March 4, 2009 / 9:57 AM / 11 years ago

Brown defends handling of financial crisis

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Wednesday that Britain could have been stricter in its supervision of financial markets, but defended his response to the global financial crisis.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown walk through the Colonnade at the White House in Washington, March 3, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

“We should have been tougher in some areas,” Brown told the BBC in an interview during a trip to Washington.

“....but there is a whole series of issues where you needed international cooperation because you are dealing essentially with global financial flows and you cannot solve that problem unless you have the kind of international supervision that I think you’ll admit I’ve been pressing for 10 years,” he said.

Brown, who was chancellor for a decade before taking over as prime minister in 2007, has faced calls to admit mistakes were made when he was running the economy.

Alistair Darling, the current chancellor, this week called on ministers to show greater humility and learn lessons from past errors.

Brown said there was no rift within government over how much blame to accept for the crisis. Labour is trailing the Conservatives in the polls ahead of a general election due by the middle of next year.

“There is always a need for humility, there is always a need for collective responsibility and I don’t think I would run away from responsibility for what happens,” Brown said.

Brown has been criticised for his role in setting up a system where financial oversight was divided three ways between the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority.

“I’m not sure that any regulatory system could have picked up some of the things that were going wrong because they were coming out of so many different countries and we don’t have the sort of international regulatory system that we’re going to have to have in the future,” he said.

“But we know now that British regulation has got to be stronger.”

Brown, who will host a summit of developed and emerging countries from the G20 nations next month, said he was only interested in sorting out the financial problems.

“The system seized up. It was like a power cut that went throughout the financial system,” he said, adding that Britain had led the way in its response to the crisis.

“We were the first country to insist that the banks were restructured, we were the first country, or one of the first to move with a fiscal expansion, and now we are one of the first to insist on an expansion of bank lending.”

Editing by Andy Bruce

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