Jeremy Vine interviewed Theresa May, MP and Rhodri Morgan AM on Sunday 29 February 2004.
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Theresa May, MP
Jeremy Vine: Why do you want fewer speed bumps and speed cameras?
Theresa May: Well what we want to do is to stop the apparent war on the motorist that the government has and encourage safe driving and what has happened at the moment is that the consensus is breaking down I'm afraid.
Drivers are getting increasingly frustrated that they feel that speed cameras are there not to encourage road safety but actually to raise money for the Chancellor.
And with that consensus breaking down of course, these measures get, people disrespect these measures, so we want to see with speed cameras, that they are put in places, where they're genuinely going to benefit road safety.
Jeremy Vine: Why would you care what speeding drivers feel, after all these cameras only make money if people are speeding.
Theresa May: Well what's important is that there is a consensus, and an agreement from drivers about what is, what is happening, otherwise you're just going to be seeing people speeding and saying that they're not going to make any attempt to abide by the rules that have been put in place.
What I think we need is a debate about speed limits, because as your programme, er, piece there said, we do indeed think that we should put the speed limit up on motorways to 80mph, but we also think there will be other places, for example outside schools, where the speed limit should come down, say to 20mph.
But we need a proper debate about this, and what we need to be doing is encouraging safe driving.
Jeremy Vine: But it's difficult to see still why you're not instinctively in favour of speed cameras and more speed cameras at that. They make people drive less fast. When people drive less fast, fewer people get killed.
Theresa May: What's important Jeremy is that, you say that the speed cameras are there to make people drive less fast, and that is stopping people from being killed.
If you look at some of the evidence across the country, we've had only a few days ago, the Metropolitan Police saying that they will be taking some of their speed cameras out because they're actually in places where it's about, more about raising money than it is about road safety.
If you look at County Durham, a very interesting example, they don't have any fixed speed cameras up in County Durham, and the Chief Constable in County Durham makes the point that actually the number of accidents and collisions in the County that are caused by people going over the speed limit is, is very small.
In an average year you're probably talking about 60 accidents out of 1900, and when they map them, they don't find a single place where having a fixed speed camera, would actually help with reducing the accident rate.
Jeremy Vine: So do you even doubt the basic proposition that the slower people go in their cars the less likely it is they're going to be in a fatal accident?
Theresa May: I think what we need to ensure is that you've got safe driving and that means the right speed for the road conditions, at the particular point in time.
Jeremy Vine: We heard from people in the village of Selbourne there who are fed up with motorists bombing through their village. They're saying, Please give us a speed camera. Do we really have to wait for someone to die. To which the answer of their local authority is, Yes, we're afraid you do. Does that worry you?
Theresa May: Well, I, what they should be saying is we need to slow people down in this village, and there are many other ways of doing it simply, other than simply putting in speed cameras.
One of the interesting developments for example which is being used in more places, is to have these flashing messages that are up, which tell you if you're not driving at the speed limit, and there is some evidence that those can in certain circumstances, actually work, they work extremely well.
And I think that there will be police forces that will be looking at putting more of those in, precisely because they do work and slow people down, and they can of course be put in, in circumstances without the criteria of people being - died on the roads.
Jeremy Vine: Would a Conservative Government do what Conservative controlled Barnet Council is doing, which is, as Max Cotton was saying, to remove its speed bumps?
Theresa May: Well the reason that speed bumps are coming out there is because of the increasing amount of evidence that the speed bumps are actually causing real problems for emergency services, and London ambulance service have said that they could be, could prevent up to 500 deaths a year er, by, if their way were not being impeded in the way that it is by some of the speed humps that there are around the capital. That's why I say what we actually need is an intelligent debate about all of this.
For some time everybody has assumed that speed humps are the right way to go, they've assumed that what we need to do is simply to put speed cameras up to stop people driving so, so quickly. What we need is a proper debate about what is going to encourage safe driving. That's what we need.
Jeremy Vine: We heard there Max reporting a conservation with one of the members of your team I gather who says that it's better for an elderly woman to get in a car once a week and go to a supermarket by car, than to cross the road ten times, on the way to a local shop. Now is that the Conservative view at the moment?
Theresa May: I want to ensure that the roads that that elderly lady will be using, whether she's driving on them, or whether she's crossing them to access her local shop, are going to be safe for her to use. And what I want for that elderly lady, and indeed for others, is a real choice available for people, about the sort of transport that they're going to use.
And that's why - what I don't like is the apparent war on the motorists that the government has, where they seem to be just trying to, er, price the motorist off the road, and take choice away from people. We should be pro travel, and pro people having a choice of what is going to suit them best.
Jeremy Vine: Which means that you would want more people to be in their cars. Correct?
