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Earl Howe: My Lords, there has been a de facto ban on exports for many years now. No landmines have been exported from this country for some considerable time. We have said that that moratorium will now be extended indefinitely.
Earl Howe: My Lords, we have extended considerable assistance around the world. We have contributed some £18.2 million to de-mining activities since 1991. We shall maintain our position as one of the world's leading contributors to such programmes.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, by exempting self-destructing mines are not the Government committing themselves to using such devices in the future? Will they not have to develop a whole new range of self-destructing mines?
Earl Howe: My Lords, we are looking for alternatives to mines. I do not believe that the first part of the noble Lord's question was to the point. We intend to destroy almost half of our current stockpile of anti-personnel mines as soon as possible, without replacement. That should reassure the noble Lord.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind that anti-personnel mines are a feature of runway-denial ordnance and the Government's answer to an earlier question, will the Government confirm that such ordnance is not allowed to be exported from this country?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord refers to the runway-denial weapon. That is classified as a mine, but it is not an anti-personnel mine. Its primary purpose is to deter, and, if necessary, to take out runway repair vehicles. We are reviewing at the moment the implications of the convention for all our mines. That weapon will come under the scope of the review we are undertaking.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I find it a little difficult to understand how the Government can support a world-wide ban on the use of landmines yet refuse to implement it themselves. Will the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that we shall not be importing any landmines to replace the stock that the Government are now destroying? If he cannot give that assurance, surely the Government's position is utterly hypocritical.
Earl Howe: My Lords, we intend to destroy almost half our current stockpile, and we have said that our Armed Forces will not be using anti-personnel mines in the future unless Ministers are satisfied that such use is essential. However, we need to retain the right to use anti-personnel mines in exceptional circumstances where there is no alternative in order to ensure the safety of our troops. That must remain a paramount consideration. I would not wish to rule out the import of anti-personnel mines in the future, any more than I would wish to rule out the purchase of such mines from British manufacturers.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is nothing hypocritical nor anything difficult about the issue, as suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone? Does he agree that the Government's attitude is entirely well founded? Is it right that we support an international convention but reserve the right to use such weapons if needs be in order to protect our troops until we get a ban?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. Without doubt, our decision is a sacrifice in military terms. We have undertaken not to use such weapons other than in exceptional circumstances. In many respects, the undertakings we have given go beyond the international conference decisions of a few days ago. The UK Armed Forces are not currently using these mines anywhere in the world; if they do so, that use will be severely circumscribed and responsible.
Lord Mayhew: My Lords, the Government are right to show concern for the needs of the Armed Forces. Nevertheless, to claim as part of their policy that they are backing a worldwide ban on such mines is a little disingenuous. Are we really going to wait until the last, most recalcitrant nation signs the convention before adopting any change?
Earl Howe: My Lords, no, not at all. There are various ways and fora through which we can press for an international ban. One of the conclusions of the UN weaponry conference was that annual reviews should provide a forum for the international community
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, can the Minister reassure the House that the Chief of the Defence Staff and the other chiefs of staff accept entirely the arrangements he has outlined to the House today; that is, insisting on ministerial control on the tactical and other use of mines?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the recent review of the Civil Service College was designed to ensure that the college achieves its full potential for developing the best traditions and international reputation of the Civil Service. A wide range of options has been considered, including continuing in the public sector and partial or full transfer of ownership to the private sector. The Government have concluded that the college should proceed within the public sector to develop new activities in partnership with the private sector; and will ensure that the essential link between the Civil Service and the Civil Service College is preserved.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that Answer, which marks a considerable step forward from the answers which my noble friend Lady Miller was allowed to give on a previous occasion. Will he be good enough to communicate to others the suggestion that talk of partnership with the private sector in such a context and of considering various options is the kind of vagueness which provokes curiosity and suspicion rather than understanding?
Earl Howe: My Lords, we aim to please and we aim in particular to please my noble friend. He mentioned partnerships. I cannot go into too much detail at the moment but I can outline the ideas that we are considering. Clearly the college must be run commercially in order to cover its costs. The use of the college by departments and agencies tends to be somewhat seasonal and therefore it makes sense to explore the scope for better utilisation. The college already has partnership arrangements with Cranfield
Earl Howe: My Lords, I believe that that principle could equally be applied to your Lordships' House. The Government wish to ensure that senior managers in the Civil Service receive the best possible training consistent with the interests of the taxpayers. In achieving that aim, we also wish to develop the full potential of the college and to enhance its reputation both at home and overseas. I believe that our plans will enable us to do that.
Lord Bancroft: My Lords, may I echo the congratulations that have been bestowed on the Government for their decision in this case, as the Civil Service College is one of the main custodians and disseminators of professional public service values and should therefore self-evidently remain in the public service? Will the Minister comment on the hypothesis that this particular swallow might make a summer?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I do not need too much of a qualification to know to what the noble Lord is referring. I cannot give him further news about the subject of RAS, but I can say that the high reputation of the Civil Service College as a centre of excellence--and it is well regarded by its customers--will continue. It has full-time and contracted tutorial staff drawn from both the Civil Service and the private sector. The reputation that those people generate for the college speaks for itself.
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, did the Minister say that it all depended on the college being commercially viable? Do the Government believe that every training establishment and college must be commercially viable in order to exist? Surely we cannot always look at such colleges commercially.
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