BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 08.12.02

==================================================================================== 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: 08.12.02 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Two party leaders this week.... Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy. For the Tories the question I'll be asking is: are the Conservatives conservative ENOUGH? Or are they just confused? And for the Liberal Democrats: are they really the honest party they like to present themselves as being? That's after the news read by Jane Hill. NEWS HUMPHRYS: Thanks very much. Later I'll be talking to the Conservative's leader Iain Duncan Smith. JOHN HUMPHRYS: But first, the other leader of the opposition... Charles Kennedy. He's not quite that yet... not officially. The Liberal Democrats have only fifty three seats compared with the Tories' one hundred and sixty five. But they say things will be different after the next election. They are on their way to becoming the first party of opposition. Well... maybe. But they've a lot of voters to win over between now and then. One of the ways they're trying to do that is to persuade us that they're different from the other parties. You can believe them when they tell you something. They don't spin. They don't make promises they know they can't keep. They're straightforward ... and their leader is proof of that. Honest Charlie. He's with me now. Good morning Mr Kennedy. CHARLES KENNEDY: What a kind introduction. It can only go downwards ...... HUMPHRYS: It can only get worse, exactly. So what you're saying is what you're seeing is what you get. That's the essence of your pitch, if I may use that word. KENNEDY: Yes, I think so. HUMPHRYS: Yes, grudgingly. KENNEDY: No, I say this with care and moderation because we have got to up our game as a political party. Now I think the opportunity is there. I mean people will no doubt see you conversing with Iain Duncan-Smith in the course of this programme, but I do think if you look at the state of the Conservatives, and you look at what a lot of people are asking themselves, and you look at parliament and politics generally at the moment, they're saying here's a Prime Minister with a three-figure majority in the House of Commons into his sixth year of office, the country requires effective coherent opposition. Now, you're not getting that from the Conservatives, they're spending too much time squabbling amongst themselves ,they're forgetting the people out there that do want to hear a rational articulate difference in terms of what an opposition party can provide, and I hope that that is what we are providing. HUMPHRYS: And an honest difference, let me test you on a couple of the claims towards honesty that you've made, and one of them is about honest where tax is concerned. You've always said, you had always said, if we want better public services such as education you've got to pay for it. Therefore you had a policy of putting a penny extra on income tax if you got into power, because that is what education needed, that penny devoted to it. Now you've dropped that which rather implies that you're now telling us that we can get something for nothing. KENNEDY: No, I don't subscribe to the view that we can get something for nothing. Indeed, the education discussion of this past week very much solidifies that case. There is a price tag to be attached to all of this, but what we have acknowledged, having argued before, during and since the last election that more money needed to go to education, we voted for the fact that the government are now putting that extra investment in. The question is about how effectively does that investment actually reach the classroom. How effectively does it reach those who are in need of that extra support. Now, that's where the difference, the debate is now to take place. HUMPHRYS: No, the big debate is how you pay for that, and you're saying are you, we don't need tax increases to pay for it? KENNEDY: At this stage you don't, because the government..... HUMPHRYS: Why did David Laws your Treasury man say Brown may have to consider tax rises later in this parliament? KENNEDY: Later in this parliament he may, he may. I don't know what the economic situation is going to be in another two or three years time. The Chancellor has just had to revise some of his own statements, as he said to the House of Commons just last week. What we are saying is, if that taxation is required we will be honest enough to go out and argue for that. At the moment we are also being straightforward enough to say, yes, the government is putting in more money, we voted for this, we welcome the fact that the extra resources are now being devoted. Let's make sure it's money well spent. HUMPHRYS: The point is this, you believe, along with others - indeed, along with Gordon Brown himself that he's having to borrow a great deal of money, much more than he would have hoped to borrow, far more according to many people bearing in mind British Rail and all them, whatever they call themselves these days, old Rail Track, that he's going to have to borrow twenty billion more even than he told us, so therefore they're borrowing too much money. You don't want to cut spending, clearly you don't want to cut spending, so therefore tax .... KENNEDY: We do want to make sure that spending is well allocated. HUMPHRYS: Of course, of course, but nonetheless if you're not going to borrow more and you're certainly not arguing for that, if you're not going to cut spending then it follows you'll have to put up taxes. Can't you just be honest and say taxes are going to have to go up? KENNEDY: No, we're not saying that at the moment. I think what people really want from politics is transparency in terms of the taxation, and just seeing that the public services benefit as a result. Whether it's the fight against crime, whether it's decent transport, whether it's good education and health services, and so on. Now, that's a perfectly legitimate sensible argument to put forward. HUMPHRYS: Except that the sums don't add up. That's the problem isn't it, and you should say so if you're going to the straightforward party. KENNEDY: I think we are perfectly legitimate in the criticisms that we make of Gordon Brown and of the government in the fact that they denied that there was a need for extra taxation and then implemented it after the General Election, having disavowed such an approach. No wonder people get pretty cynical with folk like me in politics, when they say. Well look they do one thing before an election, and then they do something else after an election. HUMPHRYS: But even with that extra, with the extra in National Insurance that we're going to have to be paying from the spring, the sums still don't add up do they, given all the extra spending that he has in mind. Unless you're going to borrow more money. Still more money. KENNEDY: No, it's a question of efficiency and effectiveness in how