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Lord Avebury: My Lords, if the Government have welcomed the granting of collective rights to indigenous peoples by individual states and said that they have no objection to the incorporation of such rights in the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, what is holding up progress on signing such an agreement, which would provide a yardstick by which the particular disputes in Botswana could be assessed? With regard to the offer made in talks by Roy Sesana, leading to an amicable settlement, will the noble Lord suggest to Vice-President Khama that in legal disputes it is common for people to negotiate behind the scenes while the case continues, and that the stipulation that the case should be withdrawn is not acceptable?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, on the last point, I have no difficulty in putting forward the argument that often more than one channel is open at any one time. The United Kingdom's position on the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention was set out in 1989 in a government White Paper. It noted that the convention was essentially an update of
 
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the 1957 Convention 107 and explained that that convention could not be applied in the United Kingdom as there were no indigenous tribal or semi-tribal people there who would be covered by such provisions. Therefore, the government of the day rightly concluded that they should not ratify that as applying to the United Kingdom. I think we can respond with some sympathy to those circumstances elsewhere in the world but we would do ourselves no favours by pretending that those arrangements made a great deal of sense between the extremes of the United Kingdom's territory.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, how do Her Majesty's Government take account of the inevitable conflict between economic development, environmental issues and indigenous rights, as shown by the removal of the Kalahari Bushmen, when giving aid to developing countries?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, we do not make our aid conditional in that sense. There is certainly a degree of conditionality, as we are seeing in parts of Africa at the moment, that there should be good governance. But in Botswana there has been a reliable system of government since 1966. It has a reliable economy, growing, I believe, at about 7 per cent per annum. It has mechanisms for the representation of its peoples internally, and it came to its conclusions through a system that would be hard to describe as other than democratic. Those conflicts exist, but a government who decide that they want to provide education, health and so on for everyone have to work out in the circumstances how to do that.

Elections: Arbuthnott Commission

11.29 am

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, this Question gives a wholly new meaning to the term "topical question". As I rise to answer it—or rather not answer it—Sir John Arbuthnott is still on his feet in Glasgow launching his independent report. As my noble friend well knows, it would, to put it mildly, be unusual for the Government to respond to a report before or during its launch. Or is there an important point I'm missing?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for recognising my prescience in tabling this Question today. Does he recall that the reason for this commission is the confusion and chaos we face in Scotland with four different voting systems—for local government, Holyrood, Westminster, and European elections—and separate boundaries for Holyrood and Westminster? Is he, like
 
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me, disappointed at reports that this commission has not come up with a coherent set of proposals to deal with those problems? If they do nothing else arising from the commission, will the Government at least consider legislating to stop people standing both for constituency and list seats in the Scottish Parliament, thereby turning losers into winners?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I must congratulate my noble friend on one thing: being first past the post with his question on this report. A mere 15 minutes ago my right honourable friend Alistair Darling issued a press statement, and with the permission of the House I will read a short part of it:

That statement makes my position, at the Dispatch Box now, absolutely clear.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the report was recently published, but it seems that the commissioners listened to pleas for fairness to voters outside Scotland's central belt and to pleas for smaller political parties. In the careful consideration I am sure the Government will give, will they look particularly carefully at the arguments for the present system, with its faults, over other systems? In particular, does not the quality of candidates in Scotland depend on the highly desirable measure which stands at the moment that candidates can stand for both constituency and list?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for making that point. Of course what she says will be part of the debate that we will now have. The report, which is now available in the Printed Paper Office, has an appendix showing how wide the consultation was. As the noble Baroness said, it extended beyond the Scottish boundaries.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that there is a great deal to be studied with care and that it would be wrong to jump to conclusions? The underlying support for proportionality in representation is clear throughout. To strengthen the position of the individual in the substitution of open lists for closed lists is a particularly welcome recommendation. Although it is clear that this House will not want to pass a rapid verdict on the case, as Sir John Arbuthnott puts it, for introducing a proportional system for Westminster elections, should we not come back to the subject soon?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, the noble Lord has an advantage over me as I see that he has a copy of the report in his hand, so he has actually read it. His point is that there are a number of issues in the report which he thinks need to be fully discussed. As the Secretary of State said, this will happen over the next period.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that my noble friend Lord
 
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Foulkes shows perhaps less prescience than a taste for the pre-emptive strike? Nonetheless, he has raised a number of important questions and it would be good to have the opportunity to debate them in this House in due course.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, as I have been reminded by the Chief Whip, that, of course, is a matter for the usual channels. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has brought to the attention of the House an important matter which I am sure will be debated when the Government give their response to the Arbuthnott report.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, can I seek assurance from my noble friend the Minister that the Government in reaching a judgment on the recommendations of the Arbuthnott Commission will give consideration not only to its impact on Scotland but also to the possible implications for the rest of the United Kingdom?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. It is now on record and will be part of the discussion that we are going to have.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, will the Minister take rather more seriously the criticism by his noble friend Lord Foulkes of the chaos and confusion that have been created in Scotland? Does he acknowledge that this is entirely the result of measures introduced by this Government? On the issue of whether candidates who are on the list may also stand for constituencies, how is it possible to have completely different systems in Wales and in Scotland? Is that not another example of muddled thinking leading to confusion throughout the whole of the United Kingdom?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, it is quite the contrary. It is a very good example of clarity of thought by this Government. The remit for the Arbuthnott Commission was based on the very points that the noble Lord has made: there are problems; what do we do to solve them? The Government set up a commission; we have the report and we will discuss it very shortly. That is precisely what the noble Lord seems to be asking for.


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