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European Single Currency

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley 12:00 am, 13th March 1997

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It looks as if we will meet the Maastricht criteria. We have lower debt than any other major European Union country, and our debt has been lower every year under the present Government than in any year under the last Labour Government. Our borrowing is running at half its level under the last Labour Government, our inflation is below the EU average and our unemployment is lower than that in any other EU country. We have done all that while looking very likely to meet the Maastricht criteria.

Contrast that with the position of other countries such as France and Germany which are suffering terribly by having to meet those criteria. The reason for that is that they have not made the structural reforms that we have made in the teeth of bitter Labour opposition. Those reforms have meant that three quarters of the competitiveness gap with Germany has been closed over the past 18 years. It is no wonder that new Labour's unique selling proposition to the electorate is, "Those guys have made such a mess of things that we shall copy all their policies."