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Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative Party leader
Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative Party leader
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: IAIN DUNCAN SMITH MP CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER APRIL 28th, 2002

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

DAVID FROST: I'm now joined by Iain Duncan Smith. Iain good morning.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: That story on the two front pages that I put to Charles Kennedy, Blair plans to punish bad parents, parents of tearaways should lose child benefit, he didn't agree, do you agree?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well look all of us as politicians desperately want street crime to be brought under control, I mean it's been spiralling out of control for the last few years since the government came into power so of course I want to but my worry about this is there has already been 50 announcements, gimmicks over the last nine months by the present Home Secretary, many of which have fallen by the wayside, child curfew orders, they promised us for example that they would be putting in child curfew orders, in the last two years having announced it they've not made one. Behaviour orders, again they promised us 5,000 and they've done less than 500 so my concern with this government is when they get into difficulty they brief the Sunday papers that they've got a new announcement, it's not part of a real concerted plan or a network of things to do it's just an announcement to get the press off their backs for five or six days while they run for the local elections. Of course we want things that make parents much more responsible and if this is part of a package of those sort of measures then let's see what they are but not a briefing out of a Sunday paper, it's so cynical.

DAVID FROST: Do you think this is just another briefing as it were?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I'm sure it is David, I mean let's be honest.

DAVID FROST: So what are you asking for?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I asked him on Wednesday last week what he was going to do about it, he didn't say anything about this, he then said in a throwaway line he would have crime, violent crime on the streets under control by September. It's breathtaking, it's been spiralling out of control for the last few years, now when I pressed him about this it appears that he seems to be unaware how it's risen under his leadership. What I want to see is that they learn from other places where they've got it under control, one of the classic things is, you know last, a week ago I went and visited a number of my constituents who'd been victims of crime and my concern is that much of this he doesn't seem to understand. For example I saw somebody there who had been on a bus, travelling home, somebody had come along and they wanted his mobile telephone and his wallet. Once he gave it to them they knifed him anyway just gratuitously and they walked off because they know the police won't get there in time to pick them up and that's the key point. If you go and look at a place like New York what you then see is that in New York they are on the scene of a crime within two minutes, that's the real deterrent. Then you change the judicial system and you bring parental responsibility in.

DAVID FROST: Iain when you talk about more police on the streets, at the same time in the Lords you and the Liberal Democrats voted against the government policy of introducing some civilian help to do certain things. Now that was specifically aimed to get more police away from the paperwork and onto the streets but you voted against it?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: But no it wasn't actually, if you look again at what they're proposing, they were proposing civilians essentially with a little bit of training to go onto the streets and start making arrests. Now my point is and this is what, for example I saw Giuliani, ex mayor Giuliani about two months ago and one of the observations he made to me is you need more effective police first not sort of part time people and he made the point that when they were in New York in the early '90s and this is something I think I've learnt dramatically, he said that what was going on was very much what's going on here in London right now. Police were driven back into the police stations, they're all filling in forms, they're worried about making arrests because they'll be prosecuted for having done something which is wrong and when they do make an arrest the clear up rate in London for example now has halved in the last 12 months, halved, so when they make their arrests they don't get them convicted. That's the point I'm making, get the police out on the street, there are plenty of them sitting in police stations frustrated, they want to be out on the beat and they're not because they've been driven back in. The solution is not part-time or semi-trained people, it's the police fully trained on the streets.

DAVID FROST: Your predecessor pledged the Tories to match Labour spending on the NHS. After the recent budget do you still make that pledge, are you going to match the spending that Labour has announced or will there be less money for the NHS now under you because it's so high?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No what we accept absolutely is that health treatment and health services within this country will need more money, that's a given, that's what we accept and we also accept that the public expect us to make sure that there is a system that can use that money effectively. My concern with the government and the reason why we are saying we are opposed to the use of National Insurance for this which is what we are saying is that this is a very retrograde way of trying to a) raise money, it damages jobs, the CBI and everybody has said they're attacking jobs, so we want more money but this is a bad way to do it and the first thing that they've got to do is they've got to show that they've raised money in the Health Service by over a third since they came to power and yet we've seen the system get worse and the waiting list get longer and so the public are beginning to be aware that the connection between simply raising money and better standards is not the key. The key is change the system, they've not learned anything. I mean I challenged Gordon Brown, I said come with me to visit some of the countries we've been visiting like France and Germany and I went to Stockholm and see for yourself why it's better. It's not just money, it's that the system itself is fundamentally different, it's all about local people...

