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Lord Filkin: My Lords, the noble Countess is absolutely right. There are some instances—I shall not detail the firms—where it is quite clear that the quality of work is not good, there is over-claiming and unmeritorious cases are being pursued. She is also right that a proper system of regulation—the accreditation system I referred to previously—must be part of the answer. Therefore, we are moving towards implementing that aspect of the proposal in the consultation paper, which found substantial support from many who responded to the invitation to consult.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, does the Minister realise that his answers work in exactly the opposite direction to the object he has just enunciated; namely, proper and good legal advice? My own firm—I declare an interest—has a legal aid franchise for immigration and asylum work. In a typical case, it takes my colleagues 10 to 12 hours to deal assiduously with an immigration application. The maximum amount of time to be permitted, if these proposals go through, is three hours. I put this dilemma to the Minister. In that position what would he do? Would he abandon legal aid—and a great many firms are on the point of doing that—or would he skimp the work, which the good firms are unwilling to do?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I would look at some of the current practices by which legal time is spent on immigration and asylum cases. For example, if someone is a minor or has some mental incapacity

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there is a real benefit in having a lawyer present at the initial interview. However, we have not been able to identify much added value provided by having a lawyer sitting watching an interview between a Home Office official and an applicant for asylum. The research evidence does not show that that provides much benefit. Indeed, in most cases firms that claim for time put in on such cases often send a junior person rather than a qualified lawyer but, of course, claim the full rate.

Iran: IAEA Report

3.11 p.m.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale : My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I remind the House that I chair the British Committee for Iran Freedom.

The Question was as follows:

    To ask the Government what is their response to the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency into Iran's nuclear weapons development.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the United Kingdom has long-held concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions. So do others, as was made clear recently in the statements by the G8, the EU and EU/US summits. The House will wish to know that the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency is currently under discussion by the board of governors in Vienna. Her Majesty's Government hope that the board will adopt a robust position on this issue.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Can there be any doubt that the mullahs' regime in Tehran, which uses terror at home and sponsors it abroad, is trying to deceive the world over its nuclear weapons programme, which was revealed to the world last year by the National Council of Resistance of Iran? May I take it from what my noble friend said to me that the United Kingdom is going to back demands by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency that the mullahs honour their international obligations and immediately permit intrusive and unannounced inspection of their nuclear facilities?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that my initial Answer made it clear that the fears expressed about Iran's nuclear capability have not been allayed. I can tell the House that I met Dr El Baradei, the director general of the IAEA, in Vienna only last week and naturally we discussed this matter. He has, as the noble Lord indicated, grave concerns. I hope that a robust response will come forward from the governors. I can also tell the House that I have agreed to meet the director general again, if possible, to discuss the matter further before the next governors' meeting, which is due to take place in November this year.

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Lord Avebury: My Lords, did the noble Baroness note the statement by Foreign Minister Kharrazi asking for unspecified assurances from the IAEA before Iran will agree to sign the additional protocol which is necessary to allow the thorough inspections which are clearly warranted? This is in spite of the fact that this is a standard text that has been adhered to by some 35 other countries without difficulty. In the meanwhile, have there been any sites that the agency would like to have inspected to which a visit has been denied in the absence of the protocol? In the light of Iran's withdrawal of the ambassador in the United Kingdom, what influence does the noble Baroness think the UK can have in persuading Iran to comply with her international obligations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have noted the points made in relation to Dr Kharrazi and it is our view that Iran should sign the additional protocol forthwith and without any conditions. I have made that clear to Iranian ministers when they have visited this country. As to the withdrawal of the ambassador, that was on a matter quite unconnected with this issue but I can tell the House that the ambassador is now back in London and I am very pleased that he is.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, is right—I hope that he is—and this leads to an ultimatum to Iran to allow in the inspectors, and if that produces no co-operation from Iran, can the Minister tell us what would then be the next step? What sanctions are there to bring to bear on Iran? Would the British Government be prepared, for instance, to draft and propose a resolution at the United Nations raising the question of Iran's non-compliance with the non-proliferation treaty?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I wish to be very careful on this matter because, as I have indicated to your Lordships, this is under active discussion in Vienna at the governors' meetings. I do not want to anticipate the outcome of a meeting which is clearly one where a number of different countries have differing points of view and we must try to reach international consensus.

Let me try to be a bit more helpful. If we do get a robust response from the governors, and if Iran continues to take no notice of the points of view put by the IAEA, there will be a further meeting of the governing body in November this year. That was why I indicated that I hoped I would be able to have further meetings in the intervening period between now and then. Of course there is a possibility that this matter might be referred to the Security Council but I and, I am sure, others hope that Iran will do the sensible and right thing and engage properly with the requests of the IAEA.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I strongly support the robust line being taken. Does the noble Baroness agree that if, in the case of North Korea, it is

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felt necessary to address some of the security concerns of that extremely disagreeable regime at the same time as pressing very hard on its nuclear ambitions, when dealing with a much more sophisticated government like the Government of Iran it might be a good idea if the United States was also prepared to address some of their security concerns? Does she have any idea what the United States might be prepared to do in its relationship with Iran if Iran were to sign the additional protocol?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is always very difficult to draw direct comparisons; nobody knows that better than the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. If the Government of Iran have particular points that they wish to raise that are matters of genuine concern about their security, it is only right and proper to listen to those concerns. There is no secret about the fact that we have a different analysis of the way in which to encourage Iran to be part of the international community from that held by our friends in the United States. Where we disagree with the United States we try to persuade them that the role that we are adopting of engagement with Iran—critical engagement, certainly, but still engagement—is a better way of encouraging it to comply with international norms. Of course we will try to persuade the United States to encourage rather than disengage in the way that, regrettably, has perhaps been the case.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, a very brief word about business a week this Thursday, that is 18th September. The usual channels have agreed that Starred Questions will be at 11.00 am.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(Baroness Pitkeathley.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Local Government Bill

3.18 p.m.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Local Government Bill, has consented

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to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Clause 3 [Duty to determine affordable borrowing limit]:

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