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Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): While I welcome the Prime Minister's statement on employment and growth, he did not specifically mention completing the single market. Will he confirm that completing the single market will in itself create a fundamental attack on unemployment across the European Union?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. The previous Prime Minister asked me what the employment chapter will do. One of the important things that it has done is to signal a different approach. By placing right at the forefront the single market action plan, which has been championed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by placing action to make people more employable in a different labour market right at the heart of the test on jobs--rather than old-style interventionism, regulation and all the rest of it--we have sent the right message and signal on employment and growth.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): The Prime Minister went to Amsterdam with the intention of extending QMV to environmental policy. As I understand it, that applies only under article 130s of the Maastricht treaty. Did he succeed?

The Prime Minister: We actually stopped it applying to taxation, thereby ensuring that we were completely protected on that matter. Ultimately, there were very few extensions of QMV, partly because of the considerations of states other than Britain. There were very few--

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): How many?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman will see them.

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The extensions are very minor, and I should like gently to try to persuade hon. Members of that. It was right for us to agree all the extensions of QMV that have been agreed. I will put the case higher and say that I was arguing for extension of QMV in matters such as research and combating fraud, because British interests are currently being blocked by one or two nations that are acting in a manner that is contrary to the interests of proper finance in either the European Union or the single market. I ask Conservative Members--in their current period of reflection and, perhaps, new spirit of coming together--to liberate themselves from some of the paranoia that gripped them while they were in government.

Mr. Charles Clarke (Norwich, South): Is the Prime Minister aware that there will be a welcome in the country for the priority that the Council presidency has given to employment and job creation in the employment chapter and the social chapter? Will he comment on the timing implications of that commitment to employment and jobs for EMU and the 1999 start date?

The Prime Minister: The truth of the matter is that we simply do not know whether that date will be achieved, although other countries are extremely anxious that it should be. What is important for Britain is to keep our own position very clear and unchanged, and to ensure--as we did when the issue arose in Amsterdam--that we get our principles right. Those principles are that there should be no weakening, fudging, botching or undermining of the Maastricht criteria, and, at the same time, to try to shift the focus of the debate in Europe to jobs and employment. Those principles should determine our approach.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): Subject to the detail on quota hopping, it seems that the arrangement that has been reached does not stop further quota hoppers joining the British fleet, does not expedite the removal of existing quota hoppers and, in any case, is temporary up to 2002. Does the Prime Minister agree with the recent suggestion by Mrs. Bonino that in the review of the common fisheries policy in 2002, even the issue of the renationalisation of the fishing industry could be considered? Would the Government consider that possibility?

The Prime Minister: I have not seen the remarks of Commissioner Bonino to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but the agreement is not temporary. The revision of the CFP is to take place in 2002, but the agreement holds. In relation to stopping existing and future quota hoppers, the agreement does the most that can possibly be done, which is to give us the ability--or enhance our ability--to impose licence conditions on vessels fishing under our quotas. Obviously, the importance of that is that it discourages further quota hopping and also means that existing quota hoppers are considerably impeded.

In addition, I stress the importance of the Commission agreement to bring forward further enforcement measures. As I understand it, the problem of quota hopping is not merely the fact that people own our quotas but that those who come in from outside and own our quotas take a far bigger catch than they are supposed to, and there are no proper systems of inspection in the ports of nation states at which they land the fish. That is one of the things that we have to tighten.

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I in no way pretend that the agreement solves the whole problem--that would be a foolish illusion and it would be wrong to suggest it--but it is a significant step of progress. It is now necessary to discuss with the fishing industry what changes are necessary to our licence conditions and then to try to make sure that we develop a forward strategy for the fishing industry so that it has a viable future and so that there is a genuine prospect of people securing their livelihoods in the long term.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill): Will the Prime Minister confirm that although he is rightly opposed to a takeover of the WEU by the European Union and deserves to be congratulated by all parts of the House on his success in resisting that project, it does not mean that the Government are opposed to common defence? Indeed, the whole purpose of the WEU is common defence.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a valuable point--that is the purpose of the WEU and, indeed, of NATO. It is important that we do not determine one framework within which common defence is placed. My concern about the proposal to integrate the WEU into the European Union is that it suggests that everything goes through the EU. That is not the case. The debate at Amsterdam was not simply between integrationists and non-integrationists, but about the best way to make progress on common defence among countries that have a genuine co-operative interest. We very largely did that. It was not just about protecting our interests, although that was important, but about trying to suggest to the rest of Europe that there is a different way of looking at the matter.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West): I know that the Prime Minister is aware of the importance to the British economy of the tourism and leisure industries. He will also be aware that they are, by their very nature, large employers of seasonal and part-time workers. What representations did he make on behalf of those industries to ensure that the application of the social chapter and the employment chapter does not cause them undue damage?

The Prime Minister: In relation to the social chapter, we made it absolutely clear that we do not favour an extension of qualified majority voting in respect of any measures that come up. Therefore, under the unanimity provisions, we can make a judgment as we wish.

In respect of the employment chapter, it is important that hon. Members understand that it specifically ruled out the harmonisation of laws. It is not about more regulation or harmonising the laws of member states but, in a sense, about trying to provoke a debate about the best way forward for economic reform in Europe. Of course the tourism and leisure industries are tremendously important, but they would benefit from an open single market in Europe and also from a prosperous Europe.

Miss Melanie Johnson (Welwyn Hatfield): What lessons does the Prime Minister draw from the fact that, although Margaret Thatcher said, "No, no, no" to Europe, she did not manage to succeed in getting legal protection for our frontiers?

The Prime Minister: What is important is that we say, "No" when it is sensible to do so, but that we do not spend

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our whole time saying, "No" as a matter of principle to everything that anyone else suggests. That means that we were able to achieve security for our border controls. That is important and I am pleased that we were able to do it.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): The Prime Minister--or at least his publicity machine--has been claiming victory on the issue of quota hopping, but the Spanish say that no deal has been reached and the Commission says that we are only at the outset of reaching a deal.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that current category A licences already contain the stipulation for a 50 per cent. landing and all that is changing is the enforcement? Can he guarantee that, as a result of the changes he has negotiated, the capacity reductions will fall on the flags of convenience fleet and not on domestic vessels? If he cannot give that guarantee, fishermen around the coastline will say that he may be claiming victory, but has been sold a haddie.

The Prime Minister: No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The latest information is that Spain was threatening to take Britain to the European Court as a result of the agreement, so, with all due respect, I think that he is wrong. We are able to strengthen the licence conditions and it is important that we do so; it is important also that we bring forward enforcement measures, but nobody can pretend that this subject will be easily dealt with or easily solved.

The hon. Gentleman says that we have been claiming some great victory, but we are not claiming victory at all. What we are claiming is that we have made progress. We have made progress, and that progress stands in sharp contrast to what went before. It is all very well for him, but he has no serious proposals of his own as to how to deal with the issue.


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