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Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): The Prime Minister will be aware that British customs officials are already working in Bulgaria and Romania, that our police force has already been giving advice to countries in central and eastern Europe, and that other countries, including Germany, are doing the same. Does he agree that if European Union enlargement is to occur and we are to enjoy the benefits of a bigger market and the historic unity of our continent, it is absolutely vital that we can all feel secure that the smuggling of people and drugs through the Balkans has been stopped?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; that is precisely why it is important that we consider all the potential methods that can help. I have just been reminded of the fact that British policy and passport officers now operate in Paris, at the Gare du Nord. That is not considered a breach of French national sovereignty; it is a sensible arrangement, because we are dealing with a proper problem. We should be looking at whatever works, in order to deal with the problem. If that means greater co-operation in Europe, let us co-operate more in Europe so that we get the problem dealt with.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): What is the point in our alleging that we set the agenda, if that agenda is then comprehensively rejected by our partners? Why does the Prime Minister say that Seville was a success for this country, despite the fact that the Anglo-Spanish proposal on immigration and asylum was also rejected? If that was a success, what would he define as a failure?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is wrong on the facts, I am afraid. Let me repeat it to him: we made substantial progress at Seville, but as I said, we did not get everything that we wanted. [Interruption.] If he and his colleagues will stop shouting from a sedentary position for a moment, I will explain to them exactly what we got on asylum and immigration. First, we got the agreement that any future co-operation[Interruption.] They have started again. They are unbelievable; they will not listen.
First, any future co-operation or accession agreement will contain both a migration clause and a compulsory readmission clause. Secondly, in respect of existing agreements, there is an analysis of whether there is co-operation on illegal immigration or not. Thirdly, if there is a finding that nations are not co-operating, we reserve our right to adopt positions or attitudes in respect of those nations that we can decide upon. In other words, in respect of future agreements, it is completely a part of them that they include migration and readmission clauses. In respect of existing agreements, we reserve our right, once an analysis has been conducted of whether co-operation is taking place. In addition, we have immeasurably strengthened the whole issue of joint border co-operation on the visa and security regime and action on the illegal smuggling of people. I agree that that is not the sole answer to the problem, but it is absurd in these circumstances to say that we have got nothing.
In other areas, tooeconomic reform, for examplewe need to go far further, but at long last the whole agenda and policy direction is in favour of reform. Yes, we need to do more, but would we be in a better position if we were isolated, without any influence, simply sitting there letting others determine the agenda and saying no? The answer to that is obvious. That is where we were when we took over five and a half years ago, and it was a disaster for this country.
Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West): The Prime Minister stressed the benefits of legal migration and proper procedures for asylum seekers, which I support. The countries that have had the greatest burden have been those immediately adjacent to crisis areas, whether Pakistan in the case of Afghanistan or, at an earlier stage, the African countries that surrounded the area where the Rwandan genocide took place. Is it not therefore important, if not vital, for the European Union to be able to take immediate long-term measures on aid for those countries to help them to tackle such issues in a compassionate and humane way?
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is precisely what we have done as regards the agreement on the Balkans, for example. That is a classic example of using the totality of our relationship with those Balkan countries to insist that we will help them to deal with migration flows, but they have a responsibility to respond to that help.
On Afghanistan, it is worth pointing out that 1 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan since the conflict took place, many of them from neighbouring states. We are entering into agreements with the new Afghan Government so that Afghans who have claimed asylum and no longer need it owing to the change of Government can return to their country. We have to engage with the issue systematically.
It is also worth pointing out that this, too, is not a problem for Europe alone; it is a problem all over the developed world, including in countries such as America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We must obviously take measures here, but, as my right hon. Friend says, we must also ensure that where there is a crisis and a migratory flow erupts as a result, we put in place the right system of measures on aid and assistance to stop it.
David Burnside (South Antrim): The Prime Minister has been fulsome in his praise of the Spanish presidency. In his private moments discussing football, no doubt his Spanish host remarked that the referee in the last Spanish game abused his position at least once, if not twice. Did the Prime Minister point out that in the six months of the Spanish presidency, they abused their position as regards fisheries policy, further to the detriment of the British fishing fleet?
The Prime Minister: The Spanish have not succeeded in the aim attributed to them in media reports, and we can and will ensure that they cannot. I think that on balance the totality of the Spanish presidency has been successful.
Mr. Gwyn Prosser (Dover): My constituents in Dover are more familiar than most with the Dublin convention and the bilateral agreement with the French. What progress has my right hon. Friend made towards allowing us to send asylum shoppers back to the safe countries through which they have passed?
The Prime Minister: As I should have said in answer to another question a moment ago, another matter that we agreed was a set of timelines on action, including the negotiation of Dublin II by the end of this year. We must ensure that that timetable does not slip, as it has before. Better ordering of the procedures under the Dublin convention is essential, because what happens to Britain in particular is that people go through what are effectively safe third countries, then end up here when they could easily have claimed asylum in the safe country through which they passed. Tough negotiating will be necessary before Dublin II is agreed, but at least we have a firm mandate and we have set out a timetable in the Council conclusions.
Angus Robertson (Moray): To which specific suggestions by the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Executive or the Northern Irish Executive did the Prime Minister give voice at the Seville summit? For example, did he raise the point that my colleague from Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) made about the common fisheries policy and the way in which Spain handled it? Yes or no? Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to commend President Chirac of France and Prime Minister Persson of Sweden for blocking a morally repugnant proposal to tie aid for developing countries to their immigration policies?
The Prime Minister: There was the usual consultation with the devolved Administrations about the full range of Council issues. The Spanish presidency is of the European Council; we raise matters such as the CFP in our bilateral discussions with Spain. There were no bilateral discussions at the Council between the Spanish Prime Minister and me, but they do happen on many occasions.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): The House will welcome the positive steps at Seville towards a more transparent and efficient European Council. Will the Prime Minister give a commitment that the Government will continue to take the lead on reform until all the points mentioned in his letter to Chancellor Schroder and all Javier Solana's proposals have been implemented in full? We have made enormous progress, but much remains to be done.
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He is right, and he played a part in pushing the reform agenda forward when he was Minister for Europe. Most European countries basically accept it. Germany and the United Kingdom are not traditional allies on Council or European institutional reform, but the fact that we were able to combine and make joint proposals is a great step forward. The European Council works through unanimity; forming alliances and gaining