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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 January, 2005, 09:01 GMT
Jeremy Vine interviews
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

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.

On Politics Show on Sunday, 23 January, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Conservative Home Affairs spokesman David Davis, MP
  • Liberal Democrats Education spokesman, Phil Willis, MP

David Davis, MP
Conservative Home Affairs spokesman David Davis, MP

Interview with David Davis

Jeremy Vine: David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary joins me now. Welcome to you. So this ad means doing what precisely?

David Davis: Well, there are three primary components. As your film mentioned, there's the question of asylum seekers coming in to the United Kingdom, or acclaimed asylum seekers.

There's the people who come in on work permits and similar schemes, and people who come under family reunion; all three will be subject to quotas and then there will be mechanisms around each, to make sure they work.

Jeremy Vine: And the quota on asylum seekers, Michael Howard mentioned fifteen thousand. Is that the number?

David Davis: (overlap) ... illustrative number I think in that respect. It will be set, each of these quotas will be set each year by Parliament, given the information you need to know. I mean in the case of asylum seekers, it's what's going on in the world. I mean in the last couple of years the number of asylum seekers seeking a haven in Europe has dropped by 20% per annum, and so that would have an effect on work permits, it would be decided by the state of the economy, the state of unemployment, skills' shortages, that sort of thing.

Jeremy Vine: But where's this fifteen thousand figure come from?

David Davis: Well it was illustrative. To give you an idea, I mean in the last few years, last year - in the last year we have numbers for - there were eight thousand actual asylum seekers who were given asylum in this country, there were many more, forty thousand who claimed it, but eight thousand - a few years earlier, about eighty four thousand claimed. I think of that about twenty thousand were awarded it; so that gives you a measure. Eight to twenty is the sort of recent years' experience. Real, real asylum seekers, not bogus asylum seekers.

Jeremy Vine: Your fifteen is not the final number who arrive and are allowed to stay; it's the number you even think about allowing in. Is that right? What happens to the fifteen thousand and first person?


David Davis: Well you're picking that number because Michael has ...


David Davis: ... for, for the sake of argument. That would be the number that would arrive in Britain and be allowed to stay in Britain under our proposal.

Jeremy Vine: Okay, so Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader in Burma, comes to Britain seeking asylum, she's fifteen thousand and four. What do you say?

David Davis: You're making a sort of hard argument out of a foolish premise. Parliament will begin by saying what's required in each year. They'll make a judgement, where you know, are there civil wars and state oppression going in a certain place. Are they people who would naturally come to Britain, are there communities here of that nature and make that judgement.

Jeremy Vine: Do you have a number at the end of it?


David Davis: Of course you have a number.

Jeremy Vine: We're closed right.

David Davis: ... exactly.

Jeremy Vine: We're closed to Aung San Suu Kyi, whoever it is.

David Davis: Of course you have a number. That's right. But every country in the world has some sort of limitation. Look what happens at the moment. At the moment the only way Aung San Suu Kyi or perhaps a much poorer, older person in that country can get here is by a people trafficking route that takes her across half the world.

Take the case of the Chinese who died, the fifty eight Chinese who died, they came through Austria, they came through Germany, no France - they came through Belgium, they came through Holland, all of which countries they could have stopped in under the law, in fact the rules are they should have stopped in the first one, and arrived here. And of course they were killed but ...

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) ...


Jeremy Vine: ... person you saw in the film, John Tinsey, from the Immigration Service worries that once you put your cap on it, once you say after this no more - you encourage that kind of trafficking because that's the only route.

David Davis: No, it's just the reverse of that. By saying you can only claim asylum by coming to Britain and claiming asylum, you encourage a number of problems. One is people trafficking to get people here. One of the notable points about the claimed asylum seekers, not just the ones who are actually approved, but the claimed asylum seekers that come here, are the young people, they're better off people frankly, by the standards of their countries, and they're males. Two thirds of them are male. It just doesn't stand up as it is at the moment. This is a completely irrational system, which doesn't help the people who really need help. What we're saying is aiming to use UNHCR to find the people, the Burmese resistance leader or Burmese politician ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) She's not in a refugee camp.

