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House of Commons

Tuesday 27 November 2001

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

EU Accession

1. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough): What recent bilateral discussions he has had with those countries seeking entry into the EU. [15423]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): Between us, the Foreign Secretary and I have already met our Polish, Czech, Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian, Cypriot, Lithuanian, Latvian and Bulgarian counterparts. Our Government are champions of European enlargement.

Jeff Ennis: Independent research has shown that EU enlargement will add approximately £1.75 billion to our gross domestic product. Does the Minister agree that any opposition to EU enlargement, including from Opposition Members, is not in this country's interests?

Peter Hain: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Enlargement is not just a favour for the applicant countries; it is a favour for ourselves. It is good for jobs and good for business. Every country that has come into the EU has increased its share of trade with Britain. It is also good for our security to bring additional members into the EU to co-operate on drug trafficking and anti-crime and anti-terrorism measures. That is why it is astonishing that Conservative Members voted against enlargement by opposing the Nice treaty. They have shown all the Polish, Cypriot and other communities in Britain that the Tories oppose their interests.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Why does the Minister not come clean and admit that the centralising power grab of the treaty of Nice has nothing do with enlargement and that the applicant states want to know what his solution to the problem of the common agricultural policy is? They want the money and they want us to pay. How will the hon. Gentleman solve that?

Peter Hain: The right hon. Gentleman is bewitched and besotted by his fanatical anti-Europeanism. The truth

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is that this Government have strongly supported CAP reform, which will be hastened by enlargement, and that is another very good reason why he should support it.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South): When my right hon. Friend met his Turkish counterpart to discuss Turkey's possible membership of the EU, did they mention the problems that now exist between the EU and NATO in respect of the EU's assured access to NATO assets in the event of the EU carrying out Petersberg- type tasks?

Peter Hain: My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary discussed it in some detail with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Turkey only last month. I can report to the House that significant progress was made in a very important meeting at Ankara, which involved ourselves, as representatives of the EU, and the United States. We are confident that progress can now be made, although there are still some obstacles to overcome. It is in Turkey's interest that European security and defence policy proceeds, to have a good relationship with the EU and, eventually, we hope, to accede to membership, when it satisfies all the conditions.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we clearly warned that all the extraneous baggage surrounding the Nice treaty might well delay enlargement. Given what has happened in Ireland and that it may happen again, what exactly is the fallback position on enlargement?

Peter Hain: It is very important that the Nice treaty is ratified by the House and, indeed, by Parliament to secure enlargement and to welcome our friends from Cyprus, Poland, Hungary and all the other applicant states to join the EU, as they wish to do. The Government of Ireland have yet to notify the EU and their colleague member states, including ourselves, about their own advice on how the question should be addressed, but the Government of Ireland very strongly support the Nice treaty and enlargement, and the Conservative party should take heed of that as well.

Ministerial Meetings (Pakistan)

2. Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe): If he will make a statement on recent discussions with President Musharraf on the situation in Pakistan. [15424]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I met President Musharraf on Friday 23 November in Islamabad. I expressed continuing appreciation for his courageous stand in the fight against terrorism and the practical assistance that Pakistan has provided. I discussed with him the situation in Pakistan and sought his advice on how best to achieve our shared objective of a broad-based multi-ethnic Government in Afghanistan.

Mr. Betts: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, and I am sure that the House wants to congratulate President Musharraf on the support that he has given the coalition at this difficult time. In those discussions, I am sure that the issue of Kashmir was also raised with my

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right hon. Friend. I know that he is aware that many indigenous Kashmiris have been engaged in a struggle with the Indian army over the freedom of their country during past decades.

Recently, some of those Kashmiris have most unfortunately chosen to side with terrorists in Afghanistan. I am sure that that action will be universally condemned, but will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that that action by some Kashmiris in Afghanistan will in no way change the British Government's policy, which is in favour of the right of the Kashmiri people to determine their own future? Does he agree that pressure should continue to be put on the Indian Government to ensure their compliance with UN resolutions passed more than 50 years ago?

Mr. Straw: Sadly, on both sides of the line of control in Kashmir, thousands of innocent civilians—Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and people of no religion—as well as many members of the Indian armed forces have lost their lives. In our judgment, the Kashmir issue can be solved only by bilateral discussions between India and Pakistan. We are therefore encouraging the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan to resume the talks that they held in July in Agra. We would stand ready to provide assistance to those negotiations, but only in circumstances in which both sides agreed that our intervention would be helpful.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): Although I welcome the stand that President Musharraf has taken hitherto, can the Foreign Secretary say whether there is any truth to reports from Afghanistan about Pakistani planes flying in to take people out? Might that not have an adverse effect on any settlement in Afghanistan?

Mr. Straw: I have seen those reports, but I have seen no information that confirms their credibility.

Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale): Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) about Kashmir, can I press my right hon. Friend on the issue? Does he agree that, post-11 September, we must work with people across the world and, more important, with our constituents and with people of Kashmiri origin? We must also work with the peaceable people in Kashmir who have pacifically been trying to get United Nations resolutions implemented so that they can enjoy the democratic rights denied them by the failure of the Indian Government and, I am afraid to say, previous Pakistani Administrations, to act on the resolutions passed by international institutions such as the UN. All that those people want is a vote on whether Kashmir should be able to accede to India or to Pakistan. Although they believe that they have been done a great injustice, they do not want terrorists to act on their behalf.

Mr. Straw: In the Kashmiri dispute, it is possible for both sides credibly to claim the support of various international and bilateral agreements. Typically, those on the Pakistani side of the line of control refer to the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations while those who support the position of the Indian Government claim that the Simla agreement in the early 1970s superseded the UN Security Council resolution of 50 years ago. The crucial point is that, in the real world,

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the dispute can be resolved only by bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan. That is what we want to happen.

Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the view now being expressed in the United Nations that the acceptance by Afghanistan of a multinational force is an essential ingredient of any stabilisation and aid package? If so, what part does he propose that British forces should play? If not, what option would he pursue?

Mr. Straw: I discussed this matter with the President of Pakistan. There are various possibilities for outside assistance in terms of multilateral forces to assist any interim authority, and then a proper Government, in Afghanistan. However, our view is that decisions must wait until there is at least an interim authority that can offer consent to such a force. The role that British troops might play will depend on the nature of the tasks required and, of course, on the consent of any interim authority.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What did President Musharraf say about bombing in Ramadan?

Mr. Straw: As far as I recall, President Musharraf did not say anything about that.

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