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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Tony
Blair's attacking the wreckers... and some traditional Labour supporters
say it's THEM he has in mind. I'll be asking John Prescott about the
suspicion that the government wants to privatise our public services.
Is that what the Tories want too? I'll be talking to their chairman David
Davis. And Mr Blair's on another trip... to save Africa. But what's he
really got to offer? That's after the news read by Peter Sissons.
HUMPHRYS: The Tories say that they
are heading in a new direction... but will the voters like it when they
find out where they're going?
And Tony Blair wants to end
war and poverty in Africa. An ambition too far...?
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Mr Blair is about to get
onto his feet in Cardiff and address a Party Conference, as we've already
been told he will attack the wreckers, the people he says want to stop
him reforming and improving our public services. The official line is
that they are the Tories but the trade unions see it differently, they
and many other traditional Labour supporters, believe they are fighting
a battle to save the public services from being run by the private sector
and that they are seen as the wreckers. Some of them see it as a battle
to the very soul of the old Labour Party - one union leader even called
the plans Labour's poll tax.
Well John Prescott has
been widely seen as the conscience of old Labour, indeed, many believe
he was promoted by Tony Blair precisely because he could act as a buffer
to shield him from the wrath of the traditionalists. I've been talking
to Mr Prescott this morning and I asked him if he could understand the
trade unions worries.
JOHN PRESCOTT MP: Well, whether I'm the conscience
or not I'll leave others to judge it. I have some very strong views and
I've expressed them that I believe in traditional values but I also put
them in the modern setting and the one that's causing concern at the moment
is to whether you can use private finance in the provision of public facilities,
the public private partnership. You know, back in 1992, myself and Gordon
Brown and Robin Cook, put together this proposal before the Tories ever
came to their privatisation programme because we could see the massive
disinvestment that had gone in our public services and we wouldn't be able
to raise enough money if it came from public exchequer. So we need to
put the combination together, a massive disinvestment programme and you
know we did put that to the conference, we..it is our manifesto policy.
The unions campaigned on the same policy that I've campaigned on and now
when I hear people like John Edmonds saying well, I don't agree with it
and apparently it's not supported by the party, cause the decibels of support
in the claps in Cardiff were not very high. Well, it's a new interpretation
of democracy. We have a policy, we have a manifesto and we have, even
during these difficult economic times, in the first five years put twenty
billion more into public services, nine of that has come from private financing.
HUMPHRYS: But what Mr Edmonds says
and he said it again just a couple of hours ago, is that if you want to
raise more money, then the right way to do it, if you are concerned about
the public services, is to tax the richest a little bit more and that way
you will raise more money and you can put it into public services and that's
what people want, especially people within the party.
PRESCOTT: Well I think you've referred
to the IFS report before and it makes that very point. You can raise the
monies if you like by taxation, you can do it by extra borrowing if you
want and you have to get a balance and that's what this Chancellor does
but when John Edmonds comes along, telling us, well I believe in the old
public borrowing, he's the same man who comes along and says I want low
interest rate because it effects the manufacturing industry...
HUMPHRYS: ...he's not alone though
of course, is he John...
PRESCOTT: ...I'm not just saying...John's
articulated these arguments in a way and I have to say he's the one who
comes along for the interest rates. We have the lowest interest rates,
the lowest inflation and more people back at work. And by the way, on
the public sector area, something like a hundred and eighty thousand more
people back into the public service industries now, with the kind of investment
of a scale that we haven't had before. So, you know, I think there's every
reason for him to recognise that that's a considerable advance on public
services, benefiting his members, benefiting basically the public in this
country and if John's in disagreement, as he clearly is, I did appeal to
him, look at some of these facts, look at what we've done and put it in
one of your ads, that you put in the paper attacking us.
HUMPHRYS: Well, he's looked at
it and he has concluded that this is a very dangerous road to go down.
He says that for the Labour Party it could be the equivalent of the Tories'
Poll Tax, that's what he means about it.
PRESCOTT: That's the kind of rhetoric.
I mean John has put these arguments at conference and has been defeated
at conference. So I mean in a democratic party and we are a party who has
implemented our manifesto. Another point John used to get on about, we
want governments who implement the manifesto, well this new form of financing
was in our manifesto, he has more members in work in these areas, more
services are being provided for people. We've still a lot to do but we
have made that start and it's in line with get the economy right and then
improve radically, the quality of our public services.
HUMPHRYS: But as I say, John Monks....John
Edmonds is not alone, John Monks of the TUC, very moderate figure in terms
of the Labour Party has said this and I'm sure you know the quote: There
is a new ideological preference for the public sector, people believe that
if something is done for profit, people in your party believe that if something
is done for profit, it makes it more efficient. Therefore, you are more
interested in getting more private sector involvement than you were in
the past for ideological reasons, is that right?
PRESCOTT: Well it's true that if
you use private sector money and you borrow from them, you'll want a profit.
