HL Deb 16 December 2002 vol 642 cc463-78

3.40 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, with your Lordships' leave, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place on the European Council.

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a Statement about the European Council, which took place in Copenhagen on 12th and 13th December.

"Negotiations were successfully concluded to admit to membership of the European Union 10 countries from eastern and central Europe and Cyprus and Malta. We hope that Romania and Bulgaria will be ready to follow in 2007.

"Today, we take it for granted that the 10 countries are all democratic nations living by the same values as the rest of Europe. But, to anyone who remembers the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the Prague spring of 1968 or the imposition of military rule in Poland in 1981, the transformation of the countries concerned from tyranny to democracy and now to full EU membership is a huge achievement of which Europe and Britain can be proud.

"We have long been the champions of European enlargement. The negotiations for membership began during the British presidency of the European Union in 1998. I should like to pay tribute particularly to the Danish presidency and the Commission, who have brought these negotiations to a successful conclusion.

"Details of the final package are annexed to the conclusions of the meeting. Membership will bring immediate economic benefits to the candidates. It will create a single market of 450 million people. Our trade has increased nearly 10 times as fast with the new countries as with the rest of the world. Fourteen thousand UK firms export to eastern and central Europe. Membership will boost the GDP of those countries by nearly 1.5 per cent and our own by up to nearly £2 billion.

"The new member states are countries which have only recently rediscovered their national identities. They, like us, will want the further integration of the Union to be firmly rooted in the democratic accountability of the nation state. They will be our allies in developing a European Union on those lines.

"For some time Turkey has been knocking on the door of the European Union. The response of the European Union has rightly been to encourage a closer economic and political relationship but to say that full membership could happen only when Turkey met the necessary human rights criteria. In the past year, Turkey has made enormous strides by abolishing the death penalty and adopting a range of human rights laws. The new Turkish Government have promised a detailed legislative timetable to accelerate that progress. I believe it is massively in our interests to see Turkey as a modern democratic partner in Europe. For that reason, I have been urging our partners to offer Turkey a date to open negotiations for membership provided that the so-called 'Copenhagen criteria' are met. I am pleased to report to the House that that was achieved in Copenhagen. The Commission will report on Turkey's progress and if, in December 2004, on a recommendation from the Commission the European Council decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, then accession negotiations with Turkey will open without delay.

"This agreement has contributed to a better climate on the long-standing Cyprus dispute. The Secretary-General of the United Nations and his Special Representative, Mr De Soto, have been tireless in their efforts, as has our own Special Representative, Lord Hannay. A settlement remains within reach. I would urge all parties to continue their efforts to find a comprehensive settlement which would allow a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union, as set out in the conclusions of the European Council.

"We were also able to resolve differences between Turkey and Greece which have delayed the agreement between the European Union and NATO necessary to allow the implementation of a European security and defence policy. We have now established the essential linkage with NATO, which means that, where NATO is not involved, the European Union can undertake peacekeeping operations using NATO planning with the option of NATO headquarters and NATO assets as well. As a result, the European Union stands ready to take over the military operation in Macedonia in consultation with NATO and to lead a military operation in Bosnia following SFOR.

"The European Council issued a declaration on the Middle East in advance of the Quartet ministerial meeting in Washington. The Quartet brings together the EU, the United States, Russia and the UN, and its meeting on 20th December will take us a further step forward. But, in the short term, progress on the Israeli side will be limited by the general election campaign in Israel.

"I believe that we should use the intervening period to maximise the chances of successful implementation of the roadmap once a new Israeli government are in place. This means continuing to do what we can to secure an end to violence and to reverse the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

"It also means ensuring that Palestinian reform is effective. To this end, I can announce today that I am inviting leading Palestinians to come to Britain in January for a conference, along with members of the Quartet and other countries from the region closely involved in supporting the reform effort. It will discuss progress on reform and look at how the international community can help. It is in the interests of both Palestinians and Israelis that these reform efforts succeed so that we can make a reality of President Bush's vision of two states—Israel and Palestine—living side by side in peace and security.

