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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. I recognise, as I am sure do many noble Lords, that there are practical reasons—so called "realpolitik"—for encouraging the positive elements in Iran and developing links with an important country as regards the Middle East crisis and the Gulf crisis. However, is the noble Baroness aware that there have been 292 public executions this year alone, endless instances of stoning to death, eye gouging, amputations and other horrific barbarities? Will she therefore ensure that no opportunity is lost in the future, whether through her visits or those of the Foreign Secretary or other Ministers, to tell Iran that those are intolerable practices which are completely incompatible with a serious and civilised role for Iran in global affairs?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is not just a question of realpolitik. The United Kingdom Government recognise the efforts of the Iranian Government and Parliament towards improving the human rights situation in Iran. We believe that those efforts have been genuine. However, as the noble Lord pointed out—and we also very much regret this—not least because of the political stand-off between the reformists and their conservative opponents, including, of course, the opponents in the judiciary, there has recently been a deterioration in the human rights situation. The figures that I have are deplorable. I refer to the number of people under sentence of death and those who have been subjected to public execution. However, they are not as dramatic as the figures which the noble Lord indicated. I should be happy to talk to the noble Lord about the figures that I have. It is important that we place some of the NCRI material in the right context. Some of it is exaggerated and is not borne out by reports from those on the ground.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, is critical engagement still the basis of the Government's approach to Iran? We are all conscious that there are many different elements within the current Iranian regime, some a great deal more reactionary than others, while others are trying to bring Iran into a much more open relationship with the rest of the world. Is critical engagement the way forward?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we hope that the EU/Iran human rights dialogue will go ahead. There are no preconditions on either side. There may, indeed, be a United Nations resolution to follow. It is important to recognise that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has on three occasions visited the country in the past year. On all occasions he raised human rights issues. The special rapporteur on violence against women of the UN Commission on Human Rights is due to visit Iran soon which we welcome. We also welcome the invitation by the Iranian Government to the EU and Australia to establish a dialogue on human rights. These are not solutions in themselves but they are indications of a willingness to engage on the issue.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, I remind the House that I chair a committee on freedom in Iran. Has the Minister seen reports in the state-controlled press in Tehran that 20 public hangings and death sentences were passed in a recent three-day period? Although I welcome what the noble Baroness said about the Government's serious concern about the human rights situation in Iran, will she make clear what position the United Kingdom is taking today in discussions among EU foreign ministers about the tabling of a resolution for the UN General Assembly condemning the worsening abuse of human rights in that country?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we have indeed noted a high number of death sentences in recent days. As my noble friend knows, we do not ever support the death penalty. However, I point out that the individuals concerned have almost without exception been found guilty of serious crimes such as murder or rape. I do not believe that we have evidence of quite the high number that my noble friend suggests. I have evidence before me of about 15 such sentences. I accept that they are deplorable but I do not have the same figure as my noble friend.

My right honourable friend will engage with our colleagues in Europe as regards a UN resolution. The Foreign Secretary favours launching an Iran/EU human rights dialogue but at the moment there is some hesitation over sponsoring a resolution at this autumn's General Assembly.

Lord Russell-Johnston: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in her initial response to the noble Lord who tabled the Question she referred to the National Council of Resistance of Iran as a terrorist

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organisation and apparently produced as justification for that the fact that it is proscribed in this country? Does she agree that that proscription is contested?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord may possibly have misheard me. I said that the National Council of Resistance of Iran undertakes fundraising and propaganda activities on behalf of the Mojahedin-e Khalq—the MeK—and that the MeK is a terrorist organisation proscribed in the UK. We believe that it is proscribed for very good reasons: it publicly acknowledges its responsibility for terrorist actions against government buildings in Iran and carried out a series of mortar bomb attacks in central Tehran in 2000, which resulted in death and injury. It is not the NCRI but the MeK that is proscribed.


3 p.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, at a convenient time after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement being made in the other place on Bali.

While I am on my feet, I also say that although I am aware of the conventions governing formal tributes, many noble Lords will have heard the sad news of the death of a splendid Member of this House, Lady Serota. She gave tremendous service to this House for more than 30 years, not least when she chaired the Select Committee on the European Communities. I know that I speak for everyone here when I express my most sincere condolences to all her family.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Enterprise Bill

3.1 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Sainsbury of Turville, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be now further considered on Report.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 204 [Reform of Community competition law]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 168 and 169:

    Page 152, line 1, at beginning insert—

"( ) confer power to make subordinate legislation;" Page 152, line 8, at end insert—

"(8) Paragraph 1(1)(c) of Schedule 2 to the European Communities Act 1972 (c. 68) (restriction on powers to legislate) shall not apply to regulations which implement or give effect to a relevant Community instrument made after the passing of this Act."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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Clause 205 [Consumers]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 169A:

    Page 152, line 40, at end insert—

"( ) A consumer is also a person (whether an individual or not) who receives or seeks to receive goods or services from another person who supplies the goods to services in the course of a business carried on by him and—
(a) the goods or services are to be used in the course of the business of the person receiving or seeking to receive the goods, but
(b) the goods or services will not be supplied to another person in the course of the business of the person receiving or seeking to receive the goods."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a late amendment, for which we apologise to the Minister. The issue was drawn to our attention by Trading Standards North West, which I believe is a group that represents trading standards officers. The purpose of the amendment is to give the same protection to small businesses that consumers will be given under the Bill. It would cover sole traders, partnerships and limited companies, all of which have been the target of traders seeking to make money by unattractive commercial tactics.

While we recognise that it can be argued that limited companies should be able to look after their own affairs, the truth is that many of them are small businesses in which the directors are also the only employees and often members of the same family. Even when the company is large, rogues specifically target them hoping that inertia and bad communications will work to their advantage. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I declare an interest because this amendment comes, as the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said, from a group of trading standards officers in the North West, Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and so on, and I am the vice-president of the Trading Standards Institute.

When a business buys goods to resell, it is clear that the person buys them not as a consumer but as a business to sell on. It is therefore fair enough that the consumer protection provisions of the Bill that will be enforced by trading standards officers should not apply to such business-to-business situations. However, when a business buys goods not to resell but to use within the business, the business is behaving in many ways like an ordinary individual consumer. The theory may be—the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, raised this when he discussed the reasons why a business should not normally be given consumer protection—that a business is always able to look after itself and its interests. In relation to goods that it does not buy to sell, it may be no more knowledgeable and no more expert about goods or services in order to protect itself than an individual.

In a letter to me, Trading Standards North West cited the case of a printer supplying headed writing paper to an ordinary individual consumer. In that example, the work was poorly done, frequently badly done and full of mistakes. That is covered by the Bill as a practice that trading standards officers could "go

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for". However, if the printer switched to supplying businesses, he would be outside the sanctions of the Bill. I shall not bore noble Lords with other examples cited by the group; they are examples of businesses supplying to other businesses goods and services that are not fit for the purpose or shoddy.

If the amendment is agreed to—noble Lords will understand that I feel that there is much merit in it—it would not be wholly without precedent. The Unfair Contract Terms Act applies when, for example, a firm buys cars for its staff—I refer to a firm that is not itself in the business of cars and does not know any more about cars than anyone else. Why not make the enforcement powers in the Bill available when businesses buy goods or services other than for resale? There is much merit in the amendment.

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