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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if the House will forgive me, I think the only way to answer the noble Baroness's question is to repeat in detail my remarks about the Statement that the Chancellor will make. The Statement will be about the formal communication to our European partners under the treaty about whether we will join in 1999; the Government's approach to the working of the stability pact and the convergence criteria; the Government's position on the future of ECOFIN and economic co-ordination in Europe; any action that the Government propose on economic convergence; the action that the Government propose on ensuring greater flexibility in Europe to avoid any risks of potential shocks if there is monetary union, and making the European economy more employment-friendly; the Government's determination to have a successful presidency to ensure that proper and orderly decisions are taken about EMU under the treaty; and the way in which the Government's business advisory task force will help business and the City to prepare, in or out, with the need for a period of stability.

As to the noble Baroness's first question about our reputation in Europe, the Prime Minister has met two European Prime Ministers in the past few days. I have no indication of any damage to our reputation in Europe.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the German finance Minister, Herr Waigel, very recently, and not for the first time, expressed the firm view that the Maastricht criteria cannot be circumvented, and in particular the criterion that obliges a country to enter into the exchange rate mechanism for two years prior to entry into monetary union. Will my noble friend indicate whether the agreement reached, I understand, by the previous government with our European partners that this could not be applied against a government's wishes, still stands? If that is the case, is Herr Waigel on sure ground in insisting that such an agreement is null and void?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am aware of Herr Waigel's remarks; I am aware at the same time of differing views on the appropriateness of the period of membership of the ERM before entry into a single currency, given the changes that have taken place in countries' adherence to the broad band of the ERM

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rather than the narrow band. That is an issue that can, and should, be addressed by the Chancellor when he makes his Statement and in debate.

Lord Boardman: My Lords, am I to assume from what the Minister said in his replies today and yesterday that statements and policy announcements put out by spin doctors from No. 10 or the Treasury, apparently representing government policy on vital economic issues, are encouraged? However, a Statement from a Minister in this House, where we have two Cabinet Ministers, is not allowed to be made on this vital issue. The misrepresentation which is going around has a drastic effect on the economy of this country.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is a curious question. I had already made it clear to the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, that the only public statements in recent weeks to which attention ought to be paid have been those made directly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is particularly the case with the article in The Times last Saturday and his speech to the Stock Exchange on Monday. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has responsibility for those matters. It is appropriate that he should make a proper Statement to the elected Chamber of Parliament at a time when he is ready to do so.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is a danger in pressing at such an early stage for clarification which it is not possible to give? Clarification implies that there is an agreed policy. That is ridiculous. We do not have an agreed policy--not for reasons which are in any way disgraceful but for the simple one that, as my noble friend said, there is even a dispute as to which of the criteria for eligibility are still in force. We do not know whether the four convergent criteria are to be exercised. If those criteria were to be exercised, particularly the requirement that the national debt should not be more than 60 per cent. of GDP, very few of the applicants would qualify.

Finally, with a situation where our economy is governed by a 7 per cent. interest rate and Germany and France have a rate of 3 per cent., is it not the case that it must be a very long time indeed before we can sensibly accept that there should be one level of interest rates throughout the whole of Europe?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend makes some interesting points. There are two ways in which we could address the issue of agreement, one of which is whether there is agreement within the Government about the approach that we make to these vital matters. I can assure my noble friend that there is agreement within the Government and that it is in line with the manifesto on which we won the election.

The second way in which we could interpret agreement is to say, "There are still issues which have not been resolved in Europe and which may not be resolved for months or even years to come". In that sense, my noble friend is right that there are still open issues and no doubt there will continue to be. As to the difference between our

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interest rates and those of some other European countries, I am sure that it will be addressed by the Chancellor in his Statement.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is beginning to sound like one of his gagged colleagues in the European Parliament. I now invite him to join the Strasbourg forum and speak out. In particular, could he answer the question put to him yesterday by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish? It was this. If the Chancellor knew, following the article in the Financial Times in September by Robert Peston, that the Government would not be making a statement on early joining of the EMU, as the article seemed to imply, why did he not make an early statement refuting that? That is particularly relevant as the effect on the markets was drastic and the Chancellor could have scotched it by making an early statement.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord grossly exaggerates the effect on the market at the end of September and this week. As to whether the Chancellor should issue statements refuting press speculation, as the noble Lord put it, if he did that he would hardly have time to do anything else.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords--

Lord McNally: My Lords--

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, the House may realise that it is not with total enthusiasm that I say that it is my noble friend's turn.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. Does the Minister agree that economic and monetary union and a single currency are an experiment that has never before in history been tried? It involves enormous questions relating to our political, economic and financial life. Is it not right that any government should not be bounced by anyone, at home or abroad, into making an early decision or early remarks until the whole matter has been properly considered by all our institutions, including Parliament?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is undoubtedly right about the importance of the issue. It has ramifications across the whole of our economic life and beyond. As to the question of whether the Chancellor should be bounced into making announcements or decisions, I believe that I have made it clear that he has no intention of being bounced. Since he came into office he has instituted a very thorough review of the single currency and related issues. When that review is complete he will make the proper announcement to Parliament.

Human Rights Bill [H.L.]

3.55 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to give further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European

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Convention on Human Rights; to make provision with respect to holders of certain judicial offices who become judges of the European Court of Human Rights; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.-- (The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Fossil Fuel Levy Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Plant Varieties Bill

3.58 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Carter.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Serota) in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Plant Variety Rights Office]:

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 20, line 10, after ("may") insert ("with the consent of the Minister for the Civil Service").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1 to this Bill my first and most pleasant task is to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who I believe has chosen to make her debut at the Dispatch Box at the Committee stage of this highly technical Bill. I think it is a cross between a baptism of fire and a devotion well beyond the call of duty.

This Bill provides for the pay and allowances of staff of the Plant Variety Rights Office to be determined by the agriculture Ministers, acting jointly. The amendment provides for this to be subject to the consent of the Minister for the Civil Service.

In practice, PVRO is staffed by civil servants employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Their pay and allowances are determined in exactly the same way as all other staff of the Ministry and will continue to be so. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.

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Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Protected variety]:

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