7 Days

Fischer speech sparks fears Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, said EU voters should directly elect the president of the European Commission - currently appointed by EU governments. Less than a day after Tony Blair had dismissed claims of plans for a European superstate, Fischer made clear that Germany was intent on closer political union.

Ministers to force through gay law Ministers insisted they would force through measures to lower the age of consent for male gay sex to 16, despite its being thrown out by peers for the third time. The government plans to invoke the rarely used Parliament Act - which allows it to override the Lords if peers defeat a bill - if they do not back down before the end of the month.

EU ruins farmers A report by the government's Better Regulation Task Force claims that farmers are losing money and smaller producers are being driven to bankruptcy by the "overzealous" adoption of EU red tape. The report paints a picture of farmers struggling against some of the strictest health, safety, environmental and animal movement controls in Europe, while being pestered by hordes of inspectors. The report calls for the scrapping of the Common Agricultural Policy and its replacement with a simpler Common Environmental Policy.

Inferno in Alps More than 150 people died when a blaze caused by an electrical fault engulfed an Austrian funicular train carrying skiers - many of them children - through an Alpine tunnel. The inferno, which reached temperatures of more than 1,0000C, practically vapourised the train. Kevin Challis, a ski-instructor, was the only British casualty.

Hague's warning William Hague proposed that Scottish MPs should be stripped of their rights to vote south of the border. Speaking in Oxford, the Tory leader promised to change House of Commons procedures to guarantee "English votes on English laws".

This article first appeared in the 20 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Interview - Lord Falconer