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Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The needs of Bangladesh are enormous, and it is difficult to identify the main priorities. Will the Minister comment on two particular needs that have been brought to my attention? I should declare an interest as chairman of the British Bangladesh All-Party Parliamentary Group. The first relates to the silting of the rivers, which allows for the rapid accumulation of flood waters and acts as a brake on their dispersal; therefore the dredging of rivers is of enormous importance. Will the Minister inquire as to the need for dredgers in Bangladesh to help deal with that problem? Secondly, she will know of the remarkable work done by the Grameen Bank in the area of micro-lending to very poor people. It has been reported that the bank is in need of a loan of some 100 million dollars in order to help it to extend its activities in Bangladesh. I should be grateful for any information on that too.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his questions. In response to his point on the silting of rivers, the department has not been involved in river dredging works in Bangladesh. However, we shall continue to press those agencies that are involved in such work. In addition, we are concerned in terms of the longer-term effects of environmental damage that there is sufficient scientific research into these matters. We shall be pressing on that matter too.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State recently met Dr. Yunus from the Grameen Bank and was involved in discussions about anything that the department might do. He is particularly interested in commercial loans. We are waiting for the department's offices in Bangladesh to come back to us on that matter.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the major causes of the main drainage rivers in Bangladesh silting up is deforestation in the Himalayas, not necessarily in Bangladesh itself? What plans do the Government have to help with replanting in those areas, so that soil is not washed down into the rivers of Bangladesh and indeed of West Bengal in India?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, as I said in reply to the supplementary question, we are examining environmental degradation. We are looking at sustainability in the long term.

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The noble Lord may also be aware that one of our priorities at the recent climate change conference in Buenos Aires was to increase the assistance provided through the global environment facility. In addition, we are looking at greater scientific research on this matter.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, is it considered that relief aid from NGOs in the state of Bangladesh has been well spent?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we are continually looking at our programme priorities and the ways in which spending is allocated in this area. We have looked at the effectiveness of what we are doing. We are in continual dialogue with NGOs and the government of Bangladesh on this matter.

Baroness Uddin: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the speedy responses of the Government and of the Bangladeshi resident NGOs enabled the Government of Bangladesh to manage the crisis very effectively? Does she also agree that there needs to be international discussion on the long-term management not only of Nepal's deforestation but also of the 23 Farrakha dam feeder canals? Can my noble friend tell the House whether efforts have been made to secure international dialogue on this issue?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the people of Bangladesh responded well to the exceptionally bad floods this year. The fact that few people have died from malnutrition and that there has been no serious epidemic confirms that arrangements were generally effective. With respect to the long term, we are in discussion with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank with regard to infrastructure development.


3.1 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lady Hollis of Heigham will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on support in bereavement.

The House will be asked to consider the European Parliamentary Elections Bill later today when it returns from the Commons, although I cannot say exactly when that will be.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, since the debate on the subject of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill will be a very important one, perhaps I may ask the Government Chief Whip whether he can give us any parameters by which the House might work as to when he expects another place to have completed its deliberations on the Bill.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I advise my noble friend not to give any parameters to the Chief Whip on the Benches opposite because he only wants to make fools of them.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I cannot hope to match the elegance of my noble friend's reply! It depends on

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the timing in another place. Consideration is expected to begin there soon after the Statement on support in bereavement. I cannot be more specific at the moment. To put it another way, you will have to watch this space.

City of Westminster Bill [H.L.]

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

Moved, That the Commons Message of yesterday be now considered; and that the Promoters of the Bill have leave to suspend any further proceedings thereon in this Session in order to proceed with the Bill in the next Session of Parliament, notice of their intention to do so having been deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than 12 noon tomorrow;

That the Bill be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than noon on the second sitting day in the next Session with a declaration annexed, signed by the agent, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill at the last stage of the proceedings thereon in this House in the present Session;

That the proceedings on the Bill in the next Session of Parliament be pro forma in regard to every stage through which the Bill has passed in the present Session, and that no new fees be charged to such stages;

That the Private Business Standing Orders apply to the Bill in the next Session only in regard to any stage through which the Bill has not passed during the present Session.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and a Message was ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Business of the House

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I remind the House that, as indicated on the speakers' list, the time for each Back-Bench speaker in the debate will be six minutes.

Moved, That the Motion standing in the name of the Lord Palmer be limited to two and a half hours; and that Standing Order 38(5) (Arrangement of the Order Paper) relating to the precedence of Motions on Wednesdays be suspended this day.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Standing Orders (Public Business)

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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Moved, That the Standing Orders relating to public business be amended as follows--

Standing Order 15

At end insert--

"(2) In order better to discharge his duties as a Minister of the Crown, the Lord Chancellor may, if he thinks fit, leave the Woolsack and sit in such other part of the House as he may find convenient; and in such circumstances his place on the Woolsack shall be taken by a Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chairman.";

Standing Order 16

At end insert "or such other part of the House as he may find convenient".--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House of Lords' Offices: Select Committee Report

3.3 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move that the Seventh Report from the Select Committee on House of Lords Offices be agreed to. In the light of the amendment to the Motion on the Offices Committee's Sixth Report, agreed by the House in July, referring the proposals to refurbish Old Palace Yard back to the Administration and Works Sub-Committee, it seems appropriate, in moving this Motion, to speak briefly in amplification of the proposals.

I believe that there was on that occasion some misunderstanding about the rationale behind this important project. The scheme is designed to restore the historical character of Old Palace Yard which, according to English Heritage, may well be the oldest definable public square or space in London. It will restore the original features with authentic designs which will improve the appearance and character of the palace and in particular of your Lordships' House.

