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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. The
world's richest countries promise endlessly to protect the environment
and help the poorest. They're doing neither. I'll be asking the Environment
Secretary Margaret Beckett why. We'll also be asking why the Tories don't
select more women and black candidates. And the Liberal Democrats say the
government's asylum policies are morally wrong. I'll be asking Simon Hughes
to justify that. That's after the news read by Darren Jordon.
HUMPHRYS: Ten years ago world leaders
met for the Earth Summit at Rio in Brazil and agreed to make much greater
efforts to protect the environment and to help the world's poorest countries.
They failed. The world is heating up at an alarming rate and we're pumping
far more greenhouse gases into the environment now than we were ten years
ago. And the poorest people are getting even poorer. Half the world's
population is now living on less than �1.50 a day. Government ministers
and business leaders from around the world are meeting in Indonesia to
prepare another great global summit in Johannesburg in August. The Environment
Secretary Margaret Beckett is one of them and I've been talking to her
and asking her what's the point. But first Paul Wilenius who reports that
many people are saying there must be a completely different approach.
PAUL WILENIUS: Anti-globalisation protesters
attack a symbol of capitalism during last summer's riots. Western police
forces are braced for another long hot summer of clashes this year as world
leaders gather for the Earth Summit in South Africa and the World Economic
Summit in Canada, under pressure to do less for big corporations and more
for the environment and the poor.
The government wants to be seen to be green by supporting measures which
protect the environment and help the poorest countries. However, campaigners
say this will never succeed unless the government is prepared to take on
big global business.
The first Earth Summit in Rio ten years ago appeared to forge agreements
to save the planet and map out a better future for developing countries.
Although Britain has just signed up to the Kyoto Treaty aimed at cutting
greenhouse gas emissions, campaigners say it means nothing while the Americans
remain outside it. Environment Ministers are off to Bali this week to pave
the way for the second Earth Summit in Johannesburg, but environmentalists
are pessimistic about its chances of success.
ZAC GOLDSMITH: The Earth Summit was the
biggest ever meeting of world leaders to deal with the environmental crisis
ten years ago and everyone, I can safely say that everyone's hopes were
huge at that time, they thought the problem was going to be solved. Actually
what's happened is that none of the goals set at the World Summit have
been met, on the contrary the environment is in a worse condition, more
people are living in poverty and so on and so it has been a failure.
TONY JUNIPER: We've seen a shift in political
and diplomatic commitment after Rio away from global sustainable development
treaties towards the promotion of trade liberalisation and global economic
deregulation and that's where this summit in Johannesburg is going to have
its biggest test. Are the governments turning up there going to recommit
to the sustainable development priority that they said they signed up to
in Rio de Janeiro or are they going to continue with the process of corporate
globalisation which is doing so much damage across the globe.
WILENIUS: There appears to be as
much environmental damage and global poverty now, as there was then in
Rio, but activists are more prepared to take on big business to help clean
up the planet.
Environmental protesters are running a campaign to stop Esso - owned by
the US oil giant Exxon - as they blame it for helping to torpedo the Kyoto
global warming treaty. They say voluntary rules to try to control the actions
of such big global corporations are not strong enough. For them, the only
way to stop such protests is for the next Earth Summit to come up with
a tough, legally binding agreement to put the environment before trade.
Protesters have been blockading Esso forecourts, backed by stars from
Jonathan Creek and Absolutely Fabulous, to try to hit the company's sales.
STEPHANIE TUNMORE: 'Stop Esso' recently had a day
of action in the UK where they picketed four-hundred petrol stations in
the UK and the campaign has also gone global, we have 'Stop Esso' campaigns
now in Canada and in the USA and recently in Germany. For a long time people
have been angry and upset about climate change, but it's a very complex
issue, it's very difficult to point at somebody and say it's your fault.
Having pointed out what Esso is doing, their role in this, it's given the
customer a choice, it's given them something to do, it's given them someone
to blame and we are getting a lot of support from customers.
PAUL MERCER: There is a tendency to believe
boycott campaigns are relatively unsophisticated but in reality they're
run by very professional campaigners, they pick out very limited objectives
that they know the companies can agree to without having to suffer too
great a loss, and what they aim for because markets are very competitive
these days is only a few percentage change in sales, because they know
that will force the company into backing down and agreeing to their demands.
WILENIUS: Despite the protests,
there's little sign of Esso backing down. The company's defiant, bluntly
refuting the accusations levelled at it by the campaigners that is doesn't
care about the environment.
GORDON SAWYER: The charge that somehow we determined
the US Government's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol is frankly
rubbish. Anyone who knows our company knows that we operate to the highest
ethical standards wherever we are in the world. Of course we take the issue
of climate change seriously and we're taking action in our company. We
are taking actions to improve energy efficiency in everything that we do
today and we are also investing in energy solutions for tomorrow.
WILENIUS: The nerve centre of the
'Stop Esso' campaign is inside the London HQ of Greenpeace, but it's also
backed by the Friends of the Earth. These groups want legally binding corporate
accountability rules from the forthcoming Earth Summit, to force global
companies to behave better. They want big fines to give them real teeth
as they feel the existing voluntary controls have failed.
GOLDSMITH: There's no sign yet that voluntary
methods have worked and this was first proposed during Rio by Bush Senior
who promised that America would voluntarily reduce, cut its greenhouse
emissions to nineteen-ninety levels by the year two-thousand. In fact
by the year two-thousand emissions had increased by twenty per cent.
