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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK

UK Politics

Trevor Phillips answers your questions

Contender for the Labour nomination for London mayor Trevor Phillips answers questions sent by BBC News Online users.

Q: Which part(s) of your opponents' manifestos do you regard as gimmicks and which part(s) do you most admire?
Martin Hanna, Oxford

A: Well, I think that Jeffrey Archer's pledge for muesli and milk is certainly a gimmick. Most people of course try to ensure that their children are well fed. There are people who do not have money, we all understand that, but force-feeding them on muesli and milk seems to me a soundbite, not a policy. Much better is our policy to try to reduce the cost of travelling for families, by giving them free transport on London Transport.

I haven't unfortunately been able to see all of Ken Livingstone's manifesto. I do worry a bit about his plan to freeze fares on London Tubes. We don't want fares to go up, but of course the key issue here is how we get more investment in the Tube and that's really the issue we want to tackle rather than the fares question first.

Q: Transport is obviously a key issue in the election, and we are being promised all sorts of ideas from 24 hour tubes to express bus routes, and the return of conductors. However, the acid test of all these ideas is how many people will leave their cars behind and move to public transport.

I therefore want every Mayoral candidate to set a target for reducing traffic, so we can all see exactly what we are being promised. What target would you set?
Dr Sarah Williams, London

A: I think there are two different kinds of targets. For central London we've proposed that we treble the pedestrianised area. Looking at the world's squares programme, which has been commissioned by a number of London authorities, it is clear that if we implemented it in Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square and pedestrianised parts of those squares we can cut traffic in central London by 10%.

And in fact that will make a huge difference because everybody who travels at half-term or during the school holidays knows that small reduction can make a huge difference in the level of congestion.

In outer London we probably need to have smaller targets but different sorts of targets for different areas.

My view is though that the fundamental thing we have to do in London is give Londoners the chance to live closer to where they work. At the moment it is almost impossible for those except the very rich or the very poor to live close to where they work. What we want to do is create a situation where nurses, teachers, firefighters can have homes and that's why we've pledged 100,000 new and renovated homes for key public sector workers.

Q: I would like to ask what concrete measures you will use to reduce car use, and more importantly car dependency, in London within the first year of you being Mayor.

Will you exert pressure for a restart on some of the delayed and/or cancelled public transport schemes such as CrossRail and ThamesLink2000? How about traffic pricing?

I look forward to hearing your response.
Simon Redding, White City, W12

A: The way that is being proposed by some people is road pricing. I don't believe that road pricing, unless you set it at hugely high, unrealistic levels, will achieve that. My view is that the only way you can begin to do this is in inner London is take some of the road space out of commission, which is why we are proposing to pedestrianise three times as much as is currently pedestrianised in central London and return some of the great squares to its people.

In outer London what we want to do is revive town centres. That will mean people who currently have to drive 20 minutes to get to Tescos and the doctors may be able to walk or take a bus to a local neighbourhood town centre and that we think will reduce traffic in the outer town suburbs.

In addition to this, every Londoner knows that the real problem in the mornings and the early evenings is the school run, so we are going to invest the money that we raise on congestion charging into new programmes to encourage children to walk to school - walking buses, safe routes to school and so on - and that's the way we think we will cut congestion.

Q: Trevor Phillips, although London born you have a dim view of middle aged British men. Do you feel Lord Archer's wealth will be an unfair advantage as he runs for Mayor?

A: I have a really dim view of Lord Archer's prejudiced and bigoted view of black women and that's all I said. I don't have a dim view of Lord Archer as a whole - like every human being he has some positive qualities, but I don't think the ones that he has are relevant to being mayor of London.

Q: What do you think are the qualities needed for a black person of Afro-Caribbean background to succeed in Britain? And, do you think Britain is a racist society?
Hal Austin, London

A: I think that the qualities of a black person of Afro-Caribbean descent has to have to succeed are pretty much the same qualities as anybody else. You have to have determination and you have to know what it is that you want to achieve. I don't think in that respect there is any difference between black and white.

What I do think, however, is that there are institutional barriers and unwitting prejudices as Macpherson said that you run up against. And when you run up against them then you have to be both canny and quite tough.

It is quite easy to be discouraged by what can seem to be unreasoning prejudice, but if we expose those prejudices it's quite easy to overcome them. The Lawrences would never have got any smidgen of justice if they hadn't had the determination to fight on in spite of the barriers that are placed in their way. I think we should take an example, a lesson, for their determination and their dignity.

Q: The mayor campaign has only just begun and already it is characterised by nasty feuds between you and Ken Livingstone, Jeffrey Archer and Steve Norris and Susan Kramer and anyone who is prepared to respond to her. Can you stand to stick with this for almost another year?

A: I didn't notice Susan Kramer's attack I'm afraid so I can't really say anything about that. The only thing I've been involved in is what people said was a spat with Ken. We're both still very cordial with each other, we both want to get on to debating the issues of transport and health and how we regenerated the city and I think on the platforms we have been on this week we've actually had quite a good time. We disagree but we can be grown up about it.

Q: In what key areas would you use your influence, if you were to become the mayor of London.
V. A. Pandey, United Kingdom

A: Top priority for me is ensuring that the public sector workers and young people who cannot afford the high house prices in London are not forced out of London by the rise in house prices, because if that happens we lose our nurse, teachers and firefighters, our health service suffers, our schools suffer, our safety suffers, so that's our main priority to make sure those people stay in London.

My pledge for 100,000 new homes will not only keep those people in London but it will also bring them closer to the communities they serve and reduce the pressure on transport, because at the moment if you are earning £12,000 or £15,000 you can't live anywhere near where you work, you have to go to the edge of the city. So if we can find a way of allowing those people to live near where they work then you take some of the pressure of them and you take some of the pressure of the transport system.

The biggest thing that I think most Londoners worry about besides shabbiness in town centres, which we want to change, is the problem of getting around London. We commute for twice as long as people in every other big city. That's really my big priority - to get that down.

Q: Isn't the post of mayor of London the most fascistic post ever devised in British politics, doing away with pluralism and concentrating so much power in one person? Don't you feel a bit uneasy about standing for such a post.
Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge

A: I think if you actually look at the plans for mayor of London the power he or she will actually exercise is quite limited. He or she because they will have this huge mandate will exercise quite a lot of political clout, but they are quite severely limited on what the mayor can do.

Secondly the mayor has to work with the assembly and that's the job of the assembly to scrutinise the mayor's work so that this is not somebody who can go and spend or say or do whatever he or she likes.

This is very important. The mayor is really first among equal of all the borough leaders in London. So I propose that every month I'm going to sit down and summit with the 33 borough leaders to talk about the problems of London and we will all try to work out the consensus where we go together.

In that situation the mayor really is going to be very accountable.

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