BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 03.11.02

==================================================================================== 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: 03.11.02 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Another bad week for the Tories because a shadow still hangs over their leader. I'll be talking to one of his POSSIBLE successors, David Davis. The Government's in trouble over its plans for asylum seekers. I'll be asking the minister responsible if compromise is on the cards. And are we returning to the old days of union militancy? We've been talking to business leaders who say they're getting fed up with the Government's approach. That's after the news read by Darren Jordon. NEWS HUMPHRYS: Later in the programme we'll be talking about the Government's difficulties with a new law for asylum seekers AND with the trade unions. But first, the TORIES' difficulties. It has not been the easiest of weeks for Iain Duncan Smith. His leadership is still being called into question. But so are the party's policies. The Tory leadership believe it's vital for the party that it presents a fresh new approach... that it looks different from the way it looked at the last election and that it is seen to have learned the lessons of the past. And indeed there ARE new policies now: twenty five of them unveiled at the party conference in Bournemouth. But how different are they when you look at them a bit more closely... and what signal do they send about the direction in which the party is moving? Is this really a NEW Conservative Party? I'll be talking about that to David Davis, the Shadows Deputy Prime Minister, after this report from David Grossman. DAVID GROSSMAN: Iain Duncan Smith said we shouldn't under estimate the determination of a quiet man - actually the Tories are making so little impact on voters right now he might as well be in a silent movie. The party conference may have cheered and waved - but opinion polls suggest the public just hasn't heard him. At their conference last month the Conservatives unveiled twenty five new policies in an effort to demonstrate a new sense of direction and win back an audience. Iain Duncan Smith wants to rid the Tories of their nasty party image and become the champion of the vulnerable. But when you examine these policies you get an uncanny sense of deja vu - it's like walking into a movie you've already seen - because out of the twenty five, sixteen policies are actually straight out of the last Tory manifesto. And where they have come up with new new policies - for example, in health, by placing the emphasis on a greater role for the private sector, critics say they are simply reinforcing the old image of the party. So, does the Tory strategy lack coherence? ARCHIE NORMAN MP: It's no good just having a selection of policies. We've got to set it in a broader context, demonstrate that we really do care above all about those people today who want to look after their communities and make a contribution. ANDREW LANSLEY MP: What is important for the Conservative Party at the moment is to articulate policies which reinforce a sense of who we are, what we stand for and where we're going. GROSSMAN: One thing you can't criticise the Tories leading man for is not trying. Iain Duncan Smith has covered hundreds of miles in an effort to spread the message that the Tory's script has changed. He's not trying to become a matinee idol but instead wants his party to come across as trustworthy and relevant - both qualities vital to winning back the hearts of voters. Any actor will tell you a good script is everything - and it's pretty much the same in politics. One potential blockbuster that Iain Duncan Smith is now offering is right to buy. It tells the tale of IDS battling to ensure that council house tenants keep the right to buy their homes and extend that right to Housing Association tenants. But hang on, isn't that a bit of a familiar plot? It's actually a re-make of the same policy that William Hague fought the last General Election on, but the first Conservative right to buy policy was actually introduced by that leading leading lady of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, way back in the eighties. Modernisers within today's party say that re-launching this policy, albeit with a different cast, does nothing to get across the message that today's Tory party has changed. LANSLEY: At the Party Conference, David Davis announced a policy of extending the right to buy to Housing Association tenants. What I think most people didn't remember was that we announced that policy in 1999 and again in the year 2000, so the issue is not so much to have policy but that the polices that you announce - and they don't have to be a very large number - support a sense of what you're trying to achieve, a sense of direction. NORMAN: The danger of simply talking about the right to buy is that we remind people that we're sticking by the policies of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, nothing wrong with that, it was a great policy at the time, very popular, and of course we should stick with it today, but it's more than that we've got to be seen now to be addressing the real problems of today's housing stock, of people who live on inner city estates, of people who live in council houses that are very badly maintained, of people who are looking to buy or find somewhere to live that's affordable to them in the South East especially and can't find it. GROSSMAN: Iain Duncan Smith's latest stop is a youth project near Exeter. He's here to spread the main theme of his leadership - helping the vulnerable, at the same time as helping himself to a spot of curry. But critics say that worthy theme can be lost because some policies like right to buy have an entirely different flavour. True, the Tories now say they will invest the proceeds of sales in new social housing - the recipe though, say some worry, still doesn't fit with helping the vulnerable. Former Shadow Cabinet member Edward Garnier fears that it could actually harm the vulnerable. EDWARD GARNIER MP: If you have been brought up in a poor family, a not very well off family in a rural village, the chances of being able to buy a house in that village are non existent and therefore the provision of Housing Association housing is vital so that people can stay in the communities that they were brought up in and want to work in. If the Housing Association houses are sold away well then the stock of what is loosely called affordable housing, is diminished. GROSSMAN: After lunch there's no rest for IDS - he's got to say his good byes and rush off for the next location. But the Tory's former pollster says that frantic activity isn't alone enough. They need to come up with a theme and stick to it - a process rather like song writing. NICK SPARROW: Whenever anybody's putting a song together you have to think about you have to start with the individual notes and you have to make sure that all those notes hang together and make a song that everybody will recognise is, is of a particular type and understand that that is what that song is all about. I think you have to be very, very careful with the individual notes that you use to make that song if individual notes strike people as being strange or out of place and