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JOHN PRESCOTT MP
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
JUNE 18TH, 2000

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

DAVID FROST:
Well it's hot in Britain this weekend but it's been even hotter for John Prescott this week, he's just back from West Africa visiting Nigeria and Sierra Leone and welcome home John.

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Yes thank you.

DAVID FROST:
Now you've bee welcomed back with lots of stories in the papers here, here's one that we showed earlier on, Prescott attacks Labour spin machine and the fact that we've got to have fewer sound bites and get back the traditional heartland and you say here that you're busting a gut to go around the country and start selling the government's message?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Yeah sounds good.

DAVID FROST:
Yeah, all true?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
It's true in the sense that I want to get out our message, you know I heard some criticism about spin-doctoring if you like over the last few years and that was because I felt you had to put out a positive message but you had to put it at the same time with substance. Now we're three years into a Labour government and as you know you wouldn't come out with my old little leaflet here, you know my card, and at the end of the day that's what we promised to do¿reducing class sizes, we're two-thirds into that, a million more people back into work, the National Health waiting list reduced by 100,000. First hospital opened by Tony Blair of a 37 new hospital programme. Now these are the things that we actually said that we'd promised to do and indeed tough rules for government spending and borrowing. Gordon Brown's policies have given us in the first two years that stability to produce that so I'm looking forward to going around spinning if you like, to make the point that we've done, more people in work, more people are treated in hospitals, we're getting better standards for our education, more people out of poverty, but that's a good Labour message.

DAVID FROST:
It is a good Labour message but obviously there's tremendous feeling that, of non- delivery on the National Health Service, however unfair and so on, and you've got to get to the point when it comes to the next election, what is your role?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
I don't know about non-delivery, I mean the record's quite clear on that, waiting list, hospitals etc, but we've got to convince people of that.

DAVID FROST:
The wait between the consultants and the action but the, but the point is¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well I think part of the problem is, part of the problem is that the spinning is as much done by the press, they're more interested in bad news rather than good news, I know all governments tend to say that but our job is actually to get that case across to people. And you know when I see stories about the highest level of employment in this country right that's ever been achieved and I came back as you say from Nigeria and Sierra Leone and I looked at it, there wasn't one word in any of the press but plenty about spin-doctoring. Now that, the fact that we've got a million people back to work, almost a million, you know when I've seen on your programme suggesting that we could get a million jobs in two or three years, this government has done it, is there one word in the press? Not one word. They spin their stories which is about disagreement and personalities and personal stories nothing about substance of government.

DAVID FROST:
As far, quite apart from the Labour government, do you, do you find the press and the media, do you think they're fair to you?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well I don't think that's important, I mean they carry a lot of personal stories, I think you and I had a discussion on the train one day when I was involved in one a couple of years ago, found out to be totally untrue, independent inquiry clears me, still carry on with it, no apology, the latest one which I've been involved in, totally cleared, still no apology. But I have to accept that's the price in British politics that they will pursue these personal matters and to that extent I have to just go on, get on with delivering a job and I say to myself, a million more back at work, more people treated in the hospitals, our kids getting better education, that to me is what really matters in politics, substance and getting that case across. But the challenge is to get people's perceptions changed as so many¿

DAVID FROST:
Well how, how are you going to do that for the next election, what's going to be your role in the next election John?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well I'll certainly be going around making that campaigning speech, whether it's on the bus or where ever it might be, but I certainly want to see us delivering and we have to do that and my job will begin to shape up, as I did in opposition, to make sure that we have a good delivery campaigning team that will get our message across because clearly we ain't going to be able to depend on the press are we?

DAVID FROST:
No, but, but you, you're going to have to do some spinning of your own aren't you?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well spinning, it's interesting point this, about spinning, and I was made this much points about anyone but for example we have a, a statement at the moment, said a lot done, a lot more to do, and a lot to lose if this outfit gets in. Now what we need to do is to recognise that Harold MacMillan had a very powerful saying, he said¿

DAVID FROST:
We've never had it so good¿.

JOHN PRESCOTT:
We've never had it so good, right, he said that, we had one that says about let's go with Labour, I remember in that one because I had it on my scooter and it kept breaking down, it was always really embarrassing pushing the broken-down scooter with let's go with Labour. These slogans can be very important but they must have substance. If you say you're going to get people back to work, if we say we'll improve our education you must do it and we have done it.

