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Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): As well as thanking the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I hope that we will also give our thanks to the noble Lord Malloch-Brown, the G20 envoy, who has done sterling work. The question that my constituents will be asking this evening is: is the G20 the new G8? They will wonder what the point of the G8 is, if we also need China, India and Brazil. My question relates to the financial stability board. Will the four major audit companies of the world have new regulations and be part of a new corporate governance approach?

Mr. Darling: In relation to the profound question, “What is the meaning of the G8?”, I am tempted to answer, “Discuss.” That subject has been discussed for many years. At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, I may say that the advantage of the G8 is that there are fewer people round the table to have a conversation with. The G20 brings in a lot more, and recognises the reality of today’s economic power, which is why the G20 meeting has developed a great deal of momentum. However, these discussions will continue. There are also sensitivities among countries not in the G20 that believe that they, too, need a greater voice in some of these international discussions.

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): On behalf of the Scottish National party, may I, too, welcome the measures to boost aid and action for developing countries, and the announcement in the communiqué about stronger financial regulation? The Prime Minister spoke at the ExCeL centre today about the world joining and acting in concert, and today’s communiqué talks about doing what it takes to restore global growth. In the United States, President Obama is also investing in a fiscal stimulus, as the Chancellor will know, but Barack Obama seems to have a greater understanding of how to spend it at state level rather than adopt the centralised approach of the UK, which hardly represents acting jointly. In the UK, the Governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are unhappy at this time that their budgets are to be cut in the next two years. To achieve meaningful effects for ordinary people, surely the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I hope that the hon. Member has now completed his remarks.

Mr. Darling: I think that the hon. Gentleman was largely being complimentary about what has been done. At the risk of being churlish, I put one point to him: that this matter rather demonstrates, does it not, what the United Kingdom can achieve in helping to shape the destiny of the world. What has happened over the last few months and in today’s meeting demonstrate that the UK can deliver a lot, not just for the people that live in this country, but for the wider world.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): How much additional revenue does the Chancellor expect to get as a consequence of the crackdown on tax havens, and what happens to countries that refuse to co-operate in the exchange of tax information?

Mr. Darling: On the first question, I cannot provide an estimate today because much will depend on the way in which the agreement is actually implemented. Equally,
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on sanctions, we will need to discuss what happens, but it is important to maintain the momentum. As I said to the House earlier, under threat of being named and shamed, many countries were coming forward after years of saying they did not want to co-operate, to say that they wanted to sign up, and sign up quickly. That does help us, but it will work only if we maintain that momentum and do not let people think that once the storm has blown over, they can go back to the old ways.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): The whole House supports greater transparency in offshore financial centres, but will the Chancellor confirm that the British publicly owned banks will remain free to set their own policies in relation to tax, within the law, or will he seek to direct their decisions?

Mr. Darling: The banks in which we have shareholdings, just like any other banks or institutions, have to obey the law. In relation to tax, they have to comply with the tax law of this country.

Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): Given that the world currently consumes each year the resources that the planet takes one year and four months to renew or replace, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is just as important that the G20 should have examined not only the credit bubble and fallout in the global economy, but the credit bubble in the global environment?

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend raises a very important point. It is important to take account of the sustainability of everything we do, and this is an opportunity. I cannot remember which Opposition Member raised the point, but we have done a great deal over the last few years to increase the amount of money we spend in order to tackle climate change and protect our environment. We have introduced legislation—I think we are the only country so far legally to bind itself to meet demanding targets—providing another example of what can be done. As my hon. Friend knows, there is reference to the need to have regard to the long-term sustainability of what we do, so perhaps today’s event should give heart to those who are aware of the importance of the Copenhagen meeting at the end of the year, when we really will need to sign up to some ambitious targets and be bound by them.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): My constituency is one of those with a greater number of people out of work now than in February 1997, so getting jobs and trade going is important. It also has many pensioners. Will the Chancellor publish a review of the impact of the present crisis on pensioners and people soon to be pensioners, and on their savings, their income and the prospects of inflation taking away from them the income they have tried to squirrel away for their old age?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to ensure that we support older people—people who have retired. That is one of the reasons we introduced pension credit, which helps about half the pensioner households in the country. It is also why we made a £60 payment to pensioners earlier this year in order to put more money in their pockets. I am sorry that he opposed that.

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Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Will the Chancellor convey my congratulations to the Prime Minister on bringing forward this world response to the global crisis? Does he accept, however, that it was the private investment banks that brought about the crisis by engaging in reckless speculation and building up toxic loans? My constituents want an assurance that conditions are in place to prevent those banks from doing that ever again. Can the Chancellor give that assurance?

