Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
1. 33 pm
Clause 1 is central to the Bill. In crude terms, it will enable us to implement the accession treaty in United Kingdom law, paving the way for UK ratification later in the year. It should be recognisable to all who are familiar with past accession Bills. I have just had a very enjoyable lunchtime meeting with the Foreign Minister c f the Czech Republic, who hopes very much that he will be able to go home tonight with news that the House of Commons has sent the people of his country a positive message by adopting clause 1—and, indeed, the Bill as a whole.Subsection 1 amends the definitions of "the Treaties" and "the Community Treaties" in the European Communities Act 1972. In broad terms that grants automatic effect to directly applicable treaty provisions, and allows designated Ministers to make regulations amending existing UK legislation to the extent that that may be necessary for the implementation of the treaty. It is difficult to speak about this part of the Bill without rehearsing some of the principles discussed on Second Reading. I shall be brief, because I believe that there is a broad consensus on the principles of accession. We have separately placed the key facts in the public domain in the form of the explanatory memorandum on the treaty, and the explanatory notes and regulatory impact assessment relating to the Bill. The enlargement for which the Bill provides means that the cold war will finally be laid to rest. After decades of suspicion, disunity and enmity, the continent of Europe will be united, locking in peace, security and prosperity. Just over a decade ago, six of the 10 states that will join us in the EU next year did not exist, and one of the 10 was at war. Now all the accession states, bar Cyprus and Malta, are or are due to become NATO members. Security and stability have increased markedly within and between the accession states, and across Europe as a whole. Since the start of the association process 10 years ago, the gross domestic product of candidates from the former communist bloc has grown by 40 per cent. The standard of living in central Europe has improved dramatically. For example, the average salary in Slovenia has increased by 62 per cent. in the last 10 years. Central European economies have rapidly integrated with western European and world markets. When I visited Poland last week, I noted the remarkable change that is taking place almost year on year, with new wealth, new housing, new cars, new industry and new business surging forward. The EU is the accession countries' main trading partner. As a bloc, the 10 new member states constitute the EU's largest trading partner after the United States. The final package for the new member states is generous and fair, but it is also below the overall budget ceilings for enlargement set by the European Council in Berlin in 1999. Although some Members have complained that the deal is not generous enough, it is in line with the new member states' capacity to absorb funds. Accession has helped and is helping the new members to address issues ranging from the protection of minority rights to the safety of nuclear power stations and to hygiene in dairies. They have had to reform and significantly strengthen their Administrations and their court and legal systems. All that benefits the citizens of those countries, and anyone who travels or works in them.
Given that the provision for regulations—the need for which is not of itself in dispute—comprises the vast bulk of clause 2 of a three-clause Bill, can the Minister enlighten us on whether the Government are prepared to consider subjecting such regulations to the affirmative procedure? That would afford the opportunity of a full debate on the content thereof on the Floor of the House.
Order. The hon. Gentleman's question relates to clause 2; we are debating clause 1.
Profound changes in the business environment have also taken place—for example, the creation of food standards agencies, telecoms regulators, labour inspectorates and insurance market supervisors. Enlargement is improving environmental standards across the continent as well as health and safety standards. That applies to food safety and the quality of food exports to the United Kingdom, consumer protection and employment practice. Enlargement has also improved human rights. The new member states have had to align their human rights law and practices with EU standards, and they are required to have taken on board by the point of accession the Community's acquis prohibiting racial and other forms of discrimination.
The Minister mentioned trade and exports. How will the accession of the whole island of Cyprus affect exports from the north of the island, and what changes will there be to visa requirements?
The status of the northern part will remain the same. We are optimistic that before accession on 1 May next year a united Cyprus, along the lines of the Kofi Annan plan, will enter the EU. I take great heart, as I believe do all Members, from the remarkable sight of the people of Cyprus voting with their feet against some of the most reactionary political advice that they have received in recent years.The prospect of enlargement is helping us to boost cooperation between present and future member states in tackling organised crime, drug trafficking and people smuggling. Acceding countries are bringing their police forces up to EU standards, and will participate in EU anti-crime institutions. There is certainly more for the new member states to do. The Commission continues to monitor their implementation of their negotiating commitments. We welcome that monitoring, which serves as both an encouragement to the new members to continue their efforts and an assurance to the existing member states. The Commission will issue a comprehensive report in November this year. If necessary, that will advise on the potential use of the safeguards in the treaty for issues such as the functioning of the single market and mutual recognition of civil and criminal law. However, neither monitoring nor safeguards will affect accession itself. Subject to ratification by the 25 states, the treaty will enter into effect for all 25 states on 1 May next year. The signs so far are promising. Referendums have been won in Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia. We have high hopes for Poland this weekend, for the Czech Republic a little later and for Latvia and Estonia in September. The message is clear and loud: saying yes to Europe is popular among those who know the value of freedom and who liberated themselves from communism. Subsection (2) approves, for the purpose of section 12 of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002, the provisions of the accession treaty in so far as they relate to the powers of the European Parliament. As in previous accession Bills, the inclusion of that provision is a precautionary measure to put beyond doubt Parliament's approval of those parts of the treaty that deal with the powers of the European Parliament. The accession treaty does not create new powers for the Parliament, but it increases the field of application of the existing powers of the Parliament. Article 11 of the Act of Accession provides for an allocation of MEPs to all 25 member states for the electoral term beginning in June 2004. The figures allocated to each member state were foreshadowed in the relevant protocol and declaration of the Nice treaty, but have been adjusted to take into account the fact that neither Bulgaria nor Romania will accede next year. Minor adjustments were also made to reflect more accurately the sizes of the Hungarian and Czech populations. Like other existing member states, the UK will see a reduction in the number of its MEPs in the new Parliament; it will decrease from 87 to 78. That is a fair price to pay for an efficient enlargement. Those changes will be implemented in the UK through the European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003, which has recently become law.
