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Today, in a Question, we debated clinical care of our military and what is being done. As the Statement said, we do not accept that we do not have sufficient medical care for our Armed Forces. I have visited the field hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our facilities in Selly Oak, Birmingham; I have spoken to soldiers about this issue. Our level of care on operations is first class. Selly Oak has delivered in a major hospital the necessary care for the cases coming back from operations. We cannot go back to the past and military hospitals. Frankly, they are unable to provide the appropriate level of sophistication and equipment to care for our people properly. We must recognise that the numbers of people in the military for whom we have to care is relatively small. As the Statement said, the best way to ensure that there is proper care is to provide it under the NHS.

On our strategy in Afghanistan, last Friday, General Richards made clear to me that the recent change in the command and operation, and the way in which the Afghan Government are focusing on development zones in the country, was a positive development. The progress made by the military in the past six months gives us a tremendous opportunity, which we must take now. One concern made to me by our military commanders in the field is that the pace of reconstruction, which takes place now and during the winter when traditionally the fighting is less, is established by next spring. I know that there is an active effort in discussions on how we can accelerate that.

In answer to the noble Lord’s question on whether I am content with what DfID and the FCO are doing, there is room for us to further leverage the work of the military in partnership with and together with the work of DfID and the NGOs. I have heard from military commanders that additional resources on the ground would be very effective and complementary to the work being done by DfID and the FCO.

We have a clear strategy for Iraq. It is true that the situation in Iraq is very difficult, which we accept. However, there is a strategy of developing a security framework in the provinces. When we feel that we have got to the point where the Iraqi police and army have the capability to take over a province we hand it over. During the summer, we successfully did that in two provinces. As regards the level of violence in those provinces, it is low. The operational over watch which we are providing has been effective. No doubt,

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the real challenge is in the cities; mostly in Baghdad, but also in Basra. The military strategy taking place locally is to go block-by-block through those cities to establish law and order, clear out the gangs who are killing people, stop sectarian violence and establish reconstruction. As the Statement said, it is early days to see whether that will be effective. The early indication is that it is. Operation Sinbad in Basra aims to do that and it will take many months. By the end, we will see whether it has been successful. Its success depends on whether local political support becomes further established in the city. As that is established, our strategy will be then to withdraw and provide operational overwatch in the way that we have in the other provinces.

It is not true to say that we do not have a clear strategy. In both countries we know absolutely what our plan is, but these are difficult circumstances requiring the support and development of local government and law and order in parallel with it.

I shall take away the noble Lord’s point about potential anomalies in pay proposals. I do not know the process by which we will deal with anomalies should they arise, but I am sure that we will undertake to address them if they are found. I can confirm to the House that the X factor will not be reduced as a result of these proposals. This is in addition to the present pay structure, and I am sure that the pay review body will take it into consideration. I expect the pay review body to fully take into account the enduring pressure that our Armed Forces are under, the fantastic response they are making to the challenge of operations, and the local market conditions which exist. I spoke to a lance corporal in 3 Para last week going back to Colchester. It is important that that young corporal knows that he can get on the property ladder in Colchester, and we are committed to providing a pay package which allows him to do so.

5.36 pm

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I notice the generally positive tone of what he is saying and I am delighted to see that some of the deficiencies are now being gripped—perhaps some of them belatedly. All that is good news, as is the additional money going to those on operations, but I have raised more than once in the House my concern about the commitment of this country and its Armed Forces on two fronts, and we remain heavily committed, not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq.

It had been forecast some months ago that by this time our commitment in Iraq would not be as demanding as it clearly is and looks like remaining. We are seeing reports of the Iraqi police, up to brigade strength, proving inadequate for the job which we expected them to do. So I repeat my question to the Minister: is he satisfied that this country and our Armed Forces are capable of continuing to maintain the level of commitment on these two fronts, with the ability to react more strongly should either front—or, indeed, both fronts—become subject to greater pressure than they are under at the moment?

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Lord Drayson: My Lords, I cannot put it more accurately than how the Chief of the General Staff recently described it in saying that things are running very hot, very hot indeed. That reflects the sustained level of commitment that our troops have to manage at the present.

The answer to the point made by the noble and gallant Lord is that it depends very much on how long these operations will continue. We need to be realistic about the requirements that they will place on us if they are sustained in the long term. We must not travel in hope; we must always make sure that our Armed Forces have resources to meet that challenge. We are looking at our equipment plans to ensure that they have the appropriate balance, taking into account the operational focus in the long term, for example, and, as the noble and gallant Lord is aware, we are carrying out a spending review. As we look at those plans, we need to ensure that we have the resources for any level of sustained commitment into the future.

