Brown pledges new measures to boost economy

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling pledged fresh measures to bolster the economy today as the grim toll of job losses continued to mount.

Despite another interest rate cut, taking the cost of central borrowing to its lowest ever level, the Prime Minister and his Chancellor acknowledged they would have to do more to ensure the banks made more credit available.

That was the message delivered to a gathering of about 200 people invited to a "listening" event with ministers in Liverpool, ahead of a full Cabinet meeting in the city this afternoon.

The event, designed to demonstrate that ministers are in touch with the country as families and businesses struggle with the recession, was overshadowed by the announcement that 1,200 jobs were being axed by Nissan in Sunderland.

Mr Brown, speaking before news of the latest job losses broke, said: "In the next few weeks we are looking at the measures we can take to take the next step, and take it with effect, and that is to get the banks to resume the lending that is necessary.

"We know now how important banks are to the system, but if they can't supply finance, and if they don't keep the money moving in the economy, and if they are not able to fund new business loans or fund mortgages, then we have lost an important function that is vital to every part of the country.

"So we want to move from the capitalisation of the banks to securing the funding that is necessary, for business projects, for home ownership and for the everyday business concerns that people have in the banking system."

His comments came as the Bank of England was announcing the latest interest cut, taking the base rate to 1.5%, and amid mounting concern about when the economy will begin to recover.

Mr Darling told the same gathering that banks should respond to today's interest rate cut with improved lending facilities.

"We have to ensure that having ensured the banking system is there, that it starts to lend, to businesses and to people," he said.

"We've announced a number of measures to do that and as I've made clear over the next week or so further measures will be necessary.

"The Bank of England has again cut interest rates this lunchtime to 1.5%, the lowest they've ever been.

"We need to make sure that that lending is passed on and the availability of credit is available for businesses."

Mr Brown and Mr Darling later told the Cabinet, meeting in Liverpool's Arena and Convention Centre, that they continue to try to help families and businesses now while intensifying talks with international leaders of the forthcoming G20 to be hosted by the UK.

In addition to efforts to increase lending by the banks, Mr Brown said earlier there would be further action to help the economy cope with rising unemployment.

"You'll see over the next few weeks, just as we announced (yesterday) 35,000 more apprenticeships this year, we want to see what we can do in every region of the country to help make the jobs of the future, but also to give people the skills that are necessary for the jobs that will come."

Mr Brown was given a tour of Liverpool's regenerated docks area by Phil Redmond, the Hollyoaks and Brookside creator who has been spearheading Liverpool's year as 2008 European Capital of Culture.

It is the second day of a regional tour by the Prime Minister, who yesterday visited Derby and will tomorrow be in the West Midlands, South West and Wales.

In Liverpool, he hailed the city's tourist success over the past year as European Capital of Culture, saying it was an example to the rest of the country.

"I think the whole country has looked to Liverpool and learnt from Liverpool," he said.

He said the British tourist industry must grasp the "huge opportunity" that globalisation would present over the coming decades.

Speaking to a national tourism summit, Mr Brown said the UK stood to attract millions more people in the years ahead as the world economy doubled in 20 years.

"People are going to want to travel more. There is no sign that that is going to end - in fact it is going to be stepped up remarkably over the next few years," he said.

"And the tourism industry in Britain, with our great cultural heritage, with our historic monuments, our great ability to project culture that's based on the English language, with our sporting achievements and functions, with our willingness to be creative and innovative, we have this huge opportunity for the future."

The Prime Minister said four million British jobs depended on tourism, which generated £115 billion a year.

He added: "We are in difficult world times, I don't think anybody is in any doubt about that.

"We are seeing the birth of a new type of world economy and we have got to be the leaders of it."