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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 November 2006, 11:00 GMT
Questions of security
On Sunday 26 November, Andrew Marr interviewed Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

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

Peter Hain MP
Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

ANDREW MARR: Listening to that here in the studio is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain.

Welcome Peter Hain. Thank you for coming in.

PETER HAIN MP: Thank you. Thank you Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: It sounds to me a little bit as if there's still this kind of "after you Claude" business going on.

Paisley saying that Sinn Fein have to do this, Sinn Fein are still saying "Oh well Paisley's going to have to move as well first".

Is there any chance of breaking through this? PETER HAIN MP: Yes I do think there is and I think we're well down that road. On the one hand Sinn Fein need to sign up to policing and the rule of law. And Martin McGuinness says they are ready to do that, at the right time.

The other hand the DUP need to say absolutely emphatically they're willing to share power with Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley did say that on Friday. He was clear that subject to movement on policing and the rule of law then he is ready to be first minister with Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

That is an extraordinary breakthrough compared with where we've been even a year ago. ANDREW MARR: Well except neither of them, well the DUP wouldn't actually make the nomination.

Now for weeks and months you've been telling us that Friday was the crunch day and they really had to deliver by then or it was all over. Well they didn't deliver and you've just moved it forward again.

You said well we'll carry on as if Ian Paisley had said what we would hoped he would have said.

PETER HAIN MP: Well Ian issued a statement later on after the session and made it clear that he would be willing to and he hadn't expressed an intention to do so.

ANDREW MARR: After you'd been jumping up and down on his feet and breaking his fingernails ...

PETER HAIN MP: He's, he's made it clear all along that he would be First Minister when Sinn Fein have signed up to policing and the rule of law. And we've had the delivery on that and we've had an Ard Fheis called by Sinn Fein. That's absolutely crucial. If there isn't an Ard Fheis called I don't see how this process can move forward. And yes of course ..

ANDREW MARR: Were you encouraged at all by what Martin McGuinness was therefore saying?

PETER HAIN MP: I was encouraged. I thought that Martin, as Gerry Adams has been, is clear that they want to get to that goal but they need some help.

They need DUP leaders to stop saying they'll never devolve policing and the rule of law to Northern Ireland from under my control as Secretary of State within their lifetimes. I mean that is just extremely unhelpful.

ANDREW MARR: You're ..

PETER HAIN MP: This is part of a negotiation. These things are all difficult. Friday was not as positive as I'd wanted it to be but it was positive. And I think we can now move forward.

ANDREW MARR: You're carrying on paying their salaries and their expenses and all the rest of it as if they ..

PETER HAIN MP: For so long as they ..

ANDREW MARR: .. as if they were functioning politicians running the place and taking responsibility. When do you pull the plug? When do you actually put some financial pressure on them?

PETER HAIN MP: Well in the legislation I took through last week, through parliament, there is the power to dissolve at any time. That's very clear now. That had not been the case beforehand. And the choice really remains devolution or dissolution.

And in this process of course it's difficult. It's incredibly difficult. We may not achieve it. I think we can achieve it because I think Northern Ireland has now been so transformed from where it was that the politicians need to catch up, the DUP need to do what they need to do, Sinn Fein need to do what they need to do and march forward together in government together.

I think we can get that but it's not going to be easy. And in the end if they can't devolve then we'll dissolve. It's the second best solution but we'll have to move there.

ANDREW MARR: All right. We were all stunned by those images of course of Michael Stone breaking through the door there at Stormont. Do you accept responsibility for what happened? There was clearly a failure of security of some kind.

PETER HAIN MP: There was. And I spoke to the Chief Constable and his officers immediately afterwards and asked for an urgent report and asked for a review to make sure very quickly that from the time Stormont opens up again tomorrow, 'cause there will be a conclusion of the Assembly Session tomorrow, and the ongoing work in the Programme Of Government Committee Meeting in Stormont that security is absolutely water tight.

ANDREW MARR: There were stor.., there were ..

PETER HAIN MP: And we must ensure that this happens.

ANDREW MARR: There were stories there had been political pressure to, to go light on security before this meeting.

PETER HAIN MP: Well in the end this is a matter for the speaker and the Stormont authorities. Like Parliament here Stormont's under the control of the speaker is, and the p... and the legislature there is separate from the Secretary of State, though I have powers of direction. I will make sure if others don't that security is absolutely water tight and I'm sure it will be.

ANDREW MARR: Right let's move on to some domestic issues. We'd always had you down as a bit of an opponent of Trident and British nuclear weapons circulating the, the oceans. And you're now a firm enthusiast.

PETER HAIN MP: I have been a long standing supporter of multi-lateral disarmament across the world. In fact when I was Foreign Minister I negotiated as a Foreign Minister in two thousand the non-proliferation treaty which committed all of the world's powers for the first time to the global elimination of nuclear weapons.

Now in the past of course I've been a CND member and I don't apologise for that because in the past we were in a situation where you couldn't actually achieve that.

