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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Britain's role in Afghanistan
Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative Party Leader
Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative Party Leader

BBC Breakfast With Frost interview with Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative Party Leader, on 7 October 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Well David Blunkett there and now as I mentioned with us in the studio we're delighted to have the leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, top of the morning.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: Variously described in Great

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Great colour coding by the way.

DAVID FROST: Thank you, thank you very much, monitored by Carina. But the, in the papers this week the Sun started to make you man of the people by calling you Smithy and other papers call you IDS, which do you prefer?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I don't really care one way or the other as long as people have an image of me which is, I hope, about somebody who's very reasonable and as honest and has integrity, I think those are the key facets.

DAVID FROST: Well there's lots to talk about, what we were just talking about briefly there with David, what, what would you do about Railtrack?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well the issue of Railtrack I think has been made worse really over the last four years, I mean the, all the figures were actually improving before the government, the present government took over four years ago and over the last four years we've seen a real decline in some of the capability, particularly with Railtrack and one of the criticisms I have and it's an observation as much as anything else is that John Prescott in his tenure in the last four years seems to have meddled and muddled with them, they've had a varying number of calls for them to do this and to do that, they set up a strategic rail authority and one was set off against the watchdog and to be quite frank they've never known where they're going half the time. It's been very difficult for them to plan and I think if there's any lesson to take from the last four years which is make yourself clear, if they are going to be in the private sector then let them get on and run their companies, set the strategic objective but don't fiddle with them day-to-day and lecture them every time and this is what happens if you do, they just lose track altogether of what they're doing and we end up in a crisis.

DAVID FROST: That's the last four years as you see it, obviously one should also add that it was a pretty botched act in the first place wasn't it, under the Conservatives?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yes well there were difficulties but my point was that the, those that have this very rosy idea that once upon a time there was a thing called British Rail and it was perfect and it was tremendous, I'm afraid it just wasn't like that, you know that, I know that, our figures were worse in every single category, both in accidents, both in the way in which people were treated, in trains getting there on time, rail problems, all of this, you know things aren't great, there's a lot to do, a huge amount to do and we need to have the humility to recognise that. But my concern is that we don't suddenly lurch from one extreme to the other, what we need to do is have sensible management and for the government now to set clear set of objectives and understand that they're not going to interfere the whole time but let them get on with it providing they fit within those objectives.

DAVID FROST: Talking to David Blunkett and one thing obviously that's important in connection with the current big story, you said very clearly this week about Omar Bakri that how can he be allowed to say that Tony Blair was an acceptable target for assassination in a Muslim country and all of that, what would you do about Omar Bakri?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I think the problem, well the problem here David is, is much as David Blunkett touched on which is that we have an interplay here with the Convention of human rights, the government brought it into UK law and since then it's become even more difficult for the Home Secretary to deport people like Omar Bakri I mean the fact is they have the power in domestic UK law to do so, in fact that was strengthened a year ago with our support in the Terrorism Act, the problem however is you can't do it because as soon as there's any sense that they might face and this is a wide definition, some sort of torture or if they're going to go, the point you made out, to a country that may have the death penalty such as a democracy like India or of course the United States, then they're immediately able to say that this falls foul of a number of articles of the Convention of Human Rights. My point is in this respect then the Convention is wrong and the government has the opportunity now to, with our support, to do something about changing the way that works both in UK law and possibly even within the Convention itself to make that ridiculous. I mean anybody listening or watching this programme must ask themselves how ridiculous the idea that somebody who might be found capable or part of the terrible incidents in the World Trade Centre on the 11th of September could not be extradited to the United States where they actually carried out the act because of the death penalty. I mean this is a country with a phenomenal judicial process, a fair judicial process, it's a democracy, I mean the very idea that we're, you know that we can't do that would strike everybody as mad really and I think that's the point, let's deal with it now and we'll give government support in doing that.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of the next move, the second stage of this particular campaign at the moment, mustn't say crusade, campaign, you've hinted strongly in the House of Commons that you think we should seriously consider Iraq as a target for stage two?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I've talked to the Prime Minister about this and a number of others and I've simply raised the concern that Iraq has been involved in, in promoting and supporting terrorism, international terrorism in a number of areas and there are concerns that Iraq may have had some involvement with the Al-Kida organisation and bin Laden. Now my concern is that we don't lose sight of the fact, this is not just about bin Laden, not even just about Al-Kida there are a number of others international terrorist groups who are hell-bent on doing similar things to bin Laden and many of those are sponsored by Iraq and Iraq has a very dubious record. Now the Prime Minister has said straight to me that they don't have any direct proof but they will certainly keep it under review and that's what I'm asking to do, think carefully about their role in this, I'm not asking for precipitive action, I simply say let's not lose sight of the fact that they have benefited by the 11th and therefore we want to keep a very careful eye on them.

