Examination of Witness (Questions 220-239)|
6 JULY 2004
Q220 Mr Ainsworth: Both?
Mr Blair: I think we have already
got nuclear power now. What happens with the future generation
we have got to leave open, but for the near future we will be
meeting some of our requirements through nuclear power, obviously.
Q221 Mrs Dunwoody: Prime Minister, transport
is responsible for a quarter of our carbon emissions, so if we
find difficulty with the big problems perhaps we could target
that. Can you tell me, since cars are getting cleaner but there
are many more of them, why we still only have a voluntary agreement
with the manufacturers? Could you also tell me, which is more
important: keeping the money for the Treasury that we get from
the fuel tax or moving towards alternative fuels?
Mr Blair: Well we obviously need
the fuel tax because otherwise we cannot pay the bills, but we
are trying to develop alternative fuels as well.
Q222 Mrs Dunwoody: Why is it that Japan,
America, Canada and Germany are all ahead of us in the fuel cell
technology research, and we could easily be encouraging local
authorities to set up hydrogen highways in this country; we could
be using bus fleets, we could be using a number of different plans
to move forward the whole hydrogen technology thing, yet we are
suggesting "We can't really take too much account of that
because it is for the future." We could be doing that now.
Why are we not?
Mr Blair: We do a certain amount
by way of incentives that people are given, and that is why the
Chancellor has introduced a whole series of incentives over the
past few years. I agree with you, you can always put more money
into hydrogen research, you can put more money into renewable
energyyou can put more money into everythingbut
there is a limit to the amount of money we have got to spend,
and if we start taking money off fuel duty that means I have to
cut it from somewhere else in the Budget.
Q223 Mrs Dunwoody: It does not matter
how often we call them "challenging targets", the reality
is that we are not going to hit the 2010 target. What are we going
to do about that?
Mr Blair: I do not accept that
we will not. I do agree that it is challenging but I do not accept
that we will not meet it. However, in the end we have to decide
where are we going to put our money and our research. We have,
basically, focused on the renewable. It is true other countries
have focused on hydrogen; there was a massive investment going
on in the US in that, and of course the technology as it develops
will be a technology that, no doubt, everyone can use. The simple
answer is there is no limit to the amount of money we can invest
in this but there has to be a limit to the amount of money the
Government practically can put into it.
Q224 Mrs Dunwoody: This country now has
a very important role in car manufacturing and is supplying very
high quality, niche products to American markets. That work already
exists; we know it is happening. Why are we not creating within
this country the situation which means that we could continue
to benefit from that and actually lead rather than follow?
Mr Blair: What sort of things
Q225 Mrs Dunwoody: If you look at the
work that is being done by General Motors in America, if you look
at work that is going on in Berkley, large amounts of that work
are based on what is happening in car manufacturing in this country.
Why are we not saying to them, "We will give you a hydrogen
highway, we will give you some way of encouraging car manufacturing
so we are ahead of that curve"?
Mr Blair: All these things can
be looked at, Gwyneth.
Q226 Mrs Dunwoody: Not just looking at
itwe are already contributing through transport. So we
have a choice, we can use taxation, we can use research, we can
use encouragement. What are we going to dosit back and
say "These are difficult questions. We will do them in about
ten years' time"?
Mr Blair: No, because, to be fair,
as I say, there have been all sorts of incentives given for cleaner
fuels, and so on, in the Budgets over the past seven years. However,
in the end, the hard question is this: how much money are you
prepared to commit to research, for example, in the hydrogen field?
You can provide incentives for companies to do it but, in the
end, what they will want isand a lot of the money that
is going into this type of research in the United States ispublic
money. We have put our research effort into other areas, it is
true, but you are not going to be able to do everything, I am
afraid, with limited resources.
Chairman: Thank you. Now we move to Iraq
and to the Middle East, to the war on terror, and to Alan Beith.
Q227 Mr Beith: Prime Minister, before
turning to Iraq I would like to clear up a point about Guantanamo.
We now know from the Attorney General that you have personally
asked President Bush to repatriate the four remaining British
detainees. When did you do that and by what process?
Mr Blair: We have been engaged
in this discussion with the US over a number of months and we
formally requested the return of the four that are remaining there
a few weeks ago. There are still discussions now about what will
happen in respect of them. The basic situation remains as it has
always been: that if we do have them back here we have to make
sure that we can also guarantee our own security.
Q228 Mr Beith: You said "a few weeks
ago". Was that in the form of a personal exchange between
you and the President?
Mr Blair: Yes, it was. I think
that the issue is the same as it has always been, and I made it
clearI think I said this in an interview a few days agothat
Guantanamo Bay is an anomaly that, at some point, has got to be
brought to an end; there is no doubt about that at all. So far
as the British detainees are concerned, we have got the five back,
the four we are still discussing, but we need to be absolutely
sure when we have them back here that we can cater properly for
our own security. There is a reason why we got five back and we
are still debating the four.
Q229 Mr Beith: What was the President's
initial response to the personal request you put to him?
Mr Blair: The American response
has been the same all the way through, that in the end if the
trial requirements do not meet our standards then they will come
back but we also need to make sure they are not going to be a
threat either to people in this country or elsewhere. That is
the nature of the discussion that is taking place.
Q230 Mr Beith: So is your argument that
you, in your own mind, have not been able to satisfy the President
that you can meet that requirement?
Mr Blair: It is not a question
of not being able to satisfy him. It is difficult because I do
not want to go into the details of each of these four cases, but
we got five back immediately when we decided that the trial system
in the United States did not correspond to the Attorney General's
stipulations, and the four we are in discussion with the United
States about. I hope we can resolve it reasonably soon, but I
do not think the United States is being unreasonable in saying
"We need to make sure that there is proper security in place
for these people".
