HC Deb 27 June 1996 vol 280 cc457-8
9. Sir Teddy Taylor

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will initiate studies on the relative economic performance of west European nations that have decided, after referendums, not to join the EU. [33414]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The country to which my hon. Friend refers is Norway, which decided not to join the European Union after a referendum. We have not conducted the study that my hon. Friend describes.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Should not the Chancellor of the Exchequer be genuinely alarmed that, in the European Union, almost 20 million people are unemployed—more than 11 per cent.—and rising; that in Britain, partly because of his natural brilliance, of which he is well aware, and also because we were chucked out of the exchange rate mechanism, unemployment is around 8 per cent.; and in Norway, which voted no against all the advice from the experts who said that it had to join to save jobs, unemployment is 4.5 per cent. and falling? Is that not a certain indication that further Euro-integration is simply a recipe for mass unemployment and despair? When will the Government wake up?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Like Norway, this country has a good record on falling unemployment. Like Norway, we are determined not to catch the continental disease of tying up our labour market with regulations and red tape to such an extent that competitiveness and unemployment rises.

Mr. Skinner

What on earth possessed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say the other day that Britain ought to be one of the first countries to join a European single currency? Do the Government not realise the madness of the exchange rate mechanism? The last time this Tory Government tried to shadow the mark, the last Chancellor and the Prime Minister together lost £10 billion in an afternoon, and never went near a betting shop.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The hon. Gentleman has described Labour party policy on monetary union fairly accurately, but—not for the first time—he has not quoted my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor accurately. What is true is that this country would be among the first to qualify for monetary union under the convergence criteria, if we chose to do so. That gives us the advantage of being able to choose from a position of strength whether to take the enterprise any further.