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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 February 2007, 12:14 GMT
Olympian issues
On Sunday 04 February 2007, Andrew Marr interviewed Tessa Jowell MP, Culture Secretary

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Tessa Jowell MP
Tessa Jowell MP

ANDREW MARR: After an extraordinary week for the government, one of Tony Blair's closest allies, Tessa Jowell, joins me.

She heads the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It was once called the Department of Fun.

But with a hell of a row over funding the Olympics, Britain's boozing culture being blamed by some on the new licensing laws and questions about the new age of big-time gambling it isn't all fun including, I imagine, for Tessa Jowell herself.

Good morning, thank you for joining us.

TESSA JOWELL: I love the job I do Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: You love the job?

TESSA JOWELL: I think I'm very lucky to be doing it.

ANDREW MARR: Let's start by talking about the Prime Minister. You, as I said earlier on, are one of his staunch supporters. You're in there with a fixed bayonet in the final, in the final bunker for him, if it comes to that.

There's been a lot of talk this week about the investigation and the leaks around the investigation being corrosive. Even the Party Chairman was using that word. How would you analyse the situation?

TESSA JOWELL: Well I think that the important thing is to allow the investigation to proceed. Everybody who is in any way involved in the investigation is co-operating fully, and I think that we should all suspend judgement until that time comes, and not allow this to become a distraction from the business of government, and get on with doing what people elected us to do.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think, do you not think however that a lot of your colleagues are not only distracted but visibly distracted, going out there talking about John Prescott getting his hurry-up wagon out, and all these kind of phrases. People talking openly in the context of the deputy leadership, about how corrosive and damaging it is? I mean the papers are full of it, and they're not making it up.

TESSA JOWELL: Well, I think that, I think it's important to get some perspective on this. And I talked for instance yesterday to Jackie Smith who is the Chief Whip. She's the person who is probably in the best position to read day on day the mood of the parliamentary party.

The National Policy Forum yesterday meeting of Labour activists to develop policy for the next election, and indeed the loudest applause was for a delegate who said, you know, let's, let the Prime Minister get on with his job. I was with the Prime Minister on Thursday when he addressed the annual meeting of sports colleges - 2,000 PE teachers and sports coaches who gave him a standing ovation. I don't in any way intend to diminish the importance of this enquiry.

And, you know, nobody would have, you know, wanted this to have the impact on politics at this stage that it does. But in a sense we are masters and mistresses of our own destiny in this. And our principal job is to get on doing the job. We are the servants of the people of this country. And to get on doing the job that they elected us to do.

ANDREW MARR: Tony Blair is clearly extraordinarily resilient. And yet when you see in the papers today, looking at the polls, a majority of people think he should go now. Isn't he too resilient? Shouldn't he just go?

TESSA JOWELL: No, I don't think so. And I think that he reflected this very well in his interview, his BBC interview on Friday. He's made his intentions absolutely clear. And I think that he should be allowed to get on with the job, I don't think... I mean, just imagine, you know, were he to say next week, "right OK, I'm off". Therefore, you know, a presumption of guilt in the absence of any conclusion to this enquiry. That won't do anybody any good.

ANDREW MARR: But it's precisely what John Cruddas, who he used to work with, is saying this morning.

TESSA JOWELL: No, it's not quite what he was saying. And I think that people should be a little bit sceptical about acres and acres of coverage from unattributed sources. You know, if people come out, as John Cruddas did, and said he thought it was time to move on.

ANDREW MARR: Quite a few have, come out, haven't they? I mean quite a few have come out ...

TESSA JOWELL: Well actually a very small number of people have gone on the record. Nobody knows whether these references to, you know, unnamed Members of Parliament and so forth are true.

And as far as I think anybody can establish, there is no evidence in the parliamentary party, the parliamentary committee, or indeed in the Labour Party more widely, for anything other than this Labour government with the great opportunity that it has, to get on with the job of delivering for the people of this country, and to let the Prime Minister leave No. 10...

ANDREW MARR: ...in his own time...

TESSA JOWELL: ...in his own time, as he has made very clear he will do.

ANDREW MARR: Sunday Times says that the cost of the Olympics is going to, to slightly more than double to 5 billion. Is that a figure you recognise?

