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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 11:15 GMT
Home and away
On Sunday 05 November, Andrew Marr interviewed John Reid MP, Home Secretary

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

John Reid MP
John Reid MP, Home Secretary

ANDREW MARR: Welcome Home Secretary

JOHN REID: Thank you very much Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: Before we start, let's respond first of all, talk first of all about the verdict on Saddam Hussein. Your reaction?

JOHN REID: Well this is a sovereign decision by a sovereign nation. It is in a sense the ultimate expression of the sovereignty of Iraq.

They are masters of their own destiny and they have taken a decision today as controllers of that destiny which I think all of us ought to respect.

ANDREW MARR: He's been on trial and found guilty because we invaded in the first place. So we have some role in all of this. Are you in any way uncomfortable with the idea of him being hanged now?

JOHN REID: I think we can have our views on this, but I'm not sure that we have a role in this. You see, if you fight and support for the right of a nation to be masters of its own destiny, to have democratic control of its own procedures, as the Iraqis now have, when they take a decision, even if it's one that we don't agree with in all aspects, then that's

ANDREW MARR: Do you agree with it yourself?

JOHN REID: ...then that is their right...

ANDREW MARR: Do you agree with the death penalty in this case?

JOHN REID: Well, with great respect...

ANDREW MARR: Right.

JOHN REID: The point is that the Iraqi people have elected a government, they are instituting a system in the midst of very, very difficult circumstances, with all its imperfections, it is a major advance on anything they have had before. And today is an expression of that ultimate sovereignty in practice.

So as masters of their own destiny I think we ought to accept that they are the people who should make this decision. And they will make their statements I have no doubt, in the course of the next few hours or days.

ANDREW MARR: Former Defence Secretary though, is this, are you in any way concerned that this will have a bit of a backlash on the troops on the ground, at least in the short term?

JOHN REID: Well, I think that there is obvious division between those in Iraq who want to destroy all judicial process, all transparency, all democracy. There never used to be any of this of course. I mean people disappeared in Iraq, people were murdered in the hundreds of thousands without any transparency.

And it is the destiny of the Iraqi people to make their decisions upon how they think those things happened, and who was guilty, in those cases. So it is a decision for them to take, and I think we ought to respect that.

ANDREW MARR: And do you think this is a moment of closure?

JOHN REID: I think that the struggle will continue in Iraq through this and many other events. I think there is undoubtedly a struggle going on there between those who want to construct a democratic process and the many, many millions who came out despite the threats of bombs and bullets, to take part in the election to elect a government which has within it not only the majority population represented the Shia, but the Sunni, and the Kurds themselves, a government of national unity.

There is obviously a life and death struggle going on for democracy, not just for this part of Iraq or the other part of Iraq. So in those difficult circumstances, to have conducted this trial the way it has been conducted, as I said, with all the no doubt inadequacies and imperfections that people can point out, I think there's an achievement for the Iraqi people, I think it is the ultimate expression of their own sovereignty and as masters of their own destiny we should respect that.

ANDREW MARR: And this might improve things?

JOHN REID: Well, I think time will tell. Look, what is going on there is quite clear to all of us. This is in a sense a struggle between those who want to impose their will on the Iraqi people by violence, bloodshed, massacres, the worst type of violence where we see on our screens every day. Muslim - men, women and children being massacred by those who claim to be the only custodians of their own perverted form of Islam.

And on the other side the vast majority of Iraqi people who want to control through their own democratically elected government, representing all sides of opinion and all ethnic groups and religious groups in Iraq, their own country. And I know which side that I think the vast majority of people in Britain are on, and that is the people who want to control their country democratically.

ANDREW MARR: As Home Secretary, what do you make of the many reports that have come out of Washington, and indeed London as well, which say that one of the troubles with all of this is it's actually made the terrorist threat worse, not better. That Iraq is now a kind of pullulating base for many, many terrorist organisations and individuals who were never there before.

JOHN REID: Well I've heard this said about Iraq and Afghanistan, and various other international interventions. Let me make my position quite plain, and I've held to this position for several years.

It is quite clear from the evidence of history that our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was not the cause, primary or significant cause of the development of international terrorism. It cannot be anything other ...

ANDREW MARR: But it might have made things worse.

JOHN REID: Well, let me finish if I might. It is obvious that our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the cause of international terrorism. Indeed, in the case of Afghanistan it was quite clearly the consequence of international terrorism.

However, it is also quite clear that intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan is used as a motivating factor to, if you like, inculcate opposition to the west by the Al Qaeda narrative which says that everything that has happened in the world, from, you know what has happened in the Middle East in the 1940s, the 1950s onwards, is a war against Islam.

I believe that to be an untrue narrative. But it is obvious that it's a factor in the radicalisation of young Muslims in this country though it is not a cause of the international terrorism in the first place.

ANDREW MARR: So to that extent you accept the fact that this has, to that limited degree, made things worse?

JOHN REID: Well of course the position in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians, the position in the Lebanon, the attacks that have taken place in previous decades have all been justified by some event or other at the time.

And I've no doubt that in encouraging your Muslim people to be radicalised against the West, against their foreign policy, then it is argued that, you know, this is some great war in Islam. The facts belie that because of course we risked British troops, British lives, going into to Kosovo, to defend Muslims and probably to...

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely, absolutely.

JOHN REID: ...save more Muslim lives there than any other venture which the government has carried out.

Nevertheless, you have to distinguish between the true causes of international terrorism and recognising that things that aren't actually historically the causes, can be portrayed as things which motivate young people in this country.

