Interview with TONY BLAIR

                                 ON THE RECORD 
                              TONY BLAIR INTERVIEW       
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION BBC-1                                 DATE: 16.11.97
JOHN HUMPHRYS:                         Good afternoon from Chequers, the Prime 
Minister's country home.  I'll be talking to Tony Blair in his first interview 
since the storm broke over tobacco advertising and Formula One.  How will he 
deal with suspicions that have been aroused in this, the first real political 
crisis to hit his government?  That's after the News read by MOIRA STUART 
HUMPHRYS:                              I'm here in Chequers with the Prime 
Minister for his first interview since the storm blew up over what has now 
become known as the Bernie Ecclestone affair.  I'll be talking to him about 
that in a few minutes.  But first..... Iraq 
                                       Prime Minister, you spoke to President 
Clinton last night. What did you say to him, and he to you? 
TONY BLAIR:                            We agreed that we had to stand very firm 
on the issue of Iraq, and making sure that they comply with the UN resolutions, 
because it's absolutely essential that the weapons inspectors, the UN weapons 
inspectors including the American part of that contingent are allowed to do 
their work properly. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Other Security Council members don't 
want military intervention.  Are you prepared, in the event that diplomatic 
efforts fail, are you prepared with the United States, to go it alone? 
BLAIR:                                 We certainly don't want to do that and 
that's not what we're working towards.  We want a diplomatic solution as well.  
I mean everyone wants this crisis brought to an end peacefully, but I think it 
is worth just explaining to people why it's so important that the UN inspectors 
are able to do their work.  Saddam Hussein has been trying to develop 
biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.  If he were able to do so 
the whole of the Middle East would be destabilised, and we could have a 
situation even worse than the Gulf War.  The UN resolution passed back in 
nineteen-ninety-one made it absolutely clear that UN weapons inspectors were to 
go in and were to stay until all those weapons of mass destruction were 
eliminated and the potential for developing them eliminated.  Our view is that 
we have to make sure that that resolution is carried through.  We want to do it 
diplomatically, but we must reserve the option of force if diplomatic means 
HUMPHRYS:                              So that even though British strategic 
interests are not directly affected here - I take your point about weapons of 
mass destruction obviously affecting the entire world, but in this particular 
case British strategic ... is not directly affected.   You would nonetheless be 
prepared to put British lives at risk here? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, I would say that our strategic 
interests are affected in the sense that if Saddam Hussein was able to develop 
weapons of mass destruction the strategic interests of the entire world would 
be affected by that, and of course you could make roughly the same point in 
relation to his invasion.   I think the lessons that we have learnt with Saddam 
Hussein is that he understands only the language of diplomacy if it is backed 
up by the threat of the use of force, and we have to make him back down on 
this.  If he doesn't back down then he can carry on developing these weapons, 
and then as I say, the whole of the situation in the Middle East would be 
destabilised and there would be the possibility of a really really serious 
conflagration there, possibly even worse than what happened in the Gulf War. 
HUMPHRYS:                              And if the UN is not prepared to make 
him back down as you put it, you with the United States, are? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, let us wait and see how this 
situation ... 
HUMPHRYS:                              But, you're not ruling that out? 
BLAIR:                                 We don't rule out any option at all, but 
we are not seeking to use military force.  We're seeking to get a diplomatic 
solution, but it is essential that Saddam Hussein knows that if necessary it 
will be clear to him that the UN resolution about the weapons inspectors must 
be enforced.  If we don't do that now then in my judgement we'll end up in a 
far worse situation later on. 
HUMPHRYS:                              But what he wants to do is kick out - 
what he has done - is kick out the American inspectors, six out of what is it  
- eighty or so altogether.  Those inspections could carry on without the 
Americans, so it's beginning to look as if you're doing it just because the 
Americans want you to do it.  It's America saving face in a sense here isn't 
BLAIR:                                 No, it's more that that John, because 
this has been a whole process of him trying to obstruct, to harry, to deceive.  
He has been trying to deceive these weapons inspectors all the way through, and 
if he's allowed to do this and allowed to get away with saying:  Look, I'll 
only have these weapons inspectors in, and then the next stage will be: but 
they'll only look at this, they won't look at that, and then we're back to the 
game that we've played with him over a very long period of time. 
HUMPHRYS:                              But if you attack him you're playing 
into his hands aren't you.  You'll make a hero to his own people, to other Arab 
countries - you'll construct on his behalf a coalition behind him in effect. 
BLAIR:                                 Well, I don't believe that, provided 
that it is clear to people why we are acting.  That's why I think it's so 
important you go back to the original resolution.  At the conclusion of the     
Gulf War it was decided that the UN had to make sure that all these techniques 
that he was developing, the infrastructure for developing weapons of mass 
destruction were eliminated.  Now, we took that decision at the end of the Gulf 
War absolutely rightly.   If we hadn't taken it then we would have left him in 
place developing these weapons, so we knew that was there.  Now, what's 
interesting just to point out to people, is that in this previous six years 
these weapons inspectors have actually managed to eliminate a considerable part 
of the facility that Saddam Hussein has had.  So they have not merely been 
there as it were, as a sort of token of the world's concern about what Saddam 
Hussein has been doing.  They have been there performing a task of central 
importance and actually achieving results because of it.  Now if they were then 
to be pushed out of that situation well, I think we all know what would happen. 
HUMPHRYS:                              But the idea that threatening Saddam 
Hussein with a few bombs, a few missiles, is going to get him to back down in a 
case like this is frankly nonsense isn't it? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, I don't know about that at all.  I 
think that he does .... 
HUMPHRYS:                              It hasn't worked in the past.  We've 
been here before.  
