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Ideas for a fairer world

Events

Labour Party Conference 2008, Manchester

The FPC hosted a programme of six fringe events at the 2008 Labour Party Conference, which took place from 20-24 Sept in Manchester. Summaries of a selection of our events follow below. This information was provided by DeHavilland Public Affairs Monitoring Service. For more information about DeHavilland services please visit www.dehavilland.co.uk or email info@dehavilland.co.uk.

A Foreign Policy Centre, World Vision and BBC World Service Trust event

Labour Fringe - 'A bridge too far: Do we need to reclaim humanitarianism?'

Sat, 20 September 08 | DeHavilland Report - Event

Summary

The Government had to continue to press for reforms of international political institutions to secure a humanitarian approach to foreign affairs, the Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn asserted today.

Ms Munn was speaking at a Labour Party Conference Fringe entitled 'A bridge too far: do we need to reclaim humanitarianism?' held by the Foreign Policy Centre, World Vision and the BBC World Service Trust. Joining her on the panel was John Githongo, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at World Vision, James Deane, Head of Policy Development at the BBC World Service Trust, Richard Beeston, Foreign Editor at the Times and Josephine Osikena of the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), who chaired the event.

Opening the fringe, Ms Munn stated that she was a little confused by the title of the event, arguing that the UK was spending more on international development than ever before, including in countries such as Afghanistan.

The United Nations had moved to the concept of the responsibility to protect but it was questionable whether this would lead to governments acting beyond their borders, the Minister stated. The Labour Government had set out its support for the Millennium Development Goals (MGD) and targets on development aid.

She went on to welcome work by Jubilee 2000 and others to press the Government to act on aid. The Minister also welcomed the role the media played in pressing for a response to global crises.

Ms Munn stated that she had become aware of the issues around Burma in recent years, in particular the stance taken by ASEAN of non-interference. Public opinion was not always consistent, she argued, adding that, because of the credit crunch, moves towards achieving the aid level of 0.7 per cent of GDP could be smothered by a 'charity begins at home' attitude.

On questions of efficacy and capability, Ms Munn stated that people looked back at Rwanda and argued that action should have been taken by the global community. Delivering humanitarian support was difficult, she argued, detailing that the rescue efforts after the Burmese cyclone were restricted by the country's Government.

She added that the Government had to look at how to reform international political institutions, stressing that ASEAN had put pressure on aid agencies to allow aid into Burma. This showed the importance of regional groupings, the fringe was told.

However, the African Union was failing to provide troops in Darfur and to pressurize the Mugabe regime, the Minister maintained, arguing that organisations within countries, such as aid organisations, needed to be supported.

Questions had to be asked on whether aid to Zimbabwe should be continued in the light of its neighbours failing to act, Ms Munn asserted, adding that this could be seen as colonialism. Aid to Somalia was taken by the regime and did not get to the people in need, adding to questions over whether this was the best way to help the country.

Mr Githongo spoke of an holistic approach whereby military and humanitarian action was taken in a country. On World Vision, he asserted that the humanitarian space, between the military and security sectors, had been redefined in many countries, bringing further challenges.

He questioned responses to ethnic cleansing, arguing that military and security actors on the ground needed to be worked with. Mr Githongo detailed how NGOs often drove vehicles into military compounds at night in order to stop them being stolen.

World Vision was driven by need on the ground, the need for impartiality, the duty to secure and protect and the need to engage with groups, he detailed. Any engagement had to be appropriate and well informed, he asserted, adding that each situation was different and there was no template for such engagement.

A lot of emphasis on military intervention was placed by governments, Mr Githongo stated, arguing that domestic military capacity had to be assessed, detailing that the Pakistani and Chinese military were often good at responding to a humanitarian situation, something that was not assessed by policy makers.

Moreover, the role of the police was often ignored, the World Vision spokesperson maintained, arguing for more support to be given to local police forces in order to help communities.

