The Economy and Business, Innovation and Skills

Part of Corporation Tax Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:03 pm on 26th November 2009.

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Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Labour, Sunderland South 3:03 pm, 26th November 2009

I do not seek to wave aside the problem of debt. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has at last conceded-perhaps he will do so again when he winds up the debate for the Opposition-that this crisis, or "Labour's debt" and "the mess that Labour has got us into", as I keep hearing Opposition spokesmen call it, has something to do with the bankers. I am grateful to him for putting that on record, albeit with one or two caveats.

Let me return to the BBC2 documentary. It was about the banking crisis and the global financial crisis, and how they had arisen. Episode 3 consisted of interviews with the American Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, with American and European bankers, and with the French Finance Minister. They all said, more or less as one, that the British intervention in nationalising the three banks in the autumn of 2008 had been decisive in halting the slide towards the breakdown of the global financial system. One of them went so far as to say that the global financial system had come within hours of meltdown, and that if the British had not acted when they did, it might indeed have melted down. As we know, the Americans had their plan, but it was bogged down in Congress after they had spent 14 days talking about it. Incidentally, it is not only the people interviewed on that programme who have expressed that view. I have heard the Prime Ministers of Spain and Norway say something similar, and also the Australian Prime Minister.

As I watched the programme, I asked myself "Why is this a secret? How come no one in this country knows about it? How come only foreigners seem to know about it?" I concluded that that was, in part, a tribute to our free press, who, as we know, have been preoccupied with other matters. On each of the occasions when our Prime Minister has gone to Washington in the last year, the press have decided from the outset-before he has left British soil-that his trip will be a disaster. On the first of his two trips, they pursued him with a single question: "Prime Minister, will you apologise for the recession?" They kept that up. I believe that Mr. Nick Robinson even took it into the Oval Office of the White House. The Americans were amazed.

During the second trip, which took place only a few weeks ago, the headline was "Obama Snubs Brown". As Members may recall, the President and the Prime Minister were going to New York to attend a United Nations meeting. There was not to be a face-to-face meeting between them there; but the next day they were off to the G20 summit in Philadelphia, where there was plenty of face time, and the story swiftly faded. Nevertheless, it had dominated the headlines, even in the broadsheet newspapers. If Members wonder why we in this country know nothing about the British Government's intervention in the banking crisis, it may have something to do with those distractions.

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