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Lib Dem Treasury Spokesman Mathew Taylor MP

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:

And now in Torquay we saw yesterday Charles Kennedy rolling up his sleeves and preaching to the Lib-Dem faithful at their spring conference, he said the party was poised for a very successful general election campaign, well he would say that wouldn't he. And he criticised Labour roundly for not spending enough on health and education. Well the Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesman, Shadow Chancellor, Matthew Taylor is with us from Torquay, good morning Matthew.

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

Good morning.

DAVID FROST:

Starting with one thing, could you just clarify, is it now definitely a case that you will be adding to the tax, raising it by a penny for reasons probably of education, or is that still, if necessary, or is that now a commitment?

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

What we said is we'd look at what the Chancellor did in the Budget and what the figures were and we've been doing that work over the last week. What we knew was that the Chancellor put three and half billion a year into tax cuts, he could have used that money for education but he hasn't and as a result in order to cut class sizes on average to 25, abolish tuition fees, put more books and equipment in, yes we will have to ask people for that, it'll cost a typical family £2 a week, at most the taxpayer will pay £5 a week extra all the way up to £100,000 income a year, but it will mean we can transform schools and that's the priority we've always stuck by, we're not going to pretend you can get something for nothing but it's affordable and we think it's necessary.

DAVID FROST:

And that's, that's now definite, thank you, that's absolutely definite, clear, done and dusted?

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

What we're going to do in this campaign is spell out to people exactly what we're going to do and exactly what it will cost. We're not going to pretend as the Conservatives are, you can find money from nowhere and cut taxes or come to that make spending. It will cost to cut class sizes, to abolish tuition fees, to improve education, transform it to the highest standards in the world but that money will need to come from somewhere, a couple of pounds a week for the typical taxpayer, but all those pounds together we'll be able to make that transformation. If the Chancellor hadn't used his war chest for tax cuts it wouldn't have been necessary, but we know what he's done in the Budget, he's put a little bribe everybody's back pocket for the election and unfortunately that means we'll need to do it. But let's remember this is only taking a penny on income tax, that takes it to the level that it was at when the Conservatives left office, Gordon Brown cut a penny off last year, we think that money will be better used in schools and in universities.

DAVID FROST:

What about the situation, Charles has said, obviously you're not technically expecting to come first in this general election, but do you think you've got a chance of coming second?

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

Well what we've seen is the transformation of the prospects of the Liberal Democrats in recent years, record numbers elected last time and most people expecting us to continue to make those gains at the next election. Why? Because people don't want the Conservatives back they were a disaster in office, everybody knows their tax cuts don't add up, they either have to cut hospitals or schools or bankrupt the economy again to deliver them. But Labour has disappointed, Labour came in pledging to transform hospitals, schools and pensions, actually pensions has got last year just 75p, hospital waiting lists are up, class sizes are at record levels, tuition fees have been imposed on¿

DAVID FROST:

Do you therefore think?

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

Disappointment of these people turning to us.

DAVID FROST:

I see¿but do you therefore think you could come second?

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

Well we will see, that's down to the electorate, what we know is the Conservative Party lost heading on for half their seats at the last election, if they were to do so again there's no doubt we'd come second. But what we say to people is the more Liberal Democrat votes there are and the more Liberal Democrat MPs the greater the chance that we will influence things in Westminster, as we already are for example in Scotland where we've already, because we've been given those extra seats in Scotland, in Scottish Parliamentary elections, we've already there abolished tuition fees, already in the process of getting rid of, the elderly people having to sell their homes to pay for their care in their old age, already put more money into health and education. So when people vote Liberal Democrat it does make a difference, we're able to make that influence, we will get the government doing the things that people thought it would do in 1997 when they elected Labour but which Labour have failed to deliver.

DAVID FROST:

And what about the point about, if there is no clear-cut absolute commitment to a referendum on PR in the next Parliament, is the collaboration with Labour over, Charles Kennedy seemed to say here yes, so did Menzies Campbell, he quoted Charles Kennedy, what do you think?

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

Well let's be absolutely clear we've been in a process of what we call constructive opposition, so where we've agreed with things Labour are doing we've supported them, and where we've disagreed we've opposed, we've disagreed and opposed them strongly on the 75p rise for pensioners, for example, but we supported them in the process of policies we'd always agreed with, the devolution to Scotland and Wales. One of the promises Labour made at the last election was a referendum of proportional representation, we think that people should get the chance to vote for a fair electoral system, we expect Labour to honour that commitment, not to us but to the British public that they made at the last election and if they don't do that then we will oppose them for not doing that. But in our manifesto we will spell out a range of policies, improving pensions, improving education as I've spoken about earlier on, in cutting waiting lists in hospitals and it's the whole package we will judge the government on just as we would be expected to be judge by the British people on that package as a whole that we will be offering at the election and the more of us that are elected the more likely we are to be able to push Labour and anybody else to deliver those improvements¿

DAVID FROST:

Okay.

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

That I think people want.

DAVID FROST:

Thank you very much indeed Matthew, have a good day in Torquay.

MATTHEW TAYLOR:

Thank you.

END

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