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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 July 2007, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Terror alert
On Sunday 01 July Andrew Marr interviewed The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP

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

Gordon Brown MP
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP

GORDON BROWN: It's obvious we're dealing with a terrorist threat.

We've been dealing with it for some time.

We've known it's long term, we've known it's sustained.

We know that such attacks like these can happen at any time.

And let me first of all praise the extraordinary vigilance of the public.

It has been the vigilance of the public in both London and Glasgow that has made a huge difference and avoided loss of life.

And I think the response of the police and the emergency services has been something that does huge credit to our country and I'm very proud of what they've managed to do.

The explosive experts I've already met and of course people in Glasgow as well where we've had the arrests.

And I think now we also see that the police are in a fast moving operation. They've made enormous progress in a very short period of time.

ANDREW MARR: We're talking ... over night are we?

GORDON BROWN: We've already had some, some arrests. And again what we're seeing in Britain is when these attacks or these threats happen the public, the police, the emergency services, the security services all come together and it makes me very proud that we have people in Britain that are prepared to respond with such professionalism and with such dedicated service in the way that they have done.

ANDREW MARR: The timings of the attacks presumably not a coincidence, just a couple of days after you'd taken over here at number ten?

GORDON BROWN: Our security warning has been severe. In other words it has been expected that there would be potential attacks over many, many months. We've never let the security warning drift downwards. It's obvious that we have a group of people not just in this country but around the world who are prepared at any time to inflict what they want to be maximum damage on civilians irrespective of who the religion of these people who are killed or maimed are to be.

And so we will have to be constantly vigilant. We will have to be alert at all times. And I think the message that's got to come out from Britain and from the British people is that as one we will not yield, we will not be intimidated. And we will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life.

ANDREW MARR: The threat level has been raised to critical. Can you explain to people what that actually means. Your new security advisor Lord Stevens has said there's bound to be more attacks like these coming soon.

GORDON BROWN: Well it's obvious, I mean it's obviously when you have three incidents, two of them attempted car bombs in London that could have inflicted very big damage near very crowded places and then you have an incident at Glasgow where you have an attempt using a car to, to effectively cause maximum damage at an airport that it's right to raise the security level.

But of course the security level has been at a very high level. It's been at the number two level for some time. And the reason is that we are aware and have been aware for some time that we're dealing with a long term threat. It's not going to go away in the next few weeks or months. We have to fight it in a number of different ways. Militarily, by security, by police, by intelligence.

And I think it's important to say also on a day like this we have got to also fight it as a battle of hearts and minds. We've got to separate if you like those great moderate members of our community from a few extremists who wish to practice both violence and inflict maximum loss of life in the interest of the perversion of, of their religion.

ANDREW MARR: But does raising the level to critical and the things that Lord Stevens has said, does that mean that we must expect more attacks?

GORDON BROWN: I think we've got to be vigilant. And my message today is that we will be vigilant. And we have had to strengthen security in really three areas.

The first is at airports where it's important not just that the public are vigilant but that we do the checks that are necessary to ensure that passengers feel and are reassured that all measures are taken to ensure their safety in what is essentially one of the great crowded places, airports in our country.

ANDREW MARR: So it's going to take a bit longer to get onto your plane and so on for a while?

GORDON BROWN: I think I've got to appeal to members of the public to understand that at this point when we've had an attempted attack at an airport the security measures have to be increased.

And whether it's checks as people go into the airports or whether it's also of course more police patrols, or whether it may be some barriers that people have got to come through, these will be on the basis of an assessment made on the ground for particular airports what people must be expected to have. But of course I want the ordinary business of the country to continue.

ANDREW MARR: Just airports?

GORDON BROWN: I think the message is that, that terrorists will not disrupt the ordinary business of running our lives. Now the second area is of course crowded places.

And as we saw with the, the attempt at a bomb outside what would have been a crowded place in the middle of the night, we have got to take extra measures in crowded places and you will see a greater police presence and you will see in some cases further measures to enhance the security there.

I think the third area I should mention is, is cars. And of course these are car bombs that are being used, using a vehicle as in other parts of the world to inflict damage. And people may expect that there may be some checks of cars during the course of the next few days.

And I think they should be ready and hopefully cooperate with the police in what they are trying to do which is to prevent anybody carrying such a bomb going round the country.

ANDREW MARR: What's your message therefore to the people who would otherwise be thinking of going out to a night club this evening, going out to a crowded place? Should people carry on living their lives as normal?