Theresa May: What I want is for people to have a choice as to what transport system is best for them. At the moment, what the government is trying to do is just force people out of their cars without having put in place the alternative public transport systems that are going to be attractive to them.
Jeremy Vine: Sorry (both together) .... to the environment for example, which you haven't mentioned yet, to general levels of congestion and to safety of pedestrians and others if you just say that people do what you want, and the roads get more and more and more full.
Theresa May: What I said Jeremy, was that people should have a choice and before you cut me off I was going to say the problem with the current approach, is that what they haven't done is provided the alternative. They haven't been improving the public transport system, so that people feel they really have that choice.
And if I can just give you an example of where the government is going in the other direction, which affects my own constituency, I, I have stations where people commute from Maidenhead and Twyford in to London, the proposal is now to make that journey longer on the railways, and I've had a number of constituents writing in to me and saying, if our journey is even five minutes longer, we're going to get in our cars.
So that's where government policy is actively encouraging people in to their cars, rather than giving people the real choice, that would make the choose the transport system that's right for them.
Interview with Rhodri Morgan AM, First Minister and Leader of Labour in the National Assembly.
Jeremy Vine: I'm joined now by the First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan, welcome to you.
Rhodri Morgan AM
Rhodri Morgan: Thank you.
Jeremy Vine: Viewers watching outside Wales however, might be very relieved they don't depend on the health service that you're running.
Rhodri Morgan: I don't think that would be fair, because I think there are aspects where you would say England has got a lot to learn from us, and there are aspects where we have got a lot to learn from England.
The Wanless Report, that was mentioned there, Wanless has in fact done three reports, he's done, did one for the Chancellor, he did one for us and now he's done another one for the Department of Health, which is coming out on Wednesday, but which has already been leaked, which is very much based on what we've been doing, mainly, how do you do health promotion and the public health agenda, the whole question of the obesity time bomb and so on.
So I think that's where England is learning from us. I'm happy to admit.
Jeremy Vine: .... health promotion, obesity, all of that is ....
Rhodri Morgan: ..... the point, even before you've made it, we have got a lot to learn from England on how to trim long waits in the waiting list.
As regards orthopaedics, I was quite surprised to hear of this lady having a three year wait because (interjects) ... the latest information that we've got is that whereas we did have a very serious problem in orthopaedic long waits, especially in the Cardiff area for which there were special reasons, there, the long waits, i.e. the over eighteen month waits, have come down to something, I thought about twenty actually, from twelve hundred and twenty in 2001.
Jeremy Vine: Right, I've got the figures .... people waiting more than eighteen months in England, six people. In Wales, four thousand nine hundred and eighty one.
Rhodri Morgan: Yes, but in the areas where it was a really serious problem we have targeted orthopaedics. I understood it was now down to twenty from twelve hundred and twenty, two and a half years ago.
Likewise in the cardiac area we are now down to around ten months and well, it's - to a large extent it's what you would say is when we have got a problem in the Cardiff area, where we closed the, the Conservatives actually closed it just before Labour won office, the, the, the hip factory if you like, that did the straight waiting list, hips and knee operations.
Now that was closed. It caused a colossal problem trying to catch up on the problems caused by that, but, and I used to get them in my surgery, you know, every single week that I would do a surgery, a long wait for orthopaedic patients, but I don't get them now. So I think we are pointing in the right direction, but we have still got a lot to learn from England, and we're learning it. That's why we're ...
Jeremy Vine: .... I'm sorry it's getting worse that's the point. Waiting lists are getting longer, that's the point.
Rhodri Morgan: Well in all the key specialities, I think you will find that it's come down where we have targeted the really serious problem, long waits, orthopaedics, but the issue is, what are we doing about it to learn from England.
And what I was about to tell you, we're introducing now, on April 1st, in one month's time the second offer guarantee. Anybody who has been waiting more than eighteen months, will be able to avail themselves of an alternative treatment. It may be in the private sector, it may be in England.
Jeremy Vine: In England?
Rhodri Morgan: Yes, yes. I mean for instance, in West Wales you won't be able to go to England, obviously it's not practical. But in the Eastern half of Wales, where there is spare capacity in Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset, or in Cheshire, you will be able to avail yourselves of that.
Jeremy Vine: .... getting away from the details, the big picture here isn't there, which is you have your differences, ideological differences with London. It's New Labour in Westminster, and it's, what you call classic Labour here. Are Welsh health service patients a victim of some kind of ideological thing that's going on here?
Rhodri Morgan: No, no, it's much more pragmatic, pragmatic than that. That's what I was trying to say. We are learning certain things from England, how do you shorten long waiting lists. That's why we are now spending money, five million before April 1st, twelve million in the first year after April 1st, on this second offer guarantee.
Jeremy Vine: So you're bringing in these private finance initiatives are you.
