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Lord Rix: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many people with profound and multiple disabilities are avid sports watchers just like their non-disabled peers? Unfortunately, the disability toilets available at grounds are now not suitable for such disabled people. Will he therefore use his best endeavours to ensure that stadia will install for those disabled people toilets that include a changing bench, a hoist and space, so that they can enjoy the football, or whatever other sports activity it is, just like the rest of us?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Accessible Stadia guidance, which is the document recommended by the governing bodies of sports to encourage the development of facilities for the disabled, contains the aspects that the noble Lord identified. It is clear that disabled supporters need all the facilities that others would want. I cannot pretend that we have 100 per cent coverage, because we are a long way off that with regard to football stadia and many other sports stadia. However, all sports are making great progress. Twickenham is an example in rugby; the Oval cricket ground and the Rose Bowl in Hampshire are also examples. As I mentioned, Wembley Stadium is an outstanding illustration of how to consider the needs of the disabled.

Lord Addington: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the defence of reasonableness is placed in all disability legislation? That defence means that you must do what is reasonably practicable at the time. If the sporting bodies are not fulfilling that, will the Government ensure that in every way those bodies are dealt with as harshly as someone else who is not complying with the duty of reasonableness?

Lord Davies of Oldham: Indeed so, my Lords. We all recognise that there have been significant adjustments throughout society to the needs of the disabled consequent on legislation that has now been in place for more than a decade but which many noble Lords will regard as having been long overdue. Of course, one has to shift attitudes in society, but I think that on all sides we recognise that progress is being made. To give one illustration of a sporting event, the disabled marathon race is watched with at least the same degree of enthusiasm and excitement as the marathon race itself in London. That is an example of integration of the disabled into the true sporting arena.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of Warrington Wolves Rugby League Club. I invite my noble friend to visit our stadium, the Halliwell Jones, where he will see disability facilities second to none, where people with disabilities are not separated from their friends but can sit with them and where commentaries are available for those whose eyesight is not too good. The reason for that is that the personal adviser is not only disabled himself but a consultant on disability. Would it not be a good thing to urge people when improving disability facilities at stadiums to seek the advice of people with such knowledge of disability?

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I mentioned a number of significant sports but not Rugby League, as I saw that my noble friend was in his place and knew that the opportunity would occur later. Of course he is right: the Halliwell stadium in Warrington is an outstanding illustration of a stadium that caters well for the disabled. He is also right to say that others can learn from the experience of the work that has been done. It is important that sports’ leading bodies take the initiative on this, which is why the Minister for Sport wrote to the Premier League and the Football Association reminding them in particular of the progress that they need to continue to make.

Baroness Billingham: My Lords, can the Minister assure us that all the venues for the London Olympics will be fully available for people with disability? That means not just stadia but stands and open spaces. Surely we want to ensure that all those venues are fully available and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will appreciate that the Olympic Games also include the Paralympics, so it would be extraordinary if the Olympic movement was not certain that disabled supporters and spectators were catered for adequately. I assure the House that, in the plans for the Olympic Games, the interests of disabled supporters will be very much to the fore. That is the basis of the planning of the stadia.

Syria: Nuclear Weapons

3 pm

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, the CIA briefed Members of the Senate and House intelligence committees and the media on this issue on 24 April and showed a video that appears to support the assessment that Syria was building a nuclear site with North Korean co-operation. These concerns demonstrate the importance of the additional safeguard measures that the IAEA has repeatedly requested all countries to adhere to.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does he recognise the scepticism that is bound to exist about such a report based on US intelligence assessments, given that they have been so very wrong in the recent past about similar issues? Does he share the belief that this report underlines the importance of greater diplomatic engagement with Syria, particularly by the United Kingdom, France and Germany?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend is well aware that we have a golden rule in government not to comment on intelligence assessments. Much more prominent figures than I on both sides of the Atlantic have ignored this rule at their peril. Let me just say that I put great faith in the IAEA, which has agreed to assess the evidence and to provide an objective judgment on whether what the report purports to show is correct. I would add that officials here in the United Kingdom are very impressed by the evidence they have seen.

As to the second point, yes, this proves the need for intensified diplomatic effort.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I do not want to put the Minister in any peril about these matters, but is it not the case that when the CIA was pressed at the briefing on whether this was a nuclear weapons development with a potential for creating fuel for weaponisation it said that it had “low confidence”—I think that was the phrase—in that assessment. That was of course jargon for it did not have a clue about whether it was going to be weaponised or not. Do not the real questions concern whether the IAEA was involved in assessing the civil nuclear potential of this site at all, whether the Israelis had any contact with the IAEA, and what contact they had with the United States before they decided to knock it out?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the IAEA has made it clear that it was not aware of the allegations about this site or indeed of the evidence presented last week until then. Clearly, the IAEA has a lot of catching up to do to process this material and to judge what it does not represent.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, have the Government of Syria agreed to allow the IAEA to inspect the site and to give it full access to everything the Syrian Government might or might not have been doing at that site? Will he also clarify what would be the legal position of the Syrian Government in respect of the non-proliferation treaty and in respect of any safeguard agreements it has with the International Atomic Energy Agency if it turned out that it had indeed had a covert nuclear programme at that site?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, Syria is required to give access to the IAEA as a signatory to the NPT and, similarly, if it has been preparing a secret nuclear weapons site it is evidently completely in breach of its NPT undertakings. Again, we need to wait for the IAEA assessment.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the unhappy coincidence that this information was released by the CIA just after former President Carter had told us all that Syria wanted to open discussions with the United States and in the context of well-founded reports in Washington that the Turkish Government have been attempting to help the Syrians and the Israelis to talk directly. Can the Minister reassure us that the Government are in favour of inclusive talks on these Middle East problems

