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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
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 10 April, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Liam Fox MP, Conservative Party co-Chairman
  • Nigel Farage, MEP, UKIP

Liam Fox
Liam Fox MP, Conservative Party co-Chairman

Liam Fox MP, Conservative Party co-Chairman

Jeremy Vine: We'll be talking to all the parties over the campaign, but this week, it's the turn of the Conservatives, and their party co-Chairman, Liam Fox, joins me now.

Liam Fox, floating voters there, like the Knoxs, obviously still waiting for you to catch their eye.

Dr Liam Fox: Well I think they're quite right to be taking their time to look at the range of issues offered by the parties, both the policies themselves and the values they represent.

We've made it very clear that what we want to do is to reward people, like the Knoxes who take responsibility for themselves, who believe in discipline for their children, and who want to do the right thing for themselves, their family and their country in the long term.

Jeremy Vine: We were told by Michael Howard, with us what you see is what you get. You're going to be straight and open and honest. And now we find out you have a candidate who doctors his campaign photos, you put out inaccurate figures on MRSA, that doesn't bode well does it?

Dr Liam Fox: Well there was a mistake on the letter yesterday, the letter 's' was missed out and it said, trust instead of trusts. I think that ...

Jeremy Vine: It made the figures wrong.

Dr Liam Fox: The figures were, it made the figures wrong yes. And Michael Howard apologized and we'll put a correction out. But I think the issue is still there that people do worry about the fact that more people die from hospital acquired infections, in Britain now than die on Britain's roads. And people will say, well why do you concentrate on that.

When I was a doctor, when I first qualified, one of the first things that you have to swear is the Hippocratic Oath, and one of the things, right at the beginning of that, says that you will not do any harm to the patients, and surely, cleanliness, and the safety from the fear of catching an infection in hospital, ought to be upper most.

Jeremy Vine: Just tell us about the pensions proposal that you're coming up with later today. This is another tax break. It will affect, we understand, people who earn under thirty thousand pounds, and it's something to do with helping their savings grow quicker, is it?

Dr Liam Fox: One of the problems that the country faces is the fact that our pension funds have been run down. Labour have taxed about 35 billion cumulatively out of the pension funds. That has an effect not only on people's immediate income, it has an effect on the stock market for example, and what we want to do is to help those who are in the working population, at the present time to put something aside for their later years.

And I think it says two things. First of all it says something about leadership, it says that Michael Howard's leadership is about dealing with long term problems that affect the country and not just looking for short term votes, which is the Blair approach, but I think it also says, that the Conservative Party's values are to reward hard working people who save for themselves, and do the right thing in the longer term.

Jeremy Vine: You seem to be conceding there that helping people with their pensions is not, is not that sexy.

Dr Liam Fox: Oh, it's a very very important issue and I think that if you go out and talk to people, there is a very deep worry that pensions and the provision for people who are currently in the working population is not something that the current government is giving enough attention to.

We really have to deal with the, the really big issues, and it can't all be about spin and soundbites. We've had eight years of broken promises, and we've had far too much short termism from the current government. The Conservative Party is committed to dealing with, this is one of the biggest problems we face, as a country, what will people have in their old age, and we're going to tackle it.

Jeremy Vine: And just again, final thing on this policy. It won't help existing pensioners, am I right? It's people who are currently saving.

Dr Liam Fox: It's for people who are in the working population. We've already set out our policies, for pensioners, restoring the earnings link, help with long term care and of course, up to 500 rebate on their council tax. This policy today, is for those in the working population, who are looking to the future and we're going to make it easier for them to put something aside, for the time when they retire.

Jeremy Vine: You seem to have a very big idea indeed in your manifesto, which strangely, you appear to have hidden. You want patients and parents to be allowed to take cash out of the state sector and take it into private hospitals and buy private schooling. These policies are barely mentioned in your manifesto.

Dr Liam Fox: Well we spent a lot of time in the autumn last year, if you remember, focusing particularly on our action on health and our action on education and we did it because in the last election, people said, well the Conservatives don't want to focus on the big public service issues.

