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Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 14:32 UK

David Davis interview

On the Politics Show, Sunday 08 June 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary

David Davis MP
David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary

JON SOPEL: Graham Foulkes, who lost his son David, in the 7/7 attacks and David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary was listening to that charge very forcefully put there at the end, that you're playing games.

DAVID DAVIS: Well that's not true. I mean I, of course you can't but have sympathy for people who face the loss that Mr Foulkes has faced, but you could equally well have shown a shot of Rachel North, another of the survivors of 7/7, speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee, who said, in terms, not in my name.

As for the question of playing games on this, this has been an issue which we've dealt with over the years, not just now, but dealing with Mr Blair and so on, over ninety days.

Before that on control orders and indeed throughout my entire time as Shadow Home Secretary and what we've done throughout that is take a very responsible attitude to this.

The question I have to ask, I mean I have to listen to everybody who speaks on this, whether it's Mr Foulkes or people on the other side and the question I have to ask every time is, will this save lives; will this actually achieve what we're trying to achieve or will it do the opposite and in my view, very plainly, it will do the opposite.

JON SOPEL: What of the argument that he put in that film there that you seem to be more interested in the civil rights of a suspected terrorist than you do in the civil rights of families who've lost loved ones.

DAVID DAVIS: Well it's simply not true. I mean the first thing to look at is your enemy in this and your enemy is not us, your enemy is not the government, your enemy is al-Qaeda and what do they want do they want us to do.

Now, down histories, revolutionaries and terrorists have always made the same argument; get the state to behave in an over-repressive manner and it makes our job easier, it gives us a friendly sea in which to swim. Those are the sorts of phrases that have been around since Che Guevara, right through al-Qaeda, and I'm afraid it is the case, it is true. And it's not just my view. I mean ...


JON SOPEL: ... do you object to this on principle or is it a question of degree?

DAVID DAVIS: The gentleman, Mr Foulkes, can make the accusation against me but he can't make that accusation against let's say Geoffrey Dear, past Head of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and a past West Midland's policeman, who've been on a death list, who's dealt with terrorism, who says, this actually is helping, this legislation will help the terrorists; he can't say the same to all those ex-Chief Constables who're saying that, so I'm afraid, you know, I mean it's hard, it's tough and particularly acute for someone who's had a terrible loss or injury but the truth is, we have to think very carefully about what we're doing. It is not just a question of principle. It is a question of principle, but it's not just.

You know, there is an argument that says, you know, you may want to defend civil liberties, even though it costs you lives, I don't think that's the argument here. The argument is, we need to defend our liberties, our rights that we've had for eight hundred years, but also recognize that this legislation will do harm to security as well as ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But you initially imposed the extension from fourteen days to twenty eight days.

DAVID DAVIS: No, that's not true. No, no, let us get the facts right, please. Let's get the facts right. I discussed this with Charles Clarke, he'll tell you, you can have him on here I'm sure cos he's no longer bound by this and I said, what do you mean Charles ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: You were unconvinced.

DAVID DAVIS: What do you ... by this, let me finish the other thing, what actually happened. He said, we need ninety days. I said, you can't have ninety days Charles. He said, what's the most you can do. I said, twenty eight days. You can see a case for twenty eight days because we've had some pressure on, on earlier ...

You can see a case for twenty eight days and that gives you plenty in hand. Now that's what I said to him at the time. He will probably confirm that if you called him. So, you know, that's what we've done, and that's actually - I think it was the right decision at the time. If that had not been the case, we wouldn't have voted for it last time.

JON SOPEL: And since then, we've had people being detained until within a day of that. What of the argument that there are going to be even more complex cases where you may need to get longer and there is a possibility and that must be an awful position for a politician to be in, or a government to be in, where you had to let someone go, because you didn't have enough time to marshal the evidence.

DAVID DAVIS: First question is, we've never had to let anybody go. Now understand that. There was one paper this morning claiming ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But we've had twenty seven days whereas before we had a maximum of fourteen. (interjection)

DAVID DAVIS: All right, let's come back to those in a second. The first question to answer because of a lie in one of this morning's papers, I'm afraid is just simply not true and that is nobody has had to be let go.

We've asked this question in a ... When I had discussions with the Home Secretary on this, we had four meetings on this and she started out saying, I want to be consensual. I said fine, provide me with the evidence, provide me the data, show me why you've come to this logic. Not a smidgen of evidence; so that's the first thing. The second thing, the ones that went to twenty seven, twenty eight days. Had the time come earlier, they would still have been charged.

They would have been charged under what's called a threshold test, that is reasonable suspicion and if you want to ask the real people on this, who know the answer, it's not even the police, it's the Crown Prosecution Service, they make the decision. And watch their words - their words are, this is comfortable, not, not enough, comfortable, comfortably enough and they foresee no probability that it will be insufficient.

JON SOPEL: But one of the positions that you've taken is that you support a Civil Contingencies Act that if there was a .... (interjection)

DAVID DAVIS: No, no. No, no. Be careful again. You see this is - you mustn't misrepresent the ... It's a very difficult argument, I know. But what we've said to the government is, you have got the Civil Contingencies Act. In the event you have an outcome, which I don't believe is at all probable, this is the three 9/11s outcome if you like.

