Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witnesses (Questions 620 - 635)

WEDNESDAY 21 OCTOBER 1998

THE RT HON MICHAEL MEACHER MP and MR JEFFREY ROOKER MP

  620.  You are happy to confirm that nevertheless it is a very important matter that must be dealt with urgently?
  (Mr Rooker)  It is an extremely important matter which we are pushing. We are not prepared to accept that there is a settled view on this matter, that all these foods are the same. As we have indicated this morning, the consumer does not see it that way and neither do we as far as our role as regulators is concerned. There is a European distinctiveness to this issue which we are gradually sharing and encouraging our American cousins to embrace. I think it is very important that the European Union does act as one. It will not be possible for people to opt out of this issue within the Single Market as that would wreck the commercial advantages that are there for people.

Lord Gallacher

  621.  Are you concerned with the delays which currently result from the European Community's regulatory system? Does the revision of Directive 90/220/EEC address the problem in your view? If not, what changes are you seeking?
  (Mr Meacher)  I think there is a real issue here. I repeat again that our overriding concern is the safeguarding of human health and the protection of the environment and there must be no reduction in the thoroughness of scrutiny of applications, but I think we do have to accept that there have been some unjustifiably long delays at a number of stages. I think the Commission is partly responsible for this. What the Commission proposes for the amendment of 90/220 is that, firstly, there should be time limits introduced for nearly every stage of the process and as long as those are reasonable time limits and they do not bear on the need for the rigour of approval of applications then I think that is acceptable. Secondly, the clarification of the scope of the Directive and of the risk assessments should lead to fewer delays because implementation would then be less uneven across the EU. So on both those counts I think there will be an improvement under the new Directive. I do think the introduction of a reasonable timetable—and obviously that is controversial, we can have debates as to how long it should be—should solve these problems whilst still allow for the rigorous assessment of risks, that is the real objective, but there should not be undue procrastination either.

Lord Wade of Chorlton

  622.  Ministers, I think you have both mentioned the fact that views throughout the various European states are not the same. There is a different view within Europe compared to the United States on these matters. Although Mr Rooker referred to the fact that he felt there could be no opting out, if there were certain EU Member States who did not want to develop the technology as much as others it would be possible for certain countries to opt out and others to develop. Would this be politically practicable as well as physically practicable?
  (Mr Rooker)  It may be. The environmental conditions in different countries in the European Union vary and one would not expect all crops to be grown in all countries whether they are genetically modified or not and therefore I suspect it is going to be inevitable that within the European Union some countries will simply say, "We do not grow this crop as our environment is not suitable". I was struck, as I say, whilst attending the Tyndall Forum at the Royal Institute last night, by the stark contrast. In most of Europe we grow the food in the countryside. In America and Canada they do not, they grow the food in the vast prairies. Their countryside national parks are the size of our country; in other words, the two things are separate. In Europe we have to make sure that in growing food within the countryside environment we actually take care of issues that they are not required to take care of in the vast tracts of America and Canada. Within Europe itself we are all much of a muchness but the climate is different and there will be countries that do not grow crops. So far as people opting out for a political reason is concerned, I do not think that will work within the Single Market and I do not think that will be allowed. This is why I think it is important that we get as much consent and approval within Europe that we are all comfortable with as possible because otherwise it completely destroys the Single Market because the countries will not receive products made from those crops within the Single Market and that would lead to chaos and the break up of the Single Market. There could be environmental considerations where a country would say, "We cannot grow that crop in our environment".

