Page last updated at 02:25 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

PM: We should have curbed markets

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown said the pure free market era was over

Gordon Brown has admitted that tougher action to curb the financial markets should have been taken 10 years ago, when he was chancellor.

In an interview with the Guardian, the prime minister suggested he could have pushed for international reform after the Asian crisis of the late 1990s.

"I take full responsibility for all my actions," the prime minister said.

It comes after Tory leader David Cameron said "sorry" for his party's failure to foresee the banking crisis.

The Conservatives have been calling for the prime minister to apologise for his role in the prelude to the recession.

Market orthodoxy

"I take full responsibility for all my actions, but I think we're dealing with a bigger problem that is global in nature, as well as national," he said.

"Perhaps 10 years ago after the Asian crisis when other countries thought these problems would go away, we should have been tougher... keeping and forcing these issues on to the agenda like we did on debt relief and other issues of international policy."

Laissez-faire has had its day
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

He said the national system of regulation he helped establish in 1997 had not kept pace with global financial flows.

Despite the Conservatives' continuing lead in the opinion polls, Mr Brown insisted the current situation should favour Labour, as "only progressive, centre-left governments can address the problems of the global change".

He said the "40-year-old prevalent orthodoxy" known as the "Washington consensus" in favour of free markets had come to an end.

"Laissez-faire has had its day. People on the centre-left and the progressive agenda should be confident enough to say that the old idea that the markets were efficient and could work things out by themselves are gone," he said.

"That doesn't mean to say that what government does is always right. What it means is that both government and markets have got to be underpinned by values."

Mr Brown also refused to rule out a further "fiscal stimulus" for the British economy when Chancellor Alistair Darling delivers his budget on 22 April.

Education Secretary Ed Balls, a former economic adviser to Mr Brown, recently admitted the government "underestimated" the risks to the economy from not having stronger regulation of the City.

And in Washington earlier this month, Mr Brown told the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson that the government "should have been tougher in some areas".

"There are some regulatory issues where we could have and should have been tougher..."

"There's always a need for humility and there's always a need to accept collective responsibility, I don't think I would run away from responsibility for what happens."

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