If the government borrows on bonds from the market and the city, it would
still want....the city will still want money for lending it for its bonds
for its public financing.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah, but if the private
sector gets involved they want to make a profit because they're concerned
about their shareholders.
PRESCOTT: It's a fair point, it's
a fair point. But the argument there about profit, it's about risk. If
you look at some of the public sector investments, they cost a great deal
more and people just sign their cheques away for it. We've tried to say
by bringing in public and private partnerships, we will get a better level
of efficiency in it. Now I know John Edmonds apparently is rejecting that
thinking, but we know for a fact in some of the energy industries he's
in, there was a tremendous reduction in the costs, after the privatisation,
I don't want to get into the argument about privatisation, but even the
National Audit Committee has made clear, that something like eighty per
cent of the projects they .... are really welcomed by the people who brought
them in as better value.
The argument is ongoing
and if you bring in the private sector, there's a different set of rules
to the public sector and I think I've said on your programme before John,
if you go to the Treasury and ask for the money and let's take railways,
Peter Parker told us in 1980, if you don't get the money into the railway
system, the core is already beginning to crumble and we didn't. Now, you
need long term investment. He could see that wouldn't come from Treasury,
both Labour and Tories, who have a time arisen of usually one year, Gordon's
now taken it to three. But all these massive investment problems require
continuity of investment for twenty or thirty years. So if you go to the
Treasury, they can't give you that because you don't know whether you are
going to be in power, if you go to the private sector and put a public
private partnership together, you can guarantee that money because it's
a contract requirement on both sides and we believe a greater level of
efficiency and shifting the risk onto the private sector, who lose some
of his so-called profits if they don't perform as promised.
HUMPHRYS: And you believe that
if there is a profit motive, you do get greater efficiencies, you're persuaded
PRESCOTT: Well, I can look at some
of the examples, of the public sector and I can look at some of private,
it's not total in every area, mistakes are made...
HUMPHRYS: ...no but the broad principle
is that if it's private and they're operating for a profit, they're going
to be more efficient than the public sector...
PRESCOTT: ...I think they're more
concerned about saving money if it's the profits affected, whereas if it's
the Treasury you just pay the bill, whether it's Air Traffic Control or
whether it's the railways, or whether the Jubilee Line at two to three
billion pounds more...
HUMPHRYS: ...well on that basis
wouldn't you just privatise the lot then?
HUMPHRYS: Well on that basis why
not just privatise everything?
PRESCOTT: But I'm not proposing
HUMPHRYS: Why not if it's more
PRESCOTT: Well, I don't because
public private partnership is where the combination comes together. You
get the best of the public and the actual best of the private, putting
the two together and there's a great deal of evidence to show this is so
and the Audit Commission's come out with its opinion on it. But John, what
I was trying to say at Cardiff this week and people like John Evans you
HUMPHRYS: John Edmonds.
PRESCOTT: ...John Edmonds seemed
to ignore it is that who pays the price then, if you've a massive disinvestment
and by public financing you can complete and replace that investment, let's
say in ten, fifteen years. If you bring in private money at the scale that
we do, in addition to additional public financing as we've done, you can
reduce that period of waiting and that's the real price, who pays it? The
kid in the school with the leaking roof and the outside toilet? The patient
waiting for an operation? The passengers because there's a delayed........investment
in the infrastructure? The pensioner who wants a care home? These are all
that we can quicken the process of replacement if we bring public and private
HUMPHRYS: But even Peter Mandelson
says that you're giving the impression that private involvement is the
PRESCOTT: ...is this my knock-out
HUMPHRYS: ...you may deliver one
now, if we're still...though not to me, but a metaphorical one. Peter Mandelson
says you're giving the impression that private sector is the only solution.
PRESCOTT: Well he's talking about
impressions. I'm certainly not, am I. And I'm certainly not advocating
HUMPHRYS: ...he says that's how
it looks and it certainly looks like that to the trade unions.
PRESCOTT: ...well, I've got to
give you the example that what we've done, if you look at the last five
years of the Tory government, something like twenty-four billion pounds
went into new capital investments right, under us, it's forty billion pounds...
HUMPHRYS: ...will be.
PRESCOTT: ...well I mean, will
be, in two-o-three..
HUMPHRYS: ...hasn't been.
PRESCOTT: ...well, let's just take...
HUMPHRYS: ...hasn't been.
PRESCOTT; ...no I'm sorry...
HUMPHRYS: ...in fact for the first
couple of years there was
PRESCOTT: ...no no...
HUMPHRYS: ...less than in any period...
PRESCOTT: ...no no. Well let me
tackle you on that one then, because you easily throw it in ...
HUMPHRYS: ...well it's the IFS,
you quoted the IFS a moment ago.
PRESCOTT: Well I was just going
to give you the IFS and because we did it in another programme, I looked
up the IFS right, and it makes it very clear. It says, given in the first
period of a Labour Government, four years, those two years we accepted
the Tory expenditure plans which showed public expenditure going down.
