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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, no doubt the outcome of the latest test will have a bearing on the United States' assessment as regards the decision to be made on the technological feasibility of proceeding to deploy an NMD system at this point. But plainly, as the noble and gallant Lord will understand better than most, one cannot judge the feasibility of such a complex system on the basis of one test. Many more tests have always been planned before any NMD system becomes operational.

Judgments on the technical progress of the programme are for the United States to make. In the meantime, as I said, we continue to discuss the wider issues raised by missile defence with the US Administration, both bilaterally and in NATO.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, may we take it from what the Minister said that she will now encourage much wider public debate, which has not so far taken place to any great extent in this country, especially given our very powerful negotiating position here? Does she agree that there is a real danger that the opening up of a much more extensive system of disarmament, with the full support of both Russia and China, depends largely on how this issue is handled over the next few months?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, yes. I can only repeat some of my earlier remarks. We are using every diplomatic means to make known our views to our allies and to those who are not always necessarily our allies on this issue. It is of vital importance to the whole world that we find a proper way forward.

Buy British Policy: Restrictions

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the international and European law which prevents British public authorities from operating a buy British policy in respect of building projects includes the non-discrimination and free movement provisions of the EC Treaty, the EC Public Works, Services and Supplies Directives, the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, the European Economic Area Agreement with ex-EFTA countries and various Europe agreements with central and eastern European countries.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, does the Minister agree that cheapest is not always best and

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that it is not unreasonable to bear in mind public opinion? Would it not be possible, when considering very special and important works on British landmarks, such as this Palace of Westminster, to invite tenders only from British firms, which is not the same as inviting tenders worldwide and then only selecting any British tender? Or would that not be politically correct?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know whether it is politically correct but it is against our international agreements and against international law. I assume that the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, is referring to Portcullis House. This would not be a topical Question if she were not. She will know that Portcullis House has been the subject of legal proceedings on which an interim judgment has been given against the House of Commons authorities and on which a possible appeal is now pending. So it would be quite inappropriate for me to comment on any detail of that particular contract.

But in more general terms, in 1997, the last year for which full figures are available, contracts totalling £2.3 billion were awarded in the UK subject to those international agreements, of which all but £11 million were awarded to UK contractors.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that that principle applies to the Reichstag just as much as it does to the Palace of Westminster? To follow up a point made by my noble friend, this agreement pre-dates our membership of the EC. I was a member of the EFTA Consultative Committee from 1969 to 1973 and I remember that this provision was in the Stockholm Treaty, to which we adhered, which set up EFTA. So that goes back a long way and it is two-way traffic.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is right in both respects. All of the agreements go back a very long way. The European Community agreements go back to 1973, when we joined the common market. The WTO Government Procurement Agreement dates back some 20 years, although it has become more extensive than it was when it originally came into being. Although it is extremely difficult to obtain statistics as regards the net balance of advantage to British contractors because so many contracts go to international consortia, the suspicion must be that it is very considerably to our advantage.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I declare a financial interest in forestry in this country. Will the Minister consider whether the recent strength of the pound against the euro, combined with a probability that certain eastern countries have been exporting timber to us at less than the cost of production and restocking, might constitute a special case for the use of British timber in British building projects?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not entirely clear that that follows from the Question that

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I was asked, which was about building contracts. If the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is accusing anybody of dumping timber in this country, there is a quite separate series of international agreements to deal with that issue.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is it correct when invitations to tender are extended for any building, whether it be public or private, that there is no obligation to accept the lowest tender? Is it possible to accept one particular tender because, for example, there is a preferred design?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, yes, there is no obligation to accept the lowest tender. However, in certain circumstances--and this may be the case as regards the contract to which the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, referred--it must be shown that equal favour is being shown to contractors from any country; in other words, that national discrimination is not being exercised.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the enforcement of the European and international laws to which the noble Lord referred is distinctly patchy? Some very drastic revisions must be made to those laws, on the assumption that they are to be obeyed, if the irregularities in connection with the European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg and Brussels are to be brought within the realms of the ordinary legal understanding of fairness and justice, as understood in this country?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not have evidence on which I could disagree or agree with my noble friend about what he describes as patchy enforcement of those international laws. If there is a claim in relation to any particular project, it is open to contractors to seek to take legal action against the public authority and it is open to the European Commission to take action on an international basis.

