Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. MacShane: I shall try to respond as briefly as possible. I do not want to go over Second Reading matters, nor do I want to engage in a general European debate on whether we should hold referendums and so on. Suffice it to note that, when the three previous enlargement treaties came before the House to be put into British law, there was no question of a referendum, and that people in other countries who called for a referendum on enlargement did so explicitly to shut out the 10 countries and deny them the chance to join the EU—a message that I am sure that the Committee does not want to send today.

I dealt with the point about Cypriot passports raised by the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink). I welcome the intervention about Estonia from the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik). I paid an

5 Jun 2003 : Column 345

enjoyable visit to Tallinn, which is recovering its glory as a great Hanseatic trading port. The city and its hinterland are quite remarkable.

The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) talked about Kaliningrad, which is of the most acute interest to Lithuania. A sensible system of facilitated transit visas has been put in place. It means that Russians will be able to go from Kaliningrad to the rest of Russia with a specific visa for the purpose of that journey. There will not be the free access to the EU about which the hon. Gentleman expressed concern.

Britain is, of course, not part of the Schengen agreement and the accession countries will come bit by bit into Schengen, as the treaty makes clear. We will have the right of regard on that, but I do not think that we will have specific new problems to worry about that arise out of Schengen.

On sovereign bases, it is true that the sovereign base areas were kept out of the European Union when we joined in 1973. The very simple reason is that they are military bases from which important military operations take place. The common agricultural policy will apply simply because—again, I think very sensibly—large parts of the sovereign base area are agricultural land on which Greek Cypriot farmers go about their normal farming business. It is quite right that they should have the same rights as farmers in other parts of the European Union.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) for the energy that he has put into supporting the cause of Europe and, in particular, that of enlargement. He referred to infraction proceedings. To put it simply, all member states—new and old—are subject to Community law. The Commission is the guardian of the treaties and it alone is responsible for infraction decisions. Rather than the suggestion that the 10 new member states will have different and less rigorous rights and duties on entering the European Union, I think that they want to keep moving their game to the highest European levels. It is right that they know from 1 May next year they will have to operate according to the same standards as the rest of their fellow European member states.

My hon. Friend was right to say that we need to help, and we are helping through twinning and by sending civil servants and other technical experts to work on Ministries' specific action plans. In addition, there has been generous pre-accession funding and programmes to support that.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire referred to the need to sell enlargement. I apologise to the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) that a letter that I sent out muddled his first name with that of the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring). However, with their support, I have sent an enlargement poster to every hon. Member and I invite those present to take this poster, which is designed for secondary schools, to the secondary schools. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Suffolk suggests that there is not much demand for the poster. On the contrary, in co-operation with the Department for Education and Skills, we have already sent it out to every single school and we are receiving many requests

5 Jun 2003 : Column 346

for more posters. That just goes to show that, when the hon. Gentleman and I do something together, the country listens.

Mr. Spring: What I said was that—surprisingly enough—there was not much demand for the poster in the House.

Mr. MacShane: The photograph on the poster did every credit to the hon. Gentleman's handsome visage, but perhaps did not show me at my youngest and best. It is a serious matter, and I shall be visiting Birmingham on Wednesday with other Ministers and colleagues and the Polish Minister of European Affairs. With the help of the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, I shall also visit 100 UK towns and cities to talk about enlargement and to have discussions on the wider issues relating to our membership of the EU.The current external borders will remain in place with the new member states until they have undergone due process by the existing member states.

I was asked about the European parliamentary elections and procedures. The language in the Bill is identical to that in all previous Bills that have been enacted by the House. As I said in my opening remarks, the number of seats is being altered to allow the 25 members to have an appropriate and proportionate number of seats. If Romania, Bulgaria and other countries join, we will have to look at the matter again.

I noted the animadversions of the hon. Member for Spelthorne on the fact that only 60 per cent. of the people of Slovenia voted to say yes to the EU. I notice that 27 per cent. of the electorate in his constituency voted for him. I am sure that they made a sound choice, but only 27 per cent. said yes to him.

2.45 pm

Mention was made of the Commission proposals that have been put to the Council in the form of a communication on how some matters relating to Cyprus will be handled if Cyprus does not become reunited before 1 May. I am happy to put a copy of that document in the Library so that it is available to hon. Members.

