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Lord Dixon: My Lords, will my noble friend not take too much notice of advice from those on the Opposition Benches on dealing with trade union matters? I served for many hours with the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, during the passage of the Trade Union Act 1984. His claim to fame then was as chairman of the Association of Conservative Trade Unionists. I suggest that my noble friend takes more notice of the point made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about the official solicitor. Many of us know what happens when governments try to impose conditions on striking workers.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my noble friend speaks volumes about how we ought to try to proceed in these matters: with care and caution to ensure that the unions and employers work together to conclude effective collective solutions. That is the best way forward; that is what we are trying to encourage; the Deputy Prime Minister wants matters to proceed in that manner.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, is there really a sense of urgency in trying to sort this lot out? The Deputy Prime Minister's Statement yesterday gave one the feeling that action was being taken, but in his Answer the Minister said that a White Paper considering the Bain proposals would be issued later this year. The Bain proposals have been published for weeks now. Why have the Government not yet done something about them? There must be squads of people who could conduct the analysis and prepare a White Paper, which would make it much easier to set the pay of British firefighters in future.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is right that we try to hasten the conclusion of the discussions to resolve the pay dispute. The modernisation package is a longer-term issue and the proposals that will no doubt be made in the White Paper must take into account the finer detail of what was, after all, a comprehensive report. I have no doubt that that will happen, but we must concentrate our efforts on settling the pay dispute. As part of that, Bain, modernisation and the White Paper will be part of a whole package.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand that there are regular liaison meetings about all those issues. No doubt they will have a bearing on the outcome. Of course we take careful note of what is said in public debate on the matter, but the Government remain resolute in seeking to ensure a proper solution to the fire dispute. We urge the FBU to get round the table with the employers, return to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and ensure that proper negotiations are conducted so that this unfortunate dispute can be drawn to a conclusion.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, does the Minister agree that time is of the essence and that if disruption continues the Government will have no option but to bring forward emergency legislation? If not, does the noble Lord agree that arbitration independent of the Government would be a far more acceptable means of resolution than any imposed by decree of the Government?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we have an adequate arbitration system through ACAS and the Government are happy to rely on that. It has worked effectively for many years. It certainly worked effectively when the party of which the noble Lord is a member was in government. We shall rely on that process and hope that the FBU and the employers will use it to ensure a satisfactory outcome to the current dispute.
The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, our position on renewing sanctions on the Mugabe regime, including the EU travel ban, remains unchanged. Our objective is to see the current EU common position on sanctionsincluding the travel ban on 79 members of Zanu PFrolled-over when it expires in February. This will require a unanimous decision by all 15 EU member states. The matter was discussed at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels on 27th January, but this proved inconclusive. Further discussions are due to take place tomorrow, 30th January.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that our instructions to our permanent representative, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who will be at tomorrow's meeting, will be to press for the most robust package of sanctions and the longest period of roll-over it is possible to negotiate. However, I stress that we must proceed on the basis of a unanimous agreement. The noble Lord will be aware that this matter will be pursued under the common foreign and security policy. That means that all countries will have a vetoand that can sometimes cut two ways.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister draw the attention of our European Union partnersthe French, in particularto the Inter-Parliamentary Union council resolution of 27th September 2002 in which serious allegations were made about the torture of six opposition Members of Parliament? Will she also draw the attention of our partners to the demand made by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai for a judicial investigation into the torture of another MP, Mr Job Sikhala? In view of these allegations, does not the Minister consider that any members of the regime who set foot on European soil should be interviewed with a view to their prosecution under the relevant legislation giving effect to the Convention Against Torture, which has been signed by all European states?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that Her Majesty's Government brings all these matters to the attention of our partners in the European Union and many are supportive of our stance. The noble Lord cited the IPU report of 27th September. I would cite the statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 14th January this year. There is ample evidence of the terrible effect that the Mugabe regime is having on a country which was once the breadbasket of the region but which is now riddled with famine and difficulties of the kind described by the noble Lord. We lose no opportunity to make this clear to our partners, and we very much hope that they will listen.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I understand it, it does not apply to former heads of state. If I can be any more forthcoming for the noble Lord on that issue, I shall place a letter in the Library of the House.
Lord Elton: My Lords, can the noble Baroness explain what is the difficulty in bringing this matter to a conclusion in Europe? Is the view of the other European countries more forgiving than ours? Why are they not prepared to roll-over the sanctions almost automatically?
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