you actually devote the very, very substantial sums of money that are going into the public services. Now, I don't think you can do it, and this is where the big criticism of Gordon Brown comes in - I don't think you can do it by this over-micro management of each of the public services that we've got in this country. I think that you have to accept that decentralising decision making and the financial control that goes with it probably means that you get a more efficient use of the budget sums. HUMPHRYS: But it doesn't mean spending less. You wouldn't pretend that for a moment, so if you're not going to spend less.... KENNEDY: We have voted for these increases. Of course we have. HUMPHRYS: Precisely, precisely, so, if you're not going to spend less and you can't borrow any more, then I repeat, it follows the taxes would have to go up. KENNEDY: I do think that efficiency is the key to all this, and I'm not at all sure, and indeed from what I hear from people who work right across the whole ambit of the public services, they don't feel that money is efficiently devoted in terms of the national resources. I would like to see more local people having more local control of the sums that ... HUMPHRYS: You - all this talk of efficiency and everything and not wanting to put up taxes, you sound exactly like the Tories, which may of course not be a coincidence, because what you're after is the soft Tory vote isn't it. That's where you are actually getting your votes from, or some of them. KENNEDY: Well, I'm interested in people coming to support us full stop, and I don't think that we should get over obsessed as a party in this stage in the political cycle if I can put it that way, by what people's previous allegiances have been. I think that people just want a straightforward approach about what you're going to raise, what your priorities are, how you're going to go about it. Now, there must be many Conservatives looking at the state of that party at the moment, shaking their heads in disbelief, despair frankly, but they are looking for an opposition party which is able to articulate a responsible view. HUMPHRYS: And when they look at you they may start shaking their heads with a wee bit of disbelief as well eventually because, let's..... KENNEDY: Why would they do that? HUMPHRYS: I will give you another example. I think I've given you one, but I'll give you another one, and that is your ear-marking of National Insurance for health now. This implies, implies.. it quite clearly states in your view there is going be greater investment, I'm quoting, greater investment than we have every proposed before to rebuilding a world class NHS. That's the intention, that's the ambition, according to your alternative budget. But it simply isn't true is it. Doing that would not imply that, would not lead to that. KENNEDY: Well, the key question, or the key issue, about ear-marking NICs for this - National Insurance Contributions for the Health Service is that it is year on year on year. In other words, you can have a Chancellor that stands up as Mr Bountiful and says "I'm going to give you billions more pounds for the National Health Service". "Terrific" everybody says "good news". The problem is that that is time limited, if you ear-mark National Insurance Contributions, that becomes a rolling contribution to the future of the NHS. HUMPHRYS: Oh, it may well do, it may well do, but what it doesn't mean is what's that quote again "greater investment than ever". According to your own man, your own frontbencher, Nick Harvey, it is a book-keeping exercise that does not commit any extra money to the NHS, that's what he said. KENNEDY: Well, I don't know the context in which Nick and we mustn't get our Nicks mixed up here. HUMPHRYS: We mustn't. But let me help you out there, let me give you another one... KENNEDY: Sure. HUMPHRYS: ...and you would know the context of this because he said this at a meeting just recently. Jonathan Davies, another man you will know every well "it is the economies of ENRON and the honesty in tax raising and not the honesty in tax raising of which we have been so proud". KENNEDY: Well, I... HUMPHRYS: Pretty clear what he thinks about it. KENNEDY: Yes, well I don't agree. I do not agree and in a political party, a democratic political party, you can have honest and open disagreement. I think the way that we have gone about this has been very systematic, has been very responsible and I think long-term it would deliver better for the future of the National Health Service than short-term fixers. HUMPHRYS: But it isn't this the greatest...the greater investment than we have ever had before? That's what it is not and you have said it would be that and it won't be that, by your own admission, it won't be that. KENNEDY: Year upon year, year upon year, year upon year it will be just that... HUMPHRYS: You can't possibly say that. KENNEDY: Well what the National Health Service needs is a long-term stability. It needs... HUMPHRYS: That's different. KENNEDY: needs less political interference from the centre... HUMPHRYS: That's different too. KENNEDY: ...and it needs a guarantee of subsequent funding year upon year upon year... HUMPHRYS: And that's different, too. KENNEDY: and that... HUMPHRYS: It is not the greatest investment. KENNEDY: ...and that is what our policy would deliver. HUMPHRYS: All right, well, we'll leave that one rest for a while. KENNEDY: People will judge. HUMPHRYS: And indeed they will. KENNEDY: People will judge. HUMPHRYS: As in all these things. Let's give you another one and this is red tape. You want to cut all the red tape I think I'm using your phrase here again that "holds enterprise back". KENNEDY: Yeah. HUMPHRYS: The truth is, the truth is that you want a whole raft of new regulations. KENNEDY: Well, in what respect, I mean in what respect? HUMPHRYS: what respect. KENNEDY: Political parties want to do certain things. HUMPHRYS: Right... KENNEDY: ...that by definition involves regulation. One of the things I keep saying regularly to the people that I work with is that for every idea we come forward with, I would like to see proposals for things that we would stop the state doing... HUMPHRYS: Oh, I've heard that before. The Tories said exactly that a few years back, Labour have said exactly that. Let me give you three areas where you want more and not less regulations. KENNEDY: Fire away. HUMPHRYS: You want more flexible working, therefore that imposes certain conditions on employers, you want more consultation before bosses can sack you... KENNEDY: Yes. HUMPHRYS: ...exactly the want greater protection, greater protection even than we have just had for more...for part-time workers. Now, in each of those cases, that means that the bosses cannot do what they want to do. You may say it's a very good thing. You may say quite right, bosses must be circumscribe, they must protect their workers, but in each of those cases, there would be profoundly more regulation. KENNEDY: But look, an enlightened society, one