Webchat with Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband at Mumsnet TowersEd Miliband, secretary of state for energy and climate change, came to Mumsnet for a live webchat on 3 December 2009. This is an edited transcript of the discussion.

Ed is MP for Doncaster North, has had government jobs tackling social exclusion and supporting the voluntary sector, and lives with partner Justine and their six-month-old son Daniel. He is one of the chief architects of Labour's election manifesto and is viewed by many as a potential future leader of the party.

Climate change/climate change | Disposable vs cloth nappies | Solar panels | Wave power | Population control | Climate change sceptics | Wind farms | Carbon capture | Green energy | Transport | Recycling | Nuclear power | Politics | Labour Party leadership | Political influences | Car scrappage scheme | Social mobility | Personal

Copenhagen/climate change

EdMiliband: Hello it's Ed Miliband, glad to be here and will try and answer as many questions as poss.


Letter Qmumtoone: What do you believe are the UK's key strengths and weaknesses with respect to our plans to tackle climate change?

Letter AEdMiliband: Hello Mumtoone. Strength? The world's first Climate Change Act with targets to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050; that we're already on track to meet and exceed our Kyoto reduction targets; that we're the world leader in offshore wind, and also helping homes to become more energy efficient.

Weakness? We've done a lot on renewables but we need faster progress. We've just got new planning rules which will make it easier. And in 2008, there was a 10% increase in the amount of wind energy generated in the UK. Hopefully a sign of progress.

Letter QChocolateMoose: The UK imports 22,000 tonnes of potatoes from Egypt whilst exporting 27,000 tonnes back again. We export 4,400 tonnes of ice cream to Italy, only to re-import 4,200 tonnes. Do you agree that this sort of thing is crazy and how do you think this kind of mindless waste could be stopped?

(And as others have said, don't you think that the government needs to put serious resources into increasing public understanding of climate change and countering denial? Otherwise people would undoubtedly be furious at any restriction of their 'right' to choose Egyption potatoes over locally grown ones, let alone anything like flying less...)

Letter A EdMiliband: You're right that seasonal, local food is good in terms of carbon. But it is not as simple as more miles equals more carbon, because sometimes food grown locally or nearer requires lots of carbon if they are grown in artificial conditions.

Letter Qfrankie3: How is there ever going to be a solution to climate change when:

  • Companies such as Tesco win awards for "best green company" while building large car dependant retail sheds with huge car parks, undercutting local retailers;
  • Heathrow Airport is still being discussed;
  • There has been no real investment in public transport - a real alternative to car travel is needed, and a huge investement in quality public transport is the only solution;
  • The ecomony is still based on comsuming and retail, rather that green energy and manufacturing. We are still being encouraged to spend our way out of the recession rather that having money put into proper new green initiatives.

Letter AEdMiliband: Every bit of the economy, every company, every home will have to play a part. We've set in law a cut in emissions by at least 80% by 2050 and 34% by 2020, so that will mean every sector of society playing its part.

If you're interested in learning more about this, have a read of our Low Carbon Transition Plan, which sets out how each area of society from homes, transport, business and industry will cut emissions. Read it here.

Letter QMaiakins: What are you doing to make sure that energy/climate change debates are pro-poor? I worry that 'saving the environment' is sometimes seen as an elitist issue, both within Europe and North America, but also at a global level.

How do you resolve the tension between international development and climate change measures and who are we to put a brake on other countries' development? What policies do you suggest to ensure that poor people don't suffer in developing countries? And who is going to finance this? Is the UK going to give extra money to help smaller developing countries who can least afford to invest in renewable energy and new technologies? And if so, is this money ringfenced?

PS You're definitely dishier than your brother – does he feel embarrassed about the banana incident last year? Did you have a chuckle about it?

Letter AEdMiliband: Hi Maiakins, I think it was his breakfast but I haven't asked him about it. I am now careful not to carry fruit in public.

You're right that fairness has got to be part not only of our international and domestic climate and energy policies. We don't want to put a brake on other countries' development. But also we don't them to repeat the same high carbon route that we took. So it's about helping them to grow their economies in a low carbon way. The reality is that one of the biggest threats to tackling poverty and development is climate change. So there's no 'either or' choice here.

