Jeremy Vine interviewed Antonio Vitorino and Alan Duncan, MP, on Sunday 21 March 2004.
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European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Antonio Vitorino
Jeremy Vine: Let's speak now to the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Antonio Vitorino, welcome, thanks for joining us.
Antonio Vitorino: Morning, how are you.
Jeremy Vine: Very well thank you. All this time after 9/11, and as our reporter was explaining there, it seems Europe is still in a muddle over what to do about terrorism.
Antonio Vitorino: Well I think that a lot has been done, but a lot still remains to be done. Probably you can have a list of terrorist attacks that were successful since 11th September 2001 but you do not have the list of the terrorist attempts that were aborted or avoid, due to the improvement of international co-operation. Never the less I do recognise that there are two key messages in this respect.
The first one is that we don't need new legislation but we definitely need member states of the European Union to implement in effective terms the legislation that has already been agreed, including European Arrest Warrant and the Joint Investigative teams, and second message we need to have broader, deeper and large share of intelligence among the secret services of the member states, to be better in preventing terrorist attacks.
Jeremy Vine: I want to talk to you about both those points if I may. But first can I just get your reaction to what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner here in London has been saying, Sir John Stevens, who says, he thinks the European response to the terrorist threat overall has been too slow, and Europe needs to get its act in order.
Antonio Vitorino: I agree with him it has been slow, sometimes it has been inadequate in the sense that the transposition of legislation is not being done in the best conditions and secondly we need to be very much aware of the fact that all member states of the European Union are equally exposed to a terrorist attack, and this is a global threat that requires a global response, not only at a European level, but also enhancing co-operation between the European Union and third countries.
We have done some progress with the United States of America as far as intelligence sharing is concerned, as far as mutual legal assistance is concerned. The recent tragic event in Madrid show that we need to co-operate with other third countries like for instance Morocco because there is a clear connection with Morocco in the preparation of the terrorist attack in Madrid.
Jeremy Vine: Well let's go back to the common arrest warrant which you mentioned which allows a judge in one country to authorise the arrest of a citizen in another. You were one of the people who piloted that. Where did it go, what happened to it.
Antonio Vitorino: Well at the moment we are speaking, ten member states have already transposed in their national legislation, the European Arrest Warrant. This means that among those countries, between those countries an arrest warrant can be issued by a judge of one member state and clearly directed executed by a judge in a second member state.
Five are still laying behind the deadline. But I hope that next week the Heads of State and Government will make it very clear that it is absolutely necessary to have the process of transposition of European Arrest Warrant, translated in to concrete legislation in all fifteen member states by the end of this spring. The examples I have, and I know of European Arrest Warrants that have been issued by member states are successful stories.
Jeremy Vine: But it's not good to you is it if everybody signs up to this thing, and then countries go off and for whatever reason they decide actually not to implement it. Now what are the reasons being given by those five countries for not bringing it in.
Antonio Vitorino: Above all I think that the reasons are connected with the fact that since this is an instrument that deals with civil liberties the procedures of transposing this legislation in to national legal systems requires the participation of their national parliaments. For instance Greece had general elections which delayed the process.
In some other countries the parliamentary procedures are lengthy, are cumbersome. But I'm confident at the end there will be, the European Arrest Warrant will be fully applied, at the end of the spring, in the 15 member states. And then after the 1st May 2004, in the ten new member states.
Jeremy Vine: But you see we're talking after the Madrid bombings, these were measures that were supposed to be taken after 9/11. We also discover now that as these senior figures in Europe are about to have their summit, that the EU seems not have even the most basic sharing of intelligence going on.
Antonio Vitorino: I think it is too harsh to say not even the most basic share. No, there are exchanges of intelligence that are done, above all, at the bilateral level. Those changes of intelligence work well and I think that we should kept those bilateral agreements in practical terms, because if they are successful stories, we should not try to fix what is already working well.
What is missing in my opinion is that to fight this global threat of terrorism, it's no longer enough to have good bilateral relationship, it is necessary to neutralise the intelligence that is gathered. Let me just give you an example. Sometimes a small piece of information that appears not to be relevant for a bilateral exchange of intelligence, in a concrete investigation, might be extremely enlightening for
a third party who is doing its own investigation, or on sleeping cells in the European Union or on recruitment procedures of new terrorists in the territory of the European Union.
So the challenge we have ahead of us is to keep what's working well but at the same time, giving an opportunity to muti-lateralise the exchange of intelligence at the European level. And I think that I share the view that the Madrid attempts were a wake up call.
Jeremy Vine: But what is likely to happen at this summit then, is for you to decide that you need an overall, overarching security co-ordinator or terrorism Csar to pool intelligence.
Antonio Vitorino: Well I don't think it is helpful to create the idea that we have magic solutions like creating a Csar, an anti terrorist Csar will be the answer to the problem.
Creating such a figure can be helpful to have better co-ordination inside the Council of Ministers but it's not a magic solution. But definitely, what I hope from the Heads of State and Government next week is a clear message that we need to over pass some mutual mistrust.
We need to make a certain cultural change in the way the security services of the member states co-operate one with the others and how we can share between the community, the intelligence - community intelligence and the law enforcement community, the police and the judiciary including Europol and Eurojust, how can we share in a sort of a clearance house mechanism, the relevant intelligence to be more effective in preventing terrorist attacks.
