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Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): How can the Prime Minister claim that the European Union has yet to deliver results? Is not it the case that most of British agriculture is almost bankrupt as a consequence of the common agricultural policy and that we pay some of the highest food prices in the world? Is not it the case that the British fishing industry has been decimated through the common fisheries policy? As for the commitment in Afghanistan, is not that posturingan attempt to get into the victory chariot when most of the fighting is over? Are not British troops going to be there for an inordinately long time, for no clearly defined political purpose and at great risk to themselves?
The Prime Minister: As for the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the reason that the issue of a security force is raised in respect of Afghanistan is that it was part of the agreement for the political future of that countryconcluded by all the parties in Bonn. It will be a real shame if the Conservative party now sets its face against supporting such a force.
Britain is talked of as the lead nation because it was specifically asked by both the United Nations and the United States to take on this role. The reason why it is important[Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) is saying that the United States does not support Britain's role in this matter, he is simply wrong, and he will have been told that when he was in Washington.
I agree that the European Union, the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy need fundamental reform, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would find much support among, for example, the British farming community for unilateral withdrawal from the CAP. What we need are major changes to it. Again, we will get those changes only if we are inside Europe, arguing our case.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston): The Prime Minister mentioned preparations for the IGC in 2004 and the convention. Will he say more on what role the accession states will have in discussions leading up to the convention, as it may involve some treaty changes that will affect them?
The Prime Minister: They will be fully involved in the convention. They will have the right to be there and to make the points that they wish. That is a very important element. The accession, applicant countries have a deep
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry): Although the emphasis on enlargement is indeed welcome, will the Prime Minister comment on the following concerns? First, if we are really to take all 10 applicant countries into the Union in two years' time, or just over that, will that not require for some, though not all, intensive and indeed expensive care and maintenance to ensure the stability of their economies? Secondly, will he ensure that there is no distraction from the task of making sure that the single market works effectively, of which we have had a conspicuous counter-example, which has been resolved in the European Court this week? It is essential that we keep on the pressure to consolidate the single market.
Thirdlythis is my real concernthe Prime Minister has spoken a number of times about decision making and said that it must be streamlined. Does he understand that there are concerns that we will not be faced with streamlining as much as steamrollering of essential national interests?
The Prime Minister: In relation to the 10 applicant countries, the hon. Gentleman is of course right to say that enlargement is a very big thing to happen in the European Union. There are, however, phasing arrangements for many of the most critical aspects, and I think that that will be of some assistance.
On the European Court and the completion of the single market, it is vital that the Court has the powers that it has and that, where its decisions go against particular countries, they are enforced by the Commissionas, for example, they will be in respect of France and the ban on British beef.
As for, as it were, streamlining versus steamrollering, what is clear is that there are two different views on how Europe should develop. One view is that, in effect, it should develop into a situation in which the Commission has very much more power and the European Parliament is the fount of democracy in the EUa view shared by some countries. There is an equally strong viewI would say now predominantly rather strongerthat that is not the right way for Europe to go, and that, in fact democratic legitimacy is rooted in the member state.
That is a debate in Europe, and a very strongly fought one. My point is simply that the most important thing is that we end up ensuring that we are in Europe, fighting our corner, rather than retreating to the sidelines and saying that we are so scared of the debate taking place that we, Britain, do not believe that we can have any influence on it. In fact, we have been able on, for example, the issues of economic reform or European defence to secure many of our objectives precisely because we have been willing to be involved rather than marginalised. I am sure that in the end, as indeed the previous Conservative Government did with the single market, that is the right approach.
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley): I welcome enlargement in terms of the number of countries and the timetable. I hope that we will be in a position in three years' time to go some major way towards making Europe a safer place for future generations than it was for past
The Prime Minister: I know that my hon. Friend takes an interest in that area. We commend the improvements and progress made in Bulgaria. He is right to say that regeneration in the Balkans will be important to the stability of Bulgaria, Romania and other countries in the region. What is interesting about all the Balkan countries is that the prospect of EU membership has become a major focus for democratic and economic progress. People sometimes ask what good has come out of Europe in the past 50 years. Peace and prosperity are two pretty good results; furthermore, many of the nations in the most troubled parts of the European continent are not anxious to stay out of the European Union, but are desperate to get in.
Angus Robertson (Moray): Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to confirm that he will not allow the full direct representation of the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish Parliaments or Administrations as part of the UK delegation to the convention? Will he explain to the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland why he thinks we are not good enough to attend in our own right, unlike the German Bundeslander?
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): May I take the Prime Minister to a narrow point relating to the appointment of parliamentarians to the convention? Does he agree that who is to represent Parliament is his business as a Member of Parliament, not as Prime Minister? Is not the question of who should represent us a matter for Parliament? Should not both the seats be for the House of Commonsthe elected Housewith the other place losing out? Will he give an assurance that the decision will be made by the House? My right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), my hon. Friends the Members for South Shields (Mr. Miliband) and for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson)and others, no doubthave already been mentioned as possible candidates. We in this place should elect our representatives. The Prime Minister is represented at the convention as Government; we want our slice of the action to be directed by the House and not influenced by either Front Bench.
Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield): May I return the Prime Minister to the important question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the danger of confusion of British troops' roles in carrying out two separate tasks in Afghanistan? Does he understand that there is great concern, not confined to those of us who have served with United Nations peacekeeping forces, about the potentially greatly enhanced danger of British troops being
The Prime Minister: Of courseit is precisely for that reason that we must tie down carefully the arrangements for Britain to participate in the peacekeeping mission in Kabul. The force is there, in effect, as a security assistance force for the new provisional Government. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the arrangements under which our forces participate will take full account of the issue he raises. However, to return to the point I made when answering the Leader of the Opposition, it would be unfortunate were we not to participate at all. The reason why we have not been giving all the details since the issue was raised some days ago is that those details are important and must be tightly bolted down before we give our consent to be the lead nation. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are currently addressing precisely those issues.