BLAIR:                                 We have been here before and we have 
often secured results better than we otherwise would have if we hadn't made it 
clear that the language of diplomacy is the language that we want to use. But 
he has to understand that if he doesn't comply with the resolutions then the 
option of force is there.
HUMPHRYS:                              How far are you prepared to go? 
BLAIR:                                 Well I don't think it would be sensible 
to go into that now. 
HUMPHRYS:                              But more than just a few bombs and a few 
BLAIR:                                 Well let us wait and see. I mean I don't 
think it would be an intelligent way of proceeding if I was to start... 
HUMPHRYS:                              But did President Clinton tell you what 
he is prepared to do? 
BLAIR:                                 Of course we have discussed with the 
Americans all the various options and of course we discuss with all of our 
colleagues in the UN Security Council what can be done. But what is essential 
for Saddam Hussein is to realise - get the message - get the message and get it 
clear and straight these UN Resolutions are there to protect the world. We're 
not allowing you develop weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical 
weapons and we will stop you if you try to do so. 
HUMPHRYS:                              And you will go as far as President 
Clinton, we in Britain will go as far as President Clinton wants us to go, not 
withstanding other members of the United Nations Security Council? 
BLAIR:                                 Well we are working with those other 
members but I think.. 
HUMPRHYS:                              They're making it very clear to you they 
don't want military action taken. 
BLAIR:                                 Nobody wants military action taken but I 
think what is important is that we stand firm with our allies, the United 
States, in making it clear to Saddam Hussein that he will not be allowed to get 
away with it. If we don't, we'll find that we're in a far more serious 
situation than we are today and as I say, I do simply ask people to contemplate 
what would happen if Saddam Hussein was allowed to develop these weapons. We 
know he's used chemical warfare against his own people. He's used them against 
the Kurds.  He is not a man that is going to listen to any language of reason 
or sweetness unless the person using it is also carrying a big stick. 
HUMPHRYS:                              So ultimately if it's just America and 
us carrying that big stick, we will carry it and we will use it.  
BLAIR:                                 Well let us wait and see what develops. 
HUMPHRYS:                              You're prepared for that? 
BLAIR:                                 I have no doubt at all that it is 
essential that Saddam Hussein is stopped developing these weapons. If he isn't 
stopped the consequences are extremely serious. Now we want to do this as part  
of a diplomatic effort, we want a diplomatic solution. All I am saying, which I 
think is the only thing you can say, if you're serious about getting a result, 
is to say that he must understand that if diplomatic means fail, we have all 
the other options available to us. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Let's turn to the other subject. The 
subject you really came on to talk about mainly this morning, and that is 
Formula One racing, tobacco sponsorship and the row that there is over that. I 
read in the newspapers this morning that you are going to apologise during this 
interview because you got it all wrong. Is that right? 
BLAIR:                                 Well I didn't get it all wrong in 
relation to the original decision as I'll be very happy to explain.  But it 
hasn't been handled well and for that I take full responsibility and I 
apologise for that. I suppose what I would say to you is that perhaps I didn't 
focus on this and the seriousness of it in the way that I should as I was 
focusing on other issues. And in part, which is why I feel in one sense hurt 
and upset by what has been written about this, that I would never ever do 
something wrong or improper or change a policy because someone supported or 
donated to the Labour Party. I didn't in this case. I couldn't understand that 
anyone would impugn motives in taking the decisions that I did. You 
know I guess I should have, you know we should learn the lesson of that and 
when something like this happens again, you deal with it quicker and in a 
better way and we should have done that.  
HUMPHRYS:                              What did you get wrong? 
BLAIR:                                 I think what was important was to 
realise how serious this was and I think the way that this was sort of dribbled 
out has not been satisfactory or right. But what I would like to think that we 
got right was the way that we behaved.  If I could just explain the sequence of 
events to you and can I preface it by saying John, that, you know, over this 
past ten days, obviously I've had a long series of discussions with people 
about this issue. Up until the point in time when this all blew up, I suppose 
in the six months of government, I'd spent maybe forty-five minutes, an hour, 
on Formula One in the first six months of government. I know when you go back 
over it then and every single thing is picked apart, it looks as if you know 
the great issue of Mr Bernie  Ecclestone, Formula One, was the thing the 
government was concentrating on above all else, but it wasn't. However, the 
sequence of events quite simply was this: before the election, Mr Ecclestone 
had made a donation to the Labour Party.  After the election, we certainly 
thought, this was my understanding, that he'd made a firm commitment to further 
donations to the Labour Party.  Then we had the situation that arose and that 
was back in May. The situation arose that the European Union directive and what 
the government position should be in relation to it, the European Union 
directive was about banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The 
government's position, right the way through, was that in principle we 
supported the directive but were concerned about the effect upon sport because 
everyone always realises there's a problem with sport.  Various discussions 
went on about this.  
                                       I saw Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula 
One people on the sixteenth of October. Now, again, I mean this hasn't much 
appeared anywhere, he'd already seen Chancellor Kohl of Germany a couple of 
weeks before, he'd seen the Prime Minister of Italy. His representatives had 
meetings with other senior representatives of other governments in Europe. We 
were all concerned that if you simply put out sponsorship, tobacco sponsorship 
for Formula One, because it's a global sport and all these other countries are 
willing to take the Grand Prix in Europe and then run them without any tobacco 
restrictions and then broadcast the pictures back in this country, we were 
concerned to make sure that we didn't end up in the situation where we lost 
Formula One.   
