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Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith
DAVID FROST:
And now as we promised IDS is here, Iain Duncan Smith's here.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Good morning.

DAVID FROST:
This would not normally have been my first question but since we've come straight off hearing from Tony Lloyd there, how do you respond to the, to the toing and froing on Guantanamo Bay, should we be getting more exercised about it or not?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I think the most important thing for us to do first of all is to understand whether or not the stories are true, to what degree are the reports in today's papers correct or are they in fact being held in a way which we would by and large approve of, I think that's the important factor. At the moment there's an awful lot of rushing to judgement about this and we've got the government officials going in to look at them at the moment and I gather also the Red Cross and I'm prepared to wait to find out exactly what those reports are.

DAVID FROST:
Well that's what Andrew Neil was saying, you also added the point that there does always seem to be, you know a zeal in certain parts of the press to have a go at the Americans at the least opportunity.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
I think two things have to be borne in mind, the first is that many of these men are amongst the most dangerous people you'll ever find anywhere in the world. These are the same people, in some cases, who broke out of previous capture and killed almost all of their guards and also killed some Americans while they were at it. So these are also apparently the same people that helped plan, set up the operation which destroyed the twin towers in New York and killed something like 4,000 people, according, and people should not forget a couple of hundred British people died making it the worst terrorist tragedy and outrage that we've ever suffered. So before we all get overly exercised about this let's just pause for a second and say let's get the balance right, let's find out what the circumstances are, these people are immensely dangerous people and we must make certain that they are held securely, are not able to cause any death or mayhem again.

DAVID FROST:
Well this week has been, as the papers have been saying, as been a very good week for you, there have been golden opinions in some of the papers, some of them were saying one swallow doesn't make a summer and so on, however though do you have the feeling that this was the week, not that was but this was the, this was the week that you turned the corner?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
I thought you were about to ask me about my opinions on your programme back in the '60s. I don't, I'm not somebody who, who likes to see things in benchmark points or moments of departure, I have to say that we've been so long as a Conservative Party trying to push and to make a breakthrough to try and get our message across without a huge success and seeing a terrible result at the last election but I prefer to see these as rather incrementally. Perhaps if anything this week is about coming to terms with the government and its failure, its lack of any route map through its problems over the NHS, over transport. I mean the one thing I do say is that the, this government now, when it came into power it actually seemed to believe that just being in power was enough, you didn't have to have any sense of direction or anything else it would just be enough to make announcements and then move on and this is the week in which I think people say that's not good enough, you have to know where you're going and when you make a mess you have to be able to sort it out and they seem incapable of doing any of that. So I hope this for us is about where we push forward, it gives us the opportunity to bring forward new solutions to solve some of these problems.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of things that are obviously some of the things that you are going to put forward at the next election, I mean you don't want to, let those particular cats out of the bag now, but in terms of things that are going on right now and that you feel so critical about, I mean what should Stephen Byers do or Tony Blair do tomorrow morning about Railtrack?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well the first thing he should do is to get rid of Stephen Byers, I think that's without question, no private company is going to risk seriously thinking of investing again in the railways while that man is in charge. This is the man that clearly refused to tell anybody the truth last year and then took a decision to close down Railtrack which we discover had an operating profit which he didn't disclose. Since then the whole of the railways has been plunged into crisis, we would have assumed having done that that this man would have had a plan, it now turns out he had no plan at all, he had nothing to replace it, he said it would make a couple of months to sort it out, we now know it's going to take at least a year and we also know now and their latest ten year plan announcements by the way they announced five times, the money four times, but something like £7 billion just doesn't exist. So again what he's doing is spinning his way out of trouble, the Transport Secretary's quite incapable of leading so I think what the Prime Minister should do is get rid of him and then say, yep we've got it wrong now we're going to have to try and rethink this. And the truth is to get private money in which is what they need to do because otherwise they're going to have find taxpayer's money something to the tune of £34 billion, then if they go to trial and do that they've got to reassure the private sector that they as a government recognise the sanctity of contracts and that they apologise for having destroyed a company rather than trying to put the problems right.

DAVID FROST:
John Burko was, said lots of things that were quoted this week and one was that the Tory Party was still grossly unrepresentative of the country at large and Steve Norris this morning on the radio was saying the words that you've been uttering this week, you know, have been well received but now you've got to make some controversial decisions. How do you really make the Tory Party more representative of the country at large?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I like to think that the Conservative Party is, when you get out into country, pretty much like everybody else, its, its members are all people who have to put up with poor health, circumstances, can't get their treatment on the Health Service, they're the ones that go to work on the railways and find there's a problem and they're the people that worry about rising crime on the streets. There's nothing peculiarly different about the Conservative Party out there in the country, the problem for us is the perception of us is being obsessed with specific issues, unable apparently to be able to take key decisions that are relevant to people's lives so what I've done is from the start said we will now look again at the things that worry people most and that's their public services, their health services, transport, rising crime and come forward with solutions to those showing that the Labour Party, frankly, has absolutely no idea what it's going to do. That's the key, to get people to recognise we care about the things that they care about most of all in their lives.

