British statistician to head EU committee

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The Independent Online
Britain's role in the decision about which countries make the grade for monetary union will increase next month, writes Diane Coyle. An expert from the Office for National Statistics is to head the committee adjudicating on what are politely described as "novel transactions" by countries eager to reduce their budget deficits below the Maastricht limit.

The UK, one of the countries least likely to join the single currency in the first wave, will hold the EU presidency in the first half of next year when the crunch decisions will have to be taken. Now John Kidgell, a statistician, will take over the chair of the EU's Committee on Monetary, Financial and Balance of Payments Statistics (CMFB) from a Belgian banker. Mr Kidgell, director of the ONS's macroeconomic analysis and statistics division, will find himself in a position to embarrass governments that depart from sound practice in their effort to reduce their deficits.

The CMFB has let through the French government's takeover of France Telecom's pension liabilities in return for cash up-front. It has not yet been asked to scrutinise Germany's plan to revalue the gold reserves held by the Bundesbank.