Webchat with Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown with Carrie and JustineThis is an edited transcript of a live webchat with Gordon Brown on 3 May 2010, just three days before the general election. It was the prime minister's second visit to Mumsnet Towers, his first was in October 2009, and this time round he answered questions on everything from how Labour would tackle the economic deficit, immigration and child benefit to his Tory candidate name and whether Peter Mandelson is a baddie.

 

Economy/deficit | NHS/frontline services | Child tax credits | Electoral reform | Child Trust Fund | Taxation | Early years | Child benefit | Child poverty | Education | University fees/student debt | Home education | Immigration | Help for business | Children with disabilities | Military spending | Why vote Labour | Trident | ID cards | Victim support | Gun/knife crime | Breastfeeding support | Personal

GordonBrown: Great to be back, enjoying a chocolate biscuit, and ready to go...

Economy/deficit

GordonBrown: To everyone asking about the deficit, I'm sorry this answer is quite a long one but it's important so I want to make sure I cover it in detail. Once we've got the economy fully on the road to recovery we're going to halve the deficit in four years and there are three ways we're going to do it.

The first and most important way is by having an economy that grows well - because a growing economy means more tax revenues and less need to spend on things like unemployment benefit. So, strange as it something seems, cutting spending too early and risking going back into recession, would actually make the deficit worse not better.

Second, I am afraid we have had to announce some tax rises, despite it being the run-up to an election. Now I think it is fair that most of the burden of these increases is taken by the richest, for example the new 50p top rate of tax.

The third is cuts in spending. These will definitely be needed and we have already embarked on making cuts in lower priority areas - and we don't pretend it is anything but painful. University vice-chancellors know only too well that we are taking money off them and asking them to be more efficient. Legal aid budgets will be cut and we will spend less on regeneration and housing. Public sector pay will be capped public sector pensions reformed too.

But it's impossible to say precisely how much money the government will have to spend in three or four years time, because that depends on how much the economy is growing. That's why it's so important we secure the recovery this year – and not put it at risk.

Letter QQuattrocento: Greece's budget deficit as a percentage of GDP is 13.6%. The UK's is 11.5%. Germany's is 3.3%. We've retained our AAA rating largely because our debts are not yet due for repayment. We need to ensure, as a nation, that our income is greater than our expenditure, and we don't want to leave our children a bankrupt country with a lifetime of debt to repay.

Will the PM tell us what steps he is proposing to take in terms of cutting spending?

Letter AGordonBrown: Our debt level is the same as America, France and Germany and far below that of Greece - our economy is growing and the Greek economy is contracting. It's vital that we don't do anything that would put our economic growth this year at risk. That's why the Conservative policy is, I'm afraid, going back to the 1930s when we are now in 2010.

Letter Qabdnhiker: Why did you allow the country to run this deficit before the recession and how can we eliminate it now and in the next decade? Obviously you don't feel the same way about debt as I do, we don't live beyond our means as a family but we have been as a country, even when times were good. It's the most important issue to my children's future in my opinion.

Letter AGordonBrown: Some years we ran a surplus and repaid debt but the best policy in my view is to allow borrowing for investment, which means we were able to build schools, hospitals and our infrastructure which supports industry and jobs.

Letter Qdittany: Can you explain exactly why we have such a massive deficit? Just paying off the banks (who now seem to be back in profit and have paid us back) doesn't seem to make sense. If it's public spending, then why wasn't that causing such a huge deficit before?

Letter Qlongfingernails: Why were we running a deficit before the recession hit? Was it because you thought you had abolished boom and bust?

Letter AGordonBrown: Dittany and long fingernails and everyone else asking about the reason for the increase in the deficit - you are right, the deficit is not just about the money we needed to keep the banks going. It is also because the financial crisis led to a global recession. That meant tax revenues fell - as firms and families are not doing so well and not paying so much tax.

It also means more spending on unemployment benefit and other benefits that those on lower income receive. And in addition we decided that, unlike in previous recessions, we would take action to help people through the recession, eg giving businesses help with cash flow, and support to help those losing their job avoid repossession.