DAVID FROST: And in fact, I'm only going to ask you one question about Europe and this is it, and then there won't be any more, but, and the question is this, if as Tony Blair indicated the procedure for joining the Euro is brought forward and if it went ahead and there was a treaty and the votes went in its favour and that was a sort of done deal, would you try and overturn that at the following election or would you say, okay the people have spoken, we accept it, we don't like it but we accept it?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well two things about that, the first is that that's a pretty elongated hypothetical David and the reality is that the government, if it wants to join, and it blows hot and cold about this almost week in, week out, I mean last week we heard, apparently they were very keen, we heard just before that they weren't, they have to have a referendum and we've said our policy is simple now and settled, at the next referendum we will oppose entry into the Euro, the Conservative Party will campaign to keep the pound which I think the majority of the country want and those who may disagree within the party will be allowed full tolerance to campaign for it, because that's the grown-up way to behave. But there are other hypotheticals you could ask, for example you could say to the Prime Minister what if the Euro goes wrong and you join it, are you aware that you are locked in it for good and it's like the ERM with no escape clause and there are millions out there who lost their jobs as a result of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

DAVID FROST: We'll come back to my hypothetical for a minute, would you, would you continue fighting after it was a done deal and the Treaty had been signed┐would you try and repeal it?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I've always said look if the British people chose by the referendum despite what we say or the problems to go ahead with this and to give the government the green light then any political party has to accept the fact the British people have made a decision and make the best of it, we have to hope and pray that that decision would not turn out to be a disaster for Britain and that was the point I was making. You know that's like the ERM without an escape clause but like everything else we have to get to that point and we will oppose it and I think we'll win.

DAVID FROST: That's very clear, that's very clear, tell me something Iain, will your plans for the NHS that, one of the things you really want to focus on, with the need obviously for insurance and the way it is in France and so on, would you say that under you the NHS would be free at the point of delivery, or would you say almost free at the point of delivery?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No I would make it clear that what you want to do is keep the best bits of any service you have and correct the things that are wrong and in any reform, and I'm not going to commit to exactly what would happen but we're going to look at what countries like France and Germany and Holland, Scandinavia, all have better health care, better health systems than us and different ways of doing it and so the principle we would have is that you know one of the best bits of the Health Service is to make sure that when people go into hospital, when they deal with their doctors they don't worry about the bill, that's very important and so that principle is established and it's one of the best bits of the Health Service. But beyond that what we have to ask and I think what the British people want us to ask is why alone in some of these more advanced nations in Western Europe do we have such a very low quality of overall care, why do people wait two years for a hip replacement, or in the case of one of my constituents who came to me in tremendous pain, he'd been waiting over a year for a heart bypass operation. Now that doesn't happen in these countries so instead of always looking in on ourselves I'm going to ask my colleagues to go and find out what it is that they do differently and then see whether it's possible to apply the best of what they do to Britain and I think that's fair.

DAVID FROST: Do you think it's a good idea to bring back tax relief on private health insurance in order to encourage the growth of that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I think all of that must be part of a package of what we do when we come up with our proposals, what I do remember is that the government when they came into power took away the tax relief on health insurance for pensioners, that had a devastating effect, it dumped over 100,000 pensioners back into the Health Service which swelled the waiting list and now this summer we've just seen the worst bed-blocking crisis in the Health Service and they're heading into the winter in a state that they normally are in in winter, so if there's any crisis the Health Service is going to be over-stretched and a lot of that is due to the government's failure to recognise that there is a balance in care, as they have in France, as they have in Germany. You see they're just not ideological over there, it seems to me when you look at what they say, they say health care is about state, private and voluntary yet when the government looks at it here it seems they always say, as Mr Milburn said, there can only be a state monopoly, nobody else looks at it like that and I think the extreme bid is what the government is saying about it not what everybody is saying.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of the leadership struggle that you've been through, you've existed and so on, do you like that system, are you going to keep that system or are you going to reform it or something?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I'm certainly not keen that anybody who has to do that has to go through the summer for three months in a way that we have, but I recognise one of the good things about what we did is that we gave ordinary party members a chance to finally decide on who the leader would be. And actually funnily enough that's been an invigorating experience, you saw the turn out was 80 per cent, which sent a very good message to the electorate at large that elections are worth having and it's worth turning out for them and the result for me was, I think, positive.

DAVID FROST: So you'll, so you'll

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Absolutely want to keep that, that aspect of it certainly.

DAVID FROST: Keep that aspect of it but maybe change some of the rest?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well like everything else you have to review what's good and what's bad, it's like the Health Service, you keep the good bits and maybe change the things that perhaps didn't work.

DAVID FROST: Corporate Edge, a consultancy firm, have recommended that you really need is to change the name of the party to the Enterprise Party?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yes we are the Enterprise Party but I think that the public at large are beginning to get a little tired of what they call relaunch, relaunch, relaunch, what they want to know is are we the party that represents the things that they care about, worried about their public service, worried about the state of education, and the way for a party to behave is not to go on changing its name, as the Labour Party did, but to make sure that who they are is what the British people are and then have the worries that they have and that's what I am determined on.

DAVID FROST: Iain thank you very much indeed.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Thank you David.

DAVID FROST: We'll go back for a news update on the news headlines from Sian, Sian.


DAVID FROST: Thank you very much Sian, we're at the end of our time, our thanks to all of our guests and to Iain particularly, or Smithy, or IDS or choose your own on behalf of the Enterprise Party, thank you very much Iain for being with us this morning. Top of the morning, good morning, for one day only next Sunday we're on at the slightly earlier time of 8.30am, until then, top of the morning, good morning.


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