I thank the Minister for setting out what is in clause 1. Of course, we endorse both the sentiments behind it and what is in the clause, but I remind the Committee of the Copenhagen criteria that were set 10 years ago for the accession process. The criteria demanded that, before a state could be considered for membership of the EU, it must possess the following attributes. An applicant must have stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities. An applicant must have a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressures in the single market of the EU. An applicant must be able to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. Lastly, the applicant must create the conditions for its integration through the adjustment of its administrative structures, so that European Community legislation transposed into national legislation can be implemented effectively through appropriate administrative and judicial structures.I agree with the Minister. He said that the moves have had in many instances a salutary effect on internal reforms in the accession countries. Equally, it has been a very heavy load for some of those countries, with the 85,000 pages of the acquis communautaire. I pay tribute to the officials in the accession countries for their hard work and dedication to bringing this historic moment about. Sir Alan, I hope that you will allow me the indulgence of saying a few words about each of the accession countries, because this is an extremely important moment. Each of the accession countries has something special to offer our European partners. In Britain, perhaps too little is known about them but I hope that, as a result of what we are doing today and the accession process, many millions of Britons will take the opportunity to experience the beauties of central and eastern Europe and to get to know about the political systems there.
Malta is well known to us. It is a cherished and valuable member of the Commonwealth. We remember it for its bravery in the second world war and it is a considerable economic success story. The Baltic states have their own rich heritage. Estonia is famous for its beauty. What has characterised Estonia above all is its clear commitment to liberal economics. It has reduced taxation and is having to reimpose tariffs and subsidies— [Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) finds this so amusing. I am trying to record for the purposes of the Committee how pleased we are, and to pay tribute to what those countries have done.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, who was being extremely discourteous.The result has been excellent economic growth. Latvia has one of the great cities, Riga. It celebrated its 800th anniversary last year. I hope that it will celebrate its 801st in the EU. Lithuania has a rich history and we welcome it into the EU. It has long fought for independence. It has a unique culture and it will act as a gateway and bridge to Russia, as will all the Baltic states. Perhaps more than any other country, Poland suffered grievously in the previous century. It is now free from communist subjugation. The fall of the Berlin wall opened up the whole process; in effect, it began to crumble in Gdansk. I was lucky enough to visit Poland last year. Again, Poland will play an important part in the European Union and help us to open links with countries such as Belarus and Ukraine. The Czech Republic lies at the heart of Europe. Prague is perhaps the most famous European city between Vienna and St. Petersburg. Again, it has a rich history. The country stood up for freedom strongly during the communist era. Similarly, the British people will, I am sure, be more aware of Slovakia. We pay tribute to what has happened there and to the harmonious relationships that have been built between the Slovakian majority and Hungarian minority. Hungary's national spirit was fiercest in the resistance against communist tyranny. It now has a sturdy democracy and a growing economy. Budapest is recognised now as one of the great cities of Europe. Slovenia is an exemplar in a troubled part of the world. Alone of the former Yugoslav republics, it has avoided the horrors of civil strife. [Interruption.]
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I do not want sedentary discussion going on and disturbing the debate. Nothing is out of order. If anything occurs that is out of order, I will rule it so. The clause deals with the accession of certain countries to the European Union. It seems therefore perfectly in order that some discussion should take place about those countries. However, I expressed the hope to some hon. Members before the debate that it should not be a slavish repetition of the Second Reading debate.
Thank you, Sir Alan.On Cyprus, the whole Committee will recognise that this is something of a bittersweet moment because the special representative of the United Kingdom, Lord Hannay, has just been withdrawn, according to this morning's newspapers. I salute his efforts and those of Kofi Annan, but Cyprus is not joining as a united country. We regret the collapse of the negotiations process and what happened at the end of March. Our position has always been clear: we support a bi-zonal, bi -communal federal structure for a united island. I hope that, despite that terrific setback—as the Minister said, we saw a great outpouring and a total lack of rancour between the two groups on the island when they were allowed to meet in a limited way—it will be possible for the process to move on. The Republic of Cyprus has prospered, but that has not been true of Turkish north Cyprus. It is important that some arrangement be entered into that will result in prosperity for all parts of the island.
In paying tribute to the emerging countries, does the hon. Gentleman agree that they prize their independence, and that it is important that, as we go forward, we do not become an embattled Europe but bear in mind the whole world when talking about free trade?
