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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that I am in order in responding to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie. The amendment is in my name and, although my noble friend Lady Ramsay moved it, I believe that I am in order in responding to it. Therefore, I do not even have to pretend to say, "Before the noble and learned Lord sits down".

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his response to my letter. I quite understand how difficult

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it would have been for him to respond formally with further amendments, even if he had wanted to do that. He is right to say that paragraph 23 of my letter to him, a copy of which is in the Library of the House and therefore available to all noble Lords, contains, after a number of very detailed descriptions of the ways in which this Bill will cohere with the Scotland Bill, a catch-all. It says that there are provisions in the Scotland Bill to,


    "enable functions of Ministers of the Crown to be transferred to the Executive, or for functions to be exercised with the consent of or subject to consultation with the Executive, where appropriate ... avoiding laborious amendments to existing legislation".

That really is a matter for debate on the Scotland Bill rather than on this Bill.

However, I make two points now. First, what is proposed and what I refer to in my letter is in one direction only: it is for powers to be transferred to the executive rather than for powers from the Scotland Bill to be re-transferred back to Westminster.

The second point that I am glad to make clear is one to which I referred in my response to Amendment No. 7 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. We have made very serous efforts to ensure coherence between the National Lottery Bill and the Scotland Bill. Those efforts have involved not only this department but also the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office. We believe that we have achieved a very high degree of coherence. The noble and learned Lord will probably find that the provisions referred to in paragraph 23 of my letter are minimal in practice.

However, the noble and learned Lord is quite right to draw the attention of the House to the importance of achieving coherence. I am grateful to him for acknowledging that we have sought very hard to achieve coherence in this case. I do not believe that we are alone in that respect. Indeed, I believe that that is the case in most legislation that is going through Parliament. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is here. He made a gallant attempt to see whether there might be any possible conflict between the Bank of England Bill and devolution. I am sure he will acknowledge that he failed to find any problems to which attention could properly be drawn.

Therefore, I express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord. I shall certainly be pleased to meet him. As a result of what comes out of this and out of the initiative that he has taken, I hope that we will achieve a very high degree of conformity between devolution legislation and the remainder of legislation going through Parliament.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 [Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 23:


Page 22, line 31, after first ("to") insert (" 7, (Manner of distribution) to").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Uzbekistan) Order 1997

European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and Georgia) Order 1997

European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Azerbaijan) Order 1997

European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Slovenia) Order 1997

European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Armenia) Order 1997

6.42 p.m.

Lord Whitty rose to move, That the draft orders laid before the House on 18th November 1997 be approved [14th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, and for your Lordships' convenience, I should like to move the four orders relating to partnership and co-operation agreements and the order relating to the European Agreement with Slovenia together.

All these agreements in EU terms are mixed competence agreements; in other words, some of their provisions fall within Community competence and others fall within the competence of member states. So they need ratification by all EU member states and the assent of the European Parliament before they can enter into force. In the case of the United Kingdom, the draft orders need to be approved by both Houses so that we may ratify the agreements. The House of Commons approved the orders on 22nd January.

The orders reflect much that has happened since 1989, when the fall of Communism led to the historic opportunity to reunite the whole family of Europe and

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to establish democracy in the states previously behind the Iron Curtain. The EU has been pursuing new relationships with those countries and the UK has been one of the strongest supporters of democratisation and economic reform in those countries, especially, for example, through our know-how fund which is a valuable contribution to the transition process. We have also provided aid within the European Union, principally through the support of the PHARE and TACIS programmes. UK ratification of these agreements will signal the importance we attach to relations between the EU and those countries and our commitment to support further political and economic development.

In particular, the European Agreement with Slovenia is inextricably bound up with the enlargement process as a whole. As your Lordships will know, Slovenia is one of the front-runners on track towards membership of the EU. As has often been said in this House, enlargement is one of the greatest challenges ever for the Union; but it also presents some of the greatest opportunities. We are convinced that those of us in the existing European Union will rise to that challenge. The UK presidency has made it a priority to get enlargement off to a flying start. That means fully implementing the remit of the Luxembourg summit, which we are starting this very week by holding a European conference on Thursday 12th March. We shall then move on to obtaining agreement on the accession partnerships and launching the accession process on 30th March and the accession negotiations, with the six front-runners, on 31st March.

The Europe agreements are vital to that process. Through this agreement with Slovenia the EU and its member states will build a closer relationship with that country, increasing trade and economic co-operation, engaging in political dialogue and opening up co-operation across the whole range of European Union business.

So far as concerns the partnership and co-operation agreements with Uzbekistan and the three republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, unlike Europe agreements they do not hold out the prospect of EU membership; rather they are designed to develop a relationship based on mutual co-operation between the EU and those countries to reinforce security and spread prosperity across Europe and central Asia. Those agreements establish the ground rules for co-operation across a range of trade and investment-related issues to provide a more stable climate for those economies and European businesses. Promoting more open trade and helping our businesses to explore new markets are key UK objectives which the PCAs will help us to achieve.

Some of the ways in which the agreements will help Slovenia will also help Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Uzbekistan in a different context, both in terms of their economic reforms and their democratisation. Those agreements cover developing political relations and they establish a forum for closer political relations through a regular dialogue at ministerial, parliamentary and official level.

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Those agreements also cover trade and investment. The most practical way to ensure economic development is to open our markets to their goods. These agreements contain important provisions to facilitate this and, in turn, will help promote economic development and provide new commercial and investment opportunities to UK and other EU firms operating in those countries. They also cover economic and sectoral co-operation, including a wide range of sectors from education and agriculture to nuclear safety and consumer protection. Further, the agreements cover financial co-operation. For example, the EU's PHARE and TACIS programmes have for some years provided technical assistance to help develop the political and economic structures of the central and eastern European countries. That help will continue under the agreements.

For Slovenia, the Europe Agreement will help speed up the process of integration. The agreement will help Slovenia bring its legislation closer to existing EC standards. As regards Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the partnership and co-operation agreements are explicitly based not only on economic development but also on respect for the development of democratic principles and human rights. If one of the parties fails to meet its obligations under the agreement, the EU can take appropriate action, including the suspension of the PCA, if necessary.

In the case of Slovenia, as with the nine central European countries whose Europe agreements are already in force, we look forward to building through the Europe agreement a path for Slovenia to full and active membership of the European Union. Equally, the partnership and co-operation agreements will assist Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in their progress towards economic prosperity and political and democratic development. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 18th November 1997 be approved [14th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Whitty.)


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