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Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I always listen to my noble friend. In fact, the Westminster Housing Commission report that he has produced is an admirable document, and I hope that Westminster Council listens closely to what he has to say. We have a precedent for a sort of protocol in the way that
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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, may we be assured that social housing provision outside the central activity zone will be based on 50 per cent of the total square footage of the development asagainst 50 per cent of the units? That would avoid what happened at the Bowater development in Knightsbridge, where Candy and Candy ended up, under the so-called policy for London on planning, providing only 11 per cent of the total development space for social housing?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, 50 per cent for affordable housing is the target in the London plan, and the Mayor is very serious about that. I hear what my noble friend says about the methodology. That is something we have recognised, as indeed has the Mayor himself. I will go back and think about what my noble friend has said.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, in view of the two recent decisions taken by the Deputy Prime Minister regarding skyscrapers on the riverside being allowed and justified because of the inclusion of affordable housing, will the Minister undertake that her department will abide by the wishes of Westminster City Council that the whole development on this site should be of low and medium-rise buildings?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the planning decision will rest with Westminster Council. Nothing in the London Plan requires tall buildings to be scattered around London, and clearly the Westminster plan has to conform to the London Plan. The Secretary of State has a reserve power of call-in if what is decided goes against national objectives and determined criteria. I am sure that Westminster, having looked at its planning brief, has a very sound sense of what is needed on that site.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, will the Government give an assurance through the Minister that every house built under the heading of affordable social housing will cost no more than £200,000 for young couples to be able to buy it?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, through the EU we have called on both
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Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply, but does the Minister accept that the push for NATO to intensify its dialogue with Georgia served to feed Russian paranoia over our own foreign policy intentions and threatens to undermine attempts to secure Russias co-operation further afield? Given that the two are likely to be mutually exclusive, what assessment have Her Majestys Government made of the benefits to the United Kingdom of Georgias co-operation with and support for NATO, compared to the benefits of co-operation and support from Russia, in our efforts to resolve crises in the Middle East, Afghanistan, North Korea and elsewhere in the world? If the Government have made such an assessment, will the Minister share those thoughts with us?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, there is no desire on our part to make relations with Russia more difficult, but it is worth identifying the basis on which applications to join NATO are made. For example, the decision by NATO to offer intensified dialogue to Georgia, which we supported, was made by consensus of all NATO allies in response to a Georgian request. The process is designed to support and stimulate modernisation and reform, promoting Georgias development asa secure, stable and successful country. The responsibility for doing all those things lies with Georgia. The NATO Secretary-General said when Georgia was granted ID that it was of great importance that all parties should strive for a peaceful solution to local conflicts and, indeed, for good relations across the whole of the south Caucasus.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, with the expulsion of members of the Georgian diaspora in Russia, the economic blockade and the Russian reluctance to accept or to obey international conventions in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, are there not some worrying tendencies in Russia to fail to accept the realities of the post-Soviet world in the Caucasus? Although my noble friend mentioned the decision taken by the EU Council yesterday, is it not true that the Council failed to respond to the appeal of President Saakashvili, printed in yesterdays edition of Le Monde, for more EU help and in particular for EU borders to be opened to allow further trade from Georgia and to permit greater access for students and business people from Georgia? Therefore, yesterdays EU declaration did not amount to much.
I intend to be extremely careful and as even-handed as I can be in this response. We are talking about a part of the world in which the capacity of different combatants to engage with each other, with the most alarming and dangerous regional consequences, is pronounced. For those reasons we must strive not to wag our fingers at people, however tempting that may be, but to produce the conditions for normalisation and stabilisation.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, while the Minister wants to be even-handed, which I completely understand, is he aware that last week the temperature in Georgia fell to -20 degrees centigrade? Therefore, the decision to cut off gas supplies from Russia to Georgiaalthough they have now been restored at lastwas an act of extreme brutality. Will the Minister convey to our Russian friends that, whatever their quarrelshe may be even-handed between the two countriesthat is not a good way of conducting international relations and does not bode well for the future of our wish to purchase Russian gas to keep ourselves warm?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, the disruption of gas to Georgia is a very serious matter, as it was when it happened for the first time last January. There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the two explosions that occurred more or less simultaneously and cut both pipelines. It is absolutely imperative that the sanctions currently exercised against the Georgian people are not continued, that normal diplomatic relations are resumed and that some of the actions taken against Russia by Georgia, which are unquestionably provocative and unhelpful, are reconsidered, as has been repeatedly requested.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that if this matter is not raised with President Putin when he has dinner with the heads of government of the European Union later this week, he will undoubtedly draw the conclusion that it is not high priority for the European Union? Does the Minister therefore agree that the Prime Minister and his colleagues need to say to President Putin that, while they wish to be even-handed, they do not like bullying?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, whatever the rights and wrongs on both sides of this very complicated situation, which has been developing over the past 16 years, it really is over the top to impose the level of economic blockade that the Russians are now doing to Georgia. Are Her Majestys Government pushing hard within the EUto provide the open markets and the economic assistance that Georgia clearly needs?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, we are concerned to make sure that the economic assistance that is required is provided, largely by the enhancement of trade links. I do not want to be squeamish at all on one point; we regard the measures that have been taken as very unhelpful. That is why I have madeand I repeatthe point that this is one of the sources of tension that could be removed immediately. The return of those accused of espionage by the Georgians to the Russians should have been a helpful first step in easing that tension. We have to build on that and make sure that these sanctions are removed as rapidly as possible.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, as I indicated on Report, I am returning to the issue of best value. My explanations to date must not have been persuasive enough, because the Government apparently still have difficulty in grasping why their proposals cause a problem for police authorities; so I will try once more. The amendment has a different focus from those that I tabled previously, but before the noble Lord accuses me of inconsistency and not knowing what I want, which I am sure he would not do, I will explain.