David Davis: No, she isn't. But if she needed to seek that way out of her country, she would go to the UNHCR. Much more rational, much more sensible than what we have at the moment.

Jeremy Vine: Well, at least those people seeking asylum, they're young and fit and want to work. If you say to the UNHCR, give us fifteen thousand people using this notional figures, from refugee camps, they could choose anybody.

David Davis: Well we'd have, we'd still maintain some control over who came, but the numbers are the most important thing here.

One of the problems you've got here at the moment, the system we have at the moment led to eighty-four thousand people applying to be in Britain. The vast majority of whom were not real asylum seekers; they were here for economic migrant reasons. Now we have two hundred and fifty thousand people, failed asylum seekers, none of whom have been removed. That's the problem.

You're got a system which is irrational, which encourages people trafficking and all that goes with people trafficking, other sorts of problems, and it encourages incidentally people who are in Britain who are illegal immigrants when they're stopped to say, I want asylum. Now you know those are irrational, they're mad, they don't help the people who need help and they don't help Britain either.

Jeremy Vine: All right. Now while asylum figures have been dropping, we drew attention to this in our film ...

David Davis: Well you say dropping, before you get away with that, I mean they've dropped for the last couple of years

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) So far as we can tell.

David Davis: ... for the last couple of years - well I wouldn't say that. They're still higher than they were when the Government came in to office. You know they've been very very high and they've come down a bit, partly as a result actually, of the government reinstating Tory measures that they took out in the first place, the so-called white list, people coming from perfectly safe countries ...

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) But if they're starting to ...


David Davis: ... and the benefit reforms, which they called, they called 'unfair and racist', when they were in opposition.

Jeremy Vine: All right, now if they're starting, if they're starting to get a bit, a bit more of a grip on it maybe ...


David Davis: ... a fraction more ...

Jeremy Vine: A fraction more of a grip on it. It maybe, pressed down there, and something else appears and it's marriage and we have a registrar in London saying that it may be that one in five marriages in London now are bogus. What's your plan on that?

David Davis: Well, with great respect, actually, it was me that drew the attention of the public to this in the first place. That was one of the reasons Beverley Hughes, the Immigration Minister, had to resign last year, because the Government was claiming publicly that there were seventeen hundred bogus marriages, and yet their internal intelligence report said fifteen thousand.

Jeremy Vine: So what's your answer?

David Davis: Well the answer is first off, you don't ignore circumstances where you have two people turn up to be married, who don't speak each other's language, who appear to have met each other for the first time, and yet the marriage service goes ahead straightforwardly. Now, as a result of our raising these issues throughout the whole of last year, the Government is beginning to do some things about them.


Jeremy Vine: Why don't propose something like the Danish system?


David Davis: Well, wait a minute ...


David Davis: ... we, we will be coming up with proposals on this but the most important - but not today. But the most important thing on this is actually that we'll have an overall quota and we'll try and design the rules around that quota to ensure it's fair. That's the most important thing. Now ...

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) ... on the number of people who can marry ...


David Davis: ... number of reunions. That's right the number of family reunions. There's a whole category you're talking about here, is family reunions. People coming in, people marrying here and so on.

That whole category together there should be an overall quota on. Now that will come down. As you bring others down, that will come down. But it isn't just marriages, you've picked out one example. There are also bogus colleges.

Now we had to force the Government to go and inspect a large number of colleges, which were just handing over qualifications as a way of allowing people to get in to the country. Because the Government doesn't actually have embarkation controls, they come in to the country, but they don't know whether they leave.

So we've forced the Government already to look at that, and actually cut down some of those colleges, but we've also forced the Government in to looking again at embarkation controls, a much more sensible way of controlling who's in the country.

Jeremy Vine: What is wrong with the Danish system where they say new arrivals can't get married unless they're twenty four years old, and even when they do, they don't get residency for seven years?

David Davis: No, there are some merits in that but that's not the route I'm proposing to go down.

Jeremy Vine: Why not?

