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Mr. Martin O'Neill (Ochil): First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress that he made in the liberalisation of the energy market. We now have a timetable, and under the qualified majority voting procedures, the French will no longer have anywhere to hide. They will have to come out and account for their obstructive policies.
Secondly, on financial services, is my right hon. Friend aware that outside Frankfurt and London, the corridor between Edinburgh and Glasgow in central Scotland has the greatest concentration of financial services employment in Europe? It would be helpful if we could ensure that the imaginative training and investment arrangements available elsewhere in Europe were made available to that area, in preparation for the great advance that is to take place in financial services.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right on both points. As a result of the Commission proposal, it will be possible to make significant progress in energy liberalisation. Virtually every other member state whose representative spoke at the Council was in favour of such liberalisation. In respect of financial services, my hon. Friend is right about the Edinburgh-Glasgow corridor. That part of Scotland is one of the fastest growing areas in Europe for financial services. I shall certainly take on board the point that he made.
Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire): If everything to do with the foot and mouth crisis was done when it was necessary, according to the Prime Minister, why was it necessary to remove the senior official in charge of Cumbria?
The Prime Minister: We have not removed that official. All the way through, we have been trying to make sure--in part as a result of representations made by people such as the hon. Gentleman--that for such a huge operation, senior people were involved, together with Army logistics teams, so that we can organise in each
Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): I was pleased to see at Stockholm the determination to hold a further round of world trade discussions by the end of this year. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an example of this Labour Government using one of their most positive policies in conjunction with their European allies for the good of the world? Will he urge the United States to follow Europe's example and offer free tariff access to the poorest countries in the world?
The Prime Minister: I have no doubt that some of these issues will be part of the EU-US summit. Obviously, the free tariff opportunities that we have afforded the poorer countries are very important. We have done an immense amount as a Government, led as brilliantly as ever by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, on debt, aid and development. Those are very important moves, but the single most important thing alongside that that we can do to help the poorest countries in the world is to open up our markets to their goods. It is hypocritical and wrong for those in the developed world to say that the developing world must put its house in order when we are not prepared to make the moves to open up our markets to their goods and let them trade with us properly.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): On 19 March, the Minister of Agriculture said that the foot and mouth crisis was under control. On what date did the Prime Minister order the reconvening of Cobra?
The Prime Minister: As I said to one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues a moment or two ago, it is of course important that we do everything possible to ensure, as the disease is seen to spread, that we have in place the right resources to deal with that. It is--I repeat--absurd for Opposition Members on one hand to try to make points about why there is not greater co-ordination in government, and on the other to complain when we take the very measures for which they have been calling.
Mr. Giles Radice (North Durham): Does my right hon. Friend agree that Stockholm shows once again that a constructive attitude in Europe pays dividends for the United Kingdom? However, will he take it from me that our leadership opportunities may be restricted unless we join the single currency in the next Parliament?
The Prime Minister: I have nothing to add to the policy that I have already outlined on the single currency, but my right hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the dangers of the policy of renegotiating our membership of the European Union. I notice that just a few days ago, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Foreign Secretary once again talked about the flexibility clause that they would negotiate in the EU. I have still not discovered a single member state anywhere in the EU that is in favour of that, and I am still waiting--they have
The Prime Minister: We are stepping up the involvement of not just the UK but KFOR itself precisely to ensure that that does not happen. Yes, I agree that it is absolutely essential that we preserve the territorial integrity of Macedonia. The single greatest danger is that what we prevented in Kosovo happens elsewhere: an attempt to change the territorial boundaries of countries in the region by force.
The role played by NATO and KFOR over the past couple of years has been immensely positive. No one can now seriously argue that we would ever have seen the back of Milosevic--certainly not on any reasonable time scale--if we had not taken the action that we did. That in itself has unlocked the possibility of reconstruction of the Balkans. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in respect of Macedonia, which is why we took the opportunity to say publicly at the European Council that we supported the territorial integrity of Macedonia and will back that up.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): First, did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to talk to President Putin about the deteriorating situation in Chechnya? It is a dire situation and Mr. Putin should be urged to bring about a peaceful solution. Secondly, will he resist all offers from the Leader of the Opposition to join any sort of Cabinet, even temporarily, as there is no point in bringing in a boy to do a man's job?
The Prime Minister: I think I shall just deal with the first bit, if I may. Concern was expressed by the European Council as a whole over Chechnya, and we reaffirmed once again our desire to ensure that there was a political solution to the problem of Chechnya. We understand the problems and issues that are confronted by the Russian Government, but we have made it clear that the matter should be resolved on the basis of a political framework and respect for human rights on all sides.
Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): In the Prime Minister's talks at Stockholm on foot and mouth, did he have any discussions with his counterparts about changing the EU policy of a blanket prohibition on vaccination? Is he aware that following the tragic outbreak of foot and mouth in the heart of the Lake district, many farmers in Cumbria believe that the badly botched policy of mass culling has now definitively failed
The Prime Minister: Let me put this point to the hon. Gentleman. We have pursued the policy of containing the disease by slaughter because that was the advice given to us by the chief veterinary officer and also by the Government's chief scientific adviser. It was also the policy agreed to by the National Farmers Union. Indeed, it was the policy agreed to by the hon. Gentleman's own political party. When he says that it has been a botched policy, I simply point out that 10 days ago, people were opposed to intensifying that slaughter policy in Cumbria. Today, they wish it to be carried out even more urgently. I understand that, because it is a fast-moving situation and is extremely difficult to track, for all the reasons that we have given.
As for vaccination, I repeat what I said to the Leader of the Opposition a moment or two ago. We do keep that under review and we are urgently looking at every single option we can have. Until now, vaccination has been strongly opposed by those in the farming community, but again, I understand that as the situation moves, what looked as if it was completely unpalatable a short time ago has to be put on the agenda. We are doing that, but I really think that it would be helpful if there was understanding on all sides about the need to move forward with the consent of the farming community, which is why we chose the slaughter policy. We could have gone immediately for a policy of vaccination, but we did not do so precisely because of the opposition to it and, frankly, the worries about how effective it would be. The very point that I would make to the hon. Gentleman is that as the disease develops, these policy decisions must be taken, and that it is easier to take them if there is some understanding that we are tracking a very fast-moving situation in which policy decisions that are taken on one basis may have to change as a result of that situation changing. That is precisely what we are doing, and I can assure him that every single sinew and thought of Government is bent to that task.