HC Deb 30 October 1956 vol 558 cc134-5W
96. Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in regard to the European free trade area into which Her Majesty's Government are contemplating entering, what arrangements are envisaged for either a common currency, or a definite linking of the currencies of the countries involved ; and what account he has taken of the effect that such a step would have upon that section of the sterling area which is outside the United Kingdom trade.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The currencies of European countries are already linked through the system of exchange rate parities agreed with the International Monetary Fund and through the payments arrangements of the European Payments Union. It is not necessary for the successful operation of a free trade area that there should be a common currency and H.M.G. do not contemplate taking part in any arrangements of this kind, even if such arrangements were proposed, in view of our wider responsibilities with regard to sterling. The second part of the Question therefore does not arise.

Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the economy of this country will be affected by the internal economy and conditions of the other European nations concerned as a result of the European free trade area which Her Majesty's Government are considering joining in some form; and, in order that the full extent of this may be gauged, if he will instruct our representative at the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation to obtain information as to the social services these countries enjoy and the income per capita, the weekly wages and the working hours in each country; and if he will have this information published.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The factors mentioned by my hon. Friend are only some of the many factors which are relevant to the competitiveness of British industries and hence to the effects on the economy of this country of helping to create a European free trade area ; they need to be seen in perspective against the broad background of economic opportunity which the establishment of such an area should create. The information listed is already available in published material.