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Baroness Nicol: My Lords, does the Minister agree that most of the accidents which have been referred to would be eliminated if there were proper cycle tracks? Will he assure the House that every effort will be made by the Government to persuade local authorities, or whoever else it is necessary to persuade, to press on with a network of cycle tracks as soon as possible?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I agree with that. Indeed, it is part of the Government's transport policy to encourage the provision of cycle tracks where we can and cycling priorities elsewhere. In some towns that is more difficult than others, but it is a priority for those of us involved in local transport plans.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, in a spirit of helpfulness, perhaps I may suggest a compromise which may help the noble Lord, Lord Clark. We should issue licences to cyclists who are riding at night. Then all cyclists who persist in riding without lights at night can lose their licences, and that may be of benefit to all of us.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I note the noble Viscount's suggestion. Frankly, I believe that that would be even more difficult to enforce. However, I shall consider what he said.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that, had the noble Lord, Lord Clark,

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been badly injured by that cyclist, he would not have been entitled to any compensation even though he was engaged in the business of coming here? The House of Lords, unlike the House of Commons, refuses to insure its Members. Can my noble friend confirm that the position will be looked into as a matter of urgency, because someone may well have an accident here and will have to bear the full costs involved; or, indeed, their family may have to do so?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I note with some sympathy my noble friend's point. However, it is a matter for the authorities of the House of Lords and not for me.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, do the Government have any plans to carry out a survey of road worthiness as regards bicycles? If not, why not?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is already an offence to ride an unsafe cycle and the police have powers in that respect. The law is there but, of course, it is not easy to enforce.

Lady Kinloss: My Lords--

A noble Lord: My Lords--

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I think it is the turn of the Cross-Benches to ask a question.

Lady Kinloss: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. Does the Minister agree that it would be much safer for cyclists in rural areas if proper lighting was provided and if they wore something light on their clothing? Indeed, cyclists are extremely difficult to see where there are no street lights.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lady. Lighting is a legal requirement and we strongly advise the wearing of more visible clothing than some cyclists wear.

Multilateral Agreement on Investment

3.21 p.m.

Lord Newby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Where matters currently stand in the negotiations on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, OECD Ministers ordered a pause in MAI negotiations earlier this year. Following the decision of the French Government to withdraw from negotiations in October, it now looks most unlikely that agreement can be reached on an MAI.

Lord Newby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. However, will the Government ensure that, in any future discussions on the subject, there will be involvement of all affected countries, including the

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developing countries which were excluded from the negotiations that the OECD conducted? Moreover, can he confirm that any son of MAI will contain adequate measures on employment and environmental protection?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the Government believe that an MAI on the right terms is desirable as it would liberalise international investment flows. The "right terms" means the strong protection of labour and environmental laws. The agreement is helpful to the developing countries and has a proper balance between the commitments that we take on and the commitments taken on by other countries. The most likely event is that negotiations will now take place at the World Trade Organisation, where developing countries are totally represented.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister confirm that it was this Government who insisted upon the inclusion, as a condition precedent, of environmental and social conditions; in other words, that it was the initiative taken by the new Labour Government? Further, can my noble friend confirm that at all times at ministerial and other levels non-governmental organisations were involved and, indeed, that there was a requirement for developing countries to be included in the negotiations at a proper level?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his remarks. It is correct to say that it was the initiative of this Government to make certain that environmental and labour laws were protected. Throughout this process, we have pursued our objective on an open and consensual basis.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, given the fact that it appears to be accepted that this was the wrong MAI, negotiated by the wrong organisation with the wrong people involved, and given the fact that it has been accepted by the Government and others that we clearly need such an agreement, can the Minister say what steps her Majesty's Government are taking to ensure that negotiations in the correct form with the correct people get back on the rails?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is very likely that these negotiations will move to the WTO. As my honourable friend the Minister of Trade made clear, the Government see an opportunity to start from a blank sheet of paper and to pursue our objectives there on an open and consensual basis. I believe that the WTO is probably the best place to do so. However, in my view, it would certainly be on the basis of a fresh agenda which would take full account of social and environmental concerns.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the French that the MAI, as it stood, was an unacceptable infringement of national sovereignty?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the French Government concluded that the MAI was unreformable.

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However, we never reached that pessimistic conclusion or indeed felt that it was an infringement of national sovereignty. There would have been hard negotiating to do, but we believed that a good agreement was achievable.

EU Banana Imports Policy: US Reaction

3.25 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received any representations from the United States Government concerning threatened trade sanctions over the European Union's banana import regime; and, if so, what has been their response.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, on 10th November, the United States Government published for domestic consultation a list of EU products which might be targeted for retaliatory trade action in pursuance of their dispute with the EU over banana import arrangements. Her Majesty's Government very much regret this threat of unilateral action by the United States Government. We do not believe that it will help to resolve the problem. We would urge the United States scrupulously to follow the procedures provided by the WTO dispute settlement understanding. The Commission has agreed to accept an expedited panel procedure under which a final ruling could be reached in 90 days if the US withdraws its threat of unilateral retaliation.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that most helpful and positive reply. Is it not absolutely deplorable that, having established a panel for the resolution of disputes of this character, the American Government should see fit to bypass it on this occasion? Is there not a real threat of a trade war if this sort of conduct continues? Does my noble friend agree that perhaps the American Congress, rather than the American Government, seems to have rather more compassion for Chiquita than the Caribbean banana growers who are very vulnerable and poor?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, in the absence of any hard information I would not want to comment on the motives behind this move or on American politics. However, I am aware that such concerns have been voiced. I find it difficult to see how the US economy would be damaged by a 90-day delay in resolving the matter properly through an expedited panel. I am sure that all Members of this House will realise that the issue is of the greatest importance for islands such as Dominica, where the sale of bananas represents 20 per cent. of its GDP, and St. Vincent 19 per cent. I am sure noble Lords will also be aware that the Government have made clear on a number of occasions that they will stand by their commitments to the ACP producers.

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