that works in a sensible, harmonious way is one in which actually good business, good company, corporate approach is environmentally aware, its employee aware... HUMPHRYS: I don't argue with that. I don't argue with that... KENNEDY: .....and so on and so forth. HUMPHRYS: I don't argue with that. What I'm saying is it's more regulation, not less regulation and if you're going to have this bonfire of red tape, you're not going to produce it. KENNEDY: Well, look, we have a system in this country where at the moment, if you take some of the things you have just been referring to which derive from European Union Directives, for example, a lot of gold-plating goes on in our country. What's gold-plating? Gold-plating is when... HUMPHRYS: Means we don't bend the rules. KENNEDY: ...the mandarins in Whitehall say "right, here's an EU Directive, we've agreed to it, we've signed up for it, we're going to implement it". Fine. What we'll do is we'll tag on quite a few other things that have been gathering dust in the Department of Employment or whatever it might be - the DTI or something - and this is a good excuse and then if anybody complains afterwards, well, we can always blame it on Brussels. HUMPHRYS: All right. KENNEDY: Now, we want to have a much more transparent approach than that. HUMPHRYS: Let's give you another one. Renewable energy, a very big thing for your party. KENNEDY: Indeed. HUMPHRYS: Very big indeed. You're saying one thing nationally, which is twenty per cent should come from renewable energy, which obviously means mostly wind farms, that's the way it is at the moment anyway, the vast majority would come from wind farms. But locally, on the ground, your people, Liberal Democrats, are saying "we don't like these things" and the fact is, I think it is seventy five per cent of all wind farms are stopped because of planning objections. Now your people on the ground are many of the people who are supporting those objections, so one thing nationally, the other thing in the real world. KENNEDY: Well, I think when it comes to the planning process in this country, it is, by definition, all about local accountability and local decision making, but that doesn't in any way take away from the viewpoint that the party would adopt and pursue on a national basis. HUMPHRYS: So when...if you were in power then you would like your local people... KENNEDY: What...what I can do... HUMPHRYS: say "no you can't object to that wind farm" you, with yours on the Isle of Skye for instance. You have been a bit equivocal about the great big wind farms they want to put on the Isle of Skye. KENNEDY: No I have not actually. I have not at all and that application has just gone through... HUMPHRYS: Are you wholly opposed to it? Entirely opposed to it? Or entirely in favour of it? KENNEDY: I'm a supporter of it. HUMPHRYS: Totally in support of it with no qualifications whatsoever? KENNEDY: No, I put in plenty qualifications, perfectly sensible qualifications, as the local MP should... HUMPHRYS: But you wanted it to go there? KENNEDY: terms of the consultation process, in terms of the decision making, how it was arrived at and so on and so forth. HUMPHRYS: But you want the wind farm on the Isle of Skye? KENNEDY: I have said so, yes. HUMPHRYS: Right. All right. KENNEDY: I have said so locally, yes. HUMPHRYS: And you would say the same to other colleagues in Ceredigion for instance, or wherever it happens to be, where they don't like wind farms, you'd say the same, support them? KENNEDY: No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't presume to know. HUMPHRYS: Okay. KENNEDY: It's a matter for them to make that judgement locally and that's as it should be. HUMPHRYS: Right, your own leadership - in Brighton you said, and I'm quoting again that "you were going to quicken the pace" because you were really on the cusp now of taking over as the opposition, if not the government. You didn't actually say, go back and prepare for government. KENNEDY: No, I did not say that. HUMPHRYS: But you see, what most people have seen is you've been extremely laid back since then, at least that is the perception and the thing most people, I suspect... KENNEDY: Might be some people's perception. HUMPHRYS: Some people's perception but what everybody will know, or at least I think pretty much everybody, is that you are about to chair this "Have I Got News for You" programme and they'll say "hang on a minute, is this bloke serious about being a political leader, or is he a showbiz character?" KENNEDY: Well, people will say that sort of thing. First of all I would say there's a local hospice in the Highlands of Scotland that will benefit as a result of this and it is the season of goodwill.. HUMPHRYS: No doubt about that. KENNEDY: But secondly, I think the more important point is this, that you and I spend a great deal of our professional and public life bemoaning the fact that too many people are not engaging in the political process, particularly younger people. You have got to, I think, in politics today, use the mediums of communication available to you... HUMPHRYS: So, they will come out and vote because they see you do a bit of knockabout on television. KENNEDY: No, they will pay attention and they will reflect upon the fact that politicians can also, believe it or not, be human beings. HUMPHRYS: But that programme holds politics up to ridicule. That's one of the things that it does, it pillories politicians, it lampoons them all the time and you will be part of that. KENNEDY: It's satirical, it's satirical... HUMPHRYS: Savage as well.. KENNEDY: Well, I don't know. You've got to have broad shoulders in this life but the, I think there is a place for satire in politics. I think that you want politicians who take themselves seriously but also, can equate with the general public. HUMPHRYS: But I mean, just try to imagine Tony Blair doing that when he was Leader of the Opposition. KENNEDY: Well quite. To ask the question is to answer it. Could you imagine Iain presenting it? HUMPHRYS: Well alright - leave that one on the table as well. Cherie Blair - what's your view of what has happened there. I mean obviously you don't want to attack Cherie Blair personally, nobody ever does because she's.... and all that. But nonetheless, Number Ten's role in it. KENNEDY: Well I think obviously there's been mixed messages that have been coming out of the Number Ten press organisation in terms of all of this which they probably need to address. HUMPHRYS: In what sense. KENNEDY: There's something obviously wrong when one impression is given to the press, apparently, so, I've not been party to any of this obviously, but one impression is given and then clearly another version of events emerges. Now that's not very effective or coherent press operation. HUMPHRYS: That's all you have to say, it's not very effective or coherent. You don't think it's more serious than that. You don't think we've been misled. KENNEDY: It's very difficult to know. I don't know whether you have been