BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 20.10.02

==================================================================================== 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: 20.10.02 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. The fire fighters are going on strike and we're told that people will die because of it. I'll be talking to their leader and to the Minister who is begging them to call it off. It's just over a year since the first shots were fired in George Bush's "war on terror". No-one pretends it's going well. So what next? We'll be reporting on the many fronts in the war and asking how this country should position itself. And pensions. What's the Government doing to make sure we don't suffer in our old age? That's after the news read by Darren Jordon. NEWS HUMPHRYS: One of the many victims of Britain's pensions crisis. The Government's being warned you must take action or else. FRANK FIELD MP: "We are on the verge, I believe, of seeing a pensions meltdown." HUMPHRYS: And after the bombings in Bali, what next in the so-called war against terror. JOHN HUMPHRYS: But first, next week the firemen go on strike.... for forty eight hours. Then there will be another one... again for forty eight hours. Then another four ... of eight days apiece. A frightening prospect. Could it have been avoided? CAN it be avoided... even at this late stage? It's about money of course. They want an extra forty per cent. They have been offered four per cent. Now their pay is to be reviewed by an independent commission chaired by Sir George Bain. With me is the minister responsible for the Fire Service Nick Raynsford and the leader of the Fire Brigades Union Andy Gilchrist. Mr Gilchrist, why not wait for the review to report? ANDY GILCHRIST: Well, the review is not actually a review into pay at all. It's a very wide ranging review and we question seriously the independence of it. HUMPHRYS: Sir George Bain is an eminently independent man. Everybody believes that. GILCHRIST: Our issue is not about the eminence of Sir George Bain. The fact is, this is not an independent inquiry. The Prime Minister, indeed the Deputy Prime Minister, have backed up the fact that even if Sir George Bain were to find that we were right in claiming forty per cent, that in fact he would not be allowed to award that. HUMPHRYS: Nonetheless, you'd have a stronger moral case for taking action wouldn't you, if you had an independent review saying yes, they ought to get forty per cent, that would be a pretty powerful argument for you, wouldn't it? GILCHRIST: Well there is no such thing at the moment as an independent review of pay. What there is, is a rather farcical wide-ranging review into the Fire Service. HUMPHRYS Why is that farcical, why is it farcical on a wide-ranging review? GILCHRIST: It's rather repetitive of much of the work that's going on currently, which I have to say the Fire Brigades Union is not only involved in but is leading on. Now, I don't know how you re-invent the United Kingdom Fire Service in a little under six weeks, but that seems to be the task that this team of people have set themselves. HUMPHRYS; But you're refusing even to talk to them, even to get involved in the review. And here you're planning all these strikes in which people might very well, almost certainly, will die. And yet you're refusing to sit down and talk to an independent review. GILCHRIST; We have a very successful history inside of the Fire Service at the National Joint Council, some forty odd years of resolving issues of pay and conditions of service in an amicable and indeed negotiated way. That actually was blocked by the government earlier in the summer, when the employers were prepared at that stage anyway, to make us an offer of twenty-five thousand pounds a year. The government stepped in and said they weren't allowed to do that and then they embarked on this rather dangerous distraction, called the Independent Review. HUMPHRYS Let me just deal with that, because I saw the Minister shaking his head at that, Mr Raynsford , you were shaking your head, you say you didn't block it. NICK RAYNSFORD: Yes, there's no truth in that whatsoever, and that's been confirmed not just by us, but by Sir Jeremy Beecham who is the Chairman of the Local Government Association, who made it quite clear that the only discussions that the employers had with government on this matter were about the extent to which government would fund any settlement that was agreed. It's for the employers to reach a decision. We made it clear that if they went beyond the four per cent they would have to fund that, but it was their decision. HUMPHRYS: But why should government, central government, get involved in this at all. It ought to be an issue for the Local Authorities didn't it? RAYNSFORD: We didn't get involved until the point on the 2nd of September when negotiations between the Fire Brigades Union and the employers broke down. It was at that point, because we were worried about the risk of a strike, that we moved very quickly indeed to set up the Independent Review. It is a truly independent review. No-one, apart from the FBU is doubting the integrity and the independence of Sir George Bain, and it will report before Christmas. HUMPHRYS: But, isn't it a bit disingenuous to say that government is not getting involved at all. The fact is, if the Fire Brigades Union got their forty per cent or anything close to their forty per cent it would blow apart the government's entire economic plans I mean Gordon Brown would be in deep trouble, the Government would be in deep trouble. The knock-on effect would be colossal. You simply cannot allow that to happen can you? RAYNSFORD: Well, I think that almost all commentators do regard the forty per cent as over the top, but it's going to be a question for Sir George Bain to look at the case. HUMPHRYS; Except that you are saying, he won't, even if he recommends, you won't accept his recommendation, that's what Mr Gilchrist is saying. RAYNSFORD: No John, I've said on many, many occasions, and I repeat it again this morning, we've said that we will look very seriously, very carefully indeed at any recommendation that comes for the Bain review. I can't give a commitment in advance that we will implement whatever they say, because that would be signing a blank cheque, and no government will do that and I wouldn't actually expect Andy Gilchrist to say that he would accept any recommendation that the Bain review might come up with, but we will look very carefully, very sympathetically at any recommendation that comes from Bain. HUMPHRYS: Well, there we are Mr Gilchrist. They will look at it very carefully, very sympathetically, and yet you're saying we're not even prepared to wait for that, even until Christmas. We're going to go ahead and do it now, and put people's lives at risk. GILCHRIST: No, we're not, because we are going to look at it seriously what there isn't there and I'm glad that Mr Raynsford has confirmed it, there's no commitment to fund it necessarily. HUMPHRYS Well he said we will look at very sympathetically at it. GILCHRIST: Our issue at the moment is that for forty odd years we've had a very successful, backed up by the industrial peace that people experienced, mechanism for resoling issues of pay and conditions of service, and