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Mr. Brady: The Minister is being very helpful and I am grateful. Can he be just a little more helpful by undertaking to publish regular analyses to update the position following accession?

Andy Burnham: I certainly will. The hon. Gentleman will know that, since we set up the worker registration scheme, the Home Office, together with the Department for Work and Pensions and other Departments, is monitoring the effect on the labour market by analysing the figures relating to that scheme. In respect of A8 nationals, the statistics are published on a quarterly basis via the accession monitoring report and the latest figures were issued this week. I hope that I have persuaded him that his amendment is unnecessary as we fully intend to continue the arrangements whereby regular quarterly reports are made available. The whole point of the scheme is to enable us to track and monitor the effect on the labour market and on the take-up of social security benefits. As I say, we will want to share such information with the House as much as possible.

I hope that I have dealt with all the points raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) made an important point about human trafficking. The Home Office wholly concurs in emphasising the importance of making progress in that respect. As part of our presidency of the EU, we have given considerable priority to that matter and we have sought to make concrete progress in that regard. Work is being carried out by Europol and others, particularly with respect to Romania. We most certainly are focused on dealing with that matter, though the Bill does not include direct provisions relating to it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) raised an important point about the potentially criminal behaviour of people in the worker registration scheme. She mentioned a case from her constituency and I assure her that such people, if they were imprudent enough to commit offences during their stay here, would be subject to the full force of the UK criminal justice system. Powers remain at the disposal of the Home Office to deal with European nationals in respect of removal where criminal behaviour is involved. The main point is that the full force of British law will apply. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.

We have had a good and encouraging debate. It is pleasing to see the Conservative party coming round to acknowledging the benefits of managed and legal migration to this country. I hope that that will continue to be the position held by Conservative Members in the months ahead. I urge the House to reject amendment No. 9 and to approve clause 2.
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Mr. Brady: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Order for Third Reading read.

3 pm

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

We have had a good afternoon's debate, with stimulating and thoughtful contributions from all parts of the House. Let me begin, as I did on Second Reading, by paying heartfelt and genuine tribute to the all-party nature of the consensus in this debate at every stage of the Bill's passage. I welcome the strong and powerful arguments that we have heard in support of enlargement, and in particular of Romania's and Bulgaria's accession. It is clear that all Members recognise the important role that enlargement has already played in developing the prosperous and stable Europe in which we live today. Romania's and Bulgaria's accession will further contribute to political stability and security in our neighbourhood, and create new economic opportunities for British citizens and companies.

As we have discussed, it is clear that there are a number of areas in which more work is needed if Romania and Bulgaria are to be ready for European Union membership in 2007. The Commission's comprehensive monitoring report, which was published in October—it has been the subject of debate already this afternoon—set out a range of issues in the fields of justice and home affairs, agriculture, environment and administrative capacity that require urgent attention. I know that this was a matter of concern to the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Dodds), and I can assure him and the House that we are working closely with both Governments to help them to implement these   outstanding commitments. In recent meetings with both countries' Europe Ministers, I underlined the importance of tackling the remaining problems. I am pleased to say that both expressed a real commitment to implementing the necessary reforms, and they set out a number of areas where progress is already being made.

This Third Reading is an important and historic moment. The Bill may be small, but its impact will be substantial. For 30 million people, European Union accession represents a new dawn and the final step in a difficult journey from dictatorship to democracy. The impact of accession will not, of course, be limited to Romania and Bulgaria; their accession will bring benefits to all of Europe. I know that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that the United Kingdom looks forward to welcoming Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union. I commend the Bill to the House.

3.3 pm

Mr. Brady: I am pleased to follow the Minister in what has been, as he said, a helpful and constructive series of debates on the Bill. There is broad cross-party agreement on the objective of bringing Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union, without for a
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moment belittling the great difficulties that remain and that need to be overcome. The Minister acknowledges that there is a serious programme of work to be undertaken in the coming months to get those countries to the point where they may be ready for accession.

We have had some very useful contributions to this debate, including a helpful one from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham). He gave us some assistance, thereby enabling us to withdraw our amendment on the free movement of workers. My hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Mr. Steen) and for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) rightly raised some very important points about people trafficking and the scandal of such abuse.

I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has returned to his place. He was quite right to raise some of the more profound issues to do with the future shape and direction of the EU as a whole and the type of EU that Romania and Bulgaria might join. In not too many years' time, other countries such as Turkey and Croatia will become members, and even Russia may do so one day, although that may take a little longer.

The Opposition are pleased to welcome the progress being made on enlargement, both with this Bill and with the beginning of the accession talks for Turkey and Croatia. Our proceedings have been very consensual so far, so I cannot resist saying that it looks increasingly as though the steps to enlargement may be the only achievements of the UK's EU presidency. This week, Foreign Ministers from various member states have commented on the discussions about the future EU budget. For example, the Finnish Foreign Minister said:

while the Belgian Foreign Minister said:

and the Portuguese Foreign Minister said:

I am pleased to restore a little contention and rancour to our debate, as we do not like to have too much uninterrupted consensus in our proceedings. However, it is fortunate that we have something to show for the UK presidency, especially in respect of the more difficult talks about Turkey, and I have given the Minister and his colleagues credit for that before. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania should bring both countries great benefits, as it will ultimately to all member states.

Enlargement is hugely important, both for the progress that it brings in the candidate countries and for what it does to aid the development of a more diverse and flexible EU. Recent discussions about the future EU budget have sometimes given the unfortunate impression that the whole point of membership for some of the newer members and applicant countries is to obtain grants and cash transfers from the EU or the wealthier members. That is entirely wrong, as it leads to the absurd proposition that has been raised this week—that the new members are paying for the UK rebate. Given that the UK is a major net contributor to the UK, that is clearly nonsense.

Yet we must stress that the real value of EU membership for Bulgaria, Romania and the others that have joined recently is that it will reinforce their
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freedom, democracy, security and rule of law. It will also ensure their access to a single market, and we hope that that can be achieved in a way that is not overly bureaucratic or regulated.

The Conservative party has always been an enthusiastic supporter of enlargement, whether that has involved the 10 states that joined last year, or Bulgaria and Romania, or Turkey and Croatia. We very much support the proposed accession that we have debated this afternoon, but the Minister knows well that the path to membership for Romania and Bulgaria will not be easy. The enthusiasm for the objective behind the Bill is shared by all parties, but that should not lead the Government or the EU to proceed uncritically in their assessments of the readiness of the two applicant countries for entry in 2007 or 2008.

I believe that the Minister accepts the importance of bringing Romania and Bulgaria into the EU, but I hope that he is also aware that it is vital that we get it right.

3.9 pm

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