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11 July 2007 : Column 1390

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, will the Government be relating these big issues of climate change to people’s communities? The role of local government, which regrettably is not mentioned in the draft Bill on climate change, is a vital part of the whole campaign for climate change. In Europe, we have the excellent system of twinning cities, so surely the cities and communities across Europe should be helping and learning from each other, which would be an inspiring move at the European meeting.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right, but there has to be individual effort as well as local authority, government and industry effort. As from this week, noble Lords can check their own carbon footprint by going to the Defra website and reading the carbon calculator. As long as people see a connection between what they do in their own behaviour along with what the food and energy industries and national and international Governments do, we can make progress collectively. If people do not see a connection between their own daily activities and climate change, action will not be successful.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, defining what substantial reductions in carbon will mean in practice will need some robust negotiation. What plans do the Government have to progress that as soon as possible?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I have no targets to give the noble Lord. Everybody knows our targets. We are giving a lead; in fact, we are ahead of what we agreed to do at Kyoto. It is important that we seek to give a lead and to take a united front in Europe. Twenty-seven countries are involved. It is true that the original 15 took a higher target than the others at Kyoto, and that is being developed. The UK and Sweden are already on track. Germany, France and Luxembourg are very close to it, so collectively good action is being taken across Europe. We will be tested against what we do by our actions, not just our words.

Government: Secretary of State for Defence

3.29 pm

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Drayson): My Lords, the Prime Minister, the Government and all my ministerial colleagues are fully committed to defence, to success in Afghanistan and Iraq and to the Armed Forces. As my right honourable friend made clear in the other place yesterday, he and I are able to draw on excellent support from ministerial colleagues and officials in discharging those responsibilities.

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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the Minister, but I am not at all convinced by his Answer. With many pressing issues in Scotland, how can the Secretary of State for Scotland give proper attention to defence matters? While he works part-time, our overstretched and underequipped Armed Forces are fighting two wars and taking casualties. Does the Minister have any idea how undervalued they feel as a result of this extraordinary situation?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I do not accept the description of our Armed Forces as underequipped and overstretched. If we look at how the Government have supported the Armed Forces on what I accept are difficult operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, that is not a fair characterisation. My right honourable friend has said in the other place that he thought long and hard about whether both jobs could be combined. He takes the view that they can. It is important that we do not just look at what proportion of time is spent, but recognise that it is a normal part of government business for duties such as this to be combined where appropriate. For example, there is a precedent in the eminent form of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. When he was Secretary of State for Defence between 1972 and 1974, he was also party chairman of the Conservative Party.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, is the Minister not trying to defend the indefensible? Noble Lords should recall that he is Minister of State in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and in the Ministry of Defence. Not just one but two Ministers in the Ministry of Defence are now part-time. Would it not have been more sensible to have allocated the responsibilities of one Minister to the two who now have part-time duties, saving a ministerial appointment to leave three Ministers paying full attention to defence?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I understand the point that the noble and gallant Lord is making, but I just do not accept this concept of a part-time Minister. I accept that I have taken on additional responsibilities in the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. However, when one looks at the responsibilities that I have taken on—for example, responsibility for the aerospace and defence industries—one sees a natural synergy between them and defence. The fact that I now have responsibility for driving forward regulatory reform will put a lot of power to my elbow to get defence procurement reformed more speedily. There are opportunities to make government work more effectively by having Ministers work in this way. The fact that this Government are trying these things is a good sign, as is the way in which we are bringing in people, such as my new noble friend who sits on the Benches with me today, from outside of politics to help us to run this country most effectively.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords—

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, does the Minister not appreciate that there is a significant difference—

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The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, with all due respect, it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, can the Minister please be more precise about the duties of the Secretary of State with regard to Scotland? He mentioned that the Secretary of State will be assisted by ministerial aides, but can he be precise about the junior ministerial appointments that will be in place and the extent of the Secretary of State’s work on legal, as opposed to administrative and management, duties? It is essential that our Armed Forces have the greatest support possible when they face life and death struggles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am happy to clarify that. In representing Scotland within the Cabinet, the Secretary of State will have responsibilities for answering questions on Scotland in the other place. He will have a Minister of State for Scotland working with him, who will be responsible for day-to-day matters. I have spoken with my right honourable friend about managing these responsibilities and my responsibilities within the Ministry of Defence. I believe that this House should focus on whether there are any practical issues or evidence of us failing to address matters. We fairly accept that we must be held accountable as Ministers for our results and achievements. If any issues of real substance concern this House and the other place, we will address them.

