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Earl Ferrers: Yes, my Lords. It is perfectly true that there is a certain amount of leakage. Indeed, one hears all sorts of figures put forward; for example 25 per cent., and so on. However, it is worth remembering that, even in the most sophisticated and modern set-up like that in Tokyo, the leakage is never below about 15 per cent. Therefore, there will always be leakage. My right honourable friend has told the water companies to draw up very special plans to reduce the leakages. If those plans are not sufficiently strong, he will take steps to ensure that they are stronger.

I should remind the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, that, before privatisation—and this is not a political point; it is merely a fact—£1,500 million per year was invested by the water boards, and the figure is now £3,000 million after privatisation. Moreover, £24,000 million is expected to be invested over the next 10 years. So a lot is being done.

French Nuclear Tests

3.1 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, no. We understand the deep concern that the French decision has caused, particularly in the south Pacific. But the international community's first priority must be the conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty. We do not believe that the present limited series of French tests should damage the prospects for that.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, is it not clear beyond argument that anything which diminishes respect for the Non-Proliferation Treaty and for the test ban negotiations is likely to lead some of the more macho among the non-nuclear powers to repudiate the treaty and to acquire their own nuclear weapons? Surely that would make the world not more secure but

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substantially less so for all of us. Is not that danger exacerbated if Britain by silence appears to condone further testing?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No, my Lords; I really do believe that the noble and learned Lord has not got it right on this occasion. The decision is for the French Government; it is not for the British Government. It is not for us to comment on a French decision affecting their defence requirements or how they decide to meet them by testing. The French have repeatedly stated their commitment to the comprehensive test ban treaty negotiations. It was reiterated on a number of occasions by no less than President Chirac in announcing his decision to test. There is absolutely no reason why a limited programme of tests should affect the prospects for successful negotiation of the comprehensive test ban treaty.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am quite amazed by the Minister's Answer. Is it not outrageous that the Government, as a depository government of the Non-Proliferation Treaty with a duty to uphold its terms, have sat back and done nothing to condemn French testing in the Pacific despite the fact that resumption of testing is totally contrary to the spirit of the commitments made at the conference in May to extend the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, not for the first time the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has got it wrong. The French testing is consistent with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is no comprehensive test ban in force. France is not in breach of the NPT or any other international treaty obligations. The French Government have made it absolutely clear that they will limit the number of tests to the minimum, that they will give up testing when a comprehensive test ban treaty has been concluded, and that the current tests are designed to put France in a position to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty in 1996.

The other very good news—which has no doubt passed the noble Baroness by—is that we said only last Friday that, together with the United States and France, we shall sign the protocols on the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty in the first half of 1996. We have made clear that it is our wish to respond in a practical way to the concern of all those in the south Pacific and elsewhere on nuclear testing.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that while there may be seriously-held arguments about whether or not people should have nuclear weapons, the worst of all worlds would be a country having nuclear weapons in its deterrent which had not been fully tested for reliability and accuracy? Is that not even more important if France is to be asked to sign the total test ban treaty in 1996?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, not for the first time the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is absolutely right. What we want is an effective and viable comprehensive test ban treaty. We have made clear our support for an absolute "zero yield" ban on tests, as have the United States and the French governments. We hope that we can very quickly get an effective, verifiable

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treaty. The verification regime must be that which gives us an effective deterrent against testing without being disproportionately costly or intrusive. It will not surprise the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to know that it is the United Kingdom which is making a significant contribution to the technical discussions on verification.

Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the reasons why they will not condemn the French is that Her Majesty's Government are likely to receive information from the French after the tests are completed? Is the Minister further aware—I know that she does not want to be hypocritical about the issue—that Her Majesty's Government, and especially the Ministry of Defence, have made it absolutely clear that on safety and reliability of nuclear weaponry (as long as we have it) we reserve the right to test and that if we can find the facilities, the test sites, we shall do so if the need arises?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the kernel of the question posed by the noble Lord is in the last phrase; namely, "if the need arises" to do so. We hope that it will never be necessary in the future to do so. That is why we want and, indeed, are working for a comprehensive test ban treaty.

Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, can the Minister answer my question about the exchange of information?

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord did ask the Minister—she obviously overlooked it—whether the French had offered to share with us any information arising out of their tests, and, if so, whether we shall receive the data. Can she respond?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I have no knowledge of what the French have or have not offered. I do not believe that a matter of national security is for this House to debate.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, is not saying that the French will accept the test ban treaty after they have conducted further tests a little like someone saying that he will sign the pledge after he has had one more evening on the bottle? Does that not have some effect on the confidence of the non-nuclear powers?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord may indeed have a point. However, it is important to note that the United States, the French and ourselves are quite determined to achieve a comprehensive test ban treaty by the end of next year. As regards whether or not France provides information about the tests to other authorities, I should point out that there is no legal requirement upon it to do so. Whatever the French are doing, I believe that it is right to work towards the comprehensive test ban treaty with all speed. It is to that that the British Government are fully committed.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff: My Lords, have the Government given consideration as to how they will avoid a serious dilemma and division at the Commonwealth conference in November between our French ally on the one hand and the Australians and the New Zealanders who are so close to us on the other?

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, will know, we have felt considerable concern about just what the future would hold for the south Pacific as a result of the tests that the French have been carrying out. However, as we are already actively pursuing nuclear arms control, are negotiating hard for the early conclusion of the CTBT and have made the announcement that the Rarotonga Treaty will be signed in the first half of next year, I believe that many of the anxieties expressed not only by those on the islands of the south Pacific but also by Australia, New Zealand and many other nations are being addressed.

Overseas Aid

3.10 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received any recent representations about the level of overseas aid.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we have received a large number of representations about the level of overseas aid, a great many of them paying tribute to the quality of our programmes.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the House is familiar with the Government's claim that our overseas aid as a proportion of GNP is just over the average for all donor countries, which makes it sound respectable? However, the OECD report expresses a different viewpoint when it states that four countries now exceed the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. and that five countries exceed 0.35 per cent.—which is half of the target—but that there are 12 countries which do not even manage 0.35 per cent. Britain is one of those countries and that is nothing to be proud of.

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