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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Britain
seems to be the odd man out in Europe over America's plan to overthrow
Saddam Hussein. I'll be talking to Clare Short, who's seen as the main
dissenter in the Cabinet. What can we learn from the way New York City
has cut crime? I'll be talking to the Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin,
who's been to see it for himself. And are we really happy to see a Labour
Government put up our taxes to buy better public services? That's after
the news read by Peter Sissons.
HUMPHRYS: New York's fight against
crime has paid off. It's a much safer city. We'll be reporting on the
lessons our politicians can learn from it.
And Gordon Brown's
been dropping heavy hints about tax rises. Will he get away with making
the middle class pay more?
JAMES PURNELL MP: It's very important for people
within the Labour Party to realise that this debate will only be won if
the public see improvements in public services.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Tomorrow, ministers
from the world's richest countries are meeting in Mexico for another of
those sessions where they talk about the poor. If they'd always delivered
on every promise that's ever been made there'd be no poor people left.
But they haven't. When push comes to shove charity usually begins at
home - and the poorest stay poor. Indeed, by many measurements the gap
between the world's richest and the world's poorest is widening, not getting
narrower. The current big promise is that by 2015 the numbers of the very
poorest will be cut by half and every child will get at least a primary
education. There's much more besides. But it will all cost a lot more
- about thirty five Billion pounds, fifty billion dollars every year more
than they're giving at the moment - and so far there's nothing like that
amount being offered. The International Development Secretary, Clare Short,
will be Britain's representative at the talks. She's also in the news
of course at the moment because she's worried about what Washington has
in mind for Iraq. Just before she left this morning I spoke to her. I
asked her first about aid, and suggested that the rich countries keep
making promises but don't put up the hard cash.
CLARE SHORT: That's not correct, firstly
the Millennium Development Goals aren't about money, they are about the
world committing to intensify its effort to reduce poverty, get children
into school, improve healthcare, therefore children survive and women don't
die in childbirth.
HUMPHRYS: All of which costs money.
SHORT: Yes, but there's also cost
reform, aid without reform gives you Mobutu no progress, so just aid isn't
it, it's reform to run economies, way on in a way that ensures that they
grow, that domestic savings stay at home and are invested back into the
economy and they are the conditions that attract inward investment which
brings you access to modern technology and then aid can give you access
to ideas, policy reform and then speeding up things like getting more children
into school and so on. So you need that combination. We've got fifty billion
dollars of international aid in the current system and it has been declining
because people have become cynical about all of this. They call it compassion
fatigue but I think people starting not believing that aid worked. Actually
in recent years we've improved its effectiveness massively and we need
to turn round that public perception. Certainly, in Britain people care
about levels of poverty, but they feel nothing works. So, we've got international
consensus on how to do the reform, we've got fifty billion and we're going
to a meeting, where if we don't come up with more money, things will turn
sour and nasty and I think partly because of that, this is one of the advantages
of the EU meetings, we have now had the EU come up with, by 2006 an extra
seven billion a year, and commitments to reform and improve the way the
money is spent, and President Bush, in an administration that's been saying
aid is a waste of time and we don't believe in it, suddenly comes up with
another five billion. Now that's not the extra fifty billion that the
World Bank say we need to really meet the Millennium Development Goals,
but it's turnaround.
HUMPHRYS: But it's not a big enough
turnaround is it, that's really the point I'm making. Five billion sounds,
from the United States, sounds a great deal of money but that's five billion
over three years, that works out at about ten per cent of what is already,
bearing in mind the United States is the world's richest country by far,
a tiny, tiny budget compared with their gross national product. I mean
that five billion actually isn't very much, is what I'm saying...
HUMPHRYS: ...very mean..
SHORT: It's not very much but this
is an administration that in all the preparations for the Monterrey meeting,
have been saying aid is a waste of time, we don't believe in aid, we don't
believe in the Millennium Development Goals, we are never going to commit
ourselves to the 0.7 of GDP for aid which is the UN target. Suddenly,
the President makes a speech saying, I support the Millennium Development
Goals and I've come up with five billion dollars so that's a turnaround.
HUMPHRYS: It's a gesture rather
than a really significant...
SHORT: Well I think it's a turn
around and it isn't - throwing money around is not the only point, the
point is to commit to an agenda of reform, to more trade access, to resolving
some of the conflicts that large parts of Africa are stuck in conflict
and therefore can't develop and then deploying aid well. Of the fifty billion
we've got, if we used it more effectively to go where the poor are and
to back reformers, it would be worth fifty per cent more. So my own view
and I think this is what's happening, in this country, is you've got to
show you know what you are doing, you are serious, there's no messing about,
the aid isn't being used for cheap political reasons, or for trade reasons,
it's really going to help poor people get the chance of a better life.
We've got to get the world into that kind of mood and I think things are
turning, that is my judgement and as you've said the money is tiny. I mean,
Britain, we've increased our spend, we are on three billion pounds. We
spend a hundred billion on social security, these are very tiny amounts
of money, but well used can really help really poor countries to really
turn themselves around and start to grow and reduce poverty.
HUMPHRYS: In Britain, we are still
nowhere near meeting that point seven per cent. I mean that is the trouble
isn't it, and it is a manifesto commitment from your party, it was in 1997,
it was again the last time around. And the difficulty is that although
as you say, we have been increasing the amount we give, it's still less
than half of that target of point seven per cent.
SHORT: Yeah, I started though,
I mean the last Labour government - you and I can remember that far back,
left it at point five two and it was going up steadily to the point seven...
HUMPHRYS: And then it came down.
SHORT: It came back, I took over
it's point two six, we've increased from two point two billion to three
point six billion and we've got to keep on going up and get ourselves to
the...it would be seven billion in the UK if the UK was meeting the UN
target. So we've got a way to go, but in the meantime we've refocused what
we do, we've focused on the poor areas, we've focused on reformers, we've
untied all our aid from trade contracts. So it's some of the most effective
aid in the world and now we're just having a comprehensive policy review
and the budgets for another three years, so I'm talking to Gordon a lot.