something like right to buy simply on it's own given that a lot of people won't really understand where we've got to with right to buy, and what the new proposals are, just remind people of the old Conservative government. GROSSMAN: So are Iain Duncan Smith's new policies just William Hague's in some different packaging? Well, not entirely. In amongst the older ideas are some grains of innovation. At the Party Conference the Shadow Health Secretary did actually unveil something that was brand new fresh out of the box. Dr Liam Fox outlined his thinking on health and it involves a much greater emphasis on the private sector - he said he was very impressed with the health care system in Finland, where patients who go private can reclaim sixty per cent of the cost back from the State. But critics say this policy simply serves to reinforce the negative image that many voters already have of the party - that it's just there to help middle class people with money opt out of sub standard public services, rather than trying to make those public services better for everyone. NORMAN; When we talk about caring for the vulnerable we equally have to be able to explain how our policies in health are going to help the vulnerable first. Now if you produce a policy which is clearly not accessible to people who don't have savings of their own that is - that's not it doesn't mean it's the wrong idea, it means it's not sufficient, it doesn't knit together with what else we're saying. The flagship of our health policies should be reform of the NHS not just enabling people to go outside the NHS. GROSSMAN; It all seems so long ago now doesn't it? William Hague accompanied by his chief strategist Andrew Lansley. Now a backbencher, Mr Landsley says that talking about helping people with money opt out of the NHS is a big mistake. LANSLEY; It does concern me that we spent a great deal of time and effort discussing health policy in the run up to the last election, seeking to escape from the trap that the Labour Party would otherwise put us into, which has only been concerned with whether people can opt out of the NHS and buy private medical insurance. The issue is how do we raise overall standards of health care in this country. GROSSMAN; On the road again this time to a public meeting in Plymouth. This activity is partly designed to exorcise the adjective that haunts the Tories - nasty - but modernisers say that when the party does have the opportunity to act in a non-nasty way they instead slip into old habits. Tomorrow the Tory leadership will instruct its MPs to vote against allowing non married couples to adopt. Former shadow cabinet member Andrew Mackay though is ready to defy this instruction. ANDREW MACKAY; I think it's difficult to explain and understand why we're doing it, I think it's very healthy that in the Conservative Party no doubt the same as the Labour and the Liberal Parties that we have different views on this issue. I believe passionately in the freedom of the individual to express himself or herself as she sees fit, I think the State or political parties telling people how to behave is something fairly abhorrent which normally only happens under fairly restrictive regimes of which most of us would not approve. LANSLEY; If we can achieve a greater pool of adopted parents by making it possible for unmarried couples to adopt, then that I think is the right policy; my problem is that if the Conservative Party corporately as it were is seen as resisting that, we all understand that the motivation is a good one which is to defend the institution of marriage and not see it undermined, but the effect is a poor one, GROSSMAN; One change that some in the party now seem to agree could be necessary is that of the leadership itself - the quiet man is having to face down the whisperers on his own back-benches. Over the past week several Conservative MPs described the atmosphere to me in the parliamentary party as being febrile. One MP said, according to some newspapers at least to have serious concerns about the leadership, is the former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Andrew Mackay. Is the atmosphere among Conservative MPs, do you think, relaxed at the moment towards the leadership? MACKAY; Well inevitably when we are not yet moving forward in the polls, when what I thought were extremely good policies which were brought forward to the Party Conference have not yet been understood and accepted and supported which I'm sure they will be by the party, by the country at large, then I think there's obviously some uncertainly, we're at that stage in the Parliament. GROSSMAN; Is it a bit jittery? MACKAY; I think there are legitimate concerns and that is healthy in a democracy,. SPARROW; People make their own minds up about political leaders very early on. They would then look to the media or to the Party itself to either confirm or confound that belief. And I think Iain Duncan Smith did not appear to be a very good leader to a lot of swing voters to start with so there was that impression. And that will simply be confirmed by the fact that, well the media don't think he's any good either and half the party don't think he's any good. And that is a very difficult position to come back from. GROSSMAN; Making the Tories look like a modern party again and get their voice heard is tiring work - and constant speculation about his leadership makes it doubly difficult for Iain Duncan Smith. But many inside his party believe that renewal will come only when he succeeds in getting the Tories back in tune with today's voters. HUMPHRYS: David Grossman reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS; David Davis, let me remind you of what Iain Duncan Smith said, of how your party is changing. We're going to have a radical process of change, the most radical, most exciting since the last Tory government in 1979. Sounds terrific! But it hasn't happened, has it. Sixteen of the twenty-five new policies are old ones. DAVID DAVIS; Well, so you say. I mean.... HUMPHRYS; They say. DAVIS; To take the one - take the one that took the major part of your film. I mean you had everybody but Laurel and Hardy in there. But.... HUMPHRYS; Could not afford Laurel and Hardy....... DAVIS: Could not afford Laurel and Hardy, but take the one of right to buy, the one which is specifically in my area. When we were researching this and we've done a year's research since the election on this, one of the issues which were central to it was the question of availability of housing for new people who want to be in social housing, new poor people really in this context mostly, in houses....and we came to the view that the one way we would actually harness the right to buy, to help those people rather than as it's argued to oppose them, was to actually say: right all of the money, for every single penny raised from the sales of right to buy will go straight back in to providing new social housing. Now it may not sound terribly dramatic but actually would have the effect of producing thousands, many thousands more houses in areas like London. So, yes, there has been quite a lot, and I can go through the whole lot for you. HUMPHRYS; Well, we'll just deal with that one for the moment. I mean it not only doesn't sound terribly dramatic, it doesn't sound new, and that's the point that