|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman says no, but there was hysteria. The Conservatives said that all these people would come over from the 10 countries and steal our jobs and those of our families and children, and that they would cause havoc in our inner cities and all go on benefit. It was going to be a disaster. Oh, it was going to be dreadful! The Leader of the Opposition was even proposing to go to Luton airport to make a list of all the people arriving from Warsaw or Krakow.
In fact, none of that ever happened. We had a highly successful enlargement, involving 232,000 people coming here. Of those, 1,700 applied for income support or similar benefits, but only 800 were granted those benefits. The others were refused. So, according to the figures that I have receivedI am sure that the Minister will correct me if they are wrongonly a handful of those 232,000 people have gone on benefits. What are the rest doing? I have heard that they are doing great things in Essex, and I know from what the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) has said that they are doing great things in Scotland. I also know that they are doing great things in my city. They are European citizens who are contributing to the economy of our country and thereby making our country stronger.
German and French Ministers must be kicking themselves that they did not show the foresight and leadership that was demonstrated by our Ministers in
1 Nov 2005 : Column 758
making this decision. If we believe in a Europe that treats all its countries as equals, we must also treat the citizens of those countries as equals, and that is what the United Kingdom has done. That is why there is so much good will when our Prime Minister goes to the Council of Ministersas he did at Hampton Court recentlyand why the new members of the European Union treat our country with such respect. They know that we have shown leadership on this issue.
Daniel Kawczynski: The hon. Gentleman says that the Conservatives made a real fuss about all these Poles coming over. I speak as someone of Polish background, and I know that the total freedom for Poles and people of other nationalities to come over is causing a great many problems for services in their own countries. There is now a severe shortage of dentists and nurses in Poland because they are all coming over to the United Kingdom
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. It would be helpful if we tried to look forward rather than back. The scope of this debate is very narrow, and I do not think that we should dilate too far beyond its boundaries.
Keith Vaz: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was definitely not going to dilate on this point. However, I should like to answer the hon. Gentleman. He has a huge role to play in his party because of his background. First, he needs to tell to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West how to pronounce his name, because the hon. Gentleman said that he did not know how to do so. Secondly, the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) and all other hon. Members have a role to play in ensuring that our constituents understand the benefits of the enlargement outlined in the Bill. This is not just about passing a Bill in the House. It is also about campaigning on the issue of enlargement, and we need to ensure that that happens. The hon. Gentleman has a role to play in ensuring that it happens in his party.
On clause 2, I know that the Minister needs to consult the Home Office, and that the Home Office will have to consult the Department for Work and Pensions, but I believe that we need to be much clearer on the issue. I know that my right hon. Friend cannot make a decision on it today, or give us an answer on it when he winds up the debate. This involves a long process, but it is important that we have clarity on the matter. He says that we must wait until nearer the time of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria for a decision to be made, and I understand why he does so. All that I ask is that we do not wait until a few weeks before accession, by which time the Opposition will have built up the kind of hysteria that we have just heard in the speech of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West. He spoke of the relatively low wages of policemen, and the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) reminded us of the low wages of other people.
That will build up over the next two years. We must lance the boil at an early stage. I know that we cannot have a decision now, but it is in the interests of Romania and Bulgaria, in the interests of our entry clearance operation and in the interests of the Home Office, which still has to deal with the cases of people from Romania
1 Nov 2005 : Column 759
and Bulgariaprincipally the Roma who are already in this country and seeking asylumfor the matter to be clarified to some extent. Let us not leave it until everyone becomes hysterical again; let us have a decision as near as possible to the final decision. Otherwise we shall be left where we were on 1 May 2004, rushing legislation through the House and causing upsets among our European partners just before they come into the European Union. Clarity would be very helpful.
My final point is the one made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam. We must engage with the British people on the European issue. I know that the Minister has travelled a great deal over the last six months, and he performs his job superbly as the champion of enlargement. I raised this point in passing with the Foreign Secretary during Question Time today. It is all very well going to Alabama and bonding with Condoleezza Rice, but we have the presidency at least for the next eight weeks. We are pushing forward legislation before most of our EU partners. Let us engage with the British people. I know that it will be difficult to do it before the end of the year, but let us go out and campaign on Europe. Let us be proud of being good Europeans, and let us continue to show the leadership that we have shown over the past eight years in Europe so that we can fashion the future according to our vision of what we want to happen.
I think that we should see enlargement as a significant success not just for the European Union, but for United Kingdom foreign policy over a number of years. When Britain, under Harold Macmillan, first applied to join the then common market, Charles de Gaullewho vetoed our application way back in 1963explained that British accession would mean
One of his Ministers, Jean-Marcel Jeanneney, added that if the grouping expanded beyond its original six members it would become a more free market, closer to the United States and increasingly Anglophone. In all those respects, he has been proved right. The European Union has spent much of the past 20 years liberalising markets and admitting countriesNordic or eastern Europeanwhere English is established as the second language. I think we should see enlargement not only as something inherently democratic that has widened the European Union, but as something that has benefited the United Kingdom as a whole and enhanced our collective vision of Europe.
We should also recognise, however, that enlargement of itself is not enough. I have been in the House long enough to see a number of accession Bills, including the one that enabled Spain and Portugal to enter the European Union. There is a danger that we shall leave the debate having accepted this Bill's Second Reading without a vote, feeling a warm glow about the forthcoming entry of yet another two countries to the European Union. We must recognise that a phenomenal amount of work has to be done within the EU, and with that in mind I shall make two brief points, the first of which concerns competitiveness.
1 Nov 2005 : Column 760
There is no point in bringing countries such as Bulgaria and Romania into the EU if we are to fall behind other parts of the world. It is very good that the Prime Minister and other Heads of Government paid attention to this issue last week at Hampton Court. However, we have to look to markets such as China, and to recognise that certain EU labour markets are in severe danger of becoming sclerotic. We must recognise that no one in the world owes Europe a living; we have to compete with the rest of the world.
Secondly, unless we can learn how to reform the EU, we will never make any progress. Perhaps the most important thing that will happen between now and the Christmas break is the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Hong Kong. Last week, the French finance Ministernot the French agriculture Ministermade it clear that the common agricultural policy as it stands is a foundation stone of Europe that cannot be changed in any way. He used dramatic language, saying that if the CAP were reformed in any way, we would have future pandemics. I recommend that Members read the report of his comments in the Financial Times of 27 October.
We are not seeing any significant movement from the EU on the WTO negotiations on the CAP. It would be a real tragedy if the Doha development round collapsed because Europe was incapable of recognising that it can no longer sustain the CAP in its current formthat it is no longer right in a world in which so many face starvation. Enlargement is of course extremely good news. For those of us who grew up in the shadow of the cold war and who were teenagers in the late 60s, when we experienced the frustration of the tanks rolling into Czechoslovakia, the later falling of the Berlin wall was probably one of the most fantastic days of our life. So it is wonderful that these countries are joining the EU, but let us not equate that alone with progress.
An enormous amount of work has to be done in the EU to make it remain competitive, and to reform basic institutions such as the CAP. Every single cow in the EU today attracts a subsidy of $2, yet many millions of people throughout the world are still scratching a living, and living on less than a dollar a day. So the livestock that one sees in a field on going down a country lane each receive twice as much in subsidy from the EU than many people in the world are living on, which is obscene. The House, the country and the Community must address these issues. If the French effectively stymie Peter Mandelson's efforts to achieve a successful WTO Doha development round, that will be a disgrace.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|