NHS/frontline services

Letter Qscottishmummy: PM, I am seeking clarification about the NHS. Can you clarify what does frontline services means to you eg is it clinical staff, community, GP? And what cuts/economies are planned for the NHS. Would there be an NHS pay freeze, for example.

Letter AGordonBrown: scottishmummy - frontline NHS is clinical, community and GP staff - we have not proposed a pay freeze.

Letter QGeorginaWorsley: Why is my NHS trust employer cutting 'frontline staff' if the NHS is safe in your hands? And that is before the election. By frontline, I mean nursing staff. We are a busy paediatric unit managing by the skin of our teeth,and we are being asked to lose nurses. I don't want scare stories of what the Conservatives will do,I want to know why this is happening on your watch,if the NHS is safe in your hands.

Letter Qmagentadreamer: As an NHS worker can we really believe that the NHS will be safer in your hands then David Camerons? Cuts will be needed but where do you propose to make these in the NHS?

Letter AGordonBrown: I think there is a big choice for people at this election on the NHS. I hope that people will see our record in the NHS, with 90,000 more nurses, 40,000 more doctors, more than a hundred new hospitals, and the shortest waiting times since records began.

The next few years are obviously going to be financially tight and it's when things are tight that you have to decide who you trust to protect the services that matter to families. Our plan is to make savings in the back office and reinvest them in the frontline. For example, we're cutting management costs by a third by putting nurses more in control of services, and at the same time we will cut waiting times for cancer tests down to just one week for everyone who needs them.

The Tories are much more of a gamble, because they voted against so much of that investment at the time, and now of course they are committed to scrapping all our waiting times guarantees, including of course scrapping your right to see a cancer specialist in 2 weeks. So it's a choice of who you trust.

GeorginaWorsley on your specific question - I don't know the details of your particular unit, but over time as we get a greater elderly population and we need more care at home, we are going to need more nurses and doctors working in primary and community care and fewer patients will need to be treated in hospitals, so that is going to be an important change. But that doesn't mean that services aren't being protected. In fact, we think that those changes are essential to improving quality, saving lives and to making efficiencies that will allow us to invest even more in frontline care.


Child tax credits

Letter Qfruitshootsandheaves: At this moment I am probably going to vote Lib Dem. Mr Brown, can you give me one good reason for voting Labour instead?

Letter AGordonBrown: Why support a party that wants to cut children's tax credits for at least a million families when you could support Labour who are pledged to defend them, and the Child Trust Fund and Sure Start too? To be clear - I am proposing a referendum in October 2011 on constitutional reform including electoral reform.

GordonBrown: To everybody asking about child tax credits, including saiditall, the answer is I introduced tax credits because I saw that families needed far more support for their children. And we have doubled child tax benefit as well. Six million families get child tax credits. It would be totally wrong in my view to cut child tax credits now - they are vital to maintaining the living standards of families with children.

Letter Qsweetkitty: I would like to ask you about the current Tax Credits system. It seems very confusing and in need of a complete overhaul. If you are working you pay tax then you have to claim it back through another agency who are, in my experience, completely rubbish, tax credit awards based on last year's earnings, then they issue you about 20 letters on the same thing, then you get a letter saying you have been paid too much and they are stopping this year's award. A lot of families really depend on tax credits and are devastated when they are taken away.

My partner and I are awarded the lowest band of tax credits and I find it amazing that if we earned £54K and had one child we get the same amount as if we earned £25K and had 6 children. Surely that is not right. What are your plans for reforming the tax credits system and making it fairer?

Letter AGordonBrown: The whole point of tax credits is to adjust to changing incomes, so if your income changes - eg if you go part time of if one of the partners stops working - it can adjust. We've looked at all ways of making it as flexible as possible, and easy to claim, and we will continue to do that in the future.


Electoral reform

Letter Qsophable: Could you please explain to me why in the 1997 manifesto you promised a Crown review on electoral reform and it has never happened? Once in power, the need for reform evaporated?

Letter AGordonBrown: We set up the Jenkins Commission - couldn't get agreement. I think the best way forward is a referendum where you make the decision by October 2011 - it's best that the people finally decide.


