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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 January 2007, 11:44 GMT
Home Office future
On Sunday 21 January 2007, Andrew Marr interviewed Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor

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

Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor

ANDREW MARR: Now, as we've heard, the future of the Home Office seems to be up for grabs this morning.

Is this huge department, one of the oldest in Whitehall, finally going to be broken up after being described as "not fit for purpose" by the Home Secretary John Reid?

If it happened it would directly affect two members of the Cabinet, the other one is Lord, the Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer.

Lord Chancellor thank you very much indeed for coming in this morning.

LORD FALCONER: Thank you for having me.

ANDREW MARR: You would be Justice Minister I guess if this happened. Is this going to happen?

LORD FALCONER: Well it's a very, very serious proposal. Since John Reid became Home Secretary he's been looking at all of the bits of what the Home Office does, at the fore of what the Home Secretary has got to do is to provide public protection.

He should wake up every morning and think that his first focus has got to be protecting the public, transforming all the bits of it is going on, and will continue to go on.

But I think we might need to move forward and think is the right thing to do to divide the Home Office into a position where the bits that focus on our borders, on police, on counter-terrorism are in one place, and in another place is a Justice Ministry dealing with the court, dealing with prison, dealing with criminal law, dealing with sentencing.

And I think it may well be that that split time has come as we face, for example, much greater waves of immigration across the world, much greater threats from terrorism.

ANDREW MARR: Now, we expect this to go, I think to the Cabinet, as early as this week. So no final decision's been taken. But in your waters do you think this is going to happen?

LORD FALCONER: Well I don't think there's going to be a Cabinet discussion in the course during the course of this week but this is a proposal who we need to look at the detail of this so I would say this proposal's been around for a long time, the question is has the time come, looking at the landscape out there, for us to create a department that focuses on public protection, and one that focuses on justice And I think it may well be that its time has come.

ANDREW MARR: So under this proposal you would be Minister for Justice, almost on the European model, looking after courts, policing and all of that. No, policing plainly has to be with the other departments.

LORD FALCONER: .... department because if you're thinking of...

ANDREW MARR: What would you have?

LORD FALCONER: The Justice Department would have courts, probations, prisons, criminal law, criminal sentencing. From the period after arrest right to the end of the criminal justice process, because not just to disallow the Home Secretary to focus on public protection, it allows as much as possible the criminal justice agencies to be together so they can give an improved service in relation to justice.

ANDREW MARR: How quickly could this be done?

LORD FALCONER: Well, as I say, this is a proposal that's been considered on a number of occasions in the past. It would involve some shifting of bits of the Home Office to the Department for Constitutional Affairs which have become, as you say, a justice department. It wouldn't take long to do. But it would allow this clear focus on the critical issue of public protection.

ANDREW MARR: You wouldn't have to sort of build new buildings?

LORD FALCONER: Oh no, absolutely not. What you'll be doing is making sure that political direction and political leadership is focused on public protection in one department and justice on the other.

ANDREW MARR: And would you have to legislate to do this?

LORD FALCONER: No you would not.

ANDREW MARR: So it could happen quite quickly?

LORD FALCONER: It could.

ANDREW MARR: The Conservatives are already saying "good to split the Home Office, but not good to do it this way, there should be a new Minister in the Cabinet, effectively the Minister for Homeland Security, only looking at the terrorist aspect.

LORD FALCONER: That's nonsense as an idea. What - you have a Home Office with a Home Secretary and a Homeland Security Department? That's just a recipe for confusion in my view.

ANDREW MARR: Why has this come about? Has it come about because John Reid looked at the Home Office and decided it was effectively unreformable?

LORD FALCONER: John Reid, from the moment he arrived, has been looking at each element of it. He has been producing plans and making progress in transforming bits of it. But he has been always clear that if he took the view, even though it involved reducing his part of government, that was the best way to provide public protection, best for the nation, he would propose it.

ANDREW MARR: Now, I have to ask you about this extraordinary battle that's going on through the newspapers between No. 10 and some of your colleagues on the one hand, and the police on the other about the arrest, which was high drama, of Ruth Turner the Prime Minister's senior aide over the cash for honours. Do you think the police have gone a little bit too far in the theatre of this?

LORD FALCONER: I'm not going to make any comment whatsoever on the investigation that's going on. It's for each individual part of the nation to get on with whatever their role is and I'm not going to comment on it.

ANDREW MARR: And that's because of your role or because you think politicians should just stay out of this?

LORD FALCONER: I think we should just stay out of it.

ANDREW MARR: Right, I understand, because it is, it is of course a very damaging thing for the government, it's going on and on and on this stuff, it's being played through the newspapers the whole time.

LORD FALCONER: Well I've got no comment to make.

ANDREW MARR: Right, well I'm not going to carry on asking you about it in that case. Let me ask you about one other thing. We were talking earlier on about another Ruth, Ruth Kelly, and this business of whether the Catholic Church, other churches, should be exempted from discrimination to outlaw homophobia. Do you think they should be exempted?

LORD FALCONER: I think, we've introduced laws that prevent discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Those laws should be given full effect. We do take the view in this country that you shouldn't be discriminated against on that basis, and think that applies to everybody, whatever your religion.

ANDREW MARR: Now, we're in the slightly different, slightly unusual position, I suppose, looking at the government at the moment. Gordon Brown is kind of feeling his way into leadership, it almost seems, in India. He's talked about all sorts of things he wasn't talking about before.

Do you think this revision of the Home Office, this big plan for the Home Office, is going to occupy the last months of the Blair years, give the Prime Minister something to say, well there's a good reason for me being in power still because I'm still doing big things?

LORD FALCONER: No, I think the critical thing is that of course there's going to be a change of Prime Minister sometime during the course of this year, before September.

But we're, those of us in government have got to be focusing on what the real challenges for the country are. And that goes on day in, day out, irrespective of the fact there'll be a change of Prime Minister in the middle of the year. It's got to be clear, as is the case, we were focusing on dealing with the current problem.

ANDREW MARR: So you don't feel that there's any sense of, kind of, vacuum. That your attention has been taken away by the leadership issue?

LORD FALCONER: Absolutely not, because there's a very profound understanding that on all the things that are our priorities there wouldn't be any disagreement about the need to focus them.

For example, making sure the country's protected from terrorism. For example, making sure it's got a robust and well-led criminal justice system. Nobody would dispute that, and we have got to demonstrate in all we do every day of the week that those are the issues we're focusing on.

ANDREW MARR: All right, thank you very much indeed for joining us, Lord Chancellor. Many thanks 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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