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Lord Avebury: My Lords, in looking at the issue raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer--namely, the brokering of arms from third countries--have the noble Lord and the Government had any discussions with our partners in the EU, bearing in mind the fact that some of the procurement of weapons from third countries, although perhaps originated by individuals in Britain, is apparently being organised through countries such as Belgium? The procurement of these arms is largely from eastern Europe. Therefore, surely we need also to have discussions with our partners in the OSCE to ensure that whatever decisions are made can be extended throughout the whole region.
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, one thing is absolutely clear. In setting up the EU code of conduct, we had discussions with our European partners. As to the specific methodology with which we are taking forward the consultation now in terms of the response to the White Paper, I think it will be wise if I write to the noble Lord and confirm which process we are using to take our internal instruction further with our colleagues in Europe.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, when preparing legislation, will the Minister bear in mind the importance not only of brokering but also of licensing arrangements? For example, does the noble Lord recall the case of British Aerospace which licensed assault rifles, via a German company, to Turkey?
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I am not aware of the case that the noble Lord cites. However, the issue of licensing is taken extremely seriously by the Government. The whole process of the review of licence requests and
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the EU is planning a regime to control the export of what it calls "dual use technology"? Therefore a fairly innocuous thing such as a tyre might require a licence if it can be fixed to a military vehicle. Further, is the Minister aware that there are plans afoot to extend this regime to information conveyed by electronic means, for example by e-mail or fax, or even by the telephone?
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I am aware that the export of technology via electronic media is being carefully studied at the moment by both the European Council and the European Commission. I hope very much that the outcome will be positive rather than restrictive because all of us are aware that establishing a good electronic regime for the transfer of information and data is absolutely vital to the competitive capacity of the Union.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as I said in response to a three-hour debate on this very subject only yesterday, the Government are committed to tackling barriers to the growth and performance of small firms and are particularly concerned about the impact of regulations. We are reviewing existing regulations so that outdated or unnecessary rules can be struck out. We are taking a strategic approach to regulatory proposals, including EU proposals, which may arise in the future, and we are setting up the Small Business Service which will help small firms meet the demands of regulation.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that comprehensive reply. My Question was of course tabled before the notice appeared announcing yesterday's debate in which the chairman of the task force, the noble Lord's noble friend Lord Haskins, made a notable maiden speech. But did the Government start any action last month when the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, presenting the latest report of the task force, commented that the working time regulations would be a dog's dinner, and called for more clarity and consultation?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord says about the excellent maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Haskins, which deserves careful study. Certainly the review of the working time directive regulations has been ongoing since they were first introduced. We recognise the force of the task force's
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that his statement that future EU regulations will be watched closely is extremely welcome? However, will he go a little further and say that Her Majesty's Government, together with other EU countries, will undertake a full review of all the regulations which have been passed and which are injuring businesses, particularly small businesses?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I rather think that the Commission and Her Majesty's Government may have to suspend other activities for a period of several months in order to carry out a review of the scope that my noble friend suggests. However, his comments on our proposals are welcome.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, further to what the Minister said yesterday in his excellent reply to the debate, and the Answer that he gave to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, will he tell the House why, if the Government are so concerned about small businesses, they turned down the amendments which we tabled in the other place to the Employment Relations Bill to define such a business as one with fewer than 50 employees rather than one with 20, as everyone in this House knows that the provisions of that Bill will be harmful to all small businesses?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I suppose I ought to declare an interest as one who for many years ran a business with between 20 and 50 employees. However, we do not think that the cut-off point for trade union recognition as it occurs in the Employment Relations Bill should be anything other than it is. I am sure the noble Baroness has read the Financial Times this morning and has seen the report published by the CBI which states that new workplace regulations will not dent competitiveness and in particular points out that smaller and medium-sized businesses are less likely to be damagingly affected by employment regulations than larger businesses.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, in the Balkans as elsewhere, the Department for International Development supports the procurement of local goods and services where this is possible, cost-effective, and does not harm the local economy or reduce access of the local host population to
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. The Red Cross is doing a fantastic job in the Balkan camps and--this is even more important--in the homes where there are even more refugees than in the camps. However, does the Minister agree that if the Bulgarian Red Cross can feed the refugees in the Radici camp in Macedonia three hot meals a day for four deutschmarks while it is costing 16 deutschmarks for only one hot meal a day in other camps, the Government should not only encourage the NGOs, but also take a much more positive lead themselves, to contract out all aid locally in the Balkans to those countries that have been so seriously affected by the Kosovo war?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, in commending the work of the Red Cross, which has done some excellent work in the region. I can assure the noble Baroness that we make every effort to support local procurement. For example, NGOs that we have funded have purchased food, building and construction materials and medical and sanitary supplies from local sources in Macedonia. NATO has also made significant local purchases for building works and also for the running of refugee camps. As I said in my original Answer, in Macedonia itself the total value of our local purchases comes to some £750,000. The Government of Macedonia have requested that international agencies should buy from local firms. I shall certainly convey the noble Baroness's concern in this matter to my colleagues, but we are firmly committed with respect to local purchases.
Baroness Uddin: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that at a large gathering of the Moslem community last week my right honourable friend the Prime Minister commended the work of organisations such as Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief? In the light of that can my noble friend tell the House what steps are being taken to ensure that these organisations are considered for inclusion in any of the Government's future contracting arrangements?
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