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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that we on this side totally associate ourselves with the sentiments she expressed in relation to this tragedy? Also, we welcome her comments about increased security for our diplomats. That underlines what I said from this Dispatch Box the other day: diplomacy today is becoming a dangerous occupation and those who fulfil those duties are extremely brave people Although I recognise that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has done a fair amount in recent years to increase security for ambassadors and their staff, can the noble Baroness reassure us that any extra money will be used to increase security further? In that way we can try to prevent, although it may never be completely possible, the kind of horrific tragedy that occurred in Athens with Brigadier Saunders.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I welcome the comments of the noble Lord and entirely associate myself with them. It is right that we continue this effort and I can assure the noble Lord that our energy will be properly directed to that end.

Lord Acton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the widow of Brigadier Saunders, Mrs Heather Saunders, and her two daughters visited your Lordships' House yesterday and that all who met them were deeply impressed by their courage and dignity? On leaving, Mrs Saunders expressed their great joy at the day they had spent here. Might it not be appropriate to send a message to the Saunders family

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expressing your Lordships' pleasure at their enjoyment and sending the family the good wishes of your Lordships' House?

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that I was so aware. Indeed, I was privileged to be able to meet and spend some time with both Mrs Saunders and her daughters. We have much to be grateful for. They are great British people and great ambassadors for Britain. They have shown the sort of courage and tenacity that no one could have expected them to demonstrate in these circumstances. It was a small thing that they were able to come here, but I know that the whole House will join me in sending them our heartfelt best wishes. We wish them Godspeed in coming to terms with this terrible, wicked tragedy.

Noble Lords: Hear! Hear!

Lord Roper: My Lords, perhaps I may associate these Benches with the tributes paid to the family of Brigadier Saunders and to the members of the Diplomatic Service, and those from other departments who work with them, who have to put up with very difficult circumstances. Cannot more be done through co-operation with our partners in the European Union to deal with the causes of terrorism, which lead to situations such as the assassination of Brigadier Saunders?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point. This issue is being considered by a number of our partners. It is a tragic reality that terrorism is now truly international. It is something with which, regrettably, we have all to deal.

"Touchstone Issues" Leak

3.1 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will investigate how the Prime Minister's memorandum "Touchstone Issues" came into the possession of The Times.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, steps are being taken to investigate the leak to the press of the Prime Minister's memorandum. The noble Lord will be aware that, in order to safeguard the effectiveness of both the investigation and the security arrangements in place to prevent leaks, it has been the practice of successive governments not to disclose information about how leak investigations are conducted.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and congratulate him on his reply. He is quite clearly above suspicion. But is the Minister aware that as this leak of the Prime Minister's confessional is one

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of five leaks to date this month, there are some people who think that the leak is a new form of twisted spin? Can he give the House an assurance that this leak was in fact a genuine leak which the Government regret rather than a press hand-out, in which the Government delight?

Lord Burlison: My Lords, my colleagues are whispering that all spins are twisted. I think noble Lords perhaps appreciate my background. Before I came into this House, when people mentioned "spinners" to me I thought it was a pop group from the sixties. Although we make light of it at the moment, it is a very serious issue. I know that the noble Lord would wish to support the Government on this issue and to join us in condemning the circumstances surrounding the leak. I should also mention that the Government take the question of security very seriously. All government departments are responsible for ensuring that stringent security measures are in place. Where there has been a leak of sensitive information, inquiries will be undertaken to establish who is responsible.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House when a leak inquiry last identified and disciplined the leaker? Does he think that it may perhaps be better to take further action on the Freedom of Information of Bill and publish the whole darn lot of these things? It would probably be much to the Government's advantage to get it all over with on a regular basis so that Ministers cannot stab each other in the back in the press so easily.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I simply say to the noble Lord that successive governments have developed policies similar to that which exists at the moment in relation to leaks of this nature. I can assure the House that they are not routine and are not undertaken on a routine basis. While it may not be possible in some cases to identify the individuals responsible, the inquiry process itself has a guarding effect and raises security awareness within departments. Where leaks occur, the Government will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the culprits are found.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I can help the noble Lord. I think that the answer to the question of my noble friend Lord Tebbit is "never"--at least that is the experience of those of us who were in government. Is it true that a game of pass-the-parcel was played in the office of the Leader of the House to see who would answer this Question and that the music was rigged by the Minister's elders--and, dare I say, betters--to make sure that the parcel stopped with him? Furthermore, has he read the leaked memo? Has he read in particular the sentence,


    "It is bizarre that any government I lead should be seen as anti-family"?

Can I tempt the Minister to agree with me that what is bizarre is that any Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should ever write such self-pitying guff?

Lord Burlison: My Lords, as to the noble Lord's point about me answering the Question, the Cabinet

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Office Minister, for whom I am deputising, is away on official business of a long-standing nature. I simply make one point in response to the noble Lord's comments--that is, that it would seem that the leaks issue is orchestrated against the Government in order to deflect attention from what the Government are doing at the moment. I am quite certain that many noble Lords would rather debate today the £43 billion spending review that the Government announced yesterday than this issue.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that perhaps there is not a leaker; perhaps the culprit is a hacker?

Lord Burlison: My Lords, that is certainly a consideration we should take on board. The Government have announced that an investigation will take place. We are not aware that there is any connection between the recent graffiti on the Cabinet Office website and the latest leak. However, I can assure my noble friend that the inquiry will explore a full range of possibilities, of which this will be one.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, in view of the apparent dearth of plumbers in Westminster, could some of the £43 billion be spent in training them?

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I am sorry, I did not quite catch the noble Countess's question.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, in view of the apparent shortage of plumbers around Westminster, could some of the £43 billion be spent on training them?

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Countess for her question. I realise that there is a pun in there somewhere and that there should be one in the reply. However, having said that, the Government take the leaks very seriously. Whether we need plumbers or training in this direction I am not sure, but certainly the Government take the issue of establishing responsibility for these leaks very seriously indeed.

Business of the House: Debates, 20th July

3.8 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House to know that the usual channels have agreed to a change in tomorrow's business. Owing to the number of Peers who wish to speak on the Second Reading of the Football (Disorder) Bill and other business tomorrow, the first Committee day of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill has been postponed until next Tuesday, 25th July, which was to have been the second Committee day. Every effort is being made to ensure that all those with an interest in the Bill are made aware of this change.


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