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Lord Burnham: My Lords, my local roads, of which I can give the noble Lord details, are absolutely foul and have been for some months. I am informed that it is necessary to close the road to clean it and that there is no agreement between the local district council and the county council as to how and when that can be done. Will the Government find some method of ensuring that there is one specific authority which is responsible for that work?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, again, I do not know the details of that case. Certainly, the guidance states that advantage should be taken of road closures to undertake a particular clean-up, but it does not state that one has to wait until the road is closed in order to clean it. There is a problem. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 distinguishes between highway authorities which are the responsibility of counties and litter authorities which are the responsibility of districts. Different councils therefore have different responsibilities. Clearly, that situation can deliver unsatisfactory results. The Government's responsibility is confined to motorways and a few special roads. All-purpose trunk roads are the responsibility of local authorities.

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Lord Ezra: My Lords, are the Government giving sufficient support to the Tidy Britain Group, an organisation with which I was actively involved for many years, and which was then doing a very valuable job in dealing with the litter problem?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Tidy Britain Group is now part of an umbrella organisation with the acronym, ENCAMS. Do not ask me what that stands for, but it includes the Tidy Britain Group and Going for Green. In 1999 it published a valuable code of practice on litter and refuse which the Government take very seriously and support.


2.48 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they endorse the seven links between Iraq and international terrorism identified by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations Security Council on 5th February.

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the reference to seven links in the noble Lord's Question, although seven separate groups were mentioned by the United States Secretary of State. Secretary of State Powell covered a number of broad issues in his account of the relationship between Iraq and various terrorist organisations. He also dealt with some specific points arising from those issues. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear in another place on 5th February, the extent of links between Iraq and terrorist organisations varies and our understanding of those links is evolving. Moreover, we are getting fresh intelligence on those matters all the time.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness agrees—as we do on this side of the House—that it is the business of government to govern and that that sometimes means pursuing deeply unpopular and difficult policies. But does that not make it all the more necessary for the Government to have a clear and consistent line about what they are proposing in relation to Iraq? Would it not have been much better if from the start emphasis had been put—as did Colin Powell at the Security Council—on the converging interest between Iraq and international terrorism, an emphasis made more vivid by the remarks of Osama bin Laden on the brotherhood between Iraq and terrorism? Is the Prime Minister's comment last Saturday that he wished to see the removal of Saddam and to see the world rid of Saddam Hussein, a recognition of a desire for regime change and a shift of policy or, indeed, has the policy shifted back again this morning?

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, a government should always do what they believe to be right. The noble Lord referred again to the tapes of Osama bin Laden, which we discussed last week. They have all the hallmarks of being authentic. It seems that the message that Osama bin Laden gave was one of making common cause, but I am bound to say that the message itself is pretty incoherent, as the noble Lord will know if he studied it. When it is not incoherent, it is pretty facile.

I have some difficulty in answering the noble Lord's original Question, as he will have discerned, because I cannot say with any certainty what he is really inviting Her Majesty's Government to endorse or not. Any discussion about such points has to be based on reliable intelligence. For reasons that all noble Lords will understand, I am unwilling to discuss that on the Floor of the House. It would be quite inappropriate to do so. I shall suggest what would be appropriate. If the Opposition, the Liberal Democrats and the Cross-Benchers wish it, I have arranged for a briefing for a member of each Bench on an appropriate basis to discuss the matters further on Privy Council terms.

Lord Richard: My Lords, it is all very well to arrange briefings officially for the opposition parties and the Cross-Benchers but—I have to ask—what about my noble friend's Back-Benchers? Is she aware that one cannot go to war, which is what we are talking about, on the basis of a nod and a wink and an assurance from the Dispatch Box that if we all knew what the Government know we would be in favour of it? There has to be some concrete evidence, and that evidence has not yet been forthcoming.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I find it quite extraordinary that my noble friend is suggesting that I for a moment would want anyone to go to war on the basis of a nod and a wink. He will know that it is the custom on occasions in such circumstances to offer briefings on Privy Council terms for senior Members of the House. I have done so on the basis of one per Bench. So far as our own party is concerned, it is Ministers who are appropriately briefed on such matters.

I hope that those on the other Benches will feel it appropriate to take up my offer. It is made in good faith and, I am bound to say, on my own initiative and has been negotiated on that basis. If they wish to do that, I shall be very happy. However, it is nonsense to say that the Government are suggesting for a moment that we should go to war on the basis of a nod and a wink. That suggestion was unworthy of my noble friend.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her offer and for the extremely carefully worded Answer that she gave to the Question. As the noble Lord, Lord King, said last week, we need to ensure that the information given is entirely accurate and carefully phrased throughout if we are to carry the public with us.

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Does the Minister accept that Colin Powell's speech, which the Question addresses, although indicating that there has been some contact between the Iraqi regime and a number of terrorist networks, does not suggest that there is a close or intrinsic link between Iraq and Al'Qaeda? Does she accept the point that we on these Benches have made throughout such discussions, which is that intervention in Iraq and the struggle against a transnational terrorist network are not the same? Unfortunately, President Bush suggested in his Louisiana speech last week that they were. One needs to be very careful not to confuse one too much with the other.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, there is one matter on which I am absolutely certain. It is that when I deal with such matters from the Dispatch Box, I must do so as accurately and honestly as I can and, at the same time, I may not expose intelligence sources in the House. As I have indicated, I find it enormously difficult to answer the Question from the noble Lord in the terms that he would wish and that I would wish without getting into intelligence matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, is right. The links are varied. They are not simply links with Al'Qaeda, but with other terrorist organisations that we have discussed in the House. Some of those organisations themselves are linked to Al'Qaeda. In the interests of accuracy, I cannot say any more about that without intruding into intelligence matters, hence the offer that I made.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, I shall not mention anything that is not already in the public domain. In view of the very detailed and full evidence that Secretary Powell gave to the Security Council on 5th February about terrorist links between Al'Qaeda and Iraq, how does the noble Baroness explain the fact that on 21st January the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said to me:

    "We have certainly seen no evidence of a link between the Iraqi regime and Al'Qaeda"?—[Official Report, 21/1/03; col. 571.]

Will the Minister assure noble Lords that co-operation on intelligence matters between the United States and this country is continuing?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the noble Lord would expect, there is a great deal of traffic in intelligence terms between ourselves and the United States of America. There always is. My term in office in both the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence leads me to believe that it happens on a daily basis.

The problem that we have with the Question is that Secretary of State Powell did not talk only about links with Al'Qaeda but about links with the al-Zarqawi network, which some believe to be linked to Al'Qaeda. That could indeed be described as a link with Al'Qaeda. He went on to talk about another organisation, Ansar al-Islam. There are links through other organisations. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will accept that I am trying to be as clear as

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I can, but I do not want for a moment to say anything inaccurate that might unwittingly mislead any noble Lords.

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