Interview with The World at One on control orders

Please find below a transcript of Ed’s interview on Radio 4’s The World at One earlier today

Ed Stourton: It sounds as thought there is a perhaps difficult, but grown up conversation taking place about these matters?

Ed Balls: Well Ed there is certainly a conversation, it has been going on for some months. We were told this review was to report in October, it’s now January and we’ve not seen any announcement or conclusions yet.

ES: That’s because it’s a difficult issue isn’t it?

EB: It is a difficult issue and it’s very important that we get it right and that means putting the national interest first, looking at the evidence, listening to the police and security services. It’s really important to understand why we have these control orders at the moment. There are certain individuals who can’t be charged, or can’t be deported but are a threat to our security. That’s why they are there. The thing I said to Theresa May in the first week when I became the shadow home secretary was that, on the basis of the evidence, on this issue, I would do everything I could to support her, and if there are changes to the control order regime, to make it more lenient but at the same time to ensure national security I will support her in her judgements when we see the evidence. But what we’ve seen over the last few months, and in particular the last few days, is all this wrangling in public, talk of ‘deals’ between Nick Clegg and David Cameron and to be honest Ed, you should not be striking deals over something this important. The evidence and the experts should be guiding us and I have to say that it increasingly looks, Ed, as though politics and holding the coalition together and appeasing backbenchers is becoming more important in the minds of Nick Clegg and the Prime Minister than doing the right thing and that concerns me greatly.

ES: Is that really fair? It’s an issue which divides people, where it’s perfectly legitimate to have different points of view, everyone seems to agree, as Norman Smith told us, that national security is paramount, and it’s surely right that in those circumstances people argue about it in the hope of getting the best possible outcome – that’s what coalition politics is about?

EB: I agree but I think there is a doubt now, in my mind and in many people’s minds, as to whether the final decision will be based upon the evidence and the national interest on the one hand, or political expediency on the other. The problem is, we are told the review isn’t completed, I have not seen the evidence, I have asked to have a prior briefing because I want to make a judgement and support Theresa May. We are told it is not concluded and yet at the same time we have Nick Clegg telling the newspapers at the weekend, control orders are to be scrapped. There is a running commentary from different political parties…

ES: And you’re joining it aren’t you, I mean you’re playing politics with this too aren’t you, you’re making a judgement on it before you actually know what the outcome is going to be?

EB: To be honest Ed I’m doing the opposite. What I have said all along is that I will only make a judgement when we see the evidence and when we hear…

ES: But aren’t you making a judgement now?

EB: No because I am saying, let’s wait to see the evidence before we decide, let’s make sure the national interest is put first. As you said in your report a moment ago, on Sunday we were told Nick Clegg is scrapping control orders, then two days later they were going to stay, then yesterday they are going to be modified. We have a running commentary in the media but the question is, what does the evidence and the experts say? I have to say, the experts I’ve spoken to from the security services and the police are very unconvinced that it is possible to keep our country safe without some kind of successor regime to control orders and that is not consistent with the Liberal Democrat manifesto. That is Nick Clegg’s political problem and this desperate attempt to play politics with this issue is, in my view, very mistaken.

ES: Can I ask you about another matter on your patch which was the decision to suspend a senior executive at the News of the World following allegations about phone tapping. With your shadow home secretary hat on, do you think that raises any questions about the way the police have dealt with this matter?

EB: I don’t think we should rush to judgement. There is a Guardian story here about the assistant editor who has been suspended and there are investigations going on. I’m sure the truth will out and I’m sure the police will be putting all the resources they need to in order to make sure this is investigated. There has been discussion in recent months about whether an independent review is going to be needed but first of all, let’s let the police do their work. But look the fact is, the assistant editor to Andy Coulson has now been suspended. Increasingly it is getting closer and closer to the former editor of the News of the World Mister Coulson and it does raise a very substantial question about David Cameron’s judgement. How can the head of media in Number 10 be somebody who is under such suspicion that he was involved in illegal activity?

ES: Do you think there should be a review of the police conduct?

EB: Well I don’t think there should be a review of the police conduct. I think the police need to put all the resources necessary into these new investigations which are happening because of disclosure of individuals who are bringing court cases. As I said, as more information comes out, it’s getting closer and closer to Mister Coulson. It may be that Sir Paul Stephenson will decide that independent review, and HMIC review, is the best next step. Let him decide that in the first instance. But look, the more we see of this matter the more it looks very murky and it does raise a real question, what is David Cameron doing keeping Andy Coulson in Number 10?


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Posted January 6th, 2011 by Ed's team

2 Responses to “Interview with The World at One on control orders”

  1. Mary nash says:

    Happy New Year, Ed. Brilliant interview with Ed Stourton this afternoon on “The World at One”. As usual, your genuis of getting straight to the point in a concise, intelligent, and constructive way. About time the press points out the sorry confusion created by David Cameron on Controls Orders and sadly the Conservative-led Govt’s inability to make impt national security decisions for fear of disappointing Nick Clegg’s liberal demands.

  2. Brian Barder says:

    Corrected version of comment just submitted:

    I’m dismayed that your inclination is to “support Theresa May” (who we know has been brow-beaten by the security and intelligence services into supporting the continuation of control orders or something very much like them) rather than Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve, both with far more experience of these matters than Theresa May, who are known to agree with Nick Clegg and the LibDems that control orders are deeply objectionable and should be abolished. Do you really feel comfortable preparing to position the Labour party out to the authoritarian right of Michael Howard and David Blunkett instead of on the small-l liberal left of the coalition?

    You say you won’t make up your mind on control orders until you have seen the evidence, but all the evidence is already available and in the public domain. Labour’s prolonged reluctance to take a firm stand on absolutely anything, apart from sniping at the government, is becoming a serious embarrassment to the party’s supporters and members (like myself). What is holding you back from denouncing control orders as unjust, unfair, ineffectual and irrelevant, and calling for their complete abolition?

    I’m also mystified by your refusal to support calls for an inquiry into the issues raised by fresh allegations of management complicity in illegal phone tapping by the News of the World, and in particular into the apparent failure of the Metropolitan Police to do a full investigation of the original disclosures, giving rise to the suspicion of an unhealthy relationship between Mr Murdoch’s organisation and the police. If that isn’t something that needs to be impartially investigated, what do you think would be?

    No-one, surely, can accuse you of having been a tame Blairite in the bad old days. Why then are you sounding so Blairish now? Give us back the Labour party that some of us oldies originally joined!

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