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Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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The Secretary of State was asked—

Amsterdam Treaty

1.

If he will make a statement on those provisions of the Amsterdam treaty title on immigration, asylum and visas that allow the United Kingdom to opt in subject to national veto. [15988]

The United Kingdom will have the right, under the Amsterdam treaty, to take part in the adoption and application of measures proposed under new title IIIa to be inserted into the European Community treaty. UK participation in measures on immigration, asylum and visas which form part of the existing third pillar acquis is an absolute right and not subject to challenge. In the case of the present Schengen acquis, to none of which the UK is a party, the unanimous agreement of the other states is required, but that is qualified by the Council declaration that the decision shall be taken on the basis of an opinion by the European Commission, and that every country shall use its "best efforts" to enable the UK to participate.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept responsibility for the late-night blunder during the negotiation of this title of the treaty, which led the Prime Minister inadvertently to mislead the House on 18 June this year, when he said that, if Britain decided to enter into those parts of the treaty, no other country could block us?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely correct in what he said to the House. Article 3 of the UK-Irish protocol says:

"The United Kingdom or Ireland may notify the President of the Council in writing… that it wishes to take part in the adoption and application of any such proposed measure, whereupon that State shall be entitled to do so."
What the Prime Minister said to the House is accurately reflected in that protocol.

Why did Her Majesty's Government allow this part of the Amsterdam treaty to be framed in such a way that Gibraltar will never be allowed to opt in, because, as the Foreign Secretary must know, Spain will use and insist on its veto should Gibraltar ever want to join and opt into the arrangements? Is it simply that Her Majesty's Government do not care about Gibraltar and give it a low priority, or was it just a Government cock-up?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his friendly intervention!

First, I strongly resent the suggestion that Her Majesty's Government are not committed to the sovereignty or protection of Gibraltar. No part of Europe has more occupied my thoughts in the past two months than Gibraltar. Secondly, there was no cock-up during the Amsterdam treaty negotiations. Spain did propose an amendment to have the effect of bringing in unanimity for UK participation in the Schengen acquis. I did challenge it and Spain withdrew that amendment. There was an agreement that there should be an amendment only if it was submitted in writing by Spain. No such amendment was submitted during the hearings of the Amsterdam negotiations.

The subsequent change to the treaty was a bilateral agreement between Spain and the Dutch presidency. When, a week later, we received the text that contained that change, we obtained the declaration to which I have referred, but I repeat: there is no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to enter the Schengen acquis. On the contrary, the main gain from the Amsterdam treaty for Britain is that it has achieved a clear legal foundation for our border controls, which was never obtained by the Conservative party in 18 years.

The right hon. Gentleman's first and second replies clearly contradicted each other. Did not the Prime Minister boast to the House on 18 June that no other country could block our opt-in? The Foreign Secretary has now admitted that Spain can block that opt-in and he has claimed that Spain and Holland undertook some form of bilateral agreement after the summit. Was not the Prime Minister inaccurate in what he told the House on 18 June?

The Prime Minister was entirely accurate in what he told the House and I have quoted from the UK-Irish protocol. I advise the hon. Gentleman to consult the original text, where he will find that there is a clear distinction between immigration, visa and asylum provisions under pillar 3, which are clearly provided for in the way in which the Prime Minister told the House, and the Schengen acquis, to which we are not and have no intention of being a party.

Kyoto Conference

2.

What communications he has had with the United States Secretary of State about the forthcoming Kyoto conference. [15989]

I spoke to Mrs. Albright at the end of last week about climate change and the Kyoto negotiations. I also had an extensive bilateral on those topics with Mrs. Albright in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister recently visited Washington to discuss the Kyoto conference. We shall continue to be in close contact with the United States Government in the run-up to Kyoto to help ensure a successful outcome.

I am glad that the Government are in close touch with the United States Secretary of State. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is compelling scientific evidence of the dangers of global warming and that quality of life—and, for some people in future generations, life itself—will be threatened if we do not take action? Does he further agree that there is a special obligation on industrialised countries such as the United Kingdom—and especially the United States, as the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases—to enter into a binding agreement to reduce the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on the severity and gravity of the problem. If the present trend of global warming continues, the world will face extremely unpredictable weather changes and a reduction in food-producing areas. For those reasons, it is vital for everyone that, at Kyoto, we achieve legally binding targets for reductions in CO2 emissions. I am proud to say that the British Government are playing an important part in working for a successful outcome at Kyoto. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has completed a visit to India. He spent the weekend in New Zealand and is currently in Australia working with those countries and taking the lead to achieve the environmental agreement that we need.

