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Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Sunday, 1 February 2009

British jobs pledge was 'unbelievably ridiculous and silly'

On Sunday 01 February Andrew Marr interviewed William Hague MP

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague says Gordon Brown's promise to British workers was 'fiction.

William Hague MP
William Hague MP

ANDREW MARR:

William Hague, when he was Leader of the Conservative Party, fought an election on the promise to save the pound.

Well now there's a different priority: save British jobs is the demand being made, as we've heard by industrial workers around the UK who claim they're being squeezed out by cheaper labour, particularly from Eastern and Southern Europe, and more strikes are expected this week.

So where are Conservative sympathies?

William Hague, now Shadow Foreign Secretary, is here. Welcome.

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Good morning. Do the men who are protesting have a point, have a case?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Well they clearly have some legitimate questions that they're asking. We've got to be, we've got to recognise people are very worried about unemployment now and we should all want British people and British companies to win contracts and to have employment. But I think we should also be clear that strikes are never the way forward. We have never thought strikes were the way forward. We should also be clear that if a company was saying that they are not going to take on British workers, well that would clearly be illegal. But when Gordon Brown said, "British jobs for British workers" at that party conference in October, September 07, it was a fiction pretending that that could be guaranteed because there is free movement of workers within the European Union other than the current restrictions on people from Bulgaria and Romania.

ANDREW MARR:

Frank Field has said this morning that it would be a good idea to stop companies bringing in foreign workers unless the jobs have been advertised properly here first and it was clear that there weren't skilled British workers who could do those jobs. Would that be a good...

WILLIAM HAGUE:

(over) I think he would find that that was in conflict with all the commitments we've entered into in the European Union. There are of course many things that we can do and should be doing in this country to help people with employment. You know we have proposed a more ambitious scheme than the Government have suggested bringing in to give tax rebates to employers who take on people who've been unemployed for more than three months. The Government have brought, are bringing in a more limited form of that. We have proposed a National Loan Guarantee Scheme to get the credit flowing in the economy again, which of course would do more for employment than any change in the law that Frank Field or anybody else might think of. And we've suggested changing rules on public procurement, so that it's easier for small companies and start up companies, including many companies of course in Britain, to get those public sector contracts. So there is a lot that we can do to help people, but I don't think those things involve going back on the free movement of workers within the European Union, which is one of the aspects of the single market, which of course we strongly support.

ANDREW MARR:

So those people looking for a change of policy to the Conservatives are going to be disappointed on that issue?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Well if they want... I think they'll be disappointed if they ask any political party to say, any mainstream or responsible political party to say we can guarantee British jobs for British workers, which is why it was so unbelievably ridiculous and silly of the Prime Minister to say that in the first place. But they ought to be able to look to British parties and they can certainly look to the Conservative Party to do more to promote employment and to combat unemployment than is being done in this country at the moment.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you think... I mean we're clearly going to go through a very, very rocky year - all around the place there seem to be strikes and street demonstrations and so on. Are you concerned about the next few months, we're going to see more of this kind of thing?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Yes, very much, and I think across the board. I think clearly we've seen many protests in Eastern Europe, there is talk of tens of millions of people becoming unemployed in China. It is a really destabilising factor in the world. And what do we need in the face of that? Well we need people to be able to have confidence in their governments and to know that there is a steady hand in charge, that things will be pursued consistently. And one of the problems we've got in this country is the Prime Minister and the Government running around like headless chickens, adopting one strategy after another that fails, such as the ill-fated cut in value added tax, and then telling everybody yesterday in his speech at Davos that nobody really knew any answers; we were in uncharted territory and nobody knew what to do. Well we do know certain things to do - we know to promote a savings culture, not a debt culture; we know to have a Loan Guarantee Scheme to get the credit going in the economy again; we know to control government spending carefully - and these things are not happening in Britain now.

ANDREW MARR:

And yet many of those things are in conflict, aren't they, because it's very hard to see how we're going to have a savings culture when there are virtually zero percent interest rates, and that is apparently the monetary policy that has to be followed for the time being?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Well I think we've got to put in place things now in response to this economic crisis that will then stand the test of time later. And that is why David Cameron has spoken of the importance of savings and changing the tax on saving, so that long into the future this is something that will benefit this country. It's one of the problems with the Government's response - that they are looking for things that might work next week such as cutting VAT in December and saying they'll put it up again next January - and of course it's just given up 12 billion for no purpose at all. We need a longer term steadier hand here than Gordon Brown is able to give us.

