§ Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham)
I beg to move amendment No. 31, in page 90, line 6, after '122.', insert '(1)'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 32, in page 90, line 10, at end insert—'(2) The said Commissioners shall make a report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not later than 31st December 1999 on the exercise of their functions and on the amount and timing of the expenditure incurred in respect of subsection (1), and such report shall be laid before the Commons House of Parliament within a period of one calendar month.(3) The Commissioners shall make further reports at intervals of six months, which shall similarly be submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and laid before the Commons House of Parliament.'.
§ Mr. Maude
I am grateful to the Financial Secretary, who is now departing the Chamber, for breaking our spirit of consensus, because that saves me the effort of doing so in this debate. That spirit could not last for ever.
We move the amendments because we regard the clause as profoundly unsatisfactory. The principle that we seek to serve through the amendments is a clear one. It is to ensure proper accountability by the Government in all of their spending. Nowhere is that need clearer than where the Government have pledged to spend an unspecified quantity of taxpayers' money in pursuit of British membership of the single currency, or the euro. That is the proposal that is contained within clause 122. It empowers the Commissioners of the Revenue and of Customs and Excise to spend money to prepare systems in advance of any political decision by the House or apparently even by the Government, let alone by the people, to join the euro and to scrap the pound. Systems can be prepared well before there is any question of there being a referendum, when people will have the choice whether they want to scrap the pound to join the euro.
When there is uncontroversial legislation, Departments will often spend some money in advance of a formal decision being taken by the House. However, there is no 881 comparison between that traditional arrangement and the device that is being proposed in clause 122. Quite simply, the clause allows any amount of public money to be spent in advance of a decision following a national referendum, let alone of Britain actually joining the single currency.
§ Mr. Healey
How much would the right hon. Gentleman regard it as acceptable for the Inland Revenue to spend before a national referendum?
§ Mr. Maude
Questions about how much it is acceptable to spend should not be addressed to me. The Opposition have repeatedly asked what sums of taxpayers' money the clause allows the Government to spend. It is a blank cheque because no amount is specified. No estimate has been put before the House. The hon. Gentleman would do better to intervene when the Economic Secretary rises to reply, to ask her how much taxpayers' money she is proposing to shell out on this project without the people having had any chance to adjudicate on whether they want it to be implemented.
As the Government's turmoil over the single currency in the past month shows, the result of any referendum is no foregone conclusion, although that is what the clause is designed to try to achieve. The Government's natural inclinations show through in a measure that is oblivious to public opinion and wasteful of public money and that cocks a snook at democracy. I suppose that it is the natural solution for a Government who hope that the state can steamroller its way through public opposition into a project which few people in Britain seem to want. As the Prime Minister was forced to admit recently, hardly anyone in the country wants the project.
Above all, we see a pretty cowardly attempt to encourage businesses to do the dirty work of persuading people to want to scrap the pound. In what is no more than a charade now, the Government hide behind the five economic tests that they set out nearly two years ago and delay the day when they must make a public decision. The experts are more and more doubtful whether those tests mean anything. Mr. Buiter of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has said:Except through a fluke, the UK will not join EMU at a time when the business cycles … are synchronised.The requirement or condition that the British economy should be synchronised or converged cyclically with the continental economies is a fundamental condition for Britain joining the euro. Yet here we have a Government-appointed expert saying that that will not happen.
The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Mr. Mervyn King, recently commented:You would probably need 200 to 300 years of data. You will never arrive at a point when you will be confident that the cycles have converged.I am referring to experts who have been appointed by the Government. They make it obvious that any decision to join the single currency that is taken by the Government will not be based on certain economic conditions being fulfilled. On the most important one of all—cyclical convergence of the economies—the Government's experts at the Bank of England say that, effectively, that will never be met. That is the clearest sign that, if they 882 find themselves in the position to do this, the Government will fudge the conditions and move ahead anyway, which is what they want to do. That is why the Government are apparently willing to start spending money on preparations for Britain to join the euro. They wish to soften up the electorate now while maintaining that there is an economic tripwire in relation to the conditions. That tripwire does not exist.
§ Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the National Audit Office audits the accounts on an annual basis? What is more, the appropriation accounts focus specifically on areas where there might be difficulties of change. Therefore, the amendment is completely redundant. Can the right hon. Gentleman give any particular reason why the expenditure that we are discussing, which will be transparently reported by the NAO in two sets of accounts, should be the subject of yet another layer of bureaucracy and extra costs for his own party political reasons?
§ Mr. Maude
If that is all the case, that is a powerful reason for the Government, if they are genuine in their desire to be open about these matters, to accept the amendments. They will then be incorporated in the Act, as it will then be, and the requirement will be there. However, the House is being asked, effectively, to sign a blank cheque. We think that that is wrong. If, as we contend, the process is being handled wrongly, a proper requirement for full auditing and for full transparency on a six-monthly basis would seem to be the least that the House, in pursuit of its historic task of controlling expenditure, should require the Government to agree to. I hope that the Economic Secretary has heard the point made by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) and will be persuaded by him that there is no problem in accepting the amendments.
§ Mr. Davies
The amendments are about reporting, not limiting, the cost. I am contending that the cost is reported in any event. Therefore, the amendments are unnecessary and we should get on with business.
§ Mr. Maude
It would be advantageous in those circumstances for the amendment to be included in the Act so that there is an additional form of scrutiny. There is no way otherwise of exercising any control over the amount that the Government spend. The hon. Gentleman may be happy to tell his constituents that, in his great role as a Member of this place, exercising his historic role of controlling the Government and controlling public expenditure, he sat on his hands and thought that it was fine to write a blank cheque for the Government to spend. He may think that, but we do not.
§ Mr. Maude
No. The hon. Gentleman has made two silly points already. He may want the opportunity to make a fool of himself again, but the House will wish to proceed.
There is every sign that the Government are happy to pick taxpayers' pockets to fund a measure that taxpayers patently do not support. There is no sign of Ministers being willing to commit themselves publicly either to the single currency or to an early referendum. I suppose that 883 we should not expect an answer from the Prime Minister. He is rather like a first world war general. He is happy to push his colleagues over the top into the line of fire but is pretty reluctant to get tangled up in the barbed wire himself. General Blair is comfortably ensconced in his chateau ordering his faithful troops to clamber over the barbed wire when he blows the whistle. Not a peep from him, be it noted, until it comes to trying to trumpet and spin his new sceptical image on the single currency. Just the other day, he said that it was "daft" to consider entry straight away.
Should we believe the Prime Minister's official spokesman, who said:The Prime Minister does not feel there is any need to persuade people to make a decision that does not yet have to be made"?That was quite instructive. Why, then, do the Government ask the House to approve expenditure—to sign a blank cheque—in relation to a decision that the Prime Minister says does not have to be made yet? It is extraordinary. How persuasive is the Government's case to allow the Revenue or the Customs to spend public money, if the decision for which they are preparing does not, according to the Prime Minister, have to be made yet?
Perhaps we should turn to the Leader of the House for elucidation. She said recently that the referendum might not be called even in the next Parliament. Is that the official position? It rather looks as though those may turn out to be her famous last words. The confusion might be laughable, if those were not the people supposedly running the country.
A week or so ago, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said about the organisation Britain in Europe, which is campaigning for Britain to join the single currency, thatbecause they"—Britain in Europe—have changed their position the Prime Minister can endorse their programme.That was all part of the web of confusion that the Government were so sedulously spinning, but it turned out not to be the case.
The noble Lord Marshall, the chairman of Britain in Europe, said immediately afterwards:We are not backing off the euro at all.Clearly, the confusion runs far and wide.
Around the same time, the Prime Minister's famous official spokesman commented:I don't understand the purpose of Britain in Europe. Is its campaign about Britain in Europe, or is it saying it's the start of the campaign to join the single currency? The two things are entirely different.He spotted that, anyway. The two things are indeed entirely different. What is puzzling is why he is so confused about the purpose. All that he needs to do is open the pamphlet issued by Britain in Europe and he will see there, as large as life and spelled out in words of very few syllables, that Britain in Europe is the campaign to persuade the British public that they should agree to scrapping the pound and joining the euro.
884 All the confusion has not impressed people in Britain in Europe. They said:We intend to press ahead with our campaign"—for Britain to join the euro—and we don't intend to hold back for anyone".
§ Mr. Leslie
I am grateful to the shadow Chancellor for giving way. He is trading statements, comments and quotes. What is his reaction to the commentIt would be completely crazy and contrary to the national interest to throw away our option to join the single currency",especially as it was made by the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), his colleague on the Front Bench? What is his reaction to that?
§ Mr. Maude
A warm endorsement of our policy, which is not to throw away the option. The point that the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) has not got into his head is that the Prime Minister's and the Chancellor's policy of dragging Britain into the euro by stealth at the earliest opportunity is the policy that gives up the option. Once we have scrapped the pound and gone into the euro, we have no options at all, because the decision is irrevocable. As long as we stay out of the euro, we always have the option.
