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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 December 2006, 15:04 GMT
Interview transcript
On the Politics Show, Sunday 03 December 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Leader of the Green Party, Sian Berry.

Sian Berry
What you need to do is make the tax system more fair and putting green taxes on across the board, and reducing income tax, doesn't do that.
Sian Berry

JON SOPEL: I'm joined by Sian Berry, new Principal Speaker, that's Leader in old fashioned language of the Greens. Sian Berry, welcome to the Politics Show. What do you expect or hope that Gordon Brown will say.

SIAN BERRY: Well, it looks a lot like he's going to start putting some Green measures in, which is welcome. The only problem we have with that is it's a bit too little, a bit too late and that he's not going to be using it, the revenue that he raises from the Green taxes, for actually bringing alternatives in, to make it easier for people not to do the un-Green things. So ' and we think that's, all the other parties are talking about that as well. We think that's basically the wrong approach. You shouldn't be using Green taxes to line the Treasury's pockets.

JON SOPEL: We had the government backed Stern review published recently, what the argument there was, that by embracing new technologies and by modest changes, in the way we conduct our lives you can actually achieve pretty massive reductions in carbon emissions by 2050. Isn't that the way forward?

SIAN BERRY: Yes, it absolutely is. I mean he, Stern showed that investment now saves an enormous amount of carbon and saves all the consequences of climate change that you might have to pay for in the future as well. So it's a good investment to do things now.

The review that came out this week and the measures he's going to be putting in the budget, they're look a long way in to the future, things like road pricing, they're coming in 2015, by then we already have to have cut our emissions by about half, in order to make a real significant difference to climate change. So it's not going to be enough. We need to see more from Gordon Brown, we need to see all the money ploughed back in to alternatives like public transport.

JON SOPEL: I read on your blog, 'I'm getting on pretty well at the moment without an iPod, Toaster, Microwave, Dishwasher or Washing Machine. But I've been wondering if I should replace my twenty five year old catho-ray TV set with something more energy efficient'. Don't you think that most people just don't want to lead their lives like that.

SIAN BERRY: Oh it's much less hassle to not buy new things all the time, to not, I mean the things you buy now they break down much sooner than things like my twenty five year old TV which is, it's made of wood and it's still going. The things you buy now, they might be more energy efficient but they, they embody a lot of carbon.

They're coming all the way from China. The emissions that are produced when they were actually made, don't count towards our totals, so you can buy them with a clean conscience. (interjection) 'the emissions are counted for China, they do go towards global warming.

JON SOPEL: We get dozens of emails from people saying, look, their great suspicion about Green taxes is that it's not to do with the environment, it's just helping the Chancellor line the pockets of the Treasury.

SIAN BERRY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean all the other parties are talking about putting Green taxes on and reducing income tax and that's completely the wrong approach. What you need to do is make the tax system more fair and putting green taxes on across the board, and reducing income tax, doesn't do that.

The poorest families, the people who find it very very hard say to do without a car because the bus service is so appalling, they would like to do without a car, but they can't. So they have like a minimum amount of carbon that they can cut down to, and income tax rises, if they're on ' cuts, if they're on a small income, won't make much of difference.

JON SOPEL: What about air travel, people who can now travel abroad for the first time because there's cheap air travel. Are you going to say to them, no actually, only the wealthy can go?

SIAN BERRY: That's not, that's a bit of myth actually. I mean we do know where the growth in air travel is coming from and it's from the rich flying more often. There's a survey done at Stansted, it showed that the average income of the people flying out of there on cheap flights is about double the average income of the country as a whole.

So it's people with second homes, it's people flying more unnecessarily. We're not about cutting out holidays, you know, single holiday a year for the poorest, that will still be within their price range.

JON SOPEL: So you don't do anything about airfare duty?

SIAN BERRY: Yes, we do, we'd put that up. Definitely we'd put that up...

JON SOPEL: But that will hit the poor.

SIAN BERRY: No, they just need to save up for their holidays and they will still be able to go. It won't put it completely out of their range. We do need to cut down on the capacity so that the richest do not be ' are not flying like six times a year to their second homes and going skiing and going on a long-haul flight.

JON SOPEL: (interjects) ' you keep saying that, but it will hit poor people won't it, if they, if you substantially rise the amount that they have to pay for their tickets.

SIAN BERRY: But you have to put the money in to the alternatives and the alternatives in terms of tourism, which is also better for our own economy is increasing rail links and public transport around the UK so it makes it more attractive for people to holiday here, which is better for some of the poorest places in the country, which are our sort of former tourist destinations which have been hit terribly hard by the amount of cheap flights that are dragging people out of the country to spend their money. It's much better, much more sustainable to encourage people to holiday here.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Sian Berry. Thanks very much.

SIAN BERRY: All right. Thank you.


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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

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

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The Politics Show Sunday 03 December 2006 at 12.10 GMT on BBC One.
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