Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Henley: My Lords, the position of nuclear weapons is totally different from that of conventional weapons. I can take the noble Lord no further than what I said earlier. We have a minimum nuclear deterrent and we believe that revealing the exact size and nature of our forces would compromise their security.

Japan: EU Proposals

2.47 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the Council approved conclusions on the Commission's communication on Japan which broadly endorsed the strategy outlined by the Commission in it. In examining any Commission proposal for export promotion expenditure, the Council will expect the Commission to demonstrate the effectiveness and value for money of each programme. The Council did not endorse the Commission's support for Japanese membership of the Security Council because there is no consensus in the Council on the question of Security Council enlargement.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, in asking this Question perhaps I may offer my apologies to the House for an error that has appeared in the reference number of the Commission proposal referred to. The reference on the Order Paper should be COM (95) 73 final and not COM (95) 13 final. I apologise to the House.

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. But is she not a little surprised that there should be no consensus in regard to the proposal of the Commission that the European Union should make representations to the United Nations in regard to the admission of Japan to the Security Council, as quite clearly there is no competence under the Treaty of Rome as amended under

12 Jun 1995 : Column 1535

Title V? Is she not surprised that there should not have been unanimous rejection of the Commission proposal? Will she say who dissented from the Government's view that it lies outside Community competence? I should be most grateful if she would give some information on that point and also indicate what will be the Government's attitude at the next meeting of the Council, under the French presidency, at which, according to the Government's own memorandum, the proposal is likely to be made again.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is our firm belief that the Community does not have a locus as regards questions relating to the structure of the UN Security Council. Nevertheless, we have made clear our national support for Japanese permanent membership of the Security Council and indeed that of Germany. But Security Council enlargement is a political question and, therefore, it is not for the Community. There is certainly no consensus among members of the European Union. As far as I could find out, Belgium was in favour, but nobody else. I have no doubt that that is exactly how it will be at the next meeting.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Baroness explain why the Commission is involved in this matter at all? Surely, it has no locus in matters relating to foreign policy and defence. Ought not the Council of Ministers to tell the Commission that it should stop meddling in affairs which do not concern it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that that is exactly what the Foreign Affairs Council did on 29th May.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, when the Government ratified the Maastricht Treaty, did they envisage the Commission using Title V, or the common foreign and security policy, to undermine our export initiative in the Far East and elsewhere?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is no question of the Commission undermining our export initiative in the Far East. As I told the House last week—my noble friend may remember this—the UK share of Japanese investment in the European Union is 41 per cent. and our visible exports last year were up 13 per cent. on 1993. But it does not do any harm to have a Commission executive training programme to which the United Kingdom sends more people than any other country in the European Union. The work that we do with the European Union enhances our bilateral activities and we get the benefit. That is just how it should be.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, has not the Minister made the Government's position crystal clear? As regards the Government's position and Japanese membership of the UN Security Council, is there any support from any other major country in the world? For example, is there any support from the United States or the Commonwealth? Can she say something more about the current position?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am unable to tell the noble Baroness anything definite about the Commonwealth, although I believe that a number of individual members of the Commonwealth think that it

12 Jun 1995 : Column 1536

would be a good idea. I know that there are several views within the United States. We shall see which one finally wins the day.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is it not right that the activities of the Commission in this regard cannot possibly help or further the interests of the United Kingdom in any way at all?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that is exactly why, apart from there being no locus as regards the UN Security Council, we do not believe that it would be a good idea, and neither do a number of other members of the European Union.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I am most anxious to support the noble Baroness in the stand which the Government are taking. Will she kindly confirm the statement in the Government's explanatory memorandum that they do not endorse the expansion of the Commission's export promotion activities as being a sentiment that they will carry with them to the next meeting of the Council under the French presidency, at which the matter will undoubtedly be raised again? Can we have an expression of her fierce determination that that will be resisted?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that your Lordships are well aware of my fierce determination on such questions. What is important is that we support programmes if they are complementary to our bilateral programmes and demonstrate value for money. We shall not give competence to a body which should not have that competence. That remains the position for the next and all subsequent meetings.

Offshore Structures: Disposal

2.55 p.m.

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy to support proposals to dispose of disused offshore oil platforms and other structures by sinking them in the open sea and if so, how they will ensure that they do not contain potentially hazardous substances.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the disposal of offshore oil and gas installations will be considered on a case-by-case basis, in line with our international commitments. If deep-sea disposal is an option, the presence of potentially hazardous substances and their implications for human health and the environment, together with the practicable steps proposed for their removal, would be an essential element of any assessment.

Lord Rea: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer, the first part of which was predictable. I found the second part helpful and useful. Does the noble Lord not believe that dismantling onshore is a perfectly feasible option and no more costly, even for the Brent Spar, which is currently in the news, with the possible exception of a few concrete structures? Does he not recognise that, as well as avoiding the unpredictable effects of possible contaminants in the open sea, the option of dismantling ashore provides orders for a declining industry and thus

12 Jun 1995 : Column 1537

saves unemployment benefit, and provides large amounts of material, such as structural steel, which is highly suitable for recycling?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the manner in which any particular structure might be dismantled obviously depends on its inherent characteristics. That in turn will determine what the cost might be. I understand that in the case of the Brent Spar, to which reference has been made, the cost of horizontal dismantling on shore would be of the order of £45 million, while deep water disposal would be of the order of £11 million.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, does my noble friend recall that the decommissioning of offshore structures was fully discussed in this House during the passage, as a Bill, of the Petroleum Act 1987, which did provide for each to be considered individually in accordance with the policy of the International Maritime Organisation? Has he noted that marine scientists suggest that the deep ocean is the most suitable place for disposal, in certain circumstances; for example, in a letter in The Times on 22nd May?

Lord Inglewood: I am very grateful to my noble friend for his two comments. As regards the first part of his comments relating to the Petroleum Act 1987, I myself was not a Member of your Lordships' House in those days, but the Government have a collective memory. He is absolutely right, in that these provisions determine our policy as regards these matters in accordance with our international obligations. As far as the disposal of structures is concerned, my noble friend is absolutely right. There are certain circumstances when the clear, scientific view appears to be that the most environmentally benign way of dealing with the problem is the way which my noble friend has described.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page