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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Government progress
On Sunday 02 July 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed Tessa Jowell MP

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Tessa Jowell MP
Tessa Jowell MP

ANDREW MARR: Now this week sees the first anniversary of that extraordinary 24 hours when there was the ecstasy, for some, of London winning the Olympic Games, and then almost immediately the agony of the July 7th terrorist attacks.

Tessa Jowell is going to be involved in events to mark both of these.

She's the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Olympic preparations and she's also the one appointed to liaise with the victims of the 7/7 bombings and she joins me now. Welcome Minister.

TESSA JOWELL: Thank you.

ANDREW MARR: Let's just talk about those two events first of all. The commemoration of the bombings has begun. There is a lot of concern among some of the victims and their families that the level of compensation that they're getting is derisory.

TESSA JOWELL: Well that is certainly the case, and I've had the opportunity over the last year to hold a series of meetings with groups of bereaved families and also with groups of survivors, and to meet families individually, and certainly I don't think I know anybody who thinks that the level of compensation is adequate.

Almost as soon as John Reid became the new Home Secretary, made in the clearest possible terms the families' views clear to him. He took the decision, the absolutely right decision, to increase very substantially the fund that would be available to provide extra money for those families, an additional two and a half million pounds. So we will ...

ANDREW MARR: So you think we will be able to see extra payments shortly?

TESSA JOWELL: They will certainly see extra payments, but I think you've got to set against that, the simple fact that these are families who are still grieving in the rawest possible way the loss of husbands, sons, daughters, aunts, cousins, sisters, and you know, at the end of the day, nothing will ever compensate the families for that loss.

ANDREW MARR: Of course. Of course. What do you feel when you see in the papers and presumably you hear from colleagues that MI5 were actually aware of the ring leader of the attacks well before they happened, that he'd been.. you know, picked up on different occasions several times.

Now I know the Government have said they're not prepared to have a public inquiry into the events leading up to 7/7 but there must be a lot to make you anxious.

TESSA JOWELL: Well there have been a series of press reports over recent weeks about what the security services allegedly knew and so forth, and we have ... John Reid and I have been meeting all the families in the last couple of weeks, all the bereaved families, for two reasons.

First of all so that they can put to him as Home Secretary responsible for the security services the questions that they have, and secondly so that we can deal very directly with the call by many families, not all families by any means, but many families for a public inquiry, and those ...

ANDREW MARR: That's their sort of central demand. Do you understand why they make that?

TESSA JOWELL: Yes, of course I do, because they come to these meetings with so many questions and we do our best to give them the time it takes and we will go on with this process of meeting and discussing and answering their questions. Now very ...

ANDREW MARR: Is it just that the Security Services don't want a public inquiry?

TESSA JOWELL: No, no, it's absolutely not that. I mean the reason which John Reid has been absolutely clear about is the cost and ultimately the fact that it is highly unlikely that a public inquiry will answer all these questions.

You see many of the reports which have caused such distress to these families are simply untrue. You know, it is untrue, for instance, that Mohammed Siddiq Khan was not allowed entry to the US before 7/7. It was a Khan by another name. So we have tried ...

ANDREW MARR: Wouldn't it be a simple thing to have a public inquiry and sort all these things out once and for all in public so that the relevant facts are properly probed and understood where everyone can listen to them.

TESSA JOWELL: I think if anybody believed that that would be the outcome, then a public inquiry would be offered. What a public inquiry would involve would be the expenditure of millions and millions of pounds. I believe that the latest estimate of the cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry is about £400,000,000. The diversion of enormous security and intelligence resources that need to be directed to preventing this ...

ANDREW MARR: And takes people's eye off the ball in effect.

TESSA JOWELL: ... exactly, that need to be prevented. So I hope that the open invitation that we have give to families on a continuing basis, to seek to answer their questions in the very best way and direct way we can will in time prove better for them than the long drawn out process of a public inquiry.

ANDREW MARR: Let's move on to the Olympics because you mentioned the cost of an inquiry. A lot of people look at the budgeting for the Olympics and factor in the fact that for instance the new Wembley Stadium is so over cost and over length in delivery, look at inflation in the building world which is now 7% or more, and say that the figures that are in place at the moment for the cost of building the Olympics are wildly under for what it's going to cost. You're going to have vastly more to spend.

TESSA JOWELL: Well I certainly think that some aspects of the budget will increase. You know, we won the bid on the 6th July last year in Singapore and on the 7th July London was attacked by terrorists, and so obviously security, after the 7th July, cost more than it was estimated to cost in the bid book.

