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Jon Sopel interview
Interviews on Sunday 02 July 2006

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB: These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.
Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.


Alan Duncan MP
Alan Duncan MP, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary

Speaking on BBC One's Politics Show, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Duncan said:

"I'm beginning to think it's almost impossible now to have a Scottish Prime Minister because they will be at odds with the basic construction of the British constitution and it may be that the Labour Party has created this massive problem for themselves and are now regretting it."

Scottish Labour MP Ian Davidson, responding to Mr. Duncan, said there was an issue to be addressed post-devolution. He said the potential solutions were an English Parliament or regional parliaments, but not English-only votes for English laws in the Westminster Parliament. He said:

"I mean this is a return in my view, to the Tories as the nasty party. They recognise that they can't attack Gordon Brown for his handling of the economy, so they'll attack him on the basis that he's Scottish and any weapon will do ... "

Later in the same interview he said the Conservatives were risking the union:

"What we do not want to see however, is anything that would break up the Union, and that's where the Tories, who used in Scotland to stand as the Conservative and Unionist party, seem willing in the pursuit of tactical political advantage, to be in to bed with the nationalists and risk the break up of the United Kingdom."


On the Politics Show, Sunday 02 July 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:


Alan Duncan MP
Alan Duncan MP, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary

Jon Sopel interviewed Alan Duncan MP

JON SOPEL: Well the Conservative's Review of Energy Policy has been conducted by their Trade & Industry spokesman Alan Duncan, and he's with me now and welcome to the Politics Show Alan Duncan.

Do you accept the thought at the end of the film there that there really is a crunch coming, that there is an energy gap, that unless you take radical action, the lights will go out.

ALAN DUNCAN: Yes, I think there are so many pressures combining here. There is pressure on emissions, which are not as well controlled as they need to be. We have 40% of our generating fleet coming to an end over the next twenty or so years, and also, we're on the edge of an energy revolution I think, where all sectors, be it fossils, nuclear or renewable, are on the edge of being able to do things differently and better and we have to approach this exactly as Dieter Helm said, with a view to encourage long term investment across any change in government, and also without fixing ideas of technology today so that they're frozen for tomorrow, and if I had to pick out one thing on that tape which I think was by and large the right way of approaching it, it was Ken Clarke.

JON SOPEL: You say, you heard Bernard Ingham there saying that the Tories are incredibly vague about all of this. I mean would you like to end some of the vagueness or are you just going to say, well we just don't know yet because of these new technologies that are coming on stream.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well you're pretending that the government is not vague. Now we all hear Tony Blair saying you know, I want nuclear power stations but actually, if you look at the print, he's really leaving it all to the markets, so it doesn't matter what he says because nothing that he says actually, in terms of government policy is going to be converted in to it actually happening, so let's not allow ourselves to be diverted by this rhetoric. (interjection) ...

JON SOPEL: Okay, your policies.

ALAN DUNCAN: I think there are a number of things which we've really got to look at very very hard and fast. The first is, do we have an acceptable carbon pricing regime in the United Kingdom, and necessarily more broadly, because it's a global problem. We've got an EU emissions trading system in its infancy which actually does not allocate permits in the right way, it should be by auction rather than by allocation and we want to develop that.

Now if you have a carbon price and this is really what is being debated at the moment, what you have is a proper differential between all the various possible methods. Now if coal can become clean, it can keep going. Renewables get an incentive because they don't emit carbon, and nuclear, yes, it would have an incentive to go ahead because it does not emit carbon, but it has its own particular difficulties and we'd need a very strict regime on waste. The government says it's not going to give them money, keep going

JON SOPEL: Yes, well, no, no, I'm interested in all of the points that you raise there but I mean the point you say about, well we can't tie ourselves in. I mean don't, don't you if you're a government, have to make strategic decisions for the next fifteen, twenty, thirty years, if you're going to recommission nuclear power for example.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well the government isn't saying they're going to do that.

JON SOPEL: But surely the government, that's exactly what the government energy review is looking at, about an increased role or maintaining the role for nuclear power. What I want to ask (interjection) ...

ALAN DUNCAN: No it isn't.

JON SOPEL: What I want to ask you is are you for or against nuclear power.

