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Breakfast with Frost Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Interview with Michael Ancram MP, shadow foreign secretary
Michael Ancram MP, shadow foreign secretary
Michael Ancram MP, shadow foreign secretary

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

DAVID FROST: And now I'm joined from Edinburgh by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Michael Ancram. There he is. Good morning Michael.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: How dangerous do you find what we've just been talking about, the current situation between India and Pakistan?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think it's very grave. I think Benazir Bhutto was quite right in saying this is one of the most dangerous situations we've seen in that area. But I think it's very important that the whole international community doesn't seek to dictate from the outside but makes it clear, at the same time, that there is no military solution to the problem in Kashmir, in the end it has to be resolved by dialogue. And I was delighted to see that President Bush and President Putin are putting together plans to arrange for talks in Kazakhstan between the two sides.

DAVID FROST: Talking of President Putin, would you like to see Russia join Nato rather than just have a Nato-Russia partnership? Is that the logical next step, do you think?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think it's very premature to consider Russia joining Nato but I think it's very important to do what is in progress now, which is to ensure that we are consulting closely with Russia on all the security elements that Nato's going to undertake in the next few years and I think we are seeing, with President Bush in St Petersburg with President Putin, that the two, these two countries are now able to work together in cooperation to deal with international threats.

DAVID FROST: And Iraq, were you relieved that it appears that the American military have dissuaded the White House from attacking Iraq - if that is the case, as it seems to be, are you relieved or disappointed?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I've always looked at the Iraq situation as a question of how you deal with weapons of mass destruction which are being developed, which can be used, not only in the region but because of the nature of those weapons could be used by terrorists in other parts of the world, the need is to get rid of those weapons and we've always said that that must be the objective to be pursued, hopefully through diplomacy, hopefully through the United Nations, but at the same time ruling out no means which effectively can get rid of these weapons - and we must get rid of them.

DAVID FROST: The euro is back in the news - well it never really goes away - but would you actually, to clear the air, as they say Michael, I mean would you welcome a referendum on the euro as soon as possible, in the next 12 months?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well our position on the euro is clear, we are going to oppose the euro, we think it's bad for this country and we will oppose it when the referendum comes. But it's really up to the government, if the government believes - as they keep on telling us - that the euro is right for this country, let them have a referendum and let the British people decide. We will wait until there's a referendum, when it comes we'll fight it.

DAVID FROST: Well it sounds as though you're going to have The Sun on your side, David Yelland's firm words earlier on.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I was delighted to hear that because I think that on this particular issue, which isn't just an economic one, but is a political one and it's about British sovereignty in the long term, it's good to know that The Sun is still sticking with the position they've always taken and that they believe in British sovereignty.

DAVID FROST: Talking of British sovereignty, Michael, I gather that IDS on his trip this week to Spain and elsewhere, is going to go to make a special visit to Gibraltar. What is he hoping to achieve there?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well he's touring a number of countries this coming week and he's going to Portugal and then eventually onto France and in between those two he's going to go to Gibraltar. I think it's important at this time that he sees for himself the very firm view of the people of Gibraltar, that they're not going to allow their sovereignty to be sold out. What we've seen here is a bungled attempt by this government to put together a behind doors deal with the Spanish Government which has ended up, because it was unworkable from the start, it's ended up irritating the Spanish Government, infuriating the people of Gibraltar and achieving nothing, and I think the time has now come for those talks to be suspended and for a cool look at where agreement can be reached on other issues to be taken and I'm sure that Iain will be expressing that when he gets to Gibraltar this week.

DAVID FROST: But I mean they did have the assurance all along that they would have the last word in a vote, the people of Gibraltar - it wasn't as if that was going to be done behind their backs, was it?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No but once an agreement has been reached between two governments, it may not be implemented because of a negative vote in Gibraltar, but the principle of ceding sovereignty would have been conceded, and that is something which I think is very dangerous. I don't believe that shared sovereignty works, because shared sovereignty is sovereignty surrendered, and I think to have gone down that road would be very damaging both to the interests of the people of Gibraltar and, in the longer term, to our relations with Spain. So I again say to this government, realise that these talks are going nowhere, suspend them now and think again.

DAVID FROST: We talked about IDS there, this week a number of people have said he's been facing both ways this week, in various articles, that he was the need to help the vulnerable on Tuesday but then the hard line on asylum in the Daily Mail on Thursday. One frontbencher said it was a mistake to go hard on asylum, this is back to the bad old days. Do you think there's something that has to be dealt with in that?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No I think - let's be very clear, what he said in his article in the Daily Mail was not new, he had said it previously, both in public and also in other articles. We do believe the current asylum policy is a shambles but the deal that was uncovered this week - and here's the government again apparently doing another deal behind closed doors - the deal that was being done over Sangatte was described by Oliver Letwin himself as the politics of the madhouse. It's quite extraordinary to think that you can make deals about this particular type of problem, if somebody's got a real reason to come here as an asylum seeker then that should be treated in that way and those who should not come here should not be allowed to do so. That is the position which he's held and the party's held for a long time. It's perfectly consistent with also saying at the same time we want to see our schools improved, our hospitals improved, our transport improved - as we've heard again this morning - and our law and order improved.

DAVID FROST: The Conservative Party is changing. The words of IDS there. Would you say it's now in better shape than it was during the last parliament?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: It's changing, and it has to change, because all political parties need to change with changing events and changing circumstances. In the last parliament we suffered an enormous defeat after 18 years in power, we were finding our way. We are now very clearly identifying the way forward and it's a way in which all Conservatives can be comfortable because it is a way which does look at the welfare of all the people, which has always been the tradition of the Conservative Party, and we're showing we're doing it, not by preaching from the heights like the Labour government does, but by going down, meeting people, finding out what the problems are and going abroad to see whether there are better ways of handling them than we do here - actually addressing the very real concerns of people. I think that is a changed Conservative Party and a Conservative Party that people can put their trust in.

DAVID FROST: So that means, in fact, that IDS is a better leader than William was.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No I - all - all leaders face the circumstances which are there in front of them and Iain Duncan Smith has fairly rightly identified the fact that in this country there are a lot of people now who after five years of a Labour government are being left behind - and these are the vulnerable, they're the parents who can't get their children to schools that are going to give their children a chance; they're the patients who can't get hospitals for their operations; they're the elderly who can't find any provision for them in their old age. These are the people who are the real problem at the moment, and we have to deal with it, and we are going down to them and saying 'we understand your concern, we will find a way of making sure that those concerns are met.' Very different from Tony Blair's approach, which is to pretend that everything in the garden is rosy and ignore the realities on the ground.

DAVID FROST: But for variety, Norman Tebbit says you've got a Hampstead liberal in the Cabinet, is that good news or bad news?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think Oliver Letwin has done a tremendous job as Shadow Home Secretary and he's really showing up the difference between the rhetoric of this government, the way that David Blunkett makes statement after statement, which is then not matched by action on the ground, the problem keeps getting worse, Oliver is very carefully showing how that is occurring and showing how we as a Conservative government can actually put it right.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you Michael, so there is a future for Hampstead liberals in the Tory Party?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: We are a one nation party and what we do is we treat, we deal with the problems as we find them on the ground and we will deliver solutions to them.


Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories

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