"The European Council also issued a declaration on Iraq, giving its full and unequivocal support for Security Council Resolution 1441 and urging Iraq to seize this final opportunity to comply with its international obligations.

"Finally, we speak against the background of serious problems confronting our fishing industry. In the past 30 years, cod stocks in the North Sea have fallen from 250,000 to 35,000 tonnes. If fishing continues at the present rate, there is a risk of there being no viable cod fishing left. That is why the European Commission has suggested a reduction in fishing of 80 per cent to enable the cod stock to recover to its absolute minimum viable level. Scientists believe that the safe minimum is 150,000 tonnes.

"We share the objective of enabling the fish stocks to recover but we believe that much more moderate measures could still deliver recovery while maintaining a viable industry. I have talked extensively both with the President of the Commission at Copenhagen and with Commissioner Fischler previously. And fishery Ministers are meeting in Brussels at the moment to reach agreement on the issue.

"The UK fishing industry has benefited over the past year from £36 million funding to support adjustment through decommissioning. This includes the Scottish Executive's action to help to preserve fish stocks and to ensure the industry's long-term viability with a £27 million aid package. If there are further cuts arising from the ongoing negotiations in Brussels, the UK Government and the Scottish Executive stand ready to help the fishing communities affected. I will meet leaders of the industry in the New Year and financial assistance will be made available if necessary. But the priority for now must be to get a fair deal for our fishing industry.

"This summit was a remarkable achievement. It redefines the future shape of Europe. It describes a future in which Europe is reunited—a Europe of proud and sovereign nation states which work together economically, socially and politically in their common interest. The prospect of Turkey's membership has even more dramatic implications. A nation, which borders the Arab world, which is Muslim and which none the less is striking out on a path leading to liberal democracy, is set, in time, to join the traditional nations of Europe. The implications for the future of Europe are profound. In time, all these new countries will be part of the European economy, part of monetary union, part of European defence and part of the European political system.

"For us in Britain, the implications are equally profound. Given this new Europe taking shape, it is our job to be part of it, to be a leading power within it and to understand the degree to which our national interest is bound up with it. Isolation from Europe in this new world is absolute folly. That is why we shall continue to fight for our interests but recognise that ultimately they are best served inside the EU and not on its margins".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord for repeating the Statement made by the Prime Minister in another place. I hope that he will forgive me for not being in the Chamber at the start of the Statement. Clearly, the Second Reading of the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill proceeded faster than I had anticipated.

I begin by echoing the Prime Minister's praise for the outstanding role of the Danish presidency in achieving a historic result. Denmark laid bare the canard that a state must be in the euro-zone to be a moulder of Europe's future. Does the Leader of the House realise that widening the union brings into being a long-held ambition of the Conservative Party? That bold and statesmanlike response to the collapse of communism in Europe was first advocated by a Conservative government well over a decade ago. The only disappointing factor in a remarkable summit is that it took so long to convert that vision into reality. After the summit the EU must not allow bureaucracy and uniformity to obstruct progress to a wider Europe. If ever it were time to celebrate the diversity of Europe's nations and their rich and varied traditions, that time is surely now.

Turning to other matters, is it not deeply distressing and to be regretted that yet again at this summit nothing was done to advance reform of the discredited common agricultural policy? Also today we hear more bleak news for Scottish fishermen, as outlined in the Statement. Can the noble and learned Lord describe what the Prime Minister did to raise the CFP at the summit following his recent pledge in Scotland to take the cause of UK fishing up "to the very top"? If one looks at the presidency conclusions, which I recommend to the House, it does not appear to be mentioned anywhere. Was the CFP even discussed in Copenhagen?

