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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. The
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain turned up for his new job last week carrying
a little statue of his hero, Aneurin Beavan. Does he want to turn Wales
into a socialist state? Or has New Labour turned against capitalism as
another Minister suggests? I'll be talking to Mr Hain. The Government wants
to go softly on soft drugs. But its own backbenchers are getting worried.
And the electricity industry's in deep trouble because we're generating
too much of it. Does the Government have a policy to prevent a crisis?
That's after the news read by Jane Hill.
HUMPHRYS: Is Britain going down the
road of Amsterdam's cannabis cafes? The Government wants softer laws, but
its own MPs are getting nervous.
And the electricity
industry's in big trouble because prices have collapsed. What's the Government
doing about it? Some say: there's no energy policy.
But first let's
take a quick look at the other big stories on the political scene in the
past seven days...
After a traumatic
few months involving vetting teachers, suspending disruptive pupils, A
level results and charges that she had mislead Parliament, Estelle Morris
finally resigned on Wednesday. She explained she felt she wasn't up to
ESTELLE MORRIS: If I'm really honest
with myself I've not enjoyed it as much and I just don't think I'm as good
at it as I was at my other job, I'm not having second best in a post as
important as this.
HUMPHRYS: Charles Clarke replaced
Ms Morris at education, John Reid became Chairman of the Labour Party.
Paul Murphy a Catholic Welshman with an Irish name, took over the reigns
in Northern Ireland and Peter Hain became Welsh Secretary.
The Lib Dems had a
reshuffle of their own. A small reshuffle, no-body hurt and very few noticed.
And the fire-fighters
decided to spare the Army the embarrassment of manning their ancient Green
Goddesses for the time being anyway, their first two strikes have been
cancelled. An end to the dispute in sight perhaps.
to ban tobacco advertising, All adverts on billboards and in newspapers
should disappear by the end of the year. But Formula One is excluded.
This of course has absolutely nothing to do with Bernie Ecclestone's attempt
to give a million pounds to the Labour Party in 1997.
And is Iain Duncan
Smith beginning to regret calling himself 'the quiet man'? It's given
Tony Blair a chance for the odd jibe.
TONY BLAIR: What he just said at the
end there is absolutely extraordinary, that we should scrap any of the
waiting lists, targets or waiting time targets. He's shaking his head,
that's what he just said, I heard him say it. I mean I know he's a quiet
man but I heard that.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: So, Wales has a new
Secretary of State - Peter Hain. You might say why? The Welsh have their
own Assembly and their own Cabinet. So why do they need somebody from London
when they're running their own affairs? What's there for him to do? Well,
he's kept part of his old job as Europe Minister and there's certainly
plenty to do there, especially now that we've been stitched up over the
Common Agriculture Policy and we're at war with the French again over our
contributions to Brussels. It seems Mr Hain might be spending more time
on the Continent than in Cardiff. I talked to Mr Hain earlier this morning,
I asked him first, in light of all that, what he'd be able to do, for Wales.
PETER HAIN MP: We want to build a top class
Wales, a world-class Wales with a strong economy, the best schools, the
best education, the best health services, and we're going to be working
in the Secretary of State's Office as I will be working closely with Rhodri
Morgan in the National Assembly for Wales, to make sure we achieve that
objective. And we've got one staging post along the line to the next
General Election, the next British General Election, and that is the Welsh
General Election on the First of May next year when the Assembly will be
up for election, and we're going to fight hard to get a clear Labour majority
there. So that's one of my tasks to begin with, is to work closely with
the Assembly and with Rhodri Morgan to achieve that.
HUMPHRYS: But you can't do very
much can you. This the problem. I was looking this morning at the Wales
Office, your new department's report for 2002, and on the bit where it
says - you'll have seen it I've no doubt - where it says 'key achievements
in 2002' there it is I mean it's pretty much a blank sheet because what
it says, let me read it to you, the Wales Office is a small policy department
with few executive functions and our work is largely dictated by external
demands. It is therefore not possible to measure all achievements against
quantifiable objectives. Which is a rather polite way of saying, we don't
do very much.
HAIN: John, all the primary
legislation allows that the Assembly to do the work that I passionately
believe in as a strong devolutionist all my political life. All that primary
legislation is determined in Westminster, and needs to be negotiated by
the Secretary of State for Wales which I will be doing with my Cabinet
colleagues to make sure Wales gets the best possible deal and that the
wishes of the Assembly are taken closely into account. Now that means
I have to cover everything from local government reform to health reform,
to education reform, to obviously negotiating with the Chancellor over
the Welsh budget for the Assembly. It's a big job, but it's not a job
that results in the kind of high profile that other cabinet ministers have.
HUMPHRYS: But you say all the primary
HAIN: That's right.
HUMPHRYS ...as if there were great
reams of it, and there aren't. I mean there isn't much primary legislation
that's needed for you to be able - for the Welsh Assembly to be able to
do what it does.
HAIN: But every bit of
legislation that goes through Parliament, almost without exception, affects
Wales, because it's English and Wales legislation and the way the Assembly
has been set up it's got powerful resources and control over secondary
legislation, and implementation of policies and a lot of different things
have been done there, such as for example free bus passes for pensioners,
a Labour Assembly policy implemented that I'm particularly proud of. That
has been determined by the Assembly but it can't be put on the...into action
unless it's got primary legislation to allow that to happen. That has to
be decided in Westminster and that's my main responsibility.
HUMPHRYS But every Secretary of
State is asked how a new bit of legislation might affect his or her department,
they all do that. That's in addition to their main job which is running
their department, and my point to you is, you don't have a department to
HAIN You misunderstand
me John. Each piece of primary legislation, say it was education legislation
- I have to negotiate with the Secretary of state for Education, with Charles
HUMPHRYS: You mean something that
the Welsh Assembly itself wants to do, you have to make it possible for
it to be able to do it. Makes a bit of a nonsense of devolution doesn't
HAIN: Either specific legislation
that the Welsh Assembly wants and there is legislation that it's asked
for in the pipeline, and being discussed at the moment, or legislation
that is going through for England and Wales, and we need to make sure that
those clauses which specifically are tailored for Wales' needs as opposed
to the general which applies anyway, are negotiated on behalf of the Assembly
if my own views are having an input, so we get the best deal for Wales.
