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Earl Ferrers: My Lords, does the Minister realise that his answer gives great pleasure, when he says that the Government do not intend to do away with passing

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out parades? Will he confirm that there is no thought that they may replace the marching part of passing out parades, which is part of the spectacle? I think that is what lay behind the supplementary question asked by the noble Baroness.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as far as I know, there is no intention to dispense with the marching part of the parades. Clearly, it is for the training schools to decide what is appropriate. Having heard what noble Lords have said, I welcome the enthusiasm and contributions made to recognising the importance of these celebrations of achievement.

Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the health and effectiveness of our police service demand that there should be a large proportion of faces of a different colour in those passing out parades, and that there should be increased recruitment from ethnic minorities? How are the Government progressing in encouraging greater recruitment from ethnic minorities?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is probably aware that when the Government came into office in 1997, we set targets for each force to ensure that the issue was focused on. I do not have the statistics in front of me, but my understanding is that we are making progress on the matter, as well as ensuring an appropriate gender balance.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, I am glad to hear the Minister refer to these ceremonies as passing out parades, not as "pass-out parades", as it says on the Order Paper, which sounds like a period of unconsciousness.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, is it not a fact that, at a difficult time for the police, we should not underestimate the importance of camaraderie and discipline? Passing out parades have much to do with that. Parliament and the Government should do nothing to undermine that camaraderie and discipline if our police are to be able to withstand many of the pressures that they will face when they come on to the streets.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with great sense. Clearly, esprit de corps is extremely important.

Cyprus: British Sovereign Bases

2.59 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is still their belief, as stated in the Official Report of 14th January (HL Deb, col. 124), that the accession of Cyprus to the European Union will not affect the arrangements that have been worked out for the British sovereign bases.

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, on 26th February, the United Nations Secretary-General formally tabled the third and final version of his proposals, which included the United Kingdom's offer to the United Nations to cede just under half the SBA territory if there is agreement on the UN proposals within the UN timetable. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced that in a written statement on 25th February. If agreed, the proposals would make no difference to the arrangements in the protocol in Cyprus's accession treaty, which will be signed on 16th April, or to the operational capability of the SBA.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that reassurance. Will she accept that we on this side strongly support any moves that may lead to the unity, at last, of the divided island of Cyprus? However, will she confirm that if this area of land which is now on offer was operational beforehand, the operational requirements—particularly in relation to water supplies and acting as a buffer zone—are no longer relevant, and that we can therefore safely go ahead with this offer should it be needed?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support—indeed, I think that in discussing this matter last March he said that anything that managed to achieve agreement would be something of a miracle. We very much hope that the proposals will receive support. I hope that he will be reassured to know that the MoD was, of course, fully consulted about the offer. It has said that the proposals do not make any difference to its operational capability or, I understand, to the availability of water supplies.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate Her Majesty's Government on making this offer as a contribution to trying to achieve a settlement between both Cypriot communities. Can my noble friend say what the latest prospects are for a settlement within the timetable laid down by the United Nations? Does she agree that unless both Cypriot communities and those representing them seize this opportunity now, it may well be a decade or more before they get another chance?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his congratulations. I believe that this is good news. It has been a creative and carefully timed initiative on the part of the British Government. It is, of course, made in strong support of the efforts made under the auspices of the Secretary-General. It is therefore part and parcel of trying to give support to the United Nations.

I should say something about the timetable. I understand that Mr Denktash is in Ankara discussing the proposals this afternoon. Both sides have been asked to give an indication to the Secretary-General about whether they will hold referendums by 10th March. We very much hope that both sides will feel that there is sufficient to go on to hold those

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referendums on 30th March. I agree with my noble friend. We very much hope that this matter can at last be settled.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister accept that some of the sovereign base areas have been surplus to requirements for some time, so that returning some of the land to Cyprus would not be a tremendous loss to the British Crown? Can she also tell us a little about how it will be done? Does it have to be ratified by Parliament, or does it, like other matters, come under the Royal prerogative?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I indicated in answering the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I am assured that the military capability will not be diminished. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, therefore deduces that they have not been vital to that capability. I think that common sense shows that that is almost certainly the case. He went on to ask how this will be dealt with in Parliament. As I understand it, this—not the issue of giving away the sovereign base land, but eventually the issues about accession and all the issues we have discussed before—will be a matter for Parliament to consider. If I am wrong about that, I will write to the noble Lord.

Regional Assemblies

3.4 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is appropriate for public money to be used to campaign for regional government in advance of a decision to hold a regional referendum.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, the government grant to regional chambers may not be used for political purposes, including campaigning for an elected regional assembly. That is a condition of grant about which we have reminded the chambers. We are satisfied that regional chambers are not using government grant in that way.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is known to the department that money coming from local government is in fact being spent in some parts of the country to campaign for regional assemblies—a proposal that has yet to go before Parliament and receive Royal Assent. Are the Government not concerned that that directly breaches the code of practice set out in the Local Government Act 2000?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I understand what the noble Baroness is saying, and it is true, but that is a matter for the independent district auditor and not for the Government. I understand that the district auditor has been contacted on at least one occasion, perhaps more. The district auditor must draw his own conclusions; it is not a matter for the Government.

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We are satisfied that central government money is not being used inappropriately. We have also reminded the chambers of the position.

Lord Tordoff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in order to have a sensible discussion it is essential to get the maximum amount of information to the electorate before the referendum is held? Is he not also surprised to find that this topical Question is really not a topical Question?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, given that the Bill is currently before the House, there are plenty of opportunities to raise these issues—as there was in another place. I understand that the allegations made in another place were answered satisfactorily, both in writing and in Committee, by the Minister concerned. No one has sought to say that the information given by the Minister was inaccurate.

I repeat that the regional chambers are voluntary bodies and get their money from different sources. We have repeatedly said that the government grant is not for expenditure on activities of a political or exclusively religious nature—for example, campaigning, publicising or promoting the case for an elected regional assembly. It is not appropriate to use government money for those purposes. It is for the regional chambers to decide what to do with the other money they get. If there is a complaint about the money they receive from local government, the complaint should be made to the district auditor, not government Ministers.


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