ANDREW MARR: Now ...

PETER HAIN MP: But the end of the Cold War made that possible and I was elected, like every other Labour MP on maintaining Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.

ANDREW MARR: So you think it would be a good way to spend taxpayer's money to develop a new system which could presumably wipe out half of humanity like the current one would. Give me some examples of how in practical terms that's going to be useful.

PETER HAIN MP: Well we have an independent nuclear deterrent now. If you're suggesting or anybody's suggesting that we just give that up ...

ANDREW MARR: I'm just asking why it's useful.

PETER HAIN MP: No. No well the point is this.

The time when North Korea's got the nuclear bomb, at a time when Iran is seeking to acquire it, where nine powers across the world, including ourselves, have a nuclear capacity, the issue is since we are where we are and the history of having an independent nuclear deterrent I do not think people in Britain will accept us giving that up. And this decision is about how we replace what in around twenty years time will be an obsolete system.

And it's an important debate, and it's important, I believe, which is why I'm really pleased the cabinet decided to follow this path, that there will be a proper debate in the country, in the party, everybody consulted ..

ANDREW MARR: So it's the party. Okay, okay ..

PETER HAIN MP: .. and then in the end a decision taken after a vote, after a debate and a vote by parliament.

ANDREW MARR: So, so presumably we're talking about a free vote because people have got their consciences on this issue.

PETER HAIN MP: Well no there'll be a government recommendation ..

ANDREW MARR: So there won't be a free vote?

PETER HAIN MP: Of course there won't be a free vote. How could there be a free, free vote ...

ANDREW MARR: So Labour MPs are going to be whipped into the lobbies after this open debate?

PETER HAIN MP: There will be a government recommendation for policy.

ANDREW MARR: For a decision the cabinet's already taken.

PETER HAIN MP: Andrew, you couldn't expect a serious government in charge of one of the world's global powers, Britain, making a recommendation to parliament and just say you can do what you like chaps and, and, and ..

ANDREW MARR: I'm just, I'm just, I'm just putting it to you ..

PETER HAIN MP: .. lads and lasses. You can do what you like ..

ANDREW MARR: .. I'm just putting it to you that this is not ..

PETER HAIN MP: .. and make your own mind up.

ANDREW MARR: I'm just putting it to you that this is not actually an open debate at all.

PETER HAIN MP: No.

ANDREW MARR: This is, this is a rubber stamping of something the cabinet has already agreed and will then be whipped through the House of Commons by the Labour Party.

PETER HAIN MP: We're a serious government and serious cabinet. We will put our view when that view is finalised by the cabinet and it hasn't been yet. We've not had a further cabinet discussion on the detail of all of this.

We'll make a recommendation through a White Paper. Then there'll be a full debate. You know this is light years away from when the nuclear system was last modernised taken in secret by a couple of, a handful of cabinet ministers ...

ANDREW MARR: You've got more cabinet ministers involved. That's all.

PETER HAIN MP: Nobody, no, nobody knew about it, that it had even been taken until afterwards. It was taken in secret. This is an open, transparent issue. It's a very important issue.

Do we want Britain to retain its independent nuclear deterrent or not. Parliament will have the say, the Party will have the say. I think we deserve credit for taking it in that democratic way. And I'm pleased that we are.

ANDREW MARR: In the days when you were a CND member one of the arguments of CND was that if we kept our nuclear weapons, and other countries, more and more countries would acquire nuclear weapons. The world would become a more dangerous place.

That is exactly what is happening in front of our eyes at the moment. Is there no case at all for Britain saying well we are going to be the first country to give up our nuclear weapons, to try and create a move in the other direction?

PETER HAIN MP: There is a case, as Gordon Brown has made clear, that we need to be prepared to put our nuclear weapon capacity into multi-lateral talks. And we are. And we've reduced as a Labour government massively our nuclear stockpile and we've made it much safer.

And in the future we should be part of a global negotiating strategy to try and stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and seek in the end as the treaty we signed up to, which I helped to negotiate six years ago, desires, a global end of nuclear weapons.

ANDREW MARR: In the old days of course all these nuclear weapons were pointing at Russia. That's no longer the case. But relations with Moscow are at a very, very tricky stage aren't they?

PETER HAIN MP: They are. And the promise that President Putin had brought to Russia when he came to power has obviously been clouded by what's happened since and including some extremely murky murders of the senior Russian journalist, one of their top journalists.

And there's lots of things been happening in Russia which actually cast a cloud over President Putin's success in binding the place together and in achieving economic stability out of chaos that he inherited.

ANDREW MARR: He's not quite, he's not quite the warm cuddly man we can do business with that he appeared to be a few years ago is he?

PETER HAIN MP: Well as I say, his success in binding what is a disintegrating nation together with a, an economy that was collapsing into Mafioso style chaos, his success in that must be balanced against the fact there have been huge attacks on individual liberty and on democracy. And it's important that he retakes the democratic road in my view.

ANDREW MARR: All right Peter Hain 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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