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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hear what the noble Earl says about the environmental desirability of rail and understand his point about high-speed lines. But we should look at these matters in context, not in isolation. Annually, there are about 50,000 flights to the UK mainland from Heathrow and about another 50,000 to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and Rotterdam. Even if half of the passengers on those flights switched to rail, Heathrow would be operating at about 90 per cent of capacity and would be full by 2020. So we have to be realistic about how big a change would be achieved by making the kind of switch suggested by some noble Lords.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, is the Minister awareif not, will he take into considerationthat one of the major problems in the overall context is the bottleneck of London for rail freight transport? Should it not be a high priority to try to bypass London so that Channel Tunnel traffic going north does not have to navigate it?
Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that not everyone in this country lives in a major city? The preoccupation of the major rail companies in their new timetables for high-speed services which will come into effect in December 2008 will mean that, outside the major cities, train services to London and the south coast from the north of England and Scotland will be much longer.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am going to do some research on this because I am not sure that that is entirely right. I understand the noble Lords point, and it is right that we must ensure that people have easy access to rapid forms of travel between the more remote parts of the United Kingdom and coming into London. That is clearly in everyones interests, particularly passengers.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we support the Afghan Governments national drug control strategy, which is based on approaches that have worked in
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Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but is she not aware that the policy is clearly a failure? Last year, the area under cultivation for poppies in Afghanistan went up from 165,000 hectares to 190,000 hectares, with poppy production increasing from 6,100 tonnes to 8,200 tonnes. Does she not accept that in view of the worldwide shortage of codeine and the serious morphine shortage in sub-Saharan Africa, now ought to be the time to look again at the possibility of buying up the poppy crop and recycling it for peaceful purposes rather than conducting a policy that is only driving the farmers into the hands of the Taliban?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I do not accept that the strategy has been a failure. Like the noble Lord, I am aware of the figures, but it is also the case that in those areas of Afghanistan where the security is good, the amount of poppy that is cultivated has gone down exponentially. Thirteen provinces are now poppy-free. We have to be realistic in our expectations for progress. I note what the noble Lord says about looking for new ways forward; for example, making the cultivation of poppy licit and using it for drugs purposes. DfID has looked at that together with the World Bank, and they have concluded, along with NGOs and many other members of society, that it is not the best way forward at present.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, if the Government have decided against using the poppy product for health reasons, have they by any chance thought of any alternatives for farmers to grow? For instance, what about crocuses? They produce saffron, which is extremely expensive. Crocuses are pretty tolerant of climate, and would produce a high income for farmers, as poppies do at the moment. I do not hear any sounds about any alternative crops for farmers to grow.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with our various partners in Afghanistan, we have done an enormous amount of work investigating other crops to ensure that farmers there have viable alternatives. That is part of the whole drug control strategy. For example, we have just invested £30 million in Helmand province, which is where the real problem lies because of the security situation, to assist farmers in looking for viable alternatives so they do not have to grow poppy but can grow other crops instead and gain funds from them. That is exactly what we are doing.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, the primary purpose of ISAF is to help create a safe and secure environment in which development can take place, However, does the Minister accept that while poppy cultivation is at anything like its present level in the provinces, where it is increasing, it will be impossible to secure any
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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is true that the security situation is very difficult. It is a chicken-and-egg situation: is the security situation exacerbated by the growing of poppy, or is the growing of poppy exacerbated by the security situation? We have to move on both fronts. We have to make those areas more secure, which we are doing within ISAF, but we also have to find alternative livelihoods for the farmers who have been, and still are, growing poppy. This is exactly what we are doing with our many partners.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, no doubt the Minister has studied the recommendations in the report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007. It emphasises rewards to non-opium farmers. Does she share my concern that only $270 million out of a total aid budget of $15 billion has been spent on agricultural support over the past six years? What are the World Bank and the World Food Programme doing to reform the agricultural sector and increase the amount devoted to alternative crops, not only in Helmand but in the many other parts of the south-east where drugs are grown?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I cannot comment on the World Bank and the World Food Programme, but the noble Lord is right that we have to ensure that people who turn to livelihoods other than poppy cultivation are rewarded. That is why we announced in August that the 13 provinces that are now poppy-free are being given an extra $500,000 in development assistance. We must continue to do that. I shall write to the noble Lord on the figures for aid that we are providing to boost rural livelihoods across Afghanistan, but I can tell him that we are providing £30 million to Helmand province, which is a very good start.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I have some sympathy with the Governments approach, but are not they and the Minister concerned about the increased amount of drugs in prisons? Should not that influence their policy rather more than it is at the moment?