Lord Rathcavan

  623.  Mr Meacher, the Community's scientific committees are to be brought into the approvals process. Are you content both with the provisions for their consultation and with the committees themselves, their membership and advice?
  (Mr Meacher)  There have been criticisms up to now. What the Commission is now proposing is that it be required to consult one or more of the EC scientific committees on any matter which is likely to affect human health or the environment before the decision procedure is initiated. I have to say that that goes considerably further than the current position where EU scientific committees have been used up to now to resolve marketing applications where there is no clear consensus amongst Member States. I suppose the obvious example is Novartis maize where Austria and Luxembourg wish to impose a ban and this was challenged on scientific grounds and there was the use of the scientific committees to try to resolve that. I think what is important here is that the national scientific committees, in which we do have great confidence, continue to carry out environmental risk assessments and there is no question of transfer to EC scientific committees. However, there is the problem of exactly when an EC scientific committee should advise, i.e. what is the appropriate point of application of science? It is true that many Member States do take the view that the Commission should only consult scientific committees when the competent authorities object to marketing, which is basically the current position, or if they invoke the safeguard clause in Article 16 under the Directive. They also think that there should be fixed periods for consultation because there have been some unnecessary delays. These matters are still being discussed in Brussels and there is no final view, but certainly there is no question that scientific committees should continue to have a major role and they will be underpinned by what the national scientific committees are telling each of the Member States and we certainly think that that is the right foundation. The other point you raise, my Lord, is about the fact that there have been criticisms about the composition, about the appointment and about the accountability of these scientific committees. I know the entire system of EU scientific committees was subject to major reform last year. At least it is now the case that EC scientific experts are asked to disclose any interest. I think that is very important. It is certainly something that we are looking at ourselves in regard to our own scientific committee. There has not been a final resolution of the manner in which science should play a role but everyone agrees that it should play a role particularly where there are disputes and where the only way one can reach a conclusion is by taking the best scientific and technical advice available.

  624.  You referred to Novartis maize. As you know, they have got to plough up the Novartis maize that has been planted in France. How do you see this being resolved?
  (Mr Meacher)  Watch this space! The PGS (Plant Genetics System) hybrid oil seed rape is the first GM crop coming forward for commercialisation and the marketing consent has been granted. France was the country where an application was first made. I understand that the French, who have not issued a consent yet, may be expected to do so before long, but they are expected to take the view that there are grounds under Article 16 as to why there should be a derogation from France. All I can say is that we would be interested to see the grounds.
  (Mr Rooker)  During part of Michael's answer he may have given the impression that our scientific committees do not have full disclosure of interest. It is not something we are looking at, we do not need to. We not only have full disclosure of interest, they have to leave the room if the chairman considers the interest is so great. This is not something we have to be taught any lessons about by our European partners or the Americans in respect of being open and transparent about the people who will serve on our independent scientific committees. I want to make that absolutely clear because occasionally their integrity is challenged and attacked simply because they have their expertise borne out of working in industry for part of their life.
  (Mr Meacher)  The issue is how far there are grounds under Article 16 for a derogation. We ourselves have commissioned work from Dr Alan Gray at the Institute for Terrestrial Ecology in Dorset to look particularly at the impact on non-target species. We are expecting that work to be delivered to us some time next month and obviously we will look very carefully at it. He is doing a very thorough analysis of any grounds there might be in regard to this oilseed rape which would justify not implementing commercial growing, although I have to say that there has been agreement—and this is part of SCIMAC—that there will be no commercial growing of any GM crops for at least a year. The matter will be subject to further review as we move through this year. With regard to insect resistant GM crops, we have agreement through SCIMAC that there will be no planting of any such crops for at least three years.

Lord Tordoff

  625.  My Lord Chairman, perhaps I could just reinforce this point about the Commission's committees. I think the difficulty that we found in the past is in finding out who was producing this information. In many cases the whole thing was so opaque that you could not find out who the people were that were handing down the information or what the information was. In those cases it is impossible to have any peer review of the scientific findings. I hope that the fact that you have this underpinning of the national committees is going to help to prise out some of the mystery which lies behind Commission science.
  (Mr Meacher)  I absolutely accept that what is needed with regard to scientific advice is complete openness and transparency about the source, full revelation of the findings and the sources on which it is based so that it can be checked and verified by anyone.

