Examination of Witnesses (Quesitons 100-119)|
13 DECEMBER 2007
Q100 Mike Gapes: Are you confident
that a supervised independence in line with the Ahtisaari plan
is legally watertight, even though UN Security Council Resolution
1244 is still in existence, which says that Kosovo is part of
Mr Brown: As you know, there is
a proposal for a further UN resolution, and I think that ought
to resolve the issue, and I hope that all countries can support
that. Obviously, the European Union has got a responsibility to
help. There are troops on the ground, of course, at the moment
with the responsibility to help in that area, but I do think that
we can move forward. There is more agreement than your original
Q101 Mike Gapes: You are implying
that we are going to get another Security Council resolution.
I thought Russia had made it absolutely clear that it would veto
any attempt at a resolution which legitimised the independence
Mr Brown: If that were to happen,
of course, we would have a European Union mission and we would
have a European EDSP
mission in relation to Kosovo.
Q102 Mike Gapes: If there is this European
mission, what will we do? What will we and what will the rest
of the European Union do, and the UN forces who are still in Kosovo?
What will we do if the Serbs in the north of Mitrovica decide
to break away to clear their own UDI
from Kosovo at the River Ibar or if blockades are put up in other
part of Kosovo?
Mr Brown: I think that is hypothetical
actually. I think a Kosovo settlement is actually in Serbia's
interest, and I hope we can reach a situation where they are persuaded
that that is the case. I would not want to jump in stages and
speculate about what might happen if certain things that you speculate
about do in fact eventually result. I think the important thing
is that Serbia has got an interest in a peaceful resolution of
this issue as well.
Q103 Mike Gapes: What inducements,
carrots, encouragements can we give to Serbia to try and persuade
the Serbian Government and, more importantly, the Serbian people
(and the democracy in Serbia is very fragile at this moment) that
their future destiny lies with accepting, however reluctantly,
an independent Kosovo and an aspiration to join Europe?
Mr Brown: I think you know that
it is the last part of what you are saying that is very much in
Serbia's thoughts, that it wishes a better relationship with the
European Union, it wishes to see itself as part of Europe, and,
of course, it would not make it easy for people to see it that
way if we could not get a settlement over the Kosovan issues.
Q104 Mike Gapes: Is there some tangible
thing that the European Union today, tomorrow, can offer to Serbia
to try to sugar this pill that they regard in a very bitter way?
Mr Brown: I think you are pointing
in the direction of Serbia recognising that if its future lies,
as we believe it does, with a better relationship with the European
Union over a longer period of time, then it is not in its interests
that the Kosovan problem is left as one that cannot be sorted
out. Whether you are talking about something specific or not,
I think the long-term interests of Serbia really depend on it
recognising that that relationship with Europe is put at risk
if we cannot find a solution to the Kosovan issues.
Malcolm Bruce: Thank you, Prime Minister.
I guess as we speak your plane is warming up to fly you to Lisbon.
You will not be surprised, therefore, that Michael Connarty would
like to ask you some questions about the European Treaty that
you are about to sign.
Q105 Michael Connarty: I might state
that if you look back at the Maastricht Treaty, Prime Minister,
you will find that it was signed by a very junior member of the
Foreign Office, not signed by the Prime Minister at all. I notice,
by the way, that you fell back on your Fife dynasty by referring
to what seemed like the Proclaimers' paraphrase on education:
"No more, no more, no more"?
Mr Brown: That is right.
Q106 Michael Connarty: But another
good Scots phrase is that truth is a chiel that winna ding, and
that is the basis on which we approach the Reform Treaty; so we
obviously disagree about its final effect but I am certain you
have read and considered the impact of certainly the drafts that
we have, because we have not yet seen the final copy of the 294
amendments of the amended treaty, or the Reform Treaty on the
EU, which you intend to sign at the forthcoming European Council.
