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House of Lords

Wednesday, 1 July 2009.

3 pm

Prayers-read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Bradford.

House of Lords: Director of Facilities


Asked By Lord Lloyd of Berwick

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I am not persuaded that there is any need to change the title of Director of Facilities. It clearly and accurately describes the duties carried out by the post holder.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Nevertheless, does he not agree that Director of Facilities is a very poor description of the important job which Carl Woodall is doing and that we need something rather more imaginative? If the noble Lord himself lacks inspiration, will he consider asking Members of this House to suggest alternatives and perhaps offer a small prize for the winner?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am not really persuaded by that argument. As I have said, the title describes very well the important job that the new Director of Facilities does. I know that the noble and learned Lord made various suggestions when we debated this the first time around, including Estates Bursar and things like that. But none of his suggestions would as accurately fit the bill as the title we have chosen. I should add that facilities management is now a well recognised profession. That describes exactly what Carl Woodall does.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, would the Chairman of Committees be surprised to know that to me a director of facilities means a lavatory attendant?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I thought that we might get something like that. I will just have to bring the noble Baroness up into the modern age.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I am sure that this title does seem a bit miserable. I am very much in sympathy with the noble and learned Lord asking the Question. If we were in a school, I am sure that we would be happy enough with the title of school caretaker. But this is a palace, so palace bursar has a far better ring about it. Does the noble Lord agree?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the problem with the use of the term "bursar" is that it would not accurately describe the responsibilities for finance. The responsibilities for finance are held by the finance director and the accounting officer, the Clerk of the Parliaments, and not the Director of Facilities.

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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, does the Chairman of Committees think that the name Black Rod describes the task of that post holder?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, probably not precisely. However, it is a title that has been around for a very long time and I for one would not wish to change it.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, would the House be happy to know that whatever Carl Woodall's title is he has been of considerable help already in trying to find out whether the facilities for those who are hard of hearing around this House are adequate? So far, I think we have convinced him that they are not adequate. Therefore, I am hoping for great things from him and from those who command the resources of the House for putting the House into good repair.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, we will do our best to meet those needs. However, I have to say that I have heard only good reports of the Director of Facilities since he has been in post.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, if the Chairman of Committees is reduced in his choice of title, would it not be better simply to resort to the word "facilitator"?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the more suggestions I hear, the more convinced I am that we have got the right name at the moment.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, when the Merovingian kings lost their power, they called the man with the real power "Mayor of the Palace". Why not use that title?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, there might be others sitting near to where I am now who might rather have that title.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, despite the fact that the Chairman of Committees feels that he has chosen the best name, what about "Comptroller of the Palace of Westminster" or indeed "Comptroller of the House of Lords"?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, that is a suggestion, but not everyone knows what it means, including me.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that Carl Woodall was appointed as Director of Facilities and that he has made a flying start in carrying out his duties as he was required to do on his appointment?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Countess said that, and I think that that view is universally held.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, do noble Lords agree that we should move on to the next Question?

Noble Lords:Hear, hear!

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EU: Lisbon Treaty


3.06 pm

Asked By Lord Howell of Guildford

The Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My Lords, the June European Council discussed and agreed the guarantees that the Irish Government wanted in order to address the concerns of the Irish people about the Lisbon treaty. The European Council conclusions say that the decision,

Those guarantees do not change the Lisbon treaty; the European Council conclusions are very clear on them. The Lisbon treaty, as debated and decided by our Parliament, will not be changed and, on the basis of these guarantees, Ireland will proceed to have a second referendum in October.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Again, I greet her and warmly welcome her to her role as Minister for Europe after her excellent maiden speech last night. I should like to ask her about the guarantees. She says that they are legal, but in fact they have no legal force at the moment. They would have to be incorporated into some future treaty if they are not to be incorporated into the Lisbon treaty. Can she explain how that process is going to work? Which treaty will they be put into and when will this occur? That information would help us a great deal.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, what we have in the guarantees will become binding in international law when the guarantees are translated into a protocol at the time of the next accession, which presumably will be when Croatia or Iceland comes in. Before that protocol can be ratified by the UK, Parliament must pass a Bill. As I said, Parliament will rightly have the final say.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend to her new role and ask her a simple question. Does she agree that the role of the United Kingdom in relation to an Irish second referendum is to keep its nose right out of it and let the Irish people make their decision?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that helpful question and of course I can only agree. The point is that we have not pushed or pressed or bullied the Irish into this referendum, as some have suggested. They decided that it was a process that they wished to go through. They consulted and are consulting and, as I said, a referendum is to be held in October.

