Financial Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:22 pm on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 4:22 pm, 20th January 2009

It is not collapsing because of attacks on our currency. It is falling because of interest rate and borrowing policies. It is falling because of a natural market pattern, not because of an attack by one economy on another, which is what used to happen. Economies would deliberately do down other currencies, but that is not what is happening now. I agree that being outside the euro at the moment is an advantage for our competitiveness, and I am pleased that we are outside it. I would have urged us to go in earlier, but I am willing to recant on that, because our flexibility at this time and in this situation is wonderful.

The European Union will have to show great flexibility with the Irish situation, or Ireland may not be able to sustain its membership of the euro. European document 14306/08, which we also considered on 24 November, changed the interpretation of state aid rules in exceptional circumstances of financial crisis. It is important to realise that state aid policies would have choked off any attempt to deal with the problem of the real economy or support for the financial sector.

Another two documents were tagged, and the Committee considered them only last week, on 12 January. The first gave the context for state rules in guidance on the recapitalisation of banks. It is important to consider that, and I shall quote some of the stated aims of that policy, because there is flexibility in that context. Its purpose is

"contributing to the restoration of financial stability; helping ensure lending to the real economy; and avoiding systemic effects from insolvency of a financial institution."

That is underpinned by good, sound rules. It continues:

"Member states' own banks should not obtain an undue competitive advantage over banks in other Member States."

The policy is about flexibility. Not everyone is happy and everything is not hunky-dory, or whatever Mr. Bone said, but there are signs of willingness to try to create a co-operative approach throughout the EU. We would not have had that without the EU, and I commend the Conservative Government who took us into the European Union. I voted yes then, and I would vote yes again.

The document also states that

"state recapitalisation should not distort the domestic market, banks that seek additional capital in the market should not be put in a significantly less competitive position due to state recapitalisations."

That guidance and those rules, which the EU has agreed, are important. Whether the Commission, Britain, the French or the Germans came up with them does not bother me, nor does it bother my constituents who write to me asking why they cannot obtain credit, and why their bank is taking away the credit that they require for their cash flow to enable them to buy the goods required to manufacture the products to sell to their customers. I have written to the chief executives of the banks of those which have written to me because the banks have to realise that they must show co-operation and flexibility, and the ability exists for them to do that. I hope that we will commend the Government for their endeavours.

I repeat that Opposition Front Benchers appear to want to ignore the wolf at the door to talk about the bogey man in the cupboard. It is time they focused on the real problem. The Commission is not some sort of animal that is out of control. We have control of the Council and I hope that, after the Lisbon treaty, we will have control in the Parliament of dual mandate, which is important and will democratise the process. If we are not willing to engage in that and simply want to call names across the water, we become increasingly ridiculous, but—thank goodness—the Government are not doing that, as the motion shows.

The final document that is tagged to the debate is 17606/1/08, which we considered last week, to amend the 2007 to 2013 financial framework. The intention was to change it in such a way that we moved, for example, €5 billion to trans-European energy connections from the defence of natural resources, and thus try to put the money into the real economy. The idea is worth considering. The Government are not currently convinced about it, and the Committee has not cleared the document because we believe that further dialogue is needed with the Government. However, that shows that the Government are not simply jumping in lock, stock and barrel and accepting every proposal that comes out of the Commission. They want to examine it in detail and see how it will affect our economy and our companies. The right framework and the right plan are being pursued, and they should be endorsed.

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