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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, while I thank the Minister for that helpful reply and for her helpful letter to me recently on this subject, is not encouraging immigration one of the ways of combating such an enormous amount of emigration? When there is an island community, no matter how worthy in itself—and worthily called "Saint"—would it not be a good idea to inject some entrepreneurship from outside? Would the Government consider reversing the decision that they made when the dependency was granted independence and give the islanders reciprocal citizenship rights with Britain?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I remember being the Minister with responsibility for the overseas territories when we were discussing their rights in relation to citizenship. One of the issues that was put forward again and again was the concern of the overseas territories that there should not be reciprocity of immigration into those territories. Their fear was that, although they wanted to have rights of abode in this country, granting reciprocal rights of abode would simply mean that many overseas territories would be flooded with immigrants from this country. There is a real problem about saying, "Well that's what we said then, but we feel differently now".

It is important to note that the drop in the population has been from about 5,500 to approximately 4,000. Most of the emigration has been by offshore workers who are still remitting relatively large sums of money back to St Helena, with the intention of returning there in due course. Many of them are putting money back into St Helena, building houses and building up businesses for the future. Of course there is an issue and that is why those five areas
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of analysis, review and consideration of what can be done have been undertaken by Her Majesty's Government.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, has the noble Baroness not been made aware that the Government have turned down all four proposals for air access put forward in response to the Government's 2003 invitation? How on earth can population decline be arrested unless there is air access to the island?

Is the noble Baroness aware that one of the applications was turned down on the basis that the runway proposed was too short? Is she also aware that, if the runway was longer, that could affect the viability of associated developments and that the CAA has said that the runway is long enough? Why on earth, when the 2003 invitation document referred to the development of air access being part-funded by associated developments, are the Government now saying that they have turned their back entirely on such developments?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course I am aware that the four proposals were turned down. I am also aware that the Government's reason for turning them down was that none of the proposals put forward by the four respondents was satisfactory.

However, that is not the end of the story. The Government made the position very clear in their parliamentary Written Statement of 19 April. A new feasibility study has been commissioned and the results should be available to your Lordships by November this year. The study will look at various options, such as the procurement options and likely tourist demand, and will investigate the environmental and social impact of future access arrangements. Therefore, the fact that the first four proposals simply were not suitable does not mean that the Government have turned their back on the question of air access. It is being considered and a report will be issued later this year.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, further to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Waddington about air access, are the Government prepared to make a funding contribution to any of the schemes when they are agreed? Since we and this brave island helped to save the rest of Europe from Bonaparte, would there not be a reasonable case for asking the rest of the EU to stump up as well?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is a terrifically ingenious idea. I like it, but I am bound to say that I do not think that it will be successful. None the less, it would be a good one for us to toy with.

Investigations to date have centred on the potential for the development of air access to St Helena at a capital cost not exceeding £26.3 million. Had it proved possible to reach agreement with a private sector partner to achieve that without unacceptable risks to St Helena, we would have been able to accept one of the proposals already put forward. I believe that we must let this work go ahead. It is not only a question
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of air access; my colleagues are also considering the question of sea access to the island. Your Lordships will know that many questions have been raised about that as well. I think that we have to consider the questions of access in the round—that is, how do people and cargo get in—and I hope that the results of the study will be available for your Lordships to consider in November.

Lord Avebury: My Lords—

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords—

Lord Grocott: My Lords, we are into the 17th minute and my noble friend is to answer the next Question as well. I think that she is working overtime and that we should move on.

European Union: Croatian Accession

The Earl of Dundee asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, following the European Commission's recent opinion on Croatia's EU application and the positive assessment of Croatian co-operation by the ICTY Chief Prosecutor, Croatia should be declared a candidate for EU membership. EU heads of state and government will consider the timing of opening accession negotiations at the European Council. The UK agrees with the ICTY and the Commission that Croatia must continue to make progress on judicial reform, minority rights and arresting the fugitive indictee, Gotovina, as part of its preparations for membership.

The Earl of Dundee: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, if the European Council approves the proposal, it must then clearly indicate when accession negotiations should begin? Does she agree that the setting of a date for this early in 2005 will, in itself, encourage progress and efficiency both within Croatia, which carries out further reforms, and within the European Union, which monitors that process?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I said, the June European Council will decide whether Croatia should be granted candidate status. I have indicated where Her Majesty's Government's views lie on that. That may also be the time to decide on the date on which to open the accession negotiations. However, it is difficult to pre-judge that question. It is a matter for Council discussion. I suggest to your Lordships
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that the issue is likely to be fairly heavily debated, and let us hope that some decision is forthcoming as a result of that discussion.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I acknowledge that it is right that the Government should be satisfied that the preconditions for membership are attainable before the negotiations on Croatian access are started. However, does the Minister agree that the setting of a date for such negotiations might assist the process of seeking to meet those conditions within Croatia? Are the Government, in principle, in favour of setting a date?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government are in favour of giving maximum clarity to the position of Croatia. Your Lordships can see that I am hesitant about the question of setting a firm date. As I stressed in my opening Answer, in our view it is important that the Croatian Government maintain and build on the levels of co-operation that we have seen. As your Lordships will know—we have been very frank on the matter—our concerns remain in relation to Croatia's co-operation with the ICTY. Of course, we are glad that the Chief Prosecutor is now satisfied with the level of co-operation, but the issue of the arrest and detention of Mr Gotovina is still not resolved. We believe that it would send a very strong and positive message to the European Council if he were arrested before the June Council meeting.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that not only Croatia is in the waiting room, as it were, for 2007 accession talks and entry into the European Union but also Bulgaria and Romania? Is she aware that we on this side would strongly favour the fixing of a date, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, for the accession talks to begin, provided that conditions are met in relation to both Croatia and, in particular, Bulgaria? A few more queries possibly remain to be resolved in relation to Romania before talks on that country can go ahead as well.

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