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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. The Conservatives
are trying to make the voters love them again. I'll be asking one of their
rising stars how they're going to do it. Are we all going to have to carry
identity cards soon? It's beginning to look that way. The European Union
wants more countries to join ... but are the barriers proving insurmountable?
And I'll be asking Sinn Fein's chairman why there is still Republican violence
inspite of an IRA ceasefire. That's after the news read by Sophie Raworth.
HUMPHRYS: Once, it was only criminal
suspects who had to give their fingerprints. Might it soon be all of us?
And we're in the
final stages of the European enlargement stakes ... but all of a sudden
the finishing post seems to be moving further away.
But first the Conservative
Party is not popular. Indeed, it's more unpopular than the euro. Who says
so? Dominic Cummings. And his job? Director of Strategy for the Conservative
Party. Oh dear. Was that the sound of someone shooting himself in the foot
or merely refreshingly honesty.... a necessary admission that something
has to change? Well, the party says it does indeed have a new strategy.
It wants to be seen as altogether kinder, more compassionate and in tune
with the Britain of today. The problem is that when the party is asked
tough questions about its new policies, the substance often seems to be
in conflict with the message they're trying to deliver. I'll be talking
about that to John Bercow, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury after
this report from Paul Wilenius.
PAUL WILENIUS: Looking back may not be
the best thing for a political party wanting to move forward. The Conservative
leader's in America this weekend picking up tips on sprucing up his own
party's image to make it more inclusive, modern, electable. It needs it,
as the party's popular support is at a standstill.
Under Iain Duncan Smith
the Conservatives are portraying their party as one that cares about hospitals,
schools and the vulnerable and not just the Euro and immigration. There's
little doubt the language has changed and it's more inclusive, but critics
are asking is this just polishing up the old image or is it really something
new? They want to see real change in action and policy, to match the rhetoric.
The scale of the task
involved was admitted by Dominic Cummings, a senior Tory strategist, last
week. He said the party was even more unpopular than the Euro in Britain.
In an effort to collect more electoral support the leadership is talking
constantly about public services. Yet a leading Conservative think tank
says it's also vital to avoid old Tory privatisation policies, to show
its leader IDS really is new.
NICHOLAS BOLES: The Party is absolutely
right to be focusing on the public services, because that's what people
in Britain are focusing on. The party must be very careful not to fall
into an easy characterisation of privatisation as the only solution for
the public services.
WILENIUS; The Tories have also
expunged their traditional tax cutting message. Now they say they favour
funding public services first. But do they really mean it? Although modernisers
in the party welcome the new approach from IDS and his Shadow Ministers,
there are concerns that recent actions may have sent a contradictory message.
BOLES: Michael Howard as Shadow
Chancellor was absolutely right to say that the proper funding and reform
of public services, was more important right now than cutting taxes. He
was absolutely right to say that. It perhaps sent a conflicting signal
when the party then decided to oppose, vote against, the tax rises in the
budget, rather than for instance abstain.
WILENIUS; In recent weeks the Tory
Party has seemed to reject other opportunities to buff up its new image
The leader took a hard line on asylum in a recent article in the Daily
Mail. While in Parliament, the party opposed legislation to give unmarried
couples the right to adopt, even though forty per cent of children in the
UK are born to unmarried parents. The chance to show the party had changed
BOLES; I think that in the debate
about adoption and in the continuing debate about asylum, there have recently
been some signals sent which conflict with the overall direction set by
the leader and that was unfortunate, and it does need to be avoided in
future. Iain Duncan Smith has clearly set a new direction and adopted some
very new and striking themes for the Conservative Party. What is important
is that, that is now followed through in detailed policy work and that
the Party and the Shadow Cabinet do not get distracted by the opportunities
of cheap shot politics.
WILENIUS; Getting the Tories moving
again after two crushing election defeats is a big task for any leader.
Iain Duncan Smith has put them back on the road with a more inclusive approach.
Now he has three years to show this is not just a makeover, and he can
follow up with policies and action to put his party back in the political
HUMPHRYS: Paul Wilenius reporting there.
JOHN HUMPHRYS; John Bercow - less popular
than the Euro, not difficult you might say, but nonetheless there must
be some significant, basic fundamental change. Right?
JOHN BERCOW; Well, first of all the pound
is more popular than any of the political parties. That was the point
that Iain Duncan Smith made this morning, and he was absolutely right to
do so. Of course modernisation is not for the Conservative Party an optional
extra. It is absolutely critical both to getting our approach and policies
right, and to reconnecting with the electorate, so it's not an isolated
act, it's not a one off gesture. It is a continuous and positive process
of change to allow us to get it right and to reconnect with the electorate.
HUMPHRYS; Just on the subject of
Dominic Cummings I see some reports this morning in the papers that some
people, important people in your party think he should be sacked for his
BERCOW; I'm certainly not arguing
for that. I think Dominic Cummings is a brilliant man. I think he's got
many good ideas. He's hired to give his advice. He's a first class character,
but the position on the Euro has been made absolutely clear by Iain Duncan
Smith and indeed by others in recent days. We will play, and Iain as our
leader will play in particular, a prominent role in any referendum campaign
if the Prime Minister dares to call it, but we will be team players, we
will be on an equal footing with politicians from other parties and indeed
all of us as politicians will be on an equal footing in any referendum
campaign with people from other parts of public life who want to keep the
pound. The issue John, frankly, of staying out of the Euro and keeping
our currency is too important to be left exclusively to the politicians.