In the even you have that, you have got something to respond to. It's not appropriate to use, if you've got one person who's up against the edge, I'd grant you that, but it is appropriate if you've got a real state of emergency.

JON SOPEL: Right, and that leaves the situation where you could have people being detained for longer. The government is saying, well why don't you legislate now, while it's calm, not in an atmosphere where there is a national emergency.

DAVID DAVIS: Well if they come back with something that took the Civil Contingencies Act and kept in, kept in all the defenses there and added more defenses in, more restraints, we would have said yes, we told them that last November. Not only I told them that, Liberty told them that as well.


DAVID DAVIS: And they haven't done that. Nothing like. ... on the other way they've diluted the defenses that exist in the Civil Contingencies Act.

JON SOPEL: Very briefly, do you think the government is going to get this through the Commons.

DAVID DAVIS: I don't know is the straight answer. There's been a devil of a lot of heavy whipping going on, all sorts of extraordinary things. Not riding on the argument. They've not, I mean there are over seventy Labour MPs who oppose this in principle.

But riding on what it would do to Gordon Brown. I actually think it's got no implication one way or the other for Gordon Brown, but one or two people who've been ringing up around, one of the whips who have been ringing the left wing members of the Labour Party and saying, vote against forty two days on Wednesday, you get David Miliband on Thursday; I've never heard such a ridiculous argument, but that's what is going on.

JON SOPEL: If it does get passed, final question, would you repeal this if you became Home Secretary.

DAVID DAVIS: It would be one of the first items for review and unless there's any evidence in the interim, the other way, it will go back to twenty eight days.

JON SOPEL: Right. Let's talk about another issue. The Home Affairs Select Committee has come out this morning and said, we're living in a surveillance society. Do you agree.

DAVID DAVIS: Yes, I do actually. I mean what we've got is the worst of all worlds. I mean take - we could talk about DNA, where we've got the biggest DNA data base not just in the free world, but in the world, with over a million innocent people on it.

Or you can talk about CCTV, what they talked about. Now we've got vast numbers of CCTV cameras, one for every fourteen people, but actually, they're no use for prevention of criminal acts. They're not up to evidential standard.

We only use them in 3% of cases. So what we should have is those that are there should be up to evidential standard, but on the other hand, if they are mis-used, in any way, for commercial or other salacious purposes, then there should be a mandatory sentence I'm afraid, on the misuse of the data.

JON SOPEL: You're not telling me you're against CCTV cameras.

DAVID DAVIS: No, I'm not. I'm saying that they should be properly used and the mis-use of them I am very much against.

JON SOPEL: Hang on, have we got too many CCTV cameras?

DAVID DAVIS: What we have got is too many CCTV cameras that are useful for nothing, they're not useful, nothing that's socially functional.

They're not useful for criminal cases cos they're not up to evidential standard on the one hand. And on the other hand, we don't have the protections for people from the mis-use of the information on them.

JON SOPEL: You talked about mandatory sentencing there. On knife crime as well, would you like to see minimum and mandatory sentences on those as well.

DAVID DAVIS: It's quite interesting, because the government has been following our line on this. I mean two or three years ago, we asked for an increase in the maximum sentence to five years, the government voted against it, including Jackie Smith.

A few years later, they got four years. Last week, Nick Herbert one of my colleagues said, right we should have the presumption to prosecute because too many of them are not being prosecuted. You can't have a minimum because you might just pick somebody up carrying a pruning knife. But you've got to have a presumption to prosecute when you think it's wrong.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Let me just talk about stories within your own party and about personal conduct of MPs, MEPs. We've seen your party Chairman, Caroline Spelman, having to explain how she seemed to be employing an nanny as her parliamentary assistant.

Seeing as she is the person that's responsible for making that MPs in the Conservative Party are playing by the rules, doesn't she have to stand down.

DAVID DAVIS: No. I mean the first thing to say, before I come to the substantive facts is, I've known Caroline Spelman for ten years. She is the most upright, most straightforward. I would be amazed if there was any substance to this.

What she's doing is going to see the Commissioner on Monday, straightaway. I mean David has always been very clear on this. Any doubt at all, has got to be cleared up straightaway and dealt with and if there is any culpability, then that's dealt with immediately.

But you've got to clear up the doubt. She says that you know, this is something that she did for one year, thought it might be misrepresented or misinterpreted, wasn't outside the rules at the time, and she put it right then. And she's going to see the Commissioner on Monday, and hopefully, he'll deal with it very quickly indeed.

JON SOPEL: So it does sound like it was an error of judgment in that year.

DAVID DAVIS: Well she's a brand new MP and she was not told it was outside the rules, it just might have been misinterpreted. Now she's ...

JON SOPEL: So the answer is yes, it was an error of judgment.

DAVID DAVIS: No, no, no, come on. Let's be clear. I pick my own words if you don't mind Mr Sopel. She'll go to the Commissioner, the Commissioner will make a judgment on it - not the rest of us on TV or anywhere else.

JON SOPEL: Okay. David Davis, thank you very much indeed for being with us.

DAVID DAVIS: Thank you.



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 Sunday 15 June 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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