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Lord Carter: My Lords, at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in December, the council unanimously agreed a food aid programme for the Russian Federation. Supplies consist of: 1 million tonnes of wheat; half a million tonnes of rye; 50,000 tonnes of

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rice; 150,000 tonnes of beef; 100,000 tonnes of pork; and 50,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder. Supplies are being drawn from intervention stocks, except for the pigmeat, which is being sourced on the open market--without any obvious effect on the UK pig price at present. The food is being supplied in five tranches. Half has been mobilised and is on its way; the intention is that the rest will be delivered by September. As to the UK proportion, we have offered 30,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder; so far, 6,000 tonnes have been supplied.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, when will the independent unit to which the noble Lord referred begin its work? What is its brief in regard to monitoring the food getting through to people in that country? Perhaps the noble Lord will confirm my understanding that the delay is not at the EU end but at the Russian end, and that therefore the new independent unit is of vital importance.

Lord Carter: My Lords, on the question of delay, the food programme was suspended on 4th February this year because of questions raised by both Russia and the EU about quality, health, transport and origin. There were also technical difficulties within the EU in relation to receipt of the initial tender bids for delivery of the food aid to Russian ports. We have learnt a great deal following the problems in 1991 and 1992. It is significant that there is now an independent agency comprising two companies reporting on the movement of goods from the European Union to the Russian border, and an independent monitor comprising three companies--one British, one Dutch and one Danish--all of whom have the job of reporting to the Commission. On the question of the date, I do not know. I will write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Americans have over 300 officials on the ground in Russia to make sure that their aid gets through to the people for whom it is intended, whereas the European Union appears to have only a handful? In view of the huge tonnages and figures that the noble Lord has given for this aid, how can he convince the House that it would not be better to send all our aid on a bilateral basis rather than most of it through the well known incompetence and fraud of the European Commission?

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am aware of the noble Lord's interest. I think that he has delivered himself into my hands. The US is providing 3 million tonnes of food compared with the figures that I have given. The US has 300 people there and 300 people are involved in the programme on the EU side, including Commission staff but mainly the commercial agencies appointed to control the flow of food from the EU to the Russian border and the independent monitor appointed to report on distribution in Russia. We are providing the same number of staff for the aid that I described as the Americans.

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The West Lothian Question

3 p.m.

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How, following the first elections to the Scottish Parliament, they plan to answer the West Lothian question.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, the Government's position on the so-called West Lothian question was clearly stated during debates on the Scotland Act and has not been changed by the elections which took place on 6th May. We believe that the further development of regional government in England, where there is a demand for it, an adjustment to the number of Members representing Scottish seats in another place and the development of Westminster procedures, as is presently being considered by the Procedure Committee in another place, provide between them as much of an Answer as the Question requires.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that ingenious reply. Does he agree that although the English appear to be acquiescent right now, once they start to realise how disadvantaged they will be under the new dispensation compared with the Scots they will rapidly, and justifiably, begin to become extremely resentful? Would not the simplest solution be to establish a convention whereby Scottish Members of the Westminster Parliament automatically abstain from voting on purely English domestic matters, as was proposed, most recently, by Sir Teddy Taylor in the other place eight days ago?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, the point which was made during one of the debates on the Scotland Act was that during the period of the Stormont government this Parliament did not seem to be too concerned about the East Antrim question. Therefore, the idea that a new constitutional anomaly is being introduced is totally without foundation. This Parliament has proved that it can handle constitutional innovation in a way that protects its integrity.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, how can the noble Lord possibly justify a situation in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have an absolute say over the local government settlement in England but none whatever over his own constituents in Dunfermline? How can he also justify that the newly-appointed Minister of Transport will dictate policy on the development of roads in England but will have no say whatever over her own constituents in Scotland?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, very easily. With reference to my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mrs Helen Liddell, the noble Lord

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must recognise that we are the Government of the United Kingdom and will use the talents of the UK to best effect to ensure that the best people are doing the right jobs.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, is it not a reflection of the native abilities of the Scots that they now have six seats in the Cabinet in addition to running their own affairs in Scotland?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, that may well be the case, but what happens to Scottish Office Ministers is a matter of some concern.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, have the Government considered what appears to be the least unsatisfactory solution, which is a combination of what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said about Scottish Members not voting on matters that do not apply to Scotland and a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster? Are the Government relieved that proposals for an English parliament are unlikely to find favour as the muddles and squabbles in the present devolved Parliament in Edinburgh are observed over the coming years?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, the noble Lord has an ability to foresee the future that I do not pretend to have. We made clear at the time of the debates on the Scotland Bill that an inevitable consequence of devolution in Scotland would be a proper adjustment to Scottish representation in the other place. That seems to me to be a fair and reasonable way forward. There are other considerations at work: the deliberations of the Procedure Committee of another place and how best our Parliament can adjust to the reality of devolution. What I hope to see in Scotland is a way forward that is based on recognising the diversity of the United Kingdom and getting parties to work together in the common interests of Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, can my noble friend give the House an assurance that the West Lothian question does not apply to Wales?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, on the basis of geography at the very least, yes.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the best answer to the West Lothian question is devolution within England so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not decide every detail of local authority expenditure? Can we look forward to home rule for Yorkshire in the Government's future legislative programme?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I refer the noble Lord to my original Answer, in which I drew attention to the Government's commitment to the further development of regional government in England, where there is a demand for it. I believe that that is one of the ways

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in which we can achieve a more symmetrical form of devolution within the United Kingdom, and it is to be welcomed.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, is it not a fact that some Members of your Lordships' House have stood for and been elected to the Scottish Parliament and, therefore, they will be able to consider matters relating to Scotland? Is it not also a fact that those Members, including the Speaker of the Scottish Parliament, can come to England, enter your Lordships' House, join in all the hurdy-gurdy of party politics and take part in English matters? The Minister seems to find all these matters peculiarly easy. That is a simplicity which some of us do not quite follow. Will he admit that, at least in schoolboy language, it is unfair?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, not at all. It is true that this House provided the presiding officers for the three territorial assemblies and parliaments, and I rejoice in that. I believe that if Members of this House who are also members of these territorial parliaments decide to make a contribution to the deliberations of this House we should listen very carefully to what they say.


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