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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: DAVID BLUNKETT MP HOME SECRETARY JUNE 24TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: The day after Tony Blair's landslide victory Tony Blair reshuffled his pack rather more thoroughly than many had expected, there were some surprises and certainly at least one clear promotion, David Blunkett was elevated to one of the great offices of state, as predicted to the Home, Home Office. Now David's with us now in Sheffield where according to one interview you've been doing some cooking this weekend?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well good morning, I'm always doing a bit of cooking, usually if I can with my boys because they prevent me doing any harm to myself.
DAVID FROST: Very good and I must apologise that with your change of office I shan't be able to ask you any questions this morning about grammar schools?
DAVID BLUNKETT: 'Fraid not, we're on to fairly weighty matters I think.
DAVID FROST: Right well welcome, let us just deal with the weighty or most serious matter first and just on the, we had the discussion on, the Bulger case, also in the newspapers with Margaret Jay, do you have some sympathy for the position that regards there being too little retribution?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well when the original European Court hearing came out a friend of mine advised me to read again some of the material from 1993 and of course now I have access to material that has not been published. It is the most horrendous case, I understand very well the very strong feelings that there's nothing can bring Jamie back and we have now to address ourselves to the future and the greatest safeguard we can offer to people in the community is to rehabilitate Thompson and Venables effectively to have automatic recall if they break the licence or in any way show that they're a danger to themselves or others and ensure that we don't, from the comfort of offices or their own home, of others either inciting or facilitating any action against them.
DAVID FROST: And do you think in the light of all the papers today, one saying one of them would be dead within four weeks, other people saying that the anonymity block won't work, the gag won't work. Do you fear for their safety this morning?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well I think if people continue to provide the emotional adrenalin for others who are sick of mind to actually go and do that then there will be a danger, I think we all need to take a deep breath and to view what is said and done as we would view it if it were taking place in any other country, we're not in the, the mid-West in the mid 19th century, we're in Britain in the 21st century and we'll deal with things effectively and we'll deal with them in a civilised manner. DAVID FROST: Do you, do you want to be seen as a liberal Home Secretary?
DAVID BLUNKETT: I want to be seen as an effective Home Secretary, I want to ensure that people are protected, that the law is seen, seen to be applied fairly, that justice is of course protecting people who are innocent from wrongful conviction but justice is also protecting those who face injustice if those who have committed a crime are allowed to go free. So in one sense I want to adopt, re-adopt a phrase that's been captured by the anarchists which is that we need to reclaim our streets so they're safe to walk on. We need to tackle disorder and anti-social behaviour so that people feel comfortable and free in their own homes and we need to ensure that we mobilise the community for good, in other words the civic society, the civil society of community action that enables us to work with communities not pretending that we can do it all from the centre. DAVID FROST: And what about, I read, I hear that two of the things you want to concentrate on quite soon, are, is a study about the whether the police are spending their time with too much pen pushing, too much bureaucracy and also tighter bail, is that right?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Yes on the bureaucracy side I learnt a lot as you know over the last four years in dealing with education and the teaching profession and one of the things that was said to me and I didn't in effect resolve was can you see things from the sharp end of those who are actually implementing policy. So I do want to adapt and adopt from the bottom up, not as a job evaluation, but asking us to monitor John Denham the new Minister of State and I will be doing this, what happens to the average constable in an average day or week, the bureaucracy that they come up against, the form-filling they have to do, the lack of the computer and other facilities to make it easy and how do we facilitate them doing the job which is protecting the public. And secondly when they have caught somebody and particularly where they've undertaken a racist, sexual or deeply violent crime that they don't find them out on the streets on bail when there's even been CCTV surveillance which has identified the individuals and is available to the court. So we need a degree of commonsense, not increasing the prison population for its own sake, I'm not in favour of that, but actually making sure that when the police have done their job they're not demoralised and disheartened by finding that people are immediately released to continue committing the very crimes that have been identified.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of prisons as you mentioned there, would you regard the prison population rising as a feather in your cap or as a, an indictment?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well there are 66,000 people in prison, a rise of over 20,000 in the last ten years, I think actually ensuring that we prevent crime, that we identify very quickly those who are risk of committing crime and then doing something about it as being a much higher goal to achieve than simply increasing the, the prison population. We, we know that 100,000 people commit half the crime in this country, we know that very many of them start as teenagers so by using the Children's Fund, by identifying how we can work with the new coordinated youth and career service, the way in which we can get into schools, the way in which we can tackle family dysfunctionality. We can do a job of work in preventing us spending a fortune on trying to bang people up once they've actually committed multiple crimes and at the same time tackle the multiplicity of victims because the evidence I've been presented with in the last fortnight with Jack Straw was obviously aware of as well, was the number of people who are repeat victims and the tragedy for them and their community and family's horrendous.
DAVID FROST: And what about cannabis, the scheme that's being tried out in London, Lambeth and so on, where the police don't give people a criminal record or anything like that, or, but just a caution if they've got a modest amount of cannabis, that sounds like commonsense, would you like to see that nationwide?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well I noticed that the alternative candidates to Michael Portillo have been advocating a debate, nobody's preventing a debate and when I'm ready to say more about the coordinated drug strategy which I've now adopted from the Cabinet Office I will do so. I talked to Brian Paddock the first Tuesday after the election down in Lambeth, I went to visit their Command Unit and he, he actually told me what he was about to do and I said that fits in entirely with the emphasis that I'd already announced that weekend on placing absolute priority on class A drugs on both the trafficking in drugs and people and weaponry and on concentrating police resources where they're needed most. So interested in the experiment.
DAVID FROST: You're interested in the experiment, thank you very much indeed David.
DAVID BLUNKETT: David thank you.
DAVID FROST: A joy to have you with us.
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