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Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may add one small point to those made by my noble friend, with whom I agree. The

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noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is wrong. The organisation committee does not take on a decision when the local authority cannot reach a decision. As those of us who have served on local authorities know, local authorities come to a view at the end of a long process of consultation, meetings with people eyeball to eyeball, and discussions with a church authority, parents, teachers and head teachers.

The organisation committee, which is comprised of unelected placemen and women, second guesses that decision. If the committee agrees, that is the end of it. The local authority--the elected members--may have come to a view; the organisation committee which is unaccountable to the people affected by the decision may be unanimous and take a different view from the local authority; or one group on that body could disagree and go to the adjudicator.

When we discuss amendments as regards the adjudicator, I hope that the Minister will not do us the discourtesy of talking of local levels. If I were an adjudicator covering just two counties in my part of the country, I could not claim sufficient special knowledge of schools in Suffolk or Norfolk to be able to make judgments about whether they should open, close, merge, be enlarged, or be made smaller. That would not be a local decision. If there were a Norfolk adjudicator on a Cambridgeshire school committee, we would be closer geographically to the Secretary of State in London than to someone in Norwich. The noble Lord cannot use that argument as regards the amendments relating to the adjudicator.

This clause should not stand part of the Bill. It may well be part of government policy, but it has not been thought through.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: It has been made clear that the membership of this committee consists of those people who make a financial contribution to the provision of education in the area. I believe that I am right in saying that those people already sit on the education committee. They do in the county where I was a member of the education committee for several years.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, the local education authority comes to a decision. That decision has involved the people who assist the LEA with the provision of education. That decision is then submitted to a second judgment. The same people sit in judgment upon the decision which has already been made with their co-operation. On the one hand one might ask why we have this clause because the Government's objective is already satisfied by the present construction of administration through the education committees. On the other hand, it may be that one of the parties is not entirely in accord with the decision that went through the normal processes.

In this context let us not talk about school closures, but let us talk about something less controversial; for example, the school plan. If a party is less satisfied than others, or not satisfied but accepts that there is a majority in favour of what they do not like, then the situation is that there is a veto on that decision which has been taken by the majority in the education committee. That introduces something which, to my way of thinking, is most unsatisfactory.

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The second unsatisfactory point is that at present, even when the decision has been taken by the local representatives and the local providers of education the people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, who is not present, was referring,--namely, the parents,--still have a say. However, as I understand it, under this system they do not. The adjudicator is adjudicating between a committee which is composed of the LEA and the providers but the two are in different groups. That is a recipe for muddle, disaster and the exclusion of very important interests in the community who, up until now, have been able to challenge the education authority's decision. I include among those interests the ones represented by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and other people in this Chamber. That is a rotten substitute for what is now a reasonably well organised system.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: I shall reply briefly. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, accuses me of using new Labour phraseology. I am not often accused of that, so if the noble Baroness could put it in writing it could do me some good.

It seems to me that neither the noble Baroness nor the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has understood the concept of partnership between the providers. We keep talking about vetoes and we keep talking about the school organisation committee overriding the local education authority. We are talking about a new system of partnership, a new atmosphere which will prevail at local level so that we can at least have a good chance of reaching consensus.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, seems to think that there will always be somebody among the providers, who are clearly fairly determined, who will try to overturn what has otherwise been a rational decision, taken after consultation with all the parties concerned. That will not normally be the case.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I said clearly that either there will be agreement, in which case the committee is superfluous, or that if there is disagreement then the disagreement can overturn the previously made decision. I thought I had made myself perfectly clear on that point.

Lord Whitty: The disagreement will not overturn a previous position where all the providers have been equal parties. Certainly all the providers may have been consulted and may be represented on the local education committee, but they will not have been treated as equal partners in that decision. We are concerned with partnership, with consensus and with devolving decisions. That is what this clause is about. That is what would be removed from the Bill by the deletion of this clause. I would, therefore, ask the House to reject the noble Lord's Motion to delete this clause unless he is prepared to withdraw it at this point.

Lord Tope: It is clear that consensus and unanimity has not broken out in the Chamber this afternoon. The

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Minister suggests that to oppose this clause is to oppose partnership and the devolution of power. That is absolute nonsense.

I object also to the suggestion that the concept of partnership is something either new or, even worse, new Labour. For many of us in local government in all parties--making a particular party point--it has been the way that good local government has worked for years and years. It was a central point of my own party's manifesto in 1986. It is not new. It is the way we work. It is essential to the committee basis of local government that it tries to work in that way.

I object strongly to it being suggested that to oppose this clause is to oppose partnership. The opposite is the truth. Here we are talking about an enforced, imposed partnership with statutory powers overriding those of the democratically elected body.