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the United Kingdom's exemplary record has afforded him a platform from which he can encourage other countries to meet their targets and that that record is largely a result of Conservative policy?

I am proud to say that one of the Government's first actions was to ditch the Conservative target of a 10 per cent. reduction and replace it with a target of a 20 per cent. reduction. That shows that our policies are twice as good as theirs.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that decisions about whether to invest in energy systems that burn fossil fuels and pump CO2 into the atmosphere or systems that promote energy efficiency and reliance on renewable sources of energy are essentially matters for elected Governments? When he meets Mrs. Albright, will he stress the point that next April the Government will not sign up to any multilateral agreements on investment that would take decisions away from elected Governments and hand them to transnational corporations?

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that subsidiarity will certainly apply to those matters. However, Kyoto will be different from Rio in that we will be agreeing to a mandatory target that will then be obligatory on all parties that sign up to it. Although there are different ways in which that can be realised, it is important that Britain and other industrialised countries match their commitment to achieve that mandatory target if we are to have any hope of persuading developing countries to do likewise.

Export Forum

4.

If he will make a statement on the impact on his Department of the recommendations of the export forum. [15991]

The FCO and the DTI launched the export forum in June to examine the effectiveness of Government support for UK exporters. Their recommendations were published in October. The Government accept their broad thrust. They give a positive and challenging basis for making the Foreign Office's efforts more focused on the needs of our customers—adding maximum value to their efforts and so leading to more jobs and prosperity for Britain.

I welcome my hon. Friend's reply and the initiative taken by the Government in asking the private sector what was needed to increase exports. Will the implementation of the recommendations of the export forum help small and medium businesses in Swindon and elsewhere in the country to reach out to the markets on which they are missing out?

I recently had the opportunity of visiting my hon. Friend's constituency in Swindon and seeing the work of the local business link and the support that it was offering to small and medium businesses. We very much welcome that support. One of the export forum's key recommendations is to ensure that greater emphasis and focus are placed on the work of small and medium enterprises, particularly in assisting them to open up new export markets and activities.

Information Campaigns

5.

What European Commission finance is presently available in the United Kingdom to fund information campaigns. [15993]

General information and communication work concerning the European Union, including the Commission's information activities in the United Kingdom, is funded under chapter B3–30 of the European Community budget. For 1997, 107 million ecu—which is about £72 million at current exchange rates—has been allocated.

On 28 October 1997, the Foreign Secretary made it clear to the House that the Government would not apply for European Union funding to pay for a pro-single currency campaign. How is that statement consistent with the answer that the Minister has just given or with the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has made it clear elsewhere that the Government will be applying for European Union funds to pay for a euro campaign?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has approached the European Commission on whether it would provide some funding for a general information campaign, so that British business and British citizens have access to information on very important matters which will be considered in the coming months and years. The difference between the previous Government and this Government is that they thought that everything should be kept secret, whereas we think that information should be provided to inform people.

Does the Minister agree that, for informed debate on Europe, it is imperative that essential information is provided? Is it not clear that the Tories want a debate informed by their own prejudice, and that they are not interested in the facts?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Commission now knows where the Government stand on the issues. Before the general election, the Commission did not know whether it should speak to one end of the Government or the other, because each gave a different answer—making it impossible to provide information.

Is not the point that, on 28 October, the Foreign Secretary told the House that there would be no EU funding to promote the euro? The Minister has now had to concede that there will be a general information campaign, funded by the EU, to inform people about the euro. What is the difference? Is it not merely a disingenuous play on words? Does it not come from the same stable as the Prime Minister's assurance last week that he had paid back the £1 million, only to concede five minutes later that it had not been paid back? Would it not be better if Labour Ministers adopted a new policy of telling Parliament the truth in the first place?

I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. I should have thought that he would realise that there is a huge difference between the propaganda against Europe that the previous Government frequently tried to perpetrate and giving information to people, so that they can make their own assessment of the issues involved and make their own preparations—so that, when and if a referendum is held on the matter, they can make a decision based on knowledge, not prejudice.

Japan

6.

