Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the secrecy surrounding full publication of the report must be a matter of serious concern. The review and its terms of reference were announced to Parliament, and Parliament would appreciate a report being made to it. Instead, all we have is a summary of some of the key findings. Does the Minister accept that NASS has come under severe criticism from voluntary and statutory organisations and that there has been a very critical report from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux? How will Parliament assess the progress being made unless it knows whether or not these issues have been identified and addressed by the Government?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we accept that a number of criticisms were made of NASS. Therefore, the review was established to ensure that Ministers and senior Home Office officials would receive an independent assessment of the way that NASS was operating. The Home Office and its Ministers have been delighted at the nature of the independent report. Now, we require a period to work through the findings of that report and to put into action, and deliver on, its key and important findings. That is what we want. We want NASS to be effective, as I am sure does the noble Lord. The recommendations in the internal report have been valuable in ensuring that NASS has a greater, better and clearer view of its sense of direction and purpose.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that many asylum seekers cannot be helped by NASS because they are in prison? Does he recall that in October 2001 the Home Secretary said that they were no longer to be imprisoned unless they had committed, or were
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we keep all these matters under very careful review at all times. However, I hear what the noble Lord has to say on the issue, and it is obviously a matter of continuing concern. I am confident that the Home Secretary gave that commitment fully cognisant of the fact that it was important to ensure that the minimum number of asylum seekers were detained in prison but, where they had to be detained, rightly it was because they had committed criminal offences.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, is not the Government's refusal to give the information an abuse of the code which the noble Lord has just mentioned because, in an earlier paragraph, the code refers to public interest? Obviously it is in the public interest to know whether the suspect vehicles were used as mobile weapons of mass destruction laboratories. If they were, that is rather odd because the vehicles are not mentioned in either the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report or the Intelligence and Security Committee report. If they have no links to the weapons of mass destruction programme in Iraq, then perhaps it is also in the public interest that we should know that vehicles which have British components on board were not being used for that purpose and that therefore the allegation should not be made.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I refute entirely that it is a wrong use of the code. We shall not release information passed to us in confidence by foreign governments, nor would we expect other governments to release information that we have provided to them in confidence. We have said that coalition forces are
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, these two vehicles are most significant, having been mentioned in the US President's State of the Union address in January and having been referred to in the White Paper presented by the CIA and the DIA in the United States at the end of May 2003. Given that, can the Minister tell us something wholly within the sphere of Her Majesty's Government? Were the British-made components on the vehicles supported by any form of export subsidy and has that export subsidy been repaid or, in effect, is the United Kingdom still the legal owner of the component parts of those vehicles?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am not in a position to be able to answer the noble Baroness in the terms that she suggests. We currently assess that the vehicles were built in Iraq using Iraqi components and standard industrial components that had been obtained from several different countries, including the United Kingdom. The components of British origin would not have been restricted under the sanctions regime.
Lord Bach: My Lords, we hope that the survey group will report as soon as possible, but we accept that it will take as long as is necessary to investigate the programmes. I notice that the Liberal Democrat Benches laugh at that answer. I believe they should think slightly more carefully about laughing at an answer like that. This matter needs very careful consideration so we do not jump to conclusions one way or the other. If they are suggesting by implication that there is some kind of cover-up here, they should be very careful indeed or put that allegation to me directly.
Lord Newby: My Lords, would the Minister care to comment on the suggestion that the two vehicles, far from being used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, were used to manufacture hydrogen for use in barrage balloons?
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, perhaps I may press her a little further on the workload agreement, the first stage of which was due to be introduced in September this year. Is she aware that many schools which are struggling with deficit budgets and losing staff cannot possibly implement the workload agreement as it stands at present? Can she comment on how far they will be able to implement it with the new resources that the Minister promised on 17th July?
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