WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Mr Donald Anderson, in the Chair Dr Norman A Godman Mr Andrew Mackinlay Sir David Madel Mr John Maples Mr Ted Rowlands Sir John Stanley Dr Phyllis Starkey _________ MEMORANDA SUBMITTED BY THE FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES MR KEITH VAZ, a Member of the House, Minister of State, and MR SIMON FEATHERSTONE, Head of EU Department External, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined. Chairman 1. Minister, may I welcome you again to the Committee, on behalf of colleagues. I welcome, with you, too, Mr Simon Featherstone, who is Head of the European Union Department External; and I thought Mr James Bevan was attending? (Mr Vaz) He was; but, Chairman, I think that we can deal with the points that you make without him being present. 2. I am obliged. Minister, I would like to begin in this way. We know that, last week, on 26 February, the Government signed a Treaty; we now start on the process of ratification. Can you indicate to the Committee in what way the Government proposes to ratify this Treaty, presumably primary legislation will be needed; what sort of timetable does the Government have in mind? (Mr Vaz) Mr Chairman, obviously, we wish to ratify Nice as quickly as possible, the difficulty is finding the necessary slots and the necessary parliamentary time to do so, but it is in the mind of the Foreign Secretary that this should be done as soon as possible. I cannot give you a date today. We are seeking the time we need, but we wish to ratify as soon as possible. 3. But if there were to be an election on May 3, Parliament would take some time to re-establish itself, then, presumably, there would be a recess, beginning some time towards July. Would it be the hope, if the present administration remains, of completing that process before the summer recess? (Mr Vaz) It is difficult for me to give you a date, because there are lots of 'ifs' in that, and neither I nor you, obviously, know the date of the general election, though we can try to guess it; but it is our view that this should be done as quickly as possible. Clearly, we are very proud of Nice, it is a great achievement for the European Union. As someone who spent five days watching the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary at work, we want to make sure that the good work that was done there is translated into ratification; and all I can tell you, Chairman, is that we will regard this as a priority, we want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Mr Maples 4. Do I understand, from that, that, firstly, if there were to be a May election, this Treaty will not have been ratified in time for that? (Mr Vaz) It depends on the timescale of when there is an election; there is a big 'if', Mr Maples. 5. I said, if there is a May election? (Mr Vaz) But we hope to get the parliamentary time available as quickly as possible. 6. So there is a possibility that, if there were a May election, this Treaty would have gone through Parliament and been ratified before that election? (Mr Vaz) It depends very much on getting the slots that are necessary to take it before Parliament. 7. Are you seeking these slots, before such an election? (Mr Vaz) We are actively seeking to make sure that there is time made available for this to happen. 8. But, in answer to the Chairman, you said, also, assuming the Government were re-elected at the general election, I understood you to be saying, you were not even guaranteeing that it would have been ratified by the summer recess. So, on the one hand, you are saying you are seeking time in March, this month, and, on the other hand, you are saying you cannot guarantee that the Treaty would have been ratified by the end of July? (Mr Vaz) Well, because you are asking me to put a date on it now, so I made it clear to you, Mr Maples, I cannot give you a date, all I can tell you is the intention of the Government and the Foreign Secretary, who signed the Nice Treaty, as the Chairman said, on 26 February; we want to get it done, and we want to get it done as quickly as possible. I cannot give you a date, it is important, obviously, that we do it quickly. 9. I was not asking for a day, I was asking for a month, or even a season? (Mr Vaz) No, I am giving you the intention. Well, can anyone predict anything that is going to happen in the next few weeks; no. 10. (- Inaudible -), you cannot? (Mr Vaz) I am not the Leader of the House of Commons, and therefore I cannot tell you; but, of course, we want this done as quickly as possible. Mr Maples: It sounds very vague, does it not? Chairman: Mr Rowlands; as a veteran of a number of Treaties. Mr Rowlands 11. We do not ratify treaties, we have to do, presumably, what we have done on - may I seek confirmation from you, Minister, that what needs to happen is another European Community Bill, or European Union Bill, of the kind that we had for Maastricht and Amsterdam? (Mr Vaz) We will need to put it before the House in that way. 12. In the form, a very similar Bill, these sort of two or three-clause type Bill, is it? (Mr Vaz) We will need to put it through the Commons in that way. 13. What is the necessity of a time; is there anything that could not happen in the next six months, if the Bill was not passed? (Mr Vaz) We are keen to ratify it. 14. I know you are keen to, but I am just saying, what is the necessity? (Mr Vaz) The necessity is to fulfil our obligations, and we are not going to stop doing all the things that we are doing, if that is what you mean, the negotiations will continue for accession; but clearly we want a ratification because it is important and it is necessary for us to do so. 15. I can see it is important symbolically, but if, in fact, it was not passed by the summer there would be nothing in the substance of the Nice Treaty that Government would require for legislation? (Mr Vaz) Ratification is required, so, in itself, that is self-evident, it is a self-evident truth that we need to ratify; but it does not prevent Ministers, the Prime Minister, the negotiations, the opening and closing of chapters, no, it does not, but we need to make sure that that ratification happens. Because what will happen post-ratification, of course, is that the concluding parts of the negotiations will happen, and you cannot admit until this process is completed. 16. But, just going back to it, the kind of Bill that you are bringing before the House is identical to that of Amsterdam and Maastrict, is it? (Mr Vaz) If you want to know whether it is going to have one, two or three clauses, the answer is, I cannot tell you a precise figure today. 17. You have not got a draft Bill? (Mr Vaz) Of course, we are looking at this matter, of course, we wish to make sure that it comes before the House, it would be quite wrong to mislead the Committee on this point. I think, what the Committee needs to do is to wait until the Bill is in that position. Mr Rowlands: I do not want you to mislead us, but I just want to know, if you are keen to bring it forward, and you are anxious to report it, I would have thought you would have a draft Bill ready for - - - Chairman 18. Is the Bill before a parliamentary (draft committee ?) at the moment? (Mr Vaz) I can assure you, Mr Rowlands, that we are doing everything that we can to expedite this process. 19. Is the Bill before a Parliamentary (draft committee ?) at the moment? (Mr Vaz) I cannot tell you that, Mr Chairman, because I do not know. 20. But you are the Minister responsible for this matter? (Mr Vaz) Indeed; but I cannot tell you whether this Bill is ready to go before Parliament at this moment, because we do not have the necessary time to do so. But, I can agree with Mr Rowlands, it is going to be a very short Bill. Sir John Stanley 21. Just on that point, Minister; surely, as the Minister for Europe, the giving of instructions to parliamentary counsel to draft the Bill would come to you, as Minister, for approval? So you must know, as the Minister, whether or not you had the normal submission from officials to give your ministerial assent for instructions to go to counsel? (Mr Vaz) I am quite satisfied that I and my officials are doing everything that we possibly can to ensure that this matter is before the House at the earliest opportunity, Sir John. 22. That does not answer the question? (Mr Vaz) Well, that is my answer. 23. So you are refusing to say to this Committee, in answer to a straight question, whether you have now approved instructions going to counsel, which is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, you are refusing to give the Committee that information? (Mr Vaz) Sir John, I do not wish to make this sound as if I am being aggressive, though your question is aggressive, I am not seeking to do so. All the drafting work that is necessary, in order to achieve our objective, is in hand. It is an internal matter when I give instructions and what those instructions are. Chairman 24. But it is not a state secret, with respect, Minister, that either you have given instructions to the parliamentary counsel or you have not? (Mr Vaz) I have given instructions for the drafting work to be put in hand, and it is being put in hand. Sir David Madel 25. If it is in hand, when will it be completed? (Mr Vaz) It will be completed when the necessary work is completed, and when it is completed, Sir David, it will be brought before Parliament. 26. We have been down this track before, on European Bills; there must be some idea of how long it takes learned counsel to get the work done? (Mr Vaz) I am the last person, in the presence of the Chairman, to try to cost the time of learned counsel; but I can tell you that they are aware of our intention to get this before Parliament as soon as possible. 27. If it is not ratified until the autumn, will our European partners be worried? (Mr Vaz) I do not think so. I think that there is a desire on the part of the Government to get this matter before the House as quickly as possible; other countries, of course, are doing whatever they have to do. It is the Chairman, rightly, who raises the fact that after 1 May we will be in the last year of the Parliament, and, to a large extent, as the Committee knows, there is pressure on legislation and legislative time. But it is our intention to do this as quickly as possible. Sir John Stanley 28. Minister, treaty ratification legislation is, of course, constitutional legislation, and I think I am right in saying that this legislation is likely to be the first piece of Government constitutional legislation that will have come before the House since the very significant procedural changes that were brought into effect at the beginning of the current session, where Government Bills are guillotined at the end of the Second Reading debate, as far as the subsequent committee stage is concerned. Will that procedure have been applied to this constitutional Bill? (Mr Vaz) I cannot advise you on the precise nature of the procedure. I can assure Sir John that all the necessary procedures that are required will be followed. 29. Again, that does not answer the question. I have asked you a specific question. The Government have changed the parliamentary procedures whereby Government Bills, in the generality, and I believe there have been no exceptions, so far, though it is open to the Government to make an exception, if it so chooses, but, from the beginning of this session, all Government Bills, without exception, so far as I can recall, have been automatically guillotined, as far as the committee stage is concerned, at the end of the Second Reading debate. And I am asking you what is, I think, an important question, and certainly to this Committee, this is likely to be the first constitutional Bill coming before the House, and I am asking you, is it the Government's policy that this Bill will be treated like any other Bill, notwithstanding the fact this is a constitutional Bill, and will be guillotined, as far as the committee stage is concerned, immediately after the end of the Second Reading debate? (Mr Vaz) All the proper procedures, Mr Chairman, will be followed, in respect of this Bill. I cannot tell Sir John what the legislative timetable will be, or what time is available, and it would be wrong for me, now, to make any statements about that. I can assure Sir John that, of course, this is an important Bill for the Government, because we are very proud of the Nice Treaty, we are proud of what it does, because it is to do with enlargement and we want to make sure that the applicant countries join as quickly as possible. We will follow all the procedures, we will give enough time for a proper, thorough debate on these issues, as we have always done. I cannot tell you now and deal with any questions about the guillotine, or about how long it is going to take to get through. Chairman 30. Accepting that the decisions on the procedural matters may not yet have been taken, may I, on behalf of the Committee, try to sum up the position, from that round of questioning. First, the Bill to ratify, as Mr Rowlands has suggested, will be following the precedent of the Maastrict and Amsterdam Bills; is that correct? (Mr Vaz) Yes; it is obviously not going to be the same Bill. 31. No; no, mutatis mutandis? (Mr Vaz) Indeed. 