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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, regrettably, handcuffs have to be used from time to time, for the reasons that I have given: some young people become very violent and require to be physically restrained. I do not have statistics on the use of handcuffs in 2006.
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Lord Blaker asked Her Majestys Government:
What progress they have made in assisting the Government of Afghanistan to control the cultivation of opium poppies.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the United Kingdom is Afghanistans partner nation in counter-narcotics and is working with the Afghan Government to bring about a sustainable reduction in poppy cultivation. We are spending £270 million over three years to support the Afghan Governments national drug control strategy. Last years overall increase in opium poppy cultivation was disappointing. In areas of Afghanistan where access to governance, security and development has improved, the reductions achieved last year have been sustained.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, this is a very difficult problem indeed, not least because access to the poppy fields is usually difficultover hills or over mountainsso the products have to be relatively small and light. Packets of opium and heroin meet this need and are carried away by humans, not by vehiclesusually over the hills. Would it be worth considering a policy of improving access to the fields, by road or by track, so that a bulkier, non-narcotic product could be grown instead of the poppy?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that we have been looking at alternative rural livelihoods as part of our strategy. We will continue to do that, but of course this is a long-term strategy. The president of Afghanistan has said that, in his view, it will take at least 10 years, but improving the infrastructure in Afghanistan is clearly a key component of that and, in reconstruction terms, that is partly why our troops are there.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, does the Lord President agree that we are dealing not only with poppies growing in fields but also eventually with criminality and a large amount of human misery? She will no doubt be aware, as a former Secretary of State for International Development, that Susan George has highlighted the way in which the maldistribution of wealth across the globe contributes to the need of poor countries, and the poor citizens of those poor countries, to earn a livelihood in effect by growing drugs. Does she therefore agree that any strategy for dealing with the drug problem must include a major effort on the international development front along the lines that she has just mentioned, that this must be pursued with a great deal of urgency, and that there is a great need for public education about the link between poverty in the world, the production of illicit drugs, and the criminality and misery that result?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, of course I agree with the right reverend Prelate about the importance of tackling poverty across the world and the importance of public education. We are dealing with a situation where many farmers feel that the opium poppy is a low-risk crop in a high-risk environment, which is why ensuring security in Afghanistan is so important.
On criminality, I am pleased to be able to tell the House that, in the past year, we have seen the passage of vital counter-narcotics legislation in Afghanistan and the conviction of over 300 traffickers. There was also an increase in drug-related seizures.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, in discussions on this, there is a lot of support for the view that income replacement, as the right reverend Prelate said, is very important? But why cannot we buy some of the poppies instead of destroying them? Hearts and mind will go in the direction of the Taliban unless we can sustain the income of people. I think there is support in our own military for this strategy, too. Even though the Treasury might look askance at an open cheque book, ways and means can be found to ensure income replacement and the confidence of the people currently growing the poppies.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, a number of noble Lords have asked this question, and I specifically asked for some detailed briefing on it. There are currently no central government and law enforcement mechanisms in place in Afghanistan to set up and administer a system of licit cultivation, so traffickers would be free to continue to exploit the illicit market. There is also an issue of pricing, because there is no evidence to show that Afghan opium would be economically competitive in a global marketplace. For example, Australia, France, India, Spain and Turkey currently dominate the export market for licit opiates. I will give noble Lords a sense of the cost. In countries such as India and Turkey, licit production requires market support. In Australia, for example, the production cost for the equivalent of 1 kilogramme of morphine in 1999 was $56. In Afghanistan, it would be $450.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, how much consideration has the Department for International Development given to industrial hemp as an alternative crop? That plant can be used for industrial building purposes or packaging, its fruit is very nutritious and the hemp oil can be used for all sorts of energy purposes. That would be useful in Afghanistan, as well being a good export product. Will she consider that as an alternative crop to heroin poppies in Afghanistan?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am happy to take that suggestion away. I have had a substantial briefing on this Question, but industrial hemp was not covered.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, do not the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, indicate that the whole policy of eradication that our troops are currently being asked to pursuea very dangerous
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Is there not a case for the alternative idea that controlled licensing of poppy growing for pharmaceutical purposes should be developed? We recognise the point made by the noble Baroness about different costs, but surely that is now the line to take, bearing in mind that we should be going after the traffickers even more than at present and that trying to stop small farmers growing poppies to survive and feed their families will be almost impossible?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we need an integrated strategy, which is precisely what we have. Poppy eradication policy and implementation is the responsibility of the Afghan Government. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 15,300 hectares of opium poppy was eradicated in Afghanistan last year, including about 5,000 hectares in Helmand province, but I entirely agree with the noble Lord that eradication on its own will not solve the problem. That is precisely why we are looking at access to legal livelihoods and at measures to catch the drug barons and bring criminals to justice, to encourage the development of rural communities and to provide alternatives for poppy farmers.