Jeremy Vine: Mr Vitorino thank you very much for joining us.
Interview with: Alan Duncan, MP.
Jeremy Vine: Let's speak now to Alan Duncan who's the Conservative spokesman on this bill. Now on our survey first of all Mr Duncan, we see Conservative MPs not exactly rushing to follow their leader.
Alan Duncan: Well it was a pretty pathetic survey if I might say so. Less than a quarter of MPs, so I think you can ignore that survey. Very very ...
Alan Duncan: .. eleven, bully for you.
Jeremy Vine: Well we only found eleven who are backing Mr Howard's line on this. That's the point.
Alan Duncan: You hardly found anybody to talk to anyway; so I think we can dismiss the survey and talk sensibly about what this legislation is all about.
Jeremy Vine: More than half your backbenchers I should point out, but anyway.
Alan Duncan: Well, we have 165 MPs, but let's not get bogged down. Look, the world has moved on and what we are seeing in this legislation is an opportunity to extend to same sex couples, a lot of the rights which at the moment married couples enjoy, which they feel very strongly about being denied, they can't go and visit a partner in hospital in the same way.
There are inheritance tax problems which can be very punitive to a couple who have been inter-dependent for a long long time and then suddenly on the death of one partner, bang, they're almost bankrupted, they've got to sell the house, all that kind of thing.
So, even when Iain Duncan Smith was leader, Oliver Letwin, as Shadow Home Secretary wrote an article saying look, It's about time that a lot of these rights were extended to same sex couples, and there's a dimension here which I think was missed partly in your programme which is this is not an attack on marriage. I mean I'm very careful actually not to use the word marriage because I think that religions are entitled to set their own terms about whether or not they approve of this.
But the State, which sanctions marriage even now, where it does not have to have religious connotations, should extend to same sex couples most, if not all of the rights which at the moment are enjoyed by married couples.
Jeremy Vine: So is it the case then that those thoughts are not really being bought at a level below the leadership of your party. Mr Howard's in to all that, you're in to it, but we heard from your grass roots activists and others who aren't.
Alan Duncan: Look, go in a working men's club, you get exactly the same thing. It's largely a generational thing. But even then I think that your film exaggerated the extent to which even conservative activists might disapprove.
I don't think they do. I mean I'm the first openly gay Conservative MP. I have activists in the most traditional of conservative seats in Rutland Melton, call it East Leicestershire, there was nobody who objected at all.
They are far more realistic about the patterns of social behaviour in the modern world than I think the press portray them. And I think that the caricature that is portrayed in the press has become very very different from the reality on the ground.
Jeremy Vine: But you need to try and keep those activists that we saw in the film on board while bringing on board the gay couple we saw for example, who still doubt that you actually mean all this.
Alan Duncan: Yeah, I thought the gay couple were very interesting because they proved something that's very important which is that with gay couples, they are gay couples, but they are also people who have their job, they are part of an extended family themselves, they have their own political views, and there's no reason whatsoever why there cannot be a Conservative approach to the whole of policy which will attract them back in to the party, but also about gay issues as well.
That is why we actually respect the right of churches you know, to set their view on this, but at the same time, through the law that's coming, would like to extend it, and our view is, is actually perhaps one that goes further than the labour government which is that we would like to recognise other areas of inter-dependence as well, and to ensure that something like the inheritance tax position that is enjoyed by marriage couples will extend to same sex couples because at the moment we're rather suspicious that Gordon Brown will not extend those inheritance tax rights to same sex couples.
Jeremy Vine: Is this opportunism by Mr Howard. He was the local government minister who originally piloted section 28 through the commons, which many gay people loath. He opposed its repeal very recently and last year he voted against equal adoption rights for gay couples.
Alan Duncan: Well I mean, he has said quite clearly that he's going to vote for this and I think you know he's looked at all the arguments and that's what he's decided. We can go back over section 28 if you want but it's probably not very productive.
Jeremy Vine: No but has he changed his mind on all this.
Alan Duncan: Well, I mean the history of section 28 was one in which it was primarily an attack on then called, Loony Left councils spending money. And it sort of, it sort of mutated in to gay issue and a totum, and in my view, we're much better to be rid of it altogether. I don't think it achieved a single damn thing while it was there frankly.
Jeremy Vine: You don't believe Mr Howard is being opportunistic here.
Alan Duncan: No. I mean he's charged me with the task of steering this through the Commons for us. There will be a free vote for the Conservative party. When we look at the detail of the Bill, which we haven't actually seen yet, I think we'll probably want to move quite a lot of amendments which actually may well go further than the Labour government at the moment propose.
Jeremy Vine: Well we may find that your Conservative colleagues in the House of Lords might want to move quite a lot of amendments as well. They've got a history of wrecking these kinds of bills. What can you do to persuade them that it's a good thing.
Alan Duncan: Well I think in talking to them and again I don't think you should caricature them all as just being anti this because they're not. But as always, in any party, there are individuals with concerns.
They will want to preserve the sanctity of marriage as do I, and I think we could do so for instance to Ann Widdicome's satisfaction and dare I mention Norman Tebbit, I hope also to his, and that by doing some particularly conservative things in this, like looking at inheritance tax and for instance you know, two sisters who live together and are inter-dependent, let's explore further what more the government should be doing.
Jeremy Vine: Alan Duncan, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.
Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.
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