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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, does the Minister agree with British Gas that exploration in the South Atlantic cannot begin until a political settlement between Britain and Argentina has been agreed? If she does agree, can she tell the House what progress has been made in reaching a settlement? If she does not agree, does that mean that exploration licences will be granted without Argentine involvement or consent; and can she say when they will be granted?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, let us start at the beginning. First, I do not think that the noble Baroness is quite right. I certainly do not agree with what she quoted British Gas as having said. Secondly, while we are seeking to reach agreement with Argentina on commercial co-operation, it will be up to the islandersand only the islandersto agree the manner in which the oil industry will develop. There is no need for agreement with anyone else. The other point that must be considered is that we are quite sure that there is the absolute right to administer the Falkland Islands in accordance with international law, which means that the Falkland Islands can decide upon this matter.
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, in view of the huge potential income relative to the number of people in the Falkland Islands, can my noble friend say whether Britain will benefit on a licensing basis in any way?
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, in the light of the ever-increasing and improved trade relations with Argentina and investment, does my noble friend agree that it is important that we avoid any unilateral statements and that all matters concerning the South Atlantic should be agreed between ourselves, Argentina and the Falkland Islands Government?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, in this matter it is the Falkland Islands Government who are the deciding government. We now have a regular exchange with the Argentine Government on a wide range of issues. I believe that they share our desire to maintain the improvement in our bilateral relationships, and we work away at that. But there is no way in which Argentina can decide the future of the Falkland Islands. Only the Falkland Islanders can do that.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, is the Minister telling the House that the Falkland Islands, as a dependent territory of the UK, will go ahead and issue licences for exploration in the South Atlantic without the agreement of the UK Government? If the UK Government's agreement is involved, can she tell us what the Government's current position is on this, as I do not think she entirely answered my original question?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness. She asked me a number of questions and sometimes it is not always as straightforward as the questionner may think to sort out the detail for the answer. There is no way in which the Falkland Islands is likely to go ahead without consulting the British Government, but it is the Falkland Islands which has to act and administer any matter like this in accordance with international law. So consultation, yes. But this is something which is quite a long way off, I suspect, at the moment.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, can the United Kingdom's experience of nearly 30 years in the offshore industry be made available in what could prove to be a significant new province of undersea hydrocarbons?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. British companies, particularly those which have such experience in the North Sea and in other offshore areas, should be able to give very valuable advice and I hope have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from exploration in the Falklands area.
Lord Ironside: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether any exploration licences have yet been granted? There have been rumours that some have been authorised. If so, have any been given to organisations which are connected in any way with the Argentine?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am certain that the answer to the second question is definitely no and that no licences have been given. I know that the DTI has offered advice on the preparation
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, the noble Baroness talked about consultation between Her Majesty's Government and the Administration in the Falkland Islands. Can she clarify the matter with regard to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone? Is the Falkland Islands still a dependent territory of the United Kingdom?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: It is, my Lords, but the consultation I was discussing was what I went on to say in answer to my noble friend just now. Not only has the DTI offered advice on the preparation for and the running of the licensing round, but the Treasury and the Inland Revenue have given advice on the formulation of the fiscal regime, the Health and Safety Executive has been approached to assist in the implementation of health and safety measures, the Foreign Office has provided financial assistance for the baseline nature surveys and we have given legal advice to the Falkland Islands Attorney-General. That is a fair old degree of co-operation and consultation at this stage.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, funding for the Health Education Authority is not being withdrawn but in future will depend on the successful winning of contracts. We are confident that the new arrangements will strengthen both health education and promotion.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. Does she not agree that all our great national institutions have to be examined from time to time and that the NHS is no exception? Does she also agree that the vital element of education in our NHS means so much to all the professions and all the ordinary people who are the patients of this great institution? Before anything of this nature is undertaken will she at least be prepared to seek the views of the people who are concerneddoctors, nurses, and other elements within our NHS?
Baroness Cumberlege: Yes, my Lords, but I think that the noble Lord may be under a misunderstanding. This is not education in terms of medical education. This is education in terms of health promotion.
Lord Ennals: My Lords, does the noble Baroness realise that many people are extremely worried about the decision which the department seems to have taken? Why should it be supposed that those who can get contractswho can win them in the marketwill be better judges of health education with regard to issues
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, many of the contracts will be awarded by the Government to the Health Education Authority. When this decision was made, the chairman of the authority welcomed it. He saw it as a great opportunity for the Health Education Authority, in that it could compete for contracts to carry out programmes not only for the Government but for voluntary organisations, local government, health authorities and other organisations. The decision has been widely welcomed.
Lord Kilmarnock: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that since 1987 the Health Education Authority has played a major role in controlling the spread of HIV and AIDS in this country, with the result that the incidence in this country is far lower than among our Continental partners? With that in view, can she tell us how the commitment in section D.14 of The Health of the Nation for continuing public education campaigns for which specific responsibility is laid on the HEA will be carried forward after the change of status of that body next year?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, it will depend on the HEA winning contracts for the work it is doing. I agree with the noble Lord that our progress in containing HIV and AIDS has been remarkable. If one looks at the Paris region alone, it has more AIDS cases than the whole of this country. Much of the credit for that goes to the HEA and, if I may add this, to the committee chaired by the noble Lord.
Lord Finsberg: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the organisation does not enjoy the universal approbation which it appears to be accorded in this House? When I held the office which the Minister now holds, there were many complaints about the way that it was interfering and nannying. Some of its work was good, but it was not universally good. Will not the new system help to make it better than it has been?
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