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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 October 2007, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Bad week for Labour?
On Sunday 14 October Andrew Marr interviewed John Hutton MP, Business and Enterprise Secretary

Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

John Hutton MP: photographer Jeff Overs/BBC
John Hutton MP, Business and Enterprise Secretary

ANDREW MARR: .. and dangerous episode for a great national institution, now struggling in the modern world.

So do we really have a peace deal? Well the Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton may have some interesting things to say about the government's dire two weeks.

But he's also got a watching brief over the Post Office. And he joins me now.

Well of course this has to be thrashed out between the two sides finally, but in your best guess do we have a deal?

JOHN HUTTON: Well I very much hope so. I said last week, and the Prime Minister said too, that there's no justification for this industrial action continuing.

It's doing big damage to the Royal Mail and the taxpayer's put a very large amount of money in there to help the Royal Mail become a successful business in a, in a very different set of, sort of situations it now has to, has to be business in. And it was inconveniencing the public and businesses too.

So I think there is a sensible deal that's been hammered out, and I think everyone is just hoping that now the, the union will support this on Monday, and the members too when they're balloted will, will say yes OK, let, let's get on with the future now, because that's really what they have to do.

ANDREW MARR: You talk about the unions and the members, are you worried about wildcat strikes?

JOHN HUTTON: Well I, I think it is a worry, yes of course. And I'm sure there's no-one more worried about that than, than the Communication Workers Union themselves. So I think all of this has to be resolved now.

There is no way that the Royal Mail is going to be a successful business in now what is a liberalised marketplace unless it reforms and changes, becomes as competitive and efficient as some of it's competitors now.

Because people have a choice where they, where they bring their business. And all of us who want the Royal Mail to be a success now have got to keep our fingers crossed now and hope that common sense prevails.

ANDREW MARR: Now out there there will be a lot of businesses and individuals who are perhaps using more email, perhaps using rival services and FedEx and so on. Do you think that real damage has been done to the, the future of the Royal Mail over the last few weeks?

JOHN HUTTON: Well I very much hope not. I mean I think it's, it's likely that yes, some business might temporarily be lost to the Royal Mail, but I think they can recover that. And of course with technology, with people using different forms of communicating messages now of course that is going to be, you know, another area where the Royal Mail has to do more in order, in order to, to do better.

But I'm, I think it's perfectly capable of doing that. They've got a great bunch of people that work for the Royal Mail. Everyone's got huge respect for, for the, the men and women who actually deliver the mail, we know how hardworking they are. We've got a good team of managers in there. And I'm quite sure with the right support they can make a success of the future.

ANDREW MARR: Is that almost universal system we've all been accustomed to, with the red boxes and, and the guys going, is that going to survive?

JOHN HUTTON: I think it must survive. We have to find a way to make sure that that happens. I think there's something very important about the universal service obligation, we all rely on it.

You post a letter anywhere in the country for the same price, and you know it's going to get delivered quickly. I mean that is very important. And actually for businesses too, that's a tremendously important part of the infra-structure that helps people make a success of their own companies, and we've got to stick to it.

ANDREW MARR: And yet you know that there are all sorts of strange, they call them Spanish practices, those have got to be eradicated haven't they?

JOHN HUTTON: Well I think they've reached agreement on, on most of those issues..

ANDREW MARR: .. and all that kind of stuff.

JOHN HUTTON: Well of course, look you know I think all of those things have got to be dealt with. They have, as far as I understand, been dealt with successfully now in the negotiations. And that will allow the Royal Mail I think to compete effectively in the future.

And it's really, really important that that is settled now and agreed. And it appears to have been agreed and that, that's good for the Royal Mail and, and all of us actually who've invested in this business and want it to be a success.

ANDREW MARR: OK, the last two weeks, what went wrong?

JOHN HUTTON: Well look the polls go up and down. You know politics can be a..

ANDREW MARR: They certainly do.

JOHN HUTTON: Well they can, well yes if you think where we were two weeks ago. I think it is a rough trade sometimes. And you know what we've got to do is, as it were, sort of rise above all of this brouhaha..

ANDREW MARR: But, but I'm asking what, what, what went wrong..

JOHN HUTTON: I'm gon..

ANDREW MARR: .. the future.

JOHN HUTTON: Well I, well I, I'm going to answer that question my way. We've got to rise above that and, and settle now on doing what the Prime Minister said we should be doing, which is setting out our vision for the future.

And I think actually if you look at what we've been doing the last few months, and look at what Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, said in the pre-budget report this week..

ANDREW MARR: Swiping Conservative policies.

JOHN HUTTON: No. That's just not true actually. Because for several years..

ANDREW MARR: Well it looks true.

