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Transcript of Theresa May interview

15 May 11 11:06 GMT

PLEASE NOTE "THE ANDREW MARR SHOW" MUST BE CREDITED IF ANY PART OF THIS TRANSCRIPT IS USED

On Sunday 11th May Andrew Marr interviewed Home Secretary Theresa May MP

ANDREW MARR:

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has been trying to do two things with the police: to cut costs and numbers while also giving local communities more say through directly elected police chiefs. This latter idea has been blocked in the Lords by Lib-Dem peers - she can hardly call them colleagues right now - while she faces dire warnings about police cuts from angry bobbies and their leaders. Before we discuss that though, we should start by talking about the big security issues confronting her this week. Theresa May, thank you very much for joining us. Let's start with the Queen's historic visit to Ireland. This is a wonderful moment of sort of reconciliation and dealing with ancient history, but there is presumably a very serious security worry?

THERESA MAY:

Well of course, as the Taoiseach was saying earlier, this is a very important visit. It's significant in noting the relationship between the two countries. As with the Queen's visit anywhere, of course there are always security issues around that. And, as he said, the Irish Garda are well used to dealing with visits of dignitaries to Ireland and so of course they will be putting appropriate security arrangements in place.

ANDREW MARR:

But we are going to actually see British police, royal security police, armed police on the streets of Dublin, which is quite a moment.

THERESA MAY:

Well of course there is protection provided for the Queen on her visit and of course we've been working with the Garda and with the Irish government about what is appropriate in relation to her visit.

ANDREW MARR:

How worried are you about a splinter group launching an attack during the visit either in Ireland or possibly even in Britain?

THERESA MAY:

Look we constantly live looking at the issue of the threat of terrorism. We know that as regards Northern Ireland and Northern Irish related terrorism there have been a number of attempted attacks earlier this year, as there have been in the last year or so, and of course there was the death of PC Ronan Kerr. And I think what was significant about that was the response that came from the Taioseach about that and a unila… a sort of unified response that came that incidents like that are not going to blow us off the course of the democracy in Northern Ireland, the elections that we've just seen for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Very important again, showing that things have changed.

ANDREW MARR:

It's absolutely clear from the polls and so on that the vast majority of people asked in Northern Ireland are very much in favour with this visit, looking forward to it enormously. But there is quite a significant Republican minority who are hostile and the Queen is going to be going to some pretty sensitive places - Croke Park for one, and to the West of Ireland as well.

THERESA MAY:

Well obviously her visit has been planned very carefully and proper consideration has been given on these issues. I think it is a very significant moment. I think it will be a visit that will be enjoyed by people in the Republic of Ireland. I think this is something, a visit that will be welcomed. And I think it is, as the Taoiseach said earlier, an important stage in marking the relationship between the two countries.

ANDREW MARR:

After the death of Osama Bin Laden, we hear that there are very specific threats of reprisals coming in directed both against the United States but also this country too.

THERESA MAY:

Well of course the death of Osama Bin Laden has been a significant event …

ANDREW MARR:

Yes.

THERESA MAY:

… but it does not mean that al Qaeda are dead, and of course we still have the threat of action by al Qaeda. The threat level here in the UK remains at severe, which means that a terrorist attack is highly likely, and it is of course possible that there could be reprisals. So we mustn't lower our guard in any sense because of what has happened in terms of the death of Osama Bin Laden and we are certainly not doing that. The terror threat level here in the UK remains at severe and we're very conscious of the need to continue that.

ANDREW MARR:

It's been said that an enormous amount of useful information has been retrieved from that compound in Pakistan. Has any of it been useful in terms of the British situation?

THERESA MAY:

Well I believe an enormous amount of material has been retrieved. Of course we have a very good relationship with the United States in terms of our counterterrorism links with them, and I'm sure that we will be talking to them about that information.

ANDREW MARR:

It's been said in one of the papers today that there is an al Qaeda sleeper cell in London who've been sent to carry out reprisal attacks.

THERESA MAY:

Well as I have just said, Andrew, the threat level here in the UK remains at severe. That means that the threat of an attack by terrorists, that an attack by terrorists is highly likely. And this is an issue that we live with day to day, putting in place the necessary arrangements with the police and the security service to ensure that we can protect British citizens. These are issues that we discuss. I'm a member of the National Security Council obviously, which the government set up to strengthen our ability across government to deal with national security issues.

ANDREW MARR:

You are across all of the detail, I know. Was it actually true that when you arrived in the job you asked about a counterterrorist operation and you were told that you did not have sufficiently high clearance?

THERESA MAY:

No. This is, I gather …

ANDREW MARR:

Is this not true?

THERESA MAY:

… I gather this is some newspaper story …

ANDREW MARR:

It is.

THERESA MAY:

… that has appeared about this.

