Approval of draft decisions under Article 352 of TFEU

Part of European Union (Approvals) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 10th October 2017.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Chair, International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact 6:15 pm, 10th October 2017

We are still a member of the EU, so it is right that we proceed with the Bill as quickly as possible. We are not talking about leaving the EU on bad terms, so it is right that we spend time considering such cases as good members of the EU. Two of the four procedures that we are considering under the Bill involve giving Serbia and Albania observer status in the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The agency replaced the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. It collects data about fundamental rights and seeks to engage the public and civil society on tackling such issues. That sounds to me very much like the work of the Council of Europe. I have returned this morning from Strasbourg, where the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is still going on. That body needs a lot of reorganisation and work to bring it up to scratch. However, there was mention earlier of what we might do post-Brexit to engage with such agencies, and it occurs to me that there would be an opportunity, if we were so minded, for us to consider how we might bolster an organisation such as the Council of Europe and wrap things up, rather than duplicating effort.

I think that the last time I was in Strasbourg was during the April session, and I opened up my locker yesterday to find my speaking notes from that trip. The Council of Europe building, which sits next to the Strasbourg European Parliament building, is essentially mothballed. There is a lot of waste and a lot of duplication, and we could work with our European colleagues and partners to ensure that we streamline things and focus on the frontline of protecting people’s fundamental rights. This debate will affect many millions of people.

Albania and Britain have some quite odd but big links. C. B. Fry was offered the monarchy of Albania, which he turned down, giving rise to the reign of the wonderfully named King Zog I. Norman Wisdom is also fêted in Albania; I think he has a statue in Tirana. The reason why I know these two bits of pub quiz trivia and little else about Albania was mentioned by Peter Grant: Albania has been a very closed country for a long time. It is important that we work however we can to open up that country and keep it progressing, joining the international community in the fullest possible way and protecting people’s rights.

I welcome the accession of Serbia and Albania to the agency, but I also want to say a word about the Canadian aspect of the Bill, as we consider competition law ahead of the ratification of the CETA deal. I have been lucky enough to travel around the world over the past few years to places such as Bangladesh, Burma, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Taiwan, and they have all been looking at how they can work with the UK through free trade deals. I am excited about the prospect of having free trade with as many countries as we can. I do not care if the EU is involved in this free trade—we need to widen it out so that we can break down barriers wherever they exist. Working on CETA and against anti-competition procedures can only be a good thing for our European partners. Although we might not be around in the EU to benefit from the CETA deal, it is only good for European and global trade that we should push this Bill through.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading