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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Brown pledge to cut state control
Gordon Brown
Mr Brown said he had "learned a lot" since 1997
Gordon Brown has said he has learned his lesson about "top-down" government and has pledged to involve ordinary people in his decisions.

He told BBC News the public needed to be fully involved if big challenges like climate change were to be tackled.

He also agreed that tax as a percentage of national income had risen under Labour, but said people supported the decision to increase NHS funding.

The Tories have accused Mr Brown of being addicted to "state control".

Mr Brown, who has been chancellor since Labour came to power in 1997, is due to take over from Tony Blair as prime minister next week.

'Big challenges'

On Monday Conservative leader David Cameron said the "clear dividing line" between him and Mr Brown was that the chancellor preferred "top-down state control" while the Tories would trust and work with people.

But Mr Brown told the BBC: "I have learned a lot in the last 10 years. I have learned that top-down, 'pulling the lever solutions' are not always the ones that are going to work best."

We have got, in the modern world, to be able to draw on something wider than just Westminster if we are going to govern effectively
Gordon Brown

He said to meet the "big challenges" of climate change, global economic competition and terrorism, government had to work with people.

"You really have to involve people and build a national consensus, if you are going to solve the challenges of the future."

That consensus would include working more with businesses, he said, particularly in raising skills levels and in improving schools.

"I think we should welcome the involvement and engagement of people from business communities in our schools in a whole range of public services, and we will see more of that in the years to come."

Tax 'higher'

But he said a government could not be wedded to any sort of "special interests", as a government had to govern in "the whole of the public interest".

Mr Brown was interviewed by a panel of three senior BBC correspondents for a special programme called Meet the Editors. They were political editor Nick Robinson, economics editor Evan Davis and world editor John Simpson.

In a wide-ranging session, covering questions e-mailed in by BBC News website readers, Mr Brown agreed that tax was higher now, as a percentage of national income, than it had been when Labour came to power, because of the rise in National Insurance to boost NHS funding.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Gordon Brown promises an EU referendum "if necessary"
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

But he said the basic rate of income tax had fallen, and he believed people still supported the move to increase health service spending.

On out-of-hours GP care he acknowledged there were problems in some areas, which could be resolved through more direct walk-in health centres, more involvement from pharmacies and electronic prescriptions.

But he added: "Yes, we will have to have more opening by GPs as well."

Ashdown offer

He stood by the decision to go to war in Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein had repeatedly ignored international resolutions, but said mistakes had been made with pre-war intelligence on Iraq and "by all of us in the reconstruction process".

On his decision to ask former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown to join his first Cabinet, he said government had to "draw in" the best people who could make a contribution.

This week Lord Ashdown rejected an approach by Mr Brown to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Mr Brown has been accused of going behind the back of current Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell and attempting to "destabilise" Britain's third biggest political party.

But Mr Brown told the BBC there was "a lot of common ground" in British politics, on issues like the constitution, and he wanted to draw in people of talent, experience and expertise, regardless of "party labels".

"We have got, in the modern world, to be able to draw on something wider than just Westminster if we are going to govern effectively," he said.

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