But we did that largely to get stable economy, to get the reduction in
interest, to get people back to work, and we achieved it. But we knew and
I knew, as the Transport Spokesman that I wasn't taking a priority in money
and transport because we wanted stability of economy and more into health
and education. Now the IFS says yes, you did that. So if I take the first
period, that's the four years, looking at the proportions is not greater
than before right. But he also says in the monies and commitments going
on to two-o-three, two-o-four, and the substantial and continuity of investment
in health and education, yes, it's doing a lot better. They go further,
they say, if you want more money to get real improvements, you've either
got to look at taxation or you've got to look at more borrowing or a number
of measures they've proposed...
HUMPHRYS: ...and the...
PRESCOTT: ...and we admit that
HUMPHRYS: ...and the unions if...
PRESCOTT: ...we've got a stable
economy now John. We've never had that for decades and what always used
to happen before, when they get a stop/go in the economy, they always cut
the public services.
HUMPHRYS: Right, that's one thing,
that's one thing, running those services, getting investment is one thing
and you talk about PFI, we haven't got time to argue that now, but running
the services is another thing and Tony Blair says he wants reform and he
says there is no ideological bar. That's the expression that he used, so
it doesn't matter, take the Health Service, it doesn't matter who provides
the Health Service so long as it is free at the point of delivery. That's
your view is it?
PRESCOTT: Well I think the most
essential point is free at the point of use and that's a very distinctive
difference between us and the Tories who clearly going through all this
process and it's not working.
HUMPHRYS: ...and that is all that
PRESCOTT: But that is about....
no no, that's a very important point. Secondly, to get more efficient and
to get the service to .... much quicker, that's the reforms that we're
trying to bring in are equally as good. Let me give you an example. My
agent in Hull actually, I say, needed an eye operation right. He didn't
go to Hull Hospital, but they offered he could go to Harrogate right, and
that was a contracted service done with the Hull Hospital. He was taken
by car there, the eye operation was done immediately and then he was serviced
by the Health Service. From his point of view...
HUMPHRYS: ...or it was a private
hospital that he went to in Harrogate?
PRESCOTT: Well it was a kind where
people had got together, they're only doing eye operations...
HUMPHRYS: ...alright, but private,
PRESCOTT: ...and they have a contract
agreement to provide that and all those facilities were specialised in
and he got that service quicker than he would have been getting from his
Health Service. He got a very perfect service as he says himself and therefore
to that extent it was a combination of public and private, meeting the
needs also of free at the point of use and he got the service quicker.
Now, he thinks that's pretty good, I think that sounds good and I wouldn't
want to get ideological whether in fact you can get a combination of public
and private working together for the advantage of the ...
HUMPHRYS: ...but looking at it
politically, is it wise from your perspective to alienate the trade unions,
as you're doing, as you're certainly in danger of doing, I mean the GMB
for instance withholding a couple of million pounds. It's not going to
PRESCOTT: ...well, well...
HUMPHRYS: ....it's going to spend
on adverts to fight a war against it, I mean, is that wise?
PRESCOTT: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
But listen, listen, listen, I come from the trade union movement like they
PRESCOTT: We like the aggressive
style of arguing, at the end of the day they can make judgement how they
spend their money. They don't want to get their situation...
HUMPHRYS: ...I mean, to call them
PRESCOTT: No, they didn't call
the trade union "wreckers." That's just complete nonsense and both the
Prime Minister and Stephen Byers has got in a section, you can read it
and if you've read ...
HUMPHRYS: ...well I have indeed...
PRESCOTT: ...well you'll see that
he's talking about the Tories, both in Tony's speech and in the...
HUMPHRYS: But Stephen Byers said
"We won't let vested interest stand in the way of reform" well I mean it
was perfectly clear who he meant by "vested interest" wasn't it?
PRESCOTT: No, but he makes it clear,
in the Tories he's talking about the Tories....the whole section's about
the Tories who want to wreck the Health Service....
HUMPHRYS: ...sure, of course...
PRESCOTT: and then privatise it...
HUMPHRYS: ...that is what you expect,
but it's also the trade unions involved in this...
PRESCOTT: ...yeah, but, if you
come to the trade unions, they want to put their point of view, but at
the end of the day, of course they do, they've a vested interest in it
and they've made some changes, to my mind, they're the better from the
mistakes we made on how you handle Labour situations...
HUMPHRYS: ...sure. But on this
you're prepared to fight them?
PRESCOTT: ...but, no. They are
challenging and say, you're not going to carry out your manifesto policy.
Well, you know, how many times have Labour politicians been accused on
programmes on like this, decades ago, where they said, you're not carrying
your manifesto. John Edmonds, I've been on platforms where he used that.
I'm carrying out the manifesto of the party. We are doing the investment
and meeting the needs of the people in a quicker way than ever. We've got
more people back at work, we've got more resources going into public services,
now they wish to argue that case, we will argue as well. I can't accept
though if he says he's going to use money to back other candidates. Whether
there's going to be a GMB party of MPs I don't know, I thought we'd got
away from that sponsorship concept. At the end of the day, this government
will get on with delivering on its manifesto and delivering for the people
in this country.