what we're actually asking here, and there's much talk about the forty per cent, is that firefighters and control staff who work forty-two hours a week, actually take home or should take home eight pounds fifty an hour. Now I don't think that's unreasonable or unrealistic. HUMPHRYS: Well, what you're asking for is a forty per cent increase, and very few people find that realistic. It is a huge increase - forty per cent when people are getting four, five, six per cent if they're very, very lucky indeed and inflation is half that. GILCHRIST: I don't share your analysis that people don't see it as realistic or reasonable. HUMPHRYS: Have you read the newspapers this morning? GILCHRIST: Well, the newspapers are one thing. Having spent about six or eight months around this country talking, not only to firefighters, but many members of the public, they are extremely supportive of what our claim is about. They understand the job they do, what our members do, and they're intent on supporting us throughout this dispute. We want the ability to sit down with our Fire Service employers, or if the government are intent on hijacking this dispute in its way, we'll sit down with them, and seek to work out a negotiated settlement on pay. HUMPHRYS; Yes, but I mean here is the government, and I'm going back to it, because to many people it will be deeply, deeply surprising that on an issue literally, quite literally of life and death, the government has said, we will set up - we have set up this independent review led by a man, Sir George Bain, whom I don't think even you would describe as not being independent. His record says that he is entirely independent and always has been, and he is prepared to chair this review which may come up with something that you want, it may not, but it is independent. And here you are saying, no we're not interested in that, we want our forty per cent and if we don't get it we're going to go on strike and we're going to put people's lives at risk. I mean that sounds an extraordinary thing to do. GILCHRIST No, I don't think it's extraordinary at all. For decades firefighters have been poorly paid. We're intent on resolving that this year. We were very serious about constructively moving through the negotiating process. That was effectively hijacked. I do not share your view that this is an independent inquiry, and the government pronouncements from indeed the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister no less have actually made it quite clear that they are not prepared to meet the FBU's claim..... HUMPHRYS: Even if.....the minister..... GILCHRIST: He said he'd seriously consider it. HUMPHRYS; Well, they can't say more than that in fairness can they. You expect the government to say okay we'll give them forty per cent. Then we'll have to give the teachers thirty per cent, and we'll have to give somebody else twenty-five..... GILCHRIST: We've provided enough documentary evidence through independent research to make the case that professional firefighters deserve professional pay. Now our Fire Service employers have had that for months and then we have this dangerous distraction of a so-called independent review into I have to say, the future of the Fire Service. HUMPHRYS: Do you accept the point that I have been making throughout this, the point that Ministers made in the past, that people will die as a result of your actions. GILCHRIST: I'm certainly clear that if the government will not speak to the Fire Brigades Union and are intent on putting into place what they call their alternative Fire Service arrangements, then certainly people's lives will be put at risk. That's why I've said... HUMPHRYS: And you're prepared to go ahead with it. GILCHRIST: That's why I said on Friday that rather than shout across London in the style that the Deputy Prime Minister did, that actually what he ought to do, is pick up the phone and speak to the Fire Brigades Union, or allow fire service employers to independently negotiate with the Fire Brigade Union. HUMPHRYS: But you are prepared, let me just make this very clear because this is what it comes down to in the end, you are prepared to see, risk people dying if you don't get your claim met? GILCHRIST: I am not...what I am not about.. HUMPHRYS: That's a yes or no really, isn't it. GILCHRIST: No, it's not a yes or no at all. The situation is clear. We are no longer prepared to have our commitment to the safety of the public blackmail us into the issue of poor pay. What we want to do is to sit down, independently, with our Fire Service employers, or indeed as I've said, we are quite prepared to sit down with the appropriate people in government and resolve this in the next eight days. HUMPHRYS: So you are prepared to talk to anybody except an independent review, well you don't accept it's independent... GILCHRIST: It's not independent and quite frankly it's an irrelevant distraction.. HUMPHRYS: Alright, well, in that case, Minister, they won't meet the independent review, that's that. They will however, talk to John Prescott, they'll talk to the local authorities, shouldn't that be happening, even as we speak? RAYNSFORD: Well we got to the present position when the union and the employers got to the end of the road in terms of negotiations on 2nd September, failed to reach agreement and clearly there was a prospect of a strike. Now, that's situation, in that situation, we set up the independent review and we think this is the right way to resolve this. HUMPHRYS: But since they won't meet..since they have no confidence in the independent review and Mr Gilchrist has told us why, why do you not say, alright, we've got to stop this strike at all cost. I mean not at forty per cent maybe, but at least let us talk to them, so John Prescott should sit down, you should sit down and talk with them and say let's try and find a way around this. Why can't you do that? RAYNSFORD: Because we have a group of three people, independent people, looking at all the evidence, assessing it, to come up with a reasoned judgement as to what is an appropriate level of pay, for fire fighters and other measures as well, how the service can be modernised... HUMPHRYS: Let's deal with the reality, should you not go to any lengths now. I mean...I know it sounds melodramatic and all that, but it's language that you yourself have used, that people will die as a result of this dispute. Surely you should take any steps, any sensible steps, any possible steps to stop it happening. RAYNSFORD: We believe we have and that the review is the way forward. HUMPHRYS: But they don't. RAYNSFORD: What you're asking us to do John, will be to double-guess the review by sitting down and having separate discussions... HUMPHRYS: Well abandon the review, if they won't talk to you, if they won't take any notice of the review then abandon it and do something else. RAYNSFORD: I think that's a very very foolish proposal because if you have a serious review, with imminent people, experienced people, already well into their work, they've taken evidence, the last day for evidence closed last Friday. They will be moving forward over the next few weeks, to their recommendations, and surely it isn't too much to ask for the Fire Brigades Union to suspend any action until we get the result of that serious analysis of pay and conditions within