If he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Japan. [15994]

The United Kingdom enjoys excellent relations with Japan, which we regard as a special partner. Japan is our largest export market in Asia and a major inward investor in the United Kingdom. We work closely with Japan on a wide range of subjects, including joint science and technology projects, international peacekeeping, commercial collaboration in third markets and joint aid projects. There are also growing ties between the British and the Japanese people. We want to build closer relations in the future. The visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Japan, in January, will be an important step towards that objective.

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. Will he confirm that future relations between the United Kingdom and Japan will be strengthened by an open acknowledgement by the Japanese Government of the crimes of the past? Will the Government and the Prime Minister, on his visit next year, continue to press for full appropriate compensation for Japanese labour camp victims and civilian internees? Does he acknowledge that full compensation is the basis for a stronger, better and more fruitful relationship in the future?

Since the Labour party was elected in May, I have had several meetings with representatives of the former prisoners of war. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have also had a series of meetings with Japanese Ministers and officials and we have suggested possible ways in which the wartime sufferings of the former prisoners of war could be recognised and acted on. I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members welcomed the gesture by the Japanese ambassador in attending the Remembrance day service at Coventry cathedral the other week. That was a warming gesture of reconciliation and I hope that we can build on it in the next few months.

Do not events earlier today in Japan raise some profound questions about the issue of security? Is it not the case that, for a country such as the United Kingdom, economic turbulence—of the kind seen in Japan—is likely to be as disadvantageous as military threats? In the light of those circumstances, what measures have the Government urged on the Japanese Government, as a fellow member of the Group of Eight, as a means of restoring economic confidence in the domestic Japanese economy?

We all recognise the global significance of the events in south-east Asia, and Japan and Korea. We know that the Governments in the region are working closely with the International Monetary Fund and others, which is the right approach to open up their trade, to liberalise their markets and to take some of the measures that are crucial for their long-term financial and economic security.

One lesson that we must learn from the Japanese experience—much reinforced to me last week when I spoke to inward investors from Japan—is that, if we follow the Conservative party's European policies, Japanese inward investors will cut their investment in the United Kingdom. Every Japanese company that I visited told me that Conservative policies would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

I very much welcome what my hon. Friend has just told the House. Does he share the concern of my constituents in Dunfermline, and people elsewhere in the United Kingdom, who have benefited from inward investment from south-east Asia? What measures will the Foreign Office take to ensure that we remain an attractive destination for investment by Japan, South Korea and other south-east Asian countries?

There was no doubt, during my discussions with Japanese and Korean inward investors last week, that the United Kingdom remained an attractive location. We have become even more attractive since 1 May, because inward investors know that we have political stability, and that we are committed to Europe and intend to be a central part of it. The messages from the previous Government were a strong disincentive to inward investment.

I am sure that the Minister is right that one of the reasons why Japanese companies invest in Britain is our membership of the European Union. What steps will the Minister take to reassure inward investors that the very advantages that they see in investing in Britain—more flexible labour markets—will not be eroded by following the European social model?

Not one Japanese company mentioned that to me last week. They saw attractive propositions in the United Kingdom and they will continue to look to this country as a suitable location for inward investment. If the right hon. Lady had a strong message on Europe, it would be attractive to Japanese companies. My wish for her is that she could win more support in her party, but she is sadly isolated in her beliefs.

Israeli Prime Minister

7.

If he will make a statement about his recent meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel. [15995]

Prime Minister Netanyahu and I had a two-hour meeting, covering the middle east peace process and other regional issues and bilateral relations. I made clear our support for Israel's security, but also set out our concerns about the current state of the peace process and the urgent need to move forward on issues such as the airport and sea port in Gaza, free passage between Gaza and the west bank, an end to the expansion of settlements and further redeployments of Israeli troops from the Palestinian entity. Britain is committed to a successful outcome of the middle east peace process on the basis of peace with security for Israelis and peace with justice for Palestinians.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will continue to encourage progress towards accelerated final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians? Does he agree that we can make a major contribution to the peace process by promoting the economic development necessary to underpin it?

I entirely agree that progress towards final status talks would be desirable, but there is a lack of confidence on both sides that an offer of accelerated final status talks would be genuine. There must be some interim agreements as a gesture of good will and good faith to make it possible to proceed.