Simple answer is that we - the developed world - have to finance this. The PM's speech from 26 June 2009 set the agenda on this issue, including commitments on new and additional funding. You can read more at read it here.

Letter Qaliceemma: What is you doing to address the fact that we are third worst in Europe (above only Malta and Luxembourg) in generating renewable energy? And does y the enormous security implications of this as our own gas and oil supplies are depleted and we are forced into dependency on middle-eastern oil and Russian and Kazakh gas supplies?

Letter AEdMiliband: We've got low figures at the moment, but we've got plans in place for a significant increase in renewables in the coming years and have seen real progress recently. For example, we have seen a 67% increase in offshore wind generation in the last year. We're now making sure that our planning system is right.

We also have to win an argument with people who oppose wind farms in principle. People need a voice and there can be inappropriate proposals, but we have to try and persuade people that climate change is a bigger threat to the countryside than the wind turbine.

Letter Q2ChildrenPlusLA: Would you consider an extra paid holiday allowance for all who kept their air miles down, to enable them to use slower transport, or just as a reward for not flying so much?

Letter AEdMiliband: Good question. My brother had this idea about personal carbon allowances - the more carbon you use the more you pay, the less you use the less you pay. It's hard to do but an interesting idea...

Letter Qpolicywonk: Did you hear the recent World Service investigation into the funds for developing countries that were supposed to be provided under the Bonn Declaration? Given that mistrust among developing countries seems to be one of the big potential stumbling blocks to a comprehensive deal at Copenhagen, are you confident that the financing deal announced by Gordon Brown at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will be more transparent and accountable than the Bonn process?

Letter AEdMiliband: Hello policywonk, I asked our own policywonks about it. They tell me that the UK met and exceeded its share of the commitment - £120 million in total - made by donors in Bonn in July 2001 for the period 2005 to 2008.

In general, finance is going to be one of the crunch issues that will come down to the wire in Copenhagen. Trust - and the lack of it - is a big blocker to a deal. We're going to have to overcome that in a lot areas - but particularly when it comes to finance. We want to play our part fairly.

Letter QViktoriaMac: In October you voted against the government estate committing to the 10:10 Campaign to cut emissions by 10% by 2010. This continued your history of never voting against the Party Whip. In light of this, which are you more passionate about: Finding ways to combat Climate Change or The Success of the Labour Party and your place within it?

Letter AEdMiliband: I dont see a contradiction between the two. On 10:10, I have personally signed up and I am determined we do as much as poss in govt but not going to make promises we can't keep...

Letter Qpersonanongrata: What do you think of James Hansen's comments about capping/trading carbon legislation, in today's Guardian, that they're analagous to the indulgences the Catholic church sold in the middle ages.

And a non-climate question, how much do you get to see your baby and are you having bitter rows yet about who is doing more?

Letter AEdMiliband: I was pretty depressed by James Hanson. I think he is just plain wrong. The world has come a long way in the run up to Copenhagen - China, India, the US all putting targets on the table. We mustn't be defeatist.

Daniel turned six months yesterday, but unfortunately I was in Copenhagen. Partner v understanding, but expecting me to stay in UK next year rather than just visiting!

Letter QLaGringa: I'd like to know if the Government would offer asylum to climate change refugees, eg folk from Bangladesh or Kiribati who are made homeless because of climate change?

Letter AEdMiliband: LaGringa, we have a good history of offering asylum to refugees, but much better to go for Plan A and avoid the dislocation and terrible upheaval that would result.

Letter Qneenz: What is the outlook for people who live in coastal areas with regard to sea levels rising? Should I sell up now before the whole of Liverpool goes under?

Letter AEdMiliband: You should check our climate impact projections but I don't think Liverpool is directly under threat now. We do need to act though or we will get more floods and droughts.

Letter QSwedington: Are you a vegetarian?


Letter AEdMiliband: No, we need agriculture to cut its emissions though and under our system, it has its own carbon budget just like a financial budget which it has to live within. Are you?