the Fire Service. HUMPHRYS: You've said, as I say, that people will die as a result of this dispute. Do you believe that the Undergrounds and the Underground systems and the railways should close, we've already heard Aslef saying that they will walk out if they are not satisfied, if their members are not satisfied that they are going to be entirely safe and the public will be safe. Is there an argument for saying the Underground, or large sections of the Underground and the railways should simply not run during this dispute. RAYNSFORD: This is a matter for the Health and Safety Executive, who we understand have issued guidance that it is not unsafe to operate the rail network and that apart from a number of deep stations, which probably will have to be closed on the London Underground, perhaps nineteen but otherwise the London Underground is perfectly safe to run. HUMPHRYS: And if there is an accident, if there is a crash. RAYNSFORD: Well that is the judgement of the Health and Safety Executive and clearly London Underground and the train operating companies have got to look very carefully at that and reach their judgement. HUMPHRYS: But your view, if they were to decide that they should close, they would have your support. RAYNSFORD: It's their judgement, based on the advice they get and we obviously would look very closely at any decision that they reach but we see no reason at the moment from what we've heard, for this to happen. HUMPHRYS: One of the things that puzzles people a lot is all this talk about these ancient Green Goddesses. The things that only do about forty miles an hour or whatever it is and they are fifty years' old and yet during the strike, if it happens, we will have lots of fancy new fire engines sitting in fire stations. Why cannot the Army, I know they are not trained in them, but it wouldn't take very long to give them basic rudimentary instruction, why can't the Army, the soldiers who are going to use the Green Goddesses, use modern equipment. RAYNSFORD: I think there's three reasons for that. Firstly, they are much more sophisticated, we.. HUMPHRYS: You'd have to train them, I acknowledged that. RAYNSFORD: ...and that takes time and we haven't had very much time. HUMPHRYS: But you could start now and... RAYNSFORD: We have now got trained military personnel ready to operate the Green Goddesses, we could not have done that if you are talking about the more sophisticated modern kit. Secondly, those appliances are mostly in fire stations and they will almost certainly be picketed if the FBU go ahead with their strike action. It would unnecessarily draw the Army into an industrial dispute if they had to cross picket lines. HUMPHRYS: Isn't that better than people dying? RAYNSFORD: Well I think it could inflame the situation, we have no wish to do that. We want to find an amicable and sensible way through this that does protect the public's interests to the best of our ability and that's why we are arranging to deploy military personnel on Green Goddesses, we will also be running safety campaigns to advise the public of what measures need to be taken to minimise the risk of fire. HUMPHRYS: But I'm trying to imagine and you must surely yourself have imagined this, somebody's house is on fire, or whatever it may be and there's a fire station a hundred yards away with a perfectly good fire engine sitting in it and the soldiers can't get there in their ancient old Green Goddess so their house burns down or somebody gets killed, you must have thought that. Even if it upsets the Fire Brigades Union, even if you cross a picket line, it's worth doing. RAYNSFORD: Well we are extremely worried about the situation because as I've said on many occasions and as Andy Gilchrist has also recognised, there is a risk that people's lives will be lost unnecessarily, that's why we say the Fire Brigades Union should now be calling off this unnecessary strike, should be waiting for the conclusions of the Bain Review and then should sit down to discuss with the employers, the Local Authorities, the implementation of recommendations that come from the Bain Review. HUMPHRYS: Very quick thought, the police cannot go on strike, for very obvious reasons, should you change the law so that fire officers, fire fighters cannot go on strike as well? RAYNSFORD: We have no plans to do so.. HUMPHRYS: Shouldn't you? RAYNSFORD: ...but it is of course interesting when comparisons are made between the levels of pay that apply in different services, that that element isn't taken into account. HUMPHRYS: Are you prepared to consider introducing legislation that would make fire fighters' strikes illegal? RAYNSFORD: Not at the present time because we hope that commonsense will prevail, the fire fighters will not go on strike. HUMPHRYS: Not at the present time but you might at some stage in the future. RAYNSFORD: We have no plans to do so. HUMPHRYS: A final thought from you Mr Gilchrist. You are actually prepared to go ahead for a strike, for a forty per cent increase in pay that could put people's lives at risk, I mean that's what it comes down to isn't it. GILCHRIST: We have always expressed a view that this was entirely avoidable and when the government reflects it might regret where we are. We could have negotiated a position on pay with our employers and then jointly, with our employers, could have come to the government and made the argument for funding. That's the right way to resolve this issue, it would have been, however the government involvement made that impossible. HUMPHRYS: Gentlemen, thank you both very much indeed. GILCHRIST: Thank you John. RAYNSFORD: Thank you. HUMPHRYS: Later in the programme we'll be looking at the next steps in America's so-called war on terror and at the deepening pensions crisis. But let's first take a quick look at the other big stories on the political scene in the past seven days... Education Secretary Estelle Morris apologised to students over the foul-up over the A level exams. But the Tories claim Miss Morris has failed her own test and continued to call for her head. The Home Secretary claims he's passed the test set for him... by bringing street crime under control. Overall, it is down sixteen per cent. But it's risen by seven per cent in South Yorkshire ... and that includes his own constituency. DAVID BLUNKETT: "It is sod's law that should be the case." HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair says the IRA must disband. Republicans in Northern Ireland must make their commitment to peace 'real, total and complete'. TOMY BLAIR ; "We cannot carry on with the IRA half in, half out of this process." HUMPHRYS: The House of Lords threw out proposals (approved by MPs) to allow gays and unmarried couples to adopt. Now it's Lords versus Commons again... and not long to sort things out. A tiny turnout for mayoral elections in England and a bloody nose for Labour candidates. We could all learn from Iraq ........ Everybody voted there and it was a hundred per cent for their dear leader... Saddam! HUMPHRYS: The diplomats at the United Nations who specialise in drawing up difficult resolutions have been fully engaged this past week.... trying to find something that will satisfy both the Americans and the French. France has a permanent seat on the Security Council (and thus a veto) and does not want America to go to war against Iraq. America wants a resolution that would make war automatic if Saddam does not allow weapons inspectors to do exactly what they want in his country. But it's not as if war preparations are on hold while that's happening. The build-up of American forces in the Gulf continues. Washington justifies that as part of the wider war on terror declared by President Bush a year ago. But to what extent is Bush's campaign to defeat terrorism in other parts of the world really going to be achieved by military action? I'll be talking to the Liberal Democrats' Foreign Affairs Spokesman after this report from Iain Watson. IAIN WATSON: In an instant, the paradise island of Bali was transformed into a living hell for those who lost their loved ones in the terrorist outrage last weekend. At least 186 people perished and perhaps many more. Any complacency about al Qaeda's capacity to carry out attacks has now been eclipsed by concern. As grief turns to anger, the task for governments is to decide on the most effective means of preventing similar atrocities BRUCE GEORGE MP: I think we're now in for a very lengthy period of dealing with different types of terrorists attacking almost anywhere and we really need the capacity to respond better than we have done so far. ROBERT MACFARLANE: It will be a costly struggle enduring, for three to five years time but at the end of the day we will win. AIR MARSHAL SIR TIM GARDEN: In a modern society which is inherently vulnerable, we will have to learn to live with terrorist events. WATSON: There's a recognition that the different manifestations of terrorism will require not just renewed vigilance, but will need to be fought on many fronts. Sending in the troops to chase al Qaeda from Afghanistan was, believe it or not, one of the easier tasks in the war against terrorism; military planners could identify training camps that could be attacked and very few in the international community fretted over regime change - most Muslim countries didn't shed a tear over the toppling of the Taliban. But after the bombing in Bali, the military limitations to tackling terrorism are now becoming clear. In the war against terrorism, our enemy's enemy has become our friend. The Indonesian military - which caused these scenes of devastation during their occupation of East Timor - is now being called upon to be as ruthless in hunting down domestic terrorists as it used to be in suppressing civilians. But even if they can be relied upon - and there are serious doubts - the task they face in policing a massive archipelago is daunting. GEORGE: Even with the best police and the best military and the best support in the world, it would be very, very easy for a small dedicated group to hide indefinitely in one of the islands that is so remote that the writ of the Indonesian government does not stretch that far. WATSON: Although the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has introduced tough new anti-terrorist laws, a former US national security advisor says his country should still reserve the right to undertake military raids against terrorist targets without the explicit approval of the Indonesian government. MACFARLANE: The United States and our allies have to be quite firm in saying that if we identify a threat to us, to our facilities, to our people or indeed to the Indonesian people that is clear and present, we intend to intervene in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to defend ourselves. WATSON: But more restrained voices say the intelligent approach is to assist friendly countries to root out terrorists for themselves. Perhaps the worst kept secret in London is that this building is the home of MI6, Britain's overseas intelligence agency. It even featured in a James Bond movie recently. But the question is whether MI6 keeps other secrets rather too close to its chest and that to counter international terrorism, they should be sharing their intelligence far more widely, even with regimes previously regarded as unpalatable or unreliable. DOUG HENDERSON: If the main terrorist threat in the world is this international terrorist like al Qaeda and that's been said by both President Bush and our Prime Minister, then surely we should be channeling our resources to meeting that, putting much more effort into intelligence gathering world wide, redistributing our military budgets to try to achieve that. And building political bridges with moderate Islamic countries, so that our intelligence services can to some extent operate together and also share some of the information. WATSON: But other senior defence experts in Labour's ranks think there's a danger in disseminating information too widely. GEORGE: A very important level rests with organisations like Interpol, which consist of a lot of countries who are not high on the list of the world's democracies. And therefore any information passed through that system might fall into the wrong hands. I can, if you press me, I can think of a number of countries who I wouldn't send a copy of the Daily Telegraph on to. WATSON: As the devastation in Bali demonstrates, even if intelligence reports are spread far and wide, it's the quality of the information that counts. After some confusion, the government has had to clarify there was no specific intelligence about the bomb which blew apart the Sari club, security experts say that's partly due to a lack of operatives on the ground. MACFARLANE: Our human intelligence collection in the United States is in a very woeful state. It's been declining for years and years and indeed decades and human intelligence is truly essential to penetrate groups of this kind of al Qaeda and their supporters. This is not something we can solve unfortunately in the next year or two or five. WATSON: But intelligence is only one weapon in the anti terrorist armoury. There's also a more overt option. Public diplomacy is a rather polite term for propaganda. Last week the Foreign Office increased its funds for monitoring broadcasts from Islamic countries, but some people feel there just isn't enough of a two way flow of information, that western governments simply aren't getting their message across and should do much more to win over the hearts and minds of people in the Muslim world. HAROLD PACHIOS: In the United States particularly we diminished our allocation of resources to telling our story and telling the facts greatly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and frankly it was just last September, after 9/11, that we began to pay attention to this again. So we're well behind, we have not done nearly as effective job as we need to do in telling people in the Middle East really the facts and putting our policy in context. WATSON: But influential voices say improving the west's image requires a little more than the sword of truth. HENDERSON: The cause on which Islamic opinion feels alienated from the non Islamic world is on the one hand is what's happening in Palestine and the inability of the international community to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis to a table and to thrash out a settlement. And secondly, the poverty that many Muslims are living in, in many parts of the world. In Indonesia for instance, in many different parts of Indonesia there is horrific policy....poverty. We've got to tackle