Many noble Lords appear to favour the licit production of poppies. One of the reasons that we do not believe that it is a viable way forward is that the Afghan Government recognise that they do not have the justice or policing mechanisms to control the trade in opium poppies. If poppies were licit, more people would want to grow them, thereby increasing their number. That is why we and the Afghan Government are against it.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8 October be approved. 28th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Session 2006-07, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 November.(Baroness Crawley.)
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22 October be approved. 28th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Session 2006-07, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 November.(Baroness Crawley.)
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15 October be approved. 28th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Session 200607, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 November. (Lord Bach.)
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, the code was debated in Grand Committee, where discussion was relatively brief. Will my noble friend agree or confirm that this very important order, which regulates all types of regulation, applies to the Heath and Safety Executive and to the other regulators concerned with injuries and deaths at work, at a time when more workers in the construction industry have been dying than has been the case for many years, and that there might be a case for debating further in the House whether the terms of the code, into which I cannot go now, should be respected a little more fully?
Lord Bach: My Lords, while I appreciate my noble friends great expertise in this subject, the matter that he raises is for the usual channels. The debate in Grand Committee lasted 30 minutes, and quite a number of issues were discussed during it.
Moved, That the regulations laid before the House on 6 November be approved. First Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Session 200607, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 November.(Lord Bach.)
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 8 October be approved. 27th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Session 2006-07, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 November.(Baroness Morgan of Drefelin.)
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 9 October be approved. 27th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Session 2006-07, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 November. (Lord Rooker.)
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall begin by saying a word about the procedure for todays debate. I shall first speak to the main Motion and, at the same time, will cover the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, concerning the words this day six months. Once I have finished speaking
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I turn to the substance of the Procedure Committees report. Firstand this is the change that will have the most significant effect on how we go about our businessthe committee recommends a change of sitting times on Fridays. At present Friday sittings begin at 11 am, with no target rising time. The Leader of the House has suggested starting at 10 am, with a target rising time of 3 pm. The committee agreed that that would be for the convenience of most of your Lordships. The House authorities have been consulted and raised no issues in respect of staff or administration. If this part of the report is agreed to, the first day to be affected will be this coming Friday, 30 November, when the House will sit at 10 am.
Secondly, we recommend a change to the time limits for Questions for short debate taken in Grand Committee. That would allow a time limit of either 60 minutes or 90 minutes to be set, subject to the wishes of the noble Lord asking the Question. We hope that that added flexibility will be welcomed.
Finally, I turn to the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, and the time-honoured formula, this day six months. We recommend that it be replaced by a form of words which means what it saysnamely, that this House declines to give a Bill a Second Reading. It may be helpful if I outline for noble Lords the various ways in which Second Readings may be opposed. Essentially the Companion describes three forms of opposition: first, a dilatory amendmentin other words, the this day six months amendment, which we are discussing today; secondly, and now very rare, there is the reasoned amendment that sets out the reasons why the House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading; and thirdly, and rarest of all, the Question that the Bill be read a second time may be negatived, although this is to be deprecated as, in the interests of good order, notice should be given on the Order Paper of any intention to oppose Second Reading. I must emphasise that all three forms of opposition are fatal. If any is successful, the Bill is automatically rejected and removed from the list of Bills in progress.
What the Procedure Committee proposes will not in any way limit the existing rights of Members to oppose Bills on Second Reading in the ways that I have just outlined. All we are doing is recommending that the wording be changed for the first of these procedures so that, instead of a dilatory amendment, which appears to postpone Second Reading for six months, we have a clear decision that this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading.
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