Child Trust Fund

Letter QTootingJo: I'm undecided whether the child trust fund is a good thing or a bad thing. Of course I like it for my child, but I guess the other parties want to scrap it because it costs so much. Is it worth keeping?

Letter AGordonBrown: Definitely worth keeping. Surely every child should have the chance to build up some nest egg - it makes kids more attuned to the savings culture, and helps parents and grandparents give help to move into a first house for example.


Taxation

Letter QLilyBolero: What do you think is the 'fairest' form of taxation? And how will you avoid the 'middle income' voters yet again being hammered the most by any changes in taxation. Our household income is £55k, so we are hammered for everything, because most of it is earned by DH (I can't make enough in my work to cover childcare!). But in any sort of 'means-tested taxation/benefits', the number of dependents is ignored - from next week or so we will be a house of two adults, and four children. But the tax system does not ever take this into account. Just to add, I do work, but have to work from home as can't afford childcare.

Letter AGordonBrown: National Insurance has paid for investment in our NHS - what definitely isn't fair is inheritance tax cuts for millionaires as the Conservatives propose. Income tax is now at 20 percent for most people, with a top rate of 50 percent above £150 thousand. Our policy on NI, where nobody pays if they earn under 20 thousand, and pensioners are protected is far fairer than a VAT rise which hits everybody and is the traditional Tory policy.

Letter QBuckBuckMcFate: I too would like to know what you think would be the fairest way to increase taxes. I also want to say that tax credits helped me to stand on my own as a single parent after I split up with ex. My family and I have always had excellent care from the NHS and I really do feel grateful that I have spent the majority of my adult life under a Labour government.

Also, I think you have shown in the debates and with Paxman that you have a good sense of humour that hasn't come across previously - you do good poker face!

Letter AGordonBrown: National Insurance pays for public services but please speak up for tax credits because the Liberals and the Conservatives want to cut them for middle income families. Child tax credits are there to support children in families of all shapes and sizes including single parents - visit here if you believe in backing families in all their diversity - www.dontjudgemyfamily.com.


Early years

Letter Qtulpa: Are you committed to retaining free nursery places for three and four year olds?

 

Letter AGordonBrown: Yes, with no charges, and we are increasing the number of hours to 15.

 

Letter QRosie2010: And are Children's Centres safe?

 

Letter AGordonBrown: Yes, we've built 3,500 and they are now at the centre of the community (look at just some at www.changewesee.com). You also asked - are child tax credits safe with the other parties? They are safe with us but I have to tell you honestly that both the Liberal and Conservative parties want to cut tax credits for middle-class families - they should be honest about how many families and children would be hit.


Child benefit

Letter Qwoosam: Considering how much debt the country is in, would you consider capping child benefit at a certain income level? I don't mean middle-income families who rely heavily on it but families like us who simply pay it straight into a saving account for our three children. This is something that many of our friends do too. Surely state-funded savings accounts for affluent children cannot be the best use of public funds?

Letter AGordonBrown: The reason why there is such a huge take-up for child benefit is that it is universal. From the 1940s onwards it has been accepted that parents are, of course, responsible for the upbringing of their children, but society as a whole should take some responsibility too. Child benefit has been successful precisely because it is universal.


Child poverty

Letter Qonebatmother: What is the truth about child poverty? Why does it appear to have grown? Why are there more families on low incomes than '97 - is it because it is a comparative measure?

Letter AGordonBrown: Child poverty is a really important issue, so thanks for raising it. We've managed to lift half a million children out of poverty since 1997, through measures like the minimum wage and tax credits.

But I think you're right that there's more to do if we're going to reach our goal of eradicating it. I'm committed to protecting child tax credits and Sure Start. We also need to give more opportunities to kids as they get older, for example through one-to-one catch-up tuition for those who are falling behind, and guaranteeing a place in education, training or an apprenticeship for 16 and 17 year olds.


Education

Letter Qlaughalot: My little boy is in a class of 30 children; what are you planning to do about education and, in particular, large class sizes?

Letter AGordonBrown: There are 40,000 more teachers and 120,000 more classroom assistants since 1997, so we are trying to lower the pupil teacher ratio. We will continue to raise the schools budget; the Conservatives refuse to match this one.