That is why our policy has always been the pragmatic policy. The dogmatic policy is the Chancellor's policy, which states that the Government are dogmatically committed in principle to Britain joining the euro. As soon as Britain joined the euro, if that were allowed to happen, the option would be gone. That is why the statement that the hon. Gentleman feels so clever for having quoted actually supports our policy.
§ Mr. Love
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He mentioned the organisation Britain in Europe. Some of the best-known members of his own party are prominent in that organisation, and I note that they are not present in the Chamber this evening. Is not the Conservative party deeply split on the issue?
§ Mr. Maude
If that is the best that the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) can do, I suggest that he remains in a sedentary position.
Whichever of those apparently non-committal statements we prefer to believe—or none of them, in my case—the lack of leadership offered by the Government on the issue hardly makes a pressing case for the House to agree to the spending of money—the writing of blank cheques—that we are asked to agree tonight.
The national changeover plan—the handover plan—gives the game away, by showing that what we are being asked to do is not necessary. I refer the House to figure A in the changeover plan at page 18, which sets out a time line or critical path for Britain to scrap the pound and join the euro. It shows the various points: decision; referendum; UK joins; euro cash issued; and the end of the process, when the pound is finally scrapped.
There is a nice blue bar showing which process must start at which point. There is a bar marked "public sector", which I assume includes the Inland Revenue and 885 Customs and Excise. That blue bar does not start now. It does not even start at the point at which the decision is made. The bar starts when a positive decision is made in a referendum. Even if there were a rock-solid certainty that there would be a decision to join, which there patently is not, we do not need to contemplate the matter now. The Government's own document makes that clear.
It is not as though there is nothing before the point of decision. There is a nice blue bar showing that there must be legislation before the referendum. The banks would have to make preparations before the referendum, but there is nothing in the figure about the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise. It is all there, in the public sector. According to the Government's own document, nothing needs to be done until there is a positive decision in a referendum.
§ Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)
I remember the right hon. Gentleman saying in 1997 that he would make it clear to his constituents that he would oppose any legislation to adopt the euro. Has he now changed his mind?
§ Mr. Maude
What I am doing today is opposing legislation to adopt the euro. I do not know how I can make it clearer than that. We think that the measure is wrong. We think that the Government should not be asking the House of Commons to sign blank cheques and to force the taxpayer to spend money. If there is not a decision to join the euro—the Prime Minister himself accepts that hardly anyone believes that we should—that money is wasted money.
We have still had no answers from the Government about how much money is involved. We have still had no answers about how many schools will not get their extensions, and how many wards will have to be closed down to pay for this utterly unproductive expenditure on which the Government are so keen.
When the Economic Secretary replies, I should be interested to hear her explain the fact that the graphic in the Government's document makes it clear that there is no case for the measure that the Government propose. That graphic seems to have escaped the attention of the spin doctors. It lets the cat out of the bag. It makes it clear that there is no basis for the measure.
Not surprisingly, given how distant the Government are trying to make the possibility of a referendum appear, the Prime Minister has been a bit woolly about how much money the Government would spend. In his statement on the national handover plan on 23 February, he referred to the Inland Revenue and the Customs, saying:They may need to spend some money prior to a referendum to make their information technology systems euro-compatible".He moved on to give us an idea of how much "some money" is, saying:such expenditures … will amount to some tens of millions of pounds spread over a number of years.Will the Economic Secretary tell us today whether the measure that we are being asked to agree to amounts to tens of millions of pounds? If so, how many tens of millions? She must have some idea.
I cannot believe that Treasury Ministers would ask the House of Commons for approval to spend money without having any idea of how much would be spent, but our 886 questions are met with a deafening silence. The Government are absolutely sure that agreeing to the measure is the right thing to do, but they cannot tell us how much that will cost. They have not quantified the benefits of Britain joining this effort, and they cannot tell us how much that will cost. Not a flicker of an effort has been made to cost the costs and quantify the benefits. How do they expect to persuade anyone that this is a good project for the country when the Government cannot even get to that point?
§ Mr. St. Aubyn
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister's readiness to tell businesses and taxpayers to reach into their pockets to spend money preparing for the euro contrasts starkly with his refusal to spend any of his own time promoting the project?
§ Mr. Maude
That is an absolutely fair point. The Prime Minister is keen to get other people to make the running because, although he and the Chancellor are absolutely committed to the project, to dragging Britain into the euro and to scrapping the pound by stealth—no one should be under any illusions about that—he is reluctant to put his head above the parapet because he understands that hardly anyone wants the euro. He has admitted that himself.
The Prime Minister makes the large claim that, "It's only tens of millions of pounds. That does not matter, it's just a rounding error." He justifies it by saying:The Government will be making active preparations for the euro, in the belief that it will be in this country's interests to join in the future should our economic tests be met.We have already seen that those tests are bogus because the Government's own experts have accepted that the principal test will never be met. He went on:Business should start to do the same."—[Official Report, 23 February 1999; Vol. 326, c. 181.]He seems to have overlooked the rather important difference between his Government's lavish spending plans and the day-to-day fight that many businesses face to survive against increasing regulation and mounting stealth taxes, which his Government are imposing weekly.
The Prime Minister seems to forget that, while 100 per cent. of small businesses pay the rising taxes that fund those spending plans, only six out of every 100 small businesses said that the euro would affect them a great deal and 46 per cent. said that it would not affect them at all. The big difference is that, although businesses have to budget carefully to remain in business, the Government think that they can throw money at the political problem, because the Prime Minister does not have the courage to take a lead on an issue that he knows is unpopular. He is trying to buy his way out of that with taxpayers' money, which is a case of, "Do as I say, not as I do."
That cannot be right—not when the funds needed to prepare for economic and monetary union may outstrip the cost of dealing with the millennium bug by as much 887 as 5:1. Whereas the millennium is at least foreseeable, the Government seem to be doing their best to spin an opaque web of disinformation around their own position. Why should business spend money to prepare when they refuse to give a coherent lead? Why should the taxpayer and the small business man bankroll a Government who are so unwilling to give a forthright lead?
It has been estimated by Lloyds TSB that those preparations will amount to £2,000 for every small business in the land. For many, that money will not be an investment with any prospect of payback—46 per cent. of small businesses say that the euro would not have any impact on them at all because they are United Kingdom-based. After all, 83 per cent. of Britain's national output is not sold in the eurozone at all—it is sold either here in Britain or elsewhere in the world—but the costs of preparing will fall on 100 per cent. of British capacity.
There is little sign from the plan that the Government understand the demands of business. It talks blithely of how small businesses may have to take on extra staff to help the elderly to meet the challenge of the changeover, but small businesses cannot afford to take on more staff—certainly not with the cost and complexity of employing people increasing so rapidly under this Government. That is one reason why businesses are small.
The document's open advocacy of EMU is unfeigned. Talking, supposedly dispassionately, about the engineering sector, it says that50 per cent. of all engineering exports are to the EU. Historically, the sector has been vulnerable to fluctuations in the value of sterling.What does that have to do with the changeover? The answer is nothing; it is just a party political broadcast on a supposed benefit of EMU. It is quite clear that, if the national changeover plan—which pretends to have foresight of which Nostradamus would have been proud—cannot avoid being political, we have every right to question the latest Government proposal to help to drag the United Kingdom into the single currency.
§ Mr. Maude
No, I shall make some progress now.
It is time that the Government started to tell the truth about the real costs of joining the single currency. According to one survey, the real costs for businesses of changing are turning out to be 10 times higher than the European Commission predicted. That is surprising. We believe that it is absolutely right that the Government should account for their own spending and should come clean about what those costs will amount to and what the money will be spent on. It is also time that the Government came clean about some of the constitutional issues involved in the decision.
§ Mr. Davies
As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman's position is to keep his options open and, 888 at some point in the future, he could conceivably put to the British people the question whether to join the single currency. Would it be wise to make some preparations for the contingency of joining or should we put the question to the British people with no hope of business and the public sector being prepared for the tremendous changes that we might see? Would he let the British public down in such a way or would he prepare?
§ Mr. Maude
The hon. Gentleman is clearly the sort of chap who starts building a house before he has even applied for planning permission. It is mad to start spending money on an eventuality that the Prime Minister himself admits people do not want to happen and which cannot happen unless most people agree in a referendum that it should. Even the Government admit that, so it is crazy to start wasting money, which is scarce. The public services and businesses need it to create new products, services, jobs and wealth, but the Government think that it is fine to spend in such a way.
If the hon. Member for Croydon, Central looks at the time lines set out in the document, he will see that there is a considerable period between a decision being made in a referendum and the United Kingdom joining.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I cannot allow the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) to shout across the Chamber.