So this idea that it's a part-time job or that it can be down graded is
HUMPHRYS Well I get that idea from
looking at this blank sheet of paper. Is it going to be full next year
then, this bit of paper, this achievement....
HAIN: Let's just look at
what goes through the office and let's look at what the Assembly does and
it covers everything, education, health, the transport, as I mentioned
free bus passes for pensioners, those kinds of things. Obviously I want
to work in partnership with the National Assembly as Paul Murphy my predecessor
did very, very effectively and the partnership with Rhodri Morgan was
very effective, and we're going to do the same together. I saw Rhodri
on Friday and we discussed how we're going to take it forward.
HUMPHRYS: Yes, and the way you're
going to take it forward, or the way it is going to be taken forward is
that we have a Commission sitting I believe at the moment don't we, and
that's looking at where devolution is going to go, and it will inevitably
say at the end of it - I say inevitably, tell me I'm wrong, but that there
ought to be something that you yourself favour, a sort of rolling system
of devolution. So by the end of next year, the year after that, the year
after that, the year after that, there'll be even less, if you still happen
to be in this job for you to do.
HAIN: Well let's see what
the commission decides. It's actually got the remit under Lord Richard
for looking at whether the devolution settlement as decided by a Bill that
I helped take through in 1997/1998 as a Welsh Office Minister then, that,
that is working effectively where it can be improved, if it needs to be
HAIN: Well, obviously the
extension issue is on the table.
HUMPHRYS: And you support that?
HAIN: Well, we'll see what
the outcome is, we'll see what it reports and we'll be giving our evidence.
I'm not going to anticipate that outcome.
HUMPHRYS: You have already in a
sense haven't you, because you've talked about a rolling devolution for
Wales so that is anticipating that it is going to change. Nobody believes
that it is going to stay where it is do they?
HAIN: Well, it is a rolling
devolution. I mean it's being adapted and changing all the time. It's
a young flower with its roots down, which is growing and I support that.
I have been a passionate devolutionist all my life. I helped organise
the referendum which we only narrowly won to get the National Assembly
in 1997, one of my proudest achievements, and so I want to see the National
Assembly working effectively. And in a sense what matters is not the constitutional
minutia, what matters is whether schools are improved and they are improving
all the time under the Assembly, whether the Health Service...
HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair would claim
they're improving all the time in England....but actually.....and that's
HAIN: ......we've got a
particularly good record in Wales.
HUMPHRYS: But the point is that
you, certainly the Welsh Assembly itself favours greater powers for the
Assembly, things like for instance in future agriculture and planning,
I believe they are two things that you'll be looking at. So you yourself,
you're not going to sit here this morning and say, no, I don't. You believe
they should, the Assembly should have more power don't you, Rhodri Morgan
and his colleagues should have more power.
HAIN: I want to see the
Assembly operating effectively, as effectively as it can, implementing
the policies that really matter to people,
HUMPHRYS: That's not answering
the question though is it?
HAIN: I am about to answer
your question. Better implementation, better delivery. What's really
crucial for the Assembly, it's only in its fourth year of existence, is
that itsdelivery of policies is as effective as possible. Now if we need
more powers to do that, well then let's make the case for it, let's hear
the case and the argument being put forward by the Richard Commission,
and I'll take a view on it along with everybody else. The objective is
not to get more powers or primary legislation for its own sake. The objective
is to deliver a top class Wales with a better economy, better schools,
better Health Service and so on. That's the end outcome and we need to
see whether the Assembly's powers need to be modernised, whether the relationship
with Whitehall needs to be changed in order to deliver that.
HUMPHRYS: But you know and I know
that every other person you speak to in Wales, rather more than that in
fact, says the Assembly is a talking shop and that's it. That may not
be true, and I'm not...
HAIN: It isn't true actually.
HUMPHRYS: Alright, well, you've
explained some of the reasons why you believe it not to be true.
HAIN: I'll tell you why
it's not true. If it was a talking shop how could it have introduced free
bus passes for pensioners. I know it's the third time I've mentioned this,
but we've done this in Wales and I'm particularly proud of it. It did
it, and it hasn't happened elsewhere.
HUMPHRYS: But you would have to
acknowledge that free bus passes for pensioners, important though they
are to pensioners, is not quite declaring war on Germany or something is
it. You know it is relatively....
HAIN: Well, the Assembly
doesn't have foreign powers.
HUMPHRYS: It's a very bad example,
it's a very, very bad example, but you know what I mean, it's not like
putting ten pence on income tax, it's fairly modest.
HAIN: I could mention a
whole series of issues where the Assembly has acted decisively on health
and education, to do things in a different way, and the curriculum's different.
To say that the Assembly hasn't got any powers - if it had no powers how
could it have done all these things?
HUMPHRYS: Well, but you see it
goes back to what I was saying right at the very beginning, you're very
proud of the achievements of the Welsh Assembly and you tell me it has
done a great deal, and yet you say that you in the Welsh Office as the
Secretary of State also has a great - they don't quite square those two
answers do they?
HAIN: Well, they do because
you need to understand the different relationship. The Assembly has a
responsibility for implementing policy for its own secondary legislation
of which there's a great deal. I have the responsibility for getting through
Parliament and in negotiation beforehand with my Cabinet and ministerial
colleagues the legislation that enables the Assembly to do more things
that it wants to do. Now those are two roles and that's the basis of the
partnership that we will take....