JUNIPER: The Bali agenda and the
Johannesburg agenda will be dominated by calls for voluntary agreements,
for partnership arrangements but what is actually needed is some really
tight regulatory frameworks which can start bringing some of the errant
players in the sustainable developments sphere back to the table in a way
where they're going to start behaving in a, in a way which is more aligned
with some of the treaties and speeches of politicians.
RUTH LEA: I don't think the way
forward is to have these international agreements being forced on global
companies because at the end of the day what is that saying? It's saying
that for the, particular national governments, they cannot decide what
sort of relationship they want with particular global companies. In other
words it's stripping away national sovereignty from national governments.
WILENIUS: For the campaigners running
the Esso boycott the fate of the planet is much more important than the
sovereignty of national governments. For them, Western governments must
move in the direction of putting the environment before trade.
JUNIPER: It seems quite logical
to us given the way in which the globalisation experiment is harming the
environment that there needs to be a clear political statement that the
environmental rules take precedence over the trade rules. We're very, very
far from that being the case but again this is one of the jobs that the
governments have to do in Johannesburg is to rebalance the international
machinery so that the environment does get a chance.
WILENIUS: A coffee bar in the Bluewater
shopping mall in Kent seems an unlikely place to find a trade battleground.
Yet the fair trade coffee on sale here is part of a growing campaign to
persuade environmentally concerned consumers to pay a little more for goods
from Third World producers.
The choice for many coffee drinkers is between a cafe latte and capuccino,
but many environmentalists prefer coffee from a fair trade producers.
Indeed, they feel it helps poorer countries to develop, by buying agricultural
products from companies that care for the environment and their workers.
They also accuse Western governments of hypocrisy, for insisting that Third
World governments open up their markets, while spending billions supporting
their own agriculture.
A new batch of coffee arrives at the Cafe Direct plant. The slightly higher
prices for the coffee, is used to give producers who respect the environment
and their workers more cash. Yet there's no sign the West is ready to scrap
tariff barriers or even cut the huge subsidies given to its own producers.
Some campaigners believe it's better to help small farms rather than encourage
large scale production.
GOLDSMITH: Eighty per cent of all malnourished
children in the world today actually live in countries whose agriculture
has already been geared towards export exactly as they were told to by
the world bank and the IMF. So it's not helping alleviate poverty, what's
happening is that environments are being degraded across the board by bad
agriculture, we're seeing countries plunged into debt in order to keep
this, this lunatic economic system going.
LEA: Companies are for
good, trade is for good, economic growth is for good, wealth creation is
for good. And if you compare say countries in South-east Asia, countries
like South Korea or Thailand or whatever, how did they grow out of poverty?
They grew out by trade.
WILENIUS: Despite the contribution
made by companies like Cafe Direct this can only have a limited impact
as campaigners say the global food market is rigged to favour the rich
countries. Farmers can produce cheap food and then send it out to undercut
Third World producers, because they've been given huge subsidies by their
own governments, in Europe and America.
JOHN CRYER MP: We keep hearing time and
time again that the Common Agriculture Policy is going to be tackled not
just by the British government but by the other governments in Western
Europe and it simply never happens, it just carries on - that's deeply
damaging to the developing world because we keep dumping this cheap food
on the Third World.
LEA: And the problem with
all this protectionism is that it keeps out developing countries food exports
to the developed world and of course it's through exports, it's through
free trade in those particular products that should enable some of these
developing countries to grow and grow out of poverty.
WILENIUS: Campaigners say the problem
for Western governments is they are inextricably linked to big global corporations.
So many protest groups have decided the only thing these companies and
governments listen to is direct action. Now there's a growing threat of
more mass demonstrations here in Westminster and consumer boycotts.
MERCER: The reason direct political
action is growing is because of a perception that large corporations are
now more powerful than a lot of national governments and that one can't
effect or increasingly one can't effect political change by campaigning
within party political structures, one actually has to then target those
corporations and that's the reason for the growth and the more that people
perceive these corporations to be all powerful then the more that they're
going to get targeted.
WILENIUS: But the first step for
many is to try to persuade politicians to do more to help the environment
and promote sustainable development. Both young and old campaigners are
preparing for what is expected to one of the biggest ever lobbies of Parliament
on June the nineteenth. Tens of thousands are expected to call for a fair
JUNIPER: We're hoping that thousands
of people will turn out to the Houses of Parliament to bring to their MPs
attention a set of concerns that are rarely debated in the democratic institutions
in this country and that is about the assumption that free trade will end
poverty, that free trade will protect the environment and that a deregulatory
approach on the global economic stage is the right way forward.
WILENIUS: Protesters limber up
for the big day with a dance in Leeds. The environmental campaigners are
all joining forces to demand changes to the world trading system and more
action to save the planet. But there are fears this government may not
be truly, madly, deeply committed to green policies and helping the poorest
countries in the face of the might of the global corporations.
CRYER: The idea that globalisation
is sort of a fact and you can't do anything about it, it leads to this,
it leads to, to a feeling amongst Ministers I suspect that you can only
kind of, play around at the margins, you can't do anything fundamental
and you can.
WILENIUS: Tony Blair's government
will need to do a lot more to convince campaigners that it's serious about
green issues and helping the Third World. Although the minority of violent
protesters might be contained by the police, it could be a lot more difficult
to extinguish the passion of those battling for the future of our world.
HUMPHRYS: Paul Wilenius reporting there.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Margaret Beckett, Rio, as
we all know was ten years ago . Do you accept that not much has been achieved
MARGARET BECKETT: I think that's a bit harsh,
quite a good deal has been achieved but not as much perhaps as some people
had hoped and what the purpose of Johannesburg is, is not to sort of rake
over old grounds, say, oh so and so didn't do this and this person didn't
do that, but to say how do we take this agenda forward. We've got a fair
amount of international agreement on the millennium development goals to
get access to water, access to energy particularly for people in the developing
world, what concrete steps could we agree at Johannesburg that really will
move things forward?