consciously misled..... HUMPHRYS: .....are they being honest? KENNEDY: terms of the media community or not. That's a matter that no doubt will be trawled over for days and weeks and months to come. I do think the important thing is that there has got to be voracity where public servants are concerned and there must be a distinction made between public servants acting on behalf of the government of the day, which is one thing and public servants being asked to communicate information which to say the very least appears to be open to question in a more personal and private capacity. HUMPHRYS: Charles Kennedy, many thanks. KENNEDY: My pleasure. Thank you. JOHN HUMPHRYS: When On The Record first appeared on the air, a long time ago, the Conservatives were the natural party of government. We pretty well all believed that. Even if they lost the odd election it would be only a matter of time (and not a very long time) before they'd be back in power. They were the most successful political party in Europe. You won't find many people saying that today. Things could hardly be different. Two hammerings at two successive elections - and you'll get very good odds indeed if you bet on them winning the next time. The polls suggest they haven't a chance. So what's gone wrong and how do they get out of this mess? I've been talking this morning to their leader Iain Duncan Smith near his home in Buckinghamshire. I suggested to him that they were making a fundamental mistake. Instead of competing with Labour for the middle ground in British politics they should remember what they are: Conservatives - and develop their policies accordingly. Tax, for instance, aren't they meant to be the tax cutting party. IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well there's no question in my mind about where we go. The truth is that we as a party, the Conservative Party, believes fundamentally that people are better off, society is better off, the enterprise economy works better if taxes are lower than they are at the present state under the Labour Government. But one question has to be raised, is how you go about achieving an objective which is both smaller government and lower taxation, if you haven't yet reformed public services. And so, when I've talked about over the last year, putting the base in place, it's about saying how we will reform the public services: health, education and law and order, which the government has fundamentally failed to do. Once you understand that, you understand how much money they need, once you understand that, then you can say this is what therefore is left over for how we then adjust taxation. And that's the logical step which allows us to go to the electorate with them saying, okay, I understand their position, I understand how that works, it makes sense to me. Not just screaming tax cuts without having any logic to it. HUMPHRYS: Well, it may be logical but some of your own people, don't seem to quite understand it, if that is the case. Tim Yeo for instance, one of your front-benchers, he was talking about business the other day, they want us to stake out ..I'm quoting him "they want us to stake out our tax cutting credentials now". DUNCAN SMITH: He's right. Business wants to know, quite rightly, how we will reduce the overall burdens which have risen dramatically on them, but I'm sure you read two speeches I made quite recently John, it's not a test by the way, but I made a speech... HUMPHRYS: Read everything you say... DUNCAN SMITH: I made a speech to the IOD and a speech to the CBI and I laid out clearly what had happened over the last five to six years how the tax burden had risen dramatically over ten billion pounds extra in tax alone... HUMPHRYS: You didn't say you were going to cut it. DUNCAN SMITH: What I did indicate to them was our purpose was to lower the burden of regulation and tax on business. The question remains how we are going to do that and how at the same time we reform public services. Michael Howard is in agreement with that. What we said all along is, no-one will believe a word we say unless we are credible on reforming public services. The big failure for this government is that they are pouring vast sums of taxpayers' money into unreformed services. The services aren't improving but the burdens are rising on business so what we've got to say is there is a way to reform public services to make them look more like services in Australia, in France, in other countries that have private and voluntary services involved in the running of the public services, not as they are here which is wholly government run and government financed. HUMPHRYS: And what Edward Leigh, another very senior Conservative, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, says to that is that it is fine to talk about public services, but the reason people vote Tory is to pay less tax and you do not say, you are going to pay less tax under a Tory government. DUNCAN SMITH: You again would have read the speech I made to the Conservative Way Forward, where I laid out what we are and Edward agreed with this and so did the others. I said the purpose of a Conservative Government is to reduce the role of the central-state, to push power down so that people at the other end, parents, teachers, patients, doctors, can take greater control over what they do. To do that, we will take power out of Whitehall, so that means reducing the role of central government, giving people greater freedom. We also recognise in that you will want to give them greater power and that involves giving them and leaving them with more of their own money. HUMPHRYS: Give them back their money to let them spend it themselves, that's what Tories have always said, but you are not now saying it. DUNCAN SMITH: Oh I am. What I saying John is quite clearly this. First, what we have to show to the British people, because otherwise it is incredible that we actually know how to reform those public services so that we can get that power down to people, and in doing it we can reduce the bureaucracy and the burdens that allow us therefore to free them up and that then tells them how much money they will have for their own. And that's the logic John. You know as well as I do, that if I sat here now a year after, or just over a year over I was elected as Leader and said: I know, we know how much money the government is going to taxing you within three or four years from now. And therefore I can tell you specifically how we are going to cut that. That would be incredible and I don't believe that that is the game. Important for us to say, we've made the calculations, this is how it works, this is how the public services will be reformed and improved and this is therefore how we will... HUMPHRYS: The trouble is and the reason I started off saying it's confused and all that is because then you hear somebody like Oliver Letwin saying, as he did to me on this programme: we might even have to put up taxes. DUNCAN SMITH: Do you know what Oliver was saying - quite