DAVID FROST:
What do you do though, Iain, about, where people say no black MPs, no Asian MPs, no gay MPs, only 14 women MPs, what do you do about that, how do you change that dramatically, you've said you don't like the idea of all women shortlists for instance?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
No.

DAVID FROST:
But how do you do it?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I've made it absolutely clear¿terms of representation in the party we don't set quotas because out there in the country people don't live their lives by quotas but what they want to know is that women who want to become MPs have a fair opportunity to do so. So I've appointed two women in charge of candidates and their job is to sort the system out which they're doing at the moment, to make it happen so that we can actually get many more women involved. I'm absolutely adamant that will be the case by the next election. The same goes for those from ethnic backgrounds because we want more of those in, more of them to be able to represent opinions and views and concerns in those parts of the country. That is very much what we are doing and we've set in train a whole programme of¿

DAVID FROST:
But how soon will we see the results of that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I hope as we start selecting candidates, I set targets for example to select all the candidates in Liberal held seats by this coming summer, I stand by that and I want therefore that process to be engaged from the very word go. I'm absolutely determined about that and it's, it's not just because I want to be perceived in that, I actually want those talents available to the Conservative Party and there are some fantastic women out there who, who just simply can't get in and they must.

DAVID FROST:
And what about, I mean gay candidates, I mean if you had two candidates, a straight candidate and a gay candidate and they were absolutely equal you would almost have a vested interest in hoping that the gay candidate got selected for your overall image?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
I leave that very much to the system once we've evolved that, resolved how that actually happens. Actually I think the real problem for us is mostly with, with women and people from ethnic backgrounds, I mean that's, that's where we have serious under-representation and where I would want to see that improve.

DAVID FROST:
But are you comfortable now with gays age of consent being 16 or would you want to change that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I'm not going to fight past battles that are gone, I mean we happen to have had this one and dealt with it, what I want to make sure is that children who are under the supervision of adults are protected from those who want to abuse that level of trust, that's the key. But what we've really got to get on to is the issues that the public really worry about. For example they worry about a government that has abused Parliament and closed it down, one of the things we're announcing today is that we're going to have senate-style hearings, anybody appointed to quangos by this government, we're going to make sure they come in front of the House and are interrogated about what their political allegiances are, what skills they have before their appointed, that patronage is corrupting.

DAVID FROST:
Well the next major government appointment is going to be Archbishop of Canterbury, is he going to come in front of this committee?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well what we want to know, that is a slightly different appointment that one because that's to do with the Church of England, I'm talking about appointments where we actually have people in charge of vast budgets in the Health Service or in the business task forces that are set up by the government, where the only person who makes a decision is the Prime Minister, he does it behind closed doors and suddenly it's announced. So we've said as a Prime Minister if I was to be elected I don't want that sort of level of patronage to corrupt my government the way it's corrupting this government, I would therefore give that up and hand that power of scrutiny to the House of Commons as they do in America, I think that's absolutely clear, we must have that.

DAVID FROST:
And you were saying just now about we're not going to go back because we're looking forward and so on, is during this Parliament, maybe towards the end of it, there was a referendum vote in favour of joining the Euro would you say right the public have spoken or would you seek to reopen it at the ensuing general election?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Obviously whatever the case that comes up in terms of the referendum we always have to accept what the public want just like we have to at general elections, we may not like it but I don't deal with hypotheticals David, for one good reason, if a referendum is held there will be a clear choice at last, on the one hand you'll have the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats who want to take us in regardless and the five economic tests are rubbish, they just want to take us in for political reasons. And on the other you have the Conservative Party that says we won't and we will campaign against. So the public will have a clear decision, what I say is Mr Blair should have the guts in due course to put that in front of the public.

DAVID FROST:
But as you just said there, you would then - it behoves both parties at that stage to accept the verdict of the public and not to try and refight that battle?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well listen nothing in politics can ever be set down into the far future as to where things will go and that's why dealing with hypotheticals is always a dangerous game, David, as you know. My point is at the referendum I will fight with my party to keep the pound and the government will fight to get rid of it and I think that's the¿Liberal Democrat allies is the clear choice and we'll deal with what comes after that.

DAVID FROST:
The public, the public's verdict is binding on you both?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well public verdict is always binding on, on politicians because they have the final decision and they kick politics, politicians and they, they make governments but what I want to be able to show is the public has a choice and I think what's happening at the moment is that the government is trying to persuade them through using their own taxpayer's money that this is inevitable, with knowing full well they haven't got the courage to argue for it. That's what the government's about and I think they're in disarray over it and we'll be clear and simple about it.

DAVID FROST:
And in a word, are you still, I'm always slightly vague about whether it's 95 per cent or 100 per cent, are you still a never man in terms of the Euro?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: The party's position is that when the referendum comes we will oppose entry into the Euro and we will not have any plans in government to scrap the pound, I think that's a clear choice David and I¿

DAVID FROST:
Never as long as you're in power?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
That's essentially what our position is, mind you that's been announced about 50 times so¿

DAVID FROST:
Then you get, I find quotes that are not quite as clear but that is very, very¿

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well let me draw you a contrast, that on the one hand we have a very simple position, gives the public a choice, on the other hand the Labour Party seems to veer between on the one hand saying they're absolutely in favour of it and then hiding behind five economic tests that don't exist. I simply say they want to go in, they will scrap the pound at the earliest opportunity so we'll campaign to give the public a choice.