DAVID FROST:
And you've, you've used the many not the few too often?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well I think there's a great danger in politics in that if you do use some of these phrases like boom and bust or indeed the many not the few, the substance, the point is right but it must be backed up with substance. Boom and bust, we now have a stronger economy than we had before, Gordon Brown now as he's pointed out in his Mansion speech, we have a more stable economy to produce the kind of goods that we want at the moment. So it must have the substance and all we've done in our policies have benefited the many not the few so there is substance is there but we have to show it and prove it to the electorate.

DAVID FROST:
And what about this story today, John Prescott last night stepped into the Cabinet feud over the Euro by urging Tony Blair to stand up to the Chancellor and allow the row out into the open, the Deputy Prime Minister was said by friends to have told Tony Blair that stifling the Euro debate in the Cabinet was making the row worse. You can't clamp down the debate and do you think¿?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well that's another good example of press spinning isn't it, it's always friends of John Prescott, whoever it is¿

DAVID FROST:
Friends of the couple¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
A senior source said, or people, important positions in government, that allows the reporter then to write all sorts of things and we know the coded language often, some of it is often made up by the press and hidden behind that particular statement. But all I've said in there and it's a good example, is that what Gordon Brown spelt out in his Mansion speech while I was away but I've read it, a very powerful statement, something that every one in the Cabinet agrees with, there's no difference about it, the debate has already been underway, but do remember this what he said and this is the importance of it, I'm not entering into a row, I am in fact fully behind, as everybody is, Stephen, Robin, Gordon, behind this statement of the five conditions that we've laid down. But there will be a debate about some of these conditions as they change up to the period.

DAVID FROST:
Well there should be a debate?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well nobody's saying there isn't, I get the impression from the press there is, there's quite a lot of debate going on and it will continue. But you've got to remember this, what does Labour do, I hear, is it Paul Sykes, saying you know, why don't people have the say, who is the one, whose government gave the people the say of entry into the Common Market, the Tories took us in, no vote or referendum, we gave them a referendum, they said they wanted to stay in. On this occasion, this has been spelt out by the Cabinet, first of all if we do agree to go in and in principle we say that could be good for Britain's interest, that's how we measure it, but there will be a decision by the Cabinet, there will be a decision by Parliament and then we give the decision to the people. Now contrast that with the Tories who're clearly saying, we'll not do anything for the first ten years, Paul Sykes goes around trying to buy them on his manifesto as I've just heard him do at the moment, it shows the bitter division between Heseltine and Clarke, between Hague, who's trying to hold it together and it ends up in that black Wednesday costing us billions in which the British interest was sorely damaged.

DAVID FROST:
Yes but the thing is John that obviously there are within the Cabinet, there ought to be this debate because you've got, you're like the country, you've got Euro- sceptics¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
But you have to debate and discussions in the Cabinet¿

DAVID FROST:
You've got Euro-sceptics, you've got Euro-cautious, you're supposed to be and Euro-enthusiasts, you've got all of these and as the Sunday Times said today, it's a Cabinet divide¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
On¿

DAVID FROST:
And he should, Tony Blair should tell us the truth about this intentions, on Friday Mr Cook scoffed at Mr Brown's trying to shut the debate down¿Number 10¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well that's a load of rubbish, Tony Blair¿

DAVID FROST:
But they do say¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Tony Blair¿

DAVID FROST:
But there's¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Tony Blair has made it absolutely clear he believes that it is in the British interests and it's the view of this government if these conditions can be satisfied, that's fundamentally different from the existing Tory position. But we'll not do it unless British interests are satisfied, we lay out the five conditions about the jobs etc, flexibility, all spelt out by government as fully the Cabinet policy and so it couldn't be clearer than that. The only argument appears to be can we have the debate? Well if you read Gordon Brown's speech in the Mansion, Mansion House it's all there, all encompassed, showing how we're totally behind one policy and we will conduct the debate as it continues.

DAVID FROST:
Yes but I mean when Robin Cook leaves bits of his speech out, he's told to leave bits of his speech out, it just underlines there are disagreements in the Cabinet and it's daft for people to say that there are no disagreements in the Cabinet because that will lack credibility¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
¿you've mentioned to me about being cautious, I'm sure it was like the entry into the Common Market, we laid down the conditions and I think it was George Brown was sent round to negotiate these conditions and there were different emphasises then, when they came back it was decision time and no doubt there may be a bit of an argument when it comes to decision time but if we're satisfied it's in the British interests we will make the recommendation to Parliament and indeed to the people. But in the meantime there will be the debate, no sometimes when you say Robin said this or Stephen said that, that's what the press are obsessed about but what was left out wasn't contradictory to what we're doing in, in the, in the debate, I mean where was the problems, not a fundamental disagreement. What we have to make sure and this is one of the problems with our press, is that we do at least get consistent lines so they pore over these individual words and then say ah here's the difference between two Cabinet members. The press are obsessed with differences, we know what damage can be done to a party if it gets splits and differences, we have a consistent position, it's one that is delivering for us and it will eventually give the people in this country the decision. Now Mr Sykes was telling you before that's what he wants, well where was he then when the Tories took us into Europe, where was he when the Maastricht was up there. The Tories have always taken us in without consulting people, we're the only one that ever consult the people.

