HC Deb 28 February 1994 vol 238 cc659-81 3.49 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

I beg to move, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Europe Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Bulgaria) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

Madam Speaker

I understand that with this it will be convenient to discuss the following motions: That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Europe Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Czech Republic) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved. That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Slovak Republic) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved. That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Europe Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and Romania) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

Mr. Hogg

This is an opportunity for the House to discuss the relationship between the European Union and central and eastern European countries. As the House will know, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has spent a great deal of time in recent months discussing the enlargement of the European Union. As the House will also know, my hon. Friend the Minister of State is currently engaged in negotiations to that effect. Indeed, that is why he is not participating in the debate; he has asked me to apologise to the House on his behalf.

We are debating the Europe, or association, agreements between the European Union and the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. As the House may know, the agreements are known as mixed competence agreements. In other words, they require the approval of European Community member states and the assent of the European Parliament. The purpose of the debate is to set United Kingdom ratification in train by approving draft Orders in Council specifying the agreements as European treaties under section 1(3) of the European Communities Act 1972.

The events of 1989 presented us with the opportunity to put an end to the post-war division of Europe, and we are all now seeking to assist central European countries to establish—or, in many cases, to rebuild—the institutions that are essential for a pluralist democracy and a healthy market economy.

In promoting that general objective, the United Kingdom has put in place a programme of bilateral technical assistance under the know-how fund. In addition, we have supported the participation of central and eastern European countries in a whole range of European institutions and, especially, in the European Union itself. That is why we are debating the orders. As the House will know, central European countries wish to belong to the Union, and the United Kingdom looks forward to the time when that can happen.

The agreements that underpin the draft orders were a United Kingdom initiative. Developing relations with central Europe was a key priority of the United Kingdom's presidency and was symbolised by the summit with the Visegrad countries in October 1992. We worked hard for last June's European Council decision that the associate countries should join the Union as soon as they were ready to take on the obligations of the membership.

The European agreements lie at the heart of our efforts. They are the essential framework for preparing these countries for membership of the European Union. The four agreements that we are debating are very similar to the European agreements with Poland and Hungary that the House debated in detail in February and November 1992. They aim to establish a comprehensive framework for the development of trade, economic co-operation and political dialogue. I shall highlight five elements of the agreements.

The first and most important element is trade liberalisation. These provisions are already in force under interim agreements. Opening European Community markets to the central European countries is crucial to their economic restructuring and political stability. The agreements will, in turn, provide new commercial and investment opportunities to United Kingdom firms operating in the east. They envisage a liberalisation of trade in industrial products over a 10-year transitional period, with the markets of the Community opening more quickly than those of associate countries. They also allow for reciprocal concessions in agriculture, meaning that over time imports from these countries will benefit from progressively lower tariffs.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend clarify a point that is a little obscure to me? Over that 10 years, the products listed in the back of all the agreements will move to a zero level of tariff. What about the products that are not included there? There seems to be some ambiguity about whether any of those products will be included and whether, thereafter, those countries will be able to trade in those products within the Community on the same basis that we do.

Mr. Hogg

There are specific agreements on textiles, steel and coal. Other industrial products are treated collectively, with the Community abolishing its quantitative restrictions at the outset and abolishing its tariffs within three years, according to sensitivity. Central European states will dismantle trade barriers more slowly. Customs duties will be abolished over seven to 10 years and quantitative restrictions will be abolished over 10 years.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Hogg

I will proceed at this stage.

The second element of the agreements is economic co-operation. That heading covers a wide range of sectors—education, agriculture, science and technology, nuclear safety and consumer protection. It complements the trade liberalisation provisions in aiming to develop the economic and political structures of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia. Technical assistance from the Community's PHARE programme is available to finance this co-operation.

The third element concerns approximation of laws and standards. The Union will help the four countries to bring their legislation closer to existing European Community standards. Approximation to existing Community standards is a key step in preparation for Union membership. Some of the associate countries are already ensuring that all new legislation is compatible with Community law. The Copenhagen European Council additionally decided that the Union should establish a task force composed of Commission and national experts to co-ordinate and direct that work.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On the subject of education and culture, may I yet again raise the question of the trade, fearfully one way, in ecclesiastical art? I refer to letter C93/18235.MA from the Department of National Heritage. Northern Bohemia contains some of the most beautiful wooden ecclesiastical art anywhere in the world. Theft for the Frankfurt and London markets is such that part of the European heritage is being destroyed. That is not an easy problem to resolve. I give notice that if I catch your eye, Madam Speaker, I should like to refer to the matter in some depth. I hope that the Minister can consult his colleagues before the winding-up speeches.

Mr. Hogg

I recall that, in February 1992, when the agreements were debated on the Floor of the House, the hon. Gentleman raised precisely that point; he has a long-standing interest in it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) responded at that time. I shall listen with considerable interest to what the hon. Gentleman says. Like him, I suspect that the problem is extremely difficult to tackle, but I will most certainly listen to what he says.

The fourth element is political dialogue. The agreements establish Association Councils which will meet once a year at ministerial level to review the agreements and to build on them. The agreements also provide for meetings at Head of Government level and for close co-operation on foreign policy at senior official level.

Fifthly, there is the question of financial co-operation. The agreements provide for continuation of temporary financial assistance to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania through the PHARE programme, which has so far resulted in the Community contributing £725 million of technical assistance to the four countries. In special circumstances, the Community may also provide balance of payments support to those countries in the context of the G24. The Community has committed more than £2 billion in balance of payments support to those countries since 1991, and it is currently considering requests to give further support to Romania and Bulgaria.

I should mention the inclusion—

Mrs. Ann Clwyd. (Cynon Valley)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hogg

No. I am proceeding now.

I should mention the inclusion of the important preambular paragraph in each of the agreements that look forward to the associate countries' accession. We want the associate countries to join the European Union as soon as they are ready to take on the economic and political obligations of membership. That commitment was made, at British urging, by the Copenhagen European Council in June last year.

Mrs. Clwyd

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hogg

'The agreements will help Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia to prepare themselves, and—

Mrs. Clwyd

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Madam Speaker

Order. I am given to understand that the Minister is not prepared to give way. The hon. Lady must not persist in the circumstances.

