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Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the noble Baroness find as irritating as I do Ministers who start everything off with, “Well, my Lords”? Are they telling

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me that they are well? Are they asking me whether I am well? In either case, I hope that she will agree that it is incorrect.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the health of the noble Baroness is always of enormous interest on these Benches and across the whole House. I accept, however, that we should begin by saying “My Lords” and answering the question.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, does not the high incidence of rambling multiple questions suggest that self-regulation does not work at Question Time? Who is responsible for enforcing our Companion? Perhaps I may whisper the solution: the Lord Speaker should be allowed to intervene.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, it will be for the House to decide how it wishes to be regulated in the future. I have no difficulty with the Lord Speaker performing more functions. If that is what the House and the Lord Speaker wish to do, it would be perfectly acceptable to me. For the moment, the House has chosen to self-regulate, perhaps with an occasional nudge from me at Question Time.

Lord Jopling: My Lords—

Lord Tebbit: My Lords—

Lord McNally: My Lords, it is my turn: self-regulation at work. Does the Lord President agree that this House has a great reputation for innovation? Is it not unfair that only the government side of the House has the chance to explain its policy? Would it not be a great innovation if we were given time—the Liberal Democrats would certainly welcome it—to explain our policy in a question-and-answer session?

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord McNally: My Lords, would the Lord President not pay good money to hear the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, questioning his Front Bench on Conservative policy?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, there are a number of ways in which Questions could be asked in the House for which I would pay good money. Again, however, it is for the House to determine. I have had plenty of opportunities of having the joy and benefit of listening to Liberal Democrat policy.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, would the Minister not agree that that question was rather wide of the mark?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, to get back to the Question on the Order Paper, is the noble Baroness aware—I am sure that she is—of the useful book

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Procedure & Practice? It is pocket or handbag-sized; I carry mine in my handbag all the time, as noble Lords know to their intense irritation. It is easy to read and clears up a whole lot of points on House of Lords procedure. Would the noble Baroness recommend it to noble Lords who have difficulty?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I would indeed recommend the little red book.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the noble Baroness—

Lord Jopling: My Lords, will the Leader of the House yet again remind those dilatory Ministers who fail to answer Written Questions within the statutory two weeks of their obligation to do so? Will she explain why the poor noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, is still waiting for an Answer to a Question tabled in January? It is still unanswered in June.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, has waited since 24 January; the reply was due on 7 February. The culprit is Mr Liam Byrne, whose office I rang yet again today. I also rang his Permanent Secretary. I remind Ministers of these matters and my office does so on a regular basis. The noble Lord has been extraordinarily helpful in supporting me in so doing, as he well knows.

Zimbabwe: Elections

3 pm

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, we have already raised the need for an urgent deployment of international observers to Zimbabwe at the UN and with the UN Secretary-General. We note that some observers are beginning to deploy, but we continue to emphasise in our contacts with African and other international leaders that many more are needed and quickly.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the report that the Americans and the European Union are proposing to send a message to the United Nations calling on it to send representatives to Zimbabwe? Can he confirm that that is the case and whether the message has gone? If it has gone that is certainly a very good thing, bearing in mind that many countries and organisations with great knowledge of the task have been refused admission to Zimbabwe. Is it not important that those who send monitors to Zimbabwe should have them remain there after the forthcoming vote to prevent a repeat of what happened after the previous vote? They would need to spend a long time there after the forthcoming vote to prevent what is happening now.

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, President Bush has called for observers, as have many European leaders. We are pressing the European Union to make the case again, as we have, to the UN and the UN Secretary-General, who has established a trust fund to support observers. Every step is being taken through the UN and the AU to get as many observers there as possible. Certainly, they should stay after the elections until the results are clear.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, has the noble Lord had a chance to read the reports in today’s newspapers that a six year-old boy was burnt to death yesterday when soldiers attacked the home of an opposition local councillor just outside Harare? What assessment have the Government made of the reports that real power in Zimbabwe has now passed from the hands of Robert Mugabe into the hands of the military?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I saw that tragic report, as I am sure all Members of the House did. This is not the first child or old person to have died in recent weeks in Zimbabwe, caught up in massive electoral violence intended to prevent the people of Zimbabwe exercising their democratic free choice. We continue to press to get to the bottom of this electoral violence and we will do all we can to contain and prevent it through international pressure.

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in his lecture last night to the MCC on the spirit of cricket, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that Zimbabwe should not be allowed to tour England while the current regime is in place? Although I recognise that it might not be easy for the Government to ban the tour, are there any plans afoot to ensure that the Zimbabwean team does not receive visas to enter the United Kingdom?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the Government’s reluctance to engage in sports boycotts is well known but it would be a complete travesty if a Zimbabwean team were to tour this country under the present circumstances. However, we very much hope that by the time this tour arrives a democratic Government will be in office in Zimbabwe.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is it not clear from the story related by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, concerning the tragic death of not only a six year-old boy but his pregnant mother in an arson attack, and from the many other similar events happening up and down the country, that no matter how many election observers are deployed by the African Union, SADC or the UN, the result will be fixed by the military for its own purposes? Does the Minister not therefore endorse the advice given by the Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, that we should tell Mugabe that his time is up and that, whatever the results of the election, a strategy shall be developed to ensure that the will of the people prevails?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, there is no doubt that if this election were to result in a stolen result, not just the people of Zimbabwe but the international community would say, “Enough is enough. This cannot be allowed to stand”. However, the evidence we are receiving is that, far from being cowed by this violence,

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the people of Zimbabwe are being spurred by it to turn in ever greater numbers to the opposition. I suspect, therefore, that we may still see the spirit of democracy prevail in this barren, difficult, oppressive environment.

