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Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Irrespective of whether the 1999 start date is realistic, what discussions are taking place about the question of the accountability of a central bank to the European Parliament?

The Prime Minister: This was dealt with in the resolution of the Finance Ministers. It is something of which they are aware and it formed part of the discussion between France, Britain and other countries at the meeting of the Finance Ministers. That process of accountability is, of course, important and that discussion will continue, but what is absolutely essential is that nothing that was agreed at Amsterdam in any way changes the basic criteria. As I have said, whether or not those criteria can be met is another matter.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Has the Prime Minister considered exactly what the budgetary implications for the country and the Chancellor would be if the British Government were outvoted through an extension of qualified majority voting in research and development? By the same token, I understand that he has agreed to a massive extension of co-decision. Obviously, that is happy news for colleagues in another place, but can he explain to us today how he intends to guarantee the sovereignty of this House in those circumstances?

The Prime Minister: The European Parliament cannot actually propose anything that the Council has not agreed

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to. What I announced in my statement was an enhanced way in which national parliaments, and this Parliament in particular, can study European documents. As for being outvoted through QMV on research and development, the problem is the opposite of that: it is that we will often want measures to be put through by the Commission using QMV--[Hon. Members: "Answer the question."] I am answering the question. The reason why it is important to have QMV in the area of research is that without it we can be blocked in what we want to do.

Obviously, if a large number of countries are opposed to what Britain is doing, we will not get our way, but the current problem is that, under unanimity, we can be blocked by one country. That is why I say that the sensible approach to QMV is to treat it on a case-by-case basis. Where it is not sensible to extend it, do not extend it; where it is sensible to extend it, do not take an ideological view that QMV in all circumstances is wrong.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Is the Prime Minister aware that I do not measure success at these summits and common market conferences on the basis of further integration, which I regard as a sort of setback? I hope he will be able to please me as well as all the others who want that sort of advance among those 15 nation states. Will he answer this key question: as the single currency was the big issue among all the others, can he seriously tell me whether the momentum towards a single currency in those few days at Amsterdam was advanced or stalled? Please me.

The Prime Minister: I am habitually trying to please my hon. Friend, as he knows. The short answer is that it is impossible to tell, because in the end it will depend on whether countries meet the criteria. Matters would have been pushed forward in an unhelpful way if the criteria had been changed. We cannot tell what the outcome will be at the moment.

I can say, however, that I believe that the language on employment, jobs and growth was more realistic, and more what I would call people-centred, than most of the language that I have read in previous conclusions.

Mr. William Cash (Stone): Will the Prime Minister confirm that in Amsterdam he has agreed, under the resolution in annexe II to the presidency conclusions, that we will enter the exchange rate mechanism even if we do not sign up to EMU on 1 January 1999?

The Prime Minister: No, that is not correct.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his successful visit to Europe and on his negotiations? However, did he have discussions with Chancellor Kohl about the Eurofighter? As thousands of jobs in my constituency and many more thousands in Lancashire depend on that project, I hope that he did.

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend. I know how concerned he is about this matter on behalf of his constituents. I raised that issue with Chancellor Kohl in Bonn a short time ago and I was pleased that he confirmed that he still desires to proceed with the project. Apparently, budget discussions are going on in Germany

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at present, but I think it is very important that the project proceeds, for the defence of the country and for jobs and skills.

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the new UK protocol maintaining the UK's borders applies with the same legal force to the nearly 400 million EU citizens as to those who are not EU citizens, given the new treaty wording to which he has subscribed--that


The Prime Minister: As I understand it, the position is that they have to produce their documents in the normal way, so that is something that has happened and will continue to happen.

Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his success in Amsterdam. I am especially grateful as, for the first time in 10 years, I shall be able to visit member states without having to apologise for my Government's intransigence. May I press the Prime Minister on enlargement and ask him whether there was any optimism on the future negotiations for the acceptance of Cyprus into the European Union?

The Prime Minister: No, that did not form part of the discussions. However, on enlargement, there was not as much progress as there should have been and, without doubt, we should have liked there to have been more, but there is still a considerable will to make progress. Some of the institutional methods of doing that are still open for debate, but the conclusions of the Amsterdam summit were very strong on the principle and issue of enlargement. I have made it clear that when we have the presidency of Europe we shall be making progress on that as one of our priorities. I believe that it is essential that we do so.

In response to the first thing that my hon. Friend said, I should say that I believe that, as a result of having a serious position on Europe, which means standing up for British interests whole-heartedly throughout but being serious, not intransigent, we shall get a better deal.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon): The Prime Minister briefly mentioned subsidiarity. Does he agree that subsidiarity means decisions being taken not just at European member state level but at levels below that? How is that principle advanced by the new treaty? Will he confirm that the representatives of the small nations and regions of Europe will have an important part to play, following Amsterdam, in important matters such as the future of regional policy?

The Prime Minister: Yes, I do agree. That is one of the very things subsidiarity is supposed to achieve. That is why we are strongly promoting the agreed protocol. It was made clear during discussions on it that subsidiarity means a far stronger role being played below member state level. That of course applies to the nations and regions of Europe--and below that level, too.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Can the Prime Minister confirm that the treaty now recognises explicitly

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the fact that European Union citizenship does not replace national citizenship--something which the previous Government signally failed to secure?

The Prime Minister: That is correct.

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): The written conclusions to the summit contain pages of Euro-waffle about the need to create more jobs, including some damaging provisions, but they also press for flexible labour markets and lower business costs. How does the Prime Minister reconcile this new-found attachment to market forces with the fact that, at the same summit and in the same treaty, he is signing up this country to the provisions of the social chapter which, by definition, interfere in labour markets and raise business costs?

The Prime Minister: For the first time in the written conclusions to a summit, we got in straight terms the importance of concentrating on the very things on which we wish to concentrate: employment, growth, competitiveness, small businesses, and education and skills instead of old-style regulation.

The right hon. Gentleman says that lower business costs and flexibility are inconsistent with the social chapter. Basic minimum standards at work are not, in our view, inconsistent with economic prosperity. The social chapter, in relation to consultations with workers at a Europe-wide level and parental leave, is perfectly sensible.

I return to the point that I made earlier in response to the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major): as a result of being in the social chapter, we can play our part in shaping any legislation that may come from it. As a result of the Conservative Government's opt-out, the social chapter directive on consultation of workers on a Europe-wide basis came into force. We played no part in shaping it and had no influence over it, yet British companies ended up having to apply it. Half the British companies to which it would have applied, had we been part of the social chapter, ended up having to apply it voluntarily--but with no influence on the process. That is not a sensible way to proceed.


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