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On reform, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) said that nothing had happened at the Council. That simply is not correct. Extremely substantial reform has been agreed in the financial services sector. A Europe-wide patent is obviously important. The position of Britain and Spain over Gibraltar remains subject to negotiation over how the policy will affect Gibraltar. There should therefore be agreement on the single sky policy in Europe, which is immensely important.
The right hon. Gentleman said that regulation was no part of the Council's deliberations. In fact, paragraph 23 of the conclusions makes it clear that it was. He said that we had conceded on tax harmonisation, but we have made no such concession.
On gas and electricity, I think that the right hon. Gentleman did not listen to the point that I made. Because the Council requires unanimity, it is correct that the position on timetables for gas and electricity liberalisation was blocked at Stockholm. The point is, however, that the Commission proposal cannot be blocked in the same way. There is an interesting reason for that, and the right hon. Gentleman may wish to reflect on that reason: the Commission proposal will be decided by qualified majority voting. If it were not to be decided by QMV, there would be no guarantee of our ever achieving gas and electricity liberalisation. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should reflect on that point.
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not repeat his policy to refuse to ratify the treaty of Nice and call for a referendum on it. There was unanimous support for ratifying the treaty of Nice, and I discerned no support whatever for his policy of renegotiating the terms of our treaty of Rome engagement with the European Union. With the greatest of respect, I think that in handling those
Let me turn to the issues that the right hon. Gentleman raised on foot and mouth. First, it is important to state exactly what has happened so far. In respect of the number of vets, there are now well over 1,200. We are bringing in vets all the time from different parts of the country. In addition, we are removing some burdens of administration from the vets themselves.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we had belatedly employed the Army. In fact, we have employed Army logistics teams throughout the country. I cannot give an exact number, but around 1,000 people are employed in the various Army logistics schemes. I have been to Cumbria and Devon over the past few days, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman clearly that the Army are not concerned about, for example, the number of slaughtermen available. They are concerned about co-ordination and the logistical, practical effort of administering the cull that needs to be carried out.
On the policy of slaughter within 24 hours, the right hon. Gentleman will know that that is already our policy. The latest figures from Devon--[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members would wait for a moment. The latest figures from Devon show that all cases slaughtered in the county over the past three days were slaughtered within 24 hours of confirmation. I am pleased to say that the number of animals awaiting disposal has fallen, too.
I stress to the right hon. Gentleman, however--he seems to imply that it is easy to carry out these tasks--that it is a huge, practical, logistical effort. It is like tracking the common cold in the human population; it is very difficult to do, which is why the whole energy and resources of Government have been put at the disposal of those who have to do it. With the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, the idea that what that requires is another committee is beside the point. What it actually requires is to make sure that the work that is supposed to happen on the ground is happening; we are doing everything that we possibly can in order to expedite that. It does not help when he seizes the opportunity of any particular problem that occurs in the country to get out his bandwagon and travel around the country--[Interruption.]
On vaccination, I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman now proposes that we do that, but of course, as the Minister of Agriculture has made clear, we have to keep all options under review. I emphasise again that one of the things that we have tried to do throughout is to keep farming opinion with us as to the right course to take in respect of this epidemic. Farming opinion--at least up until now--has been hugely hostile to the idea of vaccination, but the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that we must make sure that all contingencies are planned for. However, vaccination is not an easy solution to the problem either.
Most people recognise that the policy of containment by culling is the right one--at any rate at present, as we track the development of the disease. The absolute essence now is to make sure that we take down the time from confirmation to slaughter. That is being done in every part of the country. The other priority is to make sure that all the resources of Government are put at the disposal of the people carrying out that policy. That has
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): In what proved to be--for all concerned--a rather modest European Union summit, will the Prime Minister confirm that, for Macedonia in particular and the Balkans in general, the right stance has to be condemnation of the rebel forces, support of the Government of the day and, especially, a continuing emphasis, on the part of his Administration as well as the EU as a whole, on human rights and the respect of human rights in that troubled area?
I have two specific questions arising from the summit. First, did the Prime Minister have an opportunity to discuss with any of his opposite numbers the suspicion of many of our farmers and an increasing number of our consumers that importations of food produce to our country are not subject to the stringent standards that we impose on ourselves? That is a legitimate concern.
My second question relates to a broader legitimate concern. Are the Prime Minister and the EU concerned that President Bush now says that he does not support the Kyoto protocol on climate change? For wider environmental reasons, should not the EU and the Government be pressurising Washington as a matter of considerable priority?
In respect of importations of food produce, that is a common concern raised by farmers and people in farming communities. We have stringent standards and we must ensure that they are applied properly. I hope that in the statement that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will make tomorrow, he will be able to say a little more about the origins of the epidemic and the likely prognosis on how it was spread.
On climate change, we made it clear in the European Union declaration that we stand fully behind the Kyoto targets. This country will probably meet those targets ahead of time. I am proud of our role in negotiating the Kyoto treaty. It is an issue on which our views differ from those of the United States, but it is important that we maintain our position.
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Having listened to the sub-Churchillian pseudo rhetoric of the leader of the Conservative party--although Churchill never promised to fight them in the Committee Rooms--does my right hon. Friend agree that the only thing more ridiculous than a cynical opportunist is an incompetent cynical opportunist? Does he further agree that the Tory leader's synthetic compassion for farmers, who are undoubtedly suffering from severe difficulties, comes ill from a member of a former Government who deliberately created hundreds of thousands of unemployed in the coal mining, steel and shipbuilding industries without
Mr. William Cash (Stone): In considering the presidency conclusions, will the Prime Minister note that pensions is the first issue raised? He did not mention that in his statement. How will public service pensions throughout Europe be funded? Will it not be by a mass policy of taxation?
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Will the Prime Minister put into the Library the rules of engagement under which KFOR and British troops can open fire on Albanian extremists, many of whom are, doubtless, bandits?