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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 14:38 GMT
Interview transcript...
On the Politics Show, Sunday 19 November 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Peter Hain and Nick Clegg.

Speaking on BBC One's Politics Show, Peter Hain called for a full consultation with the Labour Party about a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons system - but refused to be drawn when questioned by Jon Sopel about whether such a consultation should be binding.


Peter Hain
It's devolution on March 26th, after an endorsement by the people through an election, or it's dissolution
Peter Hain

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain. Peter Hain, what do you think will happen on Friday.

PETER HAIN: I'm certain that the parties will indicate who they want to be First Minister and Deputy First Minister, that's Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness, when power is restored, when the Assembly is up and running, when the Executive takes office on March 26th after an Election and it's very important that that indication does happen this Friday, because that was always the deadline and that unlocks the latter process which is that - the subsequent process, which is a transitional Assembly, then an Election and then the whole devolved Government up and running on March 26th; so really where we are now is in the political end game.

As you've indicated, Northern Ireland has been transformed beyond recognition, peace and stability and prosperity, discrimination having been rooted out and it's a much more comfortable society in which to live. But the politicians haven't caught up with that change. They're going to do so I'm sure, in the process which begins on Friday.

JON SOPEL: But as I also indicated problems still to be overcome - what about the whole issue of policing. There is a line of argument between the DUP and Sinn Fein, what is the line - how do you resolve it.

PETER HAIN: The legislation I'll introduce in to the House of Commons on Tuesday will make it crystal clear, it will be set in statute that any Minister taking office that includes of course Martin McGuiness from Sinn Fein, will take a pledge of office on March 26th that says they support the rule of law and policing as part of a wider pledge, supporting a shared future for Northern Ireland, now that's absolutely clear.

Sinn Fein have still to call their ARDESH, their annual conference to determine their detailed policy, but to be fair to their leaders, both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness have made it clear that they do see the Party endorsing the rule of law and policing.


PETER HAIN: And they want of course, policing and justice devolved and we as a government are committed to that as well.

JON SOPEL: Will they support the rule of law and policing and support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Will they explicitly back the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

PETER HAIN: Well when March 26th comes and the Ministers take their place in the Executive, and that will happen then I'm sure - devolution will happen or else it will be dissolution. At that point, all the ministers, will need to take the pledge which emphatically and explicitly says, as will be apparent in the House of Commons on Tuesday, support for the police and support for the Rule of Law. Yes indeed. The only Police Service in Northern Ireland is the PSNI, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which is widely admired across the world as being quite different from what went before, a Police Service which is endorsed across the society.

JON SOPEL: Very briefly, I just wondered whether you thought the DUP might be happy with that, whether they would want it specifically set out. Isn't this where your difficulty still lies?

PETER HAIN: No, I don't think on that front it lies, the difficulty lies. What difficulties remain, and of course it could send this process off track at any time, as we've seen in the past in Northern Ireland, is lack of trust. What Sinn Fein need to do is sign up to policing and the rule of law, that's one pillar of this process. What the DUP need to do is to sign up to power sharing.

Those two come together in this agreement and in the legislation we're taking through parliament this week, that I'm confident that all the politicians in Northern Ireland now understand it's devolution on March 26th, after an endorsement by the people through an election, or it's dissolution. JON SOPEL: Okay. Presumably a deal that came with ribbons and bows and whistles and bells is exactly what Tony Blair wants for his legacy and wouldn't do you any harm in your bid to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

PETER HAIN: Well I'm doing my job as Northern Ireland Secretary and we've worked very hard and of course the Prime Minister has worked for nearly ten years on this.

And we've moved Northern Ireland in to a completely different place from where it was and I think that's one of our proudest achievements, but I'm doing my job. The Deputy Leader issue is a different one and that will happen when the Leadership contest takes place.

JON SOPEL: Okay, well one of your rivals for the Deputy Leadership, Jon Cruddas says that the Deputy Leader ought not to be Deputy Prime Minister and John Prescott, on this programme last Sunday, listen to what he - he said, Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party are there to help the connection between the Labour Party and the government and to reorganise.

I'm not sure every candidate seems to have in mind that they just want to be a Deputy Leader, I think probably they might well want to be the Deputy Prime Minister. Was Mr Prescott having a pop at you.

PETER HAIN: No, I don't think he's having a pop at anybody in particular. I will be standing along with a lengthening queue of candidates for the Deputy Leadership. What position comes with that is a matter for the Prime Minister who I expect to be Gordon Brown and I'll be supporting him.

