Sunday shows: Labour “yes” to plan B but stresses need to “make plan A work”

The Andrew Marr Show

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves agreed that the government should now implement ‘plan B’ – i.e. mask-wearing, working from home, vaccine passports for mass events – but stressed that it must “do more to make plan A work”.

  • On ‘plan A’ or ‘plan B’ Covid measures: “The government have got to do more to make plan A work.”
  • On whether we should move to plan B: “We think we should follow the science. If the scientists are saying work from home and masks, we should do that. So get A working better because the vaccination programme has been stalling, introduce those parts of plan B, but there are also things not in A or B that need to be done, like statutory sick pay from day one and better ventilation in public spaces.”
  • “I do worry that it’s plan A or plan B. We’ve got to have plan A working, we mustn’t let the government off the hook there.”
  • Pushed again on plan B: “Yes… we think the government should do it.”
  • On Labour’s proposal of taking VAT off energy bills for six months: “When we pay our gas and electricity bills, 5% of that goes automatically to the taxman. There’s something very simple the government could do… that is to cut that rate of VAT from 5% to 0%.”
  • “VAT receipts have come in more than £2bn above forecasts. Let’s use that money to ease that pressure on people worried about the winter months… This would cost £1bn to do it for six months and would make a real difference to families and pensioners right now.”
  • “The good thing about a cut in VAT is that it is immediate and automatic – you don’t have to apply for it, there are no long lags between applying for the money and getting the support. Also everybody is struggling with rising gas and electricity prices, but poorer families spend a higher proportion of their income on gas and electricity bills.”
  • On the green credentials of the VAT cut idea: “This isn’t going to encourage people to use more gas and electricity. What this is going to do is ensure that people can afford to heat their homes and keep them and their families warm this winter.”
  • On net zero costing £1.4tn: “If you delay action by a decade, the costs of getting to net zero actually double. Our economy will be smaller and government spending higher.”
  • On UK borrowing to reach net zero when other countries won’t: “There are big opportunities by being a first mover in this. We can ensure the jobs of the future come to our shores, then there are opportunities to export those skills and services around the world.”
  • On income tax: “We’re happy with the levels of income tax. We have no plans whatsoever – we’re not even looking at income tax. What we are looking at is people who get their income not from going out to work and doing a hard day’s work, but people who get their income from stocks and shares and dividends and who have a portfolio of buy-to-let properties.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government does not believe plan B should be implemented right now.

  • On bringing back furlough: “That’s not on the cards.”
  • On moving to plan B: “At the moment, the data does not suggest that we should be immediately moving to plan B. Of course we’ll keep an eye on that.”
  • On mask-wearing in the Commons: “The government guidance is for people to make decisions based on what they think is appropriate for the circumstances they’re in. Every workplace is going to be different.”
  • Asked whether austerity is coming back: “One of the elements of building a stronger economy is having strong public services and you will hear that next week.”
  • On inflation: “The bulk of that increase is down to two things.” He pointed to pressure on supply chains and energy prices, and said both were “global factors” affecting economies around the world.
  • “It’s very difficult to put a figure” on reaching net zero.
  • On the heat pump scheme: “Nobody is being told to rip out their boiler.”

Trevor Phillips on Sunday

Rachel Reeves reacted to news that the government will commit £7bn in spending on transport infrastructure outside London, saying that people in the North of England are “sick of” announcements without delivery.

  • Asked whether she welcomes the £7bn investment expected to be included in next week’s budget to ‘level up’ urban transport in cities around England: “What we see from this government is lots of announcements and much less delivery.”
  • She added: “Northern Powerhouse Rail… was first announced seven years ago. It’s been announced 60 times since then and there’s still not a single spade in the ground, or train on the rails. It’s not good enough. And the government is going to make more announcements this week. But we’re sick of, in the North, having announcements without delivery on the ground.”
  • On the £500m announced for early years education: “I just would say to the Chancellor: have you ever heard of Sure Start? Because that is what your governments over the last 11 years have cut.”
  • On those family centres: “If you hadn’t taken all that away, imagine what difference it could have made to the lives of young people and to their parents, and this pale imitation doesn’t even take us back to where we were in 2010.”
  • Asked what Andy Burnham would think of Labour’s commitment to cut VAT on domestic energy supplies and the impact on infrastructure funding: “I would say to Andy Burnham: we’ll invest in the transport in Greater Manchester and across the North of England and give you the powers to do that, because too many decisions are still made in Whitehall and Westminster and not in the towns and cities and regions of our country, and we want to devolve more powers.”
  • On the VAT cut: “When we pay our gas and electricity bill, each month 5% of that bill goes directly to the taxman, and what Labour is saying is let’s reduce that rate of VAT on gas and electricity bills from 5% to 0% for six months to get us through this winter period.”
  • On how to pay for it: “By using the VAT receipts that have come in higher than forecast, higher than forecast by over £2bn over the last few months, not least because prices are so much higher than they were forecast.”
  • She added: “Let’s use that additional revenue to make that important reduction… to ease that pressure on people who are struggling right now with the rising cost of living at the same time taxes are going up.”

Labour mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin described the announced transport infrastructure spending as “good news” but called on ministers to commit to extending HS2 to Leeds and establishing a stop in Bradford to help deliver a “London-style transport system”.

  • On the transport spending: “It is good news and certainly I am pleased that government are chiming with us about our ambitions for our regions but… this is only one part of the jigsaw. We can’t talk about levelling up if we don’t talk about another rail line – the Northern Powerhouse Rail – that will have that stop at St James’ in Bradford.”
  • On HS2: “We’ve had briefings and counter briefings and rumours. We absolutely need to know that that is going to happen. We need that new station in Leeds, Leeds is already at capacity. We have the land allocated, we have the ambition for it, we’re ready to deliver as Labour mayors.”
  • On transport spending: “Here in West Yorkshire, we have had £174 per head spent on transport. In London, it’s over £500. We have less per head than any other community across the country. We’ve been underfunded for decades.”
  • “Now is the opportunity for government to be bold, to be ambitious, to come with us with our vision for West Yorkshire to have that London-style transport system that will really make us the powerhouse we can be.”
  • On apprenticeships: “I was able to launch a £6m programme to have a modular skills offer, for those people who’ve been made redundant after furlough or young people who’ve not been able to just get started after Covid, so they can do shorter programmes because there are some challenges to full-time programmes.”
  • On Covid: “It is a really troubling time… We will be working with councils to find the best way towards Christmas.”
  • On councils and the pandemic: “It was councils that really supported us during the last few months – whether that was testing, tracking and tracing, finding laptops for kids that didn’t have tech… this is Labour councils, particularly in West Yorkshire, that have delivered for their communities.”
  • Asked whether in the wake of the death of David Amess politics needs to be “gentler and kinder”: “Of course, and you’ll know how I came into parliament, that terrible tragedy when we lost Jo Cox. I said to my family who were worried when I took up the role, it was a once-in-lifetime lightning strike, it would never happen again and sadly here we are five years later.”

Rishi Sunak also appeared on the show this morning. Asked to explain how much of the £7bn expected to be included in the budget to improve transport links outside London is new, he admitted that £4.2bn had already been announced.

On calls from metro mayors for HS2 to be extended to Leeds and for stop at Bradford to be included, the Chancellor said that decision would be “part of the integrated rail plan” and that it “wouldn’t be right for me to speculate on that now”.

Sunak refused to accept that the £500m investment in early years is an admission that cutting funding for Sure Start was a mistake, claiming instead that the family hubs that will be created are “broader than Sure Start centres and bring together lots of different services for new parents”.

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