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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 February 2006, 10:30 GMT
Labour policy
On Sunday 12 February 2006 Andrew Marr interviewed Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor to the Treasury

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

Gordon Brown MP
Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor to the Treasury

ANDREW MARR: Now from a man who once played the role of prime minister to the man everyone expects to have that job for real and perhaps quite soon.

The Chancellor has had a bit of a bruising week however.

Even his personal intervention in the Dunfermline by-election didn't stave off what was an astonishing win for the Liberal Democrats, overturning one of Labour's largest majorities.

Nobody seems to have seen that coming, and the resulting headlines weren't enormously great for the Chancellor. Gordon Brown, welcome this morning.

GORDON BROWN: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Can I ask you directly whether you feel any personal responsibility for what went wrong in that by-election.

GORDON BROWN: Of course, no one likes to lose by-elections and it would be easy for me to come on and make excuses for us in this. But, and of course there were local factors, and of course by-election swings are normal and this was probably lower than any we've seen.

ANDREW MARR: Some people said you weren't tender enough about what the Scottish Parliament's responsibilities now were.

GORDON BROWN: Well you can talk about these local factors and you can say we had a good candidate and these were local difficulties.

But I would say, and I've been going round the country you know, right, right round the country, not just in Fife, but all over the country - I was in Birmingham last week - I've been in Bedford, I'm going to the north-west, I've been in the north-east. I sense, you know, that in this country people are asking questions about the long term. I think that people are anxious about some of the changes that are coming about and sort of global economic factors, whether it's security or the environment, or people's responsibility for childcare.

And I sense that people are worried that the next generation may not have it as easy as this generation. And I think people are asking questions. And that's why I'm starting this series of speeches round the country about long-term issues. You might say I should have started earlier, before the Dunfermline by-election.

ANDREW MARR: Well I would have...

GORDON BROWN: But I am starting to do that because I do think there are big questions about the future and they have got to be addressed. And I think lots of people round the country are asking these questions. We've had eight years in government but I think the key issue for the future of this country is who is going to be best to equip us for the future. And I think these are the questions that we have got to answer over the next few years.

ANDREW MARR: I want to come on to the longer term in a minute, but just before we leave Dunfermline, what are the lessons of that, what, you say you take responsibility for it and so on, but what lessons?

GORDON BROWN: I think the lesson is just what I've been saying. We've got to listen, we've got to hear...

ANDREW MARR: ... because they weren't being listened to... that they were being left behind...

GORDON BROWN: I think no government and no party can afford not to listen, to hear, to draw up on these lessons. We should do it all the time. We will continue to do this and I think one of the reasons why I want to talk about the long-term issues is I am listening to what people have said. I mean...

ANDREW MARR: But something must have gone wrong, I mean you must have got something wrong in that by-election.

GORDON BROWN: I think, I think if you look at by-elections over the course of the last few parliaments, at this stage in a parliament it is normal to have quite a big swing. We had a very good local candidate, there were local issues. Some people, in fact the Liberals themselves, have talked about it as being more about local issues in the town of Dunfermline itself, than anything else.

And I think most commentators have looked at it in that way. But I want to draw a bigger lesson, not just from that, but from what's happening round the country. And I do think people are asking big questions and we have got to give them answers.

ANDREW MARR: And you don't think, I mean, you see lots and lots of commentators saying in the papers over the last couple of days, this means that Gordon Brown is a less plausible future leader of the Labour Party - can't win in Dunfermline, how can he possibly win down south.

GORDON BROWN: Well, maybe I should have spent more time in the by-election. I have actually been going round the whole of the country. I think last Wednesday I was in Birmingham, I was meeting the police and visiting schools there. And I will continue to do that.

I do think you've got to look at what are the big issues facing the next stage of our development. There are security issues - I was in Moscow yesterday, we were talking about flu pandemics as a real problem that we have to address and be properly prepared for.

People are worried about how they balance work and family life. There are questions of the environment which I've got to, and others have got to address. We know that China and India are turning out four million graduates a year and we, a small country, must have to do better.

So I would suggest that in the next few months you will see the Labour Party addressing these big issues, and you'll see us talking about the future as well as about the present.

ANDREW MARR: Tomorrow you're turning to the war on terror. And all these very, very controversial issues, ID cards, precisely how the government should address the problem of militant Imam. Just talk us through where your kind of key concerns are?

GORDON BROWN: Well I've been involved, as you may know, in looking at financial issues related to terrorism and trying to choke off the supply of funds to terrorism so I've been intricately involved in this with Charles Clarke and Tony Blair and Jack Straw for the last few years.