Mr. Hogg

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

The object is to enable those countries to prepare themselves, and the agreements are vital to those countries as a symbolic and practical confirmation of their place in Europe.

4 pm

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

We support the motions, which represent significant developments in trade with former communist countries and newly emerging democracies in eastern Europe. Undoubtedly, such links will become strong and trade will increase and lead, as the Minister has said, to closer formal relationships when internal economic, political and trade conditions are met by aspirant countries of eastern Europe.

The issue of enlargement, of course, is for another time; the motions relate specifically to trade and economic relationships and the development of them. It is important for us in the west to support economic development, which is surely the underpinning of democratic societies.

The agreements open political dialogue which is intended to familiarise central and eastern European countries with the political framework and foreign policy activities of the Community. More important in the short term, the agreements allow the free flow of, and access to, goods, but they do not particularly contribute to the creation of well-functioning market economies in eastern European countries. That is something for countries to work out for themselves.

The Minister referred specifically to textiles, steel and coal. One matter of concern is dumping. What provision will be made, and what discussions have taken place, on restrictive anti-dumping legislation or controls? At present, as we all know, the problem cannot be resolved inside the European Community. It certainly cannot police it in any way. The general facilities to enable the European Community to do that are quite small. Unfair trading and state subsidies are still burning issues in the present European Community.

South Wales and other industrial areas have suffered from the dumping of special steels and white goods, for example. A long time ago, when the Davignon plan was introduced to control and restructure the iron and steel industry in the European Community, this country virtually volunteered to have its steel industry annihilated over three or four years from about 21 million liquid tonnes down to about 11 million liquid tonnes. At the same time, the Germans and Italians were increasing their production.

In respect of works such as the Hoover works in south Wales—those works are near the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), and many of his constituents work there—we saw the dumping of white goods. Goods were put on the market by Italian washing machine manufacturers at a lower price than Hoover could buy special steels. There was an obvious case of state subsidy going to Italian washing machine manufacturers, but the European Community did not have the resources to police it. It is all right to bring in these agreements, but they do not work in the European Community in their present form, and we should not extend them to other countries if we are not able to control the problem of dumping in the Community.

There are other larger issues such as agricultural products and gaining access to markets because many of the aspirant countries are large agricultural producers. Another issue is the freedom of movement of labour within the Community and the agreement areas. Outside those major issues, we have the possibility of creating trading opportunities for the various member states.

Whereas we must recognise that the agreements are between the European Union and countries individually, trade within the agreements will be between individual countries in the European Union and the individual countries of the agreements. It will not be trade between the European Union and a group of countries—individual countries in the European Union will have to do the trading. Of course, if countries do not take up the opportunity, we miss out yet again.

Typically, Britain is already lagging behind. In the circumstances, the Government do not have the additional leverage of overseas aid to correct the distortion of market forces. Indeed, we are falling rapidly behind other European Community nations in our level of trade with former communist countries. For example, Germany has almost ready access into those markets. Indeed, some of the markets have a large German speaking and ethnic German population. Last year, Germany exported $23.9 billion worth of goods into those countries. Britain exported $2.7 billion worth of goods—that is one tenth of what Germany exported. We are way behind France, which exports $4.7 billion worth of goods. Italy exports $6.4 billion worth of goods.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)


Mr. Rogers

I will give way, but I shall finish my point first. Our exports to those countries are about equivalent to that of Holland, which has a population of about 15 million. Surely we will not be measured by that particular yardstick.

Mr. Jenkin

Would the hon. Gentleman like to comment on the fact that the Commission has reduced the PHARE programme, which is equivalent to the European Community's know-how fund? The money appears to have been diverted through a new structural programme, predominantly under German influence. The Commission spent large chunks of that money in Sudetenland, where there are many German-speaking people, to promote trade in German goods. That does not quite bear out the denial to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and I wonder whether he could comment on that.

Would not it be better if we got the Commission back under control and spreading its money on a more objective basis, rather than letting it be hijacked by particular national interests?

Mr. Rogers

The hon. Gentleman is a specialist in Europe, shall we say, or a specialist in being anti-Europe, so he would know more details about such little nuances.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)


Mr. Rogers

I shall just answer this point. I do not think that anyone is foolish enough to believe that countries in the European Community act in the Community's interests—they act in their own interests. There are no ifs or buts about that. That is by no means an anti-European Community or anti-European Union statement—it is the truth of the matter.

I remember some time ago—the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) will certainly remember this, because they were Members of the European Parliament at the same time as I was—that the external trade commissioners for the European Commission were always Frenchmen: Pisani and Cheysson—

Mr. Jenkin

And Brittan.

Mr. Rogers

No, it was long before Brittan. I did not realise that Brittan is French.

If one went anywhere in the world, one could see that a lot of European Community business went to France. The hon. Member for Hendon, South said—in weaker terms than those used by Mr. Alan Clark, a previous Minister for Defence Procurement—that he did not particularly care to which countries we exported, as long as those exports provided British jobs. That is what the French are all about within the EC. The hon. Gentleman is practising the same principle here today.

Mr. Enright

Is not it true that continental companies, and especially German companies, keep much closer tabs on the various funds that are available? That is because of the regionality as much as anything, and Governments are able to assist firms in instantly reaching those funds. That is quite contrary to something that I overheard today from one of those wretched mobile phones as I travelled from Doncaster to King's Cross. A business man was saying, "Well, we were doing all right in Czechoslovakia until the damned Foreign Office got in the way".

Mr. Rogers

That is very perceptive. I will press on. I was given the brief a short time ago, and I decided that I would speak only for a few moments.

Our volume of trade with eastern Europe is increasing more slowly than that of other European Community countries. We are not only behind other countries; we are falling further behind them. That adds to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth. The Government do not help British industry in the matter and we are losing markets to other countries.

Even if we are noble about the matter, we must realise that increased trade with those countries is certainly the best form of long-term aid. We have heard today that the Foreign Office believes that the agreements create no problems for British industry. I think that the proof of the pudding might well be in the eating.

