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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Education and liberty
On Sunday 10 June Andrew Marr interviewed David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary

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

David Davis MP
David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary

ANDREW MARR: Our political leaders are fighting again about how they'd cope with terrorism.

Ministers want another go at extending the detention of suspects without charge to longer than the current 28 days.

John Reid in his final weeks as Home Secretary is seeking to get cross-party consensus on the issue, but his opposite number David Davis says he won't back him.

Why? Because the new proposals would undermine the ancient rights that millions died defending.

Strong words David Davis?

DAVID DAVIS: Yes, well I think important ones. The simple truth is that we've had a week in which people talk about Britishness, and having a British day.

What actually defines our country more than anything is a strong tradition of freedom, the right not to be locked up without trial, the right to be tried properly before you're punished, the right to have a presumption of innocence.

These are things that people, millions, have died for, and have been a massive part of the core, if you like, of our constitution, and our constitutional rights for hundreds of years. So you don't throw them away without very, very serious consideration.

ANDREW MARR: What Gordon Brown seems to be saying is perhaps he could get a longer, or the police could get a longer period - 40-odd days - with greater parliamentary scrutiny.

Would that in any way appeal to you, or to put it crudely, buy you off?

DAVID DAVIS: Well, it's unmitigated nonsense frankly. The decision even to go from 14 days to 21, and then 21 to 28, are already supervised by a judge.

The specific decision is made with respect to the individual. So if you are the person in this circumstance the judge says what evidence have the police got already, what evidence are they looking for, have they made a good case for it. You can't put those cases in front of parliament.

That's the first thing. Second thing is, 28 days is already double what most common law countries, countries like ours, have. George Bush's America which is often criticised for being illiberal has got a ten-day limit.

ANDREW MARR: So if this comes back you're going to go back and you're going to fight it and you think you can win it in parliament again, this battle?

DAVID DAVIS: First thing is we want to be absolutely clear what we've said. As last time when we tried to get a consensus we said, look, show me, prove to us that this is necessary for the national security, for public security.

If you can prove to me that there is a massive threat that requires this, and that doesn't make it comfortable, it requires it, then we'll look at it. We've seen nothing like that. In December the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, even the Home Secretary himself said there's no evidence for more than 28 days.

So until they come to that point I'm afraid this is, Father Seed was talking about staying up for principles, he rather made me unsettled by saying everybody who does so dies, I'm not quite sure that's right. But the simple truth is we have to stand up for this principle, and if need be we have to have the fight in the House of Commons.

ANDREW MARR: Now there's strange goings-on in this area in other ways too, because there was a proposal which has come from, certainly to the public area, from Gordon Brown, about using the Privy Council to try and see whether we can change, the country can change the rules over the use of phone taps in court. And I gather this is something that your party feels was your idea originally, and was passed to Tony Blair?

DAVID DAVIS: Well actually the Home Secretary admitted that in parliament this week. I mean, of the half dozen proposals that were aired last Sunday by Mr. Brown's pressman or spin doctor or whatever, the two of them actually originated with the Tory Party.

One of them, David Cameron's proposal that we have a Privy Council committee look at the idea of intercept before the next counter terrorism Bill comes in front of the House, i.e. before November, that was proposed to the Prime Minister three weeks ago by David.

And the other proposal, it's a rather technical one, but a very important one, of interview after charge allowing the police to continue interviewing terrorists after they've charged them, that was proposed by me about two years ago during the 90-day...

ANDREW MARR: I suppose it's possible that, I mean Gordon Brown and his team came up with the same idea independently, but clearly it's going to be essential if this is going to progress, any of these things, that there is a sort of honest conversation going on behind the arras, as it were, behind, in private between.... can you have that with Gordon Brown do you think?

DAVID DAVIS: I hope so, yes, if Jack Straw is my next opposite number, hopefully he'll last more than 18 months. But the simple answer is I hope so.