EU leaders have taken over a decade to respond to the historic challenge of the collapse of communism. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that we must not countenance further foot-dragging and delay over Turkey, an issue perhaps of equal strategic and political importance? We have long advocated a more open stance towards Turkey. Can the noble and learned Lord confirm that the Prime Minister once again lined up with Mr Berlusconi as his key ally, but, as on CAP reform, was again thwarted by Mr Chirac and Mr Schroder. What does the noble and learned Lord make of that? Where is the top-table influence in that?

Turkey is a key NATO ally, a democracy and a secular Muslim nation. It is a proud nation. Was the Prime Minister right, therefore, to argue that it should be given a fixed date for opening negotiations on entry rather than the vague promises of "without delay" after a date over two years away? For all the Prime Minister's efforts, which we strongly support, no firm date was given. That was a pity. Let us hope that it was not a historic missed opportunity. Who knows how the world, and the Muslim world in particular, will change over the course of the next two years. Could even more preparatory work relating to possible accession be carried out before December 2004?

On Cyprus, am I right in reading paragraph 12 of the conclusions as effectively confirming a Greek veto on the terms of the accession of Cyprus and specifically on the place of the Turkish Cypriot community? Can the noble and learned Lord set out the Government's view on prospects of a comprehensive Cyprus settlement by February 2003 as envisaged in the conclusions? Will the Foreign Secretary be involved in that process?

We welcome progress on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. But was it not extraordinary that the summit signalled a search for closer relations with Belarus, a nation that by any reckoning is near the foot of the human rights league?

Annex I of the conclusions forecasts spending of over £1 billion on the administrative costs of accession in the next three years. What will that be spent on? And what will be the UK share of such costs?

After detention by the Spanish navy of a North Korean ship carrying ballistic missiles to the Middle East, why is there no mention of the threat of North Korea in the conclusions? Was there any discussion of that affair? Does the EU support US action to contain Korea? The communique includes no expression of support for US policy on Iraq? I worry about the take-all, give-nothing attitude of some EU nations to the United States. Often it is laced with anti-Americanism and shows a failure to understand the nature of the terrorist war against America.

On transport, I note progress made in discussions about the problems caused by the passage of heavy lorries through Austria's alpine passes. Did the Prime Minister take the chance to raise the equivalent funnelling of heavy lorries through Kent? While on the environment can the noble and learned Lord comment on the special concession given to Estonia to hunt bears? Did the UK Government agree to that concession? Did they in fact agree to continued hunting of bears, lynxes and beavers in Estonia while pursuing the ban on hunting of foxes at home?

Finally, the conclusions say that the summit heard a presentation from Mr Giscard d'Estaing on the EU convention. It does not tell us what was said. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord has in his brief a copy of the key points made by the Prime Minister in those discussions?

The summit has rightly, for once, been classed as historic. We congratulate the Government on their part in it. But we should all be clear that this wider Europe, to which we all look forward, will demand imaginative and far-reaching EU reform. That reform must point to a far lighter touch from Brussels: far better accountability of the resources spent; a real commitment to deregulation and subsidiarity; and an end to the top-down harmonisation of recent decades. I believe that only then can we look forward to a united Europe that will give prosperity to all its people.

3.56 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made in another place. It is delightful to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, apparently joining the ranks of the euro enthusiasts.

By any standards this is a remarkably historic moment. It is absolutely right to give credit to the Danish presidency for what was undoubtedly a subtle and successful negotiating period. It is also right and proper to give praise to our own Prime Minister for the way in which this remarkable summit achieved the conclusion of expansion. A whole new group of countries—10 of them—are coming into the European Union. If we were not British, we would recognise this as a tremendous, historic moment and would perhaps be drinking champagne rather than sitting quietly listening to a Statement. I repeat that it is a remarkable achievement. It brings forward the re-uniting of the whole of Europe, East and West, and it brings within the realm of democratic countries with a full recognition of human rights countries that have not enjoyed that situation for the past 50 years. I underline the fact that this is a day for celebration.

