The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to the Baltic states; they all need their confidence boosted, they all want to be part of Europe, and they all want to have the same sort of democracy. One of the roles of the Council of Europe is do just that and to provide that support. Many things have happened in Europe over the last 50 years which we would all prefer had not happened, and that we can never forget about. If the Council of Europe and the European Union help with that, they are making a major contribution to our future.

We intend to continue to assist in Europe by supporting the work of the Council. We are still working with Andorra. The chairmanship passed from Ukraine to us, and from us to Andorra, and there is a sort of seamlessness about it which I hope will continue.

The new congress president, Mr van Staa, has also decided that he wants a better arrangement in the congress. One of our Belgian friends, Mr Lambertz, is committed to improving the structures, but the structures are only important because of the work that the congress and the Council of Europe does. That is going to affect all the things that people have talked about. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, mentioned President Gorbachev’s role, and he asked about the widening of the geographical area of Europe. It is probably as wide as it can go and we cannot take it too much further, but it does not mean that the Council cannot be encouraging.

I was very interested in the influence of the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, in Armenia. That is not somewhere I would have connected with him, but it is good that it was there. He asked for my views on prisoner voting. It would be fair to say that we are still considering our position on that, and I am not going to be able to give him a firm answer to that question today.

Lord Prescott: We in this country have been in breach of our human rights obligations; it has been confirmed twice by the courts. Are we not doing anything about it?

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Baroness Hanham: We will consider it, my Lords. There we are. I will just say to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, that there are no plans at present to extend the Council of Europe further east or south, but I can tell the noble Lord that the congress and the Council of Ministers and the parliamentary assembly are all considering how they can contribute to the democratic processes in those parts of the world.

I look forward to the outcomes of the better collaboration in the Council of Europe and the quality of the programmes which are going to be run. I know that congress is seeking to improve its preparation of the work that it undertakes and what it does in monitoring other states. We in this country are due to be monitored in the not-too-distant future and I understand that is to be done by Russia. So that should be interesting.

Lord Judd: I warmly endorse what the noble Baroness says about the importance of some countries in eastern Europe and Russia being involved and the part that that can play in building democracy. However, it all will be negated if, when it comes to the point, the Committee of Ministers does not rigorously pursue the matters indicated by the court as being wrong.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I agree. The Council of Europe has to grip the fact that it has to do things.

We are very supportive of the European Court of Human Rights. After all, it was this country and Winston Churchill who set it up. We have always supported it and believe that there is a great strength in it. Although the changes that we managed to make were only administrative, the noble Lord is right that there is no point in just talking. People have to do things, otherwise we might just as well all save the fare of going to Brussels and Strasbourg.

I am grateful to everyone who has taken part in the debate. I have tried to cover the points raised by everyone who has spoken but I am not sure that I have done so. I value the appearance of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and what he said. My noble friend Lady Wilcox will, I am sure, be a great contributor to the parliamentary assembly. She has a great deal of experience and is quite capable of putting it in its place, which is just as well.

My noble friend Lord Greaves has taken the opportunity to “Christmas tree” into this debate, if I can put it that way, the subject of regions. He and I will never quite agree about that but, as I said in the House the other day, whatever you call it, the northern part of England is beginning again to become dynamic; there is plenty going on. I occasionally go to see what is happening up there. It is a lovely part of the world and it deserves to be brought out of its dormancy because it has always been a very important part of this country. Whatever we call it, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, calls it, we all love it.

My noble friend Lord Dundee has done us a great service by enabling this debate today.

House adjourned at 9.02 pm.