Are you aware whether that impact will be positive or negative
for the UK? Do you accept that increasing use of qualified majority
voting in many, many additional areas, plus the use of co-decision-making,
we are told by the European Parliament, in 95% of EU policy-making
in the future will fundamentally alter the way that the EU will
function and it will also alter the UK's relationship to that
Mr Brown: Qualified majority voting
has been a feature of every treaty. The 1986 Single European Act
contained very large changes by introducing qualified majority
voting in particular areas. That was extended in all the different
treatiesNice, Amsterdam and so onand so there is
nothing new in qualified majority voting, the question is whether
the changes in qualified majority voting are in Britain's interest
or whether they are not in Britain's interest; and I think you
could make an argument going through the changes in qualified
majority voting that some of them are actually minor and procedural
and the other ones are in Britain's interest and, if they are
not, then you have usually got an opt-in or an opt-out to decide
whether we wish to be part of it.
Q107 Michael Connarty: I will come
to the question of opt-in and opt-out, but they are actually two
different things, because there are a number of passerelle clauses
in this Reform Treaty that will again and again bring up the question
of transfer from unanimity to what they call the community method
of qualified majority voting, and the opt-in and opt-out is not
exactly the same thing.
Mr Brown: But that has got to
be agreed by unanimity.
Q108 Michael Connarty: Correct, but
many do not, many are automatic, but there are new areas, with
passerelle clauses, for example, in common foreign security policy,
that may or may not be used in the future. Turning to the question
of opt-in, Article 10 to Protocol 10, which is a new added protocol
article, and the new Article 4A, which cover, as the Foreign Secretary
told us, 70 to 80 areas where the UK has already opted in but
will then have to decide whether they stay in should it go to
the community method, which means final jurisdiction by the European
Court of Justice and infraction ability on the part of the Commission,
the UK will have control over these decisions to opt-in when they
are transferred to that method, but do you accept that when we
use the opt-in it will transfer final jurisdiction to the Commission
and to the European Court of Justice and, if so, will the process
that will be put in place in the UK law allow the sovereign UK
parliament the right to have a view on whether we do in fact opt
in or opt out? Underlying that is the question that, if we are
not going to have a referendum, will we be given a multi-clause
bill that is amendable that will be put before Parliament before
this treaty is finally ratified or will we get a one clause, in
or out, which we are supposed to talk about for 20 days?
Mr Brown: You are right to say
that there are issues where, where we have opted-in in the past,
we have got the right now to opt out because of the change in
the status of justice and home affairs from being a matter for,
if you like, national governments to being a matter for the community
of the Union as a whole. We as a government will be able to make
that decision as to whether we opt out or not and whether, if
having the right to opt out, we decide to take it up in particular
instances, and there is a whole series of procedures that will
have to be adopted. That will be the subject of a debate in Parliament
when we go through the Bill. Obviously the Bill is not yet published,
but when the Bill is published I think it will be clear that there
is more scope for Parliament to debate some of these issues than
there has been in the past. The problem, however, if I may say
so, on the opt-in, if we decide we wish to opt in on areas, is
that you will only have three months to make that decision under
the rules that have been set out; so it will have to be a matter
for the Government to make that decision on the basis of what
we know to be in the best interests of the country, but the general
debate we will have in the House of Commons when the Bill comes
Q109 Michael Connarty: Can I press
you on the point about will it be a multi-clause bill with clauses
that are amendable but will cover these points of principle? At
the moment you are saying that your opinion is that this is a
matter for the Government and that the Parliament will just have
to basically lump it or like it.
Mr Brown: On the passerelles,
if I may say so, which you mentioned
Q110 Michael Connarty: Can we stick
to the principle we are talking about, about whether these opt-ins
are implemented by the Government or will have parliamentary scrutiny?
Will it be in the Bill?
Mr Brown: There will be scrutiny,
of course, but in a situation where you have only got three months
to make a decision, it will have to be the Government that actually
makes that decision but if you are bound by this three-month window,
I think it is going to be very difficult. On the other hand, all
these issues that you raise are going to be discussed during the
passage of the Bill, and if Parliament chooses to do things differently
from what is recommended, that will be a matter for Parliament,
but I think all these issues will be before the House when we
discuss the Bill.
Q111 Michael Connarty: Will amendments
be allowed on the Bill?