I very much agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. Free trade and flexibility must be key elements in making the European Union enduring and successful in the years to come.I greatly applaud the measures taken by the Republic of Cyprus in respect of Turkish north Cyprus. It made several suggestions on 30 April, including greater freedom of movement of goods for citizens living in the Turkish part of the island, and of persons and vehicles. It also made suggestions concerning employment rights, medical care and participation in international events. I hope that, despite the setback, there can be a coming together.
The hon. Gentleman referred to Lord Hannay's withdrawal, but his mandate has simply come to its natural end. He is a superb servant of the Foreign Office and the Crown. He is well into his retirement and has given immense energy and time to trying to bring the people of Cyprus together. I simply want to place on the record, in front of the Committee of the whole House, all our thanks for the magnificent work that he has done. I hope that the spirit of Hannay will allow a united Cyprus to join the EU before next May.
I am very grateful to the Minister for those comments—obviously, what I read in one of this morning's newspapers was not entirely accurate. However, the fact is that Lord Hannay's tenure is coming to an end, and I am very happy to endorse the Minister's comments. Indeed, I did say that Lord Hannay has played an important part—[Interruption.] Perhaps the newspaper report originated from a rogue element—I do not know. I salute Lord Hannay and all those who have tried to bring about reconciliation. Cyprus is an island with which we have strong historical links, and there are Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities here in the United Kingdom that enrich our own national life. It seems tragic that at this moment in history, as the 10 accession countries are joining, one of them should not be united.I am grateful to you, Sir Alan, for allowing me to make those comments about the accession countries, which have different histories, cultures and traditions. We very much welcome their joining the European Union, and that applies in the context of clause 1 of the Bill.
I shall speak very briefly, and I do not of course wish to repeat everything that was said on Second Reading. I want to begin by congratulating the Minister for Europe on all the work that he and his Department have done in respect of enlargement. He has been assiduous in visiting all the enlargement countries. Indeed, he has just come back from Poland, and his visit perhaps overshadowed even that of our own Prime Minister and President Bush, so well did the Polish receive him. We have reunited the continent of Europe, and reunited the Minister for Europe with members of his own family in Poland.I am very pleased that the Minister has launched a campaign in this country—I understand that it is supported by the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats—to inform people about the enlargement process. The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) is absolutely right: people do not know enough about the enlargement process, and the work that the Minister is doing in taking the message to the people of this country will help us enormously. It is always interesting to listen to the hon. Member for West Suffolk. I am grateful to him for repeating the names of all the applicant countries. Of course, the Conservatives' position has changed. At the time of the Nice treaty, they were in favour—as was the hon. Gentleman—of a referendum on Nice, thereby seeking to block the enlargement process. I was therefore delighted that, when the Conservative party called for a Division when this matter was debated on Second Reading, they voted in favour of enlargement; indeed, nobody voted against it. That unanimity is a bit late in coming, but we welcome such support. All that we did not hear from the hon. Gentleman was an analysis of the voting during the Eurovision song contest, but perhaps that will come when he discusses clause 2. However, it is important that we pay tribute to these countries, which have worked extremely hard. The timetable set by our Prime Minister and others is being realised—perhaps sooner than many of us anticipated. I want to raise one final point with the Minister, relating to his letter to me of 4 June. Page 2, paragraph 3 of that letter deals with early-warning letters sent by the Commission to the applicant countries—an issue that he mentioned in his speech. In considering this part of the Bill on Second Reading, I raised with the Minister the issue of countries such as Poland, which have received early-warning letters. I sought an assurance from him that their receiving such letters did not bar them from acceding to the European Union in May 2004, and he wrote to me giving that assurance. However, I am worried about paragraph 3 of that letter, in which he says that if the early-warning letters and the report that will be published in November show that some countries have not reached the necessary standard, those countries, if no safeguards are already agreed in the negotiations, will face the prospect of infraction proceedings as soon as they join. That would be a terrible end to a very long process. Many of these countries have worked hard for a number of years in order to join the European Union. To say to those countries that, once they join, infraction proceedings may be started against them if there are no safeguards, is surely the wrong message to send. At this stage, we should be making sure that they meet the established criteria. I want the Government to do as much as they possibly can to help the applicant countries to achieve the benchmarks set by the Commission. We should not leave that task to the Commission. As the Minister has said, we have good relations with many of these countries. Why do we not give them whatever support they need to make sure that they resolve the problems described in the early-warning letters? The prospect of infraction proceedings against those countries is awful, and I hope that we can ensure that we meet the criteria in a proper and effective way. If that means giving them more resources, we should do so. I know that the Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others have launched various action plans with the applicant countries, but if they need more support perhaps we should arrange the secondment of some of our civil servants. Indeed, we should help them in any way that we can, because there are still several months to go before they sign the treaty and accede. I support the Bill and I hope that the clause will go through unamended.
