Shadow Chancellor John McDonell announced the plans to renationalise rail franchises yesterday, claiming that it would be possible to put railways back into public ownership within the first term of a Labour government.
Labour shadow cabinet minister Dawn Butler was grilled on the details of the proposals after telling Sky News journalist Gillian Joseph: “It’s always good to talk about policy.”
But when questioned on the cost of the new proposals, Ms Butler told Ms Jospeh that she couldn’t “give a precise figure” as she wasn’t the person “doing the number crunching”.
Ms Joseph asked the MP for Brent Central: “The question is going to be, and I would love you to give me an answer, how much is it going to cost, can you give us a precise figure?”
Ms Butler replied: “Well, I can’t give you a precise figure because I’m not the person doing all of the number crunching at the moment.
“But what I can tell you is that every single Labour policy has been costed.
‘What I can tell you about the railways is that it is an absolute mess. Anybody that uses it… will tell you it’s an absolute mess.
“What I can also tell you is that this government pays £5 million a year to companies that are failing to deliver a good service. And the Labour Party will change all of that.”
She continued: “What I can tell you is that John McDonnell is that man for the job to do that.”
Ms Joseph pushed for more details, asking Ms Butler: “Will he give us some figures? Will he give us some figures?”
But Ms Butler remained vague, replying: “John loves talking about figures and crunching figures, and I’ve been in meetings where they talk about figures all day.”
“So that’s a promise then? We will get a figure by the end of the day?”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell yesterday announced plans to renationalise the railways within five years if Labour was elected.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s today programme ahead of Labour’s annual conference, he said that he was looking at whether break clauses in contracts would allow rail franchises to be put back into public ownership before they expired.
Mr McDonnell said he was confident that rail franchises could be put back into public ownership in the first term of a Labour government.
He said: ”I think that’s possible. That’s why we’re working through the detail now of how that can be done.
“And if you look at what’s happened over time a number of these franchises have been handed back anyway.”
Ms Butler has also courted controversy this week after at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, where she spoke approvingly of the Militant Tendency dominated senate which ran the city in the 1980s.
Dawn Butler, Shadow Equalities Minister, hailed the example of previous councillors who purposefully introduced an illegal budget in 1985 in protest against central Government funding cuts.
She said: “Local councils have seen nearly 50 percent of their funding cut; I want to give a shout out to all the councillors fighting every day against these Tory cuts.
“Conference, we are in Liverpool where over 30 years ago the council stood up to Thatcher and said, ‘better to break the law than break the poor’.”