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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I apologise that I was not present to hear the beginning of the Statement. I recognise the dangers in this situation. However, like my noble friend Lady Flather, I wonder whether this is the best time to talk of threats, sanctions and lectures and to indulge in handwringing. Have we all completely forgotten that the best outcome of the events in the region is the mutual deterrent effect and the stabilising effect, as we learnt in the cold war? Have we now forgotten that reality that we had to face in the past? Does the present situation not pose an opportunity as much as a danger; namely, for us to press ahead to put the whole non-proliferation regime on a far more effective, less disguised and covert basis? We must understand the position of both Islamabad and Delhi and try to bring them into the regime in an effort to establish a much better basis for non-proliferation in the future, and ultimately a test ban and a reduction in nuclear weapons worldwide.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course we want to bring both countries into the regime

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of the non-proliferation treaty and to persuade them to sign the test ban treaty. However, Her Majesty's Government would find it difficult to agree with the noble Lord's remarks on mutual deterrence. If that policy were pursued, it is inevitable that other countries, perhaps in the Middle East, may decide that they will develop their nuclear deterrence on the basis that it will constitute mutual deterrence between two countries. I believe that is the policy of despair as regards nuclear disarmament. I hope it is not a policy that commands a great deal of support in your Lordships' House.

However, I agree strongly with the noble Lord's remarks about not indulging in threats and handwringing. I hope that the Statement did not indulge in either threats or handwringing. I believe the Statement is rather well balanced, but then, "I would say that, wouldn't I?" I hope that if the noble Lord has the opportunity to read it in full, he will agree with me. We must do everything we can to persuade both countries that their best interests lie--now that they both have a nuclear deterrent--in not proceeding with their nuclear programmes and in considering the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We must try to persuade them to sign the test ban treaty as quickly as possible.

Lord Desai: My Lords, is not the situation much more urgent than the noble Baroness has indicated? We cannot wait until the test ban treaty is signed or until the sanctions become effective. Would it not be better to work towards a "no first use" agreement by both sides? Perhaps non-nuclear powers such as Canada and the Scandinavian countries should give a lead in this matter, as both India and Pakistan do not trust the nuclear powers to deal fairly with them.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course the situation can be described as urgent although I take the point made earlier about not "hyping-up" the situation to a point where we become more excited than the situation merits at present. The noble Lord is correct to say that we must do what we can to persuade both countries not to adopt a first strike position. I am reminded that Argentina and Brazil, for example, both stopped their nuclear programmes mutually at the same time through the agreement of both countries. There is also the example of the South African programme which was stopped. When countries decide that they are prepared to take a step away from developing nuclear weapons, there are encouraging examples of what can be achieved. We also have the encouraging examples of those countries which have already decided to sign the non-proliferation treaty and the test ban treaty.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I have two brief questions for the Minister. First, will she inform the House whether it is the United States or Britain which has convened the G8 foreign ministers' conference and what is the objective of that conference? Will it be in the interests of the people of India and Pakistan not to develop any sanctions policies because, as the Minister rightly pointed out, that will affect the very people one wants to help? Secondly, the noble Baroness, Lady

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Williams, asked about the role of the Commonwealth countries. Will the Minister take into account the role that the Commonwealth Secretariat can perform in trying to establish some kind of rapport between those two countries? India and Pakistan are more likely to listen to other Commonwealth countries than to the United States and Britain. Anyone who knows of the resolve of India and Pakistan at the time of independence will realise that sanctions or force will have no effect whatever on those countries.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as president of the G8, Britain proposed a meeting in London on Friday of next week to discuss these matters. The United States proposed that the permanent five members of the Security Council should meet on Thursday of this week in Geneva. As I said, we hold the presidency of the G8 at the moment. Your Lordships may be interested to know that this matter is being discussed in the United Nations. Britain is doing everything it can to try to ensure that the discussion in the United Nations has some impact on both the countries concerned.

The noble Lord also asked about the position vis-a-vis the Commonwealth. I am sure that any international forum that can be used will be used in this situation. It is always a matter of striking a balance between what was described by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, as "hand-wringing" on the one hand, and being able to say something practical and useful on the other. I am sure that if there is any practical role that the Commonwealth can play it will be willing to do so.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we have had the prescribed 20 minutes for Back-Bench questions on this Statement. I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.

Lord Naseby: My Lords, with respect, a noble Lord on the other side of the Chamber took five minutes on one question. Perhaps I may briefly ask one simple question--with permission--I am the only one who has been here for all--

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I think noble Lords are aware that 20 minutes is the tight timetable on a Statement. I believe that we should observe the normal convention. I therefore move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

School Standards and Framework Bill

6.20 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Schedule 4 [School organisation committees]:

[Amendment No. 106 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 106A:

Page 117, line 11, at end insert ("of those voting").

The noble Lord said: These amendments clarify some points of detail in relation to the voting arrangements for school organisation committees. They are all government amendments. Amendment No. 106A would put beyond doubt the ability of a school organisation committee to reach a unanimous decision in the absence from a particular meeting of one or more groups or if one or more groups abstains. The Bill as drafted left the matter in some doubt. For the avoidance of paranoia, we shall also specify in regulations that there should be a minimum period of notice which those convening meetings of the committee should give to members so that they are not excluded through lack of notice. The amendment also clarifies that, where a group on a school organisation committee has reservations about a proposal, it may express them by abstaining. That is a third option for groups on the committee.

I shall also speak to Amendment No. 106B and the remaining government amendments in this group. Amendment No. 106B follows from discussions that took place between my noble friend the Minister and her ministerial colleagues and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon, who originally tabled Amendment No. 106 for this group.

It has always been our intention that there should be two Church groups on each school organisation committee, one representing the Church of England and one the Roman Catholic Church. We have always intended, too, that decisions on school organisation plans should require the unanimous vote of the school organisation committee. We had intended that those points of detail would be set out in regulations; however, we have no intention of drawing back on the commitments that we have already made in relation to the Churches. On that basis, and following discussion with the right reverend Prelate, we propose that the provision should now be on the face of the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 107A and 109A make important statements about maintaining equal opportunities in the organisation of school places and admissions. They secure that decisions taken by school organisation committees or adjudicators take full account of the non-discrimination duties placed on schools and local education authorities under the Sex Discrimination Act or the Race Relations Act. The Equal Opportunities Commission has argued strongly for such a specific duty in the Bill. We share the commission's view that it is important to draw particular attention to the vital need to avoid discrimination in this way. These amendments therefore provide an important safeguard to ensure equal opportunities in practice. I beg to move.

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