It is vital that economic progress underpins the peace process. One of the problems in the middle east is that the income and standard of living of most Palestinians have declined during the period of peace. That must be reversed. We must show the people on the back streets of Gaza that the peace process will deliver real improvements in their standard of living.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that pressure should be brought to bear on Chairman Arafat, who made certain agreements in Oslo that have not been kept? It is unfair to expect Israel to go beyond the Oslo agreement when that agreement has not been fulfilled.

Nobody is asking the Israeli Government to go beyond the Oslo accord. They are being asked to adhere to an agreement that, although it was entered into by a previous Government, is binding on the successor Government, as any international agreement is. We repeatedly urge on the Palestinian National Authority the need to deliver greater security. To be fair, most international observers agree that there has been an improvement in the authority's efforts on that. However, the authority is not helped in its attempts to improve security if it is denied the money with which to pay its policemen for two months.

As my right hon. Friend knows, 29 November is the 50th anniversary of United Nations Security Council resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine. As we approach that anniversary, has my right hon. Friend been able to impress on the Prime Minister of Israel the need to move towards final status negotiations, to resolve the problems with the Palestinians and to include in those negotiations the right of the Palestinians to a state?

It has long been the position of the British Government that the possibility of statehood for the Palestinian entity should not be excluded from the final status talks. The sooner we make progress on interim agreements, such as opening the Gaza sea port and airport, which would be an immense boost to the local economy, the sooner we can reach the final status talks to consider the larger issues.

Environmental Objectives

8.

What recent representations he has received about the environmental objectives of foreign policy. [15996]

I have had extensive contacts with overseas Governments and with non-governmental organisations, covering a wide range of environmental issues, including in particular the forthcoming Kyoto negotiations on climate change and the UK presidency of the European Union.

A few minutes ago, the Foreign Secretary accepted the urgency of the problem of climate change. As the Prime Minister is always keen to claim a close and friendly working relationship with President Clinton, why have the Government failed even to attempt to persuade the United States of the importance of at least achieving the modest carbon dioxide reduction targets set down at Rio five years ago, let alone the far more challenging targets referred to by the Foreign Secretary earlier?

The hon. Gentleman failed to hear my right hon. Friend's earlier response. My right hon. Friend has already told the House of his contacts with the American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that the Deputy Prime Minister was in Washington recently and has been talking to many Governments. Unlike the previous Government, we are working for success. We are committed on the environment and we shall make Kyoto a success.

Will the Minister explain how nuclear weapons, which would spread radioactive fallout throughout the world, fit in with the Government's environmental objective?

Nuclear weapons will not be under discussion at Kyoto, but of course there is a process of disarmament talks, and I am sure that my hon. Friend wishes those well.

Has the Minister had an opportunity to read early-day motion 461, in the name of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman), which deals with the activities of P and O in an ecologically sensitive area of India? In the light of the Government's environmental and ethical policy, does the Minister propose to take any action?

I must confess that I have not seen the early-day motion; it is night-time reading that I look forward to this evening, and I am sure that it will be impressive. None the less, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we would always expect large organisations to operate in an environmentally sensitive way.

Republic Of Ireland

9.

If he will make a statement on relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. [15997]

Relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are excellent. The two Governments are working closely in the Northern Ireland talks and in the European Union. Practical co-operation between Government Departments throughout the United Kingdom and their Irish counterparts has been intensified and I, like many of my ministerial colleagues, including my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, have already had substantive meetings with our Irish opposite numbers.

Is the idea of Ireland's rejoining the Commonwealth ever discussed? Mary Robinson suggested that towards the end of her presidency. Is not the Commonwealth today very different from that which Ireland left in 1948? It no longer has imperial pretensions and is an area for tolerance, trade and democracy. Would it not also be attractive to Unionists, in terms of the peace process, to have their British identity recognised?

That is not a matter that I have discussed at my meetings with counterparts in Ireland; it would be a matter for the Irish Government.

In view of the likelihood of devolved government throughout the United Kingdom, would the Minister support unilateral action by Scotland or Wales to create a council for co-operation with the Republic of Ireland?

Visa Applications (Punjab)

10.

What assessment he has made of the difficulties of Punjabi people travelling to New Delhi to pursue applications for entry clearance to the United Kingdom; and if he will establish a consular service in Chandigarh. [15998]

The size and location of diplomatic posts around the world are under constant review. The difficulties of travelling to New Delhi are well understood, but for logistical and resource reasons there are no plans to open a visa office in Punjab.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate the disappointment with which that statement will be greeted by many people in the Punjab and by their relatives in this country? Does he realise what long distances people on extremely low incomes must travel to New Delhi on missions to obtain visas, which are often fruitless because of the bureaucracy and inefficiency of the service there? Will he give at least some hope to the people in the Punjab that the matter will be kept constantly under review, and that an innovative solution will be found, such as opening a consular service in Chandigarh for one day a week?