Andrew Lansley made. We announced that policy, he said in 1999, and again in 2000. So where is the newness? Where is the dramatic radicalism. DAVIS: The newness, the newness is in the fact that we're harnessing this policy to actually provide extra available housing, not extra.... HUMPHRYS; It's a nuance isn't, it's not a dramatic new policy. DAVIS: It's hardly a nuance, the Deputy Prime Minister, my opponent, spent a great deal of time leaking stories to The Guardian and then talking about it in the primary part of his speech at the party conference, his party conference, saying: we're going to limit this because it cuts the availability of social housing. What we're proposing..... HUMPHRYS: In certain areas... DAVIS: Yes, just the opposite of that. I mean you're getting twenty-two thousand new houses each year. Actually, significantly down on what Tories gave back in '97 and before, and what this will do will add probably half as many again, probably over ten thousand, which is a huge change, a huge change. Well what's more, a lot of your argument here in this film was about image, was about presentation.... HUMPHRYS; Can I come to that later, I promise to return to that in a moment, but let me just deal with this specific point about that housing. I mean Edward Garnier made the point there that it sounds alright in theory, but when you actually look at it in practice because of the discounted price that you get when you sell council houses and all the Housing Association homes, you're not going to raise that much money, you're not then going to have that much money to build the new homes, which takes time anyway, and what you're doing in the meantime, is you're actually reducing not increasing the stock of affordable homes to people who can't buy their own homes anyway, and that's really the point is not just that this policy is not new, it won't work. DAVIS: It will work. I mean one of the things that was just plumb wrong about John Prescott's original argument, this stock of homes, is that stock actually isn't what's available. Typically in, and I'm incidentally of all the people you've had on your programme so far, I think I'm the only one who grew up in a council house, I'm rather conscious of this, acutely in fact. People who live in social housing typically live there for very long times, twenty, sometimes thirty years, often over a couple of generations because that's what the rights allow people to do. Why - because they can't find a house elsewhere, or it's very much more expensive, or whatever reason, so the result is that a very tiny fraction of stock becomes available. In London it's three per cent per annum, becomes available for new people to actually have these houses. So actually these houses are not available, and what we're saying is that by allowing people to exercise the right to buy we're going to release the capital, and it's quite a large sum because in all the sums, and we've been through some great deal, in all the sums people do they forget that actually Housing Associations have made quite big profits on houses like everybody else, houses have gone up in value over the time, and they'll crystallise that increase in value, and that will be available for buying new houses or refurbishing houses or buying old houses for that matter to make available for people who want social housing who need social housing. It will make a marked difference to the amount of social housing available. I said twenty-two thousand a year is what's planned, it'll add many, many thousands to that, many, many thousands to that on any calculation you care to make. HUMPHRYS: The trouble with that argument is, this touches on wanted to raise the question of the party's image, and this is absolutely crucial to it, is that it's the sort of argument different in nuance as I say - you will say different in substance, but there we are - the sort of argument one heard from Margaret Thatcher in her day, it was her policy, it has been the policy of successive Conservative governments. This is not a new policy, it's a variation on an old policy.(INTERRUPTION) If I can just make the point, that you talk about council house sales, public housing sales and you think instantly, Ah, Margaret Thatcher, that was the policy with which she was most identified, and ......yep, finish. DAVIS: If you are concerned about image a simple point. HUMPHRYS; You are. DAVIS; Well - your argument, I'm actually, mostly concerned at this stage in the parliament about getting robust policies that work, actually, that's the most important thing. HUMPHRYS; In order to improve your image. DAVIS; Not just - in order to provide something that the public thinks worth voting in, that's the important thing,. Now, if you look at this policy sixty-five per cent of people like this policy, think it's a good policy, sixty-five per cent. Those are the numbers, they vary a bit up and down the country, but that's the sort of numbers you get. Now that doesn't indicate to me that people's instant reaction to this is, Oh dear, it's an old Tory policy. HUMPHRYS: Well, it does to one of your men, former Shadow Minister, Andrew Lansley, he says it's harking back. That's the whole point isn't it? DAVIS: If he is worrying about image, he should look straight to the outcome and the outcome here is sixty five per cent is.. think it's a good idea. Now, can I just pick up a point, I mean you did raise Edward Garnier's point, I think he has got the makings of a small point in there, which is of course in rural areas you can have some difficulties, you can't always use the cash to buy a new house, but on those issues specifically we are consulting with the Rural Housing Trust in order to...okay how can we do this? Should we give the Trust a right to buy back when people move out of the house at a market rate, and so on? Should we have a limit, there are already limits in Local Authority housing right to buy arrangements which then...if a settlement is below a certain size we don't allow the right to buy to exercise there. There are things that are worth looking in some detail, but they are quite technical. The main thrust of the policy is going to give the best part of nearly a million people the right to buy...a million tenants the right to buy, sorry which is very important. These are people who..they're not rich, perhaps forty per cent of them are above the...forty five per cent of them are above the housing benefit levels...but they are not rich, any of them and this is the only chance to get on in society and we want to give it to them. HUMPHRYS: Alright, let's broaden it out to this old question of public services. Now this is an area where you have changed...certainly you have changed your language because you are saying public services is..are our priority now and you talk about them a great deal. The problem is when you get down to the detail of the sorts of things you want to do, it looks pretty right wing stuff that is going to alienate rather than encourage the sort of supporters you need, the new supporters that you need. DAVIS: It always makes me chuckle when people call them right wing because... HUMPHRYS: Private health insurance is regarded as a pretty right wing policy. DAVIS: I'll give you they involve a great deal of freedom and a great deal of choice and a great deal of