DAVID FROST: Right but we must come back to the question again, will you pledge to spend as much as the government...is pledging as much?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: We're going to pledge to spend what is required on the Health Service...

DAVID FROST: Not as much?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No I'm saying what is required David, this is the point, the government hasn't got a clue what's required to be spent on the Health Service. As I said they've raised spending already by over a third since 1997 and now they're suddenly saying, look this is a disaster here, it's not working so we're just going to raise money again. My point is you don't know how that's going to be spent, in one of the years in the last year that we were aware of, they underspent the money that was allocated to the health service as well and my problem is, look the government doesn't seem to have any sense of where they're going. Charles Kennedy says it's wrong to oppose this and then at the same time he says he's opposed to raising National Insurance, ...Liberal Democrat go either way.

DAVID FROST: But so anyone watching this would think you haven't said yes, the answer must be no?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, no...

DAVID FROST: Are you going to match their spending, yes or no?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: People should take from us an exact and simple statement, we believe that the health service requires more money, I am not certain exactly how much more until we see how the system is run properly. At the moment what we see is a system which doesn't use the money that's available to it in a way that other health services do and therefore doesn't give an effective form of treatment for people who need it. As I said they have raised the spending by over a third and we have seen treatment or the quality fall, waiting lists grow longer so the connection between the two isn't directly there. Of course we believe in more money and I intend to make that clear as we run towards the next election exactly how much. And we need to look at the system, however first, because we do need to change the system that people get choice and they get higher quality.

DAVID FROST: Well they were talking a lot about choice, patient choice will drive the system so they, and they've got a set up which is rather like the Conservative Ofsted to regulate it, regularise it. But in fact I mean can you say anymore about, I mean Liam Fox said that thing about, that you were moving towards a system of self-pay, tax incentives to encourage more people to pay more for medical insurance and he said here, the last time he was here, by a mixture of public provision and encouraging people to spend more of their own money, that's the way ahead, so that whatever you spend partially you hope that it will come from private money, from, from other ways...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: David, everybody who listens to this programme knows that the people who pay for the health service are them...

DAVID FROST: Taxation, private insurance or charges, absolutely.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Let's be absolutely clear, the money comes from the same source.

DAVID FROST: No that's very important because sometimes people get the impression that, that if it's not taxes then they won't be paying but they will be paying somehow?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: And the government is always saying that everything is free, it's not because they pay their taxes and the other things they say of course it's free at the point of delivery, well the government knows very well that people are charged for dental treatment, they're charged for prescriptions so it's only true to a degree. My point is let's be honest with the public, what I want to do is stop all the deceit that's going on, that somehow what they're getting can simply be achieved and improvement can be achieved by simply saying here's a budget that will give you more money, we know that an awful lot of what they spend is wasted. I want quality treatment and I want an increase in spending but I want the two to go together, what I've got with the government at the moment is them pretending as though going to achieve this, they've had five years and the standards have got worse. Surely what we need now is a serious look at what other countries are doing and say why do they do it so much better than us. Why in Germany for example have they got no waiting list, why in Denmark, you have a four week statutory right to treatment after seeing your GP, these are the key things and what we say time and again is, if you're going to spend European levels of money which the government says they are, then you must now pledge by the next election to achieve European standards. The public deserves nothing less.

DAVID FROST: Well those waiting lists, those waiting list pledges are pretty down to three months here, down to six months there, pretty impressive if they can hit those?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: But everything the government does is pledges, it's always in trouble, we pledge to do this, and when they get to it they say oh well we're going to try again because we failed, we missed the target. Yeah we were talking about crime a second ago and the huge things the public all understand, that violent street crime is rising, that every week they're told by the government crime is falling and they don't believe it. And then the government comes out with 50 initiatives, we're going to put it right, trust us, it's all going to happen like this, all of these curfew orders we're going to put in place and they don't use one. What the public's beginning to understand and what I say is, look we all want crime to fall, we want health quality treatment to get better, but what the government does is a substitute for actual performance, what they do is they produce gimmicks on the front pages of the Sunday papers, trust us, we're going to do something, this is what we'll do and we say but you never do it, you just promise it, three years later you say another ten year plan, we need another 20 years. I'm saying now it's judgement time, you said you would achieve this, it's getting worse and this is the standard, European spending, European quality of service.

