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Lord Dubs: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said that we in this country have nothing to fear from the enlargement of the EU by 10 extra countries. I agree with him. More than that, however, we have a lot to gain through enlargement; I think the European Union will be better for the accession of these countries, in terms of what they have to bring and the message it gives to the people of Europe that we shall be a stronger Continent when these countries join.
I think that the amendment is unnecessary, however. I am pretty confident that this Governmentor any British governmentand the European Commission would provide the sort of information that the amendment seeks. I should have thought that it is not necessary to have this on the face of the Bill. However, I should like to emphasise one important point. Having visited the Czech Republic and Poland fairly recently and having tried to learn a lot about some of the other accession countries, it is my sense that British business is losing out in those countries. We have a lot of good will as a country, yet the German and Dutch industries, and others, are making the running. We are losing allor manyof the benefits of enlargement, in terms of British companies being able to develop a worthwhile stake of investment in those countries. That is a pity.
Traditionally, there is a lot of good will towards Britain in those countries and a lot of willingness for us to do more business. Indeed, some people in those countries complain that our industry and business is not sufficiently interested in going into those countries. I very much hope that, if the noble Lord's amendment has done nothing else, it has given us the chance to highlight that. If we let that go on, we shall lose out. If the Germans get the lion's share of EU investment in Poland, for example, as they have at the moment, with that will go political influence. We will lose out both economically and in terms of political influence in the EU. I am not sure how much the Government can do to encourage British firms to
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I shall add briefly to the line of thought developed by my noble friend Lord Dubs. We carried out surveys under the European Trade Union Confederation of migration among the accession countries. Of course, I am referring to the accession countries, not to Albania, Russia or Ukraine. We found two interesting variables: first, the level of prosperity in the country and, secondly, the prospects for the future.
As regards the relative levels of prosperity, we found that there was not massive migration, unless the income gradient in a short geographical distance was more than about five to one. When Bratislava, relative to Vienna, which is next door, became more than five to one, very great pressures were put on the labour market. In addition, now that there have been increases in investment, productivity and production in countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, it is remarkable how people in those countries want to stay at home where they were brought up, because they have prospects for the future. The accession countries have those prospects precisely because they have already, ex hypothesi, jumped hurdles in the acquis communautaire to become accession countries.
First, every new country that enters the European Union has only one desire, above all othersto be thought of as a member state like all other member states. That was certainly our case, when we entered it. New member states do not want to be treated in a separate category or patted on the head when they do things well or chided when they do things badly. The systematic organisation of such a categorisation would not contribute to our relationship with those countries, nor would it contribute to making them feel welcome.
Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, there is that dreadful phrase, coined by the Defense Secretary of the United States of America. Without asking for it, those countries were called "New Europe". Frankly, I can think of no title more likely to repel them from us and others than if we insist on referring to them as "New Europe", and expect them therefore to toe a particular line on foreign or economic policy. Along with the noble Lord, I happen
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, of course we all hope that what the noble Lord has just said is how people will feel, and indeed I am sure that they will. I, for one, am hugely encouraged by what is happening in the countries of the next wave that are entering Europe.
Nevertheless, we must be realistic. I should have thought that the Government would have learned one lesson last week, in their decision about asylum seekers. We must be realistic about what is going on and accept that we need to keep an eye on it.
My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford referred to the Roma people. I judge by what I have read in the press that large numbers of Roma people are saying that they want to come into other member states, and that they want to come here. It is very natural that they do. Do we know what the scale might be of that number of people? Of the 5,000 to 13,000 a year that the Government estimate may come from the new member states to this country, is there a proportion allowed for of Roma people? Does that figure include Roma people and, if so, what is the proportionor are they a completely unknown quantity at the moment?
Countries in the future wave, such as Romania and Bulgaria, have a very large number of Roma people. Bulgaria in particular has a high percentage, and it seems likely that they may want to come here. People in this country will want to know about that, and the Government have a responsibility to keep an eye on the situation. I have no picture of what the effect of large numbers will be, but we should know. People will want to hear reports regularly. If the Government do not like the amendment, I hope that they will make a point of regularly reporting to the public who is coming, what they want to do and where they are. Will the Minister say a word about that?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, for explaining his amendment. Like him, the Government take very seriously our obligation to monitor the impact of regulations made under Clause 2 of the Bill. However, the Government cannot accept the amendment, which we believe to be unnecessary and disproportionate.
Of course, arrangements for monitoring need to reflect the strong and credible assumptions on which the Government's policy is based. The evidence that informed our decision to open the labour market next year strongly suggests that free movement will not significantly increase migratory flows into the UK. Research studies suggest that the small net increase predicted for the aftermath of accession will be spread over the first decade after accession. History backs that up. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, recalled that there were nearly three times as many Spaniards working in France when Spain joined the
The labour market in this country already deals with an enormous flow in and out of work, with around 7 million people starting a new job every year. That dynamism means that the labour market can adjust to structural changes much larger than those implied by the regulations that we are discussing. Furthermore, we are in the longest period of sustained economic growth since quarterly records began in 1955. Employment is at record levels, up by over 1.5 million since 1997, and the underlying trend remains upwards. Recent unemployment figures are the best since the 1970s and the number of new vacancies coming up each month remains consistently high. Unemployment as measured by the ILO is less than 1.5 million, which is 5 per cent, while the UK claimant count stands at 929,800, which is 3.1 per cent. Both of those figures are at their lowest since 1975.