I have read details of the negotiations that have taken place and I do not think that the Government have stood up for Britain, or batted for Britain, quite as much as they did in Saudi Arabia or Malaysia. Perhaps we had better bring back a new opening bat, although that would not be a proper description of the noble Lady, the previous right hon. Member for Finchley.

The Foreign Office and Ministers must get the CBI, chambers of commerce and trade organisations involved, give them assistance and stress the importance of building up trade. We cannot sit back and watch imports and exports between other EC countries and eastern Europe. If we are in the EC, we must get in there pitching to improve Britain's position and our access to eastern Europe.

We must make assistance more effective by supporting infrastructure developments, and that is why we welcome the technical and educational assistance to those countries. If there are to be free market economies and stable democracies in those countries, we must extend our trade into the ex-communist countries. It is in all our interests to create a stable climate in Europe. At the same time, it is certainly in our interests for the Foreign Office to be more forceful in increasing our exports to get British jobs.

4.13 pm
Mr. John Men (Shropshire, North)

I will try to obey your injunction to be brief, Madam Speaker, but I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) on his performance at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Opposition. I thought that the hon. Gentleman spoke just like a member of the 1922 Committee, in particular when he placed strictures upon the performance of the Foreign Office. Scratch a Tory and one finds a Foreign Office-phobe at any time.

I support my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister who introduced the statutory instruments. I should like to take advantage of the opportunity that he set again to discuss enlargement and to say that, particularly as a result of the decisions of the Copenhagen Council of June 1993, enlargement is at the centre of Community policy. It is a decision that will have the consequence of transforming the nature of the Community through a passage of time. To some extent, what we are debating this afternoon is what will be that passage of time and how uniform it will be. We do that particularly in the context of the prospective European elections in Britain.

I welcome the debate because it enables us, as a preliminary to the elections, to debate issues that will properly be taken to the hustings in June. I say "properly be taken to the hustings" because it will be important to identify in the elections not merely the divisions—divisions which are reflected in the House—but the areas of common concern.

I welcome the support expressed by the hon. Member for Rhondda for the draft instruments and the concept of enlargement. He was properly somewhat agnostic about the speed with which that enlargement might be achieved.

I thought that the hon. Member for Rhondda was wise to remind us of the difficulties that are inherent in the economic fusion of the applicant countries and the European Union. In this debate we necessarily confine ourselves to the terms of reference. The politics of enlargement come behind the economics. For example, there was not much delay on the part of Germany when it sought to assert its interest in Croatia. I do not make any criticism of the German behaviour. I am simply acting as the hon. Member for Rhondda said. He did not say it in quite those terms. He said that he was not here for all that Euro-fuzz but as an honest-to-God Front-Bencher given the job only a few hours or days ago. He could bring to the debate only his own robust, South Walesian common sense tempered by some experience at Strasbourg. I cannot think of a more magic and potent formula than that.

We know that the politics of central and eastern Europe are at their most challenging. I believe that the imperative today, whatever the uniformity of the eventual economic arrangements, is to give political assurance to the countries of central Europe as they see the turmoil in Russia and some of the adjacent states still unresolved.

In those circumstances, when we come to our election year and we talk about enlargement, we talk about the politics, which must be imprecise. The economics are rather more tangible because they are contained in the statutory instruments that we are discussing today. We have to ask what is the general thrust of the policy. That is a crucial question for the European Union as a whole. Will the thrust to embrace nations with very different economic performance than our own be sustained or hindered by a commitment to a single currency, a European bank and converged economies?

That is not some odd question from a member of the awkward squad below the Gangway. It is absolutely at the heart of the debate, whether those in authority wish it or not. I say that because the Copenhagen Council, referring to the applications for membership of the Community from the central European countries, said: Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions, guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy"— God help us— as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. That is the sort of ritual language with which we are all reasonably familiar. It is Euro-speak and the hon. Member for Rhondda must not rock his shoulders in mirth at my description, as he is now an eminent person with responsibilities sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. That is the challenging passage for him and for the Labour party, which is committed to economic and monetary union and to converged currencies.

The passage continues: Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. No one who listens to this debate or hears about the problems caused by the different backgrounds of member countries—such as agriculture, textiles and steel—can envisage any future for the Union other than one in which there is much elasticity in the relationships between the east and central European countries and ourselves.

Economic and monetary union will merely make infinitely more difficult what, in any circumstances, will be a challenging economic proposition—namely, bringing those countries into our partnership. We merely have to consider the difficulties that were created by the entry of Portugal and Greece, which have substantially different economic standards from those of the core EC member states.

Mr. Jenkin

And eastern Germany.

Mr. Biffen

Yes, my hon. Friend is ever helpful and encouraging and I accept that reinforcement.

Because enlargement of the Community is so important for both it and all the peoples within it, enlargement will obviously be central to the debate in this country in June at the European elections. We are entitled to discuss how we envisage that that objective will be pursued.

Furthermore, it is impossible to consider the exhilarating challenge of enlargement without realising that it will take a long time and that the objective will adjust with time. Enlargement will therefore be at the heart of those aspects of the Maastricht treaty that will be renegotiated in 1996. The June election campaign will be incomplete unless our political leaders make clear statements about how they view prospects for enlargement and renegotiation.

I have shamelessly sought to widen the debate to more philosophical considerations than the relatively narrow platform provided by the statutory instruments. However, if we are to have a successful Community it must be based not only on a relaxed relationship between the nation states of Europe, but on the peoples of Europe being led to understand the objectives of the political elites of those countries that fashion the relationships. That opportunity will come in this country in June, at the European elections. A forewarning of what might be a legitimate agenda does not come one moment too soon.

4.23 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As so often during the past thirty one and a half years, I agree with many of the insights of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). He is absolutely right about the importance of the subject under discussion. I am therefore a little shamefaced about turning to a subject that I must concede is not the most important aspect of the matter—the problems associated with the transfer of ecclesiastical art and valuable objects from Czechoslovakia to the art markets of western Europe, about which I have set down a marker.

It would be a great irony if, having suffered a decade of the Nazis and four decades of the communists, and having maintained much of the traditional heritage of the eastern European countries, now that those countries are opening up, the imperatives of the market were to wreak havoc on the art treasures of eastern Europe. Neither the Nazis nor the communists succeeded in doing that.

