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These obstacles are not insurmountable, but Afghanistan's problems will not be solved easily. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, told us that insufficient rainfall last month means that 2.5 million people in Afghanistan face a chronic food crisis. We would be most interested to know what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to address this problem. Will the Minister clarify too what discussions DfID has had with the Foreign Office—the noble Lord, Lord Garden, mentioned this—before assigning its

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resources to projects in countries where both departments are involved? I gather that DfID is allegedly funding some reforestation projects in Pakistan. It is no doubt a worthy project, but, if it is taking place, are we not in effect paying to plant the trees that are hiding the Taliban fighters who have moved across the border? It is hardly joined-up government.

Unfortunately, enormous amounts of foreign aid can sometimes have many unintended consequences, such as high levels of inflation in certain sectors and increased corruption. The noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, spoke of foreign aid agencies. However, these can prevent government agencies hiring capable staff. What steps are Her Majesty's Government taking to make certain that their aid is not unwittingly hampering the efforts of the Afghan Government to build an effective state apparatus?

Security, as the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, stressed so well, is as important as reconstruction. Where the former is absent, there cannot be the latter. Government reports and media sources tell two very different stories about Armed Forces funding. The Government claim that money was always available for equipment purchase and is even now being spent on ensuring that only the best is available for our troops, yet endless accounts by those in a position to know tell of cost-cutting. The latter highlights what the figures already indicate: that our Armed Forces are not being given enough money, men or support when they need it most. Will the Minister explain to the House, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, asked, what the Government have been doing recently to encourage the other NATO countries to increase their troop numbers in Afghanistan? I hope that there will be no more media stories of equipment failure now that the special reserve fund has been released.

We have been in Afghanistan several times before. History tells us that there are no easy solutions. Although matters may not be as bleak as the media continually portray, they are, however, certainly not as rosy as the Government would like us to believe. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s answer to our questions on food, FCO aid and troops, and to others put to her today.

8.24 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Garden, for pursuing this debate. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, cannot be in her place and I send her the Government’s best wishes.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and is off-track to meet all the millennium development goals. Years of conflict and insecurity have denied basic services that we take for granted, such as healthcare and schooling. One in four Afghan children still dies before their fifth birthday. The reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is certainly a long-term initiative. Achieving our objective of a peaceful, prosperous and secure Afghanistan will be reliant on the support and commitment of donor agencies for many years to come. As my noble friend Lord Brennan said, we must honour that commitment. Do we regularly

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review our policy on Afghanistan? Yes, we do, both in DfID and across government.

A prosperous and democratic Afghanistan is crucial to reducing global poverty and increasing stability in the region. For this reason, the UK is the second largest bilateral donor. We are fully committed to Afghanistan’s long-term development. At the London conference in January 2006, the UK confirmed this by assigning a 10-year development partnership agreement. This agreement, signed by Prime Minister Blair and President Karzai, commits DfID to provide £330 million in development and assistance over the next three years. That forms part of the UK’s overall pledge of £500 million to reduce poverty, improve security in governance and tackle the opium industry. DfID’s budget for Afghanistan is £102 million for this year, which will rise to £113 million in 2007-08 and £115 million for 2008-09. In addition, DfID contributes 18 per cent of the European Commission's pledge of €1 billion over 2002-07, and over 10 per cent of the World Bank's spending in Afghanistan of $250 million a year. We also contribute financially to UN programmes and to the Asian Development Bank.

DfID's programme supports the Government of Afghanistan's interim Afghanistan national development strategy, launched at the London conference. Our programme specifically underpins three of the objectives set out in that document: building effective state institutions, improving economic management and effectiveness of aid, and improving livelihoods for the rural poor. I would certainly concur with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, that we must work for security, statehood and sustainability, and that is exactly what I believe we are doing.

DfID believes that the best way to achieve these goals is by supporting Afghans to help themselves. Thus over 70 per cent of our aid goes directly to the Government of Afghanistan. The UK is the largest donor to the Government's recurrent budget, covering essential costs such as salaries for teachers and health workers. I note the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, but we believe that it is the best chance for building effective state institutions that will last. Directing funds through the Government of Afghanistan enhances their accountability and authority and, as we know from experience elsewhere, it is a more effective way of ensuring that development is sustainable. However, I assure the noble Baroness that we shall continue to support NGOs.

DfID leads the British Government's efforts to develop legal economic alternatives to opium poppy production. We spent approximately £45 million for this purpose last year. Part of this funding contributes to improvements in agricultural opportunities for farmers. This includes research to help identify, test and implement new crops and technologies—for example, improvements in the production of high value crops such as saffron and wheat. We are also promoting other non-farm economic alternatives. This includes small loans, support for small scale local infrastructure and labour-intensive public

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works. We are providing £20 million over three years to the Microfinance Investment Support Facility, and women receive nearly 80 per cent of the small loans. Like the USA, however, we do not support direct compensation as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, but we support a properly sequenced strategy which means only eradicating poppy crops where legal livelihoods already exist.

