Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 14:18 UK

Brown seeks clarity from Merkel

A man passing a screen with the FTSE financial index
The National Economic Council was set up to tackle the current financial crisis

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will speak to his German counterpart Angela Merkel later to clarify her stance on protecting German bank accounts.

There has been confusion over whether she is offering a 100% guarantee for all private bank accounts, which may force the UK to follow suit.

It appears Germany will not legislate to formally increase protection.

But Mr Brown will seek further details after chairing his first National Economic Council meeting.

The new panel, which meets twice-weekly in the Cobra emergency briefing room in the Cabinet Office, is designed to deal with the economic crisis.

Speculation

Ministers and some high-ranking civil servants will co-ordinate efforts to help people deal with issues such as higher food and energy prices.

Chancellor Alistair Darling is also due to make a Commons statement on the credit crisis at about 1530 BST.

The prime minister's spokesman said earlier that Mr Brown was planning to speak to Ms Merkel.

A comment from Ms Merkel at the weekend sparked speculation that Germany was about to follow Ireland in guaranteeing all deposits in its banks.

Our understanding of the situation is that the German government will not be bringing forward legislation for a legally-binding guarantee of bank deposits
Prime Minister's spokesman

The government has been seeking to clarify her remarks amid concerns that Britain would have to follow suit to stop savings ebbing away from British banks.

But the BBC understands she was making a political commitment that savers would not lose money, rather than guaranteeing unlimited 100% protection.

The prime minister's spokesman said: "Our understanding of the situation is that the German government will not be bringing forward legislation for a legally-binding guarantee of bank deposits."

'Pragmatic' approach

Last week the UK raised the limit on savings protected under the Financial Services Compensation scheme from 35,000 to 50,000.

There had been speculation Monday's meeting would consider a possible emergency bail-out scheme, under which the Treasury could give the banks billions of pounds in return for shares, if the crisis deepens.

But Mr Brown's spokesman said: "The government is not going to speculate on possible policy options."

These are dramatic times and we are looking to the chancellor for leadership
Vince Cable
Lib Dems

Writing in the Financial Times, Conservative leader David Cameron said his party would "approach any proposals in a constructive and pragmatic way".

He wrote: "It is possible to imagine the circumstances in which government injections of capital, with proper safeguards and strict conditions, may be the best way to protect the long-term interests of the taxpayer."

Treasury Chief Secretary Yvette Cooper said those at Monday's meeting had discussed pressures on the financial system and the wider implications for voters : "This is not just about what's happening in the banking system; it is also about the implications of that for people and businesses across the country."

She said the government had already taken "very substantial action" but was prepared to introduce further "very radical" measures if necessary.

Downing Street says the council offers a new approach to the immense economic challenges facing the country.

However, some experts have questioned how new it is, suggesting it is just a cabinet committee renamed.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable told the BBC: "These are dramatic times and we are looking to the chancellor for leadership. This is not a time for having economic policy determined by a committee of 19 ministers - it's leadership and it has to be decisive and it has to come from the chancellor."


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