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Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend is right. It is premature to talk about a single currency and a referendum. It might be necessary to go down that route in the future, but those are not decisions that we have to take at the moment.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, addressing oneself to the Question which refers to "permanently ruled out", will the Minister confirm that under the British constitution no government of any party can bind their successors who can do exactly as they wish? In
Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Prime Minister's remark that we cannot rule out a referendum. But in the event of the other members of the European Union agreeing on a single currency, and Her Majesty's Government refusing to participate in the agreement, could we have a referendum on that refusal, and, if not, why not?
Lord Henley: My Lords, that is a hypothetical question. Given the present degree of economic convergence, it is unrealistic to suggest that a majority of countries will be ready to go ahead with Stage 3 by 1997, or whenever. It would be a gross economic mistake to go ahead prematurely. We shall make the appropriate decision at the appropriate time.
Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, according to the rules of the single currency, only Britain, Germany and Luxembourg are likely to meet the conditions, and that will be some time in the next century?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I can take the noble Lord even further. I believe that at the moment only Luxembourg meets the two primary conditions on debt and deficit. It will be a long time before the majority of countries gets anywhere near meeting them.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that as Luxembourg has no currency of its own but uses the Belgian franc, it is of interest to note that it is also the only country which has a single currency with another country without a single government? Is it not a fact that a single currency naturally necessitates a single government to be responsible for it? Therefore, in talking about a single currency we are talking about whether we wish to have a single government for the whole of Europe.
Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend makes the valid point that moving to a single currency is an important step in the development of the European Union. That is a decision which will have to be considered carefully if and when it has to be made.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is not the single currency, from a practical point of view, in any event on the back burner indefinitely while we consider the vast enlargement with all the other states? What on earth has that to do with a sensible referendum?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the point my noble friend makes, with which I agree, is that this is something which is a long way off; it is not something that we need waste time discussing today, tomorrow or for the foreseeable future.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I should have thought that a majority of your Lordships' House was in favour of a single currency, but that is something that we will discover one day. Will the Minister clarify an answer which staggered me? He said that he thought that only one country would meet the convergence criteria under Maastricht within the foreseeable future. I thought that he said something like that. Does he agree that in the very near future probably six, if not eight, of the present countries within the Union will meet those criteria? That is my view. Does he agree with me? Two, if not all three, of the countries joining will meet those criteria. What is paradoxical, within all of that, is that if there is one country upon which I would bet to meet those criteria, it is our own.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. We will meet them relatively soon and we shall do so as a result of the economic policies that Her Majesty's Government have been pursuing, which have been opposed by the party opposite for a number of years. As regards a single currency, some, like the noble Lord, and, for all I know, like the whole of his party, are in favour of it, but some are not. I am saying that it is not a decision that we have to take today. It is one that is some way off, because I still believe that we are a long way from the majority of the countries meeting those convergence criteria.
Lord Peston: My Lords, will the Minister take the opportunity at some time to explain why we are a long way off? Will he accept from meI am becoming very puzzled by thisthat we on this side at least are not engaged in electioneering? I am becoming more and more fed up
Lord Peston: My Lords, no. I at no stage make any such remarks at any time. I am becoming more and more irritated by noble Lords on the Government Front Bench assuming that there is going to be an election any day. If there is, I should like them to tell us.
Lord Boardman: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that from the remarks of the Opposition Front Bench, it seems that the Opposition are not just in favour of a single currency but inevitably, flowing from
Lord Monson: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, were the UK to join a single currency, no future Chancellor of the Exchequer would ever be able to fine tune the economy by persuading the Governor of the Bank of England to make slight adjustments, upwards or downwards, to interest rates? The only weapon left to the Chancellor would be the fiscal weaponthe power to raise or lower taxes once a year in November. That is a very blunt instrument and not always a very efficient one.
Lord Henley: My Lords, as I have already made clear, joining a single European currency would have major consequences. These are not decisions that we have to make today, tomorrow or even in the foreseeable future. We shall leave them to the appropriate time.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, may I assure the Minister that there are many people in the Labour Party who do not believe in a single currency and who will fight against it? He should not assume that there is a majority in the House for a single currency. Does he agree with his noble friend Lord Lawson that a single currency implies a single government? Can we have an assurance from this Government that under no circumstances will they consider giving away our sovereignty to the extent that we have a single government in Europe, which would result in the sweeping away of our parliamentary democracy?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I cannot speculate upon the myriad of different views within the party opposite. All I can say is that Official Opposition policy seems to be that they would join the single currency as soon as possible. We recognise the significance of such a decision, and that is why my right honourable friend negotiated the UK protocol to the Maastricht Treaty, which I should have thought the noble Lord would have welcomed. That will ensure that no move can be made without the approval of a full Act of Parliament.