DAVID FROST:
What about this 35 per cent trial, 35 per cent public spending rather than 40 per cent or 40.8 per cent as it is now and 39.3 which I think was the lowest that the Tories go to. Do you, is it still your target to get down public spending to 35 per cent? IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I've never had a target to get down to any particular level of public expenditure, the figures you're coming up with at about the same time as ex-Prime Minister John Major was talking about were literally indications of where successful economies tend to be, that was what we were talking about and obviously what we know around the world is that successful economies are obviously economies that have a lower tax level than those that have a higher tax level. So we know that and they're the ones that are also able to spend more on their public services, that's the important thing. So what we're trying to say here is that governments waste lots of money, for example we saw the other day the government talks about huge amounts of money they say they put into the Health Service, in fact we discover in the last financial year they've been unable to spend £700 million of the money they gave to the Health Service because the system can't cope. So for me the priority is not at this stage to look at tax, the priority is to look at the public sector and say how do we reform the system, how do we change it as we see in countries like France and Sweden and others, make it more efficient, make it so that it's about the public not about the people that work in it and then you can talk about how much it costs¿

DAVID FROST:
The Michael Howard was greatly acclaimed when he said public services crunch of this,

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Quite right.

DAVID FROST:
absolutely our number one priority.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
He's absolutely right, yeah.

DAVID FROST:
And then when, when you flirt with the idea of tax cuts or whatever, everybody worries because you can't do tax cuts or reduce to 35 per cent and improve public services, that's what everybody says, you can't have it both ways?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: The problem for the government is and this is where¿

DAVID FROST:
No the problem for you¿

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
No, no I'm going to deal with that because the problem for the government is they say the only way to improve the public services is to raise more and more and more tax whilst they waste large chunks of the money that the government raises, you know on things like the Dome where they waste hundreds of millions of pounds, that's all taxpayer's money. So then we turn round and say the way to do it however is exactly as Michael Howard said, is to focus in on the public services and say look this system doesn't work, the public knows it, they don't get the treatment they need so our priority must be to focus in first of all on how do you reform the system and that's why we're going round France, Germany, Sweden, looking at these various countries. When we've done that and we've come forward with the plans we then say how much does it actually need now the system is reformed and then we saw how are we going to say how are we going to raise that and then we can look at what the balance is for the economy. That's why we say our priority is to get that money flowing into the public services and then we can look at what that balance is.

DAVID FROST:
So you hope, you hope that you can do both, you think you can do both tax cuts and put the public services right as a number one priority?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Our hope at the end of the day is that the public money that is raised from the public either through tax or any other system is spent so that the service improves for them and they get the service they require and then what we also recognise on top of that is that a low-tax economy is a successful economy generating more for those public services and we want to get that balance if we can and that's the key.

DAVID FROST:
What should they be doing about nurses, retaining nurses first all, recruiting nurses, should nurses' pay be put up tomorrow?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
I haven't actually seen exactly what the government proposals are but I know this much when I go round hospitals and I was in my own hospital on Friday, that one of the great problems they've got is the frustration that nurses feel about the system that they work in, that's one of their prime concerns. Of course they want to have more pay but the problem for them is the system they work in is unresponsive and puts huge pressures on them in a way that they really don't feel they can cope and they go off, many of them, either to the private sector or into other work, so it's a balance between pay and conditions, it's not just the one or the other.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of looking back over the past few months, you said at one stage I've got to make an impact within the first three or four months if I'm going to¿do you think you've done that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
Well I certainly think that's what happened is that the Conservative Party that I lead has, is beginning to be perceived by, I hope by the public and certainly by commentators as a party that is really serious about focusing on the public services and on those things that the public themselves are concerned about. We didn't have that image before and therefore that's the impact I was hoping for, I'm not a believer that we should go round as the Prime Minister does focusing in on individuals and saying how do they look in front of the camera. I want the public to recognise that the Conservative Party is back again as a serious alternative to this government.

DAVID FROST:
We've got to go for the news but are you tempted to drop the word unionist for the title?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
No I am a unionist, I believe fundamentally that the strength and power of this country as a Scot educated in Wales lives in England, I say that the union is the strength for us and to break that would be to damage Britain.

DAVID FROST:
Well we're right at the end of our time, what so far, Iain, has been the best and worst thing about being leader?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:
well the best thing is that my party seems to have decided to come together and, and move on to take the Labour Party on and I'm really pleased about that. The worst, I suppose the worst is never having a private life really and I think that's the thing that has, I've woken up to more than anything else but apart from that we want to go on.

DAVID FROST:
Thank you very much indeed, no time to ask for the Conservative's plans to improve British tennis but thank you for joining us together, next week we'll be joined by Charles Kennedy who will still have a spring in his step following his recent engagement announcement, but from all of us here, our thanks to all of our guests, top of the morning, good morning.


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