Letter Qjaneite: I am so glad that you came back on here: I am feeling more and more that I may well vote labour on Thursday, for the first time in my life. What are your views on academies, please?

Letter AGordonBrown: Janeite - great news, thank you for considering us. By the end of the next parliament we will have 1,000 schools that are either federated schools or academies. Every school should be a good school and if a school that is underperforming needs to be taken over we will get another school which is doing well to do so.


University fees/student debt

Letter Qmenopausemad: My son could be a brilliant scientist. Unfortunately although we have a good income we also have a huge mortgage and other debts. It is such a shame,= for him, but perhaps also for the country, that he will not be able to go to university because we simply cannot afford it.

Please will you consider helping the so-called well off but cash poor to educate their children? As Riven notes, it is hardly likely he will be in a position to pay off huge student debts.

Letter AGordonBrown: Menopausemad - more people are going to university this year than ever before. And because 40% of young people now go to university we've tried to get the right balance between what parents, the government and the graduate pays. More students are now getting grants than ever before. The science budget has been doubled in the last 10 years.

Letter Qpurplepeony: Why do we need 40-50% of people to be graduates? My son has an MSc in economics and cannot get a permanent graduate level job- unemployed for two years almost and degrees from a top 10 university. Is this really sensible to saddle our young withhuge debts incurred at uni when the jobs are not there when they come out?

Letter AGordonBrown: There is going to be a huge shift in the need for skills in coming years. We will need five million more skilled jobs in the next ten years - and so we will need the graduates to fill them.

Letter Qmothernature: My daughter is the first in our family to go to university, we are more than proud of her we are a 'poor family' in relation to a lot of those on here ie income less than £30,000. We believe she and the rest that want to go should go regardless of the debt she/they will come out with. I want to thank Mr Brown and the Labour government for giving her the opportunity.

I would, however, like to see more companies giving school/ college leavers apprenticeships - there don't seem to be many around and more advertising would be helpful informing us/them of the chances to be had.

Letter AGordonBrown: There is a national apprentices website now, www.apprenticeships.org.uk. There are more than 200,00 apprenticeships and a national apprenticeship service so that people can find out about opportunities right across the country.
 

Home education

Letter QButterPie: What should I say to the people who say they will not vote Labour because they are scared about the future for Home Education? My children aren't even old enough for school yet, but I would like to at least have the choice, and ideally help, to home educate if it is appropiate.

Letter AGordonBrown: To ButterPie and everyone who has asked about home education. We discussed this last time I was on Mumsnet so I know it's a really big issue for people. We've always been clear that parents have the right to educate their children at home and there are no plans to change this. I understand that parents choose to home educate for a number of different reasons, but we are making some changes. 

First, we know there are a small number of cases where local authorities have concerns for the safety of home-educated children. Government has a responsibility to make sure that the safety and rights of vulnerable children are protected, which is why we are looking at how we can put in place better checks and balances, so we can be confident every child is safe and learning.

Secondly, we are looking to improve the support available to parents who opt for home education. This includes more flexible access to exam centres and improved access to things like school libraries, sports facilities and music lessons and also have more tailored support for special educational needs.

 

Immigration

Letter QMuppetsMuggle: Why since Labour has been in power has the country gone politically correct mad? As a Brit born and bred, I feel like a minority in my own country, if people choose to come and live here from another country then that is their decision but they must abide by English rules and traditions. After all we would if we chose to live in their country. When will the silliness end and British tradition come back to life?

Letter AGordonBrown: I think we should be proud of our history of welcoming people fleeing persecution, or coming here to work hard and build a new life – those who came in the 19th century, those who came in the decades after the Second World War, and those from Eastern Europe - who, by the way, pay more than their share of taxes and use less than their share of public services, according to recent research published by the IFS.

But, of course, I agree that newcomers should play by the rules and respect British traditions. That's why we've introduced tougher tests for English language abilities, which have to be taken before people come to Britain, and a test of knowledge of life in the UK for those applying for British citizenship.

And that's why, as well as the points-based system for those wanting to come here, which has already helped reduce net migration, we would extend the points-based system to people applying to stay here permanently.

