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Baroness Emerton: My Lords, I thank the Minister and endorse the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in relation to Amendment No. 50. The professions will be extremely appreciative of it. As the Bill has progressed through the House, there has been rising concern about the position that the professions would have. It is clear that they have a real leadership role, and they will welcome the amendment. The Royal College of Nursing, the BMA and the council of deans of nursing have all been very supportive to our amendment, and I know will support Amendment No. 50.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am grateful for the supportive remarks of the noble Baronesses, Lady Pitkeathley, Lady Finlay and Lady Emerton.

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I shall reply first to my noble friend Lord Hunt. The regulations clearly cannot be made in time for the establishment of the first wave of NHS foundation trusts for authorisation from April 2004. We intend to make regulations in time for waves established from the following year. We will have to issue guidance to prospective applicants on the areas that the regulations are likely to cover, to ensure a minimal impact. The regulator will have power to ensure that all NHS foundation trusts comply with the regulations once they are made. I hope that my noble friend will accept that that is a reasonable way to proceed.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I realise that we are on Report, but new matters have been introduced. I seek guidance on when I might ask the noble Lord a question on them. I am grateful to him for his reassurance, which essentially means that the current wave of foundation trusts can carry on. However, I point out to him that subsection (3) of the proposed new clause in Amendment No. 256 states:

    "An NHS foundation trust must secure that its constitution is in accordance with regulations".

I realise that subsection (4) states that,

    "Pending the coming into force of regulations",

elections can still take place. However. Clause 6(2)(a) states that the regulator has to be satisfied that,

    "the applicant's constitution will be in accordance with Schedule 1".

Schedule 1 states that regulations will have to be laid, but those regulations will not be laid in the first tranche.

I am not trying to be awkward. I act as an honorary adviser to a trust going forward to foundation trust status, which will be very confused on the matter. Perhaps between now and Third Reading my noble friend will give it further consideration.

Lord Warner: My Lords, in view of the time, I am happy to give the matter further consideration and report at Third Reading.

I shall briefly turn to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, about auditors. The audit provisions in the legislation have been modelled in part on those of the Audit Commission Act, reflecting the fact that the bodies are public sector bodies. Auditors from the private sector appointed to audit public bodies under the Audit Commission Act 1998 must be members of the bodies listed in that Act or another body approved by the Secretary of State. Similarly, auditors appointed by an NHS foundation trust must be members of the bodies listed in that Act or another body approved by the independent regulator.

The Companies Act, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, would exclude members of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, as those are people qualified to audit NHS trusts and other public bodies. We intend that they should also be able to audit NHS foundation trusts. I hope that that clarifies matters for her.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, raised the issue of medical interests, in effect. That is not a relevant category of interest to be declared.

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I always like to hear the Liberal Democrats adopt a liberal approach to electoral systems. I know that they would like us to say that PR was the only way forward in the area, but we are trying to pursue the thinking behind the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lipsey. There is scope for different electoral systems, but they will be prescribed in regulations. As I said, we have drawn on the experience of a number of other pieces of electoral legislation in framing the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 1.38 to 3 p.m.]


Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to recent developments in Sudan.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, Sudan remains a priority for our diplomacy. We are committed to helping the Sudanese parties reach a comprehensive peace agreement. We are encouraged by the recent progress achieved in the meetings between the Sudanese first vice-president and the chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Army. We are also considering ways in which the United Kingdom and the international community can assist in the implementation of a peace agreement and in the long-term development of Sudan.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, it is with great delight that, for the first time in all the years I have been asking Questions on Sudan in your Lordships' House, I unreservedly thank the Minister for her very encouraging reply. It seems as though, at long last, there may be hope for a genuine peace agreement for the peoples of Sudan.

In that spirit, does the Minister agree that many problems persist, particularly, for example, reports of renewed aerial bombardment and the arrest, torture and inhumane treatment of Muslim civilians in Darfur, such as the sentence of a hand/foot amputation of a 16 year-old boy? Will the Minister therefore undertake to encourage, through Her Majesty's Government, the National Islamic Front

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Government to accept international observers at the Darfur peace talks and also on the ground in conflict areas?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness believes, as we do, that there is a real chance for peace. I thank her for her extraordinary endeavours in this respect over many years.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I also thank the Foreign Office officials who have put a tremendous amount of effort into this issue. Of course, many problems remain. We are aware of reports of renewed aerial bombardments. At the moment, I am not in a position to verify those reports, but we call on parties to respect the ceasefire.

Our ambassador in Khartoum has raised the question of the teenage boy which the noble Baroness has drawn to your Lordships' attention. That was pursued at an EU/Sudan dialogue meeting on 29th October.

We are following the talks in Abeche with close interest, and we are keeping in contact with all the parties to them. We believe that the best outcome will be one owned by the people of Darfur themselves and we stand ready to offer support and advice if the parties seek it.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, at the risk of introducing a discouraging note will my noble friend agree that there is little point in holding a referendum on self-determination for the South unless the people are in a position to make an informed choice? Will she confirm that education has been systematically withheld from the South; that information has been censored; and that whole areas have been terrorised into submission? Can the international community provide the resources for a proper information campaign before the referendum is held and before the settlement terms are irreversible?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we recognise that this is an enormously difficult problem. As I said to the noble Baroness, there is still some way to go before we reach a peace settlement. Having done so, we must recognise that the implementation of any agreement will need a concerted international response. As I have indicated to your Lordships, we stand ready to play our part and we are considering what other support can be given. I take the point that my noble and learned friend makes. It is hugely important that those who are asked to make decisions are asked to do so on as informed a basis as possible. There is still a great deal of violence in the country, and we shall need to ensure that everything possible is done to obtain the kind of information which empowers people to make the choices they need to make as quickly as possible.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join in the congratulations expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, to the Minister and to Foreign Office staff

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on the work they have done as friends of IGAD in helping towards the peace agreement which we hope will be signed towards the end of this year. Does the Minister agree that the conflict in Darfur, which according to the UN has led to the internal displacement of as many as 0.5 million people and 70,000 refugees over the border in Chad, needs the attention of the international community? Do the international humanitarian agencies consider that the corridors to the delivery of aid, which have recently been announced by the Sudan, are adequate to meet the problem? Furthermore, does she agree that, if the African Union would look at the wider implications of the conflict, it would help towards the security of people in Darfur as well as in Sudan as a whole?

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