I want to speak briefly about the importance of clause 1 to the Baltic states and specifically to Estonia, for obvious reasons. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, The Irish Times ran a cartoon depicting Estonia as a greenhouse filled with burly Russians chucking the local population around. The caption said simply, "People who live in glasnost shouldn't throw Estonians." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Thank you very much. Estonia has come a long way since then. It had much to fear from the USSR, but I would suggest that the United Kingdom has nothing to fear from the implications of clause 1 and the benefits that it will bring to Estonia and the other Baltic states.The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) correctly highlighted the importance of the four Copenhagen criteria, and I am glad to say that Estonia is certainly equipped to achieve the requirements of those criteria. Indeed, it has a great deal of common ground with the existing full members of the European Union, and particularly with the United Kingdom. Common points include a concern about the harmonisation of tax policy, an eagerness for reform of the common agricultural policy, a concern about over-centralisation of decision making and a healthy support for the tenets of competitive markets. Indeed, Estonia sees itself as a worthy competitor in a positive way, and clause 2 will have some very important benefits with regard to the movement of workers. Estonia very much supports the belief that NATO must continue. In terms of many other policy areas, clause 1 simply enables countries that already have a great deal of cultural and spiritual commonality with existing members of the European Union to play their full part. I am grateful for the fact that the UK showed such generosity to my parents by allowing them to come here as refugees during the second world war. I hope that the implementation of clause 1 will give Estonia the opportunity to repay the gratitude that it feels for the help given to so many refugees.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the most famous person of Estonian origin in the country lives in my constituency and happens to be his mother. What more does he think that we can do to encourage the communities that are settled here permanently to get involved in the enlargement process?
I shall not go too far into that, because we risk rerunning Second Reading. However, I agree that there may not be sufficient awareness of what clause 1 and the Bill as a whole will achieve. If clause 1 is agreed, and I suspect that it will be, we will have the opportunity to inform members of communities from the 10 countries of the potential benefits. That could also prove beneficial in respect of whatever referendum the Government decide to introduce.
In recording the importance to the Baltic states of the accession arrangements—and, indeed, the future role of the Baltic states in Europe—what does the hon. Gentleman think about the important discussions that have taken place, particularly in Lithuania, about Kaliningrad? What will be the implications for good working and trading relationships, particularly through Lithuania and Poland, with Russia? The Baltic states have done good work on behalf of the whole EU in making such arrangements possible, thus avoiding what could have been a flashpoint and point of contention in future years.
I did not intend to cover the point, but it is true, as the hon. Member for West Suffolk said, that clause 1 is beneficial not just to the Baltic states, but, in providing an active and direct economic and cultural interface with Russia to the European Union. That will allow for greater political stability and confidence, and a reduction of the danger of military problems breaking out in that area. I shall leave it at that for now.To conclude, as the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) said, my mother lives in his constituency. As a Liberal Democrat, I sometimes feel that she is too keen a supporter of his constituency work. I hope that the clause will be passed, and I remind hon. Members that the Baltic states have a long memory and that they are truly grateful for the support of the UK in the past. As I said, clause 1 will provide an opportunity to repay that gratitude, and I hope that the country will shift from being good neighbour of the European Union to a full member of the team.
Because I want to raise some issues that might prompt Government Members to wonder where I am coming from, I should like to clear the decks before I go on to the detail, and make a couple of points absolutely clear. First, I support enlargement. I have no problem with it, and I never have had a problem with it. I also support the Bill in principle and have no difficulty with it; as Labour Members can imagine, there are a few buts to follow in a moment.In the past, Conservative Members might have said that there should be a referendum on enlargement. The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) said that he was glad that we had moved on from that, because it meant that we were against enlargement. However, what he needs to understand is that championing the idea of consulting the people of this country does not necessarily mean that we are against something. It simply means that we want to invite the people to have their say. I make no apologies for wanting referendums and I do not accept the view that any party that supports a referendum is committing itself to campaigning for a yes or a no, or even to campaign at all. It means that an issue is so important that the people's views matter. If the hon. Member for Leicester, East does not want to bother to listen to his constituents, some of us will ensure that they understand that he could not care less about them, but does what he believes is in his and his party's best interest. I feel sorry for him if that is what he thinks. Secondly, I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not in favour of leaving the European Union. If people think otherwise, they have got it wrong; I am still in favour of belonging to what I voted yes to in the referendum held in the past. I have no wish to leave it, only to change what we have now, which is a wholly different issue and way beyond the scope of clause 1. I make that point clear because the Minister for Europe made the usual assumption that it is a matter for rejoicing when people vote in favour of the European Union in referendums. He rejoiced in the fact that people in the applicant countries voted yes to Europe. I wish the Minister would stop claiming that the European Union equals Europe. The atlas on my bookshelf at home does not have a hole torn out where Switzerland is and does not end on the western boundaries of Sweden. Europe is not the European Union and the claim that anything that happens in favour of the enlargement of the EU has something to do with Europe is simply misleading. In his opening remarks, the Minister also rejoiced—
If it would help the hon. Gentleman, I am happy to say that I rejoiced in the fact that the countries voted yes to Europe, minus Switzerland and Norway.
It is not as simple as that, but we will not go down that road, because I suspect that you would rule me out of order, Sir Alan.The Minister said that huge numbers of people were enthusiastic about joining the European Union. It is tempting to point out the size of the majorities in favour in the referendums, and it is even more telling—and helps to put the debate into perspective—to examine the turnout. If we then deduct from the turnout the numbers who voted no, things do not look so rosy for the Minister. In Malta 53 per cent. of the electorate voted, in Slovenia 60 per cent.—perhaps a good showing. In Lithuania 63 per cent. voted—even better. In Slovakia only 52 per cent. managed to vote—only 2 per cent. more than was required to make it a valid referendum—and in Hungary only 45 per cent. voted. We should therefore temper any claims about the great enthusiasm for joining the European Union. I am glad that the people voted and I am pleased about the referendum results, but we should not get carried away about what it all means.