32. Secondly, that you have given instructions to parliamentary counsel to draft the relevant Bill? (Mr Vaz) The drafting work is in hand. 33. And, thirdly, clearly, it will go ahead as speedily as practicable? (Mr Vaz) Indeed; and I can give no guarantees about the dates, or what time will be available, except to say, Mr Chairman, as I have done, we regard this as an important Bill, and we will make sure that it is brought before the House as quickly as possible. Chairman: Minister, before we go into the many details on the numbers of chapters which have been opened and closed and the position in respect of a number of countries, and I will be calling Mr Rowlands on that, may I - - - Mr Mackinlay: Before we move on, Chair, just on a procedural point. It does seem to me that this distinguished Committee and the Minister are falling into the chasm of talking about this legislation ratifying a treaty, and, for me, it is not a small point; indeed, that legislation does not do that. I only wish - I only wish - this Committee was charged with dealing with the ratification and that Parliament was; in fact, it is legislation consequent upon the Treaty, which is ratified under the royal prerogative, and I think we should get our terminology correct, as a Committee. I wish, in the business of this Parliament, we were ratifying it; we are not. That is all I wanted to say. It is a very important constitutional point, to anybody interested; this Parliament does not ratify treaties, and it should. Chairman: I would only leave the comment that, in practical terms, if the House were not to approve that Treaty, it would not come into effect. Mr Mackinlay: Not so; but we will discuss it afterwards. Chairman: But can I move on: Mr Rowlands. Mr Rowlands 34. May we ask just if you could provide this information: how many of our fellow Member States of the European Union were required to approve this by referendum? (Mr Vaz) I do not have the answer to that question, but I can tell you that there is one country, I think it is Ireland, that proposes to have a referendum, at the end of May, Mr Chairman, I have to tell you, but I did get that information from the Member for Stone, so we will need to check that. 35. It must be right? (Mr Vaz) Well, it must be right, indeed; so, yes, that is the position. 36. Perhaps Mr Featherstone can help? (Mr Vaz) No, he does not know. I will write to you with that information. Chairman 37. If you could write on that, we would be grateful. Before we get into the details, just one, sort of Mount Olympus question on the grand vision. Minister, you were at Nice, with all the late nights of that time, you have been dealing with your ministerial colleagues on the opening and closing of chapters. Help us on this; that when the Committee met Mrs Michaelova, the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, this morning, for example, she made clear that the aim of her country, and of a number of other applicant countries, obviously, is to join Europe in its totality, security structures and political structures. And we have the application of countries to join NATO, which is one track, the European Union is another, some countries may find it easier to be welcomed early on into the European Union, such as the Baltics, because of the peculiar problems there. Is there a consciousness on behalf of the negotiators that it is both a security element, the NATO, and the European Union, and the parallelism of these two areas, two tracks? (Mr Vaz) Yes. Mr Chairman, you raise a very important point, because that is a similar message that I have heard, from my meeting today with the Foreign Minister for Romania, who is in London at the moment and due to meet the Foreign Secretary tomorrow morning. Of course, it seems to be a package, to some of the applicants, but, in fact, it is not; it is clear that the application to join the European Union is quite separate. As far as NATO and the security aspects are concerned, countries that have got membership Action Plans will have to proceed and make sure that they are dealt with. We are dealing primarily, and absolutely, in fact, with an application to join the EU, not an application to join NATO; that is a different issue, but it is one that some countries, for example, you say, Bulgaria, and that is a message that I have also got from Bulgaria, feels that that is an issue that also needs to be followed, at the same time. 38. Are you saying that there will be no special consideration to Lithuania and Latvia, joining them with Estonia, because of the general Baltic problems, in respect of NATO? (Mr Vaz) You do raise a point about when countries are going to join and countries wanting to be grouped together, and you raise the Baltic question. The answer must be, no, these are negotiations that are being conducted by the European Union, the chapters deal with these issues, and they have to proceed to open and close the chapters, to adopt all that is required by the acquis communitaire. Mr Maples 39. Can I just follow up on this, because I think it is quite important. I just want to make sure I understand Government policy over this. Are you saying that it is Government policy that there could be a group of countries that accede to the European Union but do not become members of NATO? And, similarly, that there might be members of NATO, like, for instance, Turkey, let us suppose that the negotiations for Turkey to accede to the European Union in a few years' time get extremely difficult, that Turkey might remain a member of NATO and not of the European Union? So that there is no implied overlap, there is no implication that, by joining the EU, you somehow acquire some kind of option on joining NATO, they are entirely separate? (Mr Vaz) Mr Maples is right. Dr Starkey 40. Can I just pick up a further point. Mr Maples talked about groups of countries. Were you saying, Minister, that countries will be viewed individually and not as groups, so that whether an individual Baltic state, for example, meets the criteria would decide whether it is ready for entry or not, not whether the rest of them have also caught up? (Mr Vaz) Dr Starkey raises really the crucial question, that is put to all Ministers, and I am sure to this Committee, by those who have given evidence to the Committee, and that is, when are we going to join, and are we going to join with our "friends", because, within the sub-group of the 12 applicants, obviously there are groups that you can see that are identifiable, such as the Baltic states and the V4, etc. We are not getting into any kind of bidding process, and we are not in a position to choose and decide; it really is up to the countries themselves to complete their negotiations, to open and close their chapters, in the way that is appropriate, and to fulfil that obligation. There are some who believe in the 'big bang' principle, and that is that they all come in together, there are others who believe they should be done in groups, and there are some, even, who believe that there can be no enlargement without one or two particular countries joining. Our position is very clear, and it was set out by the Prime Minister in Warsaw, on 6 October last year, and that is, we want to see applicants joining as soon as possible, that we would like to see them participate in the next European elections, that we would like them to be round the table at the time of the IGC, which is due for 2004. But it all depends on their ability to negotiate, to open and close the chapters; and, frankly, some countries are making astonishingly good progress, as you must have found, others are not being as successful as they ought to be. Mr Rowlands 41. Perhaps we can pursue it. Successful enlargement is a major policy objective, and we have got the Luxembourg Six, were the first group; which of these six, at the moment, you are saying some of them have been moving at an astonishingly fast pace, others have had problems, which of these six do you consider now to be a problem? (Mr Vaz) None of them are a problem, in the sense that Mr Rowlands means. What we have is what you have got, which is the bare facts, and that is that Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are all on to 29, have opened 29 chapters. Using that same list, and I do not know whether you have that list in front of you, or would you like me to read it out, Cyprus provisionally has closed 17, Hungary 15, Poland 14, Estonia 17, the Czech Republic 13 and Slovenia 15. As far as the Helsinki Six are concerned, because, although we do speak in terms of a Luxembourg Six and a Helsinki Six, to all intents and purposes, there is no reason why a member of the Helsinki Six club, if we can call it that, cannot catch up with the others on the regatta principle, and, looking at those countries, in this order, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Malta, 19 for Latvia, 17 for Lithuania, 17 for Slovakia, 9 for Romania, 12 for Bulgaria, 16 for Malta, have been opened. Latvia has closed provisionally 9, Lithuania 8, Slovakia 10, Romania 6, Bulgaria 8 and Malta 12. If it is helpful to the Committee, what I could do is, as I have promised in the past, provide you with a grid of the up-to- date opening and closing of chapters. Chairman 42. What, every month, or so? (Mr Vaz) I have actually found it very interesting myself, and it is provided for me on a monthly basis. I am not wanting to set a great precedent that everything that I get on a monthly basis the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should get, but I think that this grid is interesting, and it is useful. Chairman: I accept, that grid would certainly be of value to the Committee. Mr Rowlands 43. And, looking down the list of the first Luxembourg Six and those that have opened and closed, what strikes one about all six is that there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten dozen chapters, key chapters, which none of them have closed: freedom of movement of persons, freedom of rights services, freedom of movement of capital, transport, taxation, regional policy, JHA, budget; in other words, some of the thorniest issues are still, seemingly, from this chart, utterly unresolved. Tell me, if we are pursuing a successful objective of enlargement, how do you see, and how does the Government see, this process of cracking these dozen, or so, chapters, which, quite clearly, are really the thorniest questions, and seem to apply to all six as being unresolved? (Mr Vaz) Mr Rowlands has got the nub of the problem, that, certainly, I have heard, when I have been to the applicant countries, and that is, why they want to open more chapters, in fact, open all the chapters, is because - - - 44. It is the closing of the chapters; those 12 I read out to you, none of them are closed? (Mr Vaz) Indeed. Mr Rowlands is absolutely right. It is because the most difficult ones remain at the end, because people like to be seen to be making progress on the easy ones, because, look at statistics; and, as I have just done, as Mr Rowlands has correctly said, for example, Cyprus, 17 out of 29, and that sounds good, but the most difficult ones are to be closed. And he is right that what we have said to the Presidency, in particular, and to Commissioner Verhaugen, certainly at the times that I have met him, is that we need to make progress on the difficult chapters. Oddly enough, Mr Rowlands and Chairman, this is exactly what the applicants want; they do not want the most difficult ones left to the end, because they feel that that might be an excuse for not proceeding to complete the process, and what we would be urging the Union to do, and what we have been saying to the Commissioner, is that he should make progress on some of these difficult chapters, for example, Poland and agriculture. 