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Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, does the Lord Chairman of Committees agree that if Members of this House do not subscribe to this painting the taxpayer will have to pay? Some of us would find it extremely difficult to accept such an arrangement.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I deal first with the question about Divisions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady David. This matter was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. I am grateful to him for letting me know beforehand that he proposed to raise this matter. As far as concerns the general improvements that I hope will be made, perhaps it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I let the noble Baroness, Lady David, the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, and others know precisely what is proposed, so as to avoid taking up too much time this afternoon. One of the proposals is to have a bell in a picture on the television screen which can be there all the time that a Division is taking place without interrupting the sound. I will explain the other matters to your Lordships elsewhere.
To deal with the other point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, I am sorry that he had difficulty last night with a Division, whichever way he was proposing to vote. I will have the matter looked into to see whether anything can be done to help.
So far as concerns the suggestions made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, I should like to look into them. I feel that some helpful suggestions have been made. It may be that we shall wish to give consideration to further steps that can be taken. Perhaps I may leave it in that way for the time being. I will let the noble Baroness know of any developments.
The other main matter which was raised was spoken to by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, Lord Shepherd, Lord Strabolgi, Lord Marsh, Lord Clark of Kempston and Lord Harris of Greenwich. Perhaps I may take all the points made at the same time. First, let me offer a word of personal reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe. I have never regarded his reputation as being in the slightest danger. I would also venture one further personal comment, without of course committing your Lordships for the future or any of my successors: I very much hope that this will not be the last painting of your Lordships' House in Session. I trust that there will be many, many more to grace your Lordships' walls. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, is expressing an interest in this matter. He was one of the first to suggest the present arrangements for having a painting of the House.
One of the fundamental points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and other noble Lords is the payment of £150. When your Lordships' committee was first considering this matter it was felt that the painting needed to be self-supporting and that it would not be right for the taxpayer--this is a point which was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and others--to bear the cost of it. Perhaps I may say in passing that those were the considerations that were in the mind of another place when it was preparing for the last paintings made there. That is the fundamental reason.
In answering the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, and other noble Lords, I should perhaps remind your Lordships that you have already taken a decision on this. It was taken as long ago as last summer. The Offices Committee recommendation, later approved by the House, delegated to the group which has been guiding the work for the painting, financial matters and the inclusion of noble Lords in the painting. Those are matters which were accepted by your Lordships' House quite some time ago.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, that an alternative was considered by the Advisory Panel on Works of Art, chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. It was felt best not to proceed in that way. I am sorry to have to disappoint him about that.
We have already gone some way towards preparing for this painting which, as your Lordships will have seen, it is hoped will be completed by about October of next year. I believe that that deals with most of the points raised.
The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, asked about referring the matter to the committee. I am sorry to have to disappoint him, but these are matters which have been considered thoroughly. I hope that he will feel that it is appropriate not to take that suggestion further forward.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I believe that it is right that none of the funds mentioned by him is any longer available. I shall check whether there are at least two other funds of your Lordships' House in being, to make sure, for the satisfaction of the noble Lord, that neither of those is available for this purpose. If I am wrong, I shall of course let him know.
Perhaps I may briefly thank those noble Lords who have taken part on the Bill as it has passed through your Lordships' House. I also thank the opposition parties for the full and constructive support they gave to this important measure which marks a major step forward in freeing the world from the menace of chemical weapons. It has been the Government's aim that the UK should be among the founding state parties to the convention. For the UK to be among the first 65 states to ratify--at present there are some 49--will preserve British influence both in the preparatory commission and in the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons which will come into being upon entry into force of the convention. It will also secure British people in post there.
The Bill's passage will ensure that the UK continues to take a leading role in the development of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I can assure your Lordships that we shall not hesitate to use our influence to ensure that the convention's ban on chemical weapons operates effectively. Apart from my thanks to those noble Lords who participated in our brief exchanges on these matters, I thank also the Royal Society of Chemistry for its thorough and thoughtful briefing. I beg to move.
Lord Peston: My Lords, perhaps I may first apologise to your Lordships, and to the Minister, for not being in my place when the business on the Bill started. The previous business ended slightly earlier than one was anticipating.
This is an important piece of legislation. I am delighted that it will soon be enacted into law. We have dealt with it as best we can, although I must say that I was disappointed that a Bill of this importance attracted little interest from your Lordships.
The Minister did an excellent job, and I did the best I could in the circumstances, as did the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. Most other Members of your Lordships' House, despite what many of us believe is a tremendously important move by Her Majesty's Government, did not feel that it was worth their while taking part. So much for that.
Perhaps I may make one or two points before coming to my final remarks. We discussed the issue of an advisory mechanism. Although in connection with that and one or two other matters the Government felt unable to accept my amendments, they made a number of pledges. One was that advice would be taken without delay and would be taken seriously. I hope that will be the case and that the non-statutory advisory mechanism will start soon. I intend to find ways within your Lordships' procedures to check on that matter because it is important.
Similarly, what will be an extremely important Act will involve various licensing arrangements. The Government promised to publish documentation on the proposed appeals process but as yet I am unaware of its publication. I hope that the Minister will ensure that it
The Bill is a start; but we are discussing a world-wide issue and we cannot act alone. We have taken a leading part, and I know that we shall do so again, in making chemical weapons a thing of the past--that is, so far as is humanly possible. Your Lordships will be aware that biological weapons are another of the more noxious things in the world. I look forward to a biological weapons convention, too.
I repeat my congratulations and thanks to the Minister and I join him in thanking the Royal Society of Chemistry. Mr. Stephen Benn was immensely helpful to me. It was obvious that in so far as I had anything useful to say he was one of my main sources. I wish to place on record my thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry and to Mr. Benn. I also thank Mr. Julian Perry-Robinson of the Science Policy Research Unit, who has been most helpful. The unit is an example of an effective research body playing a useful role in helping those of us who sit on the Opposition Benches who do not have the vast resources of a government department. Such bodies give us the kind of back-up which enables us to make sense of such legislation.
I support the Bill, as I have throughout its passage. I hope that it succeeds and I hope that our successors will not live in a world in which the use of chemical weapons is acceptable in any kind of conflict.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I echo the sentiments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in thanking the Minister for his adroit handling of the Bill, and in particular for the assurances that he gave on Report about the function of the advisory body. I hope that the Minister will take adequate advice.
As the noble Lord, Lord Peston, pointed out, a large number of institutions--mostly the universities and the smaller institutions--will discover that the Bill has financial implications. They must be sorted out at a later date and I am sure that such issues will be raised in this House again. It would be wrong if that were not the case because the Bill is supported by everyone and it certainly has our blessing.
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