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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 November 2007, 15:08 GMT
Harriet Harman interview transcript...
On the Politics Show, Sunday 04 November 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Labour Party Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman
There was a mistake about the immigration figures which was swiftly corrected
Harriet Harman


JON SOPEL: Harriet Harman joins me now. Welcome to the Politics Show.


JON SOPEL: Would you accept the proposition that after a dismal few weeks, this Queen's Speech, has to do something more; it has to show that clear sense of direction that Max Cotton was talking about.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think the Queen's Speech will set out a clear sense of direction and remember Gordon Brown and the Labour Party's sense of direction is not built in two weeks or at one conference ? it's a long standing commitment to stability, to helping people have a better quality of life and standard of living. And also, to strengthen our democracy, to actually listen more as well as lead; so that sense of direction is absolutely there.

JON SOPEL: And the first part of my proposition was that it's been a dismal few weeks, would you accept that part.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well, I would say that there had been a dismal few weeks people were losing their jobs, if children weren't getting on better at school, if there was, - if our health services weren't improving but I think that we've got to think about what matters to people out there, in the High Streets, up and down this country and what matters is whether the government is ensuring that there is stability, that they're better off and also that the government's listening to them - that's what really matters.

JON SOPEL: But in terms of political management, which is also vital, because you know, you've watched the Major government fall apart over issues of political management. Would you say that the political management over kind of U-turns and apologies, immigration figures ? you can, I can list a whole pile of examples, have been good.

HARRIET HARMAN: No, I don't think John Major's government fell apart because of political management. I think it fell apart because the Conservatives had actually wrecked the economy and also because the Tory Party was fundamentally split.

JON SOPEL: Yeah, but let's talk about your government.

HARRIET HARMAN: The economy. Well I would say our government has absolutely helped the economy stabilize and grow and that is of fundamental importance for us in Labour, because we want people to have jobs and get on in their jobs. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Just address that question for me of the past few weeks where you know, we've seen complete confusion over immigration figures, with U-turns over this, ministers having to apologize. I mean how's it felt.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I don't accept your depiction of how things have been. We're going to have a Queen's Speech next week. You know, we set out our plans for the economy a week or so ago. We're going to set out our plans for new laws and we're getting on with the job of listening to what people's concerns are ? people are working hard, they want to be better off, they want to have stability and we're also setting forth our plans and showing leadership and that's what our job in government is.

JON SOPEL: Okay, so let's pick on one example, the plans for the economy. Capital gains tax, what's happening there, is there going to be relief or not, because I've read conflicting reports that there is about to be a U-turn on that.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well if the Chancellor has got any announcements to make, then he'll make them to parliament. But let me just remind you Jon, and you'll remember (interjection) No Jon, no. What I'm saying is that the situation is as the Chancellor explained it, which there's been a simplification of Capital Gains Tax and let me just say this, is every time there's been a Labour budget people have said, this is going to be the end of civilization, the economy is, is not going to get better and every single time those sceptics have been proved wrong. Our economic record is very good. We expect the economy to continue to grow.

JON SOPEL: That's the big picture. On the detail, he's tried to simplify it but there have been howls of protest about what the effects of it will be, particularly on entrepreneurs and risk takers. There were authoritative reports this week in the papers saying that there was going to be a U-turn and that there was going to be a hundred thousand pound relief for certain types of people that hasn't been denied. Where do we stand on it.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well you say authoritative reports. People should listen to what the Chancellor has actually got to say. Obviously he has discussions throughout the year but his announcements about what the policy is going to be, come in the pre-Budget report, in the Budge and they come to parliament. Obviously there's discussion, that's fair enough that people can have their views, but there ? the rules are as they are set out. But I would again remind you, is that there's always a level of debate around these issues. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Would you accept then that the briefing and some of the counter-briefing about what's happening there, is harmful, that sort of kind of policy by briefing.

HARRIET HARMAN: There isn't policy by briefing. There's policy by considering the state of the economy, by listening to business and trade unions, by looking at the figures and then working out what's best in the interests of Britain; so I don't accept your description Jon.

JON SOPEL: Okay, well what about the immigration figures then. The number of new jobs that have been created and how many of them have been taken by people coming in to the country. I mean that was hardly well-managed, would you say.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well there was a mistake about the immigration figures which was swiftly corrected but let me just say this about immigration is that it is the job of government to listen and I was in Cardiff yesterday, in the High Street, listening and people were raising concerns about immigration, same as they were the week before when I was talking to people in Durham.

But the job of government is to listen but it's also to lead and I'm going to say, because it has to be said that immigration has been good for this country. Not just in the past, where immigrants built the roads and came from Ireland to build the roads, came from the Caribbean to run the London Underground but also, it's been good in the current situation, where if you're a farmer and you've got good crops in your field, or you can't get local people to harvest those crops, you need to be able to bring in the people you need.

JON SOPEL: Okay, and you've said that when you were in Cardiff there was real concern. This Tory candidate who's talked about you know, maybe Enoch Powell had it right and if you look at what Enoch Powell said, maybe he had a point.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I don't think he did have a point and I don't think it was right either when the Conservative Party used to say that apartheid was good for South Africa. And I think what they're going to do probably, later on to-day is they'll probably give the chop to this Tory candidate in an effort to try and pretend that the Tory Party has changed, when I think it's the same old nasty party. Of course we have to have good migration controls.

Of course we've got to have plans for migration, so that we have people here who we need to be here. Of course we've got to get British people off the dole and we've got to have more skills and education in the British economy. But we must recognize that our economy depends, when we've got a growing number of older people, and a fall in the working age population, we need to be able to bring in to our economy, those people to help us make the economy grow. And one final point Jon, is that there are more migrants pick there ? there are more crops picked by migrants than are eaten by migrants and there are more homes built by migrant workers than there are lived in by migrant workers.

JON SOPEL: But when Gordon Brown then stands up at the Labour Party Conference and says, more British jobs for British workers, that sounds pretty Powell like rhetoric.

HARRIET HARMAN: No. What he's saying is, we want to make absolutely sure that when we've got six hundred thousand vacancies in the economy, which we have at the moment, that we don't have people on the dole and we have reduced by a million, the number of people who are on benefit, but there are still more people we need to get off benefit in to work. And also, we shouldn't have people... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But wasn't that a message for the Daily Mail and the Sun to sound tough on immigration, but ? when in fact it's legally impossible to deliver on that policy of more British jobs for British workers.

HARRIET HARMAN: No. It's about reminding people very forcefully, that there are job vacancies in our economy, because of the way we've strengthened and stabilized and built the economy and that there are also people who are on benefit, who could work, who want to work. And the other element of this is increasing the skills and education levels of the British people and that's why Ed Balls has been taking forward a programme which will be unveiled in the Queen's Speech, to make sure we that we have the skills we need to increase and grow our economy.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Harriet Harman, thank you very much indeed.


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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

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The Politics Show Sunday 04 November 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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