Business

Lord Carter: My Lords, after Amendment No. 56 on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, my noble friend the Leader of the House will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement which is being made in another place on the Annual Report.

Her Majesty The Queen Mother

3.38 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is a privilege to move the Motion on this unique occasion. I am sure that I shall not be

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challenged if I say that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is held in unique affection and esteem by the whole nation.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, her forthcoming 100th birthday is the occasion for much celebration and it prompts us all to think back over the many remarkable events which have punctuated her long and interesting life.

When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon agreed to marry the Duke of York, she could not have guessed that she would one day become the Queen. There will be noble Lords here this afternoon who remember the turbulent time when the Duke of York succeeded to the throne as George VI. Many more will remember the support and confidence Queen Elizabeth gave her husband, particularly in the perilous days of war which were to follow.

We have all seen images of the young Queen and her husband visiting bomb-damaged sites in London during the Blitz. Radiating hope and cheerfulness, she set about the task of lifting spirits, and strengthening the nation's resolve. Countless hearts were won by her unflagging sympathy, the warmth of her character, and the kindness of her smile. In the years that have followed, her smile has become her trademark. Her late Private Secretary, Sir Martin Gilliat, always recalled that when he came each morning to discuss her programme for the day Her Majesty's infectious enthusiasm for every event raised his morale in the face of what was often an extremely heavy schedule of public engagements. That enthusiasm and attentive personal interest is always mentioned by anyone who has met the Queen Mother in any circumstance.

So many people have experienced Her Majesty's personal warmth in so many circumstances because her range of personal interests is very wide and her Royal duties, even in recent years, very extensive. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister reminded another place earlier this week that Her Majesty gives support to some 350 organisations as patron or president--charities, voluntary bodies and other organisations in a vast tapestry of public service.

I remember her vivacious involvement in the work of the National Association of Leagues of Hospital and Community Friends when I was its national chairman. Recently the present chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, was received by Her Majesty at Clarence House at a happy occasion to mark the Hospital Friends' 200th birthday.

The Queen Mother's concerns spread right across society, sometimes, perhaps, into unexpected quarters. My father, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, for example, recalls her constant enquiries over many years about the coal mining industry and the well-being of mining communities, communities where she always appreciated hearing the opinions of the miners themselves, given to her straightforwardly in unvarnished direct terms, something for which of course Her Majesty herself has been renowned.

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The personal focus of Her Majesty's life has been her family. As a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother, she has strengthened and guided the Royal Family through the changing world of the past century, with her wise counsel and strong sense of public duty. In all her years of public life, that sense of public duty has never faltered for a moment. We remember Queen Elizabeth's presence at so many public events. We remember her representing this country abroad, and receiving particularly warm affection and good wishes in the numerous countries of the Commonwealth. Just this week, we remember her at the service of thanksgiving in St Paul's Cathedral, where her indomitable spirit was so clearly visible.

We now look forward to further celebrations. There will be parades, parties, and tributes as the nation joins together with the Royal Family to mark this unique anniversary. I know that all of your Lordships will wish to join together to thank Her Majesty for a lifetime of service, and to wish her much joy and happiness and a very happy 100th birthday on 4th August.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty The Queen as follows--

Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to assure Your Majesty that this House looks forward eagerly to the 100th Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, an occasion which the entire nation will wish to celebrate:

To convey to Your Majesty the admiration and the deep sense of affection that is felt for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, both by this House and by the British people and the Commonwealth, to whose service she has devoted so much of her life:

To express the hope that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother may long continue to enjoy good health and happiness.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)


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