Lord Jopling

  626.  Ministers, you have both repeatedly stressed this morning the importance of public consultation and transparency in the operation of the regulatory framework, but this has not prevented eco-terrorists from carrying out a number of attacks on trials. Will you confirm that the Government condemns those attacks? Do you think that the necessary scientific experiments can be carried out without excessively infringing transparency? Do you believe that steps need to be taken to deter eco-terrorism on the one hand but to allow these experiments to continue on the other?
  (Mr Meacher)  We are very concerned about this. There is undoubtedly, as everyone agrees, very real public concern about GM crops. In answer to your direct question, yes, of course the Government unequivocally condemn the unlawful destruction of GM field trials. These were not commercial crops, they were field trials attacked by a small minority outside the democratic process. I think no one in a civilised and democratic society can do other than condemn it. It cannot be condoned. However, having said that, I think it is very important that we find a way to resolve the problem. I think one of the things driving these small groups is their belief that the Government either has washed its hands of it or is not doing sufficient, and that is why I think the right way to meet these concerns is to resolve the problem by opening up the decision-making process so that those who currently participate in violent means will have an alternative democratic avenue to argue their case and will be strongly encouraged to do so. I do think the proposed stakeholders' forum should help. It has been put to us, of course, that we should not reveal the location. The Directive does require that the location for these field trials should be stated on the application and it is posted on a public register. We have thought about this. I believe it would not be right to seek to withdraw from that openness and transparency. I think we should not be driven off this by a small minority of people. It is right that it should be open, although those who are responsible for these field trials can look to trying to find improved security for them, but I think the right way is not to fall back into secrecy, which I think would only encourage more misrepresentation and mischievous reporting, it is to remain open but to challenge them to come out into the open by providing a forum in which they can do so.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

  627.  Are you concerned by the degree of power which is being acquired over the process of producing GM foods by a very limited number of bio-sciences companies? If there is such abuse, how can that best be curbed?
  (Mr Rooker)  With the changes that have occurred in recent years there is bound to be concern that it is now a very small number of companies involved. I do not have the figures to hand but I know that the number of seed companies has drastically reduced in the last decade. The research and development costs of these products are very very high and it has to be appreciated that both the issues that Michael and I have referred to this morning are the result of maybe 20 years work in the laboratory and they have not just popped up out of nowhere. By and large you will only find large companies able to do this. We have now got very few companies, Novartis, DuPont, AgrEvo, Monsanto and Zeneca. On the other hand, it is very unlikely that any one of those is going to dominate. They are going to be around for quite a few years. There is only a handful, it is true, but the issue is going to be one of competition and openness and operating a very rigorous regulatory system. They have got their own interests at heart and if they do not get it right the public will soon turn off them and this is why they need to look to their own operations to see whether they are seen to force the crops on the market earlier than there is going to be widespread public acceptance for them. As Michael has indicated this morning, there is obviously going to be some voluntary holding back. If they start—and we would encourage them—to give the consumers products that are beneficial to the consumers and not just themselves then I think that is very important, but it is in the end going to be competition and if they breach the rules we have got the power and authority to come down on them like a tonne of bricks. Some of these companies have breached consents. I am astonished that they would do that. They have done it because of slipshod management or whatever, but it is totally unacceptable. The sanctions under SCIMAC will be such that anyone who does not comply with the requirements will have access to the technology withdrawn from them. What we are proposing and what we are asking the industry to self-regulate is extremely powerful because we are going to be required to give our imprimatur to it. If people deviate and do not operate in an open and transparent way then they will suffer commercially in that respect, but at the end of the day our powers as members of the European Union, as members of the World Trade Organisation, are limited as an individual country, but we will do everything we can to make sure that the companies bring forward this new technology and all the research laboratories involved and not just the companies I have mentioned. There are many research laboratories working on this issue in this country. If they are in open competition and the competition is transparent and they do not reach a position where there is monopoly power then I am reasonably satisfied that we can have a degree of control.

Lord Rathcavan

  628.  The recent acquisition of PBI by Monsanto caused some concern. Do you think that these matters should now be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?
  (Mr Rooker)  That particular acquisition I do not think justified referral to the Monopolies Commission. I know that we had some advance warning of it as a matter of courtesy, there was no requirement to let us know about it, it had not got to that stage. I would have to take advice on this because references to the Monopolies Commission are quite specific. I have not received any advice to the effect that a Monopolies Commission inquiry into this area would be justified, but that does not mean to say that advice would never be forthcoming. This industry is not unique. In terms of the manufacturing industry as a whole, economies of scale and the control of unit costs, moving jobs and research around the planet to meet different conditions, whether it is labour or environmental, will happen on a constant basis. I think we have to keep a watching brief on it. We must not wake up one morning and realise, "Oh, there is only one company doing this any more." That would be a complete failure of the whole of the regulatory process. So we do need to keep a watch on it.