GORDON BROWN: I think it's very important that people carry on living their lives as normal. I think it's very important that we the British people send a message to terrorists that they will not be allowed to undermine our British way of life.

But it's also important that the public are, are vigilant, that we take proper precautions, that we get the right balance between the reassurance that I can give that everything is being done in our power with heightened policing to protect people's lives. But also the need to be vigilant when it comes to going to crowded places and looking at what is actually happening there.

And I am sure that we will see, as we've seen from the counter terrorism hotline where the public are encouraged to, to tell us if there is anything that is untoward we have had massive public cooperation over these last few days and I think there is nothing but admiration for the way the general public has responded and will continue to respond because we are all in this together.

ANDREW MARR: You mentioned car bombs and cars particularly. Lord Stevens has said that this is the importing of techniques that have been used for a long time in Baghdad and indeed elsewhere like Bali.

GORDON BROWN: Well look we've had terrorist incidents in twenty five different countries round, round the world. We've had them in Asia, America, Europe, of course recently in, in Spain of course as well as in Britain. And you ..

ANDREW MARR: We haven't seen car bombs before.

GORDON BROWN: .. and you can, you can expect that a terrorist organisation will want to use methods such as using a car as a bomb effectively to cause maximum damage. And I think we've got to recognise what the nature of the threat that we're dealing with is.

Al Qaeda and people who are related to Al Qaeda and while I don't want to comment on the police investigation that is ongoing, it is clear that we are dealing in general terms with people who are associated with, with Al Qaeda in a number of incidents that have happened all across the world. It wants to make its point, its propaganda effort by inflicting the maximum damage irrespective of religion, on civilian life.

And I think that in any country - and we know that Al Qaeda are operating in more than sixty countries - you can expect that they will use different forms of, of missile or weapon or different forms of, of activity, whether it's planes or cars, to inflict that damage. And I think the point that I've got to make is terrorism can never be justified as an act of faith. It is an act of evil in all circumstances.

ANDREW MARR: Do we think that what happened in London and what happened in Glasgow Airport are connected, part of the same thing?

GORDON BROWN: I think you'll have found that the police have made it clear that they regard these as similar investigations and that there are features in what has happened in both Glasgow and London that lead them to, to mounting one set of investigations into, into this incident. But it's for the police obviously to comment on their investigation.

What I do know however is that they have made rapid progress. Over night there have not only been arrests but they have obviously been very active in different areas of the country. And I believe that we are showing not only that we are taking action to prevent future incidents but, but also at the same time the police are making progress in arresting people who may or may not be responsible.

ANDREW MARR: Can I turn to why this is happening. To what extent is it because of events in the Middle East? Can you look at people and say honestly that this country is safer as a result of what happened in Iraq?

GORDON BROWN: I think we've got to accept that Al Qaeda is operating and terrorist groups are operating in, in many countries, that not just Britain or parts of Europe or America are feeling the, the brunt of an attempt at terrorist attacks, but this is happening in many, many countries round the world. Look the first incident that was if you like the modern terrorist activity where non-state actors try to inflict the maximum damage on a state was nineteen ninety three in New York.

We then seen incidents in Bali, Madrid. We've seen them all around the world. And I think that the most important thing that should not be forgotten is that irrespective Iraq, irrespective of Afghanistan, irrespective of what is happening in different parts of the world we have an international organisation that is trying to inflict the maximum damage on civilian life in pursuit of a terrorist cause that is totally unacceptable to mainstream people in every faith in every part of the world.

ANDREW MARR: So you say irrespective of. Does that mean if we see most of the British troops coming out say in the course of next year from Iraq that won't make any difference to the, the threat levels or the threat that people face here?

GORDON BROWN: In my view the terrorist threat is long term and it's sustained. It is about those people who are essentially violent extremists who have a grievance against society, particularly against the values that we represent and the values that decent people in all religions represent. And it is their intention to inflict the maximum of damage in any part of the world to make their propaganda point. And therefore of course we want to see greater peace and security in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And of course making progress in the Middle East with Palestine and Israel will make a difference. But I think anybody I talk to, a leader in any part of the world, knows that we're in the business of dealing with a long term threat, a sustained threat, one that is unrelated in detail to one specific point of conflict in the world, but is a general view that is held by a group of terrorist extremists about the shape of the world they want to create, quite different from the values of liberty, the dignity we attach to the individual that is represented by our country and other countries in, in different parts of the world.

