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I do not want to expose the Minister for the Middle East, who will wind up the debate, to internal grief, but when Greece joined the EU in 1981 and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986 the Labour party was not only against enlargement but against membership of the EU: how times change.
The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) spoke eloquently about the inspiration of the people. We cannot accuse bureaucrats in Romania and Bulgaria of being inspired, but he is right that we must carry with us the inspiration of the people to ensure that Euroscepticism, which we saw in some applicant countries in the run-up to their votes on accession, does not emerge in Bulgarian and Romanian national newspapers.
Like me, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) has had the benefit of being a Member of the European Parliament. He reminded us that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria will lead to a Europe of 500 million citizens, and we warmly welcome that increase in the size of the marketplace. He addressed the question of how to make an enlarged EU sustainable and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), referred to the Commission report and drew the conclusion that a great deal remains to be done.
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I want to spend a little time on the contribution of the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), and not only because he is from Yorkshire. He referred to Romanian visas, and I hope that he was not accusing his own Prime Minister of being hysterical, because at Prime Minister's questions in February 2004 the Prime Minister accepted that it is a real issue.
"applications were being abused were made by a member of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate staff (Steve Moxon) and then by James Cameron, the Entry Clearance Manager and Consul in Bucharest. The Government ordered investigations which resulted in two reports on the handling of these applications." [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The House takes a very dim view of electronic devices. I am not sure whether this one belongs to a Member or whether it is part of the system. As I cannot see the culprit, I suggest that we proceed.
The first report confirmed that there was evidence that that category had been exploited and described a serious failure in the operation of the scheme. The second report identified the exploitation of the scheme and recommended new management measures. As a result of that report, to which the official Opposition drew attention, two written ministerial statements were crafted, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman recalls that changes were made in management practices.
Mr. Barron: Three Opposition Back Benchers tried to get the agricultural workers scheme reintroduced before the reports were completed so that Essex farmers in Tory constituencies could get their crops picked by Bulgarian people from Sofia university. The hon. Lady's leader dragged someone through the television studios, thus creating a problem.
I warmly welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), with whom I had the pleasure to serve in the European Parliament. As he said, Romania in particular needs our help. He told some moving tales of religious persecution that struck a chord with all hon. Members. He did not need to remind
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us that he is not a fan of the European Commission because we have heard that on several occasions. However, he stirred the Opposition's hearts by saying that it was better to broaden the European Union by bringing in new countries than to deepen it. I join him in wishing Bulgaria and Romania well and I hope that he shares our vision of a more open, more flexible and wider EU.
I have a high personal regard for the former Minister for Europe, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz)former Ministers for Europe are growing in number so I hope that that is not a bad sign for the current Minister. The hon. Member for Leicester, East said that the Bill was special and that it united all parties. I could not agree more. Perhaps he will reflect on my remarks about the Labour party's position on previous enlargements and thus form a more mature view of the Opposition's position. He referred especially to clause 2 on the worker registration scheme. I hope that he accepts that I have dealt with that point.
I listened with great interest to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) about the significant success that the various stages of EU enlargement represent for UK foreign policy. I concur with his conclusion that a phenomenal amount of work remains to be done but, as he said, the success of the EU and our membership of it depend on our being competitive. No one should owe any member of the EU a living. We must be competitive and work hard at that.
My hon. Friend also said that we need to reform the common agricultural policy and I agree that we expect great things of the Doha round. I urge the Minister for Trade to convey a strong message from the House about that. Our expectations of a good deal are high. I shall have a private word with him afterwards about the sugar beet growers in the Vale of York.
I was delighted to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins), who again drew attention to the need to reform agriculture and spread wealth around. He referred especially to poverty levels in Romania and Bulgaria.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) was one of several hon. Members who referred to anxieties about the Roma people. We take that matter seriously and I hope that Government Front Benchers note his remarks and my concurrence with them. The position of all the minorities, especially the Roma people, has to be tackled. I should like the Government to outline a timetable this evening for their endeavour to do that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) spoke with genuine passion and experience. He referred to a previous Labour Government's support for the former communist regime and the genuine fear that that inspired.
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As I expected, the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), with whom I had the honour to serve on the European Scrutiny Committee, gave a warm welcome to the new applicant members and their accession plans. He welcomed them to their natural home. Again, I agree with that.
I was impressed by the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) and for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones). My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham reminded us that Greece will have an overland connection to Europe. Perhaps we can concentrate on improving that connection and get the Italians away from their obsession with a bridge over the straits of Messina, which I remember with some fondness from my days in the European Parliament. My hon. Friend raised concerns about corruption, minorities, drugs and people trafficking. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West spoke specifically about Romania's close links with north Wales but also commented on its being perhaps the unluckiest of all the applicant countries so far.
The Minister for Europe said that the Bill enables the accession treaty to be implemented in UK law and approves provisions of the accession treaty in so far as they relate to the powers of the European Parliament. He also said that the Bill includes powers to make provision on the entitlement of Bulgarian and Romanian workers to work and reside in the UK. I followed the words of wisdom of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) on that with great interest. He said that there was a compelling outstanding question. The hon. Member for Moray can now write to the employers in his constituency to tell them that the Opposition are interested in such issues.
We expect the Minister for the Middle East to announce in his winding-up speech when the Government will announce whether the entitlement for the workers from Romania and Bulgaria will be issued immediately or whether there will be a transitional period. Can we expect any more one-legged roofers and electricians who are not in possession of all the equipment that they might need? If we are to raise the expectations of workers from those countries, it is important to tell them now when the benefits will be extended to them.
Several hon. Members raised anxieties about the EU budget. I should like the Minister to confirm whether the UK will block overall expenditure within a limit in the EU. Will the Government give a commitment to do that? Will the Minister tell us which other member states currently support our view? That will give an indication of whether we are likely to achieve that goal.
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