Transcript of Ed’s interview on The World at One

Ed’s interview on the BBC’s World at One with Martha Kearney

MK: Now we already know that Labour is going to match the government’s spending plans for the year immediately after the election, are you going to match new proposals, this £25bn which is for the two years from May 2015/16?

EB: Well there are no new proposals here Martha because this was all set out last year; the problem for George Osborne today is that he is making no specific proposals on spending cuts or on welfare savings for 2016/17. He clearly can’t get an agreement with Nick Clegg. What is clear is that there are going to be tough choices in the next parliament after 2015/16. The next Labour government will have to face a very difficult situation where we will be cutting public spending but the question is, will we do so in a fair way and we will, and secondly will we do so in a way which means the economy grows, we get people back to work, we see living standards rising and that helps us to get the deficit down. You said in your introduction that George Osborne is trying to divert attention away from the cost of living crisis…

MK: I was quoting Labour on that actually… you just told us that you do plan to cut public spending after 2015/16 and I understand you are saying you would do it in a different way but does that mean that you accept the broad envelope of that, in other words the £25bn over two years?

EB: Well no because the point I was about to make to you was the reason why there is a cost of living crisis is also the reason why the deficit has not come down. George Osborne said he would balance the books next year, in fact the deficit is going to be £80bn because our growth in our economy has been so weak, we have such high levels of youth unemployment, the question is, is there a plan to get the economy growing more strongly and to get young people back to work…

MK: So you wouldn’t cut public spending as much as the Conservatives would like to do if they are elected?

EB: Well the problem for the government is after 2015/16 they have a very pessimistic and weak view of the underlying growth of the economy, they don’t have a plan to get young people back to work. They are not willing to face up to tough choices as we are for example to take the winter allowance away from the richest pensioners. They are pretending they are going to hit young people and the disabled again but they have got no specific proposals. What Labour says is a real plan to get the deficit down in a fair way means getting young people back to work, it means getting our economy to grow more strongly by investing for the future and making sure that the decisions you take on deficit reduction are fair and I have to say keeping the winter allowance for the richest pensioners while promising or hinting at a further top rate tax cut for the richest people in our society while everybody else sees their living standards falling seems pretty unfair.

MK: Well I will be asking a Treasury Minister those kind of questions in a moment but I would like to press you if I may on Labour’s plans. So if you are not planning to match the government’s spending total for £25bn of spending cuts after 2015/16, what kind of ballpark figure are you thinking of?

EB: What we have said is that in 2015/16, the first year of the next parliament we will…

MK: We know that yes, but after…

EB: I’m not sure if your listeners know it and therefore I’ll set it out, to match the current spending plans for 2015/16 there will be no more borrowing from Labour for day-to-day spending, we have gone further than any opposition has at this stage in setting out those plans. We have also said we will get the national debt falling, we are going to balance the current budget. What I can’t do three years ahead, and nor can George Osborne, is tell you hand on heart what the economic situation will be and what the deficit will be in 2016/17 or the future year. Three years ago George Osborne said he was going to balance the budget and he hasn’t…

[talking over]

EB: Sorry Martha, three years ago George Osborne was saying he would balance the budget by now and he hasn’t done so because he hasn’t got growth in the economy which hasn’t been strong enough in the last three years and the forward looking view of growth is still weak compared to historical standards. You need a plan for growth, a plan for jobs and a fair deficit reduction plan. I don’t think cutting the top rate of tax and keeping the winter allowance for the richest pensioners is fair.

MK: What George Osborne is saying today, what he does know the situation is going to be after 2015/16 is that government debt is going to be extremely high, the country is going to be paying a lot of money in interest rates, therefore there will be need for spending cuts.

EB: Well look, George Osborne does not know where the economy will be in three years’ time, he has to make a forecast and that forecast depends upon what happens to growth and to jobs and the point I am making to you is that three years ago he was forecasting a balanced budget and that has failed catastrophically because he never had a plan for growth and for job creation so therefore what he ought to do today, rather than making a speech which is high on politics and zero on content, he should be setting out what he is actually going to do to get young people back to work.

MK: Well let me ask you a question of content then and that is on the triple lock which the Prime Minister announced yesterday, protecting the rises in the state pension, is that something that Labour is going to commit to?

EB: Look, we have backed the triple lock all through this parliament

MK: This parliament, but the next parliament…

EB: And we wait to see what George Osborne commits to in his next Budget. I think it is extremely unlikely that Labour would want to be hitting pensioners on the basic pension and we’ve matched the government on the triple lock and I would expect us to continue to do so.

MK: After the next election if you were elected you would continue to do so?

EB: We will wait to see what George Osborne announces. I’m not going to tell you what Labour would do on the basis of an announcement which from the Prime Minister yesterday was completely muddy and unclear and which George Osborne has not yet stood up and substantiated but if George Osborne is setting out a triple lock into the next parliament we will respond to that. I don’t think we will want to walk away from pensioners, we’ve supported the triple lock all the way through but the big question is are you willing to face up to tough choices in a fair way? We’ve said we will take the winter allowance away from the richest pensioners, the government is in complete confusion about that. We’ve set out a bank bonus tax to get young people back to work and save on the welfare bills, the government is inactive on that. We’ve said cutting the top rate of tax on the richest people is the wrong thing to do and David Cameron says he wants to do it again. There is a cost-of-living crisis and there is a big deficit and the government has no plan other than raw unfairness.

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Posted January 6th, 2014 by Ed's team