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 Mark Hoban Mark Hoban The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 3:32 pm, 20th June 2011

The hon. Lady poses a series of very good questions, to which I will respond.

The hon. Lady asked whether the authorities are working together. I said in response to her initial question that the Treasury, the Bank of England and the FSA are working closely on this matter and monitoring the situation. We are keen to ensure that the UK banking system is resilient. The additional capital that the banks hold now, compared with at the start of the crisis, will help with that. As I said, UK banks have not had difficulty in sourcing funding in the market. There is a concern about liquidity risk, but UK banks are continuing to source funding.

I mentioned in my statement the exposure of UK banks to the Greek Government. It is $4 billion, which is less than our exposure to, for example, the Irish banks. The hon. Lady should bear it in mind that French banks’ exposure is about four times that amount and that German banks’ exposure is about five times that amount. We are taking the matter seriously and considering it carefully, and the Chancellor is currently at the ECOFIN meeting in Luxembourg, where I am sure it will be discussed.

The hon. Lady talked about reversing the VAT increase. The shadow Chancellor proposed last week a cut in VAT that would cost £51 billion, which would put at risk our credibility in international markets. We have taken the difficult decisions to ensure that UK market rates are in line with those of Germany. The proposal that she put forward, and which her right hon. Friend put forward last week, would mean interest rates rising for families and businesses across this country, putting the recovery at risk. I do not think that is a gamble that we can afford to take.