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Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Sunday, 12 February 2006

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 12 February 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • Charles Clarke MP
  • David Davis MP

Charles Clarke MP
Charles Clarke MP

Interview with Charles Clarke MP

JON SOPEL: Earlier I spoke to Charles Clarke from the Labour conference at Blackpool, and I asked him if the concessions he'd had to agree on ID cards had improved the legislation? CHARLES CLARKE: In many respect yes.

The first question on cost, which was the concern the Lords had, Frank Dobson, my colleague, reflecting I think the concerns of many parliamentarians, wanted a more regular report on costs to the House of Commons. I think that's beneficial.

He's making a proposal to that effect, we'll support it.

On the question of the mechanism, by which the voluntary scheme becomes compulsory, we have proposed, what's called the so-called super affirmative resolution, of a vote in both Houses of Parliament, Commons and Lords, which give obviously the Lords a veto on that stage. The proposal that's been made by the Lords, and we've accepted and put forward, is that we go to do it via primary legislation; I think that's superior in many respects.

On the final proposal from the Lords, to do with designated cards, we're opposed to that; we don't think it's the right way to go.

JON SOPEL: But for you, I'm right in saying that an ID card scheme has to have compulsion at its core. Is that correct?

CHARLES CLARKE: Correct. That's why that runs right through the Bill. We've said we'd get to compulsion by a series of phased stages, for example, our issuing the ID card together with the passport, and we get to that point and we've always said, it was in the initial legislation the, the final point, where it went absolutely compulsory in some years time, that would be a case of parliamentary decision.

We'd originally proposed that it be by a positive vote in both the Commons and the Lords, at that time, some years ahead. The view that's come from the Lords and from many of my side, which we've listened to, is that it would be better to do it by primary legislation.

JON SOPEL: But it's possible then that as a result of their being this fresh legislation to enforce compulsion, if that's rejected, you'll have spent billions of pounds to set up a voluntary scheme, which in your view, would be meaningless.

CHARLES CLARKE: Well that was the case with the previous arrangements as well. It required a super-affirmative vote in both Commons and Lords to do that and precisely what you've described could have happened then. I think it's actually rather less likely to happen with the proposals for primary legislating, than giving a veto to the Lords. But in fact I think by the time we get to that date, the card will be so wide-spread, and I think so popular in this country, that it will in fact be an automatic and welcome step to make it compulsory.

JON SOPEL: In this week of key votes, let's just talk about the terrorism legislation. Can I ask you, which banner that was carried the other Friday in London would have been covered by glorification of terrorism, but would have been untouchable by the battery of laws that exist already.

CHARLES CLARKE: I haven't examined every banner, with - for the exact wording, but what is the case, is that glorification, a word by the way set out in the United Nations Security Council Resolution last September, supported by the whole of the Security Council, and by the way the basis of consultation throughout the UN system, for a common definition of terrorism, that word 'glorification', gives a greater capacity to stop those who seek to incite terrorism, than other language. That's why we're using it, it's the United Nations word, and we think it's the right way to go.

JON SOPEL: Let me just read you what David Cameron has said - many of those people carrying those placards were clearly inciting violence, or inciting hatred, and that's against the law. It doesn't need any new glorification laws. The things they're inciting people to do are against the law today.

CHARLES CLARKE: Well in fairness to David Cameron, throughout this whole legislative process, he's been trying to weaken down the legislative changes. He did it on religious hatred, he's done it in relation to the Law that we're currently considering on terrorism. He does it in relation to ID cards. At each choice, he wants to weaken the legislative power to stop people inciting hatred, glorifying terrorism. Now that's a matter for him. I don't think many voters in the country will support that and I think the Conservatives need to reconsider the position. The simple choice we have to make is do we seek to strengthen

JON SOPEL: Well hang on a minute.

CHARLES CLARKE: ... our legislative arrangement.

JON SOPEL: It's not just the Tories. I mean there are plenty of Labour MPs who are unhappy about your legislation. We've just heard Lynne Jones saying, to suggest that people like myself and other Labour rebels, other Members of Parliament, whatever their party, are weak on terrorism, is really playing Jah Boo politics, and ignoring the important issues.

