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23 Feb 2010 : Column 36WS

Sri Lanka

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I would like to update the House on recent developments in the political and humanitarian situations in Sri Lanka.

Since the end of the fighting last May between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam there has been a unique opportunity for the Government to work with all communities in Sri Lanka to achieve lasting peace through genuine national reconciliation. The UK has continued to make the case that this can only come about through a fully inclusive political process to address the underlying causes of the conflict.


Following the presidential election of 26 January the Prime Minister wrote to President Rajapakse and I have spoken with Foreign Minister Bogollogama. Together with others, such as the Secretaries-General of the UN and the Commonwealth and the EU High Representative, we have urged President Rajapakse to use his new mandate to make real progress on national reconciliation. The President has made some positive comments about the need to focus on the concerns of Tamils and to discuss the devolution of powers. Setting out his plans for political reform would be a welcome next step.

Election monitors and the Election Commissioner were united in declaring the result of the election valid. But they voiced concerns about aspects of the election campaign, including incidences of violence and allegations of electoral malpractice. We have been encouraging the Government to address these concerns by conducting thorough investigations into any allegations and to encourage an atmosphere of calm by reaching out to those who did not support the President. There have, however, been worrying reports of a clampdown on those who did not support President Rajapakse. The arrest of his principal challenger in the election, Sarath Fonseka, has done nothing to ease tensions. The Government needs to ensure that all detainees, including Fonseka, are treated strictly in accordance with Sri Lankan law.

The next opportunity for Sri Lankans to elect their political representatives will be the Parliamentary elections that are expected to take place on 8 April. The Prime Minister has encouraged the President to ensure that measures are in place to remove the scope for allegations of malpractice. I have underlined to Foreign Minister Bogollogama the importance of making it possible for all Sri Lankans to vote. While we welcomed the high national turnout in the presidential election of 70 per cent., this dropped to less than 30 per cent. in the north and east. An election in which all communities can select their representatives of choice could advance the prospects for genuine reconciliation.

We will continue to engage with the Government and other political parties in Sri Lanka to encourage a process of political reform. In recognition of the potentially positive contribution they could make to that process, we also continue to engage with the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities based in the UK. This includes the activities of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Des Browne) MP, the Prime Minister's
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special envoy for Sri Lanka. I will be addressing the forthcoming London conference of the global Tamil Forum to encourage a forward-looking, constructive approach.


The EU has made clear its view that a credible process to address alleged violations of international humanitarian law by both sides during the conflict could also contribute to the process of reconciliation. The US State Department report on the conflict in Sri Lanka and the statement by Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, underline the need for a credible and independent investigation. We continue to make this clear to the Sri Lankan Government, most recently when I spoke to Foreign Minister Bogollogama earlier this month. We await with interest the findings of the committee set up by President Rajapakse to look into the State Department report.

Human Rights and GSP+

A third way in which the GoSL could encourage genuine reconciliation would be through greater promotion and protection of human rights, including media freedoms, and by tackling the culture of impunity. I have reinforced to Foreign Minister Bogollogama the importance of producing and implementing a human rights national action plan, as was agreed at the UN Human Rights Council periodic review of Sri Lanka in 2008.

On 19 October the European Commission published its report into Sri Lanka's compliance with three of the conventions linked to Sri Lanka being a beneficiary of the GSP+ scheme. The report was clear about Sri Lanka's failings in its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the convention on the rights of the child. The report reinforces our concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and we share the Commission's assessment.

On 15 February the UK and other member states supported the Commission's formal recommendation to withdraw GSP+ benefits from Sri Lanka. This will come into effect on 15 August, six months following the date of the decision. We continue to urge the Government to engage constructively with the European Commission and to take all necessary steps to address the serious concerns highlighted in the Commission's report.