JOHN HUTTON: No, it's not true. Because for several years when Gordon was Chancellor we were making the inheritance tax regime more aspirational. We were changing the threshold so people could pass on more of their wealth to their families. We were able to do more on Wednesday, I'm going to come back to that.

But I think that the key challenge for us, and Gordon rightly has identified this, it's a vision thing. That is what people are looking for. They, they know that Britain is wealthier, they know our economy is stronger, and they, they know our key public services are better. But in a sense that's what they pay us to do.

What we've got to do now is set out a vision for the next ten years. And if you look at what we're, we're going to do in the next session of Parliament for example, major reform on pensions, giving everyone the chance to have an occupational pension.

Major reforms for example in the area of environment and energy, where I have some responsibility. On housing, on policing and on crime. There is a job to be done there.

ANDREW MARR: But isn't this extraordinary? I mean you know you've had your Labour Party Conference, your leader's speech that, you know, the hundred days and all the rest of it.

Lots and lots of talk about vision, and yet you're still saying at some point we're going to have to lay out our vision. Newspapers today, Blairites, anonymous of course, are saying that Gordon Brown is empty of vision.

JOHN HUTTON: That's completely untrue. And anyone who's worked with Gordon knows that that's not true.

What I think, what I'm trying to say Andrew, it's not that you know the job now is for us to have a vision, we have a very clear vision. New Labour is going to remain in business and..

ANDREW MARR: But what's ..Charlie Faulkner

JOHN HUTTON: .. as a political concern..

ANDREW MARR: .. say that you're..

JOHN HUTTON: .. setting out our method of how we're going to help people reach the aspirations they have for themselves and their families. What they want around them in the public services and the economy and jobs and skills. Now that is our vision. And of course there are times in politics where there's a lot of noise and a lot of traffic and a lot of hassle.

There has been in the last fortnight. But I think what will come through is New Labour's enduring set of visions for the future. Our acceptance that we live in a modern world, a modern economy, and it's changing very quickly. Now perhaps more quickly than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.

ANDREW MARR: So what about..

JOHN HUTTON: Our job is to set out that case for a strong economy and a strong society, and I think we're doing that. And people like the idea of unfunded tax cuts they think someone else is going to pay for.

And what Alistair set out very clearly this week is actually you can't build a successful programme for government on that type of economic policy.


JOHN HUTTON: That's what the Tories are trying to do.

ANDREW MARR: So what is your message, not to the Tories, but to Charlie Faulkner, who was your colleague for so many years, and says he doesn't understand, on the record, says he doesn't understand what the Prime Minister's vision is?

JOHN HUTTON: Well I'm not sure that that's actually what Charlie is saying. I think what he is saying..

ANDREW MARR: Well it's a version of it.

JOHN HUTTON: No, but what he's saying, and we accept this challenge, that our job as the governing party, as the government of the United Kingdom, is to continue to set out our vision of the future.

How we can have that strong economy and a strong and fair and decent society. I think the Tory claim, that they're a credible party at the centre, I think it's risible.

If you look at what they're doing on Europe for example, and that even in my area, on industry, on business, we have a shed load of new regulatory burdens being proposed by David Cameron on businesses that will make it harder for British companies to be a success in the future.

ANDREW MARR: Can I put it to you..

JOHN HUTTON: And then..



ANDREW MARR: Alright, just put it to you that you've been in power so long that you have become a little bit complacent.

That you're not really, you say you're listening to people as a government, I don't mean you personally, the government say they're listening to people, you say you understand the aspirational middle Britain, you say you understand the Southern English. But people don't believe you any longer. They think you've become remote.

JOHN HUTTON: Well we've, we've got to rise to that challenge too. I mean government gets harder, it doesn't get easier the longer you are in office. And of course there are big challenges for us. But I think what we were doing is, firstly what we said we'd do at the last election, we are implementing that manifesto.

And our new Prime Minister is setting out how he sees the new challenges that we face as a country in the future. I think very strongly people will see through the hubris of the last few weeks and actually look at what is happening in our economy, and what the government is doing to be on their side when it comes to meeting the big challenges of the future.

ANDREW MARR: And yet you must be deeply worried that this is the beginning of the end. I mean it's happened so fast, the last couple of weeks, the collapse.

JOHN HUTTON: There's been no collapse, and this is..

ANDREW MARR: Well on, in the polls.

JOHN HUTTON: This is not the beginning of the end. I mean the, the Labour government, led by Gordon, I think is setting out a clear vision. We have the right values for Britain, we have the right vision for Britain. Now our job is to set that vision our clearly, do it every day that we're in government.

Get home to the British people the importance of what we're doing and the, and the perspectives that we have on these challenges. And I'm quite sure, when the election comes, we, we can win a fourth term.

ANDREW MARR: John Hutton, thank you very, very much indeed.


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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