45. Yes, and that is really my follow-up point, that, if you look at these dozen and it appears that all six have moved broadly similarly together, in terms of progress, that is because we have not hit the hardest, toughest nuts to crack in this situation. And if, for example, you could see, in agriculture, one or two of these six closing the chapter quite quickly, but there would be the Polish agriculture question, which would be a major one. So how are we going to address it, politically and technically; or what is your advice to the Commission? I realise that the Commission is doing the job, but, as there is an objective to guide this enlargement through, what is the Government's approach to cracking this thing? (Mr Vaz) The Government's approach, and, happily, it is also the approach of the Presidency, because Sweden does understand the necessity to make enormous progress on this, is to try to deal with these difficult chapters as quickly as possible; that is why the road map that was established sets out the chapters to be negotiated during the next three Presidencies. But I think that the difficulty that we have had, Mr Rowlands, just to point this out to the Committee, is that, as well as going through this process, a lot of our time, 330 hours of our time, was devoted last year to the IGC, which took an enormous amount of time and effort, which is a major change that obviously was occurring, and, of course, preparations for and conclusions of the Nice Treaty. That is not an excuse, because, as a champion of enlargement, the United Kingdom has always been pressing for more and more to be done. The Swedes are cognisant of this, and we hope to be pressing them as much as we possibly can, and I hope, by the time we get to Gothenburg, we will have even more progress being made on the difficult ones, not just the easy ones. 46. If I can put just one final question. So simple-minded people like myself, if we have benchmarks, rough and ready benchmarks, and given that the Swedish Presidency has said they really want to get on with it, you say we want to get on with it, of these 12 remaining difficult chapters, in a rough and ready way, what will be a successful outcome, at the end of the Swedish Presidency, in relation to these dozen, and in relation to the countries concerned? (Mr Vaz) A successful conclusion for the United Kingdom, and I will ask Mr Featherstone to comment on the Swedish Presidency's view on this, on the technical side, as far as we are concerned, what we want to see is substantial progress being made. What the applicants do not want is warm words from the EU 15, "We want you in as soon as possible;" they are not going to come in until these chapters are closed. And so a successful approach - and it is difficult; the difficulty is just to pick out a figure and say, "If you reach 20 then we'll be happy." I think it is wrong to do that, because there are a lot of negotiations that need to be conducted. But I would like to see substantial progress being made, in terms of what is outstanding, and that means, personally, I would like to see, in order to justify that this is being done, this is not Government policy, I would like to see half of what is remaining concluded by the end of the Swedish Presidency. 47. By all six? (Mr Vaz) Yes, but that is a personal view, it is not a policy view. And I am now going to ask Mr Featherstone to tell us what the technical view is, from Stockholm. (Mr Featherstone) Thank you. I think it is quite difficult to give a very clear answer to your question, because a number of the countries have already closed some of the chapters which are designated by the Commission road map for completion during the Swedish Presidency. But they have suggested about seven chapters which should be closed, including some quite difficult ones, such as free movement of persons, free movement of capital, environment, and the Swedes have already indicated that, in some ways, they would like to exceed their quota, so closing some chapters which at the moment are suggested for the Belgian or Spanish Presidencies. So I think the answer is that, if each country could close another half-dozen more than they have already closed, they would be doing quite well and the Swedish Presidency would have taken the process forward. But it does vary a bit, from country to country, because some of the countries have already closed chapters which were allocated for the Swedish Presidency. (Mr Vaz) And, if I may just add, the difficulty of talking about figures, precise figures, is that, if you set a precise figure and you do not meet that target, the effect on public opinion in the applicant countries is quite serious. It is astonishing how closely this issue is being followed in the applicant countries, and the slightest slippage, the slightest words of criticism, in any EU document, about any applicant, gets an enormous amount of coverage in those countries and causes public opinion to waver. 48. I have got another question, Chairman. The burden of the questions was, do we expect a widening of progress between these six; at the moment, they have all been similarly moving together, but, in the course of this next batch, do we expect political problems arising because some countries are going to fall behind rather more than they have done to date? (Mr Vaz) I think the problem is, now, for the first time, we have, as the Committee knows, a piece of paper which has the number of votes that each country is going to have at the European Council, as a result of Nice. And, therefore, anything that differentiates between any of the Luxembourg Six is going to cause difficulties in any of those countries, and we do not wish to do that, because there are specific reasons why progress cannot be made, for example, on one or two of the chapters. And what we do not want to do, as a friend of enlargement, as a champion of enlargement, is to cause any difficulties for any of these countries. Dr Godman 49. On the question of chapters, and Poland in particular, and Poland's accession, that country's early accession, I see that two of the chapters that are still open are agriculture and fisheries. And I just wondered, in light of President Chirac's determination not to return to the issue of the comprehensive reform of the Common Agricultural Policy until at least 2006, how does that affect Poland's application; has the Polish Government recently made any approaches to the Foreign Office concerning the failure of the European Union to reform the CAP? (Mr Vaz) Poland does not need to make representations to us about the failure to reform the CAP. 50. Not even on a bilateral basis? (Mr Vaz) No; because we know that we need to reform the CAP. Mr Godman is right, this is one of the issues that just has to be tackled. But what we do not wish to do is to put reform of the CAP in such a way that it prevents and blocks a country like Poland from joining because we have not reformed it; it is uppermost in our mind that this is an area that does need to be reformed. As we have said in the past, because some have suggested that we should have had a reform of the CAP in the Nice Treaty, you do not need treaty change in order to reform the Common Agricultural Policy; and what we are doing, in the Agricultural Council, what Mr Brown is doing there, the Agriculture Minister, and his Ministers, is to keep pushing forward the issue of reform. But that will not stop Poland joining, and we are not saying to Poland and the other countries, "Do not join until we reform the CAP," because, as you have said, this is something that might not happen within the time that is available. 51. Presumably, President Chirac's view is shared by, say, the Governments of the Irish Republic, for one, and Germany, for another; so what you are saying is that, in the absence of the reform of the CAP, Poland is likely to enter the European Union? (Mr Vaz) We want all the countries to enter the European Union. But when you say the failure; this Government has been quite robust, over the last four years - - - 52. No, I said the failure of the European Union? (Mr Vaz) Indeed; well, I would agree. It has been a collective failure to do more to reform the CAP; that will not prevent Poland joining, or any other country. 53. But might it not come in as a second-class member then, if it has not got the rights and privileges that the existing Member States have, vis-.-vis the CAP? (Mr Vaz) That is a matter for negotiation; and whatever Poland negotiates, in respect of agriculture, Mr Godman is right, this is important for Poland, will be a matter for Poland and the European Union. But what we will not do is say to Poland, "You can't come in until we reform the CAP." 54. So, in terms of agriculture, we might see, as I have suggested to you before, a two-class system, in relation to agriculture? (Mr Vaz) No, I would not say that; but what we are keen to do is to reform the CAP. What we are not keen to do, as I said, when I first appeared before the European Scrutiny Committee, is to give carte blanche transitions. We know that all applicants get transition proposals, we did, when we applied to join, but I am not saying this is one of the areas in which it can be done, because we are not part of these negotiations. 55. Another chapter that is still open, where Poland is concerned, relates to the fisheries, but can I ask you to clarify what you said in a Written Answer to me, on 5 February, this is Column 406W. I asked a question concerning Poland and Estonia, in relation to their fishing fleets and the CF, were are on to the CFP now, and what you said, amongst other things, was that "All candidates will be expected to apply the Common Fisheries Policy, in full, upon accession, and access to fishery resources within EU waters will be based on the principle of relative stability, which allocates national quotas according to historic catch levels." Can you confirm then that Poland has no recent history of fishing in what are now all of the European Union waters? (Mr Vaz) I know that Mr Godman is something of an expert on fishing. 56. No, I am not claiming to be, I am an observer, not an expert. (Mr Vaz) Right; a serious observer of these issues. And I cannot claim to be an expert on Polish fishing, but I am going to ask Mr Featherstone if he can enlighten us on the history of Polish fishing. (Mr Featherstone) I am afraid I do not know the answer to your question. If your question was asking whether the Polish fleet fishes in - - - Chairman 57. It is an important point of detail. If you do not know the answer, could you reply to Dr Godman, to the Committee, through Dr Godman? (Mr Vaz) No, we do not know the answer, and I think what is best is, it is an important but a technical point, but it is important, and I will write to the Committee about it. Sir David Madel 58. Could I just clarify what you have said, Minister, about the CAP. We are not saying to Poland, "You cannot join until we have reformed the CAP," but are we saying to Poland, "You can't join, as a country, until you have reformed your own domestic agriculture"? (Mr Vaz) The reform agenda is very important for all the applicant countries, and we have made it quite clear, the Commission has made it quite clear, in the road map proposals and the assessment of the way in which the applications are being made, that there has to be reform; so they know that. And both in this area and in other areas, Sir David, you cannot just join on the basis of what you have got, you really do have to put into effect a thorough reform of what is happening. What we are not saying, as I said to Mr Godman, is that Poland cannot join until this matter is sorted out. As you know, Sir David, from your experience of these matters, as I have said, transitional arrangements can be entered into. I am not saying that we are going to have a transitional arrangement in Poland's case on agriculture, this is still a matter for negotiation. 