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, does the Minister not recognise that, while the House may accept that there is, with the industrial issues that may arise through defence, a certain rationale in his position, it is quite different for the Secretary of State? The best analogy that he can produce is with my noble friend Lord Carrington from 1972 to 1974, when we were not engaged in two most grave and difficult encounters, as we are at present. Our forces are in serious danger and there is an urgent need for strong political leadership in the crisis that we face in Iraq and Afghanistan; our forces are entitled to the total and undivided attention of their Secretary of State. I appreciate the difficult position that the Minister is in, but will he listen to the voices in this House and make sure that the message is conveyed to the Prime Minister that, although these things can happen in reshuffles, a serious mistake has been made and it should be corrected?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I recognise the noble Lord’s deep experience in these matters, in particular his experience as a previous Secretary of State for Defence. Let me be absolutely clear: I, as a Minister in this House, and my right honourable friend, as the Secretary of State for Defence, recognise that when we have people fighting on our behalf on very difficult operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the sacrifices that they are, the absolute, number one priority for us is them. Nothing is more important than that. They have our undivided attention.

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However, I will do what the noble Lord asked and take the message back. I hope that the noble Lord and this House feel that we listen. We ask the House to assess the achievements that my right honourable friend has made over the past year and what we achieve in future in managing this.

Companies (Political Expenditure Exemption) Order 2007

Official Secrets Act 1989 (Prescription) (Amendment) Order 2007

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Amendment of Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006) Order 2007

Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007

3.36 pm

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to move the Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, that the draft orders and regulations laid before the House on 24 May, 5 June, 7 June and 15 June be approved. 19th and 20th reports from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 3 July.—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Government: Legislative Programme

3.37 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

“For over one and a half centuries the annual gracious Address has been drafted inside government and agreed by the Cabinet far from the public arena, but I believe it is now right, in the interests of good and open government and public debate, that each year the Prime Minister make a summer Statement to this House so that initial thinking, previously private, can now be the subject of widespread and informed public consultation. Today, in advance of final decisions, the Leader of the House is publishing details of our initial list of proposed legislative measures, inviting debate on them in both Houses this month and making provision for region-by-region deliberation and responses.

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“To respond to the rising aspirations of the British people, we must deliver new and better opportunities in education, employment and the provision of housing and health, ensuring that in a fast-changing world there is opportunity and security not just for some but for all British people. A new educational opportunity Bill will mean that for the first time not just some but all young people will stay in education or training until 18. The new Pensions Bill will ensure that for the first time not just some but all working people have the right to a workplace pension with a duty on every employer to contribute towards it.“Putting affordable housing within the reach not just of the few but the many is vital both to meeting individual aspirations and securing a better future for our country, so for housing and planning in the 2007-08 Session there are three proposed Bills. Let me tell the House the scale of the new opportunities for home buying and renting that we are proposing. In two eras of the last century—the interwar years and the 1950s onwards—Britain made new house building a national priority. Now through this decade and right up to 2020 I want us, in environmentally friendly ways, using principally brownfield land and building eco-towns and villages, to meet housing need by building over a quarter of a million more homes than previously planned—a total by 2020 of 3 million new homes for families across the country. So for England we will raise the annual house-building target for 2016 from 200,000 to 240,000 new homes a year.“We propose a new Housing Bill which will support and encourage initiatives on the ground by local authorities and other authorities. To do this we will bring together English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation to create a new homes agency, charged with bringing surplus public land back into housing use to deliver more social and affordable housing and support regeneration. This will include new partnerships with local authorities, health authorities and the private and voluntary sectors to build more housing, made affordable by shared equity schemes, and more social housing, responsive to individual needs. “The Planning Bill will implement the Eddington and Barker reports to speed up the development of the major infrastructure projects that Britain now needs to facilitate economic and housing growth, and to speed up planning generally.“The planning-gain Supplement Bill—to ensure the public receive benefit from planning gain—is provisional because if, prior to the Pre-Budget Report, a better way is identified of ensuring that local communities receive significantly more of the benefit planning gain to invest in necessary infrastructure and transport—and it is demonstrated that these are a better alternative—the Government will be prepared to defer next Session's legislation.“To move housing supply forward, English Partnerships is negotiating a new deal with the Ministry of Defence to acquire at least six major

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redundant sites to build over 7,000 new homes. Similar discussions are being undertaken with the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency and the British Railways Board residuary body; and the Department for Health is undertaking an urgent review of surplus land owned by NHS organisations and trusts to explore opportunities for its transfer and development to provide additional homes. So I can announce that, in total, over 550 sites owned by central government are now being examined for housing development, with the potential for up to 100,000 new homes. “In addition, we estimate another 60,000 homes can be built on brownfield land currently owned by local authorities. The Minister for Housing will publish further details next week in a Green Paper.“The Chancellor of the Exchequer is announcing today that he will consult on creating a new regime for ‘covered bonds’ to help mortgage lenders finance more affordable 20 to 25-year fixed-rate mortgages, and he will report by the Budget on how to overcome other barriers preventing lenders from offering people long-term mortgages, including the case for changes to instruments used by the Debt Management Office. “And, because at the same time as building more affordable homes we must also reduce their environmental impact, we will consult with local councils on using the New Towns Act to enable ‘eco-towns’, with zero or low-carbon housing, to be built more quickly. And I can assure the House that we will continue to protect robustly the land designated as green belt.“Alongside this, measures in the Climate Change Bill, published in draft on 13 March, will make Britain the first country in the world to introduce a legal framework for reducing carbon emissions by setting targets for carbon emission reductions for each five-year period to 2050. The Energy Bill will provide greater incentives for renewable energy generation. And the Local Transport Bill will support the Government’s strategy to tackle congestion and improve public transport.“I turn now to some of the other proposed Bills in our programme. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service, we will do more to put power in the hands of patients and staff and ensure that every patient gets the best possible treatment. So, alongside the NHS review announced last week, the Health and Social Care Bill will create a stronger health and social care regulator, with a clear remit to ensure improved access, clean and safe services and high-quality care. “The Children in Care Bill is an attempt to do more to protect vulnerable children, and the Child Maintenance Bill will do more to prevent children from falling into poverty when parents split up. Behind the Unclaimed Assets Bill is our determination that money in dormant bank accounts will be used to improve our country’s

