Trickery used to meet EMU targets
Europhiles fight back: Treasury fights to meet currency criteria
Thursday 12 December 1996
Economists estimate Continental-style "wheezes" have helped trim the figure for the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement by more than pounds 3.5bn. That is enough to reduce the government deficit as a share of GDP from 2.9 per cent - uncomfortably close to the 3 per cent Maastricht ceiling - to a relatively impressive 2.5 per cent.
The chief accounting ploys were classing the sale of the student loan book and the sale of Ministry of Defence homes, together worth pounds 2.2bn in 1997/98, as negative spending, reducing the Government's planned expenditure total.
"All governments are doing these things, and we are no different from the others. Perhaps just a little bit better," said Peter Warburton, an economist at Robert Fleming in the City of London.
But in a BBC radio interview earlier, Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Exchequer, complained that other countries cheated as they tried to fit into the financial terms created for single currency membership.
"The public accounts of most countries have, I am sure, had jiggery pokery in them from time to time, certainly careful presentation - except of course that of Her Majesty's Treasury in this country...
"People have made the books look better by putting things in which don't count."
But one senior government source told the The Independent that it was accepted within the Treasury itself that some of its own accounting devices were "no good either".
In the Commons, Mr Clarke said at the start of a two-day debate on Europe that it was not enough to meet the single currency entry terms - "convergence criteria" - in just one particular year.
"They must demonstrate a credible commitment to durable and sustainable convergence. That is the key. That is what the Treaty says, and that is the basis on which decisions about who should join Economic and Monetary Union must be taken. It is certainly the basis upon which this Government would take its decisions and cast any votes at the relevant time."
In a powerful speech, the Chancellor tried to reassure the Tory sceptics - who continually intervened to inject doubt and concern about the threat of a federal Europe.
The hostility of his own side was made clear in interventions by a series of backbenchers - from the former Chancellor, Norman Lamont, Tony Marlow, Sir Peter Tapsell, Bill Cash and John Wilkinson.
The Shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, told the House that while Mr Clarke had spoken with enthusiasm, passion and conviction, the question was whether he was speaking for the Conservative Party, the Government, or the Prime Minister.
He pointed out that when the Chancellor had addressed the advantages of a single currency, there had been jeers from his own side; cheers when he had spoken of the disadvantages
While the Government has ensured that there should be no vote at the end of the two-day debate tonight, Tory rebels might take the opportunity of a vote on European fisheries policy, on Monday, to stage yet another protest against Europe.
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
How China's richest man Li Hejun lost $15bn in an hour - and made a fortune
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Snoop Dogg on why he doesn't regret displaying misogyny towards women
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...