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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as luck would have it, the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, tabled a similar Question for Written Answer recently. I could certainly give the noble Lord a long list of those dependent territories that are linked with European Union states which are able to exercise votes. There are different constitutional relationships. Some of these overseas territories fall into the category of departements outre-mer of the French and therefore they are treated as part of mainland France for those reasons. There are a number of different relationships among some of the territories which are linked to Spain itself. That is another

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interesting point. It all depends on the constitutional basis of the overseas territories, their rights and their citizens' rights with regard to European elections.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Government's repeated failure to reject the present Spanish proposals for joint sovereignty and their refusal to introduce emergency legislation to extend the European Parliament franchise to Gibraltarians in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights judgment sends a mixed message to the people of Gibraltar about this Government's commitment to their interests, their future and their constitutional status?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am afraid that I must remind the noble Lord that when his party was in power it adopted a similar position to that of Her Majesty's Government. For example, as regards the European Court--

Noble Lords: Answer!

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I shall answer the noble Lord if he will allow me to do so. The Opposition when in government contested that case on exactly the same grounds as Her Majesty's Government have done. When I previously answered questions on this matter in your Lordships' House I said that we were taking up this issue. Since then it has been taken up by Sir Stephen Wall in Brussels and amendments have been tabled to the 1976 Act. What has happened is exactly what I told your Lordships would happen. We are also lobbying the other European partner countries to encourage them to support what they should support, which is the ECHR judgment.

On the other point about the Spanish proposals, the Opposition, when in government, signed up to the Brussels process in 1984. That process accepts that issues of sovereignty can be discussed. That is the basis on which Her Majesty's Government are proceeding. If the noble Lord did his homework--I know he is assiduous on these points--he would discover that his party, when in office, held the same position as the Government on both those points.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Next Question!

UNSCOM: Washington Post Allegations

3.26 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether American intelligence agencies have used UNSCOM teams in Iraq as cover for national intelligence activities.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, this is a matter for the United States. But the United States Government have stated publicly and repeatedly

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that all activities by US nationals assigned to UNSCOM, and all information exchanges between the US and UNSCOM, have been strictly in pursuit of UNSCOM's mandate to dismantle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that, I suppose, unavoidable Answer. Is she aware that in the extremely detailed and carefully researched report in the Washington Post of 2nd March it is stated that the British Government asked the American Administration in March 1997 to explain a number of irregular signals activity incidents between UNSCOM and various other outside sources? Does she accept that the report deepens the unhappiness many of us feel about United States exploitation of the UN through UNSCOM and the implications for the acceptability of the UN as an inspecting body? Does she accept that this may have damaged the reputation of the UN and that steps may be needed to restore that reputation?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the allegations published in the Washington Post on 2nd March were, of course, later picked up in the British press. They are part of what appears to be a prolonged campaign against UNSCOM and its strongest supporters, including the United States and the United Kingdom. There is little I can add except to say that the allegations have been completely rejected by the United States Government.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, no doubt the Minister has been equally assiduous in her homework. What is her reaction to suggestions that the recent espionage allegations were a contributory factor in Richard Butler's decision to step down from UNSCOM when his two-year term ends in June?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that that is borne out by what Mr. Butler has said. In dealing with questions of this nature we get into a little difficulty. I hope the noble Lord will accept from me that it is the policy of this Government, as it was of his own party when in government--it is a longstanding policy--not to comment on matters which have a bearing on intelligence.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, is the Minister aware that she is outstandingly good?


3.31 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the Easter Recess on Wednesday 31st March and return on Monday 12th April. The House will sit at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday 31st March.

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Criminal Cases Review (Insanity) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision enabling verdicts of guilty but insane to be referred to and reviewed by the Court of Appeal. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

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

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

Health Bill [H.L.]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Hayman, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1, Clauses 3 to 14, Schedule 2, Clauses 15 to 47, Schedule 3, Clauses 48 to 50, Schedules 4 and 5, Clauses 51 to 54.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Disability Rights Commission Bill [H.L.]

3.33 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 2 [General functions]:

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 19, at end insert ("and the provisions of any Act passed after this Act is passed which concern disability discrimination").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 15. I wish to record my warm appreciation of the splendid work on the briefings of Agnes Fletcher of RADAR and her colleagues with the various disability organisations which have helped, such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind, SCOPE, MIND, the RNID, Rights Now Campaign, MENCAP, and the British Council of Disabled People.

These amendments are straightforward and sensible. Amendment No. 1 gives the disability rights commission the right to keep under review any future discrimination legislation, whatever form it takes. It gives the commission the power to advise on and assist in proceedings under any new piece of civil rights or anti-discrimination legislation. I believe that it is an absolutely crucial amendment to prepare for the future. There will clearly be more legislation affecting disabled people enacted by this and other governments.

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The Government were right to mention the Disability Discrimination Act in the Bill because, at the moment, it is the only disability discrimination legislation, although the Human Rights Act is relevant. But mentioning only the DDA could be interpreted as a signal that the intention is to amend only the DDA in future whereas other and different measures may be introduced. As we learn from experience, our ideas will develop and no doubt the DDA will be amended. But we cannot forecast how a future government will act in relation to disability discrimination. There may be other relevant legislation. The amendment prepares for all possibilities in the future. I would greatly welcome any reassurance that the Government are able to give on this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I wish to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, which extends the clause to cover any future Act which covers disability discrimination. Perhaps I may also say a few words in support of the existing powers under this clause to keep anti-discrimination legislation under review. This is most important in the context of the DDA which, as the Government freely admit, is a flawed piece of legislation. One particular lacuna is in respect of the role of the police in dealing with the public.

Last month's MacPherson report, published after the inquiry into the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence, highlighted the problem of institutionalised racism within the Metropolitan Police Force, and indeed within all sectors of our society. The Home Office acted swiftly, both in its contempt for racism of any description and in bringing forward practical measures to tackle witting and unwitting racism in public life.

One of the fundamental linchpins of this strategy is the pledge to amend the Race Relations Act to allow the Commission for Racial Equality to investigate possible discriminatory practices within Britain's police forces. In order to achieve parity of esteem, I would ask the Minister to give your Lordships an undertaking that the Government will review the position of the police within the Disability Discrimination Act, with a view to enabling the disability rights commission to undertake more comprehensive investigations into discriminatory practices.

The police are currently covered as service providers under Part III of the DDA, but this excludes the operation of their statutory functions such as arresting or surveilling a suspect. Even duties such as dealing with 999 calls and powers to stop and search may be outside the remit of the Act. These are vital areas of the police's work in dealing with the public and should be tightened up.

This is not a matter of political correctness. I am well aware that most police officers do their utmost to assist visibly disabled people in the context of their duties, but my concern is for those with less obvious disabilities, such as learning disabilities or mental health problems, which may be, occasionally, or quite often, less apparent, and whose innocent behaviour might provoke

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public prejudice. A man with learning disabilities who represents MENCAP on a number of national and international committees found himself thrown off a bus by the police on the grounds that his mere presence made another passenger uncomfortable. Fortunately, he was not arrested in this incident. He has also been stopped and searched a number of times by the police while behaving entirely innocently. Of course, these sorts of examples highlight the difficulties which can arise when people are not terribly articulate in describing past events, but they cannot be used as a mask for discrimination, which should not be tolerated in any aspect of the police's work. May I therefore urge the Minister to clarify whether the disability rights commission will be permitted to investigate this lacuna under its obligation to keep the DDA under review as prescribed in this subsection?

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