I have several questions for the noble and learned Lord. The first concerns the budget in Annex I. Is he satisfied that the provision made for dealing with nuclear and environmental pollution is adequate at 125 million euros a year for three years, given the extraordinary degree of environmental and nuclear pollution to be found in countries like Poland and, for that matter, the Czech Republic? Those are serious issues. Many of us are worried that the countries concerned do not have the resources to deal with those problems quickly.

My second question concerns Turkey. I agree that Turkey's commencement of her route to full membership is a historic initiative. However, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. On these Benches we believe that in relation to Turkey precisely the right outcome has been achieved. Turkey is now welcomed as a candidate country, but she has to meet certain clear conditions before she can enter into the process of becoming a full member. That is not very different from what was the case for the central and eastern European countries at the beginning of the process some eight years ago. To many, it seems right and proper that Turkey, which has embarked well on a process of trying to recognise the importance of human rights and democratic institutions, should be asked to take one further step: the reduction of military influence on Turkish politics and the separation of civilian authorities from military authorities. As many Members of the House know, that has not yet been accomplished.

With regard to Cyprus, I echo the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde: it would be much better if Cyprus could be reunited before entering the European Union in 2004. There is reason for hope. The latest reports suggest that Mr Denktash is being put under some pressure by Ankara as well as Brussels and therefore may be able to reconsider what has been long, bitter and unhelpful resistance to any attempt to unite that beautiful but still troubled island.

Thirdly, with regard to the issue of military commitment to the European security and defence policy, we on these Benches welcome the removal of the Turkish veto on the use of NATO military resources for the purposes of the European security and defence programme. However, can the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House assure us that the British contribution falls within the resources available to the Ministry of Defence, given that there will now be a commitment to a military position in Bosnia and Macedonia, and that there could conceivably be further demands on the ESDP? Having said that, we welcome the remarkable progress made as a result of the NATO-EU agreement a few days ago. That is the good news.

I turn now to two final questions that are perhaps less good news. The first concerns fishing, to which the noble and learned Lord referred—indeed, it takes up a substantial part of the Statement. The key issue is surely not what individual politicians, however eminent, may believe about fishing; it is whether there is a consensus among biologists, ecologists and fisheries experts about the true position with regard to stock. One cannot turn back the truth. It is impossible to disregard what is happening to fish stocks in the North Sea and elsewhere.

Can the Leader of the House assure us that there is a consensus, at least among scientists in Britain, about the actual position and how much fishing can be risked and afforded, because to kill the future for our children is not a good political answer to what is an extremely difficult question? We all recognise the pain to fishing communities in this country and elsewhere. In that context, I point out that the EU must do more serious work on clearing the maritime channels. We have now had three serious accidents in a short space of time, each of which has affected the fauna of the sea, often with disastrous consequences.

Lastly, I turn to a serious and unfortunate event that has occurred since Copenhagen. At Copenhagen, the British Government and others were able to welcome the arrival of the so-called road map for Israel and Palestine and to look forward with hope to the meeting scheduled for 20th December. In the past 48 hours, that has collapsed with the withdrawal of United States support for the road map and the indication that she will not be willing further to consider how that matter can be advanced until after the Israeli elections. That position was pressed hard by Israel, opposed by the United Nations and the European Union.

If the European Union is to mean what it should mean for peace in the world, it must stand up clearly on issues such as this for what it believes to be right, as a more independent voice than that of almost any other major powerful grouping in the world. What hopes does the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House have of being able to resume a strict and determined schedule of meetings between the so-called "Quad" on the vital issue of stopping violence by the Palestinians and settlements by the Israelis, so that at last we may see in that troubled area a chance for peace at a moment when the Middle East is moving into turmoil?