The only danger in my hon. Friend's observations so far is that he seriously understates his case. I share his enthusiasm for public consultation, but does he agree that clause 1 should be the catalyst for the development of an outward-looking, dynamic association of self-governing nation states, which should provide an alternative to what has all too often in recent times seemed to the people of this country a narrow, inward-looking protectionist club?
If you would allow me, Sir Alan, to have a debate of that sort this afternoon, I would be only too pleased to respond to my hon. Friend, but I suspect that you would not. I hope that it is in order to repeat what I said at the outset—that I support enlargement. I do so for exactly the same reasons as my hon. Friend. I have high hopes that enlargement will turn the EU outward and result in a more relaxed grouping of sovereign states, rather than what it is now.
My hon. Friend has fallen into the tender trap once more, by expressing a view that we heard many times on Second Reading. He gave voice to what is on his wish list, so let me tell him that what he espouses is not on offer. If he believes otherwise, can he tell me in which treaty it is mentioned?
My hon. Friend is right, but that does not undermine my point. It is why I suggested that any further comments would be out of order, but the issues must be addressed. She is right, however, to say that the clause and the Bill do not include the options that I referred to. I have already tried your patience long enough, Sir Alan, so I will move on.I ask the Minister to comment on several issues arising from clause 1. Clause 1(1) will alter the European Communities Act 1972, and that is what we are being asked to approve. That must raise the question of whether the change is sufficiently important for a referendum to be held on it. The Minister did not say whether the Government consider it a substantial change. We have been told that other matters are merely a question of tidying up. Is this change mere tidying up? I would have thought that the addition of 10 more states is stretching the meaning of the phrase somewhat. If this is a substantial change, as the whole Committee seems to agree, perhaps the Minister could tell us whether he gave any thought to consulting the British people. If so, what conclusions did he reach? The changes go beyond tidying up, and the questions that arise, many of which are addressed by the Convention, flow directly from enlargement. If enlargement is not tidying up, the issues that arise from it cannot be tidying up. Therefore, the argument against a referendum, on this or anything else, must collapse, according to the Minister's own argument. I would be grateful for his views on the holding of a referendum, because we will have to return to the issue in due course.
Ministers are always ready and able to shift the goalposts. Just as they can argue against a referendum on the so-called tidying-up grounds deployed by the Secretary of State for Wales, they are also capable of believing that issues are too important to subject to a referendum, for fear that the public might deliver the "wrong" verdict.
Order. This is a debate not about a referendum, but about clause 1 stand part.
I thought that you might intervene shortly, Sir Alan, and I accept what you say. I have made my point, and my hon. Friend underlined it.Clause 1(1) will alter the treaty to take account of the joining of the countries that it mentions. Can the Minister tell us what the effect on the Bill would be if one of the 10 countries had a referendum that said no, and therefore did not join? We would have an Act of Parliament that altered a treaty to allow the accession of a country that would not in fact join. Would that make the entire procedure null and void? I note that clause 2(4)—I shall not debate the point now, Sir Alan—makes provision for what happens if one of the countries does not join. Why will we be told in that later debate that it is necessary to take precautions against a no vote in somebody else's referendum? If that is necessary in clause 2, why is it not necessary to have some sort of get-out provision in clause 1? If the Minister thinks that an amendment could usefully be tabled in the other place to reflect that point, he might like to consider the European Communities Act section 1(3), which contains reference to the accession of Norway and makes arrangements for that country to become a member of the European Union. I know that he has a precedent to say that such provision is not necessary, but it appears to be necessary in clause 2. Can the Minister clear the muddle up, and what will he do about the Norwegian reference?
Is my hon. Friend aware of tension about these matters in some countries such as the Czech Republic? Some politicians and people in that country are deeply fearful about the impact of the common agricultural policy on them, and we may well see a negative vote.
That is another avenue that I would like to explore, but I fear that I would be out of order. My hon. Friend gives an example of a country that may provoke the very problem about which I am attempting to probe the Minister.
I am a little confused, because the hon. Gentleman began by saying that he was in favour of enlargement. He has raised several important points, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will answer them, but is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should delay the enlargement process until all those points have been addressed and all the referendums in the application countries are completed?
Absolutely not. The hon. Gentleman clearly has not been listening. I am tempted to repeat it all in case he could manage to grasp it the second time round. For his benefit, I shall try to make it as simple as possible. All I want is an assurance from the Minister that the wording is not defective, because I do not want enlargement to be held up. I want to be assured that if we leave clause 1 as it is, it will not wreck the whole process. That is the exact opposite of what the hon. Gentleman suggests. If he claims to see some ulterior motive in the points that I am making, he is wrong. I am in favour of enlargement and I am happy to vote for the Bill, but I would like an assurance on that point.