The House will forgive me if I tell colleagues a true little story. Two years ago, the all-party heritage group, which is extremely well led by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), went to Czechoslovakia. That organisation, in case anyone jumps to conclusions, does not organise freebies. We pay a full and proper amount for ourselves and for our wives, although we get an exceeding number of privileges in being received by the experts in the country to which we go. When we went to Czechoslovakia, we also had the privilege of going to the private apartments of President Havel. The all-party heritage group is known to a number of hon. Members.

On the eighth day of our visit, based in Prague, we went to northern Bohemia. On the way up there, as we passed through a small town, a number of us at the back of the bus said, "Hey. We must stop here. That looks like a fascinating church." The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South acceded, somewhat reluctantly, because he is a great disciplinarian, to that request from the back of the bus. We stopped at the church. Out we got and went into it. It was full of the most beautiful objects in marble and wood.

After looking around for some 10 minutes, it was then discovered that those of us who had gone into the church were locked inside. There was no way that we could get out. Imagine the scene. A number of distinguished Members of this House and a number of distinguished Members of the Upper House, such as Lord Crathorne, who is joint secretary of the group, together with our wives, were locked firmly in a church with no visible means of getting out.

An elderly priest eventually appeared and produced his keys. When it was realised that we were the parliamentary delegation to Czechoslovakia, everyone was full of apologies at having such distinguished souls, some of whom were very meek, like me, but others, like my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), were less meek on the subject, locked in the church.

That elderly priest then explained in halting English what it was all about. He was full of excuses and said that had he known who we were, he would not have locked us in, but that people had had such bad experiences in so many of the country churches in that part of the country that they were doing what they could to protect what remained of their heritage. So many objects had been just snaffled, whipped and taken away. It was pure common-or-garden theft of holy relics.

The German army, many of whom were Roman Catholics, did not, it was said, quite like to steal such objects. Many of the Russian soldiers, who may have had feelings about icons in their countries, demurred from taking other people's religious art. The elderly priest explained to us that those who thought that they could make money in the art markets of Amsterdam, Frankfurt or London had far less inhibitions than those in the Nazi armies or the Soviet armies.

In a sense, it was a poignant moment. But it highlights—I hope, poignantly—the fact that it is a tremendous financial temptation either simply to take objects or to reach a pitiful bargain in which the money exchanged bears no relation to the value of the objects in the western art markets.

When we returned, I raised the matter immediately with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and received a concerned response, as I had from the ambassador. I then discovered that the Prime Minister was going to Czechoslovakia. I saw him personally before he went and said that, although it was probably not the main content of his discussions with President Havel, would he nevertheless mention it to those quarters in Prague who might be concerned. The Prime Minister kept his word. On his return, he said that he had asked the ambassador to look at the matter on an on-going basis.

I am criticising neither the Government nor the police but it might be for the convenience of the House if I stated the latest position. It is set out by the Under-Secretary of State at the Department of National Heritage in a letter to me dated 25 February. It said: During the debate, on 14 February, on the draft Statutory Instrument to implement the EC Directive on the return of cultural objects, you drew attention to the problem of thefts from the Czech Republic, Russia and elsewhere; and I undertook to look at previous papers on this subject. You also enquired where the question of monetary thresholds came into the problem of the theft of cultural objects. I have now had an opportunity to consider these points. I fully appreciate your concern about the growing problem of arts thefts in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The previous papers on this subject make sad reading. As a criminal matter, the subject is essentially one for Michael Howard as Home Secretary; but, as you know, Tim Renton, when he was Minister for the Arts requested the cooperation of the London art trade in helping to identify the missing objects should they appear on the market here. First, what is the latest stage of the request to the London art trade? Secondly, I am told by people in the art trade that, in most cases, experts know jolly well what is likely to have been taken, especially when it comes from Russian orthodox and Czechoslovakian or Polish churches. It is not too difficult to identify what is likely to have come from those sources because of the nature of the art, so identification is not the major problem. The major problem is what to do once identification has taken place.

The Minister's letter went on: I understand that the Metropolitan Art and Antique Squad are also working closely with their counterparts in the Czech Republic (and other Eastern European countries) to try to give assistance in countering the problem. I did not mention the name of the place where distinguished colleagues of ours were incarcerated in the church because no one wants to give away place names and make matters worse. I am, however, prepared to tell anyone interested after the debate.

There should be some kind of register so that the British and European authorities can invite the Czechs and Russians to register what has gone missing and what worries them.

The Minister went on: I think that there may be some misunderstanding about the EC Directive. This provides a mechanism for one Member Slate to request the return from another Member State of a cultural object, which falls within the scope of the Directive, and which has been unlawfully removed from the requesting State on or after 1 January 1993. The Directive is essentially aimed at objects which have been illegally exported. The European Union does not have competence in criminal matters (i.e. art thefts), although a stolen object could fall within the scope of the Directive if it had also been exported in contravention of the requesting State's export laws. I am told that things would have been much easier had Britain been a signatory to UNESCO. The Minister may reply to me in his speech or, if he prefers, by letter, but I should like to know whether that is true. Would being a signatory add more legal clout to any action to protect the heritage of eastern Europe?

The Under-Secretary ended: as you know, co-operation via Interpol Already provides a means for recovery of a stolen item regardless of monetary value. I know better than to make detailed inquiries into how Interpol goes about its business, and it would not be desirable in this case that I or any other hon. Member should be told about that. But I do ask for a clear assurance that the Government are in active touch with Interpol on this matter and are making real efforts to do something about it.

Although this is a difficult issue, the stakes are extremely high—including, first, the cultural heritage of eastern Europe; and secondly, more importantly, the self-esteem of the people of eastern Europe and their deep regard for their relations with the west. In Czechoslovakia and Russia people of influence are deeply upset by the fact that, after they have tried for much better relations with the west, part of the result of those better relations is the depredation of their own cultural heritage.

The House has kindly given me time and attention to submit this—admittedly narrow—aspect of a much wider and important measure. I do hope, however, that right hon. and hon. Members will come to regard the matter in the same sustained way as some of us have already tried to do over past months.

