HL Deb 14 March 1994 vol 553 cc1-3

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether annual reports are submitted to Parliament on the administration and progress of each of the dependent territories and, if not, why not.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, since responsibility for their administration has been increasingly devolved to the dependent territories themselves, it is no longer necessary for Her Majesty's Government to produce such reports. Some territories produce their own reports; all are encouraged to do so. When available, these reports will be placed in the Library.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she think, in view of the quite large numbers of people who are the direct responsibility of this Parliament, however devolved the administration might be, that it would be a good thing if debatable reports were produced for Parliament at regular intervals?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we have good reporting from the dependent territories. The Cayman Islands is one of the dependent territories which produces reports. If this House wishes for a debate on those islands, as took place on 9th February, it is perfectly possible to arrange that through the usual channels. But given the way that the self-determination of the dependent territories is progressing, a formal report is not necessarily of interest. Reports on specific aspects of their work are from time to time requested, and are certainly used, both by the Foreign Office diplomatic wing and my own aid wing.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, arising out of the last part of my noble friend's Answer, is it not the fact that any noble Lord or any Member of another place can table a Question relating to these countries if there is a matter worth raising? Is it not much better to leave it at that rather than produce a whole series of routine reports to which possibly very little attention is paid?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said. It is important to concentrate the reporting that is done on the specific needs of individual dependent territories so that we deal with the challenges that they face in partnership with them, but in a way which can be a better use of time than the generalised report.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, at what intervals are reports obliged to be made to the United Nations Committee on Decolonisation? Are those reports invariably placed in the Library of the House?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, without checking I cannot be certain, but I believe that that is so.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, am I right in assuming that at the conference of dependent territories that was held a short time ago at Queen Elizabeth Hall, they were very keen to get our advice in a changing world in which more and more nations are becoming independent? With our experience, capacity and reputation throughout the world, having got peace and enjoyment in some of those territories in our association with them, does the Minister agree that it is a compliment that they asked us? Should we not try to come in on this matter and take advantage of it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. The conference on the dependent territories was indeed most useful; as we also find the dependent territories' regional secretariat in Bridgetown, which looks after the Caribbean dependent territories. What is important is that they all know that they have access to us when they need it, and that we respond to the individual needs that they have.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, whatever reports are ultimately published, will the Government bear in mind that it is quite unnecessary to have the glossy productions in colour? Normally speaking those reports cost between £4 and £5 each and in the case of those published by Her Majesty's Government represent a gross waste of money?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, at a time when it is sometimes difficult to attract the attention of the public to some of the affairs of government, making reports more readable and more understandable is quite important. Whereas the noble Lord and I may agree on some matters, I believe that the improvement in government printing is a means by which one can better explain what is going on in a way that the reader will take in, and perhaps even remember.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I accept what the Minister said earlier about self-determination, but will she reconsider her Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley? I received this morning in my post—perhaps fortuitously—a background brief on the dependent territories from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It seems to me to form the basis for a report on the dependent territories which could go in the Library. It covers them all; it is fairly short; it is not at all glossy; and it would not cost a great deal.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for bringing to the House one of our regular pieces of information. The difficulty is that too many people, on seeing it, do not have her alert eye and put it straight in the wastepaper basket. I am delighted that she obviously finds it useful. I shall make sure that it is in the Library and that any other noble Lords who wish to have a copy of it will receive one.

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