In the event that one or more of the acceding states fails to ratify on time, the Council is required to decide on immediate indispensable adjustments to key provisions of the treaty. There is an exhaustive list of those provisions that would need to be adjusted. I could give the Committee more detail, but the issue is covered. The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point, but the Bill is in line with previous accession treaties.
I thought that that was what the Minister would say. If such provision is not necessary in clause 1, I hope that he will have a convincing argument as to why it is necessary to make reference in clause 2—when we reach it—to what will happen if one or more countries do fail to join. This is confusing, because he has now told us that part of clause 2 is not necessary. Perhaps he will wish to table an amendment to that effect.The Minister rightly points out that there are provisions to cover what needs to be renegotiated in the event of the failure of a country to accede, but he has not clarified the standing of the Bill—or the subsequent Act—in such a case. We have had the answer about the effect that it would have on clause 1, but what would happen if a country that said no then entered into further negotiations on the specific points that had upset its voters, and arrived at a different solution that meant that it would join on different terms? Would the Government have to come back with another Bill, or is the wording of the Bill sufficient to allow entry following renegotiation of the terms? That is a serious point, because we should have the chance to consider any new conditions negotiated with an entrant state. Or are we saying that all 10 applicant countries can join on whatever terms are negotiated? I am sorry that the Minister finds this tedious. He sighs, but we must clarify these matters. I am not a great believer in tramping through Lobbies to suit him, or anyone else, just because that would be expedient or because, at 2.19 pm, the Minister wants to get home. We are here to scrutinise legislation.
The Bill uses language identical to that in the three preceding accession Acts. Clause 2(4) states:
The hon. Gentleman is making a series of hypothetical points, as he is entitled to. If a nation decided not to join the EU on the terms that have been agreed, it would have to make new proposals and see whether they were acceptable, then negotiate its position and have another referendum. In due course, a separate Bill for that country would have to be brought before the House. That is what the Bill provides for if, between now and next May, one of the 10 countries decides not to join the EU. The language used covers such a refusal."Regulations under this section do not have effect so as to apply an enactment in relation to a national of a relevant acceding State which has not ratified the treaty mentioned".
I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. We now know where we stand with regard to renegotiation by applicant states.The Republic of Cyprus has been touched on already, and two issues arise from that, about which the Committee must be clear. The first is the situation in northern Cyprus, which is covered by protocol 10. When I looked at the paperwork relating to the Bill, I assumed that I would find details about travel across the green line, and indeed, those details appear in protocol 10. Unfortunately, the protocol says merely that the matter will be left to the Commission to sort out once Cyprus's accession has been agreed. Is that sensible, given the history of the green line? We all hope that Cyprus will be united by May next year, but I worry that the protocol could increase tension rather than decrease it, because no one knows what it means.
For the benefit of the Committee, I can report that the Commission has presented today, in the form of a communication to the Council, its proposals for dealing with some of the matters arising if there is no settlement in Cyprus before May next year. The communication includes proposals on trade and aid, for example. On trade, the Turkish Chamber of Commerce would become a customs authority under the authority of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, so that trade with the north could recommence On aid, the proposal is that €13 million—the technical term for "million euro" is now, I understand, the ghastly "meuro"—of unspent budget will be spent in the form of 9 meuros on economic development and infrastructure, and 3 meuros on an information campaign covering EU issues. We fully support the proposals.The hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) asked about access and visas. Clearly, all holders of a Cypriot passport can travel to the EU and will be full citizens of the EU after 1 May, with normal visa-free access. People with Turkish passports will have to apply for visas, where appropriate, in the normal way. An increasing number of Cypriots from all communities are seeking the full Cypriot passport precisely so that they can get the travel rights that allow them to move freely about Europe.
I am grateful for that helpful intervention, to which I shall make a couple of responses. First, I thought for a moment that the Minister was saying that the euro was ghastly. I would have agreed with him about that. I half hope that Hansard will have heard it the same way, but I think that he meant that the word "meuro" was ghastly.
I am not clear about the unit of denomination being used. It would be helpful to know about it, for the purposes of clarifying the clause.
I am prepared to guess that I heard the word "meuro", which means millions of those ghastly awful things that I hope are never inflicted on this country. If the Minister wanted to join me in that sentiment, I should be delighted to give way to him.The Minister referred to a document that he received today. I do not accuse him of discourtesy, as I might have been able to find the document in the Vote Office or the Library. However, we are being asked to legislate in respect of protocol 10 and I at least would be grateful to have a sight of that document. I hope that it may be possible for the Minister to arrange for someone to use a photocopier, as it would be helpful for members of the Committee to see exactly what is being proposed as an alternative to sorting out the green line problem after Cyprus has joined the EU. I am glad that the Minister has been able to tell us that such proposals now exist. All I want is to be able to decide whether they are adequate. It would be a huge help if he could make them available before the end of the debate—but I mean no criticism of him for not doing so beforehand.
