|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall reply to the noble Lord's positive points rather than to his diversionary tactics. Yes, of course it is true that there are many people, particularly the self-employed and those who are likely to change jobs frequently, for whom personal pension schemes are more appropriate than the kind of final salary scheme which denies individuals transferability from one employer to another. However, it is also important that, where possible, there should be employer contributions, as well as a minimising of the administrative costs which are too common a feature of personal pension schemes.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, as the Minister may be aware, most of us welcome the action taken by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury in dealing with this very unfortunate matter. Is he also aware that, whatever we may think of the Chancellor's Budget so far as pension provision is concerned, the central question for the House is the mis-selling of pensions by disreputable salesmen working for some of those 24 companies? That is the central issue. I am sure that all of us would welcome vigorous action by the Government to deal with it.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for returning to the original Question on the Order Paper. He is quite right. I suspect that he is also asking when criminal proceedings will be taken regarding some of the grosser examples of mis-selling. I can only say to him that, regrettably, it will not be possible to consider that until the redress procedure is complete or almost complete.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the British Government will not issue licences for the export of arms, to Indonesia or any other country, which might be used for internal repression or international aggression.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, since the gracious Speech, I have had the privilege of debating human rights issues with the Minister in this House covering Burma, Indonesia, the Sudan and many other parts of the world. If the sale does proceed, as seems likely from the Foreign Office briefing to the press, I should like to congratulate the Government on a seamless transition of policy from the previous administration. Will the Minister give the House one concrete example of circumstances where the Government believe that the much-heralded application of the human rights criteria at the centre of foreign policy decisions will result in a change of policy from that of the previous administration?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government stand by their eight-point plan on policy towards arms exports that was published before the election. We will not sell arms to regimes which might use them for internal repression or external aggression. We want an EU code of conduct governing all arms sales. We announced on 22nd May that the Government would carry out an urgent review of the criteria used in considering licence applications for the export of conventional arms. Human rights will play an important part in that. As I indicated, the noble Lord and the rest of the House can expect us to announce our conclusions on this very important matter shortly.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, have the Government yet suspended deliveries of the armoured vehicles and water cannon about which evidence was supplied to them? Photographic evidence, as well as eye-witness statements, indicated that these devices exported from the United Kingdom had indeed been used in action against demonstrators. Will the Minister accept that the commitment in the mission statement is no different from that entered into by the previous government in regard to the principles governing conventional arms transfers of the OSCE in December 1993, and that what is lacking is any means of checking violations and enforcing the code of conduct, agreed not merely by the United Kingdom but by every other state in the OSCE, under which we will not sell arms that might be used for internal repression?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government are very concerned about the allegations, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred, of the past misuse of UK-supplied equipment. We have asked officials for full details. As yet, there are no firm conclusions to be drawn. We are currently studying all the information available to us in relation to allegations about use of the Hawk in East Timor; however, as yet, we have no firm conclusions. I am therefore unable to give the noble Lord the detailed answer that his Question requires. I hope that such answers will be forthcoming very shortly.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point. All such matters are far too important for rushed decisions. The review was set up barely two months ago. Many issues have to be fully considered, involving a great number of different Whitehall departments, as the noble Lord knows. The Government are determined that the issue and all the implications involved in it, such as the one to which the noble Lord has drawn our attention, are fully considered before reaching conclusions which I hope will be announced shortly.
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, is the Minister hopeful of avoiding a situation in which reduced sales from this country are simply made up by sales from such outlets as China and South American countries?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we would be hopeful in those circumstances of being able to persuade other countries to follow our lead in putting human rights at the heart of their policy too.
Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lord Sewel, will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on devolution for Scotland. I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement after the end of the Minister's initial reply to the Opposition spokesmen should be confined to,
Lord Carter: My Lords, it may also be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships that, subject to the progress of Business, the House will rise for the Summer Recess on Thursday 31st July. The House will sit at 11 a.m. on that day.
However, it would be helpful for all Members of the House if in future we have notification of the dates rather earlier than has been the case this year. I understand the difficulties in which the noble Lord found himself. Furthermore, I understand that another place is not due to return until 29th October, over two weeks after our return. That is not unwelcome because I assume that it means that there will be a number of important Bills for the House of Lords to deal with right at the start of the Session. There is a good reason for that, following the point made by my noble friend Lord Cranborne last week.
It is important for the Government to provide a balance for the legislative programme. My colleagues and I would regard it as an unhappy event if we were to find ourselves dealing with big, controversial and detailed Bills, including some that may contain items of constitutional importance, in the final months of the summer. I hope that the Government do not plan for Royal Assents to be required at the end of July or even the beginning of August when at this stage there seems to be no pressing need for it. That is particularly so since the House of Commons will return long after we do.
I hope that the noble Lord will take this in the spirit of co-operation and helpfulness with which it is intended, as has always been our direction here in Opposition.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page