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Mr. Spring: I agreed with the right hon. Lady when she said on Second Reading that the Government should sell enlargement. I wonder whether she believes that that has happened. It is certainly not clear to me. Can she say why, increasingly, right across the European Union, not only in the United Kingdom, there is, regrettably, more opposition to the European Union and to enlargement, even in the accession states?
Joyce Quin: I do not see the problem in the same terms as the hon. Gentleman. I see a problem, which I mentioned earlier, of a lack of engagement in the issue and a somewhat passive approach. However, my postbag is not full of letters opposing European Union enlargement. When I have held meetings on the subject in my area, people's attitudes have, on the whole, been positive.
The economic advantages of enlargement, which benefit the existing members of the European Union as much as the applicant countries, should weigh effectively with many of our constituents. They are concerned not so much about the theories of European integration as about the likely prospects for jobs, employment, the environment and other practical issues.
There is no doubt that increased investment has already taken place in the applicant countries because of the prospect of enlargement. Investors know that those countries will be part of the European market in the future. The increased volumes of trade between us and the applicant countries is a welcome phenomenon. Those trade bonds have benefited us easily as much as they have benefited the new countries. Many industries in our towns, cities and constituencies are already benefiting from trade with the new countries. Those are all important points to make.
Indeed, on Second Reading, if I remember rightly, the Minister pointed out some of the expected gains in terms of growth in gross domestic product in both existing European Union member countries and the new countries as a result of this process.
I am also glad that considerable regional and structural support is already being given to the new countriesagain, on the basis that enlargement is going to take place. I urge that that expenditure be speeded up in some areas. It is particularly important for rural development. The so-called SAPARDspecial accession programme for agriculture and rural developmentschemes have been slow to get off the ground in applicant countries, but could make a real difference and help to progress rural development in those countries.
The schemes could also help the cause of common agricultural policy reform. As many hon. Members have pointed out, that reform is of prime importance. I certainly do not want CAP issues to scupper enlargement, but the imperative for reform is very real and necessary. I want this country to lead in the negotiations for reform, as I believe we are doing, and to lead by example by using existing funds to the maximum extent for rural development rather than the traditional price and product support mechanisms, which have caused the CAP to overshoot its budgets, created so many difficulties and distorted agriculture in EU countries for a good many years.
There are positive messages that we can convey as a result of the ratification of the treaty of Nice and its coming into force. The Government achieved a very good deal for Britain during the Nice negotiations and I congratulate them on the way in which they have defended and promoted our interests. What was achieved will help to secure successful enlargement of the EU as a whole.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): I come new to this legislation, but not new to the subject. In the years when I was involved with European matters, and lately when I have been not so involved, I have noticed the persistent habit of Governments of justifying controversial measures by an appeal to relatively uncontroversial overall aims. Just as the single market and the pursuit of free trade have been used to justify all sorts of harmonising and regulatory measures, so enlargement, which all right-thinking people are supposed to favour, is now being used to justify all sorts of disagreeable measures, including a good many in the treaty and the Bill.
When the Minister was pressed on that matter he asserted that the Bill was necessary for enlargement. He then retreated somewhat and said that it was simply necessary for ratification. I am not sure that that is technically correct. Ratification of treaties is a Crown prerogative and I think that it is technically true that the Government could proceed with ratification in the absence of legislation. In practical terms, however, it is obviously necessary for them to get the Bill through the House if they are to ratify.
Whether the treaty is required for enlargement is nevertheless a different question. Before the end of this debate we need a certain and clear answer to that question from the Minister. I believe that what is being suggested
Mr. Robert Jackson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a difference between this enlargement and that enlargement? In this enlargement, there will have to be a reallocation of seats among the existing member states. In that enlargement, there was not.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Yes, but I do not believe that that alters the point I am making. It is simply not necessary, legally or politically, for those changes to be incorporated in an Act of Parliament at this stage. It could quite easily be done at the accession treaty stage, as was done before. However, if my hon. Friend wishes it all to be set out now in a document and agreed, that could be done by political agreement. The European Union is very good at finding ways to express itself politically to give certainty to future negotiations.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): On this difficult and important issue, will my right hon. Friend look to the good advice of a Mr. Prodi, who used to say, until quite recently, that the treaty was vital for the extension of the European Union, but after the Irish referendum said that the extension of Europe did not require the treaty of Nice at all?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; Mr. Prodi made a series of mistakes. He started by trying to ignore the rejection of Nice by the Irisha breathtaking degree of arrogance on the part of a European institutionbut he then retreated somewhat and conceded, under pressure, that the Nice treaty was not required or necessary for enlargement. That is the case that I am now making.
Mr. Bryant: As far as I understand the argument about Ireland's already having decided on behalf of the whole of Europe, perhaps those who argue that case would do better to advocate the idea that each time there is a treaty to be ratified, one countryto be chosen by rotationshould decide on behalf of the whole of Europe whether it should be ratified, because that is exactly the position that the official Opposition are now advocating.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I have given way to some pretty silly interventions in my time in the House, but that one takes the record. Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that he does not believe in the unanimity rule for treaty
I have now reached my main argument. If the European Union were seriously preparing itself for enlargementif it really was interested in making Europe fit to take on up to 12 new member stateswhy has CAP reform not taken place? It is simply irresponsible to proceed with enlargement when everyone knows that, under the present CAP, Poland's entry to the EU alone will bankrupt the budget. So it is one of this country's duties to ask these difficult questions in advance. To negotiate all sorts of wonderful institutional changes that involve weighted votes without dealing with the underlying problems of the CAP and the budget is to put things the wrong way aroundand I shall say a word or two about the budget.