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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says. But we have done everything within our power to make it plain that we do not agree with that. KFOR, including General Jackson, is satisfied that demilitarisation was genuine and effective. KFOR continues to seize illegal weapons when it finds them. The Kosovo protection corps is there to support UNMIK and specified humanitarian tasks. We are facing that issue squarely.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, in the week of the anniversary of the start of NATO's campaign against Serbia there is worsening violence in the northern state of Mitrovica, where KFOR troops are targets. There is a law and order vacuum. There are not enough police, as noble Lords made clear today. There is no justice system to speak of. Organised crime is increasing. The UN Secretary-General has pleaded with the international community to provide funds and resources. Can the Minister say when this Government--they rightly prided themselves on taking a lead in winning the war--intend to take a lead in winning the peace in Kosovo before it is lost?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have already taken that lead. We are working very energetically with our partners to ensure that we do not, as the noble Lord said, lose the peace. In most of Kosovo the security situation has improved since last year. Mitrovica is a particular problem but the population movements have polarised that city--largely the Serb north and Albanian south. Tensions are being exploited by extremists on both sides. The goal of UNMIK and KFOR is an undivided Mitrovica in an undivided Kosovo; and the first step is enhanced security. We are doing much to ensure that that takes place.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I admire the contribution Her Majesty's Government are making to the police force. However--it is possible I did not hear well--I felt that the Minister failed to answer whether Her Majesty's Government were satisfied with the total response of the United Nations.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are satisfied that we are taking all the steps necessary to meet our commitments. We are encouraging all our partners to do likewise.

Sellafield: Thorp and Mox Plants

2.48 p.m.

Lord Razzall asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the Government's policy on reprocessing and on the export of Mox remains unchanged. The Health and

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Safety Executive's report published on 18th February identified serious failures in BNFL's management of safety at Sellafield. Nevertheless, HSE confirms that the site is currently operating safely. BNFL needs to take action urgently to restore confidence and a good start has been made with the appointment of Norman Askew as the new Chief Executive.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is now the time for a complete re-think of our nuclear waste strategy? Does the noble Lord agree that the Thorp plant at Sellafield, which reprocesses nuclear waste primarily for Japan and Germany, has proved to be a massive white elephant? Does he also agree that if the Government give full approval for the mixed oxide fuel plant at Sellafield, this will compound the previous government's error over Thorp?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville : My Lords, this is not the time for a complete reappraisal. We have a serious failure of management, not a failure in the policy or design of the processing plants. Far from being white elephants, they have huge contracts stretching into the future which are of enormous value.

Lord Northbrook: My Lords, does not the Minister believe that the best way to solve BNFL's management problems is to privatise it and that the Government should not be put off from doing so by the problems with Germany and Japan?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, no. Clearly, this is a setback for the company and has implications for its performance and readiness for the introduction of a PPP. We shall continue to work on that, but it is dependent on proper safety and regulations.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, can the Minister give the up-to-date position on the Japanese contracts?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, discussions are taking place with the Japanese about the fuel at Takahama and all the options are being examined as regards progress.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the falsification of documents, particularly in a dangerous nuclear plant, is very serious and that the people who perpetrated such action ought to be prosecuted? Are they going to be prosecuted?

Secondly, is the Minister aware that for a long time fears have been raised about the plant not only members of this Government, but by members of the Irish Government, too?

Thirdly, will the Minister confirm that the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has always had a permanent presence at Sellafield? Why was it unable to pick up the bad running which, in the light of what has happened, was always evident?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hope I made it clear at the beginning that we believe there to have

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been serious management failures. That is why we have a new chief executive and why five members of the staff have been dismissed. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate picked up the failures and reported on them and steps have been taken to correct them.

Lord Elton: My Lords, before the Minister can answer some of these questions, is it not necessary to know for what purpose the security procedures were falsified, how it was possible to do that and what steps will be taken to ensure that it never happens again? When shall we be told that?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is clear from the reports that the records were falsified simply because the workers in the area did not want to do the work; it was easier to produce false documentation. That is why the breach of management procedures was outrageous and why serious action has rightly been taken.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is this not another reason why the Government should return to their emphasis on the coal industry? Is my noble friend aware that this country has millions of tonnes of unmined coal and that we are producing it more cheaply than any other country? Is that not another good reason?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we are talking about a reprocessing plant rather than about the nuclear power stations. Again, I reiterate that we should not confuse a failure of management with the need to revise our energy policy.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, do not the events show that reprocessing breeds a climate of deception and is likely to do so in future? Therefore, should we not abandon the whole proposition of reprocessing?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, there is nothing to suggest that there was any disaffection in relation to the matter. As I said, it was a failure of both management and workers and it can happen in other plants and factories--and it does from time to time. It is important to correct the situation and regain the confidence of the public and the customers as soon as possible.

Ascension Island: Control of Feral Cats

2.55 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to eradicate feral cats from Ascension Island in pursuance of their obligation under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity.

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has agreed to fund a £30,000 feral cat control programme on Ascension Island. That should kill 90 to 95 per cent of the feral cat population. The control programme will promote a successful breeding season for sooty terns on Ascension.

With our non-governmental organisation partners, especially the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, we are seeking funding for the Ascension Island management plan. The plan includes an invasive species eradication programme. Any remaining feral cats will be picked up by that eradication project.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I am delighted to learn that the Government have had the sense to enter into partnership with the RSPB and to take it up on its offer to clear the island of feral cats. Are they aware that there are in the St Helena dependencies some of the most important biodiversity treasures in the world and that this is an important test of their willingness to put forward enough money--and by the standard of most issues which are discussed in this House it is minor--to ensure that the programme works?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are taking the issue most seriously. The noble Lord is correct in saying that we should be rightly concerned with the biodiversity of the region. The initiative is part of the Ascension Island management plan. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are seeking funding for the plan, which will need in the region of £1.5 million.


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