HUMPHRYS: I suppose the big problem
is globalisation and
how the big multi-national corporations operate. Organisations such as
Friends of the Earth say that they have to be reined in.
BECKETT: I think the point
that they have is that there are dangers obviously, I mean you can't just
say stop the world we don't like globalisation it's there, it's a fact
of life. The question is the issue of Johannesburg is, can we make globalisation
work for the poor and it isn't just a simple matter of saying stop big
business or rein in big business. There are quite major international companies
that are involved in some really worthwhile projects to try to deliver
sustainable energy, to try to deliver access to fresh water and sanitation,
and that's what we have to encourage those companies that are prepared
to act responsibly to be part of that international partnership.
HUMPHRYS: Well, it's more than
encouraging the good companies isn't it. It's stopping the bad companies,
the companies that Friends of the Earth for instance say are trashing the
environment, and we know that it goes on, illegal logging and all that
sort of thing. Those companies have to be stopped don't they?
BECKETT: We have got to try
to stop people who are wrecking other people's livelihoods and the environment
yes, but what we also have to do is to try to put in place more of that
basic infrastructure that helps people to start to find their way out of
poverty because it isn't only a good thing to do and the right thing to
do in their interests, it's actually in all of our interests. Few things
lead to greater degradation of the environment than dire poverty and this
is why it's very important to everybody to try and find a way out of this
trap in which so many people in the developing world are caught at the
HUMPHRYS: But, we're making that
trap both wider and deeper. We're forcing people effectively into greater
poverty by making them open up their markets in agriculture when they obviously
BECKETT: No I think that could
be a misunderstanding, I mean certainly what we want to do is to pursue
a sustainable approach to agriculture whether it's in the developed or
the developing world. But although this won't be a major feature won't
be the centre piece of what's discussed at Johannesburg because there are
the WTO talks themselves, the Doha development round heavily features agriculture.
But particularly in Africa people are starting to point out that although
it would be excellent if we can increase levels of overseas aid, although
it would be very good to do more to provide sustainable water, energy and
so on, actually it would could do far more for Africa if we can open up
our markets particularly to their agricultural produce. The OECD has figures
that we spend something like fifty billion dollars a year on direct overseas
aid, we spend three hundred and fifty billion dollars a year on subsidising
our own agriculture. If we were opening up our markets more to the developing
world and if they were able to address that challenge it could be worth
three times as much as they now get in overseas aid. So although that
won't be the centre of what we talk about in Johannesburg it is a potentially
huge opportunity for them.
HUMPHRYS: Well, you put your finger
on it, don't you, because exactly the opposite is happening.. I mean if
you take a poor and small country like Ghana. Now in Ghana they had a thriving
little local tomato industry. They were growing their own tomatoes, they
were doing very well. The local people were using tomatoes, they were
selling very well abroad, and then what happened is that Italy which grows
an awful lot of tomatoes, subsidised tomatoes that it doesn't want puts
them in cans and dumps them on Ghana. And then the entire tomato industry
in Ghana is destroyed. Now that is precisely the sort of thing that should
not be happening.
BECKETT: But the point of all
of that is that it's subsidised production. If we can persuade the developed
countries to reduce the subsidies we now spend on agriculture then everyone
can benefit. Consumers and tax payers in the developed world benefit, we
all benefit from a freer market a freer world price and this is why many
of these things are not just - yes if they go wrong they can be damaging,
but it isn't all damaging, it isn't all gloom, there are real opportunities
here that we have to try and address.
HUMPHRYS: Well yes there are, but
we're not addressing them, and that's because we do nothing about the grotesque
subsidies that exist at the moment. We have heard one Secretary of State
after another, one Agriculture Minister after another in this country and
indeed in other countries in Europe, saying, something must be done about
the subsidies, something must be done about the CAP. The reality is that
nothing gets done.
BECKETT: Well that's not quite
true. There have been changes, there have been improvements, we don't spend
nearly as much now in some of these subsidies as we used to do, but I entirely
agree with you that there is more that we need to do and I accept too that
if we're talking about reform of the common agricultural policy set, people
have been talking about this all my political life. That doesn't mean
you turn your back on the next opportunity when it comes along, it means
you take that opportunity and you do the best you can with it to get the
kind of outcome that everybody wants to see.
HUMPHRYS: The reality is though,
that we're actually going in the opposite direction, aren't we? We're
seeing more rather than fewer subsidies. If you look at the United States
now, what's the figure there, a hundred-and-thirty-five billion pounds
is going to American farmers, most of them big agri-business corporations
over the next five or ten years. Now, that is an increase of fifty billion
over what it was to rich American farmers and farming companies..
BECKETT: Yes I, I don't accept
that we're all going in the wrong direction because the European Union
did agree a negotiating mandate for the Doha round that says we start to
phase out agricultural subsidies. I do agree that the American, recent
American farm bill is certainly a step in the wrong direction but I think
you're probably aware this is not what the administration wanted and the
administration remain insistently of the view that they want to see the
phasing out of subsidies. Now we've seen a short term step in the wrong
direction in America. What we have to do now is try to make sure that they
continue to pursue what they say are their long term goals.
HUMPHRYS: But what we have to do
whether we're talking about protecting the environment or helping poorer
people, is we've got to have powerful international agreements, new international
law, so if people break them, well we know they're breaking them. It's
a difficult thing to do but it's the only thing ultimately to do, and we
back away from taking those tough decisions.