On Jon Cruddas's point, the idea that the Deputy Leader would not be in the Cabinet, which is John's position is extraordinary. That would take us back to the old days of a King across the water in Party Headquarters and then government in the cabinet, in Number 10.

You need a Deputy Leader right at the heart of government, influencing that, making sure that we establish a new partnership as I want to see between the leadership in Number 10 and the government as a whole and the grass roots of the Party. People don't feel that there's been that partnership and I want to make sure that we re-new the government and re-new the party, so that we can move forward on a very dynamic basis under Gordon Brown.

JON SOPEL: Okay, well let's look at one of the specifics then that you might have to deal with there, that is the replacement of Trident, which Gordon Brown has indicated that he's in favour of. You're quoted as wanting the government to consult widely in the Labour Party on this issue. If the Labour Party turn round to you and say, actually, we don't want Trident, we'd rather have the money spent somewhere else, is that the decision.

PETER HAIN: Well I was elected as was every other Labour MP on maintaining Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, that's Trident at the moment and nothing else. We'll need to make a decision quite soon as to what replaces it, but the way in which we make that decision, and this is really the basis upon which I'm standing for the Deputy Leadership in respect of other policies, is there should not be bouncing the party or the public from on high. In my view there should be a debate in parliament and the vote in parliament.

JON SOPEL: But Mr Hain, my argument, my point is this ¿

PETER HAIN: (overlaps) ¿ policy discussion.

JON SOPEL: My point is this, what happens if you consult widely and the party say they don't want Trident. Are you then going to say, OK, the party has the final say.

PETER HAIN: Well the government will take a view on this and I'll be part of taking that view. What I'm - I'm making a different point. One of the reasons we ran in to trouble in the Commons in recent times is backbench MPs have not felt part of the policy making process of the government. Nor has the Party nor has the Trade Unions and there has been a, an injury to the relationship between the grass roots and the Leadership. I think we can bring people together on this debate and on others by a new system of partnership in policy making, rather than lecturing people from above.

JON SOPEL: I understand Lord Goldsmith seems to have reservations about whether the case has been made yet for detaining terrorist suspects for up to ninety days without charge. Do you share those concerns?

PETER HAIN: What's important here, and of course the government pressed the case of a longer period, ninety days than the twenty eight days. What's important for me is that it is the judiciary that makes the decision to extent the period in detention beyond every week, rather than government ministers. Now, whether that goes beyond twenty eight days, if we need it to go beyond twenty eight days up towards ninety is a matter to be decided in the end by parliament, well what matters is judges make the decision as to whether somebody should be detained because we - rather than government ministers - and that's crucial because on the one hand we have to be very very tough and vigilant about security and it's very difficult to investigate these terrorist offences and crimes without detaining people and investigating them. On the other hand, we have to jealously guard liberty and that's one of the other planks that I'm putting forward as Deputy Leader. Strong on security, I voted for all the legislation that we've brought in and I will do for the Queen's Speech as well, but jealously guarding our individual liberties.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Peter Hain, we must leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.



Nick Clegg
I haven't recently heard any of them say that they need more and more and more powers to deal with the anti social behaviour issue
Nick Clegg
JON SOPEL: I'm joined now in the studio by the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs Spokesman, Nick Clegg. Nick Clegg, we saw in the film there the police supporting the powers and liking these powers that they've got, the public liking these powers, the people living on those estates and public opinion. Isn't this an area where the Liberal Democrats are just on the wrong side of the argument.

NICK CLEGG: I don't actually think so. I think the point we're trying to make is that if legislation and more powers and more statute book, were a guarantee of greater public safety and security, this nation would be the safest country on the surface of the planet. Fifty nine home affairs bills since 1997, three thousand new criminal offences since 1997, the point we're trying to make is, this great sort of, this gorging approach to producing more legislation, day in day out by this government, is now I think after ten years, starting to raise questions about whether it works, whether it's efficient, whether it actually does deliver safety and security. So what we're saying is hang on a minute, let's get rid of some of the stuff that doesn't work so that we can have a better balance between liberty and security.

JON SOPEL: I mean just looking at your web site know there. You suggest ten laws that you'd like to do away with. You don't mention ASBOS. We know you don't like ABOS. Why don't you say you're going to¿

NICK CLEGG: We voted for ASBOS in 1998, despite the repeated allegations that we didn't. What we've always said about ASBOS, which the government said at the time when they passed the legislation, first it should be used, they should be used very sparingly and not very much on young children. What has happened.

Parts of this country are being carpeted by ASBOS, particularly targeted at young people, and they're starting to lose their value. We heard recently that in certain inner city wards in Manchester for instance, where they've been very heavily used, they've become a badge of honour for young people. It's a classic example¿

JON SOPEL: And we heard in the film there in Portsmouth of people supporting their use as a way of curbing the excesses of young people.

