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Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Sunday, 10 May 2009 12:19 UK

'Wake-up call' to politicians

On Sunday 10 May Andrew Marr interviewed Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

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

ANDREW MARR:

Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

For those of you wondering if there's any point to politics, do these people do anything, there's some news about what is possibly the biggest single threat facing us - climate change.

There's been a long stand off between two titanic economies, the United States and China, and if they can't make the change to low carbon economies frankly the world can't.

But there is perhaps, apparently, a glimmer of hope. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has just returned from Beijing, and he's with me now.

ED MILIBAND:

Morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Thank you for coming in. So explain to us about this. In the past basically the Chinese haven't moved very far because they said after all the Americans aren't moving and this is now changing.

ED MILIBAND:

I think it is. I think it's partly the new leadership from President Obama who's come in and said I'm going to change America's approach to this. Climate change is a problem. It is manmade. And he's setting tougher ambitions for the United States. And I was in China last week and it's a massive problem for China, climate change already. I was in a desert in the North West of China where the desert is expanding.

Three hundred thousand people's livelihoods are being threatened. So they recognise it's a problem. Now the problem for them is they've got five hundred million people living on less than two dollars a day so they want to keep growing. And I think they are beginning to think well actually there is a way in which we can continue to grow but do it on the basis of lower carbon emissions.

ANDREW MARR:

Because we read all the time about China opening another dirty, coal fired power station every week or day or whatever it is. Is that still going on?

ED MILIBAND:

It is. I mean coal is, coal fired power stations are still being built in China. What's changed is they are now enthusiastic and very keen to develop and work with us, to develop the new technology that I talked about a couple of weeks ago - carbon capture and storage.

In other words capturing the CO2 from carbon now, from coal fired power stations. Now Britain is now leading the way in this. We've announced four demonstration projects of this new technology. We're going to be working with the Chinese among others to drive that forward as quickly as possible.

ANDREW MARR:

Now unlike Caroline Lucas you believe very much in nuclear power and you want us to have many more nuclear power stations quite quickly. But in Scotland for instance they're saying absolutely no. Can you do anything about that?

ED MILIBAND:

I mean the Scots have to make their own decisions about whether they want ...

ANDREW MARR:

Right so it's very much their ...

ED MILIBAND:

... they want their nuclear power ...

ANDREW MARR:

... Scotland's decision?

ED MILIBAND:

... stations. Let me just say something about that though Andrew because I think climate change is such an urgent challenge that we face that it would be wrong to reject any of the new technologies that are available, all the technologies that are available. We've got renewables, wind.

But we're trying to get to fifteen per cent of our energy coming from wind by 2020. That's a pretty big ask already. I don't think we can get to a hundred per cent. We need clean fossil fuels, clean coal. And I think we can have a future for coal in this country but it's got to be clean.

And we need nuclear as well. And I think lots of people - I didn't grow up in a pro-nuclear family. But I think lots of people have changed their attitude towards nuclear because of the threat of climate change.

ANDREW MARR:

Are we all going to be getting around differently as well? I mean one of the things I, I think the Chinese want to do, think they can do is sell us huge amounts of electric cars. I mean they're pushing that very hard.

ED MILIBAND:

I think they think they can sell us lots of these technologies actually ...

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah.

ED MILIBAND:

... which is one of the reasons why they're interested in it. But they are moving towards electric cars. We are doing this also in this country as a result of announcements in the Budget and before, really trying to get the electric car industry going in this country. It's big changes in people's lifestyles that we're going to be seeing over time. But I think you can also say this is a better quality of life that we can get to.

There are costs of changing. But whether it's electric cars which reduce pollution, whether it's a better public transport system. All of these things can make for a better world. It's not just avoiding disaster. It's also creating a better quality of life for people.

ANDREW MARR:

So when people think of climate change and the massive changes that may be happening and it's unavoidable, actually this is too big for people to cope with. Our lifestyles can't change dramatically enough to make an impact. You say there is hope out there. There is - I mean they should, they should think again?

ED MILIBAND:

I think they should. And I think you make a very interesting point which is defeatism is in a way the biggest, one of the biggest enemies we face in this. The sense - and that's why I sometimes worry about the bidding up if you like of how dangerous and terrible the problem is. I mean we have to listen to the scientists.

But if we just convince people that we're going to hell in a hand cart and there's nothing we can do I think that, that way lies disaster. Actually we have a lot of the technologies that can tackle this problem. We need political will. What's happening in the United States and what Europe has been doing ...

ANDREW MARR:

Is crucial.

ED MILIBAND:

... is crucial and important. And ...

ANDREW MARR:

.... You've been to see the Obama team.