We always review the possibilities and we are keen to provide the best possible service, but I meant to convey to my hon. Friend the fact that, although the process is under constant review, I cannot give any immediate hope that we will be able to open such a facility.

Export Promotion

11.

If he will set out the initiatives taken by his Department to improve its role in export promotion. [15999]

Together with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, I launched the export forum to examine the effectiveness of Government support for UK exporters. The forum reported in October, and my right hon. Friend and I have accepted the broad thrust of its recommendations.

This morning, I hosted a working breakfast with chief executives and chairmen of some of our top companies whom I have invited to act as ambassadors for British business. Whenever on visits abroad for their companies, they have undertaken to liaise with FCO posts to carry out promotional work for wider business interests. The invitation has been well received by business leaders and should enable the Foreign Office to use their prestige and their expertise to promote British exports and British jobs.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his full answer. Does he agree that we need speedy processing of export licences? A medium-sized company, Indentec, in my constituency of Stourbridge needs its licence application resolved, and this has particular relevance in relation to the knock-on effect on small feeder businesses.

I can assure my hon. Friend that as soon as I return to the Foreign Office, I will inquire into what has happened to the application. She was good enough to mention before Question Time that this was a licence application for Iran. The House will understand that we need to pay particular attention to the possibility of dual-use equipment going to Iran.

In relation to the promotion of Scotch whisky experts—[Laughter]—Scotch whisky exports; the Foreign Secretary will realise that that is one of the benefits of drinking Scotch whisky. What progress does he foresee towards the harmonisation of duty within the EU in the near future?

I am happy to say that I think I can speak as a whisky expert, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is one of our high priorities to continue to press to make sure that there is fair duty on all alcohol so that our whisky has a fair opportunity in other markets. That will continue to be one of the major objectives of our European policy.

Further to the question from the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Ms Shipley), is not the only practical consequence of the Foreign Secretary's posturings on these matters that the delays in clearing applications for licences for the export of defence equipment have got so bad that orders have gone elsewhere before approval has been granted?

During his visit to Warsaw and elsewhere in central Europe this week, will the Foreign Secretary take time to compare the offensive marketing and promotion of commercial enterprise by the Germans with that of British business, which is generally tardy, despite one or two flagship companies like British Aerospace and Marks and Spencer which are getting stuck in? Private enterprise in this country does not recognise the vast market potential of central Europe, which is being exploited by others but which we are being slow to pick up on. Will my right hon. Friend take some action?

My hon. Friend tempts me to go slightly further than the brief of the Foreign Office. As regards our contribution to export promotion, since we have been in power we have carried out a major review of our export services; we have attracted 12 new short-term secondments from British business, who are now in key embassies in key markets abroad; and we are looking for more. We have today reached agreement with 37 top business people to promote British business while they are abroad.

I will be spending three days in central Europe this week. I shall be looking for opportunities for British business, and I shall be carrying the clear message that Britain strongly supports central European countries' membership of the EU—a message which I hope will not be entirely lost on Conservative Members. The rest of Europe is queuing up to join a union from which many of them appear to wish to detach themselves.

Gibraltar

13.

19.

We stand firmly by the commitment enshrined in the preamble to the 1969 constitution. As I explained to the Spanish Foreign Minister last Friday, there can be no change in sovereignty over Gibraltar against the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is unacceptable that the citizens of Gibraltar are disfranchised, and have no vote in European elections? Now that the Government seem hell-bent on changing the electoral law for the Strasbourg Parliament, will the Foreign Secretary commit the Government to ensuring that, by one means or another, the citizens of Gibraltar get a vote in the forthcoming European elections?

This is not a matter that can be resolved by domestic United Kingdom legislation; it would require a change in the legislation that set up the European Parliament, from which Gibraltar is expressly excluded. Had this been a matter that could have been resolved in that way, the opportunity to resolve it was in 1984, when the Conservative Government allowed the accession of Spain to the EU.

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm his support for the 1969 constitution of Gibraltar? Is he as worried as I am by the hypocrisy of Spain, which has two enclaves in Morocco as well as the Canary Islands, which are further away from Madrid than Gibraltar is from London?

