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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Tories ascending?
On Sunday 18 June 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Davis MP
David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary

ANDREW MARR: I'm joined my the Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis. Welcome

DAVID DAVIS: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Let's start with the business then of judges. A big campaign in the newspapers about soft sentencing, and a lot of people I think are confused as to whether this is a problem with the judges or whether it's a problem with the politicians.

DAVID DAVIS: Well it's hardly a problem people worry about it because we've had a whole series of events in the run up to this about murderers on probation or on parole and so on which make the public worry, and quite properly so because some people are obviously being let out too soon. But actually it's really an exercise largely of governments [door slam] trying to shift responsibility.

I mean after, what, nine years in power, three enormous majorities, 54 Home Affairs and Criminal Justice Bills. There's only one Prime Minister who can take responsibility for this and it's actually this one. The laws have been set in such a way that we actually automatically let people out too early.

ANDREW MARR: What is the answer? Do you think that we should have absolute clarity in plain English about sentencing so judges are told more or less exactly what they have to do when someone is convicted of a certain offence and we can all see that?

DAVID DAVIS: Well, what we need, I think, is certainly clarity or honesty in sentencing so that judges say ... the Americans have this thing.. you know, 15 years to life, so they give you the range in court, so the victims in particular can see precisely what it is, is happening to the person who's caused them the harm, the criminal act. So that's part of it, but you must also leave some degree of discretion to the court.

I mean we saw a very good example with this accusation that took place on the Sweeney Case earlier this week, and that was a one third discount given for a guilty plea when it was plain the gentleman, from the evidence available, was guilty, so he didn't actually accelerate the court by making a guilty plea but he got the discount anyway. The judge ought to have a lot more discretion in things like that.

ANDREW MARR: Overall, do you think we need longer sentences in this country actually served I mean?

DAVID DAVIS: Served, yes I do. There was a big argument, I mean the government conflated all sorts of things and confused people over it, but the raw truth is we've gone from basically most prisoners coming out after two thirds of the sentence to most coming out after half a the sentence in broad terms, and I think the public don't like that, and the public ... and of course it actually.. the biggest effect of prison, the biggest effect - put aside deterrence, which is important and punishment which is important, and rehabilitation which is very important - but the biggest effect is it takes the prisoner out of circulation, the criminal out of circulation so he doesn't actually commit any more crime.

ANDREW MARR: Given what we were talking about earlier on over the paper review about the fact that prisons are now full almost to bursting, does this mean that we have to build a lot more prisons? There's a story in the Sunday Telegraph, for instance, saying that you are now, as a party, committed to a major expansion of prisons and to longer sentences.

DAVID DAVIS: Yeah, it's slightly overstated. If you spend 15 billion you'll have a prison in every street almost. I mean ...

ANDREW MARR: Which might be excessive, even for you.

DAVID DAVIS: Even for me, but no, I'm quite sure we need more prisons. Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, is saying in effect we need more prisons to enable the prisons to work properly.

At the moment, if you're a prisoner and let's say you can't read, you haven't got any skills, you're on crack, you know, you're addicted to crack cocaine, to sort out any of those problems takes time in the prison, it takes courses and so on, and if you're being transferred after 3 or 4 weeks to another prison, and then to another prison, you never get.. you never complete that.

So actually to do the job of a decent and humane as well as effective prison system, you need more prisons.

ANDREW MARR: How many more prison places roughly do we need?

DAVID DAVIS: Oh I don't know at the moment. I mean I can't tell you because we'll have to make this judgement exactly, both in terms of money available but also in terms of where we are.

Now the government themselves ... I mean in one of the papers the government are saying 4,000 places, they're desperately bidding to Gordon Brown to provide the money, as Gordon Brown does not provide the money historically of course, but said to Gordon Brown to provide the money, but we'll see where we are when we get to the end of this thing.

But what we'll have to look at is: 1) how long we want people really to serve: 2) how can we run a system which will actually deliver a lower ... sorry a lower re-offending rate, a better rehabilitation rate.

ANDREW MARR: Now part of this row in the newspapers surfaced from the treatment of one paedophile in particular who came out very early by most people's standards, and there's a story also in the News of the World today saying that the Home Office is going to go towards so-called "Sarah's Law".

