Sunday, February 26, 2012


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$15 TRILLION is equivalent to the the federal debt of the U.S. Treasury Department. Lord James of Blackheath has spoken in the House of Lords holding evidence of three transactions of 5 Trillion each and a transaction of 750,000 metric tonnes of gold and has called for an investigation.

I think there are three possible conclusions that may come from it. I think there may have been a massive piece of money laundering committed by a major government which ought to know better and that it has effectively undermined the integrity of the British bank the Royal Bank of Scotland, in doing so. The second alternative is that a major American department has an agency that has gone rogue on it because it has been wound up and has created a structure out of which they are seeking to get at least 50 billion Euros as a payoff. And the third possibility is that this is an extraordinarily elaborate fraud which has not been carried out but which has been prepared in order to provide a threat to one government or more if they don't pay them off. So there are three possibilities and this all needs a very urgent review.

My Lords, it starts in April and May of 2009, with the alleged transfer to the United Kingdom, to HSBC of a sum of 5 trillion dollars and seven days later, in comes another 5 trillion dollars to HSBC, and then 3 weeks later another 5 trillion. 5 trillion in each case. Sorry. A total of 15 trillion dollars is alleged to have been passed into the hands of HSBC for onward transit to the Royal Bank of Scotland and we need to look at where this came from and what the history of this money is. And I have been trying to sort out the sequence by which this money has been created and from where it has come from for a long time.


Lord Radice: My Lords, it is always very good to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, who, as usual, is extremely wise in his remarks on European matters. Clearly, this is a very important debate with a lot of people wanting to get in. We have already heard some impressive speeches. Perhaps I may just say something nice to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, whom I do not always praise. He made a very able tour d'horizon and put a very positive case for British membership, which was good to hear. My noble friend Lord Mandelson combined realism with vision in a most exemplary manner. I want to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Harrison, who is not in his place, for his excellent Select Committee report, which he addressed very ably.

Of course, in this kind of debate some noble Lords who have spoken-for example, the noble Lords, Lord Lamont and Lord Higgins-and some still to speak who are listening to the debate, have always believed that the euro was a flawed project from the start which was bound to fail. Therefore, what has happened in the eurozone over the past year or so has merely confirmed their original, brilliant judgment and there has been a certain amount of Schadenfreude going around.

My position is different. I speak as someone who not only was in favour of European monetary union but also took the view that, if the circumstances were right, there was a strong case for the UK joining the euro. For a number of years, over the period of what has been called the great moderation, monetary union worked well. The euro was introduced with competence and speed. It rapidly became the world's second currency. The number of members of the eurozone increased to 17 and the eurozone by and large prospered.

However, the banking crisis and the credit crunch of 2008, which we seem to have forgotten had its origins not on the continent of Europe but in the United States, also caused a crisis of confidence in the eurozone. That was most notably, of course, in Greece but it has spread to other countries, such as Ireland, Portugal, Spain and even Italy. As I freely admit, the crisis has revealed shortcomings in the original architecture of economic and monetary union, including asymmetry between a centralised monetary policy and a decentralised fiscal position, competitive imbalances between member states and a lack of an adequate bailout mechanism for countries in trouble.

The response of the leaders of the eurozone has been extremely slow and uncertain. As Professor Buiter said, their decision-making has been like "a caterpillar hurdling". All the same, my view is that the eurozone remains part of the solution rather than the problem. That is the division in this debate. For those who think that that is incorrect, I ask them to imagine the reaction of the European countries without the EU and without the euro. First, there would be competitive devaluation, with all its impact on living standards. The idea that somehow devaluation is a soft option and that you do

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not have to cut living standards is economically totally illiterate. Secondly, there would be the spread of self-defeating protectionism. Thirdly, as in the 1930s, there would be the rise of extremist nationalism. We should not think that somehow there is an easy world outside, which if you get rid of the eurozone will suddenly solve all the problems. It just is not there.

I believe that the monetary union, provided that it is reformed, affords a framework for recovery, to which I will devote the rest of my remarks. It is true that the eurozone is still not out of the woods by a long chalk but there are some encouraging signs. The Greek psychodrama continues but it is noticeable that since the end of last year borrowing rates have been falling for some other countries. In the survival of the euro, which I think will survive, Italy is the key country. It is noticeable that the spread between Italian and German 10-year bonds has narrowed by some 200 basis points and is continuing to shrink. There is no doubt that the advent of Mario Monti, the Italian Prime Minister, is making a real difference, not only in Italy but across Europe and in the markets as a whole.