CHARLES CLARKE: The important issue, exactly as she says, is what would have the greatest impact on reducing the threat we face from terrorism. I think there's little doubt actually that to strengthen the legislation in the way we suggest, to make illegal, the glorification of terrorism, is the right way to go and we'll do that more effectively than not to do so. In fact, if Lynne Jones and the Conservatives were to have their way, the message that would be sent would be that the glorification of terrorism, was somehow acceptable. I don't think it is.

And I think most of the country, very clearly supports that position. Now there are people in Parliament, the Conservatives most of all, but also the Liberal Democrats, there are also one or two on my own side of the House, who think that it's more important to defeat the Government on this question, than to look at the actual impact of the legislation. I think they're wrong.

JON SOPEL: Let's just look at the wider politics of all of this. Do you think Tony Blair is finding life pretty frustrating at the moment. Last October, he said that with every reform that he'd introduced, he wishes he'd gone further. Now he's got these knife edge votes on the terror bill, ID cards coming up. He's also had to delay the Education Bill

CHARLES CLARKE: Well on every Bill I've taken through Parliament, and I've taken through many, there have been what you call concessions and amendments to deal with parliamentary opinion, that's one of the strengths of our democracy. And that applies on the ID cards but in the Terrorism Bill too, and I'm sure that's part of the process in relation to the Education Bill. But in answer to your actual question, I don't think the Prime Minister is finding life frustrating at all - at the moment.

I think he feels, and rightly so, that there's a major programme of reform, certainly in my own area in the Home Office, but also in Education as you say, and Health as you say, and Incapacity Benefit, as you say, which is changing the country for the better. He feels that's moving it forward in a very positive way. I certainly do as well. And I don't think it's a frustrating experience at all. What is the truth, is that on each of these pieces of legislation, it's necessary to debate and consider them properly, which is why we have a parliamentary democracy.

JON SOPEL: But maybe the reforms aren't going through in the way he wants because he has lost authority because everyone knows that he's going to go, sooner rather than later maybe.

CHARLES CLARKE: I actually think that's a ridiculous position. I know it's widely held and some commentators and pundits believe it. But I think it's absolutely not true. The authority the Prime Minister holds, is from the power of this ideas, his policies, his approach, in this case, the area you're asking me about - in the area of reform, and the stronger that idea is, that lead is, the better it will go through the country and be agreed.

I think there's not sense of not moving forward. The idea that we have a beached Prime Minister, who's not bringing forward change and proposals for change is demonstrably false. You've just given yourself a long list of areas where the Prime Minister is proposing change, which I hope the country will agree.

JON SOPEL: You said the Prime Minister's authority hasn't been eroded. Would Gordon Brown be in a stronger position politically if indeed it is him, who succeeds Tony Blair at some point in the future, if he's come to power via a leadership contest.

CHARLES CLARKE: That depends on the circumstances of time. I don't think I, I don't have any fixed view as to whether a leadership contest is in principle a good thing or a bad thing. Er, it's it not - it depends entirely on the circumstances. We've seen elections where there's not been a leadership contest, for example, the election of Michael Howard and elections where there has been a leadership contest, the election of David Cameron. Same is true for the Liberal Democrats, the same is true for us. There's a choice at each juncture.

JON SOPEL: But I just ...

CHARLES CLARKE: I don't myself think, I don't myself have the view Jon that it's good or bad to have a leadership contest, it depends entirely on the circumstances of the time.

JON SOPEL: I just wondered whether the problems that Tony Blair is facing now will be even more magnified, if people have not had a chance to elect the new leader of the Labour party.

CHARLES CLARKE: Well, that's a perfectly reasonable position, for what it's worth, I'd be very surprised if there weren't a leadership contest - I think there are forces within the Party, you mentioned Lynne Jones earlier on, and others, who are likely to promote a Leadership contest in whatever circumstances, so I think actually, a Leadership contest is likely if you ask my political judgement. You were asking me before, did I think it was as good thing, and I said I didn't have a view on that.