ALAN DUNCAN: The, the government is not looking at that. Tony Blair's saying he is, but if you look at the terms and conditions of the Energy Review, there's no money on offer. Now we've never before seen a nuclear power station built in Britain by the private sector alone.

So the question is what are the terms and conditions and what is the investment climate which we agree with Dieter Helm, should be a long one, in which this might happen and could happen fairly and it would need a number of things. It would need a proper solution to the handling of nuclear waste.

It would need honest economics on the part of any nuclear investing company so they can't just build, generate the income and dump us with future bills and it may also need a price for carbon, so that it can give, so that it can be given a fair crack against all the other competing ways of making electricity - cos by the way, this is not an energy review, at the moment it's just an electricity review.

JON SOPEL: Okay, but I want to concentrate on what your policies are. I want to know whether you are for or against nuclear power.

ALAN DUNCAN: I think there is bound to be an element of nuclear power generation in, in the mix. But neither side of the political divide at the moment is saying here's a pot of money, go and do it. The question therefore is how do you design the climate in which a company can fairly invest and might do so.

JON SOPEL: Do you believe our energy needs can be met without keeping nuclear power at roughly 20%, which is what it is at the moment.

ALAN DUNCAN: Yes, and I think this is the key point; I think that is quite possible, and we'd like to explore every conceivable alternative to do that and to fill the gap and to generate electricity on an industrial scale before we look at nuclear power. For instance, if you look at decentralised energy, where you can have combined heat and power, all sorts of different, smaller, more local ways of making electricity, it's quite possible we can do that in a more efficient, less carbon emitting way, before one needs to turn to nuclear power.

JON SOPEL: But that's exactly what the government would say that they're seeking to do. They're seeking to maximise all the potential of renewables, of local generation, but they still come - say - the Tories have got to come back to this central question of how much power do you think should be generated by nuclear and you don't quite answer that question when I put it to you of are you for or against nuclear power.

ALAN DUNCAN: I don't answer it because I think it should be at the back of the queue because the government isn't answering it either. And so you're coming from a false premise. The fact is what is ... (interjection) ...

JON SOPEL: But we will put these questions to the government as well, I'm just trying to put these questions, trying to get a straight answer from you on where you stand on nuclear power.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well you, in a way you've had one and you'll get it again. We think that the nuclear power sector should be there as a last resort in many resects. We want to explore every conceivable method of generating electricity, before we go to nuclear because we think that so much of this is on the edge of a scientific generation which can change the pattern and nature of our electricity generation.

JON SOPEL: Okay, stay with us cos I want to ask you a couple of other issues that are obviously really important at the moment politically, I just wanted to say that if you want to find out more on this issue about nuclear generation and some of the issues surrounding it, you can go to our web site now, their the addresses are there for you just now. But let me just say Alan Duncan, recent events - the Bromley by-election. What are the lessons from it. I mean you just scraped home. Was that because the appeal of David Cameron isn't that great or because your candidate and your campaign wasn't Cameronite enough.

ALAN DUNCAN: I think all by-election results are almost impossible to analyse. Of course they matter for the local result. In terms of any general lessons that can be learnt it's very very difficult indeed because at the moment we've got, you know the result in Bromley and yet we've also got national opinion polls which say that David Cameron is far more popular than Gordon Brown and Blair.

JON SOPEL: But weren't you shocked by Bromley, that you, you came so close to losing it to the Liberal Democrats six months after ... (interjection)

ALAN DUNCAN: There was a very anti Labour mood and the Liberal Democrats have made their stock in trade winning by-elections and do you know what, I'd much rather win a by-election with a majority of six hundred doing it our way, than win it by six thousand doing it the way the Liberal Democrats do.

JON SOPEL: Do you not think though, there were areas for concern and if so what are they.

ALAN DUNCAN: I mean. It's early days - you know what we're trying to do is to broaden the appeal of the, of the party, remove a lot of the negatives, try and appeal to people who are women, younger and maybe up in the north and living in urban areas.

Now just taking Bromley, it wasn't perhaps the easiest and most fertile ground in which to draw the best results from that kind of early strategic activity.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force, looks as though it's going to say that Scottish MPs shouldn't be allowed to vote on issues that affect English constituencies only. Why.

