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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I can give your Lordships an assurance that we will remain very watchful over what happens regarding settlement activity. Your Lordships will know that we have already expressed disappointment that the Israelis have plans in hand for increased settlement building. That is within the bounds of already established settlements, but phase one of the road map demands that the Israelis freeze their settlement activity. There are concerns that Israeli action at the moment is not compatible with such a freeze. There are also concerns about renewed activity regarding building the security barrier, which has been a subject of considerable anxiety in your Lordships' House.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that sustaining the considerable political courage that has been shown by both the Palestinian and the Israeli leadership in recent times will require tangible benefits on the ground for their constituencies? In that respect will the meeting in London consider particularly the possibilities of achieving speedy economic development for those Palestinians living in Gaza?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, indeed, we shall be doing exactly that. In answering the original Question from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I mentioned that we would be looking at the areas of governance, security and economic development. As regards economic development, we will seek to stimulate private sector growth and improve conditions to facilitate internal and external trade. We will also look forward to the possibility of a donor conference and of a meeting that will bring together private sector investors under the auspices of the World Bank. Therefore, the remarks of my noble friend Lady Hayman are well taken; indeed, work is going on in all areas in the economic sphere.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, will there be a pledging of any funds at this conference? I think we all agree that the main aim is a viable Palestinian state, and one which is not composed, as President Bush said, of a
 
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set of scattered territories. So surely the need now arises for a very clear plan on how to create a viable state and, indeed, how to cope with the situation that the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, mentioned regarding Mr Sharon's intention to annex a further 7 per cent of the West Bank even while he is seeking to disengage from Gaza. How are these matters to be brought together and how will Israel, which will not be present at the conference, be brought into the plans since it will have to provide most of the infrastructure and most of the economic support to make this viable state work at all?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord said about concerns. I should tell the noble Lord and the House that the Israeli Government have been consulted about the meeting next week. They have been consulted about the areas to be covered and, indeed, are broadly supportive of the sort of agenda that we will discuss next week. It is not, however, a donor conference in itself. It is not a conference where people will be formally invited to make financial pledges, although it will cover the areas of economic growth and activity that I detailed a moment ago to my noble friend Lady Hayman. Having said that it will not be a pledging conference, a number of countries have pledged money to the Palestinian Authority but have not as yet delivered on those promises. If they consider that next week is a good opportunity to do that, we will be delighted.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the encouraging reality for more and more moderate and sensible peace-loving Israelis—and an increasing number of members of the Likud party—is that the only true, genuine security and long-lasting peace for Israel will come by proper, full withdrawal from the occupied territories, including the West Bank, and a proper negotiation with a fully sovereign Palestinian state? That reality is increasingly striking even Mr Sharon. Will not Her Majesty's Government make a greater effort to ensure that he accepts those realities now?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we do exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, suggested. No one for a moment pretends that the meeting next week will take the place of a proper negotiated settlement. That would come under phase 3 of the road map, when the final status issues—the all-important issues—of borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem should be negotiated. The conference next week aims to put into place those matters that the Palestinians themselves have said that they need for building a future for statehood and to give them the type of backing that will enable them in the fullness of time—we hope in a matter of a very few years—to be able to have exactly those types of negotiations.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, since, in a democratic society, the institution of policing is important, and since the infrastructure of policing has been absolutely destroyed in the Palestinian territories during the Israeli
 
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occupation, will Her Majesty's Government make some practical offer to assist the Palestinians in the reform and training of the police institution?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is exactly what we have been doing. That is exactly what the United Kingdom has been engaged in for well over a year. It has been our view that it would perhaps be empty to call upon the Palestinians over and over again to do better on security, but to deny them the very capacity to deliver that security. That is why we have helped them in putting together a communications room in Ramallah, which is now being replicated in other parts of the West Bank and Gaza, so that there can be proper communications between security officers. That is also why we have gifted them police cars. The noble Lord is right—that practical level of support is vital and will continue.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, in relation to the point make by the noble Lord, Lord Wright, and other noble Lords, about security, is it not a hopeless position for the new premier of Palestine to be in that he must seek to control his own militants when there is continued building of homes for Israelis in the occupied territories? What are we doing about that?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, words such as "hopeless" are really not helpful at the moment. This is the most hopeful that any of us who have been dealing with this issue have been for a very long time. So I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on his judgment that the position is hopeless. Of course there are problems. We have just discussed them. I raised the problems, not only of the settlement activity, but of the barrier. These are real concerns and we shall continue to go back to the Israelis over those points. But the situation is not hopeless, because the Palestinians themselves have said that they want to discuss, for example, clearer chains of command on security, the way in which their security services operate and more effective co-ordination between their security services. That is only part of the picture. Other issues, including good governance and economic development, are also vital and they are on the agenda next week.

Food Production: UK Self-sufficiency

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there is no direct relationship between self-sufficiency levels and sustainability. The Government's Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food has been promulgated and one key issue is to bring farmers closer to the market. By removing the link between subsidy and production through the CAP
 
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reforms, we have made a huge step in that direction. It will enable British farmers to produce what the market wants, rather than what subsidy dictates or what any artificial target for self-sufficiency might dictate.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, the Minister will know that Defra released figures in January, which showed that the UK's self-sufficiency of indigenous food has fallen by 9 per cent since 1997. Given that situation, what assessment have the Government made of the likely further decline of UK food production following the introduction of the single farm payment?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that depends on how farmers react to the freedom that is given to them by the change in the single farm payment to move away from subsidy-induced patterns of production to those in which they can meet the highest demand and make the highest level of profitability. Although the noble Baroness is correct to say that the self-sufficiency figures have gone down, the volume and the value of production in the UK have gone up—or, rather, down and then up again—in approximately the same period, certainly since 1999. So there is no direct correlation between the two. I would hope that the change in the CAP would allow us to compete in export markets as well as our internal market.


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