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Baroness Ludford: My Lords, can the Minister also tell us whether there has been any progress in the talks on a political settlement, as that clearly needs to be achieved as rapidly as possible? Can she assure us that those discussions, and any options that are considered, will not foreclose the possibility, whether in the medium to long term, of Kosovan independence?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course I think that everyone who has kept in touch with the situation in Kosovo must recognise the increasingly urgent need to make real progress on the political track. The United Kingdom is working hard with the United States and of course with the Contact Group partners to increase the momentum of the process engaged in by Ambassador Hill on the political track. It is essential that we continue to send clear messages to both sides, including the KLA, that the situation can be satisfactorily resolved only through negotiation. Her

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Majesty's Government believe that both sides have a clear choice: to fight to a standstill and then negotiate, or to negotiate now. They should negotiate now.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, can the Minister explain how it is possible that the statement by the Foreign Secretary in the Financial Times on 28th October last year, that he was determined to keep in place that credible threat of NATO action, is consistent with delaying the dispatch of observers? Does the Minister agree that the simmering crisis in which the unarmed observers--only 745 of the promised 2,000--are increasingly cast as vulnerable peacekeepers proves that the western response is inadequate and disproportionate to its verbal threats?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Baroness and your Lordships can rest assured that we are in touch with the verification mission and listening very carefully to what the head of that mission and his deputy are saying to us about the need to strengthen the verification front. I hope that I have made it clear that there are more verifiers going into Kosovo this month, to the extent of there being 1,200 in the build-up at the end of this month. The noble Baroness spoke of 745; I think she will find that very shortly that number will be very significantly increased.

As to the extraction force, it will become operational tomorrow, 15th January, and we are confident that it will be able to do its job. I stress that that in no way relieves the Government on the ground of the responsibility they have for the safety of the verifiers and their mission.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm that many of the monitors are former British Army officers whose experience and reliability are greatly valued by the international security organisation which she has mentioned?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am very happy to confirm that. I pay tribute to the courage of those who are prepared to go in to do very difficult work. There are serving and ex-military personnel. There are also human rights experts, non-governmental organisation experts, police officers, lawyers, weapons verifiers, election planners and customs experts. We have been able to draw on a wide range of expertise in putting together this verification force.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, what is the attitude of the Government to this problem of mission creep--the expansion of the role of the monitors into areas such as the rescue of hostages and the stopping of hostilities? Does the Minister think that the terms of reference of the mission should be amended so that the monitors have a formal remit to undertake these duties?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, may have misunderstood me. I did not suggest that the verification mission had rescued any hostages. It did not engage in any rescue mission but was able to negotiate with both sides. We

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are on track with this at the moment. Some hostages were released yesterday; we hope and believe that some hostages from the other side will be released in a few days' time. I would not wish the noble Lord to think that the verifiers have somehow become involved in some sort of military action--they certainly have not. What they have done is entirely consistent with their terms of reference, both in regard to what they have done about the hostages and in trying to separate factions, through negotiation, in the sort of incidents that took place over Christmas. They have also been enormously important in ensuring that the humanitarian effort, which is so vital to the ordinary people in Kosovo--if I can use that term--is able to reach those who need it.


3.24 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to encourage the contribution of poetry to national culture.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government are encouraging poetry to flourish in many ways. The Arts Council, which is funded by my department, will this year spend more than £1 million on support for poetry. As part of the national year of reading, a project will enable poets to work with schoolchildren throughout the country. The National Lottery awarded the Poetry Society £450,000 for its poetry placement schemes project. The society employs poets throughout England to encourage the reading and writing of poetry. Last year the Government marked the UK presidency of the European Union through the promotion of poetry.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. In view of the importance of poetry to any national culture--and it is important and not just an adornment; for example, in the Soviet Union this century it has been literally a matter of life and death--I think the Minister will understand that there is very widespread disquiet about the decision by the Oxford University Press to cease publishing its Oxford poets list, the second most significant list in the country. Would it be possible for Her Majesty's Government to make any representations about that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sure that the right reverend Prelate will appreciate the difficulty that the Government would have in intervening in the decisions of what is, after all, a private company. I was not much encouraged by the response of the company in print last week to the right reverend Prelate's protests about the abandonment of the poetry list. The response was:

    "It is a strategic decision. We have to target our core identity".

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I should have thought a literary publisher could avoid that sort of management-speak.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I associate myself with the comments of the right reverend Prelate. Since the 16th century, the Oxford University Press has been the custodian of the English language. It is disgraceful that, at this particular time when we are enjoying a renaissance in the writing of English poetry and when it is generally agreed that the one universal genius our country has produced in the last thousand years was a poet, the Oxford University Press should cease publishing contemporary poetry. I appreciate that the Minister can do very little about the Oxford University Press, but the amount of money he has mentioned which is going into the arts is quite small as regards poetry. I can tell him that very little of that will find its way into the pockets of poets. I suggest that he should be rather more imaginative and perhaps bear in mind Shelley's famous phrase that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Shelley said that poets are,

    "the trumpets which sing to battle...Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world".
I am sure that the Oxford University Press will pay due attention to the words of perhaps the most distinguished anthologist in this House.

The noble Lord is wrong about government expenditure not going to poets. All the money to which I referred in my first Answer is going to poets. The Arts Council of England is supporting the Poetry Society, the Poetry Book Society and a number of the smaller poetry publishers who do not have opportunities to cross-subsidise their publishing of poetry. I am not at all ashamed of what the noble Lord describes as a rather modest contribution from the Government.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is not a village in Wales without a very good poet in it, probably more than one? Can he say what assistance they are being given? Is he aware that, if ever he wants to see one, they are on Welsh television at least once a week, arguing against each other about a variety of poetry. Does the Minister think that that is an excellent thing in Wales?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I think that we in England could all learn a great deal from the Welsh example. Perhaps if Welsh poetry could be translated we could have our own Eisteddfod and we would benefit significantly from that. I am pleased to hear what my noble friend has told me.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, does the Minister agree that most people would be behind the general drift of the right reverend Prelate's question? But one has to say that what stands at the core of the British poetic tradition must be the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, also originating from the 17th century. Without wishing to cross swords with

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the right reverend Prelate--he and I shared the same school chapel for a number of our formative years--does not the Anglican Church bear some responsibility for its successive "modernising"--I borrow that word from the Labour Party--of these works, thereby losing a good deal of the poetry?

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