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and not of excluding particular parties, which seems to be what many within the Bush Administration wish to do.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, obviously the noble Lord would not expect me to comment on the coincidences he refers to, but I can confirm that the United Kingdom Government remain strongly in favour of inclusive peace talks. Indeed, we were one of those who pressed hard for the Syrians to be included at Annapolis.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, irrespective of the CIA’s accusations, there is mounting evidence of at least the ambiguity that surrounds the intentions of Syria in relation to nuclear development? Does he accept that that goes some way to explaining why the state of Israel does not have an incandescent enthusiasm for signing a non-proliferation treaty and ceasing to be a nuclear power?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord’s concern. This represents potentially a major breach of the NPT and a major threat to international affairs, but it must wait until the assessment is made. I would say to the noble Lord and to the state of Israel that it is precisely because Syria is a party to the NPT that we have an international means of verification available to us. As a party to the treaty, Syria must allow international inspections in order to confirm or refute the charge that it has a weapons programme under development.

Lord Roper: My Lords, what are the obligations of a member of the IAEA to bring to the attention of the agency evidence of a breach of the NPT, and why was it necessary to delay from 7 September last until this April before that information was made available?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, press reports show that Dr El Baradei, the director-general of the IAEA, raised some of the same concerns. We will have to wait to see the exchanges between him and the United States on that. I cannot pretend to be privy to the precise obligations, but, as I understand it, this kind of information should be brought to the IAEA by its members in a timely way.

London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill

3.07 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be recommitted to an Unopposed Bill Committee in respect of Part 1 (Preliminary), Part 5 (Non-payment of penalty charges) and Schedule 2 (Representations and appeals in relation to the removal of vehicles, and enforcement).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

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

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Housing and Regeneration Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.—(Baroness Andrews.)

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

European Union (Amendment) Bill

3.08 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 2 [Addition to list of treaties]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 7:

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 8, replacement Article 6 TEU, paragraph 1, concerning the Charter of Fundamental Rights; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group. Your Lordships are already familiar with the way in which Amendment No. 7 works. In addition to excluding the provision in the Bill relating to the common foreign and security policy, it would also exclude important aspects relating to the charter. On the other amendments in this group, I refer in particular to Amendment No. 117, which is in the name of my noble friend Lord Blackwell. In effect, this amendment achieves in a different way the same objective as we seek. The great merit of my noble friend’s amendment is that it states in terms exactly why he believes that the charter should not be given any form of legal status in the United Kingdom.

As many noble Lords are aware, the Government’s view is that the charter will make no difference at all to the legal landscape in the United Kingdom because it is incapable of creating new rights. It is fair to say that that is the view of many of the academics who have given evidence to the various parliamentary committees which have been engaged in investigating this issue.

At page 23 of the third report of Session 2007-08 of the scrutiny committee in another place, the Foreign Secretary, the right honourable Mr Miliband said that,

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If that is so, two questions immediately arise. The first is: why were the Community draftsmen so keen on amending the treaty to include the charter? Why have the charter if it makes no difference whatever? Let us assume for a moment that it does not make any difference. What could it possibly bring? I have long taken the view that the European institutions have consistently refused to sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights because they did not want the Court in Strasbourg to have the last word on the definition of human rights. It was almost a question of prestige. Now that the charter of fundamental rights has been established through the Lisbon treaty and is about to get legal force, the Community institutions can be much more relaxed about this matter. It comes as no surprise to see that now, at last, they are indeed prepared to become signatories to the European Council’s own convention, because they believe that their court and their legal system now carry a weight as heavy as that of the European Council. That is one reason why having the charter is consistent with it having, in other respects, no legal effect whatever.

3.15 pm

The other question that arises is: if it is true that the charter has no legal effect, why did Mr Blair, then the Prime Minister, make such a fuss about the red lines? Was he just grandstanding—“impossible”, I am sure many noble Lords might say—or does he not share the Foreign Secretary’s confidence? Why did Mr Blair think that he needed the protocol?

The crucial clauses of the protocol are Articles 1.1 and 1.2, which, I remind your Lordships, read as follows. Article 1.1 states:

Article 1.2 states:

If Mr Blair is right and Mr Miliband is wrong, does the protocol put the matter beyond doubt?

Article 1.1 simply reiterates the proposition advanced by Mr Miliband in his evidence to the scrutiny committee. Indeed, in his evidence in the third report of the 2007-08 Session, Mr Miliband simply sees Article 1.1 as restating the legal position in the treaty. I apologise to your Lordships for making another quotation but I think that it is germane to the argument. He says that,

Curiously, Article 1.2 makes a reference only to one matter—Title IV—and might be said to enhance its status by comparison with other matters in the chapter.

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However, the protocol has a preamble, which would form part of the materials that the European Court of Justice will use to construe the protocol. That preamble states, inter alia, that the protocol is expressed to be without prejudice to other obligations of the United Kingdom,

What conclusions can we draw from all this? The first and perhaps most important one is that it is plain that, irrespective of the protocol, the charter does apply to the United Kingdom. Secondly, it is also plain that the final arbiter of just what effect it will have is the European Court of Justice. So the construction of the charter will, in the last resort, be a matter not for our own courts but for the ECJ. That is the basis of many people’s concern about the likely development of law once the charter is incorporated into the Community’s jurisprudential system.

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