who represents the case against regional government, not any particular party.

John Prescott: (overlaps) So why is it being run by the Tory party in the south and the editors in the south, telling the north what they should do; when the regional papers say Yes, the Times and the Territorial (fluffs) say ... the er, Telegraph say, No and the Tory party say no.

Jeremy Vine: Okay.

John Prescott: The Liberals and Labour would like to see a regional assembly.

Jeremy Vine: Let me ask you about the last point made in Paula's film, to do with regional identity. These regions that are being created, are so big people don't identify with them.

John Prescott: Well I don't think that's so. I mean if you take the northern region, they certainly identify as a northern region; they've got kind of pressures inside them.

God, blimey .. Hull and Grimsby don't get on but we agree with ...that we can live within a Humberside area or a Yorkshire area.

If you look at the south of the er, er, of the North East region, they feel a bit sensitive about Newcastle; you will always get that. Cornwall, which I've just seen there, about Devon. Both of them dislike Bristol.

You get these inter-regional factors, but they do identify as belonging in the south west, belonging in the north.

Jeremy Vine: They're too big aren't they, that's the point.

John Prescott: Well no, as long as your power structure can actually deal with that, the point, at the moment ... is that the local government structure with its counties, can't deal with the regional decisions, that's why the previous administration set up regional government civil servants, to make decisions for the regions.

What we're saying is, why shouldn't the people in the area make those decisions, rather than quangoes and central government.

Jeremy Vine: Roger Knapman, why not.

Roger Knapman MEP
Roger Knapman MEP, leader of the U.K. Independence Party

Roger Knapman: Well, of all weeks, when we've learned about MPs, their expenses, their hangers-on, their researchers and all the rest of it, you have to say, do we want a new layer of government.

The whole of the introduction to this programme was people saying, yes, we want more politicians, we want more spent, we want a new regional structure, and the answer is, actually it's time to question the whole project because it's just not necessary. We're seeing Westminster stripped of most of its powers. 65% of all the laws are now being made in Brussels.

Can you tell us Deputy Prime Minister, by the time you've top-sliced more through the new constitution, and bottom sliced some to the regional parliaments, what percentage of our laws will be made in Brussels, sorry, in Westminster.

John Prescott: Well just let, well, a number of em. Because you, you were the Whip that drove through the Maastricht Treaty.

Roger Knapman: No I didn't, I opposed it. I opposed it, all the way through.

John Prescott: Well ... it was the Tories who brought it in, you were in the Government with Major's government, they brought us Maastricht, right?

And we had more decisions made in Brussels. Yes, a lot of decisions are made in Brussels. But let me answer about the administrations.

Our changes will change the local government structure, and if they accept this, there will be six hundred less councils. It would cost you fourteen million or twelve million less actually with this administration; so it will cost you less.

Less bureaucracies ... ten councils less; so we have two tiers rather than three tiers. It's just utter nonsense from someone from the south to tell us no, and doesn't even know the basic statistics.


Roger Knapman: (overlaps) ... I come from Devon, the introduction of the programme was about Devon and Cornwall, so I think I've got a right to ...


Jeremy Vine: Just a minute. You are MEP for the south west, so you've got that huge region. (interjection by Prescott) So, you see these regions are entities that can exist in a democratic structure, because you represent one ...


Roger Knapman: We're turkeys that want, we're turkeys that want to vote for Christmas. We ... to go across there, to bring back all the fraud, all the corruption, all the waste, which has been made self-evident this week.

Jeremy Vine: We're sticking on the Assemblies here.

Roger Knapman: And that's why, and we give all our expenses money to the Party, to make it better known, that it's time to get out of the European Union, which 54% of the nation now agree with us.

Jeremy Vine: And can you tell us why you don't want Assemblies, if we can stick to that subject. Regional assemblies.

Roger Knapman: We don't want, we don't want regional assemblies. It's an additional layer of government, it's going away from the traditional county council, district council, voluntary, voluntary service ... żI know my locality'- to a new layer of government where it isn't just a question of one, or England being cut up in to little bits and pieces, it's going to be right throughout the European Union. And you see, John Prescott was not elected, he was selected to be an MEP some thirty years ago, and bring about this regional basis. Why have the BBC never shown us a map of the European ... other regions.

