Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Henley: My Lords, like the great lexicographer Dr. Johnson, I should like to pay tribute to education in Scotland. But I am sure that even that number will expand in due course and that many more schools in Scotland will see the benefits of grant-maintained status. That one will grow to two; in time that will double again, and double again, and double yet further.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, did the noble Lord really mean to say that one in five children were in grant-maintained schools, or did I mishear him? If the number is only 1,100 out of 24,000 schools, the arithmetic seems very peculiar.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that my arithmetic is not very peculiar. If she had listened to my remarks precisely she would realise that I said one in five children at secondary school stage were at grant-maintained schools.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, does my noble friend feel like reminding the Benches opposite when they persistently raise this subject that it took eight years for the first 1,000 schools to go comprehensive whereas, according to the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, it has taken four years for 1,000 schools to become grant-maintained? Surely that shows that the initiative is not working all that badly?

Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend's arithmetic is very encouraging indeed. I am sure that in another four years, after the next election, when we have been returned to power for our fifth term, we shall see yet more schools pursuing the benefits of grant-maintained status.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is quite clear from what he told me in answer to my original Question that the Government are not ruling out dispensing with ballots? By the same token may I ask whether the Government intend to do anything about the fact that parent governors who were elected or appointed to governing bodies because they were the parents of children in schools do not now have children in the schools? In those circumstances, does he not agree that it is time that the Government gave further thought to having ballots at appropriate times? He may recall that when the legislation was being debated some of his noble friends suggested that that was essential. However, the original concept and purpose of the scheme has now passed.

17 Oct 1995 : Column 667

Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord. I cannot give him the assurance that he would like. We believe that there are considerable benefits in the opt-out process and going grant maintained. In time we would like to see all schools pursue that aim.

Healthcare 2000 Report

2.50 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the report by Healthcare 2000 under the chairmanship of Sir Duncan Nichol.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, while not agreeing with all the conclusions, the Government consider the Healthcare 2000 report a useful contribution to the health debate.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and obviously her helpful comment about the future of the health services. Is the Minister aware that some of us feel a little doubtful about the quarter from which the advice has come, bearing in mind Sir Duncan Nichol's record as the chief executive of the National Health Service under which the computer scandals in Wessex took place and those in the West Midlands, which he tried to suppress by refusing to publish the reports of the district auditors in those matters?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, of course another member of this particular organisation responsible for the report is Patricia Hewitt, who is also a member of the Commission on Social Justice.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that one of the lessons that can be learnt from the report to which the Question refers is how dangerous it is for anybody considering this matter to ignore the probability that the rate of growth in the economy is likely to continue for the next few years? Does she further agree that it is also highly possible that governments may be elected that will drastically reduce unemployment and poverty in this country, which are two of the principal causes of many of the claims on the National Health Service?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, it would be very unwise for anyone reading this report to ignore the growth in the economy, not only that which has taken place, but that which is forecast. It is quite right that the commission which undertook this work should have considered demographic changes. But when we look at the funding of the National Health Service, it has increased by 3 per cent. per year since 1979, unlike during the last Labour administration when there was a cut of 2.7 per cent.

17 Oct 1995 : Column 668

Land-mines: UN Conference

2.53 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What decisions took place at the review conference on the Inhumane Weapons Convention concerning any adverse humanitarian and developmental effects of land-mines; what recommendations they put forward at the conference for future control of land-mines; and whether any changes in the convention are intended as a result.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, we have, with our western allies and partners, made a series of proposals to the UN Inhumane Weapons Convention, which would significantly strengthen its Protocol II on land-mines. We are very disappointed that consensus on such changes was not achieved at the session of the review conference which has just taken place in Vienna. The main obstacle was the unwillingness of some countries to negotiate effective, tighter restrictions on land-mines.

Lord Judd: My Lords, is the Minister aware that to all who work with the organisations concerned with the grim human consequences of land-mining, as I do, the news of this delay will come as a profound disappointment? Does she accept that it is estimated that during the 11 weeks of the conference alone a further 1,600 victims were killed or maimed, and that land-mining frequently continues to render agricultural development impossible? Has the Minister seen the United Nations Secretary General's calculation that at the present rate of laying and clearing land-mines, two or more decades are added each year to the time required to complete clearance? Will she be assured that she has the full support of this House in everything she can do to keep this issue as a top government priority? Will the Government give a lead by banning the export of all anti-personnel mines?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I do express our profound disappointment at what happened at the 11-week conference. There is no question that we worked extremely hard to get agreement to the proposed stringent technical standards for self-destruction mechanisms and detectability. The failure to reach agreement shows the difficulties or actually achieving effective measures. I have to say that a total ban at this stage is unrealistic. The noble Lord is right in saying that there are more and more victims. It is very sad that developing countries like Mozambique, Angola, Vietnam, Cambodia and Afghanistan, possessing land that could be returned to agricultural use, with the exception of Vietnam, were not represented at the conference. Those countries might have been the ones that could have changed the minds of the countries which resisted our proposals.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, can the Minister give an assurance that no British companies are at present involved in research or the development of land-mine systems or their remote delivery systems?

17 Oct 1995 : Column 669

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I cannot go into the details of what every single company is involved in. It is more than 10 years now since this country exported anti-personnel land-mines. Therefore, I would have thought that it would be rather negative spending to get involved in such research as the noble Lord mentions.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether any progress has been made in developing a technology to find the plastic land-mines which up to now have defied conventional detection means?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am aware of some progress that has been made, but I cannot recall the detail. I shall write to my noble friend.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, can the Minister assure us that the anti-personnel elements in the runway denial ordnances used by the Royal Air Force are to be stripped out of those weapons in order to prevent the maiming and destruction of human beings some time after the delivery of those weapons?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, to begin with, a runway is not an ideal place for any person to wander. However, I take the point which the noble Lord is making when he says that, for certain reasons, such weaponry has been used in times of war. They were no doubt used during the Gulf conflict, but I do not have the details to hand. I repeat that we are out to obtain an end to the trade in non-self-destructing and non-detectable anti-personnel mines. We are also out to make sure that there will be a total ban on these munitions, including a ban on the export of all anti-personnel weapons to countries which have not ratified the weaponry convention. That will cover the vast majority of cases. But we need progress from those countries who baulked at making a decision on Protocol II in the past 11 weeks.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page