The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1990Chancellor (1989-1990)

Mr Major’s Written Parliamentary Answer on the European Community – 15 October 1990

Below is the text of Mr Major’s written Parliamentary Answer on the European Community on 15th October 1990.

Mr. Spearing To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement concerning Councils of Finance Ministers of the European Communities, both formal and informal, he has attended since 1 September.

Mr. Major Members of the Economic and Finance Council met informally on 7 and 8 September in Rome and formally in Luxembourg on 8 October. On both occasions I represented the United Kingdom with the assistance of the Financial Secretary at the October meeting.

The September meeting concentrated on a discussion of economic and monetary union during which I gave a full explanation of the British proposals for a gradual evolutionary approach through the establishment of a common currency, known as the “hard ecu”, and a European monetary fund. A majority of member states shared our view that much greater economic convergence in the Community was a necessary condition for further monetary integration, and that it was therefore undesirable to set a premature date for moving beyond stage one of EMU. I stressed the importance of ensuring that all member states could move forward together. I explained that our proposals would allow for that while providing a strong anti-inflationary discipline and giving people and businesses the opportunity to choose which currency they wished to use. It was agreed that there was a need for further analysis of our proposals both before and during the forthcoming intergovernmental conference.

The consequences of the Gulf crisis were also discussed and the Commission put forward proposals for aid to those front-line states which were suffering as a result of the crisis. No decision was reached. It was agreed, however, that the resulting rise in oil prices should not be accommodated either by relaxing monetary or budgetary policies and that the increase in oil costs should not lead to higher wage settlements or product prices.

At the October meeting, the entry of the United Kingdom into the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system was widely welcomed. Economic and monetary union was again discussed both during the Council and at an inter-institutional meeting beforehand with the European Parliament. There was a growing consensus that more economic convergence was indeed needed before the Community moved beyond stage one and that objective criteria to determine the timing of such a move should be considered. The presidency will be reporting on progress with preparatory work on EMU to the European Council on 27 and 28 October. I expect discussions in ECOFIN and the Monetary Committee to continue.

There was a brief discussion of the Commission’s proposals for VAT and excise systems after 1992 and for raising travellers’ allowances on duty-paid goods in preparation for the single market. The consequences for the financial perspectives of German unification and the Gulf crisis were also considered. The money laundering directive was discussed. The majority of member states shared our concerns that the present draft appeared to extend the competence of the Community into the field of criminal law, but it was hoped that this problem could be resolved so that the directive could be agreed before the end of the year.