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Keith Vaz: Is my hon. Friend telling us that the scheme will apply to Romanians and Bulgarians, and will he give us a timetable?

Dr. Howells: I have made it clear that we will look at that closely and agree on the terms once accession is agreed. We will be in a much better position to make such decisions when we are closer to the date.

Andrew Mackinlay: I see that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality is sitting next to the hon. Gentleman. Can he tell us whether, between now and the date of accession, visa requirements will be relaxed for people coming to the United Kingdom from Bulgaria and Romania? That was done in respect of the 10 accession countries, and it worked well.

Dr. Howells: The answer is no, but we will examine the position nearer to the date.

A series of safeguards can be applied after accession in the event of potential breaches of the internal market, substantial failings in the justice and home affairs pillar, or major weaknesses in economic sectors.

We have discussed a number of specific concerns, including corruption and organised crime. The hon. Members for Altrincham and Sale, West and for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) and my hon.   Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David), the hon. Members for North Antrim and for Totnes (Mr. Steen), my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) and the hon. Members for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) and for Clwyd, West all asked important questions about the subject.

Corruption and organised crime are still serious problems, and I hope those who asked about them realise that we know that. There is no doubt that both countries need to take immediate action. We heard about some of the steps that have already been taken, including the important step mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly. We are working closely with both countries. There has been encouraging progress, such as the tackling of petty corruption in Bulgaria, but further efforts are needed in the fight against high-level corruption. The recent violent organised-crime killings in Bulgaria are a stark reminder of the problems that the country faces. Criminals cannot be allowed to act above the law, and there must be robust action to rein in such elements. We will give all the co-operation we can to ensure that that happens.
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Mr. Hendrick: Does my hon. Friend agree that reform of justice and home affairs, and also economic reform, will take place much faster within a European Union of 27 than it would if the additional countries were refused entry, and continued to allow those crimes to fester?

Dr. Howells: I do agree. I think that in general there has been a bipartisan approach to the issue today, and broad agreement that this is the best if not the only way forward. I hope that the success experienced so far will continue.

We are working on the issue of border controls, which was raised by the hon. Members for Altrincham and Sale, West, for Totnes and for Moray. On accession, Romania will have the second-longest external EU border. The hon. Member for Moray gave us an important lesson in geography and culture. I could not write fast enough to take it all down, but it would have been great if I had been able to, because I could have   used it in pub quizzes. There were so many useful facts.

The hon. Gentleman explained how the borders had shifted. He gave a vivid account of being on a lake which, at the time, was on the eastern border of the   European Union. I think he said that it was the Austrian-Hungarian border. That worked, and this will work. We must make sure that the resources are there, and that we share our skills and those of other EU states with the new member countries.

The Commission pointed out that neither country currently has enough border infrastructure. Improvement is needed. Funds have been provided, but training and the updating of border facilities needs to be accelerated. We are working to help implement those reforms, and we are making progress as has been demonstrated by recent drug seizures. As a number of Members said, the area is on the trail from Afghanistan through Turkey and into western Europe. We know that more than 90 per cent. of the heroin used in Europe comes via that route. It is therefore a big issue for us and for the whole of Europe, not just for those countries. That is why it is so important that they can benefit from EU membership.

We heard, from the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock), a moving account of the plight of children in Romania. I think we have all learnt from it. The plight of institutionalised children is of concern to all of us in the House. In Romania, the poor living conditions of so many children is a lasting legacy of the   Ceausescu era. Although many aspects of his authoritarian rule have been eradicated, the issue still remains. We want to see rapid progress in improvement of conditions for children in both countries. The EU accession process has led to some improvements, but both Governments recognise that more resources and work are needed. The EU will continue to work closely with them to bring about substantial changes.

Cyprus, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia have already ratified Romania and Bulgaria's accession treaty. It is no surprise that those new member states have been the first to endorse the next stage of enlargement. They know what benefits it will bring to Romania and Bulgaria, and also to the rest of the EU.   We too should be ready to ratify the treaty as soon as possible. Enlargement is a real success story for the   United Kingdom: it has created new opportunities, and helped us to combat serious problems such as people-trafficking and organised crime.
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Questions have been raised about Romania and Bulgaria's readiness for membership. As I have said, safeguards are there in case either country is not ready for membership; but I reiterate my hope that both will be ready for accession on 1 January 2007. I recall people saying in 1986 that Portugal and Spain were not prepared for EU membership. Let us look at those two countries now; they are strong economies and dynamic societies, and I cannot imagine a European Union without them. Nor, I am sure, can any other Member present.

Romania's and Bulgaria's accession is good for the UK, good for the EU and good for both countries. As Lech Walesa might have said, let us bring their ships into port. I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

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European Union (Accessions) Bill

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A(6)(Programme motions),

Question agreed to.

8 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I beg to move,

This first motion and the other three motions relating to appointments are entirely routine, but it may be for the convenience of the House if I briefly set out the circumstances underlying each one. I will then turn to the motion in the name of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) relating to the House of Commons Members' Fund. I hope that colleagues in all parts of the House will agree that the motions are uncontroversial and can certainly be supported.

The motion relating to the House of Commons Commission flows from the decision by one of its three Back-Bench members, the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), to retire because of other commitments. He has given strong and consistent service to the Commission. We thank him for that and wish him well in his work as Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. He is to be replaced by the   right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean). I am sure that Members will have the greatest confidence in the wisdom and experience that the right hon. Gentleman will bring to the deliberations of not only the Commission but the Members Estimate Committee, given that membership of one flows from membership of the other. Of course, it is fair to say that his contribution to the House in recent years has been notable for its silence. Although we will all acknowledge that it is slightly unusual to have the Opposition Chief
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Whip filling a Back-Bench place on the Commission, we also understand that this is likely to be temporary only, until the Conservative party leadership contest has been settled—a subject that we are of course all fascinated by.

I turn to the Public Accounts Commission motion. Under the National Audit Act 1983, seven of the nine members of the Commission are appointed by the House. Two of its members in the last Parliament—Mr.   Bill O'Brien and Mr. Roy Beggs—are no longer Members of the House following the general election, thereby leaving the Commission two short of its full complement. The motion therefore proposes that their places be filled by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) and the hon. Member for South   Antrim (Dr. McCrea). Under the motion, the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) is replaced by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon), in recognition of the fact that the former is now a member of the shadow Cabinet. I pay tribute to the work of all three colleagues and ex-colleagues. I know that the House will have full confidence in the contributions of the new appointments.

The parliamentary contributory pension fund and House of Commons Members' Fund traditionally have   an overlapping body of trustees. Two of the present trustees on both funds, Mr. John Burnett and Mr. Tony Colman, have now left the House. In addition, Lord Stewartby, who is the pensioner trustee for the pension fund, is retiring from the post. I am sure the whole House will want me to thank them—and, indeed, all the trustees who carry out time-consuming and sensitive work on our behalf—for all that they have done. Following discussions in the normal way, it is proposed that they be replaced by the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey), my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) and Lord   Naseby. Again, I am sure that colleagues will want me to express our gratitude to them for taking on this work.

The House of Commons Members' Fund appropriation motion will be moved formally by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden, as chairman of the Members' Fund trustees. I will leave him to speak to it in more detail. In essence, it provides for the fund to have access to the Members' estimate grant in aid and Members' contributions, for the purpose of paying discretionary awards to former Members and their widows or widowers. It is required annually, and I ask the House to support this, and all the other, motions.

8.4 pm

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