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House of Lords

Thursday, 11th May 1995.

The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Chester.): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Aldermaston: Security Arrangements

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are keeping under review security arrangements at Aldermaston and other nuclear establishments.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, security arrangements at Aldermaston and other atomic weapons establishment sites are reviewed continuously, as are those at civil nuclear installations.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply and I am glad that the antics of the intruders on 17th April were suitably rebuffed. Does my noble friend agree that those attempts to interfere with normal operations and the subsequent incorrect and misleading statements by Greenpeace were designed to obtain publicity? They were also a disservice to responsible organisations committed to protecting the natural environment.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I agree totally with my noble friend. The activities of Greenpeace on that occasion were silly and infantile and achieved nothing. Greenpeace attempted to disrupt the activities at Aldermaston on the date mentioned by my noble friend. Those involved did not gain access to the site, my noble friend will be pleased to learn, and damage was slight, being confined to the pouring of cement into a drain. It was removed without undue difficulty. I offer praise to the Ministry of Defence police who conducted themselves with their usual skill and professionalism.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, without wishing to question the Minister on a specific point, is he saying that all is well in Aldermaston, always has been, and always will be?

Lord Henley: My Lords, yes, yes and yes.

Northern Iraq: Withdrawal of Turkish Army

3.3 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have been informed that the Turkish army has withdrawn completely from northern Iraq.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the Turkish Government announced on 4th May that all Turkish troops have withdrawn from northern Iraq.

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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Can she say whether the Government received independent verification that the withdrawal was complete? Also, have they received any guarantees from the Turkish Government that the invasion will not be repeated?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we are not aware of any independent verification. We trust that the Turkish Government mean what they say. We shall be extremely concerned if there is any clear evidence that the withdrawal is not complete and will respond appropriately. In relation to guarantees that there will not be a recurrence, I understand that the Turkish Government are holding talks with the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. Their aim is to make arrangements to prevent the PKK from operating from within northern Iraq. We support that approach of dialogue. We have also made it clear to the Turks that we shall be highly critical of any further incursions.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the President of Turkey claimed that the Turkish Government wish to withdraw the boundary between Turkey and northern Iraq in order to block the passage of PKK terrorists? Can the Minister make clear the Government's position on that extraordinary claim? Is it not vital that Iraq's territorial integrity should be respected and that that should be conveyed to the Turkish Government with urgency?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I too heard that remark. I am told that it was not authorised by the Government of Mrs. Çiller. Our position remains as it always has been: however much we dislike what is going on in Iraq, we must respect its territorial integrity.

Lord Rea: My Lords, does the noble Baroness believe the Turkish Government's reasons for going into northern Iraq—to confront or chase up and destroy PKK guerillas? Was there not much more likely to be another agenda? I refer to their making a show of force to the Kurds in northern Iraq, possibly in league with Saddam Hussein, to show who is boss.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we have no reason to believe that the Turks went into northern Iraq other than to stop the PKK operating from there into Turkey. We believe that that was their agenda and that there is not another agenda. But I learnt a long time ago never to rule out such things. From time to time one finds that something exists which has not been reported. As far as I am aware at this moment, there is no other agenda. We shall continue to press the Turks to find a political solution to the conflict in the south-east of Turkey and also to make rapid progress on democratic reform.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, have the Government received any news about the means adopted by the Turkish army to prevent the PKK operating in Turkey? Were any means used other than killing the terrorists; and how many in fact were killed?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Lord in such detail without notice. We know that the visit of the OSCE mission to Turkey went well. The delegation saw all those that it requested to see

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and it may provide further information of the sort requested by the noble Lord, in which case I shall pass it on to him.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, how does the noble Baroness suggest that Turkey should arrive at a political solution in the south-east? The Turks have eradicated the only party in that region which represents the aspirations of the Kurdish people. In relation to the negotiations undertaken by Ankara with the KDP, can the Minister confirm that the PUK were not also involved in those negotiations? I understand that they were demanding that the KDP be responsible for policing the border, and that Mr. Barzani, in return, asked for salaries to be paid to the peshmergas in charge of the operation. Does the noble Baroness think it is a good idea for one state to pay the armed forces of another state to guard a border for which it has responsibility? Is it not better that the Turks should look after their own security on the border rather than asking people across the frontier to do it for them?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, in response to the noble Lord's penultimate question, the answer is no. If the Turks need to police their border, they should do it themselves. I shall inquire into the answers to the noble Lord's other detailed questions, but I do not follow his line of questioning at all.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, can the Government confirm reports that the offensive by the Turkish army in northern Iraq followed agreement for that action with the regime in Iraq? Can the Government also confirm that major troop activities by any NATO member need to be reported to the NATO centre, especially when that was done in regard to the Turkish army's offensive in northern Iraq?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is no evidence with regard to the noble Lord's first question. With regard to his second question, NATO members are not required to report, but since NATO members share on a regular basis in Brussels what is going on in their own countries, we knew at the time it was going on.

Lord Kilbracken: My Lords, can the noble Baroness say how the Turkish army are supposed to know whether the Kurds they are killing in northern Iraq are members of the PKK and not members of the PUK or the KDP?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I just hope that their intelligence is better than mine.

Local Authorities: Councillors' Allowances

3.10 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the reason for issuing to local authorities on 29th March 1995 new subsistence allowances for elected members backdated to 1st April 1994.

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The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, following the recommendations made to us in the report of the Joint Working Party on the Internal Management of Local Authorities, published in 1993, we undertook a review of councillors' allowances, including their travel and subsistence allowances. Following that review we agreed that members' travel and subsistence rates should be aligned with those of local authority officers. Because those allowances had not been uprated during the course of the review we thought it only fair to give councils the discretion to decide whether or not payment of the allowances at the uprated level should be backdated to 1st April 1994.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. However, does he not think that this is really a backward step as I understand that the changes are being made for simplicity. In the past the system was very simple: four to eight hours, eight to 12 hours, or 12 to 16 hours. But the allowances now are a breakfast allowance—four hours before 11 a.m.; lunch allowance—a phrase that is worrying councillors—including the time between 12 noon and 2 p.m.; tea allowance, including the period of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and evening allowance—this is more vague—after 7 p.m. Was it not more simple when the allowance was calculated on the basis of the number of hours you were on duty? Will all councillors now be watching the clock to see whether their meeting finishes at 1.55 p.m.? Will there then be a difference depending on whether you buy your sandwich on the premises and you are still there until 2 p.m. or you buy your sandwich as you go home and therefore do not qualify for the lunch allowance?

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