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Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo
Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW WITH SHADOW CHANCELLOR MICHAEL PORTILLO MP ON APRIL 1ST, 2001

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

DAVID FROST:

And now the news from Kensington and Chelsea, Michael Portillo MP and are you glad about that news, it seems as though they've been listening to what your leader's been saying?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

David, what news, why can't the Prime Minister give us a statement, why does it all have to be done behind the scenes, why does it all have to be off the record briefing, why does the Sun newspaper have to be told before the nation is told. I'm afraid it gives the impression of a man who's dithering, he's dithered about handling the foot and mouth crisis because he's been thinking about the election, now he's dithered about the election because of the foot and mouth crisis. But even now he can't come forward straightforwardly and tell us what date the local elections are going to be.

DAVID FROST:

He might come forward and say June 7th, yes he probably will?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well maybe he will David.

DAVID FROST:

On the local elections, but he may not on the general election?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

But first of all he told the Sun, I mean why couldn't he come forward and offer some leadership, why couldn't he tell us straightforwardly, maybe in a broadcast to the nation, that he'd reached a decision. I mean it all has to be done in the normal New Labour way, spin, deception, manipulation of the press, I just think it's very disappointing, you know we have a real crisis, we want to know that the Prime Minister is going to handle that crisis, for weeks we've been asking him to say that he's going to handle the crisis and he's pretty much admitted that his mind has been elsewhere, it was only about a week ago that he said he was taking personal charge of it. I mean actually I think it is very unimpressive that it is only when the Prime Minister at last gets around to visiting country areas that he appears ashen-faced and traumatised as though he has only just realised what a terrible problem we have¿

DAVID FROST:

Progress is being made, I mean when you listen to Brigadier Birtwhistle and so on, it does seem as though real progress is, starting to be made?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well the Army is performing absolutely magnificently but, but let me just tell you what the progress is, when we first called for the Army to be used there were 30,000 unburied animals. When Tony Blair said that he was going to take personal responsibility nine days ago there were 160,000 unburied animals. Today there are 340,000 unburied animals and they're being buried at the rate of less than 40,000 a day. So when you say that it is under control, even if there were no new cases it would take eight days to bury the animals which are presently lying dead on the ground. So when you say progress, you know, you know the government has said that it, its objective is to get the animals buried in 24 hours, even if there were no new cases it would take eight days to buy the animals that are there today. That is a measure of how far this crisis was allowed to run out of control in the many weeks between our call for the Army to be used and the day when the Prime Minister at last decided that they would be.

DAVID FROST:

About two weeks wasn't it?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

About two weeks, yes.

DAVID FROST:

Not many, many weeks.

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well, but again you know there's a matter of how the Army was used, at first they were only used, and the Prime Minister made great play of this, they were only used as logistical planners, it was some days more before they appeared on the ground with the bulldozers actually carrying out the work.

DAVID FROST:

And the, the Sun you mentioned, the Sun newspaper that it was the Sun what won it in '92 they said, but they've indicated very firmly and almost seemingly triggered off by William, William's Foreign Land speech and so on, that they, that they're going to support Labour in the next election, what do you feel about the two speakers that you had, John Townend and Christopher Gill and their comments, do you feel those were bad or unwise or euphemism like that, do you think they should have been in fact, had the whip removed?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well I think in the case of Christopher Gill he's pretty much removed it himself, as I understand it he hasn't renewed his membership of the party and I even understand that he's proposing to campaign for another party but you ask me straightforwardly what I think, I'm appalled by these remarks, they have no place in the Conservative Party, they do not represent the Conservative Party today as John Taylor who was a candidate of ours what back in '97 I think¿

DAVID FROST:

In Cheltenham wasn't it?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

In Cheltenham who was defeated, as he has said, the country has moved on and the Conservative Party needs to move on too, the Conservative Party has moved on and we are a party that extends absolute equality and esteem to every single person who's living in Britain.

