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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February 2005, 12:20 GMT
At-a-glance: MPs grill Tony Blair
Here are the key points from Tony Blair's appearance before the influential Commons liaison committee of senior MPs on Tuesday:

Iraq

  • The prime minister said he would have liked a "bigger coalition" of countries involved in the Iraq conflict, but accepted there were nations "very strongly against the action in Iraq".

  • Countries that are now pulling out of Iraq have not changed their minds, but were withdrawing after a "stipulated pre-condition" of their involvement in the conflict.

  • It had been "difficult to foresee or plan for" the degree of insurgency in Iraq and the arrival of outside terrorists.

  • Nato could be set to reach a new deal on helping Iraq train its own security forces at its meeting later this month.

  • "I hope that we will see some of the countries that haven't been involved either in the conflict or its aftermath involved in that."

  • "We will remain in Iraq for as long as is needed. It's our desire ... that we go from Iraq as soon as possible.

  • "As soon as possible means when the job is done and the job is building up that Iraqi capability."

  • Pressed about whether anyone would believe him if he came to Parliament claiming Iran had weapons of mass destruction, Mr Blair said: "It depends what the evidence is."

  • Reconstruction of Iraq would be speeded up if the security situation was "under control".

  • Mr Blair did not believe any UK money pledged to Iraq had been misappropriated.

  • Overall, $30bn had been set aside by the international community for Iraq.

  • "The money we're spending from Britain is well spent," said Mr Blair, although the bulk of it is going on the armed forces, he added.

  • He believed it was right to give MPs the chance of voting on whether to commit troops in future conflicts, if possible.

    UK economy

  • He said it was important to keep a "tight grip" on economic stability, adding that he was reasonably optimistic about future growth prospects.

  • He conceded that EU regulations were hampering British manufacturing industry's competitiveness.

  • "There is an issue to do with manufacturing competitiveness but I think that's as much to do with European regulation as it is with British regulation."

  • On education, Mr Blair said: "I would like to get to the point where every child, after the age of 16, either has proper training or is in apprenticeship or is at college or university."

  • He accepted that it is "very, very difficult" for young people in employment to work out their pension options.

  • "We don't want a situation where the majority of people are on means tested pensions.

  • "For someone on a relatively modest income to invest the sum of money they would need for a decent retirement, it's a big call on their resources."

  • Mr Blair said the government is set to publish a paper on the issue of ageing and an ageing society, in the coming weeks.

  • "I hope this year we will have council tax under 5%. This is what the government wants - we've made every effort to do it. We've got a good chance of achieving that."

  • On defence procurement, savings of 1bn could be made through the Gershon review, commissioned to look for greater efficiency in government.

    Climate change and G8 presidency

  • Mr Blair said he hoped to reach an international consensus that climate change is an issue "that has to be tackled", during the UK's presidency of the G8 group of industrialised nations.

  • He said he wanted to bring in major developing economies, such as India and China, to the consensus.

  • "China and India are going to engage in vast economic expansion - the question is, can they do so in a way that is environmentally sustainable?"

  • The prime minister said it was important to get the US, described by one committee member as the world's biggest polluter, back into a dialogue on climate change.

  • "I happen to believe we can get an agreement on this. I think it would be very difficult, but I think the US is ready to come back into dialogue on this question."

  • Pressed about the impact cheap air travel is having on pollution, Mr Blair said: "I think that it's a very good reason why the science and technology needs to be explored, aviation fuel in particular.

  • "I do not think you're going to have any political consensus for saying we're going to slap some huge tax on cheap air travel."




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