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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2007, 11:29 GMT
Labour 'Deputy' race
On Sunday 25 February 2007, Andrew Marr interviewed Peter Hain MP

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

Peter Hain MP
Peter Hain MP

ANDREW MARR: Peter Hain welcome. Thank you indeed for coming in.

Let me start off by asking one of the big topical stories in the papers today is about this new son of Star Wars missile system which we gather has been discussed between Tony Blair and George Bush, but not I think by the Cabinet or the rest of the country at all. Is that an example of what you described as policy by bounce?

PETER HAIN: Well this hasn't been discussed in the Cabinet and I don't know any of the detail. But obviously it's important that the prime minister, whoever that is, and it's very important that

Tony considers how best to defend the country. And to do so on a multilateral basis, involving Europe and involving obviously discussions with our allies in, in Washington ..

ANDREW MARR: Were you a little ..

PETER HAIN: .. clearly discussions like that should take place. But this is all ..

ANDREW MARR: ...

PETER HAIN: .. very speculative at the moment.

ANDREW MARR: Were you a little surprised to read about it in the newspapers first?

PETER HAIN: I'm never surprised to read anything in the newspapers frankly Andy. I'm never surprised to read anything in the papers about what's going on in the government or what's not going on in the government. Most of it's speculative and very little of it bears any relation to what I know to be ..

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

PETER HAIN: .. actually the case.

ANDREW MARR: But I mean given, given the history of the original Star Wars controversy, caused a lot of fuss in the Party. There'll be a row inside the Labour Party about this too won't there?

PETER HAIN: Well let's just take this a bit calmly. Let's see what it amounts to. Let's see whether there's an attempt to look at Europe's defence as a whole and how that connects to the United States and let's just take one step at a time rather than engage between you and I, interesting though you probably find it, in a lot of speculation about speculation.

ANDREW MARR: And what about Trident? That's the other big issue, similar sort of issue, where a decision was taken almost before the decision was known about.

PETER HAIN: Well that's not really the case. I pressed the prime minister and he and the Cabinet agreed to that some months ago, privately, that there should be a proper debate about the replacement for Trident in the Party. That's happened with the National Policy Forum, in parliament.

That's going to happen with a vote on the whole question in parliament. So instead of the situation that we had in the past when the nuclear weapons system was upgraded in the late seventies in secret. The Cabinet didn't know about it. And certainly the situation in the late forties when we went for an independent nuclear deterrent. Nobody knew about it, nobody could get involved in the debate.

So I do think it's important that there's a debate. But the question will come down in the end to whether we want to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent. And I don't want to go back to the days in the nineteen eighties for example when Labour could not win an election because we were in favour of policy of giving up our nuclear weapons and I advocated that policy at the time by the way.

And I think we've understood now that the country would not accept, particularly in a very unstable and dangerous world with Iran seeking to acquire a nuclear capacity, with North Korea having one and now negotiations taking place to resolve that. With other countries having come on board with nuclear weapons I think, I don't think he'd win an argument in Britain to simply throw them all into the sea as it were and abandon an independent nuclear deterrent.

ANDREW MARR: I'm just interested in, in whether there's been in your view sufficient consultation and open discussion about some of these issues. Cos it was an issue that you raised, question of debate and consultation. We've now seen on civil nuclear power as well, this being thrown back in effect. The government being told the consultation wasn't really a consultation because you'd taken a decision before you started consulting.

PETER HAIN: I do think in the future it's very, very important that we learn from both our successes as a government. And we've been very successful. And I don't want to go back to a past of failure that Labour experienced in eighteen years and in the events that led up to that when we had the whole period of Tory rule and we were in Opposition. I don't want to go backwards at all.

But I do think we need to build a really good partnership within the Party, with our back bench MPs, with our grass roots members and we need - and our Trade Union colleagues and threw all of them into the country in a proper partnership about the big policy challenges that we face. Trident is one of those and we're involved in that at the moment. The future of our energy policy is another. These are big challenges for the future. Combating global competition from China and India in particular.

ANDREW MARR: Do you ..

PETER HAIN: All of these issues should - we don't - I, I believe there's been too much policy by bounce in, in the past. And I think we need to do policy by partnership. That doesn't avoid taking tough decisions. But I think people need to be much more involved. My back bench colleagues in the Labour Party, the grass roots of the Party and the wider community as well.

ANDREW MARR: You said last week that you thought that the big city institutions handing out vast bonuses should be giving a large chunk of that money to charity. So how do you react when you again read in the newspapers this morning that some people described as asset strippers - though that's probably a pejorative phrase - but certainly big city whiz kid tycoons are giving so much money to the Labour Party just now? Is that wrong?

