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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 15:10 GMT
Jeremy Vine interviews
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

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.

On Politics Show, Sunday 27 February, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:.

  • John Reid, MP, Health Secretary
  • Vince Cable, MP, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman

John Reid
John Reid, MP, Health Secretary

Interview with John Reid, MP, Health Secretary

Jeremy Vine: And joining me now to discuss the labour campaign, is the Health Secretary, Dr. John Reid. Good afternoon.

Dr John Reid: And to you Jeremy.

Jeremy Vine: Those mothers were less than enthusiastic about Labour weren't they?

Dr John Reid: Yeah, well, I haven't always said this about BBC introductions, but I thought that was well worth listening to as it happens. A couple of things occurred to me during it. What they were asking us to do was actually very like what we called the Big Conversation, and for the past eighteen months we've been involved, the cabinet ministers involved out there, talking on it.

And one example of what happens when you listen, one of things that came across to me strongly when I listened to, in particular busy mums, about what they wanted was food labelling and last week I made absolutely plain that we're going to make sure that when people go to supermarkets instead of having to have a PhD in biochemistry, and twenty-twenty eye sight to search the back of food, there will be a simplified form of food labelling, and that came right out of the big conversation.

And if you look at a most successful programme on the ground, again, it's through the involvement of local people, particularly mothers, Sure Start, and the, the care of kids in the local community, giving people, listening to people and giving them more power over it. (interjection) I, I would go with the flow of what was said there.

Jeremy Vine: Except that they seemed very uninspired by Labour, and they say that you, you like in some sort of parallel universe.

Dr John Reid: Well that's right. They feel that you know, people like me were born with a suit on, born as Secretary of State and, and didn't face the sort of problems that they face, you know, was never a young father and so on, and actually we were.

But we've got to re-connect with that, and that's one of the reasons why the family friendly policies that we've been stressing, and will be stressing next week incidentally, so that more care for the under fives, extended hours at school to watch the over fives. More flexibility between maternity and paternity leave, so that we can shift it, that's why it's so important to people.

Jeremy Vine: But the situation was then where you have given those new mothers a baby bond for £250, a cheque for £250, they don't believe it's real money.

Dr John Reid: Well, I was trying to figure out why that is, and I think what where Iraq came in to it for instance, I think most people now would agree whatever the differences about going into Iraq, that if it's a fight between terrorists and democracy, that we should support democracy and see the job through. However for a very long period, I fully accept, people thought that we had disengaged from their world, that we were too interested in foreign affairs.

Now, what we've got to show to them, and I hope we can by the policies that we are pursuing ... last week for instance I announced that we're getting 2.4 million scans which should help us reduce cancer deaths and extend breast cancer screening, even further, so that issues like that mean that we've returned home to the domestic agenda, and I think that will help us to reconnect.

Jeremy Vine: It's a bit late isn't it? I mean you ... how soon is the election now.

Dr John Reid: Well we've been doing this for about a year and a half. If you look at the figures ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) This was last week.

Dr John Reid: No, last week I, I announced another 2.4 million but actually nine months ago, I bought six hundred thousand extra scans, and if you look at the figures from last week, over the previous two years, eleven thousand more women had been identified as having breast cancer because of the extra capacity, and something like thirty three thousand more people, have been saved from a premature death from cancer; so, we've started, but I fully accept.

Jeremy Vine: Okay.

Dr John Reid: The impression could have been gained that we were more interested in foreign affairs for a period, so we're now re-engaging and reconnecting.

Jeremy Vine: And one other thing that they said was specifically about the Prime Minister, one of the mothers said, I'm not sure that Tony Blair is real.

Dr John Reid: Well I think the question that was asked of them is, is Tony Blair or for that matter me, or any other cabinet minister, the same as we were seven or eight years ago, and I think the truth of the matter is that we're exactly the same in terms of our values, but we've been in government for seven and eight years, and that means that you have to say ¿no' occasionally.

It means you have to take very tough decisions on international terrorism and so on. So what we have to show is that in terms of our values and applying them, when we are bringing in family friendly policies, when we're extending the National Health Service, that we're doing that just the same way that we always did. I think there's another element.

You know, it's this positive-negative thing because it is perfectly legitimate for us, I think, to point out that this isn't just a referendum on our record and what we're offering, though that is important, but it is also important that whereas we're extending the National Health Service there is a choice. The Conservatives will actually break down the founding principle of the NHS by saying, if you've got more money you'll get a quicker operation ...

Jeremy Vine: Well hang on a sec ...


Jeremy Vine: I want to ask you about the tone of the campaign because you spend an awful lot of time taking about the Conservatives, they're rather well equipped to talk about themselves I would have thought. Do you think it's too macho first of all?