The Earl of Gowrie: My Lords, immensely enjoyable though it is, does my noble friend agree that it is foolish of us to argue about a purely notional European federation, including a common currency, at a time when all the major European powers are following the sensible lead of Her Majesty's Government and becoming Euro-sceptical?
1. Appointment of Sub-Committees
The Committee has appointed the following Sub-Committees and Panel
Finance and Staff Sub-Committee
L. Boston of Faversham (Chairman),
Administration and Works Sub-Committee
L. Boston of Faversham (Chairman),
Library and Computers Sub-Committee
L. Allen of Abbeydale,
Advisory Panel on Works of Art
L. Armstrong of Ilminster,
2. Black Rod's Garden Entrance
The Committee has approved modifications, sought by Westminster City Council but costing no more than the original scheme, to the Black Rod's Garden Entrance project which will make Black Rod's Garden the main southern entrance to the Palace of Westminster after the summer recess 1995. Westminster City Council's arboriculturalist has made recommendations, which the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will be considering, as to which trees should be planted in Black Rod's Garden when the works there have been completed.
3. New Pelican Crossing
The Committee has been informed that Westminster City Council has approved the installation of a Pelican Crossing to facilitate access between 6-7 Old Palace Yard and the House of Lords.
The Committee has approved, consequential on installation of the Pelican Crossing, new arrangements to meet police concerns about lobby queues and traffic circulation and a new lay-out for the main House of Lords car park which will increase the number of parking spaces by three.
4. Car parking
The Committee has agreed that greater use of the Abingdon Street car park by peers should be encouraged; and has authorised the acquisition of fourteen extra spaces there for a 3 months' trial period, during which parking in the main House of Lords car park and in the Abingdon Street car park will be monitored to assess demand.
The Committee has authorised Black Rod, consequent on the changes which will follow the installation of the Pelican Crossing between the House and 6-7 Old Palace Yard, to circulate a notice to peers, setting out the arrangements for car parking in the House of Lords.
5. 6-7 Old Palace Yard
The Committee has been informed that work on 6-7 Old Palace Yard has been completed within cost and that it will be ready for occupation in early January 1995.
6. Lords' Reimbursement Allowances
The Committee has been informed of changes to the rate of car mileage, subsistence and secretarial allowances which were approved by resolutions of the House on 20 July 1994. The Committee has approved the conditions whereby a member of the House of Lords who is away from his main place of residence in the United Kingdom when Parliament is recalled during a recess may be reimbursed the extra costs incurred in travelling to attend the House.
7. History of Parliament Trust
The Committee has been informed that in accordance with the recommendations of the Ibbs Report it is proposed that funding of the History of Parliament Trust should be transferred from the Treasury to Parliament. The Committee has agreed, to the extent that the House of Lords may in future be included in the works of the History of Parliament Trust, to consider contributing towards the costs.
8. Staff of the House
The Committee has been informed of the following appointments
an additional Clerk in the Committee Office for one year in the first instance;
an additional secretary in the Law Lords' Office;
two additional attendants for 6-7 Old Palace Yard;
replacement of a part-time secretary by a full-time temporary secretary in Black Rod's office;
the extension for one year of a temporary part-time typist in the Record Office.
The Committee has also been informed of the following
that Mr. Derek Rippengal and Sir James Nursaw have agreed to continue to serve part-time, sharing the work of Counsel of the Chairman of Committees for a further year, ending 30 November 1995;
that Mr. R.H. Walters has been promoted in post as Establishment Officer to Grade 4, with effect from 1 August 1994;
that Mr. T.V. Mohan, Committee Office, has been promoted to Chief Clerk (Grade 5) with effect from 9 July 1994;
that Mr. E.C. Ollard, Public Bill Office, has been promoted to Chief Clerk (Grade 5) with effect from 4 August 1994;
that Miss L.J. Mouland has been appointed a Clerk with effect from 10 October 1994;
that Major Arthur Charlesworth has been appointed Staff Superintendent with effect from January 1995, in succession to Major Peter Horsfall;
that Mr. M. Skelton has been appointed to succeed Mr. J. Emmerson as Principal Doorkeeper, with effect from January 1995.
9. Retirement of Head of Security
The committee has been informed that the Head of Security, Chief Superintendent A.E.F. Longhurst, will retire in February 1995. The Committee has expressed its thanks to him for his professional and dedicated service to the House during his tenure of office.
The Committee has been informed of the appointment of Superintendent C.M. Harris as the new Head of Security.