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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, as regards the noble Lord's first point, there would be practical difficulties about limiting the occasions on which noble Lords were able to use the car park. It would also place an extra burden upon police officers and security staff. I am sorry that the noble Lord finds the Answer disappointing, especially as he was kind enough to inform me of some of the points he proposed to raise in supplementary questions.
As regards encouraging Government Whips, many years ago I was a modest holder of such an office in another place. Having relinquished that post, I have since learnt never to become involved in advising Whips, whether in your Lordships' House or in another place.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I understand and sympathise with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. However, strictly speaking, that is not a matter for me nor for your Lordships' committees. However, I have no doubt at all that what has already been said on this subject this afternoon in your Lordships' House will reach the right channels. If it does not, steps will be taken to see that it does.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, does the noble Lord not think that the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, is perhaps being a little unkind to the many Peers who are old and lame who really need their cars and already have a great deal of difficulty finding a parking space sometimes? Does the noble Lord not agree that if you are young enough and fit enough to use a bicycle you are young enough and fit enough to use public transport?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I cannot disagree with any of the points which the noble Lady has made. I am sure that her comments will find their target. As the noble Lady will know, steps have been taken, including additional ones quite recently, to improve those facilities, and I believe that that is quite right.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees accept that I am bitterly disappointed by his Answer to the Question today? Is the Chairman of Committees aware that, in the present day and age, there has been vigorous back-pedalling by politicians and extremely extensive free-wheeling between political parties? Will he not accept that, if that situation continues, we shall need four bicycle spaces for every car that is in your Lordships' car park?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I cannot possibly compete with the noble Lord's metaphors. I feared that the noble Lord was going to say that the recent increase in the bicycle allowance might have led to a rush of noble Lords wishing to use their bicycles. Forward pedalling instead of back-pedalling, your Lordships will recall that on 1st April last year the allowance was raised from 6.2p per mile to 6.4p per mile. I must reveal that at the time I advised one noble Lord, a renowned cyclist, not to spend it all at once.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees say whether there has been any progress towards moving some of the cars into the car parking spaces at the NCP, which I believe was envisaged at one time? I accept that some noble Lords have to use a car, particularly those who are disabled. However, perhaps
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am not sure that there is scope for that but I shall look further into it. One point that I should make in reply to the noble Baroness is that quite a number of the spaces allocated to your Lordships' House in the Abingdon Street underground car park, which is not quite as convenient as your Lordships' own car park in Old Palace Yard, have not been taken up. Since we are talking partly about more agile members, there may be some who are better able to use those facilities than others who really need to be here.
Baroness David: My Lords, could the Chairman of Committees please tell me if there are any spaces allocated for visitors' bicycles? A number of my visitors are never quite sure where to put their bikes and whether, if they leave them in certain places, they will be confiscated.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, not as far as I know but if I am wrong I will let the noble Baroness, Lady David, know. The spaces available are for Members of your Lordships' House and the staff.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her helpful reply. Does she not agree that the politically and economically bankrupt regime which governs the long-suffering Russian people could better spend its time and resources putting its own house in order rather than harassing and provoking the Baltic states--Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? Will she praise all three Baltic states for their work in supporting their Russian minorities and, indeed, integrating them while Russia has defaulted on paying pensions to those minorities? In particular, will the Government
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government's position is that states have the right to undertake military training exercises. I reiterate that point to the noble Earl. That exercise took place in late August. As I expect the noble Earl knows, the Latvians undertook an exercise on 13th June on the Latvian-Russian border for which they did not give advance notice. One must bear that in mind.
On the noble Earl's substantive point about the way in which the Baltic states are dealing with the Russian minorities, I can agree with a great deal of what he said. The claims of significant human rights problems in Latvia are largely unfounded. I would agree with the noble Earl that much progress has been made on the integration of minority populations. In particular, we applaud the Latvian vote of 3rd October to bring in amendments to ease the naturalisation process of the Russian minority. That was extremely encouraging, but, of course, more still needs to be done.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging news. Does she agree that the largest defaulter is the United States whose unpaid bills now amount to 2.5 billion dollars, in consequence of which resources must be diverted from peacekeeping to pay for administration? Are those of us who regard themselves as friends of the United States not best placed to do some straight talking and to point out that they cannot continue to invoke the United Nations when it suits their book but walk away from the table when the bill arrives?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course, the cash crisis is of very considerable concern. At the end of September the United Nations was owed 2.5 billion dollars in total in unpaid dues by 149 member
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