BECKETT: No I think that's
harsh John because if you look at the Kyoto Climate Change negotiations,
and I accept that the American government is outside those at the present
time, but actually it was EU member states that drove agreement there and
they have signed up to some very challenging and demanding targets, and
signed up for the first time ever in the history of the planet to a huge
international agreement that has legal teeth. So things aren't going fast
enough, I accept that, there is a huge amount more to do, I accept that,
but it isn't right to say that everything is negative and that we aren't
going in the right direction. We are and we have to keep up that pressure
which is why we need to have that presence there in Indonesia and then
in South Africa to try and drive things in the right direction.
HUMPHRYS: The Americans have walked
away from Kyoto and they are the world's biggest polluter.
BECKETT: The Americans are
major polluters but don't forget that this American government has said
that they accept that there is a climate change problem, they accept that
action needs to be taken to tackle it in America and have some proposals
there, not enough, not going far enough but proposals, a beginning. And
they are putting substantial investment into technology, into scientific
research that may help all of us in tackling some of these problems. So
that isn't a hopeless scenario either and I personally believe that as
we go on with the Kyoto protocol and that is the only international agreement
around, that there is every possibility that in the fullness of time the
American business community, the interests in America that can see America
losing out as a result of some of these things, will start to rethink and
start to increase the pressure on America itself, so that's why it's so
important. If we weren't going on with Kyoto, if there wasn't something
the rest of the world was trying to get agreed and brought into force,
then there wouldn't be anything to drive America to a parallel process.
While there is then that pressure remains.
HUMPHRYS: The problem is that whenever
there is a conflict between free trade and some social environmental issue,
free trade always wins. That is the Holy Grail; and we all bow down before
BECKETT: Free trade is important
and free trade can bring real gains, but whether it's free trade or any
other aspect of policy what we're trying to get people to do is to keep
in balance those issues of economic prosperity, social justice and also
tackling the problems of the environment, that's what the summit is about,
that's what my department was set up to try and pursue and that's something
that is still worth keeping on at even when sometimes we don't have all
the success we might like.
HUMPHRYS: Perhaps what the world
needs is a world environmental organisation to take on the World Trade
BECKETT: I'm not opposed to
that, I'm not rushing to say oh yes what a wonderful idea because there's
obviously a danger that you'll set up another bureaucracy, you set up another
agency and if there isn't underlying agreement it might not make a difference
but I'm perfectly prepared to look positively at that idea,but I think
there are things that we can do now without setting up a new world or environment
organisation that we ought to be doing and maybe not putting our negotiating
strength and all our pressure into that particular goal rather than more
concrete things that are actually of direct relevance maybe next year to
the people in the developing world.
HUMPHRYS: You've chided me a number
of times during the course of this interview for sounding too gloomy and
too pessimistic, but the fact is things if they are happening, they're
either going in the wrong direction of they're happening very, very slowly
indeed. And there isn't that much time, the climate is getting worse,
the world is hotting up, people are getting poorer and poorer, and there
simply isn't that much time left to put it right.
BECKETT: No, I'm not saying there's
loads of time and I accept the comments that you've made about the need
for urgent action. I'm simply saying that if we say this is hopeless, and
walk away from the process then nothing at all will happen. What we have
to do is to keep up the pressure for movement, and for movement as fast
as we can get it.
HUMPHRYS: You've said that we have
to strive for collective responsibility. There's a great deal of talk
about voluntary actions by big organisations, and indeed by government,
but surely what is needed is to put real pressure on the big organisations,
the big multinational corporations, and the way to do that is to have legally
enforceable agreements, not the sorts of things that simply require companies
to say, oh, yeah, alright we'll do that, and then they face no penalty
if they don't?
BECKETT: It's an interesting
idea, it's an idea that's been tossed around by organisations like Friends
of the Earth, but frankly it has such huge implications and ramifications
that the idea that we could get countries across the world to sign up to
that at this stage when the meeting is taking place in September, well
I would be very very surprised. And what I am keen to get us to do is
to put our efforts behind getting the right kind of political declaration
at Johannesburg, getting the right kind of inter-governmental agreement
and the right kind of approach to taking action to make globalisation work
for the poor not least in Africa, and to get in some of these new kinds
of partnerships that involve organisations like Friends of the Earth and
the business community and say, local authorities in South Africa, elsewhere
in the world that can show concrete examples of how people can work together
to make life better for particular communities in the developing world.
So we can learn from that example and build on it. I'd rather see us concentrate
on doing those things which have always been top of the agenda for the
world summit than saying oh let's think of another legal process and say
all these problems are due to big multinational companies and let's now
try and get them involved in a particular kind of agreement. I don't think
with great respect to those who give a lot of time and thought and effort
to these things that, that is the most fruitful thing that we should be
pursuing in the run up to Johannesburg.
HUMPHRYS: But if ultimately all
we're able to say is well, effectively we're going to have to move at the
pace of the slowest, and that isn't very fast at all, then we're going
to go to hell in hand-basket.
BECKETT: Well I think that's
a depressing approach I don't think it excuses us from doing as much as
we can but is there any point in setting goals that are so dramatic that
they can't be realised so people then despair and think there's nothing
that can be done. Surely it's better to fight to go as far as we can and
actually to achieve that so that you can prove to people I can say to you
today the Kyoto protocol was agreed. There is this unprecedented, international
legal agreement that a whole string of countries across the world have
signed up to, that's something we can point to as a success and say why
can't we do more like this. If we'd been much more ambitious for the Kyoto
protocol and failed all you'd have then is an excuse for people doing nothing.