The Government share the disappointment and concern about the increase in opium production in 2006, but we believe the strategy outlined by the Government of Afghanistan is the right one. This requires not just provision of legal economic alternatives, but also effective governance and law enforcement. Some 70 per cent of the increase in planting is in Helmand, reflecting the security situation, whereas in parts of the country where there is better security and better governance, drug cultivation has actually gone down. This is a long-term strategy. Progress will be gradual and will take many years.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked about the Senlis Council proposals. The Government of Afghanistan do not support licit cultivation of opium, and we agree with them. The proposals are unrealistic because there would be a risk of a high level of diversion of legal opium into illegal channels. We also understand it is unlikely that licit Afghan opium would be economically viable.

In Helmand, DfID is working closely with other departments as part of the wider UK effort to promote economic and social development, to help improve governance and bring visible benefits to local people. That is challenging, given the very difficult security environment, but, as the Statement earlier today made clear, there is now a short window of opportunity with a more secure environment for reconstruction and development, thanks to the magnificent efforts of our troops. Government departments are working closely together, and with the Afghans, to bring about tangible improvements. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Garden, that there is common purpose throughout government departments. However, as my noble friend Lord Drayson said, we need further to explore opportunities for the military to undertake projects, but only where security is difficult.

We are lucky that the British military has considerable experience working in these sorts of environments, and with a range of NGOs. There is a short-term and a long-term strategy, and they are both working in tandem. We have committed over £30 million over the next three years to the Helmand Agriculture and Rural Development Programme, which aims to increase economic opportunities for the rural poor of Helmand through a variety of programmes led by the Government of Afghanistan. We have also contributed £4 million to the delivery of quick-impact activities in Helmand, which are already securing short-term development results and will help create a foundation for longer-term development in the province. They are implemented jointly by DfID, the FCO and the military, and include improving

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security for schools; building and rebuilding; improving drinking water and sanitation; and building wells and roads.

With regard to the resurgence of the Taliban on the porous Afghan/Pakistani border, the Pakistani Government have recently agreed, in conjunction with the UNHCR and the Afghan Government, on the need to close down two terrorist training camps in Baluchistan, although the Pakistani Government do not have the means to enforce that. Both governments are working closely with UNHCR to find a long-term solution to the camps. In addition, the FCO, DfID and the MoD, through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, have just agreed to fund a project that will look at ways of electronic identification of suspect individuals in the camps.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others asked about humanitarian assistance and drought in the north-west. Rural development is a key priority for DfID. We expect to spend £35 million this year, almost all through the Government of Afghanistan’s budget, which will help ensure that they have predictable funding, thus allowing them to respond to their own priorities, including the drought. We are in regular contact with UNAMA, the Afghan Government and other UN agencies on their assessment of the drought, and we attended the most recent update meeting. The initial drought appeal was launched to secure pledges of in-principle support, prior to the proper assessment of the scale of the drought. The assessment results are due later this month, and we will then consider a UK contribution.

In relation to internally displaced persons, the UN is providing emergency assistance in the form of non-food items and food assistance. Their estimates suggest that basic needs are being met, and they are not asking for additional funding. The US has set aside funding to support the future return of IDPs in the south and the reconstruction of their homes. It is likely to work through implementing partners such as the International Organisation for Migration, UN-Habitat and local business. The UK has already provided $60,000 to the office of the governor in Helmand to help provide for the immediate needs of IDPs.

Since 2001, DfID has spent over £390 million on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. Over this period there has been real progress. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held. Six million children have returned to school, over one-third of whom are girls who, five years ago, were not allowed to attend. Some 35,000 lives have been saved thanks to routine immunisations which our children are given as a matter of course. It is estimated that, in 2005-06, the legal economy grew by 14 per cent.

With regard to safe access to education for girls and boys and protection for female teachers and government employees working in high-risk areas, the Afghan Government have formulated and begun implementation of a school protection policy. In addition, the provincial reconstruction team is

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working with the provincial government in Helmand to pilot a school bus transportation system and is considering a number of quick impact projects to provide additional security at the four main schools, including one girls’ school in Lashkar Gar. Further support is being considered. The Government deplore the recent killing of Safiye Amajan.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked about troops. I do not have an answer to that question but my colleagues have. Indeed, it was probably answered this afternoon in the discussion following the Statement, but I will ensure that the noble Baroness receives that information in writing.

The Government remain firmly committed to the long-term development of Afghanistan. We will seek to ensure that the achievements that we have seen to date are consolidated and continued and we will work with others to ensure that the critical constraints to further development are overcome. We feel strongly that the Afghan Government must lead the development effort, which is why we need to invest in their development plans and channel our resources through their systems if we are to have enduring impact.

