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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Blair grilled: Main points
Tony Blair
Here are the main points from the questioning of the prime minister by the senior MPs on the House of Commons liaison committee.

IRAQ

  • Weapons of mass destruction may not now be found in Iraq, Tony Blair told the committee.

  • All the evidence and intelligence was that Saddam Hussein did have the weapons, he said

  • But he added: "What I have got to accept is that I was very, very confident we would find the weapons. I have to accept that we have not found them - that we may not find them."

  • It would be a mistake to say that just because weapons had not been found that therefore Saddam Hussein was not a threat, Mr Blair said.

  • Mr Blair stressed he would not have taken Britain into the war with Iraq if he had not believed that it would benefit the security of Britain.

  • It had been necessary to take a stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology because there was a risk WMDs and this new form of terrorism would come together.

    I genuinely believe that those weapons were there and that is why the international community came together as they did
    Tony Blair

  • The "biggest rebuttal" to the terror threat was getting countries like Iraq and Afghanistan "on their feet".

  • We would not have seen the progress we have made in Libya and in North Korea if Iraq hadn't happened, Mr Blair added.

  • He also dismissed any suggestions Britain had undertaken the Iraq campaign just to please its American allies.

  • "Let people say whatever they like about it - at the end of the day it's an important relationship for us not just because we share their views but because the best security we have is the spread of freedom and democracy about the world."

  • MIDDLE EAST

  • The road map was the first time Israel had committed itself to two-state solution.

  • "It's true we haven't made the progress that we would have wished to make," he said, adding that work was continuing on resolving the dispute.

  • The on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict was something that stirred up war and conflict all around the world, he said.

    GUANTANAMO BAY

    I actually need to be very clear in respect of our own country - that we are not putting anyone at risk
    Mr Blair

  • But, he said: "Guantanamo Bay is an anomaly which at some point has to be brought to an end."

  • With regard to the British detainees, the UK have already got five of them back and the future of the remaining four was still being discussed with the US.

  • "If we do have them back we have to ask do we have the necessary arrangements for security," said Mr Blair

  • He was not convinced the UK had the "machinery" in place to ensure that the remaining British detainees at Guantanamo Bay would not pose a security threat if they were released.

  • "I hope we can resolve it reasonably soon but I do not think that the United States is being unreasonable in saying we need to make sure that there is security in place for these people".

  • "We all know that we are faced with a significant terrorism threat. These people were picked up in circumstances where we believe at the very least there are issues that need to be resolved, let us say, in respect of those individuals.

    ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

  • There are many reasons for the breakdown of social cohesion from time to time but "we cannot justify any violent behaviour" by young people.

  • Anti-social behaviour and "yob culture" is a "real issue in communities up and down the country," said Mr Blair.

  • The government had attempted to tackle this problem of low-level crime which "made life hell" for people by giving the police a whole range of new powers.

  • But, Mr Blair said, he was prepared to "go back and legislate again on anti-social behaviour if there was a problem with the way the laws are being used."

    RACE RELATIONS

  • On race relations, he said he thought matters had improved "in some ways" since race riots in Burnley and other Northern towns three years ago.

  • But he warned international terrorism was "a new dimension that we need to watch" in terms of causing racial tension in communities.
    Sometimes there is an unnecessary tension that enters into local relations. Obviously this is what has happened in certain parts of the North West
    Mr Blair

  • There was a need to avoid tarnishing the Muslim community as a whole because of the actions of a few Muslim extremists.

  • "We need to give publicity to the fact that the vast majority of Muslim Leaders are responsible people who have a positive effect on their local communities."

  • Some might say faith schools did not help social cohesion, said Mr Blair, but he believed that if Catholic and Church of England schools were allowed it would not be right to ban Jewish or Muslim schools.

  • "It was a choice that should not be taken away from people," he said.

    HOUSING

  • Mr Blair predicted housing and pensions would be the big issues of the next few years.

    We have to recognise the fact that there is an excess of demand over supply for housing in the south
    Mr Blair

  • Efforts were being made to increase the number of affordable homes for key workers with 10,000 public service workers like teachers and policemen already being helped in London.

  • The government had got to get the balance between affordable homes to rent and affordable homes to buy right, Mr Blair said. But he acknowledged others might see it differently.

  • "There is no question of us concreting over the south east [of England]."

    SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS

  • Mr Blair denied his administration had "run out of steam" on the reform of public services.

  • The government was prepared to be "very radical" in the education of 14 to 19-year-olds for example, he said.

  • "We need to ensure that the vocational stream is given the importance that the academic stream has always had," Mr Blair said.

  • Giving the public a choice of schools and hospitals did not mean giving subsidies to private education and health care.

  • "It's important when parents come to decide their secondary schools that there are a range of good schools for them to choose from."

  • It should not be the case that a good school is not allowed to expand just because there are surplus places at a school which nobody wants to go to.

    You have got to combine choice with expanding capacity and raising standards
    Mr Blair

  • Mr Blair said his "passionate belief is that public services should remain for all parts of the community". They shouldn't just be for those who could not afford to go private, he said.

  • "We are not going to have a free-for-all but we are going to give greater freedoms and greater independence," he said.

    ENERGY POLICY

  • "Climate change is the single biggest long-term problem we face," Mr Blair said.

  • Nuclear power cannot be removed from the agenda "if we are serious about climate change", he said.

  • Without a huge increase in action the world is not going to be able deal with the problem in anything like the way that is necessary, he said.

    You cannot remove it [nuclear power] from the agenda if you are serious about the issue of climate change
    Mr Blair

  • The Kyoto agreement, if enforced, would reduce emissions by 1%, but there is a requirement to have a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050.

  • There is a disagreement with the United States on Kyoto, but it is a dialogue that should be pursued as there is a shift in view on the science there towards accepting climate change issues, Mr Blair said.

  • "It's an issue where there is a tremendous need for the beginnings of agreement at the international level. We would hope to get agreement on certain key principles," Mr Blair added.

  • Mr Blair was positive Britain would meet its Kyoto targets, but he said, the difficult thing to achieve was the interplay between energy needs and environmental requirements.

  • There was a need to "step up" investment in renewable energy. We should not "shut the door" on the nuclear option, Mr Blair added.

  • It was a question of balancing the cost and making sure the concerns that people have about safety are satisfied, he said.

    You can watch the prime minister's appearance before the liaison committee on BBC Parliament on Friday 9 July at 1800 BST.


  • SEE ALSO:
    Analysis: Confessional tone
    06 Jul 04  |  Politics



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