                                       As of the sixteenth of October, we had 
the meeting, the twenty minute meeting. After that there were various 
discussions about the options as to what we should do in relation to tobacco 
sponsorship, sport, Formula One. When at the beginning of last week, it was 
eventually decided and the minister wrote out to a European colleague saying we 
actually want a specific exemption for Formula One, and this is in line with 
what many other countries do. At that point in time, and I want to emphasise 
this, I said of course we can't accept any further donations from Mr 
Ecclestone, before any journalist had been in touch, anything to do with 
donations and Mr Ecclestone, we had informed his people that we couldn't accept 
further donations, the question then arose which was the question which was 
uppermost in my mind, what about the original donation?  We decided to seek the 
advice of Sir Patrick Neill.  We did so on the Friday.  
HUMPHRYS:                              He's the chairman of the Standards 
BLAIR:                                 He's the chairman of the Watchdog 
Committee. We got his advice back on the Monday. We published that advice and 
we followed it to the letter.  And the reason why we took the decision on 
Formula One was perfectly simple, because we believed that the derogation 
period for sport wasn't long enough and there was a serious risk, as I say 
shared by many other European countries, that if we forced them to rely not at 
all on tobacco sponsorship then we would lose the industry and the Grand Prix 
HUMPHRYS:                              Right.  Can I go back on a few of those 
points now?  
BLAIR:                                 Yah. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Because you say you want to clear all 
this up - draw a line under the whole thing.  That original meeting - the 
October the sixteenth meeting with Bernie Ecclestone.  As you say, you knew 
that he had donated a million pounds to the Party and there was more money, 
perhaps, on its way? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, I thought, he'd given a firm 
commitment to that. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Fine.  Ok.  He denied it subsequently. 
BLAIR:                                 Sure. 
HUMPHRYS:                              There we are.  When he asked, therefore, 
for a meeting with you, with the Prime Minister, shouldn't a little warning 
light have come on in your head that said: Well, now, yeah, of course, I know 
he's met Chancellor Kohl and all those other people.  He hadn't given them a 
million pounds.  He's given your Party a million pounds - helped you a great 
deal to be elected.  And, there was talk of the other money coming in, as well. 
Shouldn't that little warning light have said: Hang on a minute, should I be 
seeing him under these circumstances?  Should I not say: No, I won't see you.  
You go and see somebody else.  Or, alternatively, perhaps, I'll give the money 
back before I see him?   
BLAIR:                                 John, at the time, on the sixteenth of 
October, it hadn't been decided that we should exempt Formula One. 
HUMPHRYS:                              No, no, that isn't the point. 
BLAIR:                                 No- 
HUMPHRYS:                              You knew that he was going to ask you to 
do that.  
BLAIR:                                 No.  He didn't ask us to do that.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Well- 
BLAIR:                                 No, no. 
HUMPHRYS:                              He wanted help from you- 
BLAIR:                                 Of course.  
HUMPHRYS:                              -for his industry.       
BLAIR:                                 Of course.  
HUMPHRYS:                              This is the key point, isn't it? 
BLAIR:                                 Yes, but- 
HUMPHRYS:                              He wanted something from you and he had 
given you a million pounds? 
BLAIR:                                 Yes, but the point is that as at the 
sixteenth of October there'd been no decision to exempt Formula One.  We never 
discussed an exemption of Formula One.  What would be odd, frankly - 
particularly, after he'd seen other Heads of Government, including Chancellor 
Kohl and Prime Minister Padraig - is that because he'd been a donor to the 
Labour Party, you refused to see him and passed him onto somebody else in the 
Labour Party.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Well, that's a matter of opinion, isn't 
it?  At least, perhaps, that warning light should have gone on in your head 
that said: Look, how is this going to look?  Here's a man who's given not just 
a fiver to the Party, who's given a million pounds - a very substantial sum of 
money.  You thought that he had promised to give yet more money, since you were 
elected to power and you knew that he was going to ask you to do something that 
was hugely going to help his industry, his own fortunes.  Shouldn't that 
warning light have gone on in your head, before you sat down at Number 
Ten-Number Ten with him? 
BLAIR:                                 No.  Because I had absolutely no 
intention, whatever, of changing the policy because of the interests of Bernie 
Ecclestone, plus the fact we had not decided that that was the route that we 
were going to go down and the moment that we did that was two weeks later and 
decided: well, the route we go down is a specific exemption for Formula One.  
As I say, in many other countries they do.  At that point in time, I said: 
well, look, of course, since we have decided to do that- 
HUMPHRYS:                              But, it was-The question is whether it 
was too late to do it? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, it wasn't too late. 
HUMPHRYS:                              You see, because what-what I'm 
suggesting-Should you-Alright, you've already said: No, you don't think you 
should have called off that meeting, or said you wanted to.......- 
BLAIR:                                 No, because I think it would have been 
bizarre if a bloke had been in a worse position as a result of donating to the 
Labour Party.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Alright.  Should you not-should you not, 
at the very least, have referred the matter to Sir Patrick Neill?   
BLAIR:                                 No.  Because, at that point in time, if, 
for example, we had gone down the routes that were being discussed, at the 
time.  One was that the whole of the European directive, the whole series of 
issues in relation to this directive had been discussed at the time - points 
and difficulties.  One of the options was, for example, that there should be 
subsidiarity applied.  So, broad principles were set up by Europe and, then, 
national legislation.  Another thing that was being discussed is that there 
should be a long derogation period for all sport- 
HUMPHRYS:                              Yes, now I- 
BLAIR:                                 -for all sport.  Yes, but the point that 
I'm making to you is this 'cos this is absolutely crucial.  There was no need.  
Had we had a general derogation for Sport which applied equally to Formula One, 
there would have been no need to have returned the original gift or sought Sir 
Patrick Neill's advice.  The issue of a conflict - appearance of a conflict of 
interest - only arose when we decided not to treat all sport the same but to 
exempt Formula One specifically, as many other countries were doing, as other 
countries wanted us to do, because many other countries in Europe are 
supporting the position- 
HUMPHRYS:                              Yeah.  
