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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness's reply and much in the Government's initiatives. However, perhaps I may underline the worries expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, about how those matters will be implemented. Is the noble Baroness prepared to come back to the House in two years' time to report on how successful those initiatives have been? The Ofsted inspections may not be sufficient and may need to be considered in greater detail.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, would like to table either a Starred Question or an Unstarred Question or, indeed, a Motion for debate, of course, we should be delighted to answer him.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have just given what I hoped was a helpful answer. I said that if the noble Lord wishes at any time to raise the matter of how successful is initial teacher training for primary teachers, particularly with respect to the preparation of teaching English and mathematics, the Government will be delighted to provide all the information that they have available.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, in view of the lengthy article in the Scotsman recently, deploring, to my utter surprise, the present standard of school teaching north of the Border, has she considered commending the new teacher training procedures to her right honourable friend Mr. Dewar?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as the noble Lord acknowledges, teacher training is the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I shall ask him to write to the noble Lord about the arrangements. However, I am sure that he would permit me to say that, while we do not always go about things in the same way north and south of the Border, there is absolutely no difference in our commitment to raising standards in education.
Baroness Castle of Blackburn: Yes, of course I welcome that reply as far as it goes. But is it not a fact that at the meeting next Tuesday of the Council of Foreign Ministers our own Foreign Secretary will have an opportunity to vote out that inadequate alleged agreement in relation to allegedly more humane methods of trapping animals by the leg to restrain and kill them? Is the Minister not aware that the Environment Council and the European Parliament previously rejected that framework agreement out of hand? Can we please ask that the British Government
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. The weaknesses in the agreement that is to be considered at the General Council next week is that, far from prohibiting leghold traps, it risks giving an international seal of approval to padded leghold traps and drowning leghold traps. The Government believe strongly that that agreement must not be accepted next week. If no further satisfactory agreement is reached under the terms to which my noble friend referred, the Government believe that there should be an implementation of the ban.
The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, what confidence do the Government have that a European Union ban will accelerate significantly the phasing out of those traps in view of the fact that non-European markets are also being exploited?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is a difficult area. The Commission has produced a certification system which would require that all fur imports from countries that had implemented the ban were accompanied by an appropriate certificate. It is sometimes difficult to police legislation, but as with domestic legislation, where there is a strong moral case, that must be done.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, can the noble Baroness enlighten the House as to whether this regulation is to be made by unanimity, in which case, of course, we would have a veto, or whether it is to be made by qualified majority vote? If it is the latter, what hope is she able to hold out of Her Majesty's Government carrying the day?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is always difficult to predict the exact line that a vote will take. We are aware of concerns. Perhaps I ought not to give that information to your Lordships. It is quite clear that if a majority vote is against implementing the agreement and the agreement is not to go ahead, we need to influence people to ensure initially that we seek to achieve a proper agreement with the countries concerned.
I think I did say, "if a majority voted against the agreement". I apologise. I failed to express myself properly. If we fail to achieve a vote against implementing the agreement, obviously we will wish to take the matter further. If we are successful in preventing an agreement going ahead which is unacceptable, we will then have to use the argument that we are prepared to face in detail the issue of the World Trade Organisation being threatened by Canada and--
Baroness Castle of Blackburn: Is it not a fact that, even if the framework agreement for this allegedly more humane system of trapping were to be approved, it still would not include the United States of America, which has the largest number of sinners in this field of any
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I shall ensure that the concerns raised by my noble friend will be borne in mind. It is the case that the USA Federal Government are unwilling to sign the agreement or enter into a legally-binding agreement because of the constitutional difficulties as regards the rights of individual states. However, the concerns raised by my noble friend are, of course, important and ought to apply to the states.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me for intervening in the normal course of business. However, I should like to record our gratitude to the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms for telling us recently about the date for the beginning of the current Summer Recess. Perhaps I may ask the Lord Privy Seal whether we might not be favoured with a further piece of information as soon as possible, as the end of term is approaching. The piece of information that I believe the House would like to hear is whether the government business managers could give us some indication of the date of our return.
As your Lordships know, this House proceeds by agreement. I hope that the government business managers will agree that the relations between the usual channels since the election have been both constructive and--I hope that they feel as I do--agreeable. In particular, we have ensured, and will continue to ensure, that we deliver Bills within the agreed timetable.
Further, I wonder whether the government business managers will also agree that our ability to help with the smooth running of business depends on more than just good will and mutual esteem, important though those two qualities are. In particular, I hope that they will further agree that it also depends on a legislative programme which is not overloaded and which preserves a balance of substantial Bills beginning in this House as well as in another place. Therefore, I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal will accept that, on this side of the House, we look forward to the business managers in this House being able to persuade their government colleagues of the importance of that balance.
I have to say in particular that the House would not take kindly to being asked to sit on into August this time next year, or indeed to indulge in a long spill-over period, simply because of the Government's failure to plan business adequately. I am sure that this marker is otiose, but I trust that your Lordships would welcome a reassurance from the Lord Privy Seal on the point, so that we are perfectly clear as to the basis of any negotiations which may take place in the coming 12 months.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, one of the interesting aspects about the usual channels, as I always understood them, is the fact that they flow not only in this Chamber but also down the Corridor and back again. Moreover, I always understood the usual channels to be deep and, on the whole, fairly impenetrable. I am not prepared to see the usual channels being discussed across the Dispatch Boxes of this House without any notice whatever being given to the Government. If the noble Viscount has legitimate points to raise--and he clearly has--naturally, in their usual spirit of conciliation, the Government will do their best to deal with them.
However, with the greatest respect to the noble Viscount, for him to get up and, so to speak, fire a shotgun in a scatter way at the usual channels who were sitting here very peacefully and quietly in total ignorance of the fact that they were about to be aimed at, is, if I may say so, a little strong. As regards keeping the House sitting until August next year, I am reliably informed that the noble Viscount's noble friend Lord Denham once kept the House sitting until August 12th--a date which, no doubt, is of much more importance to that side of the House than it is to my noble friends on this side. I shall do my very best to ensure that this House will have recessed by August 12th next year, so that pursuits which are no doubt keenly followed can be pursued.
So far as concerns the remainder of the noble Viscount's remarks, I should point out that there will be a number of Bills starting in this House. We shall announce those Bills in due course which will be starting their passage in this House. I have great hopes that the Bills which will start in this Chamber will be sufficiently important so that this House will be pleased that they do so. However, I do not intend to start wrangling about the issue again.
As to when the House goes into Recess, we shall be in a position to announce that date shortly. However, I do not believe that I can do so today. I am sorry, I meant to refer to the date when the House returns after the Recess; of course, I appreciate that we all know when we are going down. Indeed, I hope to be in a position shortly to announce when the House comes back in October. Finally, I can only say to the noble Viscount that I hope this is not the way in which the usual channels will be expected to work in the future.
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