Labour MPs back the euro

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TWO-THIRDS of Labour MPs think membership of the euro is "crucial for Britain's future prosperity", according to a new survey which will increase the pressure on the Prime Minister to make an early decision to join the single European currency.

The findings of the first academic study of MPs' attitudes since the election, obtained exclusively by The Independent on Sunday, show that Labour MPs have become sharply more pro-European, while the Conservatives' euro-scepticism has become slightly more marked.

While 65 per cent of Labour MPs agree that joining the euro is "crucial", only 16 per cent disagree, with 19 per cent expressing no opinion. But on the other side of the Commons, only 13 per cent of Tory MPs support the euro, while 71 per cent are opposed with 16 per cent undecided.

Despite attempts by Labour whips to prevent MPs taking part in surveys, the team managed to interview 133 Labour MPs, one-third of the total, in June and July this year. They interviewed a higher proportion of Conservatives and three-quarters of Liberal Democrats.

The survey shows how retirement and the huge influx of new MPs have dramatically shifted the balance of opinion in the Parliamentary Labour Party since the election. Two years ago, in a survey carried out by the same researchers, Labour MPs agreed, by a majority of 42 to 38 per cent, that "Britain should never permit its monetary policy to be determined by an independent European Central Bank". Now, only 20 per cent agree and 65 per cent disagree.

The survey also sheds an intriguing sidelight on the limits of Blairism among Labour MPs. Three-quarters of them, 73 per cent, disagreed with the statement that "inflexibility in European labour markets is the principal cause of unemployment" - whereas Tony Blair has urged EU leaders to adopt flexible labour market policies.

And 59 per cent of them disagreed with the idea that "public ownership is irrelevant for the achievement of social justice".

David Baker at Nottingham Trent University, Andrew Gamble at Sheffield University and David Seawright at Lincoln University interviewed 133 Labour MPs, 70 Conservative MPs and 34 Liberal Democrat MPs in June and July 1998. nPeter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, will come under enormous pressure this week to introduce in full the most radical extension of workers' rights in a generation.

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, will make it clear at the annual TUC Congress in Blackpool tomorrow that Mr Mandelson should resist mounting pressure from employers and refuse to water down the Government's Fairness at Work White Paper.