HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 cc833-4
12. Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury)

What plans he has to encourage the private sector to intensify its preparations for membership of the euro. [133900]

The Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

The second national changeover plan was published in March 2000.

Mr. O'Brien

The Secretary of State, and now the Minister, have failed miserably to answer the unambiguous questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) and subsequently by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). Given that the Department and Ministers have a prime responsibility to account to the House for the expenditure of taxpayers' money, will the Minister identify exactly how much has been allocated in the DTI budget for the expenditure of taxpayers' money on the changeover plan for the private sector, whether to support it or directly to subsidise it? Exactly when does expenditure start—or when is the private sector being advised that it will start—in support of the Labour Government's attempts to scrap the pound?

Mrs. Liddell

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the Department's priority at the moment is to ensure that British industry at all levels is able to trade with the eurozone countries, given that the euro is a reality in those countries. To that end, in September I announced the "3 Es" campaign, which concentrates on practical advice on electronic commerce, the euro and exports. The total cost of that campaign is £100,000. It involves the production of 50,000 CD-ROMs and seminars throughout the country, and has been much welcomed by the business community.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Is it not a fact that in areas of the country that depend heavily on the manufacturing sector, large manufacturers are already trading and dealing in the euro? They have to do so if they want to survive in the European market.

Mrs. Liddell

Sensible and prudent businesses are making the necessary arrangements to seize competitive advantage in dealing with the euro—and they are not in any way dissuaded from doing that by Opposition Members' comments.

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton)

We are not talking about campaigns and seminars. If the Minister wants a public debate on the euro, why are she and the Secretary of State keeping secret from the House the cost to the public sector of conversion? The work has been done on that. We know that it has. She does not know the cost to the private sector of converting to the euro. Why will she not disclose the figure for the state sector? What is she hiding?

Mrs. Liddell

The hon. Gentleman should try to do his homework rather better. If he looks at the preparations for the introduction of the single currency in the eurozone countries, he will find that no eurozone country can yet say what the total cost of conversion will be. I have seen estimates ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 per cent. of GDP. In this country it would be impossible to make a guesstimate, which is what the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest should be done. I suggest that he concentrate rather more on the facts and rather less on rhetoric.

Forward to