59. But we are looking for reform within Poland of its own agriculture system? (Mr Vaz) Indeed; we look for reform on this issue and other issues constantly, because it has to be updated, it has to be reformed, it has to be modernised. 60. But are we giving Government-to-Government advice on this? (Mr Vaz) Indeed, we are. Mr Mackinlay: Would it be possible to have a position statement, on a piece of A4, as to what the United Kingdom Government's assessment is of what has been done as regards Polish agriculture and what needs to be done? Because it does seem to me, in previous hearings, even with your predecessors, this was talked about, but nobody gives us a position statement of what our assessment is, either of what needs to be done or what the problems are. For instance, I have said, in this Committee, before now, with my colleague Norman Godman, we have discussed it, I sort of say, "Oh, hang on, half of Polish agriculture is economically neutral," because it is a person who has a cow, a few chickens, and so on. It should not come from me, that argument, and I think we need to have, on a piece of paper, what Her Majesty's Government/European Union is, because we do not know, do we? I look to my colleague; but he and I share the same interest, and we approach it from different angles, and we look to you to tell us, the FCO. So, presumably, that could be done, could it not, or it should be done, or does exist? Dr Godman: Especially in relation to the CAP? Mr Mackinlay 61. That is right; and this discussion has identified, one, is the question of at what level they can get into the CAP, and the other side of the coin is actually the nature of Polish agriculture, to what extent it needs to be reformed, because some would argue it is only half the problem it is perceived to be; but it is not for me to say that. I really would like to hear what your assessment, your audit, is? (Mr Vaz) Well, Chairman, Poland has no better friend in the House of Commons than Mr Mackinlay, and he raises Poland, I know, on many occasions. But I do not think it is for us to offer advice to Polish agriculture, or to the Polish Government. I know he wants a position paper from us, but I think that the best course of action would be to give him the latest assessment from the European Commission on these issues, because I think they are best placed, as part of the negotiating process, to do that, and we are happy to do that. Can I just say, I did say that I would supply you with a grid, on a monthly basis, of the opening and closing of chapters, Mr Rowlands. I am reliably informed that, in fact, the grid is on our FCO website, so it is readily available, and I am sure your new Clerk will eagerly log onto the Internet and provide you with all this information, without me having to do so. Dr Starkey 62. Minister, can I turn to a country which is rather further away from membership, which is Turkey, and ask you what your assessment is of the current state of Turkey's bid for membership, perhaps, in particular, commenting on the difficulties Turkey has on the human rights front in getting near the standards, whether there has been any progress? (Mr Vaz) As Dr Starkey knows, the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister, in particular, has been a great supporter of Turkey being given candidate status without conditions, and that is exactly what happened at Helsinki, and I can remember the drama of Mr Salana being sent to Ankara and then the Prime Minister of Turkey coming over to the summit. It was a momentous occasion for Turkey because they have been seeking this candidate status for some time. Turkey has to improve its human rights record. It needs to do better before it reaches the first stage, it needs to meet the Copenhagen criteria, and, as far as the justice and home affairs agenda, it really does need to make that progress. Dr Starkey will remember, at the last Foreign Office Questions, when we had a number of questions on Turkey, I did make this point clearly. However, Turkey is a valued ally, it is a partner in NATO, it is an important country as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, and we are glad that it achieved candidate status. It will need to look carefully at the way in which its accession partnership is framed; as you know, there was a political agreement, on 4 December, and what we need to do is make sure that there is flesh on the bones so Turkey understands exactly what it has to do. But we are in constant dialogue, through our Embassy in Ankara, with the Turkish Government, on the need for them to make progress on human rights. Dr Starkey is right. 63. So do you think there has been any progress, however slight, so far? (Mr Vaz) It is difficult for me to put a kind of Richter scale analysis of this, and there will be a time when we will have to assess it. But, for example, take the death penalty, which is still in existence in Turkey, Turkey reminds us that they have not used the death penalty for over a decade, Turkey reminds us that it is prepared to look carefully at, for example, judgements of the European Court. I think it is essential that we understand that they are trying, but we also have to realise that there is a long way to go; that does not mean that we are any less committed to their candidacy, we are committed to their candidacy. 64. Can I ask on another sort of tricky issue on the Turkish front, which is the issue of Northern Cyprus. What is the latest position with regard to the intercommunal talks about Cyprus? (Mr Vaz) We firmly support the proximity talks, as Dr Starkey knows. I shall be flying to Larnaca next Tuesday afternoon, and I met members of the Cypriot community on Monday night, in Hendon, with a number of parliamentary colleagues. I told the community there what I have said, and the Foreign Secretary has said, on many occasions, the proximity talks are crucially important, and my message to Mr Denktash is that he should be part of that, and it is a golden opportunity to try to seize the initiative and make sure that these talks are successful, coming, as they are, under the auspices of Koffi Annan and the United Nations. And when I go to Cyprus, next week, this is clearly an issue that I shall be discussing with both sets of people. 65. Can I turn then to a related issue, which is about Turkey and NATO. There was a bit of difficulty, where Turkey was raising strong objections to European Union members who are not members of NATO using NATO facilities. What is the present state of discussions with Turkey on that issue? (Mr Vaz) They are ongoing; but I think that, sadly, there is a misunderstanding about the position on defence, and I just need to repeat what the Prime Minister and President Bush said at Camp David, on 23 February. That is that NATO is the corner-stone of our defence policy and that Turkey is a valued ally, and the Rapid Reaction Force, which was agreed at Petersberg in 1992, was designed to use the facilities available from the Western European Union so that there was a means of dealing with crisis management, the so-called Petersberg tasks. This was approved at Petersberg by Douglas Hurd and by Malcolm Rifkind, who was then the Defence Minister; and we are stating, as we have always stated, that we will not act without NATO's say-so, without NATO being involved, because it is the corner-stone of our policy. As Lord Robertson said recently, it is only going to be in a very small number of limited cases, where planning can really be done at national level, or with a group of countries, that the Rapid Reaction Force is going to be used. And I did point this out at Questions; in fact, Mr Godman had the very first question at Foreign Office Questions. I am not trying to remind him of what happened then, but, as he knows, from reading the Hansard, and as Dr Starkey will know, this is what we need to do. Dr Godman 66. On that, can I just say, for the record, I have apologised, in fact, to the Minister, for my absence. I was, in fact, over in the Irish Republic and it was a little difficult to get back, but he has, in fact, received an apology. (Mr Vaz) I have. 67. And a handsome apology, I think, it is fair to say. (Mr Vaz) Indeed. 68. But, just on the question of Turkey, do any of the other Member States of the European Union have concerns about Turkey's membership in relation to the fact that Turkey is an Islamic state? (Mr Vaz) No; and I am glad Mr Godman has raised this. Can I just say I have accepted his apology handsomely, and I replied handsomely to him. I was glad that he was number one, because, actually, it gave us an opportunity of clarifying matters, but, also, questions two and three also dealt with this. Nobody has said this, and when I went to Turkey, before I was a Minister, in the conversations that I had with Turkish people, they kept saying to me, "We will never be a candidate to join the European Union because a majority of our people are Moslems." And I think that the fact that the EU has accepted Turkey as a candidate country shows the diversity of Europe, and, whatever the religion of a majority of people in Turkey, we welcome them in as a proper and first-class applicant. Dr Starkey 69. Just to clarify; would the Minister not agree that Turkey is actually a secular state, the majority of the population of which is Moslem, it is not an Islamic state? (Mr Vaz) Yes; but I think what Mr Godman was just mentioning was the level. Dr Starkey: Yes; just for the record. Sir David Madel 70. Minister, you said there are various things Turkey has to do. Now is one of the things Turkey has to do, to improve its candidature, to withdraw its army from Northern Cyprus? (Mr Vaz) What Turkey has to do, Sir David, and I know of your interest in these matters, is to encourage those involved in the proximity talks, such as Mr Denktash, to be fully part of those talks. It is important that everyone realises that this is an opportunity to deal with an agonisingly difficult problem, and simple solutions are not going to solve it. 71. Well, you see, I do not think it is simple. Let us just go back to 1960. Greece, Turkey and ourselves are guarantors of the 1960 Constitution. Turkey should not be in Northern Cyprus. When I have asked you these questions, and the Foreign Secretary, you have said, many times, that Northern Cyprus will not get into the EU with Turkey, that the Cyprus negotiations are for the whole island. Let us assume Cyprus joins, the whole island, which I gather is what the Government wants to happen, there is an instant problem, is there not, there will not be free movement throughout the island? (Mr Vaz) There are problems - - - 72. But there would be free movement if the Turkish army would get out? (Mr Vaz) Yes, you have put these points, Sir David, to the Foreign Secretary and to myself, and you have had the same reply, which is that it is very important that we have a just and lasting settlement, and the just and lasting settlement is based on negotiations through the proximity talks. Sir John will remember this, when he was a Minister in the last Government, it was not an issue that could be solved then, there is bi-partisan support for these proximity talks, Mr Maples will know this, when he was the Shadow Foreign Secretary. Chairman: Which have now broken down. Sir David Madel 73. They have broken down? (Mr Vaz) They are not progressing, and, in order to progress, and I hope that I am not saying that I am going to make a huge difference to this issue when I go over next week but I will be doing my bit. 74. But the object of talks is to reach an objective, and what I hope the proximity talks are trying to reach is the objective of the withdrawal of the Turkish army from Northern Cyprus, which it should not be in. Does the Government want that to happen? (Mr Vaz) Of course, the Government wants the situation of a bi-communal system. 