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Baroness Amos: My Lords, I join my noble friend in commending the work of a range of NGOs. I am aware that Muslim Aid is currently working in Albania although DFID is not supporting it at present. Some time ago Muslim Aid gathered some 50 tonnes of assorted goods and medicines from the British Moslem community and asked DFID to fly that out to Albania. We had to inform them that we already had non-stop flights to the region and we had warehouses which were already crammed full of supplies. That is why our consistent message to the British people--who have been magnificent in their response to this crisis--is that it is better to supply cash rather than goods.

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As to my noble friend's other question about contracting arrangements, we have undertaken to have a meeting with Muslim Aid and other agencies once the crisis is over.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, is the Minister aware that among the refugees in the camps are many people with skills that are needed--doctors, nurses, teachers, those with previous administrative experience--and whose skills are not currently being used? Would it not be sensible, as far as is possible, to encourage self-help and self-management for as long as the refugee camps continue?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Lord. Efforts have been made to utilise local skills, particularly in respect of doctors, at the various refugee camps. I am aware that that effort will continue. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, will be aware that there are difficulties in terms of managing that kind of effort, but it is something we will continue to do.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, can the Minister say whether there is effective international monitoring of financial and other practical assistance destined for refugees to ensure that they benefit from it and that it is not diverted to other less deserving channels?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we consistently monitor our assistance as part of our on-going effort. We make every effort to ensure that development and humanitarian assistance are targeted towards places of greatest need and are not diverted.

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, how many Kosovar refugees have arrived in the United Kingdom so far? What measures are being taken to ensure that children are reunited with their families?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, our top priority has been to ensure that, in the main, Kosovar refugees receive care in the region. We are conscious that refugees have said to us time and time again that they would prefer to stay within the region in order that they can easily return home. Having said that, we have worked with UNHCR in terms of indicating the United Kingdom's willingness to accept refugees on the basis of agreed criteria. As to numbers, 645 refugees had arrived by Sunday, 9th May; one plane arrived on Tuesday, 11th May; and another plane is expected today. I should also say to my noble friend Lord Ahmed that to help facilitate the move of refugees from the region to here, a Home Office team arrived in Macedonia on 9th May to assist UNHCR with the processing.

The Earl of Drogheda: My Lords, do the Government accept as a duty that they and the allies must provide humanitarian aid to all the victims of this war, not simply to the Kosovars?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, our humanitarian policy is carried out on the basis of need. If there is a need in

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the region we will try to ensure that we deal with it as best we can. The noble Earl will be aware that in Kosovo itself we are unable to do anything as we do not have access.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, is the Minister satisfied with the proportion of European humanitarian aid which is using locally contracted services? There seems to be a problem in that area. If the noble Baroness does not know the answer, will she look into the matter and let the House know?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, that as far as I am aware the commitment of the UK Government to local procurement is shared by the European Commission. I will happily write to the noble Baroness if I find that there is anything I can add to my answer.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, what criteria do the Government use to select the refugees who come into this country?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the criteria are as follows: that evacuation is on an entirely voluntary basis; that we respect the need for family unity; that priority is given to the most vulnerable refugees; that consideration is given to family links for refugees who already have contacts within the United Kingdom; and that refugees must be medically fit to sustain travel.

Lord Elton: My Lords, can the noble Baroness comment further on the supplementary question of my noble friend Lady Rawlings which drew attention to the extraordinary difference between the costs of meals provided from Bulgaria and those provided from Germany? Presumably there would be an enormous increase in the amount of food available if the source of supply were changed. Is this under consideration?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I hope I made it clear in my original Answer that there is a very strong commitment to purchasing locally. However, we have to recognise that in doing that the countries in the region have to feed and clothe their local populations. There is a trade-off to be made here.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, following on from that last point, does the noble Baroness agree that the people of Albania and Macedonia are carrying a very sizeable share of the responsibility? Are the Government doing anything to support the host families, who I gather are helped by the Churches in this country?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, it is important that we pay tribute to the host families which have taken in refugees in those countries. The Government are working with organisations such as the Red Cross to give support to such families in the region and we will continue to monitor the situation.

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House of Lords Bill

3.37 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 71:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) There shall be an Appointments Commission.
(2) The function of the Appointments Commission is to make recommendations to Her Majesty for the conferment of life peerages in accordance with the Life Peerages Act 1958.
(3) The Appointments Commission shall ensure that following the passing of this Act persons representing--
(a) agriculture, and
(b) rural affairs,
are recommended to Her Majesty for appointment to the House of Lords under the provisions of the Life Peerages Act 1958.")