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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us when this Parliament will have an opportunity to debate and vote on the arrangements being made for the Republic of Ireland, which clearly have an effect on this kingdom?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, of course Parliament will have the opportunity to debate all the issues and the guarantees that I mentioned earlier. There is nothing in the guarantees that was not debated and discussed by Parliament. The guarantees that we have on taxation, on the rights of defence, in particular, and on the right to life were the key concerns and were discussed by Parliament and by others who have ratified the treaty.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I endorse the warm welcome for the Minister in this, her first Question Time, and wish her well for the future. Is not this absolutely and totally a matter for the Irish people, unlike last time when there was huge outside interference from British and other Eurosceptics? Does she agree with me and an article in the Irish Times of 17 June that last time none of the consequences of rejecting the treaty was properly debated,

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his important intervention. The European Union has listened carefully to the Irish people and has respected the position of the Governments and the parliaments of the countries that have ratified, too. That is an important point to make.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I give a warm croeso to my noble friend, who seems totally at home in your Lordships' House already. Will she confirm that there was in no way some sinister manoeuvre on the part of the European Union, but that this was a specific request by a sovereign Government-the Government of the Republic of Ireland-to which the Council of Ministers responded positively?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. We were giving the Irish Government what they wanted, which was to address the concerns that people had about the Lisbon treaty. It is another important step towards bringing the treaty into force.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness to her new position and, indeed, commiserate with it, but will she tell your Lordships, and through your Lordships' House the Irish people, what happens if there is not another accession treaty for Croatia, Iceland or any other country? What then is the position of what she calls the binding guarantees if they cannot be turned into protocols? Would she also be good enough to answer the question put by my noble friend Lord Tebbit, who asked whether your Lordships' House and the other place would be able not only to debate these binding arrangements and/or protocols, or whatever they come to be called, but to vote on them?

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Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, it will remain as I said: the binding guarantees will be in place until such time as they are transferred and become part of the protocol. That is likely to be in the reasonably near future and the Irish are agreed that they are comfortable with it.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept from these Benches, too, our congratulations on her first appearance at Question Time? Does she not agree that it is slightly baffling that such a fuss is being made about this matter when-I think that I am right in saying this, but perhaps she will confirm it-the obligations that this House endorsed in the Lisbon treaty are not being changed by one iota? Also, as every one of the guarantees and clarifications given to the Irish are either neutral for us or beneficial to us by entrenching subsidiarity and by making it clear that the European Union does not have the right to alter company taxation, is it not a little odd that there is not more cheerfulness around?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord and thank him for his comments. What he says is true: there is nothing at all contained in the guarantees that we have not seen. As I understand it, noble Lords debated and discussed these issues for 25 days in Parliament, so they will be much more aware than I am of the detail that was gone into. I am surprised that some Members are not aware that everything in the guarantees has been agreed by the Parliament of this country.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, if and when the Irish people accept these new arrangements, does my noble friend agree that the logical advice for the Conservative Party to take, not to mention UKIP, is that often given by Denis Healey: when you are in a hole, stop digging?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. Again, I can only reiterate that there are issues that have been resolved by the summit undertaken by the Council of Ministers, at which our own Prime Minister was present, and all these matters were discussed and resolved on the basis of ensuring that the Irish Government felt that the concerns of the people of that country could be addressed. Nothing in the treaty will change and nothing in the guarantees will change the treaty as your Lordships agreed it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I, too, welcome the noble Baroness to this House and congratulate her on her ministerial appointment. I never thought, when I first met her in 1970, that at any time I would be addressing her as "the noble Baroness the Minister", but I am proud to be able to do so. To get back to the question-

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, would it not have been better if the Commission and the Council had accepted the Irish no and renegotiated the Lisbon treaty so that the guarantees that are now being given to the Irish could have been given to all of us?

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Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I did not expect to be addressing the noble Lord as a "noble Lord", either. I reiterate that no one in the other member states of the European Union undertook any bullying or cajoling of the Irish on this matter. It was decided that it was in the interests of Ireland to try to pursue the concerns that the Irish have about their position in the EU and that is exactly what they have done. Other member states have facilitated that in whichever way they can, but again I say that it is the business of the Irish; it is their concern, not that of anyone here. I am certainly not saying that it is our business to tell them what they think is good for them.

Iraq: Camp Ashraf


3.17 pm

Asked By Lord Eden of Winton

Lord Brett: My Lords, the UK ambasssador to Baghdad called on the Iraqi Human Rights Minister, Widjan Salim, on 13 April this year to raise the issue of Camp Ashraf, and to remind her of the early assurances made by the Iraqi Government about the humane treatment of its residents. Officials at the British embassy in Baghdad continue to discuss Camp Ashraf with staff at the US embassy; the most recent discussion took place on 10 June 2009.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. I recognise that the Government have no wish to intervene in matters that are the concern of other countries, but given that the Government apparently now subscribe to the culture of "responsibility to protect", should we not be doing all that we can to avert a potential humanitarian catastrophe? What precisely were the assurances given by the Iraqi Government? Will it be made clear to Mr Maliki that international opinion will hold him accountable for the safety of the citizens of Ashraf?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the UK Government remain concerned that the fundamental human rights of all the residents of Camp Ashraf are fully observed. We particularly sought assurances from the Iraqi Government, who have given them-I now give the assurance that the noble Lord seeks-that no Ashraf residents will be forcibly transferred to a country where they have reason to fear persecution or where substantial grounds exist to believe that they would be tortured. We continue, as the noble Lord rightly says, to have no direct interest or control in this camp, but we continue to liaise with our colleagues in the United States, who are monitoring events with the Iraqi Government.

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