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Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Sunday, 22 June 2008 12:34 UK

Nothing in the kitty

On Sunday 22 June Andrew Marr interviewed Alan Duncan MP

The Shadow Business Secretary Alan Duncan attacks the government's economic record.

Alan Duncan MP
Alan Duncan MP

ANDREW MARR: Welcome.

ALAN DUNCAN: Morning.

ANDREW MARR: Thank you for coming in. I do want to ask you first of all about this News of the World story saying that you've, you know you haven't declared money that's been coming ..

ALAN DUNCAN: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. in. Peter Oborne raised it.

ALAN DUNCAN: (LAUGHS)

ANDREW MARR: And he raised you raising it. So what's the truth?

ALAN DUNCAN: Well the truth is that all my declarations are fully in order and always have been. There's a lot of misinformation going around in the press and I'm afraid Peter O..

ANDREW MARR: You ... you didn't take this money?

ALAN DUNCAN: No. Peter Oborne has completely lost it this morning. But that's in the nature of life.

ANDREW MARR: Well I must ask you also did you ever, were you ever involved in sanctions busting over Serbia oil sanction busting?

ALAN DUNCAN: No I've never ever done any business in Serbia and I ..

ANDREW MARR: All right.

ALAN DUNCAN: .. just simply don't know what he's on about and I know you're not responsible for Peter Oborne.

ANDREW MARR: Well .. let's, let's turn to this Jeddah Summit. Because Gordon Brown seems to have gone with a plan which is to persuade the big oil producers in the Middle East to invest in our renewables, you know the, the turb.. wind turbines and, and the nuclear power stations as well as those. And in return we will invest in their oil refineries and we will therefore somehow get a more stable environment.

ALAN DUNCAN: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Sensible plan?

ALAN DUNCAN: Well if life were like that it would be. He's taking two problems. One is the high oil price and the other is his failure to invest in renewables in the UK over the last ten years. And assuming that somehow in some great master plan he can net the two off.

I mean this is fantasy. Total fantasy. Saudi Arabia and Arabs with lots of money will invest in the UK if we are an attractive place for investment. And there's not much they can do at the moment to reduce the price of oil. Some people say OPEC's a great cartel and it's squeezing us. In fact they're producing pretty well as much as they can with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia and perhaps Kuwait and Abu Dhabi.

But Saudi Arabia if it turns on the taps can only turn on the taps of a quality of oil, that's heavy oil which the refineries can't you know, can't consume and they don't have the capacity to take anyway. So the idea that OPEC can just go like that and flood the market with oil and bring the price down just shows that Gordon Brown does not understand global markets.

ANDREW MARR: Is there anything therefore that he can do?

ALAN DUNCAN: Not much on the oil price. There's a lot we could have done I think to improve energy efficiency and things like that and there's a lot that we must do and in that sense the renewable agenda's absolutely right and he's going to announce something on Thursday. But he's only ..

ANDREW MARR: Which you ..

ALAN DUNCAN: .. catching up ..

ANDREW MARR: ...

ALAN DUNCAN: .. catching up with what we've been saying for two, two years or more.

ANDREW MARR: But nonetheless that's, that's something where you and the government will be on the same page when it comes to large numbers of new turbines offshore. What about nuclear? Because your leader was to say the least ambiguous about expanding nuclear power.

ALAN DUNCAN: No what we said was that we've you know, we've really got to go for renewables. And we didn't want a nuclear agenda to freeze out the necessary investment in renewables. We're probably going to have new nuclear power stations.

But actually the government's policy there is facing difficulty because the sale of British Energy who control the prime sites seems to have faltered. And they are way behind on the renewables agenda. We've been talking about feed-in tariffs and decentralised energy for years ..

ANDREW MARR: But ..

ALAN DUNCAN: And the government's only catching up now.

ANDREW MARR: Just returning to nuclear, last resort is what David Cameron said. It's not last resort any more is it? We're going to have to build more nuclear power stations according to your analysis.

ALAN DUNCAN: "Last resort" wasn't real policy. It was two words in the document which we binned months ago. And ..

