BBC row: Harriet Harman interview at heart of controversy

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The Independent Online
The interview at the centre of the controversy ran for almost five minutes on Wednesday morning. Harriet Harman was pressed by John Humphrys to say whether the lone-parent benefit cut was designed to force single mothers into work. The Secretary of State for Social Security refused to answer the question at least four times and during the exchanges Mr Humphrys interrupted her several times and talked over her.

The is part of the interview:

John Humphrys: "There are many women in this country who have children under the age of five and who do not want to work. Are you saying to them `we think you ought to work'?"

Harriet Harman: "There are many women with children under five who want to work and who lack affordable, high-quality child care."

Humphrys: "I am talking about those who don't want to work and I am asking you the question, are you saying to them, `Ultimately it is our aim to get people like you into work.' "Is that what you are saying? It is a very straightforward question."

Harman: "Well, I am giving you a very straightforward answer, John, which is that we are for the first time offering those lone mothers with children under five."

Humphrys: "No, you are not answering the question, with the greatest of respect. You are answering your question. I am asking you to answer my question.

"Do you want these women ... you talk about ending a dependency culture, are you saying to women with young children who are living by themselves, we would like you to work? Is that what you are saying?"

Harman: "I am saying I would like for those women what they want for themselves and that means choice."

Humphrys: "Hang on, what they want, for many of them is you not to impose the cuts you are imposing to them."

Harman: "They have had no choice in the past, because they have been given no help to work. The question is whether we invest pounds 5 a week extra to help them on benefits, or whether we invest in helping them into work. And if they don't get into work, they will have that choice and they will get the same level of benefit for their child as married women will get.

"I know we will look back on this and think how odd it was we were championing the rights of lone mothers to bring up their children on benefit. It's hard to bring up your children on benefit. It's easier if you can do part- time work, or even full-time work, and actually have a better standard of living, and that's the direction in which we are going."

Humphrys: "Harriet Harman, thank you very much."