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Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one reason for the shortage of governors is that many people do not feel themselves fitted to be governors? The reason that they do not feel themselves fitted is that they are not fitted. What are the Government doing to fit people to be governors so that they can be effective?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, many noble Lords are definitely fit to be governors. If I were allowed to do so, I should take a straw poll to see how many of us are in fact governors. I believe that the question is, in a sense, the other way up--many people are fit to be a governor but they do not feel that it is a role for them. They may feel that way because they have a misunderstanding about what is required, because they believe that being a governor will take up a huge amount of their time or because they find the process and procedures very difficult to understand. Most people--certainly many parents, many of those who are involved in community life and many business people--should and will be encouraged to become governors, but it should be done on the basis that they understand what the role involves.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): The Provisional IRA remains proscribed in this country as an illegal terrorist organisation even though it has been on ceasefire since 1997. The links that it is known to have had at various points over the past 30 years with overseas terrorist groups have always been a matter of concern. However, that does not alter the fact that the present peace process offers the best chance for generations finally to rid Northern Ireland of the scourge of politically motivated violence.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I hope that the Minister agrees that the concept of a freedom fighter who is fighting in a free society is a contradiction in terms. Will he tell the House what pressures he is
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I say with the best will in the world that we are doing everything that we can to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion. Frankly, unwise words and comments will disturb that and I am not going to fall into the trap. We are determined to bring this to a successful conclusion. We have the best chance for a generation to get peace in Northern Ireland, and that is what we are working towards.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I cannot see how by any stretch of the imagination public debate in this House could offend the efforts of the peace process. Is it not right for the Government to have declared war on terrorism? Are we now seeing the Government deciding that there is good terrorism and bad terrorism?
Lord Rooker: No, my Lords. Every noble Lord will understand that a peace process is under way in Northern Ireland. Asking me to comment on a particular phrase that has been gleaned from whatever part of the media and which was made by a particular person and expecting a substantive answer means, frankly, that one is not taking the peace process seriously. We are serious about getting a successful conclusion to this peace process; that remains the position. There is no stifling of open debate in this regard. Unlike other parts of the world, we have a peace process under way; that is the difference.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, this is not a one-party peace process. Of course it started under John Major. All credit is due to him and to all former Northern Ireland Secretaries of State, some of whom sit on different sides of this House, and to former Prime Ministers on both sides of the political divide in the United Kingdom. They tried their level best at that time to get peace in Northern Ireland. We are continuing that process.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I ask the Minister not to comment on that but to answer the question. What is being done to stop America providing funds to the terrorists? Will he please answer that question on behalf of the Government?
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, what is the present position regarding the declaration that the loyalist paramilitaries have broken the ceasefire? What is the purpose of this declaration in terms of upholding the peace process?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, John Reid, said last week, the organisations have been specified in the legislation. It so happens that no members of those organisations are currently being held. If there had been, their release would have been stopped. The provisions do not mean, as many mistakenly thought, that those who had been released and who were members of those organisations would automatically go back to prison. That will happen only if such people break the terms of their release agreement. That is the consequence of specifying those organisations. They are now out of the ceasefire process.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I stress to the Minister that we are asking only for a statement of fact. Two Ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly are members of Sinn Fein/IRA, and one of them has at last just become a public member of the provisional council of the IRA. The Sinn Fein conference entertained ETA, a Basque terrorist organisation, at its previous conference. It has raised money and sought arms in Libya and Bosnia, and it has sent people to help to train terrorists in Colombia. We would look foolish in the eyes of the world, the eyes of Europe and, most of all, the eyes of the United States if we did not recognise, whatever the importance of the peace process, that this movement is a part of an international terrorist group. Surely those are facts.
The Government, I hope, are prepared to deal in facts. The peace process will not be helped by ignoring those facts and not remembering that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. The people in this movement wish to prevent that. They still have guns under the table and, indeed, above the table. They are still terrorising their own communities and exiling people. I am aware that I have spoken for too long. Can the Minister say whether the Provisional IRA should be regarded as an international terrorist organisation?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, in the middle of her reply, the noble Baroness used the words, "whatever the importance of the peace process", thus qualifying it. I made clear in my Answer that it has overriding importance in trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I also made clear that at various points over the past 30 years links with these groups have been a
Lord Carter: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, who, with his customary courtesy, informed me of his intention to ask this Question. I should make clear that the Government have no locus in this matter, but I am happy to respond.
The work that has been carried out on the West Front of the House in the area of the Peers' car park in the Summer Recess is phase 2 of a three-phase project to create Old Palace Yard as a World Heritage square. Next summer will see the roadway restored. This summer's work should have been completed by 8th October 2001. Unannounced and unco-ordinated work to lay a gas pipeline by Transco along the pedestrian side of Old Palace Yard started shortly before the House rose for the Recess.
Accordingly, our contractors asked for and were granted two extra weeks to complete the pavement. The pavement work will be completed by 26th October; that is, at the end of next week. The car park is complete and provides 64 parking spaces, one more than before. I am sure that, had he been with us, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe would have been the first to congratulate the authorities of the House.
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