decentralisation down to individuals and of course if that's right wing I plead guilty. HUMPHRYS: You would hardly call that sort of stuff left wing, would you? DAVIS: I plead guilty to that. HUMPHRYS: Right. DAVIS: But the reason... HUMPHRYS: David Davis right winger admittedly. DAVIS: The reason I chuckle is because when we did the first year's research and afterall this is only first year's research, the first year's research behind this, one of the primary things we did was to go round the continent of Europe looking at how they did it, all these right wing places like Sweden... HUMPHRYS: They don't vote for you on the Continent. DAVIS: ..and France and Germany. I know but you're portraying them as right wing. What we were looking at were the European...the continent of the European models of healthcare delivery, of education delivery and what we found was across the board a number of ideas came to the fore. Firstly, although the State guaranteed or funded the service, it didn't always provide it, it didn't wasn't always the monopoly provider, it allowed other people to provide it and then it provided the cash - it guaranteed the standards and people had choice as to where they went for their schooling, their health or whatever, so that's point number one. Point number two is we are interested in policies which are sustainable, that stand up on their own, that keep going on their own, that they're structural if you like and so on education of the models we looked at was Holland. Holland has a funding of education almost identical to our own and yet it has markedly better outcome. HUMPHRYS: Alright... DAVIS: Why? Because it allows the parent to choose where to spend the taxpayers' money and that's where the State scholarship came from, that idea in the true sense. HUMPHRYS: If we look at the NHS and what you are planning to do there is to allow part of our money to go towards buying private medicine if that's what we want, private stay in hospital. Now Archie Norman, former Chairman of the party, says "We are meant.." and I'm quoting him "We are meant to be caring for the vulnerable, we have to explain how this is going to help them. The flagship should be reform of the NHS, not just helping people to go outside the NHS" which is what your policy would be doing. You would be positively encouraging people to go outside the NHS. DAVIS: You've picked off one component, one of the other components... HUMPHRYS: Very important component... DAVIS: One of the other components of course was the foundation hospitals which... HUMPHRYS: Sure. DAVIS: Which Labour are struggling with and we are very clear on. HUMPHRYS: Alright, but let's deal with this question of paying people effectively to go outside the NHS. DAVIS: Mr Humphrys, Mr Humphrys, you can't just deny the other half of the policy. HUMPHRYS: No, no. I am giving you the policy that is presenting difficulties for your own supporters. DAVIS: In terms of helping the vulnerable, the first thing to say is that you have now got about a quarter of million people every year - it's gone up by a third in two years flat - a quarter of a million people every year who cannot wait, they're in so much pain, so much fear, that they cannot wait for the Health Service to deliver. Over half of them are pensioners, they're not rich people. HUMPHRYS: No, didn't say they were. DAVIS: They're not rich people. One of my own constituents wrote to me saying he had sold his house so he could get a heart operation. He is going to live in Spain because it's cheaper there. Now, these are not rich people we are talking about. What we are saying here is like some Continental countries we are going to look to provide support for them. This is not huge sums of money by comparison with the rest of the Health Service. Now that's going to have two effects - one is that it's going to help people who are actually the vulnerable - they are classically the vulnerable - people who have been let down by the Health Service. HUMPHRYS: Oh, come it will also help people who are already...I mean if I were rich and I were already taking out private insurance, it would help me enormously. It would help your core supporters more than it will help anybody else. And that's precisely the problem. DAVIS: No, that is not true. I mean... HUMPHRYS: It's what Archie Norman seems to think, the former Chairman of the party. DAVIS: I suppose we could put in a clause explicitly excluding you from having the benefit of this, but the..but the main... HUMPHRYS: Do you take my point? It will help people who are already using private health insurance. DAVIS: My point to you is, the people who are using private health insurance normally are the wealthier ones, they've got it. This is for... HUMPHRYS: Even wealthier after this. DAVIS: This is the pay as you go people we are talking about here. These are people who have got to find the cash out of their savings, out of selling their house, whatever. These are the ones who are under real stress and that's the most important thing and over half of those are pensioners. The second component about it is this, it takes them out of the queue. If you're standing in a queue for the Post Office or whatever, and somebody leaves the queue ahead of you, you're pleased, because you're closer to getting into your, as it turns out, your State hospital or whatever, and it does that too. So it actually helps the vulnerable directly. It's not the main thrust of the policy and there will be many more strands further down the road, but it is important in that it does specifically set out to help the vulnerable. HUMPHRYS: Let's look at your social policies. The Adoption Bill is coming up in the Commons again this week, tomorrow. Now this will allow couples who are not married and homosexual couples to adopt children. It is your policy to oppose that. You are, once again, I am suggesting to you, out of touch, and this helping the vulnerable and being in touch with people and being a modern party, when it actually comes up to scrutiny, doesn't stand up. DAVIS: Right, well here of course, I used to be the Chairman of the Conservative Adoption Forum of the last Parliament. I have again a strong personal interest in the area. The key issue here is the rights of fifty thousand plus, it's much more than fifty thousand - youngsters who are caught in institutions or bouncing between various foster parents and so on. They are, if ever there is group which you might term vulnerable, these are they. Damaged kids, emotionally and physically damaged, they have suffered abuse, many of them, many of them end up in crime, many of them end up on drugs and so on. These are the people who are the prime concern. Now, they want...what you want to give them is the most stable environment you possibly can. HUMPHRYS: You want to give them a happy home life and you seem to be suggesting that couples who are not married cannot give them that. Indeed you are suggesting that. DAVIS: No, no, not at all. HUMPHRYS: That's exactly what you're doing, you're saying they shouldn't be allowed to adopt these children. DAVIS: Two things about this. One is a misunderstanding about the law and one is the logic of the argument. The first thing is this. A simple statistical exercise, you've got fifty odd thousand youngsters, so you've got to approach this, I'm afraid on a