HC Deb 23 July 2002 vol 389 c845
16. Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell)

If he will make a statement on progress at the Convention on the Future of Europe. [69592]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain)

The Convention has concluded its listening phase, during which it took soundings from its members and a wide range of civil society. It is now moving into its analytical phase, including working groups on specific issues.

Mr. Challen

May I ask my right hon. Friend to contrast the almost complete absence of public debate on the Convention of the Future of Europe and on the democratic nature of the enlargement that is to take place with the £37,000 that is spent every day on euro preparations, which I estimate has amounted to £8 million or £9 million since I last raised the issue? Does that suggest that we are not really interested in encouraging public debate on the future of Europe?

Peter Hain

No, it does not. I spend quite a lot of time travelling around Britain—I have travelled to all three nations—explaining what enlargement and the future of Europe are about. It is hard to get attention in the media for that debate, but I agree that it is essential to do so.

On preparations for the euro, I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that it is important that our companies, many of which are small businesses, are properly prepared for the existence of the euro in the eurozone countries, because many of them trade in the euro. That is what the Treasury plan and the money that is being spent, under the Chancellor's supervision, are designed to achieve.

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