ANDREW MARR: So when somebody like General Dannatt talks about the two things being inextricably linked you don't agree with that, Iraq and London.

GORDON BROWN: What I believe, what I believe is that the terrorist threat we're dealing with - and that's why the measures that I have been looking at and talking about are long term and sustained. The terrorist threat we're dealing with is about a long term and sustained attack on the values that we represent.

And I believe we've got to win it in different ways. And that's why I've always talked about not just the military and the security and the police and intelligence effort that is brilliantly mounted. I've got nothing but praise for both our armed forces and our security services who are doing a magnificent job and at the same time risking their lives in so many theatres of the world. But it's also about hearts and minds.

If in the long term we cannot separate the moderates from the extremists and the extremists prey on young lives both in this country and in other parts of the world, then we will see culturally a distancing of people with extreme views from the rest of the community. And that's why the cultural effort, almost similar to what happened during the Cold War in the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties when we had to mount a propaganda effort, if you like, to explain to people that our values represented the best of commitments to individual dignity, to, to liberty and to, to human life being taken seriously. And I think that's what we are going to have to talk about in the next few years.

ANDREW MARR: Just on the values point, when people look at web sites and see the kind of thing being said about young women going to night clubs that they are slags who deserve what they're going to get, in other words to be killed, there can be no compromise presumably with that kind of view? It is a culture war?

GORDON BROWN: Because we wish to defend the freedom of the individual, the liberty of the individual citizen to, to do as they make their choices to do, within the rule of law. That is quite different from the views that are being perpetrated on what I regard as thousands of web sites around the world, Al Qaeda related operations in more than sixty countries of the world, propaganda being pumped out with a whole range of things including mock and real executions on web sites round the world.

Now these, this is what we're up against which shows me why what we've got to do is of a long term and sustained nature. You know that's why I've brought in Admiral West to be our Minister for, for Terrorism. He used to be head of defence intelligence. And he was head of the Royal Navy. I want him to be a minister with Tony McNulty dealing with terrorism directly. That's why I've brought in John Stevens as an international security advisor. That's why I've proposed a single security budget and a national ..

ANDREW MARR: So ..

GORDON BROWN: .. security strategy. Because we have got to deal with a problem that is not just a problem of today, painful as the events of the last few, few days have been, it's a problem that is long term and sustained and has got to be dealt with by the measures that I'm talking about which will require some of the changes that I've been commenting on even, even this morning.

ANDREW MARR: What about things like extending detention to if not ninety days at least nearer to ninety days? Are you going to press ahead with that?

GORDON BROWN: This is an issue because you'll find in a number of different cases that have already been heard in the courts, we're dealing with people with multiple identities, multiple addresses and multiple points of contacts with international organisations.

And therefore an investigation is bound to take longer. Because A, you've got to act early to avoid incidents so you, you can't catch people red handed. You've got to catch people before they've undertaken their terrorist act. And B, because the, the scale of the investigation is international, it's on computers and emails and everything else and very sophisticated. But that is not an issue for today. The, the issue for today is about how we can coordinate our security effort for the long term and of course we will seek consensus on the thirty days issue. But that is not an issue for today. The issue for today ..

ANDREW MARR: So thirty days, not ninety?

GORDON BROWN: Yeah. Yeah. On, and going beyond thirty days.

ANDREW MARR: Going beyond thirty days.

GORDON BROWN: Yeah of course we'll seek consensus. But that is not the central issue. The central issue is what we can do to prevent the security, to prevent the terrorist threat now. And what we can do to, in recognising that we're dealing with a long term security threat, how we can step up the coordination of our efforts. You know I've doubled the security budget over the last few years. It is now more than two billons a year where it was one billion before September the eleventh.

And the measures that I've been talking about over these last few months, in anticipation of things that need to be done in the future include a single security budget so that people can see that we're devoting the effort and the energies and also the publication as happens in some other countries of a national security strategy so that public can be far more aware both, both of ..

ANDREW MARR: Of what? What's going on?

GORDON BROWN: Both of what we are having to do and of the steps that we will have to take in the future to deal not just at the level of military and security and policing but hearts and minds as well.

ANDREW MARR: And that's more important in your view than things like changing the law on telephone tapping in courts and so on?

GORDON BROWN: But we will deal with these issues as well. ...

ANDREW MARR: Those will come up will they?

GORDON BROWN: The issue of intercept where we will conduct a review. There's the issue of going beyond thirty days. There's the issue of interrogation if you like, once people have been arrested. These are all issues under consideration. But if I'm frank this weekend this issue is about how we can make sure that people are more secure and more safe. The first duty of a government and the first responsibility of a prime minister ..