David Davis: Well because we're ...

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) ... because the other half lives here?

David Davis: No we're going, we're going through a consultation process on some of this at the moment. I do not want to conclude today that consultation process. When it's concluded, we will actually announce it.

Jeremy Vine: You've got an election coming up.

David Davis: I know, that's all right, there will be plenty of time before then.

Jeremy Vine: How much.

David Davis: What you - enough for this process, I promise you. But what you can be sure of is there will be a quota on that number.

Jeremy Vine: Just talk us through your policy on - critics call it fantasy island, where you keep people while you process them. Is this still Conservative policy, find an island for them?

David Davis: What we're aiming to do, the end, the end of this process will be to use UNHCR, but there will be a whole stage series of things we're going to go through to get to that point. It will take a little time because we've got to do things like remove ourselves from the UNHCR, from the UN '51 Convention, and so on. Those sort of things we have to get through.

One of the most important aspects of that is to actually give control back to the British Parliament. The '51 Convention was designed for - quite properly for a different era, when the sort of people that we were looking at were refugees after a war, coming from behind the Iron Curtain. It wasn't an era when hundreds of thousands of people were crossing multiple borders to get to the country they want.

And what we want to do is to take that power back to Britain and put laws in place which are fair and firm, but which allow the British Government to not have to go through a massive appeal procedure, when some of the outcomes are obvious. For example, when somebody has come from a clearly safe country. That sort of thing is - we need to get put right.

Jeremy Vine: Just on the mechanics of this. You're going to have, in the Telegraph, Mr Howard says twenty four hour security at ports to prevent illegal immigration.

David Davis: That's right.

Jeremy Vine: How on earth then are you going to make eight hundred and ninety six million pounds savings, in the immigration department.

David Davis: Well bear in mind that some of the things the Government have done have been false economies. To take embarkation.

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) You can't do more work with fewer people.

David Davis: Now, with respect, let me just answer the question. The National Audit Office pointed out that embarkation controls for the rest of the world, non European rest of the world, cost twenty seven million pounds to install. Not having them, costs us millions upon millions upon millions.

Now under this government, the cost of the Immigration Nationality Department, has jumped from two hundred and eighty million to one thousand eight hundred and twenty million. It's a huge cost. Now there have been some accounting changes, but even allowing for that, it's a quadrupling of the cost. The reason is their strategy is wrong. They started out by scrapping all the things that had constrained people coming here, as I said, benefit rules, they scrapped, they've now reinstated. Rules that ...


Jeremy Vine: Use the same staff to do more, fine.

David Davis: No, no, no.


David Davis: No, the whole, it's not just staff costs we're talking about here, it's also assistance, welfare, those sorts of things that go with it. This is aimed at a completely different strategy, which will take us back in many ways to where we were in '97 but rather better then. And that is, we got proper control over our borders. If you spend a relatively small amount of money on controlling the borders, what you stop is a massive trade in illegal immigration, and that massive trade in illegal immigration then creates many more costs for Britain.

Jeremy Vine: David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary, thank you very much indeed.

David Davis: Thank you.

End of interview with David Davis

Phil Willis, MP
Liberal Democrats Education spokesman, Phil Willis, MP

Interview with Phil Willis

Jeremy Vine: The Lib Dem Education Spokesman, Phil Willis joins me now. Old fashioned.

Phil Willis: Oh certainly not old fashioned. I spent my lifetime in education and I think today's schools are some of the most exciting institutions you would find and I think some of the comments on your film are quite right, but some of them are a travesty of where the Liberal Democrats actually want to take education.

Jeremy Vine: But the school in Shipton and the school in East London which we saw there are happy, they fought to win cash, they've got the cash, they're using it well. You want to change that.

Phil Willis: No no. I actually fought to win that cash for them because what the - both those schools said, and it was very very important, was that they said the additional cash had enabled them to invest in their schools, and the things that they wanted to invest on, and they had made real differences.

Jeremy Vine: But you don't like specialist schools.

Phil Willis: No, my argument with Estelle Morris when she introduced this policy was that only 10% of our schools could be specialist, only 10% would get half a million pounds each extra.

