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Lord Rooker: Yes, my Lords. So that there is no confusion, the Rural Payments Agency business change programme did not lead to these adjustments. The £23 million comes in elsewhere. In fact, the Rural Payments Agency has had additional funds made available to it to cope with the difficulties that have arisen over single farm payments. I could give the House a lecture—it would not thank me for it—about the resource elements and the capital elements. The fact is that the figures stack up. Of the £200 million,

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only about £23 million—about 11 per cent—is the responsibility of the RPA, but that is not the cause of the deficit in relation to the change programme because the Rural Payments Agency had extra funds to deliver that. It is true that there are some difficulties, but one cannot blame the single farm payments or the Rural Payments Agency, in the way that has been done in the media, for the £200 million adjustment.

Lord Carter: My Lords, when does the Minister expect the single payments scheme to be running properly so that the farmers are paid correctly and on time?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I say to my noble friend, as I have said before, our expectation is to get the system running adequately. With the changes that need to be made to it, it will be 2008 beforehand, and we need to go through the 2006 and 2007 payment years before we get there. In other words, as the chief executive said, supported by Ministers, it will be at least a couple of years before it is up and running in a stable way.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, will the Minister give the House an assurance that people applying for entry- and higher-level payments under the environmental schemes will not lose out as a result of the deficits in the Rural Payments Agency?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I have no reason to believe that they will, although those schemes have a degree of flexibility. It is not easy for everyone to get into them because of the points system and the red tape, but it is not as a result of the adjustment that we have had to make.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, does the Minister accept the finding of the National Audit Office that there were no checks, no matrixes and no proper management in the arrangements for bringing in the single farm payment? I will give him some examples: the Accenture contract was estimated in November 2003 as being £27.5 million but turned out in March 2006 to be £50 million; the land register was estimated at £6.8 million but eventually turned out to be £16.1 million; and the customer communications contract was originally estimated in 2003 at £1.2 million and turned out to be £9.8 million. Did the department not realise that it would have some customer inquiries due to those major changes?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, this is not a happy tale. Anyone who wants further and better particulars can go and sit in the gallery of the Public Accounts Committee of the other place this afternoon, because it will be taking evidence on the report that it published some 10 days ago. There have been difficulties with the planning. I am concentrating on the present and the future. Plenty of other people are looking at what happened in the past. We have to try to learn the lessons from the past, which is why the system cannot be turned out overnight. At least a year

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was lost—between November 2003 and November 2004—through gaps in the planning and implementation of the arrangements, but the same start date was kept to, which probably explains something about what happened.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, with reference to the sad saga, the Minister has today confirmed that there were £200 million in cuts which he described in terms of segments, but if I recall rightly, the Treasury imposed cuts in the previous financial year. Will he remind the House of the size of those cuts, notwithstanding the fact that some will run into the new financial year? Will he also say to what extent the EU commission intends to levy fines on us for the shambles in the Rural Payments Agency?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the answer to the latter question will have to wait for at least a couple of years before we have closed down the accounts for this year. It will take time. I know nothing about the cuts for last year, if that is the word that was used. The fact of the matter is that this is in-year a technical adjustment to the budget. It is unusual, but we have to do it.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, is my noble friend in a position to assure the House that there is no truth in the rumour of a £3 million cut in the veterinary service? Does he agree that there would be deep concern were such a cut to be put into effect, as it would cause many people to doubt the capacity of the veterinary service to deal with future outbreaks of diseases such as foot and mouth disease?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend’s question on the ground that there have been some myths abroad about the so-called cut of £3 million to the State Veterinary Service. There has been no £3 million cut to the State Veterinary Service this year. In fact, there has been no cut to the State Veterinary Service this year. The overall budget for the SVS remains the same after a switch of funding where money was switched around from the capital budget, which was increased by £3 million to replace resource money. The budget for the State Veterinary Service has been increased this year by £16 million, and another £3 million will be made available for avian influenza preparedness, giving a net increase of £19 million for 2006-07, the year we are in at the moment. There has been no £3 million cut. It is true that there was a cut in the resource area, but that was money swapped from capital. It did not lose any money. The State Veterinary Service got the same amount of money as was in the original budget, so talk about a £3 million cut is not correct.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, did any of the overspent money go to farmers?

Lord Rooker: No, my Lords.

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Iraq: UK Military Accommodation

3 pm

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, since 25 July 2006, three camps, each accommodating 500 personnel, have been commissioned with air-conditioning. Basra Palace has had air-conditioning installed. Two camps at the Shatt al-Arab Hotel have been fitted with 68 stand-alone units, and some areas have had area units installed. Installation of air-conditioning in all fixed living accommodation will be completed before the onset of hot weather next year.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the Minister paints a rosy picture, but why are detainers in the Intelligence Corps still interrogating suspects in rooms without air-conditioning? Computers are continually breaking down because of the heat, losing vital information. Why, after three years, are cooks and kitchen staff still working in temperatures in excess of 60 degrees centigrade? That is 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is totally unacceptable.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am not aware of the situation to which the noble Lord referred concerning interview rooms. I will look into it and will write to him with an answer.

With regard to cooks and kitchen staff, the noble Lord is right about the operating conditions that can exist in the hot temperatures in theatre in Iraq. From the operational testing that we did going back to 2002, we have learnt the importance of introducing air-conditioning to our tented accommodation. We take on board the point that he makes about cooks and kitchen staff. There has been no incidence of that being highlighted by our personnel themselves, but it is something that we take very seriously. We are working on that area.

