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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 05:08 GMT 06:08 UK
'Trust problem' could thwart euro plans
Stephen Byers, Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith
The government has become associated with spin
Voters "lack trust" in the government and this will damage its chances of winning a referendum on the euro, says Europe Minister Peter Hain.

He told the BBC the government's obsession with spin was mainly to blame for the "trust problem".

He made the admissions on Sunday as Labour's opinion poll lead over the Conservatives fell to its lowest level since the fuel protests in 2000.
Peter Hain
Hain: 'we have a trust problem'

Labour says it is in favour of joining the European single currency if five economic tests are met. Those are expected to be ruled on next year, with the possibility of a referendum being held soon after.

His concern over winning it comes just days after Mr Blair hosted the first of a series of televised news conferences in Downing Street, where he dismissed questions about his government's troubles with spin.

Mr Hain told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost that there is a problem with spin that needed to be resolved.

"We have got a very good record of success in government on health and education and jobs - the lowest unemployment for a generation - and the economy stronger than it has been since anybody can remember," he said.

Euro campaign

"But yes, we do have a trust problem and if we are calling a referendum, clearly we have to deal with that."

Meanwhile British businesses are being encouraged to welcome the euro - whether they agree with it or not.

The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) is preparing to launch a campaign to ensure its 135,000 members are ready for the single currency, as it believes a referendum on the issue is likely to be held within a year.

Tony Blair at the televised news conference
Blair dismissed questions about his government's troubles with spin
Mr Hain said Chancellor Gordon Brown's five economic tests to assess whether the UK was ready to join the euro would be made next June, although he did not know exactly when.

The Europe minister said the tests were important to prevent a repeat of Black Wednesday when the British pound was forced to leave the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a dress-rehearsal for the euro, in 1992.

Joining the euro had to be good for Britain's stability and economic success, he said, adding that he hoped the tests would be rigorous.

"I will want to be sure ... that the economic assessment, if it is a 'yes' to pave the way for a referendum, that this is done in a serious, hard-headed, responsible way," he said.

Crime concerns

Labour's opinion poll lead over the Conservatives has dropped to just three points, according to a poll for The Sunday Times.

The survey by YouGov showed Labour on 38% and the Conservatives on 35%.

A month ago, a similar poll put Labour eight points ahead of the Tories.

The results showed that the public is most concerned about crime.

Only 4% of those asked believing that Mr Blair had met his 1997 pledge to be "tough on crime and the causes of crime", while 66% claimed he had failed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Peter Hain MP, Europe Minister
"We do have a trust problem - if we call a referendum we will have to deal with that"
The BBC's Robin Chrystal
"The last week has been particularly difficult for the government"

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See also:

20 Jun 02 | Politics
20 Feb 02 | Politics
10 Jan 02 | Politics
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