HUMPHRYS: Ah, are you getting anywhere
SHORT: Gordon cares about development
as you know.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah, what he said was
that too often we fail to meet our targets, I mean I'm quoting one of his
own documents now "our ambitions outreach our achievements. It's not enough
to make a pledge". So, if you are trying to bend his arm, you are in
a very strong moral position aren't you.?
SHORT: I agree completely. I absolutely
agree. Gordon cares, he's made some very strong statements, the Prime Minister
has said that Africa is a priority, we deploy our money very, very effectively,
you know that's the review of the UK's programme across the world. So I
am expecting a good settlement.
HUMPHRYS: It's going to have to
be good won't it because at the present rate, we did a bit of sums in the
office this morning and at the present rate it will take thirty odd years
to reach our target.
SHORT: That's right, so it's turned
around and increased and it's much more effective, but at the present rate
of progress, it would take to 2040 for Britain to get to 0.7...
HUMPRHYS: That's not good enough
is it, you don't believe that's good enough.
SHORT: No, it isn't. So as I say,
I'm expecting a good settlement this time.
HUMPHRYS: Have you got a target
yourself? I mean, have you got a date by which we should reach our commitment?
SHORT: As soon as possible. And
obviously I can't, I'm negotiating with Gordon, I'm expecting a good settlement.
I'm not going to say anything that blows that up today.
HUMPHRYS: Of course it has to come
SHORT: Well, it has to come from
the growing British economy. We do survey work now to see how our public
education work's going, and this isn't just to sort of get people to like
my department. If we don't, as a country, and other countries like us,
face up to the levels of inequality and poverty in the world, we're going
to hand over a messed up world to the next generation, with growing conflict,
environmental degradation, disease, a non-sustainable climate, so attending
to these gross levels of poverty and giving the poor of the world a chance
to grow their economy in a sustainable way is absolutely key for the survival
of humanity and its future decent life. So we've been looking at British
public opinion, trying to publish more material, get them to see it's not
just a bit of charity for the poor, it's investing in better and safer
conditions in world. And British public opinion comes in very strongly,
saying these levels of poverty and inequality in the world are one of the
biggest moral issues humanity faces, seventy odd per cent.
HUMPHRYS: Given that, shouldn't
we be setting the target? Shouldn't we be committing ourselves? We're committed,
this government is committed ultimately to meeting that point seven per
cent, but as you say, it's a very, very, very long way off. Should we not
be committing ourselves to saying we will reach that target by, I don't
know, three years, four years, five years from now. Oxfam thinks it should
be five years.
SHORT: I think that would be very
desirable and where I would like us to get to, is the British public and
their moving from saying 'oh dear, aid is a waste of money' and when we
formed our government, I did some public opinion surveying and people said
'we care about poverty, but aid's a waste of money - it doesn't work, it
goes for corruption'. And then we asked the public if they liked the ideas
of these targets of getting all children in school, halving poverty, and
they said ' yes, very good - spend money on it.' So it clearly wasn't meanness,
it was not believing in the old order. So, we, I think we've turned a lot
of that round, I think people do believe and think it's important both
for our own self-interest as well as, as a moral issue and now I want the
public knocking on the doors of the government, saying speed up the spend.
HUMPHRYS: But it's never going
to be a vote winner is it. I mean Prime Ministers are never going to win
elections by saying 'guess what, we increased our, our aid packages to
the poorest world, but I'm sorry to say, some of that money's had to come
from the NHS or Education, or Transport or whatever it happens to be'.
SHORT: I don't agree actually.
I think people in our kind of comfortable type societies now want our own
society to be well run, but they want something fine and decent to believe
in. I don't believe that everyone is just completely selfish and materialistic.
I think they want the world to be safe and they want a fair and decent
world, and they want to be part of a country that contributes to that,
and I think, you know, that Britain lost an empire and never found a role,
Britain using its position on the Security Council, in the IMF, in the
World Bank, in the Commonwealth, in the EU, and so on, to drive the world
to be more intelligent about giving the poorest countries a chance to trade
decently, have environmental agreements that take their interests into
account, enable them to grow their economy and see their people do better,
I think people in the UK would take a pride in that. It won't come up as
the top headline thing in the polling, but I think people want to believe
that politics and their country, is about something finer than their own
immediate selfish self-interest.
HUMPHRYS: To what extent should
aid be linked to good government, to democratic government, I'm thinking
obviously here of Zimbabwe and the American attitude to giving more money
to, or giving money to Zimbabwe?
SHORT: I think the old idea that
you make the aid conditional on good government because for some reason
we believe in good government and going to force it on people is very old-fashioned.
The truth is, you can't reduce poverty, you can't get a growing economy,
you can't get all kids into school, and everyone with health care, which
people need and you need to get a growing and efficient modern economy.
Unless you've got efficient government, you deal with corruption, you spend
the public finances properly, you consult people about what they think,
otherwise governments make mistakes. So effective, competent, consultative,
democratic government is crucial to successful economic performance and
the reduction of poverty, so it all goes together. We increase, we change
what we do, we don't just fund lots of separate projects, where you've
got a weak government that isn't reforming itself. We back governments
that commit themselves to the major reforms that will lead to the economic
growth, the improved public services for their people, and then we help
them tighten up their public financial management systems, lots of corruption
is not just bad people, there's some bad people everywhere, it's lousy
systems where the money isn't properly managed, the civil service is so
underpaid you can't live on the money, and then you get a culture where
people are charging, gross inefficiency, so we now focus on all of that
very strongly, as well as proper law enforcement. You need that for commercial
sector to run, but you also need it for justice when you ask the poor in
the world just not being abused by the forces of law and order is one of
their top priorities.