DAVID FROST:

And so in fact should the whip have been withdrawn?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well I think William actually made his disapproval absolutely clear and we followed up with very effective action which is that Michael Ancram has written to every candidate in this election making it absolutely plain that this behaviour is unacceptable in Conservative candidate and I believe that Gabut Singh from the Commission for Racial Equality was on the media this morning paying tribute to the action that William Hague has taken because it has been forthright and effective.

DAVID FROST:

Now in terms of the economy at the moment, just, do you think there's a case for less indirect taxation and more direct taxation?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

I think there is a case for reducing the stealth taxes that have been imposed by this government, a very strong case indeed because those stealth taxes have fallen particularly on people who are least able to pay. And it is true that those stealth taxes have been applied mainly through indirect taxation and so we will be proposing although we haven't yet revealed the figure, a reduction in the tax on petrol and on diesel which is a very important indirect tax that affects every family and affects pensioners in this country, but we'll also be proposing, as you know, reductions in direct taxation on the same sorts of people so that we encourage people to save and allow pensioners to keep more of their own money¿and allow families too to keep more of their money.

DAVID FROST:

Right, how much, how much in fact will that petrol taxes and so on, how much will that cost to do that?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well David this is the one part of our package that we haven't yet revealed, we're holding that one up our sleeve, so far we've revealed how we will reduce taxes by £6 billion in our first two years in office, we've also identified public spending savings of £8 billion, all of which¿we've more¿

DAVID FROST:

All of which is subject to controversy.

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well you say that but I've often debate this with you, at least once I've debated this and I don't think you're able in any way to dent any of our proposals.

DAVID FROST:

Well don't set out just to dent them, but I would say that it was a tie. Anyway¿

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Oh no I'm not, this is not¿a point about you, I'm saying that actually our proposals are robust and despite the best efforts that are being made by the Labour Party to rubbish our proposals they've not succeeded in doing so the¿£8 billion in savings is genuine.

DAVID FROST:

Let me put their latest¿they've come out with the latest piece of paper about monies that you haven't taken account of?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Yes.

DAVID FROST:

And they say for instance that on the 25th of January, 2001, you said I can confirm that the next Conservative manifesto will abolish the climate control levy and that, they claim, will cost a billion pounds?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Yes but I'm being absolutely straightforward, the government claims that in introducing this new¿on manufacturing business in particular, which is going to hit manufacturing very hard indeed, that they're giving a small reduction in National Insurance contributions paid by employers, and I said that I would unwind the entire package.

DAVID FROST:

So it'll be self-financing?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

It'll be self-financing.

DAVID FROST:

Right what about stamp duty on buying shares, and this was the Sun's campaign back to the Sun, 8th of March, 2000.

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Yes.

DAVID FROST:

Stamp duty on buying shares and you're quoted as saying this is something Gordon Brown must urgently address, I congratulate the Sun on their campaign.

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Yes.

DAVID FROST:

And Labour says that would cost four a half billion?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

Well I think they're being very silly and I think the Chancellor's being very silly too, we have a real problem because we have a very high duty on trading in shares which is driving business abroad and driving business onto the internet. Now we need to look very carefully at what would be the appropriate rate of stamp duty on share trading that would keep the most amount of business in this country and if we get that calculation wrong and if we have the tax too high and we lose the business that's when we're going to lose the revenue. So it's Gordon Brown who stands in danger of losing the revenue not me.

DAVID FROST:

You've always said that you're going to never, never challenge William Hague, would you also say that whatever the outcome of the next election I will not let my name go forward as a contender for leadership in the weeks or months after polling, would you say that as well, would you say that as well?

MICHAEL PORTILLO:

I'm not going to allow you to divert the political debate into that furrow. We have a general election to fight, we have a Prime Minister who has shown that he's keen to bring the election forward by a year to the middle of a national crisis, maybe he's now repenting a bit at that but the election probably will still be soon and we will be fighting that election to win and I'll be fighting it for William to be Prime Minister and I'll be fighting for Michael Portillo to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.

END

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