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Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, did the Minister have the opportunity last Thursday of seeing the documentary on Channel 4 on Delta Force, outlining the plight of the Ogoni people? Is she aware of the 115-page report of the prominent QC Michael Birnbaum, who reported that those tribunals breached both Nigerian and international law? Will she give the House some assurance that Her Majesty's Government will exert continued pressure for some protection for the Ogoni people of Nigeria?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I was not able to see the television documentary last Thursday, nor have I had a chance to see the video since. However, the Government are deeply concerned about Ogoni land and what has happened there. In case there should be any doubt, let me make it clear that the Shell Oil Company, which is frequently blamed for what happened, have had no operations in Ogoni land since 1993, though it still operates within the Delta. In relation to the report on Article 19, issued by Michael Birnbaum QC, we have a great deal of sympathy with what he wrote. We have been making our views firmly known about the way in which the so-called "trial" was conducted. As I said some moments ago, we will follow it up in every way, not only with the Commonwealth, but also with the European Union, the United States and other partners.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, can the Minister explain why export licences of CS gas and rubber bullets were issued for the Nigerian police in the summer? Does she not agree that, in the light of the report from the Commonwealth human rights initiative
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we have not granted any licences except where we have been satisfied that the use to which the equipment is to be put is for completely normal peacekeeping operations at a time when peace is threatened by civil disturbance. We and our European partners continue to reserve the right to consider new licences for equipment for the Nigerian police and its peacekeeping forces. The noble Baroness will know that it is not our practice to reveal details of individual licences or applications, but I can assure her that we have been absolutely rigorous in every aspect of that work.
The noble Baroness will be aware also that we are deeply concerned about human rights in Nigeria. I cannot say what will come out of the discussions in Auckland next week, but Nigeria must heal the divisions and promote reconciliation if it is to make any progress politically. So long as there is no political progress in Nigeria, there will be no economic progress, and the people of Nigeria badly need economic progress.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, why did the Government agree to see Mr. Shonekan when he was here recently, in contravention of the spirit of the European Union ban on ministerial contacts? Will the Government consider that the Commonwealth might turn up the heat on Nigeria by making it impossible, not only for Ministers, but also for their stooges, to travel abroad and meet their opposite numbers in democratic countries?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I must point out to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that Chief Shonekan is in no way a stooge of the Nigerian Government. That was an unworthy comment for him to make. Chief Shonekan came with a message from General Abacha following the efforts that our Prime Minister had been making to ensure that the sentences were commuted on those accused of coup plotting. That was the reason for the contact. It was arranged with the knowledge of our partners and was not at variance with our agreement with those partners.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, the Procedure Committee has considered this Question twice in recent times: in January 1993 and in March of the same year. On each occasion the committee endorsed the guidance given in the Companion that procedures on Consolidated Fund Bills are, by convention, taken formally. I have given
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, can he explain why this simple and straightforward issue involved such a long delay on the part of the Procedure Committee, leisurely body though it may be?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I take full responsibility for the delay and would not wish to suggest in any way that it was the fault, if fault there be, of the Procedure Committee. First, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and to my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale for the delay. Perhaps I can remind the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that it was in March, some seven months ago, that the noble Lord submitted the memoranda on the matter.
The reason for the delay is that, as your Lordships will be aware, the Procedure Committee has been preoccupied with the report of the sub-committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, on declaration and registration of interests. I was anxious that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, should not come to the committee and have to wait an interminable and perhaps intolerable time before being able to put these matters before it. I therefore take full responsibility for the delay. As it was necessary for the Procedure Committee to decide the matters arising from the sub-committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, as quickly as possible, I felt it right that the meetings on 17th July and 16th October should be devoted almost entirely to that issue. That at least enabled declaration and registrationthey are not insignificant mattersto be brought before your Lordships at as early a date as possible.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, we are grateful to the Chairman of Committees for his explanation. No deliberative Chamber in the world matches your Lordships' wealth of experience and knowledge on economics, finance, commerce, industry and all budgetary matters. Is it not therefore strange that there is no opportunity for your Lordships to give counsel on such matters between the Finance Bill in the spring and the debate on the Queen's Speech in the late autumn? Is not there a tendency to regard your Lordships' primary role as merely to process through great gobbets of government legislation?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I would not attempt to challenge the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, in relation to the knowledge, expertise and ability in your Lordships' House. That is clearly evident. The question of debates is a matter for the business of the House rather than for the Procedure Committee. If the noble and learned Lord is suggesting, arising from his supplementary question, that he is seeking a more limited opportunity to debate Consolidated Fund Billssay just in the summeron
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that while some of us on this side of the House who are interested in these matters wish to express our agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on his repeated insistence on raising these matters, we thank the noble Lord for his initiative?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington. I am conscious that differences of view exist. The Procedure Committee has, on more than two occasions over the years, considered this matter and brought it before your Lordships. In the past your Lordships have wished to adhere to the previous practice.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, last month we announced two pilot schemes to extend breast cancer screening to women up to the age of 69.
Lord Gainford: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that short and concise Answer. Bearing in mind the fear that women have of breast cancer, would it be possible for scanning to be extended both to elderly and to younger women? Has any action been taken by the Government on the double X-ray which has been recommended in the media recently?
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