HUMPHRYS: But you're a sort of..I
mean in a sense you're sort of Wales's proconsul to Rome, which happens
to be London and it's a slightly..I mean it is not a satisfactory state
of affairs is it, in the long run. That's all I'm asking, you are pretty
out-spoken about most things. I mean I am just asking you to be a wee bit
out-spoken about this. In the long run, this is not a terribly satis...especially
when you have got a Parliament operating up in Scotland with the powers
that it has, it's not totally satisfactory is it?
HAIN: The devolution settlement
was different in Scotland.
HUMPHRYS: Sure, absolutely.
HAIN: One of the things
that this Commission will be looking at is whether there are any lessons
that can be learned. While the devolution settlement remains as it is
I have got a big job to do. I don't want to exaggerate it, I don't want
to claim it is a bigger job than other Members of the Cabinet. I just
want to put it into perspective and say that I think it's very exciting
to be doing this job at this particular time, implementing a range of policies
and working with the Assembly to make sure that Wales gets a good deal.
HUMPHYRS: And when you took over
the job, when you walked into the Welsh Office you had that fetching little
statuette of Nye Bevan who I gather is your political hero. So are we about
to see Wales turned into a socialist state?
HAIN: Well I mean everybody
in Wales, I daresay, like yourself John as Welshman, worships Nye Bevan's
HUMPHRYS: Not quite sure worship
is the word, but he was certainly an impressive guy...
HAIN: He is and he set
up the Health Service and those values that inspire a lot of values in
Wales more than they do elsewhere in Britain, of a commitment to community,
of a strong belief in social values and strong communities. Those are the
values that he helped to put into practice in replacing the dreadful health
system we had before the National Health Service and now in...so I took
the little statue I had in the Foreign Office, near my desk, into the Wales
Office in order to signify that's where I intend to take up with the policy.
HUMPHRYS: You use the word worship,
let's test the extent your adoration for Nye Bevan, give you a couple of
his quotes over the years when he was a significant figure.
HAIN: There were many quotes...
HUMPHRYS: Oh, yes he wasn't short
of quotes, I'll grant you - "If the Labour Party isn't going to be a socialist
party, I don't want to lead it" - the Labour Party is not a socialist party
is it, Tony Blair does not let the word pass his lips.
HAIN: One of the problems
and in fact I have written about this in The Observer this morning, one
of the problems is that socialism came to be regarded - it's the left's
own fault historically - as being about statism of everything being run
on a command style from the centre, nationalisation, not the markets, top
down delivery of the public services and so, I believe in a different type
of socialism that you can trace back to the levellers and the diggers in
the 17th Century during the English Civil War, update it through the Chartist,
the formations of the early Trade Unionists, Tom Paine's Rights of Man,
a lot of the early feminists of that time as well and come through to modern
political times. A lot of socialist writers who talked more about a libertarian
socialism, about de-centralisation, about empowering people from below,
and I think we have got to recover that socialist tradition and that will
give socialism a popularity that it has not had for its own faults, because
the left identified it with centralisation and statism which is actually
a perversion my view of the original values of socialism.
HUMPHRYS: I don't know about perversion,
if Aneurin Bevan were listening to you now, or if he is listening to you
now, perhaps he is and he will be guaranteed to be spinning in his grave
at some of the things that you've just said. Let me give you an another
one of his quotes and this one you may have slightly more difficulty with,
I don't know, but let's try it on you "One of the certain principles of
socialism is the substitution of public for private ownership". Now,
in the context of public private partnerships, in the context of PFI, in
the context of Tony Blair privatising just about everything he can get
his hands on, including some of those things he'd said would absolutely
not be privatised, how do you square that with Nye Bevan and socialism?
HAIN: One of the faults
I think and it may even have applied to Nye, in the past about socialism,
and has got a very one size fits all monolithic view of what should be
done, both in terms of centralisation and in terms of its failure to understand
that markets and the market economy should not be an enemy of socialist
values but should be managed and regulated where necessary, in order to
take forward social justice and in order to take forward individual freedom
for which socialism in the end and Labour governments are about. So,
one of my criticisms of the left historically and Nye was part of that
tradition, is that it failed to recognise that the market economy is a
fact of life. You can't run everything from the centre Russian style, Soviet
style, it doesn't work and it is actually, in the end attacks individual
HUMPHRYS: "You cannot inject socialist
principles into an economy based on private greed" is what he said.
HAIN: Well, we don't want
an economy based on private greed..
HUMPHRYS: You don't?
HAIN: No, because private
greed is not something that in the end ends up with a society that a Labour
government would be proud of taking forward. We want a society in which
private wealth generation yes is encouraged, entrepreneurship is encouraged,
people have the chance to go out and earn a living and get higher income
as a result of the work they put in, but private greed, I'm sure nobody
really wants a society based on private greed do they.
HUMPHRYS: So, in that case you
are with Michael Meacher, who said as you know on Radio 4 on Friday evening
"We do not believe in capitalism, capitalism is something that threatens
inequality across the whole of society" would you go along with that?
HAIN: I remember Edward
Heath talking about the unacceptable face of capitalism, maybe you do too,
when it was a particular period of private greed triumphing over everything
else, big corporations like Lonhro at that time and Tiny Rowland and all
of that in the 1970s. If by capitalism we mean a system that is just geared
to private greed and nothing else and we don't have good public services
and we don't have social justice, then of course we are opposed to that.
But if you mean by that a system in which the market economy operates,
in which we have an attempt to get the competitive economy in which the
public and private sector works together, in which we have different partnerships
as a Labour government, we are doing this, in rail, in the Health Service,
in all sorts of areas, then I am quite comfortable with that. It depends
what these words mean.
HUMPHRYS: Well, indeed, well we
got a bit of an idea what they meant from Mr Meacher in his next answer,
or when he clarified it, because the evidence he offered was, for the Labour
Party being against capitalism that is, was that it is now, and he quoted
Tony Blair himself, Mr Blair he said is very strongly in favour of redistribution.
