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The Conservative Party has argued that to leave out paragraph (b) and to substitute "quality of life" are two factors which completely hang together. I suggest that the right course for the Committee to undertake is to reject Amendment No. 72 but to accept Amendment No. 73, regarding them not as alternatives but as additions.
In another place a Conservative Member said that in his view social development was a loaded, left-wing term and also a meaningless expression. I am not sure whether those two statements are compatible. Perhaps they are. However, when it came to the Government's response neither the Minister in another place nor the Minister here replied to the whole point about adding in "quality of life". I do not believe that those two amendments necessarily hang together; that if one is accepted, the other must be accepted or vice versa. I suggest that we reject Amendment No. 72 and accept Amendment No. 73 or, if not that, that the Minister should apply himself to answering the point that adding "quality of life" is very important.
We all know what quality of life is. We all want to get away from a complete reliance on quantitative management towards quality of management. It is not necessarily true that the desire for the improvement of the environment and quality of life are incompatible. The point was made from the Conservative Front Bench that if you improve the environment by getting rid of cars, for example, you necessarily lower people's quality of life. I argue strongly against that. Although some people may be given a disadvantage in quantitative matters, nevertheless, everybody's quality of life would be improved if the number of cars in the capital was reduced. The question about quality of life has not been answered. I hope that the Minister will do so before we conclude this debate.
Lord Whitty: I apologise to the Committee in the sense that I thought that there was some sequential logic in the Conservative amendments. Indeed, it is intended that we should delete "social development" and substitute "quality of life" in the subsequent clause. It is my view that if the words "quality of life" are added to "the environment", that rather reduces the scope for quality of life. Quality of life arises in terms of economic, social development and environmental objectives. Therefore, it runs through them all. However, it is covered also by the combination of them.
My objection to the cumulative logic of the noble Baroness's amendments was that replacing "social development" would take out an enormous part of that general contribution towards improving quality of life. Simply attaching it to the "environment" is not an appropriate use of the term.
Baroness Hamwee: I agree with my noble friend that there is a point to be made in relation to this issue. As regards the quality of life, have the Government carried out an audit of the purposes as set out in the Bill against the Secretary of State's quality of life indicators published fairly recently? I do not suggest--and I do not suppose that the Minister suggests--that they are exclusive of other indicators of quality and are immutable for all time; but that is an interesting approach to the subject. Is the Minister confident that without the words, the Bill would meet those objectives?
"will further any ... of its principal purposes". I believe that the power of the authority should be spelt out in the Bill. Bills are not usually left open so that bodies can do whatever they consider to be appropriate for their purposes. Had the provision been spelt out we would not have had to go through the paraphernalia in Clause 26(7), (8) and (9) where suddenly the Secretary of State deals with the limitations of power. I believe that this peculiar system is unnecessary.
Clause 25(1) is inappropriate because it is too wide and does not apply to other Bills. The Minister said that I should not be suspicious, but the note in the margin refers to the general power of the authority. I believe that in such a huge Bill we are entitled to have further explanation, and I believe that the powers referred to in our amendment will be considered carefully as the Bill goes through this House in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading. I believe that there is a great deal of merit in our amendment, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw it.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, before we move to the Statements on Kosovo and the G8 Summit and the City of London demonstration, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on the Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:
"Ninety days after our military action began I can now tell the House that all Serb forces have withdrawn from Kosovo. This is a huge achievement. Many observers in this country and this House were sceptical it would ever be achieved. NATO's unity, the determination to prevail and the professionalism of our forces under General Sir Mike Jackson have proved them wrong. Milosevic's forces are out. Our forces are in and soon the refugees will go home. Some are already returning, despite the risks. I met the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the margins of the summit. The organised return of the refugees will begin on 1st July.
