What it is right for the Government to comment on is that we are committed firmly to maintaining our position within the exchange rate parameters, which we have done to the benefit of the country in terms of a sound exchange rate, and reducing the levels of inflation and interest rates.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that sterling being within the exchange rate mechanism has added considerably to the stability of sterling in the past 18 months? Will he confirm also that it is the Government's wish to enter the narrow band of the exchange rate mechanism in due course? Has my hon. Friend any idea when that might be practicable?
Why does not the Minister let the Chief Secretary to the Treasury answer this question so that he can make a statement not only about the exchange rate mechanism and whether it will be shifted, but about the principle of the common market in the Maastricht treaty? Let him stand up and tell us. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has answered—
I fully accept that the ERM is an efficient anti-inflationary discipline, but does my hon. Friend accept that if we could react to the health of our economy, with inflation just above 4 per cent., interest rates in Britain could be reduced to 8 per cent. if we were outside the ERM? That would be of immense benefit to manufacturing and to mortgage payers in Britain.