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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
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, which began at 0900 BST:

Leadership style

  • Asked if he was dictatorial, Tony Blair said there were discussions but not votes in Cabinet, and added that it "would be odd if the prime minister did not have a firm view".

  • "You are either accused of being dictatorial or your accused of being weak ... and occasionally both at the same time," he said.

    Law and order

  • Mr Blair denied he was chasing headlines - it was "not surprising" there had been a lot of legislation on crime and anti-terror measures because of the way the world was changing.

    He said the previous government produced even more legislation in this area and he did not think he had "exaggerated" the problems the country faced.

  • "Legislation is not the whole of the answer," he argued, but it is "part of the answer". The legal and political systems were "behind the times" and needed "rebalancing".

    Human rights

  • The problem was not with the Human Rights Act, but with its interpretation, said Mr Blair.

  • On deportation, he said a promise from a country that it would not torture a deportee should be a good enough guarantee for British courts to send them back.

  • He said it should not be up to the UK to "prove absolutely" that no harm would come to them, since an offender took the risk on to themselves by "breaking our rules".

  • The present system is "absurd", added the PM, and "completely out of kilter with common sense".

    Nuclear power

  • It was difficult to see how you could have secure energy supplies and meet carbon limits without replacing Britain's nuclear power stations, said Mr Blair.

  • He said he had changed his mind on the issue since the 2003 energy white paper because of the "urgency" of climate change.

    But if the government's energy review, to be published later this month, said it was a bad idea, he might change his mind again.

    Standards in public life

  • He said he was not going to investigate breaches of the ministerial code every time somebody made an allegation against a minister, because such allegations were made all the time and were not always based on "facts".

    Counter-terrorism strategy

  • He said there was "no doubt" there are groups engaged in planning further terrorist activity.

  • He rejected suggestions the government had done little to "win hearts and minds" since the 7 July London bombs. But the government could not alone defeat extremism and it was important for moderate Muslim leaders to help combat a "completely false sense of grievance against the West".

    Unemployment among Muslims

  • Asked why unemployment was so high among Muslim men, he said the government was trying to bridge the gap through programmes like the New Deal. He was happy to look at additional, targeted measures but it also required a "very clear response from the community itself".

    Forest Gate raid

  • "I suspect most Muslims would recognise Forest Gate had to happen because of the information the police had," said Mr Blair.

    7/7 public inquiry

  • He said holding a public inquiry into the July 2005 London bombings would divert resources from police and security services, which should be focused on dealing with the current threat.

  • Each of the recent press claims about intelligence about the four bombers was "wrong" and a public inquiry would merely tell us "what we already know".

    Northern Ireland

  • Sinn Fein had to make it clear they were unequivocally opposed to criminality and that criminals had to be pursued with the full force of the law before a power sharing executive could resume, said Mr Blair.

    Migration and population policy

  • The government's policy was to control mass migration and to do its "level best" to control illegal migration.

  • It was also looking at how to manage local government resources better in some parts of the country with high levels of immigration. But it was an issue affecting all EU countries as there was "free movement" of workers within the community.

  • Countries such as Germany, which had asked for a transition period after EU expansion, had now come into line with the UK, said Mr Blair, and were now "facing the same issues".

  • Asked if there would be specific sums of money for local authorities to deal with the consequences of migration, Mr Blair said the issue was part of the "perpetual negotiations" between central and local government about cash and "there is no easy way of dealing with this".

    Illegal migrants

  • The only answer to the problem was electronic borders and ID cards - "and even then you would not have the complete answer", said Mr Blair.

  • Tracking down and deporting illegal immigrants was important to send out the right signal - but it was also important to realise "the scale of the problem". He urged closer European co-operation to protect borders.

    Population policy

  • Asked if the government had a population policy, Mr Blair said "no" but it did have a migration policy.

  • Labour's Tony Wright, chairman of the public administration committee, called for an independent commission to investigate the costs and benefits of migration.

  • Mr Blair said it was "difficult" to be objective about the facts and the real debate should instead be about how to control migration. "Most people in the country are not racist and just think there ought to be some rules," said Mr Blair, "I think it is the rules that are the problem".

  • "I don't think you will get a factual statement as to whether migration is a good thing", he added.

  • Everybody who comes into the country should share its common values, said Mr Blair, such as tolerance, democracy and respect for rule of law. The English language was also important.

    Iraq

  • British troops would stay there as long as the Iraqi government wanted them to be there. "I think they are keen to get control of their own security situation".

  • The elected government gave the "best opinion" of what Iraqis really want, said Mr Blair and the democratic process - despite all the odds - in Iraq had worked.

  • Iraqi deaths were due to a "criminal minority" not the removal of Saddam, argued Mr Blair. If Iraqis wanted Saddam back they could have voted for the Saddam party and they had not, he added.

  • Mr Blair said he talked to British soldiers in Iraq "a lot of the time" and they have "a clear view of the validity of what they do".

  • He said it was true he did not speak very often to ordinary Iraqis but he had spoken to their elected representatives.

    Afghanistan

  • Mr Blair denied he had been "misled" by ex-defence secretary John Reid about the mission facing British troops.

  • There had "never been any doubt" it was going to be "a lot more dangerous" when troops moved down into the south of Afghanistan, he told the MPs, but the work they were doing in combating the Taleban was "vital".

  • The purpose of the mission was to assist the Afghan government in the process of reconstruction, support proper government and "give a livelihood to local people that does not involve producing heroin".

    Iran

  • Mr Blair said a desire for good relations with Iran could not "displace" concern over Iran's enrichment of uranium.

  • It was "fair enough" for Iran to develop civil nuclear power but not a weapons programme.

  • And he hoped he they would not make the mistake of thinking they could divide the international community on the issue.

  • He said he wanted a response from Iran to the latest offer from the West "as soon as possible".

    Guantanamo Bay

  • Mr Blair said he had always made it clear he wanted Guantanamo to close, but the Americans had the difficulty of what to do with the individuals held there.

  • "I don't think it's sensible for the US to continue with it a moment longer than they have to," said Mr Blair.

    US relations

  • Asked why he had not been to collect his congressional medal, he said he had "other pressing things to do" but denied he was "embarrassed to accept it" - his support for the transatlantic alliance "was not a well-kept secret".

  • Asked if he had got as much as he expected from the UK's support for America, he said people should be proud of the alliance and there was no "substitute" for it. It was not just a question of "what you get back", he added.

  • With the rise of China over the coming years, which he stressed was a "benign thing", it was "axiomatic" the Europeans and Americans should stick together.

    Middle East

  • It was frustrating, because, in Northern Ireland, there was no agreement about final outcome - but with Israel and Palestine there was such agreement, said Mr Blair.

  • The international community, including the US, had to focus much harder on securing peace in the area, as it was the key issue facing the world.




  • BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
    Watch highlights of the session



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