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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Trying to balance freedom with security 3/10/01

KIRSTY WARK:
In your speech you looked forward to the recall of Parliament tomorrow and there will be changes in the extradition laws. Isn't there a danger of rushing through these changes?

DAVID BLUNKETT:
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There is a danger which is why we're taking our time in drafting that legislation. The first bill I hope will be in and through Parliament in November. There are longer term measures will take a little longer to both draft and to bring through parliament, and of course they will be open, accountable, scrutinised and the world will know about them, which is a very different picture to those we're fighting.

WARK:
You talked about protecting the majority against the minority but you have to accord the minority the same rights under law.

BLUNKETT:
You have to protect and I acknowledge the job of the judiciary over the years is to protect the minority from the overbearing power of the mob, but we're not the mob. We are elected, recallable parliament accountable to the people and removable. In that sense we've got to have the right to demonstrate that politics can make a difference. That politics can rise to the challenge of providing in a democracy the protection of our freedoms, whilst not removing them.

WARK:
We can't rule out thought that there may be a possibility that someone will be sent back to be tortured?

BLUNKETT:
I think that we've got to work our way through a system where the balance of common sense prevails, where we don't send people back to regimes, where we know that they will immediately be put under torture or executed, but we do where we know that the open, democratic parliaments they have, the system they are operating are on a par with our own and that we can justify ensuring they are brought to trial.

WARK:
There's a particular case, the Algerian pilot suspected of training the hijackers, but how many cases do you think will come into this category of the need for swift extradition?

BLUNKETT:
I don't think we're talking about a very large number of cases. But the wrong signals that have been sent by extradition taking five, in one case ten years, not only brings our laws into ridicule but brings our country into ridicule from others, because other countries say to us why on earth are you putting up with the situation where we want this person back, they've committed a terrorist act, we want to put them on trial and we can't get them out of your country.

WARK:
Moving on now, you also talked today about your new plan for economic migration, talking about work permits or green cards. It doesn't solve the Sangatte problem, it doesn't stop people going?

BLUNKETT:
Nothing on its own will solve this. It needs a jigsaw of measures. I hope to come forward with the bones of a nationality asylum system. Part of that will be the expansion of work permit system, part of it will be much greater co-operation across Europe and the world, using the UN in the way the Australians do, to be able to manage the flow of those entitled to come into the country, clamping down on traffickers and because that undermines the system and they are themselves exploited and of course to secure good community and race relations within our country, where those who are seeking refugee status have a safe haven.

WARK:
You want to deal with religious hatred. Are you going to be able to criticise religion once this law is passed?

BLUNKETT:
Yes, dialogue is something we seek to protect. That is the alternative to the destruction we see from terrorists who believe they can get their way by frightening and terrorising us into capitulation. Therefore dialogue, discussion, the ability to be able to examine each other's faiths has to be possible. Hate is an entirely different thing.

WARK:
In today's debate, the repeated word was stigma, every speaker talked about the stigma and a lot of that was because of vouchers, people believe vouchers were inhumane and strip people of their dignity. You seem to be signalling that there will be a change. Will vouchers of themselves go in the autumn?

BLUNKETT:
I deliberately didn't give an assurance today that I could announce the end of vouchers. We have a voucher review. I want to bring it together with the broader picture I described today when I report to Parliament.

WARK:
Are you uncomfortable with them?

BLUNKETT:
Do I believe there are problems with vouchers, yes I do. My job is not to take one individual action that could be misinterpreted with incorrect signals but to package this in the careful balance that constitutes a safe haven on the one hand and hard headed reality in terms of world movement of people on the other.

WARK:
Are you concerned or is the Government concerned the removal of vouchers to be replaced by cash might be interpreted by some as going soft on asylum seekers?

BLUNKETT:
That's why vouchers were introduced. A clear signal. I think that the case that's been put is one which we have to consider very seriously. The problems that I faced over the last three weeks have not made it possible to come to a finality on this, but we will do by the end of October.

WARK:
This week signalled in the short-term there's no question of ID cards. But what about the idea of entitlement cards that could be verifying the legitimacy of employment, social security and the lack of display of a card could lose rights to health and education, is that a possibility?

BLUNKETT:
The position hasn't changed from the announcement I made with the BBC on 14th September. There's been no change in policy from myself or Number Ten. We believe that this issue is worthy consideration. We believe it should be seen in the broader context of entitlement and citizenship, not purely of the events of 11th September and we're going to consider this carefully before making an announcement. If we do decide we should go ahead with this, we would need to consult on it.


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