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

GORDON BROWN: .. is to ensure the safety and the security of the British people. And that is what I'm entirely focused on this weekend.

ANDREW MARR: Tony Blair's been through this before. Have you spoken to him at all about this? Has it been useful?

GORDON BROWN: Well Tony Blair and I have talked many times about what is a long term and lasting threat that is caused by terrorism.

ANDREW MARR: But not since you, you came in, talked about this?

GORDON BROWN: We keep in contact.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Can I turn to something which is I suppose, comes out of this but is also part of the broader constitutional picture which is the proposed Bill of Rights. Because in terms of a lot of the things that you may want to do they've bumped up against the, the imported European rights legislation. Do you think we will see a British Bill of Rights that changes the balance slightly, makes it easier to cope with the terrorist threat?

GORDON BROWN: Look what's unique in my view and what is you know uniquely British is how even when we have to take measures to increase the security of our nation, and even when we have to take measures that look tough in relation to security and are indeed tough, the uniqueness of Britain is that we will always be vigilant about protecting the civil liberties of the individual, avoiding what would be called arbitrariness.

So if you've got to move towards tougher security measures you must have proper judicial oversight, you must have proper parliamentary accountability. So the British way of doing things is not to deny that you need changes to increase security but the British way is to say if you've got to make these changes - and we have - and we're asking people to do difficult things over the next few days alone, then at the same time you've got to have proper judicial oversight of the authorities and you've got to have proper accountability to the people through parliament.

So if we have to do difficult things parliament must not only be informed but involved in discussing what happens and any national security strategy in my view should be subject to the widest possible debate, not just in parliament but in the country. That's how we protect against what people may claim to be - and wrongly so in my view - but claim to be an arbitrariness in the way that we treat individual people.

ANDREW MARR: You want to restore the powers of parliament and there's been a lot of discussion about how that might be done in terms of voting on peace and war and so on. I don't know if you're, you're going to go ahead with a statement on this tomorrow to the House of Commons.

Can I ask about one thing that's been much discussed which is whether you are at all persuaded that we need a change in our voting system, keeping constituencies but nonetheless having a more proportional voting system for the House of Commons?

GORDON BROWN: Let me say first of all that the priority tomorrow for, for parliament will be a statement on security. And it may be that we will have to move the statement on the constitution to later, later in the week.

As far as the statement on the constitution is concerned I'm not going to pre-announce what we're going to say to the House of Commons. I think it's an important part of our democracy that parliament will be told about the proposals I have for the constitution in parliament itself.

ANDREW MARR: ...

GORDON BROWN: As far, as far as the, as far as the voting system is concerned answer you, answer, answer you directly on that ..

ANDREW MARR: Yeah.

GORDON BROWN: .. we are committed to publishing a paper on, on the electoral system for a discussion in the country at a later stage and that will be a paper that will come later.

ANDREW MARR: And what about some of the other big areas? There's been talk of making the, the National Health Service in some way managerially independent. Are you attracted by that?

GORDON BROWN: What, what I said only last, last, last Sunday is that the National Health Service is going to be sixty years old next year. It's been a remarkable British achievement. The only country to have consistently had healthcare free at the point of need, irrespective of people's ability to pay.

But the sixtieth anniversary of the Health Service is also a chance, over the next year as we move towards it, to look at the kind of health service involving the public, the patients themselves, as well as the staff whom, whose work I value. And I think it's right to look at what are the decisions that government, because government is raising money from the people to pay for the Health Service, have got to take, but what are the decisions that can be less, left to other people and particularly to patients and to local people to make decisions about ..

ANDREW MARR: So you want to push, push power a bit down ..

GORDON BROWN: I not only want to push power downwards so that the local hospital and the local Trust have the power to make their own decisions but I want patients and I mean the general public to see themselves as more involved in the decisions that are made locally about how the Health Service can, can move forward. And I think it's often said that, that the Health Service can actually devolve more power.

And whether it's the expert patient programme where patients themselves take more sort of interest in the treatment that they are having themselves or whether it's public health where MRSA and everything else, we've got to persuade people to take public health more seriously, or whether it's simply involving themselves in the decisions about maternity and other service of local hospital. That is, that is the way that we've got to move in the future.

ANDREW MARR: Cleaner hospitals, more city academies, pushing power down. These are all Conservative Party policies.