Letter QSlur: Given the increase in scaremongering media headlines and the possibility of some successes for the BNP in places like Barking, do you agree it is irresponsible to pander to the right-wing misrepresentation of immigrants swamping the country and abusing our welfare provision by only talking about how to control borders and keep people out?

If you are elected, will you show you reject xenophobia and bigotry by celebrating the diversity of our country and the massive contribution that non-English born residents make to our economy and the richness of our culture? And further, will you also be bold enough to show humanity and allow asylum seekers to work and live in safety in the UK?

Letter AGordonBrown: Slur, on asylum seekers the key thing is to make sure their applications are dealt with quickly so that those who should be given our support and protection can get an answer quickly.


Help for business

Letter QDuckInHell: My husband was made redundant, picked himself up, dusted himself down and started his own business. What would a Labour government do to help him and the thousands of others who are going it alone?

Letter AGordonBrown: To DuckInHell and others asking about help for the self-employed - the key is keeping the economy moving and stop it going back into recession. Rates reductions are happening for small businesses and we must keep interest rates low. Send me directly any questions related to tax credits for the self-employed and I will deal with them.

Letter Qnotsureatall: Gordon, I have two young sons and I worry about what jobs will be available to them in the future. We don't manufacture anything here any more - I fear the only jobs that will be available to them will be working in the service industry. What are your plans to stop more British companies selling to foreign competitors?

Letter AGordonBrown: The big future for Britain and your two sons lies in digital, low carbon, bio-tech and other advanced manufacturing where Britain can lead the world. We are investing in everything from electric car manufacturing to nanotechnology and we are the sixth biggest manufacturing power in the world with just 1% of the population.


Children with disabilities

Letter QRiven: Four nappies a day, Gordon, for disabled children. That's not good enough. Dave said he'd write to the PCTs. What will you do?

Letter AGordonBrown: Riven, thanks for your question and I'm sorry that no-one has come back to you on your question in the past. If you want to write to me personally with more details on your situation I'd like to take a closer look at it.

I am full of admiration for those, like you, who care for a disabled child. Decisions like the one you describe on nappies will be made locally, but I can see it would be frustrating to come up against a rigid rule like the one you describe. That's why we want to offer everyone the chance of an individual budget so you can choose the best way to spend the resources that are available to help you and your child.

It's also worth mentioning that as our manifesto makes clear we are 100% committed to continuing to improve the support for parents of disabled children to receive respite care and go on short breaks. We are incredibly grateful for our carers and all they do, and we know we can support you even better in the future.

Letter QRiven: Best give me your email then, Gordon. I have emailed you twice and got no answer. Given Dave came to see me personally after he failed the nappy question I am suprised I didn't get an answer. We don't need admiration, we need decent help not obstructive councils who make carers beg and treat us like scum. If carers break, can the country afford the £76 billion we save the government? And that's no decent answer on nappies for disabled children. Remove the four-a-day limit, please.

Letter AGordonBrown: Riven, the best way to raise your specific case with me is either through the email on the Number Ten website or to write to me at the address on that website. If you contact me through that route I can make sure your situation gets looked at properly. Please do do that.

I can only imagine any rule like this on nappies is a local issue as I'm not aware of any national rules that limit the support to carers or disabled children, but I'll certainly look into it if you send me your details.

Letter Qalysonpeaches: Children and adults with autism do not fit social services criteria in our area for support in terms of respite or support for independent living. I have an adult daughter with autism and a seven-year-old boy. People don't believe me when I say that social services do not help me with either. Why are services for autism so hit and miss?

Letter AGordonBrown: alysonpeaches - we have just released the first ever adult autism strategy and we are continuing to talk to all the different charities and groups about what more we could do.

Letter Qlou031205: Gordon, please see my question about this 'personal budget'. Anything that is controlled by social services just means a barrier to people like us accessing them. I have a child on High Rate DLA, blue badge, about to go to special school, and can't get any help from social services.

Letter AGordonBrown: To lou031205 and others who asked about cuts in special needs education. Ed Balls has said that schools' budgets will rise and we have set aside additional funding for the coming years.

