Previous Section Index Home Page

3 Dec 2009 : Column 1304

I turn now to climate change. I said earlier that no economy can pretend that it is a hermetically sealed unit. The same is of course true of our environment and our climate, which is why we believe the ongoing discussions in Copenhagen are so important. Europe has a leading role to play in limiting the damaging effects of dangerous climate change and in leading global action as the world moves to a low-emission, low-carbon economy. The October European Council made important progress on climate finance, agreeing that developing countries are likely to require financial support amounting to about €100 billion per year by 2020 if they are successfully to mitigate, and adapt to, the effects of climate change. It also agreed that between €22 billion and €50 billion of this overall package should come from public finance.

The agreement on climate finance demonstrates the EU's continued leadership as a global actor, but we must keep working together to reach a coherent EU position on the key remaining issues. That includes the demonstration of EU readiness to move to a 30 per cent. emissions reduction target if other developed countries offer comparable commitments at Copenhagen. The December European Council, which meets towards the halfway point of the Copenhagen summit, offers the opportunity for European leaders to react positively should commitments from other developed countries warrant such a reaction. It remains vital that the EU continue to show leadership in achieving an ambitious global deal in Copenhagen. There is political momentum towards such a deal, but it needs continued nurturing and encouragement. Any political agreement must be supported with a clear timetable for delivering a full legal treaty as soon as possible. Slow progress is simply not enough if we are to avoid seeing the shadow of climate change darken all other issues on our agenda.

I had thought that I would have unanimous cross-party support on this issue, but I note that a former shadow Home Secretary has joined the ranks of the Tory deniers, saying that he thinks the science is only 80 per cent. proven. I must say that if I thought there was an 80 per cent. chance of being knocked down when I crossed the road, I would not cross the road. Similarly, the Tory grouping in the European Parliament has broken free: only last week, 18 members of the group, including two Tory MEPs and, most significantly, the hand-picked leader of the group, Michal Kaminski, voted against Tory policy to agree an 80 per cent. cut in emissions by 2050. I see some hang-dog faces on the other side of the House.

The Council will also be invited to adopt a new five-year strategy document, entitled the "Stockholm programme", setting out our high-level priorities in the field of justice and home affairs. Collaboration on justice and home affairs has already delivered major benefits for the citizens of this country. Since the European arrest warrant came into force in 2004, it has allowed the UK to extradite more than 1,000 fugitives to other member states and brought more than 350 wanted criminals to the UK to face justice, including Hussain Osman, one of those involved in the attempted attacks in London on 21 July 2005. I simply cannot understand why the Conservative party refuses to support the European arrest warrant.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): How can this country continue to allow into Britain illegal immigrants who make their way into the EU, across the EU and
3 Dec 2009 : Column 1305
then across the channel? What is the Minister doing with our European colleagues to stop these people on mainland Europe?

Chris Bryant: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that we have to work closely with our European allies to address this issue of immigration. However, I must point out that it is his party that wants complete segregation, with us acting wholly independently-the Conservatives want us hardly even to speak to our European allies-on these issues. I suggest to him, in the gentlest of ways, that if he were to revise his policy he might have a more effective way of dealing with migration issues.

Keith Vaz: I know that the Minister is trying to be gentle with the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone), but he does have a point. I went to visit the "jungle" camp in Calais before the French decided to break it up, and a lot of people there had travelled right across Europe to seek to get admission to the UK. I know that our Immigration Minister has worked with the French Immigration Minister, but only through closer co-operation with our European partners will we be able to get them to fulfil their responsibility on immigration, so that people do not go thousands of miles, sometimes paying people traffickers huge sums, just to get right to the end of the continent.

Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that co-operation is the key to this. We need to ensure that the whole of the European Union is working in concert. That is why we believe it is right to adopt not an ideological position on these elements, but an entirely pragmatic one, whereby we will opt in to justice and home affairs issues where it is in British interests to do so, and where that is not in our interests, we will leave the issue to one side. My argument against the Conservatives, which I believe my right hon. Friend shares, is that they sometimes adopt too ideological a position on these elements.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): The Minister told the House a few minutes ago that the European arrest warrant has helped British crimefighters to extradite more than 350 criminals from European member state countries back to the UK. He needs to tell the House a little more about the sorts of people who are subject to the European arrest warrant, and can thus be brought to justice, because they are not minor criminals; they are extremely serious criminals-murderers, rapists, paedophiles and sex offenders. Those are the sorts of serious criminals that the European arrest warrant enables this country to bring to justice, and the warrant has enabled this country to close down the costa del crime in Spain, so why on earth do the Conservatives want to pull out of that arrangement?