Lord Garden: My Lords, can the Minister confirm the reports in the newspapers today that an evacuation is in progress down to skeleton staffing of the British Consulate in Basra Palace? If those reports are true, will he ask his colleagues in the Foreign Office whether, having spent £14 million of public money on the consulate, we might make those facilities available to the troops, where they need them?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, of course we look at all opportunities to use our accommodation facilities most effectively and discuss those matters with our colleagues across government. Some of the British civilian presence in Basra is moving temporarily from the Basra Palace compound. That decision has been

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reached because of the increased threat from mortar and rocket attacks on the compound. The consul-general, the senior diplomatic representative, and core staff will remain in the palace.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, can my noble friend assure the House that the Armed Forces in Iraq now have flushing lavatories available to them in their living and working accommodation?

Lord Drayson: Yes, my Lords, I am happy to answer my noble friend, having visited the accommodation in Iraq. I can confirm that our troops have such facilities.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the electricity supply is now stable enough—we have all heard that it was very erratic—to operate those air-conditioning units?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble Countess is correct to ask about the stability of power supplies. There has been a considerable improvement in the region around Basra. A considerable number of the population now have a stable power supply operating for 24 hours. However, it is correct to say that such power supply as is produced must be improved. The work being done through reconstruction has made a considerable impact in that area over the past year.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, the noble Lord said that the situation was getting worse in Basra, which is why they are evacuating some of the consulate staff. When does he think that it will get any better?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, as I have said to the House in the past, the situation in Basra is changing—some areas in the city are improving. We have seen the progress made with Operation Sinbad, which is going from area to area in Basra. The process of reconstruction and improved security is having a real effect. The feedback that we have had on the ground is that it is working. None the less, there are some areas where the security situation has deteriorated. The situation relating to Basra Palace, which I have described, is one such—mortar rounds have come into theatre in that compound—and we have to respond to that.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, can generators be provided to take care of power failures?

Lord Drayson: Yes, my Lords, generators are provided to deal with power failures. Such generators are provided for our service people on operations. Generators are used widely in the area within Basra, but are not able to cope totally with the loss of mains power supply.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, if the insurgents are able to mortar the Basra Palace complex, does that not indicate that we have not got enough troops to task?

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Lord Drayson: My Lords, it indicates that we have work to do to improve the security situation in Basra. We have been clear on that for some time. We have to recognise that the key is the development of the Iraqi security forces, and we are realistic about what has been achieved. We are seeing encouraging evidence of the capability of the Iraqi security forces, but we need to be realistic about situations as we find them, such as that relating to Basra Palace today.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, to get back to the original Question, is the noble Lord able to put the issue into context by telling us approximately what proportion of the troops’ tented accommodation is not air-conditioned?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am grateful for that question. A small proportion is not available with air-conditioning. The issue of air-conditioning has been recognised for some years; it goes back to 2002. The new improved tented accommodation that we have provided—the fixed accommodation—has air-conditioning in it, but there are some units that do not have it. Our programme is to make sure that all units have air-conditioning by next summer.


3.07 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I have two brief statements to make. The first is about a Statement that will, with the leave of the House, be repeated later today—it is on climate change. It will be delivered by my noble friend Lord Rooker, and we shall take it at a convenient time after 6.45 pm.

My second point concerns the Education and Inspections Bill. As ever on these procedural matters, I am very diffident in my advice to the House. I simply point out that this afternoon on Third Reading, we shall be debating a number of issues which have already been debated in Committee and at Report, occasionally at some length—that is in no sense a criticism; let me get my defence in. I am sure the House will not mind me reminding it of the rules in the Companion, which say that arguments that have been deployed at length in earlier stages of a Bill should not be redeployed at length during later stages of the Bill.

England Rural Development Programme (Closure of Project-Based Schemes) Regulations 2006

3.08 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the following Motion be referred to a Grand Committee:

The Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer—To move, That the Grand Committee do consider the England Rural Development Programme (Closure of

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Project-Based Schemes) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2298) [45th Report from the Merits Committee].—(Baroness Amos.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Standing Orders (Private Business)

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Standing Orders relating to Private Business be amended as follows:

Line 41, leave out paragraph (7) and insert—

“(7) These Standing Orders shall apply to the bill in the next session only in regard to any stage through which the bill has not passed in the current session.”—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Education and Inspections Bill

3.09 pm

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Duties in relation to high standards and the fulfilment of potential]:

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 2 in the same group. Both amendments are also tabled in the names of my noble friend Lady Sharp and the noble Lord, Lord Judd.

My colleagues and I have brought back these amendments because, despite helpful meetings with the Bill team, we have not been satisfied that there is any good reason why the local authority’s duty to secure the child’s right to an education should not be put in the Bill. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, in its report on the Bill, made clear its wish that the child’s right as enshrined in the UN convention be placed in the Bill. The question is how to do it.

The Government’s lawyers say that the right is enshrined elsewhere in law, under four pillars, and that if we restate it in the Bill the whole edifice will come tumbling down. However, a different view was taken in Scotland and the world has not come to an end. In the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000, the Scottish Parliament provided in Section 1, entitled “Right of child to school education”:

Section 2, entitled “Duty of education authority in providing school education”, provides in subsection (1):

I will not tire noble Lords by reading the rest of that section; it is pretty clear.

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