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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I apologise for interrupting the Minister so soon, but we have already heard a difference of view between the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms--the Chief Whip--and the Deputy Chairman, who explained to us that if Amendment No. 1 is disagreed to, no further votes can take place. What the Deputy Chairman said differed from the answer that was given to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, a few moments ago. I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm the situation.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My understanding of procedure is that which was outlined by my noble friend the Chief Whip. I thought that the procedure and the way in which Members of the Committee wish to proceed had been clarified during the debate that followed the Bill's Second Reading. I hope that we can proceed on those terms.

Viscount Astor: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but if Amendment No. 1, which would leave out Clause 1, is not agreed to, how can one call Amendment No. 2, which also states, "Leave out Clause 1", because there would at that stage be no Clause 1 to leave out?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I think that the answer is that Amendment No. 2 states, "Leave out Clause 1" as well. Amendment No. 2 also relates to the schedule, which is consequential. The three options will all be voted on. I am sure that Members of the Committee will have the opportunity, as they wish, to proceed in the way in which my noble friend the Chief Whip outlined.

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Perhaps I could now say a little more--

The Earl of Erroll: I understood the Deputy Chairman to state quite categorically that were we to disagree to Amendment No. 1, the other amendments could not be called. This needs to be clarified but not by a member of the Government Front Bench. I am sure that this is not procedurally correct. The procedure is being altered today anyway. We need an explanation from the Chair.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I have been advised by the authorities of the House that, as I said originally, if Amendment No. 1 is disagreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 2 to 6 by reason of pre-emption.

The Earl of Erroll: May I continue with this point, because I was the one who raised this matter? That totally differs from the opinion given by the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms.

Lord Lea of Crondall: The Committee should be guided by what the House decided exactly two weeks ago on this very question.

Lord Mishcon: Would it not be appropriate, for the dignity of the House, for us to adjourn for five minutes while the matter is clarified?

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Marsh: I ask a simple question. Whose authority prevails on this issue? We cannot proceed until we have an answer.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I energetically urge Members of the Committee to support the very sensible approach proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: It is clear that the Deputy Chairman's explanation, which was given in the presence of my noble friend the Chief Whip, is contrary to the advice given by the Chief Whip. All that the Deputy Chairman said was that the authorities had advised him. So far as I am concerned, one of those authorities must be the Chief Whip. The situation needs to be clarified. Denis, it is all yours!

Lord Carter: That last remark was certainly out of order. The advice that I gave the House earlier was given in good faith. The advice I received was that there would be three amendments and options, which were alternatives, and that there would be three votes. The first that I knew about this situation was when the Deputy Chairman advised the Committee that a decision on the first vote, which would be for us to accept a ban--I stress that--would mean that subsequent amendments and options were inconsistent. That was the first I had heard of that advice. The advice that I received previously was that there would be three clear votes and three alternatives.

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Without wishing in any way to pre-empt the Committee's discussion--Members of the Committee will have their own views on our chances of voting for a ban--it remains, on the advice that I heard a few moments ago, that if the Committee voted for a ban, it would not then be possible, and it would be inconsistent, to consider the other two clauses. In the circumstances in which the Committee is likely to find itself, I suggest that we proceed with our debate and to a vote on a ban. In view of the outcome of that vote, we could then decide on the best thing to do.

Earl Ferrers: The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, wisely suggested that as we are in a procedural muddle it would be easiest for the Committee to adjourn for five minutes in order for the position to be clarified. Everyone will then be content.

Lord Carter: I was outside the Chamber when the Motion was moved. I was not clear to which Motion my noble friend referred. But I am happy to accept the noble Earl's suggestion and move that the Committee should adjourn during pleasure for five minutes while we discuss the matter.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: If we were to adjourn for 10 minutes, the Statement could then follow immediately after the adjournment and the debate on the Committee stage could resume immediately after that. That may be more convenient.

Lord Carter: That is an extremely good idea. I beg to move that the House do now resume and, in moving the Motion, I suggest that the House does not take the Statement until 3.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

[The Sitting was suspended during pleasure from 3.20 p.m. to 3.35 p.m.]

European Council, Stockholm

3.35 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

    "With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about the Special European Council held in Stockholm from 22nd to 24th March.

    "At Stockholm there was from all our partners sympathy over the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain and support for the measures we are taking to contain and eradicate the disease. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be making a Statement to the House tomorrow on the latest developments.

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    "The purpose of the council was to take forward the process of economic reform launched at Lisbon last year. This involved setting performance targets for the first time, benchmarking both between the nations of the EU and in respect of our main competitors outside Europe; and a massive programme of liberalisation in opening up our markets.