HUMPHRYS: And that interview was recorded
a couple of days ago.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Margaret Beckett of course
is one of seven women in the Cabinet and last week they were joined by
Britain's first black Cabinet Minister, Paul Boateng. So the Labour Government
is increasingly reflecting the make up of the nation as a whole. The Conservatives
on the other hand have problems even getting women or people from ethnic
minorities selected to stand as candidates. They're just beginning to
choose their people for the next General Election, and Iain Duncan Smith,
their leader says he's determined to do something about the problem..
But as Iain Watson reports, some people in the party say they're simply
not doing enough..
IAIN WATSON: The beautiful game, like so
many other previously male professions, now has its fair share of female
participants. But when it comes to politics, women are still markedly under
strength in parliament, more so on the Conservative than Labour benches.
Iain Duncan Smith says he says he's scouting around for talented people,
irrespective of their sex or background. Tracey Crouch, whose ambition
off the football field is to become a Tory MP, welcomes support for less
TRACEY CROUCH: Currently the benches in
the House of Commons don't represent the country as a whole; I'd like to
see more female Conservative MPs in the Commons and at last the leadership
seems to be engaging in this issue.
WATSON: But not everyone is as
optimistic that women will find a way through the system. Party managers
at Conservative central office want to see a more diverse range of candidates
in place in winnable seats, well ahead of the next general election. But
at local level, women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds often
feel sidelined in the selection process; they say that any number of pep
talks from the Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is simply no substitute for
positive action on their behalf to overcome what they see as an imbalance
in favour of white middle-aged men.
And this is one case where perception and reality go hand in hand. Of
the one-hundred-and-sixty-six Conservative MPs currently in the House of
Commons, there are only fourteen women; none are from the ethnic minorities;
and, before the last election, in the twenty-five seats where sitting Tory
MPs retired, no women made it through as their successors.
FRANCIS MAUDE MP: We selected entirely straight,
white, middle-class males. Now that made a more or less accurate statement
about what kind of party we'd become. And that is very damaging because
it not only discourages people from thinking of us as a broad national
Party but it also discourages really good non-typical Conservative candidates
whether they're from ethnic minorities or women or from different kinds
of backgrounds, people who are born and brought up on the wrong side of
WATSON: Shailesh Vara ran Labour
close in Northampton South in two-thousand-and-one; he's since been made
a vice-chairman of his party. While he advocates change, he won't say how
many additional women he wants to see in parliament, or whether any more
candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds will be given his chance in
a key marginal.
WATSON: Last time one candidate
from the ethnic minorities in a winnable seat; how many more would you
like to see fighting winnable seats at the next election?
SHAILESH VARA: Again, I'm not going to
talk about specific numbers, what I will say is that we as a party wish
to reflect the nation at large, as Iain Duncan Smith said in his speech
in Harrogate that if...
WATSON: ...would one or two be
enough? Let's get an idea of what you are aiming for...
VARA: ...no, no, I'm not going
down the route of numbers , what I will say is that...
WATSON: ...there's no specific
VARA: ...there is no specific number.
WATSON: Later this month, new research
from the Fawcett Society - the pressure group that wants to see more women
making more progress in politics - will show that local Conservative associations
may need intensive training in equal opportunities.
GEETHIKA JAYATILAKA: The research was based on
interviews with women who went for selection in safe or winnable seats
at the last parliamentary election. And what we heard very clearly from
these women that they were many instances of overt discrimination, and
in some cases even sexual harassment. Many of the women reported being
asked questions around what they would do with their children while they
were at Parliament, or being told outright that women with young children
should be at home. But in the most extreme instances women were asked
for example what their husbands would do for sex during the week.
JILL ANDREW: And somebody said he'd lain
awake all night thinking about me, and another instance, there was apparently
a lot of discussion about my legs which really didn't have a lot of bearing
on what I had to say during the course of my speech.
WATSON: Central office has been
compiling profiles of every target seat looking at the aspirations of those
voters the party needs to win back at the next election. The idea is to
persuade party activists that, in some areas, they can increase their electoral
support by choosing women, or ethnic minority, candidates. But central
office backed away from a plan to restrict the choice of candidates only
to those who best matched the profile for each seat, following a revolt
by Tory MPs.
MAUDE: A small group of Conservative
Members of Parliament - because that's what we are, sadly, at this stage
in our history - cannot be allowed to be a block in the recovery, the essential
recovery, of a great Party.
WATSON: You backed down?
VARA: Let me tell you this. A
lot of local associations are phoning us up, writing to us, and saying
they want guidance. What we are saying to associations is that if they're
going to ask us for guidance because they may end up with let's say two-hundred-and-fifty
applicants who are applying for a particular seat, all that the local association
has is a list of CVs. They're turning to us and saying 'can you give us
guidance as to which candidate you feel might be better suited for this
association?' Where that guidance is sought we are giving it.
WATSON: And where it isn't?
VARA: Local autonomy is still
a very strong feature of the Conservative party.
WATSON: Iain Duncan Smith is determined
to make the Tories serious players at the next election, and has said that
local associations will be 'heavily encouraged' to select women and ethnic
minority candidates. But at the same time, he's given the nod to a system
of 'fast tracking' in target seats. This allows them to re-adopt the losing
candidates from two-thousand-and-one without an open selection meeting;
some aspiring women MPs are crying foul.
FELICITY ELPHICK: I mean if I thought there was
a winnable seat that I would like to go for and somebody else had got it
because they'd been fast tracked, on an individual level, I wouldn't be
WATSON: Next week, at this hotel
in Slough, senior officials from Conservative central office will be meeting
key party activists from the seats the Tories hope to win at the next
general election; in this very room, they'll be trying to cajole rather
than coerce constituencies to accept more women and more ethnic minority
candidates. But critics of central office say they are simply not using
all the means at their disposal to get a broader range of potential MPs.