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend is right that we need to ensure that there is more robust supervision and regulation of these institutions. The only point I would raise—I would not disagree with him on it, but simply make an observation—is that, sadly, it was not just the investment banks that were responsible; it was also banks that were largely engaged in retail lending, such as Northern Rock. As we saw earlier in the week, part of the building society sector has been affected as well. I think that there are lessons to be drawn right across the financial services sector.

Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): Does the Chancellor recognise that our ability to meet the millennium development goals to which he referred in his statement may be very adversely affected by the impact of climate change on the world’s poorest countries? What hope does he have for a serious global deal at Copenhagen, given that the statements about the environment that emerged from the G20 today appear to be disappointingly vague?

Mr. Darling: Today’s meeting reaffirmed the commitment to the millennium development goals. It is also important for countries not just to sign up to such goals, but to do what is necessary. I very much hope that Copenhagen is a success, but as the hon. Lady will know, while most Governments accept that climate change is a reality and that we need to do something about it, that view is not universally held. Moreover, some countries which acknowledge that climate change is a problem are not willing to do as much about it as they should. Today’s meeting, however, showed that if there is a will, there is a way of getting through this, and the same spirit must be shown in Copenhagen later this year.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): As a result of the G20, to what extent will the growth in the United Kingdom’s economy be restored sooner than would otherwise be the case? Can the Chancellor put a figure on that, in terms of days or months? This is the sort of question to which my constituents want an answer, given that unemployment in my constituency has risen by 184 per cent. in a single year.

Mr. Darling: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should be concerned about anyone who loses a job, but my answer is rather different from his. I think that we actually need to do something about it. As for my forecast, he will have to wait until the Budget.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): I hope that I am not reading too much into the Chancellor’s desire to remove the stigma of going to the International Monetary Fund. If he has been checking the IMF’s phone number, perhaps he should let us know.

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The Chancellor said that the communiqué dealt with bank regulation. May I make a suggestion to him? I think that what is needed is not heavier or lighter or more expensive regulation, but more intelligent regulation. Regulators tend to regulate the problem that happened before, rather than looking forward and paying attention to things that are happening that may produce problems. We have never had a bigger regulatory apparatus than the Financial Services Authority, and it has failed. Will the Chancellor ensure that whatever reforms are instituted, nationally or internationally, include an effort to make regulation more intelligent and more forward-looking?

Mr. Darling: I have said on many occasions that what we need is effective regulation. That is the test, so I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s point.

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): In his statement, the Chancellor referred to an extra $250 billion in export credit. What additional export credit will come from the United Kingdom Government for UK manufacturers and other people in business?

Mr. Darling: We are looking into that at the moment, and I hope that we shall have something to say about it in the not-too-distant future.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Chancellor referred to national supervision in relation to financial regulation, but in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) he also referred to common European rules. Will he categorically rule out the idea that the supervision of financial services and banking will be handed over to the European institutions and, ultimately, to the legal jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice? Yes or no?

Mr. Darling: I thought that the hon. Gentleman would ask a question like that. As soon as I mentioned the word “Europe”, he perked up.

We probably will not agree on this, but I think that, especially when we know that there are banks and insurance companies trading in this country and throughout Europe, it makes sense for there to be a greater degree of co-operation—in the event of failure, for example—in the form of a common approach and a common set of rules. However, I also said that I believe that we do need to make sure that we have national supervisors and regulators who are responsible for regulating institutions based in this country. All I say to the hon. Gentleman is that at some stage, surely, he and his colleagues should recognise that the world has moved on; we are part of the European Union and he should wake up to that reality.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): My hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor asked a specific question to which he did not receive an answer. He asked how much of the finance that is proposed is new money and how much is money that is recycled and has already been announced. Will the Chancellor kindly address that question and give a precise breakdown?

Mr. Darling: I thought I had given the indication in my statement when I set out the money that was additional in relation to the International Monetary Fund, and other areas as well.

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David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): What assurances can the Chancellor give me that some of this vast increase in money will go to hard-pressed manufacturing in the midlands, which is finding things so difficult at present, and will he give the House an assurance that it will not go to supporting public sector jobs, which do not create wealth?