ANDREW MARR:

It's about Dame Pauline Neville-Jones.

THERESA MAY:

No, I can tell you one of the first things that happens to a home secretary when they arrive in the job is that they are given a briefing about the security matters that they will be dealing with and I deal with security matters on a daily basis.

ANDREW MARR:

And nothing was kept from you because you didn't have clearance?

THERESA MAY:

No. And Pauline Neville-Jones did a very excellent job as a security minister and I'm looking forward to carrying on working with her in her very important new role that she'll be doing in dealing with cyber security.

ANDREW MARR:

What about all this stuff in the papers saying that the two of you couldn't get on and you were fighting all the time?

THERESA MAY:

No, absolutely not the case. I had a good working relationship with Pauline. She did a very important job in government. She had done an important job in opposition as well in developing the thinking which of course led to the setting up the National Security Council on which I sit and which I think is a very important development in dealing with security in this country.

ANDREW MARR:

Let's turn now to policing, which is probably the biggest legislative issue on your desk at the moment. You'll be talking to the Police Federation this week and you will be expecting, I suspect, rather a rough ride?

THERESA MAY:

Well I'm going to be waiting to see what sort of ride I get from the Police Federation this week. Obviously I've been meeting police officers and talking to them about the reforms that we're putting through, but I'm absolutely clear that we need to do a number of things in relation to policing. I mean, first of all, it is the fact that we are having to make budget cuts for police forces - as we are for the Home Office, for other parts of the Home Office's operations and across government departments. That's because of the significant deficit that we were left.

ANDREW MARR:

This is the 20% cut that's going across department by department?

THERESA MAY:

Well the Home Office itself at the centre is taking more than a 20% cut, in fact.

ANDREW MARR:

Yes.

THERESA MAY:

We're taking a 33% cut. But government departments are having to make cuts because of the deficit we were left by the last Labour government. And of course if Labour had been in government today, they would be cutting £7 for every £8 that we're cutting.

ANDREW MARR:

A point I'm hearing from time to time from government ministers.

THERESA MAY:

Well it's an important point.

ANDREW MARR:

Indeed. Is it true that around 12,000 police officers are going to have to go?

THERESA MAY:

No. A number of figures have been put about …

ANDREW MARR:

By some quite serious people.

THERESA MAY:

But what I would say is this. What we are very clear is that it is possible for police forces to make significant savings in their back and middle offices; it is possible for police forces to make significant savings without actually affecting the frontline service that is provided to the public. And that I believe is very important. And it isn't … I mean people talk about police …

ANDREW MARR:

So, can I …

THERESA MAY:

Well can I just make a point about the numbers because people talk a lot about police numbers as if police numbers are the holy grail. But actually what matters is what those police are doing. It's about how those police are deployed. And it is crucial of course that chief constables are able to make decisions within their budgets about how they deploy their police officers to the greatest effect to ensure that they're able to do the job that the public want them to do.

ANDREW MARR:

I do understand that point, though it has to be said at Conservative party conference after Conservative party conference police numbers have been a big issue talked about from the rostrum again and again and again, so they are a significant question. Do you actually dispute then the ACPO figure of 12,000 because they say yes, we can make cuts back of office, yes there are civilian staff can be got rid of, but given the scale and frontloading of these reductions 12,000 uniformed officers are going to have to go?

THERESA MAY:

Well what I think is important for me to do at the Home Office is not try to tell chief constables what decisions they should be making …

ANDREW MARR:

But you must know if that's roughly right or not?

THERESA MAY:

… but to say the following. That we will do what we can to actually help chief constables in terms of the decisions they're taking by getting rid of a lot of the bureaucracy that the police are having to deal with. We've done that …

ANDREW MARR:

But I'm just asking you about that number.

THERESA MAY:

… and we've done that in a number of ways because this is important. It is significant that we actually help deal with the issue of what we want … What do we want police officers to be doing?

ANDREW MARR:

Okay if that number is …

THERESA MAY:

We want police officers to be crime fighters …

ANDREW MARR:

Of course.

THERESA MAY:

… not filling in forms, and that's why we're taking out … This week I announced a further number of measures against bureaucracy, which take two and a half million man hours, it releases two and a half million man hours of police time.

ANDREW MARR:

Very important, but I'm just going to ask you one more time: is that number of 12,000 uniformed officers right, very roughly speaking right or wrong?

THERESA MAY:

What I've said to you, Andrew, is that decisions about …

ANDREW MARR:

You're not telling me. (laughs)

THERESA MAY:

Well decisions about how many officers are employed, how the structure of officers, staff and PCSOs within any police force is a matter for the chief constable within that force, currently discussing it with their police authority. What we need to do at the centre - we know that it is possible to make efficiency savings. We're helping in a number of ways. We're getting rid of bureaucracy, so that we're releasing time for police officers to be crime fighters and not form writers. What we're also doing is helping police forces in terms of issues like procurement and IT, so that savings can be made in those areas which I think is the sort of thing that everybody is going to want us to be doing.

