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Lord Richard: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help me a little. As I understand it, the £24 million is part of the money that the courts decided should not have been used on Pergau. In addition to the £24 million, there are the sums that will be reimbursed; namely, the sums that the Minster says are payable this year and next year. That money will come back to the aid budget despite the fact that it has to go to Pergau as well. What is the logic for making the distinction between the £24 million and the rest of the money, if indeed it is all covered by the court judgment and the court said that the money should not have been used for Pergau? What is the logic of drawing the line there?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the logic of drawing the line is that you cannot change the past. Current year and future year payments are down to ECGD, and the aid programme is being reimbursed. Indeed, some of the reimbursement this year will provide further emergency aid for, for instance, the crisis in Chechnya. The point is that, once the financial

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books are closed, the past cannot be changed. You can change the present and you can change the future. We are doing that.

It may be wise just to remind the noble Lord that the judgment said that the unravelling was not a matter for the court; it is for Parliament to decide for the future how finance should be provided. We announced those steps on 13th December.

I want to make it quite clear that the aid programme will not be cut this year or next. I mentioned its having next year an additional £65 million available for other uses. That seems to me to be a wholly reasonable response to the court's decision.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, a commercial company that has been accused of misspending money could not say that its books were closed. Why cannot the same principle apply to the Government?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, because, commerce is commerce and government is government.

The Gambia: Advice to Tourists

3 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, in asking the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I should like to declare a very small interest.

The Question was as follows:

    Whether Her Majesty's Government are likely to change their advice to tour operators and United Kingdom citizens not to seek holidays in The Gambia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, our advice to British tourists and tour operators is kept under constant review. Updated advice, issued on 9th February, continues to recommend that tourists consider postponing non-essential travel. The situation in the country remains uncertain and security could still deteriorate quickly.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Bearing in mind the need to return to democracy, can she say what is the Government's attitude to a recently announced timetable by the military council to return to democratic rule? Can she also say whether bodies such as the European Union and the Commonwealth countries are in accord with the Government's policy?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. The two years announced by the regime in The Gambia is still too long. Effectively it means that the Gambians will suffer at least another 17 months of military rule and there is no guarantee that the military would leave even then. It is completely unnecessary in a country which had a functioning constitution and democratic elections as recently as spring 1992. Frankly, the longer the military junta stays, the greater the harm to the economy and the longer it will take to build it up again. I can assure my noble friend that we are working very closely with our European Union partners and our Commonwealth

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partners at every stage of the developments in The Gambia. My officials are working in Brussels this very day, as we speak, in the Africa Working Group, to see how we can all persuade The Gambia to return to democratic rule.

Lord Judd: My Lords, will the Minister accept that on this side of the House we shall support her to the full in anything that she finds necessary to see the restoration of democracy in The Gambia? Does she agree that it is not simply that democracy and human rights have been trampled upon by the military regime but that as a result, in the economic chaos which has followed, perhaps 150,000 more people are destitute than was the case before the coup? Does she recognise that in the light of that we want to see pressure increased, not diminished, at this juncture?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his question. It is the state of the people of The Gambia which worries us. They have every right to expect a speedy return to democratic government in their country.

Lord Merrivale: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government seek to encourage UK citizens in the meantime to take their holidays in Senegal, which is south and north of The Gambia?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I know the great interest my noble friend takes in matters Senegalese. He knows that there are some delightful places to visit. Unfortunately, some people are not so able as he is in speaking fluent French and therefore prefer to go to English-speaking territories. Anyway, we want to see the Gambian economy build up again for the sake of the Gambian people. It was an unnecessary, illegal coup. There was a democratic government who were pushed out. The sooner the country returns to civilian democratic rule the better.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the current aid programme to The Gambia still remains in place?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that humanitarian aid and health and education aid is still going to The Gambia. We are trying to help the people in those priority sectors. With the present regime in power, we shall not give aid in the police sector because it could well be misused. That is why we are limiting ourselves to humanitarian aid. But we hope before long to resume other forms of aid to help them get back on their feet once more.

Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Bill

3.5 p.m.

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Building Societies (Joint Account Holders) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

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South Africa Bill [H.L.]

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Pensions Bill [H.L.]

3.6 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 14 [Requirement for member-nominated trustees]:

[Amendment No. 105 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Earl of Buckinghamshire moved Amendment No. 105A:

Page 6, line 25, leave out ("deferred members of the scheme") insert ("such class or classes of deferred members of the scheme as the trustees may determine").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to my Amendment No. 111B. Amendment No. 105A is a probing amendment. It would increase the discretion of trustees by allowing them to choose an appropriate class of deferred members when they consult regarding changing scheme rules to implement their requirement for member-nominated trustees.

The reasons for the amendment can be quickly summarised in three parts: trustees have to consult members about rule changes to the scheme, they have to consult current pensioners and active members; but they have a discretion as to whether they consult deferred members. The current drafting of the Bill suggests that, if the trustees decide to consult with deferred members, they have no option but to consult with all deferred pensioners.

That could be difficult in practical terms. Deferred pensioners' addresses, for instance, may not be available and in many schemes the amount of deferred pension can be quite small in terms of money. With this amendment I suggest that it would be unnecessary to consult all the deferred pensioners as a class. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We have no objection to the amendment on our side of the Committee. It

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seems to us to give additional flexibility to the trustees, as described by the noble Earl. Therefore, we support the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My noble friend has a valid point with his amendment and in his remarks when bringing it to our attention. As he said, not all deferred members may be known to the trustees; for example, trustees may not hold an up-to-date address list for all deferred members. If trustees are faced with the difficulty and expense of tracing deferred members, they may be reluctant to use their discretion to include them in the statutory consultation process. We do not want this clause to work to the detriment of deferred members.

However, I am sorry to say to my noble friend that I am not content with the drafting of the amendment. As it stands, trustees could determine that they wish to consult only particular deferred members; for example, they could decide to consult only those members who they felt might respond in a particular way and to exclude those who might have opposing views. I am sure that that is not the effect that we want to achieve.

Therefore we accept the principle of the amendment and should like to make it easier for trustees to include deferred pensioners. However, we do not want to make it possible for schemes to discriminate against certain classes of deferred members, especially in the circumstances I outlined. If my noble friend therefore will withdraw his amendment, I shall undertake to consider it further and see what we can do to answer the point.

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