And we spent time focusing on those issues, before anything else. And we want to make a number of things clear in terms of the public services. If I may take health first: that we wanted to free the system from government targets, which we think interferes in proper medical decision making. We wanted to make sure, as I said, that we got clean hospitals.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) That's not the policy.

Dr Liam Fox: (overlaps) ... and infection control. And then when it came to patient choice, the most important thing is that patients should be able to choose any NHS hospital that they want to go to. If I may give you an example, a constituent of mine, who family had moved away from my area in Somerset, had to have surgery for his prostate cancer.

His family had moved to Guildford and he said, can I not go and get my surgery done there because that's where I'd be happier recuperating. And of course, that wasn't allowed, because you can't actually move around the health service, because it's not a national health service. And we want to give people first of all that right.

And you're correct, then if people decide that having paid their taxes and their National Insurance into the NHS, they decide to go in to the private sector, we'll give them half the cost that the NHS would have paid for their operation. It's fair that they having contributed, get something back, if they're actually going to shorten the waiting list for others.

Jeremy Vine: Now that's a very big policy and in fact I think we've got a quote on the screen from you, about eighteen months ago saying, it involves a fundamental re-casting of the relationship between the state and the citizen. So again, I ask you, why have you hidden this policy in your manifesto, to the extent where the schools part of it, you only describe it in five words?

Dr Liam Fox: Well, as I say, before this election started in the long pre-election period that we seemed to have, we set out in very great detail these policies because we wanted to have a full debate on them. Naturally, in the manifesto, the manifesto is as much about themes and direction for the country, as it is about details (overlaps) ...

Jeremy Vine: Well fundamental re-casting would be in here wouldn't it? I mean that's pretty substantial.

Dr Liam Fox: Well it is very ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) It's not the front or anything.

Dr. Liam Fox: Well it's very important that we set out our range of policies and we set out our values in the Manifesto; we discussed all these policies in great detail before. But yes, we do want to give people greater freedom than they have at the present time.

In this country, people feel that their taxes have gone up, but they've got nothing to show for it. We actually want to see individual citizens and tax payers empowered, to make more decisions for themselves, and to see less waste of taxpayers' money by government.

Jeremy Vine: There is a fundamental problem with the policy as far as the government is concerned, which is that what you do immediately, is you give state cash to people who are already using, let's say private health care, so you have what they call a deadweight cost. Now, have you got any way round that?

Dr Liam Fox: There is no such thing as state money. There is only taxpayers' money, this is where Labour simply don't understand it. Tax payers who've contributed to their health care should be able to get a say in how they receive that health care and should they decide to go in to the private sector, they're surely due some of the money that they've contributed to the NHS, to help them do that.

Because many of the people using the private sector, in the last few years, a massive increase in the number of people doing that did so because they simply did not want to wait the length of time they were being required to wait on the NHS.

Many of them were elderly, not wealthy, using their savings, people who had contributed all their working lives to the NHS. Surely if they decide to go in to the private sector, they should get some of what they've contributed back as a helping hand.

Jeremy Vine: But again, if it's such a great policy, why is it hidden? And I want to suggest to you that the reason you've done this with this policy, buried it somewhat, is that people like the Knox family, whom we've seen, are a bit suspicious about the word 'choice'. They want you to make their local hospital, and their local school better, and as you would say, that is not rocket science.

Dr Liam Fox: No, and we've said in our manifesto, exactly how we think we can make all hospitals better. We want to make all hospitals better by taking away the government targets that have produced some very perverse results, in healthcare here in Bristol, where I am just now. We've had patients go blind because there was no target for follow up appointments, the hospital simply followed the targets for first patients. That's quite wrong.

We want to make sure that we put a matron back, so the hospitals are clean and people have confidence in that. We want to give the patients themselves more say in where they get the services. Of course, everybody wants to see all hospitals raised up to the standard of the best. But if you allowed patients to choose, then there is some pressure for all hospitals to come up to that standard.

End of interview

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage, MEP, UKIP

Nigel Farage, MEP, UKIP

Jeremy Vine: The UK Independence Party are grand old men by comparison.

They've been around since 1995 and last year won twelve seats in the Euro elections.

Still many of the same issues apply to them, and Nigel Farage, of UKIP joins me now. Welcome to you.

Nigel Farage: Hi.

