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Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I said in answer to an earlier question, as I am sure the noble Baroness heard, that the specific release granted temporarily for the cashmere industry was based on the fact that it is a seasonal trade. It is surprising that the Opposition find it necessary to laugh at or be confused by a successful operation by a British Minister to alleviate damage to any sector of industry in Great Britain, or that they feel it is something to be wondered at.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is the Minister finding any understanding in the United States that while many of us want the European Union to be committed to free trade, there is some unease that there is too much domination of corporate power in some of these interests, whether it is bananas, GM food or hormone-treated beef? Is there any understanding in the United States that this is not just a free trade issue? There are also environmental concerns and concerns about corporate power.
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I agree that these are complex issues and do not just reside on the relationships in trade, which in general terms are very good between the USA and Europe. To ensure that I do not stray too far into a long answer on environmental issues of sustainable development, perhaps the noble Baroness will read the excellent Hansard report of the debate last night which went into these issues for at least four hours.
The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, since its formation, the task force has had a round of exploratory meetings with a range of interested parties, including the management and workforces of the Govan shipyard and Clydebank engineering works, the local enterprise companies, local authorities and other organisations with an interest in the future of the companies. These meetings will, I trust, be the start of a process which will allow Kvaerner to dispose of its operations on Clydeside through arrangements that ensure continuing employment on the present scale in shipbuilding and engineering.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, there have been a number of expressions of interest in the Govan shipyard since the task force was formed, and no doubt other expressions of interest have gone to the Kvaerner company as the owner of the assets. We were pleased, as was everyone on Clydeside, that Swan Hunter came forward with a proposition. At the moment that is in rudimentary form. It does not contain a business plan. It has gone away to think about aspects of operations on Clydeside in more detail, having met the task force; and no doubt that will be subject to commercial negotiations with Kvaerner at the appropriate time.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, are not the Government concerned about their economic policies in Scotland, in that under their policies we have lost 14,000 jobs in two years? Also, can the Minister tell me whether there is a possibility of advancing orders by the Ministry of Defence for roll-on roll-off ferries, which I understand are not subject to European Union competitive policy? That might be an important way of enhancing the bids for the new yard.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the figure quoted is not one that is familiar to me. From the statistics produced yesterday, the civilian workforce job series suggested that 25,000 extra jobs were created in 1998 in Scotland. Total employment has fallen over the year by 16,000. Noble Lords will be interested to hear that, based on ILO unemployment statistics, there was a decline of 5,000 in the unemployment figures in Scotland over the year, down to a figure of 7.2 per cent.--less than that of the North-East, Merseyside, Wales or indeed London.
On the second point, my understanding is that we have in prospect the possibility of building six ferries. These are commercial vessels. They need not be built; they could be supplied as part of a PFI order, and therefore the noble Lord is incorrect in asserting that they could be directed and would not be subject to European restrictions. I shall investigate that and if I am wrong I shall write to the noble Lord.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I, at least, sympathise with the position in which he finds himself of possibly being the Labour Government Minister who presides over the demise of the last major shipyard in Scotland, especially
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, as a point of correction, I started my working life in a small shipyard with only 5,000 men next door to the shipyard in question. But we take seriously the threat to the building of large vessels in the Clyde. That is not in any way to diminish the achievements of Ferguson's shipyard further down the river which has been extremely successful in winning new work. But it would be the ambition of the task force--ably led by Sir Gavin Laird who has a great deal of engineering and shipbuilding experience on the task force--to try to ensure that we find employment through arrangements that maintain work at its present level. But I wish to stress that, although 800 jobs are threatened in Govan, almost 800 further jobs are threatened in Clydebank, not in shipbuilding but in engineering. We will therefore make every effort to try to get a positive outcome for both sides of the Clyde.
The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999 so as to disqualify staff and employees of European Community institutions from standing in United Kingdom elections to the European Parliament. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.
3. We understand that the Clerk of the Parliaments plans to strengthen the staff resources available to serve committees, but that recruitment of additional clerks will not be possible before the autumn. Moreover, the availability of Lords to serve on committees and of accommodation to house additional staff are factors which limit the possible expansion of committee activity.
5. At this stage we recommend that the Obscenity Bill [HL] should not be referred to a select committee. In view of the competing pressures we consider it inappropriate that resources should be devoted to a committee on a bill with no realistic chance of becoming law.
6. A strong case was put to us for the appointment of a committee to scrutinise treaties. But we have noted that the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords has, in its consultation paper issued earlier this month, explicitly posed the question whether the second chamber should play a greater role in the scrutiny of draft treaties. We have therefore concluded that it would not be timely to appoint such a committee in advance of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
7. A joint committee on the draft Financial Services and Markets Bill was appointed at the beginning of March, with terms of reference requiring it to report by the end of April. We understand that the Government is likely to propose further pre-legislative scrutiny of this kind, for example in relation to the draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill published with the White Paper Local Leadership, Local Choice (Cm 4298).
8. In principle we welcome the involvement of this House in pre-legislative scrutiny. But in view of the pressure for other committee activity we hope that it will be possible to co-ordinate the appointment of similar committees in future and to give reasonable notice in each case. Because of the variety of subject matter of draft bills, we endorse the appointment of an ad hoc committee for each draft bill.
9. We were informed by the Chairman of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee that that committee had accepted an invitation from the joint committee on the draft Financial Services and Markets Bill to submit a memorandum on the delegated powers in the bill. We welcome this development, and we hope that the example may be followed in future. When a draft bill is made available for pre-legislative scrutiny, it can only be beneficial for the delegated powers to be subject to scrutiny at an early stage.
10. We have considered the recommendation made in paragraph 50 of the Special Report from the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, Session 1997-98. That recommendation related to the examination of bills by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. After welcoming the practice of some Government Departments of responding in writing to the Committee's recommendations, the Committee went on: "We invite the Liaison Committee to consider whether all Departments should, in future, respond succinctly in writing to those recommendations from this Committee for which they are responsible. We consider that it could assist the House's deliberations if such letters were routinely made available to front-bench spokesmen on the Bill in question, and placed in the Library of the House".
11. We endorse this recommendation, including the proposal that copies of responses should be provided to front-bench spokesmen and placed in the Library of the House. Whereas responses to reports from other committees are expected to be produced within two months (or six months in the case of the Science and Technology Committee), it would not be appropriate to lay down a time limit for such responses. They need to be made in good time for amendments to be tabled to the bill in question. In some cases that will require Departments to act within a few days, and we recognise that occasionally the timetable for the passage of a bill may make the provision of a written response impracticable.
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