right and what he was actually indicating there was all governments have to deal with what they are left by the previous government and what he is saying is, the way the government is going, his worry, our fear, is right now is just beginning to emerge. The government is out of control of the public finances. For example, during the pre-Budget statement the Chancellor admitted only months after the Budget that he'd got his calculations wrong and borrowing was going to rise by twenty billion in the next year. When we asked him this specific question, we then said what about the way in which he's underwritten the Railtrack episode. Now we discover that's an extra twenty-one billion. He never even mentioned that. Our concern is that the borrowing may be even higher than he has indicated. What Oliver is saying is that we don't know yet what their specific position will be by the end of this Parliament but we remain a Party that believes fundamentally that lower tax regimes, low tax economies are enterprise economies and develop more money. That's the key thing and that is the principle... HUMPHRYS: To add on to everything that you have just said. There is this question of how much the government intends to spend, another seventeen billion pounds above inflation. Let's assume an election comes about in about three years from now. In that year they will spending another seventeen billion pounds above inflation. Now you yourself have said that is a huge increase, therefore, you've been quoting logic to me throughout this interview, logic says you would not spend that much. DUNCAN SMITH: We've already said, we are not matching their spending plans. I was honest about that four months ago, five months ago because I said... HUMPHRYS: So you'd cut it? DUNCAN SMITH: I said they can't sustain them. You can only spend what you can afford, that's the truth and we've said that all along. My observation on this, which is very important, is that the problem for the government is that they think money will solve the problem with the public services. Let me give you an example which really blows this out of the water. In Wales, a place close to your heart, they spend as much money per capita of the population on health as they do in France, yet in France you don't wait more than four weeks for an operation. In Wales you wait months and the Health Service there is in a worse state than it is in England. Now if money alone was the solution Wales would have a first rate Health Service that was the match of France, it's not. It's because they still run the service, as they do in England, on the basis that the government owns it, the government runs it, it's run by targets and diktats, everybody looks over their shoulder to the minister and it's financed solely by general taxation. It's not going to get any better by simply pouring money in, it's got to be reformed and changed and we are coming forward with proposals. You show them at the Bournemouth Conference, big proposals, the beginning of real reform and change in the Health Service. HUMPHRYS: So you would cut, let's be quite clear about this. You would not spend that seventeen billion pounds extra in three years or whenever it is from now, you would not spend all that money, you would cut it, let's be quite clear about that because that's irresponsible you're saying. DUNCAN SMITH: What I've said is that we are not going to match their spending. What we are not going to do is say... HUMPHRYS: The other way of saying that is that you would cut their spending isn't it. DUNCAN SMITH: Well it depends how we'd rearrange or maybe even change it... HUMPHRYS: Hang on, we are not going to match it means we are not going to spend that much doesn't it. DUNCAN SMITH: I agree. What I am saying to you there are other ways in which you can spend more but not spend directly by government taxation, this is the point that we are making. For example, in places like France, everywhere else that we visited, all the systems I've visited, nobody does it our way, nobody runs their Health Service so the private and the voluntary sector are excluded. HUMPHRYS: Individuals in many cases spend more themselves so that's what you would have... DUNCAN SMITH: My answer is we must look at other ways as well of financing the Health Service and we are looking at that. We have ruled out charging, we've said that doesn't work. HUMPHRYS: Ah, now you've... DUNCAN SMITH: We did at the conference, we ruled that out. HUMPHRYS: You ruled it out completely? Because what you've said to me on one occasion, on this programme, was that you were prepared to consider charging for GP visits - absolutely gone all of that? DUNCAN SMITH: We looked at that and when we went and talked to the French, for example, a lot of the French doctors said to us "there's one bit about our system that you must not look at, it's charging - it's a huge paperchase... HUMPHRYS: So that's gone? DUNCAN SMITH: doesn't work, it's inefficient. So we've said no. We said that at conference that we therefore having looked at it, decided no. But what we are looking at is a whole range of other ways of helping to finance the Health Service, public services generally. For example, the way in which insurance is used in most other countries. HUMPHRYS: Private insurance? DUNCAN SMITH: as you go as well, ways of giving tax relief to people who have to buy their treatment out. Let me give you a good example here which is very important. Last year, in the Health Service, something like a quarter of a million people, most of whom were pensioners on fixed incomes, not on insurance, had to go outside the Health Service to buy their treatment: hip replacements, heart bypasses. They did so because the waits were so long they were in great pain, most of them either got their children to pay for it, or they sold something to do it. What we were saying at conference was: Look, as a start, we will help you get that treatment. We would assist you, in part, by providing some of the finance, we will look at ways of giving tax relief on that, but what we're saying is instead of saying to you if you go outside the Health Service, you're wrong, we'll say no, we want to widen access to healthcare and so we think that that's not a bad thing. HUMPHRYS: Right. Well, the logic of that then is that if I were to say "I don't actually like the NHS, I want to do everything outside the NHS and it cost me a lot of money" - BUPA or whatever it happens to be, whichever service I sign up to. You would say "we will give you a tax incentive to enable you to do that" because that would be the Conservative way, wouldn't it? DUNCAN SMITH: We are looking at various ways to do that and we haven't had the answer... HUMPHRYS: You will do that. I mean in one way or another you will do that? DUNCAN SMITH: But I have given you an example of that. One of the things I've said to you is that a quarter of a million people last year left the Health Service and there was probably at a least a million or more who