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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing my attention to this most interesting report, entitled Leading Lads. He is right in saying that boys and young men with low self-esteem--about 12 per cent, I believe--would be particularly helped by an expansion of opportunities in sport, in drama and in clubs. Without doing more than give a trailer for the report of the policy action team, I can say that it comes to very much the same conclusion.

As to selling off playing fields, I believe the noble Lord will know that we have put a stop to a practice which became far too prevalent under the previous government. Indeed, any application to sell off playing fields, other than for sporting purposes, has to be referred directly to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Deputy Chief Whip keep on reminding his right

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honourable and honourable friends about the importance of out-of-hours use of school playing fields? Indeed, is there not scope for reintegrating pupils who are at risk of suspension or expulsion from school by using some of the very valuable extra funds recently provided by the Government for their continued education?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I happen to live opposite a school playing field and my road is never so busy as it is on Saturdays and Sundays. There is much more out-of-school use than there is in-school use. That is very welcome. We certainly encourage schools to make their playing fields available for community use as well as for school use during out-of-school hours.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, does the Minister feel, as I do, that for some of us--a minority--deliverance from sport was the saviour of our school careers?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord knows that he tempts me. I used to go to the cinema on sports afternoons. However, I have already made that confession in the House.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, are the Government aware of the immense possibilities that sports present to promote good relations and understanding between young people of different races, backgrounds and faiths, such as the extraordinary new scheme in which the Arsenal Football Club and the Maimonides Foundation have joined together to bring Moslem and Jewish youngsters together to coach them and enable them to compete against each other in mixed teams?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I was not aware of the scheme to which my noble friend refers but I am glad to hear about it. If he cares to visit the sports field that is opposite my house on Saturdays and Sundays he will see that the teams are racially mixed.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the importance of sail training for both boys and girls whether from disadvantaged or public school backgrounds? In a force 8 gale, when the sails have to come down from the yards, the one thing they all know is that they are all in the same boat.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I take the noble Baroness's question seriously despite her joke on the subject. Of course she is right that sail training is character forming.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, does the Minister agree that some of the most disadvantaged young people are those who are in trouble with the police and who may even be on probation? Is he aware that in Northern Ireland the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Outward Bound Scheme have extremely close links with the police who run a rambling scheme especially for these disadvantaged people? Will the

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Minister give an assurance that as well as considering playing fields he will consider the needs of those people who are already partially under supervision?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that sounds like a sensible suggestion which could usefully be extended beyond Northern Ireland.

Yugoslavia: Non-combatant Casualties

2.51 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the number of casualties to non-combatants so far resulting from NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): My Lords, recent reports have indicated that, very regrettably, some non-combatants may have been killed as a result of NATO air activity. I am unable to give a figure for the number of casualties.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for that Answer. However, if he consults the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1995 he will find that much of the bombing--not only the bombing of Belgrade television station--is illegal under an Act of this country. Under these circumstances does he recognise that an offence has been committed which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment? Will he advise his senior colleagues in his department to consider their position carefully to see whether they should not bring this business to an end forthwith?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it may be helpful to your Lordships if I explain the selection of targets. Ultimate responsibility for the selection of targets attacked by British air assets lies, and will always lie, with the Secretary of State. He has delegated some of that discretion to junior commanders. In his absence I, too, am responsible for choosing targets, again subject to his authority. Every single target that has been attacked by British aircraft has been cleared with the British Attorney-General.

Lord Moyne: My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government accept that the chief result of the NATO bombing has been to accelerate the ethnic cleansing it was supposed to prevent?

Lord Gilbert: No, my Lords.

Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, does my noble friend acknowledge that for every regrettable Serbian casualty as a result of NATO bombing, hundreds and possibly thousands of Kosovar Albanians have been brutally murdered by Serbian paramilitaries and military?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, further to my noble friend's extremely important point it might be of use if I were

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to point out that I do not think I have ever known a military campaign in which one side has been so fastidious about the use of weapons or its choice of targets. We have flown some 10,000 missions. There have unfortunately been two or three instances of the kind that have been mentioned. We have lost one plane and brought the pilot back. I think that is a quite remarkable tribute to the professionalism of all NATO forces.

Lord Monson: My Lords, given that much of the Serbian Orthodox hierarchy opposes Milosevic's policy in Kosovo, does the noble Lord agree that it was a great mistake, apart from other considerations, to bomb Serbia on the Orthodox Easter Sunday, particularly as the allies rightly took great care not to bomb Iraq during Ramadan?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, we did bomb Iraq during Ramadan.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there have been about 200 casualties in Serbia and probably a good deal more elsewhere, particularly in Kosovo, as a result of this war? Does my noble friend also agree that nothing has been achieved of any use, either to the Kosovar people, nor indeed to the Serbian people, and that if this campaign continues in its present form all that will result will be more refugees and more casualties, both in Kosovo and in Serbia itself? Has not the time now come to reassess NATO's view of the situation, to negotiate and to reach a settlement which is acceptable to both sides?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, of course my noble friend would not expect me to agree with the premise underlying his question. We are happy to bring the bombing to an end just as soon as Mr. Milosevic agrees to withdraw his troops who are harassing Kosovar civilians, and to the return of civilians under the protection of an international force which will be NATO led, and that there will be no harassment in the future. I should have thought that any civilised person on this planet would accept those objectives.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the NATO objective of removing the Serbian forces and allowing the Kosovar people to return to their homes must be achieved by next winter if appalling loss of life and suffering are to be avoided in the camps? Will the Minister give an assurance that any military forces which are necessary to achieve that objective will be deployed?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would agree that the resolution of NATO--all 19 countries--to achieve these objectives is absolutely unanimous and the determination is total. I would be surprised indeed if I were standing at this Dispatch Box next winter discussing these matters.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I join the Minister in congratulating our forces on minimising casualties while

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at the same time destroying Serb oil refinery and transport capacity. Is he confident that the right balance is being struck between minimising casualties on the one hand and shortening the conflict on the other?

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