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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Alas, my Lords, I have not yet been invited to a Cabinet meeting. I am reliably informed by my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House that smoking does not take place there.

NHS Beds

3.7 p.m.

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the definition of a "bed" is published in the NHS Information Authority data dictionary. The definition is used to aid statistical returns. No recent change has been made in the definition.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he confirm that, in NHS-speak, a "bed" can be a trolley or even a chair? On 20th November 2002, he said that,

Was he referring to extra beds or to trolleys and chairs?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the definition of a bed is the same today as it was when the previous government published it in 1992, when the NHS data dictionary was developed. As for the broad definition, to be a bed, the main purpose must be to allow patients to lie down for rest or recovery. Beds, trolleys, couches and chairs used for treatments are not counted as beds. The noble Baroness was also quite wrong on actual

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bed numbers. For the first time in many years, we have seen an increase in the number of general and acute beds. They are beds; they are not trolleys.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, will the Minister explain the statement in the newspaper this week that hospitals will no longer be allowed to rename corridors as wards? Is there a general renaming process going on or being resisted within the department?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, not at all. For statistical purposes and for the purposes of accurate returns regarding our accountability to Parliament, it is important that NHS organisations have a consistent approach in reporting their statistics. We clarified the point that the noble Baroness raises in order to ensure clarity and consistency of reporting. Our aim was to stop hospitals calling patients to say that they were admitted if they were not admitted to what could be described as a ward area. It was a case of tightening up the reporting criteria.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, accepting the definition of a bed which the noble Lord has given, can he explain why it is that three hospitals recently built under the private finance initiative, Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, the University Hospital of North Durham and Bishop Auckland General Hospital, have many fewer beds than the hospitals they replaced?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, overall the number of beds in general and acute categories is increasing. The number of beds in individual hospitals is decided before it is decided under which route they should be financed. Therefore, it would be wrong for my noble friend to draw a conclusion that PFI hospital schemes are by themselves leading to a reduction in bed numbers. We aim to increase the number of beds. We are doing that. In the past two years we have seen the first increase in the number of general and acute beds for many, many years. We are also increasing the number of day care beds. We are expanding the NHS, not contracting it.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the issue of beds and their definition arose in the context of whether or not the Government have achieved their targets on the elimination of mixed sex-wards. Have the Government eliminated those wards? Have they achieved the targets that they have set out on many occasions and which have slipped over the past few years?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, 95 per cent of NHS trusts meet the additional criteria set for mental health facilities; 98 per cent of NHS trusts provide single-sex sleeping accommodation for planned admissions; 93 per cent of NHS trusts provide properly segregated bathroom and toilet facilities for men and women; and

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over 98 per cent of NHS wards meet our guidelines. The remainder will comply once current building projects are completed.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the increase in the number of beds. Can he say what the increase has been in the occupancy rate?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the latest occupancy rate that I have for general and acute beds is 86 per cent in the year 2000–01. Some believe that the rate should come down. In guidance on emergency care the figure of 82 per cent is indicated as a reasonable figure. Clearly, we shall keep that under review.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether a bed has to have four feet flat on the floor or whether it can have wheels?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, beds can have wheels as that makes them easier to move. I am tempted to read to noble Lords the definition of a bed in the NHS data dictionary. However, I am conscious that some noble Lords wish to speak on other matters this afternoon. Therefore, I shall desist.

Earl Howe: My Lords, is it not the case that a trolley need not in some circumstances be a trolley in an accident and emergency department and that a trolley can, indeed, be a bed in a day care unit? Is it not true that a trolley can in fact mean anything that the NHS decides that it means?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Earl is being a little unfair to the National Health Service. The whole point of having a bed definition is to achieve clarity and consistency of reporting. Beds in day units are counted separately from beds in the general and acute categories. Clearly, in a day unit a patient may have pre-assessment, treatment, and post-operative recovery in the same bed. That is why such beds are categorised separately. I make it clear that trolleys in A&E departments are not defined as beds and nor are trolleys in treatment rooms and wards.


3.15 p.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, before my noble friend Lady Amos repeats the Statement made in another place on the UN: Terrorism and Iraq, I wish to say a few words about the debate on Lords reform. I emphasise that I am only too well aware that it is not a timed debate. I simply report the arithmetic to the House. I hope that that is helpful.

There are 99 speakers on the speakers' list for the two-day debate. The tireless staff in the Whips' Office have worked out the arithmetic. If speeches, apart from those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and of those who will wind-up the debate, were to last about 10 minutes, today's debate

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should finish at 1 a.m. tomorrow morning and tomorrow's debate should finish at 11.30 p.m. That is purely advice. It is way beyond my remit to go any further. But, speaking from my experience of life as well as from my experience in this House, we are universal in our belief that we love short, succinct speeches by others.

