Kenneth John Woolmer, Esquire, having been created Baron Woolmer of Leeds, of Leeds in the County of West Yorkshire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Baroness Gould of Potternewton and the Lord Paul, and made the solemn Affirmation.
Peter Henry Goldsmith, QC, having been created Baron Goldsmith, of Allerton in the County of Merseyside, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Williams of Mostyn and the Lord Steyn.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, before the commencement of business, I take the opportunity to inform the House that I am to visit the Netherlands to make a speech at the University of Leiden on Friday 22nd October when the House will sit. Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, serving civil servants are not permitted to publish personal memoirs reflecting their experience in government. Retired civil servants must seek the permission of the head of their former department and the head of the Home Civil Service before publishing such memoirs, in accordance with their continuing duties of confidentiality owed to the Crown as their former employer.
Lord Chadlington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful response. I am sure he is aware that the total number of special advisers, paid for at the taxpayers' expense, has risen by some 50 per cent compared with the previous administration, to close
Lord Falconer of Thoroton : My Lords, the rules I have described in relation to civil servants also apply to special advisers, who are themselves civil servants. Those rules are incorporated into their contract of employment.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it is unlikely that there has been a great increase in breaches of the Official Secrets Act. I do not know what the position was before 1st May 1997, but I am sure there is not a substantial number of breaches at present.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, taking into account the extraordinary increase in the number of special advisers, can the Minister say whether they are subject to the Official Secrets Act, to the sanctions and obligations of that Act, as are public servants?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I can confirm that they are subject not only to the terms of the Official Secrets Act but also to the same terms and conditions of employment as ordinary civil servants. Special advisers are indeed civil servants. In relation to the publishing of memoirs, they would be covered by precisely the same rubric that I set out originally.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is no specific time bar, but every retired civil servant who wishes to publish memoirs must seek the permission of the head of his or her former department and of the head of the Home Civil Service.
Lord McNally: My Lords, can the Minister clarify whether his reply affects the marketability of my memoirs, McNally and Callaghan, the Glory Years", as I have some distinct memories of the role of Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn that I should not like lost to history?
I believe that the noble Lord predated the present arrangements in relation to special advisers. If and in so far as he was covered by the existing rules, he would have to go through the same process as I have described, through the head of his former department and the head of the Home Civil Service.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, is it not true that the reason why there has been such an increase in the number of special advisers is that Ministers do not trust the advice they receive from the Civil Service? Furthermore, having reminded us of the increase in the number of special advisers now serving in Whitehall, will the noble and learned Lord tell the House what has been the increase in the total salary package since the period of office of the previous government?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the reply to the first question is a most emphatic No". The special advisers are in a position to assist Ministers to work in co-operation with the Civil Service. Both the Civil Service and the Government regard the present arrangements as very satisfactory and they work happily together. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord on the second question.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, a draft proposal has been put forward by the European Commission to convert the revised convention to a regulation which says that a consumer who sues a trader can have the case heard in a court of the country where he lives if the trader has used a website to reach consumers. That seems to go further than the revised convention, and my department is consulting industry and consumers on what position we should take on this new development.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am gratified that Her Majesty's Government have seized the problem. Will the Minister accept that, unless some change is made to the convention, the requirement to comply with the laws of a large number of European countries will place an unbearable burden in particular on small and medium-sized enterprises?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the issue here is that we have to balance giving confidence to the consumer with not burdening business with costs. Those issues are almost in contradiction, so we must get the balance right.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one reason why more goods are not sold on the Web Europe-wide is the restrictive practice of manufacturers of allowing their warranties and guarantees to operate only within the country where the goods are sold? Is that type of big problem being tackled by the European Union?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, that is an entirely different question. The issue of where warranties and guarantees apply is presumably related to where the goods are sold.
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