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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Andrew Lansley quizzed
To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:
Andrew Lansley, the Conservative cabinet member, is one of those responsible for drawing up the manifesto and he will be answering your questions online today, Monday 14 May.
It was Andrew Lansley who played a major role in the Conservatives "Common Sense Revolution" and also in their campaigns on Europe, tax and the pound, law and order and other areas such as transport and the environment.
Andrew Lansley has answered your questions about the Conservatives and this election.
Highlights of interview:
However, the issue really is what can we do that no only get money into those services but make sure that that money is used more effectively and the results come through.
In hospitals it is quite clear we need to treat the patients that are the most ill first. For those who have the most harrowing diseases such as cancer and heart disease, we want consultants in hospitals to be able to give them guaranteed waiting times for treatment.
In schools, I think many teachers will say that the increase in bureaucracy over the last few years has been adding to their workload and reducing morale. Teachers are leaving the profession and we have a crisis in supply of teachers. So cutting the bureaucracy on teachers is one of our first imperatives.
Where the police are concerned - we know what has happened - there are fewer police. Labour cut the number of police and now violent crime is rising. It is not the complete answer, but the first step is to reverse Labour's cut in police numbers.
Also in bureaucracy, Labour have increased the cost of just simply running Whitehall departments by over £2 billion. We need to make sure that the cost of administration stays low and we bring it back to the level that we left a few years ago. People in business know that year on year, very often they have to reduce their administrative overheads - not this government - they have put it up by £2 billion. We need to deal with that.
Another example would be the environment - if you are living in Scotland you are possibly very concerned about the pollution in the North Sea - it is impossible for us to make unilateral decisions about controlling pollution in the North Sea. We need to get together, not only the European Union but also with Norway in order to debate those things - so we do want to work co-operatively. However, what we don't want to do is to allow the European Union simply to extend its powers beyond what we intended was the case back in 1972 when we entered the European Union or in subsequent treaties.
We do have a specific policy for this - it is to establish what is known as reserved powers so that Parliament cannot be overruled by the European Union in areas that it was not intended should be subject to the decisions of the European Union. We have set that out in the manifesto and in previous speeches from William Hague and Francis Maude. I believe it will be one of the issues that people can identify in the coming election - to say thus far and no further in terms of European integration and powers.
But there is a second reason and this really comes to the heart of why the issue of the currency and the pound is part of this election campaign. It is very difficult to divorce the issue of the pound and our currency from the management of government policy as a whole. It is not something that can be taken out and say that it is an issue on the side - it goes to the heart of economic policy and it has profound constitutional and political implications. Therefore, in our view, a government is elected at a general election on a range of policies and the most important issues should be among those upon which people decide at a general election.
We have shown how that can be funded and it includes the opportunity for us to make sure that the winter fuel allowance which the Government have talked about in the last few days, was not only available to the current pensioners who receive it but there are over 200,000 elderly pensioners who don't get the winter fuel allowance - often because they are in nursing homes and so on. Now we think that is a very anomalous situation and we think pensioners should be treated equally - they should be treated with dignity and they should have the choice whether to have these as one-off payments or brought into their basic state pension.
As regards the basic state pension, we have a clear commitment in the manifesto to an increase in the basic state pension for next April and this is very important and I think pensioners will be able to look to that with confidence.
The New Deal for the young unemployed - the Government speak of it as a employability scheme, they say if they try to help young people with skills and training then perhaps they will be more likely to get jobs. But what young people want in the economy at the moment is the help at getting jobs and getting into work.
So our proposal for Britain Works, which is modelled on a very successful scheme in America, is a work placement scheme because we think then we will help through the contracting to bodies who will help young people get into jobs and giving a direct subsidy to employers to take young people into work, that young people then will acquire the skills in work which will help them to stay in those jobs for a longer period. The incentive to those running the scheme will be to help those young people stay in the jobs because that way they will get paid on results and payment by results tends to work.
Labour, we know, from what David Blunkett has said in the past, are saying no extra top-up fees this side of the election but who knows what might happen afterwards. Well we remember Labour MPs last time round saying no tuition fees and then a matter of weeks later they voted for them.
We can be quite clear about that because our policy for endowments for universities gives us the lever with which to say to universities, you can take these endowments, which will give you a degree of freedom, give you the financial basis on which you can plan for future and raise your standards, but one of the conditions of that is that you don't charge top-up fees. So we have not only got the commitment we have also got the mechanism to enforce it.
But underlying the manifesto there are costed proposals and what we estimate is that something in the range of £6 or £7 billion would be able to be achieved through the securitisation of the student loan book. Because we don't have to write off the bad debts at that point on the student loan book that reduces public expenditure by several hundred million pounds. In the hands of universities that money would give them an additional sum each year over and above what they get now and that would enable us to say that you would be free perpetually from that endowment to meet some of your costs therefore they won't need to be met by the Exchequer on a year by year basis.
Quite often is relatively small numbers of votes in a certain number of constituencies that actually form the difference between who is a government and who is not.
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