The dichotomy between aid organisations and the military was a false one as NGOs needed to engage with the military on the ground, he concluded.

Mr Deane asserted that humanitarianism was, and would continue to be, surrounded by political decisions. Indeed, China was using aid for political purposes, he claimed.

There was a new opportunity to make aid accountable, he argued, allowing those claiming aid to be at the heart of decisions. Finance Ministers and NGOs had recently met in Ghana to agree how to spend aid more effectively, Mr Deane detailed, allowing those receiving development assistance to channel aid appropriately. The resulting Acra agenda was an important step forward, he maintained.

Too many countries had used aid to bolster their political constituencies, he argued, lamenting the slow progress towards tackling corruption. He argued against conditionality in aid funding, adding that this had proved ineffective.

Mr Deane stated that the Acra agenda would involve NGOs, trade unions and the media. People needed to know about aid expenditure and that their views would be feed back to improve the system, he went on to state.

Greater transparency in spending and the media was essential, he added, arguing that the BBC Trust worked to empower people with better information on aid.

On short term aid, Mr Deane stated that a new policy briefing by the BBC Trust on the need for information would be set out shortly. The early stage of disasters broke down networks and this could be tackled by new technologies such as suitcase radio stations, giving people important advice and information on aid.

Responses were often undermined because people's information needs were ignored, Mr Deane argued, insisting that people receiving aid needed a greater say, making it more accountable.

Mr Beeston asserted that the EU response to Darfur had been 'wholly inappropriate', arguing that people wanted the fighting to stop and not more aid. He detailed how this had made him into an interventionist in relation to foreign affairs, detailing that Sierra Leone was the model of humanitarian intervention.

Liberia, East Timor and Macedonia were other such examples, Mr Dean maintained. Many people were against interventionism because of opposition to the Iraq war, he asserted, adding that the episode must not abrogate the UK's responsibilities to the rest of the world.

Mr Beeston detailed how journalists from the Times had been tortured in Zimbabwe and expelled from East Timor. Many people stopped following the war in Iraq, he asserted, arguing that, whatever people thought of the war, the UK had a responsibility in the country.

He commended the United States for its deployment of further troops to guard against a civil war in the country. The UK was 'quite good' at intervening on humanitarian grounds, he added, detailing involvement in Kosovo and Bosnia. He argued against the UK pulling out of involvement in foreign affairs, adding that the creation of a vacuum would allow China and Russia to play an increased role, countries which did not share the UK's ideals on humanitarianism.

During the question and answer session, a representative of the South African High Commission argued against the assertion that the African Union (AU) was not acting in Darfur, detailing that troops had been deployed.

Responding, Ms Munn conceded that there were many problems in the deployment of troops, including those posed by the geography of the country. The UK convened a UN meeting in March to get more helicopters into the country, the Minister stated, adding that the Government would continue to push on this. Countries needed to act together, she argued.

The lack of helicopters provided for the country was 'woeful', Mr Beeston argued, adding that it was obvious that the political will had not been there.

Tackled on why humanitarian support in Afghanistan was not being reported, Ms Munn stated that people were not always aware of successes, detailing that aid should be measured by its successes and not necessarily just the amount that was donated.

A delegate questioned why it had taken so long for Taebo Mbeki, the South African leader, to get involved in Zimbabwe. Ms Munn stated that neighbouring countries had taken time to come forward, something that was tied to the history of the region. However, this was not an excuse for inaction, the Minister maintained, adding that some successes were now becoming apparent.

African leaders were confronted by many issues and Zimbabwe would not be top of that list, Mr Githongo stated, adding that issues in the Congo, Darfur and Kenya would be given higher priority.

On an improved security situation in Iraq, Mr Githongo stated that the West had 'lost its confidence' after the Iraq war, including the promotion of freedom and liberty. He called for this timidity to end.

