HL Deb 11 October 1993 vol 549 cc7-9

2.55 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether in the foreseeable future they intend to proceed with the implementation of Part VI of the Maastricht Treaty on economic and monetary policy.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, once the treaty enters into force we will comply with its obligations.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, in expressing my gratitude to the noble Earl for his very brief and succinct reply, and in venturing to hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has by this time read the Maastricht Treaty and will doubtless be aware of the very great expenditure that will be involved in setting up the economic and monetary institute, together with all the ancillary staffs and other work which has to be done to make it effective, will he tell us whether the Government have had an opportunity of reading yet the excellent article under the Prime Minister's signature which appeared in the Economist on 25th September in which he stated: The plain fact is that economic and monetary union is not realisable in present circumstances and therefore not relevant to our economic difficulties". The Prime Minister made a further observation: we cannot assemble for a special European Summit in October on the same, old, stale agenda. I hope my fellow heads of government will resist the temptation to recite the mantra of full economic and monetary union as if nothing had changed. If they do recite it, it will have all the quaintness of a rain dance and about the same potency". Has that article yet penetrated into the realms of the whole of the Government?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I cannot answer for the other members of the Government, but I have certainly read the article. I am glad that the noble Lord has read it and that he agrees with so much of what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister says.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is not the noble Earl aware that he actually answers for the Government?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, yes, I am fully aware that I have the privilege and responsibility of answering for the Government, but as I cannot tell the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, exactly which members of the Government have read the article, I could not give a definitive answer in the terms that he would have liked.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, in view of the explicit views of the Prime Minister which have now been quoted, would it not be a happy day for this House if we gave Maastricht a rest for six months?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, that is entirely in your Lordships' hands.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, does the Minister's Answer mean that the Government have not ruled out in the foreseeable future joining the economic and monetary union?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord has forgotten that we have an opt-out clause.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, does the Minister recall that the Belgian presidency is reported recently as saying that when matters of social policy are discussed the United Kingdom will have to leave the room? Is the Minister's Delphic reply to be interpreted as saying that when matters of economic and monetary policy are discussed the United Kingdom will also have to leave the room?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I take great pleasure in the fact that I thought that I had managed to give what the noble Lord thought was a Delphic reply. It was a very straight answer. There is quite a difference between stage 2 and economic and monetary union, which is stage 3, and for which we have an opt-out. There is nothing Delphic about that.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the supplementary questions which we have just heard have nothing whatever to do with the Question on the Order Paper? Is he further aware that they are merely a tactic to try to keep alive a matter which it is believed will be electorally valuable at some time?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I believe that all noble Lords realise that the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was rather wide of the Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Stoddarit of Swindon

My Lords, I know that the noble Earl has to speak for the whole of Government, but does he agree in particular with Mr. Lilley's statement at the conference that laws for the British should be made by Britons in Britain and not in foreign lands by foreigners?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, what I do know is that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and I are in agreement—and that the Government are in agreement—that at stage 2 economic policy remains firmly in the hands of the Government.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, surely the noble Earl is aware that when any member of the Cabinet speaks, he speaks on behalf of the Government as a whole. That is a doctrine which the noble Earl himself has frequently advanced in this House. There must be unity—unity at all costs. Is the noble Earl aware that his right honourable friend Mr. Lilley made an additional observation at the Tory Party Conference to the effect that the superstate has to be "rolled back" in a revision of the Maastricht Treaty in 1996 and that Britain should be given back powers which it has lost and should not be subsumed in a European superstate? Either the Minister's right honourable friend is talking for the Government or he is talking for himself. Will the noble Earl be kind enough to elucidate and will he consult with his Cabinet colleagues with a view to producing a united response to the question, if necessary by publication in the Economist over the signature of the Cabinet Secretary?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the Government are totally united that when the Maastricht Treaty comes into force, which we hope will be in the not too distant future depending on the court case in Germany tomorrow, phase 2 will come into operation on 1st January 1994.

Lord Eatwell

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that in a reply just now he committed the Government to stage 2 of the process towards economic and monetary union? Is he also aware that stage 2 contains within the treaty the commitment to entry to the narrow bands of the ERM? Is he thereby committing the Government to re-entry to the narrow bands of the ERM?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, no. It is for stage 3 that one needs to have been in the narrow bands for the previous two years.