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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I should make it perfectly plain that, although there is a reported statement of the Chinese Government, I have not seen any such statement. I understand the import of what my noble friend says, but the Government cannot dictate what may or may not be in the minds of others. I repeat that we did all that was right and proper in response to that issue. The fact that the Yugoslavs did not have nuclear weapons played no part in our thinking or response.
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, will the Minister advise the House whether the whole issue of the war in Kosovo was discussed by the Prime Minister with Vice Premier Wu Bangguo at their meeting on 20th January? More particularly, how do the Government intend that, as per the press communique from the vice premier:
Lord Rea: My Lords, does the recent reported statement by Mr Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia, that he favours the modernisation of Russia's nuclear arsenal not indicate an even greater urgency for this country to pursue all the various international initiatives being taken to reduce the world's nuclear weapons?
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, the noble Baroness referred to an overwhelming catastrophe with regard to the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo. Can she say how many Serbians have been ethnically cleansed by the Albanians?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the position in relation to Kosovo is very difficult. We do not have specific numbers in regard to the noble Lord's question, but these issues are being dealt with. The authorities are making sure that the Serbians receive appropriate support and are maintaining as peaceful an arrangement as can be devised in all the circumstances.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that there was overwhelming public support for the military action that was taken during the Kosovo crisis and that that remains the position as far as concerns this country?
The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, the Government fully endorse the overall conclusions of the PIU report that cross-cutting policy issues should be more effectively handled. On the specific conclusions to which the noble Lord's Question refers--on extending and improving the work of cross-cutting committees in the House of Lords--the House does, of course, already have cross-cutting committees such as the one on science and technology and the ad hoc committee on the public service. In the short term, changes to those committees and their workings would need to be decided by the Liaison Committee. In the longer-term, general changes might best be considered in the context of further reform of the House.
Lord Newby: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept from me that that was a typically disappointing Answer? Whenever questions are raised about having more Select Committees in your Lordships' House, the Government always give reasons for an amazing amount of delay. Will the noble Baroness give an
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord finds my Answer disappointing. I thought I was illustrating that your Lordships' House is rather well advanced in tackling these cross-cutting issues, as the PIU report suggested Parliament should be. Apart from the two examples that I gave in my original Answer, we also have a cross-cutting committee on Europe and had one on sustainable development. All of those committees look at cross-cutting policy issues. Of course, the practical arrangements for the establishment of these committees are, as I said originally, in the hands of your Lordships in general and the specific committees of the House.
Lord Peston: My Lords, can my noble friend enlarge on her Answer? One of the points that puzzles some of us who have been here for quite a time is that, for the most part, nothing ever happens in the House. If one wants something to happen, either one has to be extremely disagreeable or one must accept that no progress will be made. Can my noble friend say who, on a matter of this kind, we should regard as the driving force? If we wish to see more resources made available so that noble Lords can do their job properly, who is the person who not merely answers questions but actually sees to it that something happens?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am delighted to say to my noble friend that I hope that it is not necessary to be disagreeable, although sometimes I have been described in that way in seeking to effect change in your Lordships' House, which on the whole has been successful. My noble friend raised the question of responsibility for the arrangements in your Lordships' House. I say to my noble friend--I speak to him as someone of far greater experience in terms of his membership of the House than I--that these matters have always been a question of self-regulation and of decision by the relevant committees and that they will be taken forward in that way. As I said in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, we entirely agree with the underlying need to improve the organisation and scrutiny of cross-cutting issues within government. The role played by your Lordships in that has, I should have thought, been usefully demonstrated in the number of committees to which I have already referred.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will recognise that I did not refer to anything being complete. In fact, in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, I said that further consideration of these issues in a more general context was probably appropriately dealt with in the context of further reform. On this side of the House at least, we believe that some of the changes that have occurred have been very useful and successful.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, my noble friend, no doubt inadvertently, did not reply to the specific point raised by my noble friend Lord Peston as to whom one should mither to achieve objectives about the management of your Lordships' House. At the moment, as far as concerns costs, as I am sure my noble friend will agree, we spend far less than the other place. I hope my noble friend can confirm that the question of costs will not apply to the setting up of new Select Committees. I have in mind in particular the proposal put forward from all sides of the House to set up a Select Committee on the Bank of England and its Monetary Policy Committee. Can she confirm that that will still be dealt with properly by her or whoever is responsible?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am fascinated to receive this sequence of questions from very experienced Members of your Lordships' House which appear to suggest that the Government have executive power in the House. I sometimes wish that that were so. It is unfortunately not so. My noble friend referred to "mithering". If I interpret his point correctly, he is asking to whom he should complain. In my view, he should complain, if that is what he is suggesting, to the relevant chairmen of the relevant committees which make these decisions about the Select Committees that are in existence or are proposed.
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