There have been some other promising developments. First, the strengthening of the euro stabilisation mechanism will come into effect in July 2012. Secondly, the ECB under Mario Draghi has enhanced credit support for bank lending, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, pointed out. It has already provided 500 European banks with a total of nearly €500 billion in three-year low-interest loans. That will be repeated at the end of February. The noble Lord is right to say that this has been a game-changer. Thirdly, there has been the fiscal compact, which was agreed on 30 January 2012. There is something in what some people say, and the point has already been made in the debate, that this amounts to not much more than a beefed-up stability and growth pact. But it has a political point, which is key to ensuring the crucial German support for an effective bailout mechanism for the eurozone.

However, as in the UK, the big weakness of European policy at present is the lack of a credible growth strategy. Without growth, it will be difficult to reduce deficits and unemployment will continue to rise. We are told that Mario Monti went to Berlin to say that, and that something more was needed than austerity, while the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has argued that countries which are in a position to expand should be able to do so. Certainly a sustained domestic expansion in Germany would do the eurozone a power of good. We have had two years of domestic expansion; let us have more. Also, we have the welcome prospect of a recovery gathering pace in the United States and it is hoped that this will be yet another example of the new world coming to the aid of the old.

Finally, I turn to the United Kingdom. I believe that it was a mistake for the UK to stay out of the so-called fiscal compact. I am afraid that during my political lifetime this country has had an unhappy tradition of either opting out of European projects or joining late when the parameters have already been set. But even though we are not in the euro, what happens in the eurozone has a major impact on our economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, rightly said; we cannot escape it. It is also very much in our

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interest to ensure, for example, that the integrity of the single market is preserved. The European Select Committee report is surely right when it states that:

"Shifting discussions outside the main EU channels to forums where the United Kingdom has no voice risks marginalising the UK over time".

We may have very good advice for the eurozone-and we often think we do have-but no one will listen if we are not actually there. We cannot defend the City or protect the single market if we are not at the table. As a former Belgian Prime Minister graphically put it, "If you are not at the table, you are part of the menu". There is a strong case for the UK becoming part of the so-called fiscal compact.

At a time of crisis for the eurozone, a crisis that affects us as much as it does the eurozone members, it is surely folly for the United Kingdom to stand outside. In the modern world, isolation is not splendid; it is foolish. If we are to defend our interests and help lead Europe out of its difficulties, as we ought to, it is our duty both to our citizens and to Europe to be involved and to participate.

2.12 pm

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I expected to enjoy and appreciate the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Radice, and I have done so even more than I thought I would. I shall embarrass him deliberately by thanking him for a speech which I envy because I wish I had had the chance to make it myself. However, I forgive the noble Lord because some years ago he said to me-I am happy to apologise if my memory is at fault-that despite having a distinguished Italian name, he is not a linguist and does not speak Italian. None the less, he has been a strong European over the years. I recall that in the mid-1990s he succeeded me as chairman of the European Movement in Britain and we have carried on not only a friendship, but also often a mutual appreciation of European matters to such an extent that all I would need to do today, if only the rules of procedure would allow it, would be to cross the Floor of the House, get the text of his speech and read it out again, such is the common sense and wisdom of many of his remarks.

I share with the noble Lord his appreciation of the positive tone in the speech of my noble friend Lord Howell. It certainly ended on a strong upbeat note by stressing the need for Britain to be fully engaged in developments in the European Union. I do not criticise him, but because of the circumstances of receiving notes which one does not have time to read at the Dispatch Box when they are handed to you, he stumbled a bit on the issue of the clarification of the safeguards. I can understand why because unfortunately, and through no fault of my noble friend Lord Howell, the issue remains a product of imagination rather than reality. It remains to be seen what will actually be done by the Government to rectify this most extraordinary omission in the history of international and European negotiations from 9 December onwards. It is not something you would normally expect. To be fair, the UK Government have come forward substantially and since then have been more positive by realising that we really do have to help our colleagues in the eurozone, both indirectly

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and no doubt directly in some ways. That is the priority and it helps us as well, not just through trade but also in other things, not least the long-term development of the European Union.

I also pay tribute to the interesting, sensible and wise speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Mandelson and Lord Grenfell. They themselves do not represent the more recent change in many Labour politicians and spokesmen to being keener on Europe than they were in the past; that really was consolidated when the Lisbon treaty was passing through both Houses. I now perceive Labour, particularly in this House but also in the other place, generally as a positive and pro-European party. There is a small number of exceptions among the rather older Labour MPs, but I do not see any other difference.