75. A bi-zonal state? (Mr Vaz) Yes; and we will do our best to achieve that, that is why we have got Sir David Hannay as our special representative, and we want to make sure that that happens. But I do not want to do anything, and I do not think any of us should do anything, to make the chance of success more difficult, by dramatic statements, which will not be achievable. 76. Presumably, you will see Mr Denktash next week? (Mr Vaz) I will. 77. Will you suggest to Mr Denktash that if the negotiations in Cyprus make real progress towards joining the EU, that he, Mr Denktash, allows a plebiscite in Northern Cyprus to see whether the citizens there wish to join the European Union; with one proviso, no voting by the Turkish army on that referendum? (Mr Vaz) I will discuss various matters with him, and - - - 78. Including that? (Mr Vaz) Well, if you wish me to ask him that, - - - 79. Yes, I do? (Mr Vaz) I will certainly pass that on to him. But there will be a number of issues that we want to discuss; we want to make progress on this. Sir David, you know, you have been in the House a long time, that these issues cannot be solved overnight; but we want a solution that is going to last, that is going to be in the interests of the people of Cyprus, that is what we want. And I will certainly pass that on. Sir David Madel: Thank you. Sir John Stanley 80. Minister, can you confirm that it remains the policy of the British Government that Cyprus can have accession into the EU as a fully-fledged EU Member State, notwithstanding the fact that at the point she comes into the EU she may be still, in political terms, a divided country? (Mr Vaz) Yes. Sir John Stanley: Thank you. Mr Mackinlay: Following that up, how would it work, because there is no precedent for that? If you look at Germany, first of all, it was not the European Union, and my recollection is that anybody who would get to the Federal Republic of Germany, ipso facto, was in then the European Community. But, in this case, if the Cyprus Republic, and their constitution claims their territory to be the whole of the island of Cyprus, what is our relationship to people who are in the North, who wish to enter the European Union, to come and work, free mobility of labour, will they be citizens of the European Union and deemed to be citizens of the Republic of Cyprus? Because it seems to me that, what would be the logistics for sort of saying, "No, you cannot"? I do not know if I am explaining myself badly, but it is the case of the Cyprus Government, the applicants, that their country is the whole of the island, we admit perhaps the de facto South, but, nevertheless, there might be somebody sitting in the North who says, "Well, actually, I am very pro European Union"? Chairman 81. Minister, how do you identify such people? (Mr Vaz) These are obviously problems. I am going to ask Mr Featherstone to deal with the point on citizenship and freedom of movement. But, before I do so, Sir John has stated, quite clearly, and correctly, what the Government's policy is. We want to see a united island joining there the European Union, but it is not a precondition, and, therefore, if it remains divided at that point, it will still be admitted; and that, of course, will create a number of issues that need to be resolved. Mr Featherstone, I wonder whether you can assist Mr Mackinlay. Sir John Stanley 82. You may just want to check, by a slip of the tongue, you did say you wanted a united island to join the European Union? (Mr Vaz) I can assure you it was an 's', not an 'r'. (Mr Featherstone) I think Mr Mackinlay's questions are difficult to answer with any certainty, because, collectively, within the EU, we have not discussed these hypothetical situations. It is because of the very valid questions that have been asked, that is one reason spurring us on to try to make sure that the talks are successful, but, as the Minister has made clear, the Helsinki conclusions have clarified that those settlement talks reaching a satisfactory conclusion are not a precondition. How that works out in the very specific areas you have raised is something which has not yet been discussed in the EU. Chairman: Before I go on to Sir David and another matter, I think, Dr Godman, you wanted to talk on this theme? Dr Godman 83. Just very briefly, Minister. The question of German concern, some of the free movements of labour, that is causing great concern in Parliament, is it not? I seem to recall, a few years ago, that the German gastarbeiter was placed in an inferior position to other citizens of the European Union, in that he, or she, was denied this freedom of movement amongst countries. I can see something similar in relation to the accession of Poland? (Mr Vaz) This is a very important issue, and, of course, has been raised, as Dr Godman has said, by the Germans. A paper has been issued by the Commission this afternoon, and, indeed, I think all I have seen is, Dr Godman, literally seen, the heading 'Executive Summary'; but what I will do is make that available to the Committee, so that you can read it at your leisure. Our position is that we understand what Germany is saying, that we are actually not sure that the argument for a transition period on this issue has been demonstrated. We will look at what has been put forward, we will study what Germany has done, obviously, we will study the paper that the Commission published literally as I was on my way from the Foreign Office. We believe in one concept, Dr Godman, and that is a concept of first-class citizens, only one class of citizens in Europe. 84. But we accepted the second-class citizenship of the German gastarbeiter and the French immigrant worker? (Mr Vaz) You raise that point, but what we want to deal with - - - 85. I know, in a technical sense, they are not citizens of those countries? (Mr Vaz) Yes. What we want to deal with is this view that somehow, Mr Chairman, if these applicant countries, or, I should say, when these applicant countries, join the European Union, there will be mass flows of people in, into the United Kingdom or into Germany. I do not believe that this will happen. This is exactly what they said about Spain and Portugal, they said, "Once you let Spain and Portugal in, there'll be masses of Spanish and Portuguese people all over Britain and France, etc." It did not happen, because, basically, people prefer to stay in their own homes. Chairman 86. In any case, you will let us have sight of that paper? (Mr Vaz) Indeed. Chairman: Back to Cyprus. Mr Maples 87. I want to ask you two things about Cyprus. One is that I believe I am right in saying that the Cyprus constitution says that Cyprus cannot join an international organisation unless both Greece and Turkey belong to it, and that was an objection that Turkey was raising for quite a long time; are they still raising that objection, and do we think it is a valid objection? (Mr Vaz) I am sorry, I do not know about the constitution. 88. Do you know, Mr Featherstone? (Mr Featherstone) There are certainly concerns which Turkey raises about those issues, but the Helsinki conclusions made clear what the EU's position is on these issues. 89. So it is the view of the British Government that that clause in the Cyprus constitution is not a bar to membership of the European Union; is that correct? (Mr Vaz) We cannot tell you. 90. Would you like to write to us? (Mr Vaz) We will write to you. 91. Could you; thank you. The second thing I wanted to ask was, I understand the view, because I have talked to them about it, of the Cyprus Government, the Greek part of the Cyprus Government, because, obviously, they want to join the EU and they say, and maybe they are right, that this might help to resolve the internal difficulties in Cyprus. But if Cyprus were to join with the present status quo, we would then actually have a part of European Union territory which had an army in occupation of part of it, and the army of a non-EU state, I hesitate to say a foreign army, but Turkey is not a member of the EU, so we would have the armed forces of a non-European Union state occupying part of the European Union. Does that not present really quite serious problems for the European Union, and actually do we feel that Cyprus can join in these circumstances, or is it part of the sort of sub-agenda to try to make sure that that issue is resolved before Cyprus actually joins? I see just enormous instability, and I cannot see the issue being resolved in the time-frame, actually? (Mr Vaz) Sir John is nodding his head, and I have to agree with his nod, though I am not sure whether he is agreeing with you or me. This is an issue, frankly, it is of secondary importance to the one overriding concern, and that is that we want to see Cyprus join as quickly as possible. We know that this is different from the other applicants, and we know it has a lot of difficulties attached to it; but, as I said when I went through the summary of what the countries have achieved, Cyprus has done better than any other country, of the 12 applicants, with the exception of Estonia, despite all the difficulties that it has got, and I think that that is something that we should be pleased with and try to support. 92. I wholly understand that, but, of course, it is very, very much in the interests of the Greek part of Cyprus to meet those conditions, so that they can join, because they feel it will help to force the situation over Northern Cyprus. Now maybe that is correct, but what I am saying is, does the British Government, are you sanguine, or relaxed, about Cyprus joining the European Union in its present state, with the Turkish army occupying Northern Cyprus? (Mr Vaz) The British Government is never relaxed, it is always, actively, trying to seek solutions. This is not a perfect situation, which is why, in answer to Sir John, I was very clear what our preference would be; our preference would be a united i s l a n d - if I can spell it out so there is no misunderstanding of what I am saying - should join, and that is what we would like to see happen; but it is not a precondition. If we reach the position where we are given that - - - 93. (- Inaudible -) we would consent to the accession of Cyprus, in the present state of things? (Mr Vaz) Yes. Sir David Madel 94. Minister, can I ask you about the future of Kaliningrad if the surrounding countries join the European Union, and whether there have been talks between our Government and the Russian Federation as to how things might develop? (Mr Vaz) Mr Featherstone is going to take the Kaliningrad question. (Mr Featherstone) Kaliningrad will become a Russian exclave in the EU, once Poland and Lithuania join the EU, and under the Swedish Presidency the Commission have tabled a recent communication on Kaliningrad, which we think, helpfully, set out some of the particular challenges which will face that exclave once Poland and Lithuania have joined. So far, we understand that the Russians have given a rather cautious welcome, but that is because they are still considering their formal response; and once their position is clear, the EU and the Russians will no doubt take forward discussions of this within the partnership and co-operation agreement. 95. Do you think the Russians are conscious of the environmental damage there is in there and the organised crime; in other words, are they fully conscious of things that are manifestly very wrong in Kaliningrad? (Mr Vaz) When we have had discussions with the Russians, and, as you know, President Putin is due to come to the Stockholm European Council in a fortnight's time, and I am quite certain these issues will be raised with him, there is an acknowledgement that this whole issue causes concern amongst EU members; so they are conscious of that, yes. 96. And you do not think they are in a suspicious mood; do they think we are trying to help, which we are? (Mr Vaz) I think they do, yes, I think they do understand that this is a difficult issue, but I think they do understand that we are trying to put forward constructive proposals. Certainly, in the discussions that I have had with my opposite number, that is what we hope to achieve. 