Let me ask you, you've got Alistair Campbell and Alan Milburn, John Prescott. One of Mr Milburn's aides reportedly saying, Alan sits up like a man on the tube, legs apart, elbows out, heads up, an Alpha male vigorously asserting his personal space. Is this a man's campaign you're running?

Dr John Reid: Well funnily enough, if you mention only the men, you could come to the conclusion that it's a men's campaign. But if for instance, in the last ten days, I remind you that on the Olympic bid, it was Tessa Jowell who was leading it up. On the improvement modernization of our education system, it was Ruth Kelly, not only a woman, but a young woman in the Cabinet. On minimum wage, Patricia Hewitt, on the paternity leave and the maternity leave, Patricia Hewitt as well.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) But Tessa Jowell said the campaign was a bit macho didn't she?

Dr John Reid: Oh but well I think, I think Tessa also said, don't quote selectively, that we were all trying to find our feminine side. She probably said that with a, with tongue in cheek but the truth of the matter is, in terms of personalities, and you can mention Valerie Amos and Hilary Armstrong and so on. There is a very ...


Jeremy Vine: ... running the campaign, not running the campaign.

Dr John Reid: Well, we are all involved in the campaign but there are more women in the cabinet and ministerial level .. Jackie Smith, Hazel Blears, Caroline Flint, I can go on and on. And let me give you one interesting fact.

If we do as well as some people think we will do, and I'm not for a moment complacent, that this will be the first time in history in parliament, where a majority of the new MPs coming in from our party, will be women, not men.

So there is a very heavy element and personal on, on women being involved and if you look at the paternity leave, if you look at last week, some of the issues that were announced, in food labelling for instance, the Sure Start programme

Jeremy Vine: Okay, you've mentioned it.

Dr John Reid: All of those are heavily directed towards matter of interest to women.

Jeremy Vine: Well Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary says, I do have a grave anxiety about the negative tone of some of the campaigning we've done over the past month. I don't think that's what the public wants out there. Maybe that's what explains the mood of our mothers, that we spoke to.

Dr John Reid: Well there's two different things there. One is Robin's talk about whether it's positive or negative. I don't know where he thinks that our campaign has been dominated by negativity, it hasn't ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) you keep attacking the Conservatives.

Dr John Reid: Well, let, well let me tell you what we have been doing first of all, before distinguishing ourselves from the Conservatives. I promised that we would have an eighteen week maximum, eighteen week maximum from the first time you see your GP through to an operation being delivered.

That's fantastic, positive, specific claim. Ruth Kelly promised that there would be two hundred more city academies by 2008/10, specific and positive. Charles Clarke promised that there would be twenty five thousand more community wardens on our street, along with record police, specific and positive.

Jeremy Vine: Now why keep attacking the Conservatives? Why has your latest poster got a huge picture of Michael Howard on it?

Dr John Reid: Well we, look ...

Jeremy Vine: Why do that?

Dr John Reid: .. it is perfectly legitimate to point out, along side our positive programme, Jeremy, that this is a choice. It is a real choice. When I say that we will have operations faster for everyone, it is legitimate to say, and if you vote Conservative, you'll be voting for people who've got more money than you, to jump the queue, because they can pay half the operations.

When I say that we will create employment at its highest ever level, it's legitimate to say and Michael Howard, who put a million on the dole queues, the last time he was in, will abolish the New Deal.

Jeremy Vine: It's quite a long time ago that isn't it.

Dr John Reid: But, no, but he's now going to abolish the New Deal now. The very means by which we took two hundred and fifty thousand young people off the dole queue and in to jobs; so you see this is a choice, and provided you get the balance right, provided you're positive on your own policies, but point out the implications of others.

Now, and the final comment is this, over the last six years no one has suffered the personal abuse that Tony Blair has, no one in politics. From the same newspapers er, the Tory leaning newspapers, which are bleating about a negative campaign, they have day in day out, attacked a Prime Minister and on occasions his family.

Jeremy Vine: Let me ask you one more question. An issue which concerns you as Health Secretary. John Barrett, who's forty one, stabbed Dennis Finnegan in Richmond Park, after leaving the secure unit of psychiatric hospital, is there something you can do to stop that kind of thing happening again.?

Dr John Reid: Well I don't want to pre-judge this, but some of the matters relating to this that I've read about our worrying Jeremy. And I have asked for an urgent report to be compiled.

I want the local strategic health authority to carry out an independent inquiry but not only in to the local implications, but some of the national implications of this. And I think that on face value, there are some very difficult questions that have to be asked about this.

Jeremy Vine: John Reid, Health Secretary, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

End of interview

Interview with Vince Cable, MP, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman

Vince Cable
Vince Cable, MP, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman

Jeremy Vine: Vincent Cable, the Treasury Spokesman joins us now. Can you tell us about stamp duty first of all, and why you're raising the threshold for that.

