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Breakfast with Frost Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Interview with Oliver Letwin MP, shadow home secretary
Oliver Letwin MP, shadow home secretary
Oliver Letwin MP, shadow home secretary

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

DAVID FROST: More than five years after Labour came to power the Conservative Party are still struggling as we know in the polls, about ten point lead for Labour. The Shadow Home Secretary's hoping to change this and appealed to voters with a new approach to crime. With his vision of a more neighbourly society as well but is this just a vision or can it become a reality? I'm joined now from Bristol by the Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin.

OLIVER LETWIN: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Oliver good morning to you.

OLIVER LETWIN: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: How do these figures we've been getting in the last day or two on drugs spreading, the spread of cocaine, crack and so on, how does the neighbourly society deal with a problem like that?

OLIVER LETWIN: Well not immediately and all at once but if you look at why people get dragged into the hands of the dealers and the gangs it goes back to problems in the home in many, many cases. Children who simply aren't being brought up with the combination of discipline and affection that they need and what I've been arguing for is much greater attention to trying to help those parents who just aren't able to do the job right to bring the child up in a way that turns into an adult who's a responsible member of society and not in the hands of the dealers and the gangs. But that has to go along with a tough approach, for example to policing, getting the policemen back on the streets, so that we recapture our neighbourhoods for the honest citizen and the drug dealers and the gangs can't control the neighbourhoods, we've been seeing, I'm afraid in Lambeth for example, an appalling example of the gangs getting back in charge and we can't allow that to go on.

DAVID FROST: And the headline today, cannabis to be legalised within a year, or decriminalised probably is a more accurate word, but do you welcome that?

OLIVER LETWIN: No I don't, I have to say that, the medical evidence suggests that cannabis and the cannabis derivatives at the moment are, are pretty dangerous to the, to the mind, it's pretty difficult to imagine a young person who's taking that kind of drug regularly, prospering in school and getting a good job and again go back to, to Brixton and look at how there seems to be every evidence of those gangs and dealers dragging people on from cannabis to other drugs and, and there's no sign at all of the hard drugs scene having got less serious in Brixton with cannabis being almost tolerated. So no I can't say I welcome that.

DAVID FROST: What about the idea this week, Peter Luff MP came up with based on a Dutch idea I think, of barges for asylum seekers, does that seem like a constructive idea to you?

OLIVER LETWIN: Well I think it's absolutely clear that we need to have very much more than the Home Secretary's currently offering us by way of accommodation centres, just to give you an idea of what's currently on offer from the Home Secretary, his speed of processing which will take about six months for each asylum seeker on average and the number of places he's constructed in these vast accommodation centres in rural areas or that he's proposing to construct - what will that mean? It will mean that the current backlog of asylum seekers who, many of whom have disappeared into the woodwork would take 40 years and 11 months to clear. So we're nowhere near the fast processing of asylum seekers that we've got to have in order to get the system back into working order which is broadly what the government inherited in '97 and it's just turned into chaos. Until we can get that system in working order we won't have a properly enforced immigration system, we also won't have fast admission of refugees fleeing appalling persecution. This system at the moment is not fair on anyone and what Peter is doing is to offer one possible way of speeding up the position of accommodation centres, we have to look at small accommodation centres that could quickly be provided in or around urban and semi-urban areas and not these vast rural locations which offer six month processing, it won't be done, six weeks.

DAVID FROST: Do you, do you support this European arrest warrant which is going to lead to easier extradition but limited rights of appeal, do you support that?

OLIVER LETWIN: Well with the exception of its application to very serious international terrorists no, and I'll explain why, I, I'm not sure that many people in Britain yet realise that that Euro arrest warrant as it's currently constructed would have the effect of, of both enabling people to be tried for things which are not crimes in the UK and of enabling people to be dragged back, for example, to a court in Spain, shall we say, where they have been convicted in their absence and are then tried on a presumption of guilt. Now the basis of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence and I don't think we can possibly support a European arrest warrant which threatens that basic principle any more than we could support the government undoing the double jeopardy rule if it didn't put in safeguards to protect the presumption of innocence.

DAVID FROST: Oliver tell me in terms of Norman Tebbit talking about you as a Hampstead Liberal and so on, do you find that your stance on these issues gives you problems with the right wing of the party, the ultras?

OLIVER LETWIN: My experience of the Conservative Party is that it consists of people very much like the rest of the population, decent, tolerant, they're humane but desperately concerned to see the criminals brought under control, to see decent citizens back in charge of our neighbourhood. I think Conservatives want to see police on our streets, they want to see reform of our youth justice systems so that we don't just have people recycling through our young offender institutions and back out the other side to commit crimes. These are, these are common goals of Conservatives, there's no, there's no debate in the Conservative Party about that kind of thing, we share a common agenda of wanting to get the decent citizen back in charge of our society but we also recognise that that means attending to things like family life and bringing up children properly. We, we want to be tough but tough with being tender.

DAVID FROST: Tough and tough on the causes of tenderness maybe. Okay thank you Oliver...

OLIVER LETWIN: Thank you very much.

DAVID FROST: Very much for joining us today, it's always a pleasure, we look forward to welcoming you back to the studio and a good breakfast in the near future.


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