In a cross between a political rally and the Price is Right, Conservative
candidates were urged to come on down and receive the prize of peer group
approval at the last conference before the election. But with more women
in the audience than on stage, some party reformers are now calling for
MAUDE: I don't think we should
rule out all women shortlists. Whether it's all women shortlists or quotas
or any kind of positive discrimination, I can as well as anyone make a
powerful case against it, it's all objectionable in principle. But what
is more objectionable in principle is us being a Party that is, looks,
narrow and is not selecting a bench of candidates that is genuinely representative
of the country.
VARA: We very much hope that women
candidates will be selected. But let me emphasise that these women candidates
are going to be selected on merit and we're not going to go down the line
of having positive discrimination or all women lists or anything of that
ELPHICK: All women lists is something
that I have fought against until very recently and I have sat back and
looked and thought, I've seen what the Labour party have done and it has
worked for them and it has been of benefit to all the parties that there
are more women in parliament. And whilst I'm not saying that we've definitely
got to have it I am definitely saying that it must be considered and looked
at in a very positive way
WATSON: If local Tory associations
don't appear to be selecting a more diverse range of candidates, then some
people here at Conservative central office are contemplating more drastic
action. A very senior figure has told 'On the Record' that constituencies
may yet have to select from a restricted list of candidates, up to fifty
per cent of whom could be women; and, if there is any sign of a grassroots
rebellion, then central office may threaten to withdraw support from local
associations ahead of the next general election.
ELPHICK: I know for a fact that
we have been looking at fifty-fifty lists. One of the ideas was to have
a list, I think there are seventy seats initially that we're going to be
looking at placing candidates in, so having thirty-five women and thirty
five men on it and sending those names out to the associations as a recommendation,
not as a must. And then as people get selected obviously the list goes
smaller and smaller so at some point all the women are going to get selected
and all the men are going to get selected.
MAUDE: In the first half dozen
seats which select a candidate to replace a retiring Conservative MP, if,
in those seats at least half of the candidates selected are not what I
would call non-typical, i.e. not straight, white middle class males, if
that's not the case, then I think there will be very great pressure and
there ought to be very great pressure to have active intervention to make
sure that the pattern is broken.
WATSON: The spa town of Cheltenham
is an unlikely setting for a civil war but a decade ago, conflict was rife
when some local Tories felt that the black barrister John Taylor was being
forced upon them as their candidate. The constituency party chairman, Tony
Hilder, would like to see a broader range of Conservative MPs, but warns
that the current era of tranquility could be over if central office imposes
a restricted list of potential candidates.
TONY HILDER: I don't think it would be
a good idea to have fifty per cent women and fifty per cent men, I don't
think that would be, I think it should be purely on merit alone. I think
the local associations feel they quite jealously guard their position on
this and I think, I don't think that would be, I think that would be counter
WATSON: Even those who criticise
the selection procedure believe too much central direction could rebound.
ANDREW: You know, if you force
a candidate on an association they are not going to work for them and I
just think it's the wrong way of tackling the problem, I think it's a bit
of a sticking plaster solution, it's got nice up-front results but it doesn't
actually tackle the causes.
WATSON: Despite the name of the
establishment, this was the venue for very serious business last week.
The Conservatives' parliamentary assessment board was in session. It judges
the competence of potential Tory candidates. But unless a list of the very
best, irrespective of race or gender, is foisted on local associations,
some very senior figures think the party could be debarring itself from
a return to power.
MAUDE: I think we have to not just
talk about change, but make change actually happen and that does mean making
the case boldly, strongly, confidently for the kind of Party we want to
be. And there will be critics and there will be people who find it difficult.
And, and I think all of us find the idea of active intervention of this
kind quite difficult. But the penalty for not doing this is oblivion.
WATSON: Party managers want to
see more women and ethnic minority candidates, a message which has encouraged
young Conservatives such as Tracey Crouch. But if they don't tackle any
local associations which aren't on-side, some of their own supporters believe
they'll be giving a gift to the opposition.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting there.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Every other week it seems
the government comes up with yet another tough policy to deal with asylum
seekers. The problem is not only those who try to get into the country
illegally through the Channel Tunnel for instance, but also those who have
made an application for asylum once they're here, and had it turned down.
It was those Mr. Blunkett had in his sites last week. He said, he wants
the law changed so that instead of being allowed to make their appeal in
this country, they can be sent back, either to the country they came from,
or to a European country they passed through on their way to Britain. The
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Simon Hughes says that is morally
wrong, and he's with me. Good afternoon Mr. Hughes.
SIMON HUGHES MP: Good afternoon.
HUMPHRYS: What's immoral about
HUGHES: It takes away the responsibility
we have for giving people a fair hearing, and it undermines that, in fact,
only six months ago in the government's own White Paper, it said not allowing
people to appeal here would undermine justice, so they had that position
six months ago, and the logic is seen in a parallel with the Criminal Justice
System. If you presumed that you were going to treat people differently
between the first hearing and the appeal, people would say that's outrageous.
You've got to give people full rights, the same rights to appeal. And the
figures show how important it is, about one in five cases last year succeeded
on appeal. So the Home Secretary's effectively saying, I want to send out
of the country, people, one in five of whom will succeed if they pursue
their appeal, to another country, which might well pass them on to a third
country, and so on. It's a pass-the-parcel, when we should, if we could
get our act together, if we could just organise ourselves well, be able
to deal with people here. It's also immoral because it panders to prejudice,
it stokes resentment, and it gets rid of the principle which says you have
a judicial review of the system in this country, rather than having a part
review of the system in this country, and the rest you have to go abroad
to exercise your rights to, to use.