4.37 pm
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)

I am aware of the time and I shall try to keep my remarks brief.

I welcome the Minister's comments about the inclusion of the four countries in the agreements, but I should like to make a few points about some of the detail, which is important—the more so in the light of the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen).

The debate gives us an opportunity to look back in on the Community. That can sometimes be difficult; it is rather like looking through a glass darkly. We often see in only from the outside, so important matters can be missed by those who give their full support to everything that the Community does, without proper scrutiny or without determination to find out why.

One of the greatest difficulties that we face is the fact that the Community is obsessed with political ideals, to do with the single currency and so on, instead of with free markets and the sort of competitiveness embodied in the measures. The trade agreements give us the chance to stop and look again at what Britain's purpose in the Community has always been.

Although I welcome the agreements, recognising that they are based on our original intention to open up the Community to wider markets, it is also clear that when the provisions come to be written, self-interest comes increasingly to the fore—short-term political interest and short-term goals. That avoids long-term, serious considerations such as those on which I believe that our Government have been set but from which they have been distracted in the course of the negotiations.

I am particularly interested in a letter to the Financial Times of 2 June, in which the Czech minister for industry and trade, Vladimir Dlouhy, said: Economic recovery is simply stifled if fair trading access is not assured, for trading is really the only long term effective aid. He is right. The key is to open up our markets and ensure that both we and eastern Europe improve our abilities as a result.

When we look at the documents, we find that the two key sectors are industry and the common agricultural policy. I shall deal first with the common agricultural policy. The debate gives us the opportunity to look at it again and to try to understand what has gone so badly wrong. The system takes up fully £46 billion—more than half the Community budget. Only 40 per cent. of that ends up in the hands of farmers; nearly £28 billion goes in administration support matters and, dare I say it, a vast amount of growing corruption. The Commission has finally seen fit to put in the right people to sort that out, but corruption is part of the system and goes right to the bottom.

We can no longer carry on with a system of agricultural support that ensures that the very people at whom it is aimed see least of it. The absurdities are demonstrated time and again. Each family pays something like £1,000 extra every year as a result of that intervention at the supermarkets and shops, where they pay higher prices as a result of the shoring up of that inefficient policy. We see clearly how self-interest, support for the CAP and the determination to keep it as it is has meant that we have shut our markets to the eastern Europeans to a far greater degree than we should have done.

We should be opening our market to those countries and saying that we welcome all of their agricultural produce and their processed agricultural produce. We should ask them to come and show us exactly how far we have departed from proper free trading principles. We have not done that. We have allowed self-interest to dictate that we shut areas of the market. I made the point earlier to my right hon. Friend that, even after 10 years, areas are still excluded. No mention has been made of those.

Let us look again at steel and coal. Recently, in the debate on steel, we saw a fascinating exchange in which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry went to the Dispatch Box to defend the absurd practice that has been going on in the Community for so long and that has resulted in failure to open the market and to get rid of subsidies. I notice that the document is carefully worded so that we end up helping to protect those heavily subsidised industries in Germany and Spain, those 60,000 jobs that everybody is scared of getting rid of, when Britain has set about that task without fear or favour. Poland has shed more than 70,000 in its steel industry, yet we still wish to help the Germans, Spanish and others protect themselves from what is justifiable free trade with eastern Europe, which would help to lower the costs of our manufacturing industry and make us competitive world wide.

Mr. Rogers

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the Conservative Government took us down this road and were hellbent on destroying the British steel industry in the early 1980s? That was a conscious policy of the British Government.

Mr. Duncan Smith

I am grateful for that intervention, because it gives me an opportunity to declare again how much I supported my Government's drive to make our industry efficient throughout the whole of the 1980s. It is now one of the most efficient in the world. I am saying not that we should have shored it up but that we should now ensure that the others play the same game. We could then expand our industry as a result of our competitiveness. That is what the purpose of the eastern European deal should be about: letting them come in and compete.

Mr. Rogers

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Duncan Smith

I am conscious of the time and should like to press on.

Mr. Rogers

It is only a small point. The hon. Gentleman and the Conservative party, in the so-called strive for efficiency and streamlining, are quite prepared to sacrifice tens of thousands of workers and their jobs, with no foreseeable possibility of the other countries in Europe coming into line with us. It will be 20 years before they do that.

Mr. Duncan Smith

The hon. Gentleman clearly thinks that it is 20 years. If we are both right, we should do something about it. The point is that, by restructuring the steel industry in Britain, we have shown the way to the rest of Europe. It is high time that the rest of Europe did the same and stopped playing games with their 60,000 jobs. Such an agreement as this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Mr. Jenkin

Is it not a fact that, during the 1980s, we increased our steel exports to the European Community and elsewhere from a mere few hundred million pounds-worth to well over £2 billion per annum? That is the reward for getting one's steel industry into a fit condition. That is how one keeps permanent jobs in the UK. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister said, even the products listed in the agreement for the phasing out of the tariff barriers are to be phased out according to sensitivity. Does not that allow every Community country to put an obstacle in the way of the falling tariff barriers so that they are likely to remain there for a good deal longer than the 10 years according to the agreement?

Mr. Duncan Smith

My hon. Friend makes his point well and backs up all the points that I have made. I fully agree with him.

Let me move on for the benefit of hon. Members and my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench. I noticed the other day, when reading through documents from the European Community, a report commissioned by DG 16 on the competitive market of Europe, which analysed the benefits and problems that would come to the European Community. The report comes to terms with that and decides that huge benefits are to be drawn from opening the market to eastern Europe immediately. In so doing, one would have thought that the Commission would follow suit and publish it with much publicity, but the Commission changed the head of DG 16 and the man who was put in his place was none other than an ex-cabinet colleague of Mr. Delors. Clearly it does not suit his purpose to have its report, because the cohesion group of countries, which so much supports many of his policies, would not like it. Nor, perhaps, would some of the French farmers, so the Commission has sat on the report.