Mr Brown: I do not quite know
what you mean.
Q112 Michael Connarty: There were
a series of clauses when we went through the Maastricht process.
Will it be similar?
Mr Brown: There is going to be
a very considerable period of time set down for these debates
to take place, and I am sure that those people who are ingenious
in the matter of amendments will find ways of amending or suggesting
amendments to the Bill, but I cannot announce the details of the
Bill here, the Bill will be published very soon. Can I add for
the passerelles, howeveryou did raise the question of the
passerelles and this is a very important issueyou can only
decide by unanimity, of course, to move in a passerelle to a different
position from where you have been, but I do believe that is a
matter that has got to come before the House of Commons.
Q113 Malcolm Bruce: Thank you. One
final area, Prime Minister, is the Middle East peace process.
Whilst it was welcome that the American administration proposed
to try and kick it back to life in Annapolis, does the Prime Minister
accept that what was agreed in Annapolis (a) was not very substantive
and (b) was not very inclusive in terms of the parties who were
Mr Brown: What was agreed in Annapolis
was that Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas will have regular
meetings to work through a framework document that was agreed
in Annapolis, and what now follows is the Donors Conference in
which Tony Blair, rightly, has had a very big involvement, and
there is a large group of countries now willing to contribute
to the development of the Palestinian economy and to rebuilding
the social fabric. I thought that after that we could have a Palestinian
investment conference as well so that not just money be provided
in terms of aid but we can attract people, including Israeli business
leaders, to invest in the West Bank and in Gaza. As you know,
President Bush is going to visit Israel and the Middle East in
the next month or so. So, side by side with the political process
moving forward to resolve some of the issues, where there are
regular meetings agreed at Annapolis. There will be also what
I think is an important effort to provide encouragement to the
Palestinians in particular that we will support the economic and
social development of the territories so that we can relieve a
lot of the unemployment and poverty that is a major source of
Q114 Malcolm Bruce: Can I say to
you, Prime Minister, that was exactly what was not addressed at
Annapolis. The issues of settlements, the future of Jerusalem,
refugees, borders and water were unmentioned. Can you not acknowledge
that the credibility of a commitment to a two-stage solution is
simply not acceptable in circumstances where there is no serious
discussion for withdrawal of settlements, the road blocks and
restrictions on movements, and, indeed, settlements are still
continuing to be built?
Mr Brown: You have got two issues
there: what was said about settlements and what was said about
the current, if you like, security problems that prevent things
moving forward as things stand between Israel and the Palestinian
areas, and I think there was progress actually in these areas,
although not as much as you or I would like to see. I think the
framework document, however, is about dealing with the long-term
issues. You rightly say that they did not reach conclusions or
have big discussions on the detail of what happens to Jerusalem
or what happens to the future of refugees, but that is very much
part of the discussion that is started by the framework document
that is agreed, and I would imagine over the next period of time,
as the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas, representing
the Palestinians, have the discussions, all these issues are on
the table; and what you had at Annapolis was not a final document
listing all the things that had to be included, but what you had
was a framework agreement where they agreed that they would look
at the issues, particularly the issues that you say are the most
controversial ones and have got to be dealt with.
Q115 Malcolm Bruce: The other issuethe
final pointthat was not addressed is Gaza. In fact the
agreement was between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas.
Conspicuous, of course, and in no way party to it is Hamas, who
runs Gaza. Can you, Prime Minister, give us any indication of
what progress can be made firstly to alleviate the suffering and
the crisis that exists in Gaza and to recognise that, whether
we like it or not, Hamas was electedI do not forgive any
of their actions or what they stand forand that to ignore
them and not engage with any section of Hamas is simply not going
to be a way to achieve real peace which has a united Palestine
negotiating with a United Israel and an international community
that can actually produce a solution that will genuinely see the
creation of two viable states?
Mr Brown: I am not going to announce
a change in our policy relating to Hamas. What I can, however,
say is that we set aside $500 million for specific aid for the
Palestinian areas, subject to reaching an agreement about security.