4.4 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am most grateful for what has been said from both Opposition Front Benches. It is always a pleasure when a sinner repents. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, reflecting on the past weekend, it is a truly historic occasion. It is such an historic occasion that it only requires the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, to join the Damascene conversion of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for us all to go home content and happy and be safe in our beds tonight.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, spoke about the common agricultural policy, which has been a knotty problem for many years. I well remember the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Henley, constantly being attacked on reform of the CAP. I think that their phrase was, "Of course, the Government are not complacent". So in answer to the noble Lord's question today I say, "Of course, the Government are not complacent". I entirely echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said. In the longer term, the accession of many of the eastern European countries with notoriously long embedded problems with agriculture will prove an opportunity.

One does not want to be over-dramatic on these occasions, but if in 1848 we had been having a debate in and about the year of revolutions, it would have been difficult for us to make the intellectual leap that is wanted—and the imaginative leap, which is more difficult—to recognise what has happened. It is truly extraordinary. Did the Prime Minister raise the CAP? Yes, although it was not central to the discussions at Copenhagen.

Questions were asked about Turkey. Turkey has been extremely successful. The date of 2004 has been given. I know that not all of our friends and colleagues in Turkey were entirely satisfied with that. I speak from personal knowledge: the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and I have been present on occasions on which that understandable impatience has been expressed. But I commend to the House what was said by one of the Turkish leaders: "He who is angry in politics loses the argument". That is a good text for much of the legislation to which we shall return when the debate on the Statement is finished. It has an enormous amount of worth. If someone in Turkey can say that, we should pay careful to heed to it.

In response to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, we shall continue throughout to support Turkey's efforts to make itself able to be a full and fitting partner. As I said on a previous occasion—although I must not tease my friends in the United States too much—the United States wanted Turkey to be in a favourable position. A necessary precondition for that was the abolition of the death penalty.

There was no Greek veto on Cyprus. As paragraph 12 of the conclusions states, unanimity is required. What did the Prime Minister say? He said generally, in the Giscard D'Estaing context, that enlargement will make the UK, the EU and the new members wealthier. It will bring new trade and investment opportunities for the UK. It will transform Europe for the better. It will transform the candidate countries for the better. The UK and the EU have benefited from those countries that have chosen the European path. Fundamentally, it shows that the founding principle of the European Union—that peaceful reconciliation is better than war—remains valid.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, moved me almost to tears about the bears in Estonia—a situation with which I was of course wholly familiar. Apparently, there has been no special concession for bears in Estonia. But it is not all bad news: there was one on the Arctic lynx—apparently, that is "lynx", not some sort of railway junction.

I turn to the costs of enlargement. Again, the Prime Minister's negotiations at Berlin in 1999 mean that our abatement continues; there has been no challenge to that. On the Convention on the Future of Europe generally, M Giscard d'Estaing simply gave a progress report. No decisions were taken, nor would one have expected them on such an occasion.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked me about spending on nuclear matters. There is additional money besides that mentioned in the conclusions, such as contributions to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—funds for decommissioning. The moneys to which she referred relate to the period up to 2006. Substantial further sums will be required, when the decommissioning costs are better known.

I will say a general word, as I am up to the end of the 20 minutes. These are extraordinary achievements, and I do not confine them to the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary. They are enormous achievements in the fulfilment of the European dream. I go back right to the beginning of the Statement, in which there are one or two historic echoes—Prague, Hungary and Poland. All those historic incidents were not lost in the mists of time. Indeed, so recent are they that all of us present today can remember them with deep shame. If any of us had said, in 1956 or during the Prague Spring, that, one day, Hungary would be free, such a thing would have been regarded as miraculous.

4.10 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

My Lords, on these Benches, we welcome the developments in Copenhagen last week and the Statement just read by the noble and learned Lord. As someone with a good deal of Danish blood in my veins, I must say how proud many Danes are to have hosted the EU summit. I happen to have visited the Danish church in London yesterday to preach the sermon. Afterwards, I encountered a great deal of enthusiasm—not for the sermon, but for the events in Copenhagen—from many officials of the Danish community. His Excellency the Danish Ambassador was involved, before his appointment here, in the negotiations that led up to last week's meeting.