HUMPHRYS; Let's look at something
else that's terribly important from your point of view as well. You acknowledge
that there has to be fundamental change. The difficulty is that when it
comes down to the wire, the policy wire, and I fully accept that you don't
have all of your policies properly formed yet, so let's not. if we may
go down that road, clearly there is some way to go yet, but nonetheless
it begins to look like an image-changing exercise and that's all, because
when you do get to the difficult decisions, things you have to make decisions
about now, such as public services, it seems that you say in the case of
the NHS for instance: yes, there's a big debate going here and we want
to join in that, we do want fundamental change, but everything you do and
say and look at in Europe suggests that what you actually want is more
private involvement one way or the other. Now that is hardly in keeping
with the message you're trying to deliver, is it?
BERCOW; I don't think that's right.
What we want is more choice and greater effectiveness in delivering the
HUMPHRYS; All of which involves
more private involvement.
BERCOW; Some of it might involve
more private involvement. It could mean greater use of social insurance
to complement the resources raised by the state through taxation, but the
key point is this, most other countries in Europe use different systems
to our National Health Service model, and most of them have in common the
fact that they are more effective at translating care from a word to a
deed than we are. They have a better record for example, on cancer care,
on treating people with heart disease. In so many different respects, there's
greater choice of GP, in France there are no national waiting lists,
in Germany and Denmark you've got a twenty-eight day guarantee of treatment.
So it would be crazy not to look at the way they do things John.
HUMPHRYS; But they all have greater
private involvement, that's my point. So the message you're delivering,
even thought you want the message to be one thing, it comes out as another,
because when it comes down to it, everything you are seriously interested
in involves greater use of the private sector one way or the other.
BERCOW: I don't think that understands
the full picture, I think the important point is this .The government has
gone in for micro-management mania. They want to regulate everything,
they want to stop the professionals using their judgement to provide the
best service to the patient, to the pupil, to the user of the transport
service, to people who are scared of the really outrageous increase in
crime that we've witnessed. So what we want to do is to look at other
ways of doing things, and the difference between ourselves and the government
is really very simply stated, and it's very starkly illustrated in relation
to health. We have an open mind, we want to learn from others, we want
to see how and why it is they do things better. The government, in the
form particularly of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are basically
saying: we know it all, we've got nothing to learn, and yet it doesn't
hang together John, does it. They've taken under a hundred thousand million
pounds from us in taxation over the last five years, but the services have
got worse, not better. We want to make the services better and not worse.
HUMPHRYS: Ah, but that's the point.
You say you have an open mind on this, and yet when the Chancellor says,
look, one of the ways we can deal with the problem of the NHS is raise
a lot more money in taxes and put a lot more money into the NHS, you say
to that, no. You don't say, well, we'll consider that, we may even abstain
on the vote on the budget in which all of that is proposed, you actually
vote against it. That sends a pretty clear message doesn't it?
BERCOW: Well the reason why we
voted against it is that the government is just offering more of the same.
What we saw in the Budget was just more talk, more taxes, no change and
no difference because there's nothing new about it.
HUMPHRYS: And your mind is set
BERCOW: Well look at the evidence,
it's not a question of having an abstract theory or a dogmatic prejudice,
it's not like that at all. I'm sure the government's intentions on these
matters are good but the record speaks for itself, over the last five years
we've had increased bed blocking, we've had the contraction of the residential
care home sector, we've got an increase in the number of people waiting
to become in-patients, it's very different for people to get out of hospital,
we've got more administrators in the Health Service now than we've got
beds. All of the time the government's been in office we've had more money
taken from us and if you look just as an example, at Scotland, we see in
HUMPHRYS: ...yeah, more money.
BERCOW: ...that over the last five
years, since Tony Blair became Prime Minister, twenty-eight per cent increase
in real terms in expenditure on health, at the same time, you've had on
average an increase of one quarter in the waiting time for treatment.
HUMPHRYS: Fine, all of that may
be true and you know your analysis may be spot on, but the point I'm making
is not that, the point I'm making is that you have...you've looked at all
the facts, as far as you are concerned, and you have now made up your mind
and your mind is made up along the following lines - we will not take more
money out of people in tax in order to put into the public services, this
particular public service and that's that, it's closed.
BERCOW: What we're saying is this
- it may very well be that we will need to spend more on health care in
HUMPHRYS: ..which you will raise
that in direct taxation?
BERCOW: No, what I am saying is
this - we need very likely to spend more on health care in this country
but the Conservative approach is to say, what exactly is needed, what reforms
are required to deliver what is needed, how much will those reforms cost
and by what means should they be financed. Now that is a logical and considered
HUMPHRYS: Ah, but on the last bit
you've decided, haven't you, that's the point. On the last bit you've
decided because here we have the Chancellor saying, we've looked at these
problems as well, we acknowledge there are problems and we have decided
on one of the means by which the money should be raised and that is extra
taxation, you have turned your face against that. That's really the only
point I'm making.
BERCOW: No, if you ask a Labour
question John, you get a Labour answer. What happened was that the Chancellor
asked Derek Wanless to conduct a very quick scissors and paste review of
the Health Service in this country and he...
HUMPHRYS: And he concluded that
it needed more money.
BERCOW: No, the important point
was that he wasn't asked or entitled to look in any detail at the way things
are done on the continent, four pages only of the report covered continental
systems. Now that we're saying is, we haven't got all the answers, we've
got an open attitude, we've got a mindset that says it hasn't worked well
so far, the government, despite its good intentions hasn't delivered, it's
been very disappointing to see the results over the last five years, let's
look at how perhaps we can do things differently and better.
HUMPHRYS: You might have been able
to persuade people of that if you had abstained on the vote in the budget,
but you didn't you voted against. So clearly the impression that you give
people is they've made up their minds on that at least, haven't they. ]
BERCOW: We are making up our minds
as we go along on the issues, on the basis of the evidence...
HUMPHRYS: That is exactly my point.
BERCOW: On the basis of the evidence
John, not on the basis of an abstract theory, not on the basis of a dogmatic
HUMPHRYS: Whatever the basis of
the evidence may be, my point is and you accept it, is that you have made
up your mind on certain issues and that is one, fine.
