Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the Minister accept that many of the people who are guilty of such offences are children themselves? Further, does he accept that those children have multiple problems? Therefore, will he agree that the best way to deal with such children may well be through the child protection system rather than through the criminal justice system? Can he also let me know what action the Government are taking to support schools in the deterrence and detection of drug dealing on their premises?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree that the criminal justice system provides but one way to combat drugs. Indeed, it is the right course to intervene as early as possible with children who are at risk through both the buying and selling of drugs. We should always face this issue on the basis that it is not a question of either/or; both the criminal justice system and early intervention are important. The Government are extremely keen to promote education and police intervention in schools. The police should not be seen as people who will carry out arrests but as people who will educate children in the dangers of drugs. Considerable efforts have been made by the DfES, including the distribution of more than a million leaflets to schools to explain the dangers of drugs.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, does the Minister recall that about 18 months ago in this House we were given an assurance that the Misuse of Drugs Act would be amended to include crack cocaine? Can the Minister tell me what action has been taken?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not recall a specific assurance being given. Crack cocaine is

26 Mar 2003 : Column 799

already an illegal drug. I am not sure what change to the Misuse of Drugs Act would be required. I shall write to the noble Baroness.

Franco-British Relations

3 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to improve relations with the government and people of France.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos) : My Lords, we continue to work closely with France on a range of important issues. However, there are issues on which we disagree on tactics, for example Iraq. But such disagreements do not define our relationship with France.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am grateful for that encouraging reply. I declare a family interest in that my daughter is married to a French citizen and that they and their three children are residents of France. Is the Minister aware of how welcome the statement made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Privy Seal in exchanges on the Statement on Monday was when he said:

    "Despite the differences that we have had with our allies—we should not forget that the French Government have been our allies for many decades—we must work together, not only in the European context but in humanitarian relief as well"—[Official Report, 24/3/03; col. 492.]?

Does she agree that, if we are to make a reality of the Prime Minister's objective of putting Britain at the heart of Europe, the demonising of France, its president and its people must come to an end and that Ministers should express their distaste for the kind of xenophobic rubbish that one reads in some tabloid newspapers?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend will expect me to agree with the Lord Privy Seal. It is important to say that one disagreement does not define the UK/France relationship. It is a close relationship that goes back a long way and disagreements have been a part of it. It is important to remind the House that we continue to work together on a range of important issues—immigration, education, defence—and we continue to enjoy close commercial, cultural and sporting ties. I do not believe that the overall strength of our bilateral relations will be affected by our differences on Iraq. Those differences have to be discussed and sorted out, but we look forward to celebrating the closeness of our relationship in the entente cordiale celebrations next year.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, would one way to achieve an improvement in relations be to encourage British people to drink more wine and to eat more cheese? That would not be a hardship.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree that drinking more wine and eating more cheese would not be a

26 Mar 2003 : Column 800

hardship. However, I believe that my colleagues in the Department of Health may have something to say about the quantities of wine that we imbibe and the amount of cheese that we eat.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords—

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords—

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, there is plenty of time. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Strabolgi should speak next as he frequently goes to La Coupole for his lunch.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I declare an interest as for many years I was a former member of the Franco-British Council. Will the Government continue to encourage and to finance the Franco-British Council, which is financed by both governments, as it encourages and fosters good relations between Britain and France and carries out important work?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend that the Franco-British Council carries out important work. Of course we want to see that work continue. The support given to the council by the British and the French Governments will continue.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that one of the issues on which we continue to work closely with France, and I hope the entire European Union, is that of the Middle East and the Arab/Israel problem? In that context, is she aware of a report in the Financial Times this morning that part of the package that President Bush has sought from Congress includes 1 billion dollars towards further military aid to Israel?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can confirm that we continue to work on the wider Middle East peace process. The noble Lord will know that the European Union as a whole has played an important role in that, being part of the quartet and it was involved in helping to draft the road map. I am also aware of the announcement that was made by President Bush in respect of the 1 billion dollars.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in the current circumstances neither Britain nor France is well served by such domestic written press? Both the French and the British press have not helped the situation. Can she also tell the House how closely the British and the French Governments are working together on policies in regard to Africa? Both states have troops on the ground in the messy, overlapping trans-national conflicts in West Africa. Are we co-ordinating closely in those conflicts?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we continue to work closely with France on

26 Mar 2003 : Column 801

a range of issues in Africa. They include co-operation not only in conflict resolution—we both support ECOWAS who have put troops on the ground in Cote d'Ivoire—but we are also working together in Sierra Leone, in Liberia and in the Great Lakes. We have worked together in the UN on a number of those issues. Both the UK and France remain committed to NePAD and to the commitments that we made through the G8 to the G8 Africa action plan, and I am working closely with my French counterpart on that. The House may be aware that we have been in discussions with the French about the possibility of co-location in some countries in Africa—for example, in Francophone Africa where the French have a wider spread than we do—and we co-locate in Freetown. Only last week senior officials from the UK and France met and agreed the continued importance of Franco-British co-operation in Africa.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, while it is obvious that there can be no European future without France, it is equally obvious that the Franco-German agenda is bound to be less dominant in the future as we move forward in the reform of the European system? It will also be less dominant in the mending of transatlantic relations between America and the EU than in the past. Will she ensure that the policy-makers in the Government grasp the opportunities offered now by the new Europe and its wish to develop in different directions? Will she also ensure that we do not revert to the habitual role in some parts of the policy-making machine of just waiting to respond to whatever comes from Paris and allowing France to take all the initiatives?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I do not agree with the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that the policy initiatives all come from Paris. We now have complicated and complex changing alliances. We are seeing the enlargement of the European Union. In the context of the discussion on the convention, a paper was put forward by the French and by the Germans. All of that contributes to a wider debate about the future of Europe and the relationship between the European Union and the United States. All of those things need to happen. Such conversations and discussions will continue. The British position is absolutely clear: we want to see a strong Europe—a strong European Union with a good partnership with the United States.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page