 

Military spending

Letter QMolesworth: I too want to wish you good luck for Thursday. Be assured, there are very, very many of us who have no wish to see the Tories back in power!

My question is, given the inevitability of deep public spending cuts over the next few years, can our continued military presence in Afghanistan really be justified? Would this money not be better spent on maintaining essential public services?

Letter AGordonBrown: I believe we can't afford not to continue our mission in Afghanistan. We know that three-quarters of the terrorist plots against Britain have their roots in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so our troops are fighting there to keep your streets safe here. When the Afghan security forces have been built up and trained, our troops will be able to come home. In the meantime, they're doing a brilliant and incredibly brave job. We should be proud of all of them.


Why vote Labour?

Letter QPixieOnaLeaf: I am a 18 year old and this is my first vote. I am a clean slate, and have no party bias - why should I vote for you, and what are you doing to help my age group?

Letter AGordonBrown: Jobs, education... more young people at university than ever before, a million new skilled jobs, the highest numbers of apprenticeship - my whole aim in life is to create opportunities which give you choice about what you want to do.

Letter QSwingVoter: Not really a question but please could you say why I should vote Labour - go on sell it to me - I'm middle-of-the-road purple at the mo and struggling to decide.

Letter AGordonBrown: swingvoter - NHS, schools, policing, jobs and securing the recovery. I think we are the only party with the serious policies for these priorities and the only party able to achieve the fairness that brought me into politics in the first place.

GordonBrown: To everyone asking about tactical voting, I think that when you look at the big challenges facing Britain today - securing the recovery, protecting frontline services and rebuilding trust in politics - I believe that a Labour majority is the best way of dealing with them. My concern with the Conservatives and the Liberals is that both of them would be a risk to families on middle incomes, for example by cutting back on child tax credits, so I hope people will vote Labour to avoid that risk.


Trident

Letter QOctothechildherder: Why invest so much in a nuclear defence system that will work with maintenace for another 20 years. Vanguard and Vengeance are surely enough?

Letter AGordonBrown: Octothechildherder - on Trident I want to see multilateral reductions and look forward to a world without nuclear weapons, but it needs to be by agreement around the world. It doesn't make sense for us to give up Trident while Iran and North Korea are acquiring nuclear weapons.


ID cards

Letter QJackBauerIsZonerrific: Why are you keeping the Child Trust Fund when the country needs the money now? And will you get rid of ID cards?

Letter AGordonBrown: jackbauer - I have already answered on child trust funds. As far as ID cards are concerned, they are voluntary and in the next parliament they will self-financing so scrapping them won't save any money.


Victim support

Letter QSuSylvester: Nice to meet you at the MN party - sorry I said "think fish" to you. I still have my master idea I mentioned to you and it's this. If you are awarded compensation in court and the offender pays say £5 a week to you, you as the victim only get £5 a week, which to be honest is an insult and for some vulnerable victims is more traumatic than the offence itself.

When the victim surcharge £15 was introduced (don't get me started on that lunacy - how come someone who whacks someone and is punished by a community order doesn't pay it, yet a speeder on an empty motorway does?) it was thought that this would create a lump sum that this would solve this but it didn't. So that is my suggestion. Can you sort it out please.

Letter AGordonBrown: SuSylvester, it was lovely to meet you too. I thought it was a great evening all round. I completely agree on victims' support – we've increased the amount that offenders pay to victims over the last few years, not just through the victim surcharge but with compensation and confiscation orders as well – but I totally agree that victims shouldn't have to wait for the money or get it in dribs and drabs. That's why in our manifesto we say that victims should have the option of getting the money they are owed in a lump sum up front. There will be a small one-off cost in setting this up but it will cover its costs over time.
 

Gun/knife crime

Letter Qteamcullen: What are you going to do to make the country a safer place for our young people. Labour has been great while my DCs have been small but they are fast approaching adolecence and with all the gun/knife crime and anti-social behaviour? I really fear for their safety. Is more money going to go in to young peoples services to keep them off the street

Letter AGordonBrown: We want to create a network of youth centres around the country where young people can choose the kind of facilities they want. There's a lot in our manifesto about our commitments to youth activities particularly at weekends - eg midnight football. You can read our manifesto and watch our manifesto film at www.labour.org.uk/manifesto.