If there are any points that I have not covered, I will be happy, on request, to write to hon. Members with any detailed information that they may desire.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Freedom of movement for workers

Mr. Spring: I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 5, at end insert

'; but no such regulations shall be made within two years of the passing of this Act'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 2 in page 2, line 5, at end insert

'; but no such regulations shall be made within seven years of the passing of this Act'.

5 Jun 2003 : Column 347

No. 4, in page 2, line 5, at end insert

'; but no such regulations shall be made until the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health and the Treasury shall have laid before Parliament reports on the expected effects of those regulations'.

No. 5, in page 2, line 5, at end insert—

'( ) If the Secretary of State makes regulations under this section he shall lay before Parliament a report on their effect for the duration of the seven-year period during which a derogation from the implementation of European Union rights on free movement of workers is permitted to the relevant acceding States.'.

Mr. Spring: We have tabled these amendments because we are not fully satisfied that the Government have given due thought to all the consequences of allowing free movement of workers from 1 May.

I should like to make it clear from the outset that we have no animus against the people of the accession countries and believe that those countries' accession will enrich themselves and the EU overall. We have said that on many occasions over the years. On the contrary, I can only repeat that, when in government, our party was one of the first advocates of enlargement to embrace central and eastern Europe, as this Government acknowledged in their written statement of 10 December. It said that

We warmly welcome the participation of these countries in the European Union, and, of course, that implies freedom of movement of the peoples of the member states.

It should not be doubted that, in due course, the full enjoyment of the rights of free movement of workers by all 25 EU member states' citizens will be beneficial to everyone through leading people to richer and broader lives and to businesses being able to attract the best employees within the EU, both in the accession countries and in the United Kingdom. Free movement of workers with all other countries that have joined the EU has ultimately proved advantageous to all parties. There is no reason to suppose that over time this should prove any different. However, that does not mean that it is wise to refuse a derogation on free movement of workers from the actual date of accession. I am concerned that the Government have simply failed to argue their case adequately or convincingly. I hope that the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration will take the opportunity to make their case this afternoon.

The Government have published a written statement of fewer than 500 words, which was long on assertions but short on facts. Those assertions may be right, but we simply have little way of knowing. Thus our amendments bring a greater logic and consistency to this issue, and should be seen in this light.

The Government have not published a full and up-to-date report into the likely effect of not taking advantage of the options for national measures until apparently this morning. Is it not unwise of them to fail to take that option? The last study on this matter that the Government published was a study for the Department for Education and Employment, as it then was, which was issued as far back as July 1999. Last year's written

5 Jun 2003 : Column 348

statement announced that the Home Office had commissioned research on the matter. I hope that the Minister will respond to these points later.

However, that research was not published in time for the House of Commons Library to make use of it in its paper on the Bill, and that can be regarded as a great pity by everyone interested in this matter. It was not published in time for Members to consider the research and apply the facts available for the Second Reading debate. Nor was it published in time for Members to use the research when tabling amendments to the Bill. Instead, I am informed that it has been published today. Now, that surely cannot be right. Why today of all days? I had hoped and thought that the Government had recently learned some lessons.

It is not right that the Government should publish documents that are highly relevant to the Bill too late for hon. Members who vote on it to consider them properly. Can the Minister say with his hand on his heart that the Government show a real commitment to parliamentary accountability when we are in such a situation?

I am depressed still more by the unnecessary nature of the situation. The Bill need not have warranted amendment. The whole House could have united behind every detail of it lock, stock and barrel. Why have the Government kept back relevant information until it is too late for it to be of real use to Parliament during consideration of the Bill? That happens all too frequently. I hope that the Minister will give a full explanation of the regrettable timing and that he will commit the Front Bench to undertake more open and accountable discussions of information in the future when the failure to impart information in good time is so obvious. I hope that you do not mind me saying that, Sir Alan, because it is an important point about parliamentary consideration, especially in relation to the Bill.

In that context, we tabled amendment No. 4. The Government have taken a serious decision. Such a decision should be taken with as much information as possible, and such information should be easily available not only to Ministers, but to Parliament. The potentially large movement of workers into this country would have important consequences for several Government Departments. We know that the national health service has been burdened by numerous so-called health visitors. It is only right that all Government Departments should consider the consequences of such a movement properly and that hon. Members should be able to inform themselves of the impact of regulations across the board before making a decision on any statutory instrument that might ensue. The Government have nothing to lose and everything to gain by accepting the underlying point behind the amendment. As I said, they have not provided Parliament with a proper or thorough advance study of why they believe that allowing full freedom of workers' movements from 1 May is in Britain's best interests. That should, and could, be spelled out. Indeed, it is extraordinary that the Government have not undertaken and published such a study. Such open government would have been commendable. At the price of only a little work by Parliament and the Government, the Government's duty to the public would have been performed somewhat better.