PETER HAIN: Well on the city, I mean the city's doing incredibly well and it should continue to do so. And nothing we do as a government should in any way injure that because we're attracting investment from all over the world, from New York, from Tokyo, from Frank... Frankfurt.

A lot of investment is now coming into the city of London. And all the world's entrepreneurs and risk takers and the people who are really going to create a lot of business growth in the financial and services sector, financial services sector, we want them in London.

ANDREW MARR: Yes but ..

PETER HAIN: And we, I don't believe ..

ANDREW MARR: Yes but ..

PETER HAIN: .. I don't believe in changing the tax system or heavy regulation to deal with those problems. Now as far as the private equity schemes that I think you're talking about are concerned, there is a concern about the way that and the GMB Union for example has raised this, about the way that assets are being stripped.

On the other hand private equity funds provide a very good vehicle for start ups, for rescue operations and for investment to grow. So we've got to make sure we distinguish the, the good from the bad here.

ANDREW MARR: Should, should your Party be trousering so much money from these people?

PETER HAIN: Well I think it's right that we take, we accept donations ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

PETER HAIN: .. from people who want to contribute to the ..

ANDREW MARR: All right.

PETER HAIN: .. Labour Party and want to keep us in power. But I don't think we should get into a business of saying that all private donations are bad or that all rich people shouldn't be contributing to the Party.

We want people to contribute to the Party but we also want policies that make sure that the objective of investment by private equity funds for example is to grow companies, is to rescue them, is to maintain as many jobs as possible, not to asset strip them.

ANDREW MARR: Hazel Blears has thrown her hat into the ring as they say. Is it right that she should continue to be Party Chairman with all the information that gives her and the special position that gives her while fighting this campaign?

PETER HAIN: Well we're all in special positions in the government. I'm Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. My other Cabinet colleagues are involved, including Hazel have got important jobs to do. I'm mainly spending my time, as I will be in the coming weeks actually on, engaged in the whole process of Northern Ireland. Hazel's doing a, a job as Party Chair. What I'm concerned ..

ANDREW MARR: So you have no bad feeling about that? You've no bad feeling about the fact that she's also Party Chairman?

PETER HAIN: No. I don't.

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

PETER HAIN: What I'm concerned about however in this debate is I think there are three positions emerging in the future of the Party for the Deputy Leadership. There's an argument that we should go back to what I believe would be a failed past, an old Labour agenda. There's an argument that we just need more of the same. And we just need to continue ..

ANDREW MARR: Who are the more of the same candidates?

PETER HAIN: Well let me finish my point if I could Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

PETER HAIN: There are three arguments here. One that we go back to an old Labour agenda which didn't succeed. The other that we just need more of the same and that we need to continue steady as it goes as it were.

And then there's my argument that we need to build on the success that we've had, no compromise with the economic stability and competitive economy that Gordon Brown has been mainly responsible for. No compromise with the security or safety of our citizens. And no compromise with the programme of public investment and public improvement.

So public service improvements so that we get good value for money. But that we need new ideas on the green agenda, on tackling inequality, on extending democracy. And on Britain's place in the world. And we need to promote all these ideas and use the Deputy Leader campaign to do that, to really reconnect with the grass roots of the Party to win and to reconnect through that with the country.

Because I think we've lost a bit of touch after ten years in government and it's - so my ambition in fighting this campaign when it happens, and it'll be a seven week campaign, is to actually put the whole argument about the future, the big challenges we face in the future and to argue that the only way we will win is by reconnecting with our grass roots in the Party, in the trade unions, and our back bench colleagues, but also reconnecting through them with the country in the way that we have not been doing.

ANDREW MARR: Do you have enough MPs yet to launch your bid properly? Because I'm told you don't.

PETER HAIN: Well I do as it happens but everybody's saying ..

ANDREW MARR: You, you've got the forty or so that you need?

PETER HAIN: Indeed. Indeed. And I think more will be coming on, on board as the, the contest gets closer. And remember we're some period off the contest. I don't know what it is exactly but every camp is making accusations about everybody else's.

ANDREW MARR: All right.

PETER HAIN: I'll be, I'll be launching a web site to follow colleagues ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

PETER HAIN: .. who've already done this and it'll be made clear that I've got a very good ..

ANDREW MARR: You've got the names there?

PETER HAIN: I've got a good ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

PETER HAIN: .. base of people who are willing to go public now and others are waiting to declare when the time comes.

ANDREW MARR: All right, Peter Hain don't go away

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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