Letter QCMOTdibbler: What do you think about transition town initiatives?


Letter AEdMiliband: They're great. I was a keynote listener at their conference. Good experience for a politician to listen!

Disposable vs cloth nappies

Letter QStewieGriffinsMom: Do you use cloth nappies or do you use the more environmentally friendly disposables made with no chemicals and which are biodegradable?

Letter Qilovemydogandmrobama: As a new father, of course you are aware how many nappies a baby uses, most of which go to landfill, which accounts for something like 10% of household waste and takes at least 50 years to biodegrade. Why is funding for reusable nappies only at the discretion of local Councils as landfill is a national issue, while also wishing to nail a myth that the report by the Environment Agency about energy use assumes that one tumble dries and irons hmm ones nappies.

Letter AEdMiliband: We use disposable nappies and actually an environment agency report from 2005 said that when you take into account the use of energy in washing and drying nappies, it evens out... there are greener disposable nappies, which we are trying.

Letter Qdomesticextremist: I think that report about the nappies didn't take lots of things into account and said that you needed 24 washable nappies and that you tumble dry them all the time which no-one does.

Letter QStewieGriffinsMom: The Environment agency report assumes that people dry and iron their nappies and that people only use them for one child. Most people who use nappies do not iron or dry them and everyone re-uses nappies. Mine are on their fourth child [not my fourth child but bought second-hand]. The Environment agency report was poorly researched and lacked a basic understanding of how people actually use cloth nappies.

Letter AEdMiliband: On nappies, I will look at the report again. Depends where you live as to whether you can hang nappies out to dry.

CMOTdibbler: You should give cloth nappies a try - really, that report was a disgrace - they thought people ironed them, and boil washed. My nappies were secondhand to begin with, got washed at 40, never ironed, mostly line dried, and I only used half amounts of detergent at most. In fact, I can lend you some nappies to try if you like - unlike disposables, mine have been used and are ready to pass onto another baby.

StewieGriffinsMom: Thank you for coming in and please get the Environment Agency to redo their research into cloth nappies by actually speaking to people who use them (and don't own either dryers or irons).

JackTheHallsWithBauersOfHolly: Would like to add my name to the list requesting a new report into reusable nappies be carried out, preferably in consultation with reusable companies as opposed to disposable companies to achieve a fair result.

gizmo: Oh, Ed, don't cross the good women of mumsnet on the subject of renewables: I promise you we have more experience than the Environment Agency on the subject.


Solar panels

Letter Qstickylittlefingers: I was very impressed by the number of solar panels on private houses in Germany. Will we have a government-sponsored scheme here, so that we can sell electricity back to the grid?

Letter AEdMiliband: Yes, we are introducing feed-in tariffs, which pay for you having solar panels and selling back to the grid, from April.

Wave power

Letter QHassled: Can you tell me your thoughts/what's happening re wave power? I read/heard something along the lines of the Britain being perfectly placed to benefit from wave power, being an island surrounded by choppy seas etc, but know little more. Is the government backing research into this? Does it look like it might be a goer?

Letter AEdMiliband: Hassled, wave power is part of our future and we are putting money into marine energy. It's still being worked on to develop it but I think it has got great potential. Wave Hub in the South West is a great development of this.

Population control

Letter QShroomer: The following is said with a huge dose of irony given the Mumsnet host, aren't we breeding too much? Every child we have uses vital energy resources. Shouldn't there be a limit of one or two children per couple?

"In the UK, population is projected to continue rising - from 61 million (mid-2008), to pass 70 million in 2029 and reach 77 million in 2050. That's more than another two Londons." OPT website (Mid-2008 based Principal Population Projection, ONS, 21 October 2009).

Letter AEdMiliband: I really think telling people not to have kids or more kids is not the answer. The real challenge is that economic growth over the coming few decades is going to dwarf the increase in carbon due to population. So breaking the link between economic growth and growing emissions is the key to this.

Climate change sceptics

Letter Qonebatmother: Governments generally (and Science generally) has failed sufficiently to engage with climate-change sceptics. CCSs then claim that they're being denied a platform, which in turn lends a spurious weight to their scientific arguments. When is DECC going to REALLY take them on - mano a mano, if need be?

