Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
MONDAY 4 MARCH 2002
MP AND MR
140. Are you going to sing a Pop Idol song for
us? What can you do?
(Mr Prescott) The press are gone when we get to the
141. It is a serious issue. In terms of the
different departments what can you do? Is each Cabinet Minister
going to make a major speech about the importance of the Johannesburg
(Mr Prescott) We do it all the time. If you are relying
on the press to get it across you have not much chance of interesting
them in a speech on sustainability. I see some of the serious
reporters are still here so ask them about the difficulty of getting
some of these stories in. I ring up and say I am making a speech
on sustainability. We keep doing it, please do not assume we do
not. At the end of the day, if I look at the NGOs, they are quite
emphatic about the whole business of Kyoto. They have not said
a great deal publicly in the way they did on Kyoto about sustainability.
This is not a criticism of NGOs, they have the same difficulties
we have, but these issues are important and we will keep pressing
them. I do not know what you can say to make an awful lot of people
use the website. There are all sorts of reasons why they use websites,
are there not? We live in that kind of society. There are people
who try to make these issues attractive, they do seriously put
forward serious arguments and they get space for them but in the
main I am afraid it does not make it but we still keep doing it.
I do not know the answer. If you give me about five points I shall
take them away and do them.
Joan Walley: Maybe we have to look at something
like Pop Idol, I do not know, but it has to be as important to
young people particularly because we are really talking about
education and talking about people understanding what is needed
to save the world.
142. Perhaps the Government could organise some
parallel events for that period in this country so that people
locally can get involved.
(Mr Prescott) To be fair DEFRA have been doing it.
If you look at their programme, they have been organising these
conferences and we all attend them in different ways and they
have been doing that.
143. It is not front page news, is it, instead
of Stephen Byers or whatever else?
(Mr Prescott) What is front page news in our papers?
It has nothing to do with news, does it? If it were serious stuff,
we might be in with a chance.
Chairman: I entirely appreciate what you say
about the difficulty of getting through for an issue like sustainability.
For many people and for the media it may be a turn-off. The fact
is that the approach of some of the key departments is rather
underwhelming. For example, I have a memorandum here from the
Treasury, two sides of paper. At the end of the first paragraph
they say they have not actively publicised the summit or their
own involvement. That does not exactly show enthusiasm.
Joan Walley: I have the DTI one here which say
that they have not undertaken any particular actions on their
own account to publicise the summit or their involvement in the
144. These departments are not trying.
(Mr Prescott) You cannot say that. The Treasury have
done quite a lot of things. I know you have your criticism of
whether they do enough but frankly if you contrast this Treasury
with any other, perhaps it is just that it has come at this time,
they have done quite a lot on the green issue initiative side.
You have looked at it a great deal and you have made proper criticisms
of their programmes. Perhaps I should have said to you that there
is a communications strategy which was set up at the same time
as this. One of the objectives is to raise awareness of it and
we have used a number of things to achieve that: to work with
the key stakeholders, the NGOs ... I shall not read it all. We
have established that. What we are complaining about here is that
it is not getting over to a lot of people who either read it in
the paper or see it on the television. There are difficulties
with that, no matter how we put it out. If I were to sack my special
adviser or this guy here, that might reach the front page, but
it would not be anything to do with sustainability, unless it
were my political career and then it would become an issue of
145. I just wanted to make what I hope will
be a helpful publicity suggestion. You may recall that a couple
of weeks ago the BBC had an NHS day during which they gave priority
on national prime time television to NHS issues. I wonder whether
you think it would be a good idea for them to have a sustainability
day. Comic Relief, for example, was a very effective vehicle for
raising precisely the issues we are talking about. It seems to
me that what has not happened is that the general public has not
bought into the fact that the political process is trying to deal
with the same issues in a different way.
(Mr Prescott) Most NHS stories are critical stories.
You do not hear positive ones, but everything must have some positive
side. BBC are classic at that. I should like to say this about
the BBC. If you look at the programme they did on the Blue Planet,
that was one of the best things I have seen about sustainability
and life on this planet. Some of their programmes are really superb.
It is only when a political journalist gets hold of it that it
does no good, but we keep pressing.
Chairman: Deputy Prime Minister, thank you very
much indeed. That was a very interesting session.