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Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the export of military equipment is another matter. I can only say that, in general, military equipment is exported only for military purposes and not where it is likely to be used for internal repression.

Lord Ennals: My Lords, having seen the results of some of these torturous weapons and the use made of them in other countries, I must ask why the Government do not decide that Britain should not export such items? Why cannot they end this wicked trade?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, did not listen as carefully as he usually does to my initial Answer. The export of leg shackles is controlled and export licences are not granted. On the other hand, one cannot control the purposes for which other perfectly normal pieces of equipment are used in other countries. For example, 5-amp electric flex can be used in a vicious way. Bicycle chains or even cigarettes can be used as elements of torture and it would be wrong to exclude the export of those items.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I am disappointed that the noble Earl is not taking the Question as seriously as he ought. These are such loathsome objects that I would not even suggest that they be used to control English football supporters.

Can the noble Earl explain why objects which are as loathsome as those mentioned can be hidden under the heading, "They are legitimate if they are controlled"? I understand that the noble Earl said that they are controlled. His department should be doing something a lot more positive so that, if for no other reason than our national honour, "Made in England" does not appear on those objects when they are used by repressive regimes abroad.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, unusually for the noble Lord, Lord Peston, he is being slightly emotive on this subject. He referred to "loathsome objects", and did not say what they were. I said that the export of leg shackles—if that is what he means by "loathsome objects"—is controlled; that export licences would be required and would not be given. I can also say that under the export and controls order, licences are required for acoustic devices, for anti-riot shields, for leg irons and shackles, for portable anti-riot devices, for water cannon, for riot control vehicles, and so forth. I

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cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Peston, feels that the Government are encouraging those exports when they are totally and perfectly correctly controlled.

Lord Peston: My Lords, can the noble Earl clarify his answer? Is he saying that the Government have powers to control the export and that the items are not being exported? That is the point at issue. I refer to leg shackles and similar repressive objects. Can the noble Earl assure the House that the British Government are not allowing those things to be exported? That is the only question at issue. It is nothing to do with 5-amp cord or anything like that. It concerns something much more serious.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it is difficult to explain to the noble Lord exactly what I mean when I have already said it twice, but I am happy to repeat it for a third time. The export of leg shackles is controlled and export licences would not be given. Full stop. If the noble Lord then asks whether other things are exported from this country which in other circumstances may be used as offensive weapons, I am bound to say that perfectly legitimate items which can be and are exported nevertheless may be used for offensive purposes. We cannot control that.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, will the Minister look again at the transcript of the Channel 4 programme? He will see a quotation from a businessman referring to electric shock weapons where he says,

    "We went to China and sold to China with the government's blessing".

Will the Minister look again at the whole issue with specific reference to electric shock batons.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, should not take every television programme at its face value. Certain people are prepared to make programmes and entrap people into making certain comments. They then broadcast them as programmes in which they purport to show that people are behaving in an untoward way. I explained that that particular programme involved three firms and those firms acquitted themselves reasonably.

Intergovernmental Conference: Agenda

3.15 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take, prior to the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference study group representatives to be held in Messina in June, to ensure that the whole question of a radical review of the present functions, structure and powers of the respective institutions of the European Union is placed firmly on the agenda.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, a number of agenda items for the Intergovernmental Conference were established in the Maastricht Treaty itself and in

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subsequent European Councils with the unanimous agreement of the member states of the Union. Other items may be added to the agenda.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, which contains no information whatever, may I draw his attention to the evidence which the Minister of State for the Foreign Office gave to the House of Lords Select Committee on 10th January last as reproduced in the House of Lords Paper No. 19 of this year in which she lists a whole series of matters, at page 16, that will be raised at the conference to which I referred? The only item missing from that list is the item contained in my Question. Will the noble Lord take note of the fact that, throughout the United Kingdom, there is a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the way in which some members of the institutions are behaving? High up in the bureaucracy in the Commission in particular there is a tendency to act like little more than puppets for the French and German Governments.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I explained, certain parts of the agenda for the Intergovernmental Conference are specified in the Maastricht Treaty. There are six items and three others have subsequently been decided on by the European Council. The Government are aware of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, and his views on the activities of the European institutions. They will no doubt give them the weight they consider appropriate in bringing forward proposals at the IGC that they believe will be in the interests of this country as a whole.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that though the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, is always extremely fair when talking about the other institutions of the Community, nevertheless his attack on members of the Commission is regrettable? We should remember that David Williamson is a leading member of the British Civil Service and is doing an excellent job as Secretary-General.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Elles is absolutely right. Mr. Williamson is doing a first rate job at the European Commission.

Lord Richard: My Lords, speaking as somebody who was not a puppet of the French or German Governments when he was Commissioner, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that the picture presented by my noble friend of the activities of the European Commission is frankly a travesty and unrecognisable by anyone who has any intimate knowledge of the workings of that institution? Will the Minister confirm that whatever else the Government intend to try to achieve at the IGC, it does not involve the repeal of the Treaty of Rome.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I can confirm that.

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Rowntree Study: Standards of Living

3.19 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they propose to respond to the view arising from the Rowntree Foundation sponsored inquiry into income and wealth that growing inequality in Britain is a competitive handicap and a danger for the economy and for business.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, government policies provide a firm basis for lasting economic recovery and are the best way to safeguard living standards of all groups, including the least well off. In addition, the Government are providing considerable help for the poor and vulnerable. Extra help, worth more than £1 billion a year in real terms, has been made available to low-income families since the social security reforms of 1988. The 1994 Budget included a package worth around £700 million aimed at getting unemployed people back to work.

Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, which clearly addresses itself to one core issue. Is it not, however, a clear finding of the Rowntree study, as well as other studies, that in the medium term the most important instrument for bringing people back to the labour market and away from benefits is education for, on the one hand, pre-school and primary school children and, on the other hand, 16 to 19 year-olds?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that both the factors that he mentioned are important in bringing people into the labour market. But it is also important that we are clear that they are by no means the whole story. It is important that we have a labour market which can respond flexibly to the requirements of the world, not merely the single market but the wider world in the post-GATT era. We believe it is necessary to ensure that we have a structurally flexible labour market which will respond to the requirements of commerce and business, because it is commerce and business which provide jobs.

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