Letter Qgizmo: It can't have escaped your notice that climate change denialism is terribly trendy at the moment. Do you agree the government has a key role to play in explaining to people why this is dangerous claptrap? And if so, why is so much of the government's communication efforts based on 'fear, uncertainty and doubt' advertising (yes, I'm looking at you irritating little girl and your nightmaresque poxy bedtime 'story') rather than inspiring people with what can be done?

All that terrifying people achieves is disempowering them. There are many things that can (and are) being done: smart meters/grid, renewable energy, energy efficiency, nuclear energy. They build economies. They free us from concerns over energy security - why on earth do we never see simple and effective advertisements selling them?

Letter AEdMiliband: gizmo and onebatmother, good advice. The denialists are totally irresponsible and I have learnt in this job that you have to take them on.

Letter QSwedington: I think a great proportion of the population are unconvinced but understand the Pascale's wager argument that we have no option but to act. It's impossible to convince people scientifically. You will end up red-faced and intolerant. A little like Richard Dawkins.

Letter AEdMiliband: I have described it in a more simplistic way, and I didnt know it was called Pascale's wager, but you're bang on!

Wind farms

Letter QNotAnotherNewNappy: Why do you think some people object to wind farms on the grounds that they are unsightly? I think they look rather majestic myself.

Letter AEdMiliband: I totally agree with you about wind farms... I am sure people used to say the same about windmills.

Letter Qpixiestix: Your targets for wind farms, wave power etc up to 2050 are all very well, but you seem to be assuming that the oil needed to create all these schemes will be plentiful until then. Most scientists believe that oil has already peaked - so how is any of this really going to happen? Any why is the BNP (yuk, shudder) the only party talking about peak oil?

Letter AEdMiliband: In a sense the peak oil debate has slightly been overtaken, because we need to make an urgent shift anyway due to the demands of climate change. It will also be a more managed transition the sooner we do it. If we don't we are likely to drive oil prices much higher.

pixiestix: Thanks for answering! I see what you mean and agree we need an "urgent shift" but I think making targets for 2050 rather than 2015 is unrealistic - there is no way that the oil supply will continue to meet even current demands as long as that. And so the issue of climate change is masking/sidelining an equally pressing and terrifying concern.

EdMiliband: Glad you like it Pixiestix, we're not only focused on 2050, we have five-yearly targets, they're tough and we've put them in law.

Letter QWilfSell: The French have solved this haven't they? They centralise their planning function, I think, rather than leaving it to local authorities. I think more centralised control is necessary for real change here otherwise the NIMBY culture will win. Tell people there is no alternative to windfarms. Tough.

And I refer you back to an earlier question about the important not only of scientists as CMOTDibbler points out, but also social scientists in helping work out responses to climate change. We need to understand the social and cultural objections to change, don't we?

Letter AEdMiliband: WilfSell, for big projects over 50mw for onshore wind and 100mw for offshore, we are doing it through the new infrastructure planning commission, but I think local authorities should retain the role for smaller projects.

The key thing though is that we can't have local authroities that just turn down all applications. We have to convince people that wind farms need to go somewhere and we are doing a mapping exercise to see what the most appropriate places are.

Letter Qpodgelovesmulledwine: Do you really think that windfarms are the energy answer we are looking for, when you take into account the massive financial outlay and use of materials? Any better ideas?

Letter AEdMiliband: I think we need all the options we can get: wind, nuclear, clean coal. The problem is too big to ignore any of them. And actually, two million homes a year in the Uk are already being powered by wind power.

Carbon capture

Letter Qgizmo: Carbon capture, Mr Miliband - do you think your plans allow for adequate time to thoroughly develop the necessary technology? Moving from small demonstration plants to full-blown generating kit in 12 years is pretty ambitious, and, let's be honest, a faster rate of development than your government has achieved in any other area of infrastructure development. 

Yes, yes, to Wilfsell's point about cultural roots to climate change denial. There's got to be a better way to inspire people to get involved than your current efforts, I'm afraid.