Jeremy Vine: Answers ...

John Prescott: (overlaps) ... First of all, counties go. So one tier of government is obviously the defender of the counties, the Tories are.

We are saying the county government goes, there's unitaries, which the Tories used to be in favour of, and region; two tiers rather than three. Now I thought that sounds less tiers of administration.

Six hundred less councillors in the proposal we've got, ten less councils. Now, I can't possibly conceive of an idea that's more bureaucracy but actually less; less politicians, less cost and more chance for the people to make a decision.

Jeremy Vine: Are you sure it's going to cost less. Are you sure it's going to cost less.

John Prescott: Yes. Yes. What ... to the people of the North East, we've worked out the figures, depending on what decision they make on the local government structure, because we're getting rid of the counties, and depending on the structure of unities they involve, it will range from twelve million to four million less, to the people in the North East, for that administration.

Jeremy Vine: We were told the Scottish parliament was only going to cost forty million and it ended up costing four hundred million.

John Prescott: I think you're talking about the building. If you talk about London, they ...


John Prescott: ... built an assembly there, on budget, on time. I think the one in Scotland, they've had an inquiry and that's not a very good example, I agree with you Jeremy.

But that's up to the people in the region to make that decision. There's no reason to believe, and in the North East for example, they talk about using the existing county buildings they've got at the present time.

That was an unfortunate mistake, they've decided that, they made that decision in Scotland, and the people in the North or even regions that have to make the decision, even Cornwall might want to make a building where they sit in. Hopefully, it's not as expensive as the one that they had in Scotland.

Jeremy Vine: And you're against all of this, you're against the Scottish parliament as well. Would you wind that down.

Roger Knapman: I think there's room for a Scottish dimension. That's a separate issue.

Jeremy Vine: What does that mean.

Roger Knapman: But not for regional ...

John Prescott: (overlaps) He means he's for it now.

Roger Knapman: ... It means not splitting England in to nine regional parliaments. Let me tell you.

Jeremy Vine: What about the Welsh assembly then.

Roger Knapman: The Conservatives negotiated this ...


Roger Knapman: They did the Treaty of Rome, they did the single European Act. Let me just quote one sentence.

Jeremy Vine: What about the Welsh Assembly, Roger Knapman.

John Prescott: And the Scottish Parliament.

Roger Knapman: We need a Welsh dimension, but you don't need Welsh MPs and members of the Welsh assembly. You don't need Scottish MPs and members of the Scottish Parliament. That's duplication, and we've seen the sort of costs ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) So you'd have an English parliament then would you.

Roger Knapman: No, no, we'd keep things as they are. And what I want to tell you is ...


Roger Knapman: ... single European Act, this is the real reason, as you know -because you've been round for a day or two, but then so have I- (quotes from paper) that ... the genuine cohesion policy is designed to off-set the burden of the single market, for the southern countries, and other less favoured regions. ... That means that what you're actually doing is getting British tax payers money, and pushing it abroad.

One third of all the budget is being sent in due course to Poland etc; so you believe in sending British tax payers money to all these other countries instead of giving it to our schools, our hospitals, and our pensioners.

John Prescott: I think this government compared to your last one that you were in, the Tories, has given more to schools, more to hospitals, more to public services. Got more people back at work. The real difference is the differential between the growth of the north and south, still, whilst they've all improved and reduced unemployment, is still there. That's why I want a strong voice for it and we care about this ...

Roger Knapman: (overlaps) How much money are you sending abroad this year. How much money are you sending abroad for this ...


John Prescott: .. he was in the government that did it. They were against the Scottish parliament, then they came for it. They vote, voted against it. They were against a Welsh assembly, after the people in Wales said, they want one, they came for it. They were against the London authority, having abolished it, we re-established it, and then they accepted it. We'll be the same for the North East. Always, they vote against it and then they accept it.

Jeremy Vine: Are you talking about the Tories or are you talking about UKIP here.

John Prescott: Well I mean they're, they're a part of the Tory party aren't they.


John Prescott: ... he was a Whip in the Tory party, pushing most of these policies through. Now he's joined the other outfit.

Roger Knapman: Well, ten minutes ago you thought I voted for the Maastricht Treaty; I didn't. I opposed it all the way.