§ Mr. Maude
If the Government do not want to call a referendum to test public opinion, they should not be asking the House of Commons to agree to spend taxpayers' money, either on departmental preparations or on the changeover plan. Our proposal offers a simple precaution: the Commissioners of the Revenue and of the Customs should account for every penny that they spend to get ready for EMU every six months, as long as the position remains as it is. On such a controversial political issue, is it not right that taxpayers should have the right to know in detail how much of their money is being spent on the project—in arrears, at any rate? If the Government are not honest enough to set that out in advance—when they are asking for the money to be spent—we should know how much is being spent on this project, which most people do not want. Surely that is part and parcel of proper scrutiny in a parliamentary democracy.
In an age in which it is claimed that government have learned some lessons from business, it is surely right that the Government should set themselves some budgetary limits.
There is a good reason why the Government want to spend so much public money so far in advance of a referendum. They want to prepare to scrap the pound and drag Britain into the euro by stealth. They want to sap opposition to their plans through a vast state-sponsored spendathon, and to spend so much taxpayers' money that a headlong rush into EMU becomes the only plausible option. That is arbitrary government, not parliamentary 889 government. That is why we have opposed, and will continue to oppose, the national changeover plan as a ploy dressed up in the language of prudence.
We shall continue to press the Government to sign up to the Neill report, which is of direct relevance to these provisions. They have shown a remarkable reluctance to sign up to the recommendations of Lord Neill and his committee. We should remind the House of one of his principal conclusions. The committee said:The Government of the day in future referendums should, as a Government, remain neutral, and should not distribute at public expense"—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The matters that the right hon. Gentleman is raising are wide of his amendment. He should get back to the amendment.
§ Mr. Maude
I shall move on to my final remarks.
There is a direct parallel with the Neill committee's recommendation. The Government are spending money without parliamentary authority to make the drive towards scrapping the pound inevitable. It is wrong for the Government to be involved in the campaign using taxpayers' money, as they have done. It is wrong from them, in this clause, to spend taxpayers' money, which will be utterly unproductive if the British people decide that they do not want to go into EMU.
The Government want the so-called national changeover plan to be a national handover plan. We oppose the sleight of hand that goads business into spending money on something on which the Government will not risk their popularity. Their leadership on the single currency is leadership from behind. Proper accountability is the responsibility of any democratic Parliament, especially the House of Commons.
The amendment guarantees proper scrutiny, and is in line with the conclusions of the Neill committee, on which the Government have promised they will act. I commend it to the House.
§ Dr. Cable
I am a little mystified about the purpose of the debate. We have been given a half-baked analysis of EMU—a few throwaway lines about the problems that it presents—and an equally half-baked analysis of the scrutiny process and the constitutional issues. We are not focusing on either subject properly. There is a genuine issue of constitutionality in relation to the preparations, and it should be dealt with openly and transparently.
When we debated this matter in Committee, the shadow Chief Secretary raised some technical points about the constitutional nature of expenditure commitments. As I am not a constitutional lawyer, I do not know whether he was right or wrong. The shadow Chancellor did not persist with those points. I do not know whether it was because they have been answered, but we need to focus on that aspect. We need a proper analysis of the constitutional position, and that is why I surprisingly supported the request of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), among others, for a constitutional White Paper dealing with EMU in general and preparations in particular.
It is quite wrong for the Shadow Chancellor, to say that there is no mechanism for scrutinising this expenditure. As has already been said, the National Audit Office, the 890 Select Committee on the Treasury, European Standing Committees and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's committee on EMU preparation, on which I sit and which has been convened precisely for that matter, exist for that purpose. I hate to remind members of the Conservative Front Bench that they were invited to sit on that committee. They procrastinated for three months: they put forward a name and then withdrew it. That committee is now meeting, and it has been fruitful.
§ Mr. Maude
Our position has been misrepresented before. When that Committee was being set up, we ascertained that it would not be involved in preparations for Britain to scrap the pound and to join the euro, and would be concerned solely with preparations for Britain to deal with the euro from outside while retaining its own currency. We thought that function wholly appropriate, so we nominated someone for the committee. However, we do not want to be involved in a process that we think quite improper until the British people have decided that they want to join the single currency. That is the time at which preparations should be made. One does not wheel the wagon half way across the river before asking the passengers whether they want to get to the other side.
§ Dr. Cable
I do not understand what impropriety is being committed, because the euro preparations committee comprises not only people who, like me, believe that Britain should be a member of EMU, but some fairly severe Euro-sceptics from Northern Ireland, who do not feel at all uncomfortable about sitting on that committee. It provides a forum. I have asked the chairman of the committee to prepare documents and to obtain from the Treasury detailed information on this preparatory process so that we can review it critically and perform a scrutiny function. Members of the Conservative Front Bench, whatever their original reasons, are missing a perfect opportunity that Parliament has provided.
To get back to the nub of the point, the objection seems to be that the Government should not engage in contingency planning for something that has not yet been approved by the British people in a referendum. That is irrational. The public and private sectors, in their different ways, engage in contingency planning: often very expensively. The defence budget is a form of contingency planning against events that we hope will never happen but for which we must be prepared.
As I said in Committee, I know from my private sector experience that many companies in the energy and property sectors spend large amounts of money purchasing options on future investments that they may never make. That is good commercial practice. We are confronted with a decision that we all agree—whether we are for or anti—is probably the most important that this country must make, and it should be taken well and in the full knowledge of what is required.
§ Mr. Swayne
Is not that the thrust of these amendments? They would allow us to scrutinise what is done with full knowledge. The hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that that scrutiny function should be carried out solely by his small committee. It should be undertaken by the whole House, as the amendments require.
§ Dr. Cable
That small committee would be larger in significance and number if the hon. Gentleman and his 891 colleagues joined it. We could have many other scrutiny mechanisms. There is no justification for stopping sensible forward planning and contingency planning.
Other points, which were thrown into the debate off the cuff and not as part of a coherent theme, related to the economics of EMU. I was surprised that the Conservative spokesman quoted in defence the views of Professor Willem Buiter, whose articles I have read. Professor Buiter is an independent-minded member of the Monetary Policy Committee, and has gone out of his way to argue—as distinct from the Governor of the Bank of England—that Britain should be a member of EMU and, moreover, that it is likely to succeed. That is a different position from the one that the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) has taken, so it is an odd choice of witness.
The other point of substance that the right hon. Gentleman made, with which I partly agree, is that there must be a proper test of economic readiness to join. We all agree on that. I am not arguing for entry tomorrow. It must be on the right terms and conditions, the most important of which is the exchange rate, which is not one of the five tests at present. It is not correct to say that it is absolutely necessary to have complete cyclical convergence. There is no reason why that should be achieved. We should converge at the same low level of inflation, which is broadly what has happened, and our cycles should be broadly compatible, but the myth has been perpetuated that the British cycle is different from that of continental Europe. It has been since 1990, when German reunification created a divergence of our economies, but throughout much of the post-war period the British and German economies have moved in parallel, and there is no reason why that should not resume in a few years' time.
The purpose of the debate is not to discuss the pros and cons of EMU: I am happy to join in that debate at any other time. It is about parliamentary scrutiny. It is right that the Government should make prior preparations, and it is right that that should involve certain expenditure and should be scrutinised, and we have a mechanism for that.
I agree with the Conservative spokesman on one point. He is right to say that the private sector is being invited to take substantial risks. It is being invited to make preparations without being given the clarity that I would expect. It is unfortunate that we have not already had a referendum, although that is water under the bridge. I feel that the Government must be clearer and more forthright about where they are heading, about their commitment to join and about the timing. On that if on nothing else, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 8 pm
§ Sir Peter Lloyd (Fareham)
I strongly support the amendment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) put the case for it very well, especially in making the point that there is no real need to rush spending before the referendum. Figure A and the chart on page 35 of the changeover plan seem to endorse his view. Certainly, the amendment does not ask for very much; it simply asks for information, so that Parliament and the public can know how much the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise are spending on preparation for our joining the single currency.
The single currency is a matter of growing public interest. In some it generates enthusiasm, as for an exciting new dawn; in others, it generates certain 892 conviction that it will bring us no good. In most, however, it probably generates puzzlement and apprehension, as it becomes plainer that it is they who, in due course, will have to pass judgment, and say yes or no to the question of our actually joining.
The Finance Bill would give the Government authority to spend whatever money they thought fit to prepare the Revenue and Customs and Excise for the possibility that the answer will be yes. Because there is apparently no ceiling to that expenditure, the Government should surely, at the very least, keep a running total of what they spend, and then let the country know at regular intervals how much they are spending and on what.
This is not to deny the desirability of the Government's laying plans for our possible entry into the euro. As it is for the people to decide the matter by way of referendum, however, the Government should so organise themselves that the costs of joining are made clear, and the work that must be done to give effect to a yes vote is thought through well beforehand. The facts concerned are part of the evidence of which the public should be in possession, so that they can weigh them before deciding that the money is needed to put into effect the decision that they make.
