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Page last updated at 08:30 GMT, Sunday, 6 July 2008 09:30 UK

We'll share motorists' pain

On Sunday 06 July Andrew Marr interviewed George Osborne MP

Shadow Chancellor unveils Tory plans for a 'fair fuel stabiliser'.

George Osborne MP ...photo by Jeff Overs BBC
George Osborne MP

ANDREW MARR: George Osborne joins me now. Shadow Chancellor thank you very much indeed for coming in.

Let me start with something which has certainly made headlines this week - Boris Johnson's troubles at City Hall in London, having to lose his second senior advisor in only a matter of days.

Are you happy to be judged as a party on how he does in London?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I'm certainly happy to be judged by what Boris Johnson is doing in London which is putting more police on the streets to tackle knife crime. Sorting out the enormous waste of money that took place in City Hall under the Labour administration.

For example setting up a charity fund so that people can give money to a London mayor's fund that will spend money on charities in London. So he's done lots of very substantive things.

ANDREW MARR: Yeah but one senior advisor had to go over remarks he made about race, whether they were construed fairly or not. Now his Deputy Mayor has had to go...

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well look...

ANDREW MARR: .. Because of other allegations.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Not a very good start is it?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well as I say, what Londoners care about are things like the alcohol ban on the Tube. The scanners that are being set up to try and tackle knife crime in schools and so on. If you look at Ray Lewis - I mean I think there is, obviously allegations have been made about his past.

They're now being investigated by an independent investigation that Boris Johnson set up. And when you look at what Ray Lewis has done with the East Side Young Leaders Academy, it comes back to the conversation you were having on that sofa at the beginning of this programme about tackling knife crime.

It's not just about stiff sentences and taking the tough action that the police need to take, much as those things are needed. It is also about getting to the root causes of these crimes and the broken society that produces them. And someone like Ray Lewis with the work he had done in the community, brings all sorts of insights. So yes of course he's had to ..

ANDREW MARR: And yet, and yet these are quite serious ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. Of course he's had to step down. And you know it's hypoc..

ANDREW MARR: These are serious allegations that were made against him ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: But ..

ANDREW MARR: He was close to David Cameron, not just to Boris Johnson. And there is an issue as to whether you were kind of looking carefully enough in Opposition at some of the people you're close to.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well the, look there are allegations have been made about his past. They're being investigated. But of course it would be very easy for Boris Johnson to just appoint a load of deputy mayors who are career politicians and indeed the whole of the Westminster world to operate with career politicians who thought about little else about from being in politics since the age of twelve. But I don't think you would bring some of the insights that someone like Ray Lewis or indeed many other people can bring on very tough issues like knife crime.

ANDREW MARR: Well turning to career politicians then - I don't know if you've been thinking about it since the age of twelve or not ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: Not quite, no.

ANDREW MARR: Lots of stories in the papers as you know about so called Tory sleaze.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Your office has been investigated over donations and that's continuing. And you're in the papers today again over ten thousand pounds that you've charged for a Q&A session ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: Mmm.

ANDREW MARR: .. which it's said is against Conservative Party rules, that you shouldn't have taken that money.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well first of all on the Q&A session, this may be news to you Andrew Marr, but I suspect it isn't. But BBC presenters are paid sometimes for after dinner speeches and questions and answers and ..

ANDREW MARR: Very few of us are elected politicians ...

GEORGE OSBORNE: And, and, and I was, the thing that's in the papers, which by the way I registered seven months ago and you can run the story at any point in the last seven months 'cause I publicly declared it, 'cause I did a Q&A session in an after dinner speech with Andrew Neil, a fellow BBC presenter and that, you know I don't do very many of these. One a year in that case. And I registered it in the proper way and if, if ..

ANDREW MARR: Is it against Conservative Party rules?

GEORGE OSBORNE: It's not against Conservative Party rules. It's not against the parliamentary rules 'cause I properly registered it.

And you know if all that journalism consists of now is going through the Register of Members' Interests which was set up to be transparent, looking through and lifting things that were in there seven months ago then so be it.

I think the more interesting question is how do you sort out you know the general perception that politics you know had ..

ANDREW MARR: People are in it for themselves.

GEORGE OSBORNE: There is a whiff of corruption ... and so on in politics and the allowances and so on. And I think one of the tragedies of last week was we had a great opportunity in parliament to vote through changes that would make things more transparent.

I voted to make those changes transparent. So did David Cameron. But extraordinarily for some reason the Labour Party whips whipped Labour MPs to vote against it and Gordon Brown didn't show up and that opportunity was missed. So you know it's back to the drawing board with the MPs' allowances.

ANDREW MARR: And yet, I mean these are exactly the same kind of stories over where money came from and who's paying for what that you as an Opposition Party have used to whack the Labour Party over the head with ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. perfectly justifiably for years. Now it's happening to you.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well ..

ANDREW MARR: My question is if you get into power ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. will you reopen all these questions about MPs' expenses? Will you use the authority of being ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well ..

ANDREW MARR: .. of being a newly elected government to change things?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I think we do have to change MPs' expenses because the opportunity to change them last week was missed because ..

