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Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, when he discussed these matters with his G7 colleagues, one of the matters that might have been discussed was how to promote such policies internationally? Will he confirm that the Conservative party has decided to get rid of the torch symbol and instead adopt the ostrich in its approach to these matters?

Mr. Brown: I know that, because the Conservative party failed in government, it wants to think that every Government will fail internationally, and is cynical about what can be achieved; but my hon. Friend is right. Progress on dealing with some of these international problems over the past few months has been important. We must go further, and make more progress on these issues. That cannot be done unless the G7, central bank governors and Finance Ministers work together and we can galvanise the IMF and World bank into action. I would have hoped that there would be all-party support for that throughout the House.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): May I add my support for the international economic initiatives, but specifically ask about exchange rate stability? Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm the written answer that was given to me by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury a few days ago--that, since the Government came to office, the pound sterling had appreciated by over 10 per cent. in real terms, when we take into account different rates of inflation and the movements of all currencies, including the dollar; in other words, the pound sterling is over 10 per cent. less competitive?

Mr. Brown: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the figures. When we came to power, the pound against the deutschmark was, if I remember rightly, 2.79; it is now less than 2.79. For a time, it was up further. It has now come down 10 per cent. In relation to the dollar, the pound and the dollar have not changed a great

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deal over the past two or three years. I have understood the concerns of exporters in these matters, but I keep saying to the House, and I will repeat it: the bigger concern of every part of industry would be if we were ever to return again to the boom-bust conditions that were left to us by the Conservative party in the early 1990s.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Would not the Chancellor's statement this afternoon have been greeted with greater credibility if he had stopped blaming everyone else except the Government for this country's economic woes? Why did he say in public during the summer that the growth target that he announced in the last Budget had been revised downwards from 1.7 to 1 per cent? Why did he tell this morning's "Today" programme rather than Parliament that our borrowing was being increased to a staggering £22 billion? When will he take some proper measures to help manufacturing industry, and to save some of the jobs that are being lost in his constituency and elsewhere?

Mr. Brown: I do not know what question the hon. Member has been given to ask, but let me say that America is revising down its growth forecast, Japan has revised down its growth forecast, and Europe and Latin America are revising down their growth forecast. Every country is having to revise down its growth forecast as a result of what is happening throughout the world. The Conservative party wants to opt out of the world. We are part of a global economy, and the sooner it recognises that, the better.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question he dodged earlier? If he believes in transparency on monetary policy, why has he not criticised the refusal of the European central bank to publish the minutes of its meetings? He has lectured Conservative Members on foreign policy, but has he not noticed that Germany has not a new President, as he said earlier, but a new Chancellor? That is something that Britain needs, too.

Mr. Brown: If the hon. Gentleman wants to be accurate, he will acknowledge that I have criticised the European central bank and asked it to have transparency in its operations. The hon. Gentleman should be correct rather than wrong in his assertions.

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Personal Statement (Mr. Ron Davies)

4.26 pm

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly): I am grateful to you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me this opportunity to make a personal statement.

Last Monday evening, I made a severe error of judgment in failing to protect my personal safety. I became the victim of what was for me a frightening and shocking crime. I reported the matter to the police, and the process of law will now take its course. For that reason, I shall make no further comment on that aspect of the matter. However, I offer my heartfelt apologies to the House for any embarrassment that I might have caused.

On Tuesday morning, I explained to the Prime Minister what had occurred, I apologised for it, I offered him my resignation, and he accepted it. I want to place on record my thanks to the Prime Minister for his personal support and solicitude over the past few days, which have been of very great comfort to me.

The events of the last week have been unremittingly agonising. I could not have got through them without the love and support of the two people most dear to me--my wife Chris and my daughter Angharad. Without the constant support of a few other very close friends I cannot imagine how I could have got through this nightmare, and I offer them my heartfelt and most profound thanks. I also want to thank many other close friends for their endless patience in the face of a constant barrage of media pressure. I am grateful for the messages of support from former ministerial colleagues, Members of both Houses--from both sides--and the public at large.

The shock, for me, of the events of last Monday, and the sadness of my resignation, have been added to by media intrusion into my private life, reporting as fact a stream of rubbish. Rumour and lies have been asserted as truth. The whole of my adult life has been pored over for something that could be twisted to suit the present prejudice.

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Ultimately, this arbitrary abuse of power is an attack not just on me, but on all our rights. The right to privacy belongs to all citizens. The victims of crime, even if they are in public life, cannot be excluded from that. We all have rights; we also all have responsibilities, of course, and that applies to the media. The media have the right to freedom, but they must carry the responsibilities to exercise that right judiciously.

In my childhood, I learned a very hard lesson at a very early age--one cannot allow powerful people to bully the weak or to abuse their own power. How willing will the next victim of a crime be to report it; how eager will people be to stand for public office in the knowledge that one mistake might result in the whole of their lives being picked over and twisted out of all recognition? How can it improve democracy if our lives in this House, our influences and our relationships, were all laid out for public titillation? We are what we are. We are all different--the product of both our genes and our experiences. Members of Parliament are no different from the society that we represent.

Since I became the Labour party spokesman for Wales in 1992, the creation of a new democracy for Wales has been for me a personal commitment and a political responsibility. I know that the process that I started will go on, creating a more tolerant, more open and more mature way of conducting politics. My experience in the past week could not have provided me with a more vivid demonstration of the need for such a tolerant and understanding society. The support that I have received from colleagues, from ordinary citizens and, indeed, from the Welsh media reassures me that that is a vision that is widely shared.

Not for the first time in my life, I have been badly beaten and hurt. I believe that my defences are strong enough to see me through this very trying time. From adversity, of course, can come strength. That will be so in my current circumstances. I worked hard to change the face of politics and government in Wales. I am now more determined than ever to see those changes through.

I am very grateful to you, Madam Speaker, and for the attention of the House.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

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Journalists (BBC)

4.30 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You and other hon. Members are very much aware of the reliance that we place on a free journalistic corps--on the fact that journalists must be absolutely free to report on what hon. Members and others do. Can you suggest what we might do to protect journalists in the BBC against an absolutely unjustified trammelling of their freedom which seems, on the face of it--if we can believe the reports--to result from some high-level cronyism between elements in the Government and elements in the senior level of the BBC? The matter surely must concern you, Madam Speaker, as much as it does other hon. Members. Will you say what can be done about it?

Madam Speaker: I concern myself with many matters in the House, and try to give useful and beneficial guidance to hon. Members. However, on those matters, I think that we must all act in accordance with our own consciences.


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