On the Politics Show, Sunday 11 November 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Ed Miliband
JON SOPEL: Well, a little earlier I played David's report to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Ed Miliband, and I suggested to him that the criticisms of Gordon Brown's performance over the past few weeks, were all of a... he was more interested in tactics than strategy.
ED MILIBAND: When you look at this Queen's Speech and when you look at what's in this Queen's Speech, I think it's very much consistent with what Gordon Brown has always stood for and the kind of society he believes in. What's he always been about? He's been about extending opportunity to more people in our society, but what we realize is that there are new challenges that confront us today, which are different from 1997. Take housing for example, much bigger priority in this Queen's Speech, than in the past as we seek to build three million new homes over the coming years. Work-life balance, obviously also had a big emphasis in the Queen's Speech, how we could extend flexible working to more families. Again, that's much more of a challenge and much more apparent as a challenge, than it was ten years ago. So, I actually think this is absolutely consistent with the kind of vision he has for the country and it's confronting and this is very important, the new challenges that a country faces.
JON SOPEL: I deliberately phrased it the past few weeks, to take in the Party Conference, the pre-Budget Report. I mean just take that moment where he's sitting there, grinning like a Cheshire Cat, as Alistair Darling is delivering the pre-Budget Report, that looked like it was all about tactics, nothing to do with strategy, make the Tories look uncomfortable.
ED MILIBAND: Well to be fair John, we now discover from papers that have been issued by the Treasury this week, that Gordon Brown had been thinking about issues around inheritance tax, as long ago as the March budget of 2007, so this wasn't just dreamed up in response to the Tories, and there's a big difference, again which goes to the differences we're going to see coming out in the coming months, between our proposals and the Conservative proposals. They want to give an extra two billion pounds away to some of the richest people in our society. Now we think there are better ways of spending that money on the kind of priorities I was talking about like health and education and so on. So you know, yes it was right to take action on inheritance tax, but there is a big difference between where we are and where the Conservatives are.
JON SOPEL: You had said in May, "shining through from every action and proposal, should be a sense of what progressive politics is about". Does inheritance tax really fall in to that category.
ED MILIBAND: Well, I think it is right to say that there's been a long standing situation in the tax system, where spouses can transfer their tax relief to each other but they, but they - where ┐
ED MILIBAND: There's been a long-standing situation where spouses can, can make transfers but they can't take advantage of the tax allowances, that are available, but look Jon, yes there should be shining through from every policy we do a sense of opportunity and that is absolutely clear. When you look at this Queen's Speech and you look at education and raising the education participation age, to eighteen. When you look at housing, as I've said. When you look at youth services, a new area that we're investing in. In all those areas, there absolutely is a philosophy shining through.
JON SOPEL: You talk about the release of these papers, I just want to ask you a very precise question then. Was the proposal for inheritance tax in the pre-budget report, to be included, before George Osborne stood up at the Tory Party Conference.
ED MILIBAND: Well look I, I was not privy to all the discussions that were, were going on but what I can say absolutely is this was absolutely considered and it was absolutely clear that this was a proposal which was going to be ┐ (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Can you say whether it was decided or not.
ED MILIBAND: Well look, that is a matter for the Chancellor, Jon and I'm not going to get in to that. But the central notion of the Conservatives was, we dreamed up this proposal at the last minute, in response to George Osborne's speech and that's absolutely untrue.
JON SOPEL: Okay. Now, so, now that we've had the Queen's Speech this week, is that the vision is that what this Gordon Brown government should be judged on.
ED MILIBAND: Well, I think it is part of the vision. Look, what have we seen since we came in to office, the new government? We've seen competence in response to many of the issues like flooding and other things that arose, but we think competence is not enough, not, not enough as part of a forward agenda for this government and we've got to do more to set that out and the Queen's Speech is a very big part of that. And you know, some people will say, oh well look, what's really in this Queen's Speech, this is a major, major set of legislative changes. Look, we're the first country in the world to be legislating for binding climate change┐ I've talked about education, education now agree or disagree with these changes that we're making but don't say that they aren't substantial changes.
JON SOPEL: Would you accept that you did come off the tracks a bit over the whole hoo-ha about the election.
ED MILIBAND: Well I think the election speculation was allowed to go on too long and I take my share of responsibility for that. But look, you know, the one thing I would say to you is that people in Westminster get terribly excited about the day to day minutiae of politics, you know who's up, who's down all these issues. I find other people just get on with their lives and they say, is this a government addressing the kind of issues that we face in our lives, and this Queen's Speech is centrally about that in terms of housing, education, balancing work and family life and I think you know, the Tories are very cocky and arrogant at the moment, but I think, let's judge this over the longer term because I think when it comes to the next election, whenever that is, people won't be saying, I'm not voting for Gordon Brown because he didn't call an election, some time earlier.