Lord Jopling

  629.  Minister, you said that the Government would come down like a tonne of bricks on a company who had transgressed the rules. Could you tell us whether the same thing might happen to a company who tried to avoid the rules altogether? I do not know whether you saw a report recently of one of the big international companies beginning tests on genetically modified organisms in the former Soviet Union where there were virtually no rules and regulations whatsoever. We have had evidence in this Committee of a company who were denied the right to do certain experiments on salmon in North America and who then moved to Scotland to carry out that experiment. It all came to nothing, but that is neither here nor there. Would the Government be prepared to come down like a tonne of bricks on companies who started up activities in countries where there are no rules and regulations at all?
  (Mr Rooker)  We could not do it insofar as what they are doing in other countries. I do not know the particular details of this. This then requires international government cooperation. As I said in answer to the first question, our regulatory process on novel foods has been approved by the World Health Organisation. We are operating in international fora here. If companies are clearly seeking to get around the regulations so that those countries take a very hard line on the protection of the environment and safety of the public in relation to food then they are doing themselves massive commercial damage once this becomes known. I would imagine, without knowing the details, this is an issue that would have to be discussed government to government and internationally because quite clearly it is an unacceptable practice.
  (Mr Meacher)  Could I add a point about the international agreement on the movement of GMOs which has already arisen? I think this country has, to its credit, been in the forefront of trying to achieve the safe handling in the movement of GMOs and governments of both parties have long advocated an international framework for bio safety. I think there are really two main mechanisms to try and deliver this. You asked a question about enforceability and I think that is a good point and I think it is always difficult to enforce it into national agreements, but the actual agreements are there. It was the UK and the Netherlands that first developed the UN environment programme "International Technical Guidelines for Safety in Bio-technology". That sets down appropriate procedures for the safe handling of GMOs which is required under the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity. The problem, I repeat, is having an effective central enforcing mechanism for transgressors and I would be the first to admit that I do not think that exists at the moment. UNEP has been through a difficult phase. It is now resurrecting itself and it is looking for the enforcement of multi-lateral environmental agreements and agreements like the ones I have mentioned. The second is that the trans boundary movement of LMOs (Living Modified Organisms) is the focus of the bio-safety protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity and we are committed in the negotiations—which are still on going at the present time, I think the last meeting is at Cartagena next February—to clear requirements at the global level for providing advanced information on safety to prospective importing countries because the problem is that many of those importing countries simply do not have the institutional capability to make the judgments that are necessary before importing. We believe that that information should be provided by the more advanced industrialised countries so that informed decisions can be taken. More needs to be done about enforcement and we do need to get agreement with regard to all countries on a bio safety protocol and I strongly believe that the British government's position is right on this.

Lord Wade of Chorlton

  630.  What we have opened up is a fascinating development of how things may happen in the future. Clearly, experience tells us that global agreements are not very easy to achieve. What would be a very serious matter is if we prevent, by over-regulation, development of this technology occurring in Europe. Mr Rooker sensibly made the point that the technology already is enormously expensive to develop and so the competition in the industry is not as we would see it in other industries where the entry costs are so much less. As we increase the entry cost through regulation we are driving the industry to become much more concentrated into very very large international organisations. They therefore have the choice to conduct research wherever it is easiest and cheapest for them to do it in the world. Is this an issue that we need to keep in mind? Clearly a global agreement might help to resolve the issue but that is not something that is going to happen in the immediate future. Do we have to be careful about keeping a balance, to allow companies to develop products under our regulations that they want to sell in Europe, lest people say, "Let's go and do it in Russia and China", and so slowly change the whole market system of these products? We would then have to buy them from places where there is no regulation.
  (Mr Rooker)  In the UK and within the Community at large we do have procedures for dealing with companies where there is market dominance that is against the public interest. If that was the situation then we have got procedures ourselves to deal with that. I think what you are touching on is almost what was mentioned in the previous question, i.e. if in terms of a breach of the regulations companies go elsewhere either to grow crops or to trial crops that we would not allow to be trialed, for example, because the situation is such that there are still plenty of things that are queuing up in the laboratory where it is too early, then that goes beyond the issue of market dominance. That is something that I think would require international agreement. If it is done for pure market dominance that then goes against the public interest then no amount of special pleading by these companies is going to be sufficient to get over that hurdle.

