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As regards securing the maximum possible co-ordination, this very much concerns my right honourable friend Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development. She is working with Cabinet colleagues to ensure that there is co-ordination from the UK end and we are also working to ensure that such co-ordination is carried through internationally with our partners. I can reassure my noble friend on that point.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that there is enormous concern among the staff of the aid organisations about the side-effects of the bombing and whether it is properly targeted or will have consequences for humanitarian work in itself? There is now clear evidence of civilian casualties, not least in centres where there are humanitarian workers such as have been described, related to our own aid organisations. How can that be reconciled, and can she say whether more members of her own party will be allowed to express these concerns on behalf of aid organisations and the public?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, can I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that every effort has been and is being made to ensure that the bombing is targeted. We deeply regret any civilian casualties as a result of the bombing. As regards members of my own party being able to raise any concerns that they may have, it is important that in the present situation everyone has the opportunity to voice any such concerns because that is the difference between what we have, with our freedom and our democracy, and what exists in Afghanistan.
Lord Sandberg: My Lords, I am particularly pleased that in the Statement this afternoon a lot of weight was put on the problems facing Pakistan, because although that country is--temporarily, I hope--suspended from the Commonwealth gatherings it is a well-founded member of the Commonwealth. When the Prime Minister was in Islamabad not long after the 11th September, when Pakistan very bravely said it was going to be a full member in the battle against the terrorists, he had a long talk with General Musharraf. Mention was made at the time of the debt which is owed by Pakistan. Only last week the USA has either rescheduled or forgiven part of the debt, and it behoves us to be proactive in helping Pakistan with its debts. I hope the Minister will make this clear. Finance Minister Shaukiat was due to visit England about a fortnight ago. His trip has been momentarily cancelled, but I hope that he will be coming fairly soon.
Lastly, I think that there is a misunderstanding. I do not think that the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, spoke about the Taliban looking after refugee camps in Pakistan. There would be no question of the Taliban being allowed to run such places in Pakistan itself.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, first, let me thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg, for his clarification. It is true that Pakistan is suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth, but the transition to democracy is happening. Provincial and local elections took place earlier this year and a commitment has been made for national elections by October 2002.
On the subject of debt, substantial progress has been made on economic reform. Pakistan completed a nine-month standby arrangement for the IMF earlier this month, which is the first time in her history that this has been done. The UK is ready to provide substantial economic assistance, and we have made that clear. It will enable Pakistan to bring about improvements in social services delivery. That will amount to £15 million in this financial year and in the order of £45 million for each of the following two years. We agree that debt relief is important. We are not a major creditor and we have written off some £20 million of debt which was previously owed to the Commonwealth Development Corporation and transferred to the department earlier this year.
Baroness Uddin: My Lords, although I am not an expert on the numbers of refugees or on the current situation in Afghanistan but merely an observer and a parliamentarian, would my noble friend respond to the concern that thus far the amount of humanitarian assistance available in particular to vulnerable women and children is about a quarter of what is required? What are the Government doing to make sure that not only this country but others involved in the conflict try to ensure that we provide at least as much food as is required, not only on a daily basis but in the long term?
Also I should like to say that in this conflict the plight of Afghan women has been long forgotten: very little attention has been paid to that aspect. Will my noble friend assure me and your Lordships' House that expertise and sufficient resources will subsequently be made available to Afghanistan when re-building takes place, and that every effort will be made to provide a role model for women's advancement not only for British Muslims but for other Muslim countries--a role model which can withstand the allegation of an imperialist model for the advancement of women that has often been attributed to modernisation of any kind and the intervention of any western countries?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, first I can reassure my noble friend that we are doing all we can to ensure that the food that the World Food Programme and others have identified as being required is delivered. However, in the Statement and in the answers that I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, I made it absolutely clear that there are some difficulties
On the amount of humanitarian assistance, the UN has made an appeal. It requested 600 million dollars and in fact received pledges for over 700 million. Our concern is that of those pledges only 70 million dollars have been received so far. With the UN, we are putting pressure on those countries that have made those pledges to ensure that the money is released.
