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economic situation is dire


ianrobo1
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Pay scales are a different matter, but I have a simple view of that. If you think that you are worth more money, ask. If they don't agree with you find another job and leave.

Again, you'r totally correct.

But if the running of the company by the govt means the first thing employees do en masse, is defect to somewhere where there are jobs, at more reasonable pay scales, is that a resonsible way to look after the company? Moving forward, RBS have made huge losses, but is collapsing the company morale and losing staff the way to turnthings round? Remember, the losses made were done so by agroup of less than 500, out of a total staff of 177'000, and by a relatively small part of the overall group.

Do you kill the head of the patient whilst the heart is unhealthy?

I can really understand that those who dont understand the low pay/decent bonus balance of the average bank employee, the majority of whom earn less than£ 25k pa would be against these payments. What gets me is that those who know better, such as MP's, many of whom have close "relationships" with them, were simply making political capital, now willing to distinguish between the city boys with their bonuses of 3-4 times basic salary, and most of us, looking at 10%. It was just a stick to beat us all with for point scoring.

The fact the Govt can't as major shareholder bring itself to treat us all the same, shocks me genuinely. They couldn't "prefer" one part of the civil service over another, in the way they have bank emplyees.

Thats what makes me bitter.

Interesting.

If you work is as good as your reasoning I think that you would walk out of the office with a bonus under your arm in my company :winkold:

Bitterness is understandable, but ultimately the only person it affects is you. I have no idea how old you are but if you are a younger person with time on your side I would channel that bitterness into more positive energy and take a watching brief. If plenty of people are leaving your organisation that creates opportunities for those further down the ladder. Mass departures tend to change management thinking and focus on keeping the good employees who are left. The natural follow on from that is of course those employees being promoted and moved up the pay scale.

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indie

The SEC thus conforms to a familiar pattern: deregulate just when markets need to be hemmed in most and then, after the horse has bolted, pile it all back on again. In truth, this is the point at which markets need it least. The salutary lessons of the last bust will make them well-behaved of their own accord for years to come. Hey ho.
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Brown doesn't say sorry:

No fault, no debate

The longer the Prime Minister remains silent about the mistakes of the past, the less convincing he is as a leader for the present, let alone the future

Mr Brown is not going to apologise. He has made that perfectly clear by his silence, if nothing else. Alas, he is wrong. There was a moment last October when we glimpsed a different Gordon Brown as, seemingly energised by the financial calamity, he showed a boldness of action that suggested he might not be a prisoner of his past. But since then he has been the dour and defensive Prime Minister that we have grown accustomed to. There are three reasons why he should say mea culpa.

First, we need to try to understand the causes of the financial crash. We have proximate explanations but it will take a long time for us to arrive at any deeper conclusions. If the Prime Minister admitted

to his own responsibility in the financial meltdown, that would set the tone for British society to enter into a more meaningful debate about the debacle. If the Prime Minister shows contrition, it encourages everyone else to do likewise. That is what leadership is about. And after a decade of gross excess, contrition is surely an attitude that should be encouraged.

Second, until and unless Brown expresses some responsibility for what has happened, there are strong grounds for believing that he has only a superficial understanding of why it all went wrong. Not being privy to his innermost thoughts, I am not clear whether he really believes he is blameless or whether he thinks that any admission of culpability will be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Beyond a point it probably doesn’t matter, because the net effect is more or less the same. But if he genuinely thinks he is not responsible, then he is never going to understand what has happened and why. And if he believes that he was complicit but cannot bring himself to say so publicly, then he will be unable to lead any serious discussion about what has gone wrong.

In practice, I fear, it is probably a combination of the two. He cannot bring himself to admit that his whole strategy as chancellor was deeply flawed and that the New Labour project was fundamentally misconceived and has now disintegrated. It is too close to saying that your life’s work was a failure. To let go of one’s past, especially the ideas that have informed it, is extremely difficult. So Brown is in denial mode – both personally and publicly. The consequences are clear for all to see. When the crisis first broke, he claimed that Britain was better placed than other nations to ride out the recession. This was patently untrue; in fact, the contrary was the case. But to make such a bold statement – which could be disproved so quickly – suggests that he really believed it, that his own sterling work as chancellor would serve his country well in the coming hour of need.

