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Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, will my noble friend advise your Lordships' House what measures the Government are taking to seek to promote not merely the kind of security about which she has just spoken but security for civilians as and when Sierra Leone emerges from this bloody conflict?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we are working hard to reform and improve the effectiveness, for example, of the police in Sierra Leone. We are helping to improve public confidence in the police. We are also working to help to reintegrate ex-combatants. We recognise that in the rural areas this is a much slower process. That is partly the result of the history of the police being targeted by the rebels in rural areas. There are problems with access, but we shall continue to make progress on this matter.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the NGOs--I declare an interest as someone involved in an NGO--very much welcome the anti-corruption measure that she mentioned as it is most disappointing to raise funds and then find that they do not reach those who need help? Will that policy be applied throughout Africa rather than just in Sierra Leone?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, working to deal with corruption in different countries across the world is a key priority for us in terms of our development agenda. We shall want to learn the lessons from any anti-corruption commission that is established in Sierra Leone to see whether or not what we learn from Sierra Leone can be used in other countries.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, with regard to the civil society in Sierra Leone, what assistance have the Government given in particular to women's organisations? Have they considered, for instance, the work which is being done by Mrs Zainab Bangura?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, a key theme of our work in all the countries in which we work is to promote gender equality. I shall have to write to the noble Lord on the funding of specific women's organisations in Sierra Leone. I shall, of course, place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

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Climate Conference, The Hague: Outcome

11.30 a.m.

The Earl of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to reverse the failure of the recent climate conference at The Hague.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the failure of The Hague Conference is obviously deeply disappointing. All sides were committed to securing agreement but negotiators ultimately ran out of time on this extremely complex and important matter. It has already been agreed that the talks will resume next year, probably in May or June. The Government will continue to work with our EU partners and other countries to build on the progress made in the Hague and to ensure that an agreement is reached.

The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I was pleased to read today in the press that the Deputy Prime Minister will not be attending the European meeting of Ministers on 17th December, particularly as that falls on a Sunday. Will that meeting involve the American delegation and the other members who attended the conference at The Hague? Without their attendance, the meeting seems unlikely to achieve anything.

Finally, does the Minister agree that in the light of recent events, the task of defending the UK's national interest at the forthcoming Nice conference will be that much more difficult?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Earl's question contains a number of misapprehensions. There is a European Environment Council on, I think, 18th and 19th December. That may be an appropriate point at which to discuss the issues arising from The Hague. But contacts with our EU partners are continuous. Progress may well be made before or at that point.

On the role of the Deputy Prime Minister, the House should be aware that if it were not for the Deputy Prime Minister the progress that was made in bringing the American and EU positions closer together would not have occurred. We were very close to reaching an agreement. As regards timing, it was unfortunate that we did not get further. We now need to pick up the pieces on that and develop a closer approximation between the American/EU position and that of the group of 77. That will require a lot of diplomacy. It will not be solely in relation to the EU or any EU meeting.

Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that while the Deputy Prime Minister should be warmly congratulated on his tireless work, together with his Minister of State, in getting so close to an agreement, the truth remains that the position of the United States leaves much to be desired? I refer to the proportion of the crisis generated for which it is responsible and the minimum level of its readiness to respond.

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Can my noble friend assure us that whoever forms the new administration in the United States will have an early visit from a person at the most senior level--the Prime Minister would be ideal--to ensure that we win American commitment without which substantial progress will never be made?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is clear that the position of the United States is crucial to reaching agreement on these issues and in making serious progress. Emissions levels in the United States are one of the major causes of the current climate change problems. It is, therefore, important that the American political and business leadership take that seriously. Within the present Administration, we have serious recognition of that. For that reason America was prepared to move significantly in the latter stages of the discussion at The Hague from its somewhat intransigent original position. We welcome those moves. We believe that we can build on them. We hope that we can build on them, whoever is in the White House in January. It is noticeable that in American public and to some extent corporate opinion there is a positive move towards doing something about climate change. I hope that whoever is the political leader of America takes account of that and begins to lead on it.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, will the Minister reassure us that, despite the failure at The Hague, the EU countries will persevere in their efforts to achieve the objectives they have already set themselves to deal with climate change and, indeed, intensify those efforts as an example to the rest of the world?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that I can give that commitment. I certainly assure the House that the UK Government are on course for meeting their commitment to the EU contribution towards Kyoto.