DAVID FROST:
Well I know that obviously everybody in the Cabinet agreed about the five points but there are these other different shades of opinion which, which you've, you've reflected and that do actually exist, but there's one other thing that puzzles me, is that Gordon's quoted as saying, Gordon Brown's quoted as saying that I will decide if the five points are met, now surely in fact he may advise, but it's Tony Blair who's going to decide?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Yes I think that's another interpretation of, of Gordon's speech, he is responsible for the Treasury, he's doing a damn good job I'm bound to say looking at what has happened to our economy. But leaving that aside at the moment what he's actually saying is I will make a recommendation to the Cabinet as we see it from a Treasury point of view, that doesn't mean the Cabinet doesn't have to endorse, the Cabinet will make its own decision, it's called the Cabinet government right, then we make a recommendation to Parliament, Parliament will then make a decision and then at the end of the day the people of Britain will decide what is in the best of British interest. Now that's Gordon carrying out his job as the Chancellor, he advises on the budget, he advises us on our economic matters and that is quite right.

DAVID FROST:
And what about this story on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph John, pensioner's cheated by Brown's inflation ploy. Gordon Brown used two different inflation figures in this year's budget allowing him to limit pensioners to a 75p a week rise while hitting motorists with a heavy, with a heavy petrol tax for the Sunday Telegraph can reveal. In his March statement the Chancellor announced that he was raising petrol tax and pensions 'in line with inflation" but failed to explain that he was using 3.3 per cent for petrol and just 1.1 per cent for pensions¿that's a bit naughty isn't it?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well it's a criteria that's been used commonly in assessing what the rate of inflation etc, they are weighted in different packages and different ways when you come to doing the total inflation approach and what the effect is and that's we have to do with pensioners and that rate¿well the amount of 75p was clearly in line with the inflation that is being used by government in this but that wasn't all we were paying¿

DAVID FROST:
But then people turn to the petrol tax, in order to¿done us on the petrol tax he then took an entirely different measure¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
I see the point that the Telegraph's making, contrasting the two, but the issue is whether we're doing any better for the pensioners than the previous administration and when you look at the amounts of resources by the end of this Parliament six and a half billion pounds will have been given to the pensioners, it's some done but not enough. We will have to do more, we have to look at how we preserve the argument and I think I've been on this programme talking about it before, sometimes like the 75p that we gave on the pensions, that wasn't all that was given but when you're getting in the pension book every week a lot of pensioners say that's all I've got but it's not true if you look at the fuel payments, if you look at all sorts of things, people are far better off the minimum income guarantee. But we're not satisfied with that, we have inherited a mess on the pension sides, they were the ones that broke the earnings related to the pensions and we've got to move at as fast a pace we can but we need a strong economy, that's what we're delivering on, it's the billions¿improving their life and health services¿

DAVID FROST:
They were called early promises but they're taking the whole Parliament?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
They weren't called¿promises ¿Parliament and government, somebody¿

DAVID FROST:
Early pledges, anyway¿

JOHN PRESCOTT:
They weren't early pledges, they're pledges of a Parliament.

DAVID FROST:
Yes well, the time we thought it was early, they were going to be fulfilled early.

JOHN PRESCOTT:
No we were going to make a statement to the Parliament,¿12 months¿

