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12.44 pm

Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) on his speech--an excellent speech, from its remarkably honest opening to its perceptive conclusions, as we might expect from an adviser to successive Chancellors of the Exchequer, and from a graduate of the College of Europe which, I remind the House, is of course based in Bruges.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Doug Henderson): Where is that?

Mr. Davis: The Minister for Europe asks an appropriate question.

My hon. Friend's warnings on Europe were well informed, and eloquently and clearly expressed. They are particularly timely today, in the aftermath of Amsterdam. I commend my hon. Friend for a brilliant speech at the start, I think, of an outstanding career.

12.45 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Doug Henderson): I begin by congratulating you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment. I have not yet had the opportunity to do so from the Dispatch Box. I have always known that you were a measured man in your previous roles in Parliament, and I am sure that you will continue to be a measured man in your current role, and that we will all be the better for that.

I join the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis) in congratulating the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) on his first contribution to the House. He said that he had hoped to speak in the Europe debate. If some of us were disappointed that we did not have the opportunity to hear him then, we were compensated today. His speech was generous to his predecessor and a thoughtful contribution on Europe. It was interesting and its content was excellent, although it contained some mild ambiguity. I may return to that, if the clock permits.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was pleased to represent a rural constituency. I am sure that he is particularly pleased that three quarters of his constituency is rural. I know how beautiful the constituency is.

I had the pleasure of responding to a maiden contribution from the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) and I recalled that I had spent a little time in my late teens working in that area. I worked for British Rail for a while, and one of my jobs, to earn a little

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overtime, was as a train announcer at Redhill station. On occasions, I had the good fortune to read out the stations between Redhill and Bognor Regis and, if my memory serves me correctly, the train stopped at Petworth, Midhurst and other stations.

I know the hon. Gentleman's constituency a little, and of course it is famous also for its cricket ground, a fact that will be appreciated by Mr. Deputy Speaker, who takes a keen interest in such matters.

The hon. Gentleman accused our European colleagues of myopia. He is well placed to understand the way in which Europe works. The hon. Gentleman is also well placed to understand the workings of the Conservative party. I understand why he made certain comments on the day between votes on the Conservative party leadership.

I am bound to correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. If he is present in the Chamber later today, he will hear the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend will confirm that there is no border controls opt-out by Britain in the agreement reached at Amsterdam. The treaty asserts Britain's right to control its borders--an outcome which the Conservatives failed to achieve during 18 years in government.

The hon. Member for Chichester described himself as a European. We are all Europeans because we live in Europe. The hon. Gentleman pointed to some compensation for the European way of life that had more to do with the stomach than anything else--I am sure that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden agrees with him. During my six weeks in Europe, I found it a bit of a bind at lunchtime--although I did not complain in the evenings. I have much in common with my European colleagues, but I do not like long lunches and I understand the hon. Gentleman's feelings in that regard.

The hon. Gentleman showed considerable wisdom in raising several general points--I hope that time will allow me to respond specifically to the enlargement question. He will learn from my right hon. Friend's statement this afternoon that negotiations in Amsterdam identified the same crucial priorities. The hon. Gentleman emphasised the need to combat fraud. It is no longer acceptable for public organisations anywhere in Europe to permit incidents of fraud or alleged fraud and to accept them as a way of life. It is incumbent on organisations to take every step necessary to combat fraud. My right hon. Friend's statement will refer to that issue and to how Britain has taken a lead in negotiations in the past six weeks by insisting on the inclusion of a clause about combating fraud. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support on that important issue.

The hon. Gentleman was correct to state that Europe's future relies on the close co-operation of nations and that federalism is not on the major players' European agenda at present. My right hon. Friend will also identify that priority in his statement. We agree about the nature of the global environment: global competitiveness is vital to the British economy and to other economies throughout Europe.

The European Union must also address the important question of employability. Any organisation may draw up regulations to deal with individual matters--and some regulations are necessary in order to underpin basic rights--but the key issue in economic and employment terms, on which my right hon. Friend will reflect this

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afternoon, is making British people more employable. Politicians are not alone in recognising that fact. People employed in factories up and down the country know that their futures depend on their gaining new skills and on their companies' having good products, being competitive, adapting to new technology and breaking into new markets.

Those factors must form the core of the European Union's employment strategy. The EU must not meddle in every employment issue affecting member states, but must set out a framework in areas where it is wise to co-operate and to exchange best practice. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman identified that vital part of the EU's employment strategy. I hope that later today his colleagues will show their understanding of the nation's needs--which I hope that the Government have recognised.

We believe that enlargement is crucial to the European Community's future. The countries of western, central and eastern Europe have witnessed many changes in recent years. The European Union has also seen many changes in the 30 years since its inception. Europe must combine its existing challenges with those that it will face in the longer term, particularly in view of the changing position in a wider Europe. Stability, security and substantial trading opportunities are crucial to Europe as a whole.

We must stage a concerted attack against crime, illegal drugs and global pollution. One country cannot solve those problems alone, and neither can the present European Union. It is in member states' interests to extend the European Union's sphere of influence to include other countries that may wish to join the Union in the near future. The hon. Gentleman may be aware of the timetable in that regard: the Commission will consider the applications of 10 would-be member countries by mid-July and express its view regarding their suitability.

As the hon. Gentleman said, countries have different priorities and motivations for joining the EU. However, they will be assessed using common criteria. Parliamentary democracy must be established in any nation that wishes to join the European Union. Human rights and the protection of minorities--a hallmark of any democracy--must be guaranteed before a nation will be permitted to join the European Union. Countries aspiring to EU membership must have established market economies that are sufficiently robust to allow them a good chance of withstanding the pressures that they will inevitably face as they come into line with existing EU member economies.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): Does the Amsterdam summit's failure to make any progress on institutional reform as a preparation for enlargement mean that those who wish to put roadblocks in the way of enlargement have won the day?

Mr. Henderson: My hon. Friend takes a keen interest in these matters. As I have told the hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement to the House this afternoon. While we would have liked to see more progress in establishing the European Union's new institutional framework, some progress has been made. My right hon. Friend will refer to changes that will be made before enlargement occurs. Unfortunately, we could not secure detailed agreement among the nations of

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the European Union about alterations to the voting system and the Commission's structure. However, a large measure of understanding was reached. I have had extensive talks with European colleagues in the past three days, and I assure my hon. Friend that they agree that the enlargement issue must be addressed. It is a case of making as many changes as we can now in order to establish a structure that will enable further changes in the future.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) rose--

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