I am sure that it is right for the Departments involved, when upgrading their procedures, programmes and equipment in the normal way of good housekeeping, to make certain that the new procedures, programmes and equipment are sufficiently versatile to handle the euro as well as sterling, so that greater expense and unnecessary delay are avoided if the voters eventually decide that joining the single currency would be to the United Kingdom's advantage. I am also sure that the Government ought to make the necessary plans and investment across the public sector to accommodate and facilitate trade in euros, and its use in domestic transactions when companies or individuals choose to make and receive payments in euros. That should be done regardless of whether we join the single currency. If we do not eventually adopt the euro, we shall want to be able to use it whenever it suits us, our businesses, or overseas visitors doing business here.
This country has prospered as a result of its openness and flexibility, dealing happily in any and every currency in which its customers want to trade. My own view has always been that, when the public are finally asked for their verdict, they will say no to a single currency. It is beyond the scope of this debate for me to say why, so I will not; but it is germane for me to say that I am not as worried as some of my colleagues—including, perhaps, my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor—that Government expenditure, assuming our entry into a single currency, will give the public the idea that entry is inevitable, and so cause them to vote yes in the referendum when they would have preferred to vote no.
It may be that some members of the Government who are enthusiasts for the single currency do have such an idea. They may see the unrestricted freedom to spend as a wonderful way of carrying the public psychologically into euroland before they have voted to join. I believe that such thinking, if it exists, is erroneous. I am sure that the public would resent and resist any attempt by the Government to use their money to foreclose on a decision that they, the public, had expected to make in due course—freely, in the light of the experience of other EU countries that have already adopted the euro. I believe 893 that, if the Government really want to take us into the single currency, they will find it counterproductive to give the public the impression that their assent was taken for granted, or the impression that they—the Government—seek to engineer entry in advance by means of a series of faits accomplis, especially if they do that by spending money that would be wasted in the event of a no vote.
Such an action on the Government's part would be of dubious constitutional propriety. I will not expand on that, as the Bill would give the Government the legal right regardless of the proprieties, as my right hon. Friend said earlier. What I will say, however, in an effort to be helpful to the Economic Secretary—although my right hon. Friend may not thank me for revealing this—is that the Government will do themselves a disservice if they reject the amendment, and deny themselves the chance to show that they have nothing to hide and no ulterior motive, but merely wish to be open and frank with Parliament and the electors.
If the Government do reject the amendment, they will leave in the public mind a suspicion that, at the very least, they want to retain the option of not being open and frank. They will also leave my right hon. Friend to argue convincingly that they are not coming clean: that they do have something to hide, and that they are spending money that need not and, indeed, should not be spent at this point. He will be able to argue that money that could usefully be devoted to the real needs of health and education, and spent in many other constructive ways, is being spent to secure the result that the Government want in the coming referendum.
That will not help the Government. It will suggest to the public not that entry to the euro is inevitable, but that the Government have no real confidence in the objective case. It will weaken the case for entry by suggesting that that case is not strong enough to stand on its own merits. In their own enlightened self-interest, the Government ought to jump at the amendment with alacrity, saying that as they were planning to do what the amendment requires them to do in any event, they might as well accept it.
§ Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)
I want to ask the Economic Secretary a brief question. Does clause 122 really apply only to the possibility of expenditure by the Commissioners on taxes that are likely come out of stage 3 of EMU, or is it possible that it could also apply to taxes that are emerging irrespective of stage 3?
We know that a mass of taxation is beginning to emerge in the existing legislation to which we are attached. The Government are conniving and contriving to increase the pace of that taxation at a remarkable rate. Luckily, they have been caught on the hop in regard to, for instance, the withholding tax. Commitments have been made. An answer that I received this week from the Paymaster General stated that not only eurobonds but all other forms of savings would be included, which is good news. Nevertheless, we all know that a mass of taxation is beginning to emerge, irrespective of stage 3.
What does the Economic Secretary think of all the taxation that is beginning to emerge? Is it not right that the amendments should apply, so that at least we know a little more about that taxation and any expenditure that is likely to be incurred by the Commissioners? Is the Bill 894 giving the Government powers to anticipate the panoply of taxation that is beginning to emerge, irrespective of stage 3?
Of course, it is true that, in relation not just to harmonisation, but to increased expenditure, under stage 3 of EMU, there will be a massive increase in taxation, to which the clause and amendments apply. We all know why that is to be. Under EMU, wages will not be flexible, but prices will be very much on the move upwards and there will have to be a massive transfer of funds from the northern, rich parts of Europe to the southern parts and, therefore, an enormous new system of taxation. If we enter EMU, there will be enormous increases in taxation. Therefore, the clause is applicable.
One can perhaps understand, although it is highly unsatisfactory, why the Government want to prepare for the massive increase in taxation that would occur under stage 3. The real issue before Parliament, however, is whether what we are really doing is passing a clause and a Bill that will give the Government power to create expenditure in anticipation not of stage 3, which the Government seem to be running away from anyway—which some of us think is good news—but of other bad news: what Lord Denning called the on-rush of European legislation, the tidal flow down our rivers and estuaries, which goes on and on. That applies to taxation as much as anything else.
Therefore, it is legitimate to ask: will the clause apply well before stage 3 is entered into? Are the Government not conniving, both implicitly in the clause, and explicitly in the Councils of Europe, in a massive taxation regime, to be imposed on this country, irrespective of stage 3 of EMU?
§ Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)
It is natural that high emotions should attach to any debate on economic and monetary union, the single currency and any aspect of it, because people feel strongly on the subject. A variety of emotions have already been expressed by Conservative Members.
I declare myself with my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd), who says that he expects the people of this country eventually to vote no when the referendum is held. I also express the hope that they will vote no, but one does not need to get terribly worked up about the issue to suggest to the Economic Secretary that the amendment is thoroughly pragmatic and sensible and its rejection would be literally incomprehensible.
I agree with much of what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), the shadow Chancellor, but forget all that for a minute. I understand what the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) said about the ability of Parliament to scrutinise the matter, but I do not understand why the amendment should do anything other than commend itself to the Government. I am sure that they have nothing to hide, but a rejection of the amendment would certainly suggest that they did.
The job of the House of Commons is to scrutinise the Executive. That would be made easier by the passage of the amendment, whatever other mechanisms already exist. I am sure that the Government have no wish to conceal from us any aspect of their expenditure in preparing to take us into a single currency—a move that is likely to be rejected anyhow by the majority of the British people.
895 I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker: do you think that any Chief Secretary to the Treasury would conduct negotiations with another Government Department which asked for a few tens of millions of pounds for something and, on the basis of a bland assurance, say, "Oh that is fine, Fred. Have a few tens of millions for that"? We know that that is not the way in which such negotiations are conducted, but, so far, a bland assurance is all that the House has been offered. The Treasury notes on clauses simply say:the revenue departments may need to spend some tens of millions of pounds on preparations for possible UK entry to the single currency prior to a referendum".I am against writing blank cheques in the House at any stage, never mind on a matter as controversial and important to the future of the economy and this country's constitution as the single currency. Does the Economic Secretary really think that she could conduct negotiations, if she were ever to be Chief Secretary, on the basis of assurances from her spending Ministers that they would live within their settlement—within the odd tens of millions of pounds here or there?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham said that it was a debate between pragmatism and dogmatism. He is right. The amendment offers the pragmatic view. What is wrong with exposing the information to public scrutiny? It is simple dogmatism to reject it. It will be dogmatism that makes the House and the country suspicious of the Government's motive in seeking to conceal the information from the House and the people.
The Government have laboured mightily to bring forth their freedom of information proposals and they have been widely criticised. Surely, they do not want to hide information, but they are acquiring a reputation for doing so. Rejection of the amendment will enhance public scepticism about the Government's true motives.
I understand the problem for the Government, and for the Prime Minister in particular. On the single currency issue, as on many others, one could never accuse them of sitting on the fence. They come down firmly on both sides of it. The Prime Minister says that he is the friend of the pound, but, privately, he is an enthusiast for the euro. He says both things to different audiences to confuse the enemy and opposition, but the changeover plan shows where the Government's heart really lies. The Government owe it to the House and to the people who put them in office to explain how much money they are spending on trying to persuade the public to vote against their instincts and for membership of the single European currency.
How much money do the Government intend to spend as a result of the clause? A reference to tens of millions is not good enough for the House. No parliamentarian should go through the Lobby tonight to allow the Government, according to some vague estimates, to spend tens of millions of pounds on something as important as the single currency. No parliamentarian worth his salt should even contemplate allowing the clause to go unamended on to the statute book.
Yesterday, the Government rejected tens of millions of pounds of help for pensioners when there was the option to change the taxation of savings. We estimated that the cost would be £85 million, which is backed by 896 independent analysis, but a wild figure of £1 billion was thrown out from the Dispatch Box. A few tens of millions of pounds would have made a great difference to those pensioners. A few tens of millions of pounds would make a great difference to the Worcestershire social services department, which could do with a few tens of hundreds of pounds, never mind tens of millions, to help it out with its difficulties.