Not necessarily the whole way yet, but they're going to study in detail the American system of having everybody ... every paedophile in the country listed on the internet and you can go in and find out where they live and so on, and also moving hostels for paedophiles away from an area around a school. How do you react to those?

DAVID DAVIS: Well the first one is to be astonished that there are paedophile hostels alongside schools. You would think that that was, as the Americans would say: "a no brainer" that shouldn't happen, and I understand that was raised in March.

It's taking a bit of time to respond. But in terms of Megan's law or Sarah's law or call it what you like, the idea of naming paedophiles, you've got to be very careful, and obviously we have to protect the rights and the safety of children, that's paramount, but we must also make sure we don't end up with some sort of lynch mob law.

And bear in mind we've had the Criminal Records Bureau failures with innocent people being given apparent criminal records, we've had the sex offender's register failure, got Ruth Kelly and others into trouble earlier this year. We've got to get this very ... we've got to get it right. We've got to be very, very careful about it. So actually it's one of those areas where I agree with what's attributed at least to John Reid in the paper, that he's saying sending somebody to America.

Different states do it in different ways. We can actually study it carefully and see if we can come out with a humane and safe outcome, but I wouldn't rush to it, I wouldn't dash in to say we're going to do this. I think this is one of those things where very careful consideration will pay dividends.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. Now you've written in quite strong terms, it has to be said, in the papers this morning, about the condition of the Met which, as you point out, is our front line in the battle for terrorism.

And you say: "The Met is in paralysis, plagued by internal turmoil, damaging leaks and uncertainty over the future of its Commissioner." That is a pretty horrific position for us to be in.

DAVID DAVIS: Well the "in paralysis" phrase was actually a quote from the senior police officer about what happened after they got the first draft of the ... the first IPCC report, the Independent Police Complaints Commission report on the De Menezes shooting, and what concerns me is that we're now 11 months from that shooting.

In the interim we've had senior commissioners moved around, or deputy commissioners moved around, moved out of their jobs.

We've had threats of law suits, we've had.. we've now had Forest Gate where it looked as though the Commissioner of Police was really sort of out of play, that everything was being done by Andy Hayman, his No.2 on Terrorism.

All of this does not all go well, does not all go well for July where we've got the anniversary of the 7th July bombing, the anniversary of the 21st of July attempt, the anniversary of the 22nd July death of Mr de Menezes. All of these issues will raise the temperature.

We need to resolve this and we cannot have this as a permanent Sword of Damocles hanging over the Commissioner. Either exonerate him or replace him, it's one or the other, you can't ... you can't just leave it as it is now.

ANDREW MARR: Do you yourself have faith in Ian Blair anymore?

DAVID DAVIS: I never ... one of the things.. I mean the newspaper criticises me actually this morning for not saying: "He must go." I never ever make judgements, whether it's ministers or public servants, without the evidence, and the evidence in the public domain.

And we have two reports virtually complete: one with the Crown Prosecution Service which could be published, even if there is a prosecution to come out of it, you could, what they call, "redact it", censor out the bits that relate to prosecution and tell the public what actually happened that day.

Another report actually about Sir Ian Blair's own behaviour which I understand is held up by senior police officers wanting to go on holiday before they give the witness statement to them. Well that's just ridiculous.

ANDREW MARR: It's outrageous, yes.

DAVID DAVIS: This needs to be resolved. It needs to be resolved frankly in the next few weeks, both because of the¿

ANDREW MARR: And then you will have all the evidence as to whether ...

DAVID DAVIS: And then we make the judgement and ... you know¿

ANDREW MARR: ... Ian Blair should stay or not.

DAVID DAVIS: And ... you know, I'm not known for being prissy about dealing with these issues. I mean I've had my share of ministers come and go opposite me, but I've always been very careful.

You do not say "that man must resign" before you know the hard facts of the case. It doesn't matter whether it's David Blunkett or Charles Clark, or for that matter Ian Blair. It's got to be done properly.

ANDREW MARR: And just very quickly, ID cards to be scrapped to provide some of the money for prisons?

DAVID DAVIS: Oh yes, absolutely , I mean ID cards is a waste of money in security terms. It actually ... Microsoft think it will make security ... identity security worse, and it's probably going to cost 20 million pounds. There's no justification whatsoever. We can spend that money much better - police, prisons, other issues.

ANDREW MARR: Alright. Very clear. David Davies, thank you very much indeed for joining us.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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