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Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): The Prime Minister has had ample opportunity this weekend to discuss with other European Ministers matters that are of general concern to the people of the United Kingdom, and are of especial concern, for obvious reasons, to the people of east Kent. He claimed that the discussions were successful. When may we expect rail freight to resume through the channel tunnel, in compliance with European regulation? When will the Government try to enforce the Sangatte agreement? It was signed after the Dublin convention, and permits the return of illegal migrants who use the channel tunnel. When does the Prime Minister expect the Red Cross centre at Sangatte to close?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues keep mentioning the agreement under which we were entitled to return people to France. As a result of the Conservative Government's negotiations, the agreement lapsed when the Dublin convention came into force.
The Prime Minister: It is correct that it was signed after the Dublin convention, but a specific term of the agreement provided that it should lapse when the Dublin convention came into forcein October 1997, I think, from memory. Consequently we have to renegotiate with the French, and we are doing that. I believe that we shall make progress on that and on Frethun, but it will be easier to do so in the context of European action.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): I welcome what the Prime Minister said about sustainable development and the forthcoming talks in Johannesburg. Does he agree that the lesson of last week's mass peaceful lobby of this place was that we can make more progress by being objective in presenting our views on, for example, falling commodity prices and unfair subsidies, than by simply carping from the sidelines?
The Prime Minister: If international agreements require unanimity, we can block an agenda set by others. We cannot, however, gain our own position in any way other than by getting the agreement of others, which is why constructive engagement is so manifestly the right policy. My right hon. Friend's comments on trade issues are absolutely right. It would bring great shame on the developed world if we did not take significant action to open up our markets further to the goods of the poorest countries in the world. Access to our markets is what they needpossibly as much as, and sometimes more than, aid.
1. Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall be completed at this day's sitting and shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) three hours after their commencement.
2. The Lords Amendments shall be considered in the following order, namely Nos. 1, 17, 10, 2 to 9, 11 to 16 and 18 to 30.
3. The proceedings on any further message from the Lords on the Bill shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) one hour after their commencement.[Jim Fitzpatrick.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I shall take the point of order in a moment. Before the House considers the Lords amendments, I wish to draw its attention to an error on the amendment paper. Amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 17 should read:
John McDonnell: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Thank you for your leniency. Amendments were tabled in my name and the names of a number of my hon. Friends that expressed a certain position that had been debated previously in the House, and was the subject of an early-day motion with 300 signatories.
John McDonnell: I thank my hon. Friend for correcting me. I accept that those amendments have not been selected today, and that the Speaker has no responsibility to provide reasons for not selecting them. Mr. Deputy Speaker, will you none the less take back to him the view that there may well be a case for the publication of the advice provided to the Speaker on amendments, so that we can have transparency and openness and, perhaps, increased accountability about the selection of amendments process?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I know that the hon. Gentleman knows well how the House deals with these matters, and that it is not possible for me to comment on the selection of today's amendments. He has, however, put his thoughts on record for everyone to see and to read.
Lords amendment: No. 1.
Nigel Griffiths: Given that the issues raised by amendments Nos. 1 and 17 to 19, and amendment (a) to amendment No. 17, are so closely related, it is sensible to address these amendments as a whole. I will, of course,
This may sound a little complicated, but what I am proposing is in fact quite simple. I am asking the House to support the Government's original amendment to the Bill made in the House of Lords, through which the Government responded to concerns expressed in this House and elsewhere about the issues of guidance and of sustainable development.
I will explain in a moment why we think the House should disagree with Lords amendment No. 1 and support amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 17. First, however, let me explain why the Government want to replace former clauses 7 and 8, which are now Lords amendments Nos. 18 and 19, with Lords amendment No. 17, as amended.
Former clauses 7 and 8 governed the operation of the export licensing process. They enabled the Government to publish guidance about matters to which regard might be had in the making of export licensing decisions, and the reasons that might be thought to justify particular decisions. The measure that replaces clauses 7 and 8 has a similar function, but we have made two significant changes.
Although we have no doubt that under the Bill as it left the House of Commons it would be possible for the Government to reject an export licence application solely on sustainable development grounds, the Government were very much aware of the depth of concern. We have addressed that concern first by strengthening the role played by guidance under the Bill, and secondly by putting beyond all doubt the Government's continuing commitment to sustainable development in the licensing process, together with all the other relevant consequences listed in the schedule.
First, let me explain how we propose to strengthen the role played by guidance under the Bill. The House will be well aware that the Government have always intended the important role currently played by the consolidated criteria announced to Parliament on 26 October 2000 to continue after the Bill becomes law. That is why clause 8 contained a reference to the consolidated criteria, and a similar reference is in the proposed new clause. The new clause, however, significantly strengthens the role played by the criteria under the Bill by making it a requirement for the Secretary of State to issue guidance about the general principles to be followed in the exercise of licensing powers, and by stating that the consolidated criteria constitute such guidance on general principles. The change will also ensure that if any Government in future wish to change the general principles on which the export control regime operates, they will be obliged to issue guidance stating what the new principles are, and to lay it before Parliament.