I have the great honour to be Chairman of the Select Committee on Agriculture. Last week, we had before us the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Clearly, MAFF is scratching around for every odd pound that it can find here and there because of the incredibly tight settlement that was imposed on it during the comprehensive spending review.
The Ministry will face some difficult choices. A few tens of millions of pounds would help it considerably. The Government could abandon their plans to scrap harbour grants, and fishing safety grants, to cut research and development in MAFF and a host of other things, so why does the Treasury set one standard for itself on something as important as our membership of the single European currency, and another standard for every other spending Department? Why did we have the comprehensive spending review? Why did they not just say, "The Government are spending a few tens of billions pounds next year" and leave it at that?
It is preposterous, incredible and an affront to the House that the Government should insist on proceeding with the clause unamended. The Economic Secretary shakes her head in disbelief. I shake mine in disbelief at her. Tens of millions of pounds is a lot of money for every man, woman, child and family in this country, particularly when it is being used to prepare the country for something that it does not want.
§ Mr. Horam
The clause is a relic of the halcyon days, from the Government's point of view, when they thought that life in government was simple. The plan was obvious—they were hoping to win the next election, and if they did, legislation would be introduced to hold a referendum shortly thereafter. They would hope immediately to win a yes vote for entry into the euro. All would follow, so there had to be a national changeover plan.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) made the point that the national changeover plan contains a lovely chart, which sets out clearly where we proceed from one point to the end point, where we end up with notes. I noticed that it also said "end cash", which, in these circumstances—as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) will agree—is rather symbolic. Nevertheless, a timetable of three and a half years was established.
Sadly, from the Government's point of view, those halcyon days are over—there are no more glad mornings. Since the European elections, the process has become etiolated, and it has been put ever further into the distant future. Should the Government win the next general election, will there even be a referendum in the first half of the next Parliament? Will there be a referendum at all in the next Parliament? How long will the process take? Even the Prime Minister must realise that the process will take much longer, and that it is much vaguer than it was 897 a year ago when the national changeover plan was proposed. The process has become extraordinarily vague, but clause 122 encapsulates the sense of certainty that the Government have lost.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) said, there is also the matter of the blank cheque. How much will be required? The Government have mentioned tens of millions of pounds for the process, although Tim Congdon and other economists have calculated that, if we were to go into the euro, the total changeover cost would be £2.5 billion; and that, even if we do not go into the euro, the cost will be £750 million. Those figures are being bandied about, and they cannot be totally irrelevant to the Government—who purchase 40 per cent. of everything purchased in the United Kingdom. The Government have huge purchasing power. Although they have vouchsafed to the House a potential changeover cost of tens of millions of pounds, the extent of their own procurement ensures that the changeover will have a far greater effect on them than that.
I remember when my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire and I were in government, and we were castigated by the then Opposition for signing an allegedly blank cheque for the private finance initiative; yet the PFI was operated wholly within departmental—in my case, the Department of Health—budgets, which could not be exceeded without the Treasury's agreement. However, clause 122 would go beyond any agreement between the Treasury and a Minister. It deals not with a certain unspecified sum that would have to be agreed between Departments, but, literally, with a blank cheque.
The fact is that we are now so far down the line—it is a year since the changeover plan was proposed—that Ministers must have some estimate, even a guesstimate, of the sort of figures involved in the changeover plan. The House should be told that estimate. I agree with my hon. Friends that we should be failing as parliamentarians, not to mention as Opposition Members, if we did not press for that information.
The hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies), in an intervention on my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham, made the fair point that Opposition Members are not attempting to limit the spending provided in clause 122—and we are not. It would be foolish to try to limit the spending, as we do not know—any more than the Government do, apparently—the correct figures. We are simply trying to expose the information that is available. It is a matter of accountability, not simply of disagreeing with the figures proposed. We simply want the House and the public to know what is likely to be spent, what is being spent, and even what will be spent—as my hon. Friends have said—retrospectively on those very important matters.
§ Mr. Love
I have listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman's comments, and he has finally got to the nub of amendment No. 31—parliamentary accountability. However, as Labour Members and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) have said, there is already such parliamentary accountability in debates in this Chamber 898 on the Public Accounts Committee's reports. Opposition Members should tell us why that parliamentary scrutiny is not acceptable.
§ Mr. Horam
First, that is an annual accounting. The National Audit Office examines matters annually, after which the Public Accounts Committee has to decide whether to deal with a specific expenditure item. The Committee has to choose from a crowded list of matters, and it may not have the time, even annually, to examine a specific subject in depth—as the changeover should be examined.
We are not asking for something that the Government are not already doing. In the Government's own document on the national changeover plan, at the very end they state:The Treasury will report on progress on this further work in the euro preparation unit's next six-monthly report and produce a further plan in around a year's time.We are simply asking for the EPU's six-monthly report to the Treasury to be reported also to the House. In their own document, Ministers state that they believe that six months is the right interval in which to report on that expenditure stream. I therefore think that it is not unreasonable for hon. Members to ask for any progress to be reported to them in a sensible way. I also do not think that the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee are the right forums to deal with that six-monthly report.
§ Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)
My hon. Friend is making the most interesting speech. Does he agree that—unless we have that canard come back to us from the Minister—there is a third reason for the House to be provided with the information? The National Audit Office could justify the expenditure as wholly effective and proper—as it would be achieving the very result that the Bill was trying to make it achieve—even if huge sums were spent with the sole purpose of driving us into the euro.
§ Mr. Horam
Indeed. The other point is that, by definition, the National Audit Office will take a non-political view on the matter, but does not always have the access to Government papers that it should. Perhaps it should have further powers. Moreover, the Public Accounts Committee, with a Labour majority, may or may not decide that it wishes to investigate the matter in depth.
We are right to want to consider the matter separately. There should be an audit trail so that we can examine the matter systematically and discover how the expenditure is being used. We need to know not merely the total amounts involved, but how the money is being spent. I assume, from what the Government have said, that the national changeover plan deals not with private sector expenditure but with expenditure by the public sector for its own purposes. It also provides for information to be provided to the private sector so that it may prepare for a putative national changeover to the euro. That is the content of the changeover plan.
§ Mr. Loughton
What possible confidence can we have in the Government's accountability to this House when every time Opposition Members have asked Treasury 899 Ministers for a rough idea of the sort of amounts involved, they have wholly and utterly evaded any figure, or even a stab at a figure?
§ Mr. Horam
My hon. Friend is right; we will get no estimate this evening from the Economic Secretary. I give full credit to the hon. Lady for her words on green and environmental matters, but on this matter she will be bound tightly by Treasury rules and will not be able to say anything about possible expenditure. However, we are some way down the track on these matters, and we should by now have some idea of what is likely to be spent.
§ Mr. Luff
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a question not just of the amount of money but, how the money is actually spent? The lack of any definition of categories of expenditure is extremely worrying and could have wide-ranging implications. The clause, as drafted, is capable of wide interpretation.
§ Mr. Horam
My hon. Friend is right. I have looked through the reports on the national changeover plan and I can find nothing other than two vague categories in this area—public expenditure on its own purposes, and measures to inform the public of what is happening. We need more definition, clarity and exposure to parliamentary scrutiny.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham that the proposal is simple pragmatism, although I disagree with those who talk about emotion. This is low-key matter of parliamentary scrutiny, so we can take the emotion out of it. Whether one is for or against the euro, this is a matter of simple, pragmatic parliamentary exposure and discussion which should be dealt with on that basis. I hope that, in those terms, the Government can agree to the amendments.
§ Mr. Swayne
Were I an evangelical advocate of the abolition of the pound—and, despite the Prime Minister's belief that such a position is daft, I understand that such people exist—I would nevertheless advocate that the Government accept the amendments. The existence of clause 122 demands such scrutiny. The clause states:Customs and Excise may incur expenditure".I am afraid that I did not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) in his assertion that tens of millions of pounds were involved. Any amount of money might be involved over any period of time.
§ Mr. Swayne
I thank my hon. Friend for that clarification. That begs the question: on what might those amounts, whatever they might be, be spent? The clause states that Customs and Excise may incur expenditureto exercise their functions relating to taxes and duties (including agricultural levies of the European Community).Despite racking my brains, I am unaware of how those concerned might properly spend any sum of money, never mind the unspecified amounts suggested by the clause. 900 Therefore, the clause demands the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude). It demands scrutiny and accountability. The lack of accountability and any proper answer to our questions adds to the requirement for such scrutiny.