BERCOW: Let me put it to you like
this John. I have counted up and may have miscounted, there may be more,
no fewer than twenty-three references from Gordon Brown and other ministers
to the need for investment and reform to go hand in hand in relation to
the public services in general and health in particular. What we've had
is some additional investment, no reform and a deteriorating service. Now
that is really a very disappointing situation.
HUMPHRYS: Right, let's move onto
another area where I am trying to make the same point to you and that's
the areas where you have made up your mind, you say you want to be seen
as more inclusive and more tolerant and all the rest of it, given the chance
you actually go in the opposite direction and it's the vote we heard about
from Paul Wilenius in that film, it's the vote in the House of Commons
on adoption by unmarried couples and by gay couples. Now, again, you could
have said, we leave that open, we let people vote according to their conscience
and all the rest of it. Instead, you had a three line whip and it was to
vote against. It sends a very clear message again doesn't it and rather
different from the image that you are trying to create.
BERCOW: Well there could have
been a free vote and I would have been perfectly happy with that.
HUMPHRYS: How would you have voted...
BERCOW: ..look, let me just make
the point, that wasn't a decision for me, as you know John these matters
are decided by the Whips, I'm just a junior and humble figure in the great
scheme of things, it's not for me to....
HUMPHRYS: ...a member of the Shadow
Cabinet, not quite that humble...
BERCOW: ...issues and what happened
was very simply stated. The Conservative opposition decided to give a
signal that its preferred position was to concentrate on reducing the barriers
to married couples adopting and to increase the opportunities for them
to do so, getting rid of out-dated and silly rules on mixed race, against
mixed race adoption, saying that people were too old to be able to adopt,
saying they were too middle class or any such nonsense as that. That was
our position, but there was a three line whip, John, to attend, people
were then entitled to exercise their discretion as to how they voted. Now
if you ask me how I see...
HUMPHRYS: ...pretty unusual way
of going about these things.
BERCOW: No, I think it's a really
very sensible way and it shows the way in which under the leadership of
Iain Duncan Smith the Conservative Party is changing. My attitude is very
simply stated on this subject, we had a decent and reasonable point of
view, the government had a decent and reasonable point of view, the difference
is we lost, they won, they will now get their way and introduce their reform.
What should our response be - it seems to me that we would be absolutely
crackers to bore people rigid by continuing to bang on about this subject
incessantly and we will not do so. What we'll do is...
HUMPHRYS: So in other words, you
accept that that was at least a sort of desirable outcome...
BERCOW: ....what we will do is
look at the evidence and what I would like to say is that given that this
area of policy concerns some of the most damaged and vulnerable children
in our society, who come from the most appalling backgrounds and suffered
terrible abuse, trauma, mental and physical inflictions. I hope the government's
policy works and if it does, I'll say three cheers to that.
HUMPHRYS: And had you been there,
had you been in the House, instead of not being in the House, you might
have found yourself voting in favour of the government's view.
BERCOW: ...these are hypothetical
HUMPHRYS: ...indeed, indeed, but
BERCOW: ...and I haven't come to
a view about that and I'm not going to offer a view...
HUMPHRYS: ...Mr Bercow, you know...
BERCOW: ...and it would be very
foolish of you to expect me to do so.
HUMPHRYS: Ah well, it might be
foolish of me to expect it but I don't believe for a moment that you haven't
had, given it very serious thought and have a view on it and it's interesting
that you don't offer that view.
BERCOW: As I say, I think that
we took a very constructive approach, I think Iain offered leadership,
but he displayed what we've seen in so many areas in the period since Iain
became leader of the Conservative Party. That combination, that winning
combination, of clarity with tolerance. He had a firm view, he offered
that view and then the Conservative Party said to colleagues: it's an important
issue, be there if you can be there. It wasn't judged to be a priority
when I had another commitment for me to be there, and then exercise your
discretion and listen to the arguments...
HUMPHRYS: ...and their...your outcome
would have been desirable, their outcome was almost equally desirable,
is the point you're making.
BERCOW: I think the public expect
us to be open-minded...
BERCOW: ...and I think that the
age in which we just damn everybody else's policies and everybody else's
motives is frankly behind us. As I say, I think that we had a decent and
reasonable position, we emphasised the arguments for married couples adopting,
the government had a decent and reasonable position, let's see how it works.
HUMPHRYS: So given that they had
a decent and reasonable position, you wouldn't want to go into the next
election with your policy being 'we are against it'.
BERCOW: Well as I say, I've then
got to see what the evidence is...
BERCOW: ...but the important point
is that those colleagues who did vote with Labour Members and some Labour
Members voted with Conservatives, it was a very mixed picture. But those
Conservatives who did vote with the general trend of the government didn't
have any disciplinary action taken against them. That's a sign of clarity
BERCOW: ...the way in which the
Conservative Party under Iain has changed.
HUMPHRYS: Fairly quick thought
if we may, on Section 28, the bit about homosexual, teaching homosexual
or tolerating homosexual teaching in schools. You are meant to be reviewing
it, in fact, here's somewhere else, isn't it, where you have actually closed
your mind. Given your thoughts as expressed in the House of Commons on
gay adoption, we can take it that actually you want to keep Section 28?
BERCOW: I don't think you can take
that as red at all, Iain Duncan Smith announced during the course of his
leadership campaign, that if he became leader, he would review our policy
on Section 28. John, I don't mind telling you, I was absolutely delighted
when Iain made that announcement. We are going to look at alternatives,
we know that over the last few years we have appeared at best out of touch
and at worst, nasty. I can't predict whether there will be a policy change.
It's no secret that I am enthusiastic about looking at the alternatives,
but what I would say is the idea that most thinking people would be heartbroken
or inconsolable at the thought that our party might change its position
on this subject is frankly absurd.