"Kosovo was discussed extensively at the G8 Summit and two important advances were tied down during the weekend. First, agreement was reached on Russian participation in KFOR. Russia will supply up to 3,600 troops for a force which is planned to reach some 50,000. They will have areas of operation in three different sectors rather than being concentrated in one area. Russia will provide a deputy to the commander in each sector where they are at present and Russian troops will be integrated into the unified force with command and control arrangements very similar to those for Russian troops in the NATO-led forces in Bosnia.
"Secondly, late last night the Kosovo Liberation Army signed an undertaking with the KFOR Commander General Mike Jackson to hand in their weapons and to demilitarise their organisation. I want to pay tribute to John Reith, the British NATO general in charge of the NATO force in Albania, who conducted these difficult and complex negotiations so well. The KLA has agreed that within seven days its forces will gather in assembly areas. Within 30 days, all prohibited weapons, with the exception of automatic small arms, will be handed in. Automatic small arms will be handed in in phases over 90 days, after which time the assembly areas will come under the full control of the KFOR commander and all KLA members have to cease wearing their uniforms and insignia. The KLA will then be demilitarised.
"The progress made in the few days since Milosevic finally caved in has been extraordinary: on the withdrawal of Serb forces; on the deployment of ours; on the role of the Russians; and now the agreement to demilitarise the KLA. This is a remarkable story. Britain and British forces can be very proud of their role in it.
"But another far worse story is unfolding as the true horrors that Kosovo has lived through come to light. I warned the House that we would be shocked by what we found when we finally entered Kosovo. So it has proved: torture chambers, organised rape, the butchering of children. Massacre, after massacre, after massacre. If ever justification was needed for the military campaign, the whole world has seen it now. The war crimes investigators have a massive task before them. But let no one think that Serbia can regain a place among civilised nations while it is led by an indicted war criminal.
"And I say this to the Serb people: the world cannot help you to rebuild your country while Milosevic is at its head. And nor will the world understand, as the full extent of these atrocities is revealed, if you just turn a blind eye to the truth and pretend that it is nothing to do with you. This is your country. The evil was carried out by your soldiers and by your leaders.
"But to the rest of the region it is clear from the G8 Summit that the international community will stand by the promises we made to them. The countries of the region stood with us, without compromise, during this conflict. We owe them a debt. We made a pledge to help rebuild the regions, and we will stand by that pledge. We want to rebuild the Balkans,
"I met President Yeltsin and the new Russian Prime Minister, Mr Stephashin, at the summit. President Yeltsin and I agreed to put our recent difficulties behind us and, in his words, make our relations stronger together. Russia played a vital part in the successful resolution of this conflict and I am sure that this House will join me in thanking Russia's leaders for the part they played.
"Events in Kosovo inevitably dominated the media coverage. But the summit at Cologne covered a range of other issues which are of huge political and economic significance for all of our countries, including the environment, non-proliferation and the killer diseases of AIDS and malaria.
"But for me most important of all was the progress we were able to announce on third world debt. Britain has long been in the forefront of the international effort to release the poorest countries of the world from the chains of massive debt. At Birmingham last year we pledged to support the speedy extension of debt relief to more countries. My right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development have worked hard with Church leaders, Jubilee 2000, Oxfam, Comic Relief and others to secure the most generous package possible.
"The measures leaders adopted in Cologne mark a significant step forward. They will reduce the debt of the world's poorest countries by an extra 70 billion dollars, on top of further traditional debt relief of 30 billion dollars; and help more countries to qualify for highly indebted poor countries' debt relief, by making the debt sustainability criteria more generous.
"We also took steps to ensure that the new HIPC scheme will deliver debt relief more quickly. We will ensure that countries feel the full benefits of debt relief after a maximum of just three years, rather than six as now. We have agreed that the World Bank and the IMF should take steps to ensure that at least three-quarters of eligible countries get the benefits of debt relief by the end of next year: and in principle we agreed a new public-private partnership in the fight against poverty in the developing world by inviting the private sector to contribute voluntarily to a new millennium fund.