Lord Mitchell: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for the labelling of alcoholic beverages; and for connected purposes.I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 14 December 2006 be approved. 5th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and considered in Grand Committee on 24 January.(Baroness Royall of Blaisdon.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 18 December 2006 be approved. 5th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and considered in Grand Committee on 24 January.(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal.
Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Clause 1 [The national concession]:
Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 1:
The noble Lord said: I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 15, 18, 21 to 24, 27 and 28. These are minor technical amendments intended to clarify or improve the drafting of the Bill, together with a concessionary amendment addressing a point raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in its report on the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 1 and 18 are needed because, in two places in the Bill, we have used the word bus when we should have used, for consistency with the Acts being amendedthe Transport Act 2000 and the Greater London Authority Act 1999the technical expression public service vehicle. Those amendments, however, change neither the definitions of public service vehicle or eligible service nor the substance of the definition of eligible journey.
We tabled Amendment No. 15 to put beyond doubt the fact that more generous concessions can be provided within London, should the boroughs and TfL agree them. Currently the wording of the change to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 made by Clause 6(2)(b) might be read as preventing more generous concessions being granted to London residents than the concession specified in Clause 6(4). That has never been our intention. Londoners already get concessions that are in some respects more generous. Amendment No. 15 ensures that there is no doubt about that. It is not in any way a policy change.
Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are needed because Clause 7(2)(b) replaces the words,
in Section 243(1)(b) of the 1999 Act with some new words, which do not include any equivalent of the words to him. These amendments therefore insert the words to the person to rectify that error. Again, there are no policy implications.
Amendment No. 23 changes the word document to permit in the definition of travel concession permit in Section 243(5) of the 1999 Act. This is to avoid any argument that smart cards or perhaps certain types of smart card do not readily fall within the description document. Although the meaning of document may be thought to have the flavour of a piece of paper or something similar with writing on it, permit does not have the same connotation and is consistent with the rest of the legislation.
Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 merely add a signpost to Section 162 of the Transport Act 2000, the general interpretation section for Part 2 of that Act, to the new definition of London Authority inserted by Clause 2(2). That definition already applies for the purpose of Part 2 of the Act so there is no change of any substance. The inclusion of a signpost in Section 162 is consistent with the general approach taken in that provision.
We have given careful consideration to the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the Bill, and I am grateful to it for its work. Amendment No. 24 addresses a point raised at paragraph 13 of the report. The committee commented on Clause 9(3)(g), regarding the regulation-making powers of the Secretary of State should he make an order to take over responsibility for the reimbursement of bus operators. We had an interesting debate in Grand Committee about the wider purpose of Clause 9, and I see no reason for this amendment to reignite that debate. Instead, its purpose is simply to improve the clarity of the Bill as it sets out the specific powers provided by Clause 9(3). The amendment now limits, via proposed new paragraph (f) in Clause 9(3), the scope of the regulation-making powers that an order made under Clause 9(1)(a) can confer on the Secretary of State. It also requires at proposed new subsection (3A) any such regulations to be subject to the negative resolution procedure. This maintains the existing procedure for regulations relating to reimbursement and appeals matters as set out in the Transport Act 2000.
