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Exchange Rates

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 5 June 2003

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If she will visit Bridgend to assess the impact of exchange rates on future employment. [116506]

Although I have no current plans to visit Bridgend, I am well aware of the difficulties that the weakness of the euro, until very recently, has caused for British industry, particularly manufacturing.

My right hon. Friend would be warmly welcomed in Bridgend, where there is an important manufacturing sector; Sony and Ford are the two major contributors. Although I would not expect her to say anything about the euro, about which we will hear something on Monday, does she agree that something close to the current exchange rate would be one that British industry could welcome in terms of any entry to the euro in the fairly near future?

I agree that the recent strengthening of the euro has significantly improved matters for Sony and Ford as well as for many other manufacturing companies that export to the eurozone. The views of those two companies and many others on the exchange rate and the single currency are very well known, as are mine, but the fuller answer that my hon. Friend would like will have to wait for the Chancellor's statement on Monday.

Will not future employment be affected not only by the exchange rate, but by the collapse in business investment and the slowdown in productivity growth? Will not it be affected by the worsening strike record and the deteriorating trade deficit? Does the Secretary of State accept responsibility for those failures or does she blame them on rogue elements in the Department of Trade and Industry? Is she aware that business people are today hoping that she may indeed be promoted in the forthcoming reshuffle? They are praying that that will be one case of rewards for failure that she does not attempt to block.