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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Departmental Policies (Blackpool, South)

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will set out, including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effect on the Blackpool, South constituency of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [142236]

Mr. Vaz: We hold no information of the kind sought by my hon. Friend. The mission of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to promote the national interests of the United Kingdom and to contribute to a strong world community. For details of the Government's achievements in meeting its foreign policy targets, the following page of the FCO website may be helpful: http://www.fco.gov.uk/directory/dynpage.asp?page=108

EU Bishops' Conferences

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what EU moneys are distributed to the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community; what the objectives of that organisation are; and when he last met representatives of that organisation. [144629]

Mr. Vaz: It is within the remit of the European Commission to decide on the targeting of such grants. I therefore suggest the hon. Member contacts the Commission directly for further information on individual recipients.

Eurofacit Programme

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the prototype zones developed under the Eurofacit programme, for providing information on the euro. [144633]

Mr. Vaz: According to the European Commission, among the regions and cities operating projects at the end of 2000 were the Veneto region (Italy), Ixelles (Belgium) and Lille (France).

For further information, the hon. Member may wish to contact the European Commission directly.

Qualified Majority Voting

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will list each proposed new provision, in the provisional text of the Treaty of Nice, where unanimity is changed for a qualified majority vote, indicating for each (a) the proposed Nice, amended current treaty article, and Nice treaty declaration, (b) the purpose of the powers in each existing and new provision, (c) the reasons for Her Majesty's Government's acceptance of each provision and (d) the expected impact of the relevant provision; [144818]

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Mr. Vaz: For a detailed list of the articles that were extended to qualified majority voting (including those that will also become subject to co-decision with the European Parliament) at the Nice European Council, I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him on 9 January 2001, Official Report, columns 510-12W.

In all cases the Government supported the moves to QMV as being in the interests of the United Kingdom. These moves will make decision-making easier in an enlarged EU.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason the Government assented to amendments to Article 214 of the Treaty of the European Community which would make the appointment of the President of the European Commission by the European Council subject to a form of qualified majority voting; and when in 2000 a statement giving notice of this intention was made. [144743]

Mr. Vaz: In the White Paper "IGC: Reform for Enlargement" the Government made clear its commitment to the effective political and administrative leadership of the College of Commissioners. Making the appointment of the President of the European Commission subject to qualified majority voting will help to ensure that the best candidate, rather than the one most acceptable to all, is selected as the President.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will indicate each change in voting procedure from unanimity to qualified majority contained in the provisional text of the Treaty of Nice which was initially opposed (a) by the UK Government and (b) by other Governments, together with the respective reasons for such opposition. [144891]

Mr. Vaz: The UK approached each proposed move to qualified majority voting on a case-by-case basis. The Government support the moves to QMV in the Treaty of Nice as being in the UK's interests. We successfully maintained the UK veto in areas of key national interest, such as tax, social security, Treaty change, defence, the UK's border controls and Own Resources.

The position of other member states to changes is a matter for the relevant Governments concerned.

EU Commissioners

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons the Government assented to the amendment of Article 217 of the Treaty of the European Communities giving additional

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powers to the President of the Commission (a) to restructure the duties and responsibilities of each member of the Commission, (b) to appoint its vice-presidents and (c) to obtain with the approval of the Commission the resignation of any Commissioner. [144744]

Mr. Vaz: The Government strongly support reform of the Commission. These Treaty changes are designed to help the Commission function more effectively, particularly after enlargement.

Giving the President of the Commission the power to restructure the duties and responsibilities of each member of the Commission and appoint its vice-presidents will enable the President to organise the College of Commissioners in the most effective way possible. The President's power to obtain with the approval of the Commission the resignation of any Commissioner strengthens the voluntary undertaking that all members of the current Commission have given, that if the President asks him/her to resign she/he will do so. This will help to strengthen the accountability of individual Commissioners.

Treaty of Nice

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) where and when he expects the final text of the Treaty of Nice to be signed; and who will sign it on behalf of the United Kingdom; [144856]

Mr. Vaz: The Treaty of Nice will be signed by representatives of all 15 member states. Specific details about the time and place have not yet been decided, but legal and linguistic experts are currently expected to finalise the text by around the middle of February. Signature will follow shortly thereafter.

Up to date versions of the Treaty text are available on the website www.europ.eu.int and in the Libraries of each House. Following signature the Treaty will be submitted to Parliament in the form of a Command Paper in the usual way.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish a White Paper listing each amendment, declaration and obligation contained in the Treaty of Nice together with an assessment of their implications and an explanation of the reasons underlying the Government's support for them. [144830]

Mr. Vaz: The successful negotiation of the Treaty of Nice was a major achievement, as the Prime Minister set out in his statement to the House on 10 December and as I explained to the European Scrutiny Committee in an evidence session on 9 January. Once the final text of the Treaty has been signed it will be laid before Parliament as a Command Paper, and accompanied in the usual way by an Explanatory Memorandum.

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Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the textual and linguistic amendments agreed to the conclusions of the provisional text of the Treaty of Nice published on 12 December 2000. [144855]

Mr. Vaz: The Treaty of Nice document SN 533/1/00 REV 1 contains the clerical corrections to the draft Treaty which were examined at the meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee on 20 and 21 December 2000. It can be found on the website www.europa.eu.int. Legal and linguistic editing is due to commence shortly.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to Cm 4595, "IGC, Reform for Enlargement", concerning the provisions for flexibility with the European Union available since 1997, if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy in respect of the nature of the decisions taken and procedures used to authorise them, indicating the changes proposed in the provisional Treaty of Nice concerning such authorisations. [144745]

Mr. Vaz: The Government strongly support the new enhanced co-operation arrangements. Though their use is likely to remain exceptional, they provide the EU with an element of flexibility that should increase its efficiency while preserving the Single Market and avoiding the emergency of an inner core.

For the precise details of the changes proposed concerning authorisations, I refer my hon. Friend to the provisional text of the Treaty of Nice which has been placed in the Library of the House.


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