And I think we can now learn some of the lessons from July 7th, July 21st. I think people now know there have been three incidents where we have thwarted terrorists since then, so this is not a problem that is going away, and we've got to reflect on what are the long-term challenges...

ANDREW MARR: These are three cases which could have been as serious as 7/7?

GORDON BROWN: These are three incidents which could have been serious had they not been thwarted by the excellence of our security services, our police and our armed forces.

And I think the important lesson I've learned is that we have to be tough on security measures. But the British way of doing it is to be both tough on security measures and to build in proper systems of accountability to parliament that can give protections to people's individual civil liberties.

And I do feel that some people who are opposing us on these issues have got this wrong. If you take the question, for example, of the police and detention for 14 days, now raised to 28 days. The number of leads that have been followed on July 7th is something in the order of 12,000.

The investigation for the ricin episode which was court case in the last year, spanned 26 countries, every continent. The person who was, the persons detained for that - 12 people - they had 120 false identities. I think people have got to wake up to the complexity, the scale, the global nature of this, and why the police need time for investigation...

ANDREW MARR: Does that mean more than 28 days in your view?

GORDON BROWN: Well we thought there was a case for more than 28 days.

ANDREW MARR: And do you still think there's case for 90 days for instance?

GORDON BROWN: We voted for 90 days and there is a case for going beyond 28 days. And I think the experience of going to 28 days, but building in the protection. Remember the protection should be that every seven days you have got to go to a judge, and you've got to ask for permission, and you've got to show evidence that you have necessarily to detain that person.

The protection of seven days tightened up with other protections probably built in, I think could persuade people in time that the complexity of these investigations are just so great and crossing so many continents, involving computers, involving, I think there are 50 sites that are being looked at for the July 7th investigations.

ANDREW MARR: Can I just be clear about this, does this mean that you and the rest of the government are going to press for longer than 28 days in the near future, or is this something...

GORDON BROWN: No we've accepted, we accepted the will of parliament...but if again...

ANDREW MARR: Can I just ask you something to move on, but in the same area, about identity cards.


ANDREW MARR: Because, whether you take the Treasury's own figures, which are pretty heavy, or some of the larger estimates of what this going to cost. An every big government project like this, as you know, always costs more than it was originally going to - it's a fantastic amount of money.

People are saying that it would be better, for instance to have 20,000 extra police officers on the streets than identity cards. But we aren't really sure it's value for money

GORDON BROWN: We have a substantial extra number of police officers, we're doubling the security budget in this country. The security services have doubled as well.

ANDREW MARR: Half billion to about two billion.

GORDON BROWN: Yes. And that's our response to what is people's legitimate wish that we protect both the borders of this country and the security of people in this country. Now if you take ID cards we will present a regular report to parliament about the cost of this.

But can I say the world is changing and we must understand that to recognise the changes in the world means we must take actions differently from where we did before. The biometric test - the fingerprint testing for example - is being brought in by private credit card companies. It's operating in America already. I was talking to Bill Gates the other day. Bill Gates...

ANDREW MARR: ...doesn't make it cheap...

GORDON BROWN: Hold on, Bill Gates is saying that fingerprint access to his computers and for services is going to be normal by 2010. Passports are now to be based on biometric testing, and most people in this country accept that that is the right way forward.

Now if your identity is in danger of being stolen, I mean most of these terrorists we're talking about have about 12 identities, they operate multiple identities and false identities. I think it is a protection of people's individual civil liberties, that we do not allow easily people to multiply their identities or operate on false identities. Now the issue in Britain, and this is the British way and the British constitution I think....

ANDREW MARR: Cos David Cameron says all this is unBritish.

GORDON BROWN: Yes, well I think he's wrong because the issue in Britain is your proper parliamentary accountability and proper respect for individual rights in doing so. And what I and Charles Clarke would try to do is to build in the safeguards for the individual and the safeguards about accountability to parliament.

ANDREW MARR: So all the rebels, newspapers, everybody who is hostile to this, hasn't made any impact on you at all, you're going to drive this through?

GORDON BROWN: Well, I just think the world has changed so much that biometric or isometric testing is being used in the private sector and we will need individual safeguards, safeguards for individual rights there. It's being used for passports, identity fraud is very common indeed, but the use of multiple identities by Mohammed Atta the states and alternatively by all the terrorists operating here, make it necessary in my view to say, look, let's have a system of identity here in this country that works, that is modern, that is up-to-date, but let's build in the proper individual protections and safeguards that are necessary.

And let's have a system of proper accountability to parliament. Now that's the British way of doing things. Not turning your back on things that are happening, that are changing the world. Not your head in the sand but actually building in proper accountability.