ANDREW MARR:

The savings guarantee is focused on lower income people and indeed the tax policy, as it's developing, involves higher taxes from people at the top to give some money back to the people at the bottom. Now David Cameron is talking about the failings of capitalism and the need for a more moral capitalism. You're all going a bit Leftie, aren't you, in the party?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

No we're not. We're not going Left, but we believe in responsibility. David Cameron has talked right from the beginning of his leadership about the need for "social responsibility", of a sense of everybody being in this together. And I think this has been truly vindicated by the events of the last few months because whether you look at social change in Britain or at these economic changes, we do need that sense of everybody being in this together and I think we have lost that over the last ten years.

ANDREW MARR:

What would this sort of moral capitalism look like and feel like compared with today?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Well it means we've got to have responsible behaviour in financial services for a start. Clearly...

ANDREW MARR:

Boring banking, more boring banking?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Yes, more bor...absolutely more boring, more conservative bankers with a small 'c'. I'm not making a political point there. But what we've seen in recent years cannot possibly ever be repeated. And of course we want to see employers behave responsibly towards their work forces in a time of economic change and uncertainty and fear about unemployment with the assistance of government. That's why we say give people some assistance to take people on who are unemployed and spend the money on getting them into work rather than spend the money on unemployment benefit. This is the responsible approach that the Conservative Party would put into practice in government.

ANDREW MARR:

Now you're Shadow Foreign Secretary. You're off to see the Chinese Premier in a moment. Are you going to be raising some of the issues about freedom of speech, about the treatment of minorities that we've been hearing about in the news?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

We always in our meetings with Chinese leaders raise issues of human rights and Tibet and so on; and I think it's always important to do that so that it's consistent over time, so that we don't just raise these things when they're in the news and the Chinese leaders can then respect us for doing so. We also - let me stress this as well though - want a very constructive relationship with China because they are members of the UN Security Council and when it comes to things like the North Korean nuclear programme, we need China to be working with us.

ANDREW MARR:

Well we also need China to help pull the world out of recession, I mean in terms of the message presumably on increasing Chinese spending and spending some of their savings. That's very important at the same time as you're chiding them over other issues. A difficult kind of conversation to have surely?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

It is. These things are difficult and I think the answer again is consistency over time. And I think that particularly pays dividends with Eastern leaders - if I can group Eastern cultures and leaders together - who appreciate both consistent friendship and consistent messages. And that again is what they will get in foreign policy from the Conservative Party and that's what they'll get from David Cameron and me when we meet the Chinese Premier later this morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Your own position. Can you just clear something up? I'm slightly confused. Are you now the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

I'm David Cameron's Deputy. We don't use the title 'Deputy Leader'. Technically they call me the Senior Member of the Shadow Cabinet, I think. But I stand in for him when he needs somebody to stand in for him. But the great thing is, we don't have to be very hierarchical about it because we have an excellent and cohesive team, you know...

ANDREW MARR:

Right.

WILLIAM HAGUE:

...and there is George Osborne, indispensable to everything David Cameron has done.

ANDREW MARR:

You and Ken Clarke shoulder to shoulder on Europe as ever.

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Well actually Ken Clarke and I have been in many meetings together now since he joined the front bench in the last two weeks and we have agreed about everything that has come up so far and we've got on famously well together.

ANDREW MARR:

This must worry both of you enormously. (William Hague laughs) Can I just ask about one other thing, which are proposals in the papers today we read for a really draconian crackdown on all MP's, a complete ban on any outside work or interests for any MP in either house.

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Well this is a bit of an old story from last summer that has been reheated I think by the Government today and pushed out into the papers to try and hide their embarrassment about these four Labour peers last weekend and the allegations that have been made against them. Now if the Government come up with other proposals on reforming Parliament, then of course we must look at those proposals, but let's not let them...

ANDREW MARR:

But in principle, a bad thing or a good thing?

WILLIAM HAGUE:

In principle, I would say let's not be so restrictive that we stop talented people coming into and staying in politics because we're not so overflowing with talent in any party that we can do without those people. But don't let the Government off the hook here. Irrespective of any future rules, the allegations made about these peers in the last week involved breaking rules that Parliament has had for centuries that financial inducements to change legislation are not allowed. Let's not let them get away from that subject. We have to crack that one first.

ANDREW MARR:

Crisply put. Thank you very much indeed, William Hague.

WILLIAM HAGUE:

Thank you.

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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