ANDREW MARR:

Forty percent of police officers will look at their pay packets and see a reduction though, and that is causing extreme anger up and down the force from top to bottom.

THERESA MAY:

Well what you're referring to is the report that Tom Winsor has made on the first stage of his report on police pay terms and conditions.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Your own man, your own man.

THERESA MAY:

He was appointed to do that review, which he has done and obviously has given his first report. Those proposals are now with the police negotiating body; and at the stage when they come out of the police negotiating body, I will be making a decision as to what should go ahead. So I'm not going to confirm or …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So it's a first go? It's not a settled judgement?

THERESA MAY:

It has to go through the appropriate processes. But I think if we look at the sort of budget cuts that have to be made in policing as a result of what the last Labour government left us, we need to say that in any organisation (as the police forces) where 80% of the expenditure is on pay, then obviously it's right to look at pay terms and conditions. (Marr tries to interject) But it's right for another reason for as well.

ANDREW MARR:

Sorry, just on that. I mean let's put the percentages to one side and not talk about those. But it is inevitable, looking at what's going to happen, that a lot of police officers who stay in their posts will be paid less?

THERESA MAY:

Well what Tom Winsor has done is come up …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) It must be the case.

THERESA MAY:

Tom Winsor has come up with a set of proposals which are going through the proper processes of the police negotiating body. But what Tom Winsor did was not just about looking at possible savings. What he did was looking at what is right for a modern and flexible workforce in the 21st century. (Marr tries to interject) This is very important reform. Remember …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) There's a quantity of Spanish practices and things that should have been got rid of a long time ago, in your view, that should just be … you know cuts that could be made without actually affecting the public safety?

THERESA MAY:

I believe it's important that we ensure that the police have a modern and flexible workforce. I think that's what is necessary, so that they can provide the public with the service that they want. And, remember, Tony Blair said that one of his great regrets was that he hadn't actually done what he thought was necessary in terms of reforming the police.

ANDREW MARR:

He did, yes.

THERESA MAY:

We are making reforms in the police. Not just in pay terms and conditions, not just in looking at the police and crime commissioners, but also in introducing what will be a very important new body - the National Crime Agency - which will be giving a much clearer focus for this country on organised crime. Organised crime costs this country tens of billions of pounds a year. We need to do more about it.

ANDREW MARR:

Were you surprised when Liberal Democrat peers blocked that absolutely crucial part of your policing changes, elected commissioners, in the House of Lords last week?

THERESA MAY:

Well let's be clear about what happened in the House of Lords. Actually the majority, the great majority of Liberal Democrat peers voted with the government. The Deputy Prime Minister has made clear, he's remind… said the other day that the decision to have directly elected individuals - supported by and with the appropriate checks and balances from what we're calling the police and crime panels - is a coalition agreement. Three parties went into the last election …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

THERESA MAY:

… two parties went into the last election - us and the Liberal Democrats - saying there should be an element of …

ANDREW MARR:

Of electing?

THERESA MAY:

… electing.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure. And I understand the point.

THERESA MAY:

Well can I just make this point about what happened in the Lords because in the Commons the Labour party has supported an element of direct election in terms of the oversight of the police. It was sheer opportunism from Labour peers in the House of Lords that went against Labour party policy.

ANDREW MARR:

You have a choice now, don't you? You can either come up with some kind of compromise - you can say well we'll do it, but we'll do it, for instance, for pilot schemes only. Or you can take this back to the Commons, reinstitute the original clauses and go straight back to the Lords and try and get your May deadline - May next year - for directly elected police commissioners all round the country. Which is it going to be?

THERESA MAY:

Well we will of course listen to the debate that takes place in the House of Lords they're carrying on at the committee stage of the bill, but I expect that we will bring it back to the Commons and we will reverse the decision in the Commons because this is a coalition agreement. And let's remember that we …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Is this crucial to your purpose as Home Secretary, getting this bill through?

THERESA MAY:

There is a coalition agreement. Remember the bill isn't just about police and crime commissioners. That's an important part of the bill, but it also has some very important proposals in terms of the licensing arrangements to give local areas more say in licensing decisions that are taking place at local level and in introducing the ability to ban the temporary ban on the legal highs - these new drugs that are being produced. But on police and crime commissioners, it was in the coalition agreement. And let's not forget that actually we have an example of this already. It's in the Mayor of London. And the Mayor of London has been working with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and I think delivering policing for London that is supported by Londoners.

ANDREW MARR:

Theresa May, Home Secretary, for now thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS

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