I can certainly please my hon. Friend by confirming our support for the 1969 constitution, and by reasserting that there will be no change without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar.

I am not entirely sure that it would necessarily help to bring about a resolution of outstanding matters to accuse Spain of hypocrisy, but we have been robust in defending Gibraltar's interests, and will continue to be so.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is unacceptable that, on a number of occasions, the Spanish authorities have not recognised British passports issued by the Governor in Gibraltar—and, moreover, do not seem to be recognising the identity cards that are produced in accordance with European regulations, and are recognised by the European Union?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the issue has been raised with the Spanish authorities by both the present and the last Government. Gibraltar is part of the European Union; as a consequence, its residents have the right to free movement throughout the European Union, which includes Spain.

Employment Summit

14.

If he will make a statement about the outcome of the Luxembourg special summit on employment. [16002]

21.

If he will make a statement about the outcome of the Luxembourg special summit on employment. [16010]

I refer my hon. Friends to the statement made yesterday to the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the positive outcome of last week's summit. Will he confirm that, while it reflects our "welfare to work" emphasis on employability and flexibility, the discussions made it clear that flexibility would not involve the worsening of conditions in the workplace or more insecurity in employment?

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that the text of the presidency conclusions, which were agreed unanimously by those present, stresses employability and adaptability. The guidelines are entirely consistent with Her Majesty's Government's policy of providing a fresh start for young people who have been unemployed for more than six months, and a fresh start for all adults who have been unemployed for more than a year.

The British Government's success in achieving an outcome that is entirely consistent with our policy objectives reflects the fact that the summit only happened at all because we supported the employment chapter in Amsterdam, and because we demanded a special summit through the ECOFIN meeting. The outcome of the meeting is a success for Britain, and it took place only because Britain made tackling the jobs crisis such a high priority.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Will he tell us whether our European partners agree with the Government that the economic growth required to create jobs should be based on a highly skilled rather than an exploited work force?

It was a frequent refrain at the summit that we must ensure that more is invested in training. For that reason, the countries involved committed themselves to making training available to 20 per cent. of the unemployed.

My hon. Friend is right. If we are to protect jobs in Europe, we will not do it on the back of low pay and poor working conditions; we will do it only on the back of high investment, high skills and high technology.

Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House why the Prime Minister said in his statement that he wished to avoid old-style state intervention, and then went on to announce 1.5 billion ecu of old-style state subsidies for industry across Europe?

First, to be precise, the sum is 1 billion ecu, not 1.5 billion ecu. The hon. Gentleman is 50 per cent. out. Secondly, it was agreed by all members of the European Union that the money would be provided by the European investment bank for investment in high technology and in small and medium-sized enterprises. We are all agreed that the future of Europe and of our economies lies in high technology, and that the future for jobs lies in the small and medium-sized sector. That is precisely why it was right to encourage investment in that sector.

Why has youth unemployment been falling rapidly in this country for the past four years, whereas it has been rising rapidly in all the other major European countries?

I congratulate the Government on forcing jobs to the top of the European agenda, but does my right hon. Friend agree that flexible labour markets have very little to do with macho management, hire and fire, and forcing down wages and conditions of service for staff, and everything to do with high levels of education and training and with releasing the skills and creativity of staff to improve productivity and quality?

My right hon. Friend makes a profound point. If we are to achieve the long-term aim of good training and high technology, a commitment is required from both management and work force. That is precisely what the social chapter is devised to achieve. That is why we believe that it is so important that the staff of a large enterprise should have ownership of the strategy of the company, through the right to information and consultation under the social chapter.

Social Chapter

16.

If he will make a statement on those provisions for bringing forward legislation in the social chapter which operate under qualified majority voting. [16004]

Under the agreement on social policy, legislation can be adopted by qualified majority in five areas: health and safety; working conditions; information and consultation of workers; equal treatment of men and women at work; and integration of those excluded from the labour market.

If in those five areas a matter should come up that is not in the British interest, how does the Minister propose to protect our interest, now that the Government have given away our veto; or does he anticipate that the Government will automatically agree with every measure in those five areas?

Conservative Members are getting repetitive. Before 1 May, the hon. Lady was a member of a Government who had such bad relationships with Europe that they could make no progress on any front, and particularly on the important front of the employment agenda to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred. Now British people have the opportunity to influence what is happening with the social chapter. That is a big advance, and everyone knows it.

