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Mr. MacShane: I understand that the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend met the Czech Foreign Minister recently. The Czechs are looking forward to participating. The hon. Gentleman must stop misleading the House continually by insisting that our partners in the new Europe whose citizens he wishes to exclude from participating, if they so wish, in our labour market will not have the full right to participate in the

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intergovernmental conference on the same basis as the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman must stop that line.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Gentleman should not accuse any other hon. Member of misleading the House. I should be grateful if he would withdraw that remark.

Mr. MacShane: The hon. Gentleman must stop inadvertently continually, repeatedly saying that which no one else—

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. That will do.

Mr. Spring: I am grateful, Sir Michael. The great characteristic of the Minister for Europe—and may he reign supreme on the Front Bench after next week—is his ability to get in a hole and keep digging. He made the point admirably and I shall leave it at that, as I do not want to cause him any further embarrassment.

I do not understand why there is a rush to sign a new treaty. Most intergovernmental conferences take a year to conclude, but the timetable seems more like six months.

Keith Vaz: On a point of order, Sir Michael. The instructions of the IGC are not relevant to the clause.

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman may leave such matters to the Chair.

Mr. Spring: It is always a joy to hear from the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz). Every single thing that he forecast up to, including and beyond Nice was totally inaccurate. That will be his secure place in history.

My party, as I said earlier, and as my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary and all my hon. Friends have indicated, supports the broad thrust of the Bill. That has been a consistent theme of our time both in government and in opposition. The Bill ratifying the accession treaty of course allows enlargement to take place, but I remind the House that although the Prime Minister said that the Convention was necessary to make enlargement work, that was incorrect.

I ask the Government to consider the amendments. I do not believe that they have thought out fully the consequences of their policy commitment. It would be difficult for them to do so as they were not able to publish the evidence until this morning. When the Minister responds, I hope that she will make it clear what employment restrictions the Foreign Secretary had in mind and what their implications would be if he reintroduced them, as he indicated in his written ministerial statement of 10 December 2002. I hope that we will have a considered response from the Minister this afternoon. The issue is the subject of lively debate throughout the European Union. Although there have been the reports that I mentioned, including that of the European Commission and the polling data, the British Government have failed the House by not providing the information necessary for debate on this important subject.

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3.15 pm

Denzil Davies (Llanelli): I shall deal briefly with a concern that has been expressed to me by my constituents in respect of the freedom of movement of workers that will take effect from 1 May next year. I certainly do not support the amendments moved by the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring). My purpose is to highlight to those on my Front Bench some concerns about a sensitive aspect of the movement of people in the new enlarged European Union. I refer to a possible influx of what is described as the Roma people from, I believe, the old Czechoslovakia, where most Roma people seem to be resident.

Constituents have raised the matter with me following a documentary programme on the BBC or one of the other channels. It was a serious programme that did not attempt to exaggerate the problem. There are certain constituencies and areas in the country, as hon. Members know, which have had difficulties in the past with what I may describe as travellers. When constituents who have experienced such problems see a programme of that kind, they begin to worry that there may be an influx of travellers into areas such as west Wales where, as in other areas, we have had the problem for a long time. I express that concern to my hon. Friends in the hope that the matter can be examined quietly, without exaggerating the difficulties.

There are problems with regard to terminology, but they are not academic problems. We were told in the programme that it dealt with the Roma people who, I understand, are identical to the Romany people whose ancestors, apparently, came from the Punjab a long time ago. Some of them came to Britain in the 16th century. The Brits thought they were Egyptians and called them gypsies.

The more comprehensive term is "travellers". In west Wales most travellers are described as Irish tinkers, although in Northern Ireland, I believe, there is a statutory recognition whereby they are called the Irish travelling community. Those may be mere words, but they are important. Travellers apparently are not considered by the courts as a distinctive racial group, and therefore do not have the protection of the Race Relations Act 1976.

I understand, although I am not an expert on this branch of the law, that there is some authority from the courts whereby gypsies are considered a distinctive racial group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act. I do not think there are any recent cases in Britain relating to the status of Roma or Romany people, but if there were an influx into this country, I should think that, by analogy with the case law on gypsies, Roma or Romany would also be considered a distinctive racial group. The Race Relations Act, with all its difficulty and sensitivity, would then apply.

There is other legislation as well. There is, I am told, although I have not been able to find it, European Union legislation generated by what the Germans under Hitler did to the Roma people. That EU legislation seeks to protect gypsies, travellers and the Roma. Domestic legislation has been passed with regard in particular to caravan sites, which in the main are the responsibility of local authorities.

In my constituency and west Wales, local authorities have administered those rules with considerable sensitivity: they have bent over backwards to ensure that

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travellers or gypsies who live on the sites have their rights, are treated properly, and are dealt with in a sensitive manner. However, the local authorities' responsible attitude has not always been reciprocated, and sometimes my local authority has found itself in the courts. County council officials, who usually lose the cases, feel that they can never win against the gypsies in the courts, because the law is loaded against the county council. I do not know whether that is true—anyone who loses in the courts thinks the law is an ass—but overall I think that there is some sense, some justification, for local government officials' conclusion that in this respect the law has gone too far, to the extent that it does not enable the county council to protect the whole area as it should be able to.

Next, there is the wider question of law enforcement—the enforcement of criminal law and, increasingly in relation to some of the sites, of environmental law. Although it may be trite to say that everyone should be equal before the law, and in particular that minorities should be equal before the law, there is sometimes a real problem with the enforcement of criminal law against groups of what we may call travellers who do not always observe the laws of the area in which they are living. In a multicultural society, it is extremely important that minorities are protected, and we do protect them through specific legislation; similarly, equality before the law is also important. However, there is a suspicion that sometimes the criminal law and environmental law are not always enforced with rigour against groups such as travellers, although they are enforced against the rest of the community, minority or majority.

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. I am listening carefully and hoping to hear more about the European dimension in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Denzil Davies: The European dimension is that if there is a large influx of Roma people into this country, the existing problems will be magnified. I ask Ministers, especially Home Office Ministers, quietly and without making too much of a fuss to examine the present set-up and existing legislation to see whether they can withstand an influx of travellers, Roma or gypsy people who may come as a result of the Bill being passed. I do not support the transitional arrangements proposed by the hon. Member for West Suffolk, but I ask my hon. Friends to consider the issue so that the problem can be dealt with if it ever arises. I do not know whether it will arise, although I suspect that it will not, and the programme that highlighted the issue did not imply that it would. However, there is a possibility that certain areas of the country that act as magnets for travellers will experience an influx and my concern is to ensure not only that our law and our enforcement of our law are fair, but that tensions are not created, that the law is enforced and that we have the proper framework to deal with that possible influx. It is better to examine the arrangements and work out our response now than to experience problems later that we cannot deal with.

I do not expect an answer during this debate, but I hope that the Home Office or some other Department—with devolution, I am not sure how things work—will examine the matter, just in case. There is a problem at the moment and it might be magnified and made far

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worse if there is an influx of Romany or Roma people or travellers from eastern Europe as a result of the Bill being passed.

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