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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I remind the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that it was always recognised that KFOR would have to assume responsibility for law and order during this initial phase; probably even for the first few months. After all, it is more difficult to deploy police officers quickly than those already formed into military units. Currently, of the 100 British policemen I mentioned, seven are assisting United Nations with planning for civil policing; that is, the operation and establishment of the police headquarters. The United Kingdom Government have also offered to supply up to 60 British officers to recruit, train and monitor a local Kosovo police force. So, the offer of 60 has also been made.

The noble Baroness mentioned refuge collection. This comes under one of the 10 priority areas I mentioned, under which United Nations has asked a number of member states to try to provide some specialist skills. One of those is in the area of municipal authorities.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the disarmament of paramilitary organisations

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in Kosovo is a prerequisite for establishing peace in what will undoubtedly become, for many decades, a joint UN and NATO protectorate? Does she agree that that precept in Kosovo also applies to other places?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I recognise what the noble Viscount alludes to. I am bound to say that the cases he is comparing, which I recognise, are very different and have very different histories. A comprehensive undertaking was given by the KLA on 21st June. It provides for a ceasefire and for the weapons to be submitted within 30 days, with the exception of automatic small arms, which have to be handed over within 90 days.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that the UN aspirations on recruiting of policemen for Kosovo have been superseded by the reality of the situation? Is not what is needed armed policemen or gendarmerie? Can the Minister encourage the UN to call upon those Mediterranean nations, such as France and Italy, who have gendarmerie to send armed policemen to make up the numbers as quickly as possible? Failing that, would she consider asking the central European nations which have border guards and armed police, to join in?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I indicated, the main body of the UN peace corps is expecting to start arriving in Kosovo over the next few days. The UN secretariat has recommended that all UN police officers should have the possibility to be armed. I hope that answers the specific point raised by the noble Earl. However, the United Kingdom has a tradition of unarmed community policing. Therefore, most of the British police officers will be used in training, specialist skills and in democratic policing where they have particular skills to deploy.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House the role of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in all of this? What is likely to be the co-operation between the OSCE and the UN in this field? What specific functions can the OSCE perform, particularly in restoring Kosovo to a modern democratic society?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the United Nations is in charge of the overall framework. As I am sure the noble Lord knows, the OSCE, the EU and the UNHCR are all taking responsibility for different parts of the administration, reconstruction and civil implementation, which are so important. The OSCE mission is taking the lead role in institution and democracy building and in human rights within the overall framework set by the United Nations. That will include the organisation and supervision of elections; the development of civil society; non-governmental organisations; political parties and the local media. The OSCE mission will also establish and run a police training school.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, the Minister has been helpful in responding in part to the question raised by

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my noble friend Lord Cranborne as regards what is required from the KLA in terms of demilitarisation. Can she inform the House what progress has been made on this subject? To date I understand it to be very little. I hope she can report otherwise.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I can report that the KLA undertakings appear to be going reasonably well. I am told that we assess the level of compliance by the KLA to be satisfactory and that those on the ground who are reporting back to the United Kingdom on this important issue--I accept what the noble Lord says in that regard--are happy with the position.

Ex-miners: National Spirometry Programme

3.30 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether satisfactory progress is being made with the compensation scheme instituted for former miners with respiratory problems.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the House will be aware that Healthcall Services Limited was awarded the contract for the delivery of the national spirometry programme throughout England, Wales and Scotland in March. It has since opened a dozen assessment centres in coalfield areas and further centres will be opening shortly.

So far Healthcall has completed over 2,500 assessments, and we have written to over 1,000 of these claimants making, wherever possible, offers of interim and full and final payments. A further 6,000 additional claimants have been sent appointment letters. The tendering process for the main elements of the medical assessment process is now commencing with a view to awarding the contract in the autumn. This should mean that the first full and final settlement offers for valid claims will start flowing later this year.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that helpful reply. Does he recall the enthusiastic welcome given earlier this year by miners suffering from pneumoconiosis and related diseases following the High Court decision and the enthusiastic support of the present Government for it? However, is he aware that there are a number of concerns with regard to the way in which the scheme is being administered, particularly in relation to compensation being exempt from recovery? Surely the 1974 pneumoconiosis Act is the basis on which it should be operated.

Secondly, despite what the Minister said, is he aware of the concern at the delay in dealing with so many cases? Why are there not more consultants appointed? I feel that 90 is inadequate for the heavy workload which has to be completed.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we have already opened 12 assessment centres. Further centres

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will be opened shortly. There will be a further 13 by the end of the month. In relation to the spirometry test, therefore, we are making good progress. My concern is with the main assessment process, and that is still being negotiated. The exact position on special damages should be known by the end of July. If not, the judge will be asked to rule on any outstanding issues at that time.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, when this issue was previously discussed in this House, I asked the Minister whether he was satisfied that measures had been taken to avoid a recurrence of these unfortunate diseases in the mining industry, and I received a positive response. However, in the unfortunate event that nevertheless there should be further respiratory problems in mining, can he assure the House that the compensatory processes will be speedier than they have been in the present instance?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, that is a hypothetical question. We are dealing with a judgment which deals specifically with a situation which was dealt with here. We cannot comment on a hypothetical situation and the speed with which that would be progressed. It would have to relate to the circumstances of the day.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the information he has given this afternoon is encouraging. However, he will be aware that on 17th March this year Mr John Battle in another place confirmed bereavement payments for widows of mine workers who had worked 20 years in the underground industry and died from emphysema and bronchitis. But is he aware that many of the claims by those widows have been denied because the authorities dealing with the cases say that the records cannot be traced? Having investigated the matter I found that the records of some of those miners were destroyed when the pits closed. That cannot be the fault of the widows. Will the Minister investigate that injustice?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we are in a difficult position where we must have evidence that the conditions were caused to people working down the mines. If there are cases where an injustice seems to have been done, of course we will investigate those and see whether there are other ways in which evidence can be found of what happened.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the Minister will no doubt be aware that sufferers from pneumoconiosis and other respiratory illnesses may have had impaired performance for some time before they were diagnosed. But is he aware that under Clause 57 of the Welfare Reform Bill people will no longer receive incapacity benefit if they have not paid national insurance contributions in the two years before the claim? Will

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he therefore consider, as an appropriate compensation, exempting former miners with respiratory problems from the operation of that clause?


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