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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 June 2007, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Peter Hain interview transcript...
On the Politics Show, Sunday 03 June 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed the Labour deputy leadership candidate and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

Peter Hain
There's a lot of people in prison with mental illnesses and with drug addictions and they should be treated properly, rather than simply locked up
Peter Hain


JON SOPEL: I'm joined from Newcastle by one of the contenders, the Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain. Mr Hain thanks very much and welcome to the Politics Show. We've just heard in the news there, Gordon Brown talking about tougher anti-terror laws. What's your reaction to that.

PETER HAIN: Gordon's absolutely right to say that we need a careful balance between individual liberty and being tough on security and there are serious problems with this new breed of international terrorism, it's very complicated, they use a lot of modern, sophisticated technology, they have an international reach and often it's difficult to do the investigations and track them down and bring them to justice under the present arrangements; so I think he's right to say that we need tougher powers but that they need to be overseen by the courts and by parliament and try to be underpinned as well by an all-party consensus, possibly through the Privy Council, because that way people will know that we are, in taking tougher action against terrorism, jealously guarding individual human rights as well.

JON SOPEL: So you're comfortable with someone being detained for ninety days without charge.

PETER HAIN: Well provided there's the evidence and provided, as Gordon is saying, there's very careful judicial oversight of this. The problem about the time the government tried to extend that in the past was it didn't seem, and parliament didn't accept, that there were the necessary judicial checks.

I think people are very supportive of being really tough on tracking down and bringing to justice terrorists, but they're also very concerned that we don't do that at the expense of individual liberties, and that is why Gordon's proposals for more parliamentary oversight, for the Courts and the Judges to have greater oversight and protection and for an all-party consensus on this, if it's possible to achieve it, are exactly right - to get the balance between security and individual liberty very carefully put in to practice.

JON SOPEL: Peter Hain, you've just talked about the importance of being really tough there. I read your speech yesterday and you were warning against macho posturing. Which is it.

PETER HAIN: Well I was. For example, the sudden leap in to the headlines last week of war time controls of stop and search powers on the streets, which had not been cleared by the Cabinet. I'm also very concerned... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: So Tony Blair was wrong about that.

PETER HAIN: Well I don't know where it all came, I don't know where it all came from and that - very quickly, there was everybody distancing themselves from it. But I'm also very concerned about the way that we are locking up more prisoners than any other country but there's a greater risk of re-offending.

That we have a tremendous number people, women in prison; there's a lot of people in prison with mental illnesses and with drug addictions and they should be treated properly, rather than simply locked up.

I don't think prison is working and when you look at the fact that young black men are more likely to end up in prison than go to university, I think we've got to get the balance between locking up violent, sexual offenders and people who are committing crimes of violence like terrorism, they should be locked up for a long time so the public's protected.

But I think we need much more investment in resources to go in to community sentencing because, you know, it's clear that the prison policy we've been pursuing simply isn't working in the way that we want it to. Although crime has been falling, people don't feel safer from the threat of crime.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Now Gordon Brown has also warned this week, saying that there will be no retreat to the soft options, the narrow politics of failed policies of the past and he was aiming that at the Deputy Leadership candidates and I wonder whether he was aiming it at you.

PETER HAIN: I don't think so because I have advocated policies that are right in the centre of the debate in the Labour Party, but policies, for example, to tackle the gap between rich and poor, to tackle the problem of inequality. There are too many people on temporary work, agency work, working for a sub-contractor, who don't actually have the rights for which we've legislated enforced, and they're not getting the protection that they need.

And I think that we need to have a policy which protects the strong economy, which ensures that people who do well and take risks are able to be rewarded from that. But I don't want a society in which those at the bottom, working in a twilight world, where they're not getting the rights for which they're legally entitled; I want their rights enforced and I want legislation and new measures to do that.


PETER HAIN: I think that will be - command support right across the government.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Well let's talk about the 50% tax band because that would be one way of reducing inequality. Are you in favour?

PETER HAIN: Well look Jon. I said four years ago that I thought we ought to look at, at raising taxes for the super-rich because - so we could reduce them for the, those at the bottom and those in the middle. I got my fingers burnt there and I'm not going back there again thank you.

JON SOPEL: Yes but, well, you know, this is - if this is not the time to be open and have a debate, when you're running for the Deputy Leadership. You were going to make that speech, you got trampled on, tell us now. Do you think there should be a 50 pence top rate for those earning over a hundred thousand?

