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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Jon Sopel interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

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.

On Politics Show, Sunday 18 September 2005, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport

Peter Hain
Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Interview with Peter Hain

JON SOPEL: Well we're joined now from the Labour Party Conference by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and for Wales, Peter Hain.

Mr Hain, thanks very much for joining us on the Politics Show.

PETER HAIN: It's a pleasure Jon, pleasure.

JON SOPEL: We heard there that there's a danger that the head is coming away from the body. Is that how you see it?

PETER HAIN: No, it's not. Obviously if you've been in power for eight years as we have, and we're now going in to a period where we are likely to be in power for at least twelve, have been in power for at twelve years, you've got to work at renewing the Party, strengthening the partnership between the Government at the top and grass roots party members at the bottom; that's not something you can take for granted and we aren't, because Ian McCartney, the Party Chairman, has announced a big programme of reform of the way we make policy, so local members can be more directly involved and that will strengthen our platform for going forward to win a fourth election, when that comes.

JON SOPEL: Couldn't the problem be that it's the policies they don't like?

PETER HAIN: Well, let's just look at this. Let's step back from what is often the speculation in the media in the debate, which bears very little resemblance to what we're doing.

JON SOPEL: Well look at the motions, look at the motions that are going before the Conference, which are very critical.

PETER HAIN: Yes, but look at what ordinary people, voters out there are experiencing - better quality treatment, quicker operations than ever before with the waiting times coming right down under this Labour Government.

Look at the fact that we're building more new hospitals than ever before, more new schools. If you look right across the public service agenda, yes there's an argument about how we deliver things and an argument about things that are new.

There's always an argument, people are always uncomfortable about change, but when you actually look, for example at the fact that we have set up independent treatment centres which are now enabling us to deliver free health care operations, much, much more quicker than the old NHS system did. Now everybody is delighted by that.

JON SOPEL: Okay, well the unions are very concerned about something specific, the so called marketisation if you like of the National Health Service. Should there be a limit on how much private money goes in to providing NHS operations for example?

PETER HAIN: Well I think only 10% of all operations are carried out in the independent private sector, for the National Health Service. I mean these are not people having to pay, that's the point. We are now giving ...

JON SOPEL: But should there be a limit on that level, should there be a limit?

PETER HAIN: Well I think the limit should be on what is needed to give quick treatment time for people. These are people in pain, with hip operations - as I know from my own constituency, an ex-mining constituency who need hip operations quickly, who need heart by-passes, who need cataract operations, they need to have it done quickly.

They can't afford to go private as rich people can and we've got to deliver, and that's why choice is important, the kind of high quality that means people from low incomes or average incomes can get the treatment they need quickly, and that's what we're doing.

JON SOPEL: So it doesn't matter the extent of private sector involvement because the unions are very concerned about that.

PETER HAIN: Well I understand that and nobody is talking about a massive privatisation of the Health Service, of course we aren't, that's a Tory policy.

JON SOPEL: That's why I was asking you about the limit, what you thought the limit should be.

PETER HAIN: Well the limit should be what is necessary to deliver the capacity and deliver the treatment, high quality treatment, when people need it, where they need. That's how we should go forward and how we are going forward. We can't set an arbitrary limit, but as I say, only 10% of operations are carried out in the independent private sector, for the National Health Service.

I think only 1% of funds are spent outside the National Health Service in order to give people free treatment, free when they need it and that's, you know, that's the sort of objective that Nye Bevan set up, when he founded the National Health Service. He wanted people, especially poor people, to get first class quality of treatment and that's what we're doing.

JON SOPEL: Okay. You gave an interview to Tribune newspaper, magazine, this week saying, There seems to be a notable grumpiness with the government right now. Why if things are going so well, are people so grumpy with you.

PETER HAIN: Well, as I was saying at the beginning, when you've been in for the time that we have, you need to keep working at building partnerships, explaining what you're doing, partnerships with the trade union movement, partnerships with local party members and listening as well, not just preaching, but listening as well. And I think that's what we will now do in the coming years so that we're in the best possible shape to win a fourth term.

And remember, we've put behind us under this Labour Government, whatever the criticisms there are, and inevitably there will be, and whatever the differences of view, we've put behind us, people can't - it's almost forgotten about the days when there was mass unemployment, when there was - you had to wait years and years and years for hip operations. We've put behind us those years and we're moving forward.

JON SOPEL: But what are the justifiable criticisms that people have over the government, that make the grumpy as you said.

PETER HAIN: Well when I was at the Trade Union Congress, there were various criticisms of individual policies, and it's important that, especially with the Warwick Agenda that we agreed at Warwick last year, to take forward more employment reforms to enable people to have decent standards at work, we've already done that by the way - we're light years away from the old Tory years when people were exploited at work, or where their rights were virtually non existence; we've now got modern employment patterns and we need to continue to work at that, and I think we will do that with the Trade Union movement.