Hon. Members would be forgiven for not knowing of the report's existence, because it was deliberately excluded from their view. That applies also to the report that is now being published on the CAP; it, too, is being sat on by the Commission because it does not like what is in it. Rotten practice leads to rotten trading. We must ensure that we get rid of that concept. In many respects, while I do not doubt my Government's intentions on those matters, the problem with an agreement such as this is that it leads not to free trade but to managed trade. That is the clear purpose of the agreement, not so much opening up and saying, "Let us take on the best you have. Let us work together to get a free and proper market" but rather, "Let us ensure that we take only the products that frankly we cannot make ourselves; or exclude your elements of trade that we do not like because they affect our vested self-interest."

I am intrigued as to how political input has been used to change all of that. Hon. Members have referred to the money for the PHARE programme. There is no question but that £115 million of that was diverted out of the budget at the end of the year, has been stuck into some form of structural fund and is now being used to support programmes directed from Germany in Silesia and Sudetenland. The purpose of that is clearly that it supports political positioning in Germany and other countries. Demand-led money, like our know-how fund, which I think is excellent, is the purpose of the PHARE programme and leads to better investment than anything dictated from one of the nations inside the European Community.

The key point is that we want a free market. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to press the Commission and other member states not to fear what is out there but rather to see it as a challenge and to restructure the whole of the Commission and our Community so that we meet the challenge as a free-trading group of countries rather than as a group of self-protected self-interest countries that would seek to close the market to those who would help us to compete.

There is no doubt that we need the trade and influence of those countries. If we stick exactly to what is in the agreements, we shall do no more than help those protected interests in the Community and we must ensure that we go further. If that means changing the Community, the common agricultural policy and our industrial policy, so be it: that is what we need to do. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has said, if it means renegotiating the Maastricht treaty—as I believe that it does—that is what we must undertake.

4.49 pm
Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

I followed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) with enormous interest—as, indeed, I followed his speech the other day. I find myself in complete agreement with the sentiments that he expressed today, and with those expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith).

My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North said that monetary union was at the heart of the debate, which of course it is. Let me elaborate on that point by examining what the proposals for economic and monetary union actually mean, as applied to the countries mentioned in the motions.

The preamble and explanatory notes to the agreements, and the main text, refer to an appropriate framework for political dialogue and the improvement of democracy in the states involved. We all want the agreements to take effect—not with faint praise or faint application, but so that they can enhance the economic opportunities available and free trade and freedom of choice can exist together. What, in the medium to longer term, does economic and monetary union imply for those countries? Far from continuing to improve the prospects for democracy—of which I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North would approve—it will actually prevent democracy from burgeoning. It will mean eventually handing over the running of the countries' economies to unelected, unaccountable bankers; it will mean giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

A selfish streak run through the proposals—as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford pointed out—in that they do not go far enough and, indeed, are positively exclusive of certain activities. Incidentally, those are frequently the most important activities in the countries concerned. In addition, the countries will be prevented from being able to develop their democratic and free-trading relationships with the rest of Europe.

I support the proposals, however, as I supported the European Economic Area Act 1993. I note—as I noted then—the absence of enthusiasm, shown by nonattendance in the Chamber, of some hon. Members who go around criticising those of us who would prefer to be described as Euro-realists. I recall that one of the notable absentees on a three-line Whip was my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who had the nerve to attack me on television yesterday—much to my amusement and pleasure, I may say. Whenever he attacks me, I regard my stock as having gone up by about 50 per cent. He did not vote on the European Economic Area Act, and I do not observe his presence today. That is a great pity. Those of us who are true Europeans, and who want the arrangements to work properly, wish to be present—as, indeed, my hon. Friends and I are today.

Having its own elections does not make a country a democracy. As I pointed out in a pamphlet that I wrote for the Bow Group in 1990, if we want to bring in those who have fought communism, have been at the sharp end and know what it is all about, we must give them the opportunity not only to have a free democracy but to engage in the kind of trading in their seminal industries that will enable them to match the theoretical democracy that they are being offered with a practical ability to deliver it, in terms of increased well-being for their people.

Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)

I agree with my hon. Friend about the poor attendance in the House. Is it not particularly notable that, while Conservative attendance is quite significant, the Opposition Benches are virtually bare?

Mr. Cash

That demonstrates the extent of the Opposition's enthusiasm. As we are in the close season for European elections, I am more than happy to add to the Government's firepower in attacking Labour Members and Liberal Democrats for their weak-kneed, third-rate, impoverished view of Europe's future. It is exemplified by the fact that, apart from Opposition Front Benchers and the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), no one is present to speak up for those two parties. At least a reasonable number of Euro-realists, who are committed to Europe, are present on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Rogers

Whatever Opposition Members lack in numbers, we more than make up for in quality. Part of the reason for the lack of numbers is probably the fact that many of my comrades—comrades, indeed!—heard that the hon. Gentleman was going to make a speech.

Mr. Cash

I am always delighted to respond to the hon. Gentleman, but he cannot get away with cheap tricks like that. The fact is that no one is sitting behind him, probably because no one agrees with him.

There is another problem: the difficulty that we now face in regard to the kind of Europe that the agreements add up to, in conjunction with the European Economic Area Act, the Maastricht treaty, the Single European Act and the treaty of Paris. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North is right. During the debate on the confidence motion, in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I called for a renegotiation of the treaty. It is perfectly apparent that it is not working and it is clear that, when added to the agreements, the acquis communautaire—which lies at the heart of the treaty—will be a millstone around the necks of the newly emergent democracies, with incalculable consequences for peace and stability throughout Europe as a whole.

Scratch some of the recently fascist countries in western Europe, look at the civil disorder, at the mistakes that we have made in terms of our policy on the recognition of Croatia and Bosnia, at the extent of the commercial and political instability that is being generated and at the geopolitical landscape. Consider the present concern about what is happening in Kosovo and Macedonia, in relation to the Greeks and the Turks. Trace that through the Balkans, with today's critical problem over air strikes—which I happen to think necessary, but that is another point—continue into the old Russias, with Mr. Zhirinovsky and the current uncertainty and tension.