Breastfeeding support

Letter Qhunkermunker: The Green Party has pledged its support to the Baby Milk Action pledge to protect breastfeeding and babies fed on formula. Will you add your name to it?

Baby Milk Action pledge form

I pledge that if I am elected to the House of Commons I will encourage the Government to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula. In particular to:

  • Strengthen the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations to bring them into line with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly

(I understand that the 23 health worker organisations and mother support groups in the Baby Feeding Law Group and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have called for this and that the Government's own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and enforcement bodies have called for promotion of follow-on formula and health claims to be banned alongside the ban on infant formula advertising).

  • Support and defend the International Code and Resolutions around the world and at the United Nations and other international organisations

(I understand that UNICEF has stated: "Marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever they are pursued: in the developing world, WHO estimates that some 1.5 million children die each year because they are not adequately breastfed. These facts are not in dispute.")"

And, please, don't trot out the old "we respect the right of women to do as they choose" because that's not working - as many as 80% of women want to breastfeed and only 21% of those who start are still doing so exclusively at six weeks.

At the moment, the National Health Service is providing National Lip Service to the issue of breastfeeding support. The Tories want to waste spend money on more Health Visitors. What are Labour pledging to do to support the most vulnerable members of our society?

Letter AGordonBrown: Hunkermunker, thanks very much for your question about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is really important. We want to do more to support mums in breastfeeding and we know that may mean strengthening the regulations relating to marketing and I'd like to come back to you on the detail of your question as I'm not familiar with all of it.
 

Personal

Letter Qportabello: Gordon, we're dithering over the name of our beautiful new son. Which do you prefer - Benjamin, Frederick, Seamus or Jasper?

Letter AGordonBrown: Portabello - got an idea. When our second son Fraser was born we wanted to call him James, but our first son insisted on calling him Fraser - a name we had never thought of before. Kid power took over in our house... But all your names sound good!

Letter Qlouii: Did you go to the Links Market and what's your favourite ride?

 

Letter AGordonBrown: Were you at school with me? The Links Market is the biggest of its kind in Europe - still. Every year my kids have a debate about the ghost train - one loves it, one is a bit less keen.

Letter QFabIsGoingToGetFit: My question is, how are your boys doing and do you get to see them enough?

Letter AGordonBrown: The boys are doing well - thanks for asking. We are managing to get back to London most nights so we are protecting a lot of family time, and we are staying in touch throughout the day by phone while we are away.

Letter Qomgwoe: Firstly thank you for my tax credits they are a very big help. What is your favourite TV programme?

Letter AGordonBrown: Not the Ten O'clock News anyway... I like TV talent shows.

 

Letter QNonnoMum: Tis a hard job, you do. Good luck on Thursday. How many hours sleep do you get each night, seeing as (a) you run the country and (b) you have two small boys? And which is harder?

Letter AGordonBrown: Being a parent is the hardest and most important job in the world - and the only reason I ever have disturbed sleep...

Letter QEricPicklesFatNeck: When my dd was three and saw pictures of you she would say 'Poor Gordon Brown, he is trying his best you know'. She also wanted to know if Peter Mandelson was a baddie?

Letter AGordonBrown: Peter is a great guy, but he might take that as a compliment...

Letter Qomnishambles: What's your Tory candidate name?

 

Letter AGordonBrown: My Tory candidate name - John East Fergus-Adam. I'm told by MN Towers this isn't the best you've had, but I still think he'd lose his deposit...
 

Post-election

Letter QMmeLindt: I would like to know what he plans to do on Friday morning.

 

Letter AGordonBrown: MmeLindt - how my Friday morning goes is really up to you! If there's one thing I've learned in my life it's that nothing is inevitable.

GordonBrown: It's been great to be here - just off to sign the visitors book, and prepare for the final crucial three days campaigning. I'm fighting for your future and it's all to play for. Now it's for you to decide.

Last updated: 04-May-2010 at 3:09 PM