On the Politics Show, Sunday 01 July 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed The Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
JON SOPEL: And I'm joined now by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Mr Hague, thank you very much for joining us. These are difficult times for any government to weather, but let alone for ministers, who are just hours in to their new jobs.
WILLIAM HAGUE: Yes, absolutely, but the Prime Minister is quite right to speak about not yielding, not being intimidated and he will find a great deal of support across British politics for that. There is a great appetite to work together in fighting, what is a very, very serious international and domestic terrorist threat to this country. The greatest threat to our national or personal security, in this country today; so he won't find the opposition parties wanting, when it comes to working together, if he approaches in that spirit.
JON SOPEL: Yes, so what about extending twenty eight days. The last time this was put on the agenda, you rejected it. Isn't there a danger that in view of recent events, you'll just look ridiculous if you oppose it again?
WILLIAM HAGUE: Well the important thing here is to do the right thing. There are three things really that he was talking about in that interview and that your correspondent was talking about. The use of intercept evidence in court is one of them and this is something the Conservatives, my colleague David Davis and David Cameron have been talking for, for a long time, so a review of that is something we fully agree with, indeed, we think it is overdue.
The post-charge questioning of suspects is another thing that we have suggested should be on the table, so we have been putting forward a lot of proposals about this. On the question of extending twenty eight days, the government last time, tried to extend it to ninety days detention, without charge, they couldn't actually come up with any reason why parliament should agree to that. They couldn't come up with a concrete case in which it had been necessary; so if there is compelling new evidence, we will look at that again of course.
JON SOPEL: But don't you sense that things have...
JON SOPEL: Don't you sense the reason...
WILLIAM HAGUE: The reason it was defeated last time was because Labour MPs as well as Conservative MPs, had grave concerns about whether it had actually been justified. So we will see if things have moved on. If the government have compelling new evidence, then of course they will find a ready audience to listen to that in all political parties.
But they can't just expect parliament to sign a blank cheque on these things, to give governments the power to detain people for months without charge, does require specific evidence that that is necessary, alongside a whole range of other measures, that certainly are necessary, in order to combat terrorism.
JON SOPEL: Let me just be clear about this because I think I'm sensing a bit of movement. So if there is sufficient scrutiny, if it is backed by the police that they might need more than twenty eight days for the reasons that Gillian Hargreaves was just explaining there, if you get Peter Clarke coming to you and saying, look, you know we've got a very complex case, we need more time, then you the Tories will look at this more sympathetically.
WILLIAM HAGUE: We've always said that if there is compelling evidence, then we would look at that again. We haven't yet seen such compelling evidence, it is not sufficient just for people to assert that things are necessary and then all MPs can say, oh well, that is fine, we will go along with it. So, we have been expecting that we would have to oppose any such extension of twenty eight days, that may still be the case.
But if there is compelling new evidence, well, that would be a different situation, we would have to look at that evidence before changing our approach and really, I encourage the government to work with the opposition on this, not to be confrontational about it. If they have a fresh case to put on that, on this, they should discuss it with us, so that parties can come to a conclusion together about these things.
JON SOPEL: And on the reason why we're facing this heightened terror threat, do you think that the war in Iraq has made us less safe.
WILLIAM HAGUE: No, I don't think so, I think it's a much bigger picture, sadly, than the war in Iraq and remember the attacks of 9/11 took place before the war in Iraq and before the invasion of Afghanistan by coalition forces; so I think there are much bigger forces at work in the world, than just what's been happening in the war in Iraq.
The war in Iraq, clearly has not turned out in the way that was hoped. We have a situation there, very very different from the one that we hoped for and I think it is important for Cabinet to have a formal review of the position in Iraq.
The American government are doing this, they have a formal review and an independent military commission as well, reporting in September, there's no such formal review talking place in Britain and I think that is important. Last time the Americans had the Baker-Hamilton Report, no review in Britain. It's very important for that process to take place in London, as well as in Washington.
JON SOPEL: Okay, for the moment Mr Hague thank you very much.
END OF FIRST SECTION OF HAGUE INTERVIEW
JON SOPEL: I'm joined once more by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague. William Hague wasn't this meant to be the point where all your problems were over, Blair gone, an 'analogue Chancellor in the digital age' and it seems anything but that.
