Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

Darling defends summit progress

Alistair Darling
Mr Darling said governments had to help people through the downturn

Alistair Darling has defended progress at a global financial summit amid Tory claims that the PM failed to secure a global deal on co-ordinated tax cuts.

The chancellor said some countries may cut taxes while others bring forward spending plans but they had shown a new "determination to act".

Gordon Brown has hailed the G20 summit in Washington as "historic".

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said he had failed to secure consensus for a global financial stimulus.

Mr Osborne told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "There is not some global consensus, despite what Gordon Brown says, that people should borrow without limit, increase taxes without showing how they are going to pay for them."

'Where appropriate'

He said the 3,500-word long "communique" from the G20 summit of the world's 20 biggest economies, dedicated only 21 words to fiscal stimulus.

These say it should "be done where appropriate and provided it is consistent with fiscal sustainability", he added.

"Gordon Brown told us before going to Washington that it was all about getting a global agreement for a fiscal stimulus package. He has not done that."

We're all pointing in the same direction, we're supporting our economies. Now, how you do that will depend on what's right for an individual economy
Alistair Darling

The final communique from the summit called on governments to use fiscal measures like tax cuts and public spending to stimulate economies to "rapid effect".

But it adds countries should use such measures as appropriate to their own circumstances.

Asked about the caveats in BBC interviews on Sunday, Chancellor Alistair Darling said: "What we do in this country will be different to what, say, the Chinese have done, the Australians, what France might do, what America might do.

"But the fact is, at the end of the day, we're all pointing in the same direction, we're supporting our economies. Now, how you do that will depend on what's right for an individual economy."

Tax cuts

He added: "Where I am more confident than I was perhaps a few weeks ago is I think there is now every chance that because countries across the world are willing to act together, provided they do that, then we can get through this far more quickly than would otherwise be the case."

There has been speculation the government will unveil multi-billion pound tax breaks for low-income families, through the tax credit and winter fuel payment systems.

Mr Darling said it was right "to do everything you can to help people get through a difficult period" but refused to be drawn on the nature or scope of any fiscal measures ahead of the Pre-Budget Report on 24 November.

But he said the government wanted to use public sector works projects to boost the economy and would work to ensure people who lost their jobs found new ones.

"The key thing is that you are ready to take the action and that you don't take the Tory view that you just leave people to get on with it," he said.

For the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable said any tax cuts had to be "substantial" - in the region of 15bn-20bn - if it was to get people spending and restore confidence.

He said the G20 summit had not seen any "substantial" deals but had seen some important "positive symbolic things" - such as Brazil, China and India joining "rich, white countries" around the table.

World leaders have welcomed the outcome of the G20 summit and pledged to make progress before a second summit in April.

But some analysts said the summit was long on promises and short on action - as there was no clear pledge for co-ordinated tax and interest rate cuts.

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