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Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he expects to be able to publish the final research report on the trials of the new system for home buying and selling. 
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Mr. Lock: We are planning to announce the results of the seller's information pack pilot at a conference in Bristol on 24 November. A short report and a summary of the main findings and conclusions will be published on that date. A full research report is expected to be published in December.
Mr. Hope: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he will publish the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of the magistrates courts service; and if he will make a statement. 
The Chief Inspector reports a noticeable improvement in overall proficiency across the service. Magistrates courts committees have faced up to hard decisions and shown determination in executing them. While further improvements are needed, such as in the management of performance through the monitoring of suitable indicators, magistrates courts committees are demonstrating an increasing willingness to think strategically.
Although most MCCs continued to show significant weaknesses in managing performance in case administration, all magistrates courts committees inspected achieved average or better than average case completion times. There were also some encouraging signs of recent improvement. The Chief Inspector also noted that there had been good inter-agency work on the planning and implementation of the new Narey procedures and Youth Court Joint Performance Improvement Plans.
Mr. Vaz: In June 1999, the Conclusions of the Cologne European Council called for a Charter of Fundamental Rights to be drawn up to make those rights more visible. It was agreed that the Charter would be drafted by a body called the Convention, consisting of 15 member states representatives, 16 MEPs, 30 national parliamentarians and one Commissioner.
The Convention met regularly from December 1999 to October 2000. It circulated a final draft on 2 October. This was discussed by Heads of Government at the Biarritz Informal Council on 13-14 October. They agreed that the Charter should be proclaimed as a political declaration at the Nice European Council in December. Copies of the Charter text have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
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The Government strongly supports the Charter. People need to know their rights. And the EU Institutions need to respect them. The Charter will help on both counts. It sets out fundamental rights and principles that the EU Institutions should respect when going about their daily business, and it promotes the visibility and accessibility of those rights.
The Charter is not legally binding. It is addressed to the EU Institutions, and to member states only when they are implementing Union law (Article 51(1)). It does not establish any new power or task for the Community or the Union or modify powers and tasks defined by the Treaties (Article 51(2)). It does not create any new powers for the European Court of Justice.
Individual Charter articles should be read in the context of the declaration as a whole, including the horizontal provisions. The meaning and scope of articles derived from the European Convention on Human Rights shall be the same as that in the corresponding ECHR articles (Article 52(3)). Charter articles based on EC/EU Treaty rights shall be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by those Treaties (Article 52(2)). Other articles make clear that the rights they concern are given effect only to the extent that they have effect in national laws and practices.
Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who are the members of the Praesidium referred to in Convent 45, Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; and what are its powers. 
The three Vice-Chairs were Inigo Mendes de Vigo (European Parliament), Gunnar Jansson (national parliamentarians) and Paavo Nikula followed by Bacelar de Vasconcelos and Guy Braibant (Finnish, Portuguese and French Presidencies).
Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on his policy in respect of the number of European commissioners per member state; 
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Mr. Vaz: As the Prime Minister made clear in his speech in Warsaw on 6 October, this Government support the principle of enhanced co-operation in an enlarged Union. But this must be subject to important safeguards. Enhanced co-operation must remain open to all at any stage; it must not undermine the single market or other common policies and it must not lead to a hard core in which some member states create shared policies and institutions from which others are in practice excluded.
Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on proposals from the European Parliament relating to a legal personality for the European Union. 
Mr. Vaz: The issue of EU legal personality has been touched on in discussions at the Intergovernmental Conference. However a majority of member states, including the United Kingdom, were not in favour of this being added to the IGC agenda.
Mr. Vaz: The Government have made clear their opposition to a federal superstate. We want a United Europe of States, not a United States of Europe. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Prime Minister's speech in Warsaw on 6 October. I have sent him a copy of this speech today.
Mr. Vaz: As the Prime Minister has said, this decision is a matter for the Danish people and does not change the Government's position. We are in favour, in principle, of joining a successful single currency but in practice the five economic tests have to be met. Should Government and Parliament recommend joining, the final decision should be for the British people in a referendum.
Mr. Vaz: NATO is the cornerstone of the UK's defence. NATO plays a major role in crisis management, as in Bosnia and Kosovo. In pursuit of its common Foreign and Security Policy, the European Union is developing its capacity to undertake military crisis
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management operations where the alliance as a whole is not engaged. More capable European nations will strengthen NATO as well as the European Union.
For European Defence to be effective, EU activity needs to be underpinned by arrangements for consultation, co-operation and transparency with NATO and for EU access to NATO assets. Negotiations between the EU and NATO to secure these arrangements are under way.
Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on proposals by the European Parliament relating to the European Union's powers in relation to economic, social and employment policies. 
Mr. Vaz: In its resolution of March 2000, the European Parliament proposed a number of changes to the European Union's powers in relation to economic, social and employment policies, for discussion at the intergovernmental conference. Not all aspects of the European Parliament's proposals have been taken up by the Conference. As far as the proposals relate to qualified majority voting, the Government made their policy clear in their White Paper "IGC: Reform for Enlargement" of February 2000.
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