simply couldn't quite make that final amount of money but were sitting in pain on a waiting list... HUMPHRYS: Right. DUNCAN SMITH: ...our observation is that in every other country, people get to choose where they go. In France, they can choose to go to a private or a state provider and the state doesn't say "oh, that's no good". HUMPHRYS: No, it helps them, it helps them. DUNCAN SMITH: The states says... HUMPHRYS: So you would do that? Right, so that is... DUNCAN SMITH: We're looking for ways to do that, I haven't got exact specifics but I've given you an example of the way of doing it... HUMPHRYS: No, no, but you've not abandoned that Conservative principle which is to say "if people want private Health Service, we will help them to do it and if more people go private, that's not only fine, that's actually good, we approve of that". DUNCAN SMITH: Well, we approve of widening access to healthcare and that's the only way to do it. You can't simply say as...we're the only country in the western world that says "State good, private and voluntary bad" and yet it doesn't make sense. HUMPHRYS: So you would like to see more people going private, let's be clear about this point. DUNCAN SMITH: We think more involvement of the private and voluntary sector with people themselves being able to get that treatment. The key thing of the Health Service is they must be able to get the treatment when they need it, regardless of their ability to pay, now that's a critical component. HUMPHRYS: Let's talk about...we're clear enough there then, let's talk about education. DUNCAN SMITH: Yes. HUMPHRYS: What we tend to hear from you is a lot of fairly woolly talk about decentralisation, parental choice and all that, all sounds terribly good but it's mostly rhetoric. You did...(laughter from Iain Duncan Smith)...well, that's how it comes across... DUNCAN SMITH: ...John, I'll take your word for it. Okay. HUMPHRYS: ...that's how it comes across to an awful lot of people. Well, one of things you were very clear about at one stage was vouchers. You thought it was a good idea, do you still think it a good idea that people, that parents, should have vouchers so they can decide what sort of school they want to send their children to? DUNCAN SMITH: I for example don't think that anybody out there really understands what vouchers are. So when we talk about vouchers what we ought to really do is explain what you are meaning and what I mean and make sure we mean the same thing. HUMPHRYS: Right, well what kind of vouchers would you like to hand out to parents? DUNCAN SMITH: Well, let's just put the word "vouchers " on one side, because I don't think parents... HUMPHRYS: Well, I'd rather not, because it's a very clear specific thing. DUNCAN SMITH: I'll come to exactly what we are talking about in a minute, whether it's vouchers or not. For example, in America, they have systems of choice which you may call vouchers, they don't, so there are different ways of phrasing it. The real point to ask is not vouchers or no vouchers, the question to ask is how much choice do parents get with their children to get the school that will give them a decent education and what we found when we did a study and again I'm sure you have read this but we produced a pamphlet on this which showed that tens of thousands of children each year are trapped in inner city schools that fail, that failure rate is getting worse and in actual fact the parents have no right to choose, in other words they can only go to that school. We said that can't be right because those children themselves will go on to fail because they don't have qualifications. So, again, at Bournemouth, we put flesh on the bones on what we mean by this, approaching this concept that you're referring to and we said, for example, two things: one, we would have state scholarships for children particularly in this moment in inner city schools. That if that school is a failing school, then their parent will be able to take that child and send it to a school - could be state, could be private - if that education's not good enough. The second thing we have said is also - and this is what we learnt from Holland and other countries. In Holland they have a statutory right - parents - if a school they don't approve of - it's not working - they can go and set up another school with a group of parents and achieve state funding for that as well. So what we're saying is: we will offer the same facility. HUMPHRYS: And one of the ways you can do that is to offer every parent a voucher, that's one of the ways, isn't it? DUNCAN SMITH: Well, this is a way of doing something similar, but not specifically quite that because... HUMPHRYS: So you've backed off vouchers then? DUNCAN SMITH: No, it's not. What we're saying is, this is giving them choice on the same basis but we're providing it on a logical basis. HUMPHRYS: But you are no longer going to say parents "we'll be giving you..." DUNCAN SMITH: But you're obsessed with the word "voucher", John. HUMPHRYS: Obsessed! DUNCAN SMITH: I've just given you two examples of how we are saying money will follow... HUMPHRYS: ....I know and I've offered you this third because you know...the reason you're - if I may suggest this to you - the reason you're backing off really is because you know it's a pretty emotive word. It means a lot to a lot of Conservatives though and they would say if Iain Duncan Smith said this morning "yes, we liked vouchers" that would tell us...deliver a very clear message. The Conservative.... DUNCAN SMITH: But John I've said, that we are looking as we go to different countries to look at the systems that they produce that are better than ours. We find variations of the concept and all I've given you today is two commitments - very big policy commitments that we have made already - which is children can go - take your child to another school if that school is failing. In other words, the money will follow the child. The second thing is that parents will be allowed if that school is not good enough to be able to set up a new school now. HUMPHRYS: I understand that. DUNCAN SMITH: That is the principle of money following that parent and child. And in inner city schools, where the failure is so great, and that's where we want to focus at this stage. HUMPHRYS: I take that point but there was an internal document, one of your internal briefing documents at the weekend, a Conservative Party briefing document, saying that you were studying with interest voucher schemes. DUNCAN SMITH: Of course we will. I've left it open exactly how these things will work, but John, the principle must remain behind all of this, which I'm determined is that we've got to take central government out of the running of schools, get schools free to run themselves. One of the things that I do find and that is very important, I go round school after school and the one thing teachers and head teachers say to me is that we don't feel that we have the power to discipline children, to run the school, to do the