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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 September 2006, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Liberal Affairs
On Sunday 03 September 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed Nick Clegg MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman

ANDREW MARR: Good morning, welcome.

NICK CLEGG: Morning.

ANDREW MARR: The party's iron opposition to ninety day detention under any kind of circumstances might be tested again because the government are implying or hinting they could go back to parliament for further powers.

Now in the light of what has happened this summer is your party's position just as it was?

NICK CLEGG: Let us look at what has happened. The charges brought against the people who were allegedly involved in the Heathrow bomb plot were all, all, all those charges were brought I think within fourteen days.

That is within the initial period of time which existed before the new legislation which has introduced this extended period of time during which people can be detained without charge for twenty eight days.

ANDREW MARR: But there is, some were, the police required extra time for some of them?

NICK CLEGG: They, well that was just a formality of extending the amount of time they, they, they detained them. In other words we don't yet have evidence that you need to detain people for up to three months without charge. And I, let's be clear. We're not being frivolous in making, in expressing these concerns.

The, the debate about the, the balance between security and liberty is a, it's a very fraught one, it's a very difficult one. It's, it's at the heart of, of law-making. But what we say is, if you are going to erode very fundamental British liberties and detaining someone without charge for up to three months when only a few years ago was only I think four or seven days that you could do so, is a massive leap into the unknown.

And we would only ever contemplate it if we felt there was real hard and fast evidence that it was necessary and frankly the way in which the police and the government made the case last time were so paltry that it wasn't just ourselves, it was a whole range of opinion across all parties that rejected that proposal at the time.

ANDREW MARR: So if the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary come back to parliament when parliament resumes and says "I'm terribly sorry, we do need these ninety day, this ninety day extension" you will still say no?

NICK CLEGG: I have heard nothing in the summer and I've heard nothing about all the events surrounding this Heathrow bomb plot to suggest that ninety days, or for that matter whether we had ID cards ..

ANDREW MARR: I was going to ask you about that ..

NICK CLEGG: .. would, would make ..

ANDREW MARR: Same, same position?

NICK CLEGG: Well look, these were British citizens. The suggestion which was the way in which Tony Blair first sold ID cards that they significantly enhance Britain's security don't seem to be borne out by the facts. And the only point I would make is we are all, I think across all parties, keen to do our bit to stand absolutely shoulder to shoulder in opposing the terrorist threat. But don't throw away the baby out, without, you know out with the bath water.

ANDREW MARR: Okay. What do you make of the debate at the moment about security in airports at the moment? Ryanair talking about suing the government. A lot of passengers worried about the extraordinary amount of time it might take to get on flights and so on?

NICK CLEGG: Well I think, frankly I think it's the kind of thing that's going to take a while to settle down. I mean I, I just recently flew back from, from a holiday in Spain and there were no meaningful checks to speak of flying from a small airport, regional airport in Spain into, into the United Kingdom. In other words ...

ANDREW MARR: They still ...

NICK CLEGG: But the checks, well the checks seem to be rather asymmetrical. They seem to be being imposed on flights going out of the UK but not yet coming in. So I think there's quite some way to go before we have ironed out all these, all these glitches. But everybody I think has to support the inconvenience that will be incurred by improved security checks. That's, that's, that's obvious.

ANDREW MARR: Another big debate over the summer when so many people were away, over immigration again. Particularly the two next succession countries, suggesting that the Romanians, the Bulgarians should be, should be kept at arm's length a little bit for a while. Your party is very much seen as the most pro-immigration party if I can put it that way. Are you comfortable with that?

NICK CLEGG: I think it's a slightly misleading allegation. Immigration is not a free for all. No one advocates a complete free for all. It has to be a managed process. Where we have been critical is that the government has talked terrifically tough as it does in so many areas in, in the Home Office domain on immigration and then actually presided over extraordinary administrative incompetence, so that the basic functions of the immigration service aren't working. What we would say is make it work.

Restore public confidence in the way in which the immigration system works. As for Romania and Bulgaria, it's a slightly separate issue in the sense that I think a misleading suggestion has been allowed to circulate that we could somehow keep them out for good. Let's be clear ..

ANDREW MARR: No but there could be a moratorium, there could be a delay, and the question as, as France and other countries did first time round, and the question is would you support such a delay?

NICK CLEGG: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think it should happen?

NICK CLEGG: Yeah I think, I think it's quite clear that the way in which we unilaterally opened our borders to Poland and other countries in the last wave of enlargement is not necessarily something we should, we would be wise to do again. And it's perfectly, the government would be perfectly entitled to say to the French, the Spanish, the Germans and others, look, open your borders quickly and if you're not going to do so we will do it at the same pace as, as you will.

ANDREW MARR: Right.

NICK CLEGG: Cos don't forget, unlike I think Polish labour immigration into the United Kingdom, all the indications are that Bulgarians and Romanians don't want to come to the UK in the, in the same numbers. They want to go to Spain and Greece where there are already settled communities of Romanians and Bulgaria.

ANDREW MARR: Yes. We'll see. We'll see. Can I just ask you about the Liberal Democrats quickly, because there's been this book about Charles Kennedy serialised in The Times. And one of the things that struck me about it was there was all the business of the cover up over the drinking which was certainly the case.

But also I was quite supposed by the level of connection between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, Charles Kennedy and Tony Blair, Tim Razzle and Lord Faulkner, secretly behind the scenes to plan their election campaigning, two against one, ganging up on the Conservatives. A lot of people will read this and say actually the Liberal Democrats haven't been quite straight with the public.

NICK CLEGG: I think the, the book and all the revelations about Charles and, and the way, the manner in which he resigned has not been the happiest time for the, for the party. It, the commentary has been rather amusingly contradictory. At the time, at the beginning of the year we were all being accused of being too unkind and merciless towards Charles and now we're being accused of being too merciful and forgiving. I think, I think it just shows that this is a human, a human drama in which, in which friendships and loyalties were involved.

ANDREW MARR: Does he have to completely obdure(?) drinking to come back at the front line?

NICK CLEGG: I still remain of the view that it's, that, that he is, he has sufficient judgment I would hope in, in wanting to come back to front line politics, to be able to judge himself when he's got that condition under control. And I think to try and sort of develop some sort of clinical test which he has to undergo in public or in front of the parliamentary ...

ANDREW MARR: Would be wrong?

NICK CLEGG: .. yes of course it would be wrong.

ANDREW MARR: ...

NICK CLEGG: I mean at a certain point you've got to have some faith that the guy can, can make that judgment himself.

ANDREW MARR: You have this strangely unconstitutional title "next leader but one in waiting" or whatever it is ...

NICK CLEGG: A weight round my neck.

ANDREW MARR: That's right. Absolutely. But no tie round your neck so people might just take you for a Tory. Any thoughts as to when you would expect Ming Campbell to step down? Do you expect him to fight the next election and then resign?

NICK CLEGG: Oh I, I expect him to fight at the next election. That's what he said. And he'll, he'll go on as long as he wants. I mean look, don't forget this has been a very unhappy period of time for the Lib Dems just ..

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

NICK CLEGG: .. just a few months ago. It was so important that Ming, because of his authority and his credibility was able to come in quickly to settle the nerves of the party and create a sense of unity. I think he's done that very, very successfully. And I think it puts him in very good stead for the future.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Nick Clegg. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

INTERVIEW ENDS


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

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


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