HUMPHRYS: Right. Asylum. Here you
had again, you, a more tolerant approach, we thought, all sorts of things
said by the Shadow Home Secretary. Then we see Iain Duncan Smith going
into print in the Daily Mail with some pretty powerful stuff. Indeed, we're
told that Mr Cummings to whom we referred earlier, had some fairly strong
language to use when he spoke to the leader about that. Bit of a mistake
again, wasn't it if, the message you want to deliver is that you are a
more caring, tolerant party? I mean, let's not, we haven't got time to
discuss the whole asylum issue in general, but for Mr Duncan Smith to have
done what he did at that stage was sending the wrong message, wasn't it?
BERCOW: No I don't think that's
right. It was an extremely measured article that Iain Duncan Smith wrote
and it seems to me that what has...
HUMPHRYS: ...not one of them is
allowed to come here. Not one. Measured?
BERCOW: Iain rightly objected to
the outrageous behaviour of the French government, its refusal to accept
its responsibilities and its determination to dump on Britain. That's the
way in which the French have behaved and Iain has rightly objected to that.
But what has characterised Iain Duncan Smith's approach and Oliver Letwin's
approach as Shadow Home Secretary on the subject of asylum has been judgement,
wisdom, decency and restraint. It couldn't have been done better. We've
spent most of our time rightly talking about other issues, we have addressed
asylum, and we've done so with decency and judgement.
HUMPHRYS: John Bercow, many thanks.
BERCOW: Thank you very much.
HUMPHRYS: The government is about
to ask us what WE think of identity cards. We're one of the few countries
in Europe that does not make its citizens carry proof of identity. But
there's a growing feeling inside government that that should change. Supporters
say it will help the police in the fight against terrorism and all sorts
of other things ... benefit fraud, illegal immigrants and so on. The other
view, of course, is that it's a serious infringement of our civil liberties.
Part of our national identity is bound up in NOT having to prove who we
are. As David Grossman reports it's one of those issues that crosses party
DAVID GROSSMAN: Faces in a crowd - Britons have
historically guarded their right to anonymity - not for us that strange
continental inconvenience the identity card. But now the government is
looking at introducing a type of ID card - they call it an entitlement
card. Designed to show who's allowed to work, receive state benefits and
NHS treatment. If it happens, they promise we won't have to carry one
all the time and we won't be stopped on the street and asked to produce
If we do end up with
an ID card or entitlement card - what's the big deal. After all many of
the people hurrying around this station are probably carrying whole decks
of plastic cards in their wallets and purses - what's one more to add to
the collection. Well critics of ID cards say they're different, they'll
erode fundamental liberties and increase the power of the state over people's
lives, whilst not actually achieving what supporters of ID cards say they
can - a reduction in crime, illegal working and benefit fraud.
MARK LITTLEWOOD: Identity cards are a solution
looking for a problem. The government has changed its mind continually
about whether this is a way of combating terrorism, combating benefit fraud,
or combating illegal immigration. It's none of those things. It's simply
a very serious threat to British liberty and our concepts of privacy here
in the United Kingdom.
GROSSMAN: Britain had ID cards
for thirteen years during and after the war. But got rid of them in 1952.
GROSSMAN: Now many MPs want to
bring them back, to deal with what they say is another national emergency.
One of the reasons the government says an ID card or entitlement card
could be invaluable is in reducing fraud in the benefits system. At present
the Government estimates that fraud and overpayment in Jobseekers Allowance
and Income Support costs the taxpayer over 1.3 billion pounds a year.
But for what could be the biggest area of fraud - Housing Benefit - the
government has no idea. Nor does the Health Service know how many people
are using NHS treatment to which they're not entitled.
FRANK FIELD MP: How do we know that all
those who are wheeling up for treatment are actually residents of this
country. How many are actually registering the medical needs of families
elsewhere in the world and then actually having the advantages of then
accessing the NHS. And a entitlement card would put a stop to all of that,
so of course it's right to look in the benefit area and of course it's
right as well to look at the fraud that is committed by individuals against
GROSSMAN: But would having an entitlement
card and knowing who everyone is, actually save the taxpayer huge amounts
of money? The government's privacy watchdog - the Information Commissioner
ELIZABETH FRANCE: One of the whole areas of fraud
that would not be addressed, is where I give accurate information as to
my identity, but make up the information in relation to my circumstances.
Whether I'm working or not, whether I've got investment income or not,
those sorts of pieces of information are not going to be dealt with by
the issue of an identity or entitlement card.
LITTLEWOOD: There are a whole plethora
of different identity card and entitlement card schemes in place across
the European Union. Britain's fairly unusual in not having a scheme in
place and the level of fraud that exists there is pretty much the same
as it is here and in some cases in fact, higher than it is here. So the
actual evidence before our eyes, of countries, similar to ours, similar
benefit schemes to ours, with an identity card in place, is that it doesn't
GROSSMAN: Early morning in North
London and groups of men wait in the hope of picking up cash in hand work.
These people are illegal migrants, lured here many believe by the lax labour
laws they're now trying to exploit. The introduction of an entitlement
card showing who can work legally would, say its supporters, help stem
the flow of economic migrants.
CLIVE SOLEY MP: If for example someone
was here unlawfully and let's say they'd come in on the.. hung on to the
underside of a train or whatever, let's say they got themselves established
in a job, again, which they could do very easily at the moment, they wouldn't....that
wouldn't be quite so easy if you had the card,
JOHN REDWOOD MP: When it comes to illegal working,
we have a National Insurance system. Everyone who works in this country
is meant to have a National Insurance number, we know that some people
don't, they break the rules on National Insurance, both employers and employees,
those same people would doubtless break the rules if they had to show an
identity card, how would it solve the problem, because the problem is one
of enforcement, not of a system.
GROSSMAN: The government says that
if we do have an entitlement card it won't be compulsory, but supporters
believe that it will become so useful as to be indispensable.