"I would like to see us go further still on debt. It is an issue whose time has come. I will personally do whatever I can to make it happen, But the impact of the agreements we reached this weekend should not be underestimated. Over two-thirds of the official debt owed by the world's poorest countries will now be completely written off.
"Most countries at the summit were able to report improved economic prospects for the year ahead, particularly Japan. But the lessons of last year's financial crisis must be properly learnt. We were able to announce at the summit a six-point plan for strengthening the international financial system, including measures to increase the effectiveness of the IMF and the other international financial institutions; proposals to promote transparency and best practice, with the IMF monitoring compliance with new codes and standards; and a new framework for involving the private sector in crisis prevention and management.
"Many of these proposals reflect ideas that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have put forward over the last year. Once fully implemented, they will transform the rules of the game in the global financial markets. Taken together, I have no doubt that they will greatly strengthen the efficiency and robustness of the international financial system.
"These reforms will need to be accompanied by a continuing world-wide effort to reduce barriers to trade. The millennium trade round to be launched at this year's WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle represents a key opportunity. We agreed at Cologne that the new round should be broad-based and ambitious. It must also deliver substantial benefits for the developing world.
"We also committed ourselves to a science-based, rules-based approach in dealing with the impact of biotechnology. As part of a joint initiative including the UK, the G8 agreed to ask OECD experts to study the issues raised by recent developments in biotechnology and other aspects of food safety. We need to look at whether the current regulatory and institutional framework can be strengthened. Next year's summit will return to this.
"Finally, I was pleased that we were able to spend some time at the summit on the key domestic policy challenge of our time--how to equip all of our citizens to survive and prosper in the knowledge-based economy of the future. Education and lifelong learning are the passport to success in today's global economy. They are also the foundations of a prosperous and just society, so I was delighted that other G8 leaders agreed to support the idea of a G8 charter on aims and ambitions for lifelong learning to underline our strong personal commitment to raising educational standards, not just in our own countries but across the globe.
"The summit in Cologne was attended by eight heads of government, but its significance was of much wider international importance. It was a meeting at which we were able to declare at last that the barbaric regime in Kosovo was at an end and that international peacekeepers were in place. It sent a message to the world that the forces of democracy and freedom have the will to face down tyranny. It was a meeting in which important opportunities were taken to reaffirm, in the aftermath of Kosovo, our close relationship with Russia; and it was also a
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made earlier by the Prime Minister. There is much in the Statement that we welcome, such as the commitment to enhancing world trade, and the promotion of non-proliferation and arms control. We on this side of the House would also like to join in the congratulations to the United Kingdom Armed Forces on the skill and steadfastness they have shown since this conflict began in Kosovo. I fear that they will need to draw deeply on those qualities in the weeks and months ahead. Can the noble Baroness undertake to the House that her noble friend Lord Gilbert will keep the House informed at all times of serious incidents involving British troops and, equally, that he will inform the House of any major changes in deployment or alterations to the rules of engagement? If the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, is not available, perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, can deal with these matters.
We also welcome the news of the demilitarisation of the KLA. Surely that is an essential feature of the re-establishment of the rule of law in any territory in which paramilitary armed forces have been operating.
Can the noble Baroness give the House an assurance that the handing over of heavy and light weapons will be enforced uniformly on the ground? Will she also accept that we join her in outright condemnation of the atrocities committed by Serb elements in Kosovo? If the Kosovar Albanians are to have confidence in the restoration of the rule of law, they must see that those responsible for these horrific crimes are swiftly brought to justice.
What information is there on the current position and numbers of Serbian refugees from Kosovo? To what extent can NATO offer those refugees a security guarantee; not least because of the strong line taken by the Serbian Orthodox Church against Mr Milosevic? Will the noble Baroness assure the House that the Orthodox holy places and ancient monasteries in Kosovo which are, I gather, world heritage sites, are under protection and will continue to be protected from any attacks?
