Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Amos: My Lords, it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

Baroness Neuberger: My Lords, will the Minister acknowledge that the engagement of older people in social activity reduces the likelihood of their institutionalisation by almost 50 per cent? Will he therefore ensure that the New Vision for Adult Social Care emphasises help with social engagement and encourages funding both for the statutory and voluntary sectors, as the right reverend Prelate has already mentioned, rather than what we have seen thus far, which emphasises help largely for those who are already very dependent?

Lord Warner: My Lords, as I said in my initial reply, I am sure that the Green Paper will tackle the wide range of services that older people need to live fulfilling and independent lives. I have four pages of examples of good local practice, with which I shall not detain the House. However, one that stands out is the Asian Elders Project in Barnet which helps to support independent living, and a number of others which help people to maintain their independence through physical exercise.
7 Mar 2005 : Column 478

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is it not a sad reflection on society that we are having to depend on government and organisations to provide services such as shopping and replacing light bulbs which should be provided either by relatives or by good neighbours? What is the noble Lord doing to foster genuine good neighbourliness and to encourage relations to look after their own people?

Lord Warner: My Lords, that is a little unfair to the many people up and down the country in all kinds of families who give a huge amount of support to their families and older relatives. Carers are a good example of that. I pay tribute to the work that they do in looking after older people and providing support in that regard. The Government have given support through direct payments, the £325 million for the Carers Grant and in other areas to support families as they look after members of an increasingly ageing population.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, regardless of any Green Paper that the Government might publish and of any help given to voluntary organisations, I am sure that the House and the Minister will agree that there is nothing better than a neighbour looking after a neighbour.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I absolutely agree. I am old enough to remember the good neighbour scheme introduced by a Labour government in the mid-1970s.

Afghanistan: NATO Support

2.57 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, following the informal meeting of NATO defence Ministers on 9 and 10 February, NATO announced that the package of resources needed for stage 2 of the planned expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has been completed. Italy, Spain, Lithuania and the US are providing the core resources.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I welcome that reply although much remains to be done, not least providing security ahead of the parliamentary elections. Given the UN's declaration that Afghanistan is in danger of becoming a narcotic state, should NATO, and specifically Britain, with responsibility to sort this out not now be more aggressive in the vital task of eliminating poppy crops?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we are very aware of the danger of the development of a narco-state. NATO
7 Mar 2005 : Column 479
is acting within ISAF's mandate to take very resolute action against the production and the trafficking of narcotics. The noble Lord, Lord Astor, asked what the UK specifically was doing. The UK is providing advice and funding to the Afghans on eradication. For instance, we have helped them set up a central planning cell which will decide what poppy fields to target, taking into account the density of the cultivation, the access to alternative livelihoods for farmers and the need to undermine local warlords who control cultivation in particular areas.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, would my noble friend agree with me if I suggested that we are long since past the time when we should be worried about the development of a narco-economy? It is there; the report we received last week indicated that 50 per cent of the gross national product of Afghanistan is now coming from narcotic crops. Does she further agree that that is now a matter of great urgency for this country, because we are at the end of the supply route and much of that narcotic comes into this country illegally, and that we must now take urgent action in this area?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that urgent action is required. That is why the UK fully supports the 2005 Afghan counter-narcotics implementation plan. My noble friend will know that that means building up institutions, having a proper information campaign, assisting the development of alternative livelihoods—it is no use talking about eradication unless we give people an alternative livelihood—strengthening interdiction and law enforcement, supporting the criminal justice system and taking action on eradication.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, how do the Government plan to carry that out? What percentage of Afghanistan is controlled by ISAF and the central government and what percentage is patrolled and controlled not by them but by warlords who are pushing the production of opium?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, ISAF's control was mainly in Kabul for the first year or so after the conflict. It has now spread to the north and west of the country, which was stage 1. Stage 2, to which I referred in my Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, involves our setting up the west as an ISAF area where forces under ISAF will be able to assist the provincial reconstruction teams, NGOs and non-military personnel that are trying to ensure that the country is reconstructed. Stage 3 will concern the far more worrying areas in the south and east.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, do the Government recognise the case for decriminalising all drugs on the basis that the number of extra people who would die from drug abuse might well be smaller than the number of those who die from drug-related crime? It would also cut the cash flow of organised crime, and
7 Mar 2005 : Column 480
much street crime—probably by about 90 per cent at a stroke. It would also provide a legal basis for poppy growers in Afghanistan.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, that is wide of the Question about provincial reconstruction teams and military operations in Afghanistan. I am sure that, if he wishes, the noble Lord can table a Question on our domestic policy, which has been made clear many times from this Dispatch Box.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, does the Minister remember that there was some ambiguity about the objectives of the provincial reconstruction teams and whether they were military or humanitarian forces? Can she confirm that this has been clarified and standardised under the NATO mandate?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I remember those early discussions about whether provincial reconstruction teams were civilian or military. I particularly remember the discussions we had in this House about the relationship between the military within the reconstruction teams and NGOs. I hope that that has now been clarified. I understand that there is a good relationship between the UK-led teams and NGOs and construction teams.

Lord Garden: My Lords, does the Minister think that the UK should be doing more? Seven of our allies are providing bigger contributions to ISAF, including Belgium, Italy and Spain. Will she convey the thanks of the UK Government to France and Germany, which continue to provide more than a quarter of the total assets for ISAF?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we contribute a military force of more than 600 people to ISAF. We also have six GR7 Harrier aircraft based at Kandahar airport that assist ISAF and the coalition forces in Afghanistan. We are committed to helping the Afghan Government to provide their own security because building up Afghanistan's national army and police force is the most important part of security.

Consumer Credit Bill

3.5 p.m.

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page