Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 14 DECEMBER 1999
VAZ MP, MR
60. It keeps them off the streets!
(Mr Vaz) My Lord, I can assure you that officials
in Brussels could not compare to the quality of the talent of
the people who are going to sit on the Charter of Rights drafting
Chairman: Watch this space!
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
61. You say you have been on a roadshow and
you have been hearing the criticisms of the ordinary citizen,
but what actually will you do with this when you have got it?
(Mr Vaz) We hope that it will be produced in simple
language and it will be widely circulated amongst the citizens.
62. So they will each get a copy, will they?
(Mr Vaz) I will make sure you all get a copy of it.
Chairman: Time is definitely running out and
there is just one other issue which we ought to touch on and that
is Lord Tomlinson wants to say a word about the WTO.
63. The Council is recorded at paragraph 70
as regretting the failure of the WTO Ministerial Conference in
Seattle. Where does the Government see us going from there?
(Mr Vaz) Well, I think that we need to recognise that
it was a disappointment and I hope very much that we can move
forward. We have had a number of discussions. I yesterday met
one of the senators from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the
US Senate who had an interest in trade matters and I expressed
my disappointment that progress had not been made. I think we
need to move forward with a clear agenda and try and get the whole
process moving again. It was a great disappointment and the Union
was prepared to play a very full part in the way in which the
64. As a final question, what about clearing
the Danube because that actually is going to be a real problem,
is it not, environmentally, economically, socially, healthwise,
all these other aspects, if things go badly, as some of the Germans
seem to think it will?
(Mr Vaz) Well, obviously we want to see the Danube
cleared and the person who is preventing this from happening more
than anybody else is Milosevic.
65. But he is adamant, is he not, Minister?
(Mr Vaz) He is adamant and that is what happens when
you embroil yourself with dictators and the only way to deal with
them is to be equally as firm and as forthright. Lady O'Cathain
is absolutely right. When I went off to Hungary and Poland, in
particular in Hungary there was a lot of concern about the effect
it was having on them and we must be conscious of the fact that
this continues because of the problems that Milosevic has created.
Otherwise, we want this cleared as quickly as possible.
Chairman: But it is because the cost is not
being borne by him and this is the point surely, Minister. I was
in Slovakia earlier and they have got, I think, five ships which
have been built there in their ship yards which cannot be floated
down the Danube and their economy is being very seriously hit
66. And there is another point, which is the
humanitarian issue. The reality of this is that once the thaw
comes, what about the floods, what about all the people? It will
be a huge national disaster if this is allowed to continue unless
something is done about it and done about it within the next few
(Mr Vaz) Well, Lady O'Cathain is right
to be concerned and the Committee is right to be concerned. I
can assure her that we are keeping the whole situation under review,
but the key is Milosevic. Milosevic has prevented progress being
made and he needs to move and we will try to move him in any way
that we can. Can I just say one thing finally which is that I
know that the issue of beef has not been raised, but the Committee
may like to know that at four o'clock today the Commission has
issued its opinion and it will give France a five-day deadline
to respond to the reasoned opinion that it has put forward. We
welcome the decision of the Commission and we hope that continued
progress is going to be made in an effort to get France to comply
with the law. Thank you very much for having me.
67. I thank you again for coming here. I think
it has been a very useful session with a certain amount of spirit
and humour in it. I just wonder if Mr Izzard will turn up with
you on one of these occasions!
(Mr Vaz) We will bring him next time, my Lord!
68. I am sure he would be welcome, but thank
you and to the people with you. We will see you again after the
next Council, if not before.
(Mr Vaz) Thank you very much and may I wish you all
a happy Christmas.