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Lord Renton: My Lords, I endorse the tribute paid to the miners by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington. But is the Minister aware that many of the coalfields were in such remote places that there was no alternative employment? The miners' pension fund will go only a small way towards creating the alternative employment which is needed in those communities.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, we are not reliant on the miners' pension fund to provide alternative prosperity for those areas which have been devastated by the closure of coalmines. I am saying that we are moving into a new era and that we must attract industry of all kinds into those areas. As noble Lords will know, the vast majority of mining areas are rural areas and on top of the more general problems experienced by rural areas, they suffer also from the closure of the mining industry. It is important, therefore, to have a concerted effort from all the agencies of government to help those areas and to attract private sector investment and jobs to them.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, my noble friend accepts that marked improvement in many areas is under way, but will he accept also that the brutal and rather abrupt devastation to which my noble friend Lord Dormand referred exercised an effective social corrosion which remains extremely serious? In order
Lord Whitty: My Lords, again, I entirely agree with what has been said about the corrosive effects on the mining communities of developments during the 1980s and early 1990s. It is for the trust to decide what is put in the public arena in terms of the companies it has approached. However, I hope that we can indicate some strong support for initiatives taken by the trust. Indeed, the Government have put £50 million of pump-priming into the trust. It is now up to the trust to develop such partnerships. I believe that it is well on the way to doing so successfully.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, following on from the Question so ably put by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, and the emphasis placed on the provision of alternative job opportunities in former coalfield areas, can the Minister in any way indicate the number of jobs which have so far been created in relation to the number of redundant mineworkers, and what progression in that respect can be expected in the years ahead?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I cannot specifically identify jobs which have been created as a result of government action. However, coalfield area by coalfield area, it is clear that there is a long way to go before the number of jobs is restored to the level that existed when the coalfields were operating, when the mining industry was employing large numbers of men and there were many dependent industries. We are talking about a very substantial programme of regeneration. The specific sum of money which has gone to the coalfields through coalfields activity by the Government was £350 million last year. The European Union designation of assisted area status for the coalfields, and, in some cases, of Objective 1 and Objective 2 status, together go towards providing a basis for new employment. However, there is a long way to go.
Lord Elton: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government recognise that the accelerating pace of technological and, consequently, economic and sociological change means that industry after industry will capitulate to that change? Further, in pursuing the policies that the noble Lord has just described, will the Government seek to develop economic skills and administrative methods which will enable them to nurse successive communities through change from one means of livelihood to another--probably starting with the agricultural industry in the near future?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, we have had considerable discussion on the current problems of the agricultural industry in this House. However, in many ways the mining industry is a special case. I agree that we need these measures to ease people over change more
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, North Korea acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1985 and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1987. It has not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention. We and our allies use every opportunity to urge it to do so. The United Kingdom also supports the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO), and the efforts of the United States to persuade North Korea to end its destabilising missile proliferation activities.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that reply. She will be very well aware of the profound concern in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere about the possible destabilising effects of the long-range missile production programme of North Korea. Therefore, before the bilateral American-North Korean meetings in Berlin on 15th November, can the noble Baroness confirm that the EU will continue to finance the KEDO operation in view of the extreme importance of ensuring that plutonium production is not resumed in North Korea? Further, can the Minister say whether she and the Government fully support the new engagement policy of South Korea, which seems to indicate some hope of reducing the very dangerous tensions in the region?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am happy to be able to say yes to both those questions from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. We and our allies are doing all we can to persuade North Korea to renounce weapons of mass destruction and become law-abiding members of the international community. As the noble Baroness will know, the development and testing by North Korea of long-range missiles, which could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction, is also a matter of international concern. There are no international treaties to prevent such activities, but we
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, in the light of what the Minister has said about the fact that North Korea already possesses weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them over long distances, can she tell us what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the provision of defence against these missiles to protect both ourselves and our allies in the event that all these arms control and non-proliferation agreements come to nothing?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have not taken the view that that would be an appropriate way forward. Nuclear disarmament is very much key to this Government's policy. We are pursuing with vigour general disarmament and trying to encourage all our allies to engage with us in that regard.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the fact that at the beginning of the Korean War this country introduced prescription charges in the free National Health Service of its day--which currently raise some £400 million for the service--and the fact that this country now spends £1,000 million a year on nuclear weapons, can my noble friend the Minister suggest to her colleagues that, when North Korea signs up to these treaties, the UK Government might take the opportunity to cut our nuclear arsenals in half and eliminate prescription charges in the National Health Service?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I believe I told the House on a previous occasion, Her Majesty's Government have already reduced this country's nuclear capacity. We have also become a leader in terms of transparency. I am afraid that little reliance can be placed upon the Koreans signing any treaty; indeed, we know that they have reneged on virtually all of them in the past. So we have no comfort in that quarter.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell the House to which countries North Korea has exported long-range missile technology in the past few years? Can she also tell us to which countries North Korea has exported nuclear weapons technology?
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