BLAIR:                                 -that we're taking.  So, it was at that 
point in time that I thought that we should seek the advice of Sir Patrick 
Neill.  Now, you can say: well, you could have done this a couple of weeks ago 
but I didn't think that was necessary, given that there was no appearance of 
conflict of interest until Formula One- 
HUMPHRYS:                              Well, I-I- 
BLAIR:                                 -specifically was signalled out.  
HUMPHRYS:                              -am-am saying that and I'm saying that 
because there is a question of when a business that has made a gift to a 
political Party comes into contact, comes into contact with the Government you 
ought to have second thoughts about that original gift.  Now, as you will know, 
those aren't my words - I've taken that from a letter that you approved that 
was sent to Sir Patrick Neill three weeks after that meeting. 
BLAIR:                                 Exactly.  Yes, but John, let me explain 
to you the problem that you have there and it's precisely for that reason we've 
asked Sir Patrick Neill to look at this and to look at all the various issues 
that arise.  I'm in the situation of the Labour Party where before the General 
Election I needed to raise money for the Labour Party.  I didn't want the 
Labour Party solely to be dependent on Trade Union funds. 
HUMPHRYS:                              No, I've not raised a question about 
BLAIR:                                 I know, I know, hang on, but it's 
important we understand the context of this.  I wanted to make sure that the 
Labour Party raised at least the money to fight a decent Election campaign.  
Because we were getting outspent four/five to one by the Tories, back in the 
Nineteen-Eighties and at the previous Elections.  If you, then, seek private 
donations from business people, now, there is a question of principle, which is 
the one that I've raised - as you rightly say - with Sir Patrick Neill. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Three weeks later - three weeks after 
that meeting. 
BLAIR:                                 Well, yes but that was when the position 
arose of exempting Formula one specifically. 
HUMPHRYS:                              But, that was, also, after the whole 
thing had hit the headlines.  It was causing problems for you.  
BLAIR:                                 No.  No, hang on.  Now, that is 
where-No, I really resent this being said. 
HUMPHRYS:                              It was November the seventh... 
BLAIR:                                 No, hang on John, let me just state the 
facts to people, because I've said to you I don't think we've handled this 
well, and we haven't, but some of the stuff that's been written in the papers 
and blown up out of all proportion - some of the rubbish written today about 
David Sainsbury and people, I mean just... 
HUMPHRYS:                              We'll come to that in a minute. 
BLAIR:                                 I mean, just ridiculous nonsense.  On 
the fifth of November we said to Mr Ecclestone:  we can't accept anymore 
donations from you.  That was done before any inquiry ... 
HUMPHRYS:                              That isn't the point I'm making. 
BLAIR:                                 No, you're raising the letter on the 
seventh of November.  The next day we start to discuss what are we going to do 
about the original donation.  Again, before any press inquiry had begun we 
discuss what the options are, we then - intervening in that period is the 
French/British summit.  I say finally: Look, I think we should consult Patrick 
Neill.  By then at the conclusion of the French/British summit, on the Friday 
evening look at the letter that Tom Sawyer's going to send, agree the letter 
the General Secretary of the Party is going to send to Sir Patrick Neill, and 
we send the letter. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Now, and what that letter says is not 
when a decision is made, raises questions about contacts with businesses when a 
decision is made.  It says: when a business that made a gift comes into contact 
with that donor.  But you came into contact with that donor on October the 
BLAIR:                                 Exactly, which is precisely why ... 
HUMPHRYS:                              .. and you didn't raise it with him 
BLAIR:                                 No, because the point that I'm making 
to you is, that the very issue of principle that now arises, which is why it's 
important to have Sir Patrick Neill's advice on this on the long-term, is any 
business that's going to donate - you're telling me that over the twenty years 
of Conservative government with the donations that were made there was never 
HUMPHRYS:                              No-one is here to talk about the 
Conservatives, because we want to clear up this business. 
BLAIR:                                 Exactly, but the point that I'm saying 
to you is, there is a genuine point of principle here, that if you are going to 
have, not state funding but private donations, I can't see myself how it's 
going to be possible to raise any money if whenever a business could possibly 
be affected by any aspect of government policy, you then say that you can't 
accect a donation.  It's a point of principle that we.... 
HUMPHRYS:                              No, it isn't.  But I think you're 
missing the point that I'm making here.  It isn't a question of whether you 
accept the donation or not, it's a question of whether when a donation has been 
made, as you rightly say Sir Patrick Neill had no problem with the original 
donation.  He said so - that incidentally is the only thing that he has said on 
this particular topic in this particular context.  The question is knowing that 
you are in receipt of that sort of money from somebody when he then makes 
contact with you, and says: I want to talk to you Prime Minister about a 
BLAIR:                                 You give it back straight away then. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Well... 
BLAIR:                                 I mean, look....
HUMPHRYS:                              Some people might say you do that, or 
you say: I'm sorry Mr Ecclestone, I don't think I should see you now. 
BLAIR:                                 Yes, but John, that is why I say to you 
that if what had been under discussion then was the idea - that the route under 
discussion was that there should be an exemption for Formula One, then I think 
you may be right in saying that, but that wasn't what - there were a whole 
series of options that were being discussed. Now my judgement, and you can say 
whether it's right or wrong, was that it was only when it was clear there could 
be the appearance of a conflict of interest, because we were specifically 
exempting Formula One as opposed to all sport, that I then decided that we had 
to ....... 
HUMPHRYS:                              But you wrote a letter - you wrote a 
note to your Health Secretary the day after that meeting with Ecclestone, and 
you said: Let's look for a compromise in this matter. 
BLAIR:                                 Well, what I said was: We've got to 
protect the position of sports in general and Formula One in particular... 