I agree with my noble friend that we need to ensure that the experience and expertise of other countries which have worked hard to ensure that women are a part of the development process are used in our thinking and planning when talking about the future reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, perhaps the Minister can answer a question on airdrops to outlying places. She talked of airdrops and she cast some doubt upon how well the produce is received on the ground. Is there any possibility of using helicopters for the job, or is that too difficult? I know that helicopters now can carry a considerable amount and they could land the food where it is wanted.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that in considering whether it is appropriate to use airdrops, the method will also be considered. The issue is much less about the method used--be it planes or helicopters--and much more about whether airdrops will be dangerous, who they will land on and whether they will be more problematic than not doing airdrops at all. All those factors are being and will be taken into consideration when the World Food Programme considers the use of airdrops as part of its future strategy.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Statement is as follows:
"Yesterday the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning reported that it had witnessed an event--which it regarded as significant--in which the IRA had put a quantity of arms beyond use.
"The materiel in question had included arms, ammunition and explosives. The commission was satisfied that the arms in question had been dealt with in accordance with the scheme and regulations. In other words, the IRA's act constituted an act of decommissioning under its statutory remit.
"The word 'historic' tends to be over-used about the Northern Ireland political process. There have been so many twists and turns, so many moments of optimism, so many setbacks along the way. But yesterday's move by the IRA is, in my view, unprecedented and genuinely historic. It takes the peace process on to a new political level.
"for most people, Ulster this morning seems a more hopeful place in which space created by the IRA's unprecedented move will be seized by those with political vision and courage".
"a rubicon has been crossed . . . a historic milestone has been passed. It is an affirmation by the republican movement--in tangible terms--that it cannot operate in both the paramilitary and political worlds".
"And let us remember just how far we have come in the last four years: the major constitutional changes, including the establishment of the principle of consent and the ending of Ireland's territorial claim to Northern Ireland. The new institutional architecture has been shown to work, and can and must be revived by yesterday's historic move. The Human Rights and Equality Commissions have been set up--and are hard at work.
"This is the culmination of efforts by many people over many years, including my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, John Major, successive US Administrations, the republican leadership, which has shown itself to have the vision and confidence to bring an armed movement to the point of ceasefire, the honourable Member for Foyle and the party he leads, and the smaller pro-agreement parties.
"I pay tribute also to the right honourable Member for Upper Bann and his colleagues. Were it not for his persistence, willingness to take risks and sheer courage under attack, it is no exaggeration to say that yesterday's events are unlikely to have happened. It is a vivid illustration of the power of engagement, the powerlessness of detachment. It is those who have taken risks for peace who have achieved this progress, not those who have doubted from the sidelines.
"And of course I am sure the whole House would want to join me in thanking General John de Chastelain and his colleagues. They have shown endless patience and dignity. The best thanks we can give them is to let them get on with their task.
"First, the political institutions which are the democratic core of the Belfast agreement--the Assembly, the Executive, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council--should now be restored to full operation as quickly as possible, and should operate in a stable and uninterrupted way. The decision of the Ulster Unionist Party today to put the Ministers back into government is a helpful step in creating a new dynamic.
"Secondly, we need to press on with the implementation of the agreement in all its aspects. I have placed the Government's response to the decommissioning commission's report in the Library of the House. But I should in particular mention that we will complete the implementation of the Patten report, including the review of the new arrangements to which we are already committed and the introduction of legislation to amend the Police Act 2000 to reflect more fully the Patten recommendations.
"And we will undertake a progressive rolling programme of security normalisation, reducing levels of troops and installations in Northern Ireland, as the security situation improves. Our aim is to secure as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements. That is the task which now confronts us in the period ahead.
"But I can announce a step in that direction today. The IRA's action in putting weapons beyond use has wide political significance. It also, in itself, makes a contribution to the improvement we all want to see in the security situation.
"In the immediate aftermath of yesterday's event, I have discussed the situation with my security advisers--including the Chief Constable and GOC. There is, of course, a significant continuing threat from republican and loyalist dissidents. Notwithstanding that, the Chief Constable confirms that yesterday's developments represent a real improvement. We therefore intend, as an immediate response to yesterday's developments, to demolish the observation tower on Sturgan mountain in South Armagh. Work on this is starting today.
"We will demolish one of the observation towers on Camlough mountain in South Armagh. Work on this is starting today. In addition we will demolish the supersangar at Newtownhamilton police station adjacent to the helicopter landing site. Work on that will begin tomorrow. We will also demolish the Magherafelt army base. Work on that will begin tomorrow.