HUMPHRYS: But thinking about what's
happened in Zimbabwe and South Africa's attitude to Mugabe effectively
stealing the election. We've got the Americans now, Ed Royce the Chairman
of the Africa Sub-Committee in Congress, saying it's harder to aid the
continent if Americans perceive South Africa et cetera, is unwilling to
stand up for democratic principles. The, the Ari Fleischer the President's
spokesman saying much the same sort of thing. Do we go along with that
SHORT: Well Zimbabwe's a complete
tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe firstly who are hungry in an agriculturally
rich country, and it's an educated people, I mean this is, the economy's
shrunk by ten per cent in one year and it's going to shrink by another
ten per cent, so there's brutality, and thuggery and the stealing of an
election, the destruction of an economy. Well this is a disaster for all
those people and for the surrounding neighbourhood. But we mustn't punish
a whole continent because one ageing politician has completely lost his
way, and given up on all the decent standards of human rights, and actually,
although South Africa hasn't spoken out strongly in the past, President
Mbeki hasn't made any comment on the elections yet, so it's not true. And
the SADC report, the South African countries monitors of the election
made a very, very critical report of the elections, so it isn't true that
Africa is saying this is okay, but it's a damage, it's damaging for Africa.
HUMPHRYS: Ultimately, this is about
money right as you said right at the beginning, money and making sure....
SHORT: ...no it's money...
SHORT: ...it's money behind the
HUMPHRYS: ...absolutely accept
that, but you can't do it without the money, clearly and we talked about
the United States earlier and how it's making a relatively small contribution,
some people say, a pathetically small contribution, and now we see they're
spending an extra forty-eight billion dollars a year on defence. Doesn't
that make you say, they've got it the wrong way round?
SHORT: Well I think the US saying,
we got it, you know, a mission, to make the world safe, we've got to deal
with international terrorism, is reasonable given what happened on September
11th. But you cannot make the world safe from military action alone, as
everyone I think now sees in Afghanistan, it's a failed state, all its
institutions have collapsed, that's why bin Laden could hide himself there,
that's why the Taliban took over, see how happy the people were when they
fell and their kids could go back to school. But if we don't help Afghanistan
build up the institutions of the modern state and be able to manage itself,
it will remain in squalor and poverty, and that's where you get criminality
and drug-dealing, and it's those conditions, not that create terrorists
because the poor of the world are not terrorists, and the figures in September
11th were, but the bitterness and division in which such things flourish,
so it's completely foolish to say we can make the world safe by military
action alone, we need effective development to make the world just and
evenly developed, to make the world safe.
HUMPHRYS: And that applies to Iraq
as well, if America does intend to use some of that forty-eight billion
pounds to attack Iraq, your view on that is don't do it?
SHORT: Our view is that we mustn't
ignore the fact that Saddam Hussein is determined to develop weapons of
mass destruction. There's no doubt about that from him throwing out the
UN inspectors and all the rest of it, but simply blind military action
against Iraq doesn't deal with the problem, so we've got to address the
problem, I absolutely believe that, and it's wrong to ignore it and it's
wrong to say that we shouldn't. The best thing is to get the UN inspectors
back here, but there isn't crude military action that can deal with the
problem of Saddam Hussein, and with the state of the Middle East and the
terrible suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people, but the
anger there is in the Arab world, to open up a military flank on Iraq would
be very unwise.
HUMPHRYS: Our European partners
seem to think we shouldn't support the United States unless there is a
UN resolution saying so.
SHORT: My view is very strongly
that we should face up to how serious this is. I mean, chemical and biological
weapons are almost more frightening than nuclear in that you don't need
complicated machinery to deliver them. A little bottle of Anthrax in a
river in any country could kill lots and lots of people, so we can't ignore
this, that is just - we can't put our heads in the sand, but people's fear
that there's going to instant mass bombing or something. That won't do
either. There aren't any detailed plans. We need a much more sophisticated
debate about what's the best way to deal with it.
HUMPHRYS: And if there were to
be an invasion there'd have to be a UN resolution would there?
SHORT: Yes, absolutely. And we're
nowhere near that. I mean we really aren't. The media, not you, that
tries to hype it, but no-one has proposed any specific or detailed military
action, but everyone who's serious should say Saddam Hussein in his determination
to have weapons of mass destruction is a real threat to his region of the
world and we've got to get tighter about how to deal with it.
HUMPHRYS: Clearly the United States
or lots of people who work closely with the White House are talking this
up, talking about the possibility of an invasion. If it were to happen,
I know this is hypothetical, if it were to happen and Tony Blair were to
say we're with you all the way, could you see it yourself, Clare Short,
as a resigning issue. You've resigned on a matter of principle once before.
SHORT: Twice actually, I'm that
kind of person. I think it's because I was brought up as a Catholic.
I mean I think like that about everything and I think everybody should,
and it's not that I think my government is going to do the wrong thing,
but we've all got to have our bottom lines, that's you know, about being
a member of a government
HUMPHRYS: Is that the bottom line
on this one.?
SHORT: Well, of course there were
conditions in which I wouldn't be able to support action, but I don't expect
them to be proposed.
HUMPHRYS: But there are conditions.
SHORT: Of course, but about all
sorts of things. I mean, I'm made like that.
HUMPHRYS: I mean some people.....
SHORT: I'm proud to be a member
HUMPHRYS: ... you know, you become
a team player and all that, and it's not the same old Clare Short. What
you're saying is, it is the same old Clare Short.
SHORT: Yes, I am the same old Clare
Short, and I'm proud to be a member of the government, but I've got lots
of bottom lines, but I don't expect the government to breach them, but
if they did I would, you know, that's what you should be like in politics
HUMPHRYS: Clare Short, thanks very
SHORT: Thank you.
HUMPHRYS: I was talking to Miss
Short a little earlier this morning.
It's not so long ago that
New York was regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
More murderers on its streets than dog-walkers in Central Park. But that's
changed. And it's changed because there is much tougher policing. Can
we learn from what they've done? The Conservative Party is trying to develop
new policies on law and order and the Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin
has been to New York to see for himself. I'll be talking to him after
this report by Terry Dignan.
