|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness; it is rather a mouthful. The complementary initiative to this is called Publish What You Pay, which I think is much clearer. It is about ensuring that those companies in the oil, mining and gas areas which receive payments from governmentsthat those payments are published so that it is absolutely clear what payments those companies are making to those governments. At the moment those payments can go anywhere and may not actually be used for the good of the country.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, but at least there was some tentative suggestion that the oil companies might admit what they had been paying to the Angolan Government and that the Angolan Government might admit how much money they had received. Does this agreement or the discussions include, for example, diamonds? We know that for years the north of Angola has been raped by unscrupulous people mining diamonds and transferring them through Brussels or elsewhere as diamonds from somewhere else.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the compact and the current discussions cover the oil, gas and mining industries. In that sense, diamonds would be covered. With respect to the specific question asked by my noble friend about Angola, he will recall that BP tried to encourage greater transparency in its business with Angola some time ago. It was rapped over the knuckles by the Angolan Government for doing that because it was breaking a local contract.
The situation in Angola has changed since then with the war having ended. Indeed, Angola attended our seminar in February. Therefore, I am hopeful that Angola will be one of the countries that wants to take part in this initiative in a fuller way.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, we discussed this in the debate on Angola in December when the Minister told your Lordships that she had already raised the initiative with not only G8 but also with NePAD. Is it possible that at the summit in Evian there will be not only an endorsement from the G8 but that it will be presented with a draft statement on best practice for transparency and disclosure of payments, involving extractive companies, contractors and host governments? Will the noble Baroness consider extending her remit to cover the international financial institutions, because if they were to sign up to the initiative it would give it an enormous boost?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, first, I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that the international financial institutions are involved. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative and part of the criticism of the initiative from the NGOs is that we have gone for a voluntary rather than a mandatory compact. But the reason that we have gone for a voluntary compact at this stage is so that we can keep all those stakeholders on board. We have not ruled out the possibility of going down the mandatory route at a later stage.
With respect to whether we can go further at the G8 meeting on endorsement, it is partly a matter of timing. It is important to get endorsement from the G8. The further meeting of the multi-stakeholder group will happen after the G8 meeting. It is at that point that we should like to see agreement to the principles, agreement to the action that would then follow and a number of countries coming forward to pilot the initiative.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I have an extensive list of those countries which attended our workshop in February and I shall be happy to send it to the noble Baroness. I shall list a few examples: the governments of Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Botswana, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, ourselves and Venezuela were represented, to name but a few. Companies represented included AngloAmerican, the BG Group, Chevron Texaco, Marathon Oil and Rio Tinto. A range of NGOs attended, as well as representatives from international financial institutions. NePAD and UN representatives also attended.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, would it be fair to say that the buzzwords for the Evian summit are "mutual accountability" between north and south? Can it be presented that we have taken forward initiatives on accountability, as have African governmentsfor example, in the case of NePAD, which was just mentioned? Does it follow that this
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the G8 Africa Action Plan will be one of the topics to be discussed at the G8 meeting, and the issue of mutual accountability is at the core of that. Considering the Evian summit overall, responsible economy rather mutual accountability will be the term that the French would prefer to use. However, as regards the Africa Action Plan and the New Partnership for Africa's Development, I agree entirely with my noble friend that those are good examples of us working together.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, in spite of and, in part, as a result of these adverse price movements, it is a fact that the increase in use of public transport has had only a marginal impact on total transport demand as the economy continues to grow. The nation will therefore have to rely on and continue to expand road transport. What plans do the Government have further to expand and accelerate the use of alternative and less polluting fuels and technologies in order to reduce pollution?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, cares to look at the recent Budget, he will see that very substantial concessions have been made to less polluting fuels. Furthermore, a cut in the duty on bio-ethanol has just been announced. Additionally, changes have been made in regard to ultra-low sulphur fuels. The Chancellor recognises the value of low-polluting fuels and has acknowledged that in his Budget.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, it is an established fact that, as fares rise, one sees an almost linear fall in the use of public transport over the succeeding years. Technically, a fall in use of around 0.8 per cent is observed for each 1 per cent rise in fares. What specific plans have the Government made to ensure that fuel for bus operators is less expensive, and are they planning to do anything to help the industry to help itself, albeit that the investment comes from the private sector?
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, is not one of the main problems encountered by public transport operators in attracting business the perceived level of their fares against the apparent cost of petrol to cover an individual journey? Is not one of the ways of redressing that balance of perception, therefore, to encourage the expansion of congestion charging and motorway tolling?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure about perceived costs. While it is certainly true that public transport fares, in particular bus fares, have increased in real terms over recent years, that has taken place because we are committed to very heavy increases in transport expenditure as a whole. The 10-year plan discusses expenditure of £180 billion, of which public transport is to take up £120 billion. Thus, as I implied in my first Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, passengers have to play some part in that. However, of course there are exaggerations in the public mind about the extent of fare increases. That is particularly the case in regard to the January increases. The newspapers always choose the particular routes and journeys on which the fare increases in percentage terms are largest.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, is it true or false that the United Kingdom has the highest costs of transport for the individual by bus, by rail and by car per mile and per minute of both the European Union and the United States?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I think there could be some dispute over what is meant by "costs". The costs cover both fares and the cost to the taxpayer. I would be very surprised if we bear the largest cost, but it is true that we do have higher fares than is the case in many European countries.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of recent reports stating that the Strategic Rail Authority is considering raising commuter passenger fares by 20 per cent? If so, will that encourage people to use the railways?
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page