Humanitarian Situation

The UK's most immediate priority since the end of the conflict has been to work for an improvement in the humanitarian situation. By the end of the fighting there were over 280,000 internally displaced people in camps in the north of Sri Lanka. We have been advocating an improvement in conditions inside the camps and for IDPs to be able to return to their home areas as soon as it is safe to do so. Since September 2008, the UK, through the Department for International Development, has also allocated £12.5 million to the humanitarian response.

Conditions in the camps have improved and there has been progress in the return of IDPs. UN official figures estimate that as of 15 January around 187,500 people have been released from the camps, of which 158,500 have been able to return to their home areas, while
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29,000 vulnerable people have been housed with host families or in institutions. It is important that vulnerable people have been housed with host families or in institutions. It is important that IDPs continue to be able to return to their home areas as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Government's announcement on 1 December that all IDPs still in the camps would be granted freedom of movement was a positive step. However, some restrictions remain in place and we will continue to encourage the Government to ease those.

We will continue to work with international partners and with the Sri Lankan Government to encourage progress on reconciliation, accountability and human rights as a basis for the lasting peace all Sri Lankans want and deserve.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): I am publishing today the "Consultation on Services for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in England".

Since 2005 the Department, the National Health Service and other key stakeholders have been working together to identify the best ways to improve care and outcomes for those people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and to reduce the overall prevalence of the condition. Following this work we have developed a set of recommendations for the NHS, further action for the Department and we are now consulting with stakeholders. This document represents the final consultation stage before we publish the final strategy.

We estimate that over three million people in England live with this condition. One person dies in England of COPD every 20 minutes-a loss of about 25,000 lives every year. COPD is also the second most common cause of emergency admission and the fifth largest cause for readmission to hospital. It is also one of the most costly, in terms of acute hospital care.

It has therefore become clear that we need to change our approach to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of the condition. As we have developed the strategy we have had extensive engagement with people with COPD and their carers

The strategy offers a real opportunity to make a difference to people with COPD and their carers. Successful implementation will require ongoing commitment and ambition and the engagement and involvement of all stakeholders.

The strategy does not define how each aspect of care should be delivered. We think services need to be sensitively planned and appropriately delivered in response to the needs of each local community. However, the strategy is designed to support local service plans within the NHS, and to complement other related national and local initiatives. This will include the clinical guidelines developed by NICE and other broader health promotion initiatives such as the national tobacco control programme. With
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better co-ordinated and integrated services, we can provide care that better meets the complex needs of people with COPD and meets their expectations.

Because of the magnitude of the burden of asthma, we have given separate attention to that condition within this strategy, highlighting where there are synergies in the approach to the care of these conditions and where there are differences. It also highlights some aspects of good asthma services.

"Consultation on Services for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in England" has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

The consultation will run from 23 February to 5 April 2010.

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Departmental Expenditure Limits

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Subject to the necessary Supplementary Estimates, the Department of Health's element of the Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) will increase by £214,306,000 from £105,349,954,000 to £105,564,260,000 and the Administration Cost Limit increases by £4,426,000 from £213,765,000 to £218,191,000. The Food Standards Agency DEL decreases by £1,500,000 from £134,987,000 to £133,487,000. The overall DEL including the Food Standards Agency will increase by £212,806,000 from £105,484,941,000 to £105,697,747,000. The impact on resource and capital are set out in the following table:


Voted £mNon-voted £mVoted £mNon-voted £mTotal £m

Department of Health

Resource DEL






of which:

Administration Budget *






Near-cash in Resource DEL






Capital DEL






Total Department of Health DEL






Depreciation **






Total Department of Health spending (after adjustment)






Food Standards Agency

Resource DEL






of which:

Administration Budget *




Near-cash in Resource DEL



Capital DEL



Total Food Standards Agency DEL





Depreciation **



Total Food Standards Agency spending (after adjustment)






* The total of "administration budget" and "Near-cash in Resource DEL" figures may well be greater than the total resource DEL, due to definitions overlapping.
** Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since the capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The Department of Health DEL has increased by £214,306,000 made up of:

In addition, the following internal transfers were made:

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