Lord Goodlad: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government have protested in the strongest possible terms to the Government of Zimbabwe about the intimidatory treatment accorded to Dr Pocock, the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, and other diplomats? Will he acknowledge the extraordinary physical courage shown by our diplomats in that country as well as elsewhere?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble Lord’s words will bring much comfort to Andrew Pocock and to other British diplomats who are subjected to this kind of harassment. However, I suspect that if Her Majesty’s ambassador were standing here today, he would say that what he was subjected to—in this case what his diplomats were subjected to, because he was not personally involved in the incident last week—is nevertheless mild compared with the terrible violence that ordinary Zimbabweans are subjected to. We have protested about the treatment of him and his colleagues, but we have also protested repeatedly about the violence every Zimbabwean faces at the moment.

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, as I understand it, the date of the next round of Zimbabwean elections coincides with the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela, for which there will be celebrations here in London. Could an approach be made to Nelson Mandela to speak out about conditions in Zimbabwe?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I think that Nelson Mandela, like Archbishop Tutu and other southern African leaders, is in no doubt about the situation. No doubt they are taking counsel about when is the most effective moment to speak out against a Government whose leadership is prickly, nationalistic and deeply resistant to criticism even from their immediate neighbours and, if you like, spiritual and intellectual peers, such as Mr Mandela and Archbishop Tutu.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, over and above the point rightly made by my noble friend Lord Blaker about keeping on the monitors afterwards, does the Minister agree that, right from the start in this tragedy, HMG and indeed the whole of this nation have sought to do good and to have a positive policy for the people of Zimbabwe, and yet the most horrible rumours and anti-British propaganda continue to circulate throughout the whole region? Bearing in mind the difficulty of the excellent high commissioner in Zimbabwe, who has had great difficulties getting anything out in the media at all, would there be a case for our high commissioner in Pretoria being able to speak a bit more vigorously, and possibly with less quiet diplomacy, making the case we are trying to make, which is for liberty and the rule of law and not for any sort of backward-looking ideas about colonialism? Can we have a better and more vigorous case to put to the people of South Africa and Zimbabwe?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I think that the people of South Africa are in no doubt about the regime that immediately neighbours them. The tragic incidents involving Zimbabweans and other immigrants in South Africa is the most violent expression of a much greater unease in the country about how this issue of Zimbabwe has been handled. We are seeing in the words of the ANC president Mr Zuma and other South African leaders an increasingly robust and forceful determination to ensure that democracy does prevail next door. Certainly we as British spokesmen need to contribute to that while ensuring that we do not overstep the mark and provide evidence that somehow we are thought to be inappropriately intervening in the affairs of Zimbabwe.

Crossrail Bill

3.09 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be recommitted to a Grand Committee.

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

Health and Social Care Bill

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of my noble friend Lord Darzi.

Moved, that the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clause 1

Schedule 1Clauses 2 and 3Schedule 2Clauses 4 to 48Schedule 3Clauses 49 to 62Schedule 4Clauses 63 to 91Schedule 5Clauses 92 and 93Schedule 6Clause 94Schedule 7Clauses 95 to 106Schedule 8Clauses 107 to 119Schedule 9Clauses 120 to 122Schedule 10Clauses 123 to 125Schedule 11Clauses 126 to 135Schedule 12Clauses 136 to 141Schedule 13Clauses 142 to 154Schedule 14Clauses 155 to 160Schedule 15Clauses 161 to 167.—(Baroness Thornton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with permission, I should advise the House that if Back Bench contributions to today’s Second Reading of the Education and Skills Bill are kept to 12 minutes, then we should be able to rise tonight around the target rising time of 10 pm.

Sale of Student Loans Bill

3.09 pm

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [Sales: supplemental]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin) moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of amendments completes the drafting of provisions relating to the possible future change to terms and conditions and to loans. As I stated on Report, the drafting of two amendments accepted into the Bill at that stage required an addition. The power to give undertakings in Clause 2(5) as currently worded encompasses only undertakings about loan regulations as defined in the Bill. However, just as Clause 2(4) enables compensation arrangements about both loan regulations and Section 186 regulations, so we need also to enable the Secretary of State to give undertakings about the power to make or amend regulations under Section 186 of the Education Act 2002. Without this power, the Government could give undertakings not to amend various repayment terms and conditions but would not be able to guarantee that they would not cancel the loan outright—a power included in Section 186. Amendment No. 1 would rectify this.

Amendment No. 3 makes the equivalent addition to Clause 4(6). This will mean that when making or amending regulations under Section 186 of the Education Act 2002 as well as in amending loan regulations, the Secretary of State must seek to ensure that borrowers will not be in a worse position as a consequence of their loan being sold. Amendment No. 4 is consequential on Amendment No. 1. Welsh Ministers do not have the power to make or amend regulations under Section 186 so the Bill cannot give them the power to make undertakings on that subject.

The amendments to the drafting in this group of amendments are important in that, were a government to be using undertakings in a sale transaction, it would be essential to cover the Section 186 regulations as well as the loan regulations. I believe I flagged this up on Report and hope the noble Baronesses opposite will understand. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for explaining the purpose of these amendments. She has made it clear that there is nothing contentious in them. We on these Benches are happy to accept them.

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Baroness Verma: My Lords, I too thank the Minister. She has assured us that these are by and large technical amendments that are essential to the functioning of the Bill. If this is true we see no reason to object to them.

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