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Lord Henley: My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that currently around 21,800 severely disabled people are assisted through the supported employment programme at a cost of some £153 million. Of those, some 8,800 are in Remploy, some in Remploy factories

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and some employed under what is known as the Interwork scheme. Obviously we shall continue to support people whether in workshops or outside in mainstream factories. What the appropriate balance should be is another matter. I can give the noble Baroness my assurance for the continued support of Remploy.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the House will have been interested to learn of the production of a glossy brochure to publicise the benefits of the Disability Discrimination Act, and no doubt will wish to compliment the Government on that. Can we have an assurance that other actions by the Government will also receive publicity through expensive glossy brochures?

Noble Lords: No!

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I am assured from a sedentary position that it is not expensive and glossy. However, it is a publicity brochure explaining the Act. Can we be assured that the same expenditure of effort will go into publicising other Acts of the Government--for example, the reduction in housing and unemployment benefit which the Government plan to bring in?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a rather silly point. We provide the appropriate publicity for our measures as and where necessary. We shall certainly provide the appropriate publicity to encourage employers to recognise the benefits of the Disability Discrimination Act.

EU/USA Relationship

2.59 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take at the forthcoming meeting of the European Council (which will consider the Commission's proposals (9545/95 of 1st September 1995) concerning the strengthening and developing relations between the European Union and the United States of America) to protect the relationship between the United Kingdom and the USA, its membership of the United Nations Security Council, and its ties and commercial relationship with the Commonwealth.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, enhancing the transatlantic relationship is a top priority for the Government. President Clinton's successful visit last week demonstrated the strength of our relationship with the US. The EU/US initiative complements this, and does not affect our membership of the UN Security Council or our links with the Commonwealth.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the subject of my Question has been overtaken by events. An important pact between the United States and the European Union was concluded only a day or so ago. Either the pact that has been concluded is extremely important for the country or it is

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not. If it is important, is it not remarkable that the subject matter, which will affect practically every inhabitant of the United Kingdom, has not been discussed in Parliament at all prior to the conclusion of the pact? Parliament was not informed and knew nothing about it until the feature article today in The Times. Is the noble Lord aware that Canada has a vital interest in the matter and has expressed misgiving at being excluded from the discussions? Can the Minister be a little more forthcoming about the matter? Will he ensure that in future we are told about such matters in advance of them happening?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I shall do my best to answer those various questions. What is debated in the other House has nothing to do with us. What is debated in this House is up to the usual channels. However, the UK Government have been closely involved in the preparations for the EU/US summit. The political declaration and action plan reflect UK input and priorities, particularly on trade liberalisation and joint action against international crime.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, will the Minister agree that despite the generous and heartwarming remarks made by President Clinton last Wednesday on the bilateral relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, nevertheless British membership of the European Union and the extent of our positive commitment to that union is an important factor not only in the relationship of the United States with this country but also in regard to United States' and other investment in this country?

Lord Chesham: Yes, my Lords, I agree that the relationship is very important. That is why we welcomed the remarks which we heard last week from President Clinton. I should like to remind noble Lords that on Wednesday he said to me and a few other people:

    "Today the United States and the United Kingdom [have] an extraordinary relationship that unites us in a way never before seen in the ties between two such ... nations".
Of course it is important on a bilateral and a multilateral basis.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, will the Minister agree that the special relationship between this country and the United States of America--and like that of other countries with the United States or like that of other countries with the United States--will remain a special relationship for as long as it is in the interests of the United States of America?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, it is difficult to ask me to comment on the attitude of the United States of America. However, I wish to confirm that it is of great importance to the United Kingdom.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many people are exceedingly worried about the creeping way in which the European Union increases its competence? Is it not just another way in which it is taking on the trappings of a European superstate, to the detriment of independent sovereign

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governments and to the detriment of Parliament itself, which has so easily and wilfully ceded its powers over a long period?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the Council of Ministers agreed on 20th November that the EU/US initiative in no way alters the existing balance of competences.

Lord Richard: My Lords, is the Minister aware that for this country the acid test of the agreement reached between the European Union and the United States is whether it is to the benefit of this country? Is he also aware that anyone who looks at the matter objectively will come to the conclusion that it is for the benefit of this country? Is the noble Lord further aware that one should be loath to throw away, and reluctant to cast doubt upon, the pivotal diplomatic advantages that this country has in world affairs? One is our membership of the European Union through which we are in a position to influence what goes on in the largest trading block in the world. The second is our close relationship with the United States which is still the most powerful country in the world. Will the Minister re-emphasise and underline that that remains at the heart of government policy?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the transatlantic relationship is of vital importance to this country and to Europe. It is the bedrock of our security and prosperity. The world is changing fast and we need to enhance the sense of common purpose on issues important to both Europe and North America, particularly trade liberalisation, and to tackle problem areas.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, will my noble friend indicate why the House did not have the opportunity to discuss this vitally important matter, apart from the reason he gave that the usual channels were not interested?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I did not say that. I said that it was up to the usual channels in this House.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, they failed.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, if the matter was not produced to the usual channels then they had nothing to answer.

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, will the Minister reflect on what he said in reply to his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter? I thought that what he suggested was that it was for the usual channels to decide what we debated. At the end of the day, it is what we, the Members of this House, wish to debate. If we have not had a debate, it is perhaps a failure of the usual channels. But equally the responsibility falls upon any Member of this House who felt that it was a matter which ought to be discussed but who did not make the obvious arrangements for initiating a debate.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I believe that that is helpful. We are not opposed to a debate on the matter. Events have taken place recently which may make a

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debate inappropriate, but it is up to people to produce the matter for the usual channels to decide in the normal way of discussion. We are not opposed to it.

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, with due respect to the noble Lord, it has nothing to do with the usual channels. If the noble Lords, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, Lord Bruce of Donington, or myself, had wished to have a debate we could have put a Motion down to that effect. There is nothing to say that the agreement of the usual channels is necessary for it to be provided.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, all I can say is that no one has put down a Motion for debate on the matter.

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