statistical basis, what's going to work for most of them, most of the time and on the statistical basis, married couples tend to stay together for longer from the arrival of a child, than unmarried couples, that's just hard fact, we can't get away from that. HUMPHRYS: The logic of that is that unmarried couples shouldn't have children, aren't good parents, shouldn't be allowed to have children. DAVIS: No, No, No, that's their choice, but what we've got to do, these children are effectively, well in effect they are wards of the state so we have a moral responsibility directly to them, so that's point one. Point two, just remember what the law is currently, the law currently allows single adoption, has done for a significant length of time... HUMPHRYS: Indeed and we're seeing Local Authorities now breaking the rules to allow homosexual couples to adopt. DAVIS: That won't change, the single adoption issue. If we were to win this vote, that wouldn't change and I have to tell you that having looked at many, many adoption cases, there are cases where single people have adopted, often widowed or divorced women who have had families before and they've got a good track record of raising their children and they've done a fantastic job. I saw a lady raising two autistic kids, so that can still happen. Now the difference here is this, if a youngster is adopted and two or three years later the couple break up, in the case of a single adoption, unmarried or gay, whatever you want, there's no dispute, there's no custody dispute, there's no... HUMPHRYS: I take your point that there are powerful, emotional difficulties. But should you not at least allow your MPs to have a free-vote to decide according to their conscience, that would be the approach of a more liberal party, if that's what you have supposed to have become. DAVIS: Well, it's..this is the party policy. I mean... HUMPHRYS: That's, that... DAVIS: There will be people who will vote against it, it's a pretty loose free-vote anyway. I think there will be an awful lot... HUMPHRYS: Well, there's no such thing...three line whip... DAVIS: We don't have a two line anymore unfortunately because of technical reasons I can't bore you with. HUMPHRYS: So in other words you don't mind. You wouldn't mind if let us say, front-benchers voted against you. DAVIS: No, no. The issue is important, the issue matters. It's not one which is..which has sort of been come to very quickly, it's a very, I think..I hope you've determined from what I've just said to you, a very carefully thought out one where the important thing to recognise here is that the rights of the children supervene any other rights. The rights to a good chance, that's all it is, 'cause many of them will go wrong anyway, the right to a good chance, the best chance we can give them. And frankly, I have to say to you, I don't think actually the public looking at this will think, the public in the country at large looking at this, will say this is illiberal or irresponsible. They'll say they are looking very carefully at what the rights of the youngsters are and doing the best they possibly can for them. HUMPHRYS: Let's talk about the leadership. Grave reservations amongst your colleagues about the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith, Andrew MacKay... DAVIS: is said in the newspapers... HUMPHRYS: It's more than said in the newspapers isn't it and you know very well that it's more than said in the newspapers because it's the talk of the tea-rooms and all the rest of it and we heard Andrew MacKay there saying there are legitimate concerns and there are aren't there. These things aren't just whistled up out of fresh air. DAVIS: I have to say to you actually, that last week there was a clear briefing exercise of three newspapers, the same words... HUMPHRYS: By disaffected Conservative MPs, so it isn't just got up by the newspapers, they didn't make it up. DAVIS: I cannot remember, I cannot remember in my time in Parliament and I've been in since 1987 when there weren't some disaffected MPs. What concerns me, I have to tell you, is that if we carry on doing this and undermining leaders we're never going to get anywhere. I mean I, when we had our last leadership election, I stepped down in favour of Iain, there was a reason for that, the reason for that was that - part of that I like him I'm his friend - I also support what he stands for. In fact our views on public services, what we've been talking about so far, are very, very similar, so... HUMPHRYS: So you're saying these MPs who are doing the briefing are destroying the party, can I summarise you in saying that they are destroying the party. DAVIS: The people doing the briefing are doing harm to the party, there's no doubt about that, destroying.... HUMPHRYS: Making you unelectable? DAVIS: Well I don't want..if you don't mind I'll pick my own words... HUMPHRYS: Offering you a choice of words. DAVIS: No, no, I'm not going to take this as a sort of multiple choice question interview if you don't mind. What I think they are doing are making Iain's job incredibly difficult, incredibly difficult. HUMPHRYS: Is he going to lead the party at the next election - without any doubt at all? DAVIS: Yes, as certain as I can be, subject to sort of strikes by lightening. I am certain that he'll make it to the next election, he'll lead us into the next election and... HUMPHRYS: So you would rule yourself out then from standing before the next election? DAVIS: What I am about...I don't expect him to stand down....and what's more I'll do more than that, I mean this is about the tenth, eleventh, twelfth time I've answered this question over the course of the summer and the point I think I ought to get across is that I positively don't want him to stand down. I don't want these attacks on him, I will do what I can to prevent them. HUMPHRYS: If he did, for whatever reason, will you rule yourself out, no, this is a very, very valid question, if he were to... DAVIS: ..yeah, but this is a 'have you stopped beating your wife' question... HUMPHRYS:, on the contrary, because if you were to say.. DAVIS: There's no vacancy. HUMPHRYS: No, no, indeed there isn't at the moment as there wasn't when Michael Heseltine famously said what he said. What I am asking you do to and you could give Iain Duncan Smith a great deal of support here, or you could continue... DAVIS: Well he can have my support...I don't... HUMPHRYS: I'm sure he can have your support, but what I am asking you to do, is go that step further and say, I am ruling myself, David Davis, I am ruling myself out of standing. DAVIS: I do not want him to stand down, I don't want him to go... HUMPHRYS: Heseltine said "I can see no circumstances in which"... DAVIS: It's more than that, I want him to stay, I am positively a supporter of his. HUMPHRYS: You want him to stay, but what I am saying is if he has to go, and he may to go would you rule yourself out from standing? DAVIS: I don't think he will go. In fact I am almost certain he's not going to go. HUMPHRYS: You're not going to answer that question are you. You're almost certain he's not going to go. You are almost certain he's not going to go. DAVIS: I am as certain as I can be. How's that. I am as certain as it is possible to be that he can fight the next election for us, that I am going to do everything possible