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Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, following what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said, have the speed cameras which have been installed as an additional piece of road furniture had any effect?

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Viscount Goschen: My Lords, yes, I believe that they have been extremely effective. I understand that some 300 cameras (both red light and speed cameras) have been installed. They have led to considerable road safety benefits.

Nuclear Weapon-free Zones

2.57 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it would be safer to live in a nuclear weapon-free zone, having regard to their view that such zones "enhance global and regional security", than in Europe where it is also their view that peace and stability can only be preserved by nuclear weapons (H.L. Deb., col. WA22, 18th June 1996).

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, whether a nuclear weapon-free zone is feasible and would enhance stability must depend upon all the circumstances in any given region. With regard to Europe, I refer the noble Lord to my earlier Answer on 18th June.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a certain contradiction between the view that the nuclear weapon is peace-making and the alternative view that the whole region is better without it? Under those circumstances, would it not be wiser to say that the Answer to the Question is yes, and that the Government will work hard towards creating a nuclear-free zone in Europe so as to create the safest of all situations--a nuclear-free world?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord's question is no. The NATO countries believe that nuclear deterrence continues to play an essential role in the policy of maintaining stability in Europe, as I said in my Answer on 18th June. Our non-proliferation commitment is that the establishment of the nuclear weapon-free zone on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the states concerned enhances their global and regional security, but if the nations of Europe are not going to take that into account, then I believe we are far better to have proper deterrents. I compliment the noble Lord on carrying out to the full his recreation listed in Who's Who, which is to avoid retirement. I wish him--and I am sure everyone in the House will join me--a very happy 88th birthday on Saturday.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

The Earl of Kimberley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, having had nuclear deterrents since 1945, which is 51 years, peace has been kept in Europe and that if Afghanistan had had a nuclear weapon the Soviet Union might not have invaded Afghanistan?

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, Afghanistan is a sad country. It may be that that would have been as good a deterrent for Afghanistan as the nuclear deterrent has been for Western Europe and the free world.

Lord Richard: My Lords, as my noble friend approaches his 88th birthday, is the Minister aware that to my knowledge, he has been asking questions on this subject for 36 or 37 years? If he thinks he has made progress, will the Minister join with me in congratulating him? If he thinks that he has not made progress, shall we join in mutual commiserations?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there may be a time for commiseration, but fortunately I believe that this is a time for congratulations. The very fact that we are coming close to the prospect of achieving a comprehensive test ban treaty later this year is a sign that we have educated ourselves on these matters. However, I believe that it is right that nuclear deterrents should be regarded properly and we should work away at these matters. But it will not be easy to reduce nuclear weapons unilaterally. We are already reducing the size of our deterrent and taking into account new minimum security requirements. I am sure that that is the right way to go.

Lord Mayhew: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that her reference to the non-proliferation treaty is reassuring and goes back to the optimistic view that she was expressing about a month ago? Does that mean that the Government have overcome the problem of signing the treaty while India and one or two other countries do not sign it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that I told the noble Lord about a month ago that we were working away at this matter. I think that I said on that occasion that we want a treaty that will be effective in preventing proliferation. It cannot be effective unless there are proper inspections. That is clearly the problem which needs to be resolved before we can sign the treaty.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will the noble Baroness give an assurance that the British nuclear deterrent will never come under any kind of control, operational or otherwise, of the European Union under the common foreign and security policy.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that will certainly not happen so long as a Conservative Government are in power. I cannot speak for the noble Lord's noble friends.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there is only a small amount of danger or lack of safety if nuclear weapons are in the control of stable governments but that the biggest danger

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that we have today is that nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of unstable governments and, indeed, terrorist organisations?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I thank her very sincerely for her congratulations? I hope to continue making a nuisance of myself for a little longer yet.

