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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that all the usual processes will be adopted in relation to scrutiny and that the Nice treaty will be given the same attention as was given to the Maastricht Treaty when it passed through both Houses.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister recall that when my noble friend Lord Cranborne asked a similar Question on 1st November her answer was a little fuzzy? Can we assume that today's Answer is the Government's definitive view on this important issue? Furthermore, can she assure us that when any treaty Bill comes before this House, there will be no question of being asked to approve of powers, or to reduce our power, over our national taxation or foreign policy? Will she accept that we on this side of the House are very much in favour of the enlargement process? We believe that the common agricultural policy is the chief obstacle to that, but there does not seem to be much about it in the Nice document.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that, whatever fuzziness befell me on the previous occasion, clarity now reigns. I can also say that the areas of veto will be retained and that there will be no change in terms of our taxation. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord is reassured on those issues.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, will my noble friend assure me on an adjacent point? Will agreements reached on the militarisation of the European Union and the creation of a rapid reaction force also be submitted to both Houses of Parliament for approval, or will it be taken as read that we should go through the transformation of the EU into a military alliance?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not know what we must say from this Dispatch Box to reassure my noble friend that there is to be no European army. If there is to be any change in legislation, it will come before both Houses of Parliament in the proper way. This Government will ensure that legislation comes before both Houses so that they can comment, as is proper.

Nuclear Waste

3.1 p.m.

Lord Winston asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government's policy is that radioactive wastes should be managed in ways that protect, now and in the future, the safety of the public, the workforce and the environment. The UK Government and the devolved administrations are about to publish a consultation paper to set out

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detailed proposals. This will begin the process which will lead to the implementation of a radioactive waste management policy that is capable of commanding widespread support across the UK.

Lord Winston: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Does the Minister accept that the need to research a suitable site, or sites, make option appraisals and commission and construct deep repositories, if that appears to be the most favourable solution, means that disposal will take at least 50 years? Does my noble friend agree that there is a need for urgency in decisions on this matter, given that we need to protect our children and our children's children?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, deep disposal was the preferred option in the report of the Select Committee, but other options will be covered in the consultation. As to timescale, the Select Committee indicated that it would take over 20 years to establish the policy and perhaps up to 50 years to implement. This is an extremely complex area with very long-term implications. It is important that all of those complexities are addressed, and the consultation paper will begin that process.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, I am pleased to hear that a consultation paper is to be published, because the Select Committee made its recommendations a long time ago. As the Minister indicates, if we are to achieve the right solution for the future, the consultation period will be very long. Will the Government hasten to provide a Green Paper and a commission? Does the Minister agree that those building blocks need to be put in place as soon as possible if the consultation process is to succeed?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, this is a complex matter. The Government will shortly produce a consultation paper which will begin the process which the noble Baroness seeks.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the long delayed consultation paper will clearly indicate the various options, and their pros and cons, so that a decision after consultation can be reached once and for all and action taken?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the consultation paper will be primarily about the way in which to reach conclusions and how to achieve the widest possible consensus on the options. Clearly, it will refer to the options but will not make recommendations. Considerable further work and input from all the parties will be required before we can be clear about the best options for what is a very long-term process.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, bearing in mind the reported cost of £4 billion to decommission Dounreay, what is the estimated cost of

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decommissioning all nuclear establishments and managing the subsequent waste over a very long period of time?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the cost of decommissioning and managing the waste thereafter depends on both the programme for decommissioning and the option adopted to manage the waste. I do not believe, therefore, that I can give my noble friend a clear answer, even if I sought further advice upon it. In any case, we are dealing with nuclear waste that already exists and is being produced by the current generation of nuclear power, irrespective of future decommissioning costs. We must find a solution for that as well as any additional costs caused by decommissioning.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, does the nuclear waste to which the noble Lord refers include the three nuclear submarines which Her Majesty's Government will make available to the rapid reaction force, otherwise known as the European army?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not believe that the Question has much to do with a European army. I do not believe that we propose either a European army or navy. It is intended that the programme for managing nuclear waste should, as far as is compatible with national security, deal also with military nuclear waste.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House how much nuclear waste is imported from other countries for reprocessing here? Does the Minister have any plans to reduce that nuclear waste, at least until we have a proper plan to dispose of our own?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we do not import nuclear waste in the sense in which my noble friend puts it. We take fuel for reprocessing. In each of the contracts with other countries for reprocessing that fuel there is an option to return the waste so created to the country of origin. It is our policy that that option should be exercised.

Disqualifications Bill

3.7 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Amendment of section 1(1)(e) of the Disqualification Acts]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 1:


    Page 1, line 9, after ("than") insert ("the Republic of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 is a modest amendment which seeks to correct what I hope is an oversight. In proposing to amend the House of Commons Disqualification Act, the Bill refers only to Ireland. In common English that normally means the whole of the island of Ireland. Those who come from Northern Ireland are just as much Irish as those

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from the south. The Government of the Republic claimed the whole of Ireland as their territory, although they modified the Irish constitution following the Good Friday agreement. They have conventionally referred to themselves as the Government of Ireland so as to imply a claim to the whole island and that they speak for all of it. But that is no reason why our legislation should do the same, particularly since the Good Friday agreement.

Amendment No. 1 refers to the House of Commons Disqualification Act. The other amendments in the group, Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, 9 to 11, 13 and 15, make the same correction to later references to Ireland where the intention is to refer to the Republic of Ireland. When one refers to the parliament of the Republic, as do most of the later amendments, it might be thought more acceptable to omit the words "Republic of" so as to preserve the translation of the official Irish name of the parliament, which also appears quite properly in the Bill, even though that would be just as objectionable given the underlying principle. I believe that Amendment No. 1 is slightly more important because that alters only our legislation and does not refer particularly to the parliament but to the House of Commons Disqualification Act. I beg to move.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Cope. The noble and learned Lord the Minister will remember that before the Italian Risorgimento Metternich used to refer to Italy as a geographical expression. I think that Ireland is still a geographical expression and perhaps also a cultural expression. This is a highly political Bill. Like my noble friend, I am certainly not in favour of the principle of the Bill, a point which the noble and learned Lord will no doubt by now have gathered. But if he is going to do this foolish thing, it would be sensible if the wording of the Bill reflected the political realities of the island of Ireland, in which there are still two polities rather than one, however much the government of the day may be pushing us in the latter direction.


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