I shall comment on two matters: the nature and purpose of union; and the issues surrounding Turkey's membership. Union is a concept that becomes a reality at its best when it is about three things: mutual support, manageability and generosity to the poor who are—shall we say—outside the gates. It becomes stagnant when support shrivels, diversity turns into unproductive cacophony and the poor outside go forgotten. On these Benches, we have every confidence that, for all the problems that the EU experiences, the possibilities for support, manageability and generosity will not become insuperable problems—the Estonian bears mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, included. A glance at Europe's history—eastern and western—makes one gasp with delight at what has been achieved and what we have in prospect.

On these Benches, we want to register some caution about language that describes Europe as exclusively Christian, in contrast to an Islamic beyond. The current international scene notwithstanding, there has been a noble mixing of religious presences in many parts of Europe that goes back many centuries. I must add that it is noble when it is about fruitful co-existence, as was the case in Bosnia until a time within living memory. The cross that I am wearing is a Danish bishop's cross, made in Århus by Hingelberg, a reputable local Jewish firm.

The question of human rights, including religious rights, is a moral court in which we are all called to strive for a better record. It is an issue in respect of which EU members must be reasonably satisfied about future members. It is to be hoped that Turkey will be given membership at some time in the future.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, as always, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth. He was right in the way that he set out his prescription, the third aspect of which was generosity. He spoke, I think, of generosity in the practical—almost logistical—sense of generosity to those who are poorer than us. However, the right reverend Prelate went further and said something that chimed in my mind. Essentially, he spoke of moral generosity towards people who may be different from us—not worse or better, but different and, therefore, of value to us, as we may be to them—when he spoke of Islam. I agree entirely with what he said.

Islam is not a monolith, any more than Christianity is. We are dealing with an application that, first of all, we should welcome. It is an extraordinary tribute to the rest of the European Union that Turkey wishes to join us. We should not be mean-minded or small-hearted about that. In that country, the religion is Islam, but the Government aim to be secular. I repeat that there have been extraordinary advances. They are not perfection achieved, but they are determination displayed and evidenced with regard to the Kurds, to education, to the use of language and broadcasting and—not least important to many of us, though not, I am afraid, to all—to the abolition of the death penalty.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, are the Government aware that there are several financial considerations that must be pondered over as a result of the convention? In putting that question, I am put in mind of when I entered politics many years ago. I was always taught that, when evaluating some political action, one had to keep a careful eye, first, on where the money came from and, secondly, where it went. I make that criticism and ask these questions with direct reference to the convention: where is the money coming from, and where will it move?

Over the past two or three years, the British Parliament—and other Parliaments—have virtually abandoned interest in the monetary aspects of the various things that they do. In the Houses of Parliament, we have now even abandoned consideration of the European budget. It gets worse. Are the Government aware that the expenditure that inevitably lies behind every generalised proposal put to the conference must come from somewhere? My guess is that, at the moment, the money comes through virtually unlimited advances from the European Central Bank to the Commission. Nobody knows how much they spend. We are told that so much money is being spent, but nobody says where it comes from. We are just told that Europe will give out so much money. That cannot go on. The money comes from unlimited advances from the European Bank.

Lord Grocott

My Lords, I gently remind the House that we are now seven minutes into questions from the Back Benches. The shorter the questions, the more answers we will get.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am always pleased to have long questions.

My noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington asked several questions. Where is the money coming from? The present estimates are that, in 2006, enlargement will cost the United Kingdom—I will focus on that question—an extra 200 million euros—about £130 million. That is about £2 per person. I turn my noble friend's general question back on him: what would be the cost of war, not simply in treasure but in human life and misery?