Is the noble Baroness aware also that we have made progress on this matter in that we are now able to discuss it with more light than heat? In view of that, if the Government will look again at the possibility of making progress in relation to Europe, Europe will be a safer place. Will the Government consider the possibility of making perhaps not a U-turn but a movement of recognition towards the ultimate aim to which the Government are committed as much as anyone else; namely, a nuclear-free world?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's passion on this issue. I believe that we are maintaining that minimum deterrent consistent with our national security requirements. That is how it should remain. However, we have made substantial reductions in our deterrent. It would be well for your Lordships to note that by the end of 1988, our deterrent will be reduced to a single system with 21 per cent. fewer warheads and 29 per cent. less explosive power than in the 1970s. Therefore, we are moving forward.

Baroness Blatch: Correction

3.5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I correct personally something that I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. I know that efforts are being made to bring him back to the Chamber.

In answer to a question which he posed about Mr. Noye, I referred to a murder having taken place. I said that there had been a trial; and that the person was found guilty and subsequently served a sentence. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, will know that that is not right. There was a murder; there was a trial; and the person was acquitted. There was a subsequent case in which the policeman was found guilty of corruption. I thought it best to put that matter right at the first available opportunity.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am grateful for that. There was another trial in which Mr. Noye, who got away with murder, was prosecuted for laundering the money, for which he received a sentence of 14 years. I believe that he served only seven years of that sentence. That is not much of a disincentive, is it?

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House of Lords' Offices:

Select Committee Report

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move that the Fourth Report from the Select Committee on House of Lords Offices be agreed to.

The Fourth Report from the Offices Committee deals with a number of subjects. The first is Her Majesty's Stationery Office privatisation, and noble Lords will see that much of the report deals with this matter. I suggest that comments on that matter should be reserved until the House comes very shortly to debate the Motion in the name of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.

Accordingly, I shall confine myself to reminding the House that the report says that the Offices Committee agreed, on the basis of advice that it received, that the contract with HMSO for the provision of printing and publishing services,

    "appears to provide the safeguards sought by the House ... The Committee has left to the House the final decision on whether the contract meets its requirements".
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Reading Clerk, who has been dealing with this matter under the Clerk of the Parliaments and who has done an immense amount of work on it; and to thank my counsel, Mr. Derek Rippengal, who has been involved in the drafting of the contract and has subjected it to very detailed scrutiny. I know that some of your Lordships were particularly anxious that independent legal advice would be available to undertake that work. I thank him. I would just add that I know, from my own experience of working closely with him on, in particular, Private Bills that no one brings a more independent mind to bear on this work for your Lordships' House than Mr. Rippengal and his fellow joint counsel to the chairman, Sir James Nursaw. He is meticulous and painstaking, has spent a vast amount of time on the matter and brings to the task precisely what is needed. I wanted to provide that information for the House while indicating that the HMSO matter and the protection and safeguards sought by the House will be dealt with on the noble Viscount's Motion.

The Offices Committee report also deals with the House's annual report and accounts. I am sure that the whole House will join me in thanking the authors of this invaluable document for all the hard work which has clearly gone into it. The annual report gives an excellent account of the activities of the House and its departments during the past 12 months. It will be published, and copies will be posted to Peers shortly before the House resumes in October after the Summer Recess.

The Offices Committee report refers to a revised database of Peers' specialised knowledge and experience. That used to be called the database of Peers' interests. However, since last year at least, the term "Peers' interests" has acquired a special meaning in the context of declaration and registration of interest. To avoid confusion, the name of the database has been changed. I would emphasise that Peers will be able to keep their data confidential if they wish.

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Finally, the Offices Committee report refers to a CD-ROM of the Palace of Westminster. I assure the House that that project is being carefully monitored by the authorities in both Houses. It will have the benefit of advice from our architectural archivist, Lady Wedgwood; and the contract with the producers has been drafted by my counsel. I commend the Motion to the House.

Moved, That the Fourth Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 102).--(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

    1. HMSO Privatisation

    In December 1995 the Committee took note of the Government's intention to privatise Her Majesty's Stationery Office provided that satisfactory arrangements could be made for the future provision of services to Parliament. The Committee agreed that extensive safeguards would be necessary to protect the House's interests. Similar safeguards were being sought by the House of Commons' Commission for that House.