We are suggesting again that there should be devolution of decision making. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, properly recognised, my party has been pre-eminent in proclaiming for years the advantages as regards devolution of decision making. I strongly support that and to be accused of not doing so by somebody who, a moment ago, told us that he was really old Labour and of the old centralist style just about takes the biscuit.

We have been talking about the devolution of the real power. We had an exchange with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, about what happens with what will be called school organisation plans. Where agreement has been achieved, where there is consensus, where there is no dissent, it may well be that that plan or that proposal, has to go to the Secretary of State. It is extremely unlikely that the Secretary of State, having received no objections to it, is then going to throw it out or amend it. I doubt that has ever happened. It is extremely unlikely.

We are talking about the situation where consensus and agreement have not been reached and who makes that decision. That decision has not been devolved to anybody. It will be removed to an adjudicator, appointed by the Secretary of State, without even the accountability of a planning appeal inspector. That is not devolution. It is the opposite of devolution.

As the afternoon has worn on, I have become more and more tempted to press the issue to a vote. I shall not do so at this stage because I am aware that we have taken a lot of time. On this occasion, I shall withdraw my objection, but we shall certainly return to it at the next stage.

Clause 23 agreed to.

Lord Whitty: I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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Nuclear Tests in India and Pakistan

5.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on India/Pakistan nuclear testing which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

    "The Government of Pakistan have declared that they carried out six nuclear tests--five on Thursday, and a further one on Saturday. We recognise that the Government of Pakistan were under immense pressure to conduct these tests to match those initiated by India. But we are dismayed by the decision to respond in kind and believe that the interests of Pakistan have been badly served by their decision to do so.

    "Pakistan's foremost concern is its national security. That security has not been strengthened by these tests. Long-term security for Pakistan can only come from lowering tension with India and building mutual confidence within the region. It cannot be built on the unstable foundation of an arms race, which will only raise tensions. Already it can be seen from news reports from the region that the voices that have been encouraged by the recent confrontation are the voices of extremism.

    "But Pakistan's loss is wider than its own reduced security. Pakistan had the chance to win international support and respect for its restraint. That opportunity has now been lost. As with India, the effect of the nuclear tests by Pakistan has been to diminish, not to enhance, the status of that country within the international community.

    "We have made clear to the Government of Pakistan our dismay at their decision. The Pakistani High Commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office the day after the first tests to receive a message for his Government of our concern. I have recalled the British High Commissioner from Islamabad for consultation in London.

    "We have already taken a number of measures to bring home to the Government of India the strength of our concern at their nuclear test programme. Last week we cancelled the visit by the Indian Chief of Naval Staff and we have also cancelled a forthcoming visit by their Chief of Army Staff. At the meeting last week of the General Affairs Council of the European Union, we obtained agreement to a Presidency text which invited the Commission to review India's preferential trade treatment. Having taken such steps against India, I would expect comparable measures to be agreed by European partners against Pakistan for similar action by it.

    "Britain's aid programme, unlike that of some other countries, is directly targeted on providing help to the poorest people in the poorest regions. We remain convinced that it would be wrong to penalize the most vulnerable citizens in either country by suspending that aid programme.

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    "However no one, least of all governments of both countries, should under-state the economic price that they will pay for isolation within the international community. Already the value of the Indian rupee has fallen. Last week, the Indian Government offered 1 billion dollars of government bonds and got no takers. In May, there was a net outflow of foreign institutional investment. And last week the World Bank deferred three loans to India for energy and highways projects of almost a billion dollars as a result of objections by member states including Britain.

    "The adverse impact of these economic developments will make it more difficult for India or Pakistan to reduce poverty. That is why it would be a tragedy if both their governments were to persist in an arms race to acquire the most expensive of weapons, which will do nothing to help the millions of their citizens who live in poverty.

    "A regional arms race would also have an impact which would stretch far beyond the region. Other states who have already demonstrated their interest in acquiring nuclear weapon technology will be watching closely how the international community now responds to the precedent set by India and Pakistan. Their nuclear programmes therefore are not merely an internal matter for the two countries, but are a legitimate matter of concern for the world.

    "At the suggestion of the United States, the permanent five members of the Security Council will meet on Thursday in Geneva to discuss the security implications of the nuclear test programmes and the heightened tension in the region. As President of the G8, Britain has called a meeting of their Foreign Ministers in London next week. That meeting will co-ordinate the response of the leading economies to the nuclear test programmes and how we can best promote dialogue with India and Pakistan and between India and Pakistan. There must be two strategic objectives in our dialogue with those countries.

    "First, we must press India and Pakistan to sign up to the global regime against nuclear proliferation. The best way to reduce tension in the region would be for both India and Pakistan now to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to join in the negotiations at Geneva without conditions and to halt the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Neither the interests of Pakistan nor India, nor those of any other country in the world, are served by encouraging the spread of nuclear weapons.