Police and Justice Bill

8.36 pm

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Schedule 9 [Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Justice, Community Safety and Custody]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 94:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 94, 99 and 101 in this grouping in the names of my noble friend Lord Dholakia and myself. These amendments seek to clarify how police authorities will be inspected in future. I should be very grateful if the Minister would explain exactly what is meant by Amendment No. 98. I wondered whether it was code for giving HMIC the lead role. If so, we would be happy, but not if that were not the case.

The amendments in my name and that of my noble friend would enable police authority expertise explicitly to be involved in inspecting police authorities. When we previously spoke about this amendment in Committee, the Minister was confident that the current wording of the Bill would achieve this. It is certainly true that the wording allows the chief inspector to secure assistance with inspections and ensure there is sufficient expertise available, but this is general wording applying to all inspections and is a discretionary power.

At this point I thought it might be helpful to read a briefing from HMIC. Although the briefing deals with the single inspectorate issue, it is worth highlighting the actual role of the inspector. I am grateful to HMIC for the briefing, which states with regard to the current role of HMIC:

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I thought that it was important to highlight exactly what it is the inspectors do. This is a very sensitive area. HMIC is largely made up of people drawn from police forces, and the majority of people involved in the arm of the new single inspectorate, which will inspect police authorities, will continue to be police. This effectively means that police authorities are being held to account by people whom they once held to account. That is a constitutionally questionable and potentially unbalanced situation, unless there is a significant injection of independent police authority expertise into the process.

The amendment would place on a secure statutory footing the involvement of police authority members and staff and/or other independent experts in police authority inspections, overcoming these objections in primary legislation. The involvement of APA and police authority members and staff in developing inspection frameworks and conducting police authority inspections has in the past been more or less accepted by HMIC, which has enough to do itself. The skills of the Audit Commission in this area are even less developed, as I will refer to under the next amendment. Because police authorities are very specialised, we believe that the expert knowledge and understanding necessary to conduct targeted, balanced and robust inspections will most readily be found in police authorities.

The idea is that underlying this arrangement will be a pool of police authority members and staff co-ordinated by the APA who will assist with conducting inspections on something akin to a peer review model. They will, of course, be required to undertake specialist training before they can become involved in inspections. Inspection is a very important function, on which a great deal of public and professional confidence will rest. For this reason, it is important that skilled and balanced structures through which to conduct inspections are secured in primary legislation and are not left to the discretion of one individual.

Amendments Nos. 99 and 101 would remove references to police authorities being subject to joint inspection with the Audit Commission, so that they would be subject to inspection only by the new CJS inspectorate. That would leave in place the existing proposals that would make crime and disorder reduction partnerships subject to joint inspection. At present, police authorities are inspected by HMIC but

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audited by the Audit Commission, and I think we would all agree that there is considerable room for crossover and duplication between those two activities. I applaud the intention behind this part of the Bill to better join up the demands that are made on police authorities in this respect, but I am not convinced that providing for joint inspection will achieve that aim.

I am mindful that the government amendment in this area adds some clarity. It makes it clear that the new CJS inspectorate will be in the lead on inspections of police authorities; but it does not go quite far enough. The Audit Commission has expert auditors, but they are definitely not experts on conducting inspections of police authorities; they have no experience in this field. Audit is, and should be, a distinctly separate function and an independent safeguard on financial probity separate from inspection.

I am all for trying to reduce duplication, but there are other ways of doing that. I would not wish that the important independent check on financial governance is lost in blurring two functions in the way that these proposals risk doing. Indeed, the prospect of two different sets of inspectors with different ideas about what should be inspected and how it should be done might have exactly the opposite effect to streamlining the process, which is what is intended, and could muddy the waters even further.

8.45 pm

Whose opinion takes precedence? The Audit Commission already has powers in relation to auditing police authorities and it would seem unnecessary and superfluous to add inspection to those powers, when that could better be undertaken by HMIC, or the elements of it that would transfer to the new inspectorate, which has much more experience in this area.

I agree that it would be sensible for the Audit Commission to have a role in the inspection of crime and disorder reduction partnerships, because local authorities significantly contribute to those partnerships and the Audit Commission has a remit in respect of their functions. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, this group contains government amendments and I shall address those and the issues which the noble Baroness touched on at an earlier stage.

Government Amendments Nos. 98 and 100 in this group are essentially technical in nature, although they raise issues similar to the amendments to which the noble Baroness referred. Paragraph 12 of Schedule 9 already places a requirement on the chief inspector to act jointly with the Audit Commission—in Wales, the Auditor General—when inspecting police authorities and crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

We consider it important that in these areas, where there is a substantial overlap between the interests of the two inspectorates, there should be no doubt about the expectation of joint working, so that expertise is shared and duplication of activity avoided. However, the inspection powers of the chief inspector are not mirrored precisely in those of the Audit Commission.

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