Even more telling has been his handling of the banks. The boldness of his response last autumn is now a distant memory. Ever since, each new package has proved not only too little, but also too weak. As he is an architect of the previous era, this is hardly surprising. He is accustomed to handling the City with kid gloves, promoting rather than doubting the bankers’ cause, defending their bonus culture rather than deprecating it. The insurance policy for toxic assets is widely regarded as far too generous to the banks. His political rhetoric towards them is behind the public mood. The reason is simple: he is too steeped in the neoliberal, deregulated era to be able to extricate himself from it. If he had shown a willingness to admit a measure of responsibility for the past, this would have acted not only publicly but also in his own mind as some kind of settlement with the past, as a way of closing one era and opening a new and very different one.

Third, it is impossible to embrace this new era, and to understand what it might be, until what was wrong with the past, and responsibility for it, are recognised. The consequence is that Brown is a man of the past masquerading as the leader for the future. The longer he remains silent about the past, the less convincing he is as a leader for the present, let alone the future. The contrast between the US president, Barack Obama, and Brown when they met in Washington, DC this month was striking: Obama has no problem presenting himself as an agent of change because that is what he is; he has no stake in the past and his victory was largely a result of the financial meltdown. Brown, in contrast, is a product of the old, discredited era, just like Bill Clinton. The real need now is to break with the past, rather than emphasise its continuities with the present. What do 1997-2007 and 2007-“who knows when” have in common, apart from Brown’s desire to defend his role as chancellor?

In refusing to break with the past, Brown is preventing the Labour Party from engaging properly with the crisis and thereby with the future. Given Brown’s denial about the past, the Labour Party can only adopt, at best, a crablike posture towards the crisis. As a result, the discussion in the Labour Party has rarely risen above the banal and pedestrian. It is constantly behind public opinion. The debate that should be taking place is largely absent, or reduced to strangled utterances – a samizdat tape in the case of the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls. I want to hear what he thinks about the crisis and its causes: I am sure he has much to say. Ditto the Treasury duo of Alistair Darling and Yvette Cooper; and many others. But while the leader remains obstinately silent, there can be no proper discussion and the Labour Party is denied the chance to engage with the present.

The consequence? Labour will enter the next election as the voice and defender of the past. And only after its defeat at the next general election will the discussion that should be happening now commence

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Council pension funds suing RBS

Two local authority pension funds have told the BBC they are suing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) for compensation.

The Merseyside and North Yorkshire funds accuse RBS of withholding the extent of the bank's problems before its government rescue last year.

They will be represented by Cherie Booth QC, wife of Tony Blair.

The legal action against RBS, which has declined to comment, has been launched in the US. Other UK pension funds are said to be considering joining them.

Stephen Everard, managing director of class actions specialists Goal Group, thinks they should.

"Local authorities not participating in US class actions such as the RBS case risk losing out on a massive opportunity to seek compensation and plug their escalating pension gap," he said.

But others are less sure.

"RBS is likely to object to English or European investors being included as claimants in a US class action, on the basis that the US courts do not have jurisdiction to hear those disputes," predicted Guy Pendell, litigation partner at city law firm CMS Cameron McKenna.

...more on link

I'm trying to imagine the look on Gordo's face. :lol:

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Anti-social behaviour?

Revenue investigates Barclays tax mole claims

HM Revenue & Customs was tonight investigating explosive allegations about tax avoidance schemes operated by Barclays Bank, made by a whistleblower in the firm and apparently substantiated by leaked documents.

HMRC's moves came as the government announced steps to try to discourage tax avoidance by Britain's banks, now frequently dependent on state aid. The chancellor launched plans for a code of practice in which banks would be expected to abide by the "spirit of the law".

The whistleblower in Barclays' apparently troubled structured-finance department at Canary Wharf has disclosed to the Liberal Democrats the existence of a scheme condenamed Project Knight.

In memos seen by the Guardian, executives from SCM, Barclay's structured capital markets division, sought approval for a 2007 plan to sink a total of more than $16bn into US loans.

Tax benefits were to be generated by an elaborate circuit of Caymans companies, US partnerships and Luxembourg subsidiaries, in a $4bn deal with North Carolina Branch Banking & Trust Co (BB&T).

Memos detailing a number of alleged tax avoidance schemes in elaborately structured international loans were published by the Guardian on its website.

