HC Deb 05 December 1996 vol 286 c1198
Q1. Sir Teddy Taylor

To ask the Prime Minister if he will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the level of unemployment in the EU. [6178]

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

Yes, I expect to do so as part of the discussion on the intergovernmental conference.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As unemployment in the rest of the European Union has risen by 5 million in five years, which means 3,000 individual human tragedies every day, and as Britain alone has falling unemployment, partly because of our exclusion from the exchange rate mechanism, does the Prime Minister appreciate why a growing percentage of people in Britain consider the European Union a rather inadequate organisation? In the light of those alarming figures, is he willing to consider the possibility of letting the people of Britain have a say in their future? Can he at least guarantee that, in any referendum on the European currency, the decision will be taken before sterling is linked in any way to the euro?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend says, unemployment is falling consistently across the United Kingdom, and is either rising or static in the rest of the European Union.

On my Friend's main point, we have made a firm commitment to hold a referendum if the next Conservative Government recommend that Britain should join a single European currency in the next Parliament. I confirm to my hon. Friend that, if such a referendum were held, it would of course be held before sterling was linked in any way with any putative European currency. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor and I have often made clear, we do not intend to rejoin the so-called ERM mark 2, and would not wish to institute any policy of shadowing the euro.

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