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Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, cannot speak for the whole nation? Not only can he not speak for all Christians who belong to various denominations, as my noble friend pointed out, but he cannot speak for people of different religions or of no religion.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was claiming to speak for all religions. He was saying that culture and tradition are important in the life of any nation. There are many different cultures and traditions in our country, and one of them is the important one that he identified.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are many loyal Anglicans who are anxious about the doctrinal and other pretensions of the Synod and who therefore believe that the 1919 Act, which set up the National Assembly and Convocation, should be looked at afresh?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the constitutional arrangements between Church and state as presently existing work with reasonable satisfaction. As

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I originally said, if the Church of England has any proposals to put forward, we shall consider them with the utmost care and scruple.

Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, I welcome the original reply of the Minister. However, does he recognise that many of us feel that establishment is a good thing for both the Church and the state and that it should not be tampered with?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I understand that that is a widely held view among many adherents to the Church of England. I made it plain that we do not contemplate any changed arrangements except at the initiative of the Church of England.

The Lord Bishop of Southwell: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the latest test of opinion by the General Synod of the Church of England indicates that a large majority have shown their desire to continue with the establishment? Furthermore, does he accept that the Church is aware that it has no divine right to an established status, but that that depends on the acceptance of the people whom it serves and the sense of value that they place upon it? Is the Minister also aware that in the resolution of the General Synod it rejected the proposal that there should be any changes with regard to the appointment of bishops and also with regard to Parliament's responsibility for approval of the Synod's decisions? Will he therefore confirm the Church's desire to continue to act in a way that is appropriate within the life of the nation?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I was aware of the large majority. I utterly endorse the proposition that an established Church can continue to exist only if it receives a substantial degree of support from the public, which I believe it does. We recognise the peculiar position of the Church. We have done that expressly, as the Lord Chancellor took pains to point out, in the Human Rights Bill where we introduced specific arrangements for legislative change if any were to be sought in the context of Church of England affairs.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister says that any change in the relationship between Church and state can be undertaken only on the initiative of the Church. Does that extend to the Church's position in your Lordships' House.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I said that we would not contemplate disestablishment until the Church wished it. The Church's position in your Lordships' House is a matter which, as they say, is presently under review.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for avoiding the morass of disestablishment and turn to a more practical level. In any thoughts on the future of the Church will attention be paid to the fact that one-third of Grade I listed buildings in England are in the charge of the Church of England and are largely

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paid for by the Church of England? Any thoughts therefore on the Church's future should give consideration to the national heritage which it sustains.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not regard disestablishment as a "morass". The Welsh Church was successfully disestablished in 1914--effectively in 1920 after the First World War--and it is a thriving organisation within the life of Wales. I agree with what the noble Lord said in relation to the Church. The fabric of the Church in the material sense is extremely important, just as the fabric of the Church in the spiritual sense is important in the life of the nation.

Customs and Excise: Euro Transactions

3.19 p.m.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry asked Her Majesty's Government:

    At what date they expect HM Customs and Excise to be able to handle transactions in euros.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise will be in a position to receive VAT payments and to handle invoiced amounts for imported goods in euros from 1st January 1999.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer, which I find encouraging, particularly on this day of the first ever European conference when 26 European nations are gathered together to discuss key policies of the European Union. Does he agree that the question of the introduction of a single currency--the euro--is by far and away the most difficult decision that has ever faced the European Union since it started? For that reason, when will the Government consider publishing a simple, readable pamphlet, which would set out the pros and cons of joining the single currency and in the process demolish some of the myths?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I rather think that I agree with the noble Lord in his first suggestion that it is the most important issue that has occurred within the European Community. On his second question, we have published two guides: one on the pros and cons of EMU; a more detailed report by my noble friend Lord Currie; and one on the practical implications for business. We shall be updating those shortly. We have also set up, under my noble friend Lord Simon of Highbury, business advisory groups and standing committees to co-ordinate work in the public and private sectors and to facilitate our readiness for EMU.

Lord Newby: My Lords, in the light of that answer, will the Government reconsider their decision not to apply for funds which might be available from the EU in order to publicise the consequences of the introduction of a single European currency?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government's position on funding is that we have to be

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very careful not to accept funding which would put the case for one side or another where there is disagreement. That is the principle on which we have looked at European funding in this matter.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I am delighted to hear what he has just said, that there should not be a one-sided argument about this? Under those circumstances, may I have his assurance that if and when we have a referendum on the subject that will certainly be taken into consideration and that the Government will be even-handed and allow those who are opposed to a single currency to have money from public funds equal to the amount which is available to the Government and other organisations?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sure that when that day comes the Government will take into account my noble friend's views. But no decision has been taken on the matter at this time.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the business committees set up by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Highbury. Can he assure us that, as part of their remit, they will be paying particular regard to the position of small firms, many of which will be trading with our Community partners?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the information services and other support services to which my noble friend referred. However, does he not agree that the key in all of this is to ensure that British business remains competitive with those countries in the euro zone, as Britain will be on the outside of EMU during the initial phase?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, we are aware that those countries which join EMU on 1st January next year will have a considerable advantage in terms of reduced transactional costs. We shall certainly have to remain competitive in order to counter that. I also recognise that almost half of our total trade in goods and services is with the 11 countries which are likely to join EMU next year.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, reverting to the original Question about tax collecting, can the noble Lord assure me that his noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington will be able to fill in his self-assessment form in euros?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend will certainly be able to do that. I do not know

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whether my noble friend or the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, have the advantage I have of a French bank account.

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