Rhodri Morgan: Er, no. Well, let's, let's concentrate on this issue now. It's, it's not, it's a pragmatic issue. We learn from England and England learns from us, on the public health and health promotion agenda, the Wanless Report, which will come out on Wednesday, is I understand quite heavily borrowing ideas that Wanless has picked up while he worked for us in Wales.
Free of charge, as I say, wonderful guy, Derek Wanless, a great public servant, and likewise we are learning from England, how do you cut back on your active waiting lists, because you ...
Jeremy Vine: ... coming out of Westminster we have got all these things talked about, under the umbrella of the word reform. Private finance initiative, foundation hospitals, star systems, performance rating, laws on bed blocking which you haven't activated here. Why won't you take on board any of that stuff.
Rhodri Morgan: We, we are learning, and we are using whatever we want to use.
Rhodri Morgan: .... on the long waits and the waiting lists we are using that system, the star system we don't see the relevance of that. We don't see the relevance of foundation hospitals.
Jeremy Vine: Private Finance.
Rhodri Morgan: And Private Finance, we use that pragmatically.
Jeremy Vine: You used it once.
Rhodri Morgan: Well we, it's a very big once. It was an eighty million pound hospital in Neath and Port Talbot. And likewise in terms of the local authorities, we approved new schools, new roads that they're building under PFI, some very big schemes.
Jeremy Vine: .... hospital you mentioned was commissioned before you came to power wasn't it.
Rhodri Morgan: I'm not absolutely certain about that. But I think we had to make the decision on it to be honest with you. I think the design was done but not the decision.
Jeremy Vine: It sounds as if, talking to Welsh Labour MP s in Westminster who've not got any responsibility for what you're doing here, they're fed up with being blamed for it.
Rhodri Morgan: Well, we won a mandate. If you look at the election results on May 1st last year. We had the best results that Labour had anywhere in the United Kingdom.
So we've got a mandate for what we're doing and what we are doing is based on, what you like, Welsh community values, and the faith in the national service .....
Jeremy Vine: It's not working though.
Rhodri Morgan: Pardon.
Jeremy Vine: It's not working.
Rhodri Morgan: Well, you say it's not working.
Jeremy Vine: ..... one of your own MP s said Nye Bevan wanted policies that work in practice.
Rhodri Morgan: Of course, and so do we. And in terms of how much emphasis you put on health promotion and public health over here, on the primary care services here, which 90% of the contacts in the national health service are with a primary health care ....
Rhodri Morgan: Hang on a second. How much emphasis do you put on the accident and emergency side of the hospital service, which is two thirds of it, and how much emphasis do you finally over here, put on the one third of the hospital services, which is the waiting list.
Rhodri Morgan: .. about the waiting lists here, but we are teaching England a lot about what's over here. Namely the health promotion side.
Rhodri Morgan: .... so much, well in Wales, for some reason, because we're older, sicker and poorer in Wales, we have 30% more attendances at accident and emergency units of hospitals in Wales per head than in England.
Why, probably because we're older, sicker and poorer, but that has a colossal impact on your ability to deliver routine elective waiting list surgery, such as the sad case that you highlighted.
Jeremy Vine: The social picture is the same in the North East of England. They spend less money than you and they get better results from the health service. That's from Derek Wanless who you've just been praising.
Rhodri Morgan: Yes indeed, but I haven't actually seen any facts on which he might base that. I've not actually seen ....
Jeremy Vine: You spend 5% more per head says Wanless, and you've got 25% longer waiting lists than in the North East of England. Where people are as ill as you're describing them as being here.
Rhodri Morgan: And, I think the North East is not the same as Wales. We are the same as - the North East, with respect to our inheritance from the coal and steel industry, and having a very small professional middle class, what we have in addition, that the North East does not have, is a very big retirement population.
Now the biggest single factor that causes variations between demand for health services is age. And we are a combination of the South West of England, as a popular retirement area, and an old coal steel area like the North East, we are unique in the United Kingdom in that respect.
Jeremy Vine: What would you say then finally Rhodri Morgan to Eleanor Court who we saw in the film, who waited nearly four years for her hip replacement.
Rhodri Morgan: I am very ..... (interjects) .... and I will look in to it.
Jeremy Vine: Well, she's had a lot of publicity already. She says it's gone to the dogs since they took power in this area.
Rhodri Morgan: No. It was going to the dogs when we did take it over. We did not close the hip factory in the Cardiff area which would have dealt with her case. That was closed by the Conservatives. We inherited a colossal problem.
Jeremy Vine: Can you apologise to her.
Rhodri Morgan: I, I do apologise to her, certainly I do. And if you look at the figures of the drop in the over eighteen month waits for orthopaedic cases, it has gone down as far as the figures that came out, I think last week, from twelve hundred and twenty, to twenty. Unfortunately, she appears to be one of the twenty, and I will look in to it.
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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