HC Deb 05 March 1998 vol 307 c1194
15. Yvette Cooper

What steps her Department is taking to help British businesses prepare for economic and monetary union. [31143]

Mrs. Beckett

My noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe, who is a Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry and in the Treasury, has been appointed as the Minister responsible for these preparations. He has worked with the Treasury to produce a booklet for business, which will be widely distributed. My noble Friend is now working with the Treasury to emphasise the need for firms to prepare for the single currency in all their regular contacts. There is a Euro preparations unit, which is staffed by the Treasury, the DTI and the private sector, to reinforce that message. We are planning an awareness and information campaign.

Yvette Cooper

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) in his book on the single currency, which is that Britain should not just stay out, but should attempt to derail the system? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such an approach would be extremely bad for the interests of British businesses, that it would cause turbulence in export markets, that it would weaken links with European suppliers and that it would be a wholly irresponsible and kamikaze thing to do?

Mrs. Beckett

I entirely agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. However, those outcomes would be entirely consistent with the behaviour of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who seems to be doing everything that he can to scupper the Conservative party's chances.

I note that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), has recently said that the Conservative party seems to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown on the single currency, and that the party cannot happily hold together while those different views are expressed. I share his view. Like my hon. Friend, I condemn the irresponsibility of the right hon. Member for Wokingham. I am sorry that it seems to be so entirely characteristic.