New Clause 9(3)(f) enables regulation-making powers to be conferred on the Secretary of State that correspond with or are similar to the Secretary of States existing regulation-making powers in Sections 149(3), 150(6) and 156(7) of the 2000 Act. It also includes a sweep-up provision to cater for other ancillary matters for which regulations might be needed, for example for how to claim a reimbursement. As the scope of the regulation-making power is now more specific, we have also sought to be more specific about the kind of amendments to the 2000 Act that an order under Clause 9(1)(a) might make by virtue of Clause 9(3). In particular, we hope that the wording of the proposed new Clause 9(3)(b), by referring to altering current provisions about appeals, will reassure the House that there will be an appeal mechanism, should the power to centralise reimbursement ever be used. I hope, therefore, that Amendment No. 24 reassures the House of our intentions.
In drafting these amendments, our intention is to make the Bill more accurate and explicit, and I hope it will be recognised that we have achieved that goal. Accordingly, I beg to move.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I have no problems with the amendments. From what the Minister has said, I understand that they will make the Bill clearer. However, I want to be absolutely certain that no change will be made to the provision in London and that that system will carry on as it is now.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I can certainly give the noble Lord that reassurance.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 2:
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we turn, once again, to the idea of extending the concessionary scheme to modes of transport other than buses. We discussed that principle at some length in Committee; therefore, I shall keep my remarks as concise as possible today.
Every noble Lord, including the Minister, who spoke on this issue in Committee supported in principle such an extension of the scheme. There is no dispute that many people would benefit greatly from the application of the concessionary scheme to a wider range of transport modes; it would give even greater flexibility and freedom to many citizens. The problem, of course, is its financing. The Minister made the point in Committee that one has to be realistic about the funding of such projects, and I have a fair degree of sympathy with his comments.
I asked for a breakdown of the estimated cost of extending the scheme, and the Minister was kind enough to write to me with the relevant information. As he mentioned in Committee, by far the largest cost would be the inclusion of travel by train, which would cost some £250 million each year. Although we all hope that one day we will be able to offer such a service to senior citizens, its financing clearly needs careful thought. In tabling the amendment, we have taken on board the associated costs and tried to make the proposal slightly more palatable to the Minister and the Treasury by seeking to extend the scheme only to trams, the Underground and ferries.
This arrangement would bring the concessionary scheme in England into line with similar schemes already in operation in Scotland and Wales. The powers of devolved institutions and the provision of services within each of those nations, and in turn within England, is an entirely different debate. I will not go into that today, except to say that it would seem sensible and right to extend the scheme in England to those transport modes already covered in the rest of the UK. That would give greater clarity and understanding to all those involved.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 would allow travel on buses at any time, inside and outside London, and would cover all modes of transport which exist to meet the transport needs of Londoners. We all know that the Tube is just as important as buses in meeting the transport needs of the capital. Rail and light-railway services also play an important part and will increasingly do so. I beg to move.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, Amendment No. 3 is grouped with Amendment No. 2. I recognise that the Government will be extremely hard pressed to extend free travel by other means at the moment. I further recognise that there is a serious funding problem, about which my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market will speak when we come to the appropriate amendment.
Amendment No. 3 does not seek immediately to extend the facility to anyone. It allows the Secretary of State, through regulations, to make provision for an eligible journey to be extended on to another mode where he considers it appropriate to do so. I raised in Grand Committee the question of the Croydon Tramlink, which for part of its journeyfrom New Addington to Croydonis a substitute for a bus service that was withdrawn. People in those circumstances may have a legitimate complaint, which the Secretary of State may wish to alleviate. Similarly, if we go to Merseyside, a ferry journey from Birkenhead to Liverpool is part of the journey in many cases.
I seek merely to draw the Ministers attention to this amendment, which simply makes the facility available to the Secretary of State and would not necessitate further amendment to primary legislation in this House.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their contribution to this short debate. I recognise that we all benefited from the debate in Committee, which helped to frame these amendments in somewhat different terms from the originals. We are, however, covering old ground; the Bill is about extending the geographical scope of the statutory minimum concession to guarantee that older and eligible disabled people can access important services outside their local authority by bus for free. The Bill is not about extending the concession to other forms of public transport, such as trains, trams, the Underground and ferries.
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