to help him win that election and make him the Prime Minister. In which case, all of your..all of your questions become entirely hypothetical. HUMPHRYS: David Davis, many thanks. DAVIS: Thank you. HUMPHRYS: The Tory Party leadership obviously was one of the big political stories of the past week. Now let's take a quick look at the others. Europe's leaders got together to talk about the future European Union, but Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac fell out in a big way over agriculture reforms. The result: a cancelled French summit and one less trip abroad for our Tony, but it didn't seem to worry him. TONY BLAIR: They will make their position clear, we make our position clear. That, I am afraid, is the way that it happens. HUMPHRYS: Mr Blair says he doesn't want to top up university fees, but his new Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, says they remain an option. It will take a while to sort it out. An announcement has been delayed once again. NHS consultants gave the Health Secretary a bloody nose by voting two to one against their new contract in England and Wales, but Alan Milburn bounced back. Now we're waiting for round two. ALAN MILBURN MP: There can be no question of re-negotiation. There can be no more resources and there can be no veto on reform. HUMPRHYS: Most MPs happily accepted their new working conditions. An earlier start (and finish) and a four-day week. All in the quest to be relevant to their public. ROBIN COOK MP: The best case for modernisation is that this House will lose its authority if it is seen by the nation to be out of date. HUMPHRYS: And social comment or nanny knows best? Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt decried the use of scantily-clad women to sell cars, but it turned out to be a woman who'd designed the offending advert. Most embarrassing. And the Culture Secretary Kim Howells used a rude word to sum up his view of entries for the Turner Prize... and got called a few choice names in return. JOHN HUMPHRYS: But that was last week, what about this week. Well, the Government's new Asylum Bill is facing trouble. It started out being fairly uncontroversial, but when it got to the House of Lords for their approval the Government added hundreds of amendments - changed the whole character of the original Bill. The Lords weren't having that and the Government lost a whole series of votes on the Bill. On Tuesday, it comes back to the Commons and the Government say they will reverse all those defeats. But, this session of Parliament comes to an end on Thursday, so unless someone compromises, they risk losing the whole thing. And this is an important piece of legislation. The Minister in the Lords responsible for it is Lord Filkin. Good afternoon. LORD FILKIN: Good afternoon. HUMPHRYS: A serious risk of losing this Bill, isn't there? FILKIN: I don't think so. I think that most of the key measures have been approved by the Lords, including most of the major changes that we made following the summer to deal with some of the growing problems that we'd had from certain countries. However, there are a number of measures that were defeated on Thursday, some of those are absolutely fundamental to the success of the Bill and I find it utterly...ultimately, I think unbelievable that the Lords would not see the sense of those measures when we seek to make that case back to them again next week. HUMPHRYS: Well, maybe they will, but probably they won't. You know what they can be like, you're one of them yourself. So it's not a question of whether you compromise, but how you compromise. FILKIN: I think our mind is open on some issues as to whether with common sense and goodwill there are different ways of expressing some issues, but at least a couple of the issues, they are so fundamental to what we are seeking to do that I think that they have to be in the Bill and the Government had a very clear mandate for these reforms. There's a very clear mandate in the country for recognising we want as a nation to give asylum to those who justify it, but to stop the abuse, to stop the high numbers of people who use the asylum system as a way of getting to Britain to work. HUMPHRYS: Let me just pick out a couple of the things that seem very important to most people. Certainly the question of these massive asylum centres opposed by people on both the right and the left here because some people say would destroy - we are talking about seven hundred people in one centre - it will destroy the village, the whole area in which we live. Other people say we absolutely don't want asylum seekers to be treated like this, their children treated as pariahs, kept in this centre not being able to go to other schools. That's something where you will have to compromise, isn't it? FILKIN: The case for asylum centres is very clear and strong. It's basically saying that we have to be quicker at processing asylum claims whilst we give people the support that they have asked us to. People in asylum, in accommodation centers, are basically people who said they want asylum but they also want the State to support them whilst their asylum claim is being processed. By giving people the support in high quality accommodation centres, we will be able to considerably increase the speed of processing right through to the final decision. HUMPRHYS: It's the question of the size of these places, though, isn't it. I mean a centre of seven hundred and fifty people, that changes the whole character of the area in which it's placed, doesn't it? FILKIN: Well, one could frivolously say that Eton School is about, I think, eleven hundred residents. HUMPHRYS: That would be being frivolous, wouldn't it? FILKIN: Well, nevertheless, the key thing about accommodation centres is also not just the speed of processing but having in there high quality support and facilities. For example, having good education facilities, good health care facilities, good translation facilities, having the legal processing there, good legal support and therefore having all those things there both gives the support and enables us to deal with cases and sort out the genuine cases quickly. HUMPHRYS: So, no compromise on the size of those accommodation centres, they're going to be big and that's it? FILKIN: I think that our minds are reflecting on the range of needs and circumstances in which we think accommodation centres will be used. HUMPHRYS: Ah, so a possible compromise there then? FILKIN: I don't think we would compromise from the key principles which is basically... HUMPHRYS: No, no, it's the size of the thing I am talking about. FILKIN: The support should be in the centre and secondly we should reduce the burden on local facilities and thirdly we should ensure we get the speed through. HUMPHRYS: If that can be done with a much smaller centre, then so be it? FILKIN: I think that there will always be a need for some accommodation centres of the size that you have been talking about. HUMPHRYS: Ah. FILKIN: The debate will be whether there's a need for others of different sizes and forms as well. HUMPHRYS: Let's look at another bit of the Bill which is upsetting a lot of people. This bizarrely called Henry the Eighth clause and as I understand it, correct me if I am wrong this is a very, very important one because what it means to many people is