Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 68)



Lord Tomlinson

  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 committee.

  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.

Lord Tomlinson

  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 negotiations operated.

Baroness O'Cathain

  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 by this.

Baroness O'Cathain

  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 weeks really.

  (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.

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