HUMPHRYS: But they are worried
about all sorts of things and the other kind of thing that they're worried
about is your party's very, very close, increasingly close as they see
it, relationship with industry, with business and we've now got this fuss
over Enron. People do get worried about your relationship with big business.
They look at it and they say, this isn't the party that I thought I was
supporting. I mean don't you have any....as a trade union man yourself,
as you say....
PRESCOTT: ...have you ever been
to meetings of trade unions and business and see how they get on together.....
HUMPHRYS: ...but you don't have
any misgivings? I mean I mentioned Enron in that question. I mean obviously
there's something very serious going wrong...
PRESCOTT: ...you keep throwing
in Enron as if you've got some accusation to make against us. I presume
you haven't because no evidence has been provided, you just throw it in
like that. Quite wrong John.
HUMPHRYS: Because people are concerned,
they see a company like that, that has done some dreadful things.
PRESCOTT: But you keep mentioning
it, others keep mentioning it, there's no ruddy evidence what for it to
suggest any kind of corruption, but if we go back to your original question,
which is, does the Labour Party have a relationship with business. Yes
it does. Does it have it with the trade unions? Yes it does.
HUMPHRYS: Too close was what I
PRESCOTT: Well, it has relations,
you can make a judgement whether it's too close or not and if you look
at the TUC and CBI there's no doubt about it there has been a closer working
relations, but it used to happen in previous governments. At the end of
the day judge us on what we deliver, is it the kind of manifesto and the
traditional values placed in a modern setting. I mean it's more with business
having discussions than perhaps before, so what's wrong? I've got regional
government, I've got development agencies where we put businesses and the
whole community together to work for the community. What's so wrong with
HUMPHRYS: Alright. Some people
- I'll not answer that question because it's not my job to answer them
as you know, but some people might say, "Oh there's John Prescott, what's
he doing here, I thought he was retiring". That peculiar story last week,
briefed by... I don't know who briefed it, by somebody that you're going
to take the early bath. That's not right?
PRESCOTT: No, I want fight. I
want a third period for the Labour government. We've got to fight to get
that case across and it was a nonsense. They knew I wasn't going to retire,
but you know we've got papers like The Sunday Times and The Telegraph.
They want to keep going for me, I think wishing I would go. I don't want
to disappoint them and tell them I'm not going to go. But it's the way
the Tories are working, it's not an opposition. You were involved in one
with what's his name - Nicholas Soames.
HUMPHRYS: Oh, I meant to raise
that because in case people don't understand what that's all about, I was
going to say I still.....
PRESCOTT: Another non-story.
HUMPHRYS: What Nicholas Soames
did for those who weren't aware of it, Tory MP, was he put down a written
answer to ask the Prime Minister what the job of the Deputy Prime Minister,
John Prescott is. And the answer came back, we'll get back to you on that.
And people thought what, the Prime Minister doesn't know what he's doing!
PRESCOTT: No, no, he put the question
down on Tuesday. It wasn't answered on the Thursday.......Thursday night
it was answered. It was in Parliament and in the hands of the press on
HUMPHRYS: Why didn't he just immediately.....
PRESCOTT: Well because I have to
check an answer, he has to check an answer.
PRESCOTT: Well, because we're answerable
to Parliament. If my name's on it they would expect me to have checked
HUMPHRYS: You would expect the
Prime Minister to know exactly what his deputy did and...
PRESCOTT: No, but he has to....well
you could have pressed a button on the Internet and got it yourself.
HUMPHRYS: But I'm not the Prime
Minister. Why didn't he do that?
PRESCOTT: .......why you gave such
...why you gave...a professional journalist such attention to a clearly
drawn stunt was beyond belief.
HUMPHRYS: Because the Prime Minister
seemed for a moment then not to....
PRESCOTT: He didn't at all.
HUMPHRYS: Why didn't he press the
button on the Internet then?
PRESCOTT: Well, he know what it
is. I've been before the Select Committee, I've made statements in the
House, but you know that answer was there on Friday morning. You had
this fool on the television, on the radio...
HUMPHRYS: .... Nicholas Soames
said he rather liked you....
PRESCOTT: You know he's an ex-Guards
officer who finds people like me who used to serve drinks something unimportant,
shouldn't really be in the House of Commons for a drink, unless you were
getting in there along with a Guards officer. You know a bit of a classer
like that. But if you take Saturday, if you take Saturday, he had the
answer in the House of Commons Friday but perhaps he didn't call in there,
perhaps he couldn't get five days a week in the House of Commons. Look,
these are nonsense stories by a Tory press who build it up. They must
think I'm important enough to do the stories, but let me tell you, I'm
going to be round fighting Tories, I know nothing more but to fight Tories
and I want to see that we win that third period for a Labour government.
