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Lord Triesman: My Lords, over the various stages of the Bill there have been excellent debates in your Lordships' Chamber. Everyone is familiar with the terms of the Bill, but this is a moment at which to acknowledge and welcome the cross-party support that there has been at all the vital stages for the principle of European Union enlargement and accession. The noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Dykes, have made that point. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, used the word "historic", and I completely concur with him. This is such a moment.
Enlargement of the European Union is, of course, a policy that has made an enormous contribution to stability and prosperity across the whole continent. I am glad to say that it is an issue on which parties and the House have been consistently united. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is absolutely true. A large number of people have come to this country, bringing with them abilities and skills. They have been welcomed by this country in a way that demonstrates its civility and its ability to welcome people, to absorb them and to give them a place within our social order. Alongside that, more economic activity and prosperity have been created, all of which is a great reflection on what we, as a nation, are capable of and for which we sometimes do not give ourselves credit, much less receive it from others.
The ratification of the accession treaty for Bulgaria and Romania is only one aspect of the process. The real achievement has been the largely successful
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reforms of the political, judicial and economic structures of the two countries. I pay tribute to the remarkable work of both governments and both peoples. As has been said, that is of the greatest importance for those countries.
However, they are not there yet. The point has been made that there may be delay. There certainly needs to be the closest possible reporting and it is right that Parliament should hear those reports. I completely agree and confirm the proposition made by noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Biffen. Indeed, the European Commission's autumn monitoring reports found some worrying areas of concern, not least in the areas of corruption, organised crime, environmental pollution and the ability of both countries to absorb EU funding streams. I look forward to the next reportI believe it will be on timeto see whether we are making real progress. However, we are of the view that there is plenty of time in this process for Bulgaria and Romania to address the areas of most serious concern identified by the Commission and consequently to take their rightful place within the European Union on 1 January 2007. I am optimistic about that.
What would it mean for us? An enlarged EU is an EU better able to meet the challenges we now face. As your Lordships are aware, there is regional instability in our neighbourhood and on our borders. It is because we face these new collective challenges that we need and value Bulgaria and Romania as European partners. I will not go into detailI am sure nobody would want me to do sobut counter-terrorism, the combating of organised crime, the provision of military support and the development of prosperous communities are all areas where the benefits of this enlargement will become clear. They will become even clearer if parliamentarians are indeed able to visit each other's countries and share in each other's understandings. I am certainly willing to say to the noble Lord, Lord Biffen, that I will do all I can to facilitate parliamentary visits in both directions, to ensure that that kind of discussion takes place.
I conclude by returning to the point I made at the outset: EU enlargement has always had the support of all parties across this House. This consensus has enabled the United Kingdom to play a leading role in driving forward a policy that is fundamentally in our interests, the interests of our EU partners and the interests of these two accession states. I am glad, once again, that the House has come together to send such a clear message in support of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union. Of course, we have to make sure that they are ready for membership, and we will do so, but today I believe that we can be optimistic that two important partners will soon become members of the enlarged, outward-looking Europe, seeking to meet the challenges of the coming decades.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, before I move Amendment No. 1, I wonder if your noble Lordships would indulge me for a moment in remembering Lord Chan? Others are far better placed than I to talk of his incredible role in health, race relations and academic life. In the context of this Bill, I am reminded by his absence of his support and advocacy, at Second Reading, of the Chinese community in particular. He set out compelling arguments in support of the Chinese food industry; he reminded us of the need to continue welcoming the large number of Chinese students who come to the United Kingdom; and he reminded us of the amazing academic attainment of those members of the Chinese community who stay in the United Kingdom, and contribute so fully to our economic life.
I committed to Lord Chan that I would meet representatives of the Chinese community and I have fulfilled that undertaking with two meetings thus far and a commitment to further meetings with them. In doing so, I seek to address their concerns, to reassure them about the focus and direction of government policy, and to listen carefully to the issues raised. Lord Chan will be sorely missed. In honouring my commitment to him, I also seek to honour his memory.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I am sure the whole House will appreciate that the Minister took this opportunity to pay a very generous tribute to the late Lord Chan, whose last contribution in the House was his remarkable speech on the Second Reading of this Bill on 6 December 2005. We are glad that the noble Baroness has informed us today of her important meetings with the Chinese community, following up the questions raised by Lord Chan in that debate. As my noble friend has pointed out, his intimate knowledge of the Chinese community brought a unique and invaluable experience and, on that occasion, a clear explanation of some of that community's anxieties about aspects of this Billanxieties which we all hope can be relieved. That link was, of course, far from being his only contribution to this House, but it is one we can salute here and, indeed, one which can, we hope, continue in some way as part of his legacy.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I shall support Amendment No. 1 when it is moved, but like the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, I have looked back at the Second Reading debate on 6 December, and in particular at the speech of Lord Chan, to which reference has been made. In his modest but forceful way, Lord Chanwhose recent and sudden death we all, in particular his friends among the Cross Benchers,
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so greatly regretraised points of importance to the Chinese community on appeals and the removal of settlement rights under the five tier points system.
For me, it is a matter of great satisfaction that the Minister has recognised the importance of the points raised by Lord Chan, continued the contacts with the Chinese community and is willing to see whether solutions can be found. There is therefore a welcome continuity, despite the sad death of our colleague, Lord Chan.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, Lord Chan brought welcome expertise to this House. He spoke modestly, with commonsense and compassion. I shall certainly miss him. I also welcome the fact that his representations on behalf of the Chinese community have been so extensively and properly taken up by the Government.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, on behalf of those on these Benches, I pay tribute to Lord Chan. I had known Lord Chan for more than 20 years, since his appointment to the Commission for Racial Equality and through his continued membership of a number of other public bodies. He was the first people's Peer to be appointed to the House of Lords. As a member of that commission, I am delighted that our judgment was proved right in his particular case.
Human rights, race relations and issues related to his personal profession of medicine were close to Lord Chan's heart. In an unassuming way, he reflected those issues in your Lordships' Chamber. More interestingly, by his contribution to the Second Reading of this immigration Bill, he was able to highlight issues affecting the Chinese community. He was at the forefront of such issues and we recollect his contribution to our debates on the tragedy of the Morecombe Bay cockle pickers. To an extent, he activated the Chinese community, which was reflected in a number of meetings we all had.
I attended a Chinese New Year function last night at which I met a Chinese representative. I was told that they all miss him. One thing that came out clearly was appreciation of the Minister's indication of how she will take the issues forward. We are all grateful for that.
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