Help
BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show

MORE PROGRAMMES

Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 11:12 UK

Speaker election

On Sunday 21 June Andrew Marr interviewed Nick Clegg MP, leader, Liberal Democrats

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

'I want to see a People's Speaker'

ANDREW MARR:

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg MP, leader, Liberal Democrats

Well tomorrow MPs elect new Speaker.

Great perks, but it is a hard job because, as one of the candidates put it, "Parliament faces outright public ridicule, scorn and contempt" after the expenses scandal.

Well you may remember that on this programme, Nick Clegg played a key role in the events leading up to that election when he became the first party leader to call on the outgoing Speaker, Michael Martin, to step aside.

And Mr Clegg is with me now. Good morning.

NICK CLEGG:

Morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you have, is there a reformist can… a genuinely reformist candidate on the slate?

NICK CLEGG:

I'm not going to say who I'm going to vote for. As it happens, I'm going to wait to hear what they've got to say tomorrow. But even if I did know, I don't think I should blight their chances by announcing that now. I want to see a Speaker who transforms the role of Speaker from the traditional role - which is a defender of the status quo, almost a shop steward of the rights and privileges of MPs - into a people's Speaker, into a Speaker who opens up parliament, turns from this 19th century institution into a modern, transparent, open, publicly accessible 21st century parliament. And whichever of the candidates persuades me that they really mean that tomorrow, I will vote for them. But I have to say even if we get the best Speaker in the world, he or she is really going to have their work cut out …

ANDREW MARR:

They certainly are.

NICK CLEGG:

… because I think the sort of … the vested interests in Westminster are already manoeuvring to water down reform. If you just look last week, we the Liberal Democrats tabled in the House of Lords three simple measures: capping donations to political parties; giving the rights to people to sack their MPs if it's been shown that they've done something wrong - something that David Cameron and Gordon Brown, they told me they agreed with; and making sure that people in the House of Lords, who make the laws of the land, pay full British taxes in this country. Guess what? The Conservative and Labour peers did not support those measures.

ANDREW MARR:

So you think there is a stitch up?

NICK CLEGG:

I think that you get this show fight every week between David Cameron and Gordon Brown, but in fact they are now both involved in an elaborate establishment stitch up. They are colluding. It's a great con where they are pretending that they're changing things, but they're not changing things in a really radical way. I don't think they understand the depth of people's anger or the breadth of reform that is now necessary to really clean up British politics for good.

ANDREW MARR:

Now your party's of course associated particularly with wanting voting reform. We've had cabinet ministers saying that they have been persuaded by the case and talk about possibly having a referendum at the same time as the next General Election on changing the system of voting for Westminster. Do you think that is also just sort of window dressing; that's not going to happen?

NICK CLEGG:

Well it's very difficult to follow. It's sort of like trying to read the political tealeaves of what goes on inside the Labour Party. One cabinet minister says this, the other one says that; one gives an interview here, a nod and wink there. What I think we need to spell out to people loud and clear is the link between the expenses scandal and the unfairness of and the lack of democracy in the way we elect people. And if I can just explain for two seconds why that is. If you give people jobs for life - which is what happens in the current system - hundreds of Labour and Conservative MPs have jobs for life where they know they'll be elected and re-elected and re-elected regardless of what happens by a minority of people in their constituencies.

ANDREW MARR:

It may not be true this time round, mind you, after all this stuff.

NICK CLEGG:

No, but … Well but as a general rule, if you give people jobs for life, people start cutting corners; things start going wrong.

ANDREW MARR:

Yuh.

NICK CLEGG:

That's why I think we need to change a system, which presently gives Gordon Brown untrammelled authority when only one in five people voted for the Labour Party. Let's make that case, let's hold a referendum. I don't think tactically it makes much sense doing it on the same day as the General Election, but let's hold a referendum and give people a say.

ANDREW MARR:

What did you think when you saw the blacked out, redacted information the Commons had pushed out on MPs' expenses?

NICK CLEGG:

Well I mean I was just utterly dismayed, like everybody else. It was adding insult to injury from the point of view of taxpayers and the public. It looked, it looked like a sort of belated attempt to cover up even more. We clearly now need to change this utterly, so when it happens next in October you can see whether people have flipped their properties. And we should move, as we have agreed between party leaders now - and something I've insisted on - we should move to the most transparent system of publication of expenses I know about anywhere, which is in Scotland where every three months every receipt is listed; and if voters want to have access to individual receipts, they can demand it and they get it.

