Headlines: February 24th, 1999

The Prime Minister has announced plans to speed up preparations for joining the single European currency. He stressed that the plans represent a change of gear and not a change of policy. To keep open the option of joining the currency preparations must start now and the National Changeover Plan sets out a range of work for different sectors. The speed up means that the period from a decision in a referendum to join the Euro to the withdrawal of sterling has been reduced to 3 years

All central departments now have a minister responsible for Euro preparations and they will report progress regularly. Euro capability will be built into computer systems of public bodies when they are upgraded.

The Department of Social Security, Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise have the major interface with business and they may need to spend money on Euro compatibility prior to a referendum. Parliament will be asked to approve expenditure for this work in the next few weeks.