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Volume 598: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2015

10. What assessment he has made of the current situation in Greece and the effect of that situation on other EU member states. (901003)

The Government have carried out regular assessments of the events in Greece and the impact they might have on British business interests, British residents in Greece and British tourists. We have put in place contingency measures for a variety of scenarios to ensure that our interests and those of our citizens are protected. We judge the risk of contagion elsewhere in Europe to be much reduced when compared with the situation in 2012.

It is fair to say that the situation has moved on ever so slightly from when I tabled the question. It may be too early to tell, but will we be in a position to look at how the negotiations pan out and assess whether that makes us feel stronger in our desire for renegotiation or weaker?

The events that have taken place in the eurozone over the last few weeks have confirmed our wish to see an ambitious programme of reform and renegotiation. In particular, they have demonstrated the need for Europe to work out a design for European co-operation that distinguishes between eurozone countries that will need to move towards closer integration over time, and member states that choose to stay outside the eurozone.

Does the Minister share my assessment that the troika was wrong to bail out greedy and irresponsible bankers because its action has led to the immiseration of people in Greece?

I think that what is happening to ordinary families in Greece has been a tragedy, but I also think that there are two lessons to be learned. First, those who join a single currency must give up a fair amount of their independent decision-making power over economic policy. Secondly, any country that gets into serious debt will find it hard to do a deal with its creditors. That is why this Government’s intention of paying down the deficit and reducing the underlying debt is so important to our fortunes.

The Greek financial crisis has given the green light to the gangs of human traffickers who are exploiting the weaknesses of the Greco-Turkish border to push hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants towards western Europe. Will the Minister ensure that, in this crisis, we do not lose sight of the fact that we must do all that we can to help Greece to plug the gaps in the EU external frontier?

My hon. Friend has made a good point. We have already deployed people to Greece to support Frontex and the Greek police, and we will continue to work closely with other member states, particularly Greece, and with the EU institutions.

Is not the pressure that has forced the Greek Government to buckle in the last few days a shame politically, morally awful, and, importantly, economically tragic? It is almost like the parlour game Monopoly. When someone is so obviously losing that the game ends, it has to restart. That is what happened to Germany in 1953 when it was granted debt forgiveness, one of the creditors being Greece.

I say with all respect to the hon. Gentleman that it is for the eurozone countries that participate in the single currency to work out how to address the problem. What has happened to the Greek people is indeed a tragedy, but there are people in other eurozone countries with elected Governments of their own who want to ensure that their taxes are not at risk.

Order. I fear that the cheeky-chappie disposition of the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) may be incompatible with his long-term aspiration to be viewed as a statesman.