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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can the Minister indicate, first, how many interim settlements have been made, if any? Secondly, is my noble friend aware that more than two years ago when I held the post of Minister of State in his department this Question was put to me and I had every belief that the matter would be settled by now? Why has there been no settlement of the remaining cases?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, as I indicated in my initial answer, 608 final payments and a further 5,300 interim payments have been made. It has taken so much longer than originally anticipated because to comply with the High Court judgment a great deal of paperwork and medical assessment have been involved. We are proceeding as fast as we can. The only justification for the length of time it is taking is that it would have taken more than 15 years to reach a settlement on an individual litigated basis.
Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, is right. He was the Minister who answered a Question from me two years ago. The House is aware that the problem extends beyond the boundaries of Wales. The main problem now is that miners, and indeed their widows, are dying. Are there any plans for compensation for the families of miners or their wives who unfortunately have passed away in the period of nearly three years since the High Court judgment?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I and the Minister involved are acutely aware that the majority of the claimants are people in their 70s and 80s. Many of them are very ill and some have died. That is a particularly unfortunate factor in the whole situation. Even since I answered a Question on this matter in the House of Lords in May, a further 365 claims have been submitted where the claimant has died. In all these cases the claims will be continued by the claimant's widow or dependants. In addition, where the claimant's death certificate shows that one of the respiratory diseases for which British Coal was found liable either caused or materially contributed to the death, the department will make a bereavement award to the claimant's widow.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, in September 1998, Bristol local education authority published proposals to remove selection from Cotham Grammar School and Fairfield Grammar School. The proposals were supported by governors, teachers and parents at the school and there were no objections. The schools
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Why, after the Labour Party's many years of campaigning to introduce comprehensive secondary education, and with such an impregnable majority as the Labour Government have, is such slow progress being made? Is she aware that the balloting regulations, to which she has just referred, laid down by the Government, make it virtually impossible for parents to vote for a change to a comprehensive system? In those circumstances, will the Government examine what has happened in, for example, Ripon, Trafford and Kent to see what changes can be made to make the procedures more effective than they are at the moment?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, my noble friend may remember that at the 1995 Labour Party conference the Labour Party argued the case in Support for Diversity and Excellence, a Labour Party policy paper, that decisions on the future of grammar schools should be a matter for parental ballot. That commitment was repeated in our manifesto. On the issue of ballot regulations, some minor technical changes have recently been made as a result of a commitment made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place. The Government do not intend to make further changes. They consider that the balloting arrangements are now appropriate.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government have always considered that it is right to give educational opportunities to all children and not to designate them as educational failures at the age of 11. It is rather interesting that, under the previous Conservative government, one-third of grammar schools became non-selective between 1979 and 1997. If the noble Baroness is so committed to their survival, I wonder why she allowed that to happen.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, bearing in mind Mr Blunkett's comment in July 2000 that grammar schools would be redundant in little more than a decade, what kind of redundancy is that likely to be: compulsory or voluntary? Otherwise, how is that likely to happen?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, by that comment I think my right honourable friend meant that, as a result of the Government's policy to raise standards, comprehensive schools will be so improved that parents will not wish to go through the selective process. In that sense grammar schools will be redundant.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am very surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, is not aware of the fact-- because he has some expertise in these areas--that children who go to grammar schools are selected by ability. So is it really surprising that they get higher grades at A-level? It is puzzling that he should ask that question. But it is also the case that able pupils in comprehensive schools do equally as well as those in grammar schools at A-level and earlier.
The purpose of these amendments is to replace the English and Welsh legal aid provisions in the judicial Standing Orders with words appropriate to the new arrangements under the Access to Justice Act 1999. These are purely technical amendments.
A remarkable democratic transformation is under way in Serbia. For 13 years Slobodan Milosevic dominated that country. He led its people into poverty and international isolation. In July he changed the federal constitution. He gambled that he would be able, once again, to count on the divisions among the opposition on propaganda and on intimidation to stay in power for many more years.
He was wrong. Almost all the opposition united behind a single candidate, Vojislav Kostunica. They presented the voters with a clear choice--co-operation with Europe or four more years of pariah status under Milosevic. They gave people hope that this time their votes could really count. On the day of voting they managed to expose Milosevic's cheating, and publicise quickly the scale of his defeat.
By manipulating the figures Milosevic tried to cling on. But the people of Serbia had had enough. They took to the streets in unprecedented numbers. They faced down the police, many of whom changed sides. They took their future in their own hands. They put their trust in their new leader, President Kostunica. We congratulate him and all his colleagues on their tremendous success.