Turning to the wider issues discussed at G8, is the noble Baroness aware that we welcome the rescheduling of Russia's debt repayments? Can she tell the House what is being done to assist reconstruction in those Russian provinces which are leading in implementing market reforms? As regards international debt, the Government are themselves indebted--at least they should be--to the leadership given by my right honourable friend Mr Major who secured the Trinidad terms during his government.
Is the noble Baroness also aware that we welcome responsible progress in that area? Can the Government ensure that those who benefit from the latest agreement are the people who live in the countries affected and not the many politicians in the political establishment, who run those countries and who caused many of the problems in the first place?
The summit set up two studies on GM foods. Why did the Prime Minister have to be bounced into these studies by other G8 countries? Has the noble Baroness drawn the Prime Minister's attention to the important recent debates which have taken place in this House on GM foods? Furthermore, is it not surprising that the Government have agreed to international studies, but have said that they cannot agree to the very simple Bill introduced by my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon, which would strengthen our own parliamentary scrutiny over the planting and commercial release of GM seeds and crops, and which urges a moratorium until current research is complete? Given that the Government have agreed to these international studies, it would have been wise to accept my noble friend's modest Bill to reassure people here at home and to give it the support that I believe it deserves not only in this House but also in another place.
I turn to the confused position of the Government on the question of the euro. In the past the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both said that they want, in principle, to abolish the pound. Is that still the case, or is this Labour Prime Minister belatedly discovering that the British people value the pound in their pockets? Did not the Prime Minister cause confusion at the Cologne Summit when he said that it would be daft to join the euro now and daft to set a time limit on entry? In other words, the Prime Minister is definite about being indefinite and undecided about whether to decide.
I also wonder whether the Prime Minister's Statement is a declaration of a policy of "dither and drift" on one of the most important questions before the nation. The noble Baroness will know that I do not always agree with the Prime Minister--in fact, I do not often agree with him at all. However, I believe that the spin around this summit shows that Mr Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, was right to say that the Prime Minister had abandoned any pretence at leadership on this issue.
Will the Government do anything to persuade the British people to join the euro over the next two years and, if so, what? If the Government will not be persuaders for the euro, will the noble Baroness confirm that spending on a national hand-over plan, which the British people do not want, will be shelved in favour of the British people's priorities?
Finally, what do the Government mean by their new condition on entry to the euro, that there must be reform in Europe, and to what reform do they refer? Perhaps the noble Baroness could write to me setting out this new condition in detail and place a copy in the Library of the House for the benefit of all noble Lords. Which regulations must be dropped? Which taxes should be lowered? Will that include, as I believe it should, the total rejection of a withholding tax? I wonder whether
Will the noble Baroness agree that, if he had spoken to small businessmen and businesswomen recently, the Government would not be trying to take refuge in empty and increasingly incredible words about flexibility which are totally at odds with the daily reality of small business life in this country? I welcome the noble Baroness's replies to these questions.
In May 1998, just over a year ago, I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the then Leader of the House, described the Birmingham Summit as moderately successful and useful, which I thought was a fair summary of a rather stalemate occasion. Judged by that description, I believe it is reasonable to call the Cologne Summit encouraging and better than most and, at a pinch--although time will show--I go along with the Prime Minister's own description of it as being successful and significant.
I also welcome, as do we all on these Benches, the understanding signed with the KLA. Can the noble Baroness say who will run the assembly areas for 90 days? Will those areas be free of Serbs and, if not, what protection, if any, can be expected from NATO? I believe that the noble Baroness will agree that it is very important to avoid further ambiguities in arrangements of this kind, there having been several in the past.
I agree almost entirely with the Prime Minister's assessment of NATO's achievement, an achievement accomplished not only by our own forces, but by all the forces of NATO. We must pay due tribute to what they are all doing at the moment in what are difficult circumstances. That achievement has been as remarkable since Milosevic's agreement as it was in the preceding period. We note what the Prime Minister calls the "true horrors" of Kosovo that are revealed every day. In our view, they entirely justify NATO's military campaign, painful though that was, involving the loss of innocent lives, as wars inevitably do.