So we are prepared to provide substantial sums of money to help
the Palestinian people; we have actually made the sums of money
that we can provide immediately known and DFID has made announcements
to that effect. We believe we could encourage other countries
to do exactly the same, and substantial funds could be made available
for the Palestinians, and that, I think, will be a matter for
discussion at the Donors Conference and, then, as I say, I do
not want just to provide aid for the Palestinian people, I want
to help provide an economic framework by which the economy of
that area can develop and get new investment and infrastructure
for the future, and that would also be the next stage if we could
solve some of the security problems. That is what I think the
challenge is over the next few weeks and months.
Q116 Malcolm Bruce: I agree with
you, Prime Minister. I just hope we can see those things being
talked about rather than left outside the room.
Mr Brown: Thank you very much.
Chairman: I have had two requests to
put individual questions. Rosemary McKenna.
Q117 Rosemary McKenna: Thank you
very much, Chairman. I suppose we can call this our version of
the topical question! Prime Minister, I would suspect that most
of us round this table have at some time in our political career
visited a British Council facility across the world, and so it
was with great dismay yesterday we read or heard of Russia's decision
to expel the British Council from Russia. The Foreign Secretary
has today given a written ministerial statement saying that we
are urging the Russian authorities to reconsider; at the same
time we are working closely with the British Council to ensure
the welfare of their staffabsolutely crucial. Could you
speculate what hope there is for us being able to achieve this,
because the British Council is a force for good throughout the
world? What actions can we take if the Russians do not respond
to our request?
Mr Brown: This is totally unacceptable
action that has been taken or is being mooted by the Russian Government.
The British Council does a tremendous job, both in Russia and
in every part of the world. The British Council deserves to be
supported in its activities. I think the Foreign Secretary has
said that there are only two other countries in which this treatment
has been meted out against British Council staff, and that is
Iran and Burma.8 I think it is very important to recognise that
the British Council is doing valuable work in Russia that is actually
recognised to be so by the Russian people; so we wish this action
to be desisted from immediately. We are making our views known
to the Russian government on that part. We want good relationships
with Russia and with the administration there, but that must be
dependent upon the Russians dealing with the problems as they
arise, and one of them is that they should not be
8 See letter from the Parliamentary Clerk at
10 Downing Street and a copy of a letter from the Foreign Secretary
to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee
putting at risk the welfare of the British Council
staff or removing the facilities that it offers to the people
Q118 Sir Patrick Cormack: Prime Minister,
in many of your statements and speeches over the years, you have
made it very clear, explicitly or implicitly, that you believe
in job satisfaction. You now occupy a job which you have aspired
to for many years. This morning it has been quite clear to me
that you are taking the job seriously and acting very diligently,
but are you enjoying it?
Mr Brown: I was saying to someone
a few days ago, I was reading the newspapers more but enjoying
them less, repeating what President Kennedy had said in the 1960s.
I think the excitement of the job is that every day there is a
new challenge to deal with. When I started in the summer months
and we had the terrorist incident and then we had the floods,
someone said to me in the Cabinet Office, "At least there
is not foot and mouth", and then suddenly there was foot
and mouth, and then they said, "At least there is not avian
flu", and then there was avian flu. So we have had a series
of challenges to deal with and we will continue to deal with them,
and I think that is really what the business of government is
about. Enjoyment: I am not sure that you could ever say that in
some of the circumstances we have found ourselves in the last
few weeks it has been enjoyable, but it is certainly a challenge.
Q119 Chairman: May I thank you, Prime
Minister. At our very first session of the Liaison Committee with
your predecessors, as I left this room, two ex-friendsjournalistsapproached
me and said, "But there was no blood on the carpet",
and I said to them, "But that is not necessarily what parliamentary
accountability is about. We can have scrutiny; it does not have
to be frenetic." I hope you have found it perhaps valuable
as an exchange, also to understand our worries and our concerns
as we have come to understand your position. We thank you for
your first attendance. As I said at the beginning, we look forward
to many more. I hope I will not be here for many more because
I retire at the next election, so go on as long as you can.
Mr Brown: Thank you, Chairman.
Maybe I should end on a non-partisan note by wishing you all a
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