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Lord Blaker: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that comprehensive reply. Will the Government consider setting up between this country and Yugoslavia an annual series of conferences modelled on the Ko nigswinter conferences between Germany and this country which have existed ever since the Second World War? Is the noble Baroness aware that those conferences have included leading people from politics, the media, academia, business, the arts and other opinion-forming sectors of our population? They have been extremely successful in the early years in helping Germany back to democracy and, in the later years, in cementing the relations between this country and Germany.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I should say straightaway to the noble Lord that I join with him in underlining the importance of the Ko nigswinter conferences and agree that they have brought many benefits. But in relation to Yugoslavia, I should say that the imminent restoration of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will be the first of many events along the way to rebuilding the traditionally close links between our two countries.

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We are also working with our European Union partners and playing an extremely active role in the Stability Pact. We shall continue to explore all possibilities of dialogue with the FRY on key issues.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, will my noble friend advise us of the success or otherwise of last week's trade delegation to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, led by Richard Caborn?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly do that. I am pleased to say that that visit was extremely successful. Richard Caborn was able to demonstrate that the United Kingdom is being a genuine and practical partner in the FRY. The democratisation and the economic development of the FRY is a matter of great importance. The Minister was able to announce a £1.2 million package of assistance to help in the spheres of energy, health, waste disposal and water supplies. My honourable friend the Minister announced also the bond scheme which will provide young professionals with the opportunity of work experience in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, apart from supporting the interesting idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, I commend the Government and the European Union on the speed with which they have lifted sanctions and on the excellence of their proposals under the Balkan Stability Pact with regard to Yugoslav municipalities, which I understand led to an ovation for the representatives of the European Union compared with silence for the American delegation who offered no concrete aid. Can the Minister tell the House whether one of the first fruits of that much more constructive and helpful approach is the willingness of the new government of Serbia to support the clearing of the Danube?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the compliments that she rightly pays to the efforts made by the European Union. I agree with her that the new approach towards the clearing of the Danube is certainly a clear benefit that has already arisen as a result of the change in the regime in the federal republic.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's reply to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. Does she agree that the former Yugoslavia is yet another example of a failed federation? After four ghastly wars, is it not time that the component parts of that federation were allowed to exercise self-determination?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, that is a matter for the people of the federal republic. They have lived through the tragic history and now they have to heal the wounds. They have to come to a democratic resolution of the difficulties that are presented by their various peoples. Her Majesty's Government feel that it is important that the federal republic has taken the first material step along that democratic path for change and are certainly hopeful

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that the conversations between the peoples of the federal republic, which once were difficult, will now take place more easily.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, following that question from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, does the noble Baroness agree that the future of Kosovo forms part of the picture? Three strategies or plans are being floated for that future: first, that it should remain with Serbia; secondly, that it should form part of a looser and autonomous body within a confederation; and thirdly, that it should become independent. What is the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend would not like me to nail my colours to any mast. It will be for the peoples of the federal republic--Kosovo is still part of that republic--to determine which way they go. The success of the municipal elections paves the way for Kosovo-wide elections next year, in accordance with UNSCR1244 provision on the development of self-governing institutions in Kosovo. The timing of those elections will be of importance and that has not yet been decided.

As noble Lords will know, UNSCR1244 was part of the FRY. The final status of Kosovo is a matter for future discussion. A democratic government in Belgrade offers the prospect of serious constructive dialogue between the Serb and Albanian communities in Kosovo and both sides must now consider the future status. However, with respect, that is not the issue addressed by the Question.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, following on from Mr Caborn's visit, what will be the future policy of ECGD and to what extent does DfID see itself engaged locally in warding off a looming humanitarian crisis this winter?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the Department for International Development announced last week a £10 million assistance package for Serbia which includes humanitarian assistance and technical assistance. Noble Lords will know that DfID was responsible for sending a fact-finding mission which identified five key areas: macro-economic advice, aid co-operation, civil service restructuring, privatisation strategy and banking reform. So the United Kingdom can begin to implement technical assistance programmes and experts have remained in Serbia to continue that work.