"But there is a third priority. All paramilitary groups should now play their part in building on yesterday's progress. This is not just about decommissioning. When small children cannot go to school without being terrorised or innocent civilians cannot sleep in their beds without fear of bombs, the scale of the challenge facing us is evident. Some of the loyalist organisations have played a crucial part in the peace process. I now ask them to ask themselves what they can do to move the process forward. Whatever else, there must be an end to the mindless sectarian violence of recent weeks.
"There are other difficult legacies of the past. The early release scheme was, I know, one of the most painful and contentious aspects of the agreement. All qualifying prisoners have now been released. We and the Irish Government have now accepted that it would be a natural development of that scheme for outstanding prosecutions and extradition proceedings for offences committed before 10th April 1998 not to be pursued against supporters of organisations now on ceasefire. Both Governments have agreed to take such steps as are necessary to resolve the issue as soon as possible, and in any event by March 2002.
"Piece by piece the Belfast agreement is taking shape. As the Prime Minister said last night, we are a long way from completing our journey. There will no doubt be obstacles ahead, but at a time when the world is grappling with the effects of the most evil terrorism, and we see in the Middle East the awful consequences when political dialogue breaks down and opportunities are missed, I can tell the House that the political process in Northern Ireland is alive and moving forward. To sustain this will require hard work, steady nerves and the continued ability on all sides to reach out and make difficult compromises. The Government are ready and eager to play their part".
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for repeating the Statement of his right honourable friend in another place. We on this side of the House welcome the general thrust of the Statement. Certainly, this is a step forward in the Northern Ireland peace process. There have been many positive changes especially to the constitution during the negotiations of the peace process, as pointed out in the Statement. The fact that there are two republican leaders taking part in the government of a part of the United Kingdom is remarkable and is certainly significant.
I join the noble and learned Lord in his compliments to the right honourable David Trimble and his thanks to General de Chastelain. With that go my thanks and praises to all Prime Ministers and former Secretaries of State who have worked so hard on the peace agreement. Two of my noble friends who are former Secretaries of State are in their places today. We owe them all a due debt of gratitude.
Where I start to part company with Her Majesty's Government is over the matter of further legislation to amend the Police Act 2000. I ask the noble and learned Lord to reassure the House on this matter, especially in relation to the appointment of convicted terrorists to any part of the new structures set up for policing Northern Ireland. Does the noble and learned Lord agree with me that there should be no further concessions to Sinn Fein/IRA in this context? Is the new legislation likely to come before the House shortly? Will it be dealt with in a rush, or will it just take its place in the normal day-to-day routines of your Lordships' House?
Furthermore, does the noble and learned Lord agree that today's act of decommissioning must be followed by a verifiable process which includes all IRA and so-called loyalist paramilitary weapons spread throughout the awful network of aggression and violence, and that all gang leaders from whatever part of the Province they come must get on the bandwagon and join the process? I hope that Her Majesty's Government will turn their attention to how they can start to make that happen after today's developments.
Can the noble and learned Lord also assure the House that General de Chastelain's remit, which runs out in February, will last, and be seen to last, to see the process through? I understand that the responsibility for verifying the process of all decommissioning remains firmly on the gallant general's shoulders. It is important that we do not lose him half-way through the process.
As to future security arrangements, will the noble and learned Lord reassure the House that no reductions of security forces will take place which could leave the people of the Province, and, in turn the whole nation, vulnerable to attack from dissidents from any organisation, especially in the light of this morning's statement by the Real IRA that it intends to take on the mantel of PIRA and continue the armed struggle? For those who do not know it, this follows the history of the republican movement in Ireland and is very depressing.
As the Statement says, there will be many obstacles ahead but the public decommissioning by PIRA is a very significant event in the history of Irish republicanism. Those who know something of the history will have some understanding of the ramifications; namely, the bureaucratic processes, the heart-rending and the arguments that must have gone on in republicanism for some time to arrive at a point where there has been at least some public decommissioning of arms. Although this is only another step on a long road, this event should not be treated lightly.
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, in thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for repeating the Statement made earlier in another place, I too wish to associate these Benches with the main points made in it. It has been an extraordinarily taxing and exasperating process over the past eight years or
The role played by the USA in achieving this outcome cannot be stressed too much. President Clinton was quite remarkable in the energy and time that he devoted during his period in office to the problems of Northern Ireland, and it is good to see that his initiatives and determination have been followed up by the Bush Administration.