TERRY DIGNAN: On our streets day and night
the police struggle to contain violent crime. Tony Blair promised to be
tough on crime and its causes. Empty rhetoric, says Oliver Letwin. He says
the answer is to revolutionise policing in this country. But he's been
looking elsewhere to find out how.
Oliver Letwin wants to
rid the Tories of their traditional get tough, no nonsense image on law
and order. Instead he talks of creating a neighbourly society where young
people are kept off the conveyor belt of crime by learning the norms of
civilised behaviour. Yet to achieve this he would import much of the American
approach to law and order. Many in this country would find such a policy
too tough to stomach even if they were prepared to find the money to pay
To see how American police
- on and offshore - uphold the law, Oliver Letwin has been to New York.
He's interested in neighbourhood policing. Like other American cities,
New York has many more officers on patrol than we see in this country.
Although Letwin believes they work more closely with communities, those
who've studied US policing doubt the idea would work well here.
PROFESSOR PETER WADDINGTON: The cop on the streets of the most
lovely neighbourhood is going to find that many of the people in that area
he doesn't know from Adam because he's never seen them before and will
never see them again. So how is he going to be able to form this close
relationship? And if he's in the difficult to police neighbourhood, they
are not going to stay in that neighbourhood. They're going to be all over
the place. So how is he going to keep tracks of them?
DIGNAN: Yet Oliver Letwin favours
US-style policing because he says it works. In New York in 1993 there were
eighty six thousand robberies. Then came the introduction of zero tolerance
- a crackdown on even minor offences - backed by a new form of community
policing. By 2001 the number of robberies had fallen to twenty eight thousand.
Meanwhile in London - with a similar sized population - the number of robberies
had risen to forty one thousand. But New York's war on crime had to be
paid for. The city currently has forty thousand, seven hundred and ten
police officers. In London the Met has just twenty five thousand, three
hundred and seventy four. Even Labour's planned rise in national policing
levels won't even begin to make up the difference. So where would the Tories
get the money from to fund an even bigger increase?
DR BARRY IRVING: The decision, the political decision,
to make sure that there were a huge number of officers available to be
deployed on the streets of New York is obviously a seminal one as far as
crime fighting in that city's concerned. We haven't got as many, they're
more difficult to deploy, it's more difficult to decide where to put them
and if considerable difference was to be made to the visibility of police
on our streets the recruitment would have to be staggeringly high.
ACTUALITY: "Turn around. Stop!"
DIGNAN: Yet more cadets prepare
to swell the ranks of the NYPD. But even this doesn't tell the whole story.
They'll have six thousand more civilians than the Metropolitan Police to
do routine administrative work. And they'll be assisted by an array of
other law enforcement agencies.
PROFESSOR WADDINGTON: Although it appears that the NYPD
is substantially bigger than the Met - and it is - there are still yet
more cops in New York who are from federal, municipal, specialist agencies
and the rest. So it's vastly bigger and if you bring that figure over to
New York then you're going to have a huge financial implication - you're
talking about doubling the budget or more.
DIGNAN: But Oliver Letwin says
more policemen and women may not be needed. He argues existing officers
could be used more effectively, out on the streets, getting to know their
neighbourhood. Indeed in London in recent months hundreds of them have
been re-deployed from traffic duties to tackle street crime. Oliver Letwin
is being warned, however, that this policy carries with it great risks
even though some senior Tories would like to see it applied throughout
LORD BAKER: For a police officer to be
driving down a motorway chasing someone who's going over seventy miles
an hour is I think rather a misuse of police time. I think if that job
has to be done - it could be done by a uniformed force that were trained
in those skills, not so highly professional as a police officer, and in
fact that force could be funded by the fines that they levy on people who
exceed the speed limit.
DIGNAN: So, should the police stop
going after speeding drivers. In the first week of re-deploying officers
in London away from traffic duties, reported street crime fell by twelve
per cent in the nine boroughs affected. But, it's argued, extending this
policy to the rest of the UK would be extremely risky.
PETER BOTTOMLEY: Three thousand three hundred people
a year die on the roads and there are only about nine hundred homicides.
So that if policing helps to save lives don't look on that as trivial.
DR BARRIE IRVING: What you find is that traffic
make an enormous contribution because in order to get anything together,
a criminal gang or a solo operator, have to travel around. Traffic officers
get to search cars. Traffic officers get to see people driving in unguarded
moments. They are actually a vital link in the chain of criminal intelligence.
Okay if you want to, pull them all off traffic and put them out on the
streets, you will lose as much as you gain, in my view.
DIGNAN: So, is Oliver Letwin's
answer to follow New York and recruit even more police than Labour plans?
No doubt worried about public spending, he won't say. But he won't find
it easy coming up with other ways of relieving pressure on the police.
Apart from anything, the public may not like it.
WADDINGTON: Most of the cop's time is not
devoted to crime, it's devoted to the mess of urban living by and large
- missing kids, domestic squabbles, people who have one emergency or another
and these are, these can be enormously varied. But they take up a lot of
police time and if you stop doing that and you say to the cops, 'no you're
a crime fighting service' then who is going to tell Mrs Jones in the middle
of the night when her fourteen year old son still hasn't come home, 'I'm
sorry Mrs Jones he's not a crime problem - yet'.
DIGNAN: With more police about,
New York's Central Park is said to be safer. Labour hopes the idea of civilian
Community Support Officers will similarly reassure people using public
places in England and Wales. But Oliver Letwin opposes the plan, unlike
a former Tory Home Secretary.
LORD BAKER: I think, first, they could
help the police enormously. They'd patrol with the police, particularly
in housing estates, because they're dealing there with relatively small
crimes and misdemeanors, but which are very troublesome to the community,
youths make, doing graffiti on the walls, kicking a football up against
the wall of some old person's house day in day out. Now that can be dealt
with, I think, by a police officer together with a Community Support Officer.
