some default text...

Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that Eritrea has signed up to every letter of the OAU framework agreement--and the modalities and technical arrangements which accompany it--whereas, since the beginning of August, Ethiopia has continued to prevaricate? Only this week, Ethiopia told the special envoy, OAU President Bouteflika, that it will not sign up to the technical arrangements because there is no guarantee of a return to the status quo ante, the very issue which has to be determined by the UN Demarcation Commission. In view of the fact that the Ethiopians seem determined not to make peace, will her Majesty's Government, as a permanent member of the Security Council, take the issue back and bring further pressure to bear on Ethiopia to comply fully with the OAU framework agreement?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have taken every step to encourage the Ethiopians to accept and engage in the proposals. However, it is right to remember that Eritrea has only recently come to the table. It, too, has had its difficulties in the past. It is important now that Ethiopia be given every encouragement to engage fully. The Secretary of State for International Development has spoken to both Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia and President Isaias of Eritrea, on 13th and 19th October respectively. We continue to urge both sides to engage fully and constructively in this process. We sincerely hope that they will.

Lord Rea: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I was fortunate enough to be a member of a

28 Oct 1999 : Column 379

parliamentary delegation which was invited to Ethiopia in July? We were treated very generously, for which I am extremely grateful. While we were there, our hosts seemed more concerned to promote their innocence and Eritrea's guilt than to seek peace. Will my noble friend take notice of the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and put as much pressure as possible on Ethiopia to sign up to the accord now that Eritrea has done so? Ethiopia has had great respect for Britain since we liberated it from Mussolini in 1940.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I have said already that both sides accept the framework proposals and the modalities for implementation presented by the OAU on 6th November 1998 and on 14th July 1999 respectively. Eritrea accepts the technical arrangements, but Ethiopia still has concerns about some of them. Along with the rest of the international community, we have consistently supported the OAU process since the start of the conflict. We shall continue with vigour to urge the Ethiopians to come fully to the table. We acknowledge that they have agreed the framework. Obviously, we should now like to see that agreement taken forward into action.

Viscount Brentford: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that it is important to maintain the pressure on them for the benefit of the whole of the north-east corner of Africa? A bitter war will accelerate other conflicts.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are aware of that. We need to use pressure and encouragement. We are using every endeavour to encourage them to come to the table. Unless and until they do, fully and willingly, there will not be a proper resolution of this difficulty. Forcing and hammering them to do so without understanding the sensitivities involved will not achieve what we want in the end; that is, a real, lasting peace.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister said that we continue to urge both sides to engage fully in the process. Does that not ignore the fact that Eritrea has signed up fully to the technical arrangements, whereas Ethiopia continues to argue about the detail--even though the Secretary-General's special envoy has said that the technical arrangements are an unalterable part of the framework agreement? In the circumstances, bearing in mind that there is an impasse, does the noble Baroness agree that the only step open to us is to take the matter back to the Security Council, which has not considered it since February?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I acknowledge entirely that Eritrea has accepted the arrangements. The view of Her Majesty's Government is that what is currently being done--in relation to encouragement, persuasion and a deal of pressure--is the most efficacious way forward. I know that the noble Lord is genuinely interested in resolving this difficulty, as are the Government. I hope that the noble

28 Oct 1999 : Column 380

Lord will accept that the efforts being made by Her Majesty's Government are directed solely towards that end. We feel that what we are doing at the moment is the most efficacious way forward.

Crime and Police Numbers

3.16 p.m.

Lord McNally asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the latest published crime statistics.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, these latest statistics represent the sixth consecutive year's fall in recorded crime figures. They indicate an underlying reduction in crime of 1.4 per cent and record that crimes of violence and domestic burglary are both down by 6 per cent. Welcome as these figures are, the Government refuse to be complacent and are absolutely clear that the real target is turning these gains into a sustained reduction in the long-term trends in crime.

Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, as part of an anti-crime strategy, it is perfectly legitimate for a government to claim that greater mobility, higher technology and a willingness to privatise and outsource certain police functions mean that policing could be carried out with fewer policemen on the beat? Does he agree equally that it could be part of an anti-crime strategy for a government to commit themselves to more policemen on the beat? Would it not be dishonest to follow the first strategy and then claim credit for the second? In particular, can we expect to see the return of the 2,000 policemen who have disappeared from the streets of London during Sir Paul Condon's term of office? As regards that situation, Sir Paul said:

    "The loss of 2,000 police officers puts pressure on every aspect of policing in the capital".

Will we have more policemen on the beat?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Government recognise the importance that the public place on having a friendly bobby on the beat. We all recognise the importance and value of that. As a government, we have played our part in ensuring that the police have resources. In the current year we are increasing police spending by £7 billion. We are providing a further £1.24 billion over the next three years; and we gave a commitment at this year's party conference to recruit an additional 5,000 police officers over and above the 11,000 recruits already planned. We are right to ensure that establishment levels are up to the mark. I should remind the House that it was not this Government who took away from the Home Secretary the right to set establishment

28 Oct 1999 : Column 381

levels. Your Lordships should support the expectations of the Government that chief constables will meet their establishment targets.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Home Secretary's statement that 5,000 new police officers will be recruited does not in fact mean that there will be 5,000 additional police officers?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made it plain and clear that we intend to see that money and resources are available to recruit an additional 5,000 police officers over and above the 11,000 recruits already planned.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the latest crime statistics show dramatic differences in detection rates between different police forces? Interestingly, the smaller forces such as Dyfed-Powys, Staffordshire, Cheshire and, dare I say, Durham, appear to come at the top. Given that smaller forces tend to be closer to the communities they serve, can the noble Lord take that into account when he is next pressured--as I am sure he is from time to time--to consider amalgamation of forces in order to achieve economies of scale? Bigger is not necessarily better.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with wisdom and experience on such matters, and who am I to differ with such wise words? The noble Lord makes an important and telling point. We must ensure that our police forces are well resourced and well supported so that they can do the job of ensuring peace and security on our streets and in our communities.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I am not sure that I understood the Minister's response to the last question but one. Is he saying categorically, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that there will be 5,000 more policemen in service next year than there are this year?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is not necessarily a yes or no situation.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The objective of the Government is to ensure that police forces around the country will be able to recruit an additional 5,000 police officers over and above the 11,000 recruits already planned.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page