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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I will certainly bear that in mind. I reassure the noble Lord that we looked carefully at cost; at whether the system was fit for the purpose and whether there was a real need for night court sittings. The pilot seemed to indicate that the utility of night courts is not justified, although, as I said, early-morning sessions have proved far more successful.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, if the early-morning or night courts decide to send people with alcohol or drug problems to treatment centres rather than prison, will there be enough places for them?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Baroness's question about disposal on sentencing. I assure her that, before anyone is charged, their fitness to be charged is assessed. That affects how much court capacity is needed. I shall undertake to obtain a proper answer to the noble Baroness's question.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, as regards expediency, does the evaluation of the pilot scheme indicate whether quality of justice has remained the same, or has it been sacrificed for speed?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we would never sacrifice quality for speed. We wanted to discover whether there was, first, a capacity need for night courts and, secondly, how it would be managed. I congratulate everyone who helped us with the pilot, including probation officers, judges and magistrates. They worked incredibly hard and enabled us to get a good pilot, which demonstrated that quality can be delivered at other times and we do not need night courts.

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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, quite apart from any decision the Government take about the future, why was it not possible to predict that night courts would be disproportionately expensive? As the noble Baroness said, the pilot involved hard work for many people. Why could that not be foreseen?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the whole point of exploring the issues was to do just that. Lord Justice Auld recommended that the exploration should be made. Noble Lords will know that we promised not only to take Lord Justice Auld's recommendations seriously but to explore and implement them if they proved necessary. That was precisely why we took the pilot seriously. We have canvassed it fully and now we can work on the results.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, now that we know that night courts are unnecessary, what further steps do the Government plan to take to reduce the time between charge and appearance in court, especially with young offenders?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have worked hard on that. The noble Lord will know that the times have decreased dramatically. We shall continue to assess needs. I indicated that early-morning sittings are being looked at. All issues affecting young offenders will be considered.


2.49 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What support they are giving to Taiwan's application to join the World Health Organisation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, Taiwan's relationship to the World Health Organisation was last discussed at the World Health Assembly in May 2002. There was no consensus in the general committee for the matter to be discussed in the main assembly session. The Taiwan authorities have not informed us of the details of any application this year.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. She will know that Taiwan's application is supported by the United States Congress and the European Parliament. Is she aware that one consequence of Taiwan being denied membership as an observer is that in times of emergency, such as during the enterovirus attack, which killed 78 children on Taiwan, and the earthquake in 1999, its people are denied any help from WHO officials? That is a large gap in the network of help that the WHO is able to offer to countries. How can it be right that entities such as the PLO, the Holy See and Liechtenstein all have access to the WHO, but

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Taiwan, which is a stable democracy of 23 million people and a valued trading partner of this country, is denied the same access?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the countries that he mentioned have observer status to the World Health Organisation. We hope that Taiwan can submit an application that all World Health Organisation parties can accept. However, we should stress that we cannot offer a view on any possible application until it has been made and its full details are known and until we have an agreed EU common position. We have supported Taiwanese applications to international organisations in the past, such as to the WTO, which is a membership organisation not based on states. However, we could not support any application from Taiwan if statehood was a prerequisite.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, are the Government prepared to hear the case for Taiwan and its 23 million people? Surely the Government's position, which the Minister has described as being of no view, must mean that they keep an open mind. Are they doing anything actively to help put the matter of observer status on the agenda?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I repeat that there has been no application from Taiwan this year. There was an application last year, which was not accepted by the majority of the members of the WHO. The Government's position is that we are ready to consider an application if it is made on a basis that all WHO parties can accept. Only 27 countries recognise Taiwan. The WHO is a specialist organisation of the UN.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the noble Baroness think of any of the attributes of a sovereign state that Taiwan lacks?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that we do not recognise Taiwan. The majority of countries in the UN also do not recognise Taiwan. Therein lies the problem with respect to WHO membership.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am sure that we all appreciate that because of respect for the "one China" policy and our relations with the People's Republic of China, we do not accord Taiwan full diplomatic status. Can we at least be assured that we give Taiwan representatives in our country and the sort of causes that we are discussing in this Question the same support and encouragement as are given by our neighbours, particularly France and Germany, in their dealings with Taiwan? Are we as effective as they are in maintaining good relations with this remarkable democracy?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, there is an EU common position on Taiwan, to which all EU member states adhere. As the noble Lord will be aware, there are unofficial links at a number of levels. UK Ministers have visited Taiwan to discuss issues of interest. The same has happened the other way round. However, I repeat that we do not recognise Taiwan as a state.

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Student Suicides

2.54 p.m.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they are doing to implement the recommendations in the report Reducing the Risk of Student Suicides.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the recommendations outlined in the report are aimed at the higher education sector as a whole and at individual higher education institutions. It is an extremely useful report. My department will encourage the NHS to offer support to higher education institutions in taking the recommendations forward.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Given the tragic loss when there is a student suicide, and the risk of copycat suicides, does the Minister feel that there should be a central database to collect data on suicides by full-time and part-time students? Data are not currently collected on part-time students. Such a database would allow the sharing of good practice. Does the Minister also agree that there should be a statutory requirement for all higher education institutions to provide student counselling services? Their provision is currently patchy in some institutions, whereas in others they are of a very high standard and have been developed with the student body as a whole.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree that there should be a statutory requirement. It is a matter for each higher education institution to consider the report and take action appropriately. The collecting of statistics is a matter for the higher education sector, although the NHS stands ready to help. I certainly agree with the noble Baroness and very much endorse Part 5 of the report about good practice on how higher education institutions should respond to student suicides and attempted suicides.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, in the interests of joined-up government, has the Minister considered the increased financial pressures on students foreshadowed by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills recently? What representations will he make to the Secretary of State?

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