The Guardian today identified two similar, larger schemes which Barclays apparently carried out. One, involving an entity called Pelleas, involved a $6bn loan and the other, Claudas, swallowed up $7bn.

The chancellor, Alastair Darling, told parliament: "I have asked HM Revenue & Customs to publish shortly a draft code of practice on taxation for the banking sector – so that banks will comply not just with the letter but the spirit of the law."

Darling said the draft would be published by the time of the budget next month and that the full version would be introduced as soon as possible afterwards.

Although he did not give details of how it would be enforced, he said the banks dependent on taxpayer support would be expected to comply. "The public would expect that, if it is supporting the bank system, then those banks are prepared to abide by that code," he said.

Darling said the government had taken action against tax avoidance in every budget since 1997 but that, as soon as one loophole was closed, another opened up. "Partly because the very complexity of banking, the way in which, sometimes just investment banks and sometimes others have sought to develop instruments in order to avoid pay taxes has in itself posed a systemic threat to the system."

The Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, Matthew Oakeshott, said that the leaked documents showed that HMRC attempts to keep up with the banks' tax avoidance were like "a fat policeman chasing a speeding Ferrari".

HMRC said: "We have received papers relating to allegations of tax avoidance in the banking industry which we are studying carefully."

A spokesman for Barclays insisted that all its transactions were discussed with HMRC. "Project Knight was voluntarily and fully disclosed to HMRC, though there was no statutory obligation to do so."

A senior former tax official familiar with Barclays' tax strategies said HMRC was not always able to realise what lay behind the limited disclosures by the bank.

Project Knight appeared to be a scheme to obtain double tax reliefs in different countries, he said.

"By my reckoning, the scheme, which has been highly engineered to get around tax rules, looks set to save Barclays about £60m a year in tax on a £4bn loan outlay."

He said HMRC "will not be provided with anything about the counterparties, and the structures which each scheme employs will not usually be volunteered. A group the size of Barclays will have hundreds of subsidiaries, and will submit its accounts and computations by the vanload to a relatively small team of investigators.

"There is plenty of scope for things to be missed or misunderstood, and the bank will not only volunteer nothing, leaving the inspector to ask precisely the right questions, but will also, with the help of advisers, craft replies to HMRC questions with a view to giving factually correct but as unhelpful answers as possible."

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IMF poised to print billions of dollars in 'global quantitative easing'

The International Monetary Fund is poised to embark on what analysts have described as "global quantitative easing" by printing billions of dollars worth of a global "super-currency" in an unprecedented new effort to address the economic crisis.

By Edmund Conway

Last Updated: 9:07AM GMT 16 Mar 2009

Alistair Darling and senior figures in the US Treasury have been encouraging the Fund to issue hundreds of billions of dollars worth of so-called Special Drawing Rights in the coming months as part of its campaign to prevent the recession from turning into a global depression.

Should the move, which is up for discussion by the summit of G20 finance ministers this weekend, be adopted, it will represent a global equivalent of the Bank of England's plan to pump extra cash into the UK economy.

However, economists warned that the scheme could cause a major swell of inflation around the world as the newly-created money filters through the system. The idea has been suggested by a number of key figures, including billionaire investor George Soros and US Treasury adviser Ted Truman.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the IMF, said: "The principle behind it is that everyone would get bonus dollars and instead of the Federal Reserve having to print them, everyone gets them.

"The objective is to create a windfall of cash. However if everybody goes out and spends the money it could be very inflationary."

link

This is when the bankers suck up all the nations wealth, buckle up, this ride is about to get bumpy.

( i wonder what they are going to call our new global currency? I vote we call it the Lash i.e how many Lashes for a tin of beans.)

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More tepid cuts

Cold comfort as npower finally cuts electricity bills

Millions of customers of the energy company npower will see their electricity bills fall after it became the last of the big power firms to cut prices. However gas customers with the company will be angered by its decision leave their tariffs at historically high levels.

The company, which has around 6 million customers, said it would be reducing electricity prices by 8% with effect from 31 March, bringing its customers' electricity bills down by an average of £43 a year. But despite dramatic falls in the price of wholesale gas there will be no change in the price it charges domestic gas customers.