HUMPHRYS: And what about your old
role in the government. I mean are you happy with the way that the Number
Ten is working in the sense that we've got all these special advisors now
and people who had come in from outside running you know, civil servants
giving evidence and all that?
PRESCOTT: Well John, as when I
did the transport one, I take a bit of time just looking at it and then
begin to do the White Papers and things I did there. Here, I've only been
here four months. I can see things that I don't feel happy about and changes
and I discuss what we might do about that. I've got.....
HUMPHRYS: ....social exclusion.
PRESCOTT Social exclusion and poverty,
that is across government to say that's ......and I think I'm now understanding
exactly we'll do that. I'm really going to be finishing the White Paper
on regional governments which is a major development, and by the way, I've
probably got more functions and roles, than any of the Deputy Prime Ministers
that have been in there. Yes, I'm happy with the job, yes I am dealing
with some of the changes that are necessary.
HUMPHRYS: What are you unhappy
with, I mean in the way that the operation is run. I mean the....
PRESCOTT: I think that's one of
the points that you, when you, I think you interviewed Heseltine in 1997,
in 1995 I think about him doing the job, and he said, in this job you have
the authority to share the confidence of the Prime Minister and also the
confidence of the Secretary of State you work with on the Cabinet committees.
You have that confidence by not shouting about what you're doing, but
getting the agreements, called fixing, get agreement, and I'm at it as
much as any other Deputy Prime Minister and I love it.
HUMPHRYS: And no unease about the
way some of the advisors operate?
PRESCOTT: Well, I always have unease,
you know me, and I deal with them. But I do it with less publicity in
this job, because I'm supporting the Prime Minister and he's a pretty good
Prime Minister to support.
HUMPHRYS: John Prescott, thanks
very much indeed.
HUMPHRYS: And I was talking to
Mr Prescott a bit earlier this morning.
So he and Tony Blair,
say it's the Tories who want to destroy the public services. They say
that's rubbish, but we don't know exactly what their policies are yet.
It's a long way to go to an election and parties don't like exposing themselves
to attack any sooner than they have to, for obvious reasons. The man
in charge of their policy review is the party chairman David Davis, and
he's with me now and I shall be speaking to him after this report from
Terry Dignan, who's been trying to identify the party's direction.
TERRY DIGNAN: The man who now leads the
Conservatives is taking his party on a journey. His destination is uncertain.
So on Tuesday he met women political journalists to explain where he was
going. The Conservatives have been getting a better press of late with
their new leader speaking out on the issue which matters most to many voters
- public services. And there are signs of a more tolerant, caring Conservatism
with regard to minorities, young people and women. But does this really
mean that Iain Duncan Smith is leading his party back to the centre ground
of British politics? It's the direction he should be going in, according
to pollsters, because it's where the voters are heading.
NICK SPARROW: The proportion of people
who say 'I am just in the centre' has grown over those three or four years
since we last did the research. So while people are seeing themselves as
of the centre they are regarding Labour as somewhat different to them but
the Tories as a lot different to them. Being seen of the centre right,
rather than right wing, is I think in present circumstances probably the
area that they have to aim at, rather than sticking where they are.
STEPHEN DORRELL MP: A new generation is refreshingly
willing to take people as it finds them, to look past racial stereotypes
and to adopt less judgmental attitudes to individuals' private sexual behaviour.
DIGNAN: At a meeting of Conservative
mainstream, a former Tory minister urges the party to accept changing attitudes
to gays and the role of women. Yet although the party's tone is less harsh,
if Iain Duncan Smith wants to move further in a more tolerant direction,
many party members are likely to resist.
DORRELL: The fact that the average
age of Conservative activists has been relentlessly rising has tended to
cut themselve off, cut them off from those social changes. The much bigger
question is how the Conservative Party reconnects with huge swathes of
opinion particularly in the cities, from which it's simply become divorced.
DIGNAN: Many Tories disagree.
ACTUALITY: Then you put that, one
of those and the return envelope through.
DIGNAN: Here in the London suburb
of Upminster, the Conservative MP Angela Watkinson says that when she and
her party members knock on doors, they find no evidence of a need to change
their policies towards any social group.
ANGELA WATKINSON MP: Anybody is welcome to join if they
have Conservative views. I certainly don't think we should be targeting
any particular group simply because they are male, female, homosexual,
old, young or whatever. It's certainly not an issue which is ever raised
with me by constituents, I don't think one constituent has ever approached
me about it.
DIGNAN: But the party's attitude
to one group, homosexuals, is an issue for Nicholas Boles, here preparing
the launch of a new centre right think tank, Policy Exchange.
ACTUALITY: Freedom. Prosperity.
DIGNAN: He wants Duncan Smith to
drop Tory support for the law banning the promotion of homosexuality in
schools, which won't be easy given the divisions in the party.
