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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: DAVID BLUNKETT MP HOME SECRETARY OCTOBER 7TH, 2001
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DAVID FROST: And now we've got to make sure about our own domestic legislation and see that it's strong enough to counter terrorism here at home and the man in charge of that is joining us right now from Sheffield, it's the Home Secretary of course, David Blunkett, who joins us now. Good morning David.
DAVID BLUNKETT: Good morning, it's nice to be on the programme David.
DAVID FROST: And it's great to have you and I see that there's a change of personnel happening in your life?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well I think the Mail on Sunday wanted a little bit of light entertainment, I was nearly pompous and said I've got more important things to deal with and for your viewers we're now talking about the replacement of my guide dog Lucy, but it's a long way off, she's very fit and she's very able although I think after a few months dealing with some of these issues she might be very glad to retire.
DAVID FROST: Well the Mail on Sunday has got you much in its thoughts today and there is this full page story here that says asylum seekers to be sent to holiday camps┐all asylum seekers, all asylum seekers arriving in Britain will be sent to special camps in a move aimed at overcoming the high court ban on detaining them, true or false?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Yes well on Wednesday I made it clear that I've got three weeks before I speak to the House of Commons about these matters and I will and I'm going to take those weeks in order to get this right, to make sure that what we announce is a coherent package and even for you I'm not going to start confirming or denying stories that have no basis whatsoever. One thing's absolutely clear, we're not talking about holiday camps.
DAVID FROST: Not holiday camps.
DAVID BLUNKETT: We are, we are talking about a coherent, sensible, organised and managed nationality and asylum policy that ensures that those who are refugees from death and terror are welcomed and those who are, immigrants wanting a job can get one and those who come in illegally or who are not warranted here will be dealt with sensibly.
DAVID FROST: But in fact you do want, one of things you're targeting is those suspected of terrorism not being able to be considered for asylum?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Yes we are, we've had a very silly situation where people coming through an airport being picked up with false papers under suspicion of terrorism, then immediately claim asylum, because they haven't committed a crime in this country they are then entitled to our legal protection including the long drawn out process of continuing judicial review. We need to deal with that, we need to do so sensitively, anybody who claims asylum, anyone who claims that they are at risk has rights and will continue to have rights but not prolonged, not extended and certainly not abusing the democracy that we've established, the freedoms we have in order to destroy those freedoms.
DAVID FROST: We, we heard from the Prime Minister last week that the decision hadn't been taken last Sunday on id cards, during the week we've been hinted to that in fact that has now been officially shelved, is that right?
DAVID BLUNKETT: No it isn't right, I keep reading these stories, I read one in the Daily Mirror yesterday, there's a, there's a sort of fever about at the moment, I suppose it's the interegnum before action begins and we have stories that suggest that somehow a decision to drop the notion of thinking about an entitlement or citizen card, that isn't correct, we are considering it seriously, I said so on the 14th of September, I also said that it shouldn't be linked simply to the terror attack on the 11th of September, it should be seen in a wider context and if we do decide that we think it's a good idea then we'll launch a consultation, we won't push it through in the emergency, the first of the emergency measures that come through at the beginning of November.
DAVID FROST: David, the headline that I thought was inaccurate but I don't know whether it was, on this story, Britain angers America on terrorist extradition deal, in fact this is nothing new is it, because
DAVID BLUNKETT: No it's nothing, it's nothing new at all, it's all about the necessity of finding a way forward on individual cases where the death penalty in the United States would fall foul of the jurisprudence of the, of the judge made law on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, we've had to live with this for a long time, we'll find ways of ensuring that we both speed up our extradition laws dramatically and that we find ways round the situation so that we can ensure that we're not taking the European Convention on Human Rights head on on Article 3 because we would simply spend years losing. But we will ensure that we do what the rest of the world expect which is to get people back to them when they're a democracy, when they have a perfectly open and accountable judicial system and where they know that someone as, as suspected of carrying out a terrorist act.
DAVID FROST: So probably it will be as it has been on occasions in the past, a case of the Americans guaranteeing that they won't execute the person?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well we're not looking for a blanket commitment, but we're looking at how best to deal with individual cases and I want to do that with our friends in the United States who understand the position in Europe very well indeed.
DAVID FROST: What are you going to do about racial hatred David?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well under the existing law and since 1986 race hate has been outlawed but not religious hate and we're intent on making these two one and the same. For those who follow Judaism and Sikhs they become one and the same whereas they don't for Christianity or Islam. So we do need to clarify this and to make sure that the kind of hate that regrettably we do see emerging and displaying itself across the country can be dealt with. Signals are very important, indicating what's acceptable is very important and I think it'll be even more important in the days and weeks ahead. When action starts people will get very jumpy and I think there are three things I'd want to say in relation to that. Firstly reassurance to people in this country that we've taken every step over the last month to make sure that we put in place protection of both facilities and people. Secondly that when things do get very difficult we ask our press not to erode and corrode the will to take on the terrorists. And thirdly that we will minimise casualties, that we will be proportionate and that we'll need support in doing that because we are dealing with terror, we're dealing with suicide terror and I think I'd like people over the next few days just to re-picture, as I do in my imagination the planes full of innocent people going into the World Trade Centre on the 11th of September.
DAVID FROST: And this may be a rather a nimby sort of point, but as Home Secretary it must concern you and actually was referred to on┐by our next guest as well, which is that some people in this country say that we are taking such a, a prominent position in the battle against terrorism that this is probably making us more likely to be a target for those terrorists. Do you have any fear of that as Home Secretary?
DAVID BLUNKETT: I don't think the suicide terrorists act day-by-day, I think they plan well ahead, I think the actions we take are to secure ourselves, to root them out, to indicate that wherever they are we will pursue them as long as it takes and the idea of simply backing off and hoping that it won't be us would actually firstly be an act of betrayal in terms of the values we espouse of inter-dependence and of backing each other in need. But secondly it would be an extremely foolish thing to do in rooting out and dealing with that terror and I think that's a message for all countries and all peoples of whatever race or religion that we're in this together. That the terror attack was indiscriminate, that it didn't pick out particular races or nationalities, it picked out innocent people.
DAVID FROST: And finally David what about the huge headlines today about Railtrack, would you be in favour of re-nationalising it or a private-public partnership?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well I spoke to Stephen Byers yesterday, he will be making an announcement later today, we need to sort it out for the sake of the passengers and of the train operators, we will do that and we'll make sure that we at last put it on a firm footing. One thing's absolutely clear, the arrangements that were put in place in the early '90s have failed abysmally and it's now time to get them sorted out once and for all.
DAVID FROST: And you're quoted, you're quoted in one of the papers today as saying that it's very important in order to look smart, you like to make sure you're colour-coded and so on you say in one of the papers, well you're looking very colour-coded this morning.
DAVID BLUNKETT: And David I, I should do something very cheeky and say you're wonderful as well my darling.
DAVID FROST: Thank you darling.
DAVID BLUNKETT: Thank you very much.
DAVID FROST: Well David Blunkett there. END
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