Last August npower raised its gas prices by 26% blaming record wholesale prices. However since then, the price it pays for wholesale gas has fallen away alarmingly on the back of the oil price reduction. Kevin Miles, CEO of npower retail, said: "Wholesale prices are still higher than in 2007, but we are determined to reduce prices for our electricity customers."

He said changes to prepayment gas and electricity charges last December meant customers who bought their power in that way were no longer paying a premium over the standard tariff.

He added: "We will continue to keep our costs and prices under review to ensure that we remain competitive and give our customers value for money."

Npower is the last of the big six power firms to reduce its prices. In February, Eon cut its electricity bills by 9% and also chose not to cut gas bills. British Gas did the opposite. It cut gas bills by 10%, but chose to leave its electricity bills unchanged.

Scott Byrom, utilities manager at moneysupermarket.com, said: "Npower's customers will no doubt be disappointed to see no change to gas prices.

"Those on a standard tariff will benefit from just over £35 being knocked off their bills – down to £1,245 a year. This cut from npower means on average British bill payers have seen a 2.3% decrease to the cost of their gas, and a 4.6% cut to electricity so far this year – cold comfort for those still struggling to pay their bills for energy used during the winter months."

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Don't sell the yacht; don't pawn the diamond ring; don't rent out your arsehole - it's all over. Bernanke says we're bouncing back....

Efforts to nurture the first “green shoots” of economic recovery, led by an upbeat Federal Reserve Chairman forecasting that America’s recession will end “probably this year”, helped to spur a fragile rally yesterday in global markets.

London’s shares climbed for the third day in succession, with investors, buoyed by reports from Barclays that it had a strong start to the year, pushing the FTSE 100 index up another 2.9 per cent after gaining 6.3 per cent last week.

The Dow Jones industrial average initially shrugged off dismal data from US manufacturers, showing that output had slumped to its lowest level in almost seven years. But its early gains were eventually wiped out after American Express said that consumers were having trouble making credit card payments.

Ben Bernanke, giving the first interview by a Fed Reserve Chairman since 1987, appeared to reinforce a concerted effort by President Obama to talk the economy up. He emphasised that the prospect of America entering its first depression in seven decades had been averted, saying: “I think we’ve gotten past that.”

Although his confidence was couched with a warning that a recovery would not take root next year unless banks could be persuaded to lend more freely and financial markets stabilised, he said: “I do see green shoots – not everywhere – but certainly in some of the markets that we’ve been functioning in.”

Citigroup, the Bank of America and Barclays have all indicated in the past week that earnings have been rising since the start of the year, while figures suggest US retail sales may have started to bottom out after a six-month rout. “The financial melt-down and accompanying depression scenario has been taken off the table,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. “The heart of the problem is the banking system, and news coming out of that sector suggests that we may have turned a corner.”

There was also more positive news from the 16-nation eurozone as consumer prices edged up in February. However, the reprieve may be short-lived as economists expect inflation to fall again next month.

Hiroyuki Fukunaga, chief executive of the research firm Investrust, also suggested the market rallies could be short-lived. “The market is still fragile, so we shouldn’t be overly optimistic,” he said.

In Britain, Gordon Brown’s focus remains fixed on his prospects of securing coordinated international action on the economy at the G20 summit. He did not echo Mr Bernanke’s optimism yesterday. Instead he said the “speed at which we recover” would depend on what deals could be done at the summit in London next month and a later G8 gathering in Italy.

Mr Brown refused yesterday to rule out a further economic stimulus in the April budget. He indicated that his growth forecasts would be sharply revised downwards and that his plans would be squeezed by tight public finances but he refused to be drawn on what the chancellor would say in the April 22 budget.

- A leading economic forecaster said last night that about 1.3 million British workers would lose their jobs over the next two years. Oxford Economics said that the west Midlands, Wales and the north of England could take more than a decade to recover from job losses. London and the South East are predicted to bounce back to prerecession employment levels in five years.

There's no place like home; there's no place like home; there's no place like home...

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Mandy's man

PETER Mandelson has picked a new post boss. His choice of Donald Brydon as new chairman of Royal Mail shows that, when in doubt, Labour reaches for a banker.

Brydon will get £200,000 a year for his two days a week at Royal Mail. This might seem like a lot to you or me, but he has become used to big money from his long banking career.