I will listen with interest to the Economic Secretary when she tells us precisely how she anticipates these funds will be spent. I hope that she will do so when she gets up to tell us that she will accept the amendments. Any reticence on her part, or any decision not to accept the amendments, will only reinforce the sense of suspicion and concern that something is being stitched up behind people's backs in precisely the same way as in 1975, when the people were duped, and one campaign, the "Britain in Europe" campaign, outspent the "No" campaign by 10:1.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) has left the Chamber. He asked in what way the amendments provided any control over expenditure. In one sense, he was right: they do not give us the ability to control expenditure—which, if I may say so to the Economic Secretary, is a good reason why she should accept the amendments. They do not give us the ability to control whatever it is that she wishes to spend on whatever it is that she wishes to spend it on. They merely give us the right to know what she has spent and what she has spent it on, which would at least provide some constraint on the expenditure.
Not only do we not know what will be spent and what it will be spent on, but we do not know for how long it might be spent. I suggest that it could be a very long time indeed. The Government have made it clear that the event that the expenditures are designed to achieve—the abolition of the pound—cannot happen until there is sustained convergence.
I did not agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) that convergence had already taken place and that the British economy had moved closer to the European economies in the late 1980s. If the British economy is moving in an orbit around the European economies, it is an elliptical orbit, because it would appear that over the past 25 years it has diverged rather than converged.
The key question is: what has caused that? I suggest that the principal cause is the volume of British trade that takes place with the United States and elsewhere and the consequentially large volume of assets and asset income. Because of those long-term changes, it is highly unlikely that the Government's timetable will be realised. The time scale for the expenditure is in fact very long, so it is highly pertinent for us to have the scrutiny that the amendments offer, which would preserve Parliament's ability to hold the Government to account.
§ Mr. Loughton
Conservative Members have made some powerful points. It was clear that the debate was not going the Government's way when the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) was summoned away by pager and the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) wafted in. I fear, though, that the heat has been too intense even for him and he has slunk away because even he knows that it is a losing battle. He has gone off, officially or unofficially, to represent the No. 10 view with yet another anonymous foreign diplomat.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd) put his finger on it: the debate is not about whether and when we want to join the euro or what 901 damage or good it may do to the economies here or in Europe, but about transparency and democratic accountability.
Today, the Economic Secretary has been in Committee debating the Financial Services and Markets Bill, which is all about accountability, cost to consumers and industry and the guarantee that we are seeking that everything will be up front, which I hope the Government will go along with. This afternoon, the Secretary of State for Health said that of course all the costs of his new-fangled health plan would be made public—so it is ironic that this evening, on an open-ended and potentially enormous issue, the Government are asking for our authority for an entirely blank cheque. As my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor said, that cocks a snook at the whole democratic process.
It was only on 23 February that the Prime Minister—uncharacteristically—came to the House and devoted all of 67 minutes to announcing the changeover plan and answering questions on it. That has been the House's sole opportunity to question a member of Her Majesty's Government on the changeover plan. Attempts to secure other appearances have been evaded and wafted aside. Yet within a month of that statement, the Bill was published, with this provision hidden deep among the latter clauses. It gives the Government the most enormous blank cheque which, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) said, is not even time dated.
I am not in the business of writing blank cheques. No Conservative Member is. When I receive a tax bill from the Inland Revenue I expect to pay the amount stipulated at the bottom. I do not expect to pay an amount that may be thousands—or even tens—of pounds more. Similarly, when I get my council tax bill I expect to pay the amount stated, not some amount that may be much higher, of which I may—or may not—be informed at a later date, for added expenditure whose details may—or may not—be revealed.
It is ironic that the Government should go on about all their proposals being fully costed. They have done so since before the election. They constantly go on about measures that will be paid for by taxation elsewhere.
Earlier this afternoon, the Economic Secretary used a well-worn phrase when she spoke about the "black hole" that would be left by Opposition proposals, but this clause makes a black hole look like a vicarage tea party. The Government should never again have the temerity to ask Conservative Members how much our amendments to legislation might cost. That remark displayed nerve beyond belief.
The clause is about the inevitability of gradualism, by means of which Britain will be driven into the euro behind everyone's back. It is about membership of the euro by stealth. If the Government stick to their promise of holding a referendum on the matter, the balance of probabilities is that the British public will vote resolutely against entry into the euro. That was true a year ago and remains true now. It will still be true in two years, and in the dim and distant future.
The latest opinion poll showed opposition at a record level, with more than two thirds of the public against joining the euro. The Governor of the Bank of England has said that going into the euro would be the most 902 enormous leap of faith. Just two weeks ago, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, on his not terribly successful visit to China, admitted that Britain's economy was large enough to merit having its own currency. So why are the Government asking for funds to go completely against that statement of fact?
The Government's policy ignores the fact that 80 per cent. of the world's financial trade, and 60 per cent. of commercial trade, is transacted in dollars. So what are the Government doing about preparing to ensure the stability of the dollar? That is a far more important currency for our financial and commercial markets, and is likely to remain so for some years, but the Government are doing nothing to ensure its stability.
What are the Government doing to plan for what the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) called the contingencies of a no vote in a referendum? Everything is geared to a yes vote being secured. Nothing is being done to prepare for a no vote, or to protect our more important trade conducted in dollars.
§ Mr. Bercow
Does my hon. Friend agree that, unless our amendments are passed, the situation will be perilous indeed? The president of the Bundesbank has said that within a single European currency it is an illusion to think that member states can retain their autonomy over taxation policy, but the Government have always rejected that view. Does not my hon. Friend think it peculiar that clause 122 provides for the exercise of functions relating to taxes attendant on entry to European monetary union, when previously the Government have insisted that the prospect of income tax control through EMU was a nonsense? Is there not a contradiction in the Government's position? Have the Government not slipped out the truth, so to speak, by stealth?
§ Mr. Loughton:
My hon. Friend puts his finger precisely on the point. So great, in fact, is the emergency before us that the Chancellor has joined us for the first time tonight. The right hon. Member for Hartlepool plainly pressed all the panic buttons when he left the Chamber.
§ Mr. Loughton
Wonders will never cease. There has been yet another shift in alliances within the Government.
Only 18 per cent. of the United Kingdom economy is involved in Europe, but 100 per cent. of British business, industry, shareholders and taxpayers will have to pay the cost of a highly expensive, but uncosted, contingency changeover plan. We are always promised cost assessments, but the absence of one for the plan is stark. It is amazing that, before they deal with any of our EU problems—the common agricultural policy, fraud in the Commission, our rebate, the withholding tax, unfair tax competition that penalises our enterprises, and much more expensive social costs—the Government are trying to commit the British people to enormous and unlimited expenditure, although even the Prime Minister has doubts about which side of the fence to come down on.
It is bad enough to be asked to write a blank cheque and to open up a funding black hole. It is worse still that the bank account holders—the British people—are not 903 allowed to know the amount to be written on that cheque, when it will be written or for what it will pay. I do not share the confidence of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) because I think that the Government are hiding something. Transparency is the best regulator.
§ Mr. Loughton
My hon. Friend spoke so subtly that I did not wish to disrupt the bonhomie that he engendered across the House.
Transparency is the best regulation and the best measure of accountability. The amendment does not deal with the whole issue of the euro, but simply seeks accountability and the ability to hold Labour Members and the Government democratically to account on behalf of our constituents. The changeover plan is purely a contingency plan, but potentially the most expensive contingency in history. We should have none of it.
§ Ms Hewitt
It is fair to begin by saying that Conservative Members have livened up somewhat during this debate. Indeed, we have heard from almost every Conservative Member present, except of course the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). It is hardly surprising that he has remained completely silent on the issue.
Once again, the debate has shown that the Conservatives are indeed a single-issue party. It would appear, at least this evening, that they are a single-sex party too. We have heard a great deal of nonsense this evening in an attempt to whip up some excitement on the Opposition Benches.
§ Ms Hewitt
I do not think that we need to worry about the numbers this evening.
The nonsense that we have heard from Conservative Members started with the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who accused the Government of asking Parliament to give us a blank cheque to spend—a phrase with which Conservative Members were clearly so impressed that several of them repeated it. That is complete rubbish. Clause 122 establishes the propriety of expenditure by Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue on preparations for the possibility that the United Kingdom might join the single currency. It does not remove Parliament's right to scrutinise the expenditure, or the requirement for Parliament to give legal authority for such expenditure each year through the annual supply estimates and the Appropriation Act.
It might be helpful if I remind hon. Members that statutory authority for the payment of expenditure out of moneys provided by Parliament must be given each year and can only be given each year by the supply estimates and confirming Appropriation Act. Any expenditure by the Government on euro preparations, like any other expenditure out of moneys provided by Parliament, will 904 have to be authorised each year by Parliament in the annual Appropriation Act, which provides the legal authority for the expenditure.
§ Ms Hewitt
We will treat it like every other line in the Budget. I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman. He did not refer to the constitutional practice that was enshrined in the 1932 concordat between the Treasury and the Public Accounts Committee. I assume that as a former Treasury Minister he is familiar with that concordat. It is a rule of propriety that continuing functions of Government, in particular when they involve financial liabilities that extend beyond a given financial year, should also be defined and covered by specific statutes. It is in accordance with that rule of propriety that clause 122 provides specific statutory authority for expenditure on euro preparations.