Lord Elton: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Chief Whip tell us what would be the effect on the arithmetic if noble Lords' speeches averaged eight rather than 10 minutes?

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I am glad that I was asked that question. If speeches were restricted to eight minutes, the House would rise at 11.15 p.m. this evening and 10 p.m. tomorrow. I shall answer further questions on the arithmetic if any noble Lord wishes to ask them.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, does the estimate of rising at 1 a.m. take the Statement into account?

Lord Grocott: Yes, my Lords, it does.

UN: Terrorism and Iraq

3.18 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

    "With permission, I should like to make a Statement on yesterday's ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council which had been called to discuss the international community's response to global terrorism. I have placed a copy of my speech to the Security Council in the Library of the House. After the formal meeting Security Council members discussed Iraq and North Korea in informal session.

    "The focus of the Council's meeting was the work of its Counter-Terrorism Committee, established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. This resolution was passed in the wake of the 11th September atrocity and for the first time imposed a legal obligation on all countries to end safe havens for terrorists and to stop terrorist financing. The committee has been chaired by our own Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who yesterday received many tributes for his work. I know that the House will want to endorse those tributes which were fully deserved.

    "Under the committee's programme, each country's progress in countering terrorism is actively being scrutinised. Where necessary, the committee is helping countries to improve their capacity to deal with terrorism.

    "As we heard yesterday in New York, the vast majority of governments—about 180—are complying with the new obligations on them. But two—Liberia

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    and, for very separate reasons, East Timor—have failed to respond at all and 13 are months behind. A deadline of 31st March has been set for compliance.

    "Yesterday's meeting then discussed and unanimously agreed a new resolution on terrorism. The key elements include: the adoption of new measures to improve and reinforce the work of the counter-terrorism committee; a recognition that the fight against terrorism has to be linked to international action against the proliferation of conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction; and agreement that our struggle against terrorism is not biased against any religion, including Islam. People of all faiths and cultures have been the innocent victims of terrorist attacks, and people of every faith have a common interest in countering the global threat.

    "In adopting the resolution, the Security Council recognised the dangerous connection between the terrorists who respect no rules, and rogue states who know no rules either. It is the leaders of such rogue states who set a deadly example and, through their illegal programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, provide a tempting arsenal for terrorists.

    "Eight years ago, the world woke up to the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction when a sarin gas attack inflicted thousands of casualties in Tokyo. Since then, there has been abundant evidence that Al'Qaeda is a terrorist organisation trying to acquire and develop substances just as lethal, if not more so. There can be no doubt that Al'Qaeda would use them if it could.

    "There are some who argue that the issue of proliferation is an unwelcome distraction from the campaign against terrorism. That view is profoundly misplaced. The global trade in technology related to weapons of mass destruction has never been more dangerous. North Korean missile exports undermine security in the Middle East. Illegal Iraqi imports of weapons-related technology flout UN sanctions, and are rearming a regime which has previously shown no restraint in using mustard gas and nerve agent to murder thousands of its own. It would be wildly irresponsible to assume that we can turn a blind eye to that trade on the presumption that lethal materials will not ultimately fall into the hands of terrorists. In today's climate, no responsible government could take such a risk with their citizens' lives.

    "The two greatest threats facing Britain and its citizens in the next decade are terrorists and rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. The most dangerous terrorist organisation is Al'Qaeda. The most aggressive rogue state is Iraq.

    "Since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 in November, the choice for the Iraqi regime has been clear: resolve the 12-year stand-off with the United Nations peacefully through full co-operation with weapons inspectors; or face disarmament by force.

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    "Typically, Saddam Hussein's response so far has been characterised much more by deceit and delay than any interest in a peaceful outcome. The initial Iraqi declaration of WMD holdings, submitted to the United Nations on 7th December, contained stark omissions. Not least was its failure to explain what had happened to the large quantities of chemical and biological weapons material unaccounted for by UN inspectors in 1998, as set out in a report to the United Nations of more than 200 pages by UNSCOM in February 1999.

    "Last week, United Nations inspectors discovered 12 chemical warheads, and a large quantity of hidden documents relating to a possible nuclear weapons programme, found within the area of a private house. Neither of those finds had been declared. Dr Hans Blix and Dr Mohammed El Baradei used their visit to Baghdad last weekend to set out their concerns about the lack of Iraqi co-operation, and to remind the regime of the 'serious consequences' of failure to abide by the terms of Security Council Resolution 1441.