That depends on the political circumstances at the time. There are those who believe in the clarifying circumstances of a Leadership contest, others who believe it can be a distraction, it depends on the nature of the Leadership contest and how its conducted. You look at the Deputy Leadership contest in the Labour Party in 1981, about which you've written, and you have a model of a Leadership Contest in that case the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party, which was one of the most destructive things in the history of British politics. It depends entirely on the circumstances of the time.

JON SOPEL: Has Gordon Brown been damaged by the Dunfermline by-election, after all, he invested a huge amount of energy in to it and this is after all his own back yard.

CHARLES CLARKE: I don't think he personally has been damaged. I think the fact that the Labour Party, the Labour Government has been weakened, because it was not a good result and of course we then have to think why it happened and how it happen.

JON SOPEL: Okay, but a lot of people have questioned, what is Gordon Brown's appeal to middle England, and as a result of Dunfermline, people are starting to say, well what his appeal to middle Scotland as well.

CHARLES CLARKE: Well I think you should look at the record of the Chancellor during this government. You look at interest rates and mortgages; you look at the issues about unemployment, youth unemployment, the policies there. You look at the minimum wage, which also has an impact in Middle England as you call it. There's a whole range of economic changes, stables mortgages, and so on, which are credit to way he's led the country economically.

And I think when people come to consider the choices at the next General Election, er, they will look at that very carefully, and they'll ask themselves, in the case of David Cameron, whether the kind of boom bust policies that he wants to return to, are the right way for the stability of the country. Gordon has an outstanding record for middle England, as indeed for the rest of the country.

JON SOPEL: Charles Clarke, thank you very much.


End of interview

David Davis MP
David Davis MP

Interview with David Davis MP

JON SOPEL: I' m joined now by the Conservative Shadow Home Affairs Secretary, David Davis. David Davis, welcome to The Politics Show.


JON SOPEL: We heard Charles Clarke there saying, at each choice, David Cameron wants to weaken the legislative power to stop people inciting hatred, glorifying terrorism, and frankly, he says, that the people in the country will not support that.

DAVID DAVIS: Well that's simply not true I mean 'weakens' is entirely the wrong word. I mean take glorification. Glorification is a very woolly word.

I mean Charles Clarke says well it came from the UN, actually one of the critics of this er, policy is the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, himself ; so it's not got any particular UN locus. In truth it's very vague. I mean you could, you could theoretically lock people up for singing Irish songs or for, or for talking about how good Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress is and so on.

Because in the past there have been what might be described as terrorist events, in their history. What we have done in the Lords, along with almost every other party by the way, is create an offence which is indirect incitement to terrorism; in other words, if you say something which will lead the listener to think it's a good idea to emulate a terrorist, that is a crime. It's very very specific. And so on the one hand ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But what about those placards that we saw in that demonstration the other Friday, ten days ago. I mean there was glorification of terrorism there.

DAVID DAVIS: Well there was actually, incitement to violence, right across them. I mean when you talk about incitement murder in fact. If you talk about beheading people or massacring people, or annihilating people, and it was very interesting actually, it's a very good example of what's wrong about the way the government addresses all of this. That and Abu Hanza, because this government always talks about new laws but doesn't use the laws it has.

Last weekend, on Friday and Saturday, Labour Ministers were sort of turning a blind eye to that demonstration. People were getting quite angry about it. On the Sunday, I was quoted in the Telegraph saying, Somebody had to be prosecuted for this, because this was er, an incitement to murder, and by Monday, they'd sort of caught up, and said, oh yes, we're going to have to do something about it. Nothing's happened yet. ... do something about it. Similarly, Abu Hamza. They've had any number of laws to prosecute Hamza. It took seven years to do it. When they eventually convicted him on eleven different counts, six of them were the 1861 law, four of them were 1986 law and only one of them was a Counter Terrorist law.