ALAN DUNCAN: Well I think it's totally right I mean we for instance, the Conservatives, have a majority in England. We have MPs from Scotland, essentially telling England what to do, when they are doing the opposite in Scotland, have no control over what they are doing in their own constituencies in Scotland and are not in any way accountable for the effects their actions have on England.

I mean, I'm beginning to think it's almost impossible now to have a Scottish Prime Minister because they will be at odds with the basic construction of the British constitution and it may be that the Labour Party has created this massive problem for themselves and are now regretting it.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Alan Duncan, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.


Jon Sopel interviewed Ian Davidson MP

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now by Ian Davidson, who is Labour Member of Parliament and sits on the Scottish Affairs Committee.

What's your reaction to what you've just heard Alan Duncan say and what Ken Clarke is clearly recommending.

IAN DAVIDSON: Well after the very bad result that the Tories had in Bromley, they're obviously now scrabbling about with another stick to beat Labour with. I mean this is a return in my view, to the Tories as the nasty party. They recognise that they can't attack Gordon Brown for his handling of the economy, so they'll attack him on the basis that he's Scottish and any weapon will do.

JON SOPEL: But isn't there a serious point here that you could have a Scottish Prime Minister, who will write a Queen's speech, introduce legislation concerning schools, hospitals, the criminal justice system, and none of his constituents will ever be affected by it.

IAN DAVIDSON: Well there is undoubtedly an anomaly and we obviously ought to be considering it carefully. It seems to me that if you remember, the Scottish devolution came about because the vast majority of the Scottish population and their MPs were opposed to the introduction of the poll tax which English MPs introduced against their protest. Now the converse can't occur of course, I mean any - nothing can be introduced in the Westminster Parliament against the overwhelming majority of English MPs, simply because of the numerical disparity. But there is an issue (interjection)

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) ... there are ... legislation that have got passed because of Scottish Labour MPs ...

IAN DAVIDSON: At the margins.

JON SOPEL: Yeah.

IAN DAVIDSON: Yes, there are some issues where the Scottish voters made a difference, and I think we ought to look at that and it seems to me that there are two separate ways of dealing with this. One is that we consider the establishment of a separate English parliament in Manchester or Birmingham or York or somewhere similar.

Or we go back to the question of devolved assemblies or parliaments for parts of England. Now, I remember of course that Scotland took two goes, two referenda before we agreed to set up a Scottish parliament, it may be that that's a view that the English will come round to in time. But what would not be acceptable, undoubtedly not be acceptable is having a second tier status for Scottish MPs at Westminster. Westminster is the United Kingdom Parliament. All members of parliament there have got to have the same status. We can't have a situation where the Welsh can vote on some things but not on others. The Northern Irish, some things, not on others.

Scots, some things, not on others and of course all those categories would be different, and you would have some London MPs as well, on occasions, not able to vote on some issues that were in front of the Westminster parliament; that is a recipe for breaking up the United Kingdom. Now the vast majority of Scottish MPs, except for the Nationalists, are in favour of retaining the United Kingdom, and therefore this question of a two tier status or several tier status for members of parliament elected to Westminster, is simply not acceptable.

JON SOPEL: But do you think though that the Tories may have hit on something. They are tapping in to a concern that there's almost a democratic deficit in England and if you have a Scottish Prime Minister that is going to exacerbate the problem.

IAN DAVIDSON: Well the tapping in to some concern has been that they themselves have helped whip up. And I think you've got to recognise as well that they're under severe pressure from the BNP and from UKIP and other fringe parties. I mean they see their vote being eroded there and they wanted to pander to that sort of English nationalism.

I think that there is undoubtedly an issue there. I think it's a question of what solution do we seek to achieve and that's why I think the question of a separate English parliament, clearly distinct from Westminster, or devolved assemblies, is the way to go forward and if the English want to have that, if that becomes the settled will of the English people, then I think the vast majority of Scots would not oppose that.

What we do not want to see however, is anything that would break up the Union, and that's where the Tories, who used in Scotland to stand as the Conservative and Unionist party, seem willing in the pursuit of tactical political advantage, to be in to bed with the nationalists and risk the break up of the United Kingdom

JON SOPEL: Okay Ian Davidson thanks very much for you r time.

IAN DAVIDSON: Thank you.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.


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The Politics Show returns on Sunday 16 July 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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