Wouldn't it be wonderful if peace between Israel and the Palestinians were to be forged during the next few hours at the meeting taking place in the north of our island today! Imagine if the failed Oslo peace process were to be replaced by the Peace of Formentor or of Majorca! We can dream - but the reality is very different. Although the main actors will be present including, very importantly, President Mubarak of Egypt, it is extremely unlikely that anything positive will come out of what is, anyway, a conference to discuss different matters entirely.

Of course, corridor conversations can be as important as formal proceedings but in this case the conditions for even the smallest progress in the Israel/Palestinian situation are simply not in place. Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres, will be at Formentor, as will the Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat; however, there is a real doubt over the freedom of action that Mr Peres will have. When he announced at the beginning of the week that he had a new peace plan to discuss on Majorca, prime minister Ariel Sharon quickly intervened to say that he also had a plan and that he would take responsibility for negotiating with the Palestinians.

Media reports have suggested that Mr Peres' plan included the possibility of dismantling Israel settlements in the Gaza Strip in line with the Mitchell Report, so it is hardly surprising that his prime mininster reacted so swiftly to counter his ideas. While most outside observers are grateful that the moderate Shimon Perez is a member of Israel's coalition government, it seems increasingly likely that his growing differences with Mr Sharon will force his reluctant resignation, despite his undoubted commitment to the cause of peace above all other political considerations.

Ray Fleming

Ban this advertising

Opinion on the reform of Britain's House of Lords remains divided but today the House will show its usefulness when it debates a Private Member's Bill to ban tobacco advertising.

The government has twice promised in election manifestos to do this itself but has so far failed to act. Yet virtually every medical organisation concerned with cancer believes that such a ban would save thousands of lives every year and relieve the National Health Service of a totally unnecessary burden.

In a letter to The Times the President of the Royal College of Physicians and four other distinguished professionals in this field have pointed out that “There is no point in pumping cash into the NHS if you allow tobacco companies to fill the cancer, respiratory and cardiac wards by promoting smoking.” And they add: ”It is not often that ministers have the chance to do something that will make a major difference to health, be popular with the public and cost almost nothing.” The government's attitude to a ban on tobacco advertising has been dissembling and disappointing.
The tobacco industry is skilled at arguing that it does not seek to increase sales, merely to offer choice, but few people accept this rationalisation.If ministers oppose this Private Member's Bill today their motives will inevitably come under suspicion.



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