Letter AEdMiliband: On carbon capture, we have to go as fast as possible, not just for us but for China and India and to tackle climate change. Unlesss we make it work quickly, we are in trouble when it comes to climate change.

The other point is about inspiring people: completely right we need to show the positive vision. As someone said to me recently, Martin Luther King didn't say 'I have a nightmare', but we do also need to warn people of the dangers. Our research showed people needed prompting about the real dangers to their kids.

Green energy

Letter QStewieGriffinsMom: If the government is serious about renewable, green energy, then why hasn't the government invested in or made funding available for individuals to choose renewable energy?

My in-laws live in a converted mill with a working water turbine. They costed the price and potential energy creation of investing in a turbine. It will cost them at least £25,000 to convert their water turbine and attach it to the national grid. The potential energy creation will apparently be enough to run most of the village they live in. However, the do not have £25,000 pounds. They are over 75 and can not re-mortgage their house for the £25,000. There are no available loans or grants in order do so. If they lived in Scotland, they could have received grants and loans that would have helped to pay for the conversion. Surely this type of small-scale green energy (available everywhere in the UK) is something that we can invest in cheaply that will have real long-term benefits?

Letter AEdMiliband: StewieGriffinsMom, this is a good question and we are working on how you meet the upfront costs of big going green investments in your house. The basic point is to have repayments linked to the house not the person, which means you can spread the repayments over a long period. See our consultation from earlier this year and watch this space.

Letter Qonebatmother: Ooh, look smart metres for all - paid for by us but recouped via eventual savings. Big concerns, though, over whether energy-providers will pass on the savings.

EdMiliband: On smart meters, we have been cautious about our assumptions, but you're right the savings could well turn out to be bigger...

Letter Qgizmo: Care to say anything about your plans re encouraging smart grid? After all it's a key plank of the Obama administrations fiscal stimulus package.

Letter AEdMiliband: Gizmo, so-called smart technology's going to be a big deal in the future. We announced yesterday our final plan for installing smart meters in all homes by 2020. They'll help us all reduce our energy use by showing us in real-time how much we're using in £s and carbon. They'll mean an end to estimated bills and, with smart grids, help us fit more renewable energy on the grid.

Letter Qmumbot: If you were to suggest one thing that busy mums on a normal income could do to make a positive impact on the environment, what would that be?

Letter AEdMiliband: Hi Mumbot, simply getting a real time display from your energy company will tell you how much energy you're using and that means that when you boil the kettle, turn lights on, you are more conscious of carbon and the costs you are paying. I visited a project in Leeds and that showed that giving people proper information can make a big difference.

The Energy Saving Trust will be able to help with further suggestions and offer advice on financial support for bigger energy saving steps.

As for fridascrubbs' suggestion about the Greens, I am afraid while they have good intentions, they are wrong on major issues. They say that economic growth is a problem, when it is essential for raising people's living standards; they say we should leave carbon capture and storage development to the market, when we need public subsidy, and voting for them runs the risk the Tories get in by the back door.

Letter QLeninGrad: Why is VAT levied on gas and electricity? Would you change that?


Letter AEdMiliband: The Tories introduced it and we cut it to 5%, minimum allowed under EU law.



Letter Q2ChildrenPlusLA: When are rail prices going to stop going up more than inflation?


Letter AEdMiliband: I think the transport secretary is looking at this on the east coast mainline, or at least I read it somewhere... The truth is that we are putting public subsidy into the railways but I take the general point about rail fares. If you book early, it is cheaper...


Letter QLaGringa: Why is the Government not putting pressure on local authorities to improve recycling facilities? My local council collects certain items only once per month. We have too many recyclables in that time, and end up putting them in our bin. We also have excessive amounts of plastic which are not accepted for recycling. Why is the Government not ensuring councils recycle them and making supermarkets offer less packaging?

Letter AEdMiliband: Recycling is done by my colleague Hilary Benn, but I am pretty sure local councils have targets for recycling that they have to meet. Write to your local MP if you feel they aren't doing the business.