ED MILIBAND:

We have.

ANDREW MARR:

You're impressed by what they're saying ....?

ED MILIBAND:

Yeah. They've got, my equivalent is a Nobel prize winner so much more, much more sophisticated and knowledgeable than me.

But, but I think there is a chance. And actually there's a real window of opportunity this year because President Obama is in his first year. Lots of people said he's going to come in, he's going to say there are many other problems,"I'm not going to tackle this".

He's saying to Congress let's have a bill to reduce American emissions and we need to seize that opportunity and Britain is playing an enthusiastic and important part in that process.

ANDREW MARR:

So a big, a big change there. I was amused to see him saying that his second hundred days are going to be so successful he'd complete them in seventy two days which I have to say is not something that could be said about Her Majesty's government here at the moment. In your time in politics has there been a worse weekend for the Labour Party than this one?

ED MILIBAND:

I think there probably has been. Look I think that you have bad weekends. You have bad weeks. That's, that's part of being in, in politics.

ANDREW MARR:

This is meltdown though isn't it?

ED MILIBAND:

I don't think this is meltdown Andrew. Look what you're, what you're seeing ...

ANDREW MARR:

Down to twenty three points in the polls.

ED MILIBAND:

Well that's one ...

ANDREW MARR:

Nineteen ...

ED MILIBAND:

That's one opinion poll. And after frankly the couple of weeks that we've had it's not surprising that our opinion poll numbers aren't very high. But look, what we're seeing this weekend I think is something in a way bigger than that which is a challenge and a wake up call to politicians about the systems that we have in place.

ANDREW MARR:

Well let's turn to that. Let me put to you for instance this habit of flipping what is the second home and the main home in order to claim the maximum amount of money from taxpayers to do one up and then to do the other up in order to get out of paying capital gains tax, out of paying the full rate of Council Tax.

That is morally reprehensible and everybody involved in that should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

ED MILIBAND:

Well look here, let me just say....

ANDREW MARR:

Yes or no?

ED MILIBAND:

Here's, here's why you have to be cautious about that. Because you're, you're going on the basis of certain reporting in newspapers about people's circumstances. We don't know people's circumstances. On Thursday - let me just make this point.

On Thursday the Telegraph was saying - or Friday - that somehow the prime minister had done something wrong. Today they're saying well actually we're stepping back from that. That's not the case. What I say to you is that the totality of this picture is, is about a system that needs to be reformed.

ANDREW MARR:

It's dreadful.

ED MILIBAND:

Of course it needs to be, of course it needs to be reformed. I take my responsibility as a member of parliament that we didn't reform it earlier. Now the prime minister a few weeks ago was saying this is a problem. It does need reform. People didn't like his idea for reform. But the system needs to change ...

ANDREW MARR:

Well you, you saying ...

ED MILIBAND:

... and that's the wake up call that we, the politicians have received.

ANDREW MARR:

You say that I'm talking on the basis ...

ED MILIBAND:

Sure.

ANDREW MARR:

... of unsubstantiated reports and so on. Hazel Blears does not contest the fact that she flipped what was her main home to her other home several times in the course of a year. Now that is, that can only be done to milk the taxpayer. That is shameful.

ED MILIBAND:

Well just be careful about this because the rules changed in two - as I understand it the rules changed in two thousand and four to allow ministers to designate their, their London home as their second home which Hazel had apparently always wanted to do.

And that's what she did. Now I don't think we should judge on this programme what individuals have done. I think Hazel has clearly said that she's acted within the rules.

ANDREW MARR:

You see I, I ...

ED MILIBAND:

What we know though, what we know is that the rules have to change.

ANDREW MARR:

I - we certainly know that. As one of the MPs who hasn't been, as it were, fingered - and you're on the cleaner end of all of this - nonetheless do you not recognise the intensity of public anger about this?

ED MILIBAND:

Absolutely.

ANDREW MARR:

And people are livid.

ED MILIBAND:

Absolutely I do and that's why I say the system, that's why I say the system has to change. But I do want to say this. Look I have people in the House of Commons on the Conservative side, the Liberal side and the Labour side. We have people across the House of Commons.

I think the vast majority of them are in politics for the right reasons and are fundamentally honest. And I think it's really important to say that. And you know of course as in any organisation and with any system of rules people do things which perhaps they shouldn't have done. And of course the system has to change.

And I think the system does need to change. But you know, what's so depressing about this for people who believe in politics and believe in political argument and the big substantive issues that our country faces is that we're talking about you know, people's swimming pools or gardens or whatever it, or whatever it is. That's why the system needs to change.

