Euro: Support for Joining - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 9th May 2016.

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Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative 2:44 pm, 9th May 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish a list of organisations and individuals in public life, including Members of both Houses of Parliament, who have previously urged that the United Kingdom should join the euro.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, no, the Government have no plans to publish such a list. The Prime Minister has been clear that Britain will never join the euro.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, when the CBI warns that a million jobs may be lost should we leave the EU, it is spookily reminiscent of what it said during the euro debate and uses exactly the same arguments. If my noble friend will not publish a list, will he encourage those who told us that terrible things would happen if we did not join the euro to fess up before they tell the British public that there will be a disaster if we leave the EU?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, it depends on who my noble friend has been listening to. The Treasury assessment and analysis was clear at the time that it was not in Britain’s interest to join the euro. Many other experts, such as the Governor of the Bank of England, the IMF and the OECD, also raised concerns about Britain joining the euro. They are now unanimous that Britain should remain in the EU.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

Why did the Minister not tell his noble friend that this Question has nothing whatever to do with ministerial responsibility? It would be quite sinister if the Minister said he could publish such a list, rather than saying that the Government will not publish such a list. I cannot understand why this Question was allowed on the Order Paper.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, one reason is that I did not think of it. Secondly, I am not responsible for the Questions that are tabled in this House.

Photo of Lord Wright of Richmond Lord Wright of Richmond Crossbench

My Lords, I think the Minister is probably too young to have been in the House when Lord Dahrendorf was here. He once said—I think in this House but certainly in writing—that anybody who has not changed his mind in the last 10 years has probably not been thinking.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am too young to have been in the House then, but I know Professor Dahrendorf was at the LSE, which is quite clear that we should remain in the EU.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat

My Lords, if the intention behind the Question was to infer current wisdom—or otherwise—from past behaviour, could the Minister remind the House which Chancellor of the Exchequer shadowed the deutschmark and pressed the late Baroness Thatcher to enter into the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system?

Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative

Given the Government’s warnings that leaving the European Union might result in a war in Europe, so we are told today, mortgages going through the roof and the loss of 3 million jobs, could my noble friend explain how on earth the Prime Minister decided to call a referendum on this matter in the first place? How could my right honourable friend the Prime Minister have possibly contemplated, as he told us he did, walking away from the negotiations and recommending a no vote?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Taking the last part of the question first, I do not think it is right for my noble friend to dwell on the negotiations. The point is that we are where we are. We have a choice before us, which is dramatic uncertainty if we leave and knowing what we are in now, with a reformed Europe, if we stay.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

My Lords, would the Minister not recognise that there is a total difference between what we might or might not have lost from not joining the euro and what we might or might not lose from leaving the European Union and—as I gather the leave campaign now proposes—leaving the single market? The two things are apples and oranges, and it is not wise to confuse them. By the way, the names of those who supported joining the euro in 1999 are a matter of public record, and I will help the noble Lord by saying that I was a member of the council of Britain in Europe.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that being a member of the euro and being a member of the EU are two different things. The Prime Minister has negotiated that we will have a special place in Europe, because the decisions of the EU will not depend on whether we are in the euro and we will be protected in the EU although we are not a member of the eurozone.

Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his ringing endorsement of Gordon Brown’s leadership. Moving on, surely this debate is bigger than our currency; it is about what being a member of the EU really means. Does he agree that it is vital that over the coming days, we facilitate the broadest ranging debate possible, because it will be in so doing that the benefits of being a member of the EU will be demonstrated beyond doubt?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord: there are many things apart from the economics of the situation. Security and safety against terrorism, the science base and many other things, not least our position in the world order, depend on our being in the EU.

Photo of Lord Lawson of Blaby Lord Lawson of Blaby Conservative

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that he is not too young to recall that in January 1989, when I was still Chancellor of the Exchequer, I made a speech spelling out why the euro—monetary union—would be a disaster, why we should not join it and why the European Union would be foolish to go ahead? Perhaps he can set the record right against those who are clearly too young to recall the past.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I do not remember every speech that my noble friend made, but in many cases he was very wise.