HUMPHRYS: But they will still,
that's the important point, that last point, they will still be able to
exercise those rights, albeit in a different country.
HUGHES: Well, the two options Mr
Blunkett indicated, where they go back to the country they came from, that
in most cases is not an option, because by definition they've come from
there because they don't believe they're safe there, or they go to 'another
safe country.' Well let's take France, which is the obvious example, the
definition of what is asylum in France as it happens is different from
the UK, because they don't accept non-state persecution. It's been a controversial
issue over the years, so the courts here have said, it's not the same to
go to France or to Germany, because the standard is not as high as it is
in the UK, so it's not giving them the same rights as if they were remaining
in this country.
HUMPHRYS: But it seems a bit odd
to object to them being sent back to a country with a perfectly good record
on human rights, such as France, or Poland, or the Czech Republic or Hungary,
HUGHES: I accept that. The difficulty
is that the French, under the present system, might say, well, they're
nothing to do with us. That's what they've been saying in relation to the
people outside Calais at Sangatte and therefore they logically could say
well, we'll pass them back, they must have come from somewhere else, let's
pass them back to Germany. The system's a nonsense. I've been to Sangatte,
I've talked to people there, many of them don't know exactly where they
crossed into the European Union. They were in a lorry, they'd paid their
twelve-thousand Dollars in Afghanistan to get to the UK, or to get to Europe
and then they were told to apply to the UK. They were dumped at Sangatte,
they don't know where they crossed the border. The sane system is to have
a European system which says, no matter where somebody appears, whether
it's in Italy, people coming off the boats, whether it's in Spain, the
people having come across the Straits of Tangier, or whether it's at Sangatte,
wherever they appear, we will have a common processing system, technically
you have to apply to an individual country, so let's say in that case it's
France, but the European Union will share responsibility for making sure
that fair numbers are distributed across the EU. And we're not even anywhere
near the top of that league table, we're tenth out of sixteen countries,
in the proportion relative to population we take. It really is something
that we should try to see in perspective and proportion and get a common
system agreed between us instead of raising the anti...
HUMPHRYS: Nobody I am sure would
argue that a common system is to be greatly desired, and the sort of thing
you've just described might be ideal, but we don't have it, that's the
problem, and by your own admission, twenty per cent of the applicants succeed,
that means eighty per cent of them do not succeed...
HUGHES: Just let me just be clear
about the figures. The figures are roughly that twenty per cent of original
cases succeed on the first round, as it were, there are about another twenty
per cent which succeed either because there's a judicial review, or because
they're given leave to remain here. So about a third, between a third and
a half of all people, coming over the last decade, have been allowed to
HUMPHRYS: Right, but the majority,
nonetheless, are turned down...
HUGHES: ...their majority at the
end of the process, are turned...
HUMPHRYS: ...or well, unless it's
third and the figure probably fluctuates a bit, doesn't it?
HUGHES: ...it does.
HUMPHRYS: But anyway, the fact
is, the majority, even if it's only a small majority are turned down and
what you're saying, and let's look at it now from a practical point of
view rather than the moral point of view, what you're saying is that we,
people of this country, should bear their costs. We should carry on housing,
clothing, feeding them, all the rest of it?
HUGHES: When we signed up to the
Convention in nineteen-fifty-one, where Britain actually was a key country
in drafting the Convention and establishing the rights, the deal was that
the countries who were receiving applicants would look after the asylum
applicant until they could deal with their case. Now most applicants for
asylum do not come to Britain, they don't come to Europe, they go to Pakistan,
or they go to Central Africa, we get a very small proportion, if, and the
figures as the UN commissioned this week says, have been cut by half in
Europe over the last decade, if we can't organise ourselves, the fourth
most successful economy in the world, to process these cases, that's a
failing of us, and the only reason there's perceived there's a crisis,
is because we haven't put the resources in, we haven't had the processing
done properly. You can have a perfectly proper system, and a quick system,
and a fair system, without saying 'I'm sorry, if you're going to appeal,
you're going to have to appeal from somewhere far away, where to be honest,
there's no guarantee you will have the same opportunity to do so as if
HUMPHRYS: But it is perceived as
a crisis and there are enormous political ramifications of all of this
as we both know, and as everybody watching this programme knows, and something
has to be done, most people believe, and if you look at another set of
figures that the financial figures, we read this morning that it's going
to cost in the current year about a billion pounds to deal with asylum
seekers. Now for a politician to sit there and say, don't worry about it,
we should pick up that bill...
HUGHES: ... it was us that don't
worry about it. It's, take a European context, Mr. Blair said when he goes
to the Seville Summit of the European Union leaders, that he wants the
Spanish Prime Minister who's in the chair at the moment to come up with
some proposals, we should go to the European Summit with proposals, we
should say, come on, this is a matter we need to share responsibility for,
and we should say get our act together quickly. But the UNHCR, the other
agencies, are willing to help us. They're quite willing, it seems to me,
to say 'ok, whether people are in Sangatte, or in Spain, or in Britain,
or anywhere else, let's deal with them civilly, let's uphold the human
rights we've always done, but let's make sure we have the resources in
to progress the case. We have a nonsense system at the moment, I agree
with you. For people to have to smuggle themselves under the Channel in
order to put a case to come to Britain is a nonsense. It is a much more
sane system, that wherever you appear in Europe, you can put the case there.