In acknowledging the various contributions over the years I also emphasise the persistent assiduity of Mr John Hume whose initiatives early on began the process with the Hume-Adams talks. To this was later added, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, the remarkable negotiating skills of the right honourable David Trimble. It was fitting that both of them received the Nobel prize. Not merely did they receive that prize but they have continued to live up to it.
IRA decommissioning is something of a watershed. There is still much to be done to promote an authentic democratic polity and its concomitant a liberal civic society. We wish Northern Ireland God speed in that vital regard. There is the immediate problem to which the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred, of the position of the loyalist paramilitaries. I know that the Government are fully apprised of the problem. Can the noble and learned Lord indicate how the loyalist groups might be persuaded to accept the Belfast Agreement and join with others to secure a lasting and prosperous peace in Northern Ireland?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, may I say how grateful I am for the generous responses from both Front Benches? The one thing that unites us in this Parliament, not simply in this House, is that, whatever occurs, at the moment the motive that drives us entirely is the ambition that our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland should have the opportunity of a decent ordered life in--as the noble Lord, Lord Smith, said--a liberal civic society.
It is extraordinary that two republican leaders have been so significantly engaged with a government over part of the United Kingdom. It seems to demonstrate--the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and I are agreed--that the recognition dawns far too late that we must live together in whatever community with whatever differences of view or differences of tradition or religion. The only way to live together is to accommodate the fact that people are different.
The implementation plan announced, as your Lordships will remember, a review to start next March and to be completed by October 2002. The plan also announced a number of legislative amendments to be made following that. Therefore, that indicates my answer on the parliamentary timetable. I stress that that is my present understanding. Things change so rapidly in the Northern Ireland context that sometimes, as we know too well in this House, one has to alter arrangements for a greater purpose.
As is well known, the appointments have already been made to the board. Sinn Fein did not nominate anyone. A question was put about the verifiable continuing process. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is quite right that the effects of the act of decommissioning come to an end in February next year. That means that if we want to continue--I say in parenthesis that it seems to me to be overwhelmingly likely that we shall--I will have to come to this House to ask for an extension of the decommissioning act.
I personally of course hope that General de Chastelain and his two colleagues will continue their selfless work. The noble Lord is also right that it is not simply the Provisional IRA that needs to be part of a verifiable process, the loyalist groups do and so do all splinter groups from the Provisional IRA. Until the noble Lord mentioned the matter, I did not know that the Real IRA had said that it had taken on the mantle of the Provisional IRA. It is a small group. It is a vicious and violent group. One of its members has just been sent to prison for five years. If one is allowed to applaud a fellow human being going to prison, it seems to me that that is the occasion for significant applause. Furthermore, the alleged leader of the Provisional IRA is in custody in the Republic of Ireland awaiting trial. It would not be appropriate to say anything more about the course of his trial.
The loyalist groups are not monolithic. They have different views. If what David Irvine said is correctly reported, the situation seems to be rather more encouraging than some responses from other leaders of groups. They are small but dangerous groups.
The noble Lord's final question related to security. He wanted my assurance that there would be no reduction of security in the wider sense leaving the people of the Province not properly protected. I give that assurance. Plainly, in the past 30 years no Secretary of State has ever made decisions of this nature and quality without taking the most careful advice from the appropriate agencies.
I am cautioning myself about being optimistic, but this is a sea change. It is quite extraordinary. I do not think that the full magnitude of it has entered our minds because it has happened so recently.
Lord Rogan: My Lords, today I stand here as a proud Ulsterman and the first member of my party in history to speak in your Lordships' House following an act of decommissioning by a republican paramilitary group. As my party leader, David Trimble, said last night:
Does the Minister agree that yesterday's beginning to decommissioning by the Provisional IRA should mark the start of a process which will be completed prior to the expiry of the mandate of the international independent commission on decommissioning in February 2002?
Will the Minister further agree that a move now by so-called loyalist paramilitaries to decommissioning their arsenals of illegal weapons and explosives will give a further boost to the prospects of permanent peace in Northern Ireland? It is only when all the illegal armaments in Ulster and the Republic of Ireland are really put beyond use that we can believe that our Troubles of these past centuries are really at an end.
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