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Baroness Andrews: My Lords, as I have said to the noble Baroness, I am absolutely sure that the views of English Heritage will be taken into account because it is a close partner in any development where there is any sort of threat to the historic environment. I also understand that there is a listed war memorial in the square, in which case listed building consent would also have to be sought. In terms of the way that the local councils relate to each other, that is something they will have to resolve themselves; although the noble Lord makes an obvious point about the disruption that is caused by these sorts of developments.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the residents' association of Russell Square, whose traffic flows were recently disrupted by the July 7 bomb, but also by extensive road works leading on to Southampton Row. Perhaps I may ask my noble friend to turn her attention to access to the gardens of historic squares in London and elsewhere,
 
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which presently are open for only one day a year on open days which are much loved by Londoners, tourists and visitors. Could not more be done to give access to the wonderful gardens of these wonderful squares?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I think that the 600 squares in London are one of the great glories of the city. I would like to see them all open. One of the very interesting things that is happening is that English Heritage is working with the Heritage Lottery Fund to regenerate and develop squares, so I think that the noble Lord's suggestion should be put direct to those bodies.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, does the Minister recall the phase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Can she tell the House what is so wrong with Sloane Square that it requires this vast amount money to be spent on it?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I know the phrase. Again I would not want to comment in detail because I have not seen the options and it would not be my place to do so. But I understand that there is some concern about pedestrian access, for example, and improving that. I think that we shall just have to wait to see the outcome of those deliberations.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who lives south of the river, just like the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. As something is broke there—the bridge—could not the Government take action to try to open that up quickly?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I have been in this job for very few months. But one of the things that I have noticed is that there is always somebody living somewhere and there is nearly always a bridge or a road involved.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, I wonder if I might help the noble Baroness. Is she aware that, despite the concerns of my noble friend, local consultations have been commissioned and that Daniel Moylan, who is supervising the scheme, is happy that the planned changes to an area that was a crossroads before 1930 will reclaim unnecessary carriageway, resulting in an increased pedestrian area with less noise, less traffic and no alterations to public transport.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for his contribution.

South Asia Earthquake

3.10 pm

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to assist the victims of the Kashmir earthquake.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, following news of the South Asia
 
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earthquake, the Department for International Development immediately mobilised its emergency response system. In answer to a specific request from the government of Pakistan, search and rescue teams were sent to the affected areas. We have also sent a range of material assistance and are continuing to provide further help.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, may we extend our deepest condolences to the people of Kashmir on this appalling disaster which has cost the lives of perhaps 40,000 people and rendered several hundred thousand homeless and destitute? Since we have DFID officials on the ground co-ordinating relief efforts by the European Union, may I ask the Minister if we are now in a position to reassess our estimate of the scale of help which is needed and to upgrade the help which has already been given, for which we are most grateful to her and to the Secretary of State for International Development?

Is the Minister satisfied that help is now reaching the people who are out in the open air, in freezing temperatures—not just in Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot, but also in areas such as Bagh, the Neelam Valley and the villages which seem not to have been reached by many of the aid agencies?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will join me in endorsing the initial comments by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. With respect to whether or not aid is reaching everyone who needs it, there is undoubtedly a problem with infrastructure in some of the most remote areas. The reason that aid has managed to reach Muzaffarabad is because the Pakistan army repaired the road to enable that aid to get through.

We are doing all that we can. The United States for example has provided some helicopters and we are seeking to do the same to enable food lift into those areas where going by road is extraordinarily difficult. It would be wrong of me to assure the House that we have managed to reach all of those areas; there are still remote areas that we are trying to reach with the UN.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I would like to extend our condolences from these Benches too and would like to congratulate the Secretary of State and DfID with the non-governmental organisations on their rapid response in sending assistance to Pakistan. What measures are the Government taking to ensure that money sent will be invested in long-term prevention programmes, such as proper housing and emergency planning?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that there are always two phases to these operations. One is the immediate emergency need; the second phase is the longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction. In our longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes we seek to ensure that a proportion of those programmes goes towards disaster management in areas such as this?

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, does the Minister accept that one of the ways in which
 
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individual citizens can help with this is through the DEC appeal and that that has a very honourable record of ensuring that resources get very quickly to where they are needed? Would she further accept that from a political level, in an area of the world which is marked by huge poverty and very derelict infrastructure, there is an urgent need to press upon the parties to find peace in Kashmir?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I entirely endorse the comments of the right reverend Prelate, and that is precisely why we have supported the moves by the Indian and Pakistani Governments with respect to moving towards long-term sustainable peace.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that not only was the UK the first government in the world to offer help after this awful disaster, but that they have collaborated in a most co-operative way with the aid agencies—for instance, paying for the transport of 800 tents for Oxfam and 19,000 blankets for Islamic Relief?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend is right. The first search and rescue team came from the United Kingdom. We have also undertaken to pay for the transport of NGOs. It is also important to remember that this is a co-ordinated effort, with governments, the UN, the European Union and NGOs working together. We have had to learn serious lessons from the tsunami disaster, when co-ordination was not as good as it should have been, and we are trying to put them into practice in our response to this disaster.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating especially the Disasters Emergencies Committee, which has achieved an exceptionally rapid result in its co-operation with the media this time. There is a lot of concern about the individuals going out to Pakistan, many from the Kashmiri community here, and what happens when they arrive. Is the department particularly concerned about those groups of people, and what sort of guidance is she offering?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, this is an effort across government. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent out a consular team on the very first flight. Not only are we supporting British citizens visiting Pakistan but the British High Commission in Islamabad has established a desk at the airport to support those travelling out from the UK to look for, or support, relatives affected by the disaster.


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