We worked closely with members of the opposition, NGOs and the independent media in Serbia over the past year. We and our partners provided them with a wide range of practical support, including training, funding for election monitors and key items of equipment. Now we can work with them, and with their neighbours, to help build a stable and prosperous future for the FRY and the region. As a demonstration of our commitment to assist the new authorities in Belgrade, the EU's General Affairs Council yesterday agreed a package of measures. Except for a few controls targeted specifically at Milosevic and his close associates, EU sanctions imposed since 1998 are being lifted. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will be able to benefit from the EU's new aid programme, CARDS, once this has been established, and from extended humanitarian aid programmes. Finance Ministers will work with the international financial institutions to consider how the FRY can be reintegrated as quickly as possible into the international financial community.
The Council invited the FRY to establish an EU-FRY task force to look at how the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia might progress towards a stabilisation and association agreement, and invited the Commission to submit proposals on the extension to the FRY of the asymmetric trade preferences adopted by the 18th September GAC. The Council also asked the co-ordinator of the stability pact to present proposals to make it possible for the FRY to participate fully in that initiative too. Member states agreed they would all aim to re-establish or normalise their diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. For our part, we have already made clear to President Kostunica our interest in doing so as soon as possible.
Alongside our efforts with our EU partners, we will continue to work closely with the government of the United States on all issues relating to the Balkans. We greatly value Washington's role and commitment over many years to helping to resolve the problems of the Balkan region. We share a common objective--making the whole region an area of peace and stability, a full part of Europe in every sense. We will want to work closely with Russia, bilaterally and in the contact group.
We are still at the beginning of a process. Milosevic's rule has left a bitter legacy. The new authorities in Belgrade must now reach out to their neighbours, to start to rebuild trust. They must establish diplomatic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and support the Dayton peace agreement. They must settle important succession issues with the other former Yugoslavia states as part of the normal process of joining the United Nations
The new authorities must also accept their international obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. We made clear earlier this year that we had similar expectations of the new government in Zagreb. To their credit, they have complied, despite political opposition. We must ask no less of the new authorities in Belgrade.
The past few days have marked a historic turning point for south-eastern Europe. The citizens of Serbia have begun to dismantle the criminal regime of Milosevic, and in return, as we promised we would, we have begun to dismantle the sanctions regime which affected their country. More than that, we have already embarked on a new road of regional and international co-operation. Her Majesty's Government are ready to work with the authorities in Belgrade to help them take forward economic and political reform. We welcome the Serbian people's choice of a genuine democrat and European as their leader, and we will move forward together towards their goal of full integration into Europe.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the noble Baroness's comprehensive Statement on the situation in Serbia and the Balkans. I want to make it clear straightaway that we share the Government's welcome for the fall of the dictator Milosevic, if it is his final fall, and for the lifting, or partial lifting, of sanctions by the Council of Ministers of the European Union. As the noble Baroness indicated, this is the culmination of a prolonged period of struggle which began way back with Slovenian independence and was followed by the Croatian battles, the hideous atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo and, now, the final protest from within Serbia against this monstrous man who has led the Serbian people through all this misery and bloodshed.
The task now is to anchor Serbia into modern Europe. Does the noble Baroness agree that at this stage the emphasis should be very much on practical help, some of which she has outlined, and that we would be wrong to rush in or shower the Serbians with money or with lectures on how to behave? If we did that, we would be making exactly the same mistake as was made in the case of Russia. A lot of half-baked economic advice was peddled to the Russians combined with an avalanche of cash to no good purpose at all. Can we please ensure that we avoid making that mistake?
As to the European Union, this is a delicate task where we have to proceed with great caution. Would it not be wise for the Council of Ministers to assemble a new group to establish dialogue with Serbia in these early days in order to see which way it is prepared to move? Does she agree that Mr Solana's mission to Belgrade--he has done excellent work but he is bound to be a little compromised in view of his forward role in the bombing--is probably not the best grouping? Very few of us have much faith left in the European Commission's capacity to conduct foreign policy sensitively.
Does the Minister agree that the key needs now are that the people of Serbia get a free press and the free communication that the network age can bring, that the history of the past decade, in all its monstrosity, should be opened wide to the people of Serbia--their ignorance of what has been done in their name is enormous--and that in due course the war criminals, including Milosevic, should answer for their crimes, although perhaps that should be a little later down the line? Does she further agree that integrating Serbia in global financial reform is both important and difficult and raises vast complexities for the global financial system. It is not just a question of joining the EU but joining the global network.
Finally, will the noble Baroness bear in mind--I am sure that she will be reminding her colleagues--that this is a regional issue? Countries other than Serbia have suffered grievously as a result of Serbian expansionism and they, too, need help. Support and help should be aimed not only at Serbia, as it tries to bring forward its own political regeneration, but at all the other countries around that have suffered so grievously. What are the Government doing to make those aims a priority in the European Council of Ministers, as that is where the immediate task surely lies?
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, perhaps I may join the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in congratulating the Minister on her Statement. However, I shall depart a little from the tone of his questions. I should say, first, that we on these Benches echo the congratulations of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others on the extraordinary courage shown by the Serbian people. It is worth remembering that many of them had no idea of the consequences that might follow their actions. This is a moment for celebration throughout the whole of Europe at what has been a remarkable expression of "people power".