And I argued that all schools should have a special ethos, all schools should be able to aspire to specialist status, and low and behold, Charles Clarke, before he departed to the Home Office, agreed exactly that Liberal Democrat policy.

Jeremy Vine: But you see, if there's only a limited amount of money to go round, you have to give, you have to attach strings to it don't you. You have to say to the schools, you do this, and we'll give you that.

Phil Willis: I do not mind Jeremy. The Secretary of State, who is the custodian of the taxpayer's money saying, in order to actually achieve specialist status, then these are the hurdles that we expect you to go through.

I've no problem with that, and indeed most schools don't have a problem with that. What we do have a problem with is saying that, having gone through all those hurdles, having achieved all that you've asked us to do, you can't let us have specialist status and the extra money, because the Chancellor won't let you have it.

Jeremy Vine: So you'd conceivably give a hundred thousand pounds to every school.

Phil Willis: Of course I would.

Jeremy Vine: That's a massive spending commitment isn't it?

Phil Willis: Well, it's exactly the spending commitment which the Government have now agreed because that is current policy, won by I think the Liberal Democrats fighting for it in the House of Commons and across the country.

Jeremy Vine: What's your policy on league tables? You want to abolish them completely?

Phil Willis: I want to abolish league tables in, certainly in their current form.

Jeremy Vine: When parents, the parent we heard in the film, thinks it's the only way she was able to find out which school to send her child to.

Phil Willis: Well, I think that's very sad if that is the case because last week the league tables were published, and what we actually had was a travesty in terms of the picture of Britain's schools. Let me give you some examples. The ten most improved schools in the country, did in fact achieve that, nine of them achieved that by including a GMVQ intermediate which, was the equivalent of four GCSEs.

What we've actually seen is the number of five 'A' to 'C' going up in the league tables, but what employers want, what parents want, what the nation wants, is to say, what are they doing in literacy, numeracy and ICT, the core skills. And we've seen those plateau over the last three years, the very things that parents want to know how they're doing in schools ...

Jeremy Vine: Parents want to know how good their local school is, and they will have less information if you take league tables away.

Phil Willis: No, quite the opposite Jeremy. I actually want to see parents getting more information, and I want to see that information actually be relevant. For instance, you want to know where children, your child actually arrives in a secondary school, what is their level of attainment at that point. What is their potential, and what value does the school actually add to that. And you do that by looking at the school as an institution, and the sorts of value added which it has made to those, those young people.

Jeremy Vine: And you abolish selection as well. So that leaves parents with little choice does it, about where to send their child.

Phil Willis: Well Jeremy.

Jeremy Vine: The nearest school basically isn't it.

Phil Willis: No, no. This illusion of choice, we really have to take on. Many many parents say to me, and indeed the statistics show that, 92% of parents get their first choice of school, so we're talking about a relatively small group. What I want is to actually attack this illusion of choice, where parents have to avoid their local school because it's not a good school, in order to go somewhere else.

Jeremy Vine: But why not let them do that.

Phil Willis: We shouldn't do that.

Jeremy Vine: Why not let them do that.

Phil Willis: Well, for a start, they shouldn't have to do that. You shouldn't have in London, to traipse half way across the city in order to find a place in a school because schools in your local area are not of an acceptable quality.

Jeremy Vine: But if they're not, let them do that.

Phil Willis: No, well er, at the moment there's no alternative other than to do that.

Jeremy Vine: Well exactly.

Phil Willis: What I'm saying and what the Liberal Democrats are saying is we want high quality schools which are local to where people live.

Jeremy Vine: But you've conceded that they're not there at the moment. So give the parents the choice to go elsewhere.

Phil Willis: Jeremy, we've had seven and a half years of a Labour government who promises education, education, education. We've had, in that time, two million children leave our schools, virtually unable to read and certainly can't add up. We've got 8% of youngsters left school with no GCSEs. I want to tackle that at grass roots level.

Jeremy Vine: Phil Willis, Lib Dem Education spokesman, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview with Phil Willis

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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