things we know to be right here, and parents feel they have no choice. So, ... HUMPHRYS: Do teachers want to cane children. Say yes? DUNCAN SMITH: No, teachers don't want to cane children, but what teachers want to do though John, is they want to discipline children, and if necessary exclude children without being over-ruled by Appeals panels. HUMPHRYS: To a tough headmaster who says, I want to cane children, would you say yes or no.? DUNCAN SMITH: We've said the cane is out, but what we are saying is that legitimate discipline cannot be employed because the government sets targets, so give them the power, that's the key. Power to the head teachers, choice to parents, that's exactly what we mean. HUMPHRYS: Different area. Huge concern to you and your supporters and many other people, to asylum. I remember you saying when they closed Sangatte, we are not going to take - we should not take, we should not take a single one, a single one - you said that to me. DUNCAN SMITH: I remember that. HUMPHRYS: A single one. Now, they're taking twelve hundred maybe up to eighteen hundred. I haven't heard you sounding off about that, and.... DUNCAN SMITH: No, John, I'm sorry. Oliver Letwin was absolutely critical of the government's position. Look, what do we discover. HUMPHRYS: So we shouldn't take a single one. DUNCAN SMITH: I tell you now that the deal that they have come up with over Sangatte is frankly a one over on the British government. Look what the French were saying Paris the other day. The French minister was praised to the skies....why. HUMPHRYS: We're being conned, is what you're saying. DUNCAN SMITH: Absolutely, and I think one of the biggest problems that we've got here, is we had David Blunkett going over there talking tough, and what he's now done, is he's done a deal with the French that gets them off the hook. It doesn't produce us any long-term solution, there's no bi-lateral arrangement that allows us to return asylum seekers direct to France for them to deal with them and for them if they came in first to France to be dealt with and sent out from France. Our problem is that actually it's going to make matters worse. Now people who are not legitimate asylum seeks, and let's be clear about this, this country has a proud history and I would be the first to praise it, as being the country that has the best record in looking after those who suffer political persecution. But economic migrants, we now have a worse position as a result of that settlement. HUMPHRYS: You mentioned Oliver Letwin there, who is obviously the Shadow Home Secretary. I interviewed him a couple of days ago about what people call.... DUNCAN SMITH: I listened. HUMPHRYS: Good... gay marriages as it's called, not gay marriage of course, but civic partnerships. He thought it was a jolly good idea, civic partnerships. I thought that for you..... DUNCAN SMITH: I think it's fair for you to say exactly what he said, and what he said quite positively and quite legitimately.... HUMPHRYS: What the government was doing .... DUNCAN SMITH: What he was saying was, if the government is proposing - we don't know the details of this yet - if the government was proposing what we ourselves said nine months ago in an article written by Oliver, approved by me and by many other members of the Shadow Cabinet, if what the government is saying is that there are legitimate grievances about people who live together, who cannot get rights for example over hospital treatment, cannot approve treatment, have difficulties in other areas too, because their relationship is such that they are excluded from those decision making processes if somebody either dies or if they are very ill.... HUMPHRYS: In other words, if they have the same rights as married couples. DUNCAN SMITH: No, it's not quite the same thing. HUMPHRYS: More or less, more or less. DUNCAN SMITH: What I'm saying is, this goes wider by the way than gay couples. What Oliver was saying quite rightly is, we believe that therefore those are legitimate grievances, we should settle them and we should sort those out and help people who live together but, do you know John, it's not just gay couples, this is one of my concerns. HUMPHRYS: No, it's elderly sisters who live together.... DUNCAN SMITH: Daughters who look after mothers... HUMPHRYS: I take that point, but... DUNCAN SMITH: it's very much wider. So yes, where there are legitimate concerns about those relationships and where they cannot be treated decently or properly, or have control or power over the other person who is in that relationship, then I think we need to settle those... HUMPHRYS: Yeah, well, fine. DUNCAN SMITH: ...but what we said at the time is that we are not in favour of gay marriages because... HUMPHRYS: No. DUNCAN SMITH: ...we say that marriage is a very special place in society and it's very important, but what we are looking for - it's not a pale shadow of marriage, but to rectify those things.... HUMPHRYS: This is where people once again are confused by your agenda, because they say "here you are, putting homosexual relationships on - in all the important respects - on the same legal footing as a marriage". Now this isn't what we thought Tories were about is what they say. DUNCAN SMITH: No, I don't think so, John. I think, let's be fair about this, I think that everybody out there, everybody who is decent, who wants to see fairness will recognise that there are legitimate reasons why certain people who are together will want to care and look after the other person. HUMPHRYS: All right, DUNCAN SMITH: I am simply saying there is a fairness to this and we're saying deal with it on a case by case basis, do it fairly, don't try to create a pale shadow. What was interesting...when we proposed this nine months ago, John. Torch, the Conservative Campaign for Homosexual Reform, they said they backed us because they didn't want a pale imitation of marriage, what they wanted was those issues, such as we've talked about - hospital treatment - dealt with, so they could live a decent life as well. HUMPHRYS: Let me move on very rapidly if I may to Iraq because we've had this great dossier. I am not going to ask you for your comment on twelve thousand pages... DUNCAN SMITH: I'm glad! HUMPHRYS: is the audience, I imagine! But what I am interested in is this and it's a very simple specific question, if I could press you to be as specific as possible on this. It may take many, many, many months - six months, perhaps longer - for them to sort out what's in that dossier for them for the inspectors to do their job. If the United States decided in that time - without specific UN approval - that they wanted to attack Iraq, would they have your support to do so? DUNCAN SMITH: Well, you want a specific answer and I think it's very important to lay out the ground very briefly before I answer it. HUMPHRYS: I would be very glad because we are short for time. DUNCAN SMITH: I understand, I understand, but I just want to say something important. What the resolution says right