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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we regret the suspension of the identification process. We continue to believe that the best solution remains in

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supporting the UN Secretary General and his staff in their attempts to resolve the conflict in the Western Sahara. We urge both Polisario and Morocco to co-operate fully with MINURSO, the United Nations scheme in the area.

Lord Wise: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. But what does she think the consequences will be for the people of the area, and also for the credibility of the United Nations, following its complete and absolute failure to bring about a fair and free referendum following the withdrawal of part of MINURSO? Does the Minister agree that the only option that unfortunately seems to be available to the Saharan people is a resumption of the war? If there is such a resumption, as I fear there will be, is there not a grave risk to the stability of the whole area? And what will be the consequences for Europe?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is difficult to tell my noble friend what the consequences might be. I have already said that we have been concerned at the lack of progress in the identification process. When the Secretary General reported on 8th May, recommending the suspension of the identification process, we said that it was disappointing. My colleague, the Minister of State, the right honourable Jeremy Hanley, discussed the conflict with the Moroccan deputy foreign minister in Rabat earlier this month, in an effort to try to help the process.

What must happen is co-operation of both parties with the UN on confidence-building measures. If political prisoners are not released and if there is no exchange of prisoners of war, frustrations will further build up. The frustrations of the Polisario worry us very much because we believe that it is essential that the ceasefire be maintained. It is difficult to predict, but renewed fighting will achieve absolutely nothing. It risks drawing in the neighbours--something which the UN and the whole free world should seek to avoid.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does not the main difficulty arise from the attempts by Morocco to introduce persons on to the register who are not properly qualified? Why has the Secretary General found it so difficult to develop alternative procedures for the proper identification of voters that will satisfy both sides but will ensure that persons who are not qualified are not placed on the register?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I must be honest with the noble Lord, I do not know the answer. I too should be fascinated to find out why it has happened. I shall do my best to do so and will drop him a line.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government have discussed the question of the Western Sahara with President Mandela, given his wish to recognise it formally and also given that he has already made an

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offer to do so to the leader of the Polisario Front? Will the Minister also say whether there is any prospect of the registration process being re-started?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, in answer to the first question, not this morning, we did not have time; I shall try again tonight. The answer to the second question is that the door has been firmly closed on the current series of registrations. However, we continue to believe that it should happen and we will see what can be done. Some of us seek to follow that path, but at the moment it is not one that the United Nations seems to be willing to re-start.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many in this House appreciate and agree with the cautious attitude that she is taking to the problem? Is she further aware that many interests are involved on the periphery of the Western Sahara? They would be only too delighted to stir the pot even further with a view to provoking trouble. Does she accept that her attitude towards the problem is acceptable to those of us who wish to establish real peace in the area?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his question. We are right to be cautious. As he knows, we and other Security Council members not only supported Resolutions 1042 and 1056 earlier this year, but also in private we have encouraged the two parties. In the UN, we have encouraged them to consider additional ways in which new confidence might be created between the parties in order to facilitate the implementation of the settlement plan.

Procedure of the House: Select Committee Report

2.58 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

As your Lordships will see from the report before the House, the Procedure Committee thought it right to draw attention to three matters of procedure where the conventions of the House have not always been followed in recent times.

Under Item 1, the committee reminds the House of the guidance set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders concerning supplementary questions. It draws particular attention to the guidance that supplementary questions should not be read.

Under Item 2, the committee reminds the House that it is undesirable to refer to strangers, whether in the public gallery or in any other part of the Chamber.

Finally, under Item 3, the committee points to the guidance in the Companion about the ways in which the Members of the House should be referred to in debate. They should not be addressed directly, nor should they be addressed as "you". I commend the report to the House.

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Moved, That the Fourth Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 90).--(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:


    1. SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS TO STARRED QUESTIONS


    The Committee reminds the House of the following guidance set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders (page 85) concerning supplementary questions to starred questions:


    "Supplementary questions may be asked but they should be short and confined to not more than two points. If a supplementary question exceeds these guidelines, the Minister need only answer the two main points. Supplementary questions are confined to the subject of the original question, and Ministers should not answer irrelevant questions. The essential purpose of supplementaries is to elicit information, and they should not incorporate statements of opinion. They should not be read. The Lord who tabled the question has no automatic right to ask a final supplementary question."


    We draw particular attention to the guidance that supplementary questions should not be read.


    2. REFERENCES TO STRANGERS


    The Committee draws the attention of the House to the guidance in the Companion (page 69) that it is undesirable to refer to strangers, whether in the public gallery or in any other part of the Chamber.


    3. APPELLATIONS


    The Committee reminds the House that guidance is set out in both the Companion (page 75) and the Brief Guide (page 3) about the ways in which Members of the House should be referred to in debate. The term "you" should not be used.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, that was a most valuable contribution. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will emphasise the intention of the Government to enforce the advice that is being given by the Procedure Committee. In particular, my noble friend did not refer to the very important line in the report:


    "We draw particular attention to the guidance that supplementary questions should not be read".
Will my noble friend do all he can to enforce that extremely valuable recommendation?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. In answer to his final point, I must confess that I had hoped that that was precisely what I was seeking to do just now. But just to give him the additional reassurance that he clearly seeks, I shall continue to try to do my best to encourage those of your Lordships who are not as punctilious as the noble Lord in following the rules of procedure of the House to do so.

I thank the noble Lord for his opening remarks; and I would like to say that both I and the Procedure Committee of this House are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and others who raised the point with the committee about supplementary questions being read. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who raised the point about strangers.

So far as the remaining point is concerned, perhaps that is not a matter for me to answer. It is probably safe to say that that, too, is a matter on which those concerned would seek to do their best.

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Baroness David: My Lords, who is supposed to give tuition to new Members, and indeed to Whips, on both sides of the House about how to address the House? I have noticed that people in quite senior positions in the House make mistakes in this area.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, with the leave of the House, in answer to the first part of the noble Baroness's question, since in this House we have beneficially and admirably a collective form of order, the responsibility lies upon all of us. However, I know, and other noble Lords will be able to confirm, that the Clerk of the Parliaments is assiduous in briefing newcomers to this House and in particular draws to their attention the Standing Orders of the House and the Companion to the Standing Orders. After that, he cannot sit there while new Members read them. It is up to new Members to obtain copies--indeed, I believe that they are provided with them--and so far as is possible learn them, or certainly read them and try to digest them.

Others who might consider that they have a duty here as well are those who are invariably helpful; that is, the usual channels.


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