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Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have a Question on the Brent Spar on the Order Paper tomorrow? Will he give me an assurance that he will not just refer me to the answer that he has given today to a Question that is not about the Brent Spar? Bearing in mind his detailed statement about pollution in the North Sea caused through the rivers, is he aware that this country's record is not that great? Until a few years ago a great deal of pollution in the North Sea and other seas around Britain was caused by local authorities which then had the responsibility of disposing of sewage by pumping raw sewage out from pipes to where people were bathing. I know the situation has improved since that responsibility was removed from them, but will the Minister give us an undertaking that that activity has now been almost eliminated?
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it seems that I have answered the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dean, which is due to be answered tomorrow. I had not realised that I had done so, but, if I have, he will be able to remove it from the Order Paper. He accuses me of answering that Question but in fact I answered the Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croyand a jolly good Question it was, and it received an even better reply.
The noble Lord is right to be concerned about putting sewage sludge into the sea. A great deal has been done and is being done to prevent that. I should have to let him know exactly what is the situation, but I do not believe that it has stopped completely. However, I remind the
Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there seems to be no argument at all that the Brent Spar platform would not have been a major contaminant with the policy intended for it? But does he also agree that the problem is serious because there are literally hundreds of platforms which will have to be disposed of? The idea that they can all be dumped in the Atlantic is worrying. What is the Government's policy in relation to the disposal of those platforms?
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that there was not much argument by those who knew that the best place to put the Brent Spar was in the North Atlantic. But a great deal of argument was put forward by people inflamed by passion. If the noble Lord wishes to know what is the Government's policy in relation to the dumping and disposal of oil platforms in the North Sea, I should be happy to answer any Question tabled by him to that effect.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, is the Minister aware that research shows that we shall fail to meet five of our internationally agreed targets by the end of this year in relation to pesticides and heavy metal, including mercury and cadmium? What is the Government's policy as regards enabling us to meet the internationally agreed targets?
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the targets set by the North Sea Conference were to halve inputs of 36 substances. The United Kingdom anticipates achieving the target for 24 of the 36 substances and reducing by more than 45 per cent. three other substances. Work is continuing to ensure that the targets are met as soon as possible.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the European Commission aid proposed is intended to benefit the indigenous Tibetans and not to promote Han Chinese migration into the region. Individual EU projects are approved by qualified majority voting. A blocking minority of the member states is therefore required to prevent a project going forward.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend will be well aware that I am extremely keen to use non-governmental organisations whenever it is relevant to do so. There is no laid-down European policy such as he describes. In this case, some nine months ago the United Kingdom was one of the first member states to express anxiety about the Pa Nam Project. We insisted that there should be a permanent monitoring unit which is now being set up for that project, although the final go-ahead for it has not yet been agreed. The Commission has recently been in close contact with European NGOs who have experience of Tibet, including the UK Tibet Support Group, Save the Children Fund and Médecins Sans Frontières. It has now asked two UK NGOs to advise on suitable consultants for a possible further appraisal mission. That further appraisal mission will give us information. On that basis, the working group will look again at the project before deciding whether or not to proceed.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Baroness give us some indication as to which way Her Majesty's Government voted on the proposals? Were they part of the blocking minority? May we have a little transparency on that? Will the noble Baroness bear in mind that in the field of foreign affairs the United Kingdom has wider obligations to the preservation of international law and the fate of individual nations which arise not from the Community but from membership of the Security Council of the United Nations?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, first, there was absolutely no vote on this matter. I made it quite clear that the United Kingdom was one of the first member states to express anxiety when the project was first discussed. It was because of our anxiety that indigenous Tibetan people should benefit from the project that the matter was considered further. The point about the project is that the Chinese are funding some 65 per cent. of the total project cost, including the main irrigation works. The remaining 35 per cent. of the costs, if the project goes ahead with EC funding, will be for veterinary, agricultural and water engineering advice to make sure that it benefits indigenous Tibetans. That is as transparent as I can be about the situation. I should say further to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, that he is right that foreign and security policy is part of the third pillar, and long may it stay there.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister is aware that there are grave doubts about the project and it is feared that it will benefit the Chinese more than the Tibetans. Would it not be better for the Tibetans to direct aid to education and grass-roots projects, which would enable them to compete on more equal terms with the economic and social changes which they face? Will
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we well know that the Tibetan people are not opposed to overseas aid provided that it benefits Tibetans. The only reason that the European Community may be involved in this project is in order to ensure that other works that are going on benefit indigenous Tibetans. If the European Community does not contribute 35 per cent. of the total cost to the project, I am told that the Chinese will go ahead with it in any event. It seems to me that if we can have, as we have now been assured, the establishment of a proper permanent monitoring unit and provided that the work is done for the benefit of the indigenous Tibetans, we are likely, by being involved, to have more influence over what the Chinese are doing than by standing aside.
Moved, That Standing Order 38 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Friday 14th July to allow the Motion standing in the name of the Earl Howe to be taken before the Second Reading of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill [H.L.].(Earl Ferrers.)
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