97. Do we have any evidence they are putting more defences into Kaliningrad? (Mr Vaz) I have no fresh information to give you on that. Mr Mackinlay 98. Slovakia. To my dismay and the hurt of Slovakia, the United Kingdom put visas on Slovakia, or reintroduced visas, two or three years ago. Now, putting that behind us, it seems to me, either they have remedied what we perceived to be lack of controls, haemorrhaging, and so on, and illegal immigration, either that has been maintained and controlled, and, I think, particularly thinking of the Roma population, or something like that, I do not know what the justification of the Home Office was, putting on visas, it is for them to justify it, but, it seems to me, either that matter has been resolved, or that is a major impediment to their failure to deal with this, in terms of coming to the European Union. Basically, what I am saying is, did this now not ought to be lifted, because clearly it is offensive to them, and, presumably, the problem has been remedied, or should be on its way to being remedied? Perhaps I explained myself badly. (Mr Vaz) You do explain yourself very clearly, Mr Mackinlay. This matter was not raised to any great extent when I went to Slovakia. As Minister for Entry Clearance, obviously, I am very concerned to make sure that we have a visa regime that is fair but also firm. There was a problem, there remains an issue that needs to be looked at, that is why there is a visa control. Our entry clearance officers and managers look very carefully at all applications that are being made; we are not planning to review this. Obviously, when they come in, it will not apply; but, at the moment, this is the right approach to deal with the problems that have existed. Dr Starkey 99. Can I just pursue that issue, on the Slovakian one. There was a serious issue of human rights, in relation to the Roma population in Slovakia, and the apparent inability of the Slovakian Government to stop them being harassed by other Slovakian citizens. That clearly would not be acceptable, if they are to become part of the European Union. Have you got any evidence that that is being dealt with in Slovakia? (Mr Vaz) I think the Slovakian Government is making an effort, and, as we do with all our visa regimes, we are very mindful to review them in a way that is acceptable to our immigration policy but also acceptable to countries that are our friends. And what we are doing, in respect of Bulgaria and Slovakia, in the light of the decisions on the common visa list, is to look at the situation; but, in respect of all the applicants, we have always kept this under review, and we will look at this, as we have promised to do in the past. 100. I am sorry, I think maybe I did not express myself clearly enough. What I was concerned about was whether the Slovakian Government had done sufficient within Slovakia to guarantee the human rights of their Roma citizens, so they would not feel the need to emigrate to Britain. Because I understand why we instituted a visa regime, but it is not very satisfactory if we simply keep them out and do not do anything to put some pressure on the Slovakian Government to recognise the severe abuses of their human rights, that they are effectively pushing them? (Mr Vaz) Indeed. I understand your question. We constantly raise this matter with the Slovakian Government, because this is one of the issues that they have to look at, and I think that they are doing their best and they are seeking to address this issue. Mr Mackinlay 101. Just a final thing on the Roma. It seems to me that, demonstrably, Central Europe has got a particularly high proportion, relative to the rest of Europe, of Roma people, there has been a history of disadvantage, and, in some cases, persecution. It seems to me that there is not a particular kind of chapter, or it seems to me that the European Union, when talking in terms of enlargement, I am not minimising difficulties which exist, and also recognising the enormous efforts which have been made in instituting some of these applicant countries, but, nevertheless, it is an issue. And I wonder if the European Union has thought, "We need to look at this in the round," about the Roma minority, both from a moral commitment but also, rather like here in the United Kingdom, we just shift the thing on, rather than addressing it, is there not a case for a pan-European approach to the Roma community, some of which, for instance, when the velvet revolution came between the Czech and the Slovak Republic, a lot of Roma were actually in the Czech end but they were deemed to be Slovak, they had got Slovak passports? There is a major problem which it would be better for the European Union to be addressing, along with the applicants, rather than it being sort of fudged. Is there a programme, is there a part of the negotiations, to look at the Roma issue? (Mr Vaz) This is something that we need to look at, Mr Mackinlay is right, because it is the way in which these countries treat the Roma, and it is the result of the way in which they feel that they are being treated that we have to look at the issue of visa control. But Mr Mackinlay has given me an idea of what we can do about this, and may we take it away and see whether we can have an input to try to get these matters resolved. Chairman 102. Minister, I want to move on to the IGC side and then on to Gibraltar, of course, which is part of our remit. Just one final point on the countries. Malta, a friendly, Commonwealth country, currently in the Helsinki Six but clearly will be a net contributor and relatively few problems; is Malta one of those countries who is likely, as it were, to get promotion from Helsinki to Luxembourg? (Mr Vaz) I think it will do as well as Swansea City, Mr Chairman. 103. Swansea City - no-one listening - is in very great difficulties at the moment? (Mr Vaz) Oh, well; but it is quite different. Shall I say, it is more like Leicester City then. Sir David Madel: It is more like Luton, in the (- inaudible league ?). Chairman 104. But what is the view on Malta? (Mr Vaz) I am very fond of Malta, and I think Malta is doing extraordinarily well. The Foreign Minister, Joe Borg, was here only yesterday, and, indeed, the President was here at the end of last year. I think they are doing well, and they have got good negotiations. It is not for me to promote between divisions and I would not like to see these as divisions; this is a regatta, and they are doing well in the regatta. They are by no means last. Dr Godman 105. Chapter 26, External Relations; the chapter seems to be provisionally closed with all of the applicants other than Slovenia. Might I ask if the Code of Conduct concerning the export of arms comes under this heading; and, if it does, can I assume then that all of the applicant countries have given an undertaking that they will honour this voluntary code? (Mr Vaz) Mr Featherstone? (Mr Featherstone) I am afraid, I think we will need to write about that. I do not think it does come formally under that chapter. 106. What does it come under? (Mr Featherstone) I think it is not part of the acquis communitaire, but I would need to clarify that, and, if we may, the Minister could write. (Mr Vaz) Yes, certainly. Chairman 107. Does the Minister want to say anything to Dr Godman? (Mr Vaz) I am not sighted on this, Dr Godman, but it is obviously a point that concerns you, and I will ... Dr Godman: It is just that this Committee is represented on a Joint Committee which is examining arms exports, and this question of the European Union's Code of Conduct has been given some scrutiny, and I just wondered if we could have an answer from you. But I am perfectly satisfied with the promise of a letter to the Chairman. Chairman: I would like to move on to Sir John. Sir John Stanley 108. Minister, can we turn now to European security and defence policy. Minister, could I ask you, do you agree that if NATO is going to remain the foundation for European defence security then all military planning, including military planning for the European Defence Force, has to continue to take place within the NATO structure? (Mr Vaz) Yes; except in those very limited cases, and I mean very limited cases, where planning can be done at a national level, or it involves very minor matters. But, Sir John, as a distinguished former Defence Minister, as someone who has been involved in these matters when he was in Government, will know that we will need to draw on the capabilities, the resources, the planning, of NATO, that is exactly right. 109. So you are agreeing, leaving aside the fact that each Member State obviously can make its own national defence arrangements, you are agreeing that, as far as any military planning for the new European Defence Force is concerned, that has to take place within the NATO military planning structure? (Mr Vaz) Yes. I would prefer to use Rapid Reaction Force, because that is what we are talking about, Sir John. We are not talking about anything other than the tasks that were agreed at Petersberg, crisis management, humanitarian peace-keeping tasks. You are absolutely right, we will need the support of NATO, we will need to draw on NATO, except in those minor cases that I have referred to. 110. I am talking and focusing on where the key, military planning function is discharged; and, on that, Minister, you will be aware of what President Bush said, following his recent meeting with the Prime Minister. And, as reported in the Sunday Times of February 25, President Bush, following that meeting, said this, and I quote: "He" that is Mr Blair, "assured me that the planning would take place within NATO." Simultaneously, following that comment, the French Defence Ministry said this, and I quote: "The position remains the same, there must be autonomous planning." In other words, a diametrically opposed view. Would you not agree, Minister, that there is still a serious and substantive, unresolved issue, in this absolutely critical area, between Britain, the United States and probably other European NATO countries, who accept that the military planning role has to be conducted within NATO, including for the Rapid Reaction Force, and a French view, which is diametrically opposed to that, which is that there should be an autonomous planning capability for the European Rapid Reaction Force? Are those not the facts of the case? (Mr Vaz) No; and I would not want to base my defence policy on what I read in the Sunday Times. I base my defence policy on the joint communiqu, issued by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister at Camp David on 23 February, where there was an enormous amount of agreement, there was not a paper that you could put between them on European defence and security policy. The problem is that people quote defence attach,s, who, subsequently, as Sir John will find out, I do not have his letter with me, as he will find out, this matter was raised in the House last week, when Mr Fabricant, the Member for Lincoln, said that he was quoting the French defence attach,, who was quoted as saying what Sir John has just said. Well, that attach, has now written to Mr Fabricant, pointing out that he did not say that. Of course, NATO is the corner-stone of our policy, he knows that, he is a former Defence Minister; there will be no EU operational planning or command and control structure that does not draw on NATO. I have made it clear, and Lord Robertson has made it clear, on the Today programme, not in the Sunday Times, that there are going to be tasks where NATO does not wish to be involved, but, of course, you have to go to NATO first. So I prefer President Bush's view. 111. You dismiss reports in the Sunday Times, but can I refer you also to the detailed text of the relevant annexes, the military annexes, from the Nice Treaty; and is it not the case that there is wording, in a whole series of places, there, which is certainly open to the construction and open to the use of autonomous planning, outside the NATO context, for the European Rapid Reaction Force? (Mr Vaz) Only in those circumstances that I have described. I have made it quite clear. And, Sir John, you will know, because nobody on this Committee will know more about these defence issues than yourself, how much we depend on NATO, how important it is for our defence policy, it is the corner-stone of our defence policy, and we will need NATO to do any of this, we will need their capabilities, we will need their assets, we will need their operational planning, we will need all of this, and we cannot do it without them. 112. Can we have your assurance, Minister, that if, as some fear, there is still a material policy divide in this area between the French and other members of NATO, and if it does appear that the French are continuing to try to pursue a path of establishing an independent planning cell, independent planning structure, for the operation of the Rapid Reaction Force, the British Government is going to be unswerving in preventing that happening? (Mr Vaz) The British Government will stand by the statements that it has made in the past; you do not need my assurance, you have the assurance of the Prime Minister in the Camp David communiqu, of 23 February. It is not the case that we need to blame the French, or watch the French, the French are allies, they worked with us from St Malo. And this matter goes back to Petersberg, when Sir Malcolm Rifkind was the Defence Minister, it has been signed up to by the last Government, it is signed up to by this Government, and I do not think that we should raise the spectre of any particular country to try to take us off that course. Mr Maples 113. Minister, my concern is that this is not what the Nice Treaty says. The Prime Minister said, at Camp David, and said right after the Nice summit, that a European defence would operate only when NATO chooses not to be engaged, and he said the same at Camp David. Can you tell me where in the annex to the Nice Treaty it says that? (Mr Vaz) The Treaty itself does not mention defence, these issues, it is the annex that does. 114. Well, the annex, yes. (Mr Vaz) No, I cannot point to a particular sentence. 