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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, my noble friends tell me that the noble Lord asked five questions. I have noted at least three and if I miss any points I will write to the noble Lord. The welfare reform Green Paper published a couple of months ago made clear that the Green Paper on pensions will be published later this year. I cannot add to that answer.
The noble Lord's second question related to new schemes. The Question raised by my noble friend was about the schemes for the poorest pensioners. It is worth emphasising information that I have already given to the House; namely, that the best way to help the poorest pensioners now is to ensure take-up of the income support to which they are entitled. We are now
The noble Lord's third substantive question related to the change in the last Budget in relation to income tax. I think the noble Lord meant advanced corporation tax. There was a slip of the tongue. We have debated that matter several times in this House. The Government's position is clear. The health of pension schemes depends on a sound economy. We believe that a sound economy and the health and prosperity of firms were ensured by a reduction in corporation tax, which is now among the lowest in the OECD. We do not believe that the health of pension funds should depend on the distortion offered by tax changes or tax shapes in the Budget.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the oldest pensioners are also the poorest. Are the Government prepared to consider the suggestion made by my honourable friend in another place, Professor Steve Webb, that the additional pension for those who are over 80 should be increased from the present farcical amount of 25p a week to £5, and that an additional £3 a week should be paid to those between 75 and 80? That would be an effective way of targeting additional pensions spending on those who are most in need without the need for a means test.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, those proposals have been put to us. We welcome any further evidence or information that the noble Lord has to offer. It is part of a consideration of the pensions review. When the Green Paper is published, that may address some of the concerns.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, in addition to the valuable points submitted to my noble friend from all sides of the House, will she consider those voluntary organisations dealing specifically with the problems of old age pensioners--like the Royal British Legion. Noble Lords laugh, but it is a wonderful organisation. Stand up anyone on the other side who says that that is not so! I ask noble Lords not to be so deceptive. They take the mick one moment and then, when challenged, remain strangely silent. Perhaps I may proceed and say to my noble friend that there are many ex-service people who are old age pensioners living in difficult circumstances.
There are many voluntary organisations doing great work to try to improve the situation. Will my noble friend consider contacting those organisations to see whether they can give her assistance in improving the conditions of pensioners and increasing the amounts on which they have to live?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am sure that the entire House joins my noble friend in recognising the important and valuable contribution made by the Royal British Legion and the Royal British Legion (Scotland) to the well-being of our older people, particularly those who served in the forces. My noble friend will be pleased to learn that I had a meeting with
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is not the code simply a restatement of customary international law? Is it not a gross breach of customary international law to kill several hundred civilians and forcibly displace 60,000 people from their homes? Does the Minister agree with the five-point plan announced by the German Foreign Minister this morning as the basis for discussion at the Contact Group meeting which is to take place in Bonn on 8th July? Are we, like the German Foreign Minister, having intensive discussions with the Russians to see whether they can be persuaded to come round to this sort of action, including the possibility of military intervention as a last resort?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord often poses important questions and I shall try to deal with them. The Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security is politically binding. It enshrines a number of international agreements and conventions, mainly concerning the democratic control of armed forces. Since the Fry suspension from the OSCE, there is no mechanism available to ensure compliance with the code.
The noble Lord raised specific points made by Mr. Kinkel this morning. I have seen only scant reference to those in papers which I received immediately before I came into the Chamber. As I understand it, Mr. Kinkel suggests that the political solution is the one that should be pursued; and that the best opportunity for so doing will be at the next meeting of the Contact Group in Bonn on 8th July. That will consider to what degree President Milosevic met the demands set out by the Contact Group when it met in London on 12th June.
Without detaining the House too long, perhaps I may state four aims in that regard: first, a ceasing of all action by the security forces which affect the civilian population; secondly, enabling effective and continuous international monitoring; thirdly, facilitating the full return to their homes of refugees and displaced persons; and, fourthly, making rapid progress in the dialogue with the Kosovar-Albanian leadership.
Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that we must either make it easier for the inhabitants of Kosovo to live in their own country or make it easier for them to claim asylum in other countries, including their own? Can Her Majesty's Government promise that if they fail to do the first, they will do the second?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the right way to approach this is as I outlined in the supplementary answer that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury: that this must be allowed to go forward on the basis of the Contact Group's next meeting in Bonn and on the basis I outlined to your Lordships. We all understand that the situation is increasingly tense as both sides show evidence of preparing for increased fighting over the summer months. Indeed, we learnt from reports coming in this morning about Serbian forces having taken a mine at Belecevac. The important point at the moment is to urge restraint on all sides and to look to a political dialogue to remedy these difficult problems.
Lord Rea: My Lords, can my noble friend say what the Government are doing to put pressure on President Milosevic to allow human rights monitors to be set up in all parts of Kosovo? Also, what pressure are they putting on him, together with the Russians rather than apart from them, to restore the autonomy that he took away from Kosovo in 1989?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we welcome the undertakings which President Milosevic made in Moscow on 16th June to allow unimpeded access to international monitors and humanitarian organisations. We are currently seeking alternative ways to establish an increased European monitoring presence in Kosovo by bringing in six extra monitoring teams--two in each team--to supplement the existing five monitors who are already in the Federal Republic.
In relation to the ambitions of the various parties, I am afraid that I must remind the House that we want to pursue political dialogue and that will next have an opportunity of being aired when the Contact Group meets on 8th July.
Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 20, Schedule 2, Clause 21, Schedule 3, Clauses 22 to 28, Schedule 4, Clause 29, Schedule 5, Clauses 30 to 91, Schedule 6, Clauses 92 to 111, Schedules 7 and 8, Clauses 112 to 117.--(Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.)