Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I declare an interest in that my husband comes from the Isle of Wight and many members of our family still live there. Therefore, we know the hospital in question very well. Is the noble Lord at least sympathetic to the notion that these considerations should not even form part of the review? For example, if it is not possible to perform an emergency caesarean section, a mother will have to leave the Isle of Wight about a fortnight before the baby is due because such complicated surgery cannot be carried out for the reasons that have already been given. But it is not unknown for helicopter flights to be cancelled and the frequency of sailings is such that sometimes even the boats are cancelled. Therefore, this issue should not even be part of the review process.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the local health service is engaged in the very early stages of the process. I believe that, instead of trying to micro-manage the local health service, it is better to allow it to take forward those discussions. The driver of change in the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is to ensure that the services are as effective as possible. I would not discourage strategic health authorities from taking on that responsibility.

I have said that I understand the geographical factors that make it important that the local services available on the island can deal with the cases that noble Lords have mentioned. I have also clearly stated that those factors will need to be taken fully into account by the strategic health authority, which has yet to make any decisions on this matter.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, following the comment by my noble friend Lady Blatch, and in view of the Minister's own statement that he fully understands the need for an emergency service, is he not able to confirm that it was unnecessary for this

19 Feb 2003 : Column 1135

item to have been included in the consultation document? It should have been outside the consultation document, in which case the chairman of the strategic health authority would have had no cause to write to the newspaper to clarify the matter.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I could not disagree more. For the strategic health authority to say, "We will have a fundamental review of the way services will be delivered in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight except that as far as the Isle of Wight is concerned what is provided now will be set in stone for ever", would be irresponsible. Of course it has to consider the services provided across the whole of the county.

It is worth making the point that while referring to how to deal with highly specialist services, the outline document, which has already been published, also refers to how to expand primary care services and how to give greater access to local people. Surely, we should have confidence in the process. We should allow the discussions to take place, the strategic health authority to come to a view, and the formal consultation process to take place. We must bear in mind the statement made by the chairman of the strategic health authority, which I read to the House, which makes clear that A&E services will continue to be provided at St Mary's.

EU and NATO: UK Policy

3.2 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is now their policy on relations between the European Union and NATO.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government welcome the strategic partnership in crisis management agreed by the EU and NATO. In particular, we welcome the comprehensive agreement that NATO and the EU reached in December 2002 to implement a European Security and Defence Policy based on NATO support. The EU and NATO are now finalising the detailed arrangements to give effect to that agreement.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. However, it is regrettable that your Lordships did not have the opportunity of a proper Statement yesterday on the dramatic events over the weekend, both in NATO and the European Union.

Clearly, it is pointless and unconstructive to demonise France and Germany. However, does the noble Baroness agree that it is refreshing to hear from the smaller countries of central Europe, and indeed, some larger countries, a different European voice which, as the Prime Minister rightly said, has just as much right to speak for the future of Europe as our

19 Feb 2003 : Column 1136

large neighbouring countries? Will she encourage the Prime Minister to continue giving constructive support for this "other Europe", as he has done so far?

Will she also bear in mind that it is those countries that in many cases have just won back their independence after years of slavery which will not only resist anti-Americanism but will resist attempts to centralise power too much in the European Union and will rightly want to see their own independence properly protected? They will also resist the tendency of those in Berlin, Paris and sometimes London, to press for a super power status for Europe, which they do not like.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, not surprisingly, I have one point of agreement and one of disagreement with the noble Lord. We did, indeed, have an interesting argument yesterday, put forward cogently by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, about the role of this House as an appropriate place to hold the executive to account when another place is in recess. That is an interesting point. However, I do not think that it can be elevated into the constitutional dilemma which seemed to grip some of your Lordships. I am bound to say that on this side of the House I believe that we have made rather a good job of being held to account on the issues concerned.

As regards the accession countries, I agree with the noble Lord. It is, indeed, refreshing to hear what they have to say. They have a real sense of history of conflict which in many ways is more recent than ours and possibly more recent than our friends in France. They have as much right to speak on these issues as Britain or France.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, in the current circumstances, what has happened to the European Union rapid reaction force?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the planning for the European Union rapid reaction force is taking place within the context of the Berlin Plus agreement. As the noble Lord will know, there is assured EU access to NATO for operational planning and the prospect of EU access to NATO military capabilities and common assets including, among other things, NATO's European command operations and the facilities of DSACEUR. The next step is to set out the detailed arrangements about how it will work. As I indicated in my Answer, those arrangements are well under way and we hope that they will be finalised by the end of this month.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister recall that it has been the policy of successive American administrations since those of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy that after the recovery of Western Europe there should be an Atlantic

19 Feb 2003 : Column 1137

community based on two pillars—European and North American—and that Britain should be firmly embedded in the European pillar? That is what I understand the December 2002 agreement to have re-stated. Is that still the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, do not let us misunderstand each other on that important point. The fact is that there are some operations which are right to be undertaken under the auspices of the ESDP and some under the auspices of NATO. The two organisations or the two ways in which we can deal with this issue are not rival but complementary. They simply offer a different approach to crisis management depending on which countries are to be engaged. As your Lordships know, ESDP deals with crisis management and will be used only when NATO as a whole is not engaged.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, without wanting to hold my noble friend to account—like all noble Lords I believe that she is absolutely lovely—does she agree that we have two Houses of Parliament; that this House is one of them; that we are currently sitting; that we have the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain sitting on the Woolsack and the Clerk of the Parliaments sitting at the Table now?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have never shown any reluctance to be held to account in your Lordships' House and I do not do so today. Yesterday the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, raised the question of what should happen about holding the executive to account when another place is in recess. My point is that this is an interesting constitutional dilemma but it cannot be elevated into a general assault on the Government's willingness to keep Parliament informed and to hold ourselves to account. On those points I believe there is no doubt whatever that the Government have done a first-class job.

Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, now that the defence planning committee of NATO has reached an accommodation with Turkey for its application under Article 4 for defence planning, does the Minister agree that it is time for us to put that very damaging and regrettable incident behind us? Can she confirm to the House that all 19 members of NATO have confirmed that Article 5, which is the right to aid from all the other 18 states in the face of attack, is sacrosanct?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page