HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc4-5
3. Mr. Jon Owen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment his Department has made of the effect a single European currency will have on the Welsh economy. [14158]

Mr. Hague


Mr. Jones

That is the most astonishing answer. The Secretary of State for Wales has made no assessment whatsoever of the largest potential economic change that we can recall being predicted in recent times, which may occur no more than three years from now. The Secretary of State, with all his resources in the Welsh Office, has made no assessment. Is that because he has no interest in Wales, or is it because he wants to ensure that there is no extra room for argument on the Conservative Benches on that most vital issue?

Mr. Hague

It is because this country has a choice about a single currency, thanks to the opt-out negotiated at Maastricht by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We will exercise that choice if or when the occasion arises. Any assessment of the benefits or otherwise would have to take into account the particular interests of Wales. As the United Kingdom has one currency, any decision would have to be based on the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Sir Wyn Roberts

Is not it a remarkable tribute to the economic management of this country that it is one of the few that could meet the convergence criteria? Our unemployment is falling, whereas it is increasing in other countries as they try to meet those criteria. Is not it clear that Conservative Members are safe on Europe, and that uncertainty results from the readiness of Opposition Members to sign anything that comes out of Brussels?

Mr. Hague

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I sometimes get the impression that Opposition Members would sign any piece of paper that floated across the English channel. He is also right to say that we now face extraordinarily good economic circumstances—the best economic circumstances and prospects that we have had for a generation. Unemployment in Wales fell again last week—it did so by more than 1,000—and that record will continue as long as the Government are in office to pursue the policies that have achieved it.