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Yvette Cooper transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 28 June 2009, Jon Sopel interviewed Yvette Cooper MP, Work And Pensions Secretary.

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now by Yvette Cooper, the Work & Pensions Secretary, thanks very much for being with us Yvette Cooper.

YVETTE COOPER: Good afternoon Jon.

JON SOPEL: Wasn't Lord Donohue right there, where he said, Frankly, this is long on concept, short of specifics and probably pretty meaningless to the man and woman in the street?

YVETTE COOPER: Well the document itself will be published tomorrow, but I think the key thing is what are our priorities for the next few years, and that's what we're setting out. We're saying, You've got to deal with the parliamentary problems, cleaning up the expenses system, but also doing more to re-build trust in the political system. Secondly, we've got to continue the work to get Britain through the recession, that's obviously one of the areas that I and my department have been most involved in, how you help people who are losing their jobs, get out of this as soon as possible. But also, how do you build for the future, what is our vision for Britain's future, of a fairer society, creating the kinds of jobs, high-skilled jobs, green jobs that we want for the future and a vision for public services that are more accountable to local people. (interjection) I think that is a good vision to set out, I think it's right to say these are our priorities.

JON SOPEL: Fine, all good on aspiration, no one is going to dissent from that, let's take your department, two thousand Corus workers lose their jobs this week. What will this document say to them specifically that will make a difference?

YVETTE COOPER: Well we've been clear, what we need to do when we, in the situation like with the Corus workers, who are in a very difficult position, you've got to get help in even more people lose their jobs, so supporting, perhaps through additional training, additional support, working with the company. You've also got to have immediate support available at the time when job loses are announced and when people are made redundant and then you've got to have further help in place, to get people back to work. We never had that in the early '80s, the early '90s, when a lot of steel workers lost their jobs, we had you know, the old DHSS which just turned its backs on people and that I think is a fundamentally different vision . (interjection) for how we help people.

JON SOPEL: Yeah. I just wonder what it is that is specifically new in this document that makes it kind of worthy of the title, National Plan, that will be different and specific to these workers.

YVETTE COOPER: Well, you can call it what you want to Jon. I think the important thing is that this is about helping people, like those Corus workers, with additional support; we're putting in additional investment, we've got a one billion pound future jobs fund, which is particularly about creating youth jobs that never again go back to a lost generation who don't get their first job, don't get their second job and spend years unemployed because they happen to be unlucky and leave school in the middle of a recession and in the early '80s government turned its back on people; we're determined not to do that. So yes, that is part of this vision for the future, part of building Britain's future. We help those young people, we don't turn our backs on them and that's something the Conservatives have repeatedly said they will not support the investment to do.

JON SOPEL: But am I not right in thinking that that has already been pre-announced?

YVETTE COOPER: Well we're going to be, we're going to be getting the bids in for the first round on Tuesday. We're going to be looking at those as rapidly as possible, so that we can create a hundred thousand youth jobs, but you're right that that is something that we've been working on for some time, it was something that was announced as part of the budget but what I'm not going to do is to tell you detailed, new things which are part of the Building Britain's Future, which should be announced to Parliament tomorrow. But I can tell you is that …


YVETTE COOPER: … but what I can tell you is that you know, focus on unemployment is exactly the right thing to do.

JON SOPEL: Fine. Okay and I know we've got a new speaker and you don't want to fall foul of that and I accept that but can you promise that, because what I'm trying to get at is whether there are going to be detailed, specific things that are new that we didn't know before or whether it is just going to be kind of long on broad brush aspiration.

YVETTE COOPER: There will be some measures where we are going further and where we are announcing new things. There will be others where what we're saying is 'Look, this is our priority' and this is something that's very different from what the Conservatives' priorities would be. You know, they haven't backed the additional five billion pounds that we're putting in to helping the unemployed through job subsidies or through extra training or through just expanding the number of personal advisors ready to help them at the job centre, if they lose their job.

JON SOPEL: We've seen a briefing paper on some of what is being talked about and about the need to create green jobs in the economy and then you take Vestas who build wind turbines on the Isle of Wight, their factory closed in April and the company said it was because of falling demand and bureaucratic red tape and not enough support from government.

YVETTE COOPER: Well individual companies will always raise particular issues but I think we have actually done a lot to support both investment in green technologies, particularly through investing in the science base, but also through changing the regulatory framework, so that that does make it easier for companies who are investing in green power, because of course you've got to have that shift to renewables, shift to low carbon technologies, so I think there is a lot of investment going in to those areas. Clearly, people will always want us to do more and you know, that's the direction we want to move in.

JON SOPEL: Right. And the new word that we're going to hear from tomorrow we understand is not targets, targets are yesterday's thing, it's going to be entitlements. Will there be things, will there be targets scrapped from your department, to be replaced by new entitlements.

YVETTE COOPER: Well, we've always said that our main priority for our department is to help people back to work as rapidly as possible. We don't have a specific target for the number of people that we want to get back in to jobs because clearly, we're dealing with the difficulties in the economy, but we do say that we want to help as many people as possible and that's, that's obviously our priority because I think … (interjection) …

JON SOPEL: But if you'd like to say that entitlements is the kind of broad way that we should look at things in future?

YVETTE COOPER: Well there are certainly other areas in public services, particularly around health and education where a lot of improvements have been made through having targets, you know, it has made a big difference to the equality of the services. They've seen big changes for example the massive reduction in the amount of time that people are waiting for a hip operation or waiting for cancer treatment, but having made those improvements, the next step you now need is to be able to say, 'Okay, those services are now accountable to the local people, local people should be entitled to things from their health service, from the education service' and that's how we'll measure the improvements in future, so that you've got those local people local people being able to drive improvements.

JON SOPEL: What happens then if you're meant to see a specialist within two weeks and you don't. Do you sue?

YVETTE COOPER: Well, look, we'll be setting out further information about the way in which these kinds of guarantees or entitlements will work in different areas and I can't set that out for you right now, and you'll appreciate we'll set more information out tomorrow. But .. (interjection) …

JON SOPEL: But don't you understand the general point is that people will be worried that frankly, it could be a lawyer's charter of people starting to sue the health service or suing the local education authority, or maybe as a way of bringing them in to line, you cut the money of the hospital which kind of adds to the original problem?

YVETTE COOPER: Well, I think there are ways of having incentives on local services to support people, to respond to people, to be held to account to, the people who live in that area. You've got to do it in a framework where you've still got the national standards, you don't want to return to the kind of old post code lottery that we had, that caused huge problems for treatment in some areas, compared to others. But there are ways I think of being able to do it and I think, you know, people in their own local … (interjection) …

JON SOPEL: Is it incentives or punishments?

YVETTE COOPER: … towns and cities do want to know that their services are listening to what they want. If you look at what we're doing with the police for example, take the police, where we've got in my area, in West Yorkshire, the West Yorkshire police have drawn up a policing pledge where they've been working with local people to say, well what do you want, what do you think we should be doing. These are the things we think we should be making the priority, in this area. But what do you think the priorities should be. And it's getting that local focus, at the heart of public services, to drive improvements in the future.

JON SOPEL: Might there be punishments if people fail to delivery on entitlements?

YVETTE COOPER: Well there are - (fluffs) way - areas, in which you do have penalties, you know, where actually you don't get the services improved, but you know, this will be - depend on particular areas and I'm afraid, you know, it's not for me to set out the way in which it will work for example in a particular hospital. That will be set out by the Health Secretary as we set out further details.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Yvette Cooper, we must leave it there. We will look forward to the detailed announcement. Thanks ever so much being with us. Thank you.



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The Politics Show Sunday 12 July 2009 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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