My noble friend is right to say that we should be cautious and that we should improve budgetary and fiscal control in the European Union. He would say that that is long overdue, and, in many ways, I would echo that. On the other hand, we should not lose sight of the great prize that is offered to us.

Lord Kilclooney

My Lords, I welcome the presentation by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal of the Prime Minister's Statement. Also, of course, I welcome the enlargement of the European Union. However, there are several points on which I want to question the noble and learned Lord.

First, as regards the Middle East, following the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, can we be assured that in the European Union we shall not continue to be subject to the policy of the United States of America? Can we be assured that we shall press for the removal of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories? And, can we be assured that our policy is different from that of the United States, in that we do not seek the removal of President Arafat as a condition for progressing a settlement in the Middle East? That being so, when the Lord Privy Seal announced that shortly we shall be inviting Palestinian leaders to a conference, will President Arafat be included?

Secondly, I turn to fishing—also mentioned by the noble Baroness—and stress the seriousness of the threat to cod fishing for both Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the case of Northern Ireland, we have already had the experience of three years of cod closures in the Irish Sea, and have suffered. Our fishermen have no alternative sources of employment because they live in the rural areas of County Down. Therefore, will it be taken into account by Her Majesty's Government that the Northern Ireland fishermen, unlike any other fishermen in the United Kingdom, have already suffered from cod closures and should therefore be treated specially?

Finally, much as I welcome enlargement and Turkey's application to join the European Union, I would be concerned if we accepted into the European Union a divided Cyprus before there is a settlement in that island.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney. I have dealt with the fishing matters and undertake to transmit his concerns, which I recognise as being reasonable. In the Prime Minister's Statement he will have heard that, if there is undue hardship on fishing communities, the Prime Minister is willing to consider additional financial support. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, we cannot have a situation where the fishing stocks are so reduced that there will be no livelihood for anyone. She made a powerful point there.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, also made the point regarding the Middle East. I am afraid that I had so many notes which I was scratching down I omitted to deal with that. I apologise for that discourtesy and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, for reminding me. The declaration agreed was quite plain. It condemns suicide bombings, which damage the Palestinian cause. It supports the Palestinians involved in the reform process. With reference to the specific point made by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, it calls on Israel to halt the excessive use of force, to reverse its settlement policy, and immediately freeze all settlement activity. I am bound to say that we hope to work together with our colleagues and friends in the United States, but we are entitled to have a view, and I remind your Lordships of it. It was the latter five or 10 electrifying minutes of the Prime Minister's speech at the Labour Party Conference where he called for final status negotiations before the end of this year on the basis of the 1967 boundaries.

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord acknowledge a rather curious reflection on the magnitude of the change that has taken place? When I recall my first meeting with the Czech communist Foreign Minister, he conceded to me that the bears which he hunted in the hills of his countryside could easily have been Polish as well as Czech. I responded that there was more freedom of movement for bears in those countries than there was for people.

In many ways, that is symbolic of the huge changes that have taken place. It is also symbolic—as I recall from having helped draft at least a dozen statements of this kind following European Summit meetings—that on many occasions it was necessary to try to make bricks without much straw. On this occasion, it must be a matter for huge satisfaction that there are so many real straws with which to compose this Statement—above all., the completion of enlargement and all that goes with it.

I also welcome the progress made—and it is progress—in relation to Turkey and Cyprus, both of which have hugely intractable problems. I would be grateful if that could be acknowledged. Finally, perhaps the Leader of the House will underline yet again the importance of two other issues that strike me as huge. The first is the powerful detailed commitment to the resolute pursuit of a role by the European Union in relation to the problem in the Middle East. That would be enormously welcome on all sides of the House. The second is the real progress made in the intractable problem of obtaining a clear relationship between the European Union and NATO, so that at last we can begin to mobilise our European partners into making an effective contribution to an effective European commitment to peacekeeping and beyond.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, is typically generous. It must be a cause of great gratification to him that what was brought about, in very substantial part, was based on the endeavours that he committed himself to—not always making himself entirely popular with some sections of his own party. I am not making that as a partisan point; it adds to the courage of what he did.