HUMPHRYS:                              That's right. 
BLAIR:                                 ... because what I don't want to do is 
wake up one day and find that Britain, the whole of Formula One and the Grand 
Prix has chucked the damned lot out. 
HUMPHRYS                               So in other words you had done something 
that Ecclestone would have been very pleased about.  Now I'm not suggesting to 
you what your motives for doing that.... 
BLAIR:                                 Yes, but the whole of sport in those 
HUMPHRYS:                              Yes, but I'm talking about the timing 
here again Prime Minister. 
BLAIR:                                 Okay. 
HUMPHRYS:                              You wrote that letter the day after you 
had had that meeting with Ecclestone so therefore a decision had been taken.  
You were still in receipt of that money.  At that point you hadn't given that 
money back.  This is one of the reasons why people's suspicions have been 
BLAIR:                                 Yes, but John, first of all the money 
had been taken and spent.  As Sir Patrick Neill himself said, no criticism can 
fairly be made of the receipt of the money... 
HUMPHRYS:                              No, we've already dealt with that, but 
he didn't talk about that and the meeting in combination, he talked merely 
about the receipt of that cheque. 
BLAIR:                                 I know.  but at that point in time, in 
my judgement - you know we can go round this for ages.  My judgement was that 
the potential of a conflict of interest would arise when we specifically 
exempted Formula One.  Now, you may disagree and say, well, you should have 
done it two weeks before rather than when you did it.  The point that I'm 
making to you is that we did it without any ... 
HUMPHRYS:                              Alright.                      
BLAIR                                  ... compulsion whatever, before any 
press inquiry had been made whatever, before anybody could have said to us: 
well, Mr Ecclestone has you know, offered to give further donations or 
whatever.  So, all I'm trying to say to you is, you know, you may disagree with 
the steps that we took, or say, you could have taken this step earlier or that 
step earlier, .. 
HUMPHRYS:                              What? 
BLAIR:                                 ... but I ask you, you know in 
circumstances where we turned down further donations, we then write to Sir 
Patrick Neill, we accept Sir Patrick Neill's advice, we carry it through.  
Well, you know, you can disagree about various customers along they way, 
but I mean you know, it's hardly that the act of people that are... 
HUMPHRYS:                              Okay, but as you say, people can 
disagree and interpret things a different way. So let's if we may just look at 
the circumstances of that meeting. A terribly important meeting as you said
yourself, terribly important policy. Well, no, no, a terribly important policy 
matter was being discussed. As you say other people would argue but you say 
fifty thousand jobs in Britain potentially at stake.  Now, who was at that 
meeting, was there apart from Jonathan Powell, your own man who has been with 
you in the Labour Party for a long time, was there a senior Civil Servant 
present at that meeting? 
BLAIR:                                 Yes, of course there was.  
HUMPHRYS:                              And was he taking notes?  
BLAIR:                                 Well I want to deal with this 
specifically, because I mean I'm just furious at this idea that people sort of 
say, well you know you had the meeting, there was no formal minute taken as if 
I'd instructed this to happen. I gave...the meeting lasted I think just under 
twenty minutes.  There was a Private Secretary there.  
HUMPHRYS:                              A senior figure in the Civil Service? 
BLAIR:                                 Exactly. He took a note of it. He did 
not make it into a formal minute because there was no decision taken at that 
meeting and nothing actually new was said really on either side. I have 
subsequently asked that he put his notes, which are the handwritten notes, in 
writing, fill it out with any other recollections he has of the meeting and I'm 
prefectly happy to publish that. I don't want to set a precedent, I'm not going 
back publishing everything, but I'm perfectly happy to publish his notes of 
that meeting and I never gave any instructions about whether minutes should be 
published or not published, notes taken or not taken. And you know, it was a 
meeting of less than, as I say, twenty minutes or just under twenty minutes in 
the midst of a whole series of other things and this suggestion that I somehow, 
which is the implicit suggestion, said well don't, this is a sort dodgy 
meeting, don't take a note or a minute of it, is rubbish and people can see 
them. I'm not setting a precedent of that incidently, because otherwise people 
will be asking me to publish everything.  
HUMPHRYS:                              It would be nice to have all the minutes 
of all the meetings. But why didn't you do it earlier - publish those notes? 
Bearing in mind...   
BLAIR:                                 Because we'd done nothing wrong.   
HUMPHRYS:                              Because loads...because we're talking 
about appearances aren't we...Martin Bell made in the House of Commons.  
BLAIR:                                 As long as we are talking about 
HUMPHRYS:                              That's what some people are looking at, 
other people are raising suspicions which... 
BLAIR:                                 .....just spit them out. The very
suspicions people have got, they can put it to me you know bluntly rather than 
sort of, you know in this sort of covert way.  But let me just say to you, okay 
you can argue for appearances sake we should have done lots of different things 
but I was and this is where you know I said to you right at the very beginning 
of this, I apologised for the way we handled this. I should have realised this 
and it blew up. But you know you don't normally publish the notes of these 
meetings and I resent the fact that people are suggesting that somehow Bernie 
Ecclestone came in to see me and started talking about fundraising.   
HUMPHRYS:                              But you see this is part of the problem  
isn't it.  Let me just ask you when you are going to publish those notes before 
we move on. 
BLAIR:                                 Well we'll do it today. I mean I'm 
perfectly happy, yeah.  
HUMPHRYS:                              So that will be.. 
BLAIR:                                 You can see exactly what was said and 
you'll see that what I'm saying to Mr Ecclestone. I mean he makes the case, 
what I say to him is: look of course we see the case for Formula One but we 
also want to see a ban on tobacco advertising. Let me just say this to you, the 
European Union directive, the previous government blocked consistently. We      
agree in principle to it. If we agree it even with the exemption with Formula 
One, there will be the biggest reduction in advertising sponsorship, in respect 
of tobacco this country or Europe has ever seen.  Not that you'd think that if 
you'd read the coverage of it but anyway.  
