Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Is the Chancellor aware that most of the business men who support entry into the euro believe that it will first be necessary for the Government to engineer a devaluation to a more competitive exchange rate? Is he also aware that every Government who have devalued the pound have been defeated at the subsequent election?
Mr. Brown: He should know. It is difficult to take lectures from the Conservative party about the running of exchange rate policy given the ignominious exit from the exchange rate mechanism that occurred when the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Cabinet. [Hon. Members: “You supported it.”] Now the Opposition blame us when we were in opposition for the policies that they pursued in government. I know that it is the fate of the Opposition to become irresponsible, but the Conservatives should take responsibility for the policies that they pursued in government, when the shadow Chancellor and the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) were members of the Cabinet.
The fact is that we will assess the five tests and report to the Cabinet; if we make a yes decision, we will then report to Parliament and the country. For the first time, a decision on those matters is to be made after fundamental, rigorous and comprehensive examination of the economic issues. One thing is clear about 1990 and the ERM: the Conservatives made no examination of the proper issues.
28 February 2002 col 824 oral question