BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 27.10.02

==================================================================================== 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: 27.10.02 ==================================================================================== 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. NEWS 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 the job. 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. Parliament agreed 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 legislation... HAIN: That's right. HUMPHRYS 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 run. 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 Clarke. 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 it? 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 simply nonsense. 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 extended. HUMPHRYS Reformed. 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 the point..... 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 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 freedoms, so.. 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 the poor? 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 absolutely fine? 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 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 around.. 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 tax, specifically. 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 it? 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 is... HAIN: We are moving on, John... 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? HAIN: Yes. 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 are still sitting on the Commission that is effectively looking at the future of Europe. HAIN: Well that's time limited. 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 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. With de-industrialisation 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's found a new use as a down market modern day opium den. 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 heroin? EMMA LAYHE: When I was fifteen. WATSON: Why? 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? LAYHE: Yes. 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 the menu? 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 maximum. 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 effect. 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 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 drug use. 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 seriously 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 drug dealers. 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 there. 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 to do. 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 and sun. 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 renewables. 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 incredibly expensive. 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 warming. 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. 27 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.