Well, again, one would have to say, you'd have hardly noticed that over
the years because the words redistribution, the word redistribution did
not come from his lips, nor correct me if I am wrong, do they ever come
from the Chancellor's lips. So, which is it, are you in favour of, you
Peter Hain, bearing in mind who your hero is, in favour of redistribution,
in the classic sense, that is to say taking from the rich and giving to
HAIN: But we as a Labour
government have redistributed to the poor already through the minimum wage,
an historical achievement of which Nye Bevan would have been proud. We've
established the working families tax credit which has levered up the incomes
of the poorest families, helping people into work in the process. We have
raised minimum pensions, so that those poorest pensions get more money...
HUMPHRYS: And you've taken money
from the middle class and that's okay by your standards, that's fine, that's
HAIN: Well, income tax
is lower for the middle classes and everybody else than it's been...
HUMPHRYS: Well, we could go through
all the tax increases and I could remind you that you are taking more out
of the tax..in tax in another few months from now, you've taken five billion
pounds a year out of pensions which affects the middle class, you know
all of that as well as I do.
HAIN: I do, but we fought
the last election on the basis of high quality public services and not
cutting taxation. The Tories lost that argument and now they are wriggling
HUMPHRYS: ...putting up taxation...that's
what you've done..
HAIN: They are now wriggling
around trying to get a policy and we haven't seen what it is yet.
HUMPHRYS: They are merely pointing
out that you have pushed up taxes a long way and you had said that you
wouldn't push up taxes a long way.
HAIN: We said that...
HUMPHRYS: Your clause was ok, income
HAIN: Exactly. Well income
tax is important because...
HUMPHRYS: And National Insurance
isn't income tax?
HAIN: That's your wage
packet at the end of the month and you know your take home pay.
HUMPHRYS: National Insurance doesn't
come under pay?
HAIN: Of course it does,
but I don't think...
HUMPHRYS: It's income tax isn't
HAIN: But are you saying
we shouldn't have done that? Are you saying that we should have cut the
Health Service. That argument's been won, John.
HUMPHRYS: No, what I am saying
HAIN: We are moving on,
HUMPHRYS: What I am saying is you
should own up to what it is, that's what I am saying.
HAIN: Well, I've said already
that we have...I am proud to say that I believe in redistribution. That
doesn't mean to say stopping people as it used to mean when Labour Governments
said this, of getting greater rewards, of making a good life for themselves,
of being entrepreneurial, running their own companies, of setting up their
own businesses. We want more of that to happen and that in a sense is what
this Labour Government is about and my only point is that you can actually
route that..these modern policies and modern approaches back in our traditions,
back to socialist roots, if you reject the status centralised everything
must be done Whitehall knows best system.
HUMPHRYS: But you have as it were
a new philosophy, whether you'd include this in your..the kind of libertarian
socialism that you wrote about this morning I am not sure. But for a socialist
party, I accept that you, at least I believe I am not quite sure, you would
describe yourselves as a socialist party, would you?
HUMPHRYS: You would, fine, a socialist
party to go to the largest capitalist in the land and say, now look we
need these things done in the National Health Service or in education or
whatever...go and do it and then charge us a king's ransom over the next
ten or fifteen years and we will make it possible for you to make a very
very very large amount of money out of it. Of course if you didn't make
it possible to make a large amount of money of out it, they wouldn't do
it would they? Now don't tell me that Aneurin Bevan would have said that's
the right way to go boyo.
HAIN: I'm not sure he would,
but his basic values we are applying in a modern context, that's the essence
of what today's Labour government is about, not betraying those values
or jettisoning them, but applying them in a modern context and when you
look at the partnership we've had with the business community, the fact
that the economy is now regarded as - despite the world's slowdown and
all of that - as being in better shape than it's been for generations,
shows a Labour government operating in a modern way in a way no Labour
government's ever operated with the confidence of the markets, the confidence
of the city and so on, in order to carry forward policies for social justice,
large scale public investment and strong and good quality public services.
HUMPHRYS: Let me finish in a sense
where I came in with this interview and that is your job, your new job
because you have held on to part of your old job in Europe and again people
are saying...some people in Wales are saying, he can't regard this as a
full time job because he is doing...you are still sitting on the Commission
that is effectively looking at the future of Europe.
HAIN: Well that's time
HUMPHRYS: The Convention.
HAIN: The Convention's
work will be over by late Spring next year, early summer next year, so
it's time limited. Every Cabinet Minister has pressures from time to time.
I mean look what happened to the...under the previous Agriculture Ministers
when foot-and-mouth was rampaging through the country, you take on demands
and you meet new challenges. But the idea that this is somehow part time
Secretary of State for Wales is nonsense. In fact, a lot of people in
Wales have told me, including Rhodri Morgan, told me they're proud that
Wales's voice will be heard right in the Convention, rather than it being
sort of having to be negotiated along the side.
HUMPHRYS: A lot of people will
be delighted that you compared the European Union and its problems with
foot-and-mouth disease but we will let that...
HAIN: John, be serious.
HUMPHRYS: I am being serious but
it was irresistible. What's going to happen with the Convention is..is
it tomorrow that the draft report..their draft report is going to be produced?
Is that going to fundamentally change the way Europe is going to be presented
to us and how Europe is going to operate in future?
HAIN: Yes, the Convention
is really going to be a generational change and the key is going to design
the political architecture which will affect Europe's relationship to us
and the rest of Europe for generations and that's why the Prime Minister
asked me to stay on the Convention because he feels it's a huge challenge
and basically the argument in it is boiling down to two visions; the one
that wants a federal super state in Brussels - that argument is running
into the sand. The other - our own vision of Europe as a Union of Sovereign
States based on the nation state - giving powers to Europe where it's appropriate
like in fighting terrorism, like in establishing a single market, things
like this, high environmental standards; I mean our water is cleaner, our
air is cleaner, our beaches are cleaner because high environmental standards
have been levered up right across Europe. Where it's sensible to have
decisions made in Brussels by elected ministers representing elected governments
and therefore being answerable to their Parliaments and to the people,
that vision of Europe is a Europe of nation states rather than some kind
of super state is the one that we are pushing for and I think that we are
going to win that argument.