    "Next Monday, Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei will submit their progress report on the inspection process to the Security Council. I plainly cannot anticipate that report, but two things are clear. First, the international community must maintain the pressure on Saddam Hussein to end his games of hide and seek. Secondly, Iraq must provide fully active and positive compliance with all its international obligations. As my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary reminded the House yesterday in announcing further troop deployments to the Gulf, the lesson of the past four months is that diplomatic pressure will have no effect without the visible and credible threat of force.

    "The terrorist threat to Britain and our citizens is real. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is co-ordinating the most comprehensive security response our country has seen for many years.

    "Our country can never become an island of security in the face of the global dangers of terrorism and rogue states. Just as we should redouble our efforts to enforce the law at home, so our interests demand that we are at the forefront of enforcing the law overseas.

    "For too long, Iraq has flouted international legal obligations to disarm and has laughed in the face of the United Nations. Saddam still has a choice to comply. I hope very much that he does. But if he does not, those who are serious about a commitment to a global community based on the rule of law and the UN cannot afford to shrink from the challenge posed by Iraq".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.26 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords will be grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's Statement. Let me say straightaway that we welcome the new resolution on terrorism, and endorse all that has been said about the excellent work of Sir Jeremy Greenstock at the United Nations. I gladly reiterate our support for a credible and visible

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threat of military force. That means a threat that is indeed credible and demonstrates our up-to-the-minute preparedness to wage war if it should come to be necessary.

I am afraid that I have much less support to offer the Government when it comes to their and the Prime Minister's efforts to convince the public of the rightness of their cause. The opinion polls confirm that they are obviously not doing very well in those efforts, although we should never be guided by those and should seek to shape opinion. All along the Opposition have argued that, in presenting the case for force, if necessary, there was first an imperative need to identify clearly the British direct interests in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Secondly, there was a need to convince people that attacking Iraq would make the world a safer place. Thirdly, it needs to be shown that Iraq and global terrorism are linked and feed off each other, and that Saddam Hussein is a lead contractor of terror. Fourthly, there is a need to show that the Iraq issue, far from distracting us from Palestine and other matters as some noble Lords understandably fear, opens the way for a Palestine settlement.

I happen to believe in the validity of all those propositions, but my belief does not derive from the words of Her Majesty's Government or the utterances made by the Prime Minister and others. On the contrary, until recently the Government repeatedly assured us that Iraq had nothing to do with global terrorism or the Al'Qaeda organisation. Actually, it is not an organisation at all; it is a movement, to which any fanatic in Kilburn or elsewhere can sign up.

What will the Government do to present a much more convincing case? We have heard many generalities about rogue states and terrorism, but they are frankly not enough. Are some killer facts about to be discovered by Mr Blix and his inspector colleagues, presumably with the guidance and help of the intelligence agencies? Is that the news to come? Is it judged that Saddam is already in material breach of paragraph 4 of Resolution 1441, with his unfortunate forgetfulness over chemical warhead containers?

What do the Government have to say about our EU partners such as France, whose Foreign Minister was reported this morning as saying:

    "Nothing justifies encouraging military action"?

I also refer to the even more outspoken view from Germany, which wants nothing to do with the threat of force and will not support any second resolution that is called for.

We are at a critical moment. If action is about to begin, we must know not only the full justification for war—that is essential—but also what is planned thereafter. Our American allies are being increasingly explicit about their plans to rid us of Saddam. They want regime change and to build a liberated Iraq in a transformed Middle East. While reiterating our support for the strategy, we are entitled at this stage at least to ask: what is the British contribution to this thinking, and is that our objective as well? We really are entitled to know.

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3.30 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, in thanking the Minister for the Statement, I begin by pointing out that the Foreign Secretary's speech was not in the Library of this House when I asked for it 10 minutes before the Statement was delivered. I am grateful to the Library for finding me a copy on the Internet and for finding copies of other speeches made in the Security Council.

From these Benches, I express our acute disappointment at the Statement and the Foreign Secretary's speech in the Security Council—parts of it were illogical and ill founded. This meeting involved a review of the counter-terrorism committee, and did not deal with Iraq. As the Foreign Secretary has admitted several times, no evidence is yet available of a link between the Iraqi regime and Al'Qaeda. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether some has arrived in the past few minutes. So far as we know, nothing has yet been discovered.