Indeed a much more sane system than that would say, if you get out of say,
Afghanistan last year, and you get to a relatively safe country like India,
then why can't you put your case as an asylum seeker in India to come to
the UK just as at the moment you can put your case for a visa to come to
the UK, so there is a bigger picture and it could be done quickly, and
it really doesn't mean saying we can't do anything now, and all the evidence
is that if you just put up the barriers and have a fortress Europe mentality,
that doesn't actually stop people trying to come here, and it certainly
doesn't uphold the human rights of people who now look to us from countries
where for the last two-hundred years we were very happily walking into
their countries, conquering them, running them, administering them, and
migrating into them.
HUMPHRYS: A slightly different
issue, but yes, ok, accept that point...
HUGHES: ...we've gone round the
HUMPHRYS: ...indeed, indeed, indeed...
HUGHES: ...into everybody else's,
and they're now looking to us for help...
HUMPHRYS: ...indeed we have, but
we have to deal with the world as it is today, and not as it once was,
or indeed as it is as you would like it to be. Are you, be clear about
this, are you saying you have no problem, you do not believe it is a problem
that we have the number of asylum seekers coming here today that we had,
that isn't problem as far as you are concerned?
HUGHES: I believe it shouldn't
be a problem to deal with.
HUMPHRYS: Well is it?
HUGHES: Well it is only because
the government have not dealt with it competently, it's a failure of the
past and present government, and I'm not blaming individuals, they have
not realised that throughout Europe over the last ten years there's been
civil war in Southern Europe, and they ought to have had the resources
in place, it's a bit like the prison issue - it's no good thinking that
you can resolve the problem of overcrowding prisons without having different
policy either to have more prisons or to have different sentencing. It's
all predictable. So yes, it is a problem, but it's a problem of the government's
own making. And the solution is not for the Home Secretary to change policy
in six months for the third time to say we're going to be even tougher,
to pander to prejudice, to be honest, sometimes to only quote half the
figures, as he accepted he did when he'd done an interview on the BBC a
few weeks ago, which was then corrected in the Commons later in the day.
We really must tell people the facts, and if people know that about a third
to a half of all cases are valid, and for the other people, they want to
be economic migrants, and we should have a case for letting them put their
case, then we would have a sane system, but we have an insane system at
the moment, and anybody that's been to Sangatte and seen the terrible conditions
we condemn people to, as a continent, would realise how insane a system
HUMPHRYS: Though some people would
say, they chose to come here, they chose to go to Sangatte and if we're
talking about figures, just, just have a look at them, seventy-two-thousand
applications last year, that was an increase that has increased, that had,
it tends to go up and go down a little bit, granted, but that was an increase
in the first quarter of this year...
HUGHES: ...yes but John...
HUMPHRYS: ...now a lot of people
say that is, that is a worryingly large figure...
HUGHES: ...on the figures, if you
look over the decade as a whole, in Europe the figures have been cut by
half, but in Britain they've gone up, more people have come to Britain,
and that's because, if one country suddenly tightens its system, what happens?
People don't go away, they just go somewhere else within Europe, they go
to another country, it's very irresponsible.
HUMPHRYS: That's our problem, exactly.
HUGHES: Well yes. That is a very
irresponsible system for us to say, right, we're going to tighten now,
thank you very much France, you take the burden. Because then what happens,
the French will tighten it even more...
HUMPHRYS: ...yes but you see...
HUGHES: it is a pass-the-parcel,
and that's a nonsense.
HUMPHRYS: ...but the French view
is, is that our rules are simply too lax. The French are not at all surprised
that we've got people coming here, they believe that they're too lax, we
are too lax?
HUGHES: Of course, and that's why
you need a common system so that there isn't a great difference between
what happens in Belgium or Italy or Spain...
HUMPHRYS: ...but in the absence
of that common system...
HUGHES: ...but why should there
be an absence?
HUMPHRYS: ...well because there
is. I mean let's just deal with it as it is today, lunchtime on a Sunday,
there is an absence of a common system, and what you seem to be saying,
is let us actually have a more lax system...
HUGHES: ...no, no not at all. I'm
saying, have a system, let me give you a practical example, and I deal
with lots of asylum seekers and immigrants in my constituency on a weekly
basis, more than almost any other MP. You go to Sangatte, you interview
the people there, you give advice as to which are likely to get successful
asylum cases, you let them put their case, for the others who are economic
migrants you seek to deal with them in a different way, and then when you
decide somebody does fail, you have a much more honourable system about
returning people home which makes it highly likely they go home and not
at the moment, that they disappear into the, that system altogether.
HUMPHRYS: Can I in the last minute
or so deal with a different subject, that of Myra Hindley, as the Home
Affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats. David Blunkett apparently
wants to change the law so that as a result of the Human Courts ruling
last week, he would not effectively be forced to release somebody like
Myra Hindley, indeed, she's made her own appeal. Is he right to do that,
or is he wrong?
HUGHES: The European Court are
right to say that it should not be for politicians, but for judges to decide
how long somebody serves.
HUMPHRYS: So he's wrong?
HUGHES: Parliament should set the
maximum sentence, and if David Blunkett wants to bring before parliament
a proposal that if somebody is sentenced to life that means they serve
all their days in prison, he can do that. I think he's very wrong to do
that, because no...
HUMPHRYS: ...you think she should
HUGHES: No, that should be done
by the judges. The court should decide in our view whether it's safe to
release somebody, not politicians, and you should never have a mandatory
sentence for anything, because every case is different.
HUMPHRYS: Simon Hughes, many thanks.
HUMPHRYS: And that's it for this week.
We're on BBC Two again next week for obvious reasons. See you then. Good