115. It does not say it, does it? (Mr Vaz) If you have got a sentence, Mr Maples, I suggest you put it forward. 116. No, no; you negotiated this Treaty. I am asking you where, in the relevant annex, - - - (Mr Vaz) It is not in the Treaty, Mr Maples. 117. So there is no - - - (Mr Vaz) Let me just tell you, Mr Maples; the first time that defence has been mentioned in any framework, as far as the European Union was concerned, was during the progress of the Maastricht Treaty, this is what the last Government decided to do, when they signed up to Maastricht. So it is not a question of everything suddenly coming out of Nice, this was something that your Government, Mr Maples, did, when your party was in power. 118. But I am interested in what the Prime Minister is now saying; as a matter of fact, that all was wrapped up with the 1996 Berlin/NATO summit, which created the European pillar of NATO. And the concern that I have, and I think people who share my view, is not the beefing-up of European defence capabilities, it is whether or not we are creating a parallel, and therefore competitive, organisation. (Mr Vaz) We are not. 119. That is what I want to ask you some questions about. But I am just saying to you, I would have no problems at all if I were happy that this were locked into NATO; but, I ask you again, where in the annex to the Nice Treaty does it say that NATO has the first choice? (Mr Vaz) You are using certain definitions of words. 120. I am using the Prime Minister's words. (Mr Vaz) Of course, the annexes to the Nice Treaty do not contain the Camp David communiqu,, of course they do not, that is a matter of fact. The Nice annexes are entirely in keeping with the statement made by the Prime Minister and the President on 23 February, and Sir John has said that he thinks it is open to interpretation. Well, it is not open to interpretation; we have made it quite clear that, except in the small cases where we are going to be able to act on our own, or in concert with other countries, this is something that is going to have to go through NATO. And, no matter what Mr Iain Duncan Smith does, in order to try to confuse people, or what people do, take this as an assurance that is absolute, NATO remains the corner-stone of our defence policy. We have said it on numerous occasions, President Chirac has said it on numerous occasions, it is really not an issue that needs to be discussed. 121. Minister, you are rambling off into issues I did not ask you about. Let us come back, alright, to what President Bush said at Camp David; he said, "He" the Prime Minister, "has assured me that European defence would in no way undermine NATO. He also assured me there would be a joint command, that planning would take place within NATO and that should NATO not wish to go on a mission that would serve as a catalyst for the other forces moving on their own." I suggest to you that there is nowhere, in the annexes to the Nice Treaty, where it says there will be a joint command and the planning will take place within NATO. In fact, it says the opposite, it says they will deal with each other on an equal footing, and it talks repeatedly about the autonomy of the EU's capability. Can you point to anything in the annexes to the Nice Treaty which supports the undertakings that apparently the Prime Minister gave to the President? (Mr Vaz) No; because, Mr Maples, not everything is in the annexes to the Nice Treaty. As I made it absolutely clear, and I have tried to go very slowly so that I can explain where this all began, it all began, Mr Maples, with your colleagues, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Hurd, when they met at the Petersberg Hotel in 1992 just outside Berlin. You nod your head. That is the fact. And it was all to do with the way in which we were to deploy the capabilities of the WEU; that went on from the Petersberg tasks and the Petersberg Agreement to St Malo - - - 122. That has nothing to do with it. (Mr Vaz) And it went on from there. 123. Yes, (I agree with that ?). (Mr Vaz) You will not have every single bit of information put into the annexes. 124. I am asking a very, very simple question, whether or not the Prime Minister's undertakings to the President of the United States are based on things that are in the annexes to the Nice Treaty, and I am suggesting to you - - - (Mr Vaz) Page 2; page 2 is very clear. Have you got page 2? 125. Page 2 of what? (Mr Vaz) Of the annexes. 126. I have the annex here, and actually it says - - - (Mr Vaz) What does it say? 127. Well, the version I have, which, admittedly, was the draft that was around at the time of the negotiations, says; well, it was very, very difficult to obtain any of these documents, if I may say so, Minister, - - - (Mr Vaz) That is simply not true. 128. And one is suspicious that the Foreign Office made it deliberately difficult to obtain them. The annex I have says: "The entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation." And the Presidency's conclusions, that came before the Nice summit, talk about setting up the military staff of the European Union: "The strength and resources needed for the operation of such bodies, in particular the military staff, will have to be increased without delay." Actually, everything that is in the document surrounding the Nice Treaty leads one to the opposite conclusion of what the Prime Minister said, that the planning will not be locked within NATO, and there is no NATO veto on the EU's operation? (Mr Vaz) Right; page 2, quote: "The EU will act only "where NATO as a whole is not engaged"." Page 52: "For operations requiring recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, operational planning will be carried out by the alliance's planning bodies, and for an autonomous EU operation, i.e. not using NATO assets, within one of the European strategic level headquarters." Page 52: "E.g., a national HQ capable of strategic level planning, such as the UK's PJHQ, or the French equivalent." The crucial point is that the EU military staff cannot and will not do operational level military planning; there will be no duplication of SHAPE. Page 52. 129. This is obviously a more recent document than has been available to me, and I would be very grateful if you could send me - - - (Mr Vaz) Mr Maples, is it my problem that you have been reading the wrong document? Mr Maples: It is, I think, your problem that the documents which are available do not say what you are saying, and they do not say, anywhere, - - - Chairman: Minister, we will read the transcript with interest. Mr Maples 130. They do not say anywhere that the planning will take place within NATO? (Mr Vaz) I will make sure that Mr Maples does not have to rely on Mr Duncan Smith. We will give him a fresh copy of the document. 131. Minister, I think I do know a little bit about this issue - no, I just want to finish this because I have just been patronised by the Minister, who, I believe, made it extremely difficult to obtain these documents, and the ones that are - - - (Mr Vaz) In what way have I made it difficult for Mr Maples to obtain this document; it is absurd. 132. The ones that are available say what I have just said, which is, the chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation, and I would say to you that the French Chief of Staff, and I am quoting now from evidence of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said to the Assembl,e Nationale that the Nice Treaty was specifically worded to rule out any interpretation that would give NATO a decision-making priority in the reaction to crises. So what I would suggest to you is that the Government is playing at words here, it is saying one thing to Parliament here to try to allay fears that this is going to be a separate organisation from NATO, and then it is going to the United States and saying something different. And the danger is that this distinction will come into the open and become clear. And if the Government does not get this nailed down very, very soon, it is going to find itself in the difficulties that I am describing. (Mr Vaz) Mr Chairman, that is complete nonsense. Mr Maples now realises that he was reading from the wrong document. I will get him a fresh copy. I have not been keeping these documents from him. I did not know Mr Maples was going to raise this particular point today. These documents are not suppressed in some drawer in my room, in order to prevent Mr Maples from doing his job as an MP. I will make sure that he gets the references that I have made to the Presidency report. He should not work himself into a lather over this. 133. I am quoting from Annex Seven to the Nice Treaty, which is the document that was tabled at the meeting, and later documents were not available by the middle of February. (Mr Vaz) NATO remains the corner-stone of our defence policy. Chairman: We have covered that ground. I think that Dr Starkey wants to come in; on this one? Dr Starkey 134. I just wanted to clarify about these documents. Are they documents that would have to be obtained from the Foreign Office, or might one reasonably have expected the House of Commons Library to be able to get the up-to-date documents? I am merely asking? (Mr Vaz) I have no idea, but I will certainly let you have them. I understand, they are in the Library, as Dr Starkey has said, and - - - 135. What, the up-to-date version, that you have quoted from, is in the Library? (Mr Vaz) Yes; yes. Chairman 136. And, presumably, it is on the Internet, in any event? (Mr Vaz) On the Internet, on the website. Dr Starkey 137. So it could have been obtained from the Library? (Mr Vaz) (Yes. ?) Dr Godman 138. Minister, am I right in thinking that the Response Force could not undertake any kind of military operation without the technical support of NATO; that is true, is it not? (Mr Vaz) Yes; except in the very limited cases that I have outlined, and Lord Robertson has outlined. 