JON SOPEL: What happened over that. What happened over the whole election.
ED MILIBAND: Well, I think as I say, you were at the time of the Party Conference, the speculation was allowed to go on too long but look the key thing for us now Jon, and I think for people watching this programme is to move┐ (interjection) Well I suspect most people want to move on as well.
JON SOPEL: Of course, but I just think it was a fascinating period of British politics, where something very strange happened and I just wondered what you, what your analysis of it is.
ED MILIBAND: Well look, I think one of the issues that there is is that we're a new government in power. We were doing very well, seemed to be doing very well and then a lot of speculation was built up and it was bound to happen at a time of the Party Conference. As I say, in retrospect, it was allowed to go on too long but I suspect the people who say, everything is brilliant and then people who say everything is terrible, they're both wrong. You've got to judge these things over the longer term and what people judge this government on, is do we have a big forward agenda, which meets their priorities and I personally think, as I've said on the Queen's Speech, we do. And let me just say something else Jon because┐ (interjection)
JON SOPEL: I just want to pick you up on one thing. You said we're a new government in power. You've been in power since 1997.
ED MILIBAND: No, but we have new Prime Minister who's addressing new challenges. When I, when I've talked about ┐
JON SOPEL: And he made a mistake over the election timing ┐ (interjection)
ED MILIBAND: I think we all take responsibility for, for mistakes that were made. Of course we allowed the election speculation to go on too long but, but, but there is a new agenda here and as I say, what's the key issue? Can we address the long term challenges and the challenge that people face in their lives around the bread and butter issues that I've talked about. Housing and education and crime and climate change, which is a growing issue for lots of people. Now, I personally think we have a philosophy which better addresses those challenges. We recognize the role for government in expanding opportunity for people, in a way the Conservatives still don't and I thought what was very striking about the debate this week on the Queen's Speech, is David Cameron, yes it was a good knock -about speech. Yes, it was good on style. He had nothing to say about the big challenges our country faces. Nothing to say about whether he supports education, the education leaving age going to eighteen. Nothing to say about housing.
JON SOPEL: Okay, well let's talk about one of those big issues which is immigration, which clearly concerns a huge number of people. We read that the Home Offices is facing more criticism today after admitting that illegal immigrants had been cleared for jobs as security staff. Now how is it possible that this is still happening.
ED MILIBAND: Look, the, the er, situation with the particular individuals we're talking about is regulated by the security industry authority. They introduced a new licensing system in July, which instituted the kind of checks that we need on people to make sure that they can be legally working in this country and, and now they're going to check existing employees from outside the European Union, where there is a risk of them being employed illegally. And the other thing I would say is that this is a responsibility on employers. I mean employers should not be employing people illegally, but, but precisely because of the recognition that there was about this, they're instituting a system of checks, which will be done, which will be completed this year.
JON SOPEL: You talked about how competence is very important for the government but also vision. Do you think that over immigration, when we've seen the confusion over figures about the number of people in the country, that you have got competence.
ED MILIBAND: Look inevitably, er, er these things are, are hard to be precise about because you're relying on surveys and a, and a whole range of other things. They key thing - look, what's the argument been about around this employment thing, you have to take a step back from it. It's been about where the two and a half million more jobs or so, two and a half, around two and a half million jobs, where have they gone. And the truth is, there are more people working from abroad, working here. Some in the public services, some in the City of London, which has been of benefit to us. But there are also a lot more British people er, working in those jobs so I think we have to get these figures in context. We're talking about where the growth that we've seen and the growth in employment has gone.
JON SOPEL: Final question. I'm talking to you here at Westminster on the morning of Remembrance Sunday and maybe there's a strong feeling that this government has not respected the military covenant. You've been very swift to send British troops in to action, in to harm's way, but less good at helping those troops when they've come home, maybe suffering serious injuries or traumas, as a result of what they've seen. What do you say to that.
ED MILIBAND: Well, I'm going to the Cenotaph shortly Jon, and I think in a way this isn't really a day for politics, this is a day to think about the sacrifices that so many people have made for our country. On the specific issue you raise, we've seen significant increases in defence expenditure. The longest sustained increases since the 1980s, but obviously, the Royal British Legion has raised a whole range of issues, and I think it's right that the Ministry of Defence looks at those issues, but as I say, I think today is the day for honouring the sacrifices that so many people have made for our country.
JON SOPEL: Ed Miliband, thank you very much.
ED MILIBAND: Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH ED MILIBAND
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The Politics Show Sunday 11 November 2007 at 12:10 GMT on BBC One.
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