As our involvement in the EU grows with the passing years, I wish that that was so in the main party in the coalition. However, there have been setbacks in recent years which surprised me before the election and, indeed, surprised me afterwards. Normally, the old historical feature was that parties would become anti-European when they went into opposition. That was the pattern set by the Edward Heath Government, who as a Government were very keen on Europe with Edward Heath pointing the way forward when we first joined the Community. That pattern has been replaced by a new phenomenon of the main party in the Government now being more and more strongly anti-European. A huge number of Conservative MPs in the other place are viscerally opposed to Europe and all its works. Just look at the words they use in speeches in various European debates, and the glee and triumph that greeted the Prime Minister at Chequers when he returned from the 9 December meeting with his so-called deal, which obviously was beginning to unravel almost as soon as the ink was dry in the face of the reality of the situation in this country vis-à-vis our partners and fellow EU members dealing with eurozone problems. It is sad to note that the Conservative Party is like that now and I hope that it sheds this view as quickly as possible, given the reality of our position in the world and the need for us all to work together to deal with the worldwide crisis and the European recession.

The noble Lord, Lord Radice, may have inferred it but did not say it, but I imagine he would agree that you cannot have a genuine, full, single market-to which we are addicted and keep saying as much as a leitmotif-without having a single currency; that has to come. It may be painful on the way, but the European authorities, the heads of government and one head of state in the different countries, mainly France and Germany, are dealing with it and gradually getting there. Although it is a panicky and jittery process, which is inevitable given that these are enormously complicated negotiations in which people often lose their tempers-all the sovereign countries have to be fully consulted, which is very difficult-they are getting there step by step. Enormous progress has been made towards solving the eurozone problem.

I am also very optimistic that there will be a solution for Greece over the next days and weeks. Indeed, everything will have to be in place for the next bond auction date in, I think, the third week of March.

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I believe it will happen because it has to. It is very distressing to see the animosity that has broken out in the international press, now picked up by the British press, between Germany and Greece, with the leading figures from both countries having a go at each other. That may be a function of the stresses of the day in trying to get the agreement going, and thus is understandable, but it is not something that is of any lasting significance. There is a great relationship historically, although of course I am not referring to the Second World War, over the long term not only between Germany and Greece but also between all other European countries, including ourselves. Greece does need help and she will respond. We shall see the details of the agreement very soon.

I pay tribute to the way this has been achieved very patiently by the people involved. We must now support it more and more rather than waiting with relish for things to collapse. The obsession, unfortunately again mainly in Conservative circles but also in UKIP and among other smaller political parties, with the concept of national sovereignty is now truly outdated and has to be overtaken by events as countries work more and more closely together. There is also an idea that we can shrug off the pronouncements of the credit rating agencies by saying that it does not matter if they downgrade various countries. The United States and, I think, France have now had a downgrade, but we still have our triple-A rating. However, the rating agencies are themselves flawed institutions and make lots of mistakes. They certainly did on their triple-A predictions for the credit rating levels of several institutions that then went bust a week later, sometimes even less than a week in the case of one or two hedge funds and housing loan corporations in the United States.

The United States is a heavily indebted, technically bankrupt federal system, and most of its individual states are technically bankrupt. If they were individuals or companies, they would already be in the bankruptcy court. They can do it because they are states and a federal country, with a $16 trillion debt burden that is incapable of being reduced by the American political process. Those matters should be of greater concern to Conservative politicians than the temporary problems of the eurozone as we get through this very difficult period, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Radice, said, was quite likely caused by the international banking and speculators crisis from which we are all still suffering.

I add my words of praise to what has been said about the euro area crisis. We thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and his team for having produced a very positive report on the way in which, once again, the eurozone is coming through this crisis. On 31 January, the Prime Minister said:

"The principle that the EU institutions should act only with the explicit authorisation of all member states remains. Let me be clear: this is a treaty outside the EU. We are not signing it".-[Official Report, Commons, 31/1/12; col. 678.]

Since then, the Government have seen the light about the need to work with the other countries. I agree strongly with paragraph 150 of the EU Committee's report, which states:

"It is unacceptable that the Government have not released appropriate details of the safeguards which the Prime Minister sought at the December European Council. This makes it impossible

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to form a balanced judgement about the outcome. Coming to the present, we invite the Government to indicate what necessary safeguards they think have yet to be achieved, and what provisions ... in the proposed treaty are objectionable to them".

Until the Government give us that essential information, there will be no underpinning of the emotional support that we want to give them now for sounding more positive about European matters.

