Brown finds global stage with IMF job

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GORDON BROWN is to take on an international role as chairman of a key committee of the International Monetary Fund.

The Chancellor's appointment, announced last night, was welcomed by the Prime Minister as evidence of Britain's increasingly important role in world affairs. George Robertson, the Secretary of State for Defence, was appointed to head Nato in July.

Although Mr Brown will be formally inaugurated at the IMF's annual meeting in Washington later this month, he will take up the post immediately.

Tony Blair welcomed the news yesterday. "This is a tremendous accolade both for the Chancellor and for Britain. It shows the high regard in which Gordon is held both at home and abroad, the leading influence of British ideas in the international financial community and his personal leadership on issues such as Third World debt," he said.

Mr Brown will head the Interim Committee of the IMF, established in 1974 to advise the fund on the management of the international monetary system and to deal with any sudden shocks to the system. He will replace Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who resigned in May when he was made President of Italy.

The Chancellor said he hoped to ensure the committee played an effective role. "This is an important time for international financial institutions and I am looking forward to leading the debate about reforms to the committee to give it a permanent standing as well as further reforms to bring greater stability to the international financial system," he said.

Mr Brown will push for greater stability to avoid a repeat of the global financial crisis of the past two years. He is to press for better communication between different nations' financial regulators. He wants to ensure that disasters such as the Asian crash cannot be repeated, and that investors have better advance warning of impending problems.

Last October, the IMF's annual meeting agreed a package of reforms designed to improve transparency.

Treasury officials said last night that the appointment reflected international approval of Mr Brown's stance on Third World debt. In Cologne earlier this year, he successfully negotiated a deal which would reduce the stock of debt by pounds 70 billion.

The appointment ensures Britain a leading role in international economic policy despite remaining outside the euro zone. It will keep the UK at the table in meetings where Europe is increasingly likely to be represented by the European Central Bank and one of the euro-11 finance ministers.

Mr Brown's formal role will be to help to put the Interim Committee on a permanent footing under the new name of the International and Financial Monetary Committee. The Chancellor will lead discussions on reforms that follow proposals put forward by the G7 finance ministers earlier this year. Discussion will also focus on pressing ahead with the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, through which a reduction in Third World debt has been engineered.

t Union members are deeply distrustful of the euro, unlike their leaders, according to a Mori poll published yesterday.

The survey appeared ahead of next week's TUC conference, which is expected to urge the Government to prepare the economy to join the euro, so that Britain has the option of adopting the currency early in the next Parliament.

The poll, conducted for the Transport and General Workers' Union, showed that 21 per cent of union members were strongly opposed to British participation compared with 14 per cent who strongly supported it.

Another 34 per cent were "general opposed" to the euro, but could be brought around if they thought it would be good for the economy. Some 24 per cent were "generally in favour" but might change their minds if they thought it would be bad for the economy.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the union, argued that the figures proved that there was no backing for early entry, but vindicated his union's support for the Government's "prepare and decide" policy.