The noble and learned Lord is right. We must be firm. We must continue to look for justice for all in the Middle East. I agree that the European Union is capable of being a very powerful actor in that particular field of conflict. He is absolutely right that we must obtain some final resolution of the precise intricacies of the relationship between the European Union and NATO.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, is the Minister aware that although many people in the House will regard, as he does, the Copenhagen Summit as a great step forward, there are still problems that need to be addressed? When we look at the external border of the enlarged European Union being a large border—with Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine—and what it might be following successful negotiations with Turkey, we have a potential enormous threat to the integrity of the internal market. That does not make the enlargement wrong, it makes the imperative of dealing with border security absolutely urgent. Although I do not ask my noble and learned friend to give a detailed response today, I hope that he makes careful note of it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, my noble friend is right. He speaks with a good deal more authority than I, having been more closely concerned with European matters. He is right. Every opportunity brings with it a concomitant threat. In agreeing with his theme, I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said. These are extraordinary opportunities. It is a leap of imagination that is required, but it is not a leap of faultless optimism. As my noble friend said, we must be extremely careful. After all, a community of 15 will have another 10 members, and that will be difficult. If we do not recognise the difficulties, we shall be extremely foolish and short-sighted.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, first, will the Minister say a word or two to the House concerning the Government's aspirations with regard to the British rebate? Although this is not up for formal renegotiation until 2006, it has now been raised as an issue by some of the newly joining states who clearly see a fundamental injustice in some of Europe's poorer states contributing towards a rebate to a richer one.

Secondly, in reporting to the House today the Prime Minister has made great play of the primacy of the nation state within this newly enlarged European Union. Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that there is some significance that those states, with their hard won and much prized sovereignty, clearly see no fundamental problem with joining a single currency as part of joining the Union? Will the Minister comment on that?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, the abatement is settled. It was settled in 1999 at Berlin. I do not believe that claims of an unjust settlement are justified, bearing in mind the contribution that the United Kingdom has historically made and continues to make. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, turned to the single currency. Out of the corner of her eye, she may have seen that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, was unduly pacific and I believe that she has successfully egged him on.

The two are not the same, nor is it wise to talk of national sovereignty in the classic 17th century description with which we were once all familiar. Sovereignty is capable of being deployed in a way that we were never taught in our school-books or university days. That is the real excitement of the time in which we are living.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I regret to have to tell the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House that far from affecting a Damascene conversion, to many of us the proposed enlargement is a colossal mistake because the economies of the emerging democracies of eastern Europe simply cannot afford the EU social and labour policies.

Enlargement is bad for the United Kingdom, too, because it is the excuse for the corrupt octopus in Brussels to devour even more of our sovereignty. Widening means deepening, but I do not know whether my party has caught up with that yet. At first sight, I agree with the noble and learned Lord that it is difficult to understand why the applicant nations want to join the wretched thing.

I have two questions. First, does the noble and learned Lord agree that the main reason for the enthusiasm of the applicant nations to join the European Union—at least their political classes—could be that if members of those political classes manage to obtain a job in Brussels their salaries stand to increase 20 times? Does the noble and learned Lord agree that that is bound to colour their attitude, which may not be shared by their people?

Secondly, the noble and learned Lord says that we are in trouble with the common fisheries policy, which is even worse than the common agricultural policy. Does he agree that if the United Kingdom had never ceded that 75 per cent of fish which swim in European Union waters and which belonged to the UK before we were foolish enough to join the EU, there would be no trouble with our fishing industry?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I did not say that it was difficult to understand why the applicant nations wanted to join the wretched thing. However, if I lived in Poland, Hungary or the Baltic States, I would not have much difficulty in answering that question.