that you cannot only change the Bill as it's going through but once it's finished, once it's become an Act, once it's had the Royal assent, you can then say, well actually, this is what Henry Eighth, this is why it's named after him, we don't like that particular bit now, so we will change it and you would have the power to do that. FILKIN: Yes, but only on very minor, small technical issues. There's a lot of political posturing going on about this. This sort of measure has been in at least two or three other Bills this session, it was a process that the Conservative Party, the Conservative Government invented themselves and it's essentially, in essence it's when you've got a very complicated Bill like this is, it's crucial that it's made to work properly and the lawyers can't always spot every single consequential... HUMPHRYS: So will it be written into this clause then, into the Bill that you would only be able to change the minutiae of it, in other words you wouldn't for instance, I mean let us assume that you agreed a compromise on the size of accommodation centres for instance and you weren't actually terribly happy with that compromise, you would not, absolutely not be able to go back to that, to revisit it after the Bill had become law and say we will now change that back again? FILKIN: You are absolutely correct. It only deals with the minutiae, almost the legal bits and pieces that you may not, the lawyers may not always have spotted. Secondly, any use of that power that would effect the enactments in the Bill would have to be approved by Parliament, this is nothing unusual whatsoever. But it is being talked up, puffed up, I would say, so I think we can have one or two speeches in the House of Commons next week, perhaps by Oliver Letwin. HUMPHRYS: David Blunkett described people who are opposed to the Bill as engaging in silliness. Whether that's true or not and many people would argue that it is not true, these are very important issues here indeed. Surely, you have now got to be conciliatory in your approach rather than aggressive and take them all and punch them on the nose. You've got to say look, we all want this Bill to go through because the Tories want it to go through as well, they want a Bill. Have you not got to be conciliatory and say, yeah we can see the problems you've got, we'll go along with you. FILKIN: Well, let's wait and see what we do in the Commons on Tuesday. Clearly we are reflecting on these issues, we think it's fundamental that we have Bill in the legislation, so does as you say, most sane people. But it's crucial that we have the fundamentals there and we don't compromise on those fundamentals. HUMPHRYS: But ultimately the choice is between a compromised Bill or no Bill isn't it. FILKIN: I'd be extremely surprised if we didn't have the Bill fundamentally intact on its key measures and that that had support from my colleagues in the Lords when it comes back to it, from the Commons next week. HUMPHRYS: Lord Filkin, many thanks for joining us. FILKIN: Thank you. JOHN HUMPHRYS: The trade unions in the public sector have been getting more and more stroppy in these past few months. The Fire Brigades Union is only one of them saying: they want much more money and better conditions. Everyone remembers the so-called bad old days of the seventies and wonders whether we might be heading in that direction again. Certainly the bosses are getting nervous. They're warning the government that they're going to have to stand firm... or else. Paul Wilenius reports. PAUL WILENIUS: Well before breakfast, the working day's begun for successful businesswoman Sarah Anderson. She runs her own employment agency. John Davis hasn't got a job, but he treats his daily tasks as if he had. At dawn he's off to the picket line, as he's done every day since he was sacked. Union leaders wants new laws to protect him. Yet business leaders are worried this could hurt people like Sarah. One of new Labour's greatest successes was shedding its pro-union image and becoming more business friendly. Yet here at the headquarters of the CBI, Britain's biggest business organisation, doubts are starting to grow over the direction of the government. They're worried that the rise in militancy could force ministers to give ground to the unions over public sector pay, European employment rules, and more rights for workers. DIGBY JONES: If the government actually start to accede to yet more union demands, in the boardrooms of Detroit and Seoul and Tokyo and Johannesburg, overseas investors will start to say, aye, aye, who's running the country? Is it the democratic elected government or is it trade unionism? WILENIUS: John's one of eighty-seven workers sacked by the boss of the Friction Dynamics plant in Caenarfon, which makes clutch and brake linings. They all lost their jobs, one day after the eight week legal strike protection ran out. Eighteen months later they're still on strike . JOHN DAVIS: It's been very hard financially and health wise for all the families. Cash wise it's been very hard because all we've been getting is forty-seven pounds a week from the union - strike pay. A picket line is one of the loneliest places in the world. You can be standing here day in an day out. As you know we're here twenty-four hours a day, day and night. It's open exposed wind rain, sun, we get all the elements here. And when it's pouring down with rain morale can be very low. WILENIUS: John belongs to Tony Blair's union, the Transport and General. It's just one of a number of voices demanding a re-balancing of the country's employment laws, so that they give a fairer deal for workers . GEOFFREY ROBINSON MP: The immediate pre-'97 election period and immediately after that, there's no doubt that the pendulum probably swung a bit too much in favour of industry. as it was bound to do as we tried to find the balance, we had to first redress it. DEREK SIMPSON: Well I do think that Mrs Thatcher's laws should be confined to the dustbin of history. I think they did no service whatsoever, they certainly changed the balance, the pendulum swung very much in favour of employers. WILENIUS: The firemen's dispute is the darkest cloud so far on the industrial relations horizon. The firefighters want a forty per cent pay rise, with no strings. The Deputy Prime Minister has been dragged into the pay talks. It's reported there's already sixteen per cent on the table. However, a string of high public sector pay awards like this, could swallow up a large chunk of the government's big public spending programme. ALAN JOHNSON MP: We're determined that that will not happen, but we're determined to work with the unions as the Prime Minister said at party conference, to work with the unions to improve public services, they have the ideas, the experience, and in terms of how we channel this money through, their input is going to be essential, but it cannot be and I think the unions understand this, it cannot be a situation - it cannot be right to channel that money purely into wages and conditions. DIGBY JONES: Our message to this Labour government is they must stand firm at this very crucial moment for the British economy and for the future of the country. One because it will be inflationary if they gave in to these enormous awards without it being matched by productivity. And they've got