BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 17.03.02



==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT; BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES, OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 17.03.02 ==================================================================================== 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. NEWS 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... SHORT: ..absolutely... 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 with him.? 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 from somewhere? 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 view? 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... HUMPHRYS: ...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 of the.... 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 I think. HUMPHRYS: Clare Short, thanks very much indeed. 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 for it. 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 the country. 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. ACTUALITY 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. ACTUALITY: 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 find that. 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 there. 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 consensus basis. 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 resources. HUMPHRYS: So you're suggesting, put it no stronger than that, that we might have another, an extra fifteen thousand police... 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 proposed? 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 fewer criminals. 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´┐Ż 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 it? 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 but dream. 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 stage. 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 automatically. 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 spending. 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 time. 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. 25 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.