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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that this matter has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Ministers, so the new Bill in the next Session will not include Scotland?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we are examining that issue and do not believe that it should present a problem. In fact, it may be of help to point out to your Lordships that Scotland does not have an offence of buggery with a woman, so females there would not be affected by changes in the Bill.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, it seems that the Minister is unable to answer the question about organisations which were consulted and the view of the Women's National Commission. Therefore, will he write to me about that?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, of course. I should have made that plain because the noble Baroness's question was perfectly courteous and to the point, as always. I shall answer her question more widely than the particular focus of it, dependent on the answers which I receive to the research. As always, I shall place a copy in the Library.

Single European Currency: Non-partisan Statement of Arguments

3 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : My Lords, the Government have already published a report by my noble friend Lord Currie entitled The Pros and Cons of Emu. We agree that the issues surrounding UK membership of the single currency need to be widely understood and debated. That is why we published the Treasury's assessment of the five economic tests setting out the conditions which must be met before the UK could join a successful single currency. The Government have no plans to arrange for the publication of a document by an outside body.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his Answer today shows a very modest improvement in relation to the Question which I now raise for the third time? One must regret that the noble Lord is not allowed, perhaps, to use his own intelligence

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and skills in handling this matter rather than being forced to comply with the regiment of spin doctors who contrive to cloud counsel.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, on two previous occasions, the noble Lord complained that I did not answer the Question. He is now acknowledging, I think, that I did answer the Question, but he does not like the Answer.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, if my noble friend cannot be rather more positive to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, as a matter of saving time and expense, will he consider giving the utmost publicity to the recent IMF report No. 44 of 1999, published a week or so ago, which, at pages 51 to 67, set out the IMF's complete view of the single currency, for and against, in so far as it affects Great Britain? Is it not in the interests of the general public that the Government should permit, and indeed encourage, the publication and dissemination of a source of information which has hitherto been regarded by them with very great respect?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend's assiduity is a credit to him and he does a service to the House. I am sure that the publicity which he has now given to the IMF report will help it to be more widely known. Certainly, we have no intention of doing anything other than encouraging the kind of debate in which the IMF has participated.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, may I commend to the noble Lord the course of action which was followed for the referendum in 1975 of eventually allowing both sides to put their case to all the people of the country? That had the great advantage that rather than a so-called non-partisan point of view, which nobody would have trusted, both sides were given the clear opportunity to put their case. It is true that the compelling and conclusive arguments of those on the "yes" side carried the day, but that is no drawback from my point of view.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness is aware that the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life has made recommendations about the conduct of referendums. We have undertaken that a draft Bill and a White Paper on the subject will be published before the Summer Recess. Of course, the noble Baroness will recall also that the Neill Committee said that the Government are entitled, and indeed under a duty, to make their position clear in relation to the referendum.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, did the noble Lord have an opportunity yesterday morning to see his colleague, the Leader of another place, on television? She appeared, during the course of that interview, to sign up fully to the Conservative Party's present policy on European and monetary union. She implied that

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before a referendum is held and a decision made by the Government, at least one more Parliament should elapse. Will the noble Lord confirm that the Government have performed that U-turn in the past 24 hours?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did not see the broadcast and I am astonished by the noble Viscount's interpretation. The Government have been absolutely consistent in their view and I am not aware of any change.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, is it not apparent that the Chancellor's conditions are easy to fudge, even more so than the original Maastricht criteria which a number of those joining the single currency clearly fudged? More particularly, is it not important that the Government should set out not only the ways in which we should prepare if we decide to join the single currency but, equally, the ways in which we should prepare if we decide not to join? Is not the bias in the Government's present approach very dangerous?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No, my Lords. The best expression of the Government's point of view was that of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 23rd February. He said in relation to the economic conditions that our inflation performance is consistent with the ECB's definition of price stability but that it is essential that convergence is settled and sustainable, and that we cannot yet say that. When the Government believe that we can say that, we shall make up our mind on the point. We shall then take the steps which we have undertaken to pursue on many occasions. We shall seek the agreement of Parliament and then of the people in a referendum. That time has not yet been reached, as the Prime Minister made clear.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister not agree, however, that Ministers are as incapable of giving an objective analysis of the issue as Business for Sterling? What is the reason for that strenuous objection to an independent, serious analysis of what would happen to Britain if it did go in and what would happen if it did not, so that there is some objective, non-partisan view. I speak as someone involved with one side of this argument. The suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that anyone in the street reads the two-sides case which will give them a blinding insight into the whole issue is fanciful. There is a need for an independent analysis.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I should have thought that there had been a plethora of statements on the pros and cons of our joining the European currency. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, asked me whether the Government would arrange for a non-partisan view. Surely, by definition, a non-partisan view arises from the general quality and standard of public debate. It is not for the Government either to take over such a debate or to attempt to suppress it.

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3.7 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 4.30 p.m., my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the freedom of information draft Bill.

Road Traffic (Vehicle Testing) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Draft Local Government (Functions and Standards) Bill

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That this House do concur with the Commons in their message of 21st May that it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider the draft Local Government (Functions and Standards) Bill published in the Command Paper entitled Local Leadership, Local Choice (Cm 4298), and that the committee should report by 31st July 1999.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Rating (Valuation) Bill

Lord Carter: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Rating (Valuation) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Read a third time, and passed.

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