139. Okay, then you have given me your answer there. Might I ask, are there any other dissenting voices over the relationship between NATO and the Response Force, we know the position of the French, but what is the view of the Governments of Finland, Sweden and the Irish Republic, do they have the right not to engage in an operation that is supported by NATO? (Mr Vaz) Of course; because, in the end, this is a matter that must be left to the Member States. It is for a British Prime Minister, in the end, no matter what is decided or agreed, or what happens, it is for a British Prime Minister to decide whether or not to commit British troops. But what we have done, Dr Godman, and you have raised this issue, is, we have kept our non-NATO allies informed when sitting as the EU, and we have kept our non-EU colleagues informed when sitting as NATO. Throughout this whole process, and I have been to a number of these meetings, we have gone out of our way to make sure that everyone knows about what is going on, everyone except the British Conservative Party, which certainly has not followed this view, but everyone else, in the whole of Europe, seems to understand what is happening. 140. So those three countries have not voiced serious reservations? (Mr Vaz) No. Sir John Stanley 141. On a different issue, Minister, post-Nice. As you know, the Prime Minister stated, following his experience at the Nice summit, and I quote: "We cannot go on taking decisions like this." Can you give us what is now the British Government's present position as to how it would like to see the next IGC being conducted, how it should be prepared for, whether there should be fresh institutional arrangements, or whether it should be conducted in the same way as the previous ones have been, with the Commission basically taking the initiative, preparatory documents being put out, and then a final summit at which the deal is done? Or does the British Government want to see it played differently, and, if so, how? (Mr Vaz) Sir John is right. The Prime Minister, I think, was frustrated at the length of time it took to get these matters resolved, 330 hours of the time of our officials and ministers, together with five full days at Nice, and, though exhausted, at the end of this process, he played a pivotal role, along with Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, in ensuring that we got a deal out of Nice. But I think we do have to reform the way in which we operate, the reform agenda is very important, this is a Government that is pro Europe, but it is also pro reform; we want to make sure that there is greater transparency, accountability, a much more lengthy discussion pre ministerial meetings, which actually will involve the people of our countries. And one of the conclusions at Nice, as the Committee will know, is actually to consult the people of Europe about the way in which these things are done, about the future of Europe, and I think it is important that we should take on board that point. 142. It has been suggested, as you know, Minister, that there should be some form of EU constitutional convention established, prior to the next IGC. What is the British Government's view towards that? (Mr Vaz) Ah; well, we would need to look at that, and we would need to look at the way in which any of these conventions are drawn together. I am not personally a great fan of the convention process, because I think it is one step removed from Members of this House; and the Prime Minister, at Warsaw, on 6 October, talked about the second chamber as a possibility of ensuring that there was a stronger link between the people of our country, Parliament and what was happening in the EU, and I think we have to look at these arrangements. But, I think, in the end, these decisions have got to be taken by the Member States, by Ministers, as Sir John will know, because he was part of this process, and, in the end, Ministers have to come before the House. 143. So you are saying to us, at the moment, the British Government has got no specific or positive proposals, as of now, as to how the next IGC should be prepared for? (Mr Vaz) It is only six weeks since the last IGC; the next one is 2004, so we will be having some proposals. But anything the Committee may want to say about this issue we would be happy to look at. Chairman 144. Just to wind up this area, Minister. Turkey is currently, in effect, putting a veto on the use of NATO assets for EU operations until they get a certain agreement about their role. Does this mean that if they persist in that objection the French concept of an autonomous European position is more likely to grow among other European countries? (Mr Vaz) No, I do not think so, Mr Chairman. Turkey, as a NATO ally, is raising its concerns, and I think that the whole point of having an organisation like NATO is to deal with the concerns that have been raised by Turkey and to make progress. 145. And they maintain those concerns currently; they are maintaining what is, in effect, a veto? (Mr Vaz) I would not call it a veto, I think they have raised concerns, Lord Robertson has been actively involved in trying to deal with these points, and we have, too. I think it is important that we talk with allies. 146. But, until their objections are met, there will be no progress on the Rapid Reaction Force? (Mr Vaz) No, that is not true. We have made enormous progress on the Rapid Reaction Force, and, indeed, at the risk of getting Mr Maples worked up again, we have defined those areas where it will act. Turkey is a NATO ally, and therefore we have to talk to our allies, and if they have concerns we have to address those concerns. It does not stop what we are doing. 147. Quickly, on the IGC. In the Warsaw speech, the Prime Minister put forward two areas: one, the concept of a second chamber, which appears to have received very little support from other countries; two, the idea of this charter of competence. What is the status of those, and the response from our partner countries? (Mr Vaz) These are excellent ideas, which we need to look at and we need to discuss. The point of the Warsaw speech was to look at the future of Europe, and these and a number of the other ideas that the Prime Minister has had, I think, will be a defining text, as far as this country is concerned. There has been support for the second chamber. What the Prime Minister was raising was whether or not a second chamber would help democratic legitimacy. 148. Which countries have supported it? (Mr Vaz) It is not a question of countries supporting it, others have joined the debate. I myself have received, I think, 20, or so, letters from Members of the European Parliament, from organisations, from others, about the second chamber proposals, but we have not really discussed it as a Parliament, and I think it would be good to do so. I think that it would be important to look at ways in which we can strengthen the link between the people and Parliament. On the issue of competencies, this is not just something that the Prime Minister has raised; of course, the L,nder, in Germany, are very keen to know what can be done as far as competencies are concerned. I think the people of our country also want to know, in the discussions I have had with them, they want to know about the finality of Europe. Sometimes, as I have been round the country on my roadshow, people have asked me the question, "Where will it all end?", and I think what they think is, you start at Westminster, they all understand Westminster, they understand what MPs do, and then you have Europe, and it seems so vast and so large that they do not actually know what it is all about. I think that we have a responsibility and a duty to explain to them what our vision of Europe is, and that is what the Prime Minister sought to do. Chairman: With respect, the US constitution did not end with the Philadelphia Convention. Dr Godman, finally, on this. Dr Godman 149. Just to end. There is a declaration attached to the Nice Treaty that states that the 2004 IGC should address inter alia how to establish and monitor a more precise delimitation of competencies between the European Union and the Member States, reflecting the principle of subsidiarity, and so on and so forth; and you mentioned the German L,nder. Is it the Prime Minister's view and the Secretary of State's view that, if there were to be a second chamber in the European Parliament, there would be representatives in that chamber from this Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Assembly? (Mr Vaz) I do not think that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have defined who is to be in the second chamber, but I think that this is an issue that I think ought to be discussed, and we ought, as parliamentarians, to be making a contribution to this. Chairman: Minister, you know that this Committee has had very strong concerns about Government policy on Gibraltar - - - Mr Mackinlay 150. Mr Chairman, one final question on the European Union, one final question, and it relates to our previous report, and it relates to a matter which I have raised with the Minister and the Prime Minister, time and time again. (Mr Vaz) And I have an answer. Mr Mackinlay: We have now had four years of a Labour Government, we have had three Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry; we had Margaret Beckett, who went to Australasia, we had Peter Mandelson, who went to South America, we have Byers, who has been to India, but not one Secretary of State, in this administration, for Trade and Industry, I know this Minister has been, I know a plethora of other Ministers, full marks to them, but what have we got to do to get a Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to go to the applicant countries of the European Union? I just find it amazing; short of setting fire to myself in Parliament Square, what more can we do to get the Prime Minister to instruct Byers to go there? I find it an amazing abdication, that the Secretary of State for Trade refuses to go to the applicant countries of the European Union: why is it, when is he going, and what is the impediment, why has this principal, keen Secretary of State not gone? Chairman 151. Minister, is there an answer to that? (Mr Vaz) It is one of the great questions that has been asked by Mr Mackinlay, and I correctly predicted that he would ask this question. Mr Mackinlay 152. I am going to keep on doing it. (Mr Vaz) And can I just, first of all, tell him that the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, Alan Howarth, Baroness Scotland, Michael Meacher, Keith Vaz, Joyce Quin, Keith Hill, Helen Liddell and Geoff Hoon have all been to Poland. This morning, I asked my private office - - - 153. That is Central Europe, it is not Poland, I never mentioned Poland, I never mentioned Poland. (Mr Vaz) Mr Mackinlay, wait for it, I asked my private office to telephone the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to tell him that I was appearing before this Committee and that Mr Mackinlay was bound to raise the fact that he has not been to Poland. Mr Mackinlay: I did not say Poland; why do you keep saying Poland? I am talking about Central Europe, the applicant countries. Chairman, it is an irritating point, because, the last meeting, if you remember, he kept saying, "Mackinlay keeps going on about Poland." Mackinlay deliberately did not say Poland; it is a serious point. I am talking about the principal applicant countries, of which Poland is one, I did not mention Poland. The abdication of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry not going relates to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, the principal applicant countries, it is not just Poland. And I resent people making it flip that I keep going on about Poland, I do not, I am talking about our interest in the Central Europe, principal applicant countries. Chairman 154. Minister, the question relates not specifically to Poland but to the Central European countries as a whole. What was the response of the private office of the Secretary of State? (Mr Vaz) We did ask, Mr Chairman, about Poland, but tomorrow I will widen the area to give him a greater choice of countries to visit, and I am sure that the Secretary of State will look favourably on the points put forward. And, as soon as we have a date for this visit, I can assure this Committee, I will be the first to telephone Mr Mackinlay and tell him the good news. 155. Minister, Gibraltar; the Committee has turned to the problems of Gibraltar. I understand that you have another official who will be joining you in respect of Gibraltar? (Mr Vaz) Indeed. 156. Then perhaps you could effect the change? (Mr Vaz) We have to divide up the Foreign Office between various officials. Chairman: And then Mr Mackinlay will begin on Gibraltar.