Brydon started off with a 14-year stint at Barclays, followed by a job as chief executive of Axa Investment. He still sits on Axa's board, although he stepped down as CEO in 2002.

He has always been an outspoken banker, but unfortunately spent a lot of time getting it wrong in a loud voice.

In 2003, leading investor Warren Buffet was predicting that complex financial derivatives were "financial weapons of mass destruction." Buffet is not a radical - he is one of the world's richest men, equally happy helping Arnold Schwarzenegger or Barack Obama.

But when Brydon heard Buffet's warnings, he felt the urge to speak out. He seems to have been particularly worried that criticism of the financial system had come from within, from a businessman like Buffet.

Brydon chose to respond at a joint conference of British and US bankers. "We all need to be on guard lest regulations stifle initiatives in the retail application of derivatives," he warned.

With his help, the meeting turned out to be something of an anti-Buffet rally, with other speakers denouncing Buffet as "frustrated." As it turned out, Buffet was right and Brydon was wrong.

Brydon also felt the need to stand with then US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan against the critics of derivatives.

In 2003, Brydon claimed that, "as investor confidence has been rocked so the importance of risk mitigation instruments such as derivatives has increased."

But derivatives actually added to the instability of the system - had they been properly regulated in 2003, we might not be in the mess we are in now.

Brydon's worries that derivatives might be reined in stemmed from his general broad dislike of regulation.

He was also head of the Financial Services Authority "practitioner panel," a group of bankers brought in to advise Britain's financial regulator.

Unfortunately, their voices were heard all too well. The FSA remained deferential to the bankers and failed to stop the financial recklessness that caused the current crisis.

Brydon used his place on the panel as a pulpit from which to attack the "regulatory burden" and argue for the "need to remain vigilant that, in developing regulation, a point of no return is avoided where innovation, flexibility and competition are threatened."

His own firm Axa showed why tighter regulation should have been imposed. In 2003, Axa Investment boss Brydon argued for less FSA regulation. In 2004, the FSA hit sister firm Axa Sun Life with a record £500,000 fine for misleading customers.

Mandelson described Brydon as "a proven business leader and successful chairman."

Brydon's experience certainly extends beyond banking. Unfortunately, he seems to have brought a banker's mind to his industrial jobs.

He became chairman of high-tech medical firm Amersham and sold the company to US giant GE. He then became chairman of engineering firm Smiths Industries and promptly sold off its aerospace arm, again to GE.

The Independent was driven to say: "The former fund manager seems to be developing something of a knack for selling British publicly quoted assets at supercharged prices to overseas concerns."

Subpostmasters and posties will not be reassured by a new boss who loves to flog things off.

Like many new Labour appointments, Brydon is also a longstanding Tory. As a student, he was president of the Edinburgh University Conservatives, befriending fellow Tories such as Malcolm Rifkind.

In 2001, he signed a letter to the press describing Ken Clarke as "the best hope to lead the Conservative Party back to government and create the social and economic climate necessary for business to flourish."

Obviously this is handy, because Ken Clarke is likely to be his boss after the next election.

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Well, it seems that I am just about to join the 2 million. I'm on gardening leave now awaiting a settlement offer. 7 of us where placed in this position yesterday, and the FD of the company has admitted that they cant do it by the book because obviously they cant sack me, because I have done nowt wrong, and they cant make us redundant because there are vacancies at the company, albeit in a slightly different role, so an offer will be made reflecting my salary, length of service (passed the probationary a month ago), and a bit extra because of the situation......

.....The hard bit is finding another job now......

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RBS boss 'has taken £3m lump sum'

Former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin has already taken a £3m advance on his £703,000 annual pension, Treasury Minister Lord Myners has said.

The revelation came as Lord Myners said he "did not negotiate, settle, or approve" Sir Fred's pension.

Speaking to the Treasury Committee, Lord Myners reiterated that the decision was made by the RBS board.

Lord Myners said RBS directors had been wrong in assuming they could not reduce Sir Fred's controversial pension deal.

He said they had "consistently misdirected themselves" over the issue.

Sir Fred resigned from RBS in October after the bank needed a government rescue, and has continued to refuse to agree to have his pension reduced.

Lord Myners said it was still not too late for Sir Fred "to do the right thing".

He added that Sir Fred had indicated that he may return the £3m advance - but only in exchange for a larger overall pension pot. This already stands at £16.9m.

