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Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, on the behalf of the Cross Bench Peers, I should like to join in the tributes to the late Lord Belstead. The Cross Bench Peers have always appreciated the role of the Leader of the House, which transcends a political role and represents also a voice for the House as a whole. Lord Belstead fulfilled this role with distinction, both as Deputy Leader for four years and as Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal for a further period between 1987 and 1990.
I was a senior official in the Cabinet Office for part of this time and I know the esteem with which Lord Belstead was regarded by his political colleagues and, if it is a compliment, by senior officials. In addition to his role in the House of Lords which we remember today, I pay tribute to him for his capacity, during a long political career in high office, to master difficult issues and briefs at the Department of Education and Science, the Northern Ireland Office, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. That pretty well covers the whole of public life and he covered all those issues with distinction.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may be a somewhat unloved department, although not by me because I am an old boy of that ministry. I worked there when I was young and I stress how difficult some of the problems were. I remember personally and salute Lord Belstead's work there. But, first and foremost in the House today, I pay tribute from all the Cross-Benchers to a former Leader of the House who will be greatly missed.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I am very happy on behalf of these Benches to be associated with the remarks already made about the late Lord Belstead. His quiet and courteous character clearly won him respect across the political divides and throughout this House. Indeed, our political life and the practice of government have been enriched by his quiet and self-effacing service. I hope that the House will forgive someone from Essex saying on behalf of the wider community of the east of England how much his leadership and service to the people of Suffolk, both in the farming community and as its Lord Lieutenant, have been appreciated. He will be missed by many in that county, in this House and in the wider community. We send our sympathy to his sister and friends. May he rest in peace.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I am sure that the House will forgive me for saying a few words, because I succeeded Lord Belstead as Leader of the House. The announcement that I was coming here from the House of
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Commons to take his place must have come to him as an unpleasant surprise, for he had served loyally and well and had no reason to think that he would be replaced on the change of Prime Minister; but such is politics and John not only took the change in his fortunes with good grace, he agreed to continue to serve in the Government in what obviously had to be a more junior role, and he gave me all the support that he possibly could. He chose to leave the Government when I left in 1992.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, it may be apposite to follow my noble friend Lord Waddington. As a result of the disability which eventually took John Belstead to his death, I scarcely saw him during my four years or so in this House, but the reminiscences concerning my late noble kinsman and my late noble relative were so affectionate and vivid that I vicariously felt that I was, in fact, more often in the House with him.
However, I wish to make a brief reference to the one occasion when he and I overlapped in a government department. When my noble friend Lord Waddington became Leader of your Lordships' House, John Belstead came to Northern Ireland, where he took over the vacancy left by my noble friend Lord Cope, who was removed in what I still call a shuffle, rather than a reshuffle. Lord Belstead became my understudy in the place of my noble friend Lord Cope. I do not think that he had ever been a soldier, but the office of being the understudy in Northern Ireland means that you become the security Minister in the Province, and I pay the loudest possible tribute to the fortitude and integrity with which he discharged that role without having had a military background. I also pay tribute to the manner in which he ran the Province during the general election in 1992, when, by definition, the other Ministers were fighting the election.
I close on another personal note. He was a member of "Nobody's Friends"a body which dines in Lambeth Palace, half of whom are lay people and half of whom are ecclesiastical. I will not explain why what I am about to say happens, but the group is called "Nobody's Friends" because people who are elected to it have to make a seven-minute speech to explain why they are nobody's friend. It will not surprise your Lordships' House that John Belstead did that particularly well.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Hu discussed a wide range of bilateral and international issues. They agreed to
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strengthen co-operation in key areas, including migration, education, culture, trade and investment, and to develop dialogue and co-operation on global issues such as climate change and sustainable development. The Prime Minister also encouraged China to institute political reforms to match its strong record of economic growth.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, did the Prime Minister have time to urge the president to enter negotiations with the Dalai Lama on a lasting and legitimate solution to the problem of Tibet? Did he raise a long-running sore that has been taken up by the Foreign Office on many occasions regarding the jamming of BBC Mandarin language broadcasts to China and the blockage of access by Chinese users of the Internet to all the BBC sites, except those in which the English language is taught? Is it not time that the Chinese behaved in a manner consonant with everyone else's international responsibilities?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, as far as I am aware, the specific issue of relations with the Dalai Lama did not come up during the discussions, but we regularly encourage meetings between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government, and I understand that talks in Berne earlier this year have been the most substantial to date. It is not yet possible to say that significant differences have been overcome, but there seem to have been some discussions.
I do not think that the jamming of the BBC World Service was discussed specifically during the meeting, but I, as the Minister responsible for the BBC World Service, had those discussions with the Chinese. I cannot say that that led to the unblocking of the service, although it was not blocked for about one month directly following the talks. I regret to say that it is blocked again.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, my noble friend will recall that only last Monday, in reply to a short debate in Grand Committee, he mentioned the obstacle of Russia and China in opening up the human rights agenda in the United Nations. Did our Prime Minister seek the co-operation of President Hu in the discussions on Zimbabwe and Burma and the violation of human rights in those countries?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I can report the generality of the discussion. The Prime Minister raised a number of issues with President Hu, including human rights and political reform issues. A list of political prisoners of particular concern was handed over during the margins of the meeting. I can also report that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, in his meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister, encouraged the Chinese to make substantive progress on human rights and to announce a timetable for the ratification of the international covenant on civil and political rights. There was a robust exchange with the Chinese Foreign Minister about the
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international parliamentary convention on Tibet as well. Overall, there was a broad discussion on human rights issues.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I shall broaden the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead. Did the Prime Minister, when talking to President Hu Jintao, raise China's inclination to support all around the world very undesirable rogue states? Mr Mugabe and Zimbabwe have been mentioned, as has Burma. There is also Sudan, and China's very strong support for Iran and a huge energy contract with that country. Did the Prime Minister not explain to the Chinese that in the longer run it would be very much to the benefit of their people, as China assumes a responsible place in the comity of nations, if China would work with the rest of us, and with the West, in bringing these deviant nations to heel rather than financing and supporting them?
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