JOHN HUMPHRYS: David Davis, wherever that
journey goes, the defining issue, mixing metaphors a bit here, but never
mind. The defining issue is going to be public services, and Tony Blair
says you, your party is the wreckers - are the wreckers.
DAVID DAVIS: Well, Mr Blair is at the end
of half a decade in power virtually now at the beginning of which he promised
enormous improvements in public services. Virtually all of them got worse,
transport, health. Across the board we see problems, violent crime rising,
and the one thing we know about this government is everybody's to blame
except itself, and yesterday they were briefing on this wreckers, that
it wasn't the government, that somebody else was to blame. Some people
were briefing that it was the Tory Party, others were briefing that it
was the trade unions. An absolutely classic piece of Blairism.
HUMPHRYS: But where they are right
is in this. You say that the existing system doesn't work, and it must
be replaced with something else. That means literally wrecking, getting
rid of, destroying, whatever verb you want to use, the old system, so to
that extent you are wreckers.
DAVIS: No, absolutely not. Well,
you're quite right in one respect. We do think the current systems are
not working. Well, that's self evidently the case. You've got thousands
of people dying in hospital who shouldn't die from cancer, from heart disease,
from diseases that they didn't even have when they went in. There are
large numbers of problems there, but we also recognise there are good parts
of Health Service. Our primary care system, the GPs a lot of people are
envious of. So what we have to do is to find ways of improving the Health
Service, the transport system, the criminal legal system, all of those
areas, improving them and delivering what the public want. We're in a
democracy, the public want better public services and what we're doing
is going through a process of trying to find the ways of delivering that.
Liam Fox going to France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, eventually to Australia
to look at all those other systems all of which deliver better health care
than we have, and try to find a combined solution, not the single model,
but a combined solution which will give an answer which the people, the
British people want.
HUMPHRYS: And the one defining
characteristic of all of those countries that you mention is that all of
their services require people to pay more directly for their National Health
DAVIS: No, I ......
HUMPHRYS: ... for their health,
more than we do.
DAVIS: A number of them are free
at the point of delivery They have different methods.
HUMPHRYS: Yes, but we have different
methods, and my point is that you're attacking the very basis of the NHS.
You want us to pay, your party wants us to pay more directly out of our
own pockets, and that's not what the public wants.
DAVIS: If I may say so that's what
the Americans would call load fire aim, that is actually getting to the
conclusion before you've looked at the analysis first. We are still in
the process of analysing the problems, and there's not a single problem
in this. When you talked in your film about the centre ground, actually
I don't think this is a question of turning the dial on the political spectrum
more to the left and more to the right. There are a number of problems
to solve. The lack of patient choice, the lack of freedom on the part
of the management to actually decide, or the doctors for that matter who
are important, maybe to decide how they deliver health care, the problems
we have of post-code lottery in health care. All those issues have, some
have common problems, but many of them have different causes, and we have
to find solutions to all of them, and we'll do it by analysing it properly,
working out why it is on Conservative based principles why is it they're
failing and coming up with a carefully thought through solution. One of
the difficulties that Labour faced when they were in opposition, they did
a very good job of being in opposition, very successful in one respect,
and that is they thought very much about how to get into power, they thought
about nothing about what they did when they were in power and we've seen
the results in the last five years. We're going to do it the other way
round, we are going to think about what we need to do. What's right, and
then persuade the public of why it's right in that order.
HUMPHRYS: Well, sort of, because
you've already reached the conclusion haven't you. You've already reached
one conclusion at any rate, Iain Duncan Smith says so quite clearly, people
want less government, that is a conclusion that is a solution, and they
want to pay less in taxes, that is what Iain Duncan Smith has already decided.
So it's within that context that you're looking at everything. You will
end up with us paying less in taxes, having less government. Therefore
if we're paying less in taxes we are by definition going to be paying less
directly in taxes for the National Health Service.
DAVIS: This is, as you well know,
this is not a simple question, but let's deal with it piece by piece.
Firstly Michael Howard, with Iain's approval said we will put public services
as our priority.
HUMPHRYS: Why, he said it on this
very programme, I remember it very well, but...
DAVIS: Good, and what that means
is that if we come in four years time to come to government, and the economy
can't afford tax cuts and public service spending increases as well then
public services will come first, but we won't just do it the way the government
does it by on a TV programme thinking up a number and saying that's our
new target. What we have to think about is what the structure is that
will deliver the service, that's what matters, not the cash, the delivery
of service, what the structure's are that will do that, then what the financing
implications of that are, and then what the tax implications of that are.
That's the right way round, that way we won't get to where we are now
which is the biggest tax increase in peace time for this government and
yet a worsening if anything of public services.