2.22 pm

Lord Flight: My Lords, a noble Lord in this debate and yesterday referred to Britain's exports to the EU representing approximately 50 per cent of our exports. As many noble Lords may be aware, subsequent research on this figure finds that some 10 per cent of those are merely in transit, largely through Holland, to other parts of the world, and that the more accurate figure is some 40 per cent of our exports.

Perhaps I may appear rather aggressive in saying that the Prime Minister should at least have criticised, if not opposed, the December fiscal compact essentially because it was not about fiscal integration; it was about a framework and enforcement machinery for brutal and self-defeating internal devaluation measures, where the economies in trouble need growth and not to be ground into the dirt.

The key features of fiscal integration, as evidenced by the United States of America, are a single borrower, a central bank that can if necessary print money and buy government bonds, and, above all, transfer payments from the more prosperous to the less prosperous, keeping the less prosperous afloat. Within America, they amount to some 30 per cent of federal tax revenues to this day.

Germany, not surprisingly, has opposed all three key aspects of fiscal integration, largely because the estimates are that the transfer payments would need to be as large as some 35 per cent of German GDP, which is clearly impossible. But the failure is to face up to the conclusion of that: that is, there is really only one way of addressing the problems without imposing enormous hardship on millions of people, which is a currency reorganisation within the eurozone. I perceive what is being proposed and demanded of Greece as smacking of President Hoover in the 1930s, leading to the depression in America, and smacking of those Gold Standard bigots in Europe in the early 1930s having a similar effect on European economies then. The fact is that Greece has been in major recession for four years; its economy is downward-spiralling; and, very clearly, it is going to be vulnerable to political revolt, we hope through the ballot box. The words of Keynes, applied to the German reparation agreement at the end of the First World War, are appropriate: what is being looked for is,

    "insincere acceptance of impossible conditions".

This approach is not only economically mistaken but, in reality, unlikely to work, not just as regards Greece but other countries-it will be like the growth and stability pact. Back in 1953, when the then West was required to bail out Germany, which could not afford to service its debts, a very generous deal was provided-a 50 per cent debt cancellation and a five-year interest moratorium-and it was well understood that

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it was necessary to give the German economy the oxygen to rebuild and grow. As the noble Lord, Lord Radice, pointed out, these problems are not soluble unless countries can grow their tax revenues. I would have thought that if poor old Adenauer was still around today, he would not make the disastrous mistakes made by the present German Administration, which in effect repeat the very reparations-type of approach that caused so much trouble in Germany after the Great War. Let us look at what is happening: the whole claim of the European Union was that it would get rid of nasty nationalism. Well, many countries in Europe are coming to take a very critical view towards Germany bossing them around and, not surprisingly, many Germans are pretty critical of having to pay up and bail everybody out. So the flames of nationalism are being stirred rather unpleasantly, as others have pointed out.

I am surprised that many whom I would describe as less capitalist than me in my economic views seem entirely happy to see thousands of people thrown out of work and thousands beggared purely in the name of having to maintain the euro unchanged rather than follow the sensible remedy of currency reorganisation. It will clearly be Portugal next and Spain, potentially, after that-Spain already has 23 per cent unemployment and 48.7 per cent youth unemployment.

Germany has subtly "done a China". She has made herself super competitive within Europe when, if you like, the more pleasure-loving south was getting on with its usual practices and unit labour costs were rising. Germany since 2003 has cut unit labour costs by some 12 per cent. So there is about a 30 per cent competitiveness gap between Germany and its affiliated economies and the south. That is just too large to be able to be addressed by an internal devaluation programme. It is not surprising that we see Germany having had the best figures for years for job growth while southern Europe now has spiralling unemployment.

It is odds-on that Greece and Portugal will exit from the euro relatively soon. I would make the point made by others that, although there will be immediate pain, the process needs to be well planned and organised. Beyond immediate pain, there is the prospect of strong economic recovery, as Argentina has experienced as a result of going through a similar mechanism.

The ECB is financing banks to give them a large interest margin when they buy the debt particularly of southern European economies, which should keep the debt issue afloat in Italy and Spain for some time, but there remains a competitiveness problem with both economies. Unless the ECB's action is used to buy time in which a sensible European currency reorganisation is planned, it will simply worsen the banking problems when things eventually blow up. I have suggested on previous occasions that there is an obvious case for a strong currency for northern Europe and a weak currency bloc for southern Europe. We do not necessarily have to go back to historic currencies.