Mr Deane agreed with this claim, adding that economic turmoil could see a return to a cold war situation, whereby countries were seen as clients and aid was tied to freer trade and other issues. He added that it was good news that assurances that UK aid policy would continue in the same vein as at present, had been given.

A delegate questioned the history of colonialism and its impact on the present, Mr Githongo stated that the West used aid for political purposes up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, calling for a greater acceptance of Chinese involvement.

Ms Munn stated that the Government had to be very conscious of past relationships, ensuring a broad range of support for measures for a country. Mr Beeston commended the Italian Government's payment to Libya as reparations for the past, adding that this should influence others to do the same.

On the need to recognise that Iraq was a mistake in order to boost the West's confidence in interventionism, Ms Munn stated that consistency in intervention was not possible because each situation was different.

Mr Beeston stated that the public did deserve an apology on this. Iraq was not a good enough reason not to act in other countries, he asserted, adding that lessons needed to be learned, in particular the building of public support and international backing.

A representative of the Stop Aids Campaign highlighted a recent Red Cross report on the need to tackle AIDS as an emergency and plans to fund schemes in middle ranking countries such as South Africa and Swaziland.

HIV/AIDs was a long term issue and a 25 to 30 year response was needed, Mr Deane replied.

Aid could not be divorced from governance, Mr Githongo argued, adding that in cases of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, aid could 'subsidise evil'. Aid was only misappropriated by the worst regimes, he went on to state, adding that the media and civil society helped provide accountability of executives in foreign countries.

© DeHavilland Information Services


A Foreign Policy Centre and Vattenfall event

Labour Fringe - 'Tackling the climate change challenge: Are we really willing to do what it takes?'

Sun, 21 September 08 | DeHavilland Report - Event

Summary

In the decades ahead, the successful individuals, businesses and nations would be those who had successfully moved to a low carbon way of life, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn argued.

Mr Benn was addressing a Labour fringe entitled 'Fueling the Future - Tackling the Climate Change Challenge', sponsored by the Foreign Policy Centre. Joining the Environment Secretary on the panel was Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor, Independent on Sunday ; Christopher Eckerberg, Vice President, Vattenfall; Linda McAvan MEP; and Andrew Pendleton, Senior Research Fellow, IPPR.

Opening the session, Mr Benn asserted that the international community had a good idea of the elements of the deal needed to tackle climate change; an international agreement with a range of binding agreements on the largest, richest countries if global warming was to be addressed.

However, the truth was that the world would still face the consequences of the emissions already released by the most polluting nations, he said, stressing that the challenge now was to create an equitable framework upon which all nations reduced their emissions.

A carbon market was also needed which created a price for carbon from high carbon emitting systems to low carbon emitting systems. He called for the greater development of cap and trade systems around the world, so that nations could benefit from one system that moved money from the rich world to developing nations which helped to pay for low emitting technologies.

Mr Benn explained that as the international community moved forward, it would need all resources available to tackle growing emissions.

He also called for 'flowing funds' to address the consequences of climate change, such as droughts, the ability of nations to produce food and famine. This was a task of adaptation, he added, and also stressed the need to stop deforestation as forests were an important carbon sink for the world.

The resource crunch faced by the international community was a consequence of being dependent upon something that could not be sustained on the price that nations were paying for it before, he said, arguing that the idea that the environment and the economy were two separate things was ludicrous.

If nations wanted to reduce vulnerability on resources, it made sense to pursue a low carbon path of development, he added. Low carbon nations would be in a strong position to move forward and thrive in the future.

Pondering on what needed to be done now, Mr Benn called for governments around the world to show leadership in tackling climate change, noting that all individuals and nations had a part to play.

Leadership in Europe was crucial, he said, noting that at Bali the 27 EU nations speaking with one voice was influential upon the global community. The politics on climate change was also changing in America, he added, expressing hope that there would be a change in policy with a new President.

