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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, first, I declare an interest as chairman of Rail Freight Group. I thank the Minister for that Answer. My noble friend is right. One cannot have such a major upgrade for a new line without closures. He is also right that alternative routes need to be found.

When the line was electrified 25 years ago, alternative routes were provided. I am told that one such route was the Midland Mainline and Buxton to Matlock. Does my noble friend believe that that line could be opened? Derbyshire County Council and Railtrack have commissioned a study. Is he surprised that the strategic rail authority has refused to contribute any funds to that study?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the franchising director has received an application under

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the rail passenger partnership scheme for a feasibility study of the Buxton to Matlock reopening proposal. The rules governing the use to which rpp funds can be put preclude their use for financing feasibility studies. Projects have to be advanced beyond the feasibility study stage before the rpp assistance is sought. The franchising director has no other source of funding for private feasibility studies, although he has the ability under certain circumstances to commission feasibility studies of his own.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, following on from that question, may I ask the Minister whether any arrangements have been made, and, if not, whether he will press the Strategic Shadow Rail Authority to make arrangements to provide other trains on alternative routes? I refer, for example, to doubling the length of trains to Birmingham on the Chiltern line or providing some services to Manchester by the Midland Mainline even without the reopening of the Buxton section. Given the problems with train operating companies, does the Minister believe that such arrangements could and should be made?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I cannot answer on that specific line. However, Railtrack and the operators have agreed extensive diversions. They avoid some of the areas most affected. The strategic rail authority, with whom I have checked, has not received any representation from passenger operators concerned about the effects of any of the works on their business at present. As I said, there will be few long-term route closures. Most of the operational work will be undertaken at night and at weekends.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, will the Minister ask Railtrack and the operating companies to give passengers a little notice about closures and delays? At present one receives little notice. As a long-suffering user of trains to Cumbria I say that with much feeling. Some notice to passengers would not come amiss.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, in the re-franchising process which is already under way it is our intention to ensure that the interests of rail travellers have a greater prominence than they may have had in the past. I shall bring my noble friend's comments to the attention of Railtrack and the operating companies.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, first, I note the Minister's comments that most of the closures will be at night. That is fine for passenger train companies but not for freight companies. Can the noble Lord assure us that freight services down the West Coast Main Line corridor will not be interrupted in a way that will deter freight companies from putting their freight on rail?

Secondly, what is the Government's attitude towards compensating Railtrack for the £3 billion costs for the extra-contractual obligation to provide block signalling?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, Railtrack and the operating companies have had an extensive

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consultation process. They have agreed well in advance the necessary diversions. It is easier to organise those diversions with freight than with passenger services. We have every confidence that that will be concluded.

The Rail Regulator is reviewing the costs of renewing and enhancing the West Coast Main Line as part of his periodic review of Railtrack's access charges. He intends to publish in June of this year that consultation document which sets out his provisional views on the efficient level of costs and who should pay for any cost overruns.

International Criminal Court: Progress

3.4 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent United States proposal to draft a supplemental document and to amend Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is likely to delay the process of ratification by the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the United Kingdom will ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as soon as the necessary legislation is in place. The recent United States proposal has no impact on this process.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that unambiguous Answer. The American paper proposes to make the power of the court to try an offender conditional upon the consent of his state, and to make state authority a complete defence. Does my noble friend agree that that is a blatant attempt to undermine the jurisdiction of a court established under a treaty which now has 96 signatories by a country which has made clear that it has no intention of signing? Can my noble friend assure the House that even if Washington is set fair to lose all its friends, this country has no intention of being dragged by its coat-tails into an isolationist wilderness?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can reassure my noble and learned friend that Her Majesty's Government's position will not change. I am not as downcast by the American position as my noble and learned friend appears to be. We are still hopeful that we shall be able to do sufficient to encourage our American colleagues to reconsider their position and to sign along with us. Indeed, conversations in relation to their proposals are ongoing.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, as with domestic legislation, it is good to allow several years of operation before one considers amendment? Does she also agree that if one state

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attempts to amend the statute of the International Criminal Court it will open up an enormous can of worms because many other states, which were not fully satisfied, have accepted the final draft in a spirit of compromise?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we agree with the proposals agreed at Rome. It does not appear that the amendment suggested currently by the United States will garner much favour. We hope to persuade it that the conditions which are inherent now are sufficient to meet its needs. We are not unhopeful of persuading the United States of that in the long term; but, of course, we accept that it is a challenge.

Ethiopia/Eritrea Conflict

3.6 p.m.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they will take, in the United Nations Security Council and otherwise, to persuade the parties to the current military conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea to resolve their differences about the technical arrangements for implementing the Organisation for African Unity's peace plan.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we condemn the return to hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Fighting can only bring further suffering to the people of both countries. We urge both sides to cease fighting and to re-enter into negotiations with the Organisation for African Unity to achieve a lasting peaceful settlement.

We urge all UN member states to implement fully and to enforce effectively the mandatory arms embargo and the ban on related technical assistance and training imposed by the Security Council in Resolution 1298. We will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the region.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does the noble Baroness agree that the present offensive was initiated by Ethiopia, that in doing so that country was in breach of Article 2.2 of the charter of the United Nations, and that the Security Council should have said so when it considered Resolution 1278? Does she further agree that international pressure has to be concentrated entirely on Ethiopia which is the aggressor state in the present conflict, and that the visit by President Bouteflika, the current chairman of the OAU to Addis Ababa--I understand that it begins this afternoon--is to be warmly welcomed and supported? Pressure has to be exerted on both sides. It is easy at any point in history to put all the blame on one and not the other. That is not helpful. Our main focus must be on getting both sides back to the negotiating table and the cessation of hostilities. We shall commit ourselves entirely to that end.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, would the Minister agree that with the best will in the world it is

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a little late to think about a peace plan from the OAU or anyone else? The Ethiopians have broken through and are heading for the coast and they are determined to fight while negotiating. We are seeing the unfolding of further major bloodshed in the already blood-soaked Horn of Africa. At this stage, while the Eritreans are in retreat, is not the only hope to persuade the notorious Mr Zenawi and his troops to offer generous peace terms, not to push on with months of killing and fighting, and instead start fighting the famine which is blighting the whole of that area?

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