BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview with Home Secretary David Blunkett, November 13, 2004
JH: = John Humphrys, the presenter and interviewer on the Today programme.

DB: = Home Secretary David Blunkett

JH: 28 minutes to 9. Is the Government deliberately scaring us about the threat from terrorism, so that it can bring in increasingly draconian laws ? That's been suggested, but the Home Secretary David Blunkett is making a speech today to say that it is wrong. Mr Blunkett's on the line, good morning to you.

DB: Good morning, nice to talk to you John.

JH: It's certainly the case isn't it that er some of the things being proposed are pretty draconian?

DB: No they're not. They're sensible, pre-emptive measures. Pre-emptive in the sense that we live now in a rapidly changing world, where people's fears are greater, not just in terms of terrorism, but fear in their own neighbourhood and community, and we've been able to establish stability and security in terms of the economy, and people's economic family life, we need to be able to do that in their immediate environment, and internationally, and in dealing with terrorism.”

JH: That's a bit of an admission that you've failed, isn't it? Put aside the terrorism, as you say, quite separately, fear is greater in their homes and communities, after nearly eight years in power.

DB: It it's greater because of rapid economic and social change, including globalisation, it's greater

JH: Really ?

DB: Yes, it's greater because we see things now, across the world, because of instant, er, satellite. er, television, that we never did immediately before. We have seven day week, twenty-four hour, instant communication, all of this underpinned by a changing culture, a lack of respect, the inability of parents to parent properly, the binge drinking that is a phenomenon…

JH: You're confusing an awful lot of things there…

DB: …over the la', over the last No, No, I'm merely…

DB: We always have good conversations on a Saturday morning so let me just…

JH: Go on.

DB: Well people do not open their hearts, and minds, and hear messages, particularly Progressive messages if, underpinning that, subliminally, is a fear of what's happening around them, and if they're more insecure when they go out, and they walk on the street, if they fear, because of the eleventh of September, and its aftermath, what is happening in terms of the, er, the new forms of threat, from outside, then we have to provide that stability and security, if they're going to be able to the messages about opening your hearts and minds to other, about reducing the fear of difference, about being able to create a civilised and caring

JH: [interrupting] Alright

DB: and compassionate society

JH: One of the things that you want to do, obviously, is Identity Cards, and then the, er, National Identity Database, and, in many respects, some people believe anyway, the database is, is, far and away the most offensive thing, er, if they don't like this legislation.

What you're doing, is creating a whole pile of new offences, aren't you, including things like, refusal to, an obey, to obey an order, from you, failure to notify the authorities about a damaged Card, failure to notify the Secretary of State of any change in personal circumstances, a whole new raft of law, but we can now break, and face quite severe penalties

DB: Well of course, all, all of those apply to, to the Driving Licence.

No they do not all apply to the current Driving Licence – you do not risk getting fined if your driving licence is accidentally damaged or if the computer systems designed to read it fails to do so, for whatever reason, totally out of your control, which is the case with the Government's ID Card proposals. And the difference between what we're doing in the future, and what we have in the present, is that there will actually be a verifiable identity, rather than someone being able to steal, and multiply your identity so, instead of a muddled system which can be, er, easily, er, flawed, and can be easily duplicated, we're creating something where we'll know who's in the country, who's entitled to draw down on, what are the only free services of their type in the world, including the NHS, er, we'll be able to ensure that those who are here, can work legitimately, legally, pay taxes, and we'll be able to ensure that the Security and Organised Crime and Policing Agencies can use this sensitively, because we're going to pass, in the Bill, all the necessary security measures, er, Oversight measures, with the Commissioner, that we would expect in a free society, far more than in anywhere else in the world, and far more than you have with your Loyalty Card, where yes, er, sh, shops, retailers know, where you've been, what you've shopped, what you've spent, we, we'll never know that, and nor should we.”

JH: mm, but, the problem with those comparisons is , the Driving Licence, in the first place, you need a Driving Licence in order to drive, if you choose not to drive, you don't have to have one. There are perfectly good reasons for having a driving licence, obviously. You need to have an ID Card in order to exist, in order to be.

DB: No, you need a biometric ID Card, with your unique bio, er, biometric on the database, in order to be able to, to establish your true identity and to, sto, to stop other people stealing it. The whole point…

JH: (interrupting) [We] managed without it in the past

DB: The whole point of these measures, is not only greater Security and Entitlement but actually, also, to ensure that we link this with all that we're doing on Organised Crime, what we've been doing on Anti-Social Behaviour, what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are doing in terms of Global Security, and what Gordon Brown has been able to establish in leading us into the most secure and stable economy that we've had in the last century.