HUMPHRYS: It sounds as though you
will still be going around politicising for Europe, the European vision
as you see it and the Euro in particular and I fully understand about the
five economic tests - it would be nice, we don't have too long, not to
go into those again...
HAIN: They are important.
HUMPHRYS: I'll accept that from
you. But the problem is this is it, because we have not been bold in a
way I suspect you would like us to have been bold and that is to have driven
towards a referendum in a rather more determined way than we have given
the five economic tests, we are slightly losing the plot in Europe because
we are on the outside looking in, we have been stitched up this week by
Germany and France for instance, France want a rebate back.
HAIN: That's not true,
that's not true actually.
HUMPHRYS: Well, put that aside.
Do you believe in the few seconds that we have left, do you believe that
the argument is still there for us to push forward in a determined way
to get that referendum and get into the Euro?
HAIN: We want Britain to
be in the Euro provided the economic circumstances are right, hence the
five tests and that's really important, it's not a ruse of some kind but
we...if we adopt the Iain Duncan Smith policy of never ever going into
the Euro, even if it's palpably and objectively in our economic interest
to do so, then we would be side lined in Europe. So if the Tories got
into government with their policy of saying never ever, even if it's costing
us jobs, it's costing us inward investment and so on, we are still not
going to join, then that would be a policy for side lining and for isolation.
Our policy is a commonsense one; approach it slowly and carefully, get
the economic circumstances right and then, as the Prime Minister said,
go for it.
HUMPHRYS: Peter Hain, many thanks.
HAIN: Thank you.
HUMPHRYS: I was talking to Mr Hain
a little earlier this morning.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Now the question of
what to do about drugs - especially so-called "soft" drugs - is always
a very touchy one for politicians in power. Privately many of them think
it's crazy to have laws that make criminals of people who smoke the odd
spliff. But publicly they're very nervous about being seen to be soft on
drugs. This government has grasped the nettle. They allowed an experiment
in Brixton where the police turned a blind eye to pot smokers and announced
they wanted to reclassify drugs such as cannabis so that personal use would
no longer be punished by the law. There's expected to be a Bill included
in the Queen's speech in a few weeks. But now, as Iain Watson reports,
there are Labour backbenchers getting cold feet.
IAIN WATSON: The Labour heartlands have
come to London...John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire is
leading a delegation from the former coal fields to ministers at Westminster
but they aren't asking for jobs, subsidies or handouts - instead, they
want a helping hand to tackle the scourge of heroin sweeping through their
communities; John Mann's travelling companions have each contributed to
a report based on a three day inquiry into drug abuse in his area, a problem
he says central government has overlooked for far too long.
JOHN MANN: The perception is that drugs
is an inner city problem, and I'm sure it is an inner city problem, but
it's also a problem in former mining communities, what we've seen is the
pits shut in the 80s and the early '90s shut over night, and peoples' aspirations
have been reduced with that.
WATSON: In Bassetlaw, it's estimated
that at least seven hundred people are addicted to heroin.
comes despair. Bassetlaw is an old coal mining constituency lying between
Nottingham and Sheffield, but here the colleries have now been replaced
by call centres; as a sense of community has been in decline, drug use
has been on the increase. The MP for this Labour heartland is anxious to
tackle the problem but he says it can only be helped if the Government
takes a much tougher line on drugs.
ACTUALITY. So how long
has this factory been shutdown?
WATSON; This decaying
and dangerous structure is just outside Worksop, the main town in John
Mann's constituency ..it's found a new use as a down market modern day
ACTUALITY: There's a needle just
here. You can see here, all around here all the paraphernalia, we've got
a spoon here.
WATSON: John Mann's inquiry into
heroin abuse came up with findings which he hadn't anticipated ..that most
young addicts had started out on a drug more associated with peace and
love than desperation and despair.
MANN: What we found was that young
people had experimented with a range of drugs, but what they did say, and
it did surprise me, and it surprised the panel, was they compared the experience
of taking cannabis, with the experience of taking heroin. Of course heroin
is more powerful, has a greater impact. It gives them a greater hit and
a greater buzz, but what they felt was, and they said it many, many times
to us, because they could control their cannabis use, because the experience
was similar they felt they could control their initial use with heroin.
WATSON: The Hope drop in centre
in Worksop allows young heroin addicts safe haven off the streets during
the daytime. Emma Layhe is twenty one and her heroin habit has already
cost her her liberty; she was shoplifting to pay for her forty pound a
day addiction and has already been in prison four times in her young life.
When did you start taking
EMMA LAYHE: When I was fifteen.
LAYHE: I started with me cannabis
and other softer drugs then heroin came into the town so I tried it and
I been on it ever since
WATSON: So when you took cannabis
at first that encouraged you to try other drugs?
WATSON: Next summer the Government
intends to downgrade cannabis from a class b drug - which includes amphetamines
- to class c, ranking it alongside some painkillers; while there will be
tougher penalties for drug dealing in most cases, possession of cannabis
for personal use won't lead to arrest. John Mann says the Government has
got it wrong.
MANN: We don't want to see any
mixed message about drugs. We want zero tolerance of all drugs and that
includes cannabis. What we've found is that young people have been experimenting
with a range of illegal drugs, and our view is that if you tolerate drugs,
then that gives the wrong message to young people in the community.
WATSON: Sue and David Matthews'
lives have been ruined by heroin - not because they've ever used it, but
because their twenty two year old son has been an addict for seven years
and he's now been sent to prison for theft. They want to see the Government
put resources into much needed treatment for heroin users rather than making
the reclassification of cannabis a priority.