The noble Lord said: My main interest in the Bill is to try to extract from the Government what is to be the future, if any, of the House. I doubt whether it will come as any surprise to the Committee that I am most concerned that there should be agricultural and rural representation in any interim or future House. I hope that the Government are aware of the strong feeling that rural and, in particular, agricultural interests have been, and are, being ignored by the Government. As evidence of that I draw attention to the demonstrations which have taken place during the past two years. All the demonstrations have been peaceful but that should not disguise the strength of feeling. I move the amendment in order to obtain a constructive reply from the Government that the agricultural and rural voice will be heard loud and clear in any future Chamber.

The amendment goes wider than agriculture. It deals with a problem which cannot be answered unless we know the Government's intentions as to the job of the House in the future. Obviously, they would prefer a unicameral system.

My interest is in the small print of legislation. Is it the Government's wish that the reformed House, interim or final, should have as its primary job revising and improving legislation? If so, some of its Members should surely be drawn from certain sectors of our national life or economy. The amendment suggests that agriculture should be one of them.

The point was made firmly and well by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern in chapter 27 of his report. I therefore find it difficult to accept that the House should be 100 per cent elected. However, I believe, for credibility's sake, part should be democratically elected, apart from the fact that it would

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be in line with the Labour Party's manifesto that the Government keep shoving down my throat, or the bits of it that they wish me to eat.

The amendment seeks to point out that minority interests have always been represented in your Lordships' House. Sadly, I have to accept that agriculture is now a minority interest. There is little knowledge of it in the Commons. The Welsh Office, in its explanatory notes on the Welsh Assembly, made no mention of agriculture, although there was the usual platitudinous waffle about the environment. The situation in your Lordships' House has been totally different. Many noble Lords have farming interests. That fact was mentioned and, I think, disliked by the Leader of the House. It was well illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, last time we were in Committee. He stated that the greatest number of hereditary Peers--seven--served on Sub-committee D which was chaired at one time by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. Most agriculture Peers here have done their stint on that committee.

The amendment asks who will do the vital job of revising legislation. It is not vote-catching. A study of the Commons Committee proceedings proves that. It seemed to me that 90 per cent of the time was devoted to points of order.

As we all know, the devil is always in the detail. That is the case with agriculture. Look at the ghastly mess the European Union has made of the common agricultural policy or the hilarious muddle the Government have got into--dare I say it?--over beef on the bone. There have also been the rules about animal cleanliness, demanding the impossible task of shearing cattle's stomachs before slaughter, which no sensible, reasonable or practical farmer would attempt to do. My experience is that your Lordships have dealt with such technical matters conscientiously and well. The amendment is designed to ensure that the future House does the job as well, if not better.

Committee stage in your Lordships' House has not been marked or muddied by party politics. I fear that that will not be so in the future. Each party will nominate full-time party hacks who will have to promise to turn up, regardless of their lack of knowledge of a particular subject. I accept that I am flogging my own horse and there will be no room for amateurs or amateur backwoodsmen such as myself. The House will consist of those who possibly have little experience of outside life. They will be political animals who believe that the sun shines out of their backsides. Sadly, as we all learn, the sun shines out of none of our backsides.

I am therefore anxious to know the Government's view on how they intend to address such problems. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness: I support my noble friend, but before going further perhaps I may make a plea to the Leader of the House. For the first three days of Committee many of us tried to get the Government to enter into discussions but were met with the stonewall

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answer that it was not in the manifesto. That seemed to end discussion. After the reversal of the Government's policy with the acceptance of the Weatherilll amendment, I had hoped that we would enter into discussion on Tuesday evening. Perhaps the emotion of voting against the holy grail of the manifesto proved too much and we were not constructive.

Although it is a great honour and privilege to have one's amendment answered by the noble Baroness, it would make us happier and the proceedings more pleasurable if we received answers to our questions. It is in that spirit and with that intention that I put forward views on the amendments tabled today. I hope that the Government will be more forthcoming than to date.

The amendment can be divided into two parts. One is the function of the appointments committee in making recommendations. It may be helpful if we do not discuss that specifically and take that part of the amendment later when we discuss the appointments committee more generally. It seems to fit better there.

Therefore, the vein of my argument now is to support my noble friend in his request that the minority interests of agriculture and the countryside are represented in any future Chamber. There are one or two notable exceptions on the Benches opposite, but by and large the Labour Party is not--

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