As the former Prime Minister whose Government forced the ERM business through the House now appears, according to The Evening Standard, to be having second thoughts about the ERM business, would it not be wise and helpful for the Government in a quiet and scholarly way to reconsider the whole ERM business and ask where is the logic of pretending that the pound is worth something that it is not when it is being accompanied, and probably partly caused by, huge Government borrowing, massive unemployment and a chronic balance of payments problem? Is there not a case for the Government quietly and thoughtfully to ask whether there is any sense in that at all?
The logic of our determination to maintain our position within the ERM is our wish to match our standards of monetary control and discipline not, like the Labour party, to the average but to the highest standards in Europe. Our determination to do so is based on our recognition of the fact that not to do so would be to impose a quite unnecessary competitive disadvantage on British industry.
Does my hon. Friend agree that those who wish to cut and run on interest rates would once again inflict on this country the inflationary problems which have made us uncompetitive and would, through inflation, once again try to disguise the failure to adjust to international markets? Will he therefore reaffirm the Government's intention to maintain the central rate against the deutschmark and to move to the narrow band as soon as possible so that this country can once again be competitive in the international arena and British industry can flourish?
Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that absolute affirmation. If we consider 30 years of economic history, we should be conscious that not to provide that discipline is to provide a background which is a needless impediment to the development of investment and long-term planning in British industry, especially the manufacturing sector, which is so often espoused by hon. Members.
This Government have always made clear their determination to use interest rates to bring inflation under control to match, as I said earlier, our standards of monetary control with the highest in Europe.