HUMPHRYS:                              On this question of publishing the 
notes. You say that you should have been more forthcoming, everybody should 
have been more forthcoming and more focussed on this. Part of the problem.. 
BLAIR:                                 More focussed anyhow..... 
HUMPHRYS:                              Part of the reason for any suspicions 
that have been raised is that, the information has had to be dragged out of you 
at every stage. When you stood up in the House and took Prime Minister's 
Questions, you didn't then tell them about the second donation that you'd 
thought you'd had from Bernie Ecclestone.  You conceded that there'd been this 
million of course, but you didn't then say: well by the way we're asking them 
and we think they agreed to give us another bunch of money.   
BLAIR:                                 Yes but again, let me just deal with 
this. My whole focus was on the original donation for a very simple reason. 
That though we thought they'd been a firm commitment to a further donation to 
the Labour Party back in May, before the European directive had been thought 
of, no money had actually ever been received or paid over and I had then 
rescinded as it were, the offer because I'd said to the people back then, well 
you can't do this. So it couldn't have had any possible impact on it and my 
entire focus then was on the original donation because that's what I thought 
people would think: come on, you know there was a million pounds paid before 
the election, and now they're changing the policy.  I mean actually I would 
even like to come and deal with that, but you know that we appear to be 
changing the policy to favour Mr Ecclestone. But the only reason anyone knows 
about a further offer that was made was because we disclosed it to Sir Patrick 
Neill. Now you can say to me again, well shouldn't you have gone through that 
in the House of Commons.  All I can say to you is I was focused on the original 
HUMPHRYS:                              But you can see why people like Iain
Duncan Smith are suggesting that you misled the House because you didn't 
disclose that.   
BLAIR:                                 Well I certainly did not mislead the 
House and you know, it's just absurd to say that in circumstances where the 
only reason that anyone knows there was a further offer was because I disclosed 
HUMPHRYS:                              But you knew about it at the time, in 
the House, when you stood there on that Wednesday.  
BLAIR:                                 I had already disclosed it to Sir 
Patrick Neill. The reason I didn't consider... 
HUMPHRYS:                              You disclosed it to Sir Patrick Neill, 
you didn't tell the House. 
BLAIR:                                 Well Sir Patrick Neill and then who 
copied the letters to the other members of his committee. But what I am saying 
to you is that I did not consider that important at the time because we'd never 
received any money and we'd already rescinded any commitment for more money. So 
what I thought was the difficulty in this situation - again you can say well 
you should have thought this further offer would be a problem.  You know, what 
I thought was: well here we are actually turning away further donations. So I 
don't think that's a problem, but surely the problem is what happens to this 
original gift.   
HUMPHRYS:                              So I mean, in that sense it would have 
been ... of you wouldn't it, to have stood up in the House and said: look, 
forget about the ot her million, we've actually turned away the possibility of 
other money even though Bernie Ecclestone as you know, subsequently said he 
hadn't offered you any more.  
BLAIR:                                 You could have said that. But my..all 
I'm doing is explaining that my focus was on the original gift because that's 
where all the furore was.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Was that a mistake, then? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, you can say you should have done.. 
but all I say.... 
HUMPHRYS:                              Well, what do you say?  Do you regret 
BLAIR:                                 Well, I - I - no.  I explain it by 
saying that at the time that was not what was uppermost in my mind and I had 
already disclosed it to Sir Patrick Neill.  And, we can argue about whether it 
could have been done or not, but it was there in the letter to Sir Patrick 
Neill and that's the reason why people know about it.    
                                       Now, again, you can say: Well, that was 
not properly handled.  But, you know, I simply say to you, John, how many times 
before now has any political party ever consulted the watchdog, got his advice, 
published it, followed it, turned away further donations?  So, we've not merely 
exempted Formula One, we've actually lost the Labour Party a considerable sum 
of money because we took the right policy decision.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Right.  So, what - when those newspaper 
headlines this morning talked about Tony Blair saying I'm sorry, I got it 
wrong, you're not actually in this interview saying: I got things wrong.  
You're saying: we presented them badly, we didn't do a very good job of 
handling the way it all came out.  But, as far as you are concerned, everything 
you did was right.  You'd still have another meeting with Bernie Ecclestone, 
the way you did over - and all the rest of it.  You're not saying: sorry, 
anything was wrong in respect of your actions? 
BLAIR:                                 No, I'm not saying - absolutely, I am 
not saying that it is wrong to have accepted money. 
HUMPHRYS:                              No, no.  Or anything, or any of those
things that you've done. 
BLAIR:                                 Hang on, let me just go for it.  I'm not 
saying it's wrong to have accepted money from Mr Ecclestone.  It's perfectly 
incorrect to say so.   
HUMPRHRYS:                             No, no....- 
BLAIR:                                 And, nobody's made any criticism of 
that.  I'm not saying that it was wrong to meet Bernie Ecclestone because it 
would be bizarre if someone was in a worse position as having donated to the 
Labour Party than a better one and I'm not saying it was wrong to consult Sir 
Patrick Neill.  I believe it was right to consult Sir Patrick Neill.  What was 
wrong was - as you say - it should not have come out in dribs and drabs and we 
should have focussed on this issue a lot earlier.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Two - two members of your own National 
Executive Committee - Ken Livingstone, Diane Abbott - say there ought to be an 
inquiry into this whole thing.  Would that be sensible now?  Clear it all up?  
Do you want to do that? 
