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April 5, 2006 4:10 PM

Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament Andrew Duff has welcomed the agreement reached last night to increase the European Union budget for the years 2007-13.

In a statement today, he says:

"The Parliament has been able to secure an extra € 1.8 billion (£ 1.2 bn) to spend on R&D, technological innovation and student exchanges plus extra loan money for the European Investment Bank. This extra EU money will be of particular benefit to the East of England.

"The overall increase of € 4 bn fresh money plus € 2.5 bn lending money supplements the agreement reached by the European Council in December. Mr Blair and Mr Brown must now give their consent to the package ‑ despite their previous niggardly approach to European spending.

"The Parliament has also been successful in ensuring that national governments will take more direct responsibility in the future for accounting for EU expenditure within their own countries.

"MEPs have asserted the power of the purse and the result is a European Union with greater capacity to match resources to aspirations."