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We were bound to have a major debate on Europe. I will not cover it tonight because it has not been much addressed in the House, but of one thing I am quite convinced: we will need to work together in the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Leach, managed to avoid controversy for at least 30 seconds in his excellent maiden speech. However, I am closer to the position of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, on this, even if I do admire the single-mindedness of the noble Lord, Lord Leach. We will have to do this work together.
The noble Lords, Lord Wallace and Lord Garden, asked about NATO and the EU. They are not in competition but have complementary strengths. Under Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO has an open door for those who commit to its principles and wish to contribute to security. The Riga summit later this month will be a key opportunity to strengthen the alliance. Afghanistan will be a central theme of discussion, but I believe
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I commend to the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, DfIDs White Paper which deals in extensive detail with water and sanitation, although I am sure he will have seen it. I accept his fundamental proposition that we need to work with UNICEF and young people on all these problems. Young people I have met right across Africa have almost always wanted to talk about water and sanitation, and I entirely understand why.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, asked about Reserve Forces. The use of our Reserve Forces in operations is not a reflection of overstretch. It follows from our one-army approach, taken to reform Army structures. Our reservists know that they will be expected to go on operations, and that is the current state. Perhaps I may also point out that in September 2006 a report from the RAF and the Royal Navy showed that a very small percentage of people have been affected by breaches of harmony guidelines, although I accept that a larger proportion is affected in the Army. The pressure on equipment programmes reflects the changing nature and diversity of the operations we are called on to meet, from conflict prevention through to counter-insurgency and full warfare. The Government are meeting these challenges through the widest reform of defence procurement seen for many years. They are already delivering results in, for example, the new armoured fighting vehicles now coming through. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, raised some of these issues. Perhaps I may say to him on another matter that I believe that the treatment of wounded soldiers in the NHS provides the best and most specialised healthcare you can get in the United Kingdom. The objective must be to provide the very best healthcare. It is a question not of the name over the door but of the quality of the medicine provided behind it.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patten, for his comments on the protection of artefacts, and I agree with him that their loss is not only bad for world heritage, but also of symbolic importance, as people feel they are losing their history. I cannot enlighten him on cruise ship staff, but I am determined to find out. I deeply regret that that was not part of the briefing for tonight.
The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, asked about recruitment. In 2005-06 the services achieved 96 per cent of their total recruitment requirements. Overall, achievement has improved by this stage of the year. By the midpoint of the year we saw an improvement of about 4 per cent over the equivalent point last year, and training remains a priority.
A number of points have been made about the Iraqi Kurds. I believe it is not in their interests to break away from Iraq. There are bound to be more discussions and consultations on better distribution of the resources of the countrythat has to happen.
We do not try to impede people travelling; we give cautious travel advice. Others are rather more stringent in their travel advice but I will look again at
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On the point of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, about the Assyrian and other Christian minorities, we are working hard for the interests of the Christian minorities in Iraq. We support all minority groups in Iraq and, where we can, we play a role in facilitating their participation in society and in the Government. I can confirm that we are also supporting at a very considerable level, through DfID, the spending on the reconstruction of the country. We have pledged a total of £544 million on that goal.
It has been a long debate and I am sure that I have done far too little justice to some of the vital points that have been made. I take completely the points made by my noble friend Lord Ahmed about making sure that we deal with all of the peoples of the world as we would wish to deal with all of the peoples of our country.
It has been a debate of great complexity. We are a small nation which punches far above its weight; we have remarkable strengths. Some of our fellow citizens are the staff who serve in our missions abroad, often in difficult places, often facing tough problems. Whenever I see themdiplomats, consular officers, UK Visas staff, DfID staff, British Council staffI am struck by their dedication. I hope that anyone travelling from this House and seeing them is similarly struck. They are not the stereotypes of media imagination. They are a diverse, often very brave, group. They often work with remarkable efficiency and inventiveness within the constraints of what the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, described as a very tight budget. I thank those staff today.
Perhaps I may express a word of admiration for NGO personnel. They are not disaster tourists, as
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The expectations of our people, our forces, our selfless NGOs are that we work to eliminate conflict, poverty, rotten governance and a stricken climate. We want our forces to be strong enough, both in personnel and equipment terms, to face the problems this country asks them to face, and we want their families to be treated in a way commensurate with that.
People do not always want force; they sometimes want skilled negotiation and diplomacy, they want intelligent soft power to play an increasing role, and they want it to permeate the walls that are built in the name of religious intolerance. No one will forgive anyone for failing to act where we have the prosperity, the means, the knowledge and the science to act. We will not be forgiven if our legacy to the next generation is indelible damage to the fragile climate of the planet. These demands on our generation are a challenge for every one of us. They need all our talents and our co-operation across communities and faiths. It is not a bad challenge to have to face because the prize is very great. I relish it and, from what I have heard tonight, however despondent, I believe the House relishes it.
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