PETER HAIN: Well I think tax policy is a matter for the Chancellor and a matter for the Government as a whole and I don't think you can make policy on the hoof. I said what I said four years ago, and it was quite clear that you know, I got my fingers burnt and we've got to move on from that. But what I'm now arguing in this Deputy Leadership campaign, is we need the policies to tackle inequality.

For example, a new employment rights commission, with investigative powers and the powers to go in and enforce employment rights on building sites, in places where people are working without their proper protection. Some migrant workers are filling jobs there, they're being dreadfully exploited, and that is reducing the opportunity for local labour to do the jobs for which they have the skills and I think we've got to tackle this problem.

JON SOPEL: Okay. I just want to dwell on this question of the 50 pence tax rate because you're not quite answering the question and I sense you would like to say more on it. Now the Labour party...(interjection) Let me ask the question. Labour party members clearly want a 50 pence tax rate, that's clear in the polls, you've said you're going to be their voice in Cabinet, would you like to see that being debated now?

PETER HAIN: Jon, I've already answered that question. Tax policy is in an entirely separate box. What I've put forward, and I'm the only Deputy Leader candidate who's written over twenty thousand words of detailed policies on tackling inequality, on making sure that we lead the world against climate change. It's ridiculous that the Tories have been able to steal a march on us on the green agenda. Extending democracy and making sure we re-balance our foreign policy with a progressive internationalism.

I mean those are all detailed policies I've put forward, and amongst those are some measures to tackle inequality including increasing employment rights and I've also said, I think this should be part of the debate, that those who are getting astronomic city bonuses of 8.8 billion pounds each, we need to have a new culture of giving in Britain, not tax people to the roof, to the pip-squeak, I mean that doesn't work and would be counter-productive, but a new culture in which people at the top show more moral responsibility, more social responsibility and give to foundations, give to universities, give to programmes to tackle health problems and to tackle poverty and improve schools and I think that would improve our standing as a Labour government and improve Britain and make us a much fairer society.

JON SOPEL: But Peter Hain, that sounds like you want the change but you're not prepared to will the means. I mean you know, it's fantastic, let's all say, you know, those people who are earning lots of money or getting big bonuses don't take them or give some of it away, if you believe it's a problem, as a Minister shouldn't you be the one saying 'we are going to introduce measures to change this'?

PETER HAIN: No, because I think that if you, say in the City of London, which is the pre-eminent financial centre of Britain, you don't want to drive jobs away, you don't want to drive investors away: you want more jobs in London and you want the financial centre of the world to be in London, as it increasingly is. But I also think, in a Britain under a Labour government we want fairness and people right across society say, look, those right at the top, the super-rich, should just contribute, like Bill Gates does in America - he's extremely rich - but he sets up HIV/Aids foundations, he takes on anti-poverty drives and he uses some of his wealth for that. And I think that there would be much more respect for those doing very well in Britain, if we got that kind of culture, of giving and of personal responsibility and people actually trying to do better for others.

JON SOPEL: All right. You've spoken about being the voice of the Party in the Cabinet. Now, if the voice of the Party does want say, a 50p tax... how do you represent that if you're not prepared to stand up for it.

PETER HAIN: Well Jon, I've already answered the question about tax but what I will say...


JON SOPEL: Sorry to interrupt you. It is about representing the views of the Party, which is what you've said. You've said you'll be their voice in the Cabinet, they've said they want a 50p tax band. I want to know how you're going to do that.

PETER HAIN: Well I'm going to be the voice of the grass-roots in the Cabinet and the voice of the Cabinet to the grass-roots and what I think we need to do, whether we're making policy on anti-terror legislation, whether we're dealing with the gap between the rich and poor, which I believe needs to be narrowed. Whether we're tackling the Green agenda and leading the world on that, or whether we're looking at our - rebalancing our foreign policy: I want to see new policies debated throughout the Party, the grass-roots listened to, and that's why as a Deputy Leader candidate I'm gathering more support, it's quite clear that this is going to be a very, very close race. It won't be decided on first preferences.

I'm up there, with the others in the latest polls. I'm gathering more support from individual members, and it'll be individual members voting .. hundreds of thousand and in the case of Trade Unions, in their millions, who'll determine the, the outcome. And I think with an enthusiastic, inspired Labour Party membership, which I believe I can do, we can achieve that.

JON SOPEL: Peter Hain, thank you very much.


Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

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

Because of the possibility of miss-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 03 June 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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