Lord Richard: My Lords, perhaps I may come back to a question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Garden. Is it not perfectly clear that there is now intense reconsideration going on in Washington of the strategy that should be pursued in Iraq? What input do Her Majesty’s Government hope to have in that reconsideration and, particularly, what input do we hope to have in the consideration by James Baker, the former Secretary of State, of this topic? All sorts of ideas are being floated in all sorts of quarters, particularly in Washington. I hope that we will not be pursuing one strategy suddenly to discover that the Americans have changed their ground.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, as my noble friend would expect, we have close and multiple levels of discussion with the United States on the strategy in Iraq. However, we must take into account the views of the people of Iraq and their elected Government. The Government of Iraq do not want to see a partition of Iraq. They are clear on that point, and Her Majesty's Government support the Iraqi Government in their decision.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, it has been reported that there are restrictions on German behaviour in Afghanistan and that the Luftwaffe will not fly at night. There have also been reports of other members of NATO being bound by rules that do not apply to us or the Canadians. Will the Minister please make representations to the heirs of Scharnhorst, BlĂ1/4cher and Gneisenau that they should behave like proper soldiers and not ban flying at night?

Secondly, has the policy of platoon garrisons dotted about north Helmand province been altered? One platoon, or its equivalent, tied up in one fort, surrounded by a lot of screaming Afghans shooting at them does nobody any good whatever and just causes casualties and mayhem all around. That seems to have been what is happening.

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Lord Drayson: My Lords, with regard to our coalition partners such as Germany and the caveats they place on the operations that they undertake, those caveats are a matter for the Government of the country concerned, in the same way that we would expect the rules of engagement to be a matter for us. There is no doubt, as I have said in this House only today, that NATO is not fully stepping up to the challenge we face in Afghanistan. The requirements which the NATO generals have asked for have not been fully met. We in the United Kingdom are providing a significant contribution to Afghanistan; we are also putting clear pressure on our coalition partners to provide the resources that the commanders need in the field.

With regard to the noble Earl’s comments about the platoon garrison, I do not believe that he has fully understood the strategy that has been undertaken there. To say that it is not doing anyone any good is to do a disservice to the brave men who have fought and died in those platoon garrisons.

The purpose of having those platoon garrisons was to make sure that in the important towns in the northern part of Helmand province, the rule of law and, in particular the influence of the local governor, Engineer Daud, were maintained at a time of pivotal security within that province early in the summer. The garrisons were defended by the British troops because it was essential to the maintenance of the operation of the local government. If the local government does not operate effectively, reconstruction cannot take place, the Afghan National Army does not get paid and the Taliban would secure a local victory which would have a propaganda effect on the local population. The fact that our brave soldiers went into those very dangerous platoon houses and, greatly outnumbered as they were, fought the Taliban and won decisively, has established in the minds of the locals that the British are serious about helping the local democratically elected Government to secure security and the rule of law in the province. It has led directly to the establishment of the cessation of hostilities in those areas and is something upon which we can build.

Our strategy is then to allow the Afghan army and police, which we have trained, to take over in those platoon houses. This will allow some of our troops to leave those platoon houses—not all of them, but some of them—and to be freed up to patrol the areas around them and ensure that reconstruction can take place. We have a clear strategy. It has worked and we shall build on it.

Lord Boyce: My Lords, I welcome much of what was in the Statement and thank the Minister for it. Does he have confidence that the good work being done by the Secretary of State for Defence in pleading every day with the Secretary General of NATO and other defence Ministers will yield anything? I do not hold my breath. What is the alternative strategy if it does not?

Will the Minister say how confident he is about the preparation and training of the composite headquarters which will take over from General

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Richards’ headquarters in the near future? My understanding is that it will not have the sufficient training and preparation that a core headquarters would have, along the lines of the ARC which is there at the moment.

Will the Minister say what interaction we have with Pakistan and what contribution it is making to controlling the Taliban from its side of the border? Does it still have troops on its western border? Is it still working on the problem on our behalf?

I share the rapture of the noble Lord, Lord Garden, about the bonus for our servicemen, but like him, I qualify it until we see the details. I hope that it will not be divisive across the Armed Forces. We need to remember that there are many people in the Armed Forces, across all three services, who are on long operational tours, which are not just in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord for his points relating to the practicalities of the bonus. I will take them back to the department and make sure that they are taken on board. The noble and gallant Lord is right that it is vital that it is not seen as divisive, but, at the same time, it is very important that we take steps—and this is a positive step—to address this issue, as he and others have recognised.

The noble and gallant Lord asked about NATO. The track record so far is mixed. Despite the pressures we have put on NATO through our requests, there are deficiencies. It is therefore important for us to be realistic. We must go forward on the basis of our troops being on operations as partners in the coalition. We must ensure that our troops are provided with the equipment that they need to do the job. If there is any doubt about the provision of that equipment, we need to take responsibility to make sure that our troops are properly equipped.

The noble and gallant Lord asked about our confidence in the composite HQ which will take over from ARC. I have not heard any queries about it. I will probe the matter and write to the noble and gallant Lord.

The key issue in respect of Pakistan is the border and doing as much as possible to reduce its porosity. We have seen Pakistan make considerable and increasing efforts in that area. Our engagement with the Government of Pakistan has had an effect.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, the situation in Iraq appears to depend largely on the unity, the purpose and the policy of the Iraqi Government. Will the Minister enlarge a little on the difficulties being encountered there? He has not told the House. It would be useful to know what they are.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, the key difficulty at this stage in the development of Iraq exists within the cities, particularly Baghdad, but also, to some extent, Basra. It is the sectarian violence between the various gangs of militia which have been established on behalf of the Shia and the Sunni groups in those

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cities—they are establishing zones of territory which they are defending—and the gangs who are kidnapping and murdering people from the other sectarian groups. The key is for us to establish, in support of the Iraqi Government, police and army, a security environment in which that sectarian violence cannot take place.

