|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con):
It is more than a challenge for the trade unions. Those people will be covered by UK legislation, so they should get such things as the minimum wage. I want to consider the wider aspect of the matter. Does the hon. Gentleman
1 Nov 2005 : Column 770
believe that we should consider why France, Germany and other EU countries have decided to introduce derogations regarding people from Bulgaria, Romania and the other 10 accession countries coming to work there, while we have an open-door policy? Should we not be a little more selective about the skills that we need in this country?
Michael Connarty: No. As we have done for people from the accession countries, we will allow people from Romania and Bulgaria to come here to use their skills and contribute to our economy. However, we still face a problem. If a joiner or plumber, for example, comes here from one of the 10 accession countries, it is not suitable to give him the minimum wage. Joiners, plumbers and electricians should get the proper wage for their skills. The trade unions must try to do more to enlighten workers who come to this country about the conditions of employment and wages that they should expect.
The freedom of movement for workers also presents a question for the Government. The Government should provide all people who come to this country to work from the 10 accession countries, Romania and Bulgariaincluding the 230,000 who are already herewith correct information about what they should expect for the skills that they are bringing. Everyone would benefit from such an arrangement. The people involved would be paid proper wages. It would mean that unrest would not be caused because of other workers thinking that their trades or professions were being undercut. We would thus have a much happier movement of workers.
The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) asked whether we should screen people and look only for those who can bring high levels of skills to our shores. It would be wrong to do that because, as has been said, one could question whether we would be denuding countries of their doctors and nurses, for example. People should see the attitude of this country and the EU as allowing free movement for workers so that they can go to countries, develop their skills and become better qualified, and then take better skills back to their country. Experience shows that there is a short period of outward migration as countries accede to the EU, but people then return to their own countries with better skills and the income or capital with which they can try to build up those countries. I think that that pattern will be seen with the 10 countries that have come in, as well as Romania and Bulgaria.
When I was in Bucharest, I raised the matter of the Roma people in Romania and Bulgaria. I have also raised that point in the House and hope to do so when I visit Bulgaria. In my youth, I thought that Roma people were the equivalent of Romany Gypsies, and thus people of European origin, albeit with a transient lifestyle. There are several encampments for travelling people in my area and I know those people well.
When I spoke to Roma people from Romania and the Roma people who came to the House to discuss their problems, I discovered that they referred to themselves as the dark people. They were clearly of Asian or Indian origin. They said that they had been on the move for thousands of years and then landed in those countries and were, in a sense, frozen in time. They said that many of them were highly skilled. Indeed, it was pointed out that the Roma people brought the skill of metallurgy to
1 Nov 2005 : Column 771
those countries from the Asian sub-continentit was not present before they arrived. Many of them are productive members of society.
Roma people in Bucharest and others to whom I have spoken told me that their community is marginalised and that their people has always felt marginalised. We must tackle the question of what will happen to Roma people who might wish to move permanently, or for short periods while they are in transit. Romania and Bulgaria have not tackled those problems properly. I hope we accept that everyone should be included in the process of access.
The explanatory notes say that there are different proposals for the freedom of movement of workers. They relate to two years, after the third year and after seven years, which, in a sense, is a get-out clause. I hope that we will not review that negatively and will always think positively about how we can include more of those people who might not at the moment be thought of as highly skilled workers, to whom the hon. Member for Ribble Valley referred. Our part in Europe is to put together an agreement among countries that relates to all people. Yes, we need to deal with fraud, inadequate administration and the unacceptable attributes in the accession countries, but we can lift those countries to a standard with which we are all happy.
Keith Vaz: I am sorry that I missed the earlier part of my hon. Friend's remarks. Is not it right that, if those countries are to come in, they should be treated as equal partners and their citizens should have equal rights to come here, as we have to go to other countries?
Michael Connarty: I was impressed with the contribution of my hon. Friend, and he makes his point well. It is easy to find scapegoats and frighten people if everyone who is of non-British origin is seen as different, threatening or less beneficial to our society. If we make Europe wider by allowing people to come in from countries that have been frozen out for a long time and, as a consequence of their suffering, have created societies that we do not applaud, it is possible, as part of that enterprise, to give them a standard of living and an aspiration to achieve the sort of relationships that make us happy. Regardless of how we fall out over economics or policies such as defence, if we set out on that journeythe treaty is a step along the waywe will build a Europe of which we are all proud, irrespective of whether we believe in the EU as it stands or some other arrangement for the countries of Europe to work together.
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I will support the Bill, but want to take the opportunity to sound a note of caution. I first visited Romania in 1982 and have visited it a number of times since. On that first visit, we were shown many villagesthe Potemkin villagesthat were special and of a much better standard than others throughout Romania. Foreigners were shown a restricted amount of the country. We were only meant to see the nice bits and not the problems that it faced. Nevertheless, I could still see the terrible fear in people's eyes as they lived under a tyrannical regime under communism.
The problem with Ceausescu is that he was propped up by many western Governments. In fact, the Labour Government, under James Callaghan, insisted that
1 Nov 2005 : Column 772
Her Majesty the Queen put him up in Buckingham palace and gave him one of the highest orders. It was not just the Labour Government who were responsible, however. Others in the western world also ostentatiously fêted Ceausescu.
When I visited Romania after the fall of communism in 1990, I was amazed at the differences. I walked along the boulevard of the Victory of Socialism, which is twice as long and twice as wide as the Champs-Elysées. It was built by Nicolae Ceausescu as a road to his palace, which is the biggest building in the world next to the Pentagon. Despite that ostentatiousness and the tremendous luxury in which he lived, the people of Romania were extremely poor. I saw people queuing for basic foodstuffs. The electricity supply was intermittent and, in many flats, only one electric light bulb could be turned on at various times of the day. It was George Orwell's "1984". It was a terrible society.
Although I saw how ghastly that society was and although I think that Mr. Ceausescu was an appalling man, I am concerned about the way in which he and his wife were executed on 24 December 1989. No matter how bad other evil brutes are, such as Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, they are given a proper hearing and trial, but President Ceausescu was tried with his wife, Elena, in a kangaroo court. He was sentenced to death almost immediately and did not have the right to a proper lawyer. The way in which the Romanian authorities carried out his trial and execution was wrong. I hope that they have learned their lesson from that.
I am pleased that Romania can join the nations of a new modern Europe, but there are problems. Communism has taken its toll. It had a destructive impact, not just on Romania, but on most European countries that experienced it. I saw it at first hand as a child in Poland. However, few of us will have forgotten the images that we saw on television in 1990 of the orphanages in Romania and the appalling way in which those children were treated. Those institutions still exist. Outside modern Bucharest, children are kept in state institutions that are badly heated and lit, where they receive poor care. There are awful cases of neglect.
There is also terrible environmental pollution. The Ploesti oil fields and other industrial complexes have devastated the local environment. I fear that Great Britain and the other EU countries will have to stump up a great deal of money to modernise those facilities and ensure that the environment is brought up to the modern standard that one would expect of an EU country.
The infrastructure is a shambles. The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) stated that he was in Bucharest for only seven hours when he was Minister for Europe. That is the problem. Many Ministers get whisked to Bucharest, no doubt stay in a lovely hotel and see the best bits of Romania, but they do not see the shambolic state that it is in. If they were taken to villages like Scornicesti, Timisoara and Arad, they would see how backward the country is and the amount of money that it will need.
1 Nov 2005 : Column 773
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|