Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): The Prime Minister has had ample opportunity this weekend to discuss with other European Ministers matters that are of general concern to the people of the United Kingdom, and are of especial concern, for obvious reasons, to the people of east Kent. He claimed that the discussions were successful. When may we expect rail freight to resume through the channel tunnel, in compliance with European regulation? When will the Government try to enforce the Sangatte agreement? It was signed after the Dublin convention, and permits the return of illegal migrants who use the channel tunnel. When does the Prime Minister expect the Red Cross centre at Sangatte to close?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues keep mentioning the agreement under which we were entitled to return people to France. As a result of the Conservative Government's negotiations, the agreement lapsed when the Dublin convention came into force.

Mr. Gale: It was signed afterwards.

The Prime Minister: It is correct that it was signed after the Dublin convention, but a specific term of the agreement provided that it should lapse when the Dublin convention came into force—in October 1997, I think, from memory. Consequently we have to renegotiate with the French, and we are doing that. I believe that we shall make progress on that and on Frethun, but it will be easier to do so in the context of European action.

I did not say that we gained all our objectives at Seville; I said that we gained many of them. We also made sure that the issue was on the agenda much more clearly.

Mr. Gale: Rail freight?

The Prime Minister: That depends on reaching agreement about Frethun. I am reasonably optimistic

24 Jun 2002 : Column 628

about that, but it must be negotiated with the French. That is why the Home Secretary is meeting his French counterpart—tomorrow, I believe.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): I welcome what the Prime Minister said about sustainable development and the forthcoming talks in Johannesburg. Does he agree that the lesson of last week's mass peaceful lobby of this place was that we can make more progress by being objective in presenting our views on, for example, falling commodity prices and unfair subsidies, than by simply carping from the sidelines?

The Prime Minister: If international agreements require unanimity, we can block an agenda set by others. We cannot, however, gain our own position in any way other than by getting the agreement of others, which is why constructive engagement is so manifestly the right policy. My right hon. Friend's comments on trade issues are absolutely right. It would bring great shame on the developed world if we did not take significant action to open up our markets further to the goods of the poorest countries in the world. Access to our markets is what they need—possibly as much as, and sometimes more than, aid.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Order [28 June 2001],

Question agreed to.

24 Jun 2002 : Column 627

24 Jun 2002 : Column 629

Orders of the Day

Export Control Bill

Lords amendments considered.

4.32 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I shall take the point of order in a moment. Before the House considers the Lords amendments, I wish to draw its attention to an error on the amendment paper. Amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 17 should read:

not "line 17".

John McDonnell: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Thank you for your leniency. Amendments were tabled in my name and the names of a number of my hon. Friends that expressed a certain position that had been debated previously in the House, and was the subject of an early-day motion with 300 signatories.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): Three hundred and ten signatories.

John McDonnell: I thank my hon. Friend for correcting me. I accept that those amendments have not been selected today, and that the Speaker has no responsibility to provide reasons for not selecting them. Mr. Deputy Speaker, will you none the less take back to him the view that there may well be a case for the publication of the advice provided to the Speaker on amendments, so that we can have transparency and openness and, perhaps, increased accountability about the selection of amendments process?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I know that the hon. Gentleman knows well how the House deals with these matters, and that it is not possible for me to comment on the selection of today's amendments. He has, however, put his thoughts on record for everyone to see and to read.

Clause 1

Export controls

Lords amendment: No. 1.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths): I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 17 and Government amendment (a) thereto, and Lords amendments Nos. 18 and 19.

Nigel Griffiths: Given that the issues raised by amendments Nos. 1 and 17 to 19, and amendment (a) to amendment No. 17, are so closely related, it is sensible to address these amendments as a whole. I will, of course,

24 Jun 2002 : Column 630

explain the Government's position on each amendment, and explain why the Government propose to support amendment (a) to amendment No. 17, then amendment No. 17 as amended, and to agree with amendments Nos. 18 and 19. Indeed, I should add that amendment No. 1 covers ground very similar to the part of amendment No. 17 that we are proposing to change. As a result, when I discuss the unfortunate consequences of subsection 4 of amendment No. 17 as it stands, the House can take it that amendment No. 1 would have similar consequences.

This may sound a little complicated, but what I am proposing is in fact quite simple. I am asking the House to support the Government's original amendment to the Bill made in the House of Lords, through which the Government responded to concerns expressed in this House and elsewhere about the issues of guidance and of sustainable development.

I will explain in a moment why we think the House should disagree with Lords amendment No. 1 and support amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 17. First, however, let me explain why the Government want to replace former clauses 7 and 8, which are now Lords amendments Nos. 18 and 19, with Lords amendment No. 17, as amended.

Former clauses 7 and 8 governed the operation of the export licensing process. They enabled the Government to publish guidance about matters to which regard might be had in the making of export licensing decisions, and the reasons that might be thought to justify particular decisions. The measure that replaces clauses 7 and 8 has a similar function, but we have made two significant changes.

Although we have no doubt that under the Bill as it left the House of Commons it would be possible for the Government to reject an export licence application solely on sustainable development grounds, the Government were very much aware of the depth of concern. We have addressed that concern first by strengthening the role played by guidance under the Bill, and secondly by putting beyond all doubt the Government's continuing commitment to sustainable development in the licensing process, together with all the other relevant consequences listed in the schedule.

First, let me explain how we propose to strengthen the role played by guidance under the Bill. The House will be well aware that the Government have always intended the important role currently played by the consolidated criteria announced to Parliament on 26 October 2000 to continue after the Bill becomes law. That is why clause 8 contained a reference to the consolidated criteria, and a similar reference is in the proposed new clause. The new clause, however, significantly strengthens the role played by the criteria under the Bill by making it a requirement for the Secretary of State to issue guidance about the general principles to be followed in the exercise of licensing powers, and by stating that the consolidated criteria constitute such guidance on general principles. The change will also ensure that if any Government in future wish to change the general principles on which the export control regime operates, they will be obliged to issue guidance stating what the new principles are, and to lay it before Parliament.

24 Jun 2002 : Column 631

I am sure Members will agree that the changes are beneficial to the Bill, and I hope they will support Lords amendment No. 17 as amended and Lords amendments Nos. 18 and 19.

Next Section

IndexHome Page