those issues if we're to help moderate Islamic governments take on their terrorists. WATSON: Iraq is a nation in arms, as it prepares for a possible western attack. America and Britain are continuing to press the UN Security Council to agree a tough new resolution against Saddam's regime, carrying the implicit threat of military action. But any conflict could alienate more moderate Muslim states and according to a senior military expert, prove counter productive in the war against terrorism. GARDEN: I think whatever view you have about the way the Iraqi operation might be conducted, even with the best outcome you're going to promote instability in the region and you're going to bring aid and comfort to Muslim extremists. It could be very bad, it might just be slightly worse but it's quite difficult to think of a way that an Iraq operation could take place and the subsequent management of Iraq could take place, that would be helpful to the problem of international terrorism. WATSON: But political criticisms of the war on terrorism aren't limited to questioning the wisdom of possible US and British action in Iraq. There are calls for more resources to be devoted to counter the risk of attack within our own borders. During the summer, the influential Defence Committee of back bench MPs produced a report criticising the government for not doing enough to protect Britain from attack after September 11th. Now the Home Office can easily point out the measures they've introduced to crack down on terrorism, but some senior politicians still believe the government has got to do a lot more to convince the British people they are taking adequate steps to protect the UK from the terrorist threat. GEORGE: There is a very heavy agenda to be undertaken, simply in protecting our own citizens at home. Government, police, intelligence, security, private security, business, citizens, have to prepare for the inevitable which will be an attack much closer to home than an island in Indonesia. WATSON: The Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is expected to confirm in the Commons in the next week that the MoD is meeting one of the key demands of the Defence Committee, that regular, as well as reserve troops, will be available to fight any terrorist threat to the UK, or deal with the aftermath of any terrorist act. But some defence experts say it's high time we followed the American approach. GARDEN: Co-ordinating the different elements of government requires a pretty strong ministerial push, who can take resources perhaps out of the Defence Budget and put it into the local government budget, have we got enough National Health Service beds to cope with a massive disaster? Those sorts of problems are what the Director of Homeland Security is supposed to be doing in the States. He's finding it pretty difficult but we're content that our joined up government by committee of different departments will work. Some people - and I think I would include myself - worry a little bit about that approach. WATSON: Still waters run deep. The fact that there's been no outrage in the UK comparable with Bali, could be a testament to covert anti-terrorism operations, but last week's atrocity has made many of us feel vulnerable. Sceptics fear that as the government continues to pile pressure on Saddam, then the intelligence and propaganda war against al Qaeda may lose its current focus. HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS: And with me is the Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats Menzies Campbell. Mr Campbell, do you accept this American concert of a War on Terror, emphasis on the war? MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well I noticed in your introduction you used both the word war and the word campaign and I much prefer the word campaign because I think war leaves in our minds this notion of two armies standing as it were toe to toe slogging it out. A campaign against terrorism is something quite different, it has to be fought on, as we have just seen in that film, over and around intelligence, it has to be fought using diplomatic means, it's got to be fought here in the United Kingdom, making sure that our homeland security is properly organised and it's also got to be fought in trying to squeeze the funds of terrorist organisations. Trying to provide, if you like, backbone to those countries which in the past have offered safe haven to terrorists. That's why I think war is not the right way to put it, it's a campaign and it's a campaign which is multifaceted. HUMPHRYS: And do those facets include, or should those facets include a war on Iraq and I ask obviously because of what is happening in the United Nations now. Do you believe that there should be a resolution that automatically triggers an attack on Iraq if the weapons inspectors, when, if they go in, are deemed not to being allowed to do their job properly. CAMPBELL: Well I don't believe the case for full scale military action against Iraq has yet been made and I offer in support of that, the report produced by the CIA last week in which they said, the United States is not at any immediate threat from weapons of mass destruction being used by Iraq. It's much more likely to be at threat of the use of these, if in fact there is a military attack and you take the fact that for the last ten years we have followed a policy, not always perfect, but by and large successful of containment and deterrence. Now Saddam Hussein has spent something like forty years ensuring his own survival, why should we assume that he would take a step which would undoubtedly result in enormous, and for him, necessarily fatal retaliation. Why should we assume that he would be foolish enough to put his own life at risk. HUMPHRYS: Well a couple of reasons, I suppose one is that he has taken some pretty big risks in the past, attacking Kuwait when he must have known the reaction, attacking Iraq when he must have realised what he was biting off, and the fact that he has been...Iran rather...and the fact that he has been defying United Nations Resolutions for a very very long time now, and surely the point is this, that if you threaten war and indeed, take it as far as building up forces in that part of the world, as is now apparently going on, then it will have an effect on him and it appears already to be having an effect on him. CAMPBELL: Well if it's having an effect on him well and good, but I don't think it's in the interests of all of us that the use of military action should be on some kind of hair trigger. That's why I think the French approach to this, to say we don't need one resolution, we ought to have two resolutions, in which he is called upon to fulfil his responsibilities, existing responsibilities, under those resolutions which brought an end to the Gulf War and then if he fails to do that, the matter should come back to the United Nations, so the United Nations can then determine whether military action is the appropriate force...... HUMPHRYS: But all of this time...... CAMPBELL: ....can I just finish on this, what I think it quite wrong is to create a resolution which somehow authorises any one member of the Security Council in the discretion of that country to take military action. I think that undermines the authority of the United Nations and it certainly will not