Eurozone (Contingency Plans)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 20th June 2011.

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Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston 3:32 pm, 20th June 2011

It is absolutely true that there is no room for complacency, but there is also no room for selective blindness and deafness, which there clearly is on the Front Benches. We have yet another question on a bail-out to which Ministers say, “Of course, we cannot be specific and we will not indulge in speculation on events that may or may not happen.”

The United Kingdom will not be isolated if Greece defaults. Economists across the world are increasingly saying that it is a question not of if, but of when and are arguing that, for all intents and purposes, it has already happened. Another bail-out package will not solve Greece’s problems because it is not regaining competitiveness and cannot do so while it is in the eurozone. Therefore, is it not time that Her Majesty’s Government woke up and prepared for the possibility and almost inevitability of Greece defaulting? The situation will lead either to a Greek default or to the break-up of the eurozone. Whichever way it goes, we will not be isolated.

I will therefore ask the Minister some questions that go to the heart of the resilience that needs to be built up. The first is about institutional resilience. If he is really telling the House that people at the Treasury and the Bank of England have not started to get together to make practical provisions about who will meet, hold discussions and take action in the case of a default that would be comparable to Lehman Brothers, he is guilty of not stepping up to the responsibilities of his office.

Secondly, the Minister’s economic plans are completely predicated on the rest of Europe and the world being economically successful. If Greece defaults, other economies will not grow and ours will be affected. Therefore, should he not reconsider his VAT increase, because that would give us greater resilience?