NICHOLAS BOLES: Iain Duncan Smith before
his election as leader said that he recognised that Section 28 as an example
has become a totem and that whatever the rights and wrongs of attempts
to try and control what sex education materials are used in schools, that
Section 28 has become a bigger issue than that and needs to be looked at
DORRELL: Well, the Conservative
Party I think has to face up to the fact that the vast majority of people
outside the Conservative Party now regard the question as whether somebody
enters a gay relationship or not as a matter for the people concerned and
nothing to do with the politicians and we have to make certain that that
is, I think that's right in principle and I think the Conservative Party
should articulate it as a principle and if there is any piece of legislation,
whether it's Section 28 or anything else that obstructs that principle,
then it should be removed.
GERALD HOWARTH MP: The purpose was that homosexuality
could not be promoted as a pretended family relationship and that is a
very precise definition and if you believe in the pre-eminence of marriage
then the two follow hand in hand. The pre-eminence of marriage, Section
DIGNAN: In Upminster, there's a
break from leafleting. The Tories here tasted success last year when Angela
Watkinson won the seat. But she's one of only fourteen Tory women MPs.
She supports her leader's aim to increase this number but would oppose
a policy of positive discrimination.
WATKINSON: Personally I am against any
form of quota, certainly against all-women lists and it would be quite
dangerous I think to take away the autonomy of the associations because
they are voluntary bodies.
ANN WIDDECOMBE MP: Encouraging women to consider
has got to be the answer, it is to be to get women to come forward in large
enough numbers. I would utterly repudiate positive discrimination because
what it does is create second-class citizens.
DIGNAN: Iain Duncan Smith would
no doubt like as many women to be Tory MPs as there are female political
correspondents. But if Conservative constituency associations continue
to select men, then some argue positive discrimination may be inevitable.
BOLES: We do need to achieve a
better representation of women and ethnic minorities among candidates.
I think that there are many other ways of achieving that result before
you have to do things like all-women shortlists, but we shouldn't rule
out, if it isn't working, looking again at the idea of all-women shortlists.
DIGNAN: So, it's unclear how far
the party's approach to women, gays and other groups will change. The journalists
he lunched with have reported a new tone on public services, too. This
issue, rather than Europe or asylum under the previous leader, is now at
the centre of the Tory agenda. But there's uncertainty over what this means.
Here at Westminster the Tory Shadow Chancellor Michael Howard has suggested
that to ensure we get the schools and hospitals we want, the party may
decide not to lower taxes. But Iain Duncan Smith says the Conservatives
will lower taxes by, in his own words, getting government off our backs.
JOHN REDWOOD MP: I am an optimist and I think I
know the party reasonably well and I think we will be going into the next
election some time away we believe offering selected tax changes or reductions
as well as offering a much better range of choice on public services.
WATKINSON: I want to say a little bit first
of all about the Palace of Westminster because that's where it all happens.
DIGNAN: Many of the parents of
these girls at the Sacred Heart of Mary School would like more spending
on education - and other services. Their MP Angela Watkinson believes the
Conservatives have to respond to this demand and put tax cuts on the backburner.
Yet once, the party believed its commitment to lower taxation made it unbeatable
in its battle against Labour.
WATKINSON: I think that's what's changed
it is the mood of the electorate, they are very, very clear about what
they want. My constituency is commuter land, people are going into London
both on the tube and on the Southend to Fenchurch Street Line and the level
of dissatisfaction is very high. We have to address those issues, they
are complaining about vandalism and crime in the area and those, those
sort of problems are more important to them at the moment than the amount
of tax they are paying.
JOHN MAPLES MP: I don't think the priority
here is to get taxation down. I think the priority is to get health spending
up. But the model of paying for it increasingly out of taxation is not
delivering the kind of health service that people want.
DIGNAN: Here at Tory Party HQ,
Iain Duncan Smith has argues that the Conservatives could reduce taxes
by making us all less reliant on the state for public services. This would
mean, of course, a much bigger role for the private sector. It could be
a risky strategy if the Conservatives want to avoid being portrayed as
a party of right wing privatisers.
Since taking over, the
new leader has criss- crossed Britain preaching the Tory message. But he's
getting conflicting advice on what he should be saying. His instincts may
be to listen to those who are urging him to stay true to his Thatcherite
REDWOOD: We need to show more free
enterprise, more private capital, will release a much better service as
it did with the phones, it could do so on the trains, on the underground,
in a number of other areas.
LORD NORMAN BLACKWELL: The Conservative Party did a lot
in its term in government to break down many of the nationalised industries
and privatise and introduce more devolution into public services, but they
hit a glass window when it came to the services like health and education,
the public wasn't ready to accept that these should move on from being
state monopolies. So I think the opportunity is there now for the Conservative
Party to pick up its agenda and explain once again why you can't run big
organisations as bureaucratic state command and control enterprises and
that you have to find ways of breaking them up, of getting choice.
DIGNAN: At Conservative mainstream's
reception the talk was of modernising the party. Some would prefer to improve
the management of public services rather than look for new ways to pay
for them. They are taking to heart warnings about policies which remind
voters of past Tory governments.