command political support, particularly in the Middle East and I doubt very much if it will command political support here in the United Kingdom. HUMPHRYS: Well frankly, it doesn't matter very much if you are a country as powerful as the United States does it. I mean it is such a mega super power now that the old rules have in effect been broken and the United Nations without the United States is nothing anyway. CAMPBELL: Well we are of course, I think, at a fork in the road in some respects on these strategic issues because about three weeks ago you may have noticed it hardy got the coverage it deserved, the United States published a new strategic doctrine in which it said, well, we prefer to be multilateral but actually if that is not going to work, then we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action, no other country will we ever allow, not to exceed us in military might, but even to approach us in military might. Now that's a very substantial change in the sort of World Order which we have seen since the end of the Second World War. We're moving away from collective, co-operative, treaty based, agreement based approach to foreign affairs and if Mr Blair has any influence, then it seems to me the influence he ought to be exercising on the Bush Administration is to say, do you realise just how solitary that is going to make you the United States, and indeed, how much riskier it's going to make the world for the rest of us. HUMPHRYS: Well the other way of looking at is America is the super power, it should be in our interest to be friendly, very friendly indeed with that super power. CAMPBELL: Well we have strong ... I mean we believe in freedom, we believe in a system of law, we believe in human rights, we have a lot of common objectives and common values and of course, as between the United Kingdom and the United States, and interestingly Australia in the context of Bali, we have this rather unique security and intelligence relationship because the United States and the United Kingdom and Australia share intelligence at a level that they simply don't share with any other country. Indeed the United Kingdom gets information from the United States which it is expressively prohibited from passing onto other members of NATO. HUMPHRYS: Okay, I want to come back to that in just one second, but as far as the United Nations was concerned, if the UN has shown, as it has shown, that it is too weak to enforce its own resolutions, then somebody else has to do that enforcing for them, otherwise we don't have any international law. If you allow a man like Saddam Hussein to flout the international law, as expressed in United Nations resolutions, then where are we. CAMPBELL: Well I don't believe we've reached the conclusion with which you began that question, because the United Nations acted in 1990 in order to authorise the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait. Throughout the course of the last ten years the United Nations has sought to enforce the resolutions... HUMPHRYS: ..and failed and that's the point. CAMPBELL: And even as Richard Butler has acknowledged, the inspectors achieved a very considerable amount. We've kept Saddam Hussein in his box. Now I believe that he should be compelled to fulfil his obligations under the existing resolutions and if necessary, under new resolutions. But the way in which you do that is surely, particularly if as the Prime Minister argues, this must all be done consistently with international law, is to ensure that you've exhausted all other political and diplomatic options before you embark upon a military option. Not least because the military option carries so many consequences which could be deeply, deeply damaging; the dismemberment of Iraq for example, the consequences in the north if the Kurds were to seek to declare an independent Kurdistan. The efforts of Iran, which afterall is part of the axis of evil as described by President Bush, to exercise more influence on the Shia population in the south. Now you don't have to go very far in the Middle East talking to officials before you realise that there is a deep sense of anxiety about the dismemberment of Iraq and remember that was one of the compelling reasons why President Bush senior brought an end to the military campaign in 1991. HUMPHRYS: You talk about intelligence, Australia and Britain sharing intelligence, so let's move to Bali, where it seems there was intelligence, we had had intelligence, the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Howard, said this morning in fact that there is going to be a review in Australia of how they failed, if indeed they did fail, to act on that intelligence, we apparently failed to act on it as well. Should we have a review. CAMPBELL: Indeed, there were twenty-four hours when it seemed that Downing Street was saying one thing and the Foreign Office was saying the another. We most certainly should have a review and indeed last week I suggested, not that you should have a public enquiry or anything of that kind, but the Prime Minister should ask a senior High Court Judge, or someone of that calibre to examine precisely what happened on this occasion. Not for the purposes of a witch hunt, but in order to see if there are lessons to be learned for the future. And of course it is only within, I think, the last forty-eight hours that the Foreign Office has issued essentially a blanket warning against travel to South East Asia. I think the public has got to be reassured that the Foreign Office and the Government in general, understands the nature of these threats and is willing, if necessary, to give what, for some of the countries concerned, maybe very painful advice, but what in the end of the day is advice that's in the interests of the people in the United Kingdom. HUMPHRYS: The sort of review, the sort of enquiry that you talk about with perhaps a High Court judge, isn't that a bit na�ve. I mean you can hardly have MI5 and MI6 and heaven's knows who else standing in court of law as it were, and saying it will all have to be private, all have to be private. CAMPBELL: Not public, I don't suggest that for a moment. You get someone of calibre, perhaps summon a former intelligence expert who just goes into both agencies, or all the agencies involved and produces a report for the Prime Minister's eyes alone if necessary. You can't have public enquires into intelligence... HUMPHRYS: That may be happening already, one has to assume and hope that that is happening already. CAMPBELL: Indeed, well, the Prime Minister of Australia thinks that it's important enough to announce publicly that that's what he is doing, no doubt for the reassurance of Australian citizens and why doesn't our government do exactly the same. HUMPHRYS: Is there anything else in your view that we ought to be doing here at home, Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden talked in that film about having some sort of Director - as they have in the United States - Director of Homeland Security, although he is not in the United States, an active politician. What do you think we should do in that area. CAMPBELL: Well, I think Tim Garden raises a very important point and he's right to say that someone who is exercising this kind of influence has got to be a pretty powerful figure in order to ensure the necessary