Mr Benn asserted that the final challenge was to realise the opportunity that such environmental change would bring. He wondered why the US wasn't at the forefront of low carbon car production, adding that there were undoubtedly a large number of jobs to be found in a low carbon economy.

In the century to come, the successful would be the low carbon individuals, businesses and nations who had actively tackled carbon emissions, he declared.

Taking to the floor, Mr Pendleton asserted that the majority of people were aware of the environmental aspects of climate change, and the inconvenient truth that anything from a 50 per cent upwards cut in emissions would not only require reductions in the developed world but also would also mean bargaining cuts in emissions from China, India and Brazil.

This was the critical issue, he argued; the politics of how these kind of cuts could be achieved. Since the Bali summit, the EU had failed to meet the self set target which was leading the way on emission reductions, and there seemed to be no impetus to drive this forward.

In the US, the challenge was whether the nation would join the EU in tackling emissions, or still wanted to see some form of promise from India and China before the US would enact policy at the national level, he added.

Pondering whether these nations would take the lead, Mr Pendleton explained that whilst some developing nations were coming together and acting more progressively on climate change than some of their developed counterparts, essentially these nations were not bound by legislation to reduce emissions.

At the moment, there was no movement towards cutting domestic emissions from nations such as China, India and Brazil, he added.

With the global economy worsening around the globe, Mr Pendleton argued that nations should be discussing how to accelerate technology so the international environment could unlock the realities of the debate and realise an efficient accord as soon as possible.

Following Mr Pendleton, Mr Lean declared that he was slightly more optimistic than the IPPR, arguing that India and China were doing a 'hell of a lot more' than they were given credit for in reducing domestic emissions.

The real concern was the scrabble for resources, he said, noting that a significan number of people felt that the answer to the energy crisis was coal. This set an appalling example to the world; in particular China and US, adding that by building new coal stations the UK would lose its moral authority.

The other solution the Government was 'going hell for leather for' was nuclear power, he said, which would take at least 15 years to realise. However, the UK might not even be able to build them due to complications in time and money, and bottlenecks around the world in terms of skills.

Mr Lean stated that he UK was therefore left with renewables, adding that Britain was well placed for this type of energy with the North Sea, but yet had the worst record in Europe for exploiting these natural resources.

Energy efficiency could also buy the UK some time, he said, and praised the recent fuel assistance package recently announced by the Government. There wasn't enough money to finance both nuclear, renewables and coal, he added and expressed concern that the Government would continue to chase fossil fuels.

Next to speak, Mr Eckerberg argued that technology was most definitely part of the solution in tackling climate change and in realising sustainable development.

Utility companies were a big part of the environmental problem, but were also key to reducing emissions, he said.

The goal was to have a profitably growing company with having as little effect on future generations as possible, he stated, adding that this goal had yet to be achieved.

The largest sustainable challenge as a large energy utility was greenhouse gas emissions, and that as a business, the company liked to set targets such as reducing emissions by half by 2030. This was a huge number, he acknowledged, but noted that decisions made today would be fully realised in 2030.

Companies such as Vatterfall also needed to base the debate on research, he noted, explaining that Vatterfall had conducted a study looking in to where it was possible to reduce emissions and at what cost. The study had concluded that the company could afford to make cuts in emissions, adding that tackling climate change was an affordable cost.

However, he argued that there was no silver bullet to tackling global warming, and that energy companies alone couldn't save the day. It was also important for energy companies to explain to there consumers how they could improve energy efficiency, and how to use products in a more environmentally friendly way.

He added that there was an onus on energy companies to invest in renewables and alternative sources of energy, explaining that Vatterfall had supported the opening of Sweden's third largest wind farm, and was also working in nuclear power in a number of nations.

Mr Eckerberg declared that carbon capture and storage would be the most important technology going forward, and praised the UK Government for taking the lead on CCS projects on a large scale.

The session was then opened to questions from the floor, with a member of the audience wondering how the international community would police nations such as China in actually following through on promises made to reduce emissions.

