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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the answer to that is yes and yes.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Baroness explain to the House what business it is of ours to organise a demarche to the United States, which is capable of determining those matters on its own account? If we have a definite view about this matter, which quite clearly the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, does, would it not be better that our general sentiments, in so far as we consider it to be our business, are conveyed through the usual channels; namely, through the British Embassy?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I think that either I have misunderstood something that has been said or the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, may just not have heard when I said that we have no plans to make representations on the issue about which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked me. Of course we make our representations through bilateral channels. In dealing with the long-term allies such as the United States, that is the way we work. But there are times with other nations when the weight of 15 members of the European Union is more powerful than simply one country speaking alone. Therefore, with other countries it is right that there should be a European Community demarche.

Lord Winston: My Lords, might it not be a more appropriate demarche, in view of recent events, to send the deepest sympathy of this House to the Israeli Government on the recent horrific and violent acts

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against innocent civilians; and to congratulate the Israeli Government on their continued striving for peace in the Middle East?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we deeply regret the tragic events on Sunday in Jerusalem and Ashkelon. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister issued a statement on Monday. We shall always deplore and condemn terrorism. The peace process must continue because it is the only way to ensure lasting peace and we congratulate all those who have been working hard to try to make the peace process a real success.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, it appears from her last answer that the noble Baroness accepts that the peace process is the single most important factor in the well-being of all parties in the Middle East. Therefore, as those of us who live a safe distance away, if we cannot always do much to promote it ought at least not to retard it, does the Minister agree that it should not become a pawn in American domestic politics? Will the Minister further accept from me that, if the Government deliver that message, however they do so, they will receive the total support from many of us in all parts of the House whose friendship for Israel and for the United States has never been in doubt?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, no one in his right mind would wish to retard the peace process. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is absolutely right. However, I learnt long ago that one would find it quite difficult, unless one had spent many years in the United States, to understand how domestic politics in that country really work and why some things happen. Therefore, in the coming months leading up to the presidential elections I expect that we will hear, sadly, a number of expressions of view which we would gladly not hear. But we will keep our nerve. We will work for peace in the Middle East and for peace in Northern Ireland and everywhere else. We shall try to influence our American cousins to do likewise.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, in view of the strong support of the Government and their influence in Middle East affairs, can my noble friend the Minister advise the House as regards the support that the British Government are giving to the Palestinians, who are, after all, the other half of the peace process?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend is correct. We have been giving a great deal of bilateral aid to Palestine. We have been helping with police equipment; we have formed a know-how fund over three years; we have a major education project for the Gaza area; and we have been training for elections. We continue to carry out such work. We shall also be giving assistance in the future to the new Palestinian Council, in which I am glad to say our parliamentary Clerks in both Houses will

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be involved. We are delighted that that should be so. In addition, we give help through the World Bank, the EIB and of course the ECA package.

Chinese Satellite: Re-entry

2.52 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What guidance has been given to local authorities on the possible landing in their areas in March of the satellite launched recently in China but now out of control.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, we have issued guidance to local authorities on four occasions about a Chinese satellite which was launched in October 1993 and which is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere between the beginning of March and the end of April this year. In the highly unlikely event that it lands in the United Kingdom or in UK coastal waters, local authorities and the emergency services have been briefed on the correct course of action. I understand that the Chinese Government attempted to launch a further satellite on 15th February this year. It failed to reach orbit following an explosion shortly after the launch.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her very full reply. Should the satellite land here, is it the intention of the Government to return it to China with a view to helping international research? Further, will bulletins be issued during the next few weeks on the erratic flight path of the satellite?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there is absolutely no doubt that if the satellite landed on UK soil or, indeed, in UK waters we would have an obligation to return it to China and to do so as soon as possible. As regards its erratic flight path, I should point out that the missile is out of control and beyond anyone's control. However, we are tracking it and making predictions on a daily basis as to where and when it will land.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is the report correct which states that local authorities in Scotland have been directed to cover the satellite, on arrival, with a tarpaulin to protect it from normal British weather? That would be a gesture to an inanimate object which, I believe, goes further than necessary in setting an example in human rights to the Chinese Government.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I stressed that the satellite is out of control. Indeed, such will be its speed on re-entry that I do not believe there is any hope that re-entry may be delayed due to the weather.

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If the satellite should land here, it would be extremely hot. Even a tarpaulin would not, I think, protect it from the weather.

Joint London Advisory Panel

2.55 p.m.

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it was necessary to establish a Joint London Advisory Panel.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, the Joint London Advisory Panel was established in order that Ministers from the Cabinet Sub-Committee on London should be able to meet and discuss matters of relevance to London with London organisations.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, I am glad to welcome the recognition that London needs a strategic approach. However, in a democracy, would it not be more appropriate if the people were allowed to choose the members of that authority? Control has passed from the people to a number of unelected quangos and, therefore, into the hands of a government department. Can the Minister explain what advantage the Government see in the situation?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, there is a pretty considerable advantage. I gather that the noble Baroness was really referring to the fact that the GLC was once there but that that is no longer the case, even if--

Lord Graham of Edmonton: No!

Earl Ferrers: Well, my Lords; the noble Baroness signified assent, so perhaps she is at variance with the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip. However, I believe that that is what she was getting at. All I can say is that, when the GLC functioned, it had 92 councillors, 20,000 staff, a budget of £1,000 million but only looked after 11 per cent. of the services. That seemed to be a total waste of money. Now that the GLC is no longer there, it has not been missed. We believe that this is a much better way. On the other hand, if Members opposite intend to reintroduce another layer of local government, it would be very helpful if they would say so, because then the people of London would know what they were in for.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that all soundings of public opinion that have been taken in the Greater London area indicate that the electorate are desirous of once again having an elected forum to look after the global aspects of London? Is the Minister further aware that London is the only city of its kind in Europe where the residents are being denied that privilege?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, I do not believe that the electorate is being denied a privilege. There are 32 boroughs and all those councils are elected by people. The point of the Joint London Advisory Panel is that it enables matters which are of

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considerable interest to be considered across borough boundaries. The other important point is the fact that it has involved business and other organisations for the first time in trying to further the interests of London, which was not possible when a bureaucratic regime was involved.

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