5 Jun 2003 : Column 349

We tabled amendment No. 5 because we want full and proper accountability to Parliament on any regulations. Regulations and statutory instruments that become law should be made with due consideration. Nine existing member states will impose national measures—some for two years and some for seven years—and six member states will not. We and the Government will be able to judge the effect of each decision in the forthcoming years. I accept that the Government have provided for safeguards but if the deployment of such safeguards becomes necessary, it should be explicitly clear why that course was taken.

There is no harm in the Government reflecting on the logic of the amendment. I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is right for regulations to be subjected to proper parliamentary scrutiny. The amendment would allow us to do exactly that. In any case, I am sure that the Secretary of State will keep the effect of his regulations under close review. The amendment would ensure proper accountability. Such scrutiny should not be feared but welcomed, and if the Government accept the logic behind the amendment, it would show that they are taking their decisions with proper consideration.

The Government will be aware that there will be exceptional disparities of wealth in the European Union when the accession countries join formally. For example, Latvia, which is the poorest of the accession countries, has a gross domestic product per capita of only Euro7,700 while our GDP is Euro23,300 per capita—about the EU mean. Only one accession country, Cyprus, has a relatively higher GDP per capita.

Likewise, many accession countries have regrettably high rates of unemployment. Poland has a rate of 18.5 per cent., whereas our rate is a much more respectable 5 per cent. Let me dwell on Poland for a moment, especially in terms of size and importance, because it is perhaps the linchpin of the accession process. Poland will not benefit immediately from accession. In fact, it will be a net contributor and will be a net beneficiary of structural funding only in subsequent years. There will be a transitional phase of at least two to three years but we hope that that will not deter the Poles, as my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) said, from voting in adequate numbers to approve accession this weekend.

The Government fall back on a series of reports commissioned by the employment and social affairs directorate-general of the European Commission. The headline figures show that 350,000 immigrants will leave their homes in central and eastern European countries to move to their more prosperous neighbours. A professor of social policy at the London school of economics labelled that figure as a serious underestimate and suggested that the real figure could be in the order of millions. That divergence of views is due to the methodology adopted by the Commission-sponsored reports. The reports are largely based on an analysis of migration between the more impoverished East Germany and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany. The analysis fails to take proper account of levels of fiscal transfer between the west and east in the period following reunification. Reunification cost £400 billion between 1990 and 2000, and that money went to an area

5 Jun 2003 : Column 350

with a population of only 17 million people. Yet, unemployment and wage levels will remain significantly lower than those in the former West Germany.

Compare that money with the amount offered to Poland, which has a population of nearly 40 million people. Depending on common agricultural policy reform and the next budget round, Poland might be offered about Euro15.5 billion from the EU over a similar period of 12 years. I ask the House to consider what happened in Germany relative to the challenge facing Poland. The accession countries will not receive a fraction of the Government investment that East Germany received and given their economic weakness, it is difficult not to worry about the prospect of considerably greater immigration to the United Kingdom.

If one examines opinion poll evidence from the candidate countries rather than using the Commission's reports uncritically, there is an indication that the extent of immigration to the United Kingdom is likely to be far greater than that suggested. Reports using opinion poll data in the accession countries suggest that several million people plan to move to the west. Research carried out by the International Organisation for Migration suggests that it is likely that the United Kingdom would be the third most popular choice for people intending to leave central and eastern European accession states. That is hardly comforting because even though this country is the third choice, some 24 per cent. of the population of the Czech Republic have expressed a desire, in principle at least, to come to the United Kingdom.

Research suggesting that the UK is placed after Germany and Austria as a favoured country for immigration is based on polling that has not been updated since 1998. It is thus probable that the UK would be even more popular than the research suggests for two reasons: the prevalence of the English language among younger and more footloose professionals, and the relative economic performance of the UK versus Austria and Germany over the past five years. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Of course, the performance is so good because despite opposition from Labour Members, structural reforms made in the 1980s enabled that to occur. I think that some of us entered politics because of the utter shambles and chaos in the country in the late 1970s.

Eurobarometer polls rank English as the language regarded as most useful by 86 per cent. of respondents in the candidate countries.

Next Section

IndexHome Page