TESSA JOWELL: Well, there is absolutely nothing new in the Sunday Times story. And I think that what is important for people to understand is that there are three elements to the costs of the Olympics. One is the cost of staging the Games which will be wholly met by the organising committee chaired by Seb Coe.

The second is the cost of building the venues, some permanent, some temporary, in the Olympic Park. And the third cost is if you like the opportunity cost of regenerating a poor wasteland of East London. And in effect, in time, building a new city there. And, so...

ANDREW MARR: But this, if I may, this is talking about the second of the things.

TESSA JOWELL: It's not actually, no it isn't. It's talking both about the costs of the Olympic Park and the costs of regeneration.

ANDREW MARR: And the costs of regeneration. But it says that the Olympic delivery authority itself is going to come out and say that the likely cost has gone up to 5.1 billion.

TESSA JOWELL: That is not the case.

ANDREW MARR: That's not the case, OK.

TESSA JOWELL: At this point - because we are still within government negotiating both the likely costs of the Olympics, but then also the funding requirements.

And I draw a distinction because there will certainly have to be provision for contingency. But I think you will see over the next two to three years, some extremely wild claims about what the Olympics are going to cost. You know, we're spending a lot on transport in London. We're spending a lot on regenerating...

ANDREW MARR: So that's with the London regeneration?

TESSA JOWELL: Which is fantastic for London and it represents the scale of our ambition.

ANDREW MARR: So who pays? Because there is clearly going to be extra money needed and the National Audit Office has talked about this as well, and said we need to come up with some sense of how much we're talking about. But who's going to be paying, is it going to be London taxpayers, is it going to be the general taxpayer, is there going to be more business sponsorship, or what?

TESSA JOWELL: Well, it will come from a number of sources. And, you know, this is again, you know, I would like to get this settled as quickly as we can. And it will come from, as I say, from a number of sources. The regeneration will be paid for principally by public money, but there will be some private investment that will come in.

ANDREW MARR: But the extra money though, I mean, because we are going to need some extra money clearly. So where's that extra money going to come from?

TESSA JOWELL: Well, the formula that we have is a combination of money from London and from the Lottery. That is in the agreement that the Mayor and I signed before the bid. We're looking...

ANDREW MARR: So it could be extra council tax in London, for instance?

TESSA JOWELL: Well, the Mayor has made it absolutely clear that he rules that out. He would have to initiate a rise in the council tax. The GLA would have to agree it.

These are precisely the issues, and I'm sorry that, you know, I'm quite sure people are getting impatient about the length of time it's taken to settle this. I would only say that this is five years before the Games. Sydney did not settle their budget until two years before they hosted the most successful Games ever.

ANDREW MARR: Point, point taken, but just one final thing on all the funding. Does this not inevitably mean that good causes for the Lottery, other good causes, are going to lose out as money is siphoned towards the Olympics?

TESSA JOWELL: Well, more money may well have to come from the Lottery. I mean that is absolutely the case. But we want to ensure that any extra call on the Lottery is both fair and that it's proportionate.

And, you know, weighing these issues about the balance that London should carry, because London will derive the greatest benefit from the impact on the rest of the country, is part of what we are engaged in discussion about at the moment. And we will settle that in due course.

We will publish the figures. And I hope that, you know, consistent with the constraints that are inevitable like, you know, commercial confidentiality for some negotiations, that, you know, people will in time understand where their money is going.

ANDREW MARR: ..Where the money's going. All right.

TESSA JOWELL: But, you know, don't let's forget the point that Lesley Garrett made...

ANDREW MARR: She made it very eloquently.

TESSA JOWELL: ...this is one of the greatest things, this will be the stuff of memories for everybody alive in Britain at the time that we host the Olympics. You have only to go into any classroom to understand the scale of the ambition that our kids have about the prospect of the Olympics.

ANDREW MARR: Gambling. Country's going to be awash with new casinos. More people are going to gamble, surely?

TESSA JOWELL: It is complete nonsense to say that the country is going to be awash with new casinos.

ANDREW MARR: Well, there's going to be a lot of new casinos.

