|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Laws: I am very grateful to the Economic Secretary for giving way again. She reminds me of one of those graceful ships in the second world war whose job was to put up a big smokescreen so the convoy could escapebut she does it in a very glamorous and effective way. Before she finishes, will she tell us whether we will be informed that the preliminary technical assessment has been completed before we find out the result of the five economic tests? In other words, will we be told that the preliminary work has finished and then that the work on the tests has started, or will the results suddenly land on us from on high, perhaps on the front page of The Times, as happened in the previous Parliament?
Ruth Kelly: The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government have committed themselves to completing the assessment of the five economic tests within the first two years of this Parliament. We remain committed to that and nothing has changed, so in the remaining few minutes, it would be useful if I tried to answer some of his other questions.
The hon. Gentleman was interested in the White Paper on European economic reform and asked whether economic reform was in some respects a sixth test for entry into the euro. It is not. We have always underlined the importance of economic reform in its own right; it is crucial to Europe's future success. The Government are determined to play a positive and constructive role in Europe, helping to deliver that reform. All member states now recognise the importance of such reform.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the European Central Bank and our views about the nature of its workings. We share the ECB's primary objective of ensuring price stability as a platform for high and stable growth and employment. We agree that the ECB must ensure that decisions are as transparent as possible and we welcome the efforts that it has made so far. We think that openness and transparency are key to ensuring that the ECB gains the trust of the European public and financial markets, and that that will ultimately help to provide the credibility that is needed to deliver a more effective monetary policy. We would not, however, somehow make reform of the ECB an additional test to our five economic tests or a precondition of the euro decision. We have set out our policy clearly: the five economic tests should be assessed and must be judged clearly and unambiguously before any recommendation is made to Parliament and the people.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the growth and stability pact. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in oral questions last week, we support prudent interpretation of the operation of the pact, but yet again, we would in no sense move away from the five economic tests that have been set out. It is clear what those tests are and we remain determined to assess them.