The improvements will embrace the resurfacing of the square with granite setts, the replacement of street furniture and the elimination of car parking on the west side of Old Palace Yard. These measures are all consistent with the historical appearance of Old Palace Yard.

The Administration and Works Sub-Committee has considered with great care the reservations expressed in the previous debate. I shall touch on the more important of these. I can assure your Lordships that the scheme will have no adverse impact on road journey times to and from the House. With regard to cost, the scheme should be seen by your Lordships in the context of general expenditure on both the Palace of Westminster and the Abbey. The cost will be spread over three years, with no significant expenditure arising until the Summer Recess in the year 2000.

Questions were asked about car parking. Let me emphasise that that is an entirely separate matter which has no bearing on the Old Palace Yard scheme at this stage and which will be considered on its merits in

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due course by the Administration and Works Sub-Committee. This was the point on which there was the greatest misunderstanding. That was probably my fault for taking it too much for granted that we all understood that this is emphatically not a car parking plan. In mitigation, I point out that the project has now been under consideration by your Lordships' committees in three Sessions of Parliament. Your Lordships have had full knowledge of the proposals and there has been an exhibition in the Royal Gallery.

If your Lordships approve the Motion, the project will be the Palace of Westminster's contribution to the enhancement of this World Heritage Site. Since the end of World War II little attention has been given to the historical importance of Old Palace Yard and the overall setting of Parliament. I believe that we now have a unique opportunity to redress the situation, for which future generations will be grateful. I have no hesitation in commending the proposals to the House. I am not defending the project on behalf of your Lordships' committees; I am advocating it.

Moved, That the Seventh Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 153).-- (The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

    The Committee have met and been attended by the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Gentlemen Usher of the Black Rod.

    Old Palace Yard

    On 22 July the House agreed to an amendment to the Committee's 6th Report, which required that proposals to refurbish Old Palace Yard should be referred back to the Administration and Works Sub-Committee.

    The Sub-Committee have reconsidered the proposals and have had the advantage this time to hear the views of English Heritage and of Westminster City Council, who both fully support the scheme.

    The Sub-Committee have again agreed the scheme put to the House in July. This provides for:

    the replacement of the tarmac surface of the whole area, including the carriage way, with granite setts (as can now be seen in position in front of Chancellor's Gate);

    the replacement of street furniture. This will include, among other improvements, the provision of globe lamp standards and railings to designs by Sir Charles Barry, the rationalisation of the plethora of road markings and the simplification of the pedestrian crossing; and

    the elimination of car parking on the West side of Old Palace Yard, so increasing the space available to pedestrians.

    The Committee wish to emphasize that the scheme is not to enhance the House of Lords car park. Indeed, the House may in future years wish, on environmental and aesthetic grounds, to reduce substantially the number of cars now able to park in front of the Palace.

    Nor will the proposals impede access to the House. The refurbishment of Old Palace Yard is linked with, but is not dependent on, a wider scheme known as World Squares for All. This entails improvements for pedestrians and better urban design in adjoining areas such as Trafalgar Square. These improvements could have implications for traffic around Parliament, but any adverse consequences should not be attributed to the Committee's proposals, which do not affect traffic movement.

    The Committee's proposals are entirely directed to improving the environment of an historic part of London, which enjoys the status of a World Heritage Site. The cost of £2.44 million, spread over three years, should be seen in the context of the substantially greater total sum which has been spent in recent years on the exteriors of the surrounding buildings, such as Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and 6-7 Old Palace Yard. Because of the reference

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    back to the Sub-Committee, the work cannot now begin until the summer recess 2000 and the money would therefore be spent in the financial years 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03.

    The Committee recommend that the scheme to refurbish Old Palace Yard, as again endorsed by the Administration and Works Sub-Committee, should be adopted.

3.8 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi rose to move, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, after ("That") insert ("noting that the proposal has the support of many notable bodies, including the Royal Fine Art Commission, English Heritage, Westminster City Council, the House's Advisory Panel on Works of Art and, on Division, a majority of the House's Administration and Works Sub-Committee").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees said, this is not just a question of refurbishing the car park. The proposals go far wider than that. The Palace of Westminster has the status of a World Heritage Site. Old Palace Yard is probably the oldest public square in London. It is proposed to replace the ugly tarmac surface by granite setts, both in the car park and covering the whole area of Old Palace Yard, thus linking the Palace of Westminster with the Abbey. It is also proposed to install globe lamp standards and railings to designs by Charles Barry, the architect of this great building.

The proposals to restore the historic area conform with the World Squares for All master plan to promote a high standard of urban design in historic places. The scheme will eliminate car parking outside Nos. 6 and 7 Old Palace Yard, on the west side--the other side of the road--thus increasing the space for pedestrians. I stress that car parking spaces outside the Palace will not be reduced. The main road traffic flow outside this building will also not be affected. I stress that because one or two noble Lords were concerned about it the last time it was debated in July.

The costs are part of a much greater sum spent on the whole of the parliament building, which is certainly one of the most beautiful neo-gothic buildings in Europe--probably the most beautiful--and the most beautiful parliament building in the world. As the noble Lord has said, the costs have been approved and will be spread over three years.

The scheme restores an historic area and recreates the dignity and coherence of Old Palace Yard. It has the support of the notable bodies connected with the arts and national heritage, as listed in my amendment. I hope your Lordships will approve it.

Moved, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, after ("That") insert ("noting that the proposal has the support of many notable bodies, including the Royal Fine Art Commission, English Heritage, Westminster City Council, the House's Advisory Panel on Works of Art and, on Division, a majority of the House's Administration and Works Sub- Committee").--(Lord Strabolgi.)

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