Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I have absolutely no difficulty in agreeing with the noble Lord's last remarks. So far as concerns the presence in Bosnia of NATO forces, we hope that their stay will be limited. But it is certainly anticipated that we shall be there on the ground after next July.

As regards the comparison of figures, I have no idea on what basis the German Minister made his calculations. Ours are based on the additional cost, not the total cost, in which we are involved as a result of our presence in Bosnia.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, on the question of costs as regards former Yugoslavia, is my noble friend aware that over the past several years the crisis has also given rise to 400,000 refugees? Does my noble friend agree with me that that makes a very strong case for enlarging the European Union?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am not sure that I would necessarily draw the connection that my noble friend draws. He is certainly right in saying that there have been a great many refugees. I am glad to say that it is one of the benefits of the investment we have made in our presence in Bosnia that quite a few of them have found it safe enough to return to their homes.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in response to the criticisms made by Louise Arbour, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal prosecutor, against France for harbouring war criminals in the French sector of the Serb enclave, the Quai d'Orsai said yesterday that the largest number of unarrested indictees were residing in the British sector? Does he agree that in view of the large sums of money being spent by the British

16 Dec 1997 : Column 495

taxpayer, we should be able to expect that British NATO forces will arrest war criminals and bring them to justice?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, there is nothing in our record in that respect for which to apologise.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, my noble friend said that he expected British troops to be in Bosnia after June next year. Can he say how much longer after June next year he estimates they will be there?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I only wish that I could, but unfortunately it is not given to me to look that far into the future.

Lord Judd: My Lords, will my noble friend accept that many of us would want to pay the strongest possible tribute to the contribution made by British forces in former Yugoslavia? Has my noble friend been able to study recent remarks by the Secretary-General of NATO, who said that peacekeeping is one issue, but peace-making is another? Does he believe that we have the necessary resources in place to pursue peace-making as distinct from peacekeeping? By the same token, has he been able to study the comparative costs of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and other parts of former Yugoslavia and the pre-emptive deployment by the UN in Macedonia, which, I suggest, at a much reduced cost, has managed to preserve peace and reduce expenditure by the international community?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, certainly there is every advantage in being able to be on the ground early so as to pre-empt the kind of situation that arose in Bosnia and has not so far arisen, I am glad to say, in Macedonia. I have no idea, speaking off the top of my head, what are the UN costs in Macedonia. Clearly my noble friend does. That is as far as I can go at the moment.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, can the Minister give any indication as to how the future additional costs of our presence will be met? Will they be met entirely by Her Majesty's Government; or will additional resources come from the international community?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, again the noble Lord tempts me to predict matters which I have no competence to predict. As I am sure he will know, the costs of operations in Bosnia are, as it is, in part shared by the international community both through the EU and through sharing NATO infrastructure costs.

Wales: Student Grants

2.45 p.m.

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the grants given to Welsh universities are £329 per student less than those given per student to English universities and £1,052 less per student than those given in Scotland.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, on the basis of the latest data for 1997-98, grant per full-time student

16 Dec 1997 : Column 496

in Wales is about £100 less than in England, not £329 as quoted by the noble Lord. The difference from the English figure is due to three main factors. First, Wales has had a lower research base and therefore less funding has been available from the research councils. Secondly, the mix of courses taught in Wales is somewhat less expensive than those in England. Thirdly, the higher education sector in Wales has been successful in attracting a strictly more than proportionate share of students as compared with England, thereby reducing the institutions' fixed costs per student.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, while I am grateful for that reply, is it not correct that an Answer given on 19th November in the other place gave the discrepancy as £159? Does it not suggest that the Welsh Funding Council is under-funded? Three of the universities in Wales are in rural areas. They have to attract students from outside their own, as it were, catchment area. Is it not very difficult for them to do so when the expenditure per student is £159 less per head than in England; £200 less per head than in Northern Ireland--again I refer to the Answer given in another place; and £1,000 less per head than in Scotland?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course there are differences between Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland; and that is to be expected. Even without devolution to Wales, the Welsh Office has discretion as to how it spends the grant that is available to it. Whether it spends that money on higher education as opposed to industrial development, for example, is a matter for the Welsh Office, which could well explain some of the differences.

Regarding the larger difference in Scotland to which the noble Lord refers, I can confirm that, very broadly, his figures are correct. But in Scotland there are far more four-year degrees than in the rest of the United Kingdom. There is also a far higher proportion of very expensive courses such as medicine and dentistry.

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, I hope to take tea with the chancellor of the University of Glamorgan later today--a university of which I am chancellor! Will I be able to warm the cockles of his heart and tell him that the discrepancy will be put right and that someone will speak to the Welsh Office?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend enjoys his tea. However, I do not think I can give him any assurance that the factors which underlie the differences in funding have changed and therefore that the funding itself will change.

Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, is the Minister aware that 70 per cent. of the students who attend the University of Wales come from elsewhere in the United Kingdom--that is, from overseas and England? How is Wales meant to compete in international markets when the universities are funded at a lower level in Wales than in Scotland?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Viscount is right in saying that a high proportion of

16 Dec 1997 : Column 497

students in Welsh universities come from outside Wales. But that does not mean that the funding per head, like for like, is any different. As I explained, Wales has a higher proportion of less expensive courses. Those are broadly arts courses as opposed to science and technology courses. Welsh universities and the University of Wales in particular have been successful in filling all the places on all their courses. That means that their fixed costs are more economical. I do not think it can be said that any individual student suffers as a result of the differences.

Unemployment Statistics: Collection and Presentation

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What change they expect to make in the collection and presentation of statistics on unemployment to reflect more accurately the numbers of those unemployed and actively seeking work.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in the summer the Office for National Statistics launched a wide-ranging public consultation about the future of labour market statistics. The results of the consultation were published in the October edition of the Office for National Statistics publication Labour Market Trends.

The director of the ONS is responsible for deciding the form, coverage and timing of release of ONS statistics. I expect him to make an announcement about ONS proposals for labour market statistics in the new year.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that Answer. I recall that he and other colleagues, when they were in opposition, said quite rightly that the employment figures given in this country could not be wholly relied upon. Given that his right honourable friend the Prime Minister made a promise at the Luxembourg employment summit that the United Kingdom would be advancing internationally comparable bases of employment in future, and acknowledging that actual internationally comparable statistics are probably 0.5 million higher than the official figures given by the so-called claimant benefit base, will the noble Lord say when we can rely upon new figures for unemployment which actually reflect the real position? Can he give the assurance that decisions on welfare-to-work will not be made on the basis of statistics that are not correct?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page