The Environment Secretary noted that China had proved that it could make change happen in a fast pace, arguing that the nation was going through the same changes in reducing emissions that all developed nations had been through.

The UNFCCC would oversee Chinese emissions, he said, noting that all nations had to report emissions to the body.

Mr Lean called for a move away from 'China bashing', arguing that no country in the world at the stage of industrialization that China was in now had shown as much concern for the environment as the nation was doing. China had also overtaken Britain in terms of money invested in clean forms of energy, he added.

Responding to a question on whether there was the technology available to actually make coal clean, Mr Benn explained that carbon capture and storage was not the silver bullet to tackle climate change, and that efforts needed to be made on all fronts to reduce emissions.

However, research was clear that coal produced more emissions than nuclear and electricity, he said, and that whilst it was impossible to rule out the use of coal, it was necessary to invest greater in renewables and micro-generation.

Also responding, Mr Lean declared that nuclear expansion would not happen at the pace promised, and regrettably would not 'do the job'.

Mr Eckerberg noted that although coal emitted a lot of carbon dioxide, there was nothing fundamentally bad about the fuel source, which was why Vatterfall was trying to clean up the fossil fuel.

Countries couldn't afford to choose between different types of energy, he said, adding that for energy security, it was essential for nations to be as diverse as possible.

Former Deputy Mayor of London, Nicky Gavron, wondered what role cities could play in reducing global emissions, noting that 80 per cent of the end use of emissions was 'smeared across urban buildings and residents'.

In response, Mr Benn praised those local authorities who had chosen to tackle climate change in their Local Area Agreements, noting that individual regions had a key role to play in reducing global emissions.

A member of the audience asked why individuals were not able to generate their own energy at home, accusing the Government of not investing sufficient funds which would enable people to develop self sufficient energy sources.

Mr Benn asserted that the regulatory regime in the UK was not wrong, but that the system did not work particularly well for small projects. It was important to reconnect ourselves with where energy came from, he argued, adding that communities did not want to live near any form of energy production, but wanted a secure and diverse energy supply.

© DeHavilland Information Services


A Foreign Policy Centre and PartyGaming event

Labour Fringe - 'Open for business? How governments and business should respond to renewed calls for protectionism in the EU'

Mon, 22 September 08 | DeHavilland Report - Event

Summary

The UK and the EU must combine social and democratic policies in order to enable people to adapt to globalisation, Peter Mandelson, Trade Commissioner asserted today.

Mr Mandelson was speaking at a Labour Party Conference Fringe entitled 'How Governments and business should respond to calls for EU protectionism', held by the Foreign Policy Centre and Party Gaming. Joining him on the panel was Pat McFadden MP, Employment relations and postal affairs Minister, Olivier Ferrand, Head of the left wing think tank Terra Nova, Arlene McCarthy MEP and Peter Reynolds of Party Gaming.

Opening the event, Peter Mandelson said that the debate about globalisation was about finding ways of making it work within a framework of social policy.

He recognised there were both winners and losers from globalisation and stressed the overwhelming benefits that the UK had received. However, he asserted that the losers in the debate were louder and more politically active than winners. He said losses were felt more sharply at the local level and that these anxieties needed to be addressed.

Mr Mandelson said that the challenge in this context was for governments to enable people to face these changes and stressed that liberal economics will not survive without modern social politics being added to this mix.

The Commissioner asserted that there was no aspect of globalisation that did not require European action and said only continents had the capacity to take on this challenge working with other continents.

Referring to drawn-out world trade talks, he recognised the numerous complexities that existed. The Commissioner stated that failure to capitalise on these talks would be a missed opportunity to create a system preventing protectionism from re-emerging and to anchor emerging markets into the trade system.

Failure on these issues would, he said, mean less protection from the forces of protectionism.

Mr McFadden agreed with Mr Mandelson that the UK had benefited from globalisation, but stressed that these impacts were not being felt evenly throughout the country.

