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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are working very hard to secure a second Security Council resolution. I will not say anything that would prejudice the chances of a
The noble Lord asked about the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Kofi Annan has been sayingwe have all been sayingthat it is important for the United Nations to come together. That is exactly what we have been trying to ensure. It is why we have tried to provide a basisa compromiseeven at this late stage, on which we can resolve the matter properly. Trying to secure agreement in the United Nations is more complicated when one member of the P5 says that it will veto a resolution in any circumstances.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I hope that the Minister will accept that many of us did not hear the Secretary-General saying what he said. Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke of bringing the international community as a whole together on the issue. There are questions of legality with regard to the UN Charter and to voting procedures, which require nine votes. There is also the broader question of legitimacy and acceptance by the international community that action is justified. Does the Minister accept that, by that standard, the British and American Governments have not yet succeeded in persuading the international community in the way that the Prime Minister suggested yesterday?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I concede that there is a strongly argued position to be held on both sides of the question. It would be extraordinary to succeed in persuading the whole international community to adopt one position, as things stand and given the events of the past few days.
I remind the noble Lord that the international community came together effectively around UNSCR 1441. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are negotiating with every ounce of their strength to ensure that that international consensus survives.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the case for military action against Iraq does not begin or rest with the draft resolution referred to in the Question or with Resolution 1441? It rests with Resolution 678 of 1990 and all the subsequent Chapter VII resolutions about Iraq.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree very strongly with my noble friend. It is not just a question of Resolution 678, the resolution containing the decision to take military action against Iraq. There is also Resolution 687, which led to the suspension of that military action.
We sometimes refer to what we are discussing as the "second resolution". I remind your Lordships that it is the 18th resolution on the issue. As my noble friend pointed out, the resolutions were made under the mandatory chapter, Chapter VII.
We appreciate that legal advice from the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General is confidential, as is right and proper. However, would it not be helpful, in the debate to be introduced by the Liberal Democrats on Monday, to have his presence and guidance? If he cannot help us on this difficult issue, he could help us with the broader issues affecting the Armed Forces in a conflict, now that we operate under the International Criminal Court system, which raises new and complex problems.
I thank the noble Lord for the way in which he put his question about the advice of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General. I remind him, however, that, by a long-standing convention that has been observed by successive governments, the fact and substance of Law Officers' advice are not disclosed outside the Government. That convention is reflected in paragraph 24 of the ministerial code. I believe that the noble Lord will also find it reflected on page 389 of Erskine May.
Law Officers' advice is given to the Government in confidence. If the department to which the advice is given wishes to disclose the advice, it may do so with the consent of the Law Officers. In practice, that is rarely done.
Lord Sheldon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in Stalinist times in the post-war years the Foreign Minister at the time drew the distinction between a "No" vote and a veto? When he voted "No", the Security Council assumed it was a veto. He said, "No, it was not". That is the precedent for our times, which
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an interesting pointwhich I am sure has already registered with my right honourable friends in another place. I shall ensure that it is conveyed to them. What has been so difficult about the position articulated from the other side of the Channel this week is the use of the words, "in any circumstances whatsoever". That has been very difficult. However, I shall certainly convey the point raised by my noble friend Lord Sheldon and I thank him for it.
Lord Rooker: We were about to hear the Minister only if no one else stood up. I have already been told off today. I was a pupil of my noble friend Lord Stoddart when he was a Government Whip in another place. I learnt all the etiquette of procedure. I am aware that I am here to answer questions in Committee as often as required. I shall do my bestindeed, in the manner in which I was taught by my noble friend.
The expression "cart before the horse" was used. I throw that back at Members of the Committee who referred to it. If there was ever a case of the cart being before the horse, it was to demand detailed information about the functions and powers of a regional assembly in advance of the Bill on the referendum. It has been made clear that, before the referendum takes place, the electorate will have all that information at their disposal.
Those concerns were indicated at Second Reading. I accept that. They were put strongly. There were concerns about people voting for or against establishing an elected assembly before the legislation to set up the assemblies was enacted. The White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice, sets out our proposals. I could refer many of today's speakers to various sections of the report which would answer some of the questions put. It is not that the discussion has not taken place. The White Paper sets out in substantial detail from where the assemblies will draw their functions and powers.
The Government also said that that was the basis on which they hoped to introduce the legislation. I accept that we have not done that. Once we have received the recommendations from the Boundary Committee for
There is nothing new in that approach. It was a two-stage approach. It was used for London, Scotland and Wales. I take on board the spirit of the questions asked; namely, more information to be made available before people make a choice. We accept that in principle. We are not opposedI repeat, not opposedto publishing a draft Bill on the powers of the assemblies. However, there are timetable issues relating to that. Therefore, at present, I cannot give a firm commitment that it would be a draft Bill. Certainly, we shall publish a summary document of the issues on which the Bill will be based.
I accept that a draft Bill would provide an opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government have not ruled that out; it is a question of the timetable to which we are working. The argument concerning more information is covered in Amendments Nos. 5 and 6.
I can answer one specific question. As we left the Chamber, the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, said that he would not be back at 3.30 p.m. As Members were being so emollient and civilised, I told him the answer to his question at the doorway. Therefore, I had better put that answer on the record. The question posed by the noble Lord was: will an elected assembly be a local authority? The answer is, "No". It will be legally distinct from a local authority, the GLA, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament. Those are different bodies with different functions. It will not be a local authority. There will be a legal distinction.
In some ways, it is putting the cart before the horse. Before the referendum, which would be after the Boundary Committee has published its proposals, the Government will make a statement about how they intend to take forward the proposals of the Boundary Committee in the regions and produce a summary document about the way in which the assemblies will work and be set up.
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