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Messina Conference

Lord Cochrane of Cults asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The meeting was held to mark the 40th anniversary of the Messina Conference, which paved the way for the foundation of the EEC. The Italian Foreign Minister hosted a working lunch which was attended by Foreign Ministers of all 15 member states, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament.

The first meeting of the Study Group which will prepare for the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference took place on 3 June in Taormina, near Messina. The group consists of the personal representatives of the Foreign Ministers of the EU. My honourable friend, the Minister of State (Mr. Davis) was the UK representative. During this short initial meeting the group considered its timetable and agreed the following schedule of meetings:

    30 June and 1 July (Spain)

    10–11 July (Strasbourg)

    24–25 July (Brussels)

    4–5 September (Brussels)

    11–12 September (Brussels)

    25–26 September (Brussels)

    3–4 October (Luxembourg)

    16–17 October (Brussels)

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    23–24 October (Brussels)

    6–7 November (Brussels)

    13–14 November (Brussels)

    21–22 November (Brussels)

    5–6 December (Brussels)

The group also considered the scope of its work on the basis of a paper circulated by its chairman, Carlos Westendorp (Spanish Minister for Europe). It was agreed that until the end of July the group should take a first look at the EU's institutions; citizenship; justice and home affairs issues; the common foreign and security policy and defence; and the procedural issues such as legislative instruments and budgetary procedures.

The chairman stressed that the Study Group's task was not to negotiate. Its purpose was to present a range of options to Heads of Government to assist them in determining the scope of the Inter-Governmental Conference itself.

Members of the group agreed that the IGC next year would be designed to develop the EU, especially to prepare the way for further enlargement. The Study Group would consider the challenges facing the EU, which included the need to make it more relevant and comprehensible.

In making his initial address to the Study Group, my honourable friend stressed that the Union faced major challenges in the coming years. The challenges included enlargement to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, improving European competitiveness, making Europe relevant and acceptable to its people and developing a more effective Common Foreign and Security Policy.

My honourable friend emphasised that none of these goals required greater centralisation. On the contrary, there should be a greater role for national parliaments and a reinforcement of subsidiarity and deregulation. My honourable friend said that the UK would oppose extension of qualified majority voting. Seeking to out-vote states when their vital national interests were at stake would be likely to create more problems than it solved and could build up resentment.

My honourable friend pointed out that there was no need for a massive overhaul of the basic Maastricht structure, which provided the necessary flexible framework for further enlargement. A major overhaul would bewilder and alienate the European public.

Finally, my honourable friend emphasised the importance of carrying the people of Europe along in any decisions reached later in the Inter-Governmental Conference. The European Union should be built for the benefit of Europe's citizens, not its politicians.

Foreign Affairs Council, 29 May

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council on 29 May.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallsey: The "A" points listed in document 7405/95, which has been placed in the Libraries of the House, were adopted without a vote.

The Council discussed the situation in former Yugoslavia in the light of recent developments on the ground.

The Council adopted conclusions on proposals for greater transparency in its work.

The Council approved a text for standard human rights clauses in Community agreements with third countries.

There was a discussion of the Commission's White Paper on Approximation of Laws in the context of enlargement to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Council adopted conclusions on policy towards the Baltic Sea region, and approved a paper on policy towards the Baltic States. A decision was taken to sign Europe Agreements with the three Baltic States on 2 June.

Approval was given for the signature of an Interim Agreement with the Ukraine on 1 June.

The Commission reported on the state of play in negotiations for new Agreements with Israel and Morocco.

There was a further brief discussion of the European Development Fund (EDF VIII).

The Council discussed the prospects for signature of the EC/Russia Interim Agreement, and agreed to return to the subject at its meeting on 12 June.

The Council agreed to the inclusion of Croatia in the PHARE programme, and decided to consider the opening of negotiations for an EU/Croatia Trade and Co-operation Agreement on 12 June.

The Council discussed, and broadly welcomed the Commission's recent communication on Japan; and agreed conclusions on the current US/Japan dispute over automobiles and automotive parts.

The Council discussed the continuing negotiations with Canada under Article XXIV.6 of the GATT.

The Commission reported on their negotiations with the US on a new US/Euratom nuclear trade and cooperation agreement. The Council will return to the subject on 12 June.

Germany presented a memorandum proposing changes to the EC banana regime: there was no substantive discussion.

Finally, there was a brief discussion of the planned pre-accession strategy for Cyprus. The Presidency noted that arrangements were in hand for the 12 June EU/Cyprus Association Council.

No votes were taken at the Council.

A copy of the Council's conclusions will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is available.

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SOE Archives: Release

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to release more records of the wartime Special Operations Executive.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced on 26 November 1993 that a review of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) archives had begun. Since then, the records on the Far East, Scandinavia, the Middle East and North Africa have been made available to the public. The next batch, on Eastern Europe, were opened by the Public Records Office on 9 June 1995. Further SOE records will be made available in due course.

Legal Services Ombudsman: Annual Report

Lord Cochrane of Cults asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Legal Services Ombudsman intends to publish his fourth Annual Report.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The Legal Services Ombudsman will tomorrow publish his fourth annual Report, and copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

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Lord Cochrane of Cults asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When it will publish the Department of Trade and Industry's MINIS (Management Information Systems for Ministers) returns.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers): The MINIS 95 returns for the department, which this year include the department's Efficiency Plan, were published on 12 June 1995. A set has been placed in the Library of the House.

Immigration Act Detainees: Transfer to Prison

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following their written reply of 24th May (col. WA58), they will arrange adjudication hearings for Immigration Act detainees alleged to be behaving disruptively before such persons are moved to HM prisons.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch: Disruptive detainees are transferred to Prison Service establishments to ensure the safety and good order of the detention centre. It is not a punitive measure. Such decisions often have to be taken quickly, as a response to operational requirements. Such decisions are not, however, taken lightly and the detainee has an opportunity to have his representations considered before any transfer is effected.

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