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House of Lords

Wednesday, 5th July 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Blackburn.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

John Freeman, Lord Bishop of Chelmsford--Was (in the usual manner) introduced between the Lord Bishop of Blackburn and the Lord Bishop of Wakefield.

Australia: Centenary

2.40 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements have been made to mark the visit to London of Australia's Prime Minister John Howard and his delegation to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, John Howard has a full programme of meetings in London, including calls on my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will speak at a parliamentary ceremony in the Royal Gallery tomorrow, hosted by the Lord Chancellor and Madam Speaker, which celebrates the centenary of the passage through Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. The week will also include a Guildhall banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor of London and a service for Australia at Westminster Abbey. I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my noble friend's role as founder chairman and now president of the ANZAC Group of Peers and MPs.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for her reply. Is this not a timely moment to recall the statesmanship of those--Australian and British parliamentarians alike--who created the 1900 Act, heralding as it did a century of excelling friendship between the two countries: one that aligned us side by side in war; that has given us cherished and enduring cultural, sporting and other ties; and that makes Australia still the second highest investor in Britain and us the second highest investor in Australia? Notwithstanding the privations inflicted on us by Australia's test cricketers and the "Wallabies"--not to mention Wimbledon--long may it continue!

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's words. Our relationship with

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Australia goes from strength to strength and we hope that it will continue to do so in the next one hundred years. Our ties with Australia are wide ranging. I hope that the House will forgive me if I brush quickly past our sporting ties, not least after the result at Wimbledon on Monday. As my noble friend has pointed out, we are staunch allies and Australia has been a supporter of NATO's policies in the former Yugoslavia. It is our business to value partners, and we do so most warmly today.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, I declare a longstanding interest in Australia. Even today I work for a British company which is very active in Australia. I had the honour of fighting alongside Australians in a couple of campaigns and I have the highest regard for them. I am a member of the Returned Services League of Australia. It is a great organisation which could give any British government advice on how to care for veterans. In that context, does the Minister accept the great sacrifices made by Australians in two world wars? Do the two governments have any plans to erect a memorial or to do something to commemorate this in the coming years in our city of London?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are acutely aware of the service given by Australians in the two world wars and in many other wars. During the Gallipoli campaign they suffered thousands of casualties. The Minister for the Armed Forces, John Spellar, travelled to the Gallipoli peninsula in April to commemorate the 85th anniversary of ANZAC day and the sacrifices made by Australian, British and other troops. I was at the commemoration at the Cenotaph in London. I was also with John Howard when he laid a wreath to the war dead at the Cenotaph this morning. I was deeply moved on both occasions.

I am able to say that last night John Howard announced that the Australian Government will build a war memorial in London. The Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government warmly welcome that initiative. I should also like to pay tribute to the distinguished service of the father of the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, the late first Viscount Slim, who was a valiant commander-in-chief of the allied land forces in South-East Asia, which included Australian troops, and who was described by the late Lord Mountbatten as the finest general the Second World War produced. The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, himself should be mentioned for his successful term and for his contribution in that regard. I do so most warmly.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, as an Australian whose father stood for the very first ever federal senate elections, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether she is aware that Miss Margaret Parkes--the 75 year-old great granddaughter of Clarinda and Sir Henry Parkes, who was always known as the Father of Federation--has flown here specifically to join in the celebrations this week?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I welcome most warmly the news that she is here. We celebrate

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that fact. It is fitting that a great granddaughter should be present today to help us celebrate this great occasion of the 100th birthday. I welcome her most warmly.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the Australian people on this anniversary. Will the noble Baroness convey to Mr Howard, on behalf of the people of this country, our warmest thanks for the role which they played in liberating East Timor and for the outstanding leadership displayed by General Cosgrove when he commanded the forces there?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am very happy to say that that message will be conveyed. It has already been expressed, but it certainly bears repetition.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, I should like to declare an interest as my father held an Australian passport. Has the Minister any further details regarding the centenary gift proposed for Australia which she declared in her oral Answer to the House on 17th January and her Written Answer on 29th February?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are marking the centenary in Australia with a substantial contribution--about half the total cost--to a monument in Canberra. The gift recognises the relationship between the people of Australia and Britain and commemorates our shared belief in the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly as well as the sovereignty of Parliament embodied by Magna Carta. A design team has been chosen by open competition. The centrepiece is a commemorative pavilion. We very much look forward to its construction.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Baroness has outlined a very encouraging programme and a fitting celebration of an Act passed 100 years ago under a Conservative government, whose Prime Minister was Lord Salisbury. Does she agree that, looking to the future, relations between Britain and Australia are getting closer and closer, particularly in hard economic and commercial terms and in terms of investment flows between the two countries? Does she further agree that Australia is now part of the great Oceania, South-East Asia, Asia Pacific market which in few years' time may be richer and bigger than that of the entire European Union? Does she conclude from that that some of our foreign policy energies and the energies of her department--which sometimes seem to get bogged down in quarrels and difficulties nearer home with our nearer and sometimes less friendly neighbours--could be better deployed in building up and strengthening our ties with one of our loyalist, best and longest-standing friends?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that we have always valued

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that relationship, that we have tended it carefully, nurtured it and it is now in full flower. I should also like to remind the noble Lord that, although he was right in saying that the Act was passed during the period of office of another government, the inspiration for it came from my noble friend Lord Morris who sits on these Benches; and the then government showed good sense in taking it over and making it their very own.

Lord Moore of Wolvercote: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is most appropriate that we should be celebrating the centenary of the Commonwealth of Australia when Australia has only recently voted to keep the Queen as Queen of Australia?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, there are many reasons to celebrate. I warmly join the noble Lord in saying that we have much to celebrate on this occasion.

Farmers and Growers: Fair Markets

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What initiatives they have taken to help British farmers and growers to obtain a local market and a fair return for their produce.

Lord Carter: My Lords, British farmers and growers produce a tremendous variety of products. Individual farm businesses are best placed to know their own products and markets, but the Government can and do help by providing a wide range of financial and other assistance to help farmers and growers become more competitive and develop their marketing skills. Anyone who was at the Royal Show this week could not fail to be impressed by the number of marketing initiatives, both government-backed and from individual farmers or groups of farmers, which are now being introduced.


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