Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not expect it to affect the timetable that I have already announced in terms of the publication of the full NSF by the end of this year. The Green Paper addresses children at risk. We expect to publish it in the spring. We expect it to be consistent with the national service framework, but the national service framework embraces a much wider category of children and young people.

Sir William Stubbs

3.9 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the Department for Education and Skills has, without accepting liability, agreed to pay Sir William the sum of 95,000 representing a payment in respect of his lost earnings and his legal costs.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, if Sir William Stubbs was rightly dismissed, as is still claimed by the right honourable Estelle Morris, why should the taxpayer be asked to give him a 95,000 payoff? If he was wrongly dismissed, why did he not receive an apology,

11 Feb 2003 : Column 564

and who was in fact to blame for the A-level fiasco that led to his publicly humiliating dismissal in the first place?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I have made it clear that the department does not accept liability. In his letter to Sir William, my right honourable friend wrote that he understood that the events of the autumn caused Sir William and his family considerable public humiliation and great distress. He also said in the letter that the circumstances that led to Sir William's departure were regrettable for all concerned, and caused hurt to all parties. In settling on the amount, Sir William has said that he is pleased that matters have been amicably resolved.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, as the Minister implies, there has been an attempt to put the lid on this particular episode from the summer. Before the Government put the lid on it, will she assure us that they have learned the lessons from the fiasco and that they are setting up a QCA that is genuinely independent from the meddling and micro-management that the Government like so much?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I do not accept what the noble Baroness said about meddling and micro-management, but I accept that there are lessons to be learned. We are acting on the recommendations made by Mike Tomlinson. For example, the QCA has produced simple and clear descriptions for AS and A-level standards. Exemplar materials are available, and key changes have been made to the code of practice. Of course, we have made 6 million available as well to help to deliver the 2003 exams securely, and to make sure that we have sufficient examiners.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I am surely not the only one in the House who finds the noble Baroness's answers as clear as mud. If the Government accept no liability in the matter, how on earth can they justify paying 95,000 to this gentleman? Surely the very fact that the money has been paid is an admission by the Government that wrong was done to him.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I hope that I have made the matter clear. I apologise if the noble Lord thinks that I am being as clear as mud; perhaps it is a compliment, but I am not entirely sure. The settlement was jointly agreed between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and Sir William Stubbs. Both are satisfied with its terms. I have made it clear where the 95,000 figure comes from, in that it is a combination of loss of earnings and legal costs. We believe that it is a satisfactory resolution to the matter.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, will the Minister clear up for all of us why Sir William was dismissed in the first place?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, we have discussed the details of the matter in this House before.

11 Feb 2003 : Column 565

My right honourable friend the former Secretary of State believed that the action was appropriate to take at the time. Subsequent to that, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and Sir William have reached an agreement, and I am delighted that they have done so.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, will the Minister answer a simple question? What was the alternative to the agreement?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, Sir William had lodged a legal action, as the noble Lord will know. The settlement has been agreed. As I have said, both parties are very satisfied with it, and I believe that it draws the line under the matter. I recommend that noble Lords look at the letter that my right honourable friend sent to Sir William.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, has the Minister shared with the House all the lessons that the department learned from the affair?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I have certainly tried to ensure that we share them when we have made statements on Mr Tomlinson's reports. As the process goes on this year, I will endeavour to do so whenever noble Lords ask me to.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there is still time. Contrary to what the Minister said, she has never shared with the House the reasons why Sir William Stubbs was dismissed.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I have tried to make them clear and to answer questions as clearly as possible on behalf of the department. We should be pleased that we have reached an amicable settlement. Again, I ask noble Lords to look at the letter sent by my right honourable friend to Sir William, to accept that Sir William is very satisfied with the results of the settlement, and that we can move on.