Lockerbie

17.

What response he has received from the organisation of African states and the Arab League about his invitation to them to inspect the Scottish justice system in relation to Lockerbie. [16005]

The initial response of the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity has been disappointing. The United Nations Secretary-General has accepted our invitation. We continue to press the Arab League and the OAU to send observers to join the visit of UN officials that we hope will take place before the end of the year.

After nine long years of non-communication, is it unreasonable to ask that an incoming Labour Government should at least talk to the Libyans and hear what they have to say, not least in the light of a written answer from the Home Secretary yesterday following my interview in July with Commander David Veness of Scotland Yard concerning the circumstances of the murder of Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher, casting doubts—we shall put it no higher—on whether the Libyans were responsible? Before making a final decision not to talk to the Libyans, will my right hon. Friend at least have the Foreign Office lawyers consult Scotland Yard?

I have just completed an exchange of correspondence with the Foreign Minister of Libya, in which I made it robustly clear that Britain expects Libya to adhere to the United Nations Security Council resolutions that require it to provide for trial the two men who have been indicted for the mass murder of those travelling on the Pan Am jet and those who were in the village of Lockerbie where it crashed. That remains the Government's position. I am more than happy to have dialogue with all those other countries in the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity, to remove their doubts, and I am absolutely confident that we can convince them that Scottish justice is fair.

The other matter that my hon. Friend raised is not currently a matter for dispute over the sanctions in relation to Lockerbie. It would help the dialogue between our countries immensely if Libya were to recognise that it has an obligation to provide the two men for trial in order that justice can be done.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that it would set a dangerous precedent in international law if the trial were to take place in a jurisdiction other than Scotland?

There are several problems with having a trial in another country. The most immediate is that there is no legal basis for a Scottish court to sit outside the Scottish jurisdiction. The hon. Lady is right that if I were to ask the House for such legal provision, there is a danger that it would create a precedent whereby terrorists could object to trial in our jurisdiction. That is a heavy consideration which we shall weigh carefully.

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given the nature of my right hon. Friend's answer, I will attempt to get a 14th Adjournment debate on this matter.

Ministerial Visits

18.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no plans to visit India again in the near future. He hopes to be able to visit Canada on European Union business in mid-January next year.

When the Foreign Secretary visits Canada, will he acquaint himself with the events of 24 July 1967, when President de Gaulle visited Quebec and gave his now infamous Quebec libre speech? That might give him some useful hints about what not to say when he next visits Kashmir.

The hon. Gentleman has reached new depths with that question. Perhaps we should congratulate him on his creativity in that respect. My right hon. Friend is looking forward to and will enjoy his visit to Canada, where he will strengthen our bilateral relations with Canada, as he has with every other country that he has so far visited.

Will the Minister assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will continue to make it clear to the Governments of Pakistan and India that we stand ready, as we are all members of the Commonwealth, to make available our good offices to enable those two great countries to try to resolve the problems surrounding Kashmir to bring peace and stability to that region and so improve the lives of people in those countries and in Kashmir?

We have said throughout that we intend to make our good offices available to both parties if that is the wish of both parties, and we stand by that statement.

Sri Lanka

20.

What meetings he has had with representatives of the Government of Sri Lanka since 1 May. [16008]

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Mr. Kadiragamar, on 11 September. I also saw Mr. Kadiragamar on 5 June, and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Professor Peiris, on 19 June.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Did he discuss the situation in northern Sri Lanka, which is of great concern to my Tamil constituents?

I am pleased to confirm that we discussed the situation on each and every occasion. It is important that there is a lasting and just peace for the internal problems of Sri Lanka. We always encourage political dialogue, which we regard as the best way to make progress and deal with the human rights issues that are so important to all communities in Sri Lanka.

Iraq

22.

The UK has had no diplomatic relations with Iraq since 6 February 1991. Last week, I chaired a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council, which demanded that Iraq accept the unconditional return of UN inspectors. I am pleased that Iraq has now accepted the return of those inspectors, including US inspectors, but we continue to be vigilant to ensure that the inspectors can carry out in full their mandate to prevent Iraq acquiring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Can the Minister inform the House what we are doing to investigate the biological warfare programme of the Iraqi Government?

