§ Lord Tebbit
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether it is their intention to observe Article 3a of the Treaty of Maastricht until having given notification of the intention not to proceed into the third stage of monetary union.
The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)
Yes. Article 3a includes commitments to the principles of an open market with free competition, to stable prices, sound public finances and monetary conditions and a sustainable balance of payments. The Government fully support these principles and welcome their inclusion in the treaty. The article also contains a reference to activities which include the "irrevocable fixing of exchange rates leading to the introduction of a single currency". Such activities are to take place "in accordance with the timetable and the procedures" in the treaty, which includes the UK protocol. If the UK exercises its rights under that protocol to decide not to join Stage 3, it will not be committed to join in this activity. Since this activity can only take place in Stage 3 of EMU, this provision does not, in effect, bind the UK.