SUE MATTHEWS: It's a terrible thing isn't
it, when you're relieved that your son has gone to prison, to be locked
up for twenty- three hours a day with no treatment for his addiction but
it's got him off the street and there's no help here in Worksop for him,
so he's better off in there . If he's getting any drugs while he's in
there it won't be the same amount as what he gets out here.
DAVID MATTHEWS: Cannabis is a stepping stone for,
for younger people like my son, it's not used at their age recreationally
it's used on an every day basis, like smoking cigarettes, they just use
it and use it until there's no buzz in it and they have to move on to something
else, I think it's very very wrong that the government are declassifying
cannabis, I think it's a big mistake and they really should reconsider
what they're doing.
WATSON: People here in Bassetlaw
have seen at first hand the damage which hard drugs can cause so they're
worried that even the reclassification of cannabis could be a sign that
the government is going soft and ignoring the concerns of voters in Labour's
heartlands. Yet there's a growing number of backbench MPs who say that
a more tolerant attitude to drug taking is the key to reducing drug use;
and they are looking to one of Britain's near neighbours for inspiration.
Historically, Amsterdam has been famous for its canals and, of course,
its tulips but these days it has become known for its relaxed attitude
to a rather different form of plant life.
If you are looking for a pick me up in Amsterdam there's certainly no
shortage of coffee shops; but the kind of products on sale here wouldn't
be found in your local Starbucks.
UN-NAMED SHOP ASSISTANT: Hello.
WATSON: Can I have a coffee please...
UN-NAMED SHOP ASSISTANT: Yes, sure.
WATSON: And can I have a look at
UN-NAMED SHOP ASSISTANT: Well here it is, there you go
- this is the skunk and this is the hashish we got - Moroccan black hash.
WATSON: How much can you sell?
UN-NAMED SHOP ASSISTANT: I can sell five grammes a person
WATSON: And you wouldn't be prosecuted
for selling five grammes?
UN-NAMED SHOP ASSISTANT: No, not for that, no.
WATSON: It may seem rather bizarre
that cannabis is on sale here quite so openly but experts in the Netherlands
say this doesn't increase drug use; in fact it may even have the reverse
Since coffee shops opened more than twenty years ago, the sale of small
amounts of soft drugs hasn't been legalised but it is tolerated. The
aim of the policy is to get users of cannabis out of the hands of dealers
who also sell hard drugs such as heroin.
Across the city, the Jellinek Institute not only treats drug addicts but
carries out research into drug use; Dr Janhuib Blans says his statistics
show that the policy is working
DR JANHUIB BLANS: Less young people are going
into hard drugs, for instance, I'll show you this one. If you look at
this one, for instance, in '81 it was almost fifteen per cent and if you
go down to 2000 it is less than half per cent young people under twenty
two years old using opiates.
WATSON: How does the use of soft
drugs and hard drugs compare in the Netherlands with the United Kingdom
and some other countries?
BLANS: Well, we do studies in Europe
and the Aspect study is a famous one among fifteen, sixteen year old school
kids. In the Netherlands, life time user of cannabis is twenty eight per
cent among fifteen to sixteen year olds, school going kids and it is in
the UK...it is thirty five per cent and if we look at heroin the Netherlands
that's one per cent life time heroin user among those young kids and in
the UK it is three per cent.
CHRIS DAVIES: The first step should be
to decriminalise both for the possession of cannabis and the social supply
of cannabis. We need to separate soft drugs and hard drugs and I'm concerned
that the approach being taken by David Blunkett of saying yes, cannabis
will no longer be an arrestable, cannabis possession will no longer be
an arrestable offence, but the supply of it will still be rewarded with
a maximum sentence of fourteen years' imprisonment, actually leave cannabis
users in the hands of the heroin dealers instead of establishing the separation
which is so successful in Holland.
WATSON: The Jellinek Institute
also test drugs such as ecstasy; I asked if this didn't simply encourage
BLANS: If I was the parent of a
sixteen year old boy and I knew that the guy was using ecstasy sometimes,
I would rather be very, very happy when he goes and has his pills tested
and see what quality that it is, and what - how much milligram is in it,
and is it wise to take them.
WATSON: There's an increasing number
of advocates for the Dutch approach to drugs back home in Britain; recently
the all party home affairs committee of MPs didn't simply back the reclassification
of cannabis, it wanted to see ecstasy downgraded too
BRIDGET PRENTICE: We decided that ecstasy should
be reclassified from class a to class b. Probably the main reasons for
that are that it's a drug that people seem to take at the weekends and
then go about doing their normal lawful business during the week.
If we really want to get
the message across and we do seriously, want to break the drug culture
in this country, then we've got to distinguish between drugs such as cannabis
and ecstasy and hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. That way people
might actually believe the message and might start taking the message very
WATSON: But back in the Nottinghamshire
coalfields, families whose lives have been blighted by heroin aren't interested
in what they see as a metroplitan agenda to downgrade so called soft drugs
- they want a clear message sent out that drug taking is wrong.
MATTHEWS; They still think deep
down that the drugs themselves, people are not meant to take that sort
of thing and live lives like that. It's got to be wrong, they need to
carry on with the laws strong against any type of drugs.
WATSON: But there are those who
say that the only way addicts will seek treatment is if the fear of prosecution
is removed, and that bringing even the hardest of drugs such as heroin
within the law will save lives and end the dependency of drug users on
DAVIES: I favour legalisation of
everything. I favour getting rid of prohibition, but within, within a,
within a different frame work, the question then would be okay, well say
heroin is legal but but where can you buy it, and the object that er, the
object should be to undermine the criminal dealers.
That pillar of the establishment, the Economist magazine, last
year had a special feature on this subject and they concluded by saying
that if we legalise all drugs, which they advocated, then the result could
be, was likely to be an increase, a small increase in the use of drugs
but a significant fall in the number of people who died or came to harm
as a result of taking those drugs. Now if that were to be a consequence,
it is one I could live with.