BLAIR:                                 No.  There is absolutely no need for 
that.  Sir Patrick Neill is looking at all these matters and let me just say  
another couple of things about this, too, in relation to Party funding.  The 
Labour Party is in this position because we disclosed the names of our donors.  
No other political party does.  And, I want to say to you: I am perfectly happy 
to disclose the names of donors immediately from - yes - going back from 
nineteen-ninety-two, that was the Election year when we started to build up to 
the last General Election - to now, provided that it is not just the Labour 
Party that has to do this but the other political Parties .... 
HUMPHRYS:                              And, will you disclose them when you get 
the money?  Because I talked to Gordon Brown last Monday and he said: I don't 
know anything about any donations from Bernie Ecclestone.  Will you, when you 
get the money in - will you say: Yeah!  This is what we've got?  Not wait for a 
year, or whatever it happens to be? 
BLAIR:                                 I'm perfectly happy to disclose the 
names of when we receive donations.  The question then arises: would we 
disclose the amount of the donation?  The donations that have been given to the 
Labour Party up to now, have been donations given with the amount being kept 
confidential but, again, I am perfectly happy to supply Sir Patrick Neill with 
a list of the donations and the amount, provided the Labour Party is not 
singled out at this...........Conservatives do it as well. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Make everybody do it.   
BLAIR:                                 Well, that's exactly what I want to do.  
The other thing I wanted to say to you was that when Sir Patrick Neill comes to 
look at party political funding, I hope very much we do look at not merely on 
the rules of disclosure but proper monitoring on a limit on the amount of money 
that is being paid over. 
HUMPHRYS:                              How much, do you think - yourself? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, I mean, I think, you can argue 
about this.  But, I think you could say if you wanted, that it was a five 
thousand limit and no more.  I mean, I'm not committing myself.   
HUMPHRYS:                              So, that might be.  You might - but you 
might agree to that: a five thousand limit? 
BLAIR:                                 If Sir Patrick Neill was to recommend 
that, I think, we certainly would agree to do that.   
HUMPHRYS:                              But, what about a limit on total
BLAIR:                                 As long as it's the same for both 
HUMPHRYS:                              Well, then, that's in your power, isn't 
it? You can pass a law - got a big enough majority, haven't you? 
BLAIR:                                 Of course, we can pass a law and if - as 
I say - I am perfectly happy to pass that information over to Sir Patrick Neill 
now, provided the other political Parties do it too, because we're- 
HUMPHRYS:                              Right.  
BLAIR:                                 - you know, in a situation, today, for 
example.  I mean, there's poor David Sainsbury getting absolute pilloried on 
the basis of some - because he's a supporter of the Labour Party. 
HUMPHRYS:                              He's also made a large donation to the 
BLAIR:                                 He has made a large donation to the 
Labour Party.   
HUMPHRYS:                              People were saying in some newspapers 
this morning that because of that he's had favourable treatment for his 
supermarket chain for....- 
BLAIR:                                 Yeah, but let's just analyse this a 
minute 'cos this is where, as I say: Look, I've said we didn't handle things in 
the right way.  I've said that to you and I've been through all the points that 
you've asked me and I think you would agree that I have tried to answer all 
those points.  What is completely ridiculous is to start - David Sainsbury's 
name's published in the Labour Party's accounts and that's the only reason 
everyone knows about him. This his planning application was - as far as I can 
work out - was decided by a Planning Inspector.  You know, the idea that 
because David Sainsbury gave to the Labour Party and that some Planning 
Inspector decided a Planning Application for Sainsbury's - I mean, it's 
HUMPHRYS:                              So, isn't that why you've got to - you 
say, you're prepared to do whatever Sir Patrick Neill recommends.  Isn't that 
BLAIR:                                 Well, yeah, it's subject to this.  I may 
want to go further. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Right.  Right.  
                                       So, if he says- 
BLAIR:                                 If he was to say - if he were to say- 
HUMPHRYS:                              No limit on donations - let's say.  
Would you say: No, there must be a limit on donations? 
BLAIR:                                 Well, let's see how the argument goes.  
But, my own preference would be to say there should be a limit on donations. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Right, but you haven't decided on that. 
BLAIR:                                 Yeah.  
HUMPHRYS:                              You say it might be five thousand 
BLAIR:                                 No, I haven't decided on that because-I 
don't think it's very sensible to sort of make - you know to make a decision 
now before we've seen what he actually says.  
HUMPHRYS:                              But, we're not talking about a million 
pounds here, are we?  When we talk about a limit, we're not talking about mega 
sums of money? 
BLAIR:                                 I'm talking about anything, provided it 
applies to all Parties and I think- 
HUMPHRYS:                              So, it might be a million ? 
BLAIR:                                 No, and I think -  what I was going to 
say to you is that there is a case for making it a far smaller amount. 
HUMPHRYS:                              And what about the limit on the total 
amount of money that should be spent by a Party during a General Election? 
BLAIR:                                 Well I think there's a case for that 
too.  I mean again I'm not going to snap on it now but I think there's a case 
for that, provided it applies to them.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Well it would have to wouldn't it? 
BLAIR:                                 Yeah.  
HUMPHRYS:                              I mean we're talking about-You see this 
is what puzzles me when you say: provided it applies to them.  It is in your 
power to tell Parliament that you, your Party, the Government, is going to 
introduce legislation and then everybody's got to abide by it. So it's not a 
question of provided they abide by it, it would wouldn't it?  
BLAIR:                                 Of course it would apply to any future 
questions.  But what I'm saying to you, however, is that I'm prepared to 
disclose the previous donations. 
HUMPHRYS:                              Now? 
