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Lord Henley: My Lords, I appreciate that the noble Lord answers on behalf of Her Majestys Government but, if I may echo the question of the noble Lord,
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I acknowledge the noble Lords point about the scope of the questions. I answer for the DWP because I have ministerial responsibility for the Health and Safety Executive generally and for the broad issues we are discussing. I have a note of the censures that have been levied in respect of the Prison Service in recent years. There is nothing beyond 2004 on the list that I have before me, but, again, I shall get a detailed answer to the point raised by the noble Lord.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that when Pentonville prison was built each cell had its own individual lavatory? These were closed as being unhygienic. Would it not be better to reopen them rather than depend on a single lavatory which immediately, almost every day, gets closed by some unfortunate and very stupid individual, thus resulting in more unsanitary conditions?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath gave a full Statement to the House recently about future plans for the refurbishment and the new build of the prison estate. That Statement sets out where the Government are in terms of the estate.
Lord McNally: My Lords, I can see that the Minister has drawn the short straw, but will he accept, with the Lord President and the Chief Whip sitting on the Front Bench with him, that the whole House is dissatisfied with the way in which this Question has been allocated? It does not take a genius to read the Question and its source to realise that it should have been answered by another Minister.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I have already acknowledged that point. But the Question as it stands might equally have developed into one about enforcement generally and the rules governing the Health and Safety Executive. Indeed, that is the basis on which my brief has been prepared. When there are split decisions on Questions it is sometimes the case that they may not fall the right way. As the noble Lord said, the short straw can sometimes be uncomfortable as well.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, when my noble friend is considering his answers, will he remember that the living conditions of prisoners are the working conditions of many of the people on whom we rely to look after prisoners?
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, with the virulent form of E.coli spreading across the country and hepatitis B spreading in prisons, would it not be a good idea to swab the cells when there is a quick turnover of prisoners?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, Putting People First is a cross-sector concordatperhaps I should say agreementsetting out common aims and values to guide central and local government and other stakeholders in modernising social care. It commits to enabling people to live independently within their communities, maintaining as much choice and control as possible. It will empower citizens to shape their own lives and the services they receive. It does not seek to establish a uniform system across the country. By supporting responsive systems focused on outcomes for individuals it allows for shifts in local resources and priorities.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very positive answer. This concordat probably marks an important shift in recognising that social care is as important as healthcare in the life of our nation. However, does she have any anxieties about the take-up of personal budgets under this new scheme given the rather disappointing response to some previous direct payment initiatives and the fact that many people, especially older people, are reluctant to use them?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, my noble friend is probably right that this marks a new beginning for social care in this country. I hope that, henceforth, it will be seen as an equal partner to the health service. The take-up of direct payments has been difficult to date although, this year, there has been an ongoing campaign and we are seeing improvement. But I have much more confidence in this system for the future because the move to greater personalisation will include everyone who is eligible for statutory support and they will all be given a personal budget. They will need advocates on their behalf, and there will be some anxiety, but I am
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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that disabled and elderly people frequently have difficulty enough in managing their own lives and that they will require a great deal of help to deal with the bureaucracy of employing carers directly? What can be done to make it easier for them to take on the responsibility of employing someone with the money which they are presumably to get?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, there are two things. As I said, we have to ensure that those receiving direct payments have access to advocacy and supportthe sort of support which the noble Lord is suggesting will be necessary. If individuals so wish, their pot of money can be retained for the local council and they can ask it to act on their behalf. Therefore they will not be totally alone. They will indeed have the necessary support.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that many of these services will be delivered by the voluntary sector and that this agreement surely will look at contracts, whereas the difficulty in the voluntary sector is short-termism in contracts and the need to deliver quality services when voluntary organisations have to be an employer and must be able to see ahead in terms of their budgets? Does she accept that that needs to be central to the concordat?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Yes, my Lords; that is one of the very important issues that should result from the concordat. We must ensure that the voluntary sector is an equal partner as we work to provide social care for people in the community. That must mean that we commission better and pay much more attention to contracts and the length of contracts to ensure that those working in the voluntary sector have more stability to enable them to deliver better services.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, many vulnerable people do not have so-called critical needs for social care, but will the Minster ensure on behalf of the Government that their lighter needs are urgently met? I hope she will agree that such care is a very sound investment which often prevents the need for intensive and much more costly care at a later stage in their lives.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Yes, my Lords; part of this policy is a recognition that if we invest more in social services, we will ultimately have to pay less for healthcare. It is an important move forward. The policy also recognises for the first time that even those who are not entitled to benefits or money from social services will have access to information on the services available so that they can make better decisions about what is availablesafe care.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, do the Government accept that those with severe intellectual impairment are not capable of taking decisions about living independently within their communities? Will the new concordat respect the Governments laudable commitment to put family carers, especially of those with severe intellectual impairment, at the heart of decision-making about their relatives accommodation, healthcare and social care? They simply will not be able to do that on their own and they will not be able to choose the people to take their decisions for them.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, carers and family carers are at the heart of this policy. All the individuals we are speaking about have, and will need, carers. The policy is therefore as much about carers as about the individuals concerned.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the £520 million is available over the next three years. It is to be given to local councils to assist them in reforming the system. It is not there for individuals who are in receipt of social services, but to help transform the system so that ultimately it can transform the lives of these many people, so that we can meet the huge challenges that we know need to be met.
Moved, That the instruction of 3 December 2007 be revoked, and that it be an instruction to the Grand Committee to which the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill [HL] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:
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:
With the support, I know, of the whole House, I start by paying tribute to our Armed Forces, both in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They are doing vital work, giving so much every day in dangerous places in the service of our country. Let me particularly pay tribute to the 86 British servicemen and women who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, 42 of them this year alone. I know the whole House will join me in honouring the memory of the fallen and saluting the courage of our military and our civilian personnel.
Let me, on the morning of the capture of Musa Qaleh, praise the professionalism and resolve of our forces in recent days. They have helped defeat the insurgents and, in a vital district of Afghanistan, restored peace. Let me make it clear at the outset that as part of a coalition we are winning the battle against the Taliban insurgency. We are isolating and eliminating the leadership of the Taliban. We are not negotiating with them.
For six years, 38 