He recognised peoples' genuine concerns that globalisation was a threat and stressed that rather than deny these, governments must help people make the most of the opportunities that existed.

Mr McFadden said that local political leadership must engage with the opportunities that globalisation can bring and said that unless these opportunities were captured, people would turn away from the political debate.

The Minister asserted that the government must focus on equipping workers and that this must include reform of the educational system to ensure aspirations and achievements corresponded with changes in the labour market.

From the European perspective, Mr Ferrand said that the old objective had been liberalisation and that the focus must now move towards innovation. He suggested returning to the Lisbon Strategy, the growth package for Europe, and ensuring that it focused on innovation.

He said that most gains from liberalisation had been reached within Europe, and that the challenge for Europe now was to concentrate on international negotiations to support liberalising agendas among trading partners.

Mr Ferrand asserted that the WTO was no longer the suitable place for discussions to take place due to the number of complexities and actors involved and Europe's diminishing role. He stated that the EU should focus on bilateral agreements where the Union had greatest persuasive power.

Ms McCarthy referred to historical accounts that protectionism does more harm than good in times of economic crisis.

She welcomed a number agreements made at the European level, such as the Services Directive, which removed trade barriers and she emphasised the importance of the four freedoms that underpin the European Community.

Ms McCarthy referred to the difficulties between European states as well as among the European States and said that the inclusion of newer members was helping to make Europe a more open community.

She said the big debate for the future would centre on opening up health services across Europe.

Mr Reynolds asserted that free trade, a principle that lies at the heart of Europe, was currently lacking in the gambling industry. He said that this was a highly innovative sector especially in key areas for e-commerce such as online payment and age verification systems.

Mr Reynolds criticised the prevalence of state monopolies in this sector stating that this prevented innovation and investment.

He recognised that the EU Commission was aware of the difficulties the sector was facing, but raised concerns that politics rather than European principles would prevail. Mr Reynolds stressed that there were significant challenges which the UK government needed to take on.

During the question and answer session, the panel were quizzed on what further action the UK government should take, the environment, concerns that market forces were overriding health issues, and fears that the social impact of globalisation were not being properly addressed.

A representative from the Norwegian Labour Party asked how to make the argument that internationalism was a liberal agenda in constituencies favouring decentralised systems and state subsidies.

In response, Mr Mandelson said that the issue was about policy mix being used. He said Europe needs to sustain active farming and a common agricultural policy, but that these policies must not distort trade nor penalise developing countries.

With reference to the environment, he said increased levels of trade would encourage the use of low-carbon technology. The commissioner said that protectionism is fundamentally anti-environmentalist as it limits the incentives that produce change.

Mr Mandelson asserted that the UK needed to help manage risks where they existed and offer support. He stressed that protection was not the same as protectionism and that governments must help citizens to face the challenges ahead.

Referring to the social pressures of globalisation, Mr McFadden said that a commitment to a common purpose was required and that the rules on entitlement must be considered fair. He said that the debate about global issues was not about the government trying to absolve itself of responsibility, rather it was about who had the right response.

Both Ms McCarthy and Mr Ferrand recognised the difficulties facing the gambling sector. Ms Mcarthy said that there had not been support for including gambling in the services directive but assured the audience that a review on the integrity of the gambling industry was being carried out.

Ms McCarthy asserted that Europe should use the challenges it faced to cooperate with international trading partners in order to improve overall standards.

© DeHavilland Information Services


A Foreign Policy Centre and KPMG event

Labour Fringe - 'The credit crunch: Can Europe make a difference?'

Mon, 22 September 08 | DeHavilland Report - Event

Summary

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke today called for more cooperation with Europe in a bid to stave off the ill effects of the global credit crunch in Britain.