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman makes a fine point effectively. I have often tried to understand the Conservative position on this issue and failed; it seems to be another instance of dogma triumphing over practical solutions to the problems that we face.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): It is important for Britain to co-operate far more closely with our neighbours in the European Union. Boiler room fraud,
3 Dec 2009 : Column 1306
which prevails in Spain, basically involves fraudulently obtaining money from British investors to invest in shares that either are worthless or do not exist. Does the Minister know why the British police and the Spanish police cannot co-operate more closely on such matters to close down those fraudulent groups and bring them to justice?

Chris Bryant: I wholeheartedly agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I am glad that he shares the Government's policy on Europe and on how we should proceed on these issues. He is right to say that when British businesses and British citizens do business abroad they should have the same access to justice and a fair deal as citizens of the other member states in Europe. That is the whole point of the internal market, and it is why we strive to maintain it, whereas, sadly, his party wants to dismantle elements of it.

Mr. Davey: Given the interventions from the Conservative Benches, I should point out that the Conservatives in the European Parliament-and often the Conservatives in this place-have opposed measures such as Europol, the European arrest warrant and Eurojust, and other aspects of co-operation to tackle these serious criminals and the sorts of issues that Conservative Members have raised in their interventions. How can they raise those issues and then vote against all the measures that enable that co-operation to take place?

Chris Bryant: Well, as I say, sometimes the Conservative party's policy on Europe is unfathom-unspeakable.

Mr. Evans: Unpronounceable.

Chris Bryant: It is unpronounceable, unspeakable and unfathomable-but let me move on.

The Government believe that the Stockholm programme is an opportunity to build on successes in Europe, which is why we have been heavily engaged in the negotiations on the text from the very start. On child protection, the programme proposes the establishment of a network to tackle child abduction and arrangements to prevent people who are disqualified from working with children in one state from doing so in another. I am sure that all hon. Members would want to support that. On organised crime, the programme calls for an EU strategy, and the intention is to use the UK's organised crime strategy as the blueprint. In short, we believe this is a programme that the Prime Minister will be happy to adopt next week, because it will clearly further British interests in this field. It shows what we can achieve when we are at the heart of the EU, shaping the agenda according to our interests and values.

On enlargement, I think that most hon. Members will agree that Turkish membership of the EU is of strategic importance to the UK. The prospect of membership will help Turkey strengthen and modernise its democracy and economy, adding to the security and prosperity of the whole region. It offers us the opportunity to secure energy corridors and increase trade links with what we believe will be one of the world's top 10 economies.

Kelvin Hopkins: On the subject of Turkey, it has been suggested that one of the reasons why the Germans and the French were so keen to see President Van Rompuy
3 Dec 2009 : Column 1307
appointed was that he was deeply hostile to the entry of Turkey into the European Union and made a speech on those lines not so long ago. That, I understand, has upset the Turks. Would my hon. Friend care to comment on it?

Chris Bryant: The new President of the European Council has made it absolutely clear that he is not there to determine the policy of the Council but to enable it to function. We are strong supporters of Turkey, and he has indicated that he has no intention of using his position to block Turkish accession. I personally think that it would be bizarre if, after so many years of offering the prospect of membership of the European Union to Turkey if it changes many of its institutions to make them more democratic-if it abolishes the death penalty and so on-we were suddenly to slam the door in its face this December. I am very confident that that will not happen.

Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I thank the Minister for giving way, and I share his support for Turkey's accession. Does that not bring into sharp focus the issue of Cyprus? The Minister will know how important the next four months are for Cyprus in terms of reaching a settlement and becoming a reunited European member state, based on the UN framework. The Prime Minister is meeting Mr. Talat tomorrow, but what discussions are taking place with the Turkish Government, given their key influence in terms of solving the Cyprus problem?

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I was asked questions about this issue on Tuesday, and I know that he has taken a long-term interest in it. I have had discussions with my counterpart, the Foreign Secretary has visited Ankara and the Prime Minister has spoken to Mr. Erdogan, and we have underlined at every stage our long-term commitment to Turkey's membership of the European Union, and also the need for Turkey to abide by the commitments that it made when it voluntarily signed the Ankara protocol. We believe that they were not tied to any other issue, and that they need to be adhered to to open the ports. That will be an important step in moving towards a resolution of the situation in Cyprus.

I have also met Mr. Christofias, as have several other Members of the House. I think that the hon. Member for Rayleigh, too, has visited Cyprus. We all think that this is a key moment in the history of Cyprus. Two leaders have staked their careers on achieving an outcome. I know that some people get depressed and some of the media get a bit angry because they think that the talks are happening in private and in secret, but sometimes talks of this nature, which are very sensitive, grow-a bit like mushrooms-best in the dark.

Mr. Goodwill: Does the Minister share my disquiet at the fact that some prominent members from Germany of the Group of the European People's Party have been critical of Turkey's accession? That is yet another good reason, I suspect, why the Conservatives are better off out of the EPP.