Jeremy Vine: Because effectively, you're fighting a general election now without the prospect of winning a single seat.

Nigel Farage: I wouldn't accept that. We came third nationally last year in the European Elections. We came first in twenty one constituencies in the European elections.

We beat the Conservatives in the Hartlepool by-election, the first time since World War Two, the chief opposition party had gone down to fourth, so I think that we've got a reasonable chance of establishing our first toe-hold in Westminster.

Jeremy Vine: But it's tough, this system of ...

Nigel Farage: It's tough yeah ...

Jeremy Vine: ... smaller parties, because second place is nowhere.

Nigel Farage: It is tough. It is tough, and I would like to see some element of PR within the system.

Jeremy Vine: Where does this lead people who vote and campaign for you. Do you sense that they are thinking, okay, you've done this for ten years, in Westminster you're not getting anywhere, if that's where they are on May 6th and they start to think it's not worth it.

Nigel Farage: Well they're going to say, we've still got the pound, and if it hadn't been for UKIP and Jimmy Goldsmith, we wouldn't have the pound. They see that for the first time in a quarter of a century, there is a real debate about our future, about whether we should be part of political union or not.

So, I think our voters know we've achieved an awful lot, they'll vote for us on principle, but in our target seats, they'll vote for us knowing we've got a real chance of getting a voice in Westminster, and when half the country supports UKIP policy, is it too much to expect that just a handful of us can get in to Westminster?

Jeremy Vine: They may support it but only as a smaller part of bigger thoughts on other policies like schools and health care and crime and so on. And ICM, the pollsters, who've done these polls, asking people what's your most important policy, and Europe gets three or four per cent.

Nigel Farage: Hang on. We've got a totally bogus General Election campaign going on here. Whether it's MG Rover, whether it's business de-regulation, whether it's the immigration and asylum policy.

These things matter to people, these things are important in voters' minds, and what they're not being told by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative is that it doesn't matter a damn whether Tony Blair or Michael Howard wins the next election, those issues are decided now in Europe. So it's not single issue, it's an issue that encompasses 70% of the laws that are made in Britain today.

Jeremy Vine: So what about the other 30% of policy for you. Do you have policies on the NHS and all of that?

Nigel Farage: Oh yes, yes, yes. We're talking about schools and hospitals which are the two big areas that we haven't yet handed over to Brussels to control on our behalf. And what we're saying about them is that they too are afflicted by this disease that runs right through Britain today, the disease of bureaucracy.

Jeremy Vine: But why have a policy on the NHS? What is the point? If you are a pressure group, you need to apply as much pressure as possible, and the best way to do that is to strip away policies that are different.

Nigel Farage: You know, on immigration for example. You know, we've been putting forward since 2002, sensible immigration policies. In terms of rhetoric, at least, the Labour Party and Conservative Party have followed many of them.

So if we put forward some good ideas on hospitals, such as last summer we suggested Matrons, would be a good idea back on the wards, that's now been picked up by some of the other parties. So we're not doing any harm in putting forward a blueprint, for how an independent Britain, could and should be run.

Jeremy Vine: Would it be fair to say that your biggest problem was having Robert Kilroy-Silk in the party or having him leave it?

Nigel Farage: Oh well you know, I mean he came in, he came in to UKIP, in the middle of a very successful European Election campaign. He was the icing on the cake. He got us some extra votes, he raised our profile enormously.

But immediately after the election, it was clear that he was a divisive figure, he wanted a revolution within UKIP, he's gone, he's doing his own thing. We're now a united political party.

Jeremy Vine: Now a voter might say, I don't have to worry about UKIP because this is taken of. I will get, they might say, a vote on the European Constitution. I'll get a vote on the Euro. So why will I need to worry.

Nigel Farage: (overlaps) ... they might not. They might not, because on the 29th May, the French are going to kick in to the long grass the EU Constitution. We may not get a debate in this country, a vote on the EU Constitution.

We should be discussing it here, in this General Election. Whether we govern ourselves or not, whether, we're the Masters of our own destiny, surely, what could be more important than that?

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.

Let us know what you think.

The next Politics Show will be on Sunday, 24 April, 2005 at 12.00.

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