Finally, consider the instability that will follow in the countries mentioned in the motions if the monetary union described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North collapses like the ERM and drops like a stone. What kind of Europe will that invoke? It will invoke civil disorder and all the uncertainties contained in the agreements. I am certain in my own mind, and from what I have picked up from friends in the countries involved, that they are by no means embraced enthusiastically by people there. They know that they constitute no more than a half-hearted and rather selfish measure. It is precisely because we have not been sufficiently forthcoming that we are tending to destabilise those countries.

Furthermore, if the EMU proposals indeed collapse, there will be chaos throughout Europe, which would only be worsened if the Parliaments of Europe have been emasculated by the reimposition of the totalitarianism from which those countries have only recently escaped. Hon. Members should please bear that in mind and consider the consequences of not allowing those countries to be let in. They have a great future if they are given an opportunity to enjoy proper free trade and proper democracy.

Confusion exists in the European Community, the so-called union, between nationalism and federalism. It will not be resolved by such half-hearted measures, welcome as they are for the time being. As Ian Davidson stated in the Financial Times on 16 February: it seems unlikely that members will renegotiate the Maastricht treaty, and certainly not in the middle of negotiations with the Efta candidates. The treaty will also not be renegotiated while the proposals involving other states adjacent to the European Community are under discussion.

To resolve the problems that remain, we must renegotiate the treaty of Rome and the treaty of Paris—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford referred. The difficulties over the treaty of Paris were revealed by the fining of British Steel and the sale of Rover. We must also renegotiate the Single European Act—which is not working properly and needs internal reform—the Maastricht treaty, the arrangements that are under discussion today and the European economic area. Unless we do that, we shall consign the future of Europe to deep uncertainty and potential chaos.

5.1 pm

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

I was interested in the ding-dong about the steel industry between my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers). The hon. Member for Rhondda has forgotten that, in the early 1980s, the steel industry received £1 million of subsidy each day. There is no long-term future for employment if subsidy is given on that scale. It is much better to have a steel industry that is the most efficient in western Europe because that is the only guarantee of long-term employment.

In discussing the orders and the future, we should consider employment not only in the steel industry but in the steel-using industries, and the benefits for consumers. The benefits for employment in the steel and steel-using industries and the benefits for consumers will result from having an open market and by encouraging imports from countries in central Europe. We should remember that central Europe has received an appalling economic legacy from communism. Industry in central Europe was heavily overmanned, was greatly dependent on intra-COMECON trade and suffered from heavy under-investment and its production was environmentally most unfriendly. The economies of central Europe were distorted by unsustainable subsidies—[Interruption.] I should have thought that most hon. Members would agree that the German Government's subsidies were unwise and unsustainable. Their policy on the former East Germany has caused it and other countries in the European Community great economic difficulties. Even former Italian Governments found their subsidy levels were unsustainable. The Italian electorate decided that such Governments were unelectable, even if they were easily bribeable while in power.

The economic inheritance that was given to the democratic Governments of central Europe coincided with the belief that democracy would lead to an early and quick improvement in living standards. Those unfortunate countries have had to suffer a crisis of rising expectation, with their people expecting living standards to improve dramatically. The reality is that they have suffered substantial inflation, economic stagnation and heavy increases in unemployment. It was for those reasons that the former communists were able to win an election in Lithuania. That is why there is a danger that other former communists will regain power, admittedly under different names, in Hungary and Romania. That underlines the need for the European Community to do everything that it can to help those countries.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

I agree with my hon. Friend. He probably saw the reports in today's newspapers that both the Czech Republic and Slovakia have had to reverse their demilitarisation policy and are trying to resuscitate their arms industries. Obviously, it is not in the interests of western Europe that that should happen. I hope that, by opening the door to proper non-military trade, we shall help both countries in their struggle to establish democracy and proper trading links with western Europe.

Mr. Marshall

My hon. Friend is right. The complaint that many of us have is that the European Community's trade with central Europe has not been open enough. The EC is all too eager to listen to the voice of the hon. Member for Rhondda when it deals with steel. It is unduly restrictive on fruit imports. It is more willing to export subsidised agricultural goods than to import from countries.

Mr. Rogers

They grow our own peaches in the Rhondda.

Mr. Marshall

They do lots of rotten things in the Rhondda, including electing the hon. Member. I apologise—we former Europeans should stick together.

The European Community forgets that it is in Europe's interests that democracy should continue to flourish in the countries of central Europe, otherwise there is a risk that they will return to dictatorship. The impact of that will extend far beyond those countries. We should have been more willing to show them the hand of friendship, to trade and invest with them. After the orders are implemented, I hope that we shall adopt a more positive role.

I welcome the fact that the know-how fund, which the hon. Member for Rhondda was willing to ridicule, has been warmly welcomed by the countries of central Europe. I also hope that our generosity will extend further and that soon we shall reach an agreement with the people of Albania, who have suffered more under communism than the people of any other country. The legacy handed down to the democrats of Albania has probably been the worst received by any democratic Government since the last war.

I commend the proposals and I shall have much pleasure in voting for them if the Opposition are foolish enough to press the motion to a Division.

5.7 pm

Mr. Rogers

With the leave of the House, I should like to make a few more remarks.

I did not refer to the know-how fund, so perhaps the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) should consult his hon. Friends. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) mentioned that there were only a few Opposition Members present. Conservative Members who have spoken sounded like a couple of ferrets in a sack as they squabbled among themselves and screeched away. The hon. Member for Stafford could only whine continually. We had a year of that during the Maastricht debate last year.

Mr. Cash

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rogers

I shall give way, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not whine any further.

Mr. Cash

The hon. Gentleman does not like much in the way of criticism. Many of us complimented him on the fact that he is now a member of the Labour Front-Bench team; I hope that he will improve on his performance today.

Mr. Rogers

I know that I have not made much of an impact, but I have been a member of the Labour Front-Bench team for many years, so the congratulations are a little slow. Two years ago, after a few years of shadowing Mr. Alan Clark, the former Minister of State for Defence Procurement, I was relieved of that job and joined the foreign affairs team. My brief does not cover Europe. The hon. Gentleman, with his single-minded obsession about that subject, probably did not notice that I have participated in debates on America, the far east, the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but not particularly in those on the European Community. I am afraid that my sights are set a little broader than his very narrow vision of what the world ought to be.