to stand firm because actually they were not elected to give in, they were elected to deliver better. That needs more money but it needs reform. And I think the country itself is actually watching to see how this one plays. WILENIUS: Sarah's also watching the government. She's concerned by the growing mountain of red tape she has to deal with in her business. She doesn't want to be burdened with even more bureaucracy. Together with the CBI she's against the government applying a new European directive on information and consultation to a small firms like hers. It could have a big impact on many businesses. JOHNSON: Well we're having a discussion at the moment about how information and consultation will work in this country, we signed up to the directive in June 2001 having ensured that it was not a one size fits all directive. We always made it plain that we agreed with the principle of informing and consulting workers. It's become an issue because workers at Vauxhall for instance heard they were being made redundant over the radio. That's wrong, that shouldn't happen. We will look at that aspect in terms of redundancy, we will clear some of the myths that are around at the moment. WILENIUS: Sarah's off to see one of her larger clients. Indeed, it's many of the bigger companies who are most worried. Under the directive they'd be forced to keep their staff informed, especially when they hit stormy economic weather. The man who negotiates with many of the UK's largest companies gives it total support. SIMPSON: I think we should implement the European directive in full. I mean we're part of Europe, we're being told that that's where the destiny is, that's where we have to be, so what's the equivocation about European legislation in this matter? WILENIUS: Sarah is not the only one who thinks her business needs less, not more regulation. Her fears are shared by the CBI. They argue that if the directive is imposed in too heavy handed a way, it could harm the economy and the country. SARAH ANDERSON: The challenge of regulation now is just phenomenal, there is both regulation in the pipeline, there's regulation that's taken place that's particularly hit our industry. DIGBY JONES: The impact of a poorly implemented information and consultation directive, would mean that firstly businesses would actually think that employing more people isn't worth it. Secondly, they would actually have to implement it in a way that is awful for the moral of a workforce. I mean imagine being told we're going to lose a load of jobs in the next six months, I can't tell you who it's going to be, but over the next six months I just want you to worry yourselves, while we go through what this Brussels' directive has told us we've got to do. ROBINSON: What I'd say to businessmen who say we want a light touch or we don't want a review is that's too negative, we live in a dynamic world, things do change, attitudes change and we have to accommodate ourselves to what comes out of Europe. WILENIUS: On the picket line in Wales, John and his colleagues believe they're the victims of bad employment rights laws, which have left them sacked and locked out of their own place of work, for so long. The TUC backs them, and has put in a twenty-three thousand word submission to government designed to stiffen their resistance to the business case. BRENDAN BARBER: I complain that too often they listen too much to some of the bleating voices from employers about how difficult some of these changes have been. And I'd like to see them be bolder in taking forward a positive agenda for employment rights at work. There's some unfinished business. When the Employment Relations Act was carried through, it was recognised then that we were going to need to look at how some of the provisions actually operated in practice. In particular the new arrangements for Trade Union recognition. And we think the first couple of years or so of seeing those provisions in action has demonstrated that there are a number of ways in which they can be improved. WILENIUS: Ministers would like to take the heat out of this contentious debate and get both sides of the nation's industry to agree a way forward. But there's little chance of that. The unions are expecting action from a Labour Government, while business leaders want them to do nothing which would damage the economy. JOHNSON: Well we said when we introduced the Employment Relations Act that we would review it after three years. We are reviewing the Act, not things that weren't in the Act, not things that people wanted in the Act but couldn't get in the Act, we are reviewing the Act and how it's operated over the last three years. Now the TUC's submission is quite long, that's nothing new, probably the CBI's submission will be equally long. JONES: We've been asked for our views on this review of employment legislation and our review response is very short but very meaningful and that is, leave well alone, let it bed down and actually review it and do nothing. WILENIUS: Ministers are working with and listening to the unions and the TUC more and more recently, with the support of many in the Labour Party. However, Tony Blair's advisors are very wary about being seen to be getting too close to the unions. They fear that business leaders are getting increasingly worried, that this could signal a return to the bad old days. JONES: When I saw a few weeks ago only what was it thirty per cent of the tube drivers actually voted for a strike, and then it paralysed eight million people. Well when a minority driven on by a militant leadership can cause misery to millions of people and put up a big sign that is adverse to the interests of the country in those markets where we operate, I have to say you do worry about whether we're heading off towards the discontent of thirty, thirty years ago. And that would be seriously damaging to everybody in Britain. SIMPSON: Now I'm still waiting for a government minister to stand up and say, well Mr Digby Jones just like they would do with Bob Crow, Arthur Scargill or anyone: you're talking like an idiot, you're an extreme representative of an narrow band of people, i.e. the employers with a vested interest and I'm sorry we're here to govern for the people. The people in the main are many, many thousands and millions of trade unionists, not just a few, handful of very rich powerful people with the influence of the CBI. JONES: It doesn't help when you see Derek Simpson saying publicly, he's going to give the democratically elected leader of this country a F-ing migraine. How do you think that plays in a boardroom in Detroit, or Tokyo or Soul, which is where investors in this country, wealth creators in this country, job creators in the country make their decisions? And they do start to think, oh yes, are we going back to the bad old days. WILENIUS: For John, these are the bad old days. For Tony Blair, there's little doubt he's got real trouble ahead from the unions, unless he does more to keep them happy. But the more he pleases them, the more he upsets industry and the more he risks waving goodbye to his hard won special relationship with big business. HUMPHRYS; And that was Paul Wilenius reporting. And that's it for this week. Don't forget about our Web-site. See you again at the 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.