European Monetary System
§ Mr. Alton
Does the Chancellor agree that for far too long we have ducked membership of the European monetary system because of short-term arguments that have disappeared on the next prevailing wind of the world currency market—[Interruption.] Does the Chancellor agree that sterling is not a super currency and should not be subjected to the vagaries of the world money markets?
§ Mr. Lawson
I am not sure that I was able to hear every word that the hon. Member uttered, so I hope that he will forgive me if I do not give the fullest answer to his question. What he has failed to observe is that since the Louvre agreement towards the end of February of this year—which was conducted through G7, even though only six members were present on that occasion—we have enjoyed the benefits of exchange rate stability throughout all the major currencies, not just the European ones.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams
Is it really a wise or constructive move to make binding commitments in regard to the exchange rate of the pound before we have completed the integration of the European market for capital? Would it not be much better to integrate our policies with those of the continental countries, particularly West Germany, after which the currencies will look after themselves?
§ Mr. Lawson
I agree with the first half of what my hon. Friend said. I strongly support the move that there is now throughout Europe for freedom of capital movements. A number of countries in the Community have complete freedom of capital movements and others are moving in that direction. The Commission is making further proposals this autumn for freedom of capital movements for those countries which, unlike the United Kingdom, do not already have it. This is an important development and I welcome it.
§ Mr. Skinner
I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be lured by the call of the Liberals and Social Democrats into a further bout of merger mania and into agreeing that the pound should join the EMS. We have had enough twaddle about the Common Market in the past 14 years from Euro-fanatics at the back of me and the one below me who has just turned up for work. It has cost the British taxpayer £8,000 million net to be a member of this club, despite all the talk about barrow-loads of money being brought back by the Prime Minister. That has been the cost to the British taxpayer and it is time that it ended.
§ Mr. Lawson
I can assure the House that I am no more likely to be lured by the Liberals and Social Democrats than I am by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).