HC Deb 13 July 1995 vol 263 cc1083-4
12. Mr. Soley

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he next expects to attend an ECOFIN meeting; and what subjects are on the agenda. [32558]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I attended a European Council of Economic and Finance Ministers meeting on Monday 10 July at which a variety of subjects was discussed. My intention is to attend the next ECOFIN meeting on 18 September. As yet, no firm agenda for this meeting has been agreed.

Mr. Soley

Is it the Government's intention to keep the pound in the European currency fluctuation band even if ECOFIN decides to narrow that band in the next two years?

Mr. Clarke

We have no intention of re-entering the exchange rate mechanism, at least for the duration of this Parliament. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. This is wasting time. I call Mr. Cash.

Mr. Cash

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, at the most recent ECOFIN meeting, there was absolutely no question of the United Kingdom submitting to any kind of threats from other member states with regard to the possibility of the creation of a "hard core" in Europe? That would result in their imposing tariff barriers, penalties or sanctions on us, or trying to push us into a second-rate, disastrous exchange rate mechanism.

Mr. Clarke

I can reassure my hon. Friend on all those points. The reports of ECOFIN meetings that I read when I return from them rarely bear much resemblance to what took place. I answer written questions in the House, however, and I suggest that my hon. Friend read those answers if he wants to find out what actually went on. It was reported that, at the last meeting, the French were threatening the imposition of all kinds of penalties on those who were not in the hard core, but I have yet to meet a Frenchman who has ever heard of the suggestion.