Nuclear power

Letter QCMOTdibbler: Given that nuclear power does not create CO2 at the point of production (although obviously there is CO2 created in the building etc) and that the government have decreed that they think we should be building more reactors in this country, why is nothing being done about the acute shortage of reactor physicists, health physicists etc in this country? The majority started their careers in the 1960s, and are coming up to retirement. And as for recruitment to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, it is laughable.

Without the high level staffing needed (and considering these are roles that need ten years or more of training, plus there's not even any training coming out of the defence sector now) these plants can't be built, let alone the reactors loaded. So what do you plan to do ?

Letter AEdMiliband: CMOT, very interesting question. My sense is that we have seen big improvements on recruitment to the nuclear installations inspectorate. The Nuclear Skills Academy is coordinating wide nuclear skills. Do you have a particular experience in this?

CMOTdibbler: Ed, the NSA is for engineers and other workers, taking them from apprentices upwards. This is great, but does not solve the issue of health and reactor physicists where the training path is much, much longer.

I was looking at a job advert for NII inspectors yesterday - considering they are few, I see these advertised very frequently, telling me that they can't recruit. And when I look at the salary, they require a very specialised skillset indeed for not a lot of money (although EA specialist inspectors earn half that, which makes me wonder why anyone applies for those). And it is not comparative with the same job in Australia, for instance.

I'm not directly in the field, but know a lot of people who are, as my career branched along a different route of radiation physics, but have crossover.

EdMiliband: CMOT, I am told we have definitely recruited more, hope you apply...

CMOTdibbler: I think you may only have filled the posts that were there... And in five years, who will be filling them? Ten years? There is no way of getting proper training in the UK for the very specialist roles, especially with the selling off of civil and non-civil nuclear sites

Sorry, and another question, still related, is what is going to happen about deep repository for the UK? We cannot just keep storing ILW/HLW in temp stores, especially with the decommissioning process in full swing at sites. This also has a massive effect on users of radioactive material such as hospitals who have to pay huge amounts to dispose of small sources as allowance has to be made for repacking at some point in the future. This has been deferred and deferred, and someone needs to make a decision and push it through, just like in other countries.

Much as I'd like to be an NII inspector (always fancied the access all areas badge), I don't do fissile material.

Letter Qpofacedandproud: Did you read Jonathan Porritt's article for the Guardian last month about the government's plans for nuclear power and how you ignored the Sustainable Development Commission's conclusions?

Letter AEdMiliband: I disagree with the SDC on this. We need low carbon energy, we have very stretching renwables targets and then the question is will the energy we need on top of renwables in say 2020-2025 be filled by gas or something else: that is why I think we need both nuclear and clean coal.

pofacedandproud: Yes it is clear you disagree, but I feel you are going for the easiest short-term option and are not being completely honest about the costs involved - both financial and environmental long term. It is a shame that the long-term plans proposed by the SDC - realistic but more complicated and tricky - have been ignored.

Letter Qmateykatie: I've just been watching the Daily Politics show on BBC2. They said Gordon Brown sold off Westinghouse, a company which makes nuclear reactors... He said it was to diversify risks. What risks does it diversify if we have to rely on other countries for our power plants? Also, if we don't own the companies then won't they just fleece us?

Letter AEdMiliband: We need the investment in energy and the question is should we have relied on that coming from government, when there is not much money around, or should we get investment from private companies, like EDF? I care less about who owns the companies, and more about whether we get the investment and the jobs in the UK.

As for fleecing consumers, the key is strong regulation and we are going to give stronger powers to the regulator in our energy bill.


Letter QFreeGeorgeJackson: I see my local MP is retiring. What would make a normal, right-minded middle-aged woman stand for election? Are there any upsides? (Not money any more obviously!)

Letter AEdMiliband: You should go for it. If you want to make a difference, it may be frustrating being an MP at times, but you can locally and nationally.

Letter Qpolicywonk: Ed, could you answer Florence's question about The Thick Of It? Do you watch it, does it remind you of DECC and who's your Malcolm Tucker?