SPARROW: One can look at the history
of privatisation as a policy introduced by the Conservative Government
which perhaps by the end literally ran into the buffers with Railtrack
and people started to move in a different direction and perhaps think no
public services need to be supported. So there is a danger now in using
words that associate people back to those policies.
BOLES: That is one of the reasons
why myself I think that we in the Conservative Party should focus more
on issues of management and less on issues of money, on issues of who is
making decisions about how the National Health Service is run rather than
who is footing the bill and exactly how they're footing the bill, if we
do that we have more chance of taking the people with us than if we focus
endlessly on the question of whether the money that is funding it is private
DIGNAN: So it's not clear which
way Duncan Smith is heading. On minorities and women the tone is softer
but, as with tax and spending, the policies are uncertain. The Tories have
started a journey into the unknown.
HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan reporting
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.
HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair leaves for Africa
this week... that most benighted of continents... plagued with poverty,
war and corruption. Mr Blair wants to end all that... to create a new
"partnership" between Africa and the west. Ambitions don't come much greater.
And, as Paul Wilenius reports, there are many who doubt whether this country
can really make much of a difference.
PAUL WILENIUS: Globetrotting. Saving the
world. It's all part of the job for Tony Blair. Leave the Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw back at home. And those nasty domestic troubles. Clock up some
more Blair-miles. The only worry is making sure to take the right outfits.
Tony Blair is about to fly off on another foreign crusade - this time
to Africa. His mission is to bring an end to poverty, war and bad government
in this troubled continent. But his critics warn that if he's to succeed,
it'll take a lot more money and commitment from Britain and the developed
world than they've so far been willing to give.
TONY BLAIR: The state of Africa is a scar
on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused
on it, we could heal it. And if we don't that scar will become deeper and
WILENIUS: So this African adventure
is personal. Almost a journey into the Prime Minister's own heart of darkness.
He says he really wants to make a difference, to what some call the forgotten
continent. But the question is whether or not his brief visit is the beginning
of a long haul.
DR DALEEP MUKARJI: What Blair said at the Labour
party conference was exciting, it was visionary, it had a moral dimension
to it and we were all excited. But he is going to soon realize there is
no quick fixes it is going to take a long time and this is where we hope
that himself and his government working with others are willing to go the
long journey with partners in Africa.
WILENIUS: Since September 11 and
the attacks on the World Trade Center, Tony Blair has carved out a new
role for himself as a world leader. He's been flying all over the globe
as part of the battle against terrorism. He's visited more than twenty
countries in a few months. But he's been attacked for acting as little
more than President George W Bush's cheerleader and for spending too much
TONY BALDRY MP: If I were the Prime Minister I'd
be concerned about criticism of Blair miles and a sense that he seems to
be happier overseas than he is at home.
WILENIUS: Tony Blair is hoping
to escape the criticism during his stay in West Africa. He's expected to
take in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal. And he's even poised to fly into Sierra
Leone, to visit British forces there. But there are real worries that he
may find it hard to live up to his own grand ambition.
OONA KING MP: I don't think its possible
to underestimate the difficulty of the problems facing Africa when you
look at the levels of corruption and the levels of conflict, the levels
of poverty, the AIDS pandemic, it's you know, those problems are not going
to be solved by one man in one trip.
WILENIUS: Money must be at the
centre of any crusade to help Africa. The continent's poorest nations should
be able to earn more by trade with the developed world. While Britain and
other richer nations are under increasing pressure to give more aid, to
wipe out debt and also help with sustainable development.
The desperate need for more aid is clear in Sub-Saharan Africa, where
almost half of the population, 301 million people, have to live on less
than seventy pence a day. Together with this abject poverty, people in
this part of Africa are dying younger, with life expectancy declining from
fifty years in 1993 to only forty-seven in 1999. One of the main reasons
for this that at least seventeen-million people in the area have died of
AIDS and a further twenty-five million are living with HIV or AIDS.
HON LT GEN MOMPATI MERAFHE: Sometimes the arrogant display of opulence
that you find in the developed world when you try and compare it with the
situation in which in some parts of the world people find themselves, particularly
in some parts of Africa, you just feel that, you know, we live in this
world and some people live elsewhere and that you know there is so much
unequal distribution of wealth.
WILENIUS: Despite Tony Blair's
promises to reduce that inequality, he's hardly leading by example. Britain
has signed up to the United Nations target to give point seven per cent
of its national income in aid to developing countries. But it's still spending
less than half of that amount. And on the government's current plans it'll
take many years to reach that target.
KING: My target would be
reaching point seven per cent of GDP within the lifetime of this parliament
and then within the next parliament were there to be and I obviously hope
there will be a third term of the Labour government, to increase that to
one per cent because post September 11th we've seen that we don't live
in a divided world and we will reap the consequences unless we prevent
some of these huge inequalities.
WILENIUS: Another huge problem
is the sheer scale of the debt crushing many countries. Every day, sub-Saharan
Africa pays out twenty-seven-point-three-million pounds merely to cover
the cost of debt. Ten countries in Africa spend more on debt than on health
and primary education combined.