ANDREW MARR: So it's not, it's nu.., more nuclear power is not a last resort from your point of view?

ALAN DUNCAN: No, last resort ..

ANDREW MARR: It's part, it's an important part of the mix?

ALAN DUNCAN: I think it is going to be an important part of the mix. But there must be no subsidies and I think that's the same as the government. We can offer continuity over any change in government for investors which is good.

A high oil price and a sensible carbon regime would incentivise nuclear. But at the moment the government slaps a carbon levy on nuclear even though it doesn't emit carbon.

ANDREW MARR: What about the plight of the motorist? Because presumably one of the reasons that Gordon Brown has gone to Jeddah is that motorists in this country are beginning to scream.

ALAN DUNCAN: Beginning? They are really screaming.

ANDREW MARR: Yeah, and hauliers as ..

ALAN DUNCAN: Absolutely.

ANDREW MARR: .. well. So there is a big problem with the cost of motoring. We all hear that the country is addicted to oil but there's an awful lot of people who can't help that that's what their ..

ALAN DUNCAN: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. livelihood is. That's how they have to live.

ALAN DUNCAN: In due, in due course people will improve their use of, of, of oil in the cars they buy and the technology that applies to the cars. But at the moment the pain is massive. And you're going to have Alistair Darling on in a minute.

I mean what really makes me angry is that with ten years of growth this country is not equipped to cope with a downturn. There's nothing in the kitty. We've got the highest possible taxes, lowest imaginable savings, high borrowings and destroyed pensions. So ..

ANDREW MARR: Could ... it could be said all ..

ALAN DUNCAN: .. people, people have got nothing in the kitty ..

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

ALAN DUNCAN: .. to pay for it.

ANDREW MARR: All, all of those the results of public spending increases which were not opposed by the Conservatives when they went through.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well the political climate over the last ten years has been very difficult. And we have, we, we have been calling for prudence and for sharing the proceeds of growth. We've been saying that we think the country would be better as a lower tax economy to cope with all the competitive pressures we face, the sort of thing that would attract Saudi investment in the UK. Meanwhile Gordon Brown has been spending, spending, spending, taxing by stealth, right up to the buffers.

And now that the inevitable economic downturn is upon us we are not equipped to cope with that downturn. He has squandered a decade of growth and I think destroyed the chance we could have had to rebalance our economy and to have money in the kitty in terms of government savings and personal savings to cope with the difficulties we're now facing.

ANDREW MARR: Well let's talk about your party's relationship with business. A very interesting case this week about the proposed expansion of Heathrow which the Conservatives are now opposing, the third runway, to a chorus of furious articles and responses from the business papers and from business generally.

You're meant to be the spokesman for business inside the Conservative Party. Is this opposition to the third runway at Heathrow, it's a symbolic but it's a big symbolic thing, is that going to stick? Is David Cameron going to stick with that?

ALAN DUNCAN: No, you're actually exaggerating the two sides of the argument.

ANDREW MARR: Well ..

ALAN DUNCAN: We are unconvinced by the arguments for the expansion of Heathrow. People like Bob Ayling you know the former head of British Airways says he's unconvinced and ..

ANDREW MARR: So you could be convinced?

ALAN DUNCAN: Well what we're saying is that you know what really makes people angry about Heathrow is queuing for two miles down a corridor when you want to get on your plane. The fact is we want Heathrow to be better not bigger. And better is what Heathrow needs to be. And we've also got Boris Johnson as the new mayor looking at possible alternatives. And so we don't want to cut across his early studies in alternatives to Heathrow so our policy ..

ANDREW MARR: Sounds to, sounds to me like you might well change your policy on this.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well policy is what it is.

ANDREW MARR: Cos it's very important because everyone tells us that you know we should be flying less and that's one of the big sources of carbon emissions and so on.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well that's true. And that is part of our policy. So look at the economy now. I mean are low budget airlines going to continue in the, in the way they have over the last ten years?

I mean I doubt it. I'm not in the airline business but we'll see. But the idea that you know a third runway is an automatic must is something of which we're unconvinced.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Alan Duncan for now thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS


Please note "The Andrew Marr 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


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