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Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House how the cost of the publication Voices compares with other parliamentary publications?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as I said earlier, the cost per copy of Voices is 51p. The average cost of the last 12 publications that I have been able to secure from the Central Office of Information has been
Baroness Young: My Lords, does the noble Baroness the Leader of the House recognise that the point raised by my noble friend Lord Goschen is extremely serious? Does she agree that a distinction must be made between proper material from a government department and material that is clearly party political propaganda? Does she further recognise that the covering letter that was sent out with Voices makes it clear that this is what women can expect from the present Government, whereas anyone who has read the magazine will know that a great deal of the information and material contained in it applied just as much under a Conservative government as under the present administration? The distinction has been blurred.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as I made clear in my initial reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, this exercise is a continuation of a process that was initiated under the previous administration. It is precisely because the previous government decided to sign up to the Beijing Platform for Action on women's issues that the annual report is being published by the Government. The fact is that this Government have chosen to publish it in a form that we have found to be readily accessible to women. I do not say that in any kind of patronising way; all the evidence shows that both men and women find the publication of information in a format such as that adopted in Voices far more accessible than is the case for broadsheets or other more conventional government publications. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was kind enough to say, we should be congratulated on achieving that.
Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, is it not a fact that there is a lacuna in the general flow of information from government to the public, whichever party may be in power? That is often reflected in the low take-up of many benefits. Is it not therefore important that initiatives such as Voices should be taken to ensure that women can find out about their rights and know what facilities are available to them?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. She, too, has put her finger on an extremely important point. Voices has strived to be as informative as possible. The last three pages of the publication are devoted entirely to a guide containing names, numbers, addresses and websites to contact for advice and information on the issues that matter most to women. Those range from healthcare to the kind of benefits to which my noble friend has just referred.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, because men tend to live for a slightly shorter time than women, does the noble Baroness not agree that there
As one who actually has read the magazine Voices, I have to say to the noble Baroness that, judging by the pictures of herself and Tessa Jowell which are so well distributed throughout the publication, it did somewhat strike me as an organ that details what Labour has done for women. Does the noble Baroness really think that that is a proper use of public funds?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the magazine states clearly and firmly on the front cover that it is the Government's guide to opportunities. The fact that that refers to a Labour Government may not be something that the noble Lord finds palatable. However, that is the situation and I suspect that it will remain so. Furthermore, as I stated earlier, the front page of the publication makes it clear that it relates to our commitments under the Beijing process. So far as concerns the Conservative Party, perhaps they should publish a magazine called "Boys' Own".
Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government's policy on membership of the single currency remains as set out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in October 1997 and restated by the Prime Minister in February 1999.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, in the light of the Prime Minister's U-turn and the increasingly unlikely chance of early UK entry into the euro, does the Minister agree that further expenditure on the changeover plan is a waste of taxpayers' money?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Prime Minister's comments to journalists last week are entirely consistent with my Answer and with the Government's position. We have always said that to take a decision before the election would not be realistic and that we would therefore not recommend it to Parliament or to the people. In the remote possibility that someone else presented it to the people, it is hardly inconsistent that the Prime Minister would say, "No". That is entirely consistent.
It has been made clear from the beginning that expenditure on the changeover plan is posited on the fact that the euro will be adopted in at least 11 countries and that we have to be prepared for it. We need a changeover plan to deal with both our trading
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, recognising my noble friend's deep and abiding affection for the euro, but recalling and recognising the demands for collective ministerial responsibility, would it be unfair to ask him whether, if he were asked today how he would vote in a referendum on the euro, he, like the Prime Minister, would say "No"?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my position is the position of Her Majesty's Government. I do not know why so many noble Lords are determined to get me to say something different when they know very well that I will not do so. If I say the same thing often enough perhaps at some stage someone will start to believe it. If not, I shall cut a disc in time for it to get into the top 10 for the Christmas season.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, however irrational we may be on either side of the argument, the plain fact is that 11 member states have agreed to use the euro and in just over a year it will be their currency? Does he also agree that my noble friend the Prime Minister would not say "No" to voting about the euro tomorrow?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am always warned about my noble friend Lord Barnett; he asks tricky questions. The answer is that the Prime Minister said "today" and not "tomorrow".
Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that most companies which trade internationally are perfectly capable of switching from one currency to another currency? Some 75 per cent of British companies have no business overseas anyway.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, all I can say is that those companies which do trade with Europe have welcomed the national changeover plan. There has been a very good take up of the material available and industry bodies, both individually and collectively, have welcomed it.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the Minister think it was good value that a health authority as small as Buckinghamshire was faced with expenditure of £1.5 million this year on preparing for the euro? Is that good value for money in the National Health Service?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, is the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, saying that the Buckinghamshire health authority spent £1.5 million on preparing for the euro? I should be glad to have further evidence of that. My information is that the public sector is making small, targeted investments as part of the modernisation of public services in order that we can make a smooth and cost-effective transition. If the
Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that if we are to avoid further major losses in manufacturing--such as we saw yesterday in South Wales--we need a clearer statement of policy from the Government in regard to the timing of entry into the euro, rather than contradictory statements by the Prime Minister which seem to be based on the findings of his latest focus group?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, business needs consistency in policy and consistency in achievement. This has been confirmed by the success of our economic policy over the past three-and-a-half years. Neither the business community nor anyone else would thank us for veering from one side to the other on any of these issues. There is nothing inconsistent between what the Prime Minister said and the Government's policy since 1997.
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