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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree with almost every word the noble Lord said. His remarks reflect debates in your Lordships' House on this difficult issue on which many different points of view have been brought to bear. Objective international judgments as to what is a terrorist in the first place are, of course, enormously difficult to arrive at, as we have discussed. I have sat round tables in the past few months and have heard the Provisional IRA described as freedom fighters. Others around those tables made remarks that were equally difficult for people from other countries to defend.
The issue is how to get some sort of international consensus about what can be done practically. We are addressing that through the fora to which I referred. When an act of terrorism is perpetrated, there should be a proper international response.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a safeguard in Article 51? A state that crosses an international frontier in the exercise of self-defence must notify the Security Council, and, if it is doing its job properly, the Security Council ought to debate such notifications. If a state crosses an international frontier without complying with that obligation, the Security Council should take note of that and censure the state concerned.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is entirely right. I remind the noble Lord that UK participation in, for example, the military action in Afghanistan accords with international law. The action was taken in self-defence, to prevent further terrorist attacks, and we did, indeed, notify the president of the Security Council.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it is, perhaps, time to revisit Article 2 sub-paragraph 7 of the UN Charter, as we have gone a long way beyond the old idea of state sovereignty in this and many other matters. Will Her Majesty's Government introduce a broader debate within the UN about how far all statesincluding the most powerfulmust accept that state sovereignty is no longer something to which they can cling in order to exclude external criticism and intervention in domestic matters?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the problem with the noble Lord's thesis is how we get some sort of consensus in the abstract on the issues. That is why we have supported the more pragmatic approach of the UN counter-terrorism committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Jeremy Greenstock. It seeks to respond to all member states by giving a critique of the domestic policies of those states. That is the practical approach. So far, over 50 letters have been sent, and Sir Jeremy's committee plays an invaluable role in driving forward the international implementation of UNSCR 1373. That is the sensible,
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, public services are, self-evidently, a high priority for the Government. Generally, we expect staff numbers to increase over the next five years, in support of increasing levels of public service provision. Between 1997 and 2000, the number of public sector jobs increased by 140,000.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Following the recent closing of post offices throughout the country, can he confirm that between 2,000 and 3,000 urban post offices are also to be closed in the next two years? Are the Government preparing the way for employees to find work elsewhere?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the closure of post offices has proceeded over a considerable number of years, not only under one administration. But I agree that it is a fact that Consignia has plans to close a large number of urban post offices. Clearly, the jobs of those who work in such post offices, whether they are themselves sub-postmasters or employees, is very much a concern of the management of Consignia, which has responsibility for these matters.
Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, over the past 20 years, the public service has been bedevilled by the constant belief by successive governments that services somehow can be provided more efficiently or of a higher quality in the private sector? Is it not time for the Government to declare their belief in the public service ethos and to provide the resources and training that will give us a public service and the public servants whom we can be proud of and who can be proud of their jobs?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it has been time to do that for the past five years and the Government have been doing it for the past five years. We have never subscribed to the view that the public sector is bad and the private sector is good. We have always taken the view that the quality of life in and, indeed, the economy of this country depend on an effective and flourishing public sector. In addition to that general recognition, we are very much taking the steps to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred. We have been carrying out a cross-cutting review of the public sector labour market with the specific aim of ensuring that we strike a proper balance between supply and demand.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the noble Lord gave the figure of 140,000 as the increase over the past five years. Does he anticipate that the future increase in public sector employment will be of the same order, smaller or larger than the figure he gave for the past five years?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the figure I gave was for three years rather than five years. Yes, we expect that there will be further increases. If we consider that the figure of 140,000 includes, for example, an additional 12,000 teachers, an additional 24,000 full-time equivalent support staff in our schools, an additional 20,000 nurses and midwives, and an additional 7,000 doctors, and then look at staffing levels in our health and education servicesto take only two examplesit can be seen that there is scope for further increases.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the considerable emphasis now being placed on public/private partnerships will involve the transfer of many people from public sector employment into the private sector? If so, will those workers' rights be protected?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, PPPs could well involve transfers from the public to the private sector. However, the original Question addressed the matter of redundancies in the public sector, which would not arise in the case of a transfer. I can confirm that the transfer of undertakings regulations do provide protection to those who are transferred.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, perhaps I may return to the original response given by the Minister to my noble friend with regard to post offices. The Minister knows that there is great concern among those who use post offices, not least among those who collect their benefits and pension payments from post offices. If such post offices are to be fewer in number, so that the cost of having to go and collect benefits and pensions rises, will any other provision be made to help people in those circumstances?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, other provisions are being made to help people in those circumstances, such as the extension of banking services and the plans for a universal bank, as well as facilities to have benefits payments paid directly into an account, including a universal bank account. These are very much designed to help people who find it difficult to get to a post office now, let alone after any reduction in the network.
Baroness Sharples: My Lords, the noble Lord referred to large numbers of new nurses and teachers. How do those figures compare with the number of people in fact leaving the teaching and nursing professions?