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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I could add to that list. Most theatres were built at a time when the average height of the population of this country was four inches lower than it is now. That has a great effect on seat pitch. Many circle and balcony seats in London theatres have a pitch of 24 inches. I would have thought that 28 inches was an absolute minimum, and a new modern theatre would be built with a pitch of 35 inches. The list could go on.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a considerable theatre architect, Mr Verity, was also responsible for that great sporting icon, the Lord's cricket pavilion, and that that sort of cross-pollination is an outstanding logic for his department?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am always glad to be instructed by the former Secretary of State for National Heritage.

Pakistan High Commission, London

2.59 p.m.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, it is the long-standing policy of successive governments to neither confirm nor deny allegations concerning the activities of the intelligence and security agencies.

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her reply—

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Ahmed: Well, my Lords, her helpful reply. Given that a Sunday newspaper has printed full details of this whole saga, should Her Majesty's Government not say whether the report is true and whether Pakistan is a friend or a foe? If the reports are correct, how will this affect our relations with Pakistan's Government, who have been part of the coalition on the international war against terrorism? Finally, how many British citizens are bugged annually, including Members of Parliament?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, my noble friend seeks to tempt me, but I have discovered that I am

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impervious to temptation. I repeat that it is the long-standing policy of successive governments neither to confirm nor deny any allegations concerning the activities of the intelligence and security agencies. However, I reassure my noble friend that our bilateral relationship with our Pakistani colleagues is both warm and close. We engage at all levels and our multi-faceted relationship has been further strengthened by the initiatives launched by the Prime Minister in 2002 in the judicial, commercial and defence spheres. Resources from DfID to Pakistan have also been enhanced. My noble friend should have no worries at all about the nature of our warm relationship.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that bugging an embassy is very clearly against Articles 22 and 27 of the Vienna convention? Will she also assure us that, if apparently well substantiated allegations emerged suggesting that the British Embassy in a friendly country had been bugged by that friendly country, the British Government would react with the same degree of calm as the Pakistani Government have reacted so far?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, in the light of my previous reply, I cannot answer either one way or the other. Nothing would be gained by engaging in a hypothetical debate on whether, if a particular action took place, it would be a breach of the Vienna convention. However, I reassure the noble Lord that the British Government always respond with propriety and moderation.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, will the Minister allow me to remind her of the quotation from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark:

    "What I tell you three times is true"?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, how well put.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I declare an interest, having been born in Pakistan, in Quetta. If the allegations are true, are they not only a breach of international conventions, but an unfriendly act towards a friendly country?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, without any disrespect to the noble Lord, I say for the fourth time, notwithstanding what was said about saying something three times, which clearly does not work, that we have very respectful and good relations with our colleagues in Pakistan. My noble friend Lord Ahmed mentioned our joint efforts in relation to terrorism. We have warmed to the efforts made by the Pakistani administration.

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Nothing that I say detracts from that in any way. I would give the same answer notwithstanding from whence it came.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, will my noble friend ensure that our friends in the intelligence services act as efficiently and effectively as possible, and try to avoid leakage of this nature in the future?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I could not possibly comment.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that we have particularly well informed relations with Pakistan?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can confirm that we have very good, robust relations with Pakistan, and long may that be the case.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, does the Minister's Answer that governments never comment on matters relating to security mean that the security forces can act with impunity in breaching international conventions and, indeed, in so far as Members of Parliament and this House are concerned, in actually breaking the law?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, my Answer does not mean that. I cannot accept such a suggestion. The intelligence and security agencies each operate under a strict statutory framework. The agencies are overseen by Ministers and by independent commissioners who hold or have held high judicial office. There is also the independent Investigatory Powers Tribunal to whom anyone may complain if he or she feels aggrieved by something they believe an agency has done in relation to them or their property. Our arrangements are something about which we can be reasonably proud, and they are robust.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, if Ministers are not allowed to say what the security services are for, to take up the second limb of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, how can ordinary British citizens with no connection with terrorism find out whether their lines of communication are being bugged?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I have already said that there is the tribunal and there is accountability. We have the legislation passed by this House and another place. The security service operates under the statutory framework established by the Security Service Acts of 1989 and 1996. Your Lordships will know that the services are further regulated by rigorous ministerial oversight. I assure the noble Countess that all that is proper is being done and will continue to be done.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, does the Minister recall the exchange in one of the Buchan novels between Hannay and Leithen in which one says

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to the other, "Have you seen Sandy lately?" and the other says, "He's in Bombay keeping an eye on central Asia".

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot comment.

North Korea: Nuclear Weapons

3.7 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare a non-financial interest as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea.

The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the nuclear weapons programme in North Korea, and when they anticipate the resumption of the six-nations talks.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe that North Korea has been pursuing two separate programmes for the production of fissile material, through the enrichment of uranium and the processing of plutonium. We assess that North Korea has sufficient fissile material for one or two nuclear weapons and the technical capability to produce them. The Government fully support the six-party talks process, and hope that a second round of talks will be held within the next few weeks.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Following the visit that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and I made to North Korea six weeks ago, has the Minister had a chance to reflect on the statements that were recorded in the report that we submitted to her from some of the most senior figures in North Korea? They would be prepared to renounce their nuclear programme and submit to a process of verification in return for recognition of their sovereignty and a commitment to peaceful co-existence on the peninsular.

Does the Minister agree that the way forward to reform and change in North Korea lies through a Helsinki-style process of engagement, rather than military action? Will this issue be discussed this week by her right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary while he is in Washington, or next week by the Prime Minister with President Bush when he is in London?

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