MANN: For those people haven't
got a clue what's going on in the real world in my community, here heroin
addicts are injecting eight times a day. It's five pounds a bag for heroin.
They have to therefore get fifteen thousand pounds of criminal income
to feed their addiction. Heroin is cheaper than prescription drugs, and
therefore if you legalise heroin, they're actually going to have to pay
more money therefore they're going to have to steal more money to feed
their addiction. People who are suggesting legalising drugs are looking
at it from totally the wrong perspective and it's not a message that anyone
wants to hear in my community.
WATSON: The Bassetlaw delegation
is determined that their call for zero tolerance of all drugs will be heard
at the heart of Government. Their report will make David Blunkett's softer
line on cannabis use more politically difficult to implement. Ministers
are giving John Mann a warm welcome, but behind closed doors they will
be studying research which soberly questions whether the continued criminality
of both soft and hard drugs is the most effective way of discouraging drug
use and ultimately of saving lives.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting
HUMPHRYS: You may not have noticed it
in your bills, but the cost of electricity has fallen through the floor.
Or, rather, the price the power companies get paid for generating the stuff
has collapsed. Sounds good - but not necessarily. The industry is in
serious trouble and the big companies say the Government hasn't a clue
what to do about it. It's all part of the much bigger problem: how do we
provide for our energy needs over the next fifty years? We can't rely
on gas-powered electricity stations for ever, gas is running out, so does
that mean we'll have to rely more heavily on nuclear power? The nuclear
industry is on its knees and wants more help from the Government simply
to stay in business. All of this is supposed to be addressed in a Government
White Paper but, as Terry Dignan reports, there's little sign yet that
the Government knows what it wants to do.
TERRY DIGNAN: Welcome to BedZed, Beddington
Zero Energy Development. Here in a London suburb architects have designed
homes for an eco-friendly future. From first thing in the morning to the
end of the day there's no shortage of energy. But it's produced without
causing global warming.
Wouldn't it be great
if we could all live our lives like this - heating our homes and using
electricity in ways which do not damage our environment or change our climate
- for the worse. Easier said than done. Indeed, if the Government fails
to make some really brave decisions - and soon - we'll go on using energy
which produces greenhouse gases for many, many years to come.
DR DIETER HELM: Now the Government
realises it has to something, but I think it genuinely doesn't know what
DIGNAN: How will we get electricity
for the daily chores of the future? Ministers face dilemmas over guaranteeing
secure supplies of gas from abroad when North Sea gas runs out, expanding
renewable energy and deciding on the future of nuclear power.
In meeting these challenges the government says low electricity prices
will remain its objective. Opposition politicians says ministers have
dithered too long over energy policy.
TIM YEO MP: We have to look at how
else we're going to meet our energy needs fifteen years down the road,
how much will come from renewables, how much may come from other sources,
whether it's coal, whether it's nuclear. And as I say, because the decisions
about new energy investment are very long term, can take ten years to get
a new energy generation plant up and running, now is the time to address
those issues, and there has been this year, a bit of a void at the heart
of government policy.
DIGNAN: Here at BedZed, you
can make a quick cuppa before dashing to work without adding to global
warming. But, increasingly, most of us will have to rely on gas for our
energy because coal and nuclear are in decline. The problem with gas is
that, as a carbon fuel, it's a major cause of climate change.
HELM: Gas is a carbon fuel
and if you want to move towards a non carbon economy, gas is not the answer.
It buys you a bit of breathing space because it's better than coal but
it's not non carbon and in the end, an economy based on sixty, seventy
per cent gas, would not be environmentally very attractive economy at all.
DIGNAN: From breakfast to
bedtime, BedZed homes use eco-friendly energy. Yet, as a country, most
of our energy contributes to global warming. The two big culprits are gas,
which provides thirty-seven per cent of our needs, and coal, thirty-three
point five per cent. Nuclear power, now being run down, meets twenty two
per cent of our requirements. Renewables, a pathetic two point eight per
cent. Yet environmentally-minded MPs say the future lies with the wind
JOAN RUDDOCK MP: Well I think one of the most
attractive things about renewables is that we can produce them at home.
We've got tremendous off shore wind. We're the windiest country in Europe.
We've got quite a reasonable amount of solar energy and of course we already
use some energy from hydro schemes, and we will have wave energy in the
future. So, for all those reasons, we - if we develop renewables - we
get home energy production, and through crops.
DIGNAN: Ideally we'd all
start the day with an environmentally-friendly hot shower. The Government's
target is for ten per cent of our energy to be renewable by 2010. This
figure should be doubled to twenty per cent by 2020 says a report commissioned
by Tony Blair. But some government supporters fear the policy is too timid.
RUDDOCK: The regret is that
it wasn't started sooner and that we don't have much more ambitious plans
for the future. We've got to create the market and that requires more
incentives by government to make renewables more attractive, and more affordable.
DIGNAN: At BedZed, you can
top up your electric car with energy from solar panels in your own home
so the journey to work won't add to pollution or global warming. Sounds
simple, doesn't it but in reality if we're to see a really big expansion
in all forms of renewable energy, there are some very serious obstacles
to overcome. The biggest problem is cost. Tony Blair says he
wants cheap electricity. Well that's not possible if you're serious about
HELM: Our electricity system
is designed for big power stations. Since the Second World War, we've
relied on ever bigger coal stations and ever bigger nuclear power stations
and now quite large gas stations. Now renewables are the absolute opposite
of such a system. They are tiny small plants, they are at the periphery
of the system, they require major investment in the networks, the distribution
systems, as well as building the renewables themselves, so therefore almost
automatically they're going to be expensive, and if we really do want to
have a renewables based economy, then we're talking about a much higher
price for electricity.