...more on link

Lord Myners said, "The decision on the pension was made by the board directors of RBS. I made no decision

My approval was not sought, I was given no information, I sought no information."

What? :shock:

What also seems strange is that the BBC News channel is reporting that this advance is still 'an option' whereas their website from which this article is plucked says he's already taken it.

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Mandy's man

PETER Mandelson has picked a new post boss. His choice of Donald Brydon as new chairman of Royal Mail shows that, when in doubt, Labour reaches for a banker.

Brydon will get £200,000 a year for his two days a week at Royal Mail. This might seem like a lot to you or me, but he has become used to big money from his long banking career.

It really is a shame that mandy is allowed to continue in job. No one wants to sell off the postal network apart from him. And it's a shame the announcement comes when another group of people are trying to look for a positive way forward instead of privatising anything that moves.

New coalition launches campaign for 'Post Bank'

A comprehensive proposal for a new ‘Post Bank’ to run as part of the Post Office Network is launched today (Tuesday 17 March) by a new coalition of trade unions, a business organisation, pensioner and pressure groups and charities.

The proposal for the Post Bank will be formally launched at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Jon Cruddas MP this afternoon, with cross-party speakers including Pat McFadden, Minister for Employment and Post Offices, Vince Cable, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Phillip Blond, Director of the Progressive Conservatism project at Demos.

The model for a Post Bank proposed by the coalition would:

# provide more financial services to people and businesses currently not served by high street lenders,

# strengthen the role of post offices and the Post Office Network – making it more viable, creating new job opportunities, and securing its role for the future,

# ensure a stable source of finance in the heart of communities, particularly for the three million people still not using banks and the many small businesses looking for alternative sources of finance,

# link the productive economy with finance through a return to the form of ‘relationship banking’ abandoned by our biggest banks.

The Post Office and its network of 11,500 branches (almost twice the number of the major high street banks combined) is a unique national resource which communities, businesses and individuals around the UK depend on. The Post Bank coalition believes there is a unique opportunity to answer both concerns around secure and equitable finance and the future of the post office network by setting up a Post Bank.

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BROWN APOLOGISES FOR NOT BEING EVEN MORE INTELLIGENT

GORDON Brown today apologised for not being even more intelligent than he so obviously is.

If only he'd been even more stunningly brilliant.. The prime minister said that while he had been amazingly clever and much cleverer than anyone else, he could have prevented the financial crisis by being even cleverer than that.

Mr Brown told the Guardian: "I'm so clever I know what you're going to say even before you say it. I'm so clever I can read two books at the same time. The one in the toilet and the one next to my bed.

"But if only I had been clever enough to realise that capitalism involves some risk and that maybe something could be done to minimise that risk such as rules that stopped banks from lending money to people who couldn't afford to pay it back.

"But that would have taken a super-human degree of intelligence. Not even ET or one of those big, scary computers that can play chess could have worked that one out."

The prime minister also said the era of laissez faire capitalism was over but insisted it would not be replaced by so-called 'big government', adding: "I don't know what we'll actually call it. Maybe 'fat government', or 'chunky government'.

"My personal favourite is 'so-powerful-you-won't-be-able-to-go-for-a-piss-without-my-permission government."

Mr Brown's critics are now expected to spend the next two weeks debating whether an apology for not being even cleverer amounts to an actual apology.

Psychologist Dr Tom Logan, said: "I'm afraid this is closest you're going to get to an apology from someone who is now clearly in need of immediate hospitalisation."

BROWN REFUSES TO HAND BACK PENSION

GORDON Brown last night dismissed calls to surrender his £123,000 a year pension when he is forced to stop being prime minister next June.

Mr Brown was defiant in the face of City outrage despite the UK government's annual operating loss of £100bn, rising to £1.5 trillion when the write-down of its banking assets is taken into account.

The prime minister said: "I've been building up this pension since I became an MP, it's all completely legal and now you want to take it away because I've been catastrophically bad at my job and you're looking for a scapegoat. What gives?"

He added: "Yes I've been in charge of financial regulation for 12 years, yes I encouraged the housing bubble, and yes I pissed billions up the wall giving pointless jobs to Labour voters, but I fail to see what any of this has to do with me being incredibly well off."