FIELD: It would be an opting in
system, rather than a compulsory system, but the vast majority of people
will opt in and will want to opt in very, very quickly, and those who somehow
think there's a huge issue of principle here, will have to continue to
claim their entitlements under the existing system, and that anybody who
knows, under the existing system, how long it takes, will I think cure
people of that enthusiasm in a very short space of time.
REDWOOD: Well I think there is
a danger that once they'd established a toe hold with identity cards for
certain purposes they'd want to go on to make them all singing, all dancing
and the presumption might grow up that if you weren't prepared to carry
them or use them on a regular basis, there was something wrong with you.
Well, I resent that implication.
GROSSMAN: But how do you stop any
new card being forged or used by someone else. The answer comes straight
out of science fiction - the electronic scanning of our physical characteristics.
This kind of device is not only now a reality but in daily use in hundreds
of companies. This card holds an electronic record of my fingerprint and
many believe it's this kind of technology, in the jargon biometrics, that
holds the key to making sure that any new national identity or entitlement
card is secure. That the people who carry them, are who they say they are.
Britain already has biometric
cards. Some asylum applicants are now fingerprinted, the information stored
on a card. Many supporters of entitlement cards believe this technology
should now be extended to everyone in the country.
FIELD: As babies are born there
should be a biometric test to establish their unique identity and that
should be the beginnings of their personal number, which at the moment,
first of all becomes a Child Benefit number and is then converted into
a National Insurance number.
GROSSMAN: Biometric technology
doesn't stop at fingerprints. This machine scans the eye, but even some
supporters of ID cards don't like the idea of going down too far down this
SOLEY: You can make cards almost
guaranteed unforgeable, for example if you use the eye retina, DNA or
finger prints whatever. But at that level, you've becoming incredibly intrusive
and I think you would lose a lot of public support, and I would certainly
be a bit worried about that, I think, if you, to access your rights for
example, you had to give a DNA test, that would be pretty scary.
GROSSMAN: The government department
looking into identity cards if the Home Office. The Home Secretary, David
Blunkett, says they're going to publish a consultation document before
Parliament breaks up for the summer recess. But, if they do go ahead with
the idea, the effects could be felt right across government.
Once a smart entitlement
card is introduced there's potentially a huge amount of information that
could be stored on it: tax, benefits, criminal driving and health records
all on one little card. But hang on, there are some very strict rules about
government departments sharing around our personal records, the Data Protection
Act for a start. The woman appointed to police that act, the Information
Commissioner, says the safest way of guaranteeing our privacy is to make
sure that only the bare minimum of information is actually stored on any
entitlement or identity card and certainly not to have a single common
FRANCE: My preference would be
for a card that actually holds very little information, except the information
necessary to say that I am who I say I am. Then the information within
each separate organisation is unlocked by that information, but the information
itself wouldn't necessarily be held in the card.
GROSSMAN: We still don't know exactly
what type of card the government's thinking about - but it's important
when plans are published they contain a clear vision of exactly what a
card will do and how it will do it.
FRANCE: When we take on, if we
do, a card, we must each accept that we are in taking a card, giving up
some of our privacy, some of our right to anonymity, something we pride
ourselves on in a democracy. We're all prepared to do that, if in return
there's some benefit for society, that we can see is worth our making that
trade for. But then we have to have in front of us an honest statement
of what will actually be achieved, rather than a lot of broad statements
about preventing crime, preventing terrorism, preventing truancy which
may or may not be addressed depending on the nature of the card the information
to be held - who will have access to it.
FIELD: Although it's right to emphasise
these ancient liberties which we have, I don't think you ought to over-do
it, that the vast majority of people who would sign up to those statements,
will also quite happily sign up to a card which establishes their identity.
That most of them will carry it with them, most of the time and practically
all of them would expect that you would be made to use them when you're
establishing your identity, to take money away from taxpayers.
GROSSMAN: Would Britain be a different
place with an identity or entitlement card? Well that really depends on
what's proposed and who would really benefit - the citizen or the government?
HUMPHRYS: David Grossman reporting
JOHN HUMPHRYS: It's been a bad week in
Belfast. Night after night of violence on the streets, attacks on the police.
A warning from the most senior police officer that the province is on the
brink of the abyss. Worse still, it seems the violence was orchestrated
by the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries, most of whom are meant to be on
ceasefire. There's been an attempt to kill a Catholic police recruit and
the so-called 'punishment beatings' such an ugly feature of life in some
parts of Northern Ireland carry on unabated. And soon the marching season
will reach its peak. In this atmosphere, it's easy to see why David Trimble
is finding it so difficult to persuade his Ulster Unionists that he should
keep negotiating. Tomorrow Sinn Fein's leaders are going to Downing Street
and there can be only one message from Tony Blair - use your influence
to calm things down.
The Chairman of Sinn Fein
is Mitchel McLaughlin and he's in our Foyle studio. Good afternoon Mr McLaughlin.
MITCHEL MCLAUGHLIN: Good afternoon.
HUMPHRYS: Is that what you're going
MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, but we'll also deliver
a message ourselves, because we think that peace-making, and this conflict
resolution process obviously involves all of those who were involved in
creating and sustaining the conflict in the first place, including your
HUMPHRYS: In the interests of calming
things down, do you condemn utterly unreservedly that attack on the Catholic
MCLAUGHLIN: Well of course we have to put
all of that into the context of our failure so far to bring forward agreed
and acceptable policing arrangements. But some work, I think some considerable
work has been done on that. Now our party is involved in trying to complete
that task and to create a situation where everyone, including those whoever
they were, who were responsible for that attack, would become part of the
policing solution. So I think, you know, we don't want a glib approach.
This is a very serious issue. Of course, we regret very, very much that
there's still aspects of the type of conflict that we've had for generations
now, but nonetheless, let's not forget the work, the achievements that
HUMPHRYS: ...yes, sure.
