TREASURY – EURO AREA – 21 July 2015

Dr Julian Lewis: I am grateful to my hon. Friend [Steve Baker], and to my right hon. and hon. Friends who spoke earlier, for their efforts in delving so deeply into the questions without completely losing the will to live, but can he explain to me how, despite all their sufferings, the Greek people seem to regard membership of the euro as the addict regards the use of heroin? It does them enormous harm, yet they do not seem to be able to give it up.

[Mr Baker: My right hon. Friend makes a good point, and it may be that through the euro system Greece has done rather well in the past, through the fact that money was very easy for Greece – probably much easier than it should have been – and a nation that had probably been quite parsimonious was encouraged to take advantage of cheap credit and get into bad debt problems. It may well be that that system encouraged Greece to believe that a new way of living beyond one’s needs was possible; but as good Conservatives we will recognise that one must live within one’s means and balance the books. One must have low taxes, small government and sound money. However, I do not want to divert my remarks too far down that path. ...]

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[The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): ... The Chancellor has long made clear his view that there is a remorseless logic meaning that the euro area, like any currency area, needs closer economic and fiscal integration to secure its future. The recently published five presidents report is part of an ongoing process to identify next steps to better governance in the euro area.]

Dr Lewis: Is it our Chancellor’s view that there should develop in the eurozone a single state with a single Government?

[Mr Gauke: The logic of the position – this point was made by numerous right hon. and hon. Members before the formation of the euro – is that if there is a currency union, certain other things flow from it. Indeed, we are seeing the consequences of that. In a way, it is the background to the five presidents report. It is part of an ongoing process to identify the next steps to better governance in the euro area. There is a clear appetite for reform demonstrated by the process, which echoes the conversations that the Prime Minister and Chancellor have had in their bilateral discussions. The Government have submitted two written contributions to the five presidents’ process. We note the report’s proposals and have set out its content and implications in an explanatory memorandum. Therefore the Government do not currently plan to issue a further formal response. However, although the report’s focus is on the euro area, many issues it covers affect the interests of all member states. The UK will therefore remain fully engaged in discussions in this area. ...]