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Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Did the discussions on the serious and worsening unemployment situation in Germany and France and artificial prosperity in Ireland persuade the Prime Minister that the single currency was not the best idea for Europe or for Britain? Will he condemn or at least deny the appalling story on the front page of The Sunday Telegraph last week that, in the unlikely event of the Government winning the election, he would be getting rid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer solely because of his lack of enthusiasm for the single currency?

The Prime Minister: On the euro, we have the best position, which is to have the five economic conditions that have to be met if it is right for Britain to join, but to keep the option open. The Conservative position is to close off the option. There is absolutely no sense in that whatever. Keep the option open. We can exercise it if we
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want it, but we do not have to exercise it if we do not want it. In the meantime, we can ensure that we keep the economic conditions intact. That position has served us well both in Britain and in Europe and we should maintain it.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): Given the Prime Minister's belief in Africa and his special efforts in that respect, does he agree that the mass killings in Darfur have gone on for far too long? What discussions did he have at the European Council about sending forces rapidly to deal with the situation? Or is the problem that the French are preventing NATO from going into Africa, because they think it should be a European army? When will the west take action on Darfur?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman's obsession with Europe has led him into a rather odd deviation from reality. No, the issue is not whether NATO or Europe sends in forces. We cannot send forces into Darfur. That would not be supported by the surrounding African countries, and it would not be practical. The main thing is to support the African Union in doing that. That is the only way that we will bring some semblance of peace to Darfur, and it is not NATO that will be able to do so, any more than Europe.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): Last week, the Chancellor told us that more than 50 per cent. of regulations come from the Commission, yet the Minister for Europe now tells us that that is a myth and the figure is just 9 per cent. Who is right?

The Prime Minister: There are regulations that come from Europe, and a large part of the regulations—

Mr. Prisk: What percentage?

The Prime Minister: I am not going to get into percentages, but large amounts of regulation come from Europe. It is important, however, that we do not gold-plate those regulations. That is what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was talking about when he made it clear that we should not gold-plate the regulations that come from Europe. But surely the most important thing is, again, that if regulations are coming from Europe, we should be part of that debate; we should not be opted out of it. That is why the position adopted by the Conservative party is so foolish.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): When not discussing the crucial issue of economic reform, did the Prime Minister take the opportunity in the margins of the European Council to complain to President Chirac that Total Oil's $400 million investment in Burma is propping up the brutal military dictatorship there? Is it not now high time that the European Union resolved that its common position towards oppressive regimes
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should be driven by respect for human rights and democratic values, not by the pursuit of filthy lucre and narrow, short-term self-interest?

The Prime Minister: That is not something that I raised with President Chirac. We had other discussions, which we are continuing. However, the basic point that the hon. Gentleman makes is right.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): Further to the comments of the Governor of the Bank of England this morning, and given that it is in no one's interest that the euro should be anything other than a hard currency, does the Prime Minister accept that the appearance of altering the stability pact for political rather than economic reasons undermines confidence in financial markets, and indeed much more widely? Can he give us any comfort following the meeting that the pact will not be further watered down when the more dominant nations in the EU feel constrained by it?

The Prime Minister: The most important thing in my view is to have a stability and growth pact that is actually based on a rational set of rules, and we have proposed changes—we have done so for a long period—to the pact that will allow us to take account, for example, of the need to borrow for investment over the cycle. We think that that is a more rational approach to deficits. We are also pushing for economic reform in Europe. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that, yes, debates are going about these things the whole time, but the important thing is to be there and be part of them, and to ensure that we are not excluded from them and marginalised. I am sure that he would agree with that, which is why he should perhaps re-educate some of his Front-Bench colleagues.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Does the Prime Minister accept that, in going along with the torpedo that President Chirac has fired at the services directive, he, by caving in, has also fired a torpedo at his own constitution, title III of which clearly reinforces the whole notion of the freedom of services? Does he not accept that, in seeking to renegotiate the stability and growth pact when there is no stability, no growth and no pact, he is in fact engaged in renegotiation? What will he do if there is a no vote in the referendum on renegotiation?

The Prime Minister: I am trying to unbundle that one. Should I understand the hon. Gentleman to be saying that he thought the constitution gave a big push towards the services directive?

Mr. Cash: Absolutely.

The Prime Minister: Okay. I assume that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of the services directive. The European constitution gives a push for the services directive. Is that not a good argument for the constitution? Have we got a bit of a mind change going on here?

Mr. Cash: No.
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The Prime Minister: Possibly not. The issue at the summit was whether the services directive should be withdrawn, and it was decided that it should not be. There will be a process of amendment through the legislative process in the European Parliament. That will happen in any event, and in a sense the debate was neither advanced nor closed off at the European Council—it was merely transferred, obviously, to the European Parliament. The crucial thing was to prevent any suggestion that the services directive in its entirety should be withdrawn, because that would be disastrous. There will be a battle over it. That is the situation. We must ensure that the services directive survives and goes through, and that is what we will do.

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Business of the House

1.56 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): The business for the week after the Easter recess will be:

Monday 4 April—Second Reading of the Public Service Ombudsman (Wales) Bill [Lords], followed by a debate on Welsh Affairs on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Tuesday 5 April—Second Reading of the Equality Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Mental Capacity Bill.

Wednesday 6 April—Opposition Day [6th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate entitled "Government's failure to control immigration" followed by a debate entitled "Government's failure to tackle crime", both of which arise on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 7 April—A debate on defence in the UK on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 8 April—Private Members' Bills.

The provisional business for the following week will be:

Monday 11 April—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

I should like to inform the House that business in Westminster Hall for April will be:

Thursday 7 April—A debate on the national service framework for coronary heart disease.

Thursday 14 April—A debate on the report from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on social housing provision in Northern Ireland.

Thursday 21 April—A debate on the report from the International Development Committee on the Department for International Development's agriculture policy.

I wish you, Madam Deputy Speaker, right hon. and hon. Members, staff of the House and parliamentary clerks in Whitehall a happy Easter.

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