HC Deb 15 March 1990 vol 169 cc650-1
1. Mr. Coleman

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the proceedings of the most recent meeting of ECOFIN.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Richard Ryder)

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I represented the United Kingdom at the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers on 12 March. The main topics discussed included the implications of German economic and monetary union, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the revision of the financial perspective, the problem of fraud against the Community budget and the report of the European Court of Auditors for 1988.

Mr. Coleman

I am grateful to the Minister. Can he tell us how he intends to persuade our European partners to locate the new European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London particularly with such a grudging attitude about Europe on the part of the United Kingdom—for example, our reluctance over the social charter and the exchange rate mechanism? Can he tell us what powers of persuasion he has?

Mr. Ryder

Our case is irresistible. It is so irresistible that we have produced the excellent brochure that I have with me. I shall be more than happy to send the hon. Gentleman a copy. Over lunch last Monday my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was able to raise the matter as part of the lunchtime agenda. The case for bringing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to London is clear. More than 520 foreign banks are already located in London. It is Europe's financial centre, and the centre of the Eurobond market, and we do more banking work with eastern Europe than any other banking capital in Europe. I hope that I have the hon. Gentleman's support and the support of the entire House in trying to get the EBRD to London.

Mr. Soames

In my hon. Friend's distinguished contribution at the ECOFIN meeting, did he have the opportunity to tell his colleagues on that body of the substantial support in industry in this country for full British membership of the European monetary system?

Mr. Ryder

The conditions for Britain's entry to the exchange rate mechanism were clearly spelt out at the Madrid summit last summer. As many people have already said, the question is not whether we should enter the ERM, but when.

Mr. Hoyle

If the case is so overwhelming, will the Minister explain what will be said about the deficit on invisible earnings? For the first time since those figures have been recorded, they are in deficit——

Mr. Ryder

indicated dissent.

Mr. Hoyle

The Minister may shake his head—does he deny that the figures are in deficit? If he wants to deny it, he should get up and say so. Will he tell us what this incompetent and inept Government will do to remedy this sad state of affairs?

Mr. Ryder

This question relates to ECOFIN. That matter was not discussed last Monday at the ECOFIN meeting.