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5. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): What recent discussions his Department has had with (a) Estonia, (b) Latvia and (c) Lithuania about the political aspects of proposed NATO enlargement. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): We have had frequent discussions with all three Baltic states. We have made clear the importance that we attach to the political, as well as the military, responsibilities of NATO membership.
Mr. Marsden: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I recently visited Estonia and Latvia with the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as I had the chance to see for myself, those countries have made great strides in reintegrating themselves into the new Europe?
Given that the NATO meeting in Reykjavik today is considering the whole issue of enlargement and applications for enlargement, will the Department continue to stress to those Governments the importance of the political dimension in the responsibility of NATO membership? In particular, will it emphasise the need to reassure and to give equal access to citizenship for Russian minorities in the countries concerned, so that we are able to reassure those minorities that membership of NATO will be a force for stability and integration in their countries?
Mr. Bradshaw: Of course. We are very pleased with the progress that the Baltic states have made in integrating and improving the human rights of their minorities, especially the Russian minority. It is particularly pleasing that Latvia is in the process of changing its electoral law to remove the language barrier that might have discriminated against its Russian minority. That shows one of the political benefitsnot only for NATO, but for the countries concernedin countries aspiring to and, eventually we hope, joining NATO.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): If the three Baltic nations specified in the question are admitted to NATOwe would welcome thatwill they join the genuinely transatlantic alliance that constitutes NATO now, or the European pillar of a defence community that was proposed two weeks ago by the chairman of the EU Military Committee, General Hagglund? Does the Minister agree with the general that
Mr. Bradshaw: It is time that the Opposition ended the infantile anti-Europeanism that drives their agenda. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there is no conflict or contradiction between the role of NATO, the cornerstone of our strategic defence, and the European security and defence policy, which will be responsible for Petersberg tasks.
The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): We are working hard with Trade Partners UK to help more than 15,000 British companies take advantage of the enormous opportunities in what will be the largest single market in the industrialised world. On 12 June we will brief British business journalists about them.
Rosemary McKenna: My right hon. Friend knows the importance of commercial assistance to UK companies that are trying to set up in the pre-accession countries if we are to be truly competitive and increase employment in the UK. He will know of the serious anxieties that have been expressed through our embassies and consuls about the available resources. What steps has he taken or can he take to improve matters?
Peter Hain: A third of our diplomats abroad are commercial officials, responsible for driving Britain's trade strategy and helping businesses. There are enormous opportunities in the countries that want to join the
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Before EU enlargement proceeds, some unfinished business needs to be tackled about people in the EU who are currently disfranchised. The Minister realises that I am referring to people in Gibraltar who have repeatedly been promised the opportunity to vote in European elections. Despite the Government's
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Does the Minister recall that the last time I aggravated Ministers on the question of European Union enlargement, it was to ask why no Labour Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had visited the principal accession countries? Has the Secretary of State for Trade and Industryas distinct from a junior Ministervisited Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic or any of the other accession countries? If not, why not, and when is she going? What is more, will he kick the backside of Britain's commerce and industry, particularly the financial sector, which have been unbelievably tardy in their approach to central Europe, and still believe that it consists of far away countries of which we know little? The Germans, French, Swedes and others are engaged in this process but we are not. The British Government have been tardy on this, and so have commerce and industry.
Peter Hain: I know that my hon. Friend is really on my side on this matter, and on other matters of Government policy. I acknowledge his interest in central Europe, and his long association with it. I have been to Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprushalf the candidate countriesand my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is due to visit many of them in the next few weeks. Every time we go, we assist British business, as do our officials who are in post in those countries all year round. Moreover, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will listen carefully to my hon. Friend's strictures.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): In preparing UK businesses for enlargementwhich the Minister knows is an objective that the Conservatives prizewill he ensure that British businesses are not discriminated against? That applies particularly to British farmers, as our large farmers might be discriminated against in favour of smaller European farmers.
Peter Hain: One of our driving objectives in reforming Europe is to get a sensible agricultural policy, which we certainly do not have at present. The common agricultural policy needs radical reform, and enlargement will increase