DAVID FROST:
Anyway¿I know you couldn't do it in 12 months. The trouble with housing, you've got a really tough one there, you've said that you think 43,000 a year is alright in the South East, the figure for overall homes needed by 2016 has come down from 4.4 million to 3.8 hasn't it, but are you sure that we, we can live, our countryside can live, with 43,000 a year in the South East?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well I mean clearly if you look at the Serplan, the local authorities have come together, there was a statement by one advisory group to me that I would have to set for one amount, that would mean a lot more, something like 44,000 or something like that, what we've got to do now is to make sure that we don't take too much of the land take and what we've done now is to say 60 per cent of housing should actually be built on brown field sites, that's important. The density of housing which is something like 23 or 24 per hectare could easily go up to something like 34 or 35, I mean there are many of these places like Islington, these Georgian houses that are as high as 100, the Millennium village concept is 80-odd. So you can lift up the density by better quality building and not take as much land and we also make clear you're not going to get permission to use any of the green sites unless you've taken a sequential test on whether all the brown field sites are being used. So we are, I'm in the middle of a discussion with the local authorities at the moment and I will review this, not in 20 years, every five year period we'll look as if we're meeting those requirements and indeed my requirements are very near to what some of the recommended at one stage and I think it won't take as much land, it'll give us more housing but you know at the end of the day there are lots of people want housing you know, should we take, say to the, the son and the daughter, I'm sorry we've got room for executive houses but not ordinary houses and you should go and live somewhere else, say in the north instead of the south. We have to deal with people's demands for housing and we have to watch for the countryside development in using land more effectively and our proposals will actually achieve that.

DAVID FROST:
And if, if you have a situation where every council's against your proposal you just ride, ride over that?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well I don't know that it's every council I suppose you're talking about Serplan I think the vote was something like 39 to keep a lower figure against 30, it doesn't sound to me like every council. What they want is an intelligent discussion but take the Tories, they've gone to their Tory friends in Serplan and said vote against this because we want to make it an election issue. Well if they want to say there should be more executive houses at the expense of perhaps decent houses for ordinary people, key workers like teachers and nurses who can't get houses, can't afford the price. I'm on the side of the many not the few and it relates to the substance of the case in housing.

DAVID FROST:
What about congestion charges, if Ken Livingstone proceeds with them will you stop him?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
We've made it clear that any mayor and local authority has the right to use that and that's exactly with Ken Livingstone. He said he wants to use the congestion charging, he has the right to come to us and show how he's going to apply it and I have a right to say to him that it must be only used for improving public transport and he has that authority and if he can satisfy those conditions then we will certainly allow it, there's no argument about that, it was even stated in the manifesto, it was the Tories who tried to whip up a hoo-ha about it. He has the authority if he satisfies our conditions he will be able to do it and it's a radical form of new financing to help London get on with improving the public transport from the mess we inherited from the Tories.

DAVID FROST:
And what about the Tube, will you let him do bonds?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well on the tubes we've already said that we will complete the contracts on that and we do say that the contracts have to pass the public comparability test that is it has to be cheaper than what would have been using the public finance. The arguments of bonds are just different forms of financing, that really isn't the issues. I used bonds on rescuing the Channel Tunnel rail link but in reality there are horses for courses here and it doesn't fit to my mind that, but¿

DAVID FROST:
You're not ruling out bonds this morning?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
Well it's just one form of financing, I'm saying that we will decide it and put it to the test, to that extent when I come to compare the different ways of raising the money as I have to do and show to Parliament, bonding, bond finance is one of the principles there but we believe and our computers shows at the present time and all the assessments that we make that the public private partnership that I've suggested is the best way of doing it and that's the way I'll do it.

DAVID FROST:
At that point we'll just get an update on the news from Sian.

[BREAK FOR NEWS]

DAVID FROST:
Harriet Harman is quoted today as saying Labour's not doing enough for women, do you think that's true?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
I don't think she said that, she said they've done quite a lot but they could do a lot more, that's in line with the saying, but she says it on my birthday and I say there's a million more people back at work, 30 years in Parliament, I'm proud of that and many of those are women and that's a good step forward.

DAVID FROST:
And 30 years as an MP, what's been the greatest moment so far?

JOHN PRESCOTT:
The Labour government is wedded to social justice getting change but my personal satisfaction is safety, when I walk on the train going to Hull see that little orange light that has stopped people falling out of doors, something like 12 a year, that's something you look at and you say despite all the attacks there's 12 people less dying, safety's a big part of my make up and I'm proud of that.

DAVID FROST:
John Prescott thank you very much for being¿it's always a pleasure to have you with us and that's all for this week. Thanks to all of our guests, good luck to the England team on Tuesday night. I should just mention that followers to this programme can now follow our fortunes or at least check the exact words spoken to guests on the Breakfast with Frost website. It's part of the BBC News Website and also contains a full video stream of the last programme. Those adept at surfing the web will find it easy, find it very easily in fact, rather more easily than I would probably in those circumstances but a little help here with this address may be useful. Now we're back next week, same time, same place, hopefully after another England victory during the week with the Home Secretary Jack Straw. Top of the morning, good morning.

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