transference of funds between government departments. I don't think... HUMPHRYS: Cabinet Minister? CAMPBELL: Well exactly, I was about to say, I don't think a Director of Homelands Security, I think you need to have a minister with that responsibility. This would be, if you like, upping the ante very substantially, but as Bruce George rather hinted in that rather sombre contribution which he made to the film which we saw just a moment or two ago, we simply don't know where and when the next strike may take place and we have to assume, so close are we to the United States, so open is our society, that we could easily be a potential target. In those circumstances, a Cabinet Minister would seem to me to be a sensible response to that threat. HUMPHRYS: We have a Home Secretary. CAMPBELL: A Home Secretary does a whole lot of things in this country, above and beyond dealing with issues of homeland security, homeland security has now assumed a far greater salience than ever before. Surely it would be right to reflect that in the appointment of a Cabinet Minister with these sole responsibilities. HUMPHRYS: Ming Campbell, many thanks. HUMPHRYS: Yet another final salary pension scheme has bitten the dust.... Of all companies it's Scottish Widows themselves who've said they can't keep theirs going. Most embarrassing for them. And for people who rely on their company schemes it's a lot worse than embarrassing. It's deeply worrying. The collapse in share prices has exposed an enormous underlying weakness in private pension schemes and people who'd thought they would be relatively well-off in their retirement are having to think again. The government is under growing pressure to do something about it and is going to produce some proposals in the next few weeks. But are ministers prepared to take the tough decisions that are needed? Paul Wilenius reports. PAUL WILENIUS: Not only has morning broken for Alison Parr, so have her dreams of a comfortable retirement. Her husband Andrew has spent a lifetime at the Allied Steel and Wire plant topping up his pension. Now the firm in Sheerness has gone into receivership and his union's worried that their pension fund could be virtually empty. MICHAEL LEAHY: Where pensions are under threat, where our members for instance have paid in thirty years and those pensions are under threat, if individuals are going to have confidence for the future, then the government has to step in and guarantee those pension funds. WILENIUS: For almost thirty years Andrew Parr has worked in this steelworks saving for his future, only to see the company collapse and his entire pension threatened. Millions of people - young and old - now fear the same thing could happen to them. Ministers are so alarmed they're rushing through new proposals to try to tackle the crisis within weeks. Pensions have now jumped to the top of the political agenda. Many companies are rushing to close down their superior final salary schemes, which guarantee a pension linked to pay and replace them with inferior pensions linked to the value of the troubled Stock Market . Sixty per cent of companies' final salary pension schemes are now closed to new members. And there are 1.6 million fewer people with any form of occupational pension at all, than ten years ago. While the Stock market has fallen by forty per cent since the end of 1999, dramatically reducing the value of pension funds. FRANK FIELD MP: We are on the verge, I believe, of seeing a pensions meltdown, what the government has to do is not wring its hands and turn and face the corner but to say what major reforms can we bring forward which not only achieve some of our other long term objectives such as abolishing pensioner poverty, but do so in a way which immediately begins to lift the pressure off those schemes which might otherwise go to the wall. WILENIUS: Andrew Parr's not the sort of man to give up without a fight. He's on his way from his home on the Kent coast to take his case to the heart of government and to tell Ministers they have to act now. STEVE WEBB MP: People often talk about a time bomb in pensions and normally they think about paying for pensions in years to come and that they'll all be unaffordable, but the real time bomb is the fact that many people now of working age are heading for poverty in old age and that's a problem that's got much worse in the last five years and is set to get much worse in the next five years. WILENIUS: Selling pensions have been the job of the men and women from the Pru for 150 years. Here in the City last week, union reps were knocking on the door of their bosses to save their own pensions scheme. The Prudential is following ICI, British Airways, Sainsbury's and many others who've closed their final salary schemes. Their anger is shared by the rest of the union movement. JOHN MONKS: I'm not one of those who preaches that strikes are a good thing but on protecting pensions I'm very much a militant, count me in on that particular thing. I think the boardrooms of Britain have got to wake up to the fact that many of them are lining their own pockets quite generously as far as their own pension schemes are concerned and at the same time cutting back on staff pension schemes. Well that is such hypocrisy that everybody notices and it's fuelling a new militancy in Britain at the moment, it's probably one of the biggest causes of militancy in Britain at the moment. MICHAEL LEAHY: There will be a big political price if the government don't act on pensions. A moderate union like ourselves who don't take industrial action lightly, have necessitated to take industrial action in protection of our members' interests. Now we don't want to do that. We shouldn't have to do that. Our members should be protected because it undermines the stability of the industry. But we will continue to do it and if the government don't legislate there will be an enormous political price that will be paid by this government and any future government. WILENIUS: There was no resolution during the two hour meeting as company bosses were forced to listen to the growing concerns of the unions. And as a last resort the union is prepared to strike. ROGER LYONS: Well I think we have made it very clear to the board and they understand that they've attempted to make changes to the pensions without proper consultation. They are now absolutely committed to having proper consultations with us so we can look at all the options that our members want today and in the future. WILENIUS: And last week the final salary pensions stampede continued when another leading pension company announced it was closing its scheme to new members. ADVERTISEMENT: At Scottish Widows..... WILENIUS: It's now so serious, the government's critics want next month's Green Paper on pensions to outline radical measures to rescue the whole pensions system. And they want them introduced swiftly, as it's now facing a real disaster. WEBB: It's almost too late already, most major companies have now closed their final salary pension schemes to people who start working for them, now that will take a long time to work through into retirement but that very good form of pension provision which many of the best off people in retirement that's what they're living on is not something that their children and grandchildren will see. DAVID WILLETTS