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Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord tell the House what would happen if a friend refused permission?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, exactly the same as would happen at the moment. Noble Lords well know that the obligation has been in place since 1995. That followed the Griffiths report, which was accepted by the House. However, as I said in response to the noble Lord who put the Question, the permission of the friend is not required. It is the duty of your Lordships to make the declaration in exactly the same way as if I were a major shareholder in a large company. I would not have to seek the permission of that company to make the disclosure.

Lord Renton: My Lords, bearing in mind that Clause 12 requires us to declare the interests of our relatives, can I ask the noble and learned Lord to bear in mind that I have never dared to ask those two daughters of mine, who make good incomes, how much they earn and that I have no intention of doing so?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, Section 12 does not require mandatory registration. It states in heavy bold type,


Plainly the incomes of the noble Lord's daughters are of great significance, but it is unlikely to be of relevance to the way in which the noble Lord would speak or vote. Indeed, perhaps I may attach an adjective to this; namely, the point put by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth: if you do not know, you do not have to say.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord could refer back to the guidance he gave on 2nd July to a point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner? When he has taken a good look at it, perhaps he would arrange an early opportunity to come back to the House to explain to noble Lords what on earth it meant.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, yes and yes.

Lord Acton: My Lords, I believe that my noble and learned friend is aware that I have rather a large number of relations, some of whom are Members of this House. For example, like myself, both the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, have Cecil blood flooding through our veins. I apologise for mentioning their names in their absence. Is it incumbent on me to declare, for example, the relevant interests of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne? Do I have to learn them off by heart? What is the system?

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we are always fortunate that we can choose our friends and not our relatives. The interests of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne--modest as they are--would already have been declared by him.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, has the noble and learned Lord had an opportunity to reconsider what he said in the debate on 2nd July? He said that this code of practice was a "light touch"? Is it not in fact a blunt instrument?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No, my Lords. It is intended to be, and is in fact, a light touch. A number of your Lordships said that they did not want an independent investigator such as they have at the other end of the Palace. We avoided that. Indeed, it will be recalled that the principle of mandatory declaration was the universal recommendation of the group which I had the honour to chair, on which sat two Conservative Peers nominated by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I repeat--not for the last time, I know--that the present situation obtains on the Griffiths recommendations in respect of declaration, which were put into effect in 1995. Those recommendations were endorsed by the House.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that I have absolutely no intention of writing down anything about the money of my friends, relations or whoever it may be? If that happens, will I be hauled off to the Tower or called in front of the Committee for Privileges?

Several noble Lords: Yes!

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, all I hope is that I will be treated with as much comfort in the Tower as some people were in previous times. Having said that, what is the penalty concerning the requirement to fill in a piece of paper which--I am very sorry--I believe to be an extraordinarily stupid instruction?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Earl must come to his own conclusion. He asked whether he should go to the Tower of London or be complained of here. I entirely agree with him that punishment before trial is probably appropriate for him. One sanction, as was said, is that there would be a naming and shaming. Your Lordships have alternative sanctions. We have the sanction, very rarely used, that it is moved that a noble Lord be no longer heard.

However, I would observe that we had a very full debate and the House voted by a majority to support the code of conduct.

A noble Lord: By a majority of three.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: To paraphrase, a majority of one is sufficient. Three is ample.

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Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Brisbane

3.13 p.m.

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they expect any change to be made at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to the core values and principles of the Commonwealth.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the Commonwealth's fundamental principles are set out in the Singapore Declaration of 1971 and in the Harare Declaration of 1991. The Commonwealth High Level Group, of which the UK is a member, will present to the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane a report containing recommendations on the future direction of the Commonwealth, including its fundamental principles.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that Answer. Is she aware that the core values and principles of the Commonwealth include democracy, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government, and fundamental human rights? Is not the reign of terror which has been conducted for the past two years in Zimbabwe a flagrant breach of those values and principles? If the situation in Zimbabwe is not resolved for the better before or at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Commonwealth will begin to fall into disrepute.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary all fall within the Harare Declaration. A number of my ministerial colleagues and I have made it absolutely clear that we want to see a stable Zimbabwe, with economic and political policies which will enable Zimbabwe to reach its potential. We have worked tirelessly with the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the European Union; we have shared with African leaders our concerns about some of what is happening in Zimbabwe. Indeed, the noble Lord may recall that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group agreed that a group of Ministers should go to Zimbabwe to find out exactly what was happening in that country.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that since the last election in Zimbabwe there has been, by any standards, an uninterrupted record of barbarity and breaches of the law in that country? Ministers know perfectly well what is happening yet no sanctions whatever have been taken against a government who are behaving against every tenet of acceptable conduct.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, this question has been raised several times in relation to Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth. I believe that noble Lords

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understand the position in relation to the Commonwealth, but perhaps I need to repeat it. Action against a country which flouts the principles of the Harare Declaration can be taken only in certain narrowly defined circumstances--mainly, the unconstitutional overthrow of the legitimate government. This does not apply to Zimbabwe.

The limitation of the Commonwealth mandate to unconstitutional overthrow is, in our view, too restrictive. We have made that absolutely clear. That is why we have supported an expansion of CMAG's role to cover a wider range of situations. The High Level Group has been looking at this issue and is due to report at Brisbane in October.

Lord Richard: My Lords, do the Government intend to raise the issue of what is going on in Zimbabwe specifically at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting? I am bound to tell my noble friend that her previous answer gave the impression that they do not.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the issue of Zimbabwe was raised at the last CMAG meeting. There is a proposal that a small group representing CMAG should go to Zimbabwe. There is an alternative proposal, which has been made by Nigeria and South Africa, that a wider group of Commonwealth Ministers should come together to discuss Zimbabwe. We are watching these developments with interest. We have not yet been able to make a decision on what our own role in that should be. We are awaiting clarification in relation to that. We have been involved with the European Union in terms of the critical dialogue with Zimbabwe. It is important for us to take this issue stage by stage. There will, of course, be a report from CMAG to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and we shall see what arises from that.


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