    "The second objective must be to tackle the roots of the tension between both countries. There needs to be a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan over the issues that at present threaten stability in the region. Their security would be much better promoted by confidence-building measures than by nuclear testing programmes.

    "The balance which we must seek in our approach to this issue is to confront firmly the dangers of nuclear proliferation, but without seeking confrontation with the peoples of India or Pakistan.

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    Britain has a long history of close ties with both countries and millions of people in Britain have community links with relatives throughout the sub-continent. Britain therefore does not voice its dismay at the recent nuclear tests out of hostility. On the contrary, it is as a friend of both countries that Britain is appalled at the risks and costs to the peoples of the sub-continent from a nuclear arms race. I ask the whole House to show our united resolve in condemning the nuclear tests and in calling for the Governments of both India and Pakistan to stop testing and to start talking".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.44 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. From these Benches, we share the Government's dismay and disappointment at the nuclear tests conducted last week by the Pakistani Government in a blatant show of disregard for international opinion. We share the sorrow and regret that Pakistan did not heed the international calls for restraint, since these tests fly in the face of worldwide efforts against testing and nuclear proliferation.

Pakistan's decision to conduct its nuclear tests in response to India's tests earlier in May has escalated the already considerable tension in the Indian sub-continent. These tests take Pakistan and India several steps beyond the sabre-rattling enmity that has existed between them for the past 50 years. The world has now openly been brought closer to the spectre of a deadly nuclear arms race in the region which could have grave ramifications for the international community, even though we have suspected this for some time.

Does the Minister believe that sufficient efforts were made by the international community at the G8 summit in Birmingham to induce Pakistan to exercise restraint? What security guarantees were offered to Pakistan in the event of an Indian attack and what assistance was offered to Pakistan? What efforts did the British Government, in particular, make to persuade Pakistan not to conduct its nuclear tests? What further representations do the Government propose to make to the Government of Pakistan following the withdrawal of our High Commissioner there?

From these Benches, we support the Government in their insistence that both Pakistan and India must adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and that both countries must enter into negotiations on a global treaty to stop the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. What immediate action are the Government taking to ensure that these two nations refrain from further tests and from the deployment of nuclear warheads or ballistic missiles and that they abide by the global non-proliferation regime?

Does the Minister accept that if any kind of exception is made for India and Pakistan to become full nuclear powers it sets a precedent for other countries which lack the democratic credentials, but which wish to develop

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their own nuclear capability? Furthermore, what steps are the Government taking, together with our international partners, to ensure that the examples of India and Pakistan do not give the impression to other Asian and Middle Eastern powers that the possession of a nuclear arsenal is an effective short-cut route to a say at the world's negotiating tables? Does the Minister agree that the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir will be a continuing cause of conflict between these two nations? What assessment have the Government made of recent reports in Indian newspapers that the Indian tests were in fact a response to a Chinese-Pakistan attempt to thwart its nuclear weapons programme?

Finally, can the Minister give the House further details about the summit she mentioned due to take place in London on 12th June to co-ordinate efforts to bring nuclear activities in India and Pakistan under international supervision, announced by the Foreign Secretary? What success does the Minister expect this meeting to have, given the failure of the G8 summit to prevent Pakistan's nuclear tests?

5.48 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. Perhaps I can echo the words of Secretary Cohen, the US Secretary for Defense, that this may be the most dangerous moment for the world since the Cuban missile crisis. It is important that we recognise how much could be at stake.

In that context, has there been any response to the call for both nations to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as soon as possible? Can the Minister comment on further international measures and sanctions which have been taken? I understand that the EBRD, for example, has suspended a loan to India and that the International Monetary Fund is reconsidering the next stage of its assistance to that country. Perhaps the Minister can bring us up to date on the steps which have been taken internationally.

Does she believe that there is a possibility that India and Pakistan might reconsider their unwillingness to discuss the situation in Kashmir, in view of the extreme escalation implied by the fact that they are both now nuclear powers? Does the Commonwealth offer any possible bridge to bring those two nations together with a view to a peaceful settlement?

Finally, perhaps I may ask her two questions with regard to the wider architecture of the world concerning nuclear proliferation and the attempts to try to bring about nuclear disarmament. It is easy for the nuclear powers, in a sense, to dismiss their own responsibility from the day when, in 1970, they first signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under Article 6 of that treaty a clear responsibility rested upon them. It was a responsibility to seek forms of multilateral disarmament in the nuclear field and to take steps to limit the production of fissile materials, particularly uranium and plutonium. Virtually nothing has happened in the intervening 20 years, for which I certainly do not blame the present Government. But the truth of the matter is that nothing has happened.

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I wonder whether the Minister can respond to us by saying whether the Security Council permanent members when they meet, followed by the G8 members when they meet, could look again at the possibility of considering a new initiative in the field of international nuclear disarmament and control over fissile materials globally.

