Loans to Ireland Bill

Part of Loans to Ireland Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 2:54 pm on 15th December 2010.

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Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee 2:54 pm, 15th December 2010

I appreciate that. The Chancellor has referred to 2013 on a number of occasions, and my hon. Friend has referred to the possible unlawfulness of the mechanism on a number of occasions, including in private discussions.

This is a crisis of the eurozone, for which UK taxpayers are footing part of the bill. The UK will have to engage with members of the eurozone to limit the damage now and to construct something better for the future. I will touch on a few of those points in the moments that remain. I recognise that the problems to which I refer may be intractable. First, as the Chancellor has said, the senior creditors have been exempted from a haircut. The Chancellor told us that this was because of the risk of contagion. He is probably right, but the resulting moral hazard is large and will have to be addressed.

The second issue that I wish to raise, which naturally none of the authorities wants to talk about, is the fact the even the measures for Ireland and for Greece may not prevent default. The crisis may be one of solvency, not liquidity. That has a bearing on the lender of last resort provisions for the eurozone. It is possible that a sovereign default could trigger a banking crisis and even failure in parts of the eurozone, because banks hold a large amount of sovereign debt on their balance sheets. Such a bank failure could be highly toxic.

It is worth bearing in mind that the great depression of the 1930s was triggered as much by bank failures after 1931 as it was by the stock market collapse of 1929. I do not want to play the role of Cassandra, but I plead that contingency planning at European level be done now for the risk of such a bank failure. On the basis of the eurozone's responses to the crisis so far, I am not optimistic that that planning is being done. The eurozone is fearful of leaks, and those doing the work would be terrified of that possibility. I have no doubt that that would inhibit their work. In addition, pessimism on such issues in European circles does not exactly make such work a career-enhancing prospect for the eurocrats who would have to do it. Let us just hope that they are doing that work.

The third problem that I wish to refer to-I shall leave it at that given the time available-is the long-term future of the eurozone itself in a world in which the bond markets have discovered that the no bail-out clause is toothless. I should say at this point that I have never opposed the eurozone on ideological grounds or on grounds of principle, but I have been wary on practical grounds, particularly the ground that the no bail-out clause may turn out to have no clothes. That is exactly what has happened.