HL Deb 15 April 1999 vol 599 cc905-6

8.7 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 8th February be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this order concerns an agreement designed to extend and deepen economic and political co-operation between the European Union and Jordan. The Association Agreement with Jordan was signed on 24th November 1997. It forms part of the EU' s objective of creating a free trade area with the Mediterranean region by the year 2010.

The agreement aims to strengthen relations through increased political, economic and commercial co-operation. It includes steps to liberalise trade and harmonise Jordan's economic structures with the EU. This process should create new opportunities for trade and investment, bringing benefits to business and consumers in the European Union. It will help to create the right climate for stable economic and social development in Jordan. It contains provisions for improving political dialogue and co-operation on issues of mutual concern; for example, the environment, drugs and transport. The agreement represents an important development in the European Union's relations with the Mediterranean. Once implemented, it will provide the basis for a new level of communication and co-operation at all levels.

Britain has a longstanding and close relationship with Jordan. The death of King Hussein was a matter of great sadness and regret to all of us. When the Prime Minister met King Abdullah shortly after the death of his father, he assured him of Britain's solidarity and support at this time of transition for Jordan.

At the General Affairs Council on 22nd February, the United Kingdom reiterated the UK's support for EU assistance to Jordan at this difficult time. EU Ministers concluded that the Commission should table proposals for extra EU assistance to Jordan soon. We look forward to those proposals.

I ask the House to support these important objectives and to send a clear signal of our close relationship with, and commitment to, Jordan by giving its approval to the principles behind this agreement. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 8th February be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.