BLAIR:                                 Yeah, and do that now provided the other 
Parties are prepared to so the same.  What I'm not prepared to do is to labour 
people, literally sort of pilloring, dragged through the mud, because we 
disclose their names and the Tories are sitting there having turning around 
some deficit before the Election - vast millions of pounds deficit into a 
surplus and run a hugely funded Election Campaign and they're not prepared to 
disclose any names or tell us whatever has happened to that money.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Alright, before we leave the question of 
Formula One, I read this morning too that there's going to be another U-turn 
here, that you're actually now deciding that after all there should be some 
limit on a ban, after what, ten years? 
BLAIR:                                 No. We have always again - let me - I 
said I wanted to explain this point before.  There are exemptions.  Formula One 
is in a particular position.  Why?  Because it's a uniquely global sport and 
because you have a limited number of Grand Prises. There are, I think nine or 
ten in Europe, there are other Grand Prix in other parts of the world. Every 
single country that has a Grand Prix, either has no advertising or sponsorship 
restriction on Formula One, or makes special arrangements for Formula One. 
Every single one. That's why when people say..I mean one of the mists of the 
past couple of weeks, has been when people have said: well it's such an 
extraordinary decision, so we must have taken it for a bad reason. It's not 
extraordinary at all. What would be extraordinary is if Britain, the home of 
Formula One, wasn't listening to arguments that were being listened to by 
Germany, by Australia, by Canada, by France, by Italy, by all these other 
countries with Grand Prix.      
                                       Now, however. So, the Grand Prix-the 
Formula One is in a particular situation. It is particularly dependant on 
tobacco sponsorship and what would be ridiculous is if we lost the Grand Prix 
to Asian countries and there are ten applications from Asian countries 
outstanding, all of them have said they will allow Formula One to be screened 
without any restrictions at all.   They would then be shown back in this 
HUMPHRYS:                              I take that point. We've got that.  
BLAIR:                                 Now, we do however want to make sure 
that we ban tobacco advertising sponsorship.  That's been our goal all the way 
through.  The reason we went for an exemption was because a derogation of a 
longer period of time, say with a review clause, was never on offer.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Kind of exemption yeah.  
BLAIR:                                 That was never on offer. Now, of course 
we're in a position where we want to see the European Union directive go 
HUMPHRY:                               Right, so can I? 
BLAIR:                                 We will negotiate about it but my bottom 
line is I am not negotiating anything unless I am sure that Formula One have 
got the time to adjust and the ability to do that.  
HUMPHRYS:                               Alright. So can I clear this up because 
people might be confused by talk of derogation...?  In other words if they say 
in Europe: Alright we will give them let us say ten years to sort things out, 
to find some other form of money so that they can carry on doing what they're 
doing. Would you then say, alright we will have the ban, we will agree to a ban 
after that ten year period?  Is that what you're saying?  
BLAIR:                                 No, I'm not going to start negotiating 
the thing now.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Well eight years. But I mean is that the 
theory that you're-the principle? 
BLAIR:                                 The theory is that we will do as- go as 
far as we can in banning sponsorship provided it doesn't wreck the industry.  
That's the theory. Now, it could be done in a number of different ways.   
HUMPHRYS:                              Alright.  
BLAIR:                                 And actually, the exemption, that's why 
I say to you there are a whole series of things that were under discussion as 
HUMPHRYS:                               Right. Okay.  You've been in power for 
six months and a bit now and you've had a quite extraordinary period in Office. 
I mean you have been the most popular Prime Minister since ever.  Now the 
papers are saying that the issue surrounding you is one of trust.  Do you 
believe that as a result of what has happened in this past week or so you have 
lost the trust of the British people?                
BLAIR:                                 No, I don't believe that.  And I hope 
that people know me well enough and realise the type of person I am, to realise 
that I would never do anything either to harm the country or anything 
improper.  I never have. I think most people who have dealt with me, think I'm 
a pretty straight sort of guy and I am.  And I think that, what I would say to 
you about that and I do find it, these things difficult and upsetting, is I 
think there's been a desire to say - right from the word go - this can't be as 
good as it looks.  You know, they're all the same.  The Tories were sleazy, 
Labour's no different.  I don't believe we're like that at all. Before the 
Election I set out what I call a sort of ten-point contract with the people and 
remember I know why people elected me.  They didn't elect me because of Formula 
One or tobacco sponsorship.  They elected me because they wanted their schools 
and hospitals improved. They wanted their society brought together, young 
people given a chance, the crime tackled on our streets, and the jobs and 
industry built for the future. And they wanted this country to feel proud of 
itself again.      
                                       Now, I set out before the Election what 
I called a ten-point contract with the people. I will fulfil, John, every one 
of those ten points and I will be held to account if I don't.  And you know 
some of this rubbish about sort of U-turns and all the rest of it, sort of 
things like foxhunting.  I know why I'm elected, I know what people expect of 
me, I know what I can do for this country.  I can-I believe and you know you 
can say this is arrogant but I believe that I can put this country on a path to 
the Twenty-first Century that makes it one of the great nations of the modern 
world.  And I will do it by keeping the promises that I kept. Now I'm sorry 
about this issue. I should have realised it was going to blow up into this type 
of importance before, but I have honestly done what I thought was best for the 
country all the way through.  I'll carry on doing that and in the end I have to 
stand at the bar of British public opinion at the next Election.  And I will do 
so, not just with a clean conscience but I will do so if I've got anything to 
do with it at all, having delivered and kept every single promise I made. 
Because I said I would deliver something different and I can do it.  I can do 
HUMPHRYS:                              But you've been tarnished.  
BLAIR:                                 I don't believe I've been tarnished - 
no. I think that mistakes have been made but I think in the end the country's 
got to look at me. It's got to in a sense, got to decide whether the person 
that they believed in is the same person they've got now and it is.  
HUMPHRYS:                              Prime Minister, thank you very much 
BLAIR:                                 Thank you.