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Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott

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

DAVID FROST: And we're delighted to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister, it wouldn't be Christmas without him.

JOHN PRESCOTT: It wouldn't be Christmas without him, would it, Rory.

DAVID FROST: No, he gets better and better doesn't he?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah, I wonder what pantomime he's in this year?

DAVID FROST: Oh I think he's touring the country, I think, one night at each place. Well done, well done Rory and, and you, talking of touring, you have just been everywhere, you've been to Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, was there one purpose to that trip or...

JOHN PRESCOTT: There was in Canada but Malaysia was one of those and yes there was a purpose to the trip, you'll recall at my, at the party conference I was pointing out that if we could get such an alliance to fight terrorism why can't we get the same commitments, an alliance to deal with world poverty. Something like a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, over a billion don't even get access to clean water and next September there is to be a conference called the Rio Ten Conference, it's the earth summit from ten years ago and it had the environment as one of its objectives and we've done a great deal about that, I think with Kyoto and the Marrakesh Agreement, what we haven't done much about is real poverty, about helping these countries and where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and Tony said to me if I could talk to a number of these leaders and prime ministers and the Vice President whether we could get a commitment for the same thing at the conference in South Africa. Now I think if we can do that, show you can win the peace as well as winning the war and then you need to have them in proper balance. So Tony Blair again is taking another initiative, a long term view, he's looking ahead at how we might deal with some of these problems which become the seeds of terrorism.

DAVID FROST: And do you think there's a chance that with the growing cooperation with the United States so fully in terms of a coalition, that you might be able to get them back on the Kyoto course?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well they're still reviewing it, in fact the Vice President made that clear to me, they were still doing the reviews in the Cabinet Committee, we must wait for that completion, but we have moved on a long way since my interviews with you about whether Kyoto will be successful, we now have got a world committed actually to doing something about that, that was a tremendous achievement and concluded that Marrakesh. Now what I want people is to move to real poverty issues, about clean water, about the real problems in Africa, these were the targets we set ten years ago but they've gone on the back burner, let's bring them back and I think Christmas is about time to remind people of that isn't it?

DAVID FROST: Absolutely, absolutely right, peace, goodwill and defeat of poverty. The, tell me something, we heard earlier on from Rebekah Wade and so on, and we've seen in the papers today a tremendous lot about Sarah's Law and Sarah Payne and naming and shaming, what do you feel, where do you stand on this, do you think there should be a Sarah's Law?

JOHN PRESCOTT: I think the first point is to think of Sarah's parents isn't it, I mean the tragedy that they've gone through, I mean as a parent myself it's just unbelievable and for them to have a commitment to want to make some recommendation about changes, many of the recommendations in Sarah's Law, which I think you've pointed out to Rebekah in the interview have largely been completed, it's this right to access of information which is much more controversial and as Rebecca said they were going to meet the Home Secretary on, on Tuesday I think isn't it? But the issue is that if you do it in the way that they originally proposed in the News of the World frankly it will drive it underground which more, much more difficult to actually find these people and keep track of them which is what Rebecca's concern is as she pointed out this morning. And I think working together to find some agreement about this matter's very important but at the end of the day it is about the children, it is about reducing the threat and it is about the best way of achieving that and we have some disagreement on this essential point at this stage of the game.

DAVID FROST: Yes, and there's, there is the problem as we were talking, a sort of lynch mob atmosphere?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah, yes, well I think if you look at the News of the World today I think what they're doing is more or less crime watch isn't it, they're putting some people's faces up and saying look the police don't know where these are, please can you help us and that, I think is a public spirited approach, that's quite different to what led to what led to all that kind of vigilante. Be vigilant but don't vigilante - I mean that's basically the real concern for us...vigilante actions in Portsmouth were deplorable, they were innocent people who were caught up in that, but mistakes can be made and we have to get a balance and government is about balance, sometimes it's not what everybody wants but it's doing the best in those circumstances and that's what David Blunkett is trying to do at the moment.

DAVID FROST: So as you say it's the access to information is the key thing and you would hope that the two parties following Tuesday and so on, can come to some sort of agreement but probably that falls short of a Sarah's Law?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I think where Sarah's Law's saying you should be able to just publish all the names, what is she said about 100,000 of them and just publish all these names, there is a judgement that in fact it would drive it underground and make it much more difficult. But David has gone some way in that, as requested in this Sarah's Law, names that local people could be involved in looking at confidential information, giving proper warnings about them. And I think the campaign, to be frank, of the News of the World, has helped move it along considerably as indeed the courage and conviction of the parents in this case, and hopefully it's a lot better than it was, clearly the recommendations for David to bring in legislation next year is another step forward and I think all of us together hopefully can produce a far better system than we have at the moment and particularly in regard to sentencing. I mean the real issue was that to be frank this man should never have got out and I think if all those have improved we can do something about children but don't...and paedophiles but don't forget the greater majority of them are by people who are known to people, the greater majority of these offences that occur.

DAVID FROST: Well that's right, that is a surprise, 80 or 90 per cent are people who are known, perhaps within the home even and so the strangers are a good 10 per cent?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Which is the similar thing with murder statistics of course, it's usually within the family or a known area that these offences take place and we have to take that into account. But all in all I think whilst there have been some very strong views about the News of the World campaign, I felt one or two them myself at the time, but I think it has moved forward to an improvement in the situation and if we can get that out of these difficulties then we should all be very pleased about it.

DAVID FROST: How do you feel about your old bailiwick as they say, the tube, Railtrack and so on?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well on Railtrack I mean it's a sad situation without a doubt, it's true that I tried to make it work, I did change the regulator, I brought in the Strategic Rail Authority, I gave it the amount of resources that nobody's ever seen or committed to in transport but at the end of the day there was something fundamentally flawed as the Tories said about their own organisation Railtrack. And now Steve Byers has got the difficulty of how making the changes for implementing basically a better railway system. I think the indication and the taking on more engineers and accountants is a pretty good sign because the tendency tended to be on more fiscal measures and returns on profits rather than simply getting a good railway track system.

DAVID FROST: And, and in addition to Railtrack on the tube it does look as though the PPP may not make it and we may go back to...

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah we don't know that, the speculation, certainly all the evidence that I have of it, there's still a considerable part of it will meet the value for money although I haven't got the last, the latest updated situation. It is important the public private partnership money which is increased from 23 billion to something like 43 billion does allow us to have more resources for hospitals and health if you can take it from the private sector and borrowing. So public private partnerships have been a successful way of introducing not a replacement of public expenditure, as what the Tories did under Ken Clarke and Tory chancellors, it has been an addition to public expenditure so we've spent more on public expenditure, more on the private money that's come with it in partnership, more hospitals, more schools, more transport, that's a good step in the right direction, I'm quite proud of it.

DAVID FROST: John thank you very much for being with us today, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.


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