    "As American growth slows, this policy is even more vital for growth and jobs in the future. Since March last year, 2.5 million new jobs have been created in the European Union. In the United Kingdom we have created over 1 million new jobs since 1997.

    "The European Union spending on information and communications technology as a proportion of GDP has outstripped the United States for the first time. The proportion of homes with access to the Internet has doubled to 28 per cent. The figure for the United Kingdom is 41 per cent. But we must go further. Prior to the summit, we had agreed already rules for electronic commerce, which mean that a company registered in its home state can operate on the basis of those rules everywhere in the European Union. Rules allowing businesses to operate as a European company were agreed after years of negotiation. A programme has been agreed for the liberalisation of rail freight. We have now taken the final steps in telecoms liberalisation in a way which will bring full consumer choice, cheaper bills and cheaper Internet access.

    "At Stockholm we further agreed to liberalise financial services and to stress openness, transparency and consultation with markets and their users. Consumers will benefit from cheaper financial services and businesses will be able to raise capital to start up and grow their own firms across Europe. The City and the CBI have welcomed this breakthrough as good for jobs in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union.

    "We have made a commitment to open up the electricity and gas markets across the European Union. Most member states support the commission's proposed timetable of full energy liberalisation by 2005, with intermediate targets for commercial liberalisation of electricity by 2003, and 2004 for gas. That proposal goes forward. There is widespread support for it in the Council, and crucially it can be agreed by qualified majority vote. So, while I regret that France's difficulties in particular mean that we could not go further at Stockholm, the prospects for agreement at European level are good. Our aim is for the Council of Ministers to reach agreement before the end of the year.

    "We agreed to reform competition policy and eliminate unfair state aids. For example, we expect British consumers will benefit from the changes to the so-called car block exemption in 18 months' time where our aim will be to secure a fall in UK car prices.

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    "We agreed to finalise this year's plan to deliver a Europe-wide patent. At present it can take nearly four years for a patent to be agreed right across the European Union, twice the time it takes in the USA and at five times the cost.

    "Hopefully, we seek to agree in June the single European sky. This is a way of improving air traffic management in Europe, which will improve safety and reduce delays. A 25 per cent reduction in delays would save Europe's air transport industry and the public 2 billion euros a year.

    "In addition, the council took further steps on employment, especially for women and the over-fifties; on vocational skills; and on new technologies including third generation mobile communications and biotechnology.

    "On trade, we renewed our commitment to work towards a new world trade round later this year, an issue we will be pursuing when President Bush meets EU heads of government in Sweden in June.

    "Taken together, these changes are further steps along the way to an efficient and competitive economy.

    "President Putin of Russia met members of the European Council in Stockholm and I had a good separate bilateral meeting with him. Discussion focused on economic issues. We expressed our support for continued Russian economic reform and for Russia's bid to join the WTO. We also underlined the importance of further steps by Russia to improve the investment climate.

    "President Trajkovski of Macedonia joined us in Stockholm at a critical moment for his country. We offered him our support and condemned the activity of armed Albanian extremists. Macedonia has started to build a multi-ethnic society and it is in all our interests that the country succeeds and does not polarise into separate Slav and Albanian communities.

    "The United Kingdom has acted quickly to help to shore up democracy and peace in Macedonia. In Kosovo, NATO has diverted an extra 500 KFOR personnel to the Kosovo/Macedonia border and I can announce today two new steps. First, we are creating a new UK/Scandinavian battle group of some 400 troops from within our existing contingents for deployment by the KFOR commander to help to secure part of the Kosovo/Macedonian border. Secondly, to reinforce KFOR's capacity to control Kosovo's borders, we are sending out a unit of Phoenix unmanned aerial vehicles, with its 120-strong support team, to provide extra aerial reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering assets to KFOR. The unit will be operational next month.

    "The EU also reaffirmed strongly our joint commitment to the Nice Treaty and its ratification. Failure to ratify would put at risk the entire enlargement process. While we must, of course, go further in pursuing the policies of economic reform, the fact that this is now the clear economic focus of the EU is itself a huge advance. The agenda for it is

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    being led by the UK. Once again, it shows the advantages of constructive engagement and the folly of a policy of isolation.

    "That is the approach which we took in Stockholm. It is a policy which is delivering economic reform in Europe and jobs for this country. It is the policy I propose to pursue with the support of this House and the country".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.42 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, perhaps I may first express to the noble Baroness my deep shock when a couple of hours ago I heard of the sad death of Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe. He played an important role in this House and in another place. I expect that I speak for the whole House when I say that he will be greatly missed.

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