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman will probably have to look at the views of every member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group on Turkish accession.
3 Dec 2009 : Column 1308
We know that there are difficulties with Turkey's accession. It will have to go through many different chapters before it can accede to the EU. We believe that, for strategic reasons, having a secular Muslim country in the EU would be good for our strategic interests and for diversifying energy routes and ensuring our energy security. Most significantly, I know that there are those who are frightened of Turkey because of migration issues, but I suspect that Turkey will be the Asian tiger on our doorstep. If we do not have Turkey in the EU-not facing west, but facing east-that will be a big mistake for us all.

Kelvin Hopkins: Will my hon. Friend not accept that there has been a slight cooling of enthusiasm for enlargement in relation to Croatia, too? Fairly stringent conditions will be set out for Croatia to join, to ensure that it adheres to normal European standards. Has that not been influenced by the rush to embrace Bulgaria, where a degree of corruption and crime has caused worry in the EU?

Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend is right to imply that it is inappropriate to set an arbitrary timetable that then has to be met, come what may. It is important to have a process that is adhered to, so that each of the chapters is gone through on the path towards accession. That is far more sensible. I think that there is a song in "Guys and Dolls", which says something along the lines of, "Marry the man today, and change him later". We cannot do that in the EU. We have to ensure that the changes are made first, so that people come forward before the moment of accession with an economy, a legal system and all the chapters of the acquis completed properly. Countries need to do that before they accede.

Keith Vaz: Will the Minister give way?

Chris Bryant: I am reluctant to give way much more, but my right hon. Friend is very charming.

Keith Vaz: I am most grateful; the Minister has been generous to all Members in giving way today. Is not the point about new countries coming in that they need to be properly mentored? One of the issues with the big enlargement, which brought in Poland and the other eastern European countries, was that there were close relationships, such as that between Britain and Poland. One way over the system is to ensure that there is appropriate mentoring of new applicants by other countries.

Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. In some areas of some of the countries that we are talking about, there is a simple lack of capacity. In some instances, Britain has been able to provide some of that support through our technical expertise. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy has often been helpful and a range of different civic organisations across Europe have been able to play a significant role in bringing countries towards compliance. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) wish to intervene, or is he fatigued?

Kelvin Hopkins indicated dissent.

Chris Bryant: Good, he is fatigued.

3 Dec 2009 : Column 1309

Croatia has continued to make progress in her accession negotiations. We look forward to welcoming Croatia into the EU once she has met the conditions necessary for membership. We also welcome and support the Commission's assessment that Macedonia is technically ready to open negotiations. We expect to be able to open negotiations with Iceland, too, soon.

Under the external relations agenda item, the December European Council will discuss the situation in Iran. It is becoming increasingly evident that Iran has no intention of meaningful engagement with the outside world on its nuclear programme at present. Iran has failed to follow through on much of what it agreed to at the meeting with the E3 plus 3 in Geneva in October. It has been censured by the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and only last week Iran said that it was planning to expand its enrichment programme further. As a result, the time has come to consider what further measures may be needed to persuade Iran to enter into meaningful negotiations on that issue, the result of which must be Iranian compliance with the requirements both of the IAEA and of the five UN Security Council resolutions on this subject. The Council will also consider the human rights situation in Iran, including the crackdown, convictions and detentions following the disputed elections, and the continuing high rate of executions.

Mr. Davey: The Minister is making a very important point. Is he saying that the British Government will push the EU to push for sanctions at the UN?

Chris Bryant: We have to have a further round of talks next week. That is obviously one of the things that we have to consider. The situation in Iran seemingly gets worse day by day and week by week, and Iran has to comply with UN Security Council resolutions. We are clear about that. As a Back Bencher, I frequently brought up some of the human rights issues in Iran, too. They are sometimes forgotten in the wider debate, but none the less they are very significant. The UK will be pushing for the Council to send a strong message that Iran must take swift action to comply with its legal obligations both on its nuclear programme and on human rights.

I said earlier that Europe needs to focus far more clearly on the concerns of her citizens. That is, of course, precisely why I believe that it would be wrong to contemplate another round of treaty making in Brussels. Sadly, the Conservative leader does not agree. Two years ago he issued his clarion call, boldly announcing his "cast-iron guarantee" that he would put whatever treaty came out of the negotiations to a referendum, and putting his own signature to his article in The Sun. Well, we now know that he signs his cheques in invisible ink.

Mr. Harper: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Bone: Will the Minister give way?

Dr. Murrison: Will the Minister give way?

Chris Bryant: It's the three musketeers. I shall take the interventions in the order in which the hon. Gentlemen are sitting.

Next Section Index Home Page