NICK CLEGG: If they worked on their own. I was in Portsmouth on Thursday myself, last week. The Council, which so happens to be a Liberal Democrat run council there has done something I think very valuable, which is pour a lot of money in to having community wardens, not in uniforms, community wardens, who are a mix of community champions, youth workers and they are doing an enormous amount of work in allowing the voice of residents like that to be heard and doing something about it.

Engaging the young people, bringing them back from the brink. If I can use one more example, an anecdote of the complexity of anti social behaviour. In my constituency in Sheffield, there are two smallish housing estates, but housing estates which nevertheless have problems.

I've spoken to residents on both of those at length about anti social behaviour and what they tell me over and over and over again is the problem - is problem families coming on to the state because of the housing policy of Sheffield City Council, nothing in last week's Queen's Speech would help my residents in those housing estates deal with their particular problem of anti social behaviour.

JON SOPEL: If you were Home Secretary and Chief Constable comes to you and says, we need new anti social behaviour regulations, we need new anti terror proposals. And you say, well it's just a bit illiberal, do you just send him away with a flee in his ear.

NICK CLEGG: No, not at all. As it happens I speak to a lot of senior police officers all the time. I don't hear any of them, maybe a few, but I don't hear - I haven't recently heard any of them say that they need more and more and more powers to deal with the anti social behaviour issue. I think the issue there is the kind of powers that aren't working as they should. But frankly, a lot of the unglamorous work that needs to be done to engage young people¿

JON SOPEL: What about the anti terror proposals.

NICK CLEGG: Anti terror proposals, if someone were, if I was Home Secretary, and the police were to come with me, as they did last time and say we need ninety days, detention without charge, I'd say bring me the evidence, which to his credit, despite all the bluster is what John Reid has told us he has said to the police himself.

And so far, I have not seen any evidence in public or heard any evidence in private that suggests to me that the twenty eight day limit which we presently have, is necessary. And I'll tell you what, if this whole ninety day thing becomes a sort of virility test, imposed upon the rest of us by Blair and Reid and Brown who are now competing amongst themselves on the security issue, who appears tougher, I think we'd do the whole country a huge disservice.

Firstly, I think the Electorate don't want politicians to argue about something as important as terrorism, they want us to agree and act effectively together. But secondly, it actually I think distracts attention from the most important task which is getting terrorists in to court and prosecuting them. And there's a lot more we could be doing that the government is not doing, to make sure that happens.

JON SOPEL: Okay and on that whole liberal, illiberal equation. I mean a Welsh Chief Constable as quoted in the papers today saying that sex with children of thirteen to fifteen is a grey area, shouldn't classed as paedophilia. Do you agree with that¿

NICK CLEGG: I don't actually and he expressed it as a personal opinion. He was flying it as a kite if you like. I don't, I don't, nor do I actually think that, that issue of whether you define paedophilia at thirteen or fifteen as an acid test for liberalism.

JON SOPEL: Okay, so you think he's just plain wrong on that particular score.

NICK CLEGG: I think he's, I think he's skating on very thin ice because I think it, to bring down the age if you like, at which you think paedophilia occurs, I think you will put a lot of children in - potentially to harm's way.

JON SOPEL: Let's round this discussion up. Since the early 1990's you've talked about the blizzard of legislation that there has been but we've also seen crime fall by a third. Are you sure a more liberal approach, maybe less legislation, is what people would want.

NICK CLEGG: There's no evidence incidentally that the fall in non violent crime, violent crime has either gone up or remained fairly steady since the mid-1990's is because of all of this legislation.

JON SOPEL: But crime overall, down by a third.

NICK CLEGG: No, non violent crime has gone down, not violent crime. I think there are. I think it's a very partial view of things. I think fear of crime has gone through the roof and that is as important in many, many respects. If people feel imprisoned by the fear of crime, as much as by the reality of crime, I think we're not doing our job properly as a society and the government isn't.

The second thing is, which really really worries me, is that a criminal justice system, which leads to such high rates of repeat reoffending, 70 to 80% of young male offenders now commit another crime within two years of leaving prison, is a criminal justice system, that simply isn't working and I think as an opposition politician, I'm entitled to say to the government, you've talked tough for ten years and yet you still have this dismal situation of such high levels of repeat crime. What's gone wrong?

JON SOPEL: Nick Clegg. Thanks very much for being with us here on the Politics Show.


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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

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

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The Politics Show Sunday 19 November 2006 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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