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SOPHY RIDGE: We’re joined now by the former Labour, now Independent MP, Frank Field, thank you very much for being with us this morning.
FRANK FIELD: I’m Social Justice Party MP and I shall be standing under that and I am looking forward to this election.
SR: Social Justice Party, I’ve got to get it right. It’s interesting that you’re looking forward to the election then, so are you going to be voting for it tomorrow?
FRANK FIELD: I shall be.
SR: Why are you looking forward to an election so much?
FRANK FIELD: I think the House of Commons is dominated by people who wish to Remain despite most of them being in Parliament when we voted for a referendum, when we changed our position from being representatives thinking about owing people our best judgement, to on this issue saying you tell us and we’re delegates and we will carry it through.
SR: Are you not worried you might lose your seat in the election then?
FRANK FIELD: I’m going in to win and we’ll see, it’s difficult, it’s not a marginal seat so I haven’t got lots of Liberals and Tory votes to scoop up behind me but I’m confident that I will win that seat.
SR: Labour of course have been resisting backing an early election so far …
FRANK FIELD: Well wouldn’t you given what the polls show?
SR: Do you think that’s what it is?
FRANK FIELD: Yes, absolutely.
SR: Jon Ashworth said it is nothing to do with the polls, it’s nothing about whether or not they can win, it’s all about trying to make sure that no deal is off the table.
FRANK FIELD: The MPs that I know are pretty sick at the thought of having an election so people will vote against it. It’s another hackneyed phrase isn’t it but turkeys don’t vote for Christmas and unless you’re old fashioned Liberals and then you do and Michael Foot, and he saw what the consequences were. So I think that we should have one, we do obviously need to get the Bill through. We don’t need that amount of time, I hope the European Union gives us a two week extension and there is much there to discuss of importance but other people are going to use this time that we have in the committee stage to say we must have another referendum. These are people who agreed the referendum, haven’t accepted the result of the referendum and now say we ought to have another referendum, it’s absolutely farcical. There are big issues to decide but they won’t take more than two weeks in committee, we should get the Bill through and then we should have an election.
SR: You of course voted to leave the EU, you also voted for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Did you just vote for the deal because you want Brexit to be done or because you actually think it’s a good deal that has been negotiated?
FRANK FIELD: No, it’s not the most brilliant deal, I think it’s worse than the May deal and all the people who voted against the May deal are now complaining against this deal so it’s just … that’s what goes on in Parliament but it’s not Boris Johnson’s deal. We had a referendum, the people spoke, both parties committed themselves to accept that referendum result, both parties put in their election manifestos that they would actually carry that result through so I voted for the Referendum Bill. On one occasion when I was waiting for the deal that Mrs May put forward to approve the referendum decision, she came up and said thank you for being in my lobby tonight, Frank. I said, oh no, no, Prime Minister, you’re in my lobby! I’ve always been on balance in favour of leaving and she had been somebody who had actually been against leaving.
SR: So she had switched to your corner.
FRANK FIELD: She had indeed.
SR: If the Bill is going to have any chance of getting through it’s going to need a lot of your former colleagues in Labour to support it, do you think there are the numbers there or do you worry that some of those who backed the second reading may actually fall away as it continues its passage?
FRANK FIELD: Yes, when Sir Oliver Letwin put forward his amendment to extend the time, the analysis that’s been done on the people who voted for that, three-quarters of those who voted for yet another extension were people who were committed to Remain so we have got Remain supporters appearing in Brexit clothing but their aim is to wreck the decision of that referendum and my worry is about having another long delay when we only need a couple of weeks is all these delays come out of what’s called the transition period, the period in which we want to negotiate that free trade agreement with the European Union. We’ve already had two extensions, that time has come off the really important period that once we’ve passed the legislation we then get on to the detailed negotiations as to what our relationship with Europe would be and for that I have always been in favour of a free trade agreement.
SR: Now you have spent many years campaigning about modern day slavery, 39 people died in the back of a refrigerated trailer. I mean we don’t know the circumstances of these individuals of course but what ….
FRANK FIELD: We know them pretty well. People now are so desperate wanting to come here because it’s a great country to be in, despite politicians [inaudible] away all the time about implementing the referendum decision …
SR: What happens when they get to the UK, where do they go?
FRANK FIELD: Well the reports show that they would have been, if this had been a successful cargo, if those poor wretches had actually been alive there would have been minibuses there to actually meet that van and take them off into this twilight zone of modern slavery in Britain and when three of us – Elizabeth Butler-Sloss from the Lords, Maria Miller a colleague from the Commons and myself – we reviewed for the government how we should strengthen the Modern Slavery Act and we kept going because we are looking at the issue of whether our laws in prostitution make it more favourable to bring people here and then traffic them further onto the continent or not. We have officers from Border Control on our ports to carry out an enquiry and the horrendous thing that they said was unlike an airport where the border staff get lists of who the people are in advance, the way that lorries and cars and what have you are coming over, they have no idea whatever at all about anybody coming in through the ports. So the three of us have asked for an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary, if she’s listening might she actually grant that request because clearly it is very, very, very easy to bring people into this country through the ports, it’s much more difficult to do so through the airports and therefore one of the things we need to do is to look at what the border staff need in ports. Then secondly this government’s and previous government’s campaign against drugs has been coordinated nationally bringing in our secret services, the Foreign Office, the police, the border control staff, to try and make a job of preventing drugs getting into this country. Now that group does not exist to counter modern slavery and one thing the government could do on Monday is to announce to the House of Commons that they are not only going to have a vote on the election but we are actually now going to treat this as seriously as we do drugs because they don’t at the present time.
SR: Extraordinary stuff. Thank you very much for being on the programme this morning.