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youth and community facilities. The Human Tissue and Embryos Bill has already been published in draft.“To support British businesses as they strive to succeed in the new globalised world—and to break down the barriers holding enterprise back—the Enforcement and Sanctions Bill will keep the burden of regulation on compliant businesses to a minimum, while effectively targeting and penalising those who deliberately disregard the law. The Employment Simplification Bill will deliver simpler and fairer enforcement of the national minimum wage.“Protecting the security and safety of the British people is paramount for any Government. We stand ready to introduce new measures into the Criminal Justice Bill—to be carried over into the next Session—including those as a result of the review of policing by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, which reports later this year. Because we are committed to building a broad consensus on the right balance between protecting our national security and safeguarding civil liberties, the Home Secretary plans to consult on —and we are seeking an all-party consensus on—new measures to ensure more successful prosecutions against terrorist suspects; increased penalties for terrorists charged with other criminal offences; and on the period of pre-charge detention where, for terrorism alone, exceptional circumstances in my view make it necessary, while ensuring rigorous judicial oversight and parliamentary accountability. As the House knows, we will review the use of intercept material in prosecutions.“The full and final programme will be set out in the Queen’s Speech in November and many of the proposals that I set out to the House last week will be taken forward in a Constitutional Reform Bill. “Just as with the challenge of securing justice and security for all, the challenge for this Government, and the foundation of our legislative programme, is to: support all parents with children, not just some; invest in the educational chances of all children, not just some; offer more people the chance to get on the housing ladder; help more people into work; give all patients the best healthcare; and, in this way, respond to the rising aspirations of the British people by ensuring that the opportunities which are today available only to some are available to all.“I commend the Statement to the House”.

My Lords, I commend the Statement to the House.

3.47 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, perhaps I may be the first to thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. In effect, this is a Prime Minister's speech. It mentions 16 Bills which would normally have been mentioned in the gracious Speech. It makes me wonder whether the Prime Minister has graciously left Her Majesty a couple of tiddlers to announce when she comes here in November.

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Many of us will also find that this smacks of the further Americanisation of politics—a presidential approach that runs counter to the spin about reducing spin and which is geared more to presentation than to effective constitutional government. It enables the Government to do what they tried to do 10 years ago and were rebuffed for—putting tawdry new Labour slogans, on which the Statement is notably rich, into the announcement of the legislative programme.

I hope that we will think again about the idea of a Prime Minister's speech. Little of this is new. Much of it, such as the Climate Change Bill, welcome though that is, and the Planning Bill, was a re-announcement of a re-announcement. Other aspects, such as the absurdly named Enforcement and Sanctions Bill, which we are told is all about less enforcement and fewer sanctions and regulations, are pre-announcements of what will in due time become re-announcements. Pre-announcements, re-announcements, spin—how very familiar all this is.

The Prime Minister claims to be setting out to solve problems in domestic policy. It is odd how he skates over the fact that he has been running domestic policy in this country for the past 10 years, as the Alastair Campbell diaries again confirm. It is a programme allegedly to solve problems that he himself has largely created.

We are told that there will be a roadshow to discuss the Prime Minister’s speech. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to tell us how that will operate. We are told that people will have their say. That is to be encouraged, but they are not of course allowed to have their say on what really matters, such as a referendum on the European constitution. Why not? Will there be a website on which people may comment on the Prime Minister’s speech? If so, what guarantee is there that any more notice will be taken of it than of the near 2 million people who wrote in to oppose road pricing? In fact, is there a proposal for a road pricing Bill to be in the parliamentary programme?

The idea of raising the school leaving age to 18 is not new. It will certainly provoke debate, not least among many young people. There is certainly a need to improve standards for children in care, but two more Bills on childcare are no substitute for the kind of measures proposed by my right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith in his bold and far-reaching report. Where in this programme is the desperately needed action to bind families and rebuild our broken society? We hear that there is to be yet another health service Bill. Will the noble Baroness tell the House how many NHS Bills there have been since 1997, and how many reorganisations? I count eight Bills and 10 reorganisations, but I may have missed out one or two. Does not embarking on a Bill make a mockery of the so-called NHS review that was announced only last week? How can the Government listen to this review if they have made up their mind already? It is ludicrous and makes one fear that this whole operation is really a giant gimmick.

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