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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree that we strongly support multilateral surveillance and the stability and growth pact process. We have always co-operated fully with it. However that is different from the question regarding the recommendation of UK membership of EMU. When we publish the results of the assessments and the supporting studies, the people of this country will expect us to make a recommendation at the same time.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, are the Government looking at how many current members of the euro-zone would meet the five tests? Would it not be better to concede that it is impossible to give a guarantee on sustainable convergence and instead to make the case for entry being in the public interest?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I think I answered that point in my first response. It is our view that we would recommend membership only if it were in the national economic interest. Any developments in other euro-zone countries are matters for them and for the finance Ministers of the 11 euro-zone countries.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not recognise that description at all. Since the beginning of the process in 1997, the five tests have been well publicised and there has never been any inhibition of public discussion on them. In September last year the paper for the Treasury Select Committee was produced, which was a detailed report on the supporting studies. However, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, will recognise that the difficulty we face is that any injudicious statements made by Treasury Ministers are takenalways wronglyby the press and some politicians to be prejudgments of the conclusion of a process which is not yet complete.
Lord Radice: My Lords, the Chancellor is correct to insist on getting the economics of entry right. However, does my noble friend agree that the Chancellor must avoid the excessive caution shown by his predecessors, which led to us opting out of both the Schumann plan and the common market and then joining too late?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Radice, is correct in his economic history. His qualifications in that area are much better than mine. However, I suspect that the mistakes to which he refers took place under Conservative governments.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the European Commission has recently agreed to waive the need for the United Kingdom to participate in the exchange rate mechanism for a period of two years?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. We never had any intention of joining the exchange rate mechanism and it is useful that the assessment of the European Commission, to be discussed at ECOFIN on 18th February, confirms what my noble friend has said.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, as the Brussels institutions referred to in the Question have repeatedly pointed out that the implications of developing the euro-zone are both political and constitutional, would it not be right to add to the five tests as an element for public debate the fact that this is a constitutional and political issue? Why do Ministers continue to deny that when those issues, rather than the economic tests, which are bound to be ambiguous, are what are before us?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have always been of the view that politically there are significant advantages to us in membership of the euro and that there is no constitutional bar to our membership of the euro.
Lord Peston: My Lords, is my noble friend not slightly puzzledthis point is connected with the question of my noble friend Lord Barnettthat our economy at present easily meets the conditions of the growth and stability pact, compared with some countries that are already in EMU? We meet the conditions easily, yet we are still shilly-shallying about joining; whereas others who are already in could not enter if they had to meet the criteria at present.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, again, I do not recognise the relevance of the phrase "shilly-shallying". We set out our timetable and we propose to stick to it. That is not to say that my noble friend Lord Peston is not rightif that is not a double negative. I mean to say that he is right: we meet the conditions of the stability and growth pact. It is useful to have the Commission's recent confirmation that our interpretationthe prudent interpretationof the stability and growth pact is gaining ground in Europe.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, the Minister referred to public debate. Does he agree that so far, that debate has been confined to a small part of the public? It is vital that on the issue of the single currencywhich, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, involves constitutional issuesthe wider public is involved in the debate, and the sooner the better for all. Will the Government therefore take some steps to involve the wider public?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I certainly agree that the widest possible debate is necessary; I do not agree that that wide debate is not taking place. I had the misfortune when in the cinema on Saturday night to sit through a revolting advertisement from the No Campaign, which included clips of a double for Adolf Hitler, saying, "Kein Reich! Kein Volk! Kein Euro!" That was in appalling taste. I had thought that the No Campaign had recognised that that advertisement was in appalling taste and was going to withdraw it.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I thank the noble LordI am not sure whether he is still my noble friendfor that rather small reply. What happens after six o'clock in the evening, when I understand that there is no nurse or doctor present in the Houses of Parliament? I am worried not about the Members in the Chamber, but about the people in the kitchens, if there were an accident, or a visitor, who could either have a fall or suffer some kind of seizure. What immediate provision is ready for their benefit?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, perhaps there is a misunderstanding of the role of the practice nurse, who is present to provide non-urgent, walk-in treatment for Members and staff. She has no formal role in dealing with emergencies, so her absence has no bearing on compliance with health and safety regulations. Nevertheless, in response to requests from Members, the Parliamentary Medical Panel, which is composed of medically qualified Members of both Houses, has considered options for extending the service. The panel has rejected that idea and believes that cover by the qualified first-aiders, of whom there more than 30 in this House alone, is the better way to provide cover.
In addition, negotiations are currently under way with a practice near the Palace to provide a full GP service. Although off-site, there would be 24-hour cover, considerably strengthening medical services for Members.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, has the efficacy of the first aid arrangements been subject to audit? I understand that before Christmas, a member of the kitchen staff sustained a bad scald and was sitting for a long time untreated. There is good clinical evidence that if scalds are treated immediately, they respond much better than if they are left for several minuteslet alone for up to half an hourwithout being adequately treated. I understand that a couple of fractures have also been sustained by members of staff in the men's toilets.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the noble Baroness is of course well qualified to raise those matters. I am not aware whether those trained in first aidas I said, more than 30 members of staff, police and security officers hold first-aid qualificationsare audited. However, in the cases to which the noble Baroness referred, I should have thought that an ambulance should have been called and the person involved taken to St Thomas's.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I am told that ambulances have not known where to come. Would it not be possible to have someone at the gate alerted that an ambulance is expected? I also thank the Attendants
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