DAVID FROST: But we do need to know what you would do differently?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Absolutely and that's what we're doing, we are looking, I promise you David, I think the public has a right to expect that the opposition has an alternative and the alternative is what we're going to find by looking at other countries. You know I've been, I'm going off to France, Spain to talk to their, their leaders and I'm going to be in other countries, in Stockholm, and what I do find is that systems are run more locally by hospitals, by doctors, schools run themselves, the police forces get more effective because they're run and controlled not by politicians but by those who actually want this to work. I'm saying politicians are the problem and the government's the problem here.

DAVID FROST: What about the swamping, we were talking about it earlier, do you, do you sympathise with David Blunkett's point that asylum refugees, children could swamp schools and GPs' offices?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well one thing I'm certain of is two things, first of all rather that the Home Secretary should not be attacked as some sort of racist for having made these comments, it's ridiculous, that's one of the reasons why these extremist groups who I absolutely deplore get into politics is because somehow you can't discuss these subjects. The real point however is that he shouldn't just get away with having this issue about swamping, the truth is after five years the government and asylum seem to be getting worse, the government's asylum figures are getting worse, for example the last year that figures were collected we saw something like 80,000 or 90,000 asylum applications rejected but only 10 per cent of those rejected were taken out of the country. In other words the public perception is all talk but at the end of the day they've got people who aren't legitimately here who should actually be sent home. The government's own figures, the government's own decisions, so my answer is the government should actually do something about it. They should have acted instead of which we're seeing gimmicks, we're seeing them saying right they'll be dispersed to various cities then they're going to come back, they're going to have vouchers not payments, then the vouchers go wrong, they don't want to have them detained in detention centres, now we hear they want them detained in detention centres. Every year it's a sudden about turn and he, he takes over from Jack Straw, David Blunkett, and he says asylum's in an utter mess, it just goes on...I'm saying don't talk about it, do it, get it sorted out.

DAVID FROST: And what about Amanda Platell says David Davis is going to be the next Prime Minister, the Tory Prime Minister?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I'm amazed these days that some Sunday papers seem to think that opinion is news, Amanda Platell was involved previously with William Hague's campaign and we lost that election - I might remind her of that and so her opinions are always welcome but they are that, they are opinions and we've been making advances, everybody knows it's been improving, we're re-engaging again...

DAVID FROST: Are you going to make any advances this week?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yes I don't make any targets but I know that we will improve our position...

DAVID FROST: Very wise.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: We will take some councils and get new council seats. But I say to all of those who sit on the sidelines and who like to comment about the insubstantial matters, asylum, crime, health, that's what people talk about, they don't talk about silly nonsense such as Amanda Platell.

DAVID FROST: And Tories join Labour to back race quota plan for MPs, is there anything to that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well if you read the article you'll see that the headline is incorrect. What we're looking at is what the report says but we don't believe in quotas. We think quotas actually, as Trevor Phillips says, I think quotas end up patronising but there is no question that we want more people from ethnic minorities to be engaged in frontline politics. My party has set that as a target, that's the decent and the right thing to do and I am pledged to that, but quotas are not the way to do it but there are lots of other ways.

DAVID FROST: Iain thank you.

[BREAK FOR NEWS]

DAVID FROST: We're at the end of our time, there's been a lot about Iraq this week, do you think if the Americans decide to move on Iraq we should go with them even if we're the only two?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I think on this I would agree with the Prime Minister, I think it's right to keep the option open for military action. If we were to rule it out now Saddam Hussein will carry on in his despotic way for the rest of his time.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed Iain. Well lots this morning, thank you for being with us this morning, top of the morning and a big, big thank you to all the people who organised the move from one studio to another. And thank you for watching of course, top of the morning, good morning.

END


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