The intergovernmental conference on economic and monetary union opened in Rome on 15 December 1990. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor represented the United Kingdom. The next ministerial meeting will take place on 28 January and my right hon. Friend will continue to argue for the United Kingdom's proposals for the introduction of a common European currency, the hard ecu.
Despite the failure of the common agricultural policy and of attempts to form a common defence and foreign policy, does my right hon. Friend nevertheless accept that the common currency has the supreme merit of being market-led and that its use will be determined by demand and not imposed by centralised bureaucracy?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. That is the essence of our proposal on a common currency. No one would have the hard ecu forced upon them. It will be for firms, individuals and Governments to use, as and when they wish. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that our proposals now seem to be attracting more support.
I think that the question of a common foreign policy is one of the matters that will be discussed at the political intergovernmental conference. The hon. Gentleman will have heard what I had to say about that on Tuesday.
As bonds are being issued in greater numbers in ecu and as from March this year futures will be able to be dealt with in ecu, does my right hon. Friend agree that that adds weight to the argument that the hard ecu as an alternative currency to sterling could come about without anything being foisted upon us?
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. That is certainly the case. The real virtue of the hard ecu is that it would be determined by the market, driven by the market, and not imposed upon anyone.