GORDON BROWN: They're Labour Party policies. And these are the policies that I've been working on for some time. If you, if you take the National Health Service, I'm afraid to say that our opponents have voted against the additional resources that are absolutely essential for a modern health service. If you take city academies it's, it's the Labour government that has introduced city academies. And I've proposed how we can move that policy forward and allow universities and colleges which I think would be one big advance for academies to be able to form academies without having to pay, pay the fee. And if you take law and order and antisocial behaviour I'm afraid the Conservative Party, and it's to my regret actually and I think it should be to their shame, have voted against large numbers of the antisocial behaviour measures that are necessary for elderly people particularly to feel safe as they walk the streets even during the day.

ANDREW MARR: Well you've got some Conservatives obviously inside your tent already. Are you going to go for a snap election?

GORDON BROWN: That's not in my mind at all.

ANDREW MARR: So no election this year or next?

GORDON BROWN: No, it's the last thing in my mind this weekend if I may say so. The most important thing is the security and safety of the British people. And that is paramount in everything that I do, looking at, with the Home Security Jacqui Smith at the measures that we need to take to ensure that the public are safe. But what I will do is broaden the base of policies in this country.

I want an inclusive government. I've already brought in from the outside people not traditionally associated with the, the Labour, the Labour Party. I've brought Digby Jones in as Minister for Trade Promotion. I've brought in Ara Darzi one of the country's leading cancer specialists.

ANDREW MARR: Shirley Williams thinking about it I think ?

GORDON BROWN: I believe that there are other people who will want to work with us, in the national interest. Because in my view what matters is not some partisan advantage or some party gain over other parties.

What matters is, is rightly that the people of this country feel that a prime minister and a government are doing everything in their power, not just to be inclusive, but to ensure by being inclusive that you have the best people, all the talents, making the right decisions. And in security I think we will be well served by both Admiral West coming in ..

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

GORDON BROWN: .. and by Sir John Stevens.

ANDREW MARR: You've talked a lot about change. Are we going to see some other signs of change? Your elected deputy Harriet Harman made it clear that she was hostile to Guantanamo Bay, thought it should be closed. Is that the kind of thing you can associate yourself with now?

GORDON BROWN: Well I think Harriet Harman and everybody who has joined the cabinet accepts that they will speak to the policy of the government. And this will be a disciplined government where the policy of the government is the one that the ministers will speak to. And I'm not going to comment on individual issues of policy that have been raised by people during a deputy leadership campaign.

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

GORDON BROWN: The important thing however is that the collective responsibility of the government ..

ANDREW MARR: Remains.

GORDON BROWN: .. is accepted by ..

ANDREW MARR: I see.

GORDON BROWN: .. even those people who have joined from the outside and accepting that the Labour Whip in the House of Lords, all the different ministers ..

ANDREW MARR: They all have to, do they?

GORDON BROWN: They're accepting the, the ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

GORDON BROWN: .. the responsibility which, which is the collective responsibility of being part of a government. And I'm pleased that people from the outside who've never been traditionally associated with, with, with party politics are coming in because they believe like me it's the national interest, the public interest ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

GORDON BROWN: .. that matters more than anything else.

ANDREW MARR: Just as, just as we finish something about yourself. It must have been an extraordinary four days or so. You come in, you presumably get the Trident keys and, and all of that. Are we going to see a different style of prime ministership? Are you going to use Chequers less? Are you going to be a little more traditional?

GORDON BROWN: I think people want to know how you're going to approach the making of decisions. And I think people know now that we had a very long discussion at our first cabinet, full cabinet meeting about the constitution that involved every single member of the, the cabinet. So this is not what some people call sofa government. It is cabinet government. And the cabinet and ministers have got to be directly involved in the decisions.

But I think the second thing people will, will see - and I just emphasise this - where there is a problem to be solved or a challenge to be met, whether it's terrorism or security or an economic issue or the Health Service, we will try to recruit the best people irrespective of party label, irrespective of previous political persuasions, irrespective of what they've said before about this or that, because I want the best people. Cos you know, what I understand about Britain, and it's clearer even after this weekend with all the difficulties we face is that there is a yearning for stronger communities in this country. People know that the best way that Britain can move forward to meet all the challenges of the time is by finding in ourself a stronger sense of national purpose, a stronger sense of what holds us together and we could meet all the challenges better and we will meet them better by finding that national unity around common purpose.

ANDREW MARR: Prime minister, thank you very much indeed.

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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