Our policy of sound economic management has delivered steady growth in the economy and in employment. Our active labour market policies, by helping jobseekers look for work, ensure that these new job opportunities are open to as wide a range of people as possible.
Moreover, throughout the existing member states of the European Union, demography points to a shortage of labour in very much the way that the noble Lord suggested, because everywhere the working age population is declining in relation to the non-working age populationand particularly the retired population. Birth rates are falling and so far there is no sign of a trend to later retirement, desirable though that may be for some.
In short, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, acknowledged, there is every indication that far from causing problems, we shall need workers from the new member states. We believe that the amendment is unnecessary because the problem simply is not great enough to merit it. We also think it is unnecessary because we believe that the plans in place are robust enough to deal with any changes in the future.
From 1st May next year the Department for Work and Pensions will monitor a range of existing measures of labour market performance in order to gauge whether the regulations have any impact on the United Kingdom labour market. Statistics will be drawn from already available and published data such as the Labour Force Survey, the claimant count, vacancies notified to JobcentrePlus, and so on. This information should give us an overview of the impact of the regulations. The department is currently working on a way to establish the monitoring framework.
In addition to this, the Government will hold informal consultations with key stakeholders such as the CBI, TUC and employers, to supplement the statistical data. We shall involve the regional and devolved authorities. We shall welcome representations initiated by other parties with a direct
In an earlier stage of our proceedings, the Government accepted the recommendation of your Lordships' Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, following correspondence with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. The Government's amendment, which was approved and now appears in the latest print of the Bill, will ensure that all regulations made under Clause 2 of the Bill are subject to resolutions of both Houses. It is the Government's practice, when laying draft regulations, to provide explanatory notes and, where appropriate, a regulatory impact assessment.
I give the House an assurance that, if it became clear as a result of monitoring that safeguards needed to be invoked through amending regulations, the Government would lay out the evidence in the explanatory notes and a regulatory impact assessment. Parliament would then be able to study and debate the evidence when it considered the resolutions on the amending regulations.
The Government's intentions for handling monitoring are proportionate and flexible and accord with the principle of utility. However, the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, fails these tests.
First, the amendment is disproportionate and needlessly bureaucratic. As I argued earlier, there is no evidence to suggest that the risks associated with the Government's policy on free movement are at all serious. They do not justify the regular scrutiny and intense debate that the amendment presupposes. The risks do not justify the cost of formally producing and publishing an annual report and laying it before Parliament. The costs would not simply fall on the UK Government. Many stakeholders within the United Kingdom, including employers, would expect or be expected to make an input into the reports. I am a little surprised that the opposition are trying, through this amendment, to increase the regulatory burden within the UK in that way.
Secondly, the amendment is inflexible and does not satisfy the principle of utility. As I made abundantly clear today and at earlier stages, the Government take seriously the availability of safeguards. I hope your Lordships will recognise that I have made an unambiguous commitment today to let Parliament have the available evidence if, in the Government's view, it becomes necessary to invoke the safeguards. That commitment is more important than the production of an annual glossy report, which I do not believe would lead us very much further.
I am also bound to say that there are drafting problems with the amendment which render it defective. However, I do not want to dwell on those because this is an issue of policy differences between us. I hope that I have gone some way to persuade your Lordships that the amendment is unnecessary.
As regards the point made about the Roma people, all candidates due to join in 2004, as well as Bulgaria and Romania, have fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria for membership of which respect for human rights is an integral part. We recognise that all the candidate countries offer protection under the law to all their citizens but I am bound to say that Her Majesty's Government and the EU are working closely with candidate countries to address some of the problems that exist through legislation and development programmes. We are running a range of programmes using funds from DfID with our EU action plans, Global Opportunities Fund and the Global Conflict Prevention Pool to help accession countries set out their programmes specifically to target Roma communities. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that our embassies in the accession states regularly monitor the situation of the Roma and report back to Her Majesty's Government, allowing us better to focus our actions thereby. The figures that the noble Lord mentioned in moving his amendment are already included in the Roma factors.
My noble friend Lord Dubs made some interesting points. I shall relay those to my colleagues in TPUK and British Trade International. Having been a trade Minister I believe that more work could be done in this area, although we have reached out to the accession countries in a structured way in the past year or so.
I refer to the telling argument here. I fear that an annual monitoring report to Parliament would be viewed with great anxiety by the new member states where the UK Government's policy has been widely applauded, I am happy to say. Of course, all the new member states accept our right to impose safeguards in the circumstances set out in the accession treaty. However, many will assume that the amendment would simply impose a new political condition on the Government's policy. They will fear that its proponents want to give Parliament an annual opportunity for questioning, reviewing or undermining the policy quite apart from the principles and safeguards that underpin it. In short, I fear that it may be seen by someI emphasise "by some", onlyin the accession countries as an additional political hurdle that has to be overcome every year.
I believe that your Lordships' House should give the new member states a clear sign of our confidence in the policy that we have before us and the safeguards already attached to it. It is now time for Parliament to give an unequivocal message of support to the new member states. I hope that the assurances I have given
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