As I understand it, the distinction was made by the Prime Minister--although he did not use such words--between humanitarian aid and aid for reconstruction. I believe that the Prime Minister was ambiguous or vague in his Statement on this matter. Will the noble Baroness make it quite clear, as we have been led to believe, that Serbia cannot expect any aid for reconstruction as long as Milosevic remains in power? If that is the case, how will the distinction be drawn between humanitarian aid and aid for reconstruction, to avoid arguments and the ambiguity to which I have already referred more than once?
The other main issue was that of world debt. I believe that last year there was a great deal of rhetoric. There appears to be some reality about the decisions that have been made this year. Perhaps I can ask the noble Baroness to explain what practical steps will now be taken to implement the decisions of the weekend and where precisely those costs will fall, as neither matter was mentioned in the Statement.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, ventured into the margins of the summit and remarks made by the Prime Minister on other matters. If they were properly reported, we on these Benches are much less happy about them than we are about the Statement as a whole. I await with interest the noble Baroness's reply to the question of whether the remarks mean a change of direction. I hope that the noble Baroness will say that they do not and that the Prime Minister remains committed to a referendum on the euro--sooner rather than later--and will play his full part now, as he should have done before, in trying to make clear to the country as a whole that there are strong arguments for joining the euro which have not been put in the past two years. That is one of the reasons why I believe that the elections 10 days ago were disastrous for the Government in an important respect.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their broad welcome of the Statement. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, for his generosity in some of the comments that he made about the leadership of the past few weeks, notably by my right honourable friend. I join, once again, both noble Lords in congratulating and expressing our gratitude to the British forces on conducting themselves so well during the previous period. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, they may well be entering the period of maximum danger and
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked me to maintain information to the House on the basis of the organisation of those peacekeeping forces, particularly our own forces within the NATO command. He will know that it is not usual practice for details of the rules of engagement to be discussed in an open forum, but I hope that he will accept that over the past few weeks my noble friends Lord Gilbert and Lady Symons have been assiduous in keeping the House informed as events progressed. I am sure that we shall be able to continue to do that, although the detailed arrangements will naturally be made through the usual channels.
Both noble Lords asked about the specific position relating to the Serbs in Kosovo. The latest estimate is that there are around 200,000 Serbs in Kosovo, although the number who have left in the past few days is extremely fluid. It would be stupid of me to hazard a guess as to the numbers in that regard because, as both noble Lords pointed out, there is a flow backwards and forwards across the border between Kosovo and Serbia. As they both said--again, rightly--there has been important encouragement, notably from the Church in Serbia, to encourage those Serbs who have left, or feel that they are under pressure to leave, to stay put in their homes.
I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the KFOR protection already in place has enabled Serbian people to go back to where they originally lived. That force understands that it has a responsibility to protect the Serbian population and to try as far as possible to maintain an ethnically multi-cultural Kosovo rather than to play into the hands of the original policy of the Serbs; that is, to establish a single ethnic body there. Those involved are doing all that they can, within the bounds of the peacekeeping operation, to maintain civil order and, indirectly, to try to rebuild a civil society in that extremely sad and unhappy place.
Both noble Lords asked about the situation with regard to the KLA. As the Statement said, there is a precise and detailed timetable for disarming the KLA. It is down to a number of days and weeks and perhaps I can briefly repeat it:
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked about the way in which the Russian participation and the more general concerns discussed at the summit related to economic reform in Russia. It was explicitly agreed that there needed to be more economic and political developments within Russia and that a great deal of the debt rescheduling in relation to Russia should be an urgent topic for the Paris Group in looking again at the way in which that could possibly be rescheduled in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, mentioned the specific circumstances of those regions within Russia which have already demonstrated considerable initiative in some of the economic reform areas. One of the specific undertakings of the summit was that economic reform was one of the subjects which would be looked at in terms of specific working parties which would themselves have a focused agenda relating to individual regions within Russia. So there was already an understanding that there were identifiable differences between different parts of the country and that those should be acknowledged in specific geographic working parties.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, asked what specific plans had been made in the general area of debt reconstruction and the overall position vis-a-vis the highly indebted poor countries and the way in which their position could be improved. The number of countries which are now deemed unsustainable within the terms of the debt repayment and possibly qualifying in the context of the highly indebted poor countries has now been increased by an extra seven countries from 29 to 36. That brings more of them within the umbrella of the more favourable terms for debt cancellation.