ANDREW MARR: So London families who are, I think about.. is it meant to be costing sort of 140-180 pounds per family, or per Londoner actually at the moment, can expect that bill to rise quite substantially.

TESSA JOWELL: Well let me just explain because over the last six months we have done a lot of work on for instance the configuration of the Olympic site. About £500,000,000 has been saved by the reordering of the way facilities are provided on that site.

I think the other point to remember is that the Olympic Park will sit in the middle of one of the largest regeneration projects. I mean the Olympics will be, you have to think of it in these terms, it's like twice the size of building two T5s - Terminal 5s - at Heathrow in half the time. It's the biggest regeneration project in Europe.

ANDREW MARR: We've both seen so many of these huge projects around the country, we know it's going to cost two or three times what you think.

TESSA JOWELL: Some costs will rise. Other costs, as we've demonstrated with the Olympic Park reorganisation, will fall.

ANDREW MARR: And when will we actually start to see things rise into the air because the clock is ticking?

TESSA JOWELL: Well absolutely, and I'm very well aware of that. We expect to procure the stadium this summer. The work is already underway to underground the power lines and 75% of the people who are working on that in the East End of London are people who come from London. So work is underway.

Every single week between now and 2012 is planned and there are very tough milestones and we're doing everything we can to make sure we hit every single one of them. It's worth just saying, I know that.. you know.. we always tend to talk ourselves down in relation to these kinds of.. you know, big projects, but according to the International Olympic Committee we are further ahead in our planning than any Olympic city has ever been. That is no ground for complacency ...

ANDREW MARR: They were pleased with that, yeah.

TESSA JOWELL: ... but it's very encouraging.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. Okay. A quick message for the footballers this morning?

TESSA JOWELL: Oh I.. you know, they played their hearts out. They played with character, they played with passion, and I hope that after the collective misery of falling out of the World Cup we'll recognise the talent we've got and pick ourselves up and be ready for 2010.

ANDREW MARR: I asked William Hague about what had gone wrong in Bromley, I must ask you about what went wrong in Wales in Blaenau Gwent, I mean that was a dreadful result for the Labour Party, wasn't it?

TESSA JOWELL: Well it was a bad result, of course it was a bad result. But there was an 8% swing to Labour which we've forgotten and a 13-14 percent swing against the Tories in Bromley. So at this point, mid term by-elections are unlikely ever to be good for the government. We've pulled back from the general election but of course.. you know, every single by-election defeat like this sends a message. We've got to listen to that.

ANDREW MARR: Your old mate, Charles Clarke, says the Prime Minister has lost his sense of direction.

TESSA JOWELL: No, I don't think he did say he's lost his sense of direction. I think that¿

ANDREW MARR: It's worse than that. That was a bowdlerised version I gave you there.

TESSA JOWELL: He said that if the government doesn't recover a sense of momentum and purpose, then he thinks it would be a time for a change of leadership.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely .

TESSA JOWELL: I think he hopes it won't come to that. I think we've got to stop talking about all this. I think the only thing that matters is do people in this country feel safer? Are we going to be better at protecting people in this country against the risk of further terrorist attack? Will we build the Olympics on time? Will we see hospital waiting lists become shorter? Are we investing more in school sport and grass roots sport.. you know, to make the next generation proud whether on the tennis courts of Wimbledon or the football pitches of South Africa.

ANDREW MARR: Right, away from the tennis courts of Wimbledon, you know that everybody is also talking about the Prime Minister's future. He can't go through the next party conference without saying something more, can he?

TESSA JOWELL: I know everybody in SW1 in the Westminster village is talking about this. You know, I'm afraid they talk about little else. But I think that as a government, if we're not going to squander a third term, let's just turn out from Westminster and talk to the people of this country. That's the message of Blaenau Gwent and that's the message that every single one of us ...

ANDREW MARR: And it wouldn't have been helped with a different leader? You would have had the same result with a different leader?

TESSA JOWELL: I don't think it would have made any difference at all. I mean the point is that we cannot be a government that turns in on ourselves, talks about the things that fascinate us in the Westminster media endlessly and.. you know, turns the people of this country into spectators on a private conversation. They've got to be part of it too.

ANDREW MARR: Alright. Tessa Jowell, thank you very much indeed for joining us ...

TESSA JOWELL: Thank you.

INTERVIEW ENDS


NB: this transcript was typed from a 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


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