A key challenge, which we recognise, has been the level of corruption that has taken place within the Iraqi police. There has been involvement in these killing squads from the Iraqi police. We have to be engaged in support of the Iraqi Government to stamp that out within the Iraqi police, and that is proving to be a very difficult job.

Lord Morris of Aberavon: My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s proposals regarding pay. We shall have to look at the detail in due course, but the aim is a very good and proper one. I also support him on the medical proposals. The high cost of sophisticated medical care means that it is the only way in which what we need to do can be undertaken. Having said that, he also commented that the persistence of the Taliban is greater than we anticipated. Has that not been the same right through history and is it not a masterly understatement from John Reid’s original comment?

Lastly, has NATO not failed in the role that it should play? The Minister mentioned caveats in the use of some other NATO countries. Can we have a detailed list of those caveats? What can we do to get NATO to play a proper role?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his comments relating to pay and the strategy that we are following for medical care. He is absolutely right that it is important for that to be done within the NHS structure.

There has been a lot of commentary in the press relating to the statement made by my right honourable friend John Reid, when he was Defence Secretary. In fairness to him, I feel that we should all read the statement in full and listen to or read the transcript from the “Today” programme. When one reads it in full, one can see that he did not simply make that statement relating to going into Afghanistan and hoping that no shot would be fired. He said that we hoped that that would be the case but that we were preparing for a very difficult mission. He went on to say that we were sending significant fighting assets in the 16 Air Assault Brigade because we recognised the challenge of what we were going to come up against from the Taliban.

We have found the resistance from the Taliban stronger than we expected. We have been forthright in saying that. However, despite it being greater than we expected, our forces have met that challenge with courage and determination and have inflicted a clear tactical defeat on the Taliban this year, which speaks to the competence and effectiveness of our Armed Forces, their tactics and their equipment. None the less, we need to look at, and are looking at, what additional resources are needed.

With regard to NATO, I am happy to write to the noble and learned Lord and set out further detail

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relating to the NATO commitment, what has been requested by NATO commanders and what is still outstanding. We need to continue to push our NATO coalition partners to provide the full list of equipment that NATO commanders in the field are requesting. It is vital that they do so now, because we have a window of opportunity, as General Richards has said, in Afghanistan today. We need to build on that opportunity.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement. A lot has been heard today, both now and in the earlier Question, about the medical support being given in Selly Oak hospital. However, not much has been heard about the operations of the Defence Medical Welfare Service, which the Minister will know was set up at the time of the Gulf War to provide psychological and psychiatric support to people after they had left hospital. In particular, I am concerned about the degree of support being given to members of the reserve forces, who do not remain under regular military observation when they return to the community, because there are disturbing stories that they are not being well supported in view of the strain, and other things, that they have been under during operations.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble Lord, with his experience, is absolutely right that we must make sure that the level of support that we offer our Armed Forces is related not only to their physical but to their mental well-being and that it fully takes into account the subtle but very important differences between the needs of our reserve forces and our regulars. One thing that we have learnt is that by the very nature of reserve deployment, returning from operations—and not as part of a regular unit—provides additional stress for which people need support. We are taking action, as part of our initiatives in welfare support, to provide that support to our reserve forces.

The investment that we have made in support for our service people, based on an independent review that was undertaken a couple of years ago, led to a recommendation that support in terms of mental health was best done on a more regional and local basis, such that people had local support. That is being done through the use of the Priory, which has provided us with a series of centres of support to underpin our approach for mental healthcare.

Police and Justice Bill

5.56 pm

Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

The Earl of Listowel moved Amendment No. 75:

“Children subject to ASBO proceedings Sections 1(10D) and (10E) (anti-social behaviour orders) and 1C(9C) (orders in conviction in criminal proceedings) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37) are repealed.”

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The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater of Butterstone.

For 70 years the law has made it quite clear that for children involved in criminal proceedings the expectation is that reporting restrictions will not be lifted except in exceptional circumstances. In recent years, the Government have introduced legislation so that for children involved in anti-social behaviour order proceedings there is an expectation that reporting restrictions will be lifted except in exceptional circumstances. The effect of the amendment would be to reverse the situation to the status quo ante, where it stood for 70 years.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, for his helpful reply in Committee. He recognised the concerns about the welfare of these children and gave a very balanced analysis of the problem, drawing on his experience of being a leader of a local authority where these problems arise.

The purpose of bringing this back on Report is to hear further from the Minister on the support for families and children given these orders. The work that the Government are doing to support families is encouraging, but as we established in Committee only slightly more than 1 per cent of parents with these children were given parenting orders. Given that these orders were so effective, it seemed surprising and disappointing that those families were not being supported in that way.

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