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EU (Subsidiarity)

12. Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): If he will make a statement on progress in respect of subsidiarity within the European Union. [40502]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): Since Maastricht, subsidiarity has been important in ensuring that the Community acts only where results can be achieved better by action at European level. The subsidiarity protocol of the Amsterdam treaty, for the first time, sets out in the treaty the procedures that should be used in applying the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality to European Union legislation.

Mr. Bercow: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware from his close reading of the text that the subsidiarity protocol of the Amsterdam treaty requires the maintenance, in full, of the acquis communautaire and the institutional balance? Given that he has accepted that pitiful state of affairs, does he expect a single European Union power to be repatriated to the United Kingdom in the lifetime of this Parliament, or has he thrown in the towel and once again let down the people of Britain?

Mr. Cook: I am aware that those words are in the protocol. They are in the protocol because they are the words that the Conservative Government accepted at Maastricht. For once, the hon. Gentleman is unfair to the previous Administration. As a result of the negotiations at Maastricht, 12 different regulations were dropped and fewer regulations have been introduced in every year since then. It would have been nice if the Conservative party when in government had applied subsidiarity in practice. It is this Government who are now implementing subsidiarity, not just between us and Brussels, but between London, Whitehall and Scotland, London and Wales, and London and the rest of Britain.

Mr. Bercow: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: I do not take points of order during questions. If the hon. Gentleman wants an Adjournment debate, he should know how to deal with that.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Does the Secretary of State agree that the Amsterdam treaty specifically enshrines the principle of subsidiarity for the first time, and forces on the European Commission a duty to consult widely and to justify action at a European as opposed to a national level? We need such progress in Europe, rather than the incessant criticism that we get from the Conservative party, which makes none of those points and constantly attempts to obscure the truth.

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The protocol makes it clear that for Community legislation now to be proposed, it must be shown that matters can be achieved better at Community level than at national level. It must also be shown that such legislation will produce clear benefits that could not be secured at national level. That is now written into the treaty for the first time. It is something that the Conservative Government did not achieve at Maastricht, and it is a clear advance for the principle of subsidiarity.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): Will the Foreign Secretary reconsider his answer to my hon.

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Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) about whether the preservation of the acquis was in the Maastricht treaty as opposed to the Amsterdam treaty? Does he accept that his answer to my hon. Friend was entirely incorrect? I fear that that is another example of the right hon. Gentleman not reading the material that is put before him.

Mr. Cook: I am happy to tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that what I said was entirely consistent with what I was told two hours ago. Conservative Members complain that we are not briefed, and then they complain when we are briefed. Those are, indeed, the words that were accepted by the previous Government at Maastricht, so it is a bit rich for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to complain to us now.

Kosovo

13. Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter): If he will make a statement on the situation in Kosovo. [40504]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): The situation in Kosovo continues to be a matter of deepening concern. Fatalities in Kosovo are now an almost daily occurrence, and the authorities in Belgrade must accept major responsibility for the failure to start a political process, which is vital if we are to stop the violence.

Last Friday, at the meeting of the G8 Foreign Ministers, it was agreed by those present that we should proceed to impose the investment ban recommended by the last meeting of the contact group. During our presidency of the European Union, I have repeatedly made it clear to Belgrade that we want a closer working relationship with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There could, however, be no question of us accepting the Federal Republic as part of the family of modern Europe unless Belgrade stops its present repression and starts to respect the principles of human rights.

Mr. Bradshaw: Given my right hon. Friend's extremely worrying reply, will he assure the House that he will use his presidency to do all he can to implement the decision to send a mediator to Kosovo? Does he agree that it would be wrong for Europe to sit back and wait for the Americans to take the lead? We would be making exactly the same mistake as we made in Bosnia, with knobs on.

Mr. Cook: There can be no question of Europe sitting back and allowing America to take the lead. I hope that Richard Holbrooke's current mission in Belgrade is a success. On the question of a facilitator, I have recently written to President Milosevic urging him to accept the role for Felipe Gonzalez. We shall continue to press on him Mr. Gonzalez's role as special representative of the European Union and of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. In the meantime, although Belgrade refuses to accept outside facilitation, it is important for us to maintain the pressure, which is why we agreed to the ban on new investment within the Federal Republic.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): Is the Foreign Secretary now able to tell us more than he was able to tell

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the House on 30 April in response to questions by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), first, about the extent and effectiveness of the monitors who were deployed by the European monitoring mission within Kosovo and secondly, whether any further action has been considered or taken to strengthen the UN forces that are stationed on the Kosovo-Macedonia border? Can he reassure the House that he is receiving and reading comprehensive and up-to-date briefings from his officials on this situation, so that he can take timely and well-informed decisions on matters which, after all, affect the lives of many people?

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman asks about the European Union monitors. Five such monitors are currently attached to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As much as possible, they have given continuous provision within Kosovo, and their monitoring reports have been well received by the international community and have kept us up to date. Yes, I should like to see more monitors there, but to achieve that, we should have to get an agreement from Belgrade, and at present, such agreement has not been forthcoming. The provision of UNPREDEP, the UN preventive deployment force, on the Macedonian border is a clear commitment, and we have repeatedly confirmed to the contact group that there will be an extension of the mandate. Quite what the balance of forces will be--whether it will be a UN or a NATO force--remains under negotiation. However, for the first time, we shall be holding a partnership for peace exercise in Macedonia this autumn in which British troops will participate.

Israel

15. Mr. Ivan Lewis (Bury, South): If he will make a statement on the Prime Minister's recent visit to Israel and the progress of the subsequent talks. [40506]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had a successful visit to Israel on 19 to 21 April. As a result of his meetings with regional leaders, the United Kingdom was able to facilitate the talks on the peace process, which were held in London on 3 to 5 May.

Mr. Lewis: Notwithstanding the virtue or otherwise of regularly winning the Eurovision song contest or the short-term difficulties that currently face the peace process, will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to pay tribute to the state of Israel on its 50th anniversary for its economic and social progress, and for the fact that it remains the only democracy in the middle east?

Mr. Fatchett: I am happy to pay tribute to the successes of the state of Israel to which my hon. Friend refers. The best birthday present for the people and the state of Israel would be a comprehensive and lasting peace for the region. I hope that all political leaders in Israel and in the region share that common goal and will work towards that objective.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): As it took a visit by the Prime Minister to the middle east and Israel to clear up the mess that was left behind after the Foreign

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Secretary's visit, does the Foreign Office have any plans for the Prime Minister to follow the Foreign Secretary on his forthcoming visit to Turkey as well?

Mr. Fatchett: As the hon. Gentleman says, the visit by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was extremely successful. It succeeded in bringing the parties together in London, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied with that result. Instead of smirking, it is about time that he invested something in the peace process, which is a great deal more important.


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