MCLAUGHLIN: ...banked so far and let's
keep on that focus and let's keep that work going.
HUMPHRYS: Well fine, but I'm not
sure what's glib about asking you to condemn unreservedly attempted murder
of a young man because he wants to join a police force. Do you condemn
it unreservedly or not?
MCLAUGHLIN: ...yes well, I don't expect
your, you know your audience to actually understand the complexities of
this issue of the details, let me...
HUMPHRYS: ...they understand murder.
MCLAUGHLIN: yeah, well let me tell, let
me put it this way. What we are trying to do, is create a situation where
those, no matter how mistaken, no matter how they misunderstand the situation,
do not see any justification for that activity. Now glib reports, glib
condemnations make no impression whatsoever on those individuals, unfortunately.
What we have to do then is try and create the type of situation where all
of those who are disaffected, alienated, or hostile to politics begin to
recognise the benefit of making politics work. Now we've done some work
on that and we will continue with that task.
HUMPHRYS: Mr McLaughlin, you...your
party is part of the government of Northern Ireland and you sit there this
afternoon, unprepared to condemn unreservedly, an attempt to murder a young
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this, that is not the
case and we don't want...
HUMPHRYS: ...well then the answer
to my question was yes you do...
MCLAUGHLIN: ...no, no, you see...
HUMPHRYS: condemn it unreservedly,
I'm sorry I...
MCLAUGHLIN: ...well John, I don't want
to get into a total diversion. Let me repeat again...
MCLAUGHLIN: Well let me repeat again what
we are attempting to do because you know no more about that situation than
MCLAUGHLIN: ...let me say this. I regret
very much that there are those in our society, Republicans as well as Loyalists,
and the shadowy operators of your Intelligence Services, who are still
engaged in war, but there are those of us, and I believe a great majority
of us, who are trying to save a conflict resolution process, and who are
working day and daily. Now the issue of condemnations do not reach those
people, what reaches them is effective politics.
HUMPHRYS: Why, why should we accept
that you genuinely regret it when the IRA is doing everything it can to
intimidate recruits and incite violence against them and your own party
is creating the atmosphere for precisely that.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well can I say that I particularly
regret your assertion...
HUMPHRYS: ...well let me give you
the reason why I make that assertion, may I...
MCLAUGHLIN: ...okay, that would be very
helpful if you could...
HUMPHRYS: ...let me give you the
MCLAUGHLIN: ...if you sustain it, I would
be surprised if you could.
HUMPHRYS: ...I will, I will because
Gerry Adams the ... well you may or may not be surprised by this quote
in that case. Gerry Adams, the leader of your party of course, officers
drawn from the national community he says 'they will be accorded exactly
the same treatment'. These are people who want to join the new Northern
Ireland police force, the same treatment the Republican Movement accorded
to the RUC, no more, no less. Now we know exactly what treatment the IRA
accorded to the RUC...
MCLAUGHLIN: ...but he...
HUMPHRYS: ...they tried to murder
them, that's what it did.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well listen, you did not refer
in that quote at all to the IRA and neither did Gerry Adams. He talked
about the Republican community. The Republican community did not recognise
the RUC as an acceptable police service and the British government, which
had its opportunity, bear in mind John, had its opportunity to bring forward
acceptable policing based on the Patten Commission findings failed to do
so. Now Tony Blair has accepted that principle, he has accepted that amending
legislation will have to be introduced, and when he does, and if he does,
then Sinn Fein will be glad to be able to endorse those proposals and to
be part of the policing solution. So there are failures across the board
here, and those failures involve your government as well as those of us
on the ground who are working, who are doing their best, but who recognise
that there is a considerable amount of work to be done.
HUMPHRYS: Well, but if you don't
recognise the new Northern Ireland police force, and if you tacitly, some
would say rather more than tacitly, some would say explicitly, condone
attacks upon Catholics who choose to join that police force, because they
want to do the best they can for peace in Northern Ireland, then how can
you talk about doing the best you can?.
MCLAUGLIN: Well if, if we both apply ourselves
to informing your audience about the reality, then we will deal with the
fact that for the past six weeks, a small Nationalist enclave in East Belfast
been under siege by Loyalist paramilitaries and the police force that you're
talking about has had a laissez-faire approach to that. Now there is a
context that perhaps your audience isn't aware of which actually feeds
into the type of madness that sees young police recruits being attacked.
Now what I am trying to do, and what my party is trying to do is to ensure
that everybody who does want the Good Friday Agreement to work, and I accept
that there are those in your government who do want it to work, I accept
it there are those within the Unionist community who does want it to work,
and I can tell you that there are those within Sinn Fein who do want it
to work. Now it is up to us collectively to ensure that we move through
this conflict resolution process, imperfect though it is, to achieve that.
Now if the British government had done, what it was clearly within its
power to do, which was to deliver Patten in full, then we would not be
discussing today problems with policing in the North. We could talk about
the other problems because there are many other problems.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah but what you're
not doing is you're neg..., you're not negotiating here, you're encouraging
violence and that is utterly unacceptable in any democratic society.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well I reject that and I think
that's a disgraceful comment John. I wish you would withdraw that. We
are doing nothing of the sort.
HUMPHRYS: How can I withdraw it
on the basis of Gerry Adams' own statement: "Officers drawn from the Nationalist
community will be accorded exactly the same treatment the Republican movement
accorded to the RUC'.
MCLAUGHLIN: And he was explaining, which
everybody on the ground should understand in the North, and commentators
about the North will understand. The RUC were not an acceptable policing
service by anybody's standards and they were condemned as a police force
internationally. Now what we have got is the RUC with a change of uniform,
not the new beginning to policing, and Gerry Adams described that accurately.