YEO: It would be
misleading to tell the public that somehow you can have very very low energy
prices, and also the satisfaction of playing your part in contributing
towards achieving climate change goals.
DIGNAN: We could produce lots
of greener energy by converting wind power into electricity. But in windy
rural Britain, the public says not in my backyard and government ministers
fear their renewable energy targets are now at risk.
BRIAN WILSON MP: The biggest problem we face
is that roughly two thirds of the projects which are put forward never
come to fruition and if you ask people in the... in the wind power industry
for instance, what their biggest problem is, they won't say lack of government
encouragement for renewables, they'll say planning, planning, planning
and actually turning these projects in to reality.
DIGNAN: Could more nuclear power
help to reduce dependence on fuels which emit greenhouse gases? Far from
it if current policy is anything to go by. The industry is a loss maker
- indeed, the Government has just bailed out British Energy which operates
power stations like this one in Kent, Dungeness B.
In just six years' time - or so it's planned - these controls will switch
off the supply of electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes. Indeed,
the entire nuclear industry will eventually close down and what will replace
it? Well, there's always gas or coal if you don't care about global warming.
What about renewables? Well, even the government is increasingly sceptical
there'll be enough renewable energy to replace the electricity currently
supplied by these nuclear power stations, which means Dungeness B may well
be getting a stay of execution.
WILSON: You have to consider
the impact of nuclear power on our carbon emissions targets. And you then
have to say that if you allow the nuclear industry to run down in this
country as some people would wish to see, but the implication of that is
that you become more dependent on gas, and you have to recognise that by
2020 we'd be seventy per cent dependent on gas, ninety per cent of which
would be imported.
RUDDOCK: I think regarding
nuclear energy as a clean source of energy is a real misnomer. Yes, it
doesn't produce CO2 emissions, but it produces radio active emissions all
the time both into the air, and into the sea. We now have a Irish Sea
which is terribly polluted with radiation as a result of the Sellafield
operations. So it continues to produce emissions whenever it's operating,
and even more seriously there is this enormous legacy of nuclear waste,
much of which is highly radioactive, will be there for thousands of years.
DIGNAN: The government says
a new generation of nuclear power stations would create less radioactive
waste, yet the cost of nuclear-produced electricity is higher than energy
from gas, so ministers are considering a carbon tax on gas and coal. They
might even force the power generators to buy more of their supplies from
nuclear - or will they be really radical?
HELM: Either the government
says, well, we're not going to have nuclear power, we're not going to build
any more nuclear power stations, we're just going to look after handling
the waste of what we've got at the moment. Then they have to get really
radical about renewables, about energy efficiency and about a host of other
ancillary policies, changing the grids, the distribution systems, and the
price will go up a lot. Or they say we really do mean nuclear power, in
which case they ought to build several of them because one on its own is
RUDDOCK: I think the government
needs to make a hard political decision, and that decision is not to go
for new nuclear build. If they go for new nuclear build, I fear that they
won't put sufficient support and sufficient resources, sufficient incentives
behind developing renewables. So, it is that decision more than anything
else I think, that is the key to developing renewables.
DIGNAN: The critics say this is
a government in search of an energy policy. It needs to find one quickly.
Ministers are alarmed that it's not just the nuclear sector which is failing
to attract investment; they fear it's an industry-wide problem. A market
which is good at keeping prices down is also producing low levels of investment.
WILSON: There's very little incentive
at present for anyone to invest in any form of generation, and that is
a function of the low price that generators are getting for the product
that they produce. Now that has to be part of the White Paper discussion.
DIGNAN: In nuclear power stations,
safety regulations must be obeyed religiously. There are also rules for
ensuring there's competition within the energy industry. Criticisms that
the market is drying up investment - and could lead to power cuts - are
forcefully rejected by the industry's regulator.
CALLUM McCARTHY: We have inherited a position where
for ten years, after privatisation, there were artificial arrangements
for rewarding generators. That resulted in prices that were too high.
It resulted in very high investment and very high levels of spare capacity,
and we are faced with unwinding that and that is sometimes a painful process,
but there is absolutely no evidence that the market signals are wrong,
and that the basic market functioning is in any way wrong.
HELM: The way the energy market
is organised at the moment, particularly electricity, is that it's extremely
good at sweating the existing assets, at getting out power at the lowest
possible cost in price from the stations we've got. It is almost uniquely
badly designed to deal with encouraging almost any form of investment,
what we need is to replace our assets. Remember, all our coals stations
bar one were built before 1970. They're all very old, even Drax is 74.
All our nuclear power stations are coming to the end of their lives.
We've sweated the assets and got the benefit in the 1990s, but in this
decade and the next one, what we're in the business of is thinking about
how to make investments.
DIGNAN: It's argued that power
cuts in California in the 1990s should act as a warning to politicians
who fail to make the right choices. New investment - especially in power
plant - can't be switched on overnight.
YEO: You've got to look
at a lead time probably of seven or ten years for a new electricity generator,
and that does mean knowing what the government's overall strategy is pretty
soon, so those decisions can be made in time to avoid the situation whereby
capacity has fallen too far.
HELM: If we carry on as we are,
if the government takes the soft option and says you know, we're in favour
of everything but actually we'll do very little because there's too many
hard choices to make, it goes down the easy route. Then I think two things
will happen. The first is that the instability and volatility of prices
will, if anything, increase, and that means that the sorts of problems
we've seen in the electricity market can only get worse. The word "California"
jumps to mind in that sort of scenario. The other consequence is that
the only technology that people will invest in, in the current structure
without further intervention, is gas.
DIGNAN: Energy is the one thing
we are not short of. With homes like this it's used without harming our
environment. Now the Government has to decide where we'll get our future
energy from and whether we can produce it without contributing to global
HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan reporting
there and that's it for this week. Don't forget our website if you're on
the internet. Same time next week. Good Afternoon.