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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March 2008, 14:48 GMT
Lord West interview transcript
Admiral, Lord West
Terrorism, clearly has come much more to the forefront and the sort of threat from the sort of terrorism we're facing now, compared with the IRA terrorism is on a very different magnitude
Lord West
On the Politics Show, Sunday 16 March 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Admiral Lord West, Security Minister.

Lord West confirms Government's National Security Strategy will be published this week.

Interview transcript

JON SOPEL: I am joined now by Admiral Lord West. Welcome to the Politics Show. Thank you for being with us.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: Thank you very much.

JON SOPEL: What about that point from Sir Jeremy Greenstock. Long on analysis, might be short on policy prescriptions.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: Well he's absolutely right about the complexity of it and difficulty of it. I mean part of the reason we've gone down this route is because our, you know the world is now a tiny global village, globalisation and all its impact.

The analysis is a very important part and I think there will be very good analysis and it's taken longer than we thought to do that and certainly my advice to the Prime Minister was let's now produce this until it's right.

And I know the Prime Minister wasn't intending to do it until it was right. That's why we couldn't make it fly before Christmas, but now it is right and it's in the right form. We are tackling ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But what about the point, it may be very good analysis but are there going to be policy prescriptions over this wide area.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: The answer is there are some areas I think which we have got very well under control.

There are other areas where a lot of work is needed and what this is doing is identifying that and giving us a focus as a way to move forward.

There's no easy - some of these things, there is no easy answer as Jeremy was saying, but let's take for example counter-terrorist aspect. I feel actually we have got that well within bounds now.

Our counter-terrorist strategy, the four pillars, the four P's - the refreshing of that strategy, I think we can honesty say that in the last twelve months we've done things that have made us all safer.

That doesn't mean we're safe and you know, there is always risk and that is one of the things that we've got to get across. There are a number of risks.

JON SOPEL: Just quantify the scale of the risk. In finding out - trying to find out what was going on in Whitehall, we spoke to one person who said that frankly, the risk that we're up against at the moment, makes the Cold War look like a doddle.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: I think that would be over stressing it to be quite honest. I mean the risk of state on state, a war, the threats that we had during the Cold War period, those have rather faded in the background, it doesn't mean there won't ever be one again, a state on state war.

Terrorism, clearly has come much more to the forefront and the sort of threat from the sort of terrorism we're facing now, compared with the IRA terrorism is on a very different magnitude and order around the world, where they're looking at causing mass casualties of innocent civilians, so there are threats there.

Pandemics, the business that now people can travel so quickly, so rapidly from country to country, pandemic flu, where again, we've got some good things in place there, some good work done, but you can't remove all of these risks but I think the issue with things like dealing with failed states, how we build those countries up, how we stop countries failing and the impact that has.

I mean places like Darfur, Zimbabwe - we, we need to actually think with organisations like the United Nations and others, how are we actually going to start tackling these and these are issues that we will have to join in debate and talk through how this can be done.

JON SOPEL: Yeah and that's a very interesting point on diplomacy there. The role that diplomacy plays and I think that we can hear again from Sir Jeremy Greenstock on this particular point.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock
Diplomacy is more important in peace time than the Armed Forces, until you need the Armed Forces
Sir Jeremy Greenstock

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I'm more worried about the area of diplomacy. I think the security strategy will say, we've got to do these things through consultation and discussion and in due process but the government is taking money away diplomacy and the Foreign Office is having its budget starved against inflation.

Diplomacy is more important in peace time than the Armed Forces, until you need the Armed Forces. If you don't invest in diplomacy, you have to get to the Armed Forces sooner, and that's what worries me about the government's approach at the moment.

JON SOPEL: In other words, there is not enough money being spent on diplomacy when you're asking diplomacy to play an ever bigger role.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: Well I think he's wrong. I think there is enough money being spent on diplomacy and actually, within the National Security Strategy, we touch on the importance of that and the importance of our overseas ambassadors and other structures to do that.

And you know, I can understand someone who is an Ex Diplomat fighting his corner, that's the way we do things in this country, as an Ex Military, I might do - look at the military.

JON SOPEL: Okay, well give us a specific, something that will be done differently as a result of this strategy having come about.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: Well I, that's quite difficult. What I would say is we are looking in great detail at things like, let's look at - for example the Permanent Members of the Security Council.

How should we move that forward. Let's look at that. Let's look at how we engage with some other structures. How should we actually look at use of DIFID money, how should we look at ...

JON SOPEL: I'm just wondering whether we're going to get to a very worthy document but nothing that changes as a result of it.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: The answer is, I don't think that is the case. I think actually, we need this analysis, we will show where we've done a lot of good work and we will indicate where we're going to do more work.

I don't want to steal the Prime Minister's thunder for next Wednesday, but we will actually come up with some specifics, some areas we're looking ...


ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: ... I can't say to you this is a - if there was an easy answer to all of this, we wouldn't have had to go down this route. It is highly complicated and it's very difficult, but I believe now we're tackling, we're leading the world in this.

JON SOPEL: Made more complicated by the fact that you're trying to take in flooding, bird flu, international terrorism, in to one sort of document.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: Well, I think the answer is we have to do that because actually, they all interact and inter-relate. I mean climate change is an area where you know, this impacts on things like flooding and those sort of things.

We need to look at how these all inter-relate. You know, the speed of travel, the fact of a collapse in some countries, what the impact of that is. We saw with 9/11 you know, the impact economically around the world and these things do need to be addressed holistically and looking at them altogether.

JON SOPEL: And can you say what we as individuals should be doing as part of this. Is that part of this document.

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: Well, you're absolutely right and as I say, I don't want to steal the thunder on Wednesday, but unlike previous documents and we are leading the way here. No other country has done this - the Americans and Australians are looking at it, the French are looking at it, we're ahead of them all in this, so we're grounding breaking and it's an important and I think we should be proud of the fact that we're doing it.

But yes, we're looking very much more at what is the threat to the citizen rather than anything in the past was produced as I say, very much defence, foreign policy, a bit of Home Office, threat to the State, we're now much more, looking at the citizen and tying the citizen in to this. Let's think of their vigilance, how does involve them.

JON SOPEL: And very briefly, we've heard Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former Chief of Staff say that what you need to do is you need to start talking to the leaders of Hamas al Qaeda and other groups if you want to deal with these problems. Do you agree with that?

ADMIRAL, LORD WEST: I think one has got to be quite careful there. To say that there should be no link at all through any strange back source, back route in to anywhere, would be silly but that's done on a very careful, secret level, really to find out what they're up to.

I think to actually get in to dialogue with people, who at the moment don't seem to have any aim other than causing mass casualties, no clear way ahead, I think would be wrong and I don't believe we're doing that at the moment, to the best of my knowledge. I don't believe we're doing it. I think with the Irish issue, what I would say there is, what happened is

JON SOPEL: Okay. We must leave it there. Lord West, thank you very much indeed for being with us.


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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 Sunday 16 March 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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