BARRY COATES: The big promises of, of,
of debt relief haven't been delivered. So that if you take the, the fifty-two
poorest countries in the world that are heavily indebted and you look at
how much debt they have it's about three hundred-and-fifty billion. How
much has actually been written off in terms of, of debt is about twenty
billion out of that three-hundred-and-fifty.
WILENIUS: Gordon Brown and Clare
Short have been leading the efforts to try to cut Africa's debt, but there
are criticisms that this has been undermined by British exports which don't
help sustainable development.
JENNY TONGE MP: We've had a very good example
recently of Gordon Brown relieving the debt last year of Tanzania which
was a very good thing to do, wiped it our completely. Less than a year
later the Department of Trade and Industry sells this air traffic control
system to the same country for twenty-eight million pounds, huge cost,
throws them back into debt again and that amount of money would actually
pay for basic health care for the whole of the population of that country.
Now what is the prime minister doing if he approves something like that?
It is totally hypocritical.
WILENIUS: Indeed trade is at the
heart of the problem. Tony Blair will be banging the drum for British industry
during his trip to West Africa. But there are accusations that Britain
and other rich countries are restricting fairer trade rules which would
give developing countries access to their markets and stop exploitation
by multi-national companies.
DR MUKARJI: It's very important for the
west and the EU countries in particular but also working through the G8
that we open up our markets and we allow a much fairer trade system. Now
this is going to give African leaders and African governments a sense of
dignity and independence because aid alone is not going to make a difference.
WILENIUS: Britain's jet setting
Prime Minister has promised to heal the scars of Africa. But bloody conflicts
and wars, which have claimed the lives of millions, are still raging across
the continent. And so Tony Blair will find it difficult to get rid of those
scars, while the killing and maiming goes on.
Britain played a significant role in bringing to an end the terrible
slaughter caused by this civil war in Sierra Leone. But it's not clear
if Tony Blair is prepared to expand Britain's armed forces to help solve
other conflicts. In Somalia direct American intervention was a disaster,
and on Zimbabwe British policy is failing. And many African leaders are
no longer willing to take lectures from their old colonial masters.
DR MUKARJI: When Tony Blair goes to Africa
he must be prepared to go and listen to the Africans, rather than tell
the Africans what is good and what is bad for them.
BADRY: The idea that the West,
Europe, can simply march in and resolve conflicts for everyone in Africa
I think, you know, the evidence of what happened in Somalia and elsewhere
doesn't bode particularly well for that.
WILENIUS: In the Democratic Republic
of Congo a staggering three million people have lost their lives through
war or famine, with rival African states joining the battle for diamonds,
money and influence. It's left the country in ruins. But rather than tackling
Africa's bloody conflicts the west has been feeding them, sending millions
of pounds worth of military hardware and expertise into the continent every
KING: I think nowhere is
the contradiction more clear in development and trade policy than in the
arm, in the area of arms, and you can see it when British soldiers have
British arms turned against them in wars.
TONGE: We really have got to tighten
up where we sell our arms to, because in the end its not in our interests
even because we have to go and clean up the mess, we have to spend money
on redeveloping a country as we're doing in Afghanistan now. So conflict
prevention before anything starts is a much more sensible policy to pursue
and that includes controlling the arms trade.
WILENIUS: Tony Blair's beginning
to realise that he can't change things in Africa on his own. Last week's
attempt to force the Commonwealth to take tougher action against Zimbabwe's
President Mugabe was rebuffed. Now he's coming under mounting pressure
to use his special relationship with President Bush to try to force the
Americans to put far more aid and commitment into Africa.
COATES: There's a, a, I think a
pivotal opportunity now where if Blair does use his influence then, then
the US policy can shift on many of these areas. But first it would be very
good if the UK itself showed leadership through its own policies.
WILENIUS: After his West African
trip Tony Blair will be hurled straight back into difficult domestic issues.
But he'll have to have more than a nice suntan to show for his overseas
efforts. There need to be real improvements to aid, trade and peace in
Africa, otherwise he'll continue to be dogged by the grand promises of
his conference speech.
TONGE: Well I hope it comes back
to haunt him, I'm going to make jolly sure it comes back to haunt him on
a very regular basis because he's said these things very, very publicly,
I accept and hope very much that he was sincere about it and I think we
should remind him of those words very, very often indeed during the course
of this parliament.
BALDRY: What we're going to see
is a number of photo opportunities in Africa, a few sound bytes, a statement
back in the House of Commons when he gets back but actually in terms of
real proposals or real achievements, very little being done.
WILENIUS: Back from his travels
and returning to rain-swept Westminster Tony Blair could once again run
into criticism for raising expectations which he can't then deliver. Because
a few good holiday snaps may not be enough to persuade his critics that
he is starting to pull Africa out of the darkness.
HUMPHRYS: Paul Wilenius reporting
there. And that's it for this week. Don't forget about our website. We'll
be back at the same time next week. Until then, good afternoon.