§ Mr. Maude
I take it from what the hon. Lady says that the answer to my question is no, the House will not have such an opportunity. If she cannot supply that and as she claims that this is not a blank cheque for the Government, will she tell us what number will be on the cheque? How much money is she proposing to spend? If she does not know, she has the Chancellor at her side—he seems to have come to life—and she should ask him.
§ Ms Hewitt
I shall come to the figures for expenditure in a minute. As I said, expenditure on that matter will be treated in exactly the same way as any other expenditure from moneys authorised by Parliament. Perhaps it is not surprising that the right hon. Gentleman, who is Maastricht man—the man who signed the Maastricht treaty on behalf of the previous Government—wants to divert attention from his record by his obsession with clause 122.
I shall spell out the procedures once again because the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues seem to have forgotten them. As with all expenditure incurred by revenue Departments, Parliament votes through estimates. Forecasts of euro preparation expenditure would be included in those estimates. The annual appropriation accounts report the actual outturn against the figures projected in the estimate and those are laid before Parliament in the January following the end of each financial year to which they relate. Moreover, the annual departmental reports, which are laid before Parliament around the end of March, provide a backward look to the previous financial year as well as a forward look to the coming financial year and expand on the detail contained in the estimate and appropriation account. I remind the House of that because so many right hon. and hon. Conservative Members seem to have forgotten it.
There are three main reasons for pre-referendum spending in the Revenue Departments.
First, unless we undertake the necessary practical preparations, the United Kingdom will not be in a practical position to join—even if that were in the national economic interest. That is especially true of the Revenue departments, whose computer systems are among the largest and most complex in Europe.
905 Secondly, if the UK were to join the single currency, our Revenue departments would come under pressure from UK businesses to allow taxes to be assessed, reported and paid in euro. That would be no more than was offered by countries which participated in the first wave. We have allowed taxes to be paid in euro from 1 January this year. So far, the investment that we have made in IT and other systems to enable that to take place has been small—about £150,000. We considered that to be commensurate with a relatively low take-up. Even without extending the euro options for UK businesses, increased take-up of existing options would require significant investment to ensure cost-effective and accurate services. I am sure that hon. Members would want that.
Thirdly, by making relatively small and well-targeted expenditure now, we can save substantial sums if the UK were to join. That is effective public sector planning, to deliver best value for money, of the kind that any sensible organisation or business would undertake.
The right hon. Member for Horsham and several other hon. Members asked me for detailed figures as to expenditure. I shall set out exactly what was spent up until the end of February 1999. The public sector spent £27 million on ensuring that the City of London and many businesses and departments were able to deal with the euro from its introduction on 1 January. The Bank of England, the euro preparations unit in the Treasury, Revenue departments and the Department of Social Security accounted for most of that preparatory spending. Less than £2 million has been spent on preparing for the possibility of UK entry. The Bank of England spent about £16.6 million preparing for 1999—£17 million in total. The euro preparations unit spent £8.5 million, of which only about £50,000 was related to possible UK entry.
Customs and Excise spent £0.8 million on 1999 preparations—£0.2 million on planning for possible UK entry. The Inland Revenue spent £0.15 million on 1999 preparations—£0.35 million on planning for possible UK entry. In both cases, the spending on preparations for 1999 was to ensure that firms could pay taxes in euro from its launch. The DSS has spent about £0.5 million in total—almost all of which was geared towards possible UK entry, including £0.3 million on set-up and staff costs and £0.2 million on IT analysis. I hope that no Conservative Member will accuse me of lack of detail in these matters.
I point out to the House that the extraordinary concern of Conservative Members over the relatively small amounts involved in this matter sits ill with their complete indifference to the £5 billion hole in their own spending plans, arising from their resistance to the fuel duty escalator and other matters that we discussed earlier.
§ Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford)
The hon. Lady has given precise figures, broken down between departments and functions, for moneys spent up until the end of February. Will she give us the Budget figures for prospective expenditure under the same headings? To return the phrase that she used, any well-managed—or half well-managed—business or organisation would have a budget with precise figures. 906 If the organisation for which she is responsible is at least half well-managed, she will have forward budgetary figures. Will she give them to the House?
§ Ms Hewitt
In the current financial year, the Inland Revenue plans to spend about £5 million, and Customs and Excise plans to spend about £10 million in total. As for the years beyond that, the planning that we are undertaking at present, following the publication of the outline national changeover plan, will enable us to produce detailed figures. They will be dealt with in the normal way, through the procedures that I have described.
§ Mr. Letwin
I am most interested in the figures the Economic Secretary has just given. She has told us the spending that is planned for this year—figures of £5 million and £10 million. In which estimates were those approved, and which debate that occurred in this House inspected the validity and propriety of that expenditure?
§ Ms Hewitt
They are part of the normal estimates, dealt with in the proper way. If the hon. Gentleman did not notice them at the time, that is his problem.
It is absolutely fascinating to have heard from the two sides of the Conservative Treasury team. The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford said in 1996:It would be completely crazy and contrary to the national interest to throw away our option to join the single currency. The British people would not respect a Government that did such a thing.He went on to say:Taking irrevocable decisions before you have to and before all the essential facts are available is bizarre and indefensibleHe is describing the policy of his own party, on whose Front Bench he now sits, as "crazy", "bizarre and indefensible" andcontrary to the national interest".
§ Mr. Davies
I had better state it quite explicitly, so as to remove any doubt from the hon. Lady's mind. The quotation she has just delivered describes precisely the Conservative party's position on this issue, which I have the honour to defend from the Front Bench.
§ Ms Hewitt
That is the entirely bizarre explanation that was offered by the right hon. Member for Horsham when he opened the debate. If I understood him correctly—it was difficult to follow his arguments—it is now the Conservative party's position to keep open the option of joining the single currency by ensuring that the British people are never given a chance to join. It is impossible for the Conservatives to square their policy of keeping open the option of joining with their other policy of establishing a constitutional principle that rules out the possibility of joining for five years, 10 years or for ever, depending on who is speaking.
§ Mr. Bercow
Will such expenditure be undertaken only upon the assumption of continued direct taxation sovereignty, and rejected without it?
§ Ms Hewitt
We have made it clear on numerous occasions in the House and elsewhere that tax harmonisation—harmonisation of direct taxation—is not required by possible entry into the single currency. 907 The House knows well the Government's position on the question of taxation, specifically the withholding tax, which has been mentioned.
The fact is that there are three possible positions on the question of the single currency. The first is to rule it out, even if joining a successful single currency would be good for Britain. That is the position of the Conservative party, which has now become the anti-European party of British politics.
§ Ms Hewitt
Apparently, that is not the Conservatives' position any longer. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Horsham—Maastricht man—will clarify the position once again. We have heard many different policies this evening, so the right hon. Gentleman, who signed the Maastricht treaty, should tell us what the Conservative policy is.
That is one possible policy: to rule out joining a single currency on principle, even if it would be good for Britain. That policy was described, correctly, by the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford as "crazy", "bizarre" andcontrary to the national interest.The second position is that we should join the single currency as quickly as possible, even if doing so were bad for this country. That indeed would be "crazy", "bizarre" andcontrary to the national interest",even though it is supported by some hon. Members.
The third policy position—the position of this Government—is to join a successful single currency if it is good for Britain. If the economic benefits of joining a successful single currency are clear and unambiguous, then of course it is right that we should join. That is the only policy in the national interest, and it is of course the Government's policy.
We have made it clear, in the statements in October 1997 by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, and earlier this year by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he launched the national draft outline changeover plan, that the decision on possible entry to a successful single currency should be made by Government, Parliament and then the British people in a referendum. It is in pursuit of that policy of "prepare and decide" that we have published the changeover plan.
The hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor), a member of the previous Conservative Government and, indeed, a Front Bencher before he resigned in disgust at the anti-European position that his party has adopted, made the position clear when he welcomed the publication of the changeover plan. He said:Anyone who opposes a national changeover plan must not want to have a referendum, because it can be held only if the British people are prepared."—[Official Report, 23 February 1999; Vol. 326, c. 194.]Our changeover plan has been prepared in very close consultation with business associations in this country. It is further illustration of how completely out of touch the Conservative party is with British business and the British national interest that it has opposed the sensible planning of the changeover plan, which was welcomed by, among others, the president of the CBI. The changeover plan is 908 a sensible and necessary step to enable this country to have the option of joining a successful single currency if that would be in the interests of our country.
Under clause 122, as I have explained in considerable detail, we have ensured that the proper rules of propriety and the convention with the Public Accounts Committee are observed. We are extremely supportive of the important role that Parliament plays in the proper scrutiny of public expenditure, but there is a set procedure for reporting on expenditure to the House. The procedure works well, and the Opposition were quite happy to follow it during their 18 years in government. Euro preparations expenditure will continue to be included in the annual estimates, appropriation accounts and departmental reports, along with all the other spending by revenue Departments.
