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Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the noble Lord not accept that when the referendum comes, the Government will be, quite rightly, partisan in that? The Government's policy is very clear and it will be stated, as they are perfectly entitled to state it. But there is a case that can be made on both sides. Given the £7 million or so which has been spent so far on the softening-up process, what conceivable argument can there be against engaging a group of people to produce an authoritative statement of the arguments on both sides? Nobody will believe that the Government can be independent when the referendum comes.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I reject entirely the noble Lord's statement that £7 million has been spent on a softening-up process. What is happening is that we are seeking to ensure that when the time comes, British industry and commerce and, indeed, the British people as a whole, have made such preparations as are necessary in order to make a serious choice.
Of course, the Government accept that there will be arguments on both sides and those arguments will have to be put to the British people. Indeed, we already did so by publishing last year an excellent volume entitled
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I share the disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, regarding the reply he has received. That is tempered a little by the fact that I do not believe, given the Government's commitment to the euro, that they can present a genuinely objective assessment of the case for and against economical and political membership. However, things are moving on. Is it not now sensible to ask the Government to produce a White Paper outlining the pros and cons of the case for accepting the proposals of Senor Prodi for a European army and discussing the German Government's scheme for a European Union military and defence union? We should hear something about that also.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as my noble friend stated, things are moving on and will continue to do so. However, they are not moving on so far as to put the question of a European army within the scope of this Question.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, in his loveable, if somewhat mischievous, usual way, perhaps has a serious point. Does my noble friend accept that while it would not be possible to convince people such as the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, and my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney, it might be possible to convince genuinely open-minded people-- I deliberately exclude my noble friend--because the facts clearly show the advantages of our joining a single currency?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Prime Minister has made the issues absolutely clear. As he stated in February, it is essential that convergence is settled and sustainable. We cannot say that yet. Under those circumstances, of course things will continue to move on, as stated by my noble friend Lord Shore, and we will continue to sustain our responsibility for informing the British people as and when appropriate.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that as a Minister in this House no one would possibly accuse him of arrogance, but that the Answer drafted for him, and which he read, reeked of the arrogance of this Government? Noble Lords are entitled to ask this Question. They will probably ask it again and again. It is about time Her Majesty's Government got it into their heads that there is a desire on the part of the people of this country to have the information set out as fairly as possible by an authoritative source on which they can begin to make up their minds on this issue. Why are the Government afraid to let them have the facts?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have never been afraid to let anybody have the facts, nor indeed have they been afraid to do more than just hint, as we were accused of doing, about our attitude. We have set out the economic convergence
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the debate about the single currency has been going on for some years? Does he not accept that the objective of the Government, and, I suspect, of every corner of this House, would be to extend the scope of that debate to embrace a much greater proportion of the population than currently feels equipped to take any part in it? Does he not also agree that the recent election results, the turn-out in the local elections and in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish elections have proved that there is a serious disillusionment in the country with the extent to which Parliament legislates and deliberates above the heads of the electorate?
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the changeover plan makes little reference to the cost of entry? Does he also accept that he owes it to the British public to have early indications of that cost, which has been estimated at five times that of putting right the millennium bug?
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham:) My Lords, at its meeting last week the Administration and Works Sub-Committee approved the recommendations set out in the report of the Informal Group on Smoking. The report will now go to the Offices Committee, and the recommendations will come before the House in the report of that committee. Meanwhile, Black Rod has undertaken to investigate the possibility of identifying a room for smokers. Once a room has been identified, smoking could be reduced elsewhere.
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and for the action he is taking. When he refers the matter of smoking in eating places in this House to the Refreshment Sub-Committee, will he draw to their attention the excellent, sensible and compromise arrangement in the Churchill Dining Room
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I shall certainly ensure that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, is drawn to the attention of the appropriate quarters. However, as the noble Lord will have seen from the report of the informal group, I should point out that no changes are made to the smoking arrangements at present in force in your Lordships' Refreshment Department.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that some of us resent being told how to lead our lives? Does he agree that the Palace of Westminster is large enough for people such as the noble Lords, Lord Janner and Lord Avebury, to avoid being polluted by people like me? After all, they can always buzz off to the Commons.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, are, to an extent, correct. Those who are entitled, as she put it, to "buzz off to the Commons", in particular quarters of the premises of another place, may do so having been Members of another place. Because of the job I do, I hesitate to take sides so far as smoking is concerned, but I always find everything said by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, absolutely irresistible!
Lord Peston: My Lords, as former chairman of the Refreshment Committee, I am grievously disappointed that the Chairman of Committees does not feel that he should take sides. This is a disgraceful state of affairs. I believe that almost the only occasion I was roundly defeated each time was when I tried to deal with the matter of smoking in areas where ordinary people try to eat and drink in a decent atmosphere and are terrorised--I use that word advisedly--by a small minority. Is it not time that your Lordships' House showed leadership on this matter? We must be one of the most reactionary institutions. I know that is a badge of pride with some, but on this subject it is a disgraceful state of affairs. Before the end of this year, when we move to our reformed House, is it not about time that we dealt with the problem which, in my view, is more important than that of the hereditary Peers?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I shall not be tempted or drawn into commenting on the last point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I am sorry to have disappointed him so greatly. As some of your Lordships will be aware, this is the wont of a politician. However, there is one point which should not escape the attention of your Lordships' House; that is, the outcome of the inquiries made into the views of your Lordships as a result of the questionnaire. Perhaps I may say that I am extremely grateful, as I am sure your Lordships will be, to the informal group for its work, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of
The point which we cannot ignore is simply this. As a result of the responses to the questionnaire, which were extensive--over 400 Members of your Lordships' House responded--the House was formed of two pretty-well equal groups. In fact, those in favour of the status quo or more smoking amounted to 53 per cent and those in favour of less smoking amounted to 52 per cent. To introduce a more radical tightening of restrictions would be to ignore that fact.
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