I fear that unless we take much more dramatic steps than have so far been discussed, this may be the beginning of a long slide towards a world of nuclear powers where sooner or later nuclear weapons are almost bound to be used.

5.52 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for their support for the Statement which I have made to the House.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked about sufficient efforts made at the G8. I believe that very considerable efforts were made, not only at the G8 conference itself but by various leaders following up the G8 in the approaches which were made to Pakistan at the highest levels.

We understand, as my right honourable friend's Statement made clear, the pressure under which Pakistan has been working, but we also understand that Pakistan had a considerable opportunity to earn credit over restraint and sadly did not take that opportunity. But no one left any stone unturned with Pakistan in trying to persuade them of the wisdom of that course of action rather than the one which they eventually decided to take.

We have made a demarche with Pakistan to try to persuade them that they should now desist from any further activity in this sphere. The High Commissioner in London was summoned to the Foreign Office and there has been a considerable amount of diplomatic action, as was made clear from my right honourable friend's Statement. We have withdrawn for consultation our High Commissioner in Islamabad.

The noble Baroness then went on to ask me what more was being done. The permanent members of the Security Council are meeting on Thursday of this week. The GAC will be meeting on Monday of next week and the G8 will be meeting on Friday of next week discussing these matters in particular. So I think that in all the arenas open to us at the moment we are making every effort to ensure that the international community is able to co-ordinate its response to the situation which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has rightly described as an extremely serious one and one which is acting against the interests of stability in what we understand is a very fragile part of the world.

Of course, we are also trying to persuade both countries to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked if we have had any indications of whether they might be willing to do so. I have not heard anything through official channels. All I can tell the noble Baroness is probably what she is aware of already, that there have been some reports that the Indians have indicated that

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they are willing to consider that, but with certain conditions. Of course, it is that conditionality which will probably prove to be extremely difficult. But I say that only as informed opinion at the moment rather than from any particular information that we have directly from the Indian Government.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, also asked about the continuing conflict in Kashmir. Of course, we know that this is the really neuralgic and difficult point between India and Pakistan. As regards a similar Statement that I made in your Lordships' House the other day we discussed the volatile situation in Kashmir.

The noble Baroness said that India claims that it had itself undergone nuclear tests because of the Chinese/Pakistan axis. She will also know that the Pakistanis have said that they undertook their nuclear tests because they believed that they were about to suffer some sort of attack from India. There can be endless speculation from both sides about who did what first and the reasons for it. But we are left with the inescapable position that, as a result of the nuclear testing in both countries, the stabilisation of that part of the world has been severely undermined. Undoubtedly, the position over Kashmir is one of the potent factors involved in that undermining.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, also asked about what further action was being taken. At the General Affairs Committee on 25th May there was a strong declaration issued. It was agreed that member states would work for deferral of the consideration of IFI loans in India. Partners also agreed to take all necessary measures should India not accede to and move swiftly to ratify the relevant non-proliferation agreements, including the CTBT.

The noble Baroness then went on to ask about what she described as the lack of action in relation to discussions over fissile materials. Her Majesty's Government are taking a leading part in the negotiations on fissile material in Geneva at the moment. We shall, of course, do everything we can to continue to encourage both India and Pakistan to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I would remind your Lordships that currently 149 countries around the world have acceded to the test ban treaties and 186 to the non-proliferation treaty. So I think that despite these very considerable difficulties that we are now experiencing as regards the position of India and Pakistan, the position of the major countries of the world is that the nuclear test ban treaties should be supported and we must do everything we can, both bilaterally as a friend of India and Pakistan, and through the multilateral opportunities open to us, to persuade both countries that the wisdom of their position lies in signing those treaties too.

5.57 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, we must thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement from another place. What she has had to say to us would have been more than adequate had we been discussing any weapon other than the nuclear weapon. I think there is a tendency for us to shudder away from the reality of the nuclear weapon.

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It is almost a condition of life that no one likes to contemplate his own death. I can remember that being so during the war. No pilot ever got into a cockpit without a firm belief that he would be the one to come back. If that was not so, he would not have been able to take off.

Humanity generally shudders against and refuses to consider the possibility of the elimination of his own species. Therefore, if one is discussing this, as we have been doing, in terms of talking about an ordinary weapon, we ignore the reality. I am not alone in this point of view, of course. The prestigious Oxford Research Group takes a similar view. I shall quote from a statement made by them on this subject.

    "The choice is, quite starkly, between arranging for the elimination of nuclear weapons, or anticipating their proliferation to many other countries and sub-state groups".

The Government must have known that that would happen. I say that because, time and again, at the United Nations the Indian representative made the point that, unless the nuclear states were prepared to consider seriously becoming non-nuclear states and moving towards the elimination of such weapons, India would have no alternative but to develop a nuclear weapon.

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