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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply and for the rather positive posture that he took. Is he aware that nobody expects that in Albania, above all, a general election can be conducted as though it were being held in Westminster? All the reports showed that it was a particularly scandalous affair. Can he say something about the kind of influence that could be brought to bear, either by the European Union through its various assistance programmes or by Her Majesty's Government through their know-how programme, to try to improve things in Albania?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. We believe that action should be taken through the OSCE/EU rather than take an individual stance on this particular situation. The presidency has issued a number of statements that we have supported, expressing concern about the irregularities in the electoral procedure and calling on President Berisha to arrange re-runs in the affected parliamentary zones or to bring forward substantially the date of the next elections.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, even though the Albanian elections were not on the level of anything that would take place in, say, Switzerland or Britain, the Albanian tribal tradition and state of development are somewhat at variance with the rest of the continent, after the harrowing experience under Enver Hoxha? The so-called democratic opposition is a fully communist opposition, which is certainly more aggressive and cruel than most. Sali Berisha, the president, has done a remarkable job,

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especially in bringing about the reconciliation of the three religions. He is a Moslem himself, and the president of parliament is a Catholic and the prime minister is Orthodox. Under those conditions, does not the Minister agree that, while the Albanian elections may be criticised by those who want perfection rather than to deal with reality, in fact it was the closest one could get to democratic elections at present in Albania?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I am not sure that I agree with my noble friend. The report states that 32 articles out of 79 of the election law were violated. While I appreciate the facts as the noble Baroness states them, that cannot be acceptable as a way to democracy.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the role of the Council of Europe in assisting the process of building democracy in countries such as Albania is important? Is the Minister aware that on behalf of the Council of Europe I led the delegation to observe the local elections? Can he confirm that there appears to have been a slight regression, to say the least, away from a multi-party state? Will the Government do all that they can to ensure that the sort of comment which divides the opposition into communists and the government into the only acceptable party, which is in danger of reinforcing a one-party state view, is not propagated?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on her knowledge of this subject, which greatly exceeds mine. However, we agree that unhelpful comments do not achieve anything. We want to see democracy in Albania and will do what we can wherever we can, including at the Council of Europe, to try to impress upon Albania that democracy is the route to take.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, what indication is there that the Albanian Government will accept the recommendations made by the OSCE to re-run the elections in the worst affected areas?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, pressure has been applied already. As I asserted earlier, the presidency has pushed for either re-runs in certain areas or bringing forward the date of the next election. But that must be for the parties in Albania to decide. We cannot tell them how they should improve the situation or when they should do it. It must be done one way or the other, but it is up to them.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether he is convinced that there is anything like a free press in Albania?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I do not believe that there is at the moment. It is one of the pressures that is being brought to bear.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, while I am impressed by the imperial traditions being shown in the House, can my noble friend say what Her Majesty's Government can do specifically to affect the elections in Albania?

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Lord Chesham: My Lords, the planned Commission mandate for a new EU agreement with Albania has been put on hold. That is something which is of great concern to Albania.

Lord Richard: My Lords, may I urge upon the Minister that in relation to Albania we make absolutely certain that we are in step with our fellow members of the OSCE and that we move together on the matter and not individually?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. The OSCE takes the lead on this subject. We have also worked closely with the EU, US and other OSCE countries in Vienna.

Road Lighting

2.54 p.m.

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reconsider the height, design and direction of road lighting along motorways and other major roads.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the height, design and direction of road lighting are carefully considered on a scheme-by-scheme basis to maximise efficiency while minimising the costs and the environmental impact by day and by night. The design recommendations for the lighting of roundabouts in rural areas where surrounding areas are not lit is currently under review.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that the high lamp standards which are in common use obscure the night sky, obtrude on the environment, cost too much because so much metal is used and, when falling to the ground, cause much unnecessary damage? Will the Government try to achieve higher environmental standards by lowering the height of lamp standards?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we take environmental considerations extremely seriously. The simple truth is that if we make the stands shorter, we need more of them. If those in the centre of motorways were at half height, we could end up needing six times as many poles, with the consequent increase in the amount of light being put into the environment. It is not as simple a matter as one may think. We must also consider what the daytime scene looks like.

Lord Howell: My Lords, have the Government made any comparison of safety between motorways that are lit and those that are unlit? I have the impression that well-lit roads are much safer to drive on. Would it not be sensible for the Government to embark on a programme of lighting all motorways?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. Good lighting produces road safety benefits. It is estimated that in certain circumstances 30 per cent. of night-time accidents may be reduced using lighting;

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that is, 30 per cent. of the 30 per cent. figure relating to accidents that occur at night. We have done research into this important subject and use a cost-benefit analysis process to decide whether or not we should be lighting a specific stretch of motorway.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that ideally all motorways should be lit. Will the Government consider planting barriers of prickly, vandal-proof shrubs such as rugosa roses down the central reservation so that motorists are not dazzled by the lights of oncoming traffic? It would not be quite as effective as lighting, but it would surely be a great deal cheaper and possibly more environmentally friendly.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lady makes an important point about avoiding the dazzling effect of the lights of oncoming vehicles. On parts of some roads barriers are erected. Whether those barriers should be of a man-made construction or herbivorous, for want of a better word--not quite the right word, I fear; made of shrubs, I should have said--has to be a decision made in terms of cost-effectiveness and with regard to the leaves that may fall on to the road.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Viscount give an assurance to the House that any action by Her Majesty's Government will be productive? Will he confirm in that connection that the European Commission may claim that it is a matter within its own competence? One would not wish Her Majesty's Government to waste their time if they had to ask the Commission's permission first.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, road lighting, be it herbivorous or carnivorous, is fully within the competence of Her Majesty's Government.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, as the European connection has been mentioned, can the Minister say whether a study has been made of lighting in Europe? Motorways are an international phenomenon. From my experience the objective of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is being met on some European motorways.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend's objective is to achieve good road lighting with the safety benefits that flow from it while minimising the environmental effects. That is the policy being pursued in this country. We have a great deal of expertise in the subject, and the newer high-powered sodium lighting is producing the benefits we want in terms of containing the light. We look carefully at schemes in other countries but believe that the work we have done provides good solutions in this country.


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