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Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is a country in which human rights have never been accepted and honoured except, paradoxically, when there was a communist dictator in the person of Marshal Tito?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, my noble friend may well be right. However, what we are trying to do is to make sure that it has excellent human rights from here on.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, with regard to the prosecution of war criminals, have the complaints of Judge Goldstone regarding the availability of resources and regarding UN bureaucracy obstructing his work been fully resolved? Is he satisfied that the mechanisms of war crimes prosecutions can now proceed rapidly so that all those responsible for atrocities will be brought to court and punished?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the Government strongly support the tribunal. We believe that those responsible for atrocities should be tried and will be taken to task.

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We have done more than most. In addition to co-sponsoring the resolution setting up the tribunal, we have given financial support, donated equipment, seconded staff and provided valuable evidence to the prosecutor's office.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that preparatory to having a trial it is necessary to have possession of the accused? Is it not a fact that NATO has been given a very vague assignment as to the arrest of alleged war criminals? Could that assignment be made more precise?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. IFOR's prime role is the separation of the forces and monitoring of the military arrangements. However, the North Atlantic Council has authorised IFOR to detain those persons indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal with whom it comes into contact in the execution of its assigned tasks in order to ensure the transfer of those persons to the tribunal.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned in the course of his answers the role of the High Representative in this matter. Can he make it clear to the House whose High Representative he is, and towards whom or in what company he is the representative? Normally one represents somebody else to a third party or in a third assembly or party.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I certainly can. The main roles of the High Representative will be to co-ordinate the activities of the organisations involved in civilian aspects of the peace settlement, for example, the OSCE, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Bank. He is also to consult with those heading the NATO operation to ensure the efficient co-ordination of civilian and military efforts. The Dayton agreement provides for joint civilian and military structures.

Lord Judd: My Lords, can the Minister clarify whether aid for reconstruction, both bilateral and multilateral and including that from the World Bank, will be available on the basis of demonstrable progress towards the fulfilment of human rights? If it is to be dependent upon demonstrable progress towards the fulfilment of human rights, how will that be established?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, yes it will be. The World Bank will be advised by the steering board which will advise on the progress towards human rights in respect of political aspects. The World Bank will be required to take that advice into account when funding reconstruction.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the international church agencies met recently in Skopje to discuss reconstruction and that psychological rebuilding is regarded by the Churches as of equal importance? Can the Minister reassure the House that donor governments will give that equal emphasis?

Lord Chesham: Yes, my Lords, I certainly can.

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Electricity: Supply and Demand

3.23 p.m.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they have taken to prevent a collapse in electricity supply as almost happened on 19th July and 17th November.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): My Lords, there was no need for the Government to take any action as there are long-standing procedures in place to deal with events of this kind. They proved effective, as at no time was electricity supply even near collapse on the dates in question.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, does the Minister not understand that we came within a hair'sbreadth of losing electricity supply on two occasions this year--and that at a time when the weather was not cold and there was no need to assume that the system was going to break down? Is not the problem that the pressure for profits on privatised industries means that there is not adequate investment and that the future safety margin between peak demand and supply is getting dangerously thin?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I cannot accept that. I certainly do not accept that there was anything like the crisis that the noble Lord seems to believe. To find that we were something like 0.38 of a herz below the minimum for three minutes 20 seconds hardly seems to me to indicate a massive breakdown of the system. It is important that there should be a proper balance and as reasonable a prediction as possible of the balance between demand and supply. Otherwise the effects would feed through to consumers, and electricity prices would rise. I am sure that the noble Lord will also appreciate that one does not want to take the risk of creating any unnecessary environmental pollution.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that this Question is alarmist in nature and quite unwarranted? Is he aware that when I was a member of the London Electricity Board before privatisation we had a total loss of power due to a major breakdown, when the whole of the City of London lost power for just under four hours? Had that breakdown lasted for four hours, every firm in the City except one would have lost material on their computers. However, in this instance the loss of power lasted only three minutes 40 seconds. Does my noble and learned friend agree that since privatisation the grid has controlled the electricity supply very well and operates most efficiently and competently?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Yes, my Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend for her remarks, which are clearly based on experience. The precise concatenation of events which occurred when the interconnector failed and another generator failed to come off within seconds of each other was beyond reasonable prediction. Indeed the performance of the grid since privatisation has been remarkable. The number of incidents involving loss of

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supply to consumers declined from 14 in 1987-88 to eight in 1994-95, and the duration of those breakdowns was shorter.

The Earl of Halsbury: My Lords, is it not a standard problem in all public utilities that one must decide whether one is going to plan for the most extreme conditions in 25 years, 40 years, 50 years or 100 years, and that if one does not take it to the latter extent then once in 100 years one will be caught short?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Indeed, my Lords. There has to be a basis for making reasonable predictions. It is for the National Grid, as best it can, to make that prediction. I understand that it makes a calculation on a day-to-day basis. There will be times when a number of events coincide which make it extremely difficult to meet those demands. I emphasise that on the two occasions that have been highlighted there was no loss of power to consumers.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, while it is satisfactory to note that there were no serious consequences on the two occasions referred to in the Question, nonetheless it raises the issue of who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that adequate supplies of electricity are available. Does the noble and learned Lord recall that under the Electricity Act 1957 that duty was squarely placed on the shoulders of the CEGB? In present circumstances, is it the responsibility of the regulator, the National Grid Company, the regional electricity companies or the generating companies? Is the situation not a little confusing in that respect?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: No, my Lords, I do not believe that it is confusing. There are clearly set out duties upon the grid, the suppliers and the director general. The noble Lord should not allow the ghosts of Christmas past to haunt him. The lights are not going to go out this Christmas. As he reflects on the new year, he may wish to reflect that in the course of the next year, because of the success of the new National Grid, he will receive a bonus of some £50.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, did not the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, put his finger on the crucial point when he referred to privatisation, namely, the level of investment? However, did he not get it wrong, because it is a simple fact that in the private sector the industry is able to call on private capital, which is not in short supply as is seen by the scramble to invest in the electricity companies, whereas when it was in the private sector the industry had to compete with everything else, which made it much more difficult to have a decent electricity service?

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