HC Deb 09 March 1995 vol 256 cc450-1
8. Mr. Trimble

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Schengen agreement.

Mr. Howard

I understand that the Schengen agreement is due to come into the operation as between seven of the Schengen states on 26 March for an initial period of three months. The United Kingdom is not a party to the agreement and has no intention of applying for membership, which would be inconsistent with the maintenance of our system of frontier controls.

Mr. Trimble

Has the Home Secretary studied carefully the arrangements within the seven Schengen countries for close police co-operation, which is appropriate for them as they are creating a common travel area? As there is already a common travel area in the British Isles, does he not consider it appropriate to have the same levels and the same provisions for police co-operation operating in the British Isles as will be operating within the Schengen system?

Mr. Howard

There has been considerable improvement in recent years in the extent of co-operation between the police in the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic and I hope that will continue.

Mr. Jessel

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that our constituents will never accept that the control of immigration into Britain should depend on the uncertain reliability of policing of the coasts and borders of such countries as Italy, Greece and Austria, and that if the European Union ever dreams of trying to force such a policy on us it will begin—

Madam Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken with his question on this particular agreement. Is there another Conservative Member—

Mr. Jenkin


Madam Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will get the right question. I am sure that he knows what the agreement means.

Mr. Jenkin

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Schengen agreement represents the ambition of the hard core of the European Union to do away with internal frontiers? Can he allay the concerns arising from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State's visit to the Brussels Council today and confirm that a common visa does not bring any nearer a common system of immigration and the abolition of our frontiers?

Mr. Howard

I can certainly and without any equivocation give my hon. Friend that assurance. He will also be pleased to know that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is placing a parliamentary scrutiny reserve on the common visa format regulation which is before the Council of Ministers today.

Mr. Straw

I welcome what the Secretary of State had to say about not implementing the Schengen agreement in Britain. Does he agree that it would be quite inappropriate for us as an island to adopt that agreement and replace border controls with a potentially less effective but more repressive system of internal controls, street stops and compulsory identity cards?

Also, will the Home Secretary resist the imposition of any list of European Union common visas that, as currently proposed, would impose visa requirements on visitors from 29 mainly black Commonwealth countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Barbados—but not one white Commonwealth country? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that such a policy would do nothing for equal rights or race relations in this country?

Mr. Howard

The visa list is still under discussion in the Council of Ministers. It is no use the hon. Gentleman making such points when he and his party committed themselves to a policy document that said that majority voting in the European Community should become the rule.

Mr. Salmond

Does not the Home Secretary feel foolish, at a time when all political parties in Northern Ireland are in favour of the common travel area through the island of Ireland, that members of the Government and Labour Front Benches are hostile to the sense of the Schengen agreement? When will members of both Front Benches stop pandering to the prejudices of their Back Benchers?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman will find, much to his electoral cost when the time comes, that the people of Scotland are as enthusiastic about the retention of external frontier controls as are the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.

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