BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 09.06.02

==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT; BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES, OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 09.06.02 ==================================================================================== 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. NEWS 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 was lost. 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 fast lane. 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 frankness, no? 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 service. 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 against that? 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 Scotland John... 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'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 this country... 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 process. 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 prejudice. 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 questions... HUMPHRYS: ...indeed, indeed, but you... 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... HUMPHRYS: Fine. 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... HUMPHRYS: ...sure. 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 with tolerance... HUMPHRYS: ...okay. 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 boundaries. 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 it. 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. NEWSREEL ACTUALITY: GROSSMAN: Britain had ID cards for thirteen years during and after the war. But got rid of them in 1952. NEWSREEL ACTUALITY: 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 the NHS. 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 is sceptical. 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 work. 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 route. 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 government database. 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 there. 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 to do? 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 government. HUMPHRYS: In the interests of calming things down, do you condemn utterly unreservedly that attack on the Catholic recruit. 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 have been... 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 police recruit. 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, 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... HUMPHRYS: ...fundamental. MCLAUGHLIN: Well let me repeat again what we are attempting to do because you know no more about that situation than I do. HUMPHRYS: ...what... 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 reason... 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 thanks. 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 our security. 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 European Union. 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 stake here. 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 there. 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. .. 26 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.