  631.  I was not suggesting that that might be the case. What I am suggesting is that if in Europe we make it more and more difficult for people to enter into the industry when there are easier opportunities for them to progress in other parts of the world Europe could be at a disadvantage. It would not be in our interest for that to happen because we will have no control whatsoever on those products produced outside the EC. What I am saying is that, as regulators, we have to bear in mind that we want to keep a sensible balance by not making it too expensive for people to enter into the competition. Look at what has happened in the pharmaceutical industry. Quite rightly, we have had to introduce very large regulatory systems. The impact of that is to create very very large pharmaceutical companies because the cost of developing a new product is so high. I believe that we have to be aware of the possibility of doing that and make sure that we do not strike the wrong balance.
  (Mr Meacher)  I think it is a very good point that you make about competition. It certainly is the case that there is a steady increase in entry costs because it is a highly capital intensive technology because of the rising research costs which are involved and there is a major incentive to evade controls by going abroad. You talk about balance, but I do not think we can afford to reduce or undercut our own rigorous requirements. I think the real force of your question is that we have got to find a way of ensuring that these international regulations are put firmly in place and as quickly as possible and enforced. It is this enforcement problem that I find really problematic. The final meeting on the bio safety protocol is in about four or five months time. I hope that we can see that in operation next year.[4] If you are asking if I can be sure that in that timescale we have the mechanisms which can prevent evasion of those controls, I am not at all sure we have, but I think that is where we have got to place the effort, that is where we have got to ensure that those mechanisms are more fully in place and then monitor the regulations, how they are working and what further needs to be done.

Lord Grantchester

  632.  I want to ask about the differing standards governing the production of GM crops. What are you doing to satisfy the farmer who may find himself competing in the future against foreign produced food that is produced to different standards and with different controls to those which he is having to operate under in this country? Are you satisfied with the US regulatory process? What are you doing to secure wider international agreement concerning the handling and movement of GMOs?
  (Mr Rooker)  No one wants to impose any rules and conditions on our farmers and food producers that puts them at any disadvantage with international competitors. However, as we said in the White Paper on the Food Standards Agency, the protection of public health in relation to food is the number one priority. It is true, there are complaints from some of our producers which are that our welfare conditions are higher than their competitors', for example. That has been brought about by consumer pressure in this country sometimes with and sometimes without the Government's approval. I do not think we would knowingly go down the road of making life more difficult for our farmers. People have always asked about the Food Standards Agency and what it will do to stop foreign food coming in. The answer is nothing. We are in a Single Market as part of the European Union. The idea is that products move around the Single Market to everyone's advantage. Rules should be as common as possible within the Single Market and enforced in that Single Market. There are some areas where preferences vary on a regional basis and I think one has to live with that. It is not the intention to have a set of rules that put our farmers and food producers at any disadvantage be it in respect of animal welfare or in respect of the kinds of foods they can grow. We have emphasised very much today the efforts of SCIMAC when it comes to fruition. This is an industry-led operation. This is not something we as Government can legally enforce. We have gone as far as we can with the industry to get the industry to have self-enforcement and very tough regulation, as I think we have both indicated today, in order to win public acceptance and government approval for the code of practice. It cannot just be a piece of paper, it has to be much much firmer than that. I think that is the way we are going to have to go across Europe. I do not know any details of a SCIMAC operation in the rest of our European Union partners. We are in the very early days of this new technology. There is a hiccup with the French and the decisions of the French Parliament and we are waiting to see the outcome of that. We are not seeking to rush headlong into this new technology but we certainly do not want to do anything that causes over-regulation and puts our food producers at a disadvantage, but we are certainly going to regulate in the public interest.

  633.  Perhaps I could follow that up by asking you to answer the question on the US regulatory process which is different from this country and the EC. It does sound slightly illogical to ask our farmers to produce according to one standard and the consumer can go and buy of a lesser standard from the supermarket. It might come in through a lesser regulatory process that exists, for example, in the United States.
  (Mr Rooker)  We import into this country horticultural produce from 60 different countries, some of it with an extremely short shelf life. It is incumbent under the food safety legislation so far as the supplier of that is concerned to make sure that the food is safe. The European Union—and I emphasise this because we are not operating in isolation on this—has its own inspection process of checking third party sources. Recently they have been to one of the countries that supply meat into the European Union and they have got a six month warning to clean up their act in the abattoirs and cutting plants—and this happens to be a Commonwealth country. I am not convinced that the whole of the food chain is regulated like that. So far as the big players like the supermarkets are concerned, they are demanding far more traceability from all their suppliers about where the product is coming from than ever before. I know there are complaints by British farmers about the different assurance schemes, but the supermarkets that are importing food into this country, exotic foods and foods out of season here, are doing everything they can because it is in their own interest to know as much about their supply chain as possible. Some of them, for example, refuse to buy on the opportunistic markets, they will only buy from the farms and the producers they have checked out in different countries. One of the leading brands, not one of the big five, said to me last week that from January on, when they have got the new rules about the welfare of pigs, for example, they will not buy their parma ham and their bacon and pork products from European countries unless their suppliers conform to the welfare standards that our people are going to have to conform to from January. I approve of that wholeheartedly and I hope more will do that because then our producers will be being treated exactly the same as people abroad whose foods we are going to buy.