ANDREW MARR: One of the things that people say about the threat that we face is that actually quite a lot of it is opportunistic and quite cheap to organise. I mean the BBC did some research showing that the 7/7 bombers but their bombs together with almost no resources which means that all the kind of international trawling for terrorist funds may not catch these people.

And then there's the question of the provocation that the Muslim world feels. I'm thinking particularly of the News of the World story this morning and those appalling images.

GORDON BROWN: But let me say very clearly about this, if it is true this is unacceptable behaviour. I believe that the Ministry of Defence has already said that this will be investigated fully. Those who are responsible will be brought to trial. And I think the people who will be most annoyed about this are our loyal, hardworking, decent troops - our forces, 80,000 of whom have served with great distinction in Iraq and in that region.

And I believe that they will see this as a sleight on the great work that they're doing in the line of duty. And of course all those who have served in our armed forces, who have served with such distinction over the years, will find this an affront and will be more furious than anybody else. But this will be acted on, the investigation should take place. The name of the British forces round the world is one that we must defend and protect.

ANDREW MARR: It's been badly damaged by this...

GORDON BROWN: And be safeguarded by taking the action that is necessary. And remember these are one or two incidents out of 80,000 people who have been in this area. That is not to down-play them but to say we must see this in its proper perspective.

ANDREW MARR: I must ask you a little bit about the economy. Why is it, do you think, that we are doing so badly when it comes to productivity?

GORDON BROWN: Productivity is actually growing.

ANDREW MARR: We've gone from 4th to 13th in the European Union.

GORDON BROWN: No, I don't accept that, I don't accept that. We've passed Germany, we've passed, we're ahead of Japan, we're catching up with France and we're actually doing better in relation to America. But the fact of the matter is if you look at the productivity figures, you know where the biggest gap is?

It's in retail, where we think we are very efficient, but with America we're 30% behind because they've got cheap land, they've got easy planning permission in a very big country. They've got easy access to building. So there are differences between countries you've got to understand, I want us to be more productive as a country.

ANDREW MARR: But we aren't doing well, are we?

We are doing well Andrew I think..

ANDREW MARR: ...well the European Union figures you may not accept, the office of national statistics, our own office of national statistics, says these are the worst figures for 15 years.

GORDON BROWN: Well I believe that in a period where you've got low growth and you're maintaining employment, obviously your productivity rate of growth in one year will not be as high as in previous years. Manufacturing productivity, however, rose very substantially last year. And I think what you've got to look at is where Britain stands in relation to the rest of the world. We are the most stable economy in the world. We are the most open economy in the world and that means that we are ...

ANDREW MARR: What does stable really mean?

GORDON BROWN: Stable means that we've got one of the most steady inflation rates of any country. People can look to us both for the short term and the long term and know that our inflation target is going to be met.

ANDREW MARR: We've got, we've got huge debt..

GORDON BROWN: ...and therefore we are able to grow, create jobs, as we've done over the last year, more than 200,000 more jobs. You see, Britain's position for the future, let's be honest about this, is we are stable, we are outward-looking and open to the world. We've got a belief and investment now taking place in science. We've got to do better in education which is the importance of the reforms that we're making.

But if we do things in these areas I believe that we are well placed to be one of the great global success stories of the future. That means we've got to take the right long-term decisions, rather what I was talking about at the beginning of the programme - to alert people to the challenge of Asia and China and India. To make people understand that we've got to make changes all the time and reform and intensify the reform, to modernise our industry and our services, and of course our public sector for the future.

ANDREW MARR: I suppose the question...

GORDON BROWN: But if we do that we're in a good position.

ANDREW MARR: I suppose the question is whether we've really been doing that as successfully as we need to in the past. Because, unemployment for instance, is bubbling up again at the moment. You know, it's on an upward curve. We have got these difficulties over productivity. We have got this historically very, very high level of debt. Now some people would say...

GORDON BROWN: That's just not correct...

ANDREW MARR: ...take those together they're not so stable.

GORDON BROWN: Andrew this is just no correct. First of all our unemployment remains the lowest it's been for 30 years.

ANDREW MARR: It's going up.

GORDON BROWN: It's going up slowly but, in a small way, but it's lower than America, it's lower than half what it is in our European competitors. The level of debt in the British economy is one of the lowest, it's lower than America, it's lower than Germany, lower than France, a lot lower than Japan. We've maintained a very low level of public debt in the economy.

I actually think that the question for the British economy is this: having become a stable economy, being an open and competitive economy, more so than the rest of Europe, can we build on that so that we have a strong place in the global economy of the future? I believe in city, financial and business services, in education which could be one of our biggest exports, pharmaceuticals and healthcare. In a whole range of the creative industries including media, Britain is very well placed for the future but we have got to be able to make the right long-term choices, and that includes reform and education and health. It includes a more flexible labour market and I've always said that we've got to do that.

