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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 November 2006, 15:30 GMT
Interview transcript
On the Politics Show, Sunday 12 November 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

William Hague
I think we have to make the most of our friendships and build on our friendships with the moderate Arab nations of the Middle East
William Hague

JON SOPEL: Well Im joined now by William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary. Mr Hague, welcome to the Politics Show. Are you going to be backing the government this time round on a ninety day detention period for suspected terrorists.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well, that would depend on the arguments that they bring forward. We voted against that before but that was because they couldnt actually site a single case in which a ninety day period was required, so Conservatives want to see strong laws against terrorism, that help us combat terrorism, but we dont want to see ineffective authoritarianism. There has to be a good argument for anything the government does.

JON SOPEL: Arent the arguments this time being made not by government ministers but by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the Head of the Anti Terrorist Squad, Eliza Manningham Buller, the Head of MI5.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well we should listen to all of their arguments, but simple assertions arent sufficient for parliament and John Prescott was saying that there that its because of Conservatives and Liberals that this proposal was defeated before, actually, it wouldnt have been defeated had they been able to persuade members of their own party that this was the right thing to do.

So there are a lot of things that need doing to combat terrorism. A proper border police force in this country, proper surveillance of terrorist suspects, a Minister in the Cabinet who pulls together the whole anti terrorism effort, there are a lot of things that need doing, but they all have to be justified.

JON SOPEL: Do you think that something changed though this summer, over the alleged airline, terror bomb plot, whatever shorthand you want to do. I mean you know, Peter Clark gave that very interesting news conference afterwards where he said, weve found more than four hundred computers, two hundred mobile telephones and eight thousand items of removable storage media, such as memory sticks, CDs and DVDs.

So far from the computers alone, we have removed some six thousand giga bytes of data. It is an incredibly complex operation now, investigating somebody... and you know, they were really pushed against it over twenty eight days.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Its a huge operation and I think we do have to take heed of what Eliza Manningham Buller has said, there is clearly a major threat to the security of this country. But thats not the same as saying, lets just adopt every single idea that anybody has ever had for dealing with this. We have to adopt the most effective ideas. And so thats where you come back to the argument about the twenty eight day detention.

If people can show, if it can be shown, that it is necessary to extend that, then the Conservative Party will listen to that, but we do need better arguments than the Government were able to come up with last time and in the meantime they need to get on with the things that Ive just been mentioning and that David Cameron was proposing in his article in the Sunday papers this morning.

JON SOPEL: Sure. But it sounded almost like, you know better than Sir Ian Blair and Eliza Manningham Buller.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I dont think parliament can ever just take the orders as it were, take the instructions of people in the security services. You do have to weight that up but parliament in the end has to make the decision.

So as I say, if the government comes up with an argument that gives instances and cases in which a longer period of detention has been necessary, that would make a big difference to have Conservatives think about this, but were not just going to give a blank cheque for the government to do anything it wants.

JON SOPEL: And Labour say the big thing that you could do to help would be to support identity cards. Its fair to say that this is an issue that your party has rather flip flopped on isnt it.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well its... I think its become clearer over time where we should stand on this, lets put it that way, because here weve got the government adopting an identity card scheme, but one that is so bureaucratic and involves a vast data base and this is the government of serial catastrophes when it comes to data bases as we all know, costing now, according to the London School of Economics, up to twenty billion pounds and we said that if some of that money was spent instead on an effective border police and strengthened surveillance of terrorist suspects, and strengthening special branch and things like that, wed actually get a lot further... (interjection) ...having identity cards.

JON SOPEL: Isnt that a detail of the legislation. I mean you supported identity cards back in December 2004, less than two years ago.

WILLIAM HAGUE: We supported, I and Michael Howard supported the principle of those. Subject to how the details were worked out. The details are not impressive and the grasp of detail and the ability to control the costs of the current government is so terrible, that its not a scheme that we can support.

JON SOPEL: Can we turn now from the war on terror to the war on Iraq and your area of responsibility. Should the policy change now towards Iraq?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Its, certainly there should be a reassessment going on because clearly Iraq at the moment, which could still tip either way, is tipping in the wrong direction. I think we have to concede that over the last few weeks and months. Its very important there is heavy British involvement in that reassessment, that its not just an American process and certainly there are things that need doing better such as the tackling of corruption in Iraq, of the reconstruction in Iraq and of course we have to look at whether we can bring other countries in to help dealing with it.

JON SOPEL: Yes, thats what I wanted to ask. Do you believe that its time now to bring Syria and Iran in as part of the process to try and bring a stable peace to the region.

WILLIAM HAGUE: I think we have to make the most of our friendships and build on our friendships with the moderate Arab nations of the Middle East and remember that it s not just the Iraqs, we mustnt take our eye off the situation in Lebanon, situation in Gaza, they need to really push forward the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We need those friendships with the moderate Arab nations. Syria and Iran are a more difficult proposition and of course it would be excellent if they could be involved at some stage in the future, in guaranteeing what happens in Iraq. It may be nave to think that that could happen in the coming weeks and months.

JON SOPEL: You talk abut reassessment. What are the policy options, clearly up for, its all up for debate in the United States following the mid-term elections.

WILLIAM HAGUE: And it should be all up for debate here. We mustnt be afraid of debating that.

JON SOPEL: All options.

WILLIAM HAGE: And I think, look well, the situation in Iraq should be up for debate here. People tend to see the choices on Iraq as do we pull the troops out quickly or do we pull them out slowly and actually, that is not the main issue. I mean we all want to see the troops come home when they can come home but we dont want to see a totally collapsing Iraq left behind. So what can be done internally to strengthen the security and the progress made in Iraq is very very important and all the options to help buttress that need to be debated openly, in the debates on this Queens Speech.

JON SOPEL: And a final question. The Register of Members Interests was published this week. It showed that your income has been slashed since returning to the front bench, from something like of, I dont know, the best part of a million quid the previous year to a paltry quarter of a million. I just wondered whether its been worth it.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Money isnt everything, is it? We have to try and give this country an alternative government at the next election and Im delighted to be part of the effort to try to do that.

JON SOPEL: Okay, William Hague, thank you very much for being with us.



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The Politics Show Sunday 12 November 2006 at 12.10 GMT on BBC One.

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