Mr Nigel Beard: I worked closely with the British Army for 12 years, and know it to be the best-trained, most skilled and most disciplined military force in the world. That character and capability have been displayed in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Kosovo, and twice in Iraq. It is a humane, confident and professionally effective force of which, with good reason, Britain can be proud. That reputation...
Mr Nigel Beard: So the actionable matter was an indictment of the United States—a power for which we have no responsibility whatever. The whole episode, as that intervention suggests to a degree, is being exploited to gain political advantage. Let us just look at the troubled waters in which the cynical opportunists are fishing. We are within two months of sovereignty being passed to an Iraqi Government...
Mr Nigel Beard: The first thing to emphasise about this Budget, and the Finance Bill that gives effect to it, is that it satisfies the discipline that the Chancellor has imposed on public finances for the past seven years through the fiscal rules: the golden rule and the sustainability rule. Adherence to fiscal self-discipline has brought about an unparalleled period of stability in the economy. At the same...
Mr Nigel Beard: It might well have done, but it did not satisfy the Conservatives' macro-economic conditions. Such action led to the crisis that Mr. Lawson created, which resulted in interest rates of 15 per cent. Boom and bust was not just an historical economic accident that came along while the Tory party happened to be in power: it was the result of the Conservatives' own feckless, ideologically driven...
Mr Nigel Beard: It is easy to make general accusations about spin, corruption and so on. If the document is as full of inaccuracies as the hon. Gentleman pretends, can he give us two examples?
Mr Nigel Beard: What assessment he has made of the impact on United Kingdom exporters of the value of the pound against the dollar and levels of growth in the eurozone.
Mr Nigel Beard: I thank my hon. Friend for her reply. Does she agree that it is desirable for the UK to reduce its persistent deficit in traded goods? Does she view increased exports to China, India and south-east Asia as a means of augmenting our capacity to do so?
Mr Nigel Beard: Is my right hon. Friend aware of concern in the financial services industry that reports generated by the industry on suspected money laundering are not being fully pursued by the National Criminal Intelligence Service due to a lack of resources? Will he give an assurance that the arrangements that he has announced will strengthen the ability to investigate money laundering?
Mr Nigel Beard: Can my right hon. Friend say why it is proving so difficult to arrest General Mladic and Radovan Karadzic?
Mr Nigel Beard: Has not the parliamentary ombudsman said that she could find no instances of maladministration? That is why she found as she did. Surely that demolishes the elaborate case that the hon. Gentleman is attempting to build up.
Mr Nigel Beard: Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that Lord Penrose speaks of a system failure, not a failure of the operators, and that the system was put in place by the Government he supported and was supported by the majority in Parliament, who were Members from his party? That shows the barrenness of the philosophy of light-touch regulation, which did no service to the Equitable policyholders...
Mr Nigel Beard: rose—
Mr Nigel Beard: rose—
Mr Nigel Beard: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement, and especially on her reaffirmation that case-by-case scientific evidence will determine the future cultivation of genetically modified crops. What steps will be taken to protect such crops from destruction by misguided direct action?
Mr Nigel Beard: If he will make a statement on the importance of Crossrail to (a) London businesses and (b) the development of the Thames gateway.
Mr Nigel Beard: Does my hon. Friend agree that Crossrail's impact on the Thames gateway depends on the continuation of the line from the Isle of Dogs to the channel tunnel rail link at Ebbsfleet via the south bank? Does not the realisation of that potential in turn depend on confidence among private investors that the line will be built according to a credible timetable?
Mr Nigel Beard: Equitable Life is the oldest insurance society in Britain and, in many people's eyes, was the gold standard of the life insurance industry. What are the implications for the rest of the life insurance industry?
Mr Nigel Beard: Will my right hon. Friend comment on the warning given by President Putin's special envoy last week against NATO stationing forces in the Baltic states, despite the recent accession of those countries to NATO? Is it likely that that is linked to Russian unwillingness to ratify the conventional armed forces in Europe treaty?
Mr Nigel Beard: Order. There will be an opportunity to consider car sharing and bus lanes later in the clause and in clause 3.
Mr Nigel Beard: Order. I will not be inclined to call a stand part debate after this very wide-ranging discussion. If the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) wishes to discuss clause 68(2) further I suggest he now does so.