There is also a DTI mission which has been exploring the scope of inward investment in key sectors such as power distribution and petroleum and your Lordships will know that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has co-ordinated a

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£2.5 million programme of support for democratisation in the FRY over the past 12 months. Much is being done and we shall continue to do all that we can to assist.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I welcome the enormously helpful and constructive statement that my noble friend has made this afternoon. As a result of the war there are enormous refugee problems. Can she tell the House to what degree the humanitarian assistance will help in that regard?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I have already said, the Department for International Development has announced a £10 million package of humanitarian assistance. It has been most important to identify the ambit of assistance needed and where it should most properly be targeted. That is being done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The Department for International Development continues to examine the position. The package is one of immediate humanitarian assistance, but I can reassure the House that Her Majesty's Government will continue to assess the position and, in due course, will seek to take all possible steps to assist.


Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on resources and priorities for the National Health Service.

Licensing (Young Persons) Bill

3.6 p.m.

Read a third time.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

I want to place on record that this Bill is a testament to a three-year campaign run by my honourable friend Mr Paul Truswell to fill a huge loophole in the licensing laws. His campaign was precipitated by the tragic and early death of a young man from his constituency, David Knowles. David's parents, Mr and Mrs Knowles, also deserve the highest praise for their wonderful support for this Bill at a time of great personal grief. This is David Knowles' Bill. I thank Members from all sides of the House who have supported the Bill. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Baroness Thornton.)

On Question, Bill passed.

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Freedom of Information Bill

3.7 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Effect of the exemptions in Part II]:

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 2, line 12, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert--

("( ) Section 1(1)(a) does not apply in respect of information as respects which the duty to confirm or deny is excluded by virtue of any provision of Part II conferring absolute exemption.
( ) Section 1(1)(a) applies in respect of information which is exempt information by virtue of any provision of Part II other than a provision conferring absolute exemption unless, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in excluding the duty to confirm or deny clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosing whether the authority holds the information.
( ) Section 1(1)(b) does not apply in respect of information which is exempt information by virtue of any provision of Part II conferring absolute exemption.
( ) Section 1(1)(b) applies in respect of information which is exempt information by virtue of any provision of Part II other than a provision conferring absolute exemption unless, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in Committee there were attempts from all sides of the House to suggest improvements which, taken together as a package, would have made all the difference between an effective Bill, one which realises the hopes in the original White Paper, and one which loses impetus at those points where it matters, where the public have cause to suspect that something of importance is being concealed from them.

Early in the Committee stage my noble and learned friend introduced an amendment which, although he was modest enough to say that it was chiefly a matter of drafting, was certainly about redrafting an improvement which had been introduced into the Bill at an earlier stage. It became what is now Clause 2. That clause contains one regrettable imperfection. In assessing the public interest the balance was to be in favour of concealment; the right to disclosure was to apply only if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in maintaining the exemption.

It was not the death knell of civilisation. My noble and learned friend pointed out that it was not about the burden of proof, but that it was simply a tie-breaker; it concerned what would happen when whoever took such a decision could not make up his mind where the balance of public interest lay. But a number of us felt that it did not belong in a Bill called the Freedom of Information Bill, a Bill apparently intended to thaw the flow of information; a Bill which begins by declaring a public right to information subject only to specified exceptions.

So on 17th October a number of us from all sides of the Chamber tried to persuade my noble and learned friend to consider the matter again. One was the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. He was fair enough to say that it may not make an enormous difference because, in most cases, whoever is adjudicating will be able to come to a decision as to where the balance lies. But he

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pointed out that it was about sending signals. I agree that it is not by any means the most important issue in the Bill, but if my noble and learned friend were persuaded, it would be a promising beginning to our debates today.

The arguments have been deployed many times. They will not improve from repetition by me. I tabled an amendment in the form for which we argued, and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has also tabled an amendment. I do not seek to argue that my drafting should prevail over his. If my noble and learned friend is persuaded on reflection that he agrees with the substance of what we are both saying, then I am content. I beg to move.

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