ANDREW MARR:

You said just now that people are doing things they shouldn't have done. Let me ask you directly. You pick up the papers and you look at some of these claims. Do you think these are offensive?

ED MILIBAND:

Well I think there are real problems with the system.

ANDREW MARR:

No ...

ED MILIBAND:

And there are, there are ...

ANDREW MARR:

But hold on a second ...

ED MILIBAND:

... clearly problems with the system.

ANDREW MARR:

The system is one thing. The people using the system are another. I mean this is, this is, this is not a crime without anybody taking part in it.

ED MILIBAND:

Well look what I'm saying to you Andrew, I'm not going to judge individual cases on the basis of partial accounts in newspapers. What I can say to you, what I absolutely believe, is that the overall system is a problem and needs to change.

ANDREW MARR:

You say it stinks?

ED MILIBAND:

Well you might use those words.

ANDREW MARR:

No.

ED MILIBAND:

It's a real, well I think it's a real problem the system. It does need to change. Of course it needs to change. That's why the prime minister's been saying let's change the system. I think there's recognition across all parties that it needs to change. We should have had that recognition earlier and I, and as I say I as an MP I take my share of responsibility for that. I actually think the biggest problem in the system is the lack of clarity about what is and isn't allowed. And also the sense that what is perhaps being allowed doesn't accord with the public's view about what should be allowed.

ANDREW MARR:

I think - can I put it to you there is something else which is, there are systems and what is and isn't allowed. A bigger problem may be the fact that so many MPs went absolutely to the limits and in some cases beyond in trying to grab what's allowed. Just because you can claim for something, for a, for a loo seat or a barbecue or whatever, or you think you can, or a mole catcher or whatever it is doesn't mean you should.

ED MILIBAND:

Yeah but look what people thought was there are a set of rules in place and they are scrutinised by the House of Commons authorities. And people rightly thought well look that is the system that we have. That is the judgment that is made.

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah.

ED MILIBAND:

In retrospect that isn't a system that commands sufficient respect from the public and that's why it needs to change.

ANDREW MARR:

Is the overwhelmingly obvious truth not now that the Labour Party cannot win the next election and that Gordon Brown probably should stand down as the Prime Minister?

ED MILIBAND:

No, I don't agree with that at all. We have the right leader in Gordon. And I think what we have to be really careful about in politics is that you have ups and downs as a government. We've had a very bad - just let me make this point. We've had a very bad couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago people saw Gordon at the G20 invite leaders from all around the world. People said he was taking a massive gamble, raised expectations. And what I think the vast majority of fair minded people thought was actually he made a real difference to our chances of recovery and the chance of the world economy recovering.

And I think that at the election we won't be discussing MP's expenses - I hope not. Cos I hope we've reformed the system. We'll be discussing the substantive issues that this country faces around the economy, around education, around Europe indeed. And I think we have better answers to those questions. That's why this is ...

ANDREW MARR:

If ....

ED MILIBAND:

... all so profoundly depressing frankly.

ANDREW MARR:

If he's so good why is he getting poll ratings worse than those of Michael Foot?

ED MILIBAND:

Well because, because we've had very, we've had a very bad couple of weeks as you yourself have been saying. We are in the middle of a difficult ...

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah.

ED MILIBAND:

... economic situation. And look Liam Fox said something very interesting. He said well actually this is all about the economy. Well the economy is very important.

And what I say to you is that I think by the time, by, in the coming months, as we see the economy start to recover, people will start to make a judgment and will say did, did this man Gordon Brown make the right decisions for our country by saying we don't just stand aside and let the recession take its course, we take action. And I think people will conclude that he did take the right, the right decisions.

ANDREW MARR:

And so if, if in the European elections the Labour Party comes third or even fourth does that make no difference?

ED MILIBAND:

I don't think I'm speculating about us coming third or fourth. What I'm saying to you is that Gordon is the right leader. He's going to be the leader at the election. He has the right values and he has the right experience. And I think that will tell. Look the trick is …

ANDREW MARR:

No panic? No Putsch....?

ED MILIBAND:

No, absolutely not. Look I've known Gordon a long time as you know. And what I know is that people have consistently underestimated him. All throughout his career when his time as Chancellor, people have written him off in the past.

Don't underestimate Gordon because on the substantive issues that our country faces he has the right values. And I think people do think he's a person of integrity ...

ANDREW MARR:

Well ...

ED MILIBAND:

... and he has the right experience for our country.

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah, maybe. Maybe they think that. I'm not sure on the base of the polls. For the moment thank you very much ...

ED MILIBAND:

Thank you very much.

ANDREW MARR:

... indeed for joining us.

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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