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Mr. Alexander: I will give way one final time, but then I want to make further progress.
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Kelvin Hopkins: My right hon. Friend was talking a few moments ago about privatisation in Romania and Bulgaria. Is privatisation being made a requirement for those countries before they enter the EU or are they just being encouraged to privatise where appropriate? Given that many of the larger industries in western Europe are still under public ownership and do very well in the public sector, are we to press those two countries to privatise beyond what is expected here?

Mr. Alexander: I sense that, as far as my hon. Friend is concerned, that debate is not restricted to the Romanian or Bulgarian economy. We have had the opportunity and privilege of debating similar matters in respect of the UK, never mind the potential accession countries to the EU in the past. It is a commonsense point that the EU is a union of liberal democracies that operate on the basis of market economies, so I make no apology for the fact that transition was necessary in Romania and Bulgaria from the state-controlled industries of the communist era—under the leadership of Ceausescu and others—to the position today, whereby impressive levels of economic growth have been achieved year on year. In the light of the domestic policies followed by Bulgaria and Romania, it might be challenging for my hon. Friend to examine his own prescription for securing economic growth and compare it with that taken forward by the Governments of those two countries.

Subsection (2) approves for the purposes of section 12 of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 the provisions of the accession treaty in so far as they relate to the powers of the European Parliament. It is important to note that the accession treaty does not create new powers for the Parliament; rather, it increases the geographical scope of the existing powers by making provision for the future participation of MEPs from Bulgaria and Romania. It consequently applies those existing powers to nationals of states to whom they could not otherwise have been applied before the treaty's entering into force.

Mr. Brady rose—

Mr. Alexander: As with the previous Bill on accession, the inclusion of this provision is therefore a precautionary measure to put beyond doubt Parliament's approval of those parts of the accession treaty concerned with the European Parliament's powers.

Mr. Brady: I am not sure whether the Minister is giving way or has finished. [Interruption.] Given that he has finished, I hope that he will respond in due course to the point that I was about to put to him—I shall raise it later—had he accepted an intervention from me.

The Minister was commendably brief and I shall seek to be likewise. He knows, given the nature of our debate on Second Reading, that there is broad agreement across the House on the desirability of Romanian and Bulgarian accession, and, indeed, a broad welcome for enlargement of the European Union. As has been touched on in some interventions, accession is beneficial to the new member states, and the process itself brings benefits, as we are seeing in Romania and Bulgaria and in other places. It also benefits the EU as a whole,
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helping to lock in the benefits of democracy and the rule of law, and the importance of tackling corruption, fraud, and organised crime. All such efforts have been redoubled in recent times during the accession process. However, there is still a long way to go, as the Minister accepted.

The Minister spoke throughout his speech about Romania and Bulgaria as though they are proceeding in parallel, with no difference between them. It would help the Committee to know the Government's and the Minister's own assessment of the two countries' separate progress toward accession, and the extent to which each has met the required criteria.

Mr. Douglas Alexander: As the hon. Gentleman is kind enough to allow me to intervene on him, I am happy to confirm that the British Government have no assessment independent of that made recently by the Commission. I think that he is anticipating the question of whether we recognise that each country should be judged on its own merits, rather than being taken together in all circumstances. I am happy to assure him that, notwithstanding the nature of the reports simultaneously produced for Bulgaria and Romania, we absolutely recognise the importance of each country's being judged on its own merits.

Mr. Brady: I am grateful to the Minister. It is important that each country be judged on its own merits, not least because, as I mentioned on Second Reading, there is the slightly odd arrangement whereby the mechanisms for assessing the two countries are different. We need to bear that point in mind.

Progress is being made in tackling corruption and organised crime, but the importance of doing so cannot be overstated, not least in the context of accession to the EU itself, and of the implications within a single market once these countries have joined EU-funded programmes. We should bear in mind the possibility of very large sums of British—and other EU countries'—taxpayers' money going in to Romania and Bulgaria at a time when they perhaps lack the administrative capacity to manage such sums in an acceptable way.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my and the Commission's concern at the fact that not a single successful high-level prosecution for corruption has been made in these accession countries?

Mr. Brady: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The countries in question know that they are being monitored in this regard, and we hear a great deal of talk about their determination to improve. This is an extremely important issue, particularly given the implications for the EU itself and for current member states, should accession take place in the near future.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is extremely positive that the political consensus in both Romania and Bulgaria is that joining the EU is an essentially positive move?

Mr. Brady: Absolutely, and I might go a little further by pointing to the welcome—if slightly unusual—development whereby consensus on EU matters exists in this House.
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Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con) rose—

Mr. Brady: I spoke too soon, Sir Michael.

Mr. Cash: I am afraid that my hon. Friend did speak a little too soon. Having listened to representatives from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, and given events in Hungary concerning the excessive deficit procedure, my feeling is that—notwithstanding those of us who are in favour of enlargement—some people are living in complete cloud cuckoo land on the question of the kind of Europe that we need to develop. I will not go into that issue in detail now as I hope to make a speech on it later, but we need to be very cautious in assuming that, by absorbing the whole of the existing legal framework of the European treaties, we can maintain the consensus that enlargement is a good idea. That is to say nothing of the question of Turkey.

Mr. Brady: I am delighted that there is consensus. Although we welcome the move toward the final objective of accession for Romania and Bulgaria, Members in all parts of the House accept that there are some real difficulties, as my hon. Friend rightly highlights. I shall return in a moment—briefly—to the specific issue that he raised.

The timetable set out for accession is very short indeed. If accession is to take place in January 2007, satisfactory progress must have been made in the next few months—by April 2006, I think. There is strong support in this House for the accession of both countries, but it must take place at the right time and under the right circumstances. It is worth noting the remarks of the Enlargement Commissioner, who said as recently as last week:

We must accept that, even in that event, we are looking a very short timetable for what is a significant programme of work and change in the two accession countries.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason for delaying accession—I am wholly in favour of Romania and Bulgaria joining the EU—is the level of people trafficking, particularly child trafficking, in both countries? There is no offence of child trafficking in this country, as I found out by tabling a parliamentary question on this issue. Does he share my desire that this appalling and obscene practice be stamped on as hard as possible, and does he agree that the British Government should do all that they can to ensure that that happens?

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