Vince Cable: Well the reason for it is that in recent years, because of the appreciation of house prices, almost everybody pays stamp duty, however poor, however small the house and everybody has been sucked in to the system.

And it's become a major barrier for first time buyers, particularly on people on low incomes; so we're lifting it from fifty ... er, from sixty thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand, and will take in a lot ... it's not a radical change, but it's an important change for people at the bottom of the ladder, and Halifax Building Society for example, recommended this change a few days ago.

Jeremy Vine: And the VAT on new build homes, will hit those key workers won't it?

Vince Cable: This is not a new tax. I mean all we're proposing in respect of housing is that Value Added Tax should be equalized. At the present moment you pay full Value Added Tax if you refurbish your home. But you don't if there's a new home, and we're just equalizing it, an entirely tax neutral change, it's not a tax increase.

Jeremy Vine: No, it's a new tax, isn't it, on new build homes which wasn't there before; so, it's going to hit those key workers for whom those homes are being built as we speak.

Vince Cable: There would be some people who were buying new homes, who would pay Value Added Tax at half the full rate. But essentially what we're doing is equalizing it, a tax neutral change, and anybody who is refurbishing their home, would get reduced Value Added Tax. That's not simply an issue of equity, it's also environmentally sensible too.

Jeremy Vine: Let me as you about the main plank of your proposals which is this local income tax. We met two households there who are really going to be hit very hard by it. I mean one of them, their bill is tripling.

Vince Cable: Well it's very difficult to understand. They must have been extremely well paid if that was the case. Our calculator

Jeremy Vine: £23,000 a year average salary


Vince Cable: Well in that case they would not be paying more. You have to get to around about thirty six thousand, before you're paying more.

Jeremy Vine: We've been on your web site to do the calculation.

Vince Cable: Well I, somebody may have got the calculations a bit wrong. I can explain

Jeremy Vine: They haven't

Vince Cable: ... very simply what the (fluffs), what the outcome is. That 70% of people would either be no worse off or better off, and the average family, the median family if you want to be statistically precise, would be £460 a year better off under our proposal and it's easy to understand why because the Council Tax is highly regressive; it bears very heavily on people with low incomes and if you have a system based on ability to pay, then clearly people who are very well off will pay a little more. But average incomes have no reason to worry under our proposals.

Jeremy Vine: Extraordinary amount more ... one of the households: Roz was on a £23,000 salary, she's a primary school teacher, she lives with three others, put the salaries together, you end up ... it's then 3.75% of the combined salaries right. So we're right about that. So they then pay three and half thousand pounds a year where now, they're paying only about £800.

Vince Cable: Well it is, it is certainly the case that if you have a household with a lot of earners in it, a high income household if you combine the incomes, they do pay more. I mean that's inevitable under a system based on people's ability to pay.

Jeremy Vine: And how fair is that?

Vince Cable: What you need to remember, there are a lot of very low paid people, who pay extremely high rates of council tax at the moment. Under the local income tax system, they will be much better off. An average family, an average family will be four hundred, over four hundred and fifty pound better off, under our proposals.

Jeremy Vine: But it just again, coming back to Roz and her friends, it just seems colossally unfair, it's not even related to the size of property they're in, is it?

Vince Cable: Well that's precisely the point. Relating local income tax to the size of property, produces much of the unfairness that we get at the moment. We have the problem with pensioners.

Millions of pensioners who pay very large council tax, simply because they happen to live in a relatively large house, in an area which was in 1991, valued at a certain level, and when the council tax revaluation comes in, in two or three years time, a lot of those people in relatively large houses, in areas where properties have appreciated, will pay astronomic levels of council tax. It's an extremely unfair system, it's unrelated to people's ability to pay, and we will introduce a taxation system that is related to people's ability to pay.

Jeremy Vine: But Roz and co are the kind of people you want on the housing ladder.

Vince Cable: And I think our proposals will help them in respect of stamp duty. Indeed, if they're trying to buy a house for the first time, they will not be paying a thousand pound in stamp duty, which is often a sort of killer for people who are trying to get the cash together for a house purchase.

Jeremy Vine: Not the film mentioned dog tax, and you shook your head at that, but that is policy paper sixty one on your website.

Vince Cable: It is not part of our manifesto.

Jeremy Vine: It's on your website.

Vince Cable: Well it may well be. I mean there have been conference resolutions going back to the days of Lloyd George, which have advocated all kind of things. They're not party policy, there's no dog tax, and there was no increase tax ... there's only one tax increase that we're proposing, and this is the increase in tax on earnings over a £100,000, of very well off people in society. And we've been very specific, from 40 to 50% on marginal income and that money being used to get rid of student tuition fees, charges on, elderly care charges for example. Nothing else. No dog tax.

Jeremy Vine: Vincent Cable, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

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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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday, 6 March, 2005 at 12.30.

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