Q231 Mr Beith: Can you not just give
Mr Blair: We have to make sure
that we can actually do it, and that is not altogether easy.
Q232 Mr Beith: So it is a slightly different
picture to the one presented by the Defence Secretary who said:
"We can certainly set out what is the position of the British
Government, but we would have to be realisticwe are not
Mr Blair: The success arises in
relation to whether we can give sufficient undertakings that these
peopleI do not want to go into the detail of their cases,
but there is an issue about these particular people, in respect
of the United States, that is not just about their status as detainees,
and I need to be very clear in respect of our own country that
we are not putting anyone at risk.
Q233 Mr Beith: At the moment are you
Mr Blair: I am not yet satisfied
that we have the necessary machinery in place, but we are working
Q234 Mr Beith: So your request is on
Mr Blair: It is not on hold, there
is a discussion taking place about this. The difficulty for us
is this: we all know that we are faced with a significant terrorist
threat. Let us be clear, all of these people (not going into individual
cases at all) 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. Certainly from what
I have seen about those individual cases, I would need to be very,
very clear that there was in place in this country a sufficient
infrastructure and machinery to be able to protect our own security.
Q235 Donald Anderson: On that: was the
timing of your request to the President "some few weeks ago"
subsequent to the issuing of court proceedings by lawyers on behalf
of the four?
Mr Blair: The formal request,
as it were, was subsequent to those proceedings, but actually
this discussion has been going on for a significant period of
time. The position of the US has, basically, been the same throughout.
It is not so much that we are saying, "We want these people
back", and the United States is saying, "We are not
having a discussion with you about that". That is not what
is going on; what is going on is an attempt to make sure that
we can do this in a way that meets our own security requirements.
I know this is a very difficult thing, and we feel somewhat hindered
in our explanation to people because it would be easy to read
parts of the media in relation to these people and say "What
on earth have they done?" I just have to be careful in terms
of the security of this country as well, and in respect of these
individualsnot going into their individual cases at all
(it would be obviously wrong to do it)this thing did not
arise out of some sort of random event.
Q236 Sir George Young: Prime Minister,
can we try to round off a discussion that we had a year ago when
you appeared before the Liaison Committee? You were pressed quite
hard by a number of us on weapons of mass destruction. On several
occasions you referred to the Iraq Survey Group, and you invited
us to wait and see. We have waited but we have not seen. Do you
now accept that the evidence may not be there?
Mr Blair: The Iraq Survey Group
will do a final report, but, as I think I have said elsewhere,
the two things we do know are these: we know that Saddam Hussein
had weapons of mass destruction but we know we have not found
Q237 Sir George Young: We knew that a
year ago, and you invited us to wait and see the evidence. You
went on to say: "I am very confident they will find the evidence."
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, on Sunday, said the evidence is just not
there. Do you agree with him?
Mr Blair: As I say, what I have
to accept is that I was very, very confident we would find them;
I was very confident, even when I spoke to you this time last
year, that the Iraq Survey Group would find them because all the
intelligence and evidence we had was that these weapons of mass
destruction existed. I have to accept that we have not found them
and that we may not find them. What I would say very strongly,
however, is that to go to the opposite extreme and say, therefore,
no threat existed from Saddam Hussein would be a mistake. We do
not know what has happened to them; they could have been removed,
they could have been hidden, they could have been destroyed. At
some point, I hope that we will find, when the Iraq Survey Group
make their final report, exactly what it is they say. As you know,
the Iraq Survey Group, and what they have said already, indicates
quite clearly that there have been breaches of the United Nations'
resolutions. They do not, in any shape or form, say he was not
a threat but, it is absolutely true, they have said that in their
view the stockpiles of WMD have not been found.
Q238 Sir George Young: If we may never
find them, in retrospect, perhaps, was it a mistake to put so
much emphasis on weapons of mass destruction and less emphasis
on regime change?
Mr Blair: I think the important
thing is to go back to what the purpose of this action was. The
purpose of the action was in order to enforce the United Nations
resolutions. That is why I say it is very important not to go
to the other extreme and say, "Because we have not found
actual stockpiles of WMD, therefore he was not a threat."
It is absolutely clear from the evidence that has already been
found by the Iraq Survey Group that he had the strategic capability,
the intent and that he was in multiple breaches of the United
Nations' resolutions. There is no point in me sitting here and
saying "I am saying the same to you now as I said a year
ago" because the year has passed and we have not found the
actual stockpiles of weapons. I genuinely believe that those stockpiles
of weapons were there; I think that most people did, and that
is why the whole of the international community came together
and passed the United Nations resolution it did, but that is a
very different thing from saying Saddam was not a threat; the
truth is he was a threat to his region and to the wider world,
and the world is a safer place without him.
Q239 Sir George Young: I think we fought
the right war but it sounds as if we fought it for the wrong reasons.
Mr Blair: No, I do not think that
is right either, because I think that that would be to suggest
there was no issue in relation to Saddam and WMD. What Jeremy
Greenstock said on Sunday is probably what most people speculate
about, because, as I say, we know he had the weaponshe
used them against his own peoplebut we have not found them.
So you have to accept that. The question is what was the nature
of this threat from Saddam? Maybe it is different in the sense
that he retained strategic capability and intent; he may have
removed, hidden or even destroyed those weaponswe do not
know and we have to wait for the Iraq Survey Group to complete
its findingsbut what I would not accept is that he was
not a threat and a threat in WMD terms.