DIGNAN: In New York Oliver Letwin
attended the monthly crime analysis for one area of the city. He learned
just how much pressure local police chiefs are under to arrest lawbreakers
in high crime neighbourhoods. In Britain some fear it could lead to heavy-handed
policing and turn communities against the forces of law and order.
WADDINGTON: There's going to be a great
deal of emphasis on particular neighbourhoods and they are therefore going
to suffer not only the problems of deprivation and criminal depredation,
they're also going to suffer intense police suspicion and by and large
people don't like that.
DIGNAN: And nor may they welcome
bigger tax bills if Letwin's crime fighting strategy requires substantial
extra spending. Because copying America would require more money, not just
for police, but for prisons too. Currently in England and Wales there are
sixty-seven thousand people behind bars. In America the figure is a staggering
one-point-nine million, which means for every hundred-thousand Americans,
six-hundred-and-ninety-nine are incarcerated, compared to one-hundred-and-twenty-six
in England and Wales. One Tory who knows a thing or two about running prisons,
believes the courts already send too many to jail in this country.
LORD BAKER: I think that the prison population
now is at a record high and if it's going to go higher then certainly more
prisons are going to be needed and certainly I started a prison-building
programme, but I do believe there's quite a few people in prison for very,
very light marginal offences who shouldn't be there and I think they should
be released as soon as possible or even not sentenced.
DIGNAN: Oliver Letwin says he would
try to keep young people away from prison by getting them off the conveyor
belt of crime. He would encourage more voluntary groups in high crime areas
to help young people avoid offending. But groups already doing this work
say it's not a cheap option and they'd like to know how the Tories would
pay for such a policy.
The charity Crime Concern runs activities for young people in deprived
areas. Here in Southwark many families are from ethnic minority groups
and like parents everywhere, they fear their children mixing in bad company
if they're bored. Everyone at this project gets ten hours a week of fun
and friendly advice. But this kind of work requires expertise that has
to be paid for.
NIGEL WHISKIN: To recruit, train and support
a volunteer costs a minimum of nine hundred pounds a year, but if you want
a really specialist volunteer, probably cost fifteen hundred. So you see
there is a, there is a big resource implication and it, it isn't easy.
We, every one of our volunteers has to be police checked, we have to follow
a child protection legislation, we have to train our people up on health
and safety at work legislation.
DIGNAN: Tonight's activities on
the Southwark project include MC-ing, mixing and DJ-ing. Labour plans to
spend nearly three billion pounds on deprived areas where offending levels
are way above the national average. Southwark is getting more than seventy
million pounds. Not enough, some say. But they're doubtful Oliver Letwin
would do any better.
WHISKIN: I think our message to
Oliver Letwin would be 'we like the sound of what you are saying, but the
prize will only be won if he wins the battle for the level of resources
that's needed to bring about the changes that must happen in our most disadvantaged
neighbourhoods.' It's a big chunk of dosh and somehow Mr Letwin's got to
DIGNAN: So if Oliver Letwin is
to get young people off the conveyor belt of crime, match American policing
levels and build more prisons, where's the money going to come from? As
someone who came to prominence for being tough on spending, he may find
it hard convincing voters he's really serious about being tough on crime.
HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan reporting
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Oliver Letwin, you like
what you saw, or at least the effect of what you saw in New City, but so
does David Blunkett, and in truth he is going to do, or is promising already,
some say he's already doing it, he's promising to do all the things that
you approve of. Not much between you is there?
OLIVER LETWIN: Well I think it's extremely
encouraging that David and I agree that there is a huge crisis of street
crime and agree that, as I think anybody's bound to, notwithstanding the
Professor on that programme, that New York and other American cities, Philadelphia,
Boston and others, have cracked that problem to a remarkable degree, so
there is a degree of consensus, yes. The difference between us I suppose
resides in the fact that David announced today yet another initiative,
ten crime hotspots. I'm talking about trying to change....
HUMPHRYS: ...robbery reduction...
LETWIN: ...robbery reduction, and
we have broadly an initiative a week. I think he once announced that a
day without an issue, a day wasted. Well, that's fine, but actually doesn't
get us where we need to get. What we need is a co-ordinated long-term programme
changing the nature of British police, and many other things to our criminal
justice system, the way we deal with young people, all those things need
to change, and I don't think these things can be invented overnight, I
don't think they can be implemented by the government tomorrow, or next
week, I'm not calling for that. I think we need to work together to get
these things put in place on a consistent basis. It's good that there's
political consensus because we've got to do this over a long time stretch
and no doubt there will be different governments during that period, but
we won't achieve it unless we lead the police into it. We can't do that
by hectoring them, we can't do that by sudden initiatives, we've got to
make a real change.
HUMPHRYS: On that basis you might
as well pool your ideas and stand, to coin a phrase, shoulder to shoulder
with Mr Blunkett, on the same platform, addressing the same police officers,
saying, we're at one on this. Here is, here is national unity for you.
LETWIN: I am more than willing
to do that. I don't see the slightest sense in having a political dog-fight
if there isn't one. If we're moving in the same direction, great, let's
work together on it. What we need to see is a revolution, as I say, we
need actually to get the police back on the streets. Your professor there
was saying various things about why it wouldn't work. Well I'd like to
know why, with neighbourhood policing going on in New York, on a serious
basis, and with transparent statistics, and with the police being told
exactly what one of your interviewees said they shouldn't be told, namely
that they are crime-fighters, with all of those things, they've reduced
crime by sixty per cent and now have half the level of violence we have
in London. Now that's what we need to achieve, I'm happy to do it on a
HUMPHRYS: Absolutely fine, so long
as you double the number of police officers in London.