However, there are some problems within Europe. When we castigate the United States, we also have to recognise that although in policy terms the EU is well in advance of the United States, many EU countries are not on course to achieve their commitments with regard to the EU bubble as a contribution to Kyoto. Only the UK and, to a large extent, Germany are on target.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that one of the problems about the final agreement was that the United States proposed what were called forest sinks which would deal with some of the effects of emissions? Will the noble Lord promise that, while supporting the concept of forest sinks, Her Majesty's Government will ensure that that does not mean that monoculture of forests will replace the traditional rain and maritime forests of the world?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct. The issue of sinks was important. The Americans started from the position of wanting to make a major contribution from afforestation within the United States and developed countries and also acquiring credit for planting afforestation largely

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within developing countries. They removed that latter point from their negotiating position towards the end, which was most beneficial, and became significantly more flexible on the former. Although maintenance of forests plays a role, it is important that positive measures are also taken to reduce emissions, and that the two are not seen as counter-poised.

Protection of Animals (Amendment) Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill

11.37 a.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons reason be considered forthwith.

Moved, That the Commons reason be considered forthwith.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[The page and line refer to HL Bill 48 as first printed for the Lords.]

130After Clause 64, insert the following new clause--

After section 379 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 (interpretation of sections 369 to 378) there shall be inserted--
"Tax relief on political donations.

379AA.--(1) Tax relief shall be available to an individual ("the donor") in accordance with this section on qualifying political donations made by him of up to £500 in any year of assessment.
(2) A donation is a qualifying political donation for the purposes of this section if it is made to a registered political party (other than a minor party) and--
(a) it takes the form of the payment of a sum of money,
(b) it is not subject to a condition as to repayment,
(c) it is not conditional on or associated with, or part of an arrangement involving, the acquisition of property by the political party, its members or accounting units, otherwise than by way of gift, from the donor or a person connected with him, and
(d) the donor is a registered elector.
(3) For the purposes of this section a political party is an eligible political party if--
(a) it is a registered party within the meaning of section 22 of this Act other than a minor party, and

30 Nov 2000 : Column 1470

(b) at the last general election preceding the donation in question--
(i) two members of that party were elected to the House of Commons, or
(ii) one member of that party was elected to the House of Commons and not less than 150,000 votes were given to candidates who were members of that party.
(4) If an individual makes a qualifying donation he shall be entitled, on making the payment, to deduct and retain out of it a sum equal to basic rate tax thereon.
(5) Where a sum is deducted under subsection (4) above, the sum deducted shall be treated as income tax paid by the person to whom the payment is made.
(6) Any person by whom a qualifying donation is received shall be entitled to recover from the Board, in accordance with regulations, an amount which by virtue of subsection (5) above is treated as income tax paid by him; and any amount so recovered shall be treated for the purposes of the Tax Acts in like manner as the qualifying political donation to which it relates.
(7) The following provisions of the Taxes Management Act 1970, namely--
(a) section 29(1)(c) (excessive relief) as it has effect apart from section 29(2) to (10) of that Act,
(b) section 30 (tax paid in error, etc) apart from subsection (1B),
(c) section 86 (interest), and
(d) section 95 (incorrect return or accounts),

    shall apply in relation to an amount which is paid to any person by the Board as an amount recoverable in accordance with regulations made by virtue of subsection (6) above but to which that person is not entitled as if it were income tax which ought not to have been repaid and, where that amount was claimed by that person, as if it had been repaid as respects a chargeable period as a relief which was not due.

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