Former Hurd aide backs idea of vote

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The Independent Online
The growing Conservative consensus behind a pre-election promise of a referendum on a single European currency is underlined today by public backing for the idea from a former senior adviser to Douglas Hurd.

Speculation that John Major will promise not to join a single currency without a referendum is heightened by the call from Michael Maclay, writing in this newspaper, for a "populist and principled" pledge to let the people have the final say.

Mr Maclay, who was the senior political adviser to the former foreign secretary until he left the Cabinet in July, says such a commitment would give Mr Major the "political and moral high ground for the stormy period leading up to the election".

Mr Maclay's article is written on his own account, but it closely echoes arguments Mr Hurd himself is understood to have deployed within the Cabinet after coming round to the idea. Mr Maclay argues a referendum pledge would keep intact the Prime Minister's policy of neither ruling in nor out joining a single currency, and bridge the divide in the Tory party.

Coming from the pro-European left of the party, Mr Maclay's call will strike a chord with a number of Tory MPs on the Euro-sceptic right who have been pressing Mr Major for a referendum. John Redwood, the former Welsh Secretary, backed a referendum in his summer leadership campaign against the Prime Minister.

Mr Maclay says the people should be consulted "if, and only if, the Government were itself to recommend that joining the final stage of economic and monetary union would be in the national interest".

Before leaving the Cabinet, Mr Hurd secured significant Cabinet support for a referendum, including that of Michael Howard and Malcolm Rifkind. Comment, page 15