Mr. Darling: In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s first point, I think it is important that we support industry in the midlands and in other parts of the country as well. Indeed, part of what we have been trying to do in the banking system to get credit flowing again is precisely to help businesses. I disagree with him in relation to the public sector. The public sector does support jobs, and each and every one of us relies to one degree or another on the public sector. I would also just say this to him specifically: if it were not for public sector construction at present, the construction industry would be facing an even tougher time. So I think the public sector does help, and I disagree with his party’s proposal to take £5 billion out of the public services, starting yesterday.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Why is the Chancellor optimistic about concluding the Doha development round now in a recession and when countries are introducing protectionist measures, when it could not be concluded when economies were growing?

Mr. Darling: What I said was that we have to be optimistic because the alternative is much worse. Rather like exuberance, optimism is another thing that I am not accused of every day of the week. The hon. Gentleman’s second point is important—although perhaps he did not intend to put it in the way that he did. He said that this is more difficult to do especially at a time like this when there is a downturn. The lesson from the 1930s is surely this: when there is a downturn, the temptation is to erect barriers, and that is what happened in the 1930s, with the result that the recession lasted right the way through, and it was really only at the time of the second world war that countries sat down and realised what had happened. That is why I say we have to be optimistic: we need, especially at this time, to look at breaking down trade barriers, because if we cannot sell goods and services to other countries, all of us will be poorer. That is why I think this is so important.

Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): I am extremely grateful for your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Restoring confidence is key. The Chancellor said in answer to a question from one of my hon. Friends that we all need to live within our means. Now, after the Chancellor has ripped up his predecessor’s fiscal rules, what confidence can the markets, and particularly the gilt market, take from today’s statement that this Government will live within their means?

Mr. Darling: It is important that all Governments— [Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has lost interest already; I know he has been standing for a long time, but having asked his question, he might at least wait for the answer. I think it is important, first, that Governments support their economies just now, but also that they recognise the need to make sure they live within their means. That is recognised in the communiqué as well. There are two parts to this approach,
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and I disagree with the hon. Gentleman that it is somehow wrong to support the economy and that we should just wait and hope for the best. That was tried in the ’80s and the 1990s and it did not work.

Business without Debate

Business of the house

Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.

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Science and Innovation (Sedgefield)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —(Helen Jones.)

6.4 pm

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): I am grateful to have secured this Adjournment debate on science and innovation in Sedgefield. It gives me the opportunity to describe how the area has changed over recent years, and how it has reached out and grasped the technologies of the future that, only 10 years ago, belonged to the pages of science fiction, but which now are the fledgling companies of economic growth based on cutting-edge technological advances and innovation. That statement is not one usually associated with an area of the country whose traditional image remains, for a lot of people, one of coal mining. Today, I want to challenge that traditional view.

The slag heaps and pitheads have gone now, and those who are not from the area would find it very difficult to identify where they once scarred the landscape, because of the excellent reclamation work done by Durham county council. Even today, I am asked on occasion in London, when people realise I represent a constituency in the north-east, how long it takes to get there by train. “Does it take five hours?”, they ask. In fact, it does not. To Darlington, my usual station stop, the train journey can be less than two hours 30 minutes from King’s Cross.

I have heard it said that the location of the centre of science and innovation in Sedgefield, at NETPark, is not geographically correct because it is away from other centres of research and development, such as Oxford and Cambridge. I put such a statement down to a lack of understanding of what is going on in the area. It ignores the fact that Durham university, only a few miles away from Sedgefield, is one of the best universities in the world. If I may say so, that statement is infused with just a hint of regional snobbishness. The north-east is not on the other side of the world, and in our globalised economy the world is at our doorstep, not even a train journey away.

The last coal mine to close in Sedgefield was at Fishburn in 1974, some 35 years ago. The local coke works, also at Fishburn, closed in the mid-1980s. Both have gone, leaving a strong sense of community behind, but as I said, those who are not from the area would not know where the slag heaps and pithead stood, or where the chimneys at the coke works belched their stench into the sky.

Less than a mile to the south of Fishburn, on the site of an old psychiatric hospital, stands a cluster of less imposing buildings that are none the less important for the future prosperity of my constituents, County Durham and the north-east as a whole. This is NETPark, which is to play its part in creating a knowledge economy in County Durham in which tomorrow’s jobs can be created today. It is fair to say that the north-east still faces significant economic problems, and although we are in the midst of a global economic downturn, progress has been made locally. Educational attainment levels are improving. The number of adults with qualifications and the number of businesses per head of population has increased above the national average. Today, there are 590 apprentices in my constituency; in 1997, there were, on average, only 20 per constituency.

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