Brown's £3m pension pot is expected to cast the spotlight on the extravagant retirement packages of other failed politicians including Alistair Darling's inexplicable £1.7m and the £1.5m awarded to John Prescott for being a national scandal for 10 years.

Meanwhile Margaret Beckett has a fund worth £1.7m, something called 'Hilary Armstrong' has £1.2m and Tessa Jowell has £1m even though no-one has the faintest idea what any of them actually did.

Critics insist Mr Brown has a moral duty to hand back his pension fund as he will inevitably receive a multi-million pound advance for two volumes of eye-gougingly tedious memoirs which will end up in the bargain bucket at WH Smith within a fortnight.

Martin Bishop, head of pension rows at the Institute for Studies, said: "It's a fascinating dynamic. The politicians blame the bankers, the bankers blame the politicians, and the ordinary taxpayer is down on all fours with a confused look on his face, being **** at both ends."

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MPs condemn Barclays gag on Guardian over tax papers

MPs from all three main parties yesterday supported the Guardian's legal challenge to lift an emergency gagging order on documents which revealed how Barclays set up companies to avoid millions of pounds in tax.

Concern mounted as the injunction was challenged at the high court which will resume hearing arguments over the issue later today.

Barclays is seeking permanently to suppress the publication of the material in the face of calls that there is strong public interest for the papers to be disclosed.

Yesterday John Varley, the chief executive of Barclays, clashed with Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, during a private meeting at which Clegg insisted that banks must operate with more transparency. "Nick told him that there needed to a cultural and ideological change by the bank," a spokeswoman said. "He said they had to be more transparent about their activities. Needless to say, there was a difference of opinion."

...

"Barclays is negotiating for substantial government backing under the asset protection scheme. The government must make it an absolute precondition that tax avoidance at the expense of the taxpayer should stop.

"The scale of tax avoidance by banks has not been previously exposed because it is so hard to report on. These documents provide chapter and verse on the banks' activities. "

...more on link

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Unemployment surges through 2m

Unemployment has topped 2 million on the widest measure of joblessness, while the claimant count has suffered its biggest jump on record.

The Office for National Statistics today confirmed unemployment rose to almost 2.03 million in the three months to January – the highest in 12 years and a rise of 165,000 from the previous quarter.

That was broadly in line with expectations but the claimant count – which only includes those drawing jobseeker's allowance – surged by 138,400 last month, easily exceeding the record rise of 118,000 set during the depths of the early-1990s recession.

The January figure was revised to show a rise of 93,500, against the 73,800 reported a month ago. That means the claimant count has surged by around 600,000 in the past year. Records for the claimant count were first kept in 1971.

City economists had expected a jump of around 80,000 but the ONS had indicated last month the gap between data collection points would be five weeks for February, not the usual four, so a bigger number was always likely.

Joblessness on the claimant count is now up to 4.3%, its highest since March 1999. On the wider International Labour Organisation measure, which includes those out of work but not claiming benefits, the jobless rate is 6.5%, the highest since Labour came to power in 1997.

Economists were not hugely surprised by the bad numbers, though.

"Up until now, although the official labour market data have been pretty bad, there hadn't been the sharp worsening reflective of the much worse GDP data in the final quarter of last year, and the masses of announced lay-offs. That was until today's number, which is more in keeping with the news we have on activity," said Alan Clarke at BNP Paribas in London.

James Knightley at ING Financial Markets said: "Today's UK labour market data is truly awful. With household income growth slowing dramatically, when combining the unemployment and wage data, at a time when the savings rate is starting rising the outlook for consumer spending is getting worse and worse."

Economists were also startled by a dramatic slowdown in average earnings growth, which fell to 1.8%, the lowest on record, largely due to a drop in City bonuses.

That stands in stark contrast to the expectations of many members of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee who had predicted as recently as last autumn that pay growth would surge this year.

Economists said that, overall, the numbers were so bad the Bank would likely have to extend its money creation operation that began last week.

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"Barclays is negotiating for substantial government backing under the asset protection scheme. The government must make it an absolute precondition that tax avoidance at the expense of the taxpayer should stop.
Why pick on barclays? They've given billions of £'s of cover to ltsbhbosgroup and rbsg without forcing them to forgo their tax avoidance activities?

Why are tax avoidance activities bad now and were ok a couple of years ago?

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