JON SOPEL: But - are there other policies where you've fallen short.

PETER HAIN: Well you never achieve, even as a Cabinet Minister, you never achieve all what you want to, Jon. But I think what we now need to do, as Cabinet Minister from right at the top government, and we will be doing this, not just with party members and TradeUnionists, though that's vital, but with members of the public; we will be rolling out a programme of consultation, rather like we did with the Big Conversation in the last period of office, in order to find out exactly what people want the policies for the future.

Mean while by the way, we're delivering policies, which people think are fantastic, like a childcare, high quality, flexible childcare, we'll be introducing legislation, later this parliamentary session, to deliver that; so people with young children can also, they can also work rather than you know, find child care costs absolutely prohibitive if they're on average or low income.

JON SOPEL: You see we heard Dave Prentis there in our film saying, actually it's not a problem of consultation, or not knowing what you're doing, it's we don't like the policies.

PETER HAIN: Well obviously if there is a disagreement within an individual policy, then we can debate that. We will be doing so in these coming days. But I think if you look at the big picture, and we've got to get these policies right, and we will do so by consultation - if you look at the big picture, you will see a Labour government that's never delivered more for the people of Britain, that's delivered more for the people of Britain than any Labour government in our hundred year history as a party.

And for that matter, than any other government that's, you know, been in power in Britain. I think we can be proud of that. We may have got some things wrong, we may continue to debate how to get them right in the future, but we will do that.

JON SOPEL: And Gordon Brown says that he would carry on the reforms if he was elected Labour leader. Now there's all this talk of a Brown succession. Would you be happy to see Gordon Brown as leader?

PETER HAIN: Well Gordon is, as I said a year ago, so far out in front of anybody else, that of course I'd be happy to see him as a Prime Minister. He was one of the twin architects with Tony Blair, of Labour's most successful period of power, ever in our hundred years. I can't see, I can't imagine anybody wanting to stand against them, because it's quite like - against him - because it's quite likely they'd face a crushing defeat.

So I think that it looks as if that's the way things are going and I think the party would be comfortable with that because Gordon has had a fantastic record as Chancellor, he's the architect of much wider programme of policies, and I think everybody respects what he's done and they can see in him a future Prime Minister, in a way that they can't see in any other opposition party, a future Prime Minister at the moment.

JON SOPEL: So a great democratic party like the Labour Party says, it's all fine, we won't have an election, we'll just have a coronation instead.

PETER HAIN: No, I'm, it's not for me to speculate or decide what might or might not happen, coronations and elections and so on. The Party will make up its mind and the Party will have a choice. If you're asking me my personal view, my personal vote would be for Gordon Brown, because I think he'd be a fantastic Prime Minister as he's shown as one of the leading architects with Tony Blair, of the most successful period Labour has ever had in office.

JON SOPEL: I mean we showed some of our poll findings in that film there about people's desire for choice, we also asked the question about would you be more likely to vote for Labour if Gordon Brown was leader, and it came up pretty neutral- 74% said it would make no difference, 11% said they were more likely to vote Labour, 12% said they'd be less likely. He doesn't sound like a vote winner.

PETER HAIN: Well if you were out on the campaign stump as I was in Wales, with Gordon and elsewhere, when he and Tony were together, leading the campaign in the last election, it revitalised and invigorated the campaign, and you could see how popular he is and he'd need, everybody needs time to establish themselves, and of course, you're talking about the person who's succeeding the most successful Prime Minister, Labour has ever had in our history - Tony Blair - there's never been a more successful Labour Prime Minister, so he's a hard act to follow.

JON SOPEL: Well let me ask you this Mr Hain, do you need to have a clearer time table from the Prime Minister. People sense there's government.

PETER HAIN: He's done something that's never been done before. He's said he's going to serve a full term of office in this third term, that's what he's going to do. What better time, what more detailed time table do you want than that.

JON SOPEL: So people are clear enough.

PETER HAIN: Well I think so, I think he's set it out.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Let me just ask you a final question, cos we don't have a lot of time left. This is about something that Gerry Adams said yesterday, that he felt that in the near future the IRA is going to honour its commitment to decommission its weapons. Now, one your reaction to that and two, do you think it needs to be witnessed, so that it's effective, so that it can build confidence among people like the DUP.

PETER HAIN: Well there's a lot of informed speculation that an announcement on IRA decommissioning is imminent, it's got to be credible - people have got to see that there's the biggest dumping of arms and the getting rid of the IRA's arsenal ever before - that's happened ever before. It's got to be credible and it's got to be part of a process where the IRA, as they promised in their historic statement at the end of July, deliver action on the ground - to stop the action on the ground, to close down paramilitary activity and criminal violence.