He did, however dismiss the UK joining the Euro and cited the crises was also impacting on other countries within the Eurozone. Mr Clarke spoke in the fringe event: The Credit Crunch, Can Europe make a difference? He was joined on the panel by Mike Gapes MP, Denis MacShane MP and by Labour MEP Richard Howitt. The discussion was chaired by the chairman of the Foreign Policy Centre Stephen Twigg.

Mr Clarke said that the UK needed to adopt a closer working relationship with Europe but stopped short of calling for the UK to adopt the single currency. Instead he said what was needed was a global solution to cope with a global crisis. He called upon the governments of major world financial powers to work together to create a better regulated financial market so that the problems currently afflicting the UK do not deal such a big blow in any future economic downturn.

He noted that Europe had a major role to play in certain policy areas, pinpointing a common energy policy to be able to cope in times of high oil prices. Turning his attention to foreign policy, he said the EU had a huge influence to wield and could create another global voice in opposition or even coalition to the US. He concluded by stressing that the EU had a major part to play in building long term policies, and the UK had to be at the heart of this.

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Mike Gapes criticised the market by being too motivated by greed and the desire for short term economic profits. He continued by saying that unregulated markets could not be allowed to continue in the face of the damage that the current economic downturn was doing to ordinary people. He noted the need for stronger regulation was "urgent", claiming that although London's comparatively unregulated markets had performed well when the economy was strong, it also faced a lot more risk when the economy became weak.

He also warned that the Pound had suddenly started to look a lot more vulnerable than other stronger currencies during the economic crises, and noted that in comparison to the US dollar, the Euro and the Japanese Yen, the pound did not have adequate protection to deal with a major economic downturn.

He attacked the unregulated hedge fund market, and criticised the directors of Northern Rock and HBOS for not knowing what they had gotten themselves into by irresponsible lending.

He concluded with a rallying call to his Labour colleagues by saying the government had to be seen to be on the side of ordinary people, and to move away from the light touch regulation which was now doing so much damage to the financial markets.

Denis MacShane MP, spokesman on European issues opened his speech by quipping that US president George Bush had nationalised more banks than Lenin! He said the current trend in the banking sector in the UK was worrying, and expressed his concern of the Lloyds TSB/HBOS merger which would now control two-thirds of the mortgage market.

Following on from his fellow MPs, Mr MacShane said the easy search for profit had now gone so wrong that banks were struggling when the financial markets were downturning.

He called for a new style of slow capitalism, where economic growth was slower, yet the proceeds of growth trickled down to the rest of society continuously. He said the chase for quick growth came at a price when the economy took a turn for the worse. He concluded by warning that the old currencies of the EU, the peseta, the lira, for example, would have been ruined by speculators and in a far worse position had they not had the backing of the ECB and the cushion of the Euro.

Richard Howitt, the Labour MEP continued with the theme of calling for better market regulation, saying there had to be a better match between risk and regulation. He also said that the banking sector had been scrutinised at EU level. He did concede however there was need for a general debate on how far national regulations should be harmonised at EU level. He also said the right type of regulation was needed, claiming that Germany had one of the most regulated banking sectors in Europe, and even their banks had not been immune from the current financial turmoil.

In the question and answers session, several members of the audience raised the idea of just how much the EU should regulate UK markets. Charles Clarke noted that Mervyn King of the Bank of England said the FSA and the Government had not been allowed to act sooner during the Northern Rock crises because of EU regulation. He said that this proved the UK needed to be at the heart of Europe to make sure this sort of thing does not happen again.

Dennis MacShane concluded the debate by supporting Mr Clarke's statement, saying that the Conservatives wanted to take Britain back to the edges of Europe by reversing the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and this would prove disastrous if the UK is to play a part in future European regulation of the finance markets.

© DeHavilland Information Services

This information was provided by DeHavilland Public Affairs Monitoring Service. For more information about DeHavilland services please visit www.dehavilland.co.uk or email info@dehavilland.co.uk.

Download FPC Fringe Programme - Labour Party Conference 2008 (170 kilobyte PDF)