HUMPHRYS: But when it comes down
- you talk about priorities. If you think of tax cuts as being any sort
of priority, and you do, otherwise Iain Duncan Smith would not talk about
people wanting less government and wanting to pay less in taxes, how do
you explain it when your critics within your own party say they want more
public money going into public services such as the National Health Service,
and they do not, they specifically do not want tax cuts. Now you want
to have it both ways, and there's a touch of cynicism about this isn't
there. You're saying of course we want more tax cuts, of course everybody
wants more tax cuts. We also want to put more public money, more taxes
therefore into the public services, and everybody watching this programme
knows that, that is simply unachievable, you cannot have that.
DAVIS: No, no, there are two sets
of decisions, I made it very clear, the way the priority issue would work
if we come into government in four years' time and we have an economy which
can carry one or the other, it's quite clear which way the decision will
go. But there is another issue which is actually.....
HUMPHRYS: Will you just deal with
that before you move on to a separate issue, just deal with that for a
moment. If you get into government and the economy is not rolling along,
is not producing a massive amount of money for you to spend one way or
the other, the Health Service is in a fairly dodgy position, you'd be quite
happy to say, we have to put up taxes in order to pay more..
DAVIS: Well I'll pick that up in
a second when I go through the other half of the argument because it's
quite important this. A low tax economy grows faster than a high tax economy.
All of the data about the western world demonstrates that. So if you have
a low tax economy, it grows faster, it generates more income, which can
be either used for increases in spending, or used for tax cuts, or both...
HUMPHRYS: ...so there are many
other factors ...
BOTH SPEAKING TOGETHER
DAVIS: ...of course...
HUMPHRYS: ...we have a world recession,
DAVIS: ...of course, but over time.
Over the long term all of the low tax economies grow faster than all of
the high tax economies. That's in essence, the truth. And they're all hit
by the same international...
HUMPHRYS: ...but you might not
have that growth at the time that you need it.
DAVIS: ...now the point about this
sort of simple one-year calculation the media like to do on tax increase
spending increase, is that a tax increase may give you some money in the
first year, it gives you less money in the second, less in the third and
it does damage, it kills the golden goose, and what's different about the
Tory party is we take very very, very very much to heart the serious issue
of the need to get our public services back to where they ought to be.
We need to do that, but we also understand that high tax economies at the
end of the day are self-defeating. I mean just as Sweden put up its taxes
over the course of the last forty years and probably halved its growth
rate over that time, and therefore today can't afford what it could have
done if it had a well run economy.
HUMPHRYS: So you are saying that
you don't want people themselves, individually, to pay more directly, as
opposed to in their taxes, for the national health service.
DAVIS: We haven't come to the conclusion
of the exact mechanism. But Liam Fox has been around looking at all these
different systems, the majority of them are free at the point of delivery.
They have different mechanisms. Some of them are insurance based mechanisms
and state based mechanisms. Nearly all of them are mixed. Some of them
have other mechanisms built in. They have different approaches to prescription
charges. We have one in this country, Sweden has another one in their country.
What we're looking at is the best outcome overall, the one that solves
our problems, and I'll repeat the point, the problems with the health service
are not simply a question of turning an ideological dial, the issue of
people dying in hospital from diseases they didn't have when they went
in are actually nearly all about management, about the way the surgeons
behave, the way the nurses behave, the way the cleaning contractors behave,
they're not all about money. And it's very important. This government went
into this notion with a, believing its own propaganda, believing this was
just about money, and that's why four or five years later, after having
the highest tax increases in peace-time, in this country, we've got the
accident and emergency services worse than they were four or five years
ago. Not my judgement, not the government's judgement, the Audit Commission's
judgement, independent body's judgement.
HUMPHRYS: So you don't think that
a Conservative government would ever need to raise taxes or would ever
choose to raise taxes in order to pay for better public services.
DAVIS: I can't, I can't make a
snap judgement on...
HUMPHRYS: ...no but that's ...
DAVIS; ..no, no, I can't, no, no,
no, no...I can't make a judgement as to what the economic decision that
has to be made in a given circumstance, All governments from time to time,
Tory and Labour, raise taxes from time to time and bring them down from
time to time. Mostly Labour take them up, Tories actually see a virtue
in bringing them down, but the priority, I say again, as Michael Howard
said on this programme is putting the public services right first.
HUMPHRYS: Alright. Let's talk about
the way we lead our lives now and attitudes in society, different life-styles,
and all the rest of it. You seem to be following a more liberal road than
you had previously done, Oliver Letwin, your Shadow Home Secretary has
talked about civil rights for unmarried couples, that sort of thing. Is
this just the start of that road, of what may be quite a long road? Are
you going to go a long way down that road?
DAVIS: It is what I hope is an
intelligent approach to this issue. One of the problems we faced, I mean,
the article you're referring to related to the Lester Bill going to the
House of Lords.
HUMPHRYS: Lord Lester, yes.
DAVIS: ...Lord Lester's Bill, creating
rights for actually I think it was for gay couples...
HUMPHRYS: ...primarily, yes, but
indeed he went as far as to talk about a kind of ceremony that gay people
DAVIS: ...the concern in the Conservative
Party about these sort of proposals has been about defending marriage.