The report that has been heard in the past week by the United Nations monitoring organisation makes very sober reading, in relation to both the biological and chemical capacities of Iraq. It was reported that Iraqi stocks of VX nerve gas keep increasing and that Saddam Hussein can currently produce sufficient anthrax for two missiles a week. Those are serious and sobering figures that stress the importance of the United Nations being able to carry out in full its mandate to inspect the suspect facilities and to ensure that the world does not allow Saddam Hussein to develop weapons of mass destruction.

As the Foreign Secretary knows, the Government have the full support of Her Majesty's Opposition in their stance on Iraq. Is he confident that the inspectors will be able to make up the ground that they lost during the period when they were denied access to facilities in Iraq?

We have full confidence in the inspectors: it should be remembered that they have managed to destroy more weapons in Iraq during the period of inspection than were destroyed during the Gulf war. Their continuing to achieve that will depend entirely on whether or not the inspectors get full compliance from the Iraqi authorities and we are carefully monitoring that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to draw attention to the damage done by the interruption to the inspection regime. We believe that Saddam Hussein has used that period to shift material to secret sites; it might take some time to uncover those, but we are determined that it should be done.

Will my right hon. Friend continue to press the UN Security Council to set up a permanent war crimes tribunal, so that Saddam Hussein and his closest associates can be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide?

My hon. Friend will know that the Government fully support the two existing war crimes tribunals—one on the former Yugoslavia and one on Rwanda. It is also our position that a prosecution for a war crime or genocide should not depend on an ad hoc resolution of the Security Council. It is for that reason that the Government firmly support the case for an international criminal court where such crimes could be tried and where we could make sure that international law was firmly applied and that nobody could commit war crimes and genocide with impunity.

Strategic Defence Review

23.

When he plans next to meet the Secretary of State for Defence to discuss the foreign policy basis for the strategic defence review. [16012]

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will remain in close touch with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on the strategic defence review as on the many other matters on which we work together.

Is the Minister not concerned that his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury might well be even more diligent in meetings with the Secretary of State for Defence? Will he not accept that the strategic defence review is entirely Treasury driven? If his answer to that question is no, will he stake his reputation on that?

I stake my reputation on every answer to every question, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the defence review is Foreign Office led. When determining how to meet Britain's needs, foreign affairs dictate it and defence ensures that it happens.

European Union

24.

If he will make a statement on the responsibilities of his Department in promoting enlargement of the European Union and in drawing up Agenda 2000. [16013]

We have lead responsibility within the Government for policy towards the European Union, including enlargement. The Department also co-ordinates the Government's overall position on Agenda 2000. Tonight, I depart on a tour of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to prepare for the launch under the British presidency of negotiations on enlargement and to assure those countries of Britain's firm commitment to opening the doors of the European Union to the new democracies of central Europe.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that enlargement must involve substantial reform of the common agricultural policy? In the past, there has been a tendency to allow the CAP to be discussed only by farm Ministers, or the Council of Agriculture Ministers. Will he ensure that his Department and others are intimately involved in reform of the CAP? Sixty per cent. of the EU budget is spent on a system that is in need of dramatic reform and that money should be redirected toward other more productive uses.

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the matter was discussed by the Foreign Ministers of Europe only yesterday and that it is a priority of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is plainly not satisfactory that we should go into the next century with 50 per cent. of Europe's budget being spent on an industry in which less than 5 per cent. of the work force are engaged. We shall continue to press for realistic reforms.

European Co-Operation

26.

How many times he has met EU Foreign Ministers since 1 May to discuss European co-operation. [16015]

I have met European Foreign Ministers on many occasions since 1 May.

Does the Minister agree that we—and he and the Foreign Office team in particular—should not get too starry-eyed about European co-operation? We have already heard at today's Question Time that the Common Market is in dispute over the Arab-Israeli argument and there is not agreement about Iraq or about Gibraltar. The reason why there are hundreds of people lobbying for mining jobs today is that when those in the Common Market who took the decisions had the chance to do so, they never bought the cheapest deep-mined coal in Europe. Those are the facts and I think that we ought to bear them in mind.

I assure my hon. Friend that I am never starry-eyed about any negotiation. I also assure him that since 1 May, the Labour Government have worked diligently and hard to get a better deal for Britain on a wide range of issues, including the Amsterdam treaty. We have been able to succeed because we have been in the dialogue, making our view count. That is what has made the difference in comparison with the performance of the last Government.