Police authorities are perfectly happy to have a duty to secure best value, provided they have the tools to make sure that it happens; but they object to being left with a duty, but with no power to do anything about it, which is what the Bill will effectively do. That is an impossible situation to be in. My previous amendments tried to deal with it by removing the best value duty, but the Government have made it clear that they do not like that idea, although they have never satisfactorily explained why, to me anyway.
I am now trying a different tack to resolve the situation. The amendment will give authorities back the power to conduct best value reviews. That is, it will give authorities back the power to make sure that best value happens. I am sympathetic to the view that best value, as applied by what is now the Department for Communities and Local Government, has become a classic example of unnecessary red tape; I am trying to help the Government out here. My amendment would also remove best value inspections from policing, which account for a great deal of bureaucracy surrounding best value.
I think we all agree that the principles of best value are sound; it is the practice that became a problem, surrounded by burdensome red tape. To offer reassurance to the Government about this, I am sure that the Association of Police Authorities would be willing to work with the Home Office, or any other department with an interest in this area, to develop a sort of best value lite regime. That would keep what is good about best value as a tool for effective scrutiny of force activity and performance improvement, but would lose what has become negative about it, the excessive bureaucracy, and would focus on the process, rather than outcomes.
I am sure that the Minister will consider thisoffer seriously and at least explore whether the Government might consider that alternative approach, if for no other reason than because he will not have to listen to any more speeches from me on the topic. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am rather sad at the noble Baroness last comment; I always enjoy her speeches on best valueit is one of my first thoughts when I wake up in the morning. I have become used to them and they have become part of the familiar landscape of my daily routine. I would not wish to deny the noble Baroness the opportunity to talk to me further about best value.
I have listened carefully to the noble Baroness and I appreciate that she is trying a different tack. I am intrigued, if not a little pleased, at her offer of a best value lite regime. That was an interesting step forward and I suspect that we might want to consider that after we have rejected her amendment. The problem with her approach is that we are both arguing from a similar position; we both want to strip away unnecessary bureaucracy, but we disagree about the means by which we achieve it.
We believe that we are removing an overly bureaucratic and excessively resource-intensive process. The noble Baroness, with honesty and integrity, is trying to leave in place a framework that she believes will help keep the best value review process in place. I suspect that she thinks that without that framework it will not happen. I am more optimistic.
We should retain our approach and we do not need a statutory power to carry out best value reviews. Police authorities can draw on their powers in Section 22 of the Police Act 1996 to request a report from their chief officer on best value approaches. Police authorities will still be able to discharge their general duty to secure continuous improvement in the way in which the functions of police officers are delivered. That general duty is well worth retaining.
The noble Baroness did not speak to Amendment No. 2 in this group, but I shall do so, because it has been a point of difference between us in earlier debates. Amendment No. 2 should be considered in conjunction with the Governments amendments to Part 4, which we will reach later. These have removed the provision for the Audit Commission to act jointly with Her Majestys Inspectorate of Constabulary in inspecting police authorities, which I know has raised
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I understand, but do not share, the noble Baroness concerns about the role that the Audit Commission would have played in joint inspections with the new inspectorate, but this amendment goes too far. The Bill retains the overarching duty on police authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. To ensure compliance with this duty, the Audit Commission would work with the Inspectorate of Constabulary, and that needs to continue to have the powers set out in the Local Government Act.
Furthermore, I strongly believe that the Audit Commission has a valuable role to play. Historically, it has acted in the inspection of the quality and cost-effectiveness of a whole range of local authority services through the comprehensive performance assessment framework. It regularly works with other inspectorates. For example, it works with Ofsted to deliver comprehensive performance assessments and joint area reviews of children and young persons services, and with Her Majestys Inspectorate of Constabulary to deliver community safety. With its wealth of experience, it makes sense for the Audit Commission to continue to have a role in carrying out inspections of a best-value authoritys compliance with Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, as ever, I am deeply grateful to the Minister for once again explaining the inexplicable, which the Government seem to have no real grasp ofin this Bill anyway. I deeply regret that. I hope that, when looking further at my amendment, they will see that it has a great deal of merit and that it can be applied throughout the best-value regime.
I think that I have flogged a dead horse on the Audit Commission. So, without further ado and making absolutely sure that I leave the Minister still feeling very bruised from his lack of understanding as I see the position, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(1) If the Secretary of State is aware of intelligence that any aircraft entering British airspace is being, has been or may be involved in an act of unlawful rendition then he may require that aircraft to land at a designated suitable airport and inform a responsible person that he has done so.
(3) If the Secretary of State or other responsible person is aware of intelligence that an aircraft using airport facilities in the United Kingdom is being, has been or may be involved in an act of unlawful rendition then a responsible person shall as soon as practicable make arrangements to-
(6) The powers in this section are exercisable only in circumstances where it is not reasonably practicable to obtain a warrant of entry in accordance with section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60).
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, following two very helpful meetings with the Minister and her officials, I and my colleagues have nevertheless decided to move this amendment once again. I shall not detain your Lordships for long but shall clarify very briefly why we have taken this decision.
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