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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I have no doubt that the views expressed in this House will be noted by the Post Office. As I indicated, the basis on which I feel it would be appropriate to intervene is limited. I join the noble Baroness in approving of the action that the Victoria and Albert Museum has taken.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that it is just because of the policy that he repeated of non-interference by government departments and Ministers in the working of the Post Office that the Post Office has been such an enormous success over recent years?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Yes, my Lords, I have no doubt that that has been an important feature. As I indicated, interference should be restricted to that very small area where political offence might be caused if a particular stamp were to be issued. Undoubtedly, the Post Office has been extremely successful in recent years.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, giving preference to Muffin the Mule over William Morris is close to making this country look ridiculous. Is the Minister aware that

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millions of British stamps go all over the world? We, as a country, are partly judged by the quality of our stamps and I for one do not want this country to look silly.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I can only repeat that the idea that the choice lay between Muffin the Mule and William Morris is wrong. There were around 500 designs from which to select a choice. It was a commercial decision that children's television should be commemorated after 50 years. We shall have to wait to see whether or not that issue of stamps will be successful.

Council of Ministers: UK Attendance

11.30 a.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will take steps to ensure that no Minister attends any meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear in another place on 21st May, Ministers will continue to attend meetings of the Council of Ministers. We will raise the question of the ban on British beef at all councils and, if necessary, ask for special councils.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, with which I entirely concur, particularly in view of the Government's announcement that they intend to pursue a policy of non-co-operation.

Are the Government aware that non-co-operation is an art form in the European Community? It is practised by a number of states without any apparent objection from those who object to Britain adopting the same means. For example, is the Minister aware that Italy threatened non-co-operation when it said that it would not agree with the 1994 budget of the Community unless its milk quota was enlarged? Is she aware that Spain threatened non-co-operation in the measures to enlarge the Community unless it obtained the right to fish in the Irish Box? Is the noble Baroness further aware that the French Government threatened non-co-operation, particularly in the redistribution of voting rights within the Community, unless the Community agreed to the establishment of a brand new parliamentary building in Strasbourg?

All those efforts seem to have been successful. Is the noble Baroness aware that it is remarkable that there has been no demur against non-co-operation from other member states or from any of those that attack their own country for adopting the same method? Will she proceed with this programme until the matter has been satisfactorily resolved?

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am aware of all the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington. The critical issue is this. The blocking of the lifting of the ban on beef derivatives is a wilful disregard not only of British interests, but also of European interests. Some of the member states concerned are among the foremost who urged a higher level of co-operation and solidarity in the European Union and yet those qualities have been conspicuously lacking in practice.

We are now facing a difficult situation. We wish to resolve the matter, but if others will not take their decisions based on scientific fact then other action must be taken. That is why yesterday and indeed on Tuesday in this House and in another place we made it absolutely clear that we are not prepared to allow progress in the IGC or on other measures requiring unanimity in Community business until decisions are taken based on scientific fact.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, now that the Government are indulging in the folly of going to war with Europe over British beef in order to placate the European sceptics in the Conservative Party, will the Minister tell the House whether we are also going to war with the United States of America, Australia and Canada, at least one of which banned British beef before the European Union?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am sad that the noble Baroness should ask such a question. First, we are not going to war with anybody. Secondly, the United States have not banned us exporting our beef to others; they have said that they will not import it themselves. There is a difference because it would be quite wrong for one country to impose its will on other countries which are quite capable of taking decisions for themselves.

This is a serious matter and however much levity is made about it, we wish to resolve the problem. We wish to obtain a decision based on scientific fact. It is absolutely clear from the meeting of the standing veterinary committee on 20th May, when the Commission helpfully brought forward the proposal to lift the ban on the export of gelatin, tallow and semen in line with scientific evidence, that that was the way to go. The noble Baroness is attempting to make a political point and came close to saying that she agreed with the ban. I do not believe that she does.

My point is that the ban is unjustified. A number of senior politicians made it clear that their view is that British beef is safe and therefore it is high time that the Community came to a decision based on scientific fact. That is entirely clear, and the majority of other member states supported the Community on that point.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that to suggest that it is an appeasement for the so-called "Euro-sceptics" is quite wrong? The Government's stance is in order to protect the beef

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industry in this country and the derivatives issue is just the first step. Has my noble friend any knowledge that candles made from tallow form a health risk?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I certainly do not have any information on the last point raised by my noble friend. In relation to his substantive point, I confirm that our action is to protect our beef industry and all those other industries that are developing their work on the basis of beef derivatives. To take a decision in the way that some countries within the European Union are seeking to do is nothing short of wanting a battle with us over exports.

Hong Kong (War Wives and Widows) (No. 2) Bill [H.L.]

11.37 a.m.

Lord Willougby de Broke: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to provide for the acquisition of British citizenship by certain women who are Hong Kong residents. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Willoughby de Broke.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business of the House: Debate this Day

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord Taylor of Gosforth set down for this day shall be limited to three-and-a-half hours.--(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Disabled Persons and Carers (Short-term Breaks) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Deregulation (Gaming Machines and Betting Office Facilities) Order 1996

11.39 a.m.

The Earl of Courtown rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd April be approved [20th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

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The noble Earl said: My Lords, this order, which has been scrutinised by the parliamentary scrutiny committees of both Houses, amends the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 and the Gaming Act 1968. It relaxes the restrictions on the use of machines for amusement purposes--commonly known as fruit machines--by permitting all cash machines which give a maximum prize of £10 in premises to which children have restricted access; it increases the facilities ancillary to betting which may be provided in a licensed betting office; and it increases the number of jackpot gaming machines which may be used in licensed casinos, bingo clubs and members' clubs.

There has been considerable public consultation on the proposals and an opportunity for individuals to put their views to the parliamentary committees. The committee in another place examined the proposals most carefully and took evidence from government officials, industry and other interested parties. We are grateful to the committees for their constructive approach. The committee in another place recommended two amendments to the order relating to all cash machines in liquor licensed premises and local authority fees for permits to operate such machines in arcades. Those recommendations have now been included in the draft order. The Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers reported on 1st May that the order is in a form satisfactory to be submitted to the House for affirmative resolution. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd April be approved [20th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].--(The Earl of Courtown.)

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