Letter AEdMiliband: policywonk, she's called Polly Billington, but she is less mad than Malcolm Tucker... and marginally less intense.

Labour Party leadership

Letter QSwedington: Is it true you are shaping up for an imminent leadership contest with Gordon Brown?


Letter AEdMiliband: Absolutely not. See? Politicians can give you a straight answer.

Political influences

Letter Qpolicywonk: In your recent lecture at the LSE you namechecked the marvellous Michael Sandel. Who else has informed your political thinking? Would you say that redistribution was one of your watchwords when you worked at the Treasury?

Letter AEdMiliband: Obviously, my dad was pretty influential, and me and my brother talk about politics a lot. Others include Richard Sennett, the late Jerry Cohen, Tony Crosland, Will Hutton. But some of the most important influences are the people you meet doing my job - like the charismatic Liam Black who used to run the social enterprise Fifteen, or Catherine Howarth from London Citizens.

And on redistribution - it's always been important to me and I think some of the things that we've done as a government have made a huge difference to people who previously were struggling to get by, like tax credits.

Car scrappage scheme

Letter Q2ChildrenPlusLA: Why does the car scrap scheme exist? I understand that new cars can be less polluting, but in general the manufacture of those cars and the disposal of the old is extremely wasteful, isn't it? Surely most old cars on the road now are best recycled and reused?

Letter AEdMiliband: 2ChildrenPlusLA It was designed to help the car industry which has huge skills which can be put to use for hybrids and electric cars. We were forecasting that it would be at worst carbon neutral and in fact people have cut their carbon use by buying more eco-efficient cars. Part of the climate argument has to be based around the positive green jobs that can result.

Social mobility/fairer society

Letter QSwedington: Social mobility is at its lowest level since the 1950s. So I'm not sure I fully understand how you conclude this government has made the country fairer. Giving the poor a bit more money than they had previously and some help and advice with their preschoolers doesn't make the country more fair.

Letter AEdMiliband: Swedington no, and I disagree. I judge this by my own constituency: Sure Start, tax credits, new secondary schools, NHS hospitals. Part of the truth about modern politics is that people don't buy everything a government does, but I think we have made the country fairer. There is a huge amount more to do...

Personal (brothers, aunts, biscuits etc)

Letter QBigbadmummy: Has to be a biscuit question, doesn't it? Which one? And as my possibly permitted follow-up. To dunk or not to dunk?

Letter AEdMiliband: This is the one I expected, Jaffa Cake. No dunking of any biscuit - yuk.


Letter QGrendelsMum: Have you and your brother kept in touch with your aunt in Moscow?


Letter AEdMiliband: Yes, definitely, and David saw her when he was there. We are definitely keeping in touch with her through some friends and I want to introduce her to my family.

Letter Qonebatmother: There's a guy called Sulloway who posited that an individual's politics is affected by birth order, with first-borns becoming loyal conformists - essentially conservative - and later-borns more likely to be unorthodox, receptive to innovation - essentially radical. It's a cute though ultimately messy theory, but does it ring any bells with you?

Letter AEdMiliband: Sulloway doesn't ring true for me. I think I'll steer clear of sibling stereotypes but I think you face more responsibility being a first born and you get away with more as second child!

Letter QPorpoise: Is it weird having a brother in the same line of work as you? Do people get you mixed up? And, honest now, do you wish it was you that was foreign secretary instead?

Letter AEdMiliband: Porpoise all the time, including my own whip in Parliament who is called Dave and often calls me David. Don't wish I was foreign sec! Very hard job. Happy doing what I am doing.

Letter QPixieOnaLeaf: Congratulations on becoming a father! Was your son born in an NHS hospital? If he wasn't, then why and what would the Government have to change to make you consider using an NHS hospital in the future? And if he was, were you pleased with the level of care you received?

Letter AEdMiliband: PixieOnaLeaf, yes, University College Hospital - great care.


EdMiliband: Signing out because Malcolm Tucker says I have to go - half an hour ago. (And she wanted to be CJ, she says.) You're cool and fab, and I am going to recommend other members of Cabinet do this.

Last updated: 9 months ago