Now the British government have already accepted that there is a need to
amend the legislation, that it was flawed legislation, that we missed an
opportunity. Now we didn't walk away from the process even though our expectations
were betrayed. Tony Blair made a promise, a very explicit one, he will
deliver Patten. He didn't do it. But we went back and talked to Tony Blair
and we will keep talking until we solve those problems.
HUMPHRYS: Mitchel McLaughlin, many
HUMPHRYS: Ten more countries are lined
up to join the European Union. They are desperate to get in - and the EU
is desperate to have them. So what's the problem? Well, it's those pesky
voters again ... refusing to vote the way they're supposed to. The Irish
have already thrown out the treaty that's essential for enlargement to
take place. That obstacle has to be overcome. And now, as Paola Buonadonna
reports, the implications of enlargement are beginning to generate opposition
in other countries on the continent too.
PAOLA BUONADONNA: The pressure is on for the
ten Central and Eastern European countries which are in the running for
membership of the EU. For more than ten years they've competed fiercely
with each other and overcome a gruelling series of legal, bureaucratic
and economic obstacles placed in their path for entry. Now that they're
within sight of the finishing line new barriers have emerged that could
seriously affect their chances to succeed in their quest by 2004.
JAN KAVAN: There is a limit to
people's patience, you cannot tell them for twelve, thirteen, fourteen
years that your joining Europe is imminent, and then it's not going to
happen. At some point the patience will snap or the people who offer this
vision, will simply not be believed.
PETER HAIN: If we don't achieve it then
our own security will be injured, the threats of increased migration will
increase. The far right in the countries that want to join us, and we want
them in, will rise because they will say Europe's turning its back on us
so we will go elsewhere. That'll be dangerous for our stability and for
BUONADONNA: Haddath and his stablehand
Paddy are looking forward to their big moment at the Lepardstown racecourse
in Dublin. Haddath is not exactly the odds-on favourite today but he might
be in with a chance. Ireland has always been very keen on racing and until
recently very enthusiastic about the EU too. But when the Nice Treaty,
which paves the way for enlargement, was put to a referendum here last
year, against the odds people voted 'no.' Now the hopes of the ten applicant
countries are pinned on the success of a second referendum to be held by
the autumn. But concern is mounting here in Dublin, as well as Brussels
and other European capitals about the chances of reversing the 'no' vote.
And the Nice dilemma will be looming large at the Seville summit of EU
heads of state in twelve days time.
TOM ARBUTHNOTT: I get a real sense that policy
makers throughout the European Union, in the European Commission, are absolutely
terrified that Ireland is going to say 'no.' It's going to say all the
wrong things about Europe, not just to the candidate countries but also
to the people in the European Union who are currently rather sceptical
about it, who are voting for parties which are campaigning against the
BUONADONNA: Getting Haddath ready for a
race can be tricky but keeping the EU in working order after it expands
to twenty-five members is a massive challenge. The Nice Treaty re-balances
the voting power of each nation and makes more decisions possible by majority
voting but there's vigorous debate in Ireland, as to whether the result
is undemocratic and threatens the interests of smaller EU members.
PATRICIA MCKENNA: We're not against the Nice Treaty
because of enlargement, we're in favour of enlargement, but we are against
the Nice Treaty because it's making the EU even less democratic. It's presenting
us with a treaty under the guise of enlargement but in actual fact the
technical changes have more to do with removing power from individual member
states. In particular the smaller countries are losing a huge amount of
power, and also the fact that the EU will then be divided in to sort of
first class, and second class members and a number of areas are being,
where we have decision making power, are being removed from us.
BRIAN COWEN: What I find intellectually
dishonest by many on the 'no' side is the idea that they're in favour of
enlargement, but they don't seem to agree to the democratic compromise
which was reached by democratic heads of state at Nice to facilitate that
enlargement. So I think that's an important point that we will be putting
against the campaign.
BUONADONNA: It's not that hard to get the
punters to the races, especially on a sunny day. But many of these people
didn't show up to vote for the Nice Referendum, and those who did were
worried that foreign policy provisions contained in the treaty might threaten
the country's neutrality. So the Irish government will ask the other member
states at the Seville summit for a declaration that Ireland will remain
neutral. But will it be enough to persuade people to change their minds?
COWEN: The declaration will bring
clarity to the legal text. The legal text are the treaties, and if we have
confirmation in clear and unambiguous language that our military neutrality
is in no way compromised by the ratification of the treaty of Nice, then
the people I would respectfully suggest will take that on board and we
have a right in entitlement as a people to come back and consider these
issues again on the basis that our essential national interests are at
MCKENNA: All he's getting is a
little piece of signed paper, signed by all the leaders to sort of fob
off to the Irish people saying - oh well now we're giving you something
different. But the treaty itself, not one single word, dot, comma will
be changed in that treaty, it will still be the exact same treaty and that's
where the problem lies.
BUONADONNA: Well very few of the bookies
here today would stake a lot of money on a 'yes' vote. So if the Irish
government lose their gamble what can be done to save enlargement? While
not wishing to be seen to interfere in the Irish political debate, behind
the scenes EU diplomats are already considering alternative strategies.
But they all have their pitfalls. Partial reforms already agreed by all
would allow a limited enlargement of the EU admitting only five new members.
This implies a very difficult choice.
KAVAN: This would really mean that
for administrative reasons, somebody and I wonder who, on some criteria,
I wonder which ones, will suddenly say, these five will join now and these
other five will join God knows when. I think this would create so much
tensions, problems, etcetera that I find that option unacceptable.
GUNTER VERHEUGEN: It would be politically impossible
now to create groups. We have organised the whole process in a way that
all the candidates countries have the same chance, the same opportunity
to become members, if they are sufficiently prepared and it is absolutely
impossible to tell a candidate country that is sufficiently prepared, that
it has to wait because we have not been able to do our homework.