LETWIN: Well unfortunately it's
more complicated than that. And actually, here's another case where I think
David Blunkett and I agree, and some of your interviewees didn't. There
are some facts here, the Metropolitan Police budget is within about one-hundred-million
pounds, it might be a hundred-and-fifty million, of the New York police
budget, but the Metropolitan Police has about ten thousand fewer cops as
your figures showed. Now who knows where the extra money is going. We need
to look at that. We need to look at why it is that US police forces tend
to have more people on the streets, for a given sum of money than we manage.
These are things we need to look at jolly seriously.
HUMPHRYS: But you're surely not
suggesting that you can double the number of police officers on the streets
of London without putting in more money. A very, very, very large amount
of money, double the amount of money according to our Professor.
LETWIN: ...yes but unfortunately
your Professor's not got the facts straight. There are as I say, two police
budgets here, New York, and London. They're about one-hundred-million pounds
apart. One has not double, but rather ten-thousand more, about a third
more the number of policemen, and what's happening at the moment is that
in London money's being spent and this is true in many police forces in
the UK, on things other than bodies, other than policemen. Now we need
to look at whether we can redirect that, before we start looking at increased
HUMPHRYS: So you're suggesting,
put it no stronger than that, that we might have another, an extra fifteen
LETWIN: ...ten, ten to be precise...
HUMPHRYS: ...alright, ten thousand
extra police officers, vast number, ten thousand extra police officers
on the streets of London, without any more money?
LETWIN: That is what it looks as
though New York shows it can be done and we need to look at how it's done
it. The Home Secretary and I agree about this and he said so in the Commons
a couple of days ago. It's not so revolutionary, people have noticed these
facts and I want to work with the Home Secretary and I'm going to set up
my own study group to look at this over the next few months as well, no
doubt the Home Office will do it, we, I suspect we'll agree about this,
how is that being done? But beyond that, you know, having the extra policemen
is not enough.
HUMPHRYS: No but before we leave
the question of police if I may, what David Blunkett is not doing, certainly
not doing, is saying, yes we can have another ten thousand police officers
on the streets of London...
LETWIN: ...actually David Blunkett
is hoping to have that kind of extra number as I understand it...
HUMPHRYS: ...well he wants more
people working on the streets of London but they would not be police officers
and you don't much care. There is a wee difference here between you, isn't
there. You don't much care for the suggestion that he has.
LETWIN: Well actually I think he
does want more police officers, on that I agree with him. He also wants
his Community Support Officers. Now I've nothing against Community Support
Officers, I don't want them to be turned into plastic policemen. I think
policemen should be policemen. We should be clear that a policeman has
special duties, special authorities, who is a policemen ought to be something
we all know about. I don't want to have people to have a thirty minute
detention power, I don't know how they do it, I don't know whether they'll
be trained properly, I don't think any of the public will know properly.
Let's by all means have Community Support Officers doing what Ken Baker
was describing, walking around with the police, aiding the police, that's
fine. But let's make the power of arrest and the other major powers, be
those which attach to policemen in New York and other American cities,
that's the way it's worked and I think rightly, but as I say, it won't
work just with policemen. What we've got to do is to switch the focus,
what I was really impressed by and this is something...
HUMPHRYS: ...in New York?
LETWIN: In New York, yes. What
I was really impressed by is not just what you read about, obviously all
the things that you were showing in that programme you can read about,
and I and many others have, what really came home to me sitting there,
is the extent of the change in the culture in the police force. I sat with
that group you showed on the programme which included somebody who said
our level in Assistant Commissioner runs two-thousand-three-hundred policemen,
a mid-sized UK police force Chief Constable. And what were they doing?
Were they talking up grand management issues, where they're talking about
strategies? No. They were talking about the crimes on particular streets
in a large part of an enormous city. And that Assistant Commissioner was
doing it because he'd spent a large part of that week looking at statistics
for the last week, not the last month, not the last year, the last week.
And he was forcing a Precinct Commander, one of our Superintendents, or
Chief Superintendents, to tell him exactly what he was going to do, what
his people were going to do, to cure crimes that had occurred on those
streets that had been mapped that week. And why did he want to do that?
Because he knew he could be hauled up at six hours notice to go and talk
on the monthly basis, this happens, to the Chief of the Department, the
Deputy Commissioner in our terms, to explain what he was doing about crime
on one-hundred-and-twenty-first Street. Now that change of focus, so that
the police force of the UK, consider themselves, first, foremost and last,
crime-fighters, people dealing with crime, from top to bottom, so our Chief
Constables, our Commissioners, and the lowest policemen are together in
the fight on crime on particular streets is what we need to achieve.
HUMPHRYS: But they have other duties
apart from fighting crime. They are not just crime officers. The point
was made very clearly in Terry Dignan's film. They have to do all sorts
of things, missing kids, goodness knows what.
LETWIN: But these things go together.
If you are on the streets, if you are the neighbourhood policeman, if you
are patrolling twenty-four hours as they are in New York, if you are walking
the streets four blocks at a time, you will know about the other things
that are going on, you with deal with the other things.
HUMPHRYS: What about traffic?
LETWIN: The question is where your
focus is. You see, traffic yes, traffic of course is important, but the
fact is we are not any longer in the relaxed and pleasant position of having
a country where crime is not a problem. We have a crime crisis. We have
streets that have been taken over by criminals where honest citizens cannot
any longer regard them as their own, and that's what we need to focus on,
and we can only do that by getting back to those streets and having the
whole of our police forces focused on solving crime where and when it occurs.
HUMPHRYS: And you believe
that can be done, that the solution lies in refocusing, taking another
look at it, trying to adopt a different sort of culture, create a different
sort of culture, and not even more police officers as David Blunkett has
LETWIN: I don't know. I know we've
got to have a re-focusing. I know we've got to look at the way we deploy
resources. At the end of that we will also know whether we need more money.
I don't know the answer to that yet.
HUMPHRYS: What about prisons, when
it goes wrong and people end up getting arrested, if they do get arrested
and sadly most people don't get arrested when they commit crimes. What
about prisons. The Americans lock up five times more people than we do.
Have they got it right?