JON SOPEL: Look, let's just talk about the other issue, identity cards that's up this week. In the past fourteen or fifteen months or so, the Tories have been against identify cards, have been for identity cards, you're now back against identity cards - to use the phrase of the vogue phrase of the moment, you do seem to have flip-flopped on this issue rather a lot.

DAVID DAVIS: Well, if you read, if you read all my speeches through this, you can see very clearly at the beginning of ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: I said, very advisedly, the Tory Party.

DAVID DAVIS: Let me just tell you, let me just take you through what I said. I mean at the beginning, and I've been the Shadow Home Secretary from the be (fluffs), with the previous leader and the current one. I said there are five tests. Basically, the big tests - there are civil liberties tests, there's test of competence, there is a test of money, test of technology and so on.

This thing is going to cost between twelve and eighteen, nineteen billion pounds. For that, you could double the size of the security services. You could have a whole new border control system. You could have vastly more police, about 50% more police. All of which would do more to improve the security of the state and the citizen, than the identity card scheme. The scheme itself is technologically flawed; it's not going to work very well. And now we're hearing, actually for the first time to-day, from Charles Clarke, they're now accepting it's compulsory from the beginning. Up until now, they've been saying, well it's voluntary until it comes back.

He actually said, it's going to be partially for anybody who has a passport or has to get a new driving licence, they're going to have to pay probably hundreds of pounds in order to get a new document, because their name then has to go on the national identity register. It's compulsory from the beginning. It's been an act of self-deception by the Labour Party this exercise. And it's going to be a very very bad policy. It's not going to help security, it's going to cost a fortune and take money away from things that could help security.

JON SOPEL: We've heard Gordon Brown this morning talking about - that since July 7th, there have been three attacks that have been thwarted. Were you aware of this, and if you were aware of it, doesn't it make your opposition to the government proposals, more incomprehensible.

DAVID DAVIS: No. I mean yes, I was aware is the answer. I mean all of them have been thwarted quite early on, in the procedure, they weren't imminent, as far as I'm aware, if they're the ones I'm aware of. But you know, when we've been making these arguments before, we knew that we were a target for attack, we've known this all along, for years.

Indeed, we actually made preparations in the run up to the General Election because I was expecting the July 7th, more likely to come during the General Election campaign, as it happened in Madrid. But the point about this is the Tory Party, are the hard nose defenders both of freedom and security. What we're getting from the government is sort of incompetent authoritarianism, they don't use their current powers, they don't use the powers that are there. They're not firm enough, not as firm as they need to be, and they try and cover this up by a whole new series of laws.

And I have to say, I do wonder a little about the propriety that every single time we have a piece of legislation come before the House of Commons, we hear some new story about what's been going on the terrorist front. I mean if it's true, I don't deny that it happened. But I just think it's rather odd that politicians start talking about operational matters at this time.

JON SOPEL: Labour seem to have settled their attack on David Cameron, that he's a bit of a PR man, a chameleon, that was pretty much your line of attack wasn't it when you were talking about, I'm not a fan of image politics, I think eventually substance wins and you know, we don't want a chameleon as a leader.

DAVID DAVIS: Actually, and I never used those words actually.

JON SOPEL: Well, charlatan, charlatan.

DAVID DAVIS: I didn't say charlatan either. I was talking about Blair when I said charlatan, not about David. No, I mean what we're actually in to under David is actually a new era of politics. We've got the Liberals imploding, well they had one success last week, one has to admit, but they've had serious problems of leadership.

We've got the Labour Party in desperate recrimination over Dunfermline. We've got Mr Brown trying to sort of make himself a new image on the security front of all things. Here is a man who's cut down the Navy, cut down the Army, cut down the Air Force, and comes along and says, I'm your friend in terms of security. We've got, now we've got a very principled leader here, he's doing a very good job, and we're in to a new era, when we're in front of the Labour Party, not the other way round.

JON SOPEL: David Davis, thank you very much indeed.

DAVID DAVIS: Thank you.

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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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday 12 February 2006 at Noon on BBC One.
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