ANDREW MARR: Let's, let's move to your more immediate responsibilities. What are we going to be looking for in the Queen's speech in terms of centrepiece anti-terrorist legislation?

JOHN REID: Obviously I can't give you details of what's in the Queen's speech. But let me put it this way - I think that in facing the challenges of the next decade rather than the last decade, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the whole question of security, personal security, security in our communities because of the breakdown of community cohesion, anti-social behaviour, security for the nation against terrorism, against organised crime, that all of those become a centrepiece of the people's priorities for the next decade.

And that should be reflected in our Queen's speech and the legislation we bring in. So measures to counter terrorism better, measures to tackle organised crime, measures to tackle anti-social behaviour. And, measure to tackle the biggest new phenomena in the world in the last ten years which is mass migration on a massive scale. So we have..

ANDREW MARR: We have no idea how many people are in this country, do we?

JOHN REID: Well, from the day that Michael Howard said that he had no idea how many illegal immigrants there were it's become impossible to calculate because we carry that burden forward. It is also the case that we abolished, and starting under Michael Howard, the embarkation notification ...

ANDREW MARR: Which is coming back again, as I understand. Is it sustainable in your view, for this country to have on average 500 people net coming in a day?

JOHN REID: It is sustainable given two things. One, that some people leave the country every day...

ANDREW MARR: Well that's an average figure, the 500, that's evidentally...

JOHN REID: ...yes, but if there are people leaving and that fluctuates then it's sustainable. But it's also sustainable if the 500 who are coming here are contributing towards our economic development and therefore the general benefits of the country, rather than coming here and living off, say, benefits.

So, the key point about managed migration is this - that it has to be (a) managed and effectively, and know I think there are many areas where it hasn't been done so far, and secondly it has to be fair. That those who come to this country have to come through the managed system, rather than illegally. And when they come here they have to contribute to this country, not just take from this country. That is what I am absolutely determined we will do.

ANDREW MARR: We've only got a minute left, let me just ask you ask you briefly about the bigger domestic political scene.

JOHN REID: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Things have changed a bit in the Labour Party in terms of tone and mood, vis a vis Gordon Brown, since the Party Conference, haven't they?

JOHN REID: I actually think the big change is between the Conservatives and us. Because I think in all of the issues that I've mentioned which is crime, international terrorism and mass migration, David Cameron has shown a complete inability to take hard decisions.

You know, it's not enough to try and be likeable to everybody, you have to face up and I think he's completely lacking in leadership on that. And that in a sense has become not only a division between the Conservatives running away from those questions, but also a reason for all of us in the Labour Party to unit together because we know the future challenges can only be met through a partnership.

ANDREW MARR: And in that uniting, it's looking very unlikely at this stage that there's now going to be a challenge to Gordon Brown.

JOHN REID: Well I have the same position for five years on this, and that is I will discuss and express my opinion on that matter when Tony Blair says that he's going.

To do otherwise is not only discourteous to the Prime Minister, it's also very complacent and arrogant with the Labour Party. So, let's leave that to the Labour Party.

ANDREW MARR: Do you get on all right you two?

JOHN REID: Yes.

ANDREW MARR: You and Gordon Brown?

JOHN REID: I'll be quite honest with you. The media seem to think that there are only two states and conditions for politicians. One is for us to be at war and the other one is for complete capitulation and surrender by one to the other. Actually there is a much more normal state, and that's people working together, doing the job we're paid for and expected to do by the people of this country.

Me as Home Secretary, Gordon, John Hutton, Tony, Tessa Jowell, all being ministers, that is what we should concentrate on, and talk about the people's priorities rather than the priorities for our future or our self-advance. That is certainly what I intend to do.

ANDREW MARR: Yeah - but you do expect Gordon Brown to take over from Tony Blair, yes or no?

JOHN REID: I've already told you that I'll tell you that when the time comes and I have said in the past that it's discourteous to the present Prime Minister...

ANDREW MARR: OK.

JOHN REID: And I incidentally think that decision will not be taken at the behest, with great respect, with you Andrew or the editor of newspapers or anyone else. The Labour Party will take this decision. And for us to be trying to pre-empt their right I don't think is either a courteous thing or a sensible thing to do.

ANDREW MARR: Well we like lots of courtesy on this programme. John Reid thank you very much indeed for that.

ANDREW MARR: Well the Home Secretary John Reid is still with me for the last moments. Dr. Reid, one of the issues that's been talked about in the papers a lot has been whether there's going to be a need for a new terror Tsar, a Cabinet Minister actually charged with overseeing our anti-terror legislation. What's your view on that?

JOHN REID: Well I've been asked to lead up on this by the Prime Minister, to see what capabilities, resources and legislative and other means we need to tackle the present threat. I think that at this stage there's not a great case for going to another formulation or another minister.

But what I do also think is that because the threat we face is seamless, in other words the threat from terrorism crosses foreign affairs, domestic affairs, defence - that we need a more seamless approach to that, therefore we need a much more positive approach. We need a closer integration of all of the forces fighting against terrorism including the whole community, including the community. And unless we get that then we are weakened in our fight against terroris.

ANDREW MARR: All right, very briefly, sense of relief this morning? A good morning for democracy in your view?

JOHN REID: Well I think that this morning we have seen, for better for worse, whether we agree with it or not, the sovereignty of the Iraqi nation been exemplified in what has happened. And we fought for them to be masters of their own destiny, now we must accept them doing what they want to do.

ANDREW MARR: John Reid, thank you very much indeed.

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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