LETWIN: Well, they don't lock up
five times more as the result of the present actions in New York, because
now crime of any serious kind in New York is much lower than here.
HUMPHRYS: They lock up for longer
by the way as well. Whether it's New York or anywhere else they do lock
them up for longer.
LETWIN: They do in many cases lock
them up for longer, although we also have people locked up for very long
periods. The problem we face is that the crime level is so high. Now,
if we can get the crime level gradually down and if over ten years we can
get it significantly down, sixty, seventy per cent down, then we will have
HUMPHRYS: You've got a gap haven't
you. You've got to...crime is still going up .....you're still locking
up. Where are they going to go, our jails are full, more than full.
LETWIN: True. It may well be that
there are some kinds of criminal that don't need to go to jail that are
currently going to jail.
HUMPHRYS: Such as?
LETWIN: I don't know. We're going
to have to look very carefully at the whole criminal justice system and
I'm waiting now for the Home Secretary to come forward with his Criminal
Justice Bill. I don't know why he's delayed it, but we've had two serious
reports from Halliday and Auld looking at this question. I'm perfectly
prepared to be flexible and sensible about how we go about this business.
I understand entirely that there are resource constraints, I understand
that our prisons are relatively full at the moment, but the fact is that
our major problem at the moment is not actually the prisons, it's not actually
that we have certain sentences. It's that we're not catching crooks.
HUMPHRYS But if you do catch them
then you fill the prisons, they have to go somewhere. This is the whole
problem isn't it. They have to go somewhere, they have to go to prison.
Where do you.....and they can't because the prisons are full.
LETWIN: We have to do these things
together. At the moment what's happening is that huge numbers of people
are not being caught, and those that are being arrested in many cases are
not being convicted, because the evidence isn't there and the evidence
isn't there in many cases because they are being arrested long after the
event, rather than being caught red-handed and that comes back to our policing
system and its connections with criminal justice. We need speed, we need
effectiveness and then certainly we need to look at sentencing and at prisons.
I accept that.
HUMPHRYS: And if you catch them
and put them in prisons you are putting them in, what - universities of
crime, that's the old clich� isn't it?
LETWIN.: Yes, one of the things
we need to do and I'm going to be - I hope you'll invite me back on the
programme - I'm going to be making a major speech about this a few months
from now and we're working on it intensively at the moment, that the terrible
problem is that most of the street crime I'm really focussing on here is
not committed by professional criminals that are in huge professional jails
so to speak, it's committed by young people many of whom are very young
indeed, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. They are currently going to institutions
that are phenomenally expensive, in some cases a-hundred-and-twenty-five
thousand pounds a year. I can't imagine how they get to be so expensive,and
their recidivism rate, their rate of re-offending is eighty-five per cent
in some cases. Now, that is an intolerable position. We've got to look
entirely afresh at how we're dealing with those young people and try to
have an effective system, which means that we arrest them in the first
place if they are engaging in these actions, hoping as I have pointed out,
as your film pointed out, to prevent them in the first place from committing
a crime, but arrest them if they do commit it, convict them quickly through
a quick criminal justice system, and then effectively rehabilitate them,
rather then putting them through a system which is phenomenally expensive
and turns them into criminals.
HUMPHRYS: That also costs a great
deal of money. What was the phrase that Crime Concern used on that film
- a big chunk of dosh.
LETWIN: Well, yes, but actually
we are presently wasting phenomenal sums having people incarcerated in
institutions that train them to be better criminals, not of course intentionally,
but that's the effect.
HUMPHRYS; You're not ducking responsibility
in a sense here are you. A very quick thought, you're offering all sorts
of things, and you're offering no extra money at all. Are you ducking
LETWIN: Well, I'm not offering
anything because I'm not the government. I'm trying to formulate a rational
policy. And what I'm saying is that when you're formulating public policy,
first we have state your aims which is to catch these criminals, secondly
you have to work out whether resources are needed and then if they are
you have to find them, but we shouldn't leap to assumptions.
HUMPHRYS: Oliver Letwin, thanks
very much indeed.
LETWIN: Thank you.
HUMPHRYS: It's generally accepted that
the Labour Party failed to win elections in the old days because it was
seen as the party of high taxes. Tony Blair put an end to that. There'd
be no rises in income tax, he promised - and nor have there been, even
if many other taxes HAVE gone up. But we'll get another budget next month
and this time we're being warned to expect the Chancellor to take more
out of our pockets - probably by putting up National Insurance payments.
The money's needed for better public services, especially the NHS, and
the assumption is that we'll be reasonably happy to cough up for such a
good cause. But, as Iain Watson reports, that may be a mistake.
IAIN WATSON: With the budget just a month
away, opposition politicians, business leaders and even Tony Blair will
be anxious to find out what the Chancellor has got in store for us. Now,
just imagine if we could get access to Gordon Brown's lair here at number
11 Downing Street, get a peek inside that famous budget box. Ah we can
Sadly, even the power of the imagination isn't enough to breach the secrets
of the Chancellor's budget box. But if we were given free rein to root
around Gordon Brown's office, perhaps we could find some clues as to its
content. Ministers appear to have been briefing the press that a tax rise
is on the way, at least to fund the NHS. But is everything just what it
seems? And is Labour really confident about coaxing a tax-resistant middle
England to pay more for public services?
JAMES PURNELL MP: The government was elected on
an agenda of improving public services, it's quite clear that those public
services have not had the money that they needed over the last ten or twenty
years and if we are going to see real improvements in public services the
money will need to go in and that may have to mean tax increases at some
DEBORAH MATTINSON: People are now valuing public
services and they also are not unrealistic, they know that they won't improve
without more money being spent, and for the first time for a long time
they're saying yes, actually, eighty- seven per cent of the population
are saying 'I'd be prepared to pay more taxes for a better NHS.