Ministerial and other Salaries (Amendment) Bill [HL]

3.14 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Goodhart.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

11 Feb 2003 : Column 566

House of Lords (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to repeal the provision for by-elections of hereditary Peers under the House of Lords Act 1999. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Weatherill.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

North Atlantic Council

3.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend Mr Adam Ingram. The Statement is as follows:

    "The North Atlantic Council has been examining the technical procedure of tasking the NATO military authorities to undertake and carry out contingency planning to deter or defend against a possible threat to Turkey. Yesterday, the silence procedure was broken by three allies, who sought further information on the timing of such a tasking. There is no debate regarding the need for the alliance to provide assistance to a NATO member if so requested.

    "Also yesterday, Turkey requested consultations under article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The North Atlantic Council meeting scheduled for this morning has been adjourned until 16.30 Brussels time for further consideration of the proposal. It is too early to speculate on the outcome of these ongoing deliberations".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.16 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that very brief Statement on what is a very serious situation. I am also pleased that, under our Statement procedure, noble Lords will have a little more time than was perhaps indicated by the brevity of the Statement to discuss such important events. That is particularly appropriate given that, at this moment, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is making a major statement of policy—it is a pity that he does so outside Parliament—on all these issues. Therefore it is valuable that we in this House should have a chance to speak on them as well before the crisis meetings of next week are upon us.

Does the Minister accept that we regard the situation that has emerged as deeply regrettable? It is all the more so given that, by demonstrating divisions among the international community as it does, it will encourage Saddam Hussein to, in the American phrase, play games and thus increase and not reduce the chances of war, which we all abhor and indeed dread. In our view, the Foreign Secretary is right to say outside Parliament as he now does that 1,000 extra

11 Feb 2003 : Column 567

inspectors would not help, and that the key question in all of this, including the question of Turkey, is whether Saddam will co-operate in disarmament. Nor does it help to try to prevent Turkey, which is next door to Iraq, taking proper precautionary and defensive measures, as that too will only encourage the Iraqi dictator to more excesses.

Does the Minister agree that behind the dangerous disagreement that has developed there are two much deeper political factors at work? First, the people of Europe—obviously the French and Germans and also, if opinion polls are correct and are to be believed, many people in this country as well—have not yet been convinced of the case for an early attack on Iraq. Secondly, we face the persistent tendency of our French neighbours—it is a great nation—along with Germany not merely to follow their own European agenda, but to depict and construct Europe as a rival to and not a partner of the United States.

On the first of those matters, those of us who happen strongly to believe that Iraq is a clear, direct and present danger to us all have been much impressed by the Prime Minister's resolution and energy. We have said so again and again. However, we have been much less impressed by his powers of public persuasion, least of all by the original dossier on Iraq, which omitted all mention of terrorism and 9/11. That was a cardinal error. We were even less impressed by the pathetic plagiarised dossier of 5th February.

On the second issue, does the Minister agree that although France and Germany—our neighbours—must be respected, neither they nor even less Russia must be allowed to dominate the European or NATO agenda, or wilfully tarnish trans-Atlantic relations? Does the Minister agree that NATO and the EU have survived earlier crises? This is not a time for absurd cries of panic.

The United Kingdom will be most respected as a good and a forward-looking European nation if, at the proposed EU summit next Monday, it neither caves in to delaying tactics on Iraq, which are clearly in the minds of many of our neighbours, nor hurls invective at its French and German neighbours. Instead we should remind them firmly, as I believe we should have done much earlier, and as Colin Powell did in detail before the Security Council, that Iraq, international terrorism and an unstable Middle East are all deeply interwoven; that Iraq has long been a lead contractor in the consortium of global terrorism; and that while other issues in the region demand attention—for example, the Palestine tragedy—the way to deal with them effectively will not be clear until this malign man is disarmed. Next Monday at the EU meeting we should remind our neighbours that a new UN resolution to achieve that aim is much the best path to peace and world stability and is deeply in the interests of all democracies.

11 Feb 2003 : Column 568

3.20 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for making that short Statement. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in asking the Minister when noble Lords can expect a debate on this matter in the House. The two Opposition parties and the Cross-Benchers have pressed for such a debate.

Can the Minister say when the request was made by Turkey for Patriot missiles? Was there a specific request by Turkey for the missiles or just for the planning of the movement of them? That appears to be at the heart of the argument. An assumption that Patriot missiles are to be sent to Turkey presumes that there is an almost unstoppable momentum towards war. In many Statements the Minister has said that it is hoped that war will not take place. However, there appears to be no great urgency for the movement of the missiles, especially as Hans Blix's report will be brought before the Security Council on Friday.

Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government believe that there is merit in the Franco-German proposals for an increase in the number of inspectors? Surely the aim of the military build-up is to force Saddam Hussein to disarm and get rid of his weapons of mass destruction. As we saw during the Gulf War, the inspectors were far more successful in removing the potential threat to us all. Over 80 per cent of the weapons of mass destruction were removed through the work of inspectors and a very small proportion was removed by military action. It is unfortunate that Britain finds itself in opposition to its EU allies rather than acting as a bridge between our EU allies and the Americans.

3.23 p.m.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords who have spoken. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that I was answering a question in the same way my right honourable friend Mr Ingram was answering a question from Bernard Jenkin in another place. That is why the Statement was short.

I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. We believe that it is important to keep what has happened so far at the North Atlantic Council in context. It may help if I remind noble Lords of the sequence of events. It is not the first time that this has occurred in NATO and I dare say it will not be the last.

First, the United States and other nations issued a proposal for NATO prudent planning, defensive in character, and which does not imply any automatic NATO action. Secondly, the Secretary-General, our colleague the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, issued a proposal under the silence provisions. Thirdly, that silence was broken on Monday by France and Belgium, supported by Germany.

They were entitled to break that silence if that is what they saw fit to do. We are disappointed that they did so. I make no bones about that at all. We believe that the proposal put forward by the Secretary-General was sensible. That silence having been broken, the North Atlantic Council meeting was

11 Feb 2003 : Column 569

adjourned. It was reconvened yesterday but there was no consensus; it agreed to meet again today at 11 o'clock but that was postponed until 11.30; and that meeting was immediately adjourned without comment and will reconvene at 16.30 Brussels time, which, if I am not mistaken, is in precisely five minutes' time.

I thought that it was worth setting out the process for the House to put the matter into context. Yesterday the Turkish representative raised article 4, as he was entitled to do. That states that NATO's members will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any NATO country is threatened.

What our three allies did does not constitute a veto. They did what they were entitled to do, although the Government are disappointed that they broke silence in that way. The lack of consensus appears to be over timing and not substance. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked what it is like to fall out with our allies. I point out that 16 of the 19 members of NATO have not fallen out with us; they agree with us. Three members of NATO have fallen out with us. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, meant to say that he supported what his spokesman in another place said a few minutes ago, that his party regretted, as we do, that they had done so.

We believe that a further delay in reaching agreement—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on this point—will send the wrong message to the alliance on alliance unity and particularly to Iraq. We agree with him that this is a serious matter, but it is no more and no less than a serious matter. In this House we must not rush to judgment when it may be sensible to sit back coolly and see what happens later today.

On the suggestion which is not accepted by the French, German and Russian Governments in relation to more inspectors, I can do no better than to quote what Dr Blix said:

    "The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the act of co-operation of the Iraqi side".

Mr El Baradei, in his turn, said that what was needed was a drastic change of mind. It is not for the weapons inspectors to discover weapons of mass destruction; it is for Saddam Hussein to disclose them. This is not a game of adult hide and seek; under the terms of Resolution 1441 Iraq must comply actively, immediately, fully and unconditionally. It has failed to do so. Therefore it is in material breach.

3.28 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, as someone who shares what appears to be the majority European opinion that the case for an immediate attack against Iraq has not yet been made, I suggest that if the American intention at Munich was to persuade their allies of the case, they signally failed to do so. I have some sympathy with the German foreign minister who said that he found it difficult to present the case for war when he had not been persuaded of it himself. Was it wise of the Americans to send Mr Rumsfeld to Munich? I have been reading Bush at War, by Bob Woodward, which makes it absolutely clear that

11 Feb 2003 : Column 570

in the Afghan context Mr Rumsfeld saw no need to present any case whatever to America's allies. I suspect that he takes the same view on Iraq. I join others in deeply deploring any damage done to NATO by the events of the past week.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page