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House of Commons

Tuesday 14 March 2000

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Madam Speaker in the Chair]


City of Newcastle upon Tyne Bill [Lords]

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Tuesday 21 March.

Greenham and Crookham Commons Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second Time on Tuesday 21 March.

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked--

EU Enlargement

1. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): What recent meetings he has had with the President of the European Commission to discuss enlargement of the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [112868]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary regularly have discussions with the President of the European Commission, including on enlargement. We agree that enlargement is essential if we are to spread peace, stability and shared values throughout the continent. The United Kingdom is committed to a swift and successful enlargement of the European Union, and is working with the European Commission as well as other member states and the candidate countries to achieve this. I have also met Commissioner Verheugen to discuss these matters.

Mr. Luff: I am delighted to be able to agree with the Minister's response to my question, but can he explain how an unreformed common agricultural policy, a single currency and generally deeper integration will assist in the historic purpose that he so eloquently described?

Mr. Vaz: As the hon. Gentleman knows, discussions and negotiations are a matter for the candidate countries and the Commission. The chapter on agriculture has not yet been opened, although 23 of the 31 chapters of the

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acquis have been. They will be tough negotiations, and I am sure and I hope that they will have a successful and swift conclusion.

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): Although I welcome the emphasis and attention that the Government are giving to the enlargement process, may I urge the Minister and his colleagues to pay particular attention to building up non-governmental organisations and the process of political development not just in countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, which have made substantial progress, but in others, such as Romania and Bulgaria, where progress still needs to be made?

Mr. Vaz: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. It is clear that the tough on-going negotiations are important. However, at the level of political engagement between applicant countries and the Commission and the United Kingdom, we must ensure that such links are made. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have made a number of visits to the applicant countries, and we regularly receive Ministers from them. It is essential that the positive engagement between the United Kingdom and the applicant countries continues.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): May I congratulate the Minister on his triumphantly successful and newsworthy speech in Washington? Are those who were present at it now anxious about memory or hearing loss, or both?

Does the Minister agree that there is genuine concern among applicant countries about the potentially spiralling costs of the common agricultural policy and its implications for enlargement?

Mr. Vaz: There will always be discussions on these matters, and clearly agriculture is extremely important. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the United Kingdom is committed to ensuring that the CAP is reformed, but we will not hold up enlargement before it is reformed. Clearly, the agricultural chapters will be watched very carefully.

On my speech in Washington and the misquote that was ascribed to me by The Mail on Sunday, I assure the hon. Gentleman that if I know the date of the general election, he will be the first to know so that he can prepare for his redundancy pay.


2. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West): If he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Uganda. [112869]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): Britain and Uganda have a close relationship and we are supporting Uganda's economic, social and democratic development.

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Dr. Naysmith: Will my hon. Friend seek to strengthen our ties with Uganda and will he reassure the House of the importance that we attach to a party-based democracy in that country? Does he believe, as I do, that the World Service of the BBC, which can regularly reach 68 per cent. of the population of Kampala, has a part to play in that?

Mr. Hain: We will certainly strengthen our ties with Uganda, which probably has the best anti-poverty record in Africa, and we are supporting it. I am, however, concerned about a number of aspects of the coming referendum on a no-party democracy. I have expressed them to President Museveni and pointed out the need for a level playing field between those in favour and those against his proposals. It is not obvious that such a level playing field is being provided at the moment. It should include free access to the media, and the role of the BBC World Service, as my hon. Friend says, could be important in that.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Is the Minister aware that there are 15 million people in the Horn of Africa, including 750,000 Ugandans, who are in fear of starvation and disease as a result of the complete crop failure in that area? Can the House be reassured that the Government are planning preparatory measures to deal with this incipient crisis? Is this not yet another example where arranging for bases in Africa to stockpile equipment and foodstuffs against such emergencies might be helpful?

Mr. Hain: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this important issue, and I very much share his concerns about the drought and the worsening food problem in that area, which are affecting countries as far south as Kenya. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is making the preparations that the hon. Gentleman has identified and will make every effort to ensure that the problem is addressed, as she has so effectively done in other parts of Africa.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley): Has my hon. Friend had time to read early-day motion 515, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett)? Is it not worrying that elements in Uganda are flagrantly breaching sanctions, as are some of their neighbours? Does not that inflict terrible damage on the effectiveness of sanctions and international agreements? Is it not time to name and shame?

Mr. Hain: I have indeed seen early-day motion 515, and I am very concerned about the evidence that it contains. In particular, there is a reference to a senior member of Ugandan society. I am sure that President Museveni, who assured me that he would investigate all such reports of sanctions busting involving the supply of UNITA, will want to consider that closely.

One of the reasons why I am travelling to New York straight after Question Time is to join Ambassador Fowler in his campaign with the United Nations to make sure that sanctions are enforced properly to starve UNITA of the fuel, guns, munitions and other supplies that it uses to maintain its murderous war.

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EU Enlargement

3. Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): What representations he has made to the Commission on the document, "Adapting the Institutions to make a Success of Enlargement"; and if he will make a statement. [112871]

15. Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): What representations the Government have made to other EU member states on the proposals set out in the Commission's document, "Adapting the Institutions to make a Success of Enlargement"; and if he will make a statement. [112883]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): The Government are in regular contact with the Commission on a range of issues, including the intergovernmental conference. However, IGC decisions will be made by member states alone. The Government's position is set out in the White Paper laid before the House by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 15 February.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does the Minister not realise that the document completely reverses the current situation in which voting by unanimity is the norm and qualified majority voting is confined to certain policy areas? If he does not take this opportunity to make it clear that he is opposed to that, he will be seen by Brussels as giving it the green light to take control of a huge range of policy areas such as structural and cohesion funds.

Mr. Vaz: The hon. Gentleman should calm down. Nobody is trying to take over this country--or, indeed, him. The Commission is entitled to put forward its view, and it has made its opinion clear. We have a short and focused agenda of what we shall achieve. We shall fight very hard at ministerial and official level to make sure that our agenda is accepted. Certainly, in relation to the development of the IGC, everything that the UK has asked for is proceeding according to plan. I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the end, as I said, the decision will be taken by the member states and the European Council, and not by the Commission, although of course we always value the Commission's input in those deliberations.

Mr. Chope: Does the Minister not accept that the document shows that the European Commission is using enlargement as a Trojan horse for the creation of a federal European super-state? Can he explain why the Government have not set out in their White Paper any response to the pernicious proposal for European-wide voting lists, which would involve Members of the European Parliament being elected by an electorate of more than 300 million adults? How is that compatible with democracy and national sovereignty?

Mr. Vaz: I feel sorry for the hon. Gentleman if he is so obsessed with the idea of a federalist state that he thinks that everything that emanates from Brussels is a step on the long march to a federalist state. We have made our position absolutely clear. I commend the IGC

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document to him. If he has not received a copy of the White Paper launched by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 15 February, I will send him two copies.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): Are there not two problems bedevilling the enlargement process? One is the failure to reform the common agricultural policy, and the other is the freedom of movement of labour. How can there be such freedom when at this very moment most member states are tightening their immigration laws? What would happen in an enlarged Europe with those tightened regulations?

Mr. Vaz: I understand my hon. Friend's point, but the IGC has a short and focused agenda. The purpose of the IGC is to prepare the European Union for enlargement. We have a strict timetable, which means that the IGC must be completed by the end of 2000. If we do not stick to a very short and focused agenda, we will not complete it by the end of 2000, and we will not be ready for enlargement. The issues raised by my hon. Friend are important. We have a tough but fair immigration policy, and we are certain that our European partners will operate on the same basis.

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