WATSON: Voters may well want to
see more money spent on public services, but the real mystery is why the
government is hinting that taxes have to increase to achieve this. Now
if this could be opened up, it would show that finances are in a much
healthier state than the Chancellor's dour demeanor tends to suggest. So
he won't actually have to increase taxes this year at all. But if he wants
to keep health spending growing at its current high levels, then he may
have to increase taxes in future years. But the advice from those close
to his next door neighbour suggests is that any increases should be kept
low and well targeted.
PURNELL: I think it's very important
for people within the Labour Party to realise that this debate will only
be won if the public see improvements in public services, if any increase
in public spending or any necessary increase in taxation are targeted and
limited and there's no return to punitive taxation or to ducking the difficult
decisions on public spending which we took in the first term.
WATSON: For a Chancellor who's
been denounced for increasing tax by stealth, he now seems to be uncharacteristically
open about his intentions. But by warning that taxes may now go up, Labour
are also symbolically signaling their seriousness about funding the NHS.
And there may be an additional advantage to talking up tax rises.
ANDREW DILNOT: It's certainly the case
that if you think you are going to have to put up taxes it's a good idea
to try to frighten people in advance so that however large the tax increase
that you do announce is a bit less large than the worse that people were
fearing. I think we saw some examples of that earlier in the 1990's, I
think some of that may be going on.
WATSON: So any tax increases we
see may be quite modest, but most Labour MPs would rejoice that the principle
of paying more for better services has been firmly established, turning
on its head the 'something for nothing' culture of New Labour. The debate
going on within the Treasury and more widely within government isn't so
much about whether tax will increase, but when.
It looks like the Chancellor is receiving some advice not to do anything
too hasty. The head of an influential Labour think-tank warns that voters
are still volatile on the question of tax, and that they need reassurance
that the money the government currently has is being spent more wisely.
MICHAEL JACOBS: The government needs to
prove that when you put more money into the public services you do actually
get results, they have been putting the money in over the last two years
but they haven't really got the results yet. In two years time they're
may be able to prove that the extra money does work and then they can say
but we still need more, that's when the tax rises will come in.
WATSON: The argument over timing
will be resolved by budget day, one month from now. What seems certain
is that well before the next election, Labour will be asking for more cash
to improve the NHS. Although this carries political risks, there are potential
benefits. The Liberal Democrats could lose their unique selling point as
the only party willing openly to increase taxes to pay for better public
services. And the Tories are being advised not to oppose any increases
FRANCIS MAUDE MP: I think if there is what looks
like a tax increase it would be quite difficult for the Conservatives to
oppose those tax increases. We would want to say that money in doesn't
represent quality out and I think people are very amenable to that. But
I think we would want to say, you promised you are going to reform the
public services and make them better, you'll be judged on whether you do
so. We're not going to oppose any increases in tax there are going to
be but we are going to judge you very strictly on whether you have made
the improvements in the public services which you've promised.
WATSON: And the former Conservative
Shadow Chancellor would go further, advising his current leader not to
look for tax cuts in the next term of a Tory government, if voters are
still demanding cash for public services.
MAUDE: So I think it will be quite
important to add to what Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith have already
said when they have said that public services will take precedence over
tax cuts and I think we will need to say, before the next election, that
because of the parlous state of public services and because of the need,
the urgent need for reform in those public services and because reform
in public services does demand more money - at least in the short term
- therefore we, the Conservatives do not expect to be able to cut taxes
in our first term in Government, because of the needs of the public services.
WATSON: For those of you who've
ever filled in a self assessment form, you'll know by now that nothing
about tax is straightforward. So the tables could yet be turned on Labour.
One of the options the Chancellor is looking at for a tax increase would
be a rise in national insurance contributions, roughly equivalent to a
penny on income tax. Though that doesn't raise a huge amount, the trouble
is, it may increase voters' aspirations for the funding the public services
which simply can't be satisfied. So some say Labour must be more transparent
about tax and spending if they are to avoid an electoral backlash.
JACOBS: And I think the public need to
be given much better information about taxes and spending. For example,
we could send a leaflet to every self-assessment payer with their self-assessment
form which sets out the taxes that we pay and where the money has gone.
And also what the governments been doing with it over the last year; it's
interesting that local government sends a leaflet out to all tax payers
but central government doesn't. That information in my view should come
not from the government however but from the National Audit Office which
is an independent body. Unfortunately people don't believe politicians
when they talk about taxes and spending. So I think if we're going to have
credible information it's got to come from an independent body and I think
the National Audit Office should be given that task.
MATTINSON: People are realistic, they know
that Rome wasn't built in a day, they don't expect the NHS to be transformed
overnight, but they do need to be told what they can expect to happen and
when they can expect it to happen by, and I'd also suggest that within
that mix the government does make sure that there are some quick wins,
there are some visible changes.
WATSON: People have to see tangible
improvements in the public services they use every day. But it may be difficult
to achieve this before the next election, no matter how much Labour is
DILNOT: There isn't a pool of extra doctors,
nurses and support staff, unemployed, waiting for Mr Milburn to pick up
the phone and say - come and help us. They're doing something else, so
drawing them in has turned out to already be very difficult, the same is
true in education, the same is true to some extent in transport for people,
but in transport also clearly for the resources to do capital projects
or to build schools or to build hospitals, so pretty quickly shifting the
structure of the British economy or indeed any other economy isn't very
easy. I think between now and the time of the likely next election the
government is going to struggle really to transform things.
MATTINSON: If Labour gets this wrong, that
is to say, if they put taxes up but people don't feel that they've got
a result then I think that then questions that strategy and it gives the
Conservatives an opportunity to start challenging that strategy and perhaps
the campaign that they've been running, you know you've paid the taxes,
where are the nurses, would really sort of find it's opportunity at that
WATSON: So it's a high risk strategy;
if people see improvements in public services, they may be less resistant
to paying more tax; but, on the evidence so far, the government has quite
some way to go to match service delivery with voters' aspirations.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting there.
And that's it for this week.
If you're on the internet don't forget about our website. Until the same
time next week... good afternoon.