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William Hague interview transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 30 November 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary.

William Hague and Jon Sopel

Interview transcript...

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now from Darlington by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Mr Hague, thank you very much for being with us. As the man who might be the next Foreign Secretary, you must be very concerned about the rising tensions between India and Pakistan.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well absolutely and that really is where we now need to make a lot of progress and I think it's very important to notice what President Zardari the new President of Pakistan has been doing in the last couple of weeks, trying to make a new opening to India, offering agreement on no nuclear first strike, on joining the Non Proliferation Treaty; a really serious attempt, or so it seems, to improve relations with India in the future and I think the critical thing is that this is not allowed to push that, improve that effort of course. We really need to see from the Indian government, as much as possible, a reciprocation of that effort by President Zardari, in the hope that there can be a continued improvement in relations between India and Pakistan. What the terrorists would have wanted is a deterioration. It's really important that improvement takes place instead.

JON SOPEL: Is that a call for restraint from the Indians, because there are obviously going to be big calls there for some kind of action, if they believe Pakistani citizens were responsible.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well, look, the Indian authorities will want to get to the root of this and who did it and they should have the full co-operation of British authorities, which of course the British government has said and of the Pakistani authorities and indeed the Pakistanis have said that and offered to send the Head of their Intelligence Service, to help deal with these inquiries in India; so I'm not taking anything away from the importance of doing that. But I'm saying that at the same time, the politicians in the region, need the, the imagination, the boldness to go ahead and try to make the agreements between India and Pakistan, that would elevate so many of the tensions over Kashmir, for instance, and if they can do that as well as getting to the root causes of this outrage, well then they will really be performing a very important service for the whole world.

JON SOPEL: What advice would you have for England's cricketers who are back here, mulling over whether to go back.

WILLIAM HAGUE: They must make that decision - I don't think I can dictate or any other politician dictate that decision to them. I think as far as possible, like after 9/11 in 2001, it is important for as many aspects of normal life to resume as quickly as possible because again, what the terrorists would have wanted is for all normal life to be disrupted for many months and years afterwards. And so, I would always have a, a bias in that direction. But, I'm not privy to all the security information that the Indian authorities, or indeed the Foreign Office, may be able to give to the cricket team. So they must make their decision in the light of all of that.

JON SOPEL: Well, let's stay in that part of the world and talk about Afghanistan a bit as well because it's perfectly possible that when President Obama takes over at the White House on January 20th, he's going to say, you know what, we need more NATO troops, we need more British troops to go. Would you be happy to send them.

WILLIAM HAGUE: I think we'd, we'd take some persuading. We haven't ruled out supporting more British troops going to Afghanistan but we're very conscious of the fact that Britain has already played a disproportionately large part of the burden in Afghanistan, and it really is time for other NATO countries to step up to the plate and to send larger forces. If there were to be further British forces going to Afghanistan, on top of the eight and a half thousand or so already there, then I think it would re-double the importance of improved parliamentary scrutiny of what's happening with regular reports from the government, as to what we are achieving and how we're achieving it in Afghanistan. And we'd want to know that there really is a viable new strategy, being put in place, that involves non corrupt and effective government in Afghanistan and the effective co-ordination of aide and a well coordinated military strategy with a unified military command. We'd want to see all of those things if there were going to be more British troops sent there.

JON SOPEL: Mr Hague, let me turn to matters at home in another kind of issue of parliamentary scrutiny if you like, which is about what MPs can do in their role and this follows the arrest of your colleague Damian Green. Jacqui Smith has spoken this morning to Andrew Marr and she said, Everybody should really keep quiet until the police operation is completed and the police must follow where ever the evidence takes them. Isn't that correct.

WILLIAM HAGUE: No, I think that is an inadequate response because there are very serious questions to be asked of ministers, quite separately from the conduct of this, of how the police want to take forward this particular investigation. About how ministers conduct leak enquiries about whether ministers were informed of the impending arrest of Damian Green, if not, why not - about whether they'd been asked to be kept informed of such an investigation, about whether ministry advisors were involved. And then of the police, about whether the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was consulted and so on. So I don't think all of these questions can just wait, there is an important principle at stake here of whether Members of Parliament can confidently carry out their duties, in this case Damian Green, carrying out correctly the duty of an opposition Member of Parliament, bringing information to public knowledge, that was in the public interest. Mainly, the incompetence of the Home Office over an extended period under Labour ministers. So we do have go get some things straight here and I don't think Jacqui Smith's reply was adequate.

JON SOPEL: Well she said that she didn't know, that she knew there was a leak enquiry, she knew that there was a civil servant that was going to be picked up, she didn't know about ministers. Isn't that the end of it.

WILLIAM HAGUE: I think ministers ought to be asking some of the same questions that we are asking. Why our counter-terrorist police involved in a case like this. Why are they questioning a Member of Parliament under arrest for nine hours, when he has, certainly in our view and his view, simply being, been legitimately pursuing the duty of opposition. If this had been the attitude, as David Cameron has pointed out in his article this morning, in the News of the World, if this had been the attitude when the last Conservative government was in office, Gordon Brown would have been under arrest most of the time, using leaked documents to embarrass the government of the day. And so I don't think it's possible for the government just to say, oh, we're only the government, we don't really have any interest in this and we don't have the answers to any questions. They are going to have to ask .. (interjection)


WILLIAM HAGUE: questions and they're going to have to answer them pretty soon.

JON SOPEL: Well let me ask you about someone else who there are questions maybe to be answered. How does this affect the Speaker because one of your back-benchers, Douglas Carswell, has said that if the Speaker knew about this and authorized it, then he should resign. Do you agree with him.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well no, I think that's jumping to a conclusion and I think there are questions to be asked of the House of Commons authorities and we haven't decided yet in the leadership of the Party, exactly how we pursue this on the - in Parliament on the floor of the House of Commons. Undoubtedly, we'll want to do that in some way. The vast majority of the questions we want answering are for the government and for senior police officers, but of course we will want to know whether the Speaker authorized the police activity in Damian Green's office and we will want to know from the House of Common's authorities, for instance, who gave the authority to suspend Damian Green's parliamentary email, that could only have been done, should only have been done with the agreement of the House of Commons authorities. But most of the questions here are for ministers and for senior police officers.

JON SOPEL: Okay. William Hague we must leave it there, thank you very much for being with us.



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 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 30 November 2008 at 1200 GMT on BBC One.
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