HC Deb 23 January 2001 vol 361 cc796-7
10. Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

What representations he has received from the Polish community in Britain about the ratification of the treaty of Nice. [145044]

The Secretary of Sate for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

Both the Federation of Poles in Great Britain and the Government of Poland have expressed their welcome for the outcome of the Nice European Council and their recognition of Britain's contribution in securing it. We have replied to the letter from the federation assuring it that we will seek early ratification of the treaty of Nice in order that Poland and others can become members of the European Union as soon as possible. I invite the Opposition spokesman to give the federation the same commitment.

Mrs. Gilroy

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I think that he knows that there is a significant Polish community in my constituency of Plymouth, Sutton. I am sure that many of its members will join me in welcoming the treaty. Is it not absolutely clear that what the countries of east and central Europe want most from the European Union is speedy ratification of the treaty? Would it not be a terrible betrayal of those countries if we were to reject the treaty, given that they have suffered so much under Soviet rule?

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Across all the applicant countries, there is acute interest in how we shall respond to the treaty of Nice. A number of them have warned us that if the European Union does not proceed with the treaty, it will strengthen the hand of nationalists and extreme forces within their countries. It is, therefore, important that we proceed with the measures.

I noticed with interest that the Leader of the Opposition has called for target dates for Poland and other countries to enter the European Union. That requires real brass neck from a party that is insisting that there should be a new intergovernmental conference, followed by renegotiation of the treaty, and a referendum on the results of that renegotiation. I should like to hear a target date for how long that would take, and how much it would delay enlargement.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

When will the full, definitive English translation of the treaty of Nice be made available, so that the British people can fully understand those horrible aspects of the treaty that do not bear on the expansion of the union to the east, but bear on the liberties of the British people?

Mr. Cook

There is a full English text of the treaty, and I shall be happy to deliver one to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that I noticed last week that The Sun said that Britain had emerged as the winner from the treaty of Nice. I warn the hon. Gentleman and his party that there is no electoral majority to the right of that Eurosceptic newspaper, The Sun.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are committed to the maximum possible enlargement of the European Union, and that, if that happens, institutional changes in the organisation will be required to make it more efficient? Can he also confirm that although those who believe that we can reject the Nice treaty or hold up the process of institutional change pretend to favour enlargement, they are in effect saying to Poland and other countries in central and eastern Europe that, in reality, enlargement will not happen if we ever have another Conservative Government in this country?

Mr. Cook

There will be no enlargement without reform of the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. That is what we secured at Nice. I remind the House that the outcome is good not simply for enlargement and the candidate countries, but for Britain. For the first time since we joined the European Community, we secured an increase in Britain's vote in the Council of Ministers. It is that gain that the Opposition describe as a horrible outcome.