Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am aware of what Sir Claus said about the need for people to provide adequate tuition in this area. Many part-time staff already work in numeracy and literacy and we value their work. We will obviously examine the further expansion of part-time people in this area, but it is important that they have the proper training that is required in order to make the courses successful. My group and the group of experts advising it will consider how to develop high-quality rapid training so that a workforce can be in place as soon as possible.

Lord Elton: My Lords, given that Sir Claus states that at present too many teachers work part-time, will the Minister assure us that more full-time teachers will come on stream? Will the Minister tell us also whether the Government are going to carry forward, and if so how, his recommendations that local targets should be set and local action plans made to meet those targets because the problem cannot simply be addressed nationally?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about the need to look at this matter at the local level. It would be quite wrong to have an entirely top-down national programme. The Government have already set up learning partnerships involving local authorities, TECs and the further education system. We shall ask those local partnerships to try to develop coherent and exciting programmes--

21 Apr 1999 : Column 1157

some creative thinking needs to be done--for addressing that serious national problem of adult illiteracy and numeracy.

On the issue of part-time versus full-time, we should not dismiss the contribution which part-time teachers make in this regard. We have many full-time teachers in FE. We need more. That was the issue which I addressed in responding to the noble Lord, Lord Tope.

Lord Quirk: My Lords, the Minister will have noted that, last week, Sir David Ramsbotham again deplored the educational deficit in the prison population (which is indeed three times as bad as even the terrible figures revealed by Sir Claus Moser for the population at large). Will the Minister pursue current enthusiasm for joined-up government by joining up with the Home Office in order to address the grave need for improvement in education provision both in prisons and in young offender institutions?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, my noble friend the Minister of State at the Home Office is sitting next to me in a very joined-up way. We are working together on this problem. Indeed, I believe that I have already said to the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, that we are anticipating working together on a visit to Cardiff Prison which we shall make in the near future.

However, the Prison Service has developed a new, rather exciting education policy with a particular focus on improving basic and key skills. It has its own performance targets, which are ambitious. I have no doubt that those targets will be achieved.

Northern Ireland Peace Process

2.52 p.m.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in designing the peace process in Northern Ireland, they have studied the reconciliation process pursued in recent years in Chile.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the peace process in Northern Ireland, which was initiated by the previous government, has been developed in co-operation with the Irish Government and the political parties in Northern Ireland. The experience of other countries may be relevant to some degree but the situation in Northern Ireland is unique and the peace process has been designed to reach an agreed resolution to the specific issues which arise in that context.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Are the Government not being deeply hypocritical? They are releasing from gaol hundreds of people who have bombed, murdered, maimed, mutilated, sometimes in sessions lasting many days, killed children and buried people in unnamed graves. Ministers are meeting people who have planned violence which has resulted in literally thousands of

21 Apr 1999 : Column 1158

deaths. Yet, at the same time, in the case of the former president of Chile, the Home Secretary, who has wide discretion in this matter, as evidenced by his refusal--

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I must advise the House that the case of Senator Pinochet is still sub judice and, therefore, cannot be discussed in your Lordships' House.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I have taken the advice of the Clerk to the House. While other matters may be sub judice, the ruling of the Home Secretary is not sub judice and no application has been made for it to be reviewed in court, so it is not sub judice.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, it may be that our advice is slightly different. However, I am advised by the Clerk that, although it is in order for Members to raise with Ministers matters relating to Senator Pinochet not affecting the issues to be determined by the courts, including the Home Secretary's role in the proceedings, in suggesting that there is a comparative situation, the noble Lord is doing precisely that.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, perhaps I may attempt to be as helpful as I possibly can in answering those parts of the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont--

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I have taken advice from the Clerk as to whether I may raise this question, and the advice that I received from the Clerk of the Parliaments is that the matter of the Home Secretary's decision is not sub judice. The Home Secretary has wide discretion in this matter, as evidenced, for example, by his refusal to extradite an alleged IRA bomber to Germany. Therefore, is it not deeply regrettable that the Home Secretary should have ignored the express wish of the democratically elected government of Chile that peace and reconciliation in Chile, as in Ireland, is best left to the Chileans themselves to decide?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord's proposition is that this is hypocrisy. The prisoner releases in Northern Ireland were based on the Belfast agreement. To their undying credit, Mr. John Major and Mr. William Hague both campaigned that that Belfast agreement should be put into effect.

Significantly as a result of their efforts, more than 70 per cent. of those voting in Northern Ireland and more than 90 per cent. in the Republic voted in favour. Thereafter, democratically, appropriately and without hypocrisy, both Houses of this Parliament passed the legislation. I see nothing hypocritical about that. It upholds the rule of law, and everything that Jack Straw, as Home Secretary, has done has been consistent with the law and has upheld the rule of law.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it is the tradition of this House to

21 Apr 1999 : Column 1159

accept the guidance given by the Leader of the House in matters of this sort; and that it is wholly wrong to try to use conversations with Officials of the House at Question Time in your Lordships' House?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I have done my best to follow the advice given by my noble friend the Leader of the House. As I indicated earlier, I have done my best to answer the noble Lord as fully and informatively as I can within the rules of practice and sub judice.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, when do the Government believe that it is right to interfere in the affairs of another friendly democratic state?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, curiously this Government believe in the rule of law. We have international treaty obligations which oblige us to pay proper, due, lawful regard, as the noble Lord will know as a former Home Secretary, to extradition requests. The present extradition legislation is contained in the Extradition Act 1989 introduced by our predecessors.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the only political party in Northern Ireland which has talked about a truth and reconciliation committee is Sinn Fein, and even it did not talk about it with any degree of seriousness? Is it not unfortunate, at such a fragile period in the peace process, that this Question was used to ask another question entirely?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we all have responsibilities beyond our own personal interests. How we discharge them is a matter of individual conscience and taste.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I accept the noble Lord's strictures that we should always follow the guidance, if possible, laid down by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. Nevertheless, does the noble Lord not agree that increasingly--and extremely welcome it is--countries which have suffered from oppressive regimes have found it expedient to let bygones be bygones? That has increasingly become a way forward to building a consensus for representative government in the countries concerned. Does the Minister believe that interference from many thousands of miles away will help, in this case, Chile, South Africa and, in our case, Northern Ireland to build a polity which is likely to be able to face the future in a way that we should all welcome?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page