John Prescott: (overlaps) No, you were in a government ... no, no, okay then. Major's government, of which you were part of, or certainly in that Party at the time, brought us Maastricht. You were asking me about powers, more powers went over to Maastricht for that. All I'm saying is that ...

Roger Knapman: That's why I left.

John Prescott: All I'm saying ...

Jeremy Vine: You were a Whip in the Conservative party.

John Prescott: You had a disagreement with the Tory Party.

Roger Knapman: Not at the time of Maastricht.

John Prescott: According to Kilroy-Silk, you've got a disagreement with him so I mean at least you've got disagreements in ...


Roger Knapman: It makes a change from the Tony and Gordon show doesn't it.

Jeremy Vine: I don't want to intervene, but let me ask you about what happens if this North East referendum goes against John Prescott. There seems to be an increasing number of people don't want your assembly. Is it dead and buried in the North East.

John Prescott: No, it's not against John Prescott. It's our policy for major devolution and ...

Jeremy Vine: But you want it.

John Prescott: ... and we've had it for a hundred years in our manifesto, to do this, right. I want to see the people vote yes, of course we do, and so would the government.

Tony Blair was up there with Charles Kennedy, actually advocating it. If they vote yes, then we'll get on with bringing decentralisation to the English regions, so the people of the north can have their say, instead of being gagged by the people in the south and central government. If, if they say no, then it is going to be difficult, but other regions can still have the right to call for a referendum in their area.

Jeremy Vine: But the north west's referendum has been put off.

John Prescott: Well the north west ...

Jeremy Vine: And the Humbers as well.

John Prescott: Well, the north west and Yorkshire and Humberside, were the two ones that we had ...

Roger Knapman: The postal service not very good.

John Prescott: We waited for the Boundary Commission to report on the proposals of voting. He had some comments to make about that, and then they can have the choice.

Jeremy Vine: But people are saying you put it off because you knew you were going to lose in those two areas.

John Prescott: No, the Boundary Commission made clear that they weren't happy about the old postal ballot in those areas cos the experience they had in that election, in the local and er, European election ...

Roger Knapman: The postal service is better in the North East I suppose.

John Prescott: And what they, and what they ... well they never had any complaints there. They did in the north Yorkshire area, and in Birmingham, which wasn't all postal ballot; so we have accepted what the Commission might say, we'll have to take in to account. Clearly, we don't want a dispute about the ballot. Afterwards ...

Mr Howard had said that er, if it's a narrow majority, he wouldn't implement it; so we don't want a dispute about the balloting process, so we'll wait for the commission to report, then the people in the North West and the Yorkshire and Humberside, can have the opportunity if they want, to exercise a referendum.

Jeremy Vine: All right. And now, I'm going to ask you about the leadership of your party now since we've got you here. You are currently the leader of the UK Independence Party. Robert Kilroy-Silk wants to be the leader, and he's made that clear, and he described you as invisible. What's going to happen to him.

Roger Knapman: Well, with respect, either the deputy Prime Minister, or myself are quite invisible.

John Prescott: Speak for yourself.

Roger Knapman: I was elected for a four year term, a fixed four year term, and this is a novel idea; one person one vote amongst our twenty seven thousand members. Two years ago, nobody wanted to be leader, now everybody wants to be leader. I think that's a very healthy sign.

Jeremy Vine: And what happens to Mr Kilroy-Silk.

Roger Knapman: Well, I'm going to ask the one man in the country who knows about these things, because one minute he's got the Prime Minister coming and saying, Gordon's been undermining me, the next minute, it's the other way round and Gordon is saying, Oh the Prime Minister ...

Jeremy Vine: You really want his advice do you.

Roger Knapman: And therefore, he's in a very ... pretty position of giving advice to both of them, and telling them they're both right; so if you're giving me advice on these matters, I'd be very grateful.

John Prescott: Well if it's the choices of people that's exactly what's up in the north; give the people the right to make the choice. Don't gag them. Let the people of the north make the choice.


Roger Knapman: This is not a good week to say they want more politicians. Not a very good week to say they want more politicians.

John Prescott: ... please get your facts right.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) Thank you. Gentlemen, thank you both very much indeed. I'll have to stop it there I'm afraid.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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