This needs planning now. Indeed, it should have been planned a year ago when it was blindingly obvious that the inherent problems of the euro were coming to light. But there is a bigger issue to which many noble Lords have referred, including the noble Lord, Lord

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Howell, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, which is that the world is a hugely changed place. We have huge success and competition from what are widely known as the BRICs and it is very clear that most of Europe and the UK are no longer attractive places in which to do business. The public sectors are way too big, regulation is wildly excessive and tax rates are far too high.

The diagnosis of that has to be that radical reform is needed across Europe and in the UK if we are to compete effectively with the new economies going forward. We are not going to get anywhere merely remaining uncompetitive and unattractive. A major ingredient preventing those reforms is of course the EU itself and its excessive detailed regulation. We heard today an interesting comment that the success in this country of the life science industries is being threatened by EU regulation. It is not just in that area that, I am afraid, EU regulation imported and often enhanced here makes this country uncompetitive.

The task of any responsible Government of the UK, whatever its political hue, over the next few years will be either to change and reform the EU enormously to make it into a vital economic unit and not a stagnant one or to find measures to extract the UK from the various aspects of its regulatory and other regimes which are damaging our economy. In particular, they are a major threat to our biggest industry; the financial services industry.

2.31 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am very pleased to be following the noble Lord, Lord Flight, and I am sure that the House enjoyed his very lively speech. I was also glad that he corrected the trade figures from 50 per cent to 40 per cent. Some people seem to believe that we did not trade with Europe before we joined the Common Market in 1973. But of course before 1973 we had very good trading relationships with Europe and made a profit on many of our exports; including cars, incidentally.

It is difficult to know where to start in a speech about the European Union because of the chaos that reigns in the Union, particularly in the eurozone. As usual, there have been some disparaging comments about those of us who are called Eurosceptics. I would remind those people that the Eurosceptics warned of the dangers of joining or having a single currency. We were told that if we did not join, we would be sidelined. We would miss the train and we would miss the boat. Indeed, people like me were called unpatriotic because we believed that it would be inimical to British interests to join the single currency.

We have been vindicated by events. We are not pleased about that, but we have been vindicated. We believe that the euro currency in the eurozone would not be good for this country even if it might be good for other countries. What surprises and amazes me-and we have heard it again this afternoon-is that the eurozealots who want to get rid of the pound still believe that the United Kingdom should join the euro. In spite of everything that has happened, they believe that we should still join. Even the Deputy Prime Minister believes that. I find that quite incredible.

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Lord Gilbert: He is a Dutchman; that is why.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The eurozone has proved that a single currency cannot work without fiscal and political union. A lot of people have pointed that out this afternoon.

This debate is about developments in the European Union. So far we have heard about great issues, but all sorts of things are going on all the time in the European Union, many of which affect ordinary people in this country. For example, the Solvency II capital rules, which I believe are now being agreed, will cost the British financial industry £600 billion, according to JP Morgan. They will cause massive damage to the United Kingdom's pensions industry and will virtually kill off the last vestiges of final salary schemes. That will hurt ordinary British people. We should take note of that.

Then there is the proposal to make mortgages in default after 90 days in arrears, which conflicts with the Government's own policy of helping people, quite rightly, to hang onto their homes when they are in financial difficulty. Then there is the demand for another £9 billion to meet the additional commitments in the present financial round, which will cost the United Kingdom £1 billion. That is extra to the £10.3 billion that we have already committed and money that we do not have. We will have to borrow £1 billion more. Only on Tuesday, the EU Commission announced that 12 member states, including the United Kingdom, are suffering from severe economic imbalances leading to economic shocks and that they will be placed under stringent observation so that they do not compromise the stability of the EU.

That dictatorial language and action is now commonplace in the EU. The treatment and humiliation of Greece by the EU is alarming, disgraceful and completely undemocratic. Furthermore, the Greeks have had the right to govern themselves taken away and the leaders of the Government are unelected Prime Ministers. The political parties now have to guarantee that they will put into place measures that will hurt ordinary Greeks in a manner that is totally unacceptable in anything other than a third world country. That is in advance of what will be done.

Some of us predicted that eventually there would be fighting in the streets in the European Union or Common Market. We now have it. We have fighting in the streets not only in Greece but in other countries as well-

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: But that was happening in London in August.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Perhaps I may repeat that we have fighting in the streets in Greece and in other countries, such as Spain and Romania. That cannot be denied.

As usual, a crisis situation is being used to transfer more power to the EU institutions. The fiscal agreement was made between countries other than the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. It may be intergovernmental at this stage. However, all experience has shown that inter-governmentalism eventually collapses [more from source]


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