In one way, that is what the agreements are all about—the fact that in Europe it is now necessary to bring into the general family of democracies the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe. It is not just a matter of simple trade, although I have sounded warnings in saying that we have to consider possible dumping. I do not know whether that has been covered in the agreements sufficiently or in the negotiation, or any restrictive legislation attached to it. We have to be aware of the problems of agricultural products coming in. We saw the problems with Spain and Portugal's entry; there was a distortion of the Mediterranean agricultural products and huge sums of money were required to buy their entry into Europe. We do not want to have to do that again with the agricultural products of eastern Europe.

Outside that, the main reason for the agreements—the preamble sets it out—is to bring these countries into our family of democracies to extend the hand of friendship, to start setting up political dialogues, to move towards political structures where we can be compatible and can work together. If that means more than simply renegotiating Maastricht and repeating it like some refugee from Hari Krishna, there is more to it than those simple phrases that are continually muttered by the hon. Member for Stafford. We are moving towards something that is large and politically significant.

I want to give the Minister as much time as possible, so I shall stop there. We shall not divide the House on the issue, because we believe that it is important that the orders are passed. I just wish that the Minister's hon. Friends would give it some type of welcome instead of continually whining.

5.11 pm
Mr. Douglas Hogg

With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) drew attention to the fact that there were hardly any Labour Back Benchers present during the debate, and he was right to do so. The reason why he was right to draw attention to that fact was that the debate could have been taken upstairs, but the Labour party insisted that it be taken on the Floor of the House. It is, I think, a sign of the gravity that Labour Members attach to the matter that, on his own admission, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), who spoke for the Opposition from the Front Bench, had picked up a brief but a few minutes prior to having spoken. The only Opposition Member who spoke in substance was the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and I will turn to his contribution in a moment. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), a Front-Bench spokesman, hopped up, trying to intervene in my speech. She then walked out and has not been here since.

What has happened is an abuse, because the matter could have been taken upstairs—the Labour party had no interest in it. There is, at the moment, but one Labour Back Bencher in the Chamber; the rest have played no part whatever in the debate. That is an abuse and the House needs to know that fact.

I now turn to what I understand to be the remarks of the hon. Member for Rhondda. [Interruption.] We have a second Labour Back Bencher here. I welcome the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden). He is going as well—no, he is not. He is sitting down. He is very welcome.

The hon. Member for Rhondda made two points—at least, I suppose that they were points. First, he grumbled about the dumping procedure. The hon. Gentleman would do well to look at the agreement. I commend article 30 with respect to dumping, because he will see that the general agreement on tariffs and trade-type safeguards prevail in those circumstances. The hon. Gentleman also embarked on a fairly extensive diatribe, criticising British industry and commerce in central and eastern Europe, wailing that we were not doing very well, to use the word that he likes to adopt.

Mr. Rogers


Mr. Hogg

Whining is the word that the hon. Gentleman adopts. Whining certainly suits him. What a pity that on that occasion he was not correct. It is perfectly true that the French and the Germans have done better, but it is equally true that if one contrasts 1993 with 1992 in the case of the four countries with which we are concerned, he will find that British exports increased by 40 per cent. Instead of whining, he might do well to bring those matters to the attention of the House.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) made an important contribution. I entirely agree with the substantive parts of what he had to say. I welcome, as he does, the process of enlargement. Yes, there are difficulties inherent in the economic fusion. Yes, it will transform the nature of the European Union. The point that, I suspect, Opposition Members who are present have not appreciated is that the enlargement of the European Union will work with the Government's, and not the Labour party's, perception of what the European Union should be like. Let us consider the identity of the countries that wish to join the European Union and bear in mind their history during the past 50 years. Countries that have had their sovereignty taken away from them by force are not likely willingly to surrender more of their sovereignty than they must to the centralising tendencies of the European Union. If one asks where the Labour party stands on the centralising tendencies of the European Union, one finds that the party is in favour of it, so I suspect that it will find that its new allies—our allies—will be of scant assistance to it.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow—I am sorry that he was shut in a church—made a very serious contribution, to which I do not have a complete answer, let me hasten to say. Essentially, what he described is a plague that we suffer from here. I regret to say that my local church in Lincolnshire was recently broken into and artefacts were stolen. That happens throughout the United Kingdom. It is especially worrying in the Czech Republic because of the great richness of artefacts there.

I can give one answer that is of some relevance. If the hon. Member for Linlithgow looks at article 97 of the agreement, he will see that it contains provisions for co-operation on the conservation of historical sites. That obviously could extend to addressing the type of problem about which he has spoken to the House.

The hon. Gentleman also raised several questions which, frankly, touch more on the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage and, indeed, of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department than on my Department. I hope that he will forgive me if I draw his remarks to their attention, because I feel sure that they will wish to respond to what he said.

Mr. Dalyell

Contact with Interpol may be the only practical way of making an impact on that problem.

Mr. Hogg

Indeed, the contact with Interpol is what caused me to refer to the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary might be the proper appropriate Minister to respond to the hon. Gentleman's comments.

My hon. Friends the Members for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) concentrated on the merits of free trade, and I entirely agree with them. I am bound to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford was wholly right when he commended the strategic requirement of restructuring of the industries, especially of the steel industry. I thought that again we heard the traditional and true voice of Labour from the hon. Member for Rhondda when he suggested that it was wrong to restructure British Steel in the early 1980s. Yet, as we were rightly reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South, the subsidies were running at £1 million a day. I heard the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) say, "It is peanuts." It is not peanuts. It is the type of thing that would bankrupt—

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hogg

I will not give way. I shall not give way because I have only one minute. I heard the hon. Gentleman say that it was peanuts. He may not have liked to be heard. I am not surprised at that because he was saying to the House that the whole policy of restructuring was wrong, and that the taxpayer should have continued to subsidise an industry that everyone else knew was bankrupt and inefficient, and is now one of the most—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [25 February].

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Bulgaria) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER then put the questions necessary to dispose of the other motions to do decided at that hour.

Resolved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Czech Republic) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

Resolved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and the Slovak Republic) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.

Resolved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (European Agreement establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States and Romania) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.—[Mr Douglas Hogg.]