Thirdly, I offer my congratulations, which I believe are appropriate, to Russia on its helpful role, after some early differences of opinion, in bringing about the decision made by Mr Milosevic finally to leave his post, albeit that he still hopes to hang on within the political scene.
I believe that the response of the European Union has been amazingly rapid. The General Affairs Council and the Commission deserve our unreserved congratulations on the line they have taken. I wish that other countries had acted with equal speed. In some cases--the United States comes to mind--they are still delaying a response. I am sure that that response will soon be forthcoming, even if not as speedy or generous as that of the European Union.
Having made those remarks, perhaps I may put two direct questions to the Minister. First, in the course of the Statement the Minister mentioned the Balkan stability pact and CARDS, the proposal for particular aid to be directed to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the case of the stability pact, which seems to us an extremely constructive approach to the rebuilding of the former republic, can she tell the House whether representatives of Montenegro in particular could be involved in discussions about the pact? In many ways, the adoption of an economic approach to the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro may prove less contentious and more rewarding than immediately to try to address the constitutional issues. The same could be said, I believe--using a slightly different tone of voice--with regard to Kosovo.
Can the Minister also say whether immediate action will be taken to unblock the river Danube and to ensure that oil supplies reach Serbia? As Members of the House will recognise, nothing can equal an immediate indication of the appreciation of Europe for what has been done by the Serb people to consolidate them in their view that democracy is a very good idea.
My second question concerns the continuation of the limited sanctions with regard to the financial holdings of the former regime. Many on these Benches feel that this may be one of the more constructive ways to attempt to deal with what one might describe as "rogue governments", albeit not rogue states. More specifically, can the Minister comment on the statement made by Carla del Ponti, the chief prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, as regards the 100 so-called Swiss funds which, she has claimed, could be recipients of illegal funds leaving the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to be used by Milosevic and his cronies? In relation to that, can she further comment on the £30 million said to have been transferred either to Russia or to China
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I warmly welcome the comments and congratulations offered by both the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I reiterate the words of the noble Baroness when she spoke of the extraordinary courage demonstrated by the Serbian people. Indeed, I agree with the comment she made to the effect that, had we not been robust in our intervention in Yugoslavia, these events would not have taken place.
Perhaps I may turn immediately to some of the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. We agree that the emphasis should be laid on practical help and assistance. We are not rushing in. The assistance we have offered has been clearly focused. However, I respectfully suggest that the EU was right to move swiftly. The Serbian people had been told that the sanctions were directed towards the regime, not towards them. As the noble Baroness rightly pointed out, the people took their courage in both hands. They deserve to have that courage recognised. For that reason, we say that it was right and proper that the EU moved so swiftly in relation to the sanctions. We have joined in those developments. Indeed, it is good to see the nations of Europe acting together to the benefit of another partner in Europe.
As regards financial reform, of course such reform is necessary. When we move forward to the stability pact, it is right that the financial institutions and the way in which they operate will be matters of concern. In relation to regional issues, this change in Serbia will confer immediate benefits on the countries around Serbia. They, too, will feel the immediate and positive results affecting the whole of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Her partners will now feel a good deal more comfortable than they did while Mr Milosevic was in control.
Montenegro has already benefited. We know that her president, President Djukanovic--who had organised a boycott of the elections, which he considered to be illegitimate--has warmly welcomed the victory. It is now up to the governments in Belgrade and Podgorica to settle the details of their future relationship. This they are now trying to do.
The United Kingdom has supported the proposal of the European Commission to offer 20 million euros of exceptional financial assistance to Montenegro. This is now being considered by the European Parliament. The total amount made available to Montenegro by the EU since April 1998 is 82.7 million euros. Chris Patten recently announced that the amount allocated to Montenegro under the EU's OBNOVA Project
As regards the river Danube, the House will know that much of the difficulty was caused by Milosevic himself being obstructive about this matter. We had provided 85 per cent of the money in relation to the restructuring project. We hope that that can now go ahead with greater speed, to the betterment of the position of the peoples of Yugoslavia.
Certain sanctions still remain in place in relation to the Milosevic regime. We have consulted with the new president and his new government to consider how those sanctions should best continue. Sanctions will continue, it is hoped, to limit the movements of Milosevic and his cohort as well as to prevent the movement of their funds. We think that a balance has been struck here. In many ways we have relieved the peoples of Yugoslavia from the sanctions which impinged on them, but we have left in place those which, it is hoped, will inure to the disadvantage of Milosevic and his cohort.
Lord Roper: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, apart from the help being provided by the European Union in relation to the new administration in Belgrade, the United Kingdom should consider what it can do to help on a bilateral level? I am thinking in particular of help in developing a post-communist public administration.
Does the Minister also agree that the words she spoke as regards the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia becoming a part of Europe in every sense means that the people in Belgrade can now look forward to eventual membership of the European Union?
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