The Statement referred to the group that used sarin gas in Tokyo. That group had no connections with any sponsoring state. Terrorism is a wider phenomenon that is fed by ideological anti-modernism, political and religious fundamentalism and fears and anxieties that are projected on to outside powers. Counter-terrorism therefore requires a wide strategy that deals with the roots of those fears and anxieties, and does not feed them by action against states that is not fully justified by the legal approval of the international community.

In relation to rogue states, we should consider the fact that there are other states that perhaps appear to have a larger role in sponsoring intervention and interference in the affairs of other states; I refer to Libya, for example, and the apparent activities that it is sponsoring across west Africa. That is a much clearer case than either Iraq or North Korea.

I was rather shocked by the extent to which the Foreign Secretary used the term "rogue state" in his speech. I remind the Minister that the concept of a rogue state was invented by Colin Powell when he was chief of the American general staff as a justification in 1990–91 for maintaining a high level of conventional military spending and forces in the United States by identifying Iraq, Libya, Iran and Korea as threats that could be matched by conventional means. I also remind the Minister and Members of this House that weapons of mass destruction are not dependent on sponsoring states for their proliferation. As we have recently discovered in this country, it is possible to begin to make biological weapons of mass destruction in backstairs kitchens in London using instructions that one can get off the Internet.

On Iraq, the reference in the Foreign Secretary's speech to the failure of diplomatic means and to our patience running out would have been better made by President Bush than by our own Foreign Secretary; it is President Bush's patience that is running out. Diplomatic means have not yet failed in Iraq and they are being used, so far as we can see, relatively successfully in North Korea. There must be time for the inspectors to do their work. There are two aspects

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of compliance in Iraq: one is to make sure that the Iraqis comply with Resolution 1441 and the second is that our Government and others should give the inspectors full support in their work and not push them through.

I have read other speeches from yesterday's Security Council debate. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I found a good deal of sense in what the German Foreign Minister and the French Foreign Minister said. Joschka Fischer said:

    "we . . . fear possible negative repercussions [of intervention in Iraq] for the joint fight against . . . murderous terrorism".

So do I. His French counterpart added that:

    "We should not take the risk to fuel terrorism".

I hope that the Minister accepts that there is a risk that action in Iraq, if not very carefully justified, may fuel terrorism. There is a danger that Iraq is not only a distraction but might provoke, in the case of intervention, a surge of anti-Americanism and anti-westernism across the developing Muslim world, which would endanger Britain in its turn.

3.35 p.m.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that it is important that we work to shape public opinion; that is exactly what the Government have been doing. I do not agree with him that we have not made the case. There is a serious debate going on in this country and our citizens have expressed some concerns. That debate must continue and the Government will play their part in that.

The noble Lord referred to the importance of dealing with the issues in the Middle East peace process. Again, the Government have been actively involved in those discussions. As the noble Lord will know, there was a recent conference, chaired by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, looking at the issue of Palestinian reform. We will continue to remain engaged.

It is important to clarify the position with respect to the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, about the link between Iraq and terrorism. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made it absolutely clear that we have no evidence to link Iraq with Al'Qaeda in the run-up to 11th September. However, there are clear links between Iraq and terrorism—there are many examples of that. It is important for that distinction to be well understood. On the emergence of any "killer facts" from Hans Blix and his team, we should await the outcome of the report of the inspectors to the Security Council, which will happen on Monday.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether we thought that Iraq was already in material breach. UN Security Council Resolution 1441 contains two elements, the first of which is failure in terms of disclosure. We already have some evidence that Iraq has failed in that regard. The second element is failure to comply with the obligations of the resolution. It remains to be seen whether Iraq has failed with respect to the second element.

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The noble Lord, Lord Howell, also asked about our EU partners and referred to Germany and France in particular. France is a member of the Security Council and is fully supportive of the UN resolution.

On the humanitarian situation, noble Lords will know that we have given a considerable amount to Iraq in terms of humanitarian assistance. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary had discussions with the UN Secretary-General yesterday about humanitarian assistance; such discussions will continue. I again make it absolutely clear to the House that our policy priority is disarmament with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised the importance of giving the inspectors time to do their work. We have made it absolutely clear that the report that we will receive on Monday is part of a process. That report will be made to the Security Council and the Security Council will assess it and make a decision about the next steps. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that dealing with Iraq is a distraction. That country has consistently flouted UN Security Council resolutions. It must be dealt with if the will of the UN is to prevail.

3.40 p.m

Lord Carrington: My Lords, if nothing more incriminating is discovered by the inspectors by 27th January, which, I understand, is the important date, will the Government wish the inspectors to continue or not?

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