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Lord Vivian: My Lords, against the background of the OSCE observers and our commitment of 9,000 troops if a ceasefire deal is achieved, can the Government say how we can sustain that level of troops in the Kosovo area for longer than one year?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the House will not be surprised to know that the military logistics have been extremely carefully worked out by Her Majesty's Government, the MoD and everyone else involved. If we make commitments which will require military forces and resources, your Lordships can rest

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assured that the Government will undertake only those commitments that we shall be able to fulfil along with all our allies.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, will the Minister accept that the development of events is causing much concern to people who are deeply interested in the use of military power? Does she agree that it is rare for the use of air power alone to solve any problems? Does she further agree that air strikes against Yugoslavia and Serbia, especially Belgrade, might strengthen the position of Mr. Milosevic?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, whatever tactic is considered--air strikes or any other--must be weighed up carefully. There could be mixed responses to it. However, one must examine the situation in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo and ask what can be done to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Iraq is not a perfect example of a previous situation, because there are so many differences, but it is not true that air strikes and the threat of them have not brought people to a political solution. They do not in themselves solve the whole problem, but they can sometimes be an extremely effective and useful tool.

Westminster City Council: Community Funding

2.51 p.m.

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will intervene to help prevent the cuts to arts and community funding made by Westminster City Council for 1999-2000.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government have no intention of interfering in the decisions taken by Westminster City Council in this respect.

The Earl of Clancarty: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Apart from the cuts, which are proving disastrous for some organisations, would not the Minister agree that one major problem is the extent to which they have come out of the blue? Can she tell us what practical measures the Government intend to take to discourage councils from acting as laws unto themselves in the areas of arts and community funding?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Earl asks a complicated question. In areas where there is no statutory obligation for a local authority to provide funding--for example, Westminster City Council--the Government can offer an opportunity for a partnership approach. For instance, the coming year will see the Arts Council and the London arts boards spending between them £36 million in Westminster. But ultimately it is for the council tax payers in Westminster to make their views known when they believe that the council is not getting its priorities right--perhaps

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I should declare an interest as one of those council tax payers--particularly in this case when reductions of such magnitude will have a grave effect on services.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I, too, declare an interest as a resident of Westminster. Is it not a fact that the cost of looking after the asylum seekers, which has been used as an excuse by Westminster City Council for these arts cuts, can be recovered from central government?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government are gravely concerned about reports that the chairman of Westminster City Council Arts Council has stated that the issue is one between funding for the arts and funding for asylum seekers. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made available an additional £30 million to support arrangements for asylum seekers, particularly in the areas most affected such as Dover and London. Local authorities will be able to recover the costs of accommodation and supporting asylum seekers. It would appear to be a tragic juxtaposition of two competing claims on a false premise.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government have made it clear that arts funding is fundamental to our society, as it is in any civilised society? How is it that an inner London borough which embraces many important arts projects can decide to put arts so low down its priority list? What liaison exists between the Minister's department and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on this issue?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Viscount raises a particularly difficult question. If, like the Government, one believes that some areas of local authority provision must be a matter for subsidiarity, the choice must be made by Westminster City councillors, guided by the exhortations by Members of your Lordships' House and others who believe that they are wrong. However, the Government cannot be held to account for not imposing their views on every authority and then criticised for being big brother and running a nanny state. I and the Government believe that the council's judgment is not sound in terms of its priorities, but ultimately it must be a matter for the council. I leave it to your Lordships' House to judge whether there is any relationship between, for example, the majority political controlling group and the decisions that are made.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, will the Minister not revert to her original stance that the matter has nothing to do with this House? I, too, declare an interest as a council tax payer in Westminster. Does she agree that it is a matter purely for the council, and that on all the evidence of the elections, it and we are very happy?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, your Lordships would be most surprised if I were to subscribe to the noble Lord's invitation to say that we are happy with Westminster City Council. I believe that cuts of 48 per cent. for the Serpentine Gallery in the year

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following an election, which will have a grave impact on the gallery's education programmes and the service offered to local residents, is very regrettable.

In a democracy we are free to express views on decisions taken, albeit by legitimately autonomous democratic authorities. I believe that for an authority to slash funding for the Serpentine Gallery, the Photographers' Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the orchestra of St. John's, Smith Square, which must offer solace to people working in Smith Square, and to have a situation in which we are not even allowed to comment is asking too much.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, does the Minister agree that as local authorities are independent this type of situation will arise from time to time? In any event, is this not likely to become an even more common situation, given the Government's commitment to devolution?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the policy of devolution inevitably carries with it the opportunity for people in different regions and local areas to make judgments within the framework laid down by Parliament. However, I believe that the noble Baroness is mistaken in saying that it is not for Members of your Lordships' House to raise the issue here or for the Government to defend their position. Grant cuts made in a year when an additional £5 million has been given to Westminster City Council is not the kind of political action that one can expect to go unchallenged.

Commercial Television: Advertising Limits

3 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is any legal limit on the proportion of broadcasting time which may be devoted by commercial television companies to advertising breaks.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Broadcasting Act 1990 empowers the Independent Television Commission to give directions to its licensees on the amount, scheduling and presentation of advertising. Under the ITC code, the total amount of advertising on Channels 3, 4 and 5 in any one day must not exceed an average of seven minutes per hour of broadcasting. For cable and satellite services, the total amount must not exceed an average of nine minutes per hour of broadcasting.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer which seems to confirm the general view that, on average, commercial breaks should not greatly exceed two minutes. But is my noble friend aware that quite frequently breaks of a much longer duration occur? Is that to enable the companies concerned to offer high fees; for example, in the recent case of Miss

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Lewinsky who is reported to have received £400,000 when £800,000 was said to be available? Is that not more than many millions of ordinary people will receive in a working lifetime? Does my noble friend accept that while the advertising may be more interesting and ingenious than the programmes they interrupt, they should continue to be subject to very careful invigilation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in my first Answer, I emphasised the arm's length basis on which we operate in these matters. My noble friend interpreted what I said as meaning that an individual advertising break would not be more than two minutes. That is not what the ITC provides. The breaks can be of different lengths within the hour. But there is a provision that even in a peak hour, not more than 12 minutes in one hour can be advertising.

The issue of fees is even more an arm's length issue and is not a matter for the Government.

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