BUONADONNA: If that's not a runner it might
instead be possible to come up with a legal sticth up, whereby the main
Nice reforms are incorporated into the separate treaties that the EU will
sign with each new member. These only need to be ratified by the different
parliaments in Europe but will not be put to the people.
KAVAN: This could be a kind of
roundabout way, how to solve the problem which could be created by a repeated,
'no.' It's not as straight forward, crystal clear and comprehensive as
it would have been if Nice is ratified but it may work, it may work.
VERHEUGEN: I'm strictly against the idea
that we could use legal tricks to, to overrule the democratic decision
of a nation. That in my view, the whole idea in my view is a non-starter.
You cannot use tricks to by-pass what a nation obviously wants, so I am
absolutely not prepared to discuss that.
BUONADONNA: The most radical option is
to postpone enlargement until a brand new treaty with the necessary reforms
can be agreed by all, in 2004. This would delay the whole process by several
years, and there are few takers.
VERHEUGEN: If we have to tell them there
will be a delay and we do not know when it will happen or whether it will
happen in the future then the disappointment would be so strong that the
leaders of these countries would lose the public support and I think that
those populist leaders which also exist in these countries would win the
argument saying - that's what we have always told you, the Europeans are
not really interested in us, they are only interested in our markets and
they have them already.
BUONADONNA: But the populist threat to
enlargement comes from within the EU too. Far-right and populist parties
have recently built up a big electoral following in Austria, Denmark, France
and the Netherlands by tapping into the voters' anxiety about crime and
immigration. And throughout Europe the political mood is hardening against
admitting new and poorer contenders into the ring. Enlargement, many say,
will be expensive, divert resources away from the existing members and
might lead to an influx of cheap labour from the East. Another failure
to ratify the Nice Treaty here in Ireland could be seized upon by some
as an excuse to delay or even cancel enlargement altogether.
ARBUTHNOTT: I think the key political debate
that's developing is about immigration and there are fears in some member
states, very, very potent fears about bringing down the borders with central
Eastern Europe and an influx of cheap labour which is going to come over
from those countries. There is a link there, there is a danger that this
change in politics that we've seen, been seeing happening across Europe,
may be enough to put a spanner in the works of the whole enlargement process,
unless we go forward with it very, very quickly now.
HAIN: Everybody needs to
understand how much is at stake. If this enlargement is sabotaged, the
far right in our own countries will increase their strength, the existing
European countries, and the far right in the applicant countries will increase
their strength as well, because there'll be more migration, less prosperity,
more insecurity, more opportunities for crime. In those conditions the
extremists, the neo nazis and others and the racists, thrive.
BUONADONNA: But it doesn't stop there.
According to some, there's a further, hidden obstacle to the negotiations
- the main EU countries themselves might have a vested interest in delaying
new entries, as they're worried about the cost of kitting-out the rural
economies of Eastern Europe with the generous agricultural subsidies enjoyed
by the West.
MCKENNA: The problem is that the
bigger and more powerful countries in Europe, like in particular France
and Germany, don't want enlargement to go ahead until the rules are changed
to suit themselves and that's the big problem, that the applicant countries
are being misled and the governments in those applicant countries are allowing
themselves to be misled because of course they're desperate to get in,
and in at any price, so take whatever kind of deal they can get.
VERHEUGEN: It is it is definitely not the
case that the member states, especially the bigger member states have hidden
agendas here, definitely not. They have created such a strong political
momentum, they have made so strong multi-lateral and bilateral commitments
and they know exactly that the enlargement is in their interest. No country
in Europe has a stronger interest in political and economic stability than
they have, for instance Germany and France, so this is definitely not true.
BUONADONNA: As the moment of truth approaches
for Haddath the pressure is also mounting for all EU Governments to kick-start
the fight against illegal immigration and at the Seville Summit Britain
hopes to take the lead in devising a common strategy. The challenge will
be to persuade people that enlargement has to be part of the course.
HAIN: Enlargement's an
absolutely vital weapon against human trafficking, because those countries
that are going to join us, if it all goes well, will see increased prosperity.
People always want to remain at home if they can, they'll have more job
opportunities because every country's, it's been true of Spain, Portugal
and Ireland itself that has joined Europe has seen its increased prosperity
results. There'll as be tougher border controls and common asylum procedures,
and tougher measures to crack down on gangs that are trafficking people.
BUONADONNA: The final obstacle to enlargement
comes from the candidate countries themselves. They've asked huge sacrifices
of their people and feel they're being rebuffed time and time again. Leaders
there have staked their political survival on the enlargement goal and
have become increasingly vulnerable to populist voices who will seize on
any further delay to the timetable as proof that the European membership
race has been fixed and Europe is not worth joining after all.
KAVAN: If you thwart the expectation
of millions, and I mean millions of people, at the last minute with such
an unsubstantiated bureaucratic argument as would this one be then very
likely it will not happen in two or three years time. Most people will
suddenly turn and say all right, if you don't want us, we don't need to
join. It would give scope for not only Euroscepticism which is already
growing because of all kinds of problems which occur during negotiations,
it would provide fertile soil for the very populist right-wing tendencies
which you now see in Western Europe.
HAIN: The applicant countries
have invested an enormous amount of their own credibility and made huge
changes and reforms and gone through complicated and difficult decisions.
For us to just shut the door on them, would damage their credibility, would
damage the reputation and credibility of the rest of us in Europe for ever
and it is absolutely vital that we give them the support that they need
and to reunify Europe. Let's remember what this is about.
BUONADONNA: All those preparations must
have paid off. After a final sprint and to the delight of its supporters
Haddath wins by a neck. For the applicant countries there's no happy ending,
no finishing line in sight yet. But if they're left behind there may be
no winners, the whole of Europe will have failed with them.
HUMPHRYS: Paola Buonadonna at the races
And that's it for this
week. If you're on the Internet don't forget about our website. We're
back on BBC TWO again next week. Until then, good afternoon.