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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend will attempt to answer the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. However, in view of the length of the Question I wonder whether this is perhaps a more appropriate subject for a debate or Unstarred Question.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, perhaps I should explain to the Leader of the House that I wrote to the Home Secretary--

Noble Lords: Order, order!

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have some sympathy for the noble Lord: it is, after all, a complex issue. As to the points that have been raised, I am more than happy for the helpful dialogue between the noble Lord and the Home Office to continue. The noble Lord is right in that in this matter there appears to be a difference of opinion between the tribunal and the understanding of the Home Office. We must study this very complex matter carefully. Above all, it is the intention of the Government to ensure that people fully understand and enjoy their human rights.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend appreciate that for the past 35 years since

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ratification of the European convention the rights set out in the Human Rights Act have been acknowledged by this country as something by which it is bound? Can my noble friend assure the House that those who have been denied the opportunity to raise these issues at an earlier stage will not be precluded from doing so before the immigration authorities when the question arises of their return to their own countries?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I would have thought that from the recent launch of the human rights awareness campaign it was patently clear that the Government are profoundly committed to ensuring that people are made fully aware of those rights. We have a proud record and tradition and the Government are more than happy to stand by it.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the question is indeed complex. Having read the briefing, this matter goes beyond the bounds of the present proceedings. However, I believe that there is a case for asking the Government to place under ever closer scrutiny the just practices and fair procedures for appeals, in recognition of the fact that appeals are for the benefit of appellants as well as the rest of the community. On the day that we give thanks for Donald Dewar I am proud to wear a Celtic cross around my neck. Once upon a time the Scots and Irish were asylum seekers. Will the Government press for the abolition of the emotive term "asylum seeker" and use the more neutral, and humanitarian, word "refugee"?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we deal with the law as it is and use the terms "asylum seeker" as well as "refugee". The right reverend Prelate is right to say that the subject is very complex. We shall endeavour to ensure that there is a common understanding of decisions made by the tribunal in these matters. We shall do all that we can to ensure that people are made fully aware of their rights.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I, too, have had the advantage of sight of the correspondence on this extremely complex matter. Am I correct in thinking that the result of the Government's decision and the orders mentioned in the Question is that there will need to be two hearings on disputed cases? How does that square with everyone's aim to speed up the immigration and asylum process?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there may be cases where there will need to be two hearings. But with the new orders we have provided for a one-stop appeals process. That will not preclude people from making a human rights claim.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, following the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, perhaps I may press the Minister further. He will be aware that the refugee legal centre believes that this will double the backlog of appeals. Can he therefore assure the House that those who are subject to removal

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or to having their extended leave to enter refused should be informed of their rights so that the matter can be dealt with at one and the same time? In that way the problem to which the noble Lord referred could be avoided to the benefit of the whole community.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Government have acted rapidly over the past year to ensure that the whole backlog issue is dealt with. The matter has been tackled. The backlog of cases is now down to 76,000 from 102,000 at the beginning of the year. Part IV of the Act introduces the one-stop appeals procedure. That should speed up matters and ensure that where appropriate the two sets of issues can be considered together.

Lord Renton: My Lords, having supported--

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, perhaps I may--

Noble Lords: Order!

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I think the feeling of the House is that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, should ask a question.

Lord Renton: My Lords, having supported the Government in their introduction of the European Convention on Human Rights into our law and the work of our courts, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether he agrees that, when there is a conflict or apparent conflict between our law and a convention but a doubt as to the effect of the convention, that doubt should be resolved in favour of our law.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it has been a long-standing tradition that we abide by convention rights. We have a long and proud history of so doing. But finally and ultimately it is for Parliament to make law and to ensure that the laws of the country are properly put in place.

Euro: Economic Tests for UK Entry

2.53 p.m.

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish at six-monthly intervals an assessment of progress towards meeting the five tests laid down for deciding whether the United Kingdom should join the euro zone.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that we will make another assessment of the five economic tests early in the next Parliament.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, I hope the Government will treat this as a constructive suggestion and not entrench themselves further in the usual positions. The Government have announced that the five conditions

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are extremely important. Does it not follow that if the Government want an informed and reasonable debate on the whole question it would be of great assistance to have from time to time a public assessment of progress in meeting the five tests? Furthermore, do the Government agree that it would be quite wrong for a judgment on whether conditions were favourable for entry into the euro--which the Government say in principle they desire--to be kept within the Treasury? Does that not reinforce the case for regular public assessment of the state of convergence between the UK economy and the euro-zone economies?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord has chosen in his Question to concentrate on one particular conclusion in a very constructive and helpful report from Christopher Huhne and his colleagues. It is made nonetheless constructive by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, was a member of the group that produced it. In saying that the report was constructive and helpful, we do not have to agree with every part of it. We have never taken the view-- we do not take the view now--that continually to dip into the pot to decide whether or not the tests apply at this time would be at all helpful.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the five tests must be met before any recommendation to join is made? Will he also confirm that the final decision will be made by the British people in the form of a referendum?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can certainly confirm both points raised by my noble friend. I have confirmed them in the words of the Chancellor in 1997 and the Prime Minister in 1999. I can confirm them again in the words of the Prime Minister at Warsaw last week. He said:

    "It is an economic union. Joining prematurely simply on political grounds, without the economic conditions being right, would be a mistake."

Hence our position--in principle, in favour; in practice, the economic test must be met.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, will the Minister not put the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, out of his misery and tell him that the five tests are completely meaningless and entirely a matter of judgment; and that the real test that matters is of course the sixth test? That is published not just six-monthly, but monthly in the opinion poll Attitudes Towards the Euro; and alas that ain't becoming convergent.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I rather thought that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, in referring to the sixth test was referring to the same six tests to which the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, was referring. The Liberal Democrats think that the sixth test is actually the exchange rate. The economic tests are the right tests for the Government to make up their own mind and to make a recommendation to

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Parliament and to the United Kingdom. It is up to us to persuade the people of the United Kingdom of the correctness of the conclusion that we reach.

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