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Lord Beloff: Of course that argument has been advanced frequently, but it happens to be nonsense.

Lord Taverne: I always like the humility with which the noble Lord expresses his opinions. I enjoy his speeches enormously, but he prevents this House being excessively polite. When he refers to Ireland, for example, as the pensioner of Europe, he is somewhat offhand in his appreciation of what has happened in different countries. Ireland has one of the best economic records of any of the European member states.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord will agree that Ireland receives £2 million every day. It has been doing so for many years and will do so indefinitely until it agrees to vote against it. That has had an interesting effect on the Irish economy.

Lord Taverne: Ireland has had assistance, as indeed have other parts of the European Union. That is one of the reasons why countries such as Portugal have been able to move towards the average income of the European Union. Ireland has made extremely good use of those services. It has moved from 60 per cent. to 98 per cent. of the average income of the European Union. And the cohesion fund will stop being applied to Ireland because of the excellent use it has made of those services in the past.

There have been many references to the fudging of criteria. Again there is a certain arrogance about that. By remarkable efforts countries have achieved the criteria.

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People say that Italy has not done so, but even without the special Europe tax Italy would still be comfortably within the 3 per cent. deficit criteria. One should also remember that those criteria are not written in tablets of stone. They are not the be all and end all of tests as to whether a country is fit to join a monetary union. They are guidelines to indicate whether the country can comply with what really matters; that is, whether a country can sustain a low rate of inflation. That is the requirement--and it is one which countries have looked very much like achieving.

Of course dealing with inflation is not enough. One is looking for growth. It is remarkable that the countries of Europe have stuck to their plans regarding monetary union when going through a very bad patch and a deflationary period. Germany in particular has suffered from macro-economic deflation, largely as a result of unification. But the predictions of doom are somewhat misplaced. If one examines the scene in Europe at present, one finds that Germany and France are heading for a faster rate of growth than the United Kingdom. One should not adopt a somewhat patronising attitude to other countries which, according to some, seem to have managed their affairs rather less effectively than we have.

One thing that surprises me about the case put by the opponents of monetary union is that they totally disregard the enthusiasm for it that is shown in other countries. It is true that, so far as Germany is concerned, public opinion is hostile. It is also noteworthy that every time people in Germany have the chance to vote for a sceptic, they do not do so; the voting is very different from the way in which people express themselves in opinion polls.

Seeing the enthusiasm of other countries and their determination to make monetary union succeed, the question arises: are they all mad? According to the anti-Europeans, all those countries are absolutely mad to want to go for monetary union. An examination of their record shows it to be on the whole rather better than ours. We are not in a very strong position to lecture others about what is a sane economic approach. The political will is there; and there is therefore every reason to suppose that this venture will succeed.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Perhaps I may--

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: As I shall speak only once, perhaps it is the turn of this side. I do not intend to speak twice before the Minister replies, so I think I--

Noble Lords: Order. Viscount Massereene!

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard: What is always forgotten when we debate the EEC is that those countries need us a good deal more than we need them. We have an adverse balance of trade with them. The corrupt shambles of the CAP costs every family in this country around £20 per week on their food bill. And now we are contemplating joining a single currency, sending all our

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gold reserves to Frankfurt and getting a whole lot of unelected bureaucrats in effect to run our economy. Are we mad?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: It is not--

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: At the risk of contradicting myself, I do wish to speak. I have spoken only once--indeed I am speaking for the first time. The noble Lord has already spoken.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: It does not matter.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: With all due respect to the noble Lord, I think that he might wait until after the Minister replies; then he can speak again. That is the normal way in which a Committee stage is conducted as I recall. I do not want to argue with the noble Lord, but we cannot have people speaking a second time before the Minister has replied.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, likened the European single currency to a railway train that was unstoppable and said there was a UK maiden strapped to the rails. I am beginning to think that this debate is unstoppable and I am the poor maiden strapped to the rails. That is why I decided to intervene.

I always find these debates difficult. We have had a fair number, and the only thing that has changed is the geography of the Chamber--I was usually sitting on the other side and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was here. The arguments were much the same. A few new players have emerged, but, frankly, the debate shows all the signs of never having moved on very much.

I have the same trouble as I had when I spoke from the Government Front Bench--I am "buffeted" by the Europhiles and Europhobes. The Europhiles come on--usually, it has to be said, from the Liberal Democrat Benches--with the attitude that almost everything in Europe is brilliant, everything in Britain is bad and we should do exactly what the foreigners want on every occasion and never think for ourselves at all. I then find myself being pushed into an anti-European position. Then, to counter that, along come some of the Europhobes, and I am very quickly pushed back. I sometimes feel like something of a yo-yo in these debates. Nevertheless, I maintain my position. I believe quite firmly in our membership of the European Union. It is thoroughly sound. I campaigned for it in the referendum. Just occasionally I think some of the policies are daft. But some UK policies are also daft, and therefore the European Union is no different from any other government. Just in case the Front Bench Opposite get any ideas that I am talking about the previous government, I am thinking of the ban on beef on the bone, for example, and matters of that nature.

As I have said on a considerable number of occasions, the fundamental point is that we have benefited from being in a market of something like 370 million rich (in terms of the rest of the world) consumers. Some of the

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ideas put forward by those who would prefer us to leave the European Union are hugely out of date and we ought not to consider them too much. It does not do our country any service to be continually rehearsing arguments and battles long since gone, when the British people have decided in election after election that they want to remain inside the European Union.

There are many matters that the European Union ought to be getting down to, not just the single currency. It ought to be completing the single market. It irritates me slightly that the single market has not been completed. One example is the subsidies to the German coal industry. There are subsidies to state airlines, and British Airways is not being helped at all. Another example is the way in which financial services are still unable to penetrate the single market in the way they ought to. But those things will come about. A market requires, in the jargon, "a level playing field". It requires the rules and regulations to be made in such a way that they are fair to all countries and ensure that people can operate in every part of that single market. In addition, I should like to think that we can enlarge the Community and give to the people of central Europe the advantages that they were denied for 50 years when they were under the heel of the Soviet Empire.

The issue of the single currency has been introduced in a rather elegant way. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, complained about the first amendment, tabled by my noble friend Lord Moynihan. I think the real reason that my noble friend tabled the amendment was to allow the noble Baroness the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and, so to speak, give an opening position regarding how she saw the Committee running, and also to introduce herself to the debate since she had inadvertently not been able to be present at Second Reading.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Peston: I have no criticism to make of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. My concern was that noble Lords might have interpreted what was said then to mean that they could go on to debate any subject they fancied from now on. I was hoping to hear it stated that that was not the agreement between the two Front Benches, but that we should at some stage debate matters to do with the Amsterdam Treaty.

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