Lord Jopling

  634.  Minister, I wanted to bring you back to Lord Grantchester's question about the regulations which apply in the United States. You said right at the beginning of this hearing with regard to soya bean that we had been 18 months too late and had missed the boat. To me, that implied a criticism of the way that the Americans have allowed the spread of genetically modified crops. There is a feeling around that there is complacency in the United States with regard to GMO regulation. At the same time, in Europe—and we have talked about France but they are not alone—Austria, Luxembourg and I guess Denmark are becoming more reserved and anxious about this. Your own evidence shows that the Government is becoming more anxious. First, do you think the Americans are too complacent and second do you see the danger of us running into a trade dispute with the United States over the course of the next ten years or so?
  (Mr Rooker)  On the first point, I think complacency is probably the wrong word. I think I highlighted earlier on the difference in where they grow their food. The vast prairies they have got means they are able to do things there without checking on all the issues that Michael referred to to do with the effect on the environment because it does not affect their "countryside" because that is elsewhere on a grand scale. For us it is different and so we have to look at it in a different way to the Americans. I do not say theirs is a complacent view. They have done their regulations to conform with their perceived risks to the environment, but their environment is not ours and we have to spell out to the companies in America that the European environment as well as the European consumer is different and has had a different culture to what happens in the States and as such they have got to take account of that. Whether or not—because we have got to do this within the European Union which gives us a degree of strength, if you like—that leads to a trade war, we certainty do not want a trade war with the United States, but there are issues that we have to disagree with the United States on in respect of discussions in the World Trade Organisation. We thought we had got a settlement on bananas but I understand they are still complaining about it. This is an issue where we do not want a trade dispute. There is an international forum in which to try and get these issues settled and that is what we have got to do. We cannot allow, taking the American example, the American environment and what has flowed from that in the way they have gone into genetically modified foods to translate to the European environment without us saying, "Hang on, we need different regulations because our environment is different, the way we grow our food is different." We have to demand those differences are taken into account, otherwise we are not fulfilling our duty for looking after both the consumer interest and the wider public interest and the environment.
  (Mr Meacher)  There is a very major difference in that I think it is something like 70 per cent of the UK is subject to cultivation. I think in the US it is less than ten per cent and that does have enormous implications in the handling of an issue like the GMO. I did speak to a very senior representative of Monsanto a week or ten days ago and I was struck by the degree to which I think he and his company are coming to terms with the fact that there is a very different culture within Europe and within the UK and that they have to accept that there can be, I believe, no question of using WTO rules just to ride roughshod over a very different political and cultural landscape in Europe, but there has to be a slowing down of this process towards commercialisation, there has to be a meeting of all the reasonable research requirements and information and there has to be significantly greater acceptance by public opinion of GM foods before we can move towards commercialised growth in this country on any significant scale. I think that Monsanto, which is a lead company in this respect, has seriously begun to take that on board and I think the fact that they are partners in this programme of managed development means that they themselves have made commitments that they will not proceed to early commercialisation and the fact that we are going to review it before we reach any decision I think is a very healthy sign.

Chairman

  635.  Ministers, that brings us to the end of the questions that we wanted to put to you. Is there anything that either of you would like to add?
  (Mr Meacher)  I think we have had an ample opportunity to say everything and a good deal more!

Chairman:  I think we have had a very full session and I am extremely grateful to you both for coming before us and for being extremely interesting, patient and harmonious in your responses to our questions. Thank you very much indeed.


4   The Minister adds: although the final text is expected to be agreed next year the exact time of entry into force will depend on the number and timing of ratifications by member states. Back


 
previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999