You had Gerald Howarth talking about that. The reason for that is very
simple. It's not a religious commitment to, sure though some have that,
it is actually about what's the best option for children, in the long run,
on the odds, you know there are good, there are very good unmarried couples
who raise children very well, but on average marriage is the best bet for
children, and what we're very concerned to do was not to undermine that
institution. And we talked about Lord Lester's Bill in some detail, and
we looked at it, we thought there are real rights here that we have to
worry about. A couple living together, not just a gay couple but maybe
somebody looking after an elderly mother or something else doesn't have
the right, unless they're actually the next of kin, to make decisions about
whether somebody's operated on, whether they have a blood transfusion,
to sign the forms in the event of death, to deal with tenancy, and what
we did is we pulled it apart and we said okay, what can we do about that
without jeopardising marriage? It is possible to look after both aspects
of this and that's what that was about.
HUMPHRYS: ...Where it's....
DAVIS: ...that's what that was
about. We recognise the rights, we recognise the needs in a modern society
and we think we can do it without undermining the long-term whole-hearted
commitment to marriage ...
HUMPHRYS: And would you be undermining
that commitment for instance if you were to get rid of Clause 28, which
clearly Stephen Dorrell we heard, former Health Secretary himself say in
that programme, that's something you have to do, if you are going to persuade
people that you are taking a more liberal approach. But on the other hand
then, you've got Gerald Howarth saying you must support, you must support
Clause 28 if you believe in marriage.
DAVIS: Well, we haven't come to
that in the policy...
HUMPHRYS: ..you ducked that issue.
DAVIS: No we haven't ducked it,
I mean we have a whole swathe of issues on public services, right across
the board and we are dealing with them as we can...
HUMPHRYS: Where does your heart
lie on it?
DAVIS: ...in the order....it's
my brain that matters here...I'll come back.
DAVIS: Dealing with them in the
order that we think is important in terms of us getting solutions. Where
does my heart lie? I take the view that in a civilised society, tolerance
- acceptance not tolerance is a better word, acceptance is an important
part of that society. I am from Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind",
"Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn" is the proper attitude to race,
colour, sex, sexual orientation.
HUMPHRYS: So Clause 28 should go,
in your view.
DAVIS: No, no, no, I didn't say
that. I said, look, no, no, no...
HUMPHRYS: ...as Rhett Butler would
say, you're damn close to it!
DAVIS: You have to understand,
that the defence of the vulnerable, one of the issues about modern Conservatism
will be that we are aiming our policies at looking after the vulnerable,
looking after the weak, looking after the elderly and one group of vulnerable,
very important is children and we have to put their rights first.
HUMPHRYS: Okay, right. What about
the other group, wouldn't call them vulnerable by any means, but women,
a hundred and sixty-six Tory MPs, fourteen of them are women, which is
the same as it was in the last Parliament. Not a single woman selected
in what you could call a safe or an existing Tory seat at the last election,
not one extra woman. Now, you have tried exhortation, you've tried to say
DAVIS: You did actually show Angela
on there, who got in last time of course, but there you are.
HUMPHRYS: Indeed, but then another
woman lost her seat.
DAVIS: I'm afraid she did.
HUMPHRYS: Exactly. You've tried
exhortation and as Francis Maude said, that has failed, you've therefore
got to go down another road - all women shortlists.
DAVIS: Well, actually I don't think
we have...you say exhortation...
HUMPHRYS: Haven't you?
DAVIS: Let me...
HUMPHRYS: Well you've tried exhortation.
One leader after another has said we must have more women, we believe
DAVIS: It's going to be a bit more
determined than that. The first thing to make clear however is I do not
want to over-rule the autonomy of the Conservative Associations, it's very
important because that's actually the...
HUMPHRYS: But nothing will change.
DAVIS: No, no, wait a minute, there
is the fundamental under-pinning of MPs' autonomy is that, so we don't
want to throw out that baby with the bath water. What we are doing with
every safe seat, or every target seat, beg your pardon, and any safe seats
coming up for review, every target seat, is that we are going to, what
they call profile a seat, look at it very carefully, see what sort it is,
what sort of seat it is. And I am going to go or one of my vice chairmen
is going to go and talk to every single association that's selecting....
DAVIS: No, it's more than just
exhortation, we are going to explain to them why it is in many cases....
HUMPHRYS: ...they don't know
already, of course they know.
DAVIS: I'm afraid the truth is
that many of them haven't known already, that is the sort of serious point
and we are also going to be giving training to the Selection Committees
and we are going to be giving extra training to some of the people who
are up for selection. The other thing we are going to do is to make sure
they are all women on the list being put to them. That's exactly happening
in the next month or two, we've got four or five selection boards coming
up, deliberately aiming at that, looking outside to get more women in.
Measure us by results, measure by outcome because that's what I want to
see, I want the outcome, I don't want to throw out the baby with the bath
water but I do want an improvement in those numbers.
HUMPHRYS: David Davis, thanks very
DAVIS: Thank you.