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Euro (Uk Retailers)

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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What discussions he has had with major United Kingdom retailers concerning their preparations for the introduction of the euro. [16601]

I have had many discussions with United Kingdom companies, particularly retailers, about the introduction of the euro.

Does not the decision made by Marks and Spencer and others show remarkable foresight, and does it not contrast with the immobilism of the Conservative party, whose members cannot make up their minds whether they are for or against the euro in principle? Is it not eccentric of the Conservative party to decide not even to consider joining the single currency for a decade, although to do so may be in the nation's economic interests?

I agree. I think that businesses are increasingly worried by the Conservative party's behaviour in this regard. Those who run businesses are practical people who want to get on with preparing for what will happen, but they are now faced with a Conservative party that cannot give them any answers about future policy other than ruling out the single currency for 10 years.

Of course, not only businesses are now against the Conservative party. The shadow Cabinet is being depleted week after week as its members resign as a result of the policy on Europe, and one former Conservative Member has been added to our side during the past few days. The downsizing of the Conservative party continues.

Certainly not over Christmas.

I welcome the prudent steps that the Chancellor has taken to prepare business for possible entry to monetary union. Does he accept, however, that there is a vast gulf of misunderstanding in businesses of all sizes about what monetary union actually means? In preparing the documents that he rightly intends to distribute to businesses, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that those documents are carefully tailored to fit the sector and size of the companies to which they are sent?

I am grateful that the voice of one-nation Conservatism is now being expressed in the House. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman: business has a right to know the implications of the euro, and the last Government should have made those implications known long ago. We have published a pamphlet by Professor Currie, which sets out the arguments on the euro, and we have now also published a practical guide to the euro. Literature will be available to small businesses. They have a right to know how the euro will affect them, and how British business can benefit from it. We shall take the steps that the previous Government refused to take.