People in the north of Cyprus who do not have a full Cypriot passport, or who choose not to apply for one, will not enjoy the right of free movement in Europe without visas that others enjoy. Will my hon. Friend reflect on the anomaly thus caused, and perhaps encourage the Government to seek a solution?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point, which I shall not pursue beyond hoping that the Minister will say something about visas when he responds to the debate. My hon. Friend has raised the matter before in an intervention, and clarification from the Minister would be helpful.I hope, too, that the Minister will say whether he or Home Office Ministers have had any discussions with the Greek authorities on the matter. In the past, those authorities have had a nasty habit of denying British people access to Greece if they find a northern Cyprus stamp in their passports. Bearing it in mind that Greece is now an EU member, that seems a bit high-handed and unreasonable. I hope that the Minister will assure the Committee that that will stop when Cyprus joins the EU. Another problem with the Republic of Cyprus that I hope that the Minister will clarify has to do with protocol 13, which deals with the sovereign base areas. It strikes me as weird that sovereign base areas should be situated outside the EU. Why do the Government think that that is a good idea? The only reason that I can find for that is that the Government consider that the arguments that applied when Britain negotiated EU entry still apply—that is, that when we joined, the sovereign bases did not join with us. That may be a very good reason, but I hope that the Minister will say why the Committee is being asked to agree to clause 1, which in effect provides that the sovereign base areas of Cyprus remain outside the EU. However, I have discovered—surprise, surprise—that the benefits of the common agricultural policy will still apply to those areas, even though they are not in the EU. That is an example of having one's cake and eating it too. The sovereign base areas will have all the benefits of not being in the EU—if there are any, perhaps the Minister will tell us—but they will still get the money. That sounds weird—but perhaps I am being too suspicious and the Minister will be able to set my mind at rest.
May I turn to subsection (2)? My understanding of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 is that it requires any increase in the powers of the European Parliament to be referred to the House for approval, so I assumed that, for the purposes of section 12 of the 2002 Act, the House was being asked to increase the powers of the European Parliament. Perhaps I have not read the Bill or its explanatory notes correctly, or perhaps I have not correctly understood the Library briefings, but search as I may, I can find no increase in the powers of the European Parliament. Either the subsection is unnecessary or there is some increase in those powers that has not been explained, so will the Minister tell us which it is? If there are to be no increases, I hope that he will remove that subsection. If there are to be increases, we need to know about them so that we can decide whether we are prepared to give the European Parliament more powers.
I think that I shall receive the answer that the provision merely alters the number of member states, but that does not seem to alter the power of an individual member or of all the members collectively. That is not an increase in power, but merely an administrative change, which is an entirely different matter. Could the Minister help us out on that point?
The Minister needs to comment on several institutional issues to which the clause gives rise. Article 2 of the treaty refers to an increase in the size of the European Parliament, and we have considered separate
legislation to deal with that. Article 58 makes provision for nine more languages, so we shall have 20 languages. If we vote for the measure and add another nine languages, how much extra will the British taxpayer have to pay for that tower of Babel? The permutation of 20 languages each being translated into 19 others beggars belief. If we support the measure, what are we going to do about that?
Article 45 refers to the Commission increasing from 10 members to 25 members. We are being asked to agree to that, but the Government are already locked into discussions on another treaty that would alter that membership of 25. We shall be agreeing to something that the Government do not really want to happen. Article 12 refers to qualified majority voting—in respect of numbers, not the area over which it will be applied—yet the Government are already locked into discussions on extending the scope of qualified majority voting.
If the Government are asking us to agree to that parcel of changes, which are certainly not tidying up but substantial, yet they are already locked into negotiations to try to sort out some of the absurdities to which I have referred, will the Minister indicate that he will give the British public an opportunity to express their view about—
Order. I have already ruled on the referendum point. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not abuse my ruling.
I apologise, Sir Alan. I shall move on to article 3, which is about the Schengen agreement. I am seriously worried—as, I suspect, are many of my colleagues—about the implications for immigration and asylum seeking of moving the external border of the European Union eastwards. I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance, as I notice that when the applicant states join they will have some latitude in applying the Schengen acquis. I want to vote with the Minister on the clause, but to persuade me to do so, he must reassure us that we will not be opening a loophole—a weakness in the external borders of the EU—by agreeing to only partial implementation of the acquis in the early stages.
My hon. Friend refers to his anxieties about Schengen. I ordinarily keep a beady eye on the matters that the Committee is being invited to scrutinise, so can he tell us whether, if we vote for clause 1, we should be conscious that subsection (2) thereof provides for a calculated, as opposed to an inadvertent, increase in claims on public expenditure? I had understood no such thing and should be disturbed to discover that it was so, but I need to know.
Order. Any further explanation of that point will take us well over the line as to whether the remarks of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) are relevant to clause stand part.
I note that you prevented me from saying that I agreed with my hon. Friend, Sir Alan, so I shall not do so.The last point that I want to raise relates to land access between Kaliningrad and Russia. In a previous incarnation as a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, I was closely involved with that issue when discussing it with regard to Poland and the Baltic states.
