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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the Minister did not answer the final part of my question. Is she aware that any of the advanced maritime nations permit their seafarers to be armed in order to resist acts of piracy?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am not aware which nations permit their seafarers to be armed and which do not. However, it is well known that a number of nations probably do not permit their seafarers to carry arms, but whose seafarers do.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that for those who live in Asia or who sail in Asian waters, the term "Far East" is regarded as derogatory? Indeed, from their point of view we live in the Far West.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I hope that I have said on each occasion "South-East Asia". In no way do I intend to be derogatory; I only wish demographically to be a little more correct than I might otherwise be.

Lord Greenway: My Lords, while recognising that the Question refers specifically to the East, has there not been a disturbing increase in incidents of piracy in Somalia and around the Horn of Africa recently? As the noble Baroness mentioned Brazil, could we learn something from the action taken by the Government of Brazil as a result of representations made by international shipping bodies? The government have set up a security committee which over the past few months has had marked success in reducing incidents of piracy.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord is right. Where the acts of piracy have taken place, either on the high seas or in or just off the port of a country, as in Brazil, at the time that happened it reflected the generally poor security in nearby areas. However, when security overall in a country has improved, we see an improvement, as in the security in Brazil which the noble Lord mentioned.

Nigeria

3.1 p.m.

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet received a copy of the final report of the national constitutional conference in Nigeria, and what is their reaction to its contents.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, a copy of the final report of the national constitutional conference and draft constitution was received by the British High Commission in Abuja on 14th July and will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Its contents are a matter for the Nigerian people. However, I regret that the Nigerian authorities have yet to respond positively and rapidly with a credible timetable for a transition to civilian democratic rule.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that far-ranging reply. What measures might be implemented, should the Nigerian authorities not adhere more closely to the Harare principles? Would there be a Commonwealth consensus? What is the reaction to today's reports of possible retaliatory measures against UK subsidiary companies—I understand Shell and BP have been targeted—for perceived government meddling in Nigeria's internal affairs?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, as both the former Foreign Secretary and I have made clear on many occasions, the Harare principles adopted at the 1991 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference on respect for human rights and for democratic rule are principles which are still good and to which all members of the Commonwealth seek to aspire.

What the Commonwealth will do at the Heads of Government meeting in Auckland I cannot foretell. However, we have made it absolutely clear that we share

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the widespread concern across the Commonwealth about continued military governments, wherever they occur. If the principles of the Harare Declaration are not put into practice, it is difficult to see how any single country could play a full role in the Commonwealth until it puts its house in order.

As regards the oil companies, I understand that the Nigerian oil minister summoned local representatives of BP and Shell to inform them of the Nigerian Government's displeasure about Her Majesty's Government's recent statements on the political situation in Nigeria. The oil companies have informed us about it and the contacts took place last week. I am not quite sure why the Nigerian authorities chose to communicate their concerns through private companies. Political and diplomatic channels would have been more appropriate. However, many of the matters about which they complained were comments in the press which were quite a variation on what had actually been said.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff: My Lords, I accept that this is a matter for the Nigerian people. However, how can opponents of the regime express their view when they are arrested by a corrupt regime, imprisoned on false evidence and there is no voice for the opposition? Is it not a matter for the Commonwealth to discuss at its forthcoming meeting? Perhaps the British Government may consider suggesting to the meeting that the head of the military regime, who has shown himself to be a complete tyrant, should be excluded from the next meeting.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, we are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Nigeria. He is absolutely right that people who are denied a voice in the political scene are bound to have a real problem. I suppose that the announcement on 27th June that the formation of political parties is now legal is a step forward. However, we were all dismayed to find that any further announcement on a political future for Nigeria has been postponed until 1st October.

We agree with the noble Lord that it is a matter for the Commonwealth. I am quite certain from the representations which have been made, both to us on a bilateral basis and to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, that the matter will be discussed at Auckland. I sincerely hope that there will be progress before then and also that the rumours that have been reaching us about what might happen to the 40 people found guilty by a military tribunal will be found to be without foundation. If those now detained were to be subject to summary justice or capital sentences, it would be incomprehensible and totally without justification. I am sure that the Commonwealth would then respond in the only way it can. At present, our efforts are to ensure that no one is summarily executed and that civilian democratic rule is restored in Nigeria.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, what assistance, such as help in preparing an electoral register, might be forthcoming if the Nigerians work out an election timetable?

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we have received no request for help in drawing up an electoral register. If there were such a request we would be prepared to look at ways in which we might help, once a credible process of transition was engaged in. We have helped other nations and are fully prepared to help Nigeria. But the country must go down the path of restoring civilian democratic rule.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, following the answer given by the noble Baroness to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, has her attention been drawn to the report in the Daily Telegraph today? It indicates that General Shehu Yar'Adua and 13 other officers have been sentenced to death and that General Obasanjo and 10 other civilians and military men have been gaoled for life. Can the Minister give the House any information about that?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I have indeed read the reports in the press today. I can only say that we know no more than is contained in the reports. We have had no collateral on the matter. It is well known that there is widespread concern throughout the Commonwealth, the European Union and across the world because there is no way in which a country as big and important as Nigeria has been, with a population of well over 100 million, can continue in this way. The people of Nigeria are suffering. The reputation of Nigeria—indeed, of Africa—is suffering. The sooner that is understood by the military regime in Abuja, the sooner the country can set matters going in the right direction.

Business

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 4.15 p.m., my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on Barings. This will be followed by my noble friend Lady Blatch, who will, again with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on the Government's response to the first report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Disability Discrimination Bill

3.8 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Meaning of "disability" and "disabled person"]:

[Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Provisions Supplementing Section 1]:

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 7 not moved.]

Baroness Gardner of Parkes moved Amendment No. 8:


Page 47, line 15, at end insert (", HIV disease").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is rather a surprise. I was concerned that we might not arrive at my amendment before supper time, so I am quite pleased.

This amendment is almost self-explanatory. We discussed this matter in considerable detail in Committee. Sufferers from HIV disease are the most

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discriminated against among those who have any adverse medical condition. The inclusion of this term in the list of progressive conditions in the schedule would signal to employers that the Government are not prepared to tolerate the unreasonable and often very ill-informed attitude that people have towards sufferers.

I should also like to take up various points that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, in Committee. He was concerned that, were this amendment relating to HIV disease to be accepted, people could, and would, put forward a case for almost every other disease to be included. I point out to him that no other amendment relating to any other type of condition has been put forward. This is the only one where such a condition has been specified, either in Committee or on Report. That is evidence that the situation is quite unique and that the condition should be included in the schedule.

Accepting this amendment now would be in line with the declaration that the Government signed at the December 1994 paris AIDS Summit. I wonder, also, how they chose the three conditions that they did choose without considering HIV. It is very serious and very important; it should be considered. This addition to the Bill would be a recognition of the true medical situation in relation to this progressive condition. It would do a great deal to offset some of the almost hysterical, and very often inaccurate, reporting on this illness, so distressing to sufferers and to relatives and others who dearly love them and who have to suffer alongside them what is almost invariably—some people say entirely invariably—a terminal condition. It is not always terminal because people die of other related illnesses before AIDS itself. This matter should not be taken lightly. I hope that the noble Lord realises how seriously the House feels. This is an issue of great importance. I beg to move the amendment.


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