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Lord Barnett: My Lords, leaving aside the party political points made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, as my noble and learned friend has quoted the Neill Committee, do the Government agree with the committee's Recommendations 19 and 20 in its sixth report that in a proposed Civil Service Act a specific limit should be named, and that any increase beyond that limit should be subject to resolutions of both Houses?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Government have indicated that they are considering all the recommendations in the Neill Committee report. They are very serious. The report is both weighty and worth while. We need to respond in a considered way rather than piecemeal. There is no suggestion at present that the numbers of special advisers are in any sense swamping the senior Civil Service. The senior Civil Service consists of 3,500 people. Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, has said:
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that there has been an extraordinarily large increase, not only in numbers but in cost to the taxpayer. Would it not be more reasonable if some of that cost--of what are essentially partisan political activities--was borne by the Labour Party rather than the taxpayer?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as the evidence of Neill Committee report states, as was suggested by the evidence given to the committee by the First Division Association, and as Sir Richard Wilson suggests, special advisers improve the quality of government. The increase in cost is approximately £2.2 million. That is money well spent.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, has the Minister noted that in his native Edinburgh the First Minister has lost two of his three special advisers in the last two or three months? Do they come under the heading of "good special advisers" when he has managed to lose two out of three? Furthermore, why does the Secretary of State for Scotland still need two special advisers when almost all his responsibilities have been devolved to Edinburgh? Is it in order that he can continue his "tough wars" with the First Minister in Scotland?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as to special advisers to the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, I can think of no more inappropriate person than myself to answer, so I shall pass. In regard to the Secretary of State for Scotland, as I have said, special advisers contribute to good government, both in his case and in that of other Ministers.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I do not deny that "a" special adviser is a good thing. I had one when I was Minister for the Arts, and when I was at the Home Office the Home Secretary had one. Why does the present Home Secretary need four or five? That is the unexplained point, particularly if there is no change in their duties or responsibilities. If I remember the recommendations of the Neill Committee correctly, did not the noble Lord give the very clear hint that in his view the presence of so many special advisers could be a cause of distress and concern to official advisers; that is, civil servants?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the response of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Richard Wilson, which I quoted, indicates that it is not a cause for concern at the moment. As to the numbers, I dealt with that point in answer to my noble friend Lord Barnett. Special advisers contribute to good government and are regarded within the Civil Service as being of value to it. I believe that the numbers are a matter of judgment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Government are confident of the strength of their case should the Yugoslav application ever reach the Merits stage. We regard this case as a shameless and opportunistic abuse of the Court, whose jurisdiction was accepted by Belgrade only three days before launching its application. The UK has substantial legal arguments for resisting the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's application at the preliminary stage.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer. I accept that there is a view among some international lawyers that the use of force is justified to avert humanitarian catastrophes, despite the clear language of Article 2 of the charter. Does the noble Baroness agree that there is also a great deal of authority the other way? Therefore, since the point is obviously one of major importance for the future of the United Nations, is it not better to let the International Court of Justice decide the point in issue--that is what it is there for--to affirm the existence of the so-called humanitarian exception, perhaps with the assistance of the Attorney-General and, above all, define the limits of the exception rather than take what I continue to regard as a thoroughly technical objection to the jurisdiction of the Court, which can only delay a decision on the merits?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I understand the import of what the noble and learned Lord says in relation to this issue. However, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's case is a propaganda measure. It accepted the Court's jurisdiction only three days before it launched its application and seeks to deflect the blame by suggesting that NATO has responsibility for what happened in Kosovo. Milosevic is clearly responsible and has been indicted. We are confident that we have a strong legal case and will fight the Yugoslav case on its merits if we have to. We have a strong and substantial argument on jurisdiction and admissibility. If we have to send a clear message it must be that people like Milosevic cannot seek to take adventitious advantage of the procedure, which is precisely what he seeks to do in this case. We cannot let him get away with it.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord is completely wrong in relation to this matter. The issue before the Court was a preliminary matter. As one knows, when dealing with a preliminary matter one should stick to the point. We did so and answered the point, and the Court found in our favour.
Lord Richard: My Lords, will my noble friend resist the blandishments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, who appear to argue that this is essentially a legal and not a political matter? Can she confirm that the Government regard the setting of international limits on the doctrine of overwhelming humanitarian necessity to justify an intervention essentially as a political matter, which will have to be discussed in great detail among the various countries which are the prime movers in the United Nations? Can my noble friend tell the House whether such discussions are under way; if not, when does she hope that they will begin?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the international discussions are incredibly important, and Britain is doing all that she can to raise these issues. Discussion is already taking place with our international partners and will continue to be pursued later in the spring.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, the Minister will recall her eloquent defence of NATO in last night's debate. As to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, can she tell the House something about the need to pursue war criminals in a situation where, in the absence of such steps and evidence, there is too great a tendency for people in Kosovo to take the law into their own hands?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I certainly confirm what the noble Baroness says. It is important that these matters are taken seriously. We have played our part in identifying those who have committed crimes, and we have been, and will continue to be, supportive in pursuing those matters. This is a matter that the Government take very seriously. As always, there is much good sense in what the noble Baroness says.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, in the light of some of the Minister's responses, can she say whether Her Majesty's Government now regard Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, especially that part which deals with non-interference in the affairs of other states, to be non-operative?
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