Not on that occasion.Will the Minister tell us whether the protocol will be able to cope with the dangers and risks involved in that land access? It would be the only place where two parts of a sovereign state are divided by part of the EU. It would be sensible to allow Kaliningrad land access to the rest of the country to which it belongs. However, when we take the trouble to find out about the state of affairs in Kaliningrad—the poverty, the shambles of the economy and whether it can manage to produce any income for its citizens—we have every reason to worry furiously about crime, smuggling and many other things about which we should be extremely wary. Discussions about Euro-policing are not for this Bill, but if we allow the protocol to pass, under the provisions of clause 1, we must be reassured that we are not opening the door to yet more crime from Russia, which would cause us huge difficulties. It is right for the people of Kaliningrad to be given access to the rest of Russia, but how is that to be policed? Are they halfway down the road to being able to go where they like and do what they like? That worries me enormously. I am grateful to the Committee for allowing me to raise what I believe are genuine anxieties—although the Minister may not agree. I end as I started: I am an enthusiastic supporter of enlargement, but, as with everything else, when we enter into something—even if we are in favour of it—we should do so with our eyes open. We need to know exactly what we are signing up to. The Minister's helpful interventions have put my mind at rest on some matters. I am sure that he has made a note of the remainder, and I hope that he will be able to respond to my queries so that I can enthusiastically vote with him and deliver the enlargement that he wants, and that we want.
I shall try to respond as briefly as possible. I do not want to go over Second Reading matters, nor do I want to engage in a general European debate on whether we should hold referendums and so on. Suffice it to note that, when the three previous enlargement treaties came before the House to be put into British law, there was no question of a referendum, and that people in other countries who called for a referendum on enlargement did so explicitly to shut out the 10 countries and deny them the chance to join the EU—a message that I am sure that the Committee does not want to send today.I dealt with the point about Cypriot passports raised by the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink). I welcome the intervention about Estonia from the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik). I paid an enjoyable visit to Tallinn, which is recovering its glory as a great Hanseatic trading port. The city and its hinterland are quite remarkable. The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) talked about Kaliningrad, which is of the most acute interest to Lithuania. A sensible system of facilitated transit visas has been put in place. It means that Russians will be able to go from Kaliningrad to the rest of Russia with a specific visa for the purpose of that journey. There will not be the free access to the EU about which the hon. Gentleman expressed concern. Britain is, of course, not part of the Schengen agreement and the accession countries will come bit by into Schengen, as the treaty makes clear. We will have the right of regard on that, but I do not think that we will have specific new problems to worry about that arise out of Schengen. On sovereign bases, it is true that the sovereign base areas were kept out of the European Union when we joined in 1973. The very simple reason is that they are military bases from which important military operations take place. The common agricultural policy will apply simply because—again, I think very sensibly—large parts of the sovereign base area are agricultural land on which Greek Cypriot farmers go about their normal farming business. It is quite right that they should have the same rights as farmers in other parts of the European Union. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) for the energy that he has put into supporting the cause of Europe and, in particular, that of enlargement. He referred to infraction proceedings. To put it simply, all member states—new and old—are subject to Community law. The Commission is the guardian of the treaties and it alone is responsible for infraction decisions. Rather than the suggestion that the 10 new member states will have different and less rigorous rights and duties on entering the European Union, 1 think that they want to keep moving their game to the highest European levels. It is right that they know from 1 May next year they will have to operate according to the same standards as the rest of their fellow European member states. My hon. Friend was right to say that we need to help, and we are helping through twinning and by sending civil servants and other technical experts to work on Ministries' specific action plans. In addition, there has been generous pre-accession funding and programmes to support that. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire referred to the need to sell enlargement. I apologise to the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) that a letter that I sent out muddled his first name with that of the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring). However, with their support, I have sent an enlargement poster to every hon. Member and I invite those present to take this poster, which is designed for secondary schools, to the secondary schools. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Suffolk suggests that there is not much demand for the poster. On the contrary, in co-operation with the Department for Education and Skills, we have already sent it out to every single school and we are receiving many requests for more posters. That just goes to show that, when the hon. Gentleman and I do something together, the country listens.
What I said was that—surprisingly enough—there was not much demand for the poster in the House.
The photograph on the poster did every credit to the hon. Gentleman's handsome visage, but perhaps did not show me at my youngest and best. It is a serious matter, and I shall be visiting Birmingham on Wednesday with other Ministers and colleagues and the Polish Minister of European Affairs. With the help of the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, I shall also visit 100 UK towns and cities to talk about enlargement and to have discussions on the wider issues relating to our membership of the EU. The current external borders will remain in place with the new member states until they have undergone due process by the existing member states.I was asked about the European parliamentary elections and procedures. The language in the Bill is identical to that in all previous Bills that have been enacted by the House. As I said in my opening remarks, the number of seats is being altered to allow the 25 members to have an appropriate and proportionate number of seats. If Romania, Bulgaria and other countries join, we will have to look at the matter again. I noted the animadversions of the hon. Member for Spelthorne on the fact that only 60 per cent. of the people of Slovenia voted to say yes to the EU. I notice that 27 per cent. of the electorate in his constituency voted for him. I am sure that they made a sound choice, but only 27 per cent. said yes to him.
Mention was made of the Commission proposals that have been put to the Council in the form of a communication on how some matters relating to Cyprus will be handled if Cyprus does not become reunited before 1 May. I am happy to put a copy of that document in the Library so that it is available to hon. Members.
If there are any points that I have not covered, I will be happy, on request, to write to hon. Members with any detailed information that they may desire.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause I ordered to stand part of the Bill.