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The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Baroness for giving fuller and more regular Statements on Kosovo. I look forward to hearing more over the coming weeks, because it is not yet over. However, could she undertake to consult with colleagues about giving us a fuller humanitarian Statement? After all, the United Nations are just as accountable as our own Armed Forces and diplomats. We need, for example, to have an up-to-date account on how the UNHCR will manage to receive refugees both in neighbouring states and in Kosovo. Will it be the lead agency or will we see the office of co-ordination of humanitarian affairs play a more active role? The noble Baroness may not be able to answer that question now.

Finally, I also thank the noble Baroness for the statement of the new contribution from the Department for International Development. I know that will be warmly received by the refugees as and when it arrives in material form.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for his congratulations on the extra aid. I am sure we are all

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very pleased that the Secretary of State at the Department for International Development has been able to secure it.

The DfID produces each day a statement about the numbers of displaced people. I refer to those who have gone to the camps in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania and, indeed, those who have been airlifted out of the whole region. I do not know whether the noble Lord has access to such statements but they are readily available. They are usually accompanied by an update of the latest humanitarian relief received not just from the United Kingdom but from all the countries which have been concerned to co-ordinate over humanitarian relief. I am sure that if the noble Earl contacts the DfID, he will be able to receive such updates.

However, I take the point that what he really wants is for us to have a fuller debate in your Lordships' House on that subject. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, also indicated his desire to have more of a debate about the whole of this issue, of which I am sure the humanitarian aid issues would be part. I do not have the authority at the Dispatch Box to say that I think that would be a good idea, but I am sure it will be sorted out by the usual channels in their usual efficient way.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House a little more about the setting up of a unified civilian authority in Kosovo? I understand that the United Nations resolution under which it will be set up is our sole legal basis for being there at all. Therefore, everything depends upon getting it right. How far has the planning proceeded in the construction of that authority? What relations are intended between it and NATO on the one hand and the Russian force on the other; whether it remains of a joke-size like now or becomes a more serious matter?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the UN Under Secretary-General, Vieira de Mello, has been appointed by the Secretary-General as his special representative on Kosovo as an interim measure. There is no decision as to the long-term appointment, but an interim appointment has already been made.

The UN will lead, devolving certain tasks to other agencies who have particular expertise to ensure success in meeting its objectives. The European Commission will take the lead on economic reconstruction and, as I indicated a few moments ago, the OSCE will deal with civic society and the election arrangements. The head of mission will be accountable to the Secretary-General of the UN and to the Security Council. Therefore, the point made by the noble Lord about integrating others into the arrangements will be covered by the arrangements of reporting and accountability.

We believe that the key is to get the civil implementation structures established quickly so that the military can progressively hand over responsibility. I am sure that is an aim to which all your Lordships would adhere. The priorities are policing, which is a United Nations lead; secondly, the war crimes and we have already spoken about how vital it is that the ICTY personnel get into Kosovo quickly and they are already

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working with KFOR; and, thirdly, de-mining, which is a very important point and KFOR will clear mines and unexploded ordnance to the extent needed by the forces deployed throughout Kosovo. Our colleagues in the DfID will be assisting with the de-mining effort and working with the UN and NGOs. There is then the lead that will be taken by the UNHCR in the refugee returns.

Those are the main priorities that the civic implementation plan sets itself.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, if I understood the noble Baroness correctly, she suggested that it is not helpful for us to explore any further the question of the Russian seizure of Pristina airport. With respect, I beg to differ with her. That event holds potential for future trouble in view of the light that it throws on Russian attitudes and concerns. It is therefore important that it should be satisfactorily and quickly resolved.

Since this coup is entirely characteristic of President Yeltsin, and since the international agreements and the United Nations resolution do not spell out a clear role for Russian forces, it is surprising that this event was not anticipated by NATO. The noble Baroness said that our forces could not have gone in before the Russians arrived because the Yugoslav forces were still surrounding the airport. Is she suggesting that if we had landed a battalion of paratroopers on the airport at that time, they would have been forcibly resisted by the Yugoslav forces despite the fact that the international agreements had already been signed and the United Nations resolution passed? Or is she suggesting that the Yugoslav forces were in complicity with the Russian forces whereas they would not have been with ours?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I did not suggest for a moment that we should not hasten to resolve the issue of Pristina airport. Indeed, the Statement I repeated on behalf of my right honourable friend made it clear that discussions took place this morning on that very issue and that General Sir Michael Jackson is optimistic about resolving it. The issue that I suggested it was not entirely helpful for my noble friend Lord Ponsonby to air was why this happened in the first place.