JH: The, the, the basic charge against you, has come from people like Charles Kennedy, is that you've created a climate of fear, that, um, you can pass various forms of draconian legislation. And it isn't only politicians attacking you here, is it, it, it's many QCs, um, who worry about what you're doing to our system of justice. you want to change all sorts of things, you want to change the burden of proof, talking about terrorism trials, and all that sort of thing, you want to change the burden of proof, you want to contradict some of the Cardinal Principles, of Criminal Justice, that's the charge against you, isn't it ?”

DB: No, I just want to protect Society from those who would take away our liberty and freedom, by using democracy to destroy it and, er, I shall be saying today, as you heard on your programme earlier on, in terms of, er, the, the Netherlands, that if we're going to protect our liberty and freedom, we've got to distinguish, between, between being tolerant of people's views and values, and intolerant of those who would actually destroy them from within, in other words, and I challenge Charles Clarke on this

JH: (interrupting) Charles Kennedy. I doubt you challenge Charles Clarke on this.

DB (laughs) Charl, Charl, I, I challenge Charles Kennedy on this. We've actual got to be able to distinguish , er, an open, liberal society, from Libertarianism, where Anything Goes, and where Selfishness and Individualism, are some, somehow presented, as though that is somehow Liberalism and, er, um, Mark Oaten is quoted as being against ID cards, this morning, but he voted for it, in just less than a year ago in the Commons. Now we've got to have a sensible debate about these matters if we're not to degenerate into circumstances where a Government would take Draconian and Oppressive action”

JH: Well

DB: because there would have been an incident, that would have literally undermined the sensible debate that you and I are having this morning and I have with Barristers, and I have with Judges, who don't come forward, with alternatives to what we are doing.”

JH: But you see it isn't just domestic politicians here making these, charges, may I remind you. you'll know it of course, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, he talks about us taking steps that overstep the limits on the Pretext of the Fight Against Terror.

DB: Yes, I met him, on Thursday, he says the same about my measures on Anti-Social Behaviour and last night I attended two Community Meetings, in which people were asking for even greater power. and were rejoicing in the powers we had given the Police, so, he has a particular view, but we have a view from a situation where we want to prevent and protect our people, from any incident that would change the political climate and if I wanted, and the Prime Minister wanted, to actually get engaged now, with a climate of fear , we'd create a Cabinet minister, as the Tories, are require, are requesting, who would be a Homeland Security Secretary or Tsar who would have by their very nature, and their survival politically, to appear on television and radio virtually every day, and I could do it, put the Fear of God Up People [indistinct] we're doing the opposite

JH: [interrupting] But you're doing more than that in a sense, if you're changing, if you're challenging the Basic Principles of Justice, you're doing more than that.

DB: But, but I'm not, I'm seeking a way through a situation, which three years ago faced us with international terrorists, who have been adjudged, through the Court of Superior Record, and the Appeal Court to have been at terrorists, actually threatening, threatening our livelihood but in circumstances where to reveal the Security Information, which was International, would have put not only Ours, but Other Security Services at risk”. Now the reason I mention that, is because we couldn't remove those people from our country because, we were adhering to Human Rights, because there, they would have been put to death or torture. What we are now seeking, is a way out of that situation, and we're waiting for the House of Lords Judgement in terms of the Derogation, that's the withdrawal

JH: Can I…

DB: from a particular part of the European Convention”

JH: Can I ask you one more question? Are we safer now, as a result of the war on Iraq ?

DB: where they hosted, the terrorist camps, the training camps, the ability to go from Afghanistan, across the world to commit as they did, on the eleventh, er, er, ah, as they did in East Africa, those terrible crimes, ah, er, and then attacked the World Trade Center

JH: Well they didn't, er, do it, that had nothing to do with Iraqis

DB: No, no, no, but I'm making the point that, de, degenerate into chaos, the, the situation would be replicated in Iraq, which is why I believe very strongly indeed, that we now have to settle this once and for all, and we have to take, with the Americans, whatever tough action is necessary, because the people who are destroying the chance of Iraqi peace and democracy, are almost universally those who are organising

JH: (interrupting) Alright then, you don't think that we are sowing dragon's teeth with what we are doing there?”

DB: No I'd, I believe, well, we've done it, and what we've got to carry it through, and you and I had a conversation on the 4th of April, in th middle of the war, when I said that it was justified in terms of avoiding, it, er, Saddam Hussein, once again calling the bluff of the world and being the kingpin in the region, if we want peace in the Middle East, we have to settle Iraq, make a peaceful and democratic Iraq, a beacon, which will then help us, and help the Americans to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the table.”

JH: David Blunkett, many thanks

DB: Thank you.”

Audio: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ram/today3_terror_20041113.ram

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