It's worrying, I mean this argument that well this, they thought of it independently, is a little unlikely. The entire six proposals are exactly what we have been discussing. Me with John Reid, David with Tony Blair, over the course of the preceding three weeks.

So, I really, I'm afraid I find that pretty hard to swallow. What's important is that they discuss these things openly and sensibly, I mean as you say, often sometimes in initially private meetings, and present the evidence and try to come to a collective consensus.

After the 7th July both opposition parties, both Tories and Liberals, approach the government to try to establish a consensus approach in order not to provide the terrorists with the advantage of a split establishment.


DAVID DAVIS: And that was broken by 90 days by Tony Blair actually. But I think he realises now that was a mistake. It will be a very great sin, a very great error for Mr. Brown to break it the same way.

ANDREW MARR: You're a plain-speaking man, so you can help me over grammar schools.


ANDREW MARR: You can help me over grammar schools because, like other people, I'm slightly confused. First of all it's grammar schools, way back it's grammar schools good.

Then it's grammar schools bad and we're not having any more, then it's, well we might have some more, but it's not a U-turn. What is the policy?

DAVID DAVIS: [laughter]

ANDREW MARR: Do you understand it?

DAVID DAVIS: Oh yes, of course. And actually so should everybody else. And including Mr. Brown. I really laughed out loud when I saw in this morning's people Mr. Brown attacking us for not being clear.

You know, we're the ones who had a six-month long leadership contest in which this issue was highlighted and debated between David and myself.

ANDREW MARR: And you were a grammar school supporter.

DAVID DAVIS: Of course.

ANDREW MARR: And are you still?

DAVID DAVIS: My primary interest in this, my primary interest in this is the simple issue of social mobility, making sure youngsters get the best chances.

Now there's more than one way to do that. Grammar schools is one and where they're there we'll continue with them.

ANDREW MARR: And you can have more in areas where they're there at the moment?

DAVID DAVIS: When the population demands it, when it's growing, of course.

ANDREW MARR: Because you wanted a grammar school in every town.

DAVID DAVIS: Well, but there was a leadership contest about that, and the party debated it and they made their decision. That's exactly right. Parties make decisions about these things. The Tory Party made this decision.

ANDREW MARR: I won't, the academies are absolutely in my eye line. But just on this question, were you yourself consulted when the policy change from David Willetts was first announced, or before that?

DAVID DAVIS: Well he wasn't a policy change, he was airing the policy.

ANDREW MARR: OK but were you consulted?

DAVID DAVIS: Yes, absolutely, and the Shadow Cabinet.

ANDREW MARR: OK, and you are now completely comfortable with the message that across most of the country no grammar schools?

DAVID DAVIS: Understand that when the leadership contest was completed the party had made a decision on all sorts of things, grammar schools and a variety of other issues, whether there had been debates between David and myself.

And when I signed up, when I joined the Shadow Cabinet and I accepted those invitations to join the Shadow Cabinet, I implicitly accepted the country has made its decision, I accept that decision. This is one party.

ANDREW MARR: And yet, across the country lots and lots of loyal committed Conservatives are spitting blood about this and you know it?

DAVID DAVIS: There's been, David himself said it's not the best three weeks ever. That's all right. We've had 18 months. David's had the best start of any Tory leader in my memory, and that goes back quite some time as people will tell you. And, you know, this is three weeks of slightly rough water.


DAVID DAVIS: So what, frankly? We're going to go on, and that's why, and you can see Mr. Brown's very worried by it, he starts to attack us, even before he gets in place.

ANDREW MARR: And Andy Coulson, News of the World boss, now your spin doctor, sitting alongside you. Were you consulted, are you happy?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I wasn't consulted over that but I know Mr. Coulson, I mean, and he strikes me as a very nice man which is slightly at odds with his previous job, but there you are, tabloid editors, perhaps should I say you're an ex-newspaper editor yourself.

ANDREW MARR: That's right. Sinners can repent.

DAVID DAVIS: And I take your word for it.

ANDREW MARR: All right, OK, thank you very much indeed David Davis.


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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