now is that Iraq must comply with all the previous resolutions and both declare what it has... HUMPHRYS: Yes, and there must be another resolution. DUNCAN SMITH:, it doesn't say that, it says that they must go back to the United Nations, but there doesn't have to be another resolution, it simply has to go back to the Security Council. If Iraq in this ten thousand pages of document simply says ultimately that it does not possess weapons and that these weapons were not being developed and have not been developed beyond the stage they were at the Iraqi war and they do not exist, and if there is evidence to quite the contrary which I believe there is, that they do exist, and they have been developing them, then I think it is legitimate for the powers to say then you are breaching the terms of this resolution which empowers us, if necessary, to take military action. I think that's critical and I would back it on that basis, I think it would be right because it's the threat of military action which has put the pressure on Iraq now... HUMPHRYS: And if the UN inspectors find no evidence, no proof? DUNCAN SMITH: Well, there's a problem about this, John, over the UN inspection, is that they can only find things if ultimately Iraq is prepared to co-operate. HUMPHRYS: So we back America whatever, in effect, is what you're saying? DUNCAN SMITH: No, it's not whatever, what America would have to come up with, as the UK Government would have to come up with is evidence, as they believe it, of the possession of those weapons of mass destruction which Iraq is denying. If they can demonstrate that, which I believe they would do if this turns out to be a full denial, then I think it's quite right for us to say you've breached the resolution. The resolution is clear, if you do not comply, then the outcome will be military action. HUMPHRYS: Let me change the subject yet again now, covering a lot of bases this morning, but it's the last time we'll have on this programme with you, there we are.... DUNCAN SMITH: Sad yes....I'm sorry to see the end of this programme I must say. HUMPHRYS: Cherie Blair, you've been, your party has been noticeably reluctant to comment on the whole affair, bearing in mind what has happened in the last few days, are you now prepared to say something about the way Number Ten has behaved because, as I say, you haven't been until now. DUNCAN SMITH: Well I think it's fair to say the reason why we haven't commented is because whilst we've seen this to be a personal matter about the Prime Minister's wife, whatever her dealings or judgement, it's not really something for politicians to get involved in. I don't believe in slanging matches over people's families, I think that's wrong. I think, however, we've kept this under review, I think it's important because what...I think it is legitimate for us to comment on is whether or not these arrangements then create a problem about the integrity of Government. In other words, whether the British people have real doubts about the integrity of both Downing Street and of Government. We all suffer if that happens, without that, without integrity, without the belief in integrity, then Government will not function and therefore, I've watching very carefully to see whether or not there are any such suggestions, whether things may have happened or may not have happened, with prior knowledge. There seem to be in today's papers some indication, I must say I find it bizarre at best, but we now seem to have the issue with the Prime Minister's Chief Press Spokesman.....or communication.... HUMPHRYS: Alastair Campbell... DUNCAN SMITH: Yes, Communications Advisor, now it appears almost briefing against the Prime Minister's wife, which is a matter of some quite genuine concern because what he is indicating and I don't know all these details, I really don't, but what worries me is he seems to be indicating that he knew all along about some major concerns about these relationships and if so, it does bring into question elements about how much knowledge was there before those denials were issued over a week ago. HUMPHRYS: Should he go - Alastair Campbell? DUNCAN SMITH: I'm not going to call for...(coughing)...Sorry, I'm not going to call for anyone's...(coughing).....can I start again. I'm not going to call for anyone's resignation. I think the issue here is, how much knowledge was there before denials were made and were denials made if there was prior knowledge. Now al I am saying is, as you've already said to me, there are things in the paper today which do call into question some of those early denials and that I think is critical for both Alastair Campbell and if necessary the Prime Minister, to clear up. HUMPHRYS: Final thought, do you respect and trust Tony Blair as Prime Minister? DUNCAN SMITH: I respect the Prime Minister, I respect the Office of the Prime Minister..... HUMPHRYS: I meant Tony Blair personally. DUNCAN SMITH: Well I don't think I ought to get into personal, what he does in his role as Prime Minister and who he is as Prime Minister, not as an individual, as Prime Minister, yes I believe it's important to respect the Prime Minister in what he does, I disagree with much of what he does, I think the way they conduct business... HUMPHRYS: Do you trust him? DUNCAN SMITH: ...I've seen no reason yet to doubt any reason to trust him in a personal capacity, but my concern would always be that that is the view the public take, and to have the public take that view, they must feel that at every turn, that office is not demeaned by any briefings that take place which are themselves untrue. HUMPHRYS: And is it being demeaned, as we speak? DUNCAN SMITH: I don't know the answer to that question John, but I do think it's important for us to understand now, if, as we hear today, there are..there are statements being made that there was prior knowledge about these arrangements before those statements were made, I think there are now legitimate and genuine concerns that these issues are now straying back into the territory of what did everybody know before those denials were made. I've stayed out of it up until now, and I'm really staying out of it still in a sense of the Prime Minister's wife, I have issues there, my concern however is without integrity and legitimacy and honesty, then Government cannot function and this now must be settled otherwise it saps at the very heart of what is the highest office and the highest office holder in the land. HUMPHRYS: Iain Duncan Smith, thank you very much. HUMPHRYS: And I was talking to Mr Duncan Smith earlier this morning. And that's it for this week. Don't forget about our web-site. Next week....back to our usual time at twelve o'clock. In the past two programmes, as you may know, I've interviewed all the main party leaders ... except one. We have of course invited Tony Blair for the final programme next week. Whatever happens, I'll be here for the last time. Until then ... good afternoon. 28 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.