Now the de-commissioning which is expected - an announcement expected soon, is part of that and I think the people of Northern Ireland will want to see it actually implemented, and when that clear then I think we should get all the parties round to start discussing the resumption of self government, because unless they are sure, especially the Unionists are sure that this is credible, because there have been lots of false dawns before, there's a lot of lack of trust and suspicion, and once they know it's credible and clear, then I think we can move forward

JON SOPEL: Okay Peter Hain, thanks very much for joining us.

PETER HAIN: Thank you.

Interview with Theresa May

Theresa May MP
Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport

JON SOPEL: Now, remember the Tory Leadership contest? On Tuesday, the Conservative Party will announce the results of its ballots on changing the rules.

Under the plan, ordinary party members would have their vote taken away, with the final decision going back to MPs. We've been trying to find out how those MPs will vote on the change.

It needs a two thirds majority to be approved, we reached 130 of 198 Tory MPs, of those 50 said they would vote for change. Twenty eight were against. Four hadn't decided, and the rest wouldn't say.

So that could indicate that the necessary two thirds majority, might not be reached. Well the former Party Chairman, Theresa May is against the rule change and she joins us now. How do you think it's going.

TERESA MAY: Well I think it's probably too close to call at the current time Jon. I think there is quite a likelihood that we won't get the two thirds majority for the rule change to go through. But as I say I think it is, has been very close to you know call either way.

JON SOPEL: What would it say about the modern Conservative Party if it took democratic rights away from its members?

TERESA MAY: Well I think it would give absolutely the wrong message. The wrong message about us as a party and the wrong message to voters, because if we're not even prepared to listen to the members of our own party, what does that say about our attitude to voters.

And it's interesting, I heard a comment from somebody actually in my own constituency, who said, here is a party, the Conservative Party, that believes in democracy, and also believes in freedom of choice for the individual, and yet we're taking that freedom of choice and that democracy away from our members.

JON SOPEL: Isn't the problem that when the last time that they were given that choice, and it was exercised properly, they chose Iain Duncan Smith over the hugely experienced Kenneth Clarke.

TERESA MAY: Well of course there's an issue about whether two or three names should have gone to the members after the parliamentary vote last time round. But even so, I mean are we really saying that a political party should turn - members of parliament - can turn round and say somewhat arrogantly I think to members of the party, well we think you got it wrong last time, so you won't be trusted with it again.

No, I think the message we should be giving to people is that we are a party that is open. Ultimately, I'd like to see us go in to a primary selection process.

JON SOPEL: It would be a slap in the face for Michael Howard though, if he loses this won't it.

TERESA MAY: Well, I've been ...


TERESA MAY: It's, (fluffs) Well what I was going to say is that actually, Michael, of course it wasn't Michael's proposal, it was a Parliamentary Party proposal, although Michael has subsequently asked Members of Parliament to support it because it came from the Parliamentary Party. Now, what I think is, it's no bad thing for our party to actually be having this debate.

It's not bad thing for us to be saying, well, let's look very closely at what we want to do. But ultimately, we've got to recognise that what - the message we give to our own members and to voters in this decision is absolutely crucial. And if we want them to recognise us as an open, inclusive party, then we shouldn't be accepting this rule change.

JON SOPEL: Isn't the problem, and Michael Heseltine phrased it very elegantly, your problem with your party is that they are too old, too right wing and too unrepresentative and they are, let me just give you his quote, "They are chosen by an electorate which is wholly unrepresentative of anything on earth."

TERESA MAY: Well I think that's slightly unkind of Mr Heseltine. Many of that electorate of course worked hard to get him elected, and work hard to get me and the other Members of Parliament elected at general elections.

What I do think about the Party is that yes, the membership is elderly, but they are more closely in touch with today's world, and you know, the way that they see things, very often than simply a party that's based in Westminster. If I can just say Jon, if you think about it, if we only have the MPs voting, that means vast parts of our country aren't effectively represented. Our very big cities - no Conservative MPs.

JON SOPEL: Is Theresa May a candidate?

TERESA MAY: For the Leadership of the ..


TERESA MAY: ... of the Party. I've always said I'm keeping my options open.

JON SOPEL: So you might still be.

TERESA MAY: I'm keeping my options open.

JON SOPEL: And if it's not Teresa May, who would you like to see?

TERESA MAY: We don't know who all the candidates are going to be Jon, so one can't say.

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) Yes, you do. Well if it came down to Ken Clarke over David Davis.

TERESA MAY: As I say, we don't know who all the candidates are going to be, so you just have to wait and see.

JON SOPEL: We're not going to get any further are we?

TERESA MAY: I'm afraid you're not, no. Even just between us Jon.

JON SOPEL: Teresa May, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

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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