MP: This is the biggest crisis in funded pensions since the war. What it means is millions of people are going to retire with an income way below what they've been hoping and expecting, and we can already see its effects amongst the recently retired, people who have retired in the last few years a smaller number have an occupational pension than would have done ten or twenty years ago. WILENIUS: One of the ways the government might try to help people like Andrew Parr in future is by simplifying the tax system covering pensions. However, it's already been attacked for increasing the tax burden on pensions. In their first Budget they imposed tax changes which put five billion pounds a year tax on pension funds. Overall that amounts to approximately twenty-five billion pounds under this Labour government. Even a former new Labour Minister thinks this was a big mistake. FIELD: It's a wonderful wheeze for those who think they can make X million pounds quotes for the Exchequer but it actually pushes pension reform in the wrong direction. It's already been going in the wrong direction for long enough, it's about time the government got on side of taxpayers and supported decent people who want to save for their own retirement to be able to do so without being clobbered around the ears for doing that simple, but very important act. WILENIUS: Another key obstacle hampering the running of effective pensions schemes, is the sheer weight of red tape and bureaucracy imposed by the government. An independent study showed that there are thirteen hundred pages of tax regulations, which are creating huge frustrations for many businesses. WILLETTS: One problem is the burden of regulation, there's just too much hassle running a pension fund now and many companies can't spare the staff or it can't afford the cost of doing so. So we worked with Alan Pickering who was commissioned by the government to look at how you could cut back on the red tape and of course the tax rules are terribly complicated, over a thousand pages of tax rules on pension funds when a generation ago there was fewer than fifty pages, so there has to be a big reduction in the sheer administrative burden of running a fund. WEBB: There is a case for simplifying the regulation that there was a knee jerk reaction to the Maxwell scandal and arguably it went too far in the other direction so that funds that are basically solvent are basically okay are nonetheless facing more of a squeeze than they need to. So there are things at the margins that would help. They could change the tax rules about retirement so that people can draw a bit of company pension and go on working for their old employer which would be entirely a good thing, but none of these changes are going to make companies want to turn the clock back. None of these changes are going to make an employer want to put hundreds of millions of pounds into the pension scheme when by switching the nature of that scheme to a money purchase scheme, where they just put in what they want to, they get rid of that obligation. WILENIUS: When he arrived in Whitehall, Andrew Parr and other pension victims were ushered into a meeting with officials and Ministers. On The Record has learned that some Ministers are now thinking of taking the controversial step of using compulsion, to force companies and individuals to save for their retirement, even though it will spark off opposition. WILLETTS: I personally am wary of compulsion, partly just on principle, I think, we're grown ups and I think there's too much compulsion in this country, I want people to be free to run their own affairs. WILENIUS: Many others say that compulsion is the only serious way of saving pensions, as we've come to know them in Britain, over the last century. FIELD: We're at the same stage now on pension reform as we were in the First World War where the government found that if it relied on people volunteering their services to fight the war we were going to lose. Similarly if we continue to rely on a voluntary system of people saving for retirement the war against poverty and old age will similarly be lost and therefore the crunch issue for the government is whether it's going to move from a voluntary system of savings to one of compulsion. WEBB: The single most important thing that the Green Paper could do to sort out this problem for the long term is make it compulsory for employers when they take somebody on to put money into a pension scheme for their employee. We expect employers to pay four weeks paid holiday when they take somebody on, it should be compulsory that they put some money into an employee's pension scheme whether they run it or not so that then everybody is covered and the government just doesn't leave it and hope people save and hope that companies will provide. WILENIUS: Inside the Department for Work and Pensions, Ministers are finalising proposals to try to save the pensions of millions of people. There are worries inside Tony Blair's government that if they go for compulsion, it could prove unpopular with business and many voters. But some Ministers feel if they don't take this dramatic step now, it could condemn present and future generations to a life of poverty in old age. MONKS: I'm sure there are people in the government who think that compulsion is the only way forward, of course there are others who say well listen to the CBI. That's a battle that's going on I know in the government at the moment and so we're very much backing those who say to employers keep up your sense of obligation and don't run away from it and if necessary we'll make you fulfil the obligations which you freely entered into in the past. WILENIUS: Andrew Parr's driving back from his meeting with Ministers, but his problems - along with millions of others - remain. Critics say that the government must put pensions back on the right road, or face the political consequences. FIELD: If we meander around and waste the opportunity in this Green Paper, it's not impossible that by the end of not this year but next year, the electorate for some reason or other has forgiven the opposition for past behaviour and there's a real fight then about the next General Election. If we don't lay the plans now and begin to convince the electorate we're going to deliver on the first phase of those plans before the next election, many of us may find it very, very difficult to get back into the House of Commons after the next election. LEAHY: They must act and if they don't act on this issue, which is an issue which is the top of everyone's agenda, then this could be as damaging to them as the Poll Tax was to Margaret Thatcher. WILENIUS: This powerful warning from the union leader fighting for a comfortable retirement for the Parr family, shows how high the political stakes are. On The Record has learned that Ministers are even considering setting up a Royal Commission to try to sort out the pensions mess. It's not an issue they can delay or fudge, say critics. To ensure that today's workers have something to look forward to when they retire, the Labour Government will have to take those tough choices soon. HUMPHRYS: And that was Paul Wilenius reporting and that's it for this week. Don't forget about our Web-site, see you again same time next week. 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.