ANDREW MARR:

But not the letters to and from, between MPs and the Commons authorities, and not details of claims which have been turned down, and not expens… and not addresses either?

NICK CLEGG:

My understanding of the Scottish system is that everything is accessible. Freedom of information campaigners campaigned for the Scottish system and have praised for the Scottish system.

ANDREW MARR:

Right.

NICK CLEGG:

I mean it gets quite technical, but the mechanics of it of course is also to present it in a way which is digestible and understandable to everybody, not just investigative journalists. It's the public who need to see that they know how their money's being spent by the representatives.

ANDREW MARR:

Now we've been talking already about the stories in the newspapers that Tony Blair was lobbying for the Iraq War Inquiry to be held in private. You are seeing the Chairman of that inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, on Tuesday, I think. What are you going to say to him?

NICK CLEGG:

I'm going to say to Sir John Chilcott two things: that if his inquiry is to have any legitimacy, it must first be held in public with only some exceptions made for evidence heard in secret.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Do you think Tony Blair should be giving evidence in public?

NICK CLEGG:

And, secondly, I'll be saying to him that if the inquiry is to have any legitimacy, the prime architect of the decision to go to war in Iraq, alongside George Bush, should give his evidence in public under oath. I think anything less will make people feel that this is just a grand cover up for, after all, what was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made since Suez.

ANDREW MARR:

And what about cabinet documents and documents that have been private before - like, for instance, the one mentioned in The Observer which suggests that there was a discussion about sending a plane over Iraq to see if they'd shoot it down as an excuse for starting the war?

NICK CLEGG:

I think all of that should be made possible, with of course some exceptions where you for instance endanger the lives of intelligence officers if you reveal through a public session where they're working, how they're getting their intelligence. Of course, just like the 9/11 Inquiry in the United States, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, some of these key players - they gave evidence in public, and we should do exactly the same thing here with only very small exceptions for evidence held in secret. I think … Look, diplomats think it should be held publicly; military figures do; the public clearly do; the families of the soldiers - the brave servicemen and servicewomen who've lost their lives; most of political opinion thinks we should hold this in public. The only two people who don't are Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair because they want to cover up their tracks. We shouldn't have this inquiry determined by precisely the people who risk being most embarrassed by it.

ANDREW MARR:

There are signs, little smoke signals coming out of No. 10 at the moment suggesting that perhaps there's a change of direction. Do you think there's such a head of steam behind this that actually we are going to get a public inquiry?

NICK CLEGG:

Well all that No. 10 has said is that Sir John Chilcot could, if he wanted to, allow the families of the soldiers who lost their lives to hold some sessions in public. That doesn't go nearly far enough. What I find very frustrating is that it's not as if Gordon Brown didn't know that this was likely to be the reaction. The day, the afternoon before he made his announcement, I pleaded with him. I said you just don't need to do this. You know we can work, as for instance the Dutch have done, across parties - they're holding their own inquiry - to have a cross-party consensus on how you conduct these inquiries. And instead he appears, if what we read in The Observer is right on the front page of The Observer, he appears instead to being dictated to by his predecessor.

ANDREW MARR:

One of your big party donors turns out to have been a fraudster and has defrauded people. Are you handing all of that money back because there are people there who've lost their money who feel very angry and want to pursue the Liberal Democrats as well as the donor for some of that money?

NICK CLEGG:

Well I take this very seriously. Let me quickly explain to you how I see things. This is something which, incidentally, took place before I even was in Westminster, before the 2005 General Election, but I've looked into it and these are the following facts. We received the donation from this man, from Michael Brown, before the 2005 General Election. We did all reasonable checks to check he was eligible to give that money, we were able to take it. We checked with the police, whether they knew anything about him; his bankers, HSBC, didn't. Later, later he was convicted of theft, which took place after his donation, and now one of his creditors from America - a Californian businessman - is in a sense obviously …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So you don't regard it as tainted money that the party took?

NICK CLEGG:

Well he is, this creditor - he pops up every six months on our television screens - is seeking to drag us, the Liberal Democrats, into the spat which he has with Michael Brown. If someone can prove that we didn't take all reasonable checks - and at the time the Electoral Commission said we took the money in good faith -

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

NICK CLEGG:

… if that is wrong, then of course we need to revisit this. But as long as we did all the checks necessary at the time, then I think there is no case that we have to answer.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. Nick Clegg, thank you very much indeed.

NICK CLEGG:

Thank you.

INTERVIEW ENDS


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.


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


Your comments

Name
E-mail address
Town or City
Country
Comments




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit