Shadow international development minister Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead has characterised the release of around 200 political prisoners in Burma as "merely cosmetic".
Baroness Kinnock told peers during question time in the Lords that it represented "an effort to get sanctions lifted, not to encourage democracy".
Foreign Office minister Lord Howell of Guildford disagreed, saying it "could lead to a more constructive dialogue" and gave assurance that sanctions against Burma would remain in place.
The exchange followed a question from crossbencher Baroness Cox on protecting the human rights of ethnic Burmese people, on 13 October 2011.
Another crossbencher, Lord Walton of Detchant, asked what action the government was taking to improve patient access to new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS).
Health minister Earl Howe denied that cost was the prime consideration for NICE - the body that approves treatments for use by the NHS - in declining to license a new oral treatment for MS. He added some neurologists had concerns about the effects of using the drug Fingolimod.
Other questions covered the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent and war memorial gardens.
After questions, there was an announcement from government chief whip Baroness Anelay of St Johns about the Lords timetable for the coming year.