    The Committee agreed that, in any arrangements for privatisation, safeguards should be sought to secure the following:

    1. Confidence that the business of the House would not be interrupted.

    2. A publication regime which protected the interests of Parliament and did not leave the pricing of its publications to commercial interests.

    3. A requirement on any prospective purchaser of the Stationery Office to accept the substance of the provisions of the recently agreed Supply and Service Agreement between the House and HMSO, including the maintenance of existing service standards and delivery schedules and the rights of the House to regulate the production and reproduction of its documents in both paper and electronic form.

    4. The administration of Parliamentary copyright, and the function of Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament, should not be transferred to the private sector.

    The House agreed to the Committee's report on 18th January 1996. On the same day the House took note, on a motion by the Leader of the House, of the Government's plans for the future of HMSO, including safeguards proposed to meet Parliament's requirements for printing and publishing services.

    In the six months since the House agreed to these safeguards, officers of the House, assisted by Counsel to the Chairman of Committees, have been engaged in drawing up a contract with HMSO which embodies the safeguards. We have been assured by the Clerk of the Parliaments that all reasonable steps have been taken to achieve the safeguards which the House has sought. The Finance and Staff Sub-Committee reported to us that in its opinion the terms of the contract as drafted appeared to provide the safeguards laid down by the House. Serious doubts were, however, expressed by some members of the Committee about the level of service which the House would receive under the contract. We have also been reminded that EC law does not permit the House to enter into an open-ended contract; and the contract expires on 31st March 2000, subject to the possibility of earlier termination, and is renewable for a further two years. At the end of that period, the contract will have to be put out to competitive tender.

    Copies of the contract have been placed in the Printed Paper Office and the Library.

    The Committee has been informed of the following short list of bidders for the purchase of HMSO:--

    An independent consortium backed by Mercury Asset Management, 3i and Capita;

    A Hambro's consortium;

    National Publishing Group, a consortium led by Electra Fleming;

    Westminster Information Systems, led by NatWest Ventures.

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    The Committee has agreed, on the basis of the advice we have received, that the contract appears to provide the safeguards sought by the House for the duration of the contract. The Committee has left to the House the final decision on whether the contract meets its requirements.

    2. Electronic Publishing

    The Committee approved a draft contract between the House and HMSO whereby HMSO would publish and distribute House of Lords' copyright material in electronic format.

    3. House of Lords Annual Report and Accounts

    The Committee approved the Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96.

    4. Database of information about peers

    The Committee approved a proposal to circulate a questionnaire to Lords to update the database of their specialised knowledge and experience. The questionnaire will be circulated to all Lords except those who had in the past indicated that they did not wish their specialised knowledge to be entered on the record and those without Writs of Summons or on leave of absence. Lords will have the option of keeping their data confidential.

    5. CD-ROM of the Palace of Westminster

    The Committee took note with approval of a proposal for a CD-ROM of the Palace of Westminster. Filming is expected to be completed by the beginning of the summer recess.

    6. Refreshment Department Pay

    The Committee noted with approval a pay increase of 3 per cent to House of Lords Catering Grades, from 1st April 1996.

    7. Shorthand Writing Fees

    The Committee noted with approval an increase of 3 per cent in fees payable to Gurneys, the Shorthand Writers to Parliament; and approved an amendment to the 1992 Agreement with Gurneys so that in future the two Houses of Parliament should no longer have regard to Treasury rates in determining the level of fees.

    8. PDVN Accommodation Costs

    The Committee was informed of the likely need for heavy expenditure to stabilise and develop the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN), details of which would be laid before it in due course. The Committee agreed that the House should contribute 22 per cent of the costs, shared with the Commons, of a lease of new accommodation in 10 Great George Street SW1 for the Communications Directorate for about five years.

    9. Information and Staff of the House

    In connection with the proposed increase in the provision by the Journal and Information Office of information about the House and its Select Committees, the Committee approved an increase of one in the complement of Clerks, to 22.

    1 First Report from the Offices Committee, 1995-96, HL Paper 12.

    2 HL Debs., 18th January 1996, cols. 712-760.

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