The other practical plans which have been made on the basis of suggestions put forward at G7 and G8 is to give a substantial reduction in debt service repayments. The G7 report makes it clear that the international financial institutions will front-load some of the debt reduction so that debt service repayment can be reduced substantially in early years, allowing extra resources to be focused on anti-poverty spending and, we hope, overcoming some of the problems about structural adjustment which have clouded the picture of international debt in the past few years.
International financial institutions are also involved in strengthening the link between debt relief and poverty reduction where the IMF and the World Bank will be asked to listen to the poor countries and work with them to protect their investments in social policy areas, such as health and education, so that those links are strengthened between the bank fund programmes and the international development target to halve world poverty by 2015.
We moved then from the broader subjects of the Statement to points being made rather specifically, and perhaps a little narrowly, in the context of our domestic politics about biotechnology and the EMU. I do not believe that EMU was mentioned in the Statement; none the less noble Lords thought it was important to raise it.
The Prime Minister was certainly not "bounced" into making a decision about study groups on biotechnology. In fact, another G8 member proposed the setting up of what would have been a regulatory international scientific council which would have imposed strict guidelines on international countries. We considered the proposal and suggested that rather than proceeding to a council with those sorts of strict rules which had not even been investigated in terms of the scientific research, it would be much more sensible at least to have the research in front of us before we proceeded to set up any regulatory bodies which would have influence or direction over our own scientific research. In this matter we are proceeding as we have done consistently; that is, on the basis that we would achieve a science-based approach to regulation. That has lain behind all our proposals, our position on biotechnology in general and on the GM foods situation in particular.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, remarked on the opposition of the Government in this House to his noble friend's Bill on this matter. That would cut across this much broader approach which we have consistently attempted to achieve, which is to depend on science and on evidence and then to develop regulations as it seems appropriate. I point out also that the Food Standards Bill, which will cover the area of concern around the GM foods issue in particular, is having its Second Reading in another place this afternoon. That must advance our understanding and ability to regulate some of the areas about which noble Lords expressed concern.
I did not hear the Prime Minister say what noble Lords quoted him as saying, but his position remains unchanged. He was saying that it was daft to adopt a position where one went into the European monetary system in the way noble Lords are trying to prevent us doing by their extreme statements; that it was daft to go into this immediately; and that it was daft to say we would never go in. Indeed, he stood by his original position, which was that we need to achieve the relevant economic criteria before that decision is made.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, mentioned the "new" conditions. If he refers to the Statement that was made and repeated in this House about the changeover plan, he will see that there were specific references to economic reform in Europe in the context of adopting that changeover plan before we adopt the euro.
Perhaps I may summarise those points. There is no real change to the Government's position. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. The quote that was made about it being "daft" was about going in either immediately or sealing off the possibility of going in ever; neither of which position the Government adopt. I have to say that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, devoted an enormous amount of time to the euro, despite the fact that the Statement did not refer to it. In the context of these very broad, global policies, which
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister indicate whether there was any discussion at the summit on measures to try to deter the United States from taking any more premature action on a variety of issues at the WTO, especially those affecting GMOs and other matters? In that context, my noble friend referred to the involvement of the private sector as being desirable. Can she enlarge a little on that? For example, in what respect do the Government contemplate that moves can be made to enlist the support of the private sector, and are any developments planned in this regard for the near future?
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