TESSA JOWELL: Can I just say, Andrew, can I just begin by saying that, there are two things. First of all, if everything I've read written or seen written about the Gambling Act which has not yet taken effect, were true, I'd never have supported the legislation in the first place. It has three principles, protecting the most vulnerable and protecting children, in other words tackling the risks of increasing...

ANDREW MARR: How do you protect problem gambling by creating more casinos, by creating a super casino in Manchester and by having more casinos all round the country. How can you protect people and regulate gambling by building more places for people to gamble in?

TESSA JOWELL: Look, there is one super casino, one regional casino. There were 27 local authorities who said that they would like to have a regional casino in their area, principally because of the opportunity for regeneration. That's the background and the underpinning argument to Manchester's proposal. But so too in Manchester's bid which was successful, was a commitment to, you know, proper oversight of all the risks. Because of course gambling presents risks, but those are risks now, because there are so many more gambling opportunities available to people, every single mobile phone, every single television is an opportunity for people to gamble.

ANDREW MARR: The casinos will draw more people in, some of them will be vulnerable people who get into deep trouble. What I really don't understand is where the motive force behind this came from? Why did a Labour government settle down and say "what we need in this country are more casinos" because a lot of people will say it's because far fewer people are smoking and so you're losing revenue from cigarettes so you need revenue from something else. One of the parliamentary reports said three billion extra from these casinos will come into the Treasury. So it's really all about getting money for the Treasury.

TESSA JOWELL: Look, this is, it is again absolute nonsense to suggest that the reform of gambling has been done on the back of raising more tax revenue. I mean, I'll tell you why it was necessary to reform the gambling legislation. The 1968 Gambling Act is nearly 40 years old. It applied to an age where there were far fewer opportunities for people to gamble. Gambling was different in 1968. It's legislation that has actually served this country very well indeed. You know, because, you probably won't...

ANDREW MARR: 7 billion has been spent on gambling stakes just before Labour came in. And the latest figure is over 60 billion. A vast increase.

TESSA JOWELL: ...yes...

ANDREW MARR: ...and you seem to be encouraging...

TESSA JOWELL: But this is, this is the choice of human behaviour.

ANDREW MARR: All right.

TESSA JOWELL: ...and, you know, people are flying to Las Vegas for weekends to gamble. What do we do? This is what people want to do. It's legitimate. We don't ban gambling in this country, we have an obligation to make it safe. And where it can be an instrument of regeneration in very poor parts of the country, so we will allow it to be so, with the consent of the local authority.

ANDREW MARR: OK. You were a health minister when you first came in. Just on this health flu problem, we know that COBRA has been looking at what to do if there is a human epidemic. A lot of people out there are worried, they think there's not going to be enough vaccination, there's not going to be enough drugs and so on. They don't know whether they should be eating turkey or not. What's your advice to them?

TESSA JOWELL: Well I think you've had very clear advice this morning from Professor Pat Troop who is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. And, you know, my own experience as a Health Minister says, you know, actually give people the benefit of the best professional advice.

And I think that, you know, from everything that I understand about the planning that's taken place for such an epidemic, the precautionary measures that have been put in place, that people have grounds to be confident.

ANDREW MARR: So, if there was, if there was an epidemic - God forbid - though some people say it's inevitable, this country's well prepared for it?

TESSA JOWELL: Well I think all the signs are, yes, that we are very well prepared for it. And I think that the measures that Pat Troop set out in your interview earlier in the programme make that clear.

ANDREW MARR: One final issue. London Fashion Week's coming up. You were a long-time campaigner against size zero models, or anorexic models. Other places, Madrid and Milan have moved to ban very, very skinny models. So far London has not. What's your message to them?

TESSA JOWELL: Well my message to them is, you know, don't exploit young women. Don't use models who are clearly unhealthy. Don't use models who are under 16.

But this is actually part of a much more complicated and bigger issue which is my long-term issue in it which is, you know, the low self-esteem that so many of our, you know, 14/15-year-old beautiful young women have. Because they're not stick insects.

And so, I mean there's a cultural change I think that we need to look at in, you know, everything that drives young women to think that you can only be beautiful if you're size double zero.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Tessa Jowell, for now thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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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