I am astonished that the Opposition seek to impose an extra bureaucratic burden on our tax authorities—one that has nothing whatever to offer in improving real accountability and scrutiny of public expenditure. I hope very much that the right hon. Member for Horsham will have the wisdom to withdraw his amendment. If not, I shall certainly urge my hon. Friends to vote against it.
§ Mr. Maude
I knew that it would be fascinating to hear how the Economic Secretary would make the case to resist the amendments. Now we have the answer. She did not make the case; she just ignored the case, which became stronger and stronger as each hon. Member rose to their feet. The Economic Secretary has insulted the House of Commons by refusing to address the actual issues and by making a pathetic attempt to sow dissention. She was dismayed by the fact that Conservative Front Benchers have been resolutely united in this approach. It is very upsetting for her, but it is a fact that the whole House ought to be concerned about this issue.
I said when I moved the amendment that the Government were asking for a blank cheque. Having heard what the Economic Secretary has had to say, that remains so. This is an extraordinary clause. As far as I can see, no other clause is a spending clause.
It has been claimed that the National Audit Office already has the power to scrutinise the accounts, but if the expenditure is proper according to the terms of the clause—we have no reason to suppose that it will not be—the NAO will not scrutinise the accounts in detail but simply report on the global sum. The Public Accounts Committee will not get close to the accounts because the NAO will sign off that sum as having been effective spending.
That spending may be effective according to the terms of the clause, but it is effective spending to achieve the wrong outcome. The Government will spend unspecified amounts of taxpayers' money on something that even the Prime Minister has accepted hardly anyone wants. The Economic Secretary has mentioned several figures, but she cannot say in which estimates those figures are contained. She cannot tell us in which National Audit Office report they are scrutinised. There is no proper mechanism by which the House can fulfil its historic function of scrutiny for such extraordinary expenditure.
Coming from a Government who prate about and use the language of prudence and competence, this is a disgrace. The Treasury, which admits to having negotiations to agree hard and fast budgets with other Departments, will simply 909 say, "We shall spend as much as we think right." The Prime Minister says, "We shall spend tens of millions of pounds over a number of years." That is airy-fairy, and it is intolerable that the House of Commons should not have the ability properly to scrutinise that expenditure. For that reason, I ask the House to support the amendment.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 134, Noes 336.912
|Division No. 225]||9.11pm|
|Anisworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Heald, Oliver|
|Allan, Richard||Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Amess, David||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Horam, John|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Beggs, Roy||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Bercow, John||Keetch, Paul|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Key, Robert|
|Blunt, Crispin||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Body, Sir Richard||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Boswell, Tim||Lansley, Andrew|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Leith, Edward|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Letwin, Oliver|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Brazier,Julian||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (FareHam)|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Loughton, Tim|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Luff, Peter|
|Burns, Simon||MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew|
|Burstow, Paul||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Cash, William||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Bamet)||Madel. Sir David|
|Clappison, James||Malins, Humfrey|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||Maples, John|
|Collins, Tim||Mates, Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Cran, James||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham)||Moss, Mascolm|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Norman, Archie|
|Evans, Nigel||Oaten, Mark|
|Faber, David||Öpik, Lembit|
|Fabricant, Michael||Ottaway, Richard|
|Fallon, Michael||Page, Richard|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Paice, James|
|Flight, Howard||Prior, David|
|Forsuthe, Clifford||Randall, John|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Rebathan, Andrew|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Fraser, Christopher||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Gale, Roger||Ross, William (E Lond'y)|
|Garnier, Edward||Ruffley, David|
|Gibb, Nick||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Gill, Christopher||Sehpherd, Richard|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Simpson, Keith (Mid—Norfolk)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Soames, Nicholas|
|Gary, James||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Green, Damian||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Greenway, John||Spring, Richard|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Hague, Rt Hon William||Steen, Anthony|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Streeter, Gary|
|Hammond, Philip||Swayne, Deamond|
|Hancock, Mike||Syms, Robert|
|Harvey, Nick||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Hawkins, Nick||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Thompson, William||Whittingdale, John|
|Tredinnick, David||Wilshire, David|
|Trend, Michael||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Tyne, Andrew||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Viggers, Peter||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Webb, Steve||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wells, Bowen||Mrs. Jacqui Lait and|
|Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Clelland, David|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Coaker, Vernon|
|Ainger, Nick||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Coleman, lain|
|Alexander, Douglas||Connarty, Michael|
|Allen, Graham||Corbett, Robin|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Cousins, Jim|
|Ashton, Joe||Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Cryer, John (Homchurch)|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Cummings, John|
|Austin, John||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Barnes, Harry||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Barron, Kevin||Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire|
|Battle, John||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bayley, Hugh||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Beard, Nigel||Darvill, Keith|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)||Dawson, Hilton|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Benton, Joe||Denham, John|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dismore, Andrew|
|Berry, Roger||Dobbin, Jim|
|Best, Harold||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Blackman, Liz||Doran, Frank|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Dowd, Jim|
|Blizzard, Bob||Drew, David|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Boateng, Paul||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Edwards, Huw|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Efford, Clive|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Ennis, Jeff|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Etherington, Bill|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Browne, Desmond||Fisher, Mark|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Burden, Richard||Flint, Caroline|
|Burgon, Colin||Flynn, Paul|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Follett, Barbara|
|Byers, Rt Hon Stephen||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Fyfe, Maria|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Gapes, Mike|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Gardiner, Barry|
|Cann, Jamie||Gerrard, Neil|
|Caplin, Ivor||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Casale, Roger||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Caton, Martin||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Cawsey, Ian||Godsiff, Roger|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Goggins, Paul|
|Chaytor, David||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Clapham, Michael||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Griffiths, Win (Bndgend)|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Grogan, John|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Gunnell, John|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||McWalter, Tony|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||McWilliam, John|
|Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Mallaber, Judy|
|Healey, John||Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Hesford, Stephen||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Hewitt, Ms Patricia||Martlew, Eric|
|Hill, Keith||Maxton, John|
|Hinchliffe, David||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Meale, Alan|
|Hoey, Kate||Merron, Gillian|
|Home Robertson, John||Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)|
|Hope, Phil||Milburn, Rt Hon Alan|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||Mitchell, Austin|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Moffatt, Laura|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Hurst, Alan||Morley, Elliot|
|Hutton, John||Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Illsley, Eric||Mullin, Chris|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Jamieson, David||Naysmith, Dr Doug|
|Jenkins, Brian||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|(Welwyn Hatfield)||O'Hara, Eddie|
|Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)||Olner, Bill|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Jones, Ms Jenny||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|(Wolverh'ton SW)||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Pearson, Ian|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Pendry, Tom|
|Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Pickthall, Colin|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Pike, Peter L|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Plaskitt, James|
|Kemp, Fraser||Pollard, Kerry|
|Kennedy, Jane (VVavertree)||Pond, Chris|
|Khabra, Piara S||Pope, Greg|
|Kidney, David||Pound, Stephen|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Purchase, Ken|
|Laxton, Bob||Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce|
|Lepper, David||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Leslie, Christopher||Radice, Rt Hon Giles|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Rammell, Bill|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Rapson, Syd|
|Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen||Raynsford, Nick|
|Linton, Martin||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Livingstone, Ken||Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Rooker, Jeff|
|Lock, David||Rooney, Terry|
|Love, Andrew||Rowlands, Ted|
|McAllion, John||Roy, Frank|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Ruane, Chris|
|McCabe, Steve||Ruddock, Joan|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|McCartney, Rt Hon Ian||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Macdonald, Calum||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McDonnell, John||Sawford, Phil|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Mclsaac, Shona||Shaw, Jonathan|
|McNamara, Kevin||Sheerman, Barry|
|MacShane, Denis||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Shipley, Ms Debra||Timms, Stephen|
|Short, Rt Hon Clare||Tipping, Paddy|
|Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)||Todd, Mark|
|Singh, Marsha||Trickett, Jon|
|Skinner, Dennis||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Smith, Miss Geraldine||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|(Morecambe & Lunesdale)||Vaz, Keith|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Snape, Peter||Wareing, Robert N|
|Soley, Clive||Watts, David|
|Southworth, Ms Helen||White, Brian|
|Spellar, John||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Squire, Ms Rachel||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Starkey Dr,||Phyllis||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Steinberg, Gerry Ger||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Stevenson, George||(Swansea W)|
|Stewart, David (Inverness E)||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen|
|rt, Ian (Eccles)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Convey)|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||Winnick, David|
|Stoate, Dr Howard||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Wise, Audrey|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||Wood, Mike|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Worthington, Tony|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Wray, James|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|(Dewsbury)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Taylor, Ms Dart (Stockton S)|
|Taylor, David (NW Leics)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Temple—Morris, Peter||Mr. David Hanson and|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Mr. Clive Betts.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.