WILLIAM HAGUE: I don't think we ever thought there would be such a magical point, opinion polls go up and down in politics, and you take those things in your stride and it would be amazing if there wasn't some kind of little opinion poll bounce for an incoming Prime Minister but I think it is already clear that Gordon Brown is not the change and cannot be the change.
And after all, this is not only the government that brought you the devastation of the pension funds, of this country, and more than a hundred stealth tax rises, it's the actual man who brought these things who is now the Prime Minister, and so a real change requires a change of government at a General Election, and a Conservative government and I think that will be very clear when the time comes.
JON SOPEL: But wouldn't you accept that it has been a pretty rotten time for the Tories over the past few weeks.
WILLIAM HAGUE: Well, no, not really. I mean I have the benefit of seeing these things in perspective of course, having led the Party a few years ago, and then we did really have a rotten time. There is not doubt about that.
But what I see and feel now, in the Conservative Party, whether it is going around the Party and the country, or working in the Shadow Cabinet, is a far better spirit, a far more united Party, and a far more determined Party and we certainly have the determination and resolve to show that this government isn't the change, it's not a new government, in many ways it's the worse part of the old government and that we do need the Conservatives to govern Britain again.
JON SOPEL: But 40% of the people polled for our survey there, suggested that a change for Brown would be a change for the better.
WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I'm sure they have hopes about that. You know the British people of course do hope for something better. But as you saw on this, I agree with Menzies Campbell, as you saw him saying a few minutes ago, Gordon Brown has been in there on every decision that has been made over the last ten years.
Look at the state of our Health Service, the crisis over Junior Doctors, the cutting of thousands of posts in the Health Service, this year. The nine reorganisations in ten years, who has been one of the orchestrators of that, it is actually, Gordon Brown himself and I don't think we're going to see a change from those things.
A real change would mean changing those policies in the National Health Service. It would mean scrapping the expensive identity card system and having a proper border police, in this country, instead. It would mean holding a referendum on the European Constitution, and so on. That would be a real change, you get the point.
JON SOPEL: Yeah, but isn't the fact of the matter that a lot of your supporters want change from the Conservative Party, that they're not happy in the general drift of direction, you've got Edward Leigh from the Right, saying it is not urgent and I suspect he speaks for many Conservative supporters who say, you know, we should be out there promising tax cuts, being tough on immigration and forgetting this PR sort of glamour and glitz.
WILLIAM HAGUE: Well if they do think that, and you point to Edward Leigh as one example, I'm not sure how widespread that feeling is, but if they do think that, then I would disagree with them, and again, I would say to them, with the benefit of my experience, as Leader of the Party, a few years ago that what Michael Portillo was just saying, on your programme is absolutely right.
That David Cameron has set out a clear strategy to return the Conservatives to the centre ground of British politics and I for one, and I think the vast majority of the Conservative Party, are fully behind him in doing that and he has set out already, quite a lot of policies about what we'll do on the NHS, about what we'll do to tackle climate change, we're going to be talking a lot more in the coming month about social mobility and the condition of the broken society of this country and that is the thing, those are things, the Conservative Party has to address.
JON SOPEL: Mr Hague, you talk - say, you're not in Leigh camp, so are you in the Osborne camp when he says, we are the heirs to Blair, because you then came out and said, I want to take on the argument that we're copying New Labour, copying their strategy, copying their politics, this could not be more wrong. So I just wondered whether you're on Edward Leigh's side or George Osborne's side.
WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I'm on the side of straight forward common sense, which I think is what George Osborne and I have always stood for and we don't have to copy New Labour, in the sense of saying, everything we've believed in the past was wrong. We don't have to disown every single principle of the past, which is what New Labour had to do.
But we are the party that is best placed to bring about genuine meaningful, useful reform, of our Health and Education services, after all we supported Tony Blair on what he was doing in Education last year, to give some measure of greater freedom to schools. Who has been blocking a lot of that over the last ten years, well it's been Gordon Brown. So I don't see any contradiction in the positions you were just trying to divide us on there. We don't have to copy New Labour, but we are the party best placed to reform public services.
JON SOPEL: Okay. William Hague, I'm grateful to you. Thanks ever so much for being with us.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM HAGUE
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The Politics Show Sunday 01 July 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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