ANDREW MARR: Yes, yes.

GORDON BROWN: Encouraging more small businesses, with better incentives for them to start up in business, now that's what we can do for the future.

ANDREW MARR: We're trying very hard not to be too creative on this programme. Throughout this conversation you have been sounding most of the time like, more like the Prime Minister than a Chancellor.

We have covered a huge range of waterfront issues and people around town, people inside the Cabinet say, talk of this sort of smooth transition coming that you're coming out more, you're talking about a wider range of things - you're going to see President Putin and all the rest of it. Is that what's going on?

GORDON BROWN: No, I'm doing my job but I do believe as I said right at the outset, that we've got to apprise people of the long-term challenges the country faces. I want to talk about them in the next...

ANDREW MARR: It's a very broad job these days though?

GORDON BROWN: Yes, but Tony Blair and I are both talking about the long-term challenges ahead. If you take the environment, I think we've got a great deal to do to meet the climate change ambitions of this country. If you take childcare I understand from going round the country just how important that is, and owner occupation and getting young people on the first rung of the housing ladder.

ANDREW MARR: It sounds like a dual premiership to me the more you talk.

GORDON BROWN: There is no arrangement such as that at all. Tony Blair makes the decisions as Prime Minister, and I get on with my job as the Chancellor. But I think it's right given the analysis I've just put to you that we talk about the long-term issues facing the country in the future.

ANDREW MARR: But when people like David Blunkett talk about a new understanding they're not far off are they?

GORDON BROWN: There is no deal or no understanding like that at all. We get on with the job of running the country and making the decisions that matter.

And I think we do so appreciating that really we've got to think about the long-term now, the renewal of new Labour is an important issue ahead. I've talked about Britishness and about the sense of patriotic purpose that we need as a country to succeed in the modern world. Tomorrow I'll be talking about how the security needs of our country can best be met...


GORDON BROWN: By a British response, which means we do take tough measure on security but we have proper accountability. And in future weeks I'll be talking about other issues including of course having a budget in a few weeks' time.

ANDREW MARR: When the time comes Charles Clarke says that he thinks there should be a contest, well not that there should be a contest but that there's likely to be a contest. Would that be a good thing for the Labour Party?

GORDON BROWN: Well if and when Tony Blair stands down and he's said he doesn't want to fight the next election, then that's both the right of the Labour Party and I would be perfectly happy if there was a contest for the leadership.

ANDREW MARR: Of course you could argue it's, you know, in a democratic party it's a healthy thing.

GORDON BROWN: Absolutely and that's, it's how you conduct that, that matters. The advantage of these debates both now and at a later stage is we do address these long-term concerns.

ANDREW MARR: Of course. And you're also addressing a long-term concern that's called David Cameron. He's a different kind of Conservative leader. He has taken his party much more towards the centre ground and he is the sort of threat that the party in your time in government, hasn't really faced before.

GORDON BROWN: Well I think the question again is, is he and his party addressing the long-term issues. I think there is a sense that they're trying to catch up to 1997 at the moment. The question is do they have answers for the long-term challenges the country faces?

I think to be fair, and I've read his piece this morning on terrorism, that they have very few answers on the issues of security and terrorism. And I think people will be quite surprised that they're opposing us on identity cards, opposing us on the clause on the glorification of terrorism, and opposed us on the 28 days issue as far as police powers.

And I think that is a conservative step backwards rather than a step forwards. You see, I think they've misunderstood what it is to be British here, to be British is to take the necessary measures, we always did as a country, but to make sure we have proper accountability and a proper respect for civil liberties.

ANDREW MARR: He's a formidable politician David Cameron. Are you going to beat him?

GORDON BROWN: Well, let's see what happens in this country. Tony Blair is the Prime Minister, David Cameron is simply the leader of the opposition. And I'm putting my ideas forward as Chancellor.

I do think, however, that the issue is who will equip this country for the future and that's over a long, long range of issues, right across the board. And it doesn't just include the security I'm talking about tomorrow, but will include a return to the issues of the environment and of education and of science and how we deal with the future challenges...

ANDREW MARR: On education, a word to those rebels who still don't think that the compromise is enough?

GORDON BROWN: Well I've said that before that reform in education is not only going to be this Bill which should be passed and I do urge people to support it. But also that reform will have to continue, and there will be more areas of educational reform which will have to be looked at over the next few months and few years, because our determination is to have a world-class education system.

You cannot be first in business or prosperity in the modern world unless you're first also in education. It is no good being second or third in education. We've got to be world class.

ANDREW MARR: Or in politics. Thank you very much Chancellor.


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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