I do not know the operational military instructions of the Russians. The noble Lord seems to suggest that we should have anticipated this happening. One might anticipate all sorts of things. I do not know whether or not it was anticipated. As I understand it, the airport was surrounded by VJ troops. The noble Lord suggests that perhaps we should have taken them on. But to put ourselves in so much confrontation was not necessarily the sensible course of action. The sensible thing was to do what was done; that is, to ensure that this was resolved properly and constructively through sensible discussion in the way that we have resolved all our other difficulties, not by possibly precipitating or provoking some kind of action.

This is an extremely delicate, difficult task in getting not only the NATO countries to co-ordinate over the KFOR, but ensuring that Russia too has the confidence to be part of KFOR. We very much hope that there will

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be more Russian troops, but the noble Lord understands that this is an extremely difficult task and must be undertaken with due diplomatic sensitivity.

Greater London Authority Bill

5.44 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 2.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 2, line 2, leave out ("twenty five") and insert ("forty")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 8, 18, 20 and 22. To explain briefly, Amendment No. 5 seeks to increase the number of members of the assembly from 25 to 40; Amendment No. 8 seeks to provide that the constituencies will be determined by the Local Government Commission; Amendment No. 18 seeks to remove the requirement for 14 constituencies; Amendments No. 20 seeks to remove the requirement that each constituency will comprise of two or more entire boroughs; and Amendment No. 22 seeks to remove the requirement that no borough is included in more than one constituency.

Amendment No. 5 is related to the amendments in the next group dealing with the electoral system. It is not easy to see where the dividing line should be drawn between the different amendments. The thrust of these amendments is to increase the size of the assembly. We chose the figure of 40 in part because that number would be sufficient for an electoral system based on the single transferable vote to work. But that comes in a later group. The increase will also mean greater representation of Londoners but that is not the main point that I wish to make.

The main issue, quite simply, is that we believe that 25 assembly members is not enough to do the job that will be required of them. We understand that the Government designed a lean and mean assembly. That language may not appear in any governmental publication. I am simply not sure where it comes from now because it has become so accepted a description of the proposed assembly. But 40 is not a great number. In fact it is considerably less than the size of some London borough councils. If nothing else in the Bill were to be changed with regard to the assembly's functions and operations, we still believe that 25 is too few. I make this point because it relates to points that we will make on later Committee days with regard to what the assembly should do.

The assembly's job in the Bill as drafted is to scrutinise the exercise of the Minister's functions and to conduct investigations into London issues. It is also to consider the budget for the GLA and other functional bodies. It can also overrule the mayor's proposals by a two-thirds majority. I shall take first a point with regard to the majority, though not perhaps the main point. Two-thirds of 25 is 17 and one might ask whether 17 is adequate on the model proposed. Conversely, and

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perhaps more importantly, is eight, one-third, too few to support the mayor's proposals? The proposal for 40 would mean equivalent numbers of 27 and 13.

The job is not to make policy; it is to scrutinise. But each assembly member will have to cover a wide subject area. The members will have to acquire a detailed knowledge of each subject, both in breadth and depth. I anticipate that they are likely to specialise to some extent, both in the areas scrutinised and in the functions; and of course they will provide membership of certain bodies. The Metropolitan Police Authority is to include 12 assembly members and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Body is to include nine. Out of the 25 there will be the deputy mayor and the chair and deputy chair of the assembly. Those members will have less time--perhaps in the case of the deputy mayor, no time--for the scrutiny of functions. I am, in short, suggesting that London may not be served by having quite so lean a body.

It is not just a question of becoming familiar with the subject; there is also the issue of group dynamics, interplay with other members within the assembly as a whole and perhaps within each political group. However, as I said, we hope that the assembly will work in a constructive and co-operative manner. There will be political groups, and, even if no group has an overall majority, there will be dynamics within each group which will feed into the way the assembly operates.

It is important that when the assembly meets in plenary session or when groups of assembly members meet there are enough members to enable ideas to be bounced off one another. In that way the contribution will be more effective than on an individual basis.

It is envisaged that there will be constituency members as well as London members. Although we support a constituency comprising more than one borough, it is still likely that there will be a local interest and that the member will spend some time on local issues, because that is in the nature of both politics and human behaviour. That may also reduce the time available for the scrutiny function.

We are not suggesting that the time of assembly members will be best spent sitting in committees. The organisation of the authority will mean a move away from behaviour that tends to give politics a bad name, as if the ivory tower--in this case the headland--is complete in itself and does not need to relate to the world outside. I do not believe that that will happen for one moment because London is big in terms of area and population and members will have to become familiar with London and the surrounding areas. They will therefore be able to properly consider whether London is appropriately relating to those surrounding areas. Therefore, to cover the ground in every sense, we believe that there should be a number greater than 25. I beg to move.


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