ANDREW MARR: Right.

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. I don't think the Prime Minister ...

ANDREW MARR: So you would come in as a government and say a new regime.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well hopefully we'll be able to sort it out before the election. But if not we'd have to sort it out after the election. And if, if you look at what David Cameron's done, faced with all sorts of individual stories about Labour MPs as well as Conservative MPs he has shown leadership by saying let's sort out the system. Let's get the MEPs onto a code of conduct.

Let's make sure that Conservative MPs are transparent about the allowances that they claim and we'll be publishing them later this month even though other parties aren't doing that. Let us sort out the Commons system of allowances. Look this is not good for anyone who chooses to go into public life, go into a career in politics.

ANDREW MARR: Another thing that people say about, about your party at the moment is that you have been short on policy specifics, particularly when it comes to tax. All sorts of difficult issues about what you do ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. for drivers and for ordinary taxpayers. Isn't it about time that you started to put some flesh on the bones?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well first of all I'd argue that the policies that we have announced over the last year, on the economy, things like inheritance tax or taking young families out of stamp duty or the changes we'd propose to the way the Bank of England operate or the changes to the way the consumer credit operates to protect people who get into debt.

These things have set the political agenda over the last year. But of course the big issues of what would be in a budget immediately after a general election we've got to flesh out as we know more about the state of the public finances. And ..

ANDREW MARR: So what about, what about drivers for instance who are very, very angry and upset at the moment about what it's costing them?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well of course drivers are angry. And indeed today we are going to propose a wholly new way of levying fuel duty.

At the moment fuel duty goes up even when the price of oil goes up. So instead of government helping you with the rising cost of living, it actually adds to the burden ..

ANDREW MARR: And they take the money from the, from the extra tax from the oil companies?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well they, you know the government's revenues flow in because of the price of oil goes up. This impacts on families and of course as I say hits them in their pockets and has a detrimental effect on inflation and on the stability of the public finances and on the wider economy.

ANDREW MARR: So what would you do?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well our proposal is for a fair fuel stabiliser. And we're publishing the detailed proposals later today. What this would mean is that when the price of oil goes up fuel duty comes down to help families.

But the quid pro quo is that when the price of oil falls the duty goes up. So government is sharing the pain of rising oil prices but government is also sharing the gain when oil prices fall. And that, that's a balanced system.

It's a common sense system. It means the government is actually helping people with the rising cost of living. And if, if we ..

ANDREW MARR: So what, what would that mean for prices now?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well if for example we'd introduced this system at the time of the last budget in March then fuel duty would currently be five P less than it is today. That would be a substantial help to families who are struggling to fill up their car, struggling with food bills, fuel bills and so on. Government would be doing its bit.

And you know this comes down to a much more basic principle about the Conservative approach to the economy which is we believe you should put money aside in good times to help in difficult times. So put money aside when oil prices are falling and it's cheaper to fill up your car so that you can help families in the current situation while the oil price is rising.

ANDREW MARR: So what ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: And that is about fixing the roof when the sun is shining.

ANDREW MARR: What about the current 2p increase that's being proposed? Is that staying?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well under our system that wouldn't even be a question. I mean look at the current system. You have to, you have to wait ..

ANDREW MARR: So you vote against it?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well you, we would, we are proposing a totally different way of ..

ANDREW MARR: Right.

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. doing fuel duty. And under the current system you wait for Gordon Brown to drop hints at Select Committees or Alistair Darling to come on this programme and make hints about what he may or may not do with the 2p.

And not only is that an insult to families who want some clear direction from the government but it is also ..

ANDREW MARR: And ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. extremely ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. destabilising for the public ..

ANDREW MARR: And this ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. finances.

ANDREW MARR: And this is a clear new pledge from you? This is something that in office you would ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: We are ..

ANDREW MARR: .. carry through in a budget.

GEORGE OSBORNE: We are ... this is a wholly new way of doing fuel duty. It would help families. We are publishing a detailed consultation paper today. We will get the answers in by the end of the year.

And we will have our fully worked out proposal for people to vote on at the general election. And can I make another point, which is people want leadership from the government in the economic crisis. They don't want Gordon Brown to sit on a chair like this and say "I was chancellor for ten years. Trust me".

That is his only message to people at the moment. And our message is you've got to get out there, help families with fuel bills, help them with getting onto the housing ladder, help them with consumer debt, help them with a banking system that isn't properly regulated. Government should be providing action and leadership ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

GEORGE OSBORNE: .. and you get inaction and no leadership from the government at the moment.

ANDREW MARR: And just briefly I'm afraid, we've had two sets of pretty scary figures from big retailers this week. Your assessment of where we are on the, towards a recession curve?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I'm not an economic forecaster but it is clearly very, very difficult when you have these problems of rising inflation, a slowing economy, tightening credit conditions for consumers. And the big question is why is Britain not better prepared.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. Okay.

GEORGE OSBORNE: And why is the government not offering the leadership and the action that is needed to help families.

ANDREW MARR: All right.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Today we show how the Conservatives would do that.

ANDREW MARR: George Osborne thank you very much indeed for now.

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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