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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 June 2007, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Deputy Leadership candidate
On Sunday 03 June Andrew Marr interviewed Harriet Harman MP, Labour Deputy Leadership Contender

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

Harriet Harman MP
Harriet Harman MP, Labour Deputy Leadership Contender


HARRIET HARMAN: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Good morning. Before we turn to the vexed subject of handbags, you were the voice of what is now Liberty back in the old days, you were Justice Minister.

Do you think that the proposals in all of today's papers floated clearly from the Gordon Brown camp are about extending detection without trial, about using telephone tapping in court, and about the police being able to question suspects after they've been charged? Are those the kind of things that you would now support?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think people know that terrorism is a problem, and they also believe that civil liberties is important. And I think that if the Government is going to bring forward and propose the powers that we say the police need, then we have to produce the evidence of why the current law is inadequate, and we have to show the safeguards that will be there for civil liberties, and I think that's the way to achieve consensus.

ANDREW MARR: Yet Gordon Brown, I mean if he's going in this, down this road, is going to have some serious problems in Parliament presumably because we all remember the huge argument over twenty-eight day versus ninety day detection and so on.

Big majority of people, presumably many of them going to be voting for you in the deputy leadership, would be horrified by a further extension of the State's power at this stage.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well no I don't think there will be a huge problem if there's a proper debate about it, and if the evidence is brought forward as to why the powers are needed, and why the current law is inadequate, and what the safeguards would be.

I understand at this meeting yesterday that Gordon Brown was talking about extra judicial safeguards, more judicial oversight for any new powers, and also any also additional parliamentary oversight.

I don't think there's anybody in the Labour Party, or in the public, or in Parliament, that doesn't realise that terrorism is a great danger, and doesn't believe that the job of Government is to make people safe, but people are concerned about civil liberties, and really the Government has to prove its case and put forward a proper case in Parliament, and I think that's what is indicated that Gordon Brown would do.

ANDREW MARR: So if the police came back and the Home Office came back and made the case, could you swallow ninety days?

HARRIET HARMAN: If there was evidence that without extended detection terrorists would be posing a threat, if we could show that the current law was inadequate, and if we could show that there were proper safeguards, with the judges being able to oversee the use of these powers in a close way, and reports to Parliament so that Parliament could be sure that any fears of invasion of civil liberties were unfounded, yes I think people would think that that was the right balance. The point is we have to achieve a consensus about this, we have to have a sensible, mature discussion. Terrorism is a problem, civil liberties are important, and we've got to find a way forward.

ANDREW MARR: Among the things that you've said in the course of this deputy leadership campaign is that if you'd had your chance again, if you'd known now what you knew then you wouldn't have voted for the Iraq war. Would you support a full commission of inquiry, a full look at what happened over that period at the status of the legal evidence that came from the Attorney General and all of that, as well as throwing it forward to what happens next?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think that after the armed forces have returned home, and after our intervention in Iraq is concluded, I'm sure that there will be wide ranging consideration, probably through an inquiry, of all the circumstances. Part of that will be the uncertainty that was caused because the Attorney's advice was, as has always been, confidential; part of it will be about the immediate aftermath of the invasion and whether there was proper planning. I think that that will be necessary, but only after the troops have come home, because our task now is to support the work of our armed services in Iraq, and also to support the?


HARRIET HARMAN: ?newly elected government of Iraq.

ANDREW MARR: And as somebody who was close to it at the time, what do you now think about the legal advice?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think the legal advice was that the existing resolutions, UN resolutions, allowed the use of force. But I think that the problem was that because it was private advice, and that's always been the case, it allowed suspicion to grow. There are other countries in the world where?

ANDREW MARR: But it was equivocal, it wasn't absolutely clear was it?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well it's not published, that's the point. The Foreign Secretary gave a memo to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and said the basis on which he took the view, and that he'd been advised that it was lawful to use force, that the Attorney's advice has never been published, because that is?

ANDREW MARR: I thought the full advice had? I think the full advice has been published hasn't it? And it is equivocal.

HARRIET HARMAN: No. No. I mean what the Attorney has said is that he advised that actually the use of force was lawful, and the Foreign Secretary gave a memorandum to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to set out the background of the argument.

ANDREW MARR: Right, that it wasn't the full thing, okay.


ANDREW MARR: Let's turn to the equality issue. I mean I mentioned handbags earlier on but of course there is an important point behind all of this. You think that we've become, not only have we become a less equal society but something needs to be done, both at the top end and at the bottom end. Do you think it's possible to - let's be frank about it - tax people on very very high incomes, these people with huge City bonuses, in an effective way, and do you think that would be desirable?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think that we have to ask ourselves the question, what sort of society do we want to be? And the evidence is that there is a growing gap between those at the very top and those at the bottom. Now the Government has done a great deal to tackle poverty, particularly child poverty, and is making a great deal of progress on pensioner poverty, but the gap between the top and the bottom is widening again. And we have to I think ask ourselves, do we want to be a divided society?

Can we really be a society where there are opportunities for all, if there is a huge gap between the top and the bottom? And can we be a peaceful society with cohesive communities when there is a huge gulf between rich and poor? And I think the answer is that we don't want to be a divided society. But this is not about one single tax measure, this is about a debate and a discussion of what sort of society we want to be.

ANDREW MARR: And yet in the end it's going to have to come down to measures. The Sunday Times says today a majority of Labour MPs would support a new 50p income tax band. would you?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well that poll of Labour Party members shows that actually Labour Party members reflect very much the view of the public, because the British social attitude survey shows that the public are increasingly concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor, and they actually believe the Government isn't doing enough about it.

ANDREW MARR: We're quite a long way from the straightforward question about the 50p rate though, to the British attitude survey.

HARRIET HARMAN: Yes. I mean what the public opinion also is, is that straight redistribution by way of a tax and benefits is something that people feel not so supportive about, although opinion is divided.

Now one of the things that we've done with tax credits is that that has kind of impeded the growth of inequality by topping up people's pay at work, by topping up the income of low income families, but I think that this is not about? And one of the reasons why I suggest that we should re-establish what Thatcher abolished, which was the old Royal Commission on the distribution of income and wealth, is that we have to look at all the contributors to inequality?


HARRIET HARMAN: ?and we have to look at regional inequality, we have to look at inequality between different ethnic groups as well as within regions.

ANDREW MARR: I still think it's going to come down to tax rates in the end, because I don't see how else you'll be able to start to make these changes at the top, but?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well obviously tax, you know obviously tax is part of it.

ANDREW MARR: Okay, right.

HARRIET HARMAN: But what we have to do is build a consensus here, and actually ask people what sort of society do you want to live in? Do you want to have equality of opportunity?


HARRIET HARMAN: Do you want to have peaceful societies? If so, we have to think about what to do. It's a bit like climate change, you? It's a bit like climate change in that if there's a really big issue you can't just dig your head in, put your head in the sand, you have to think what do we need to do to tackle it?

ANDREW MARR: All right, and very very quickly, if you win this contest will you be Deputy Prime Minister?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well the question of who's Deputy Prime Minister and what the post is, is a matter for?

ANDREW MARR: For Gordon Brown.

HARRIET HARMAN: ?for the Prime Minister. But I'm running for Deputy Leader.

ANDREW MARR: All right, Harriet Harman thank you much, thank you very much 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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