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Lord Triesman: My Lords, accession will be a significant accomplishment. My noble friend alights on two issues that should cause all of us concern. There are significant issues on human rights. They will be subject to intense scrutiny during the negotiations, and I hope that that process will open them up. On Cyprus, at the moment there is no meeting of minds, either among the Greek Cypriot community or the Turkish Government. They are hard issues, and they will be hard to resolve.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, are the Government aware that the French and Austrian peoples have been granted binding referenda on whether Turkey should be allowed to enter the European Union? Do the Government agree that Turkey's entry is, in any event, unlikely unless the French and the Austrian peoples can be persuaded to be less hostile towards it over the next few years?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, the countries that have decided to hold referenda will, plainly, have a pretty high hurdle to climb over. I hope that we will have resolved the fundamental questions by then. I suspect that, if they are not resolved, the outcome will be disappointing. I hope that those who have supported enlargement on all sides will work hard to ensure that it is successful, not least to the benefit of the Turkish people.
Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, can the Minister give us his considered view of what, apparently, is the preferred course of a number of continental European countries; namely, that we have the target of privileged partnership status for Turkey?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, my view is that we can enlarge Europe to include Turkey, making plain our commitment to the economic benefits and to the benefits of having a major secular Muslim nation inside the European Union. That will be to the greatest benefit of us all.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, as long-standing supporters of Turkey's EU membership, we have long stressed the importance of real improvement in human rights and freedom of speech in that country. Does the
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Minister welcome the decision to drop charges against the writer Orhan Pamuk, and does he agree that that decision moves Turkish membership a step closer?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I thoroughly agree with what has just been said. That was the right decision. I hope that the fact that the case of a very high-profile and very distinguished writer has been dropped will not remove the focus from some of the less high-profile writers who are still in the spotlight. Human rights have to relate to distinguished as well as undistinguished writers.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, what is the Government's reaction to the proposals by the Government of Turkey last week for free trade in the eastern Mediterranean? Does he not think that that might make some contribution to the vexed problem of Cyprus? Does he not also think that the Cyprus Government's reaction to those proposalsthat there is nothing newbetter described their own reaction rather than the proposals themselves?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I took comfort from the proposals, and I think that they offer some progress. Recent responses, including the refusal of the Greek Cypriot Government to see the Foreign Secretary, are not helpful. Without partisanship, there is a requirement on everyone to try to talk through the problems and to make the progress that is needed. Almost anyone can put a road block in the waythat is the easy bitbut getting through to a proper solution is the hard bit. Let us go for the hard bit.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the accession of Turkey would mean close on 100 million new people entering the European Community and extending the borders of the European Union to Asia. Should we not also have a referendum in this country, as they are having in France and Austria?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I am sure that Parliaments in the United Kingdom will look at each successive accession proposal and consider where enlargement takes us. We have been served well by discussing accession legislation in our House and in the other place and by considering the relevant amendments very thoroughly. I do not think that has done us any harm.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the guidance is being finalised and will be published as a Department for Transport circular as soon as possible, in parallel with some associated regulations.
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Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in July 2002, in response to a Written Question in the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary gave an undertaking that the guidance would be published by the end of that year? Does the department occupy a sort of parallel universe in which a single year stretches into infinity, or does the Minister have some guarantee that when he says it is this year, he means it? Does the Minister think that it is acceptable for the provisions of primary legislation to take six years before they come to the House?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I mean 2006. If the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, is suggesting that the delay over the regulations is causing widespread national concern, all I can say is that the concept of quiet lanes is a local issue par excellence, for local authorities to define and act on. They can already act in those terms without the regulations. Whether they are acting or not is a question for the local authorities, and I wonder why the House is concerned about the issue at this stage.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, the Question is about quiet lanes. In view of the congestion statistics that the department published yesterdaycongestion has gone up by 11 per cent in the past seven years and is now the worst ever by far, with no hope of decliningis every road not shortly to become a quiet lane, with traffic at a standstill? Perhaps the Minister could comment on yesterday's figures.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, on moving off quiet lanes. Congestion is a national issue, but I do not think that the noise factor is crucial to it; rather, the effect of congestion on our economy is crucial. The noble Lord will recognise that the Government are investing heavily in roads and seeking ways to facilitate traffic. He will be aware, for instance, of the widening of the M25, which has increased traffic flow around the crucial area near Heathrow Airport.
There are measures in hand. The noble Lord will have seen the investment projects for the extension and widening of roads in this country. We are investing in transport, but we recognise that the congestion question is one of how we shift to alternative forms of transport, not just roads.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government legislated for enabling legislation for quiet lanes. We thought that we might then enjoy a quiet time and that local authorities would recognise the opportunity to identify the limited areas of road space that could be used for horse riders, pedestrians, cyclists and absolutely minimal forms of road traffic; designate
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them as quiet lanes; and encourage their use by those more benign road users. We did not think that it was a national issue.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, we have experienced the issues that my noble friend raised in her Question several times. The guidance on the licensing laws was a long time in coming. The Minister knows that the guidance on the use of cameras in bus lanes has been put off year after year. Is it not time that, when the Government come before the House with legislation promising to bring orders and statutory instruments, they should be produced at least within two years, otherwise the Government should have to come back to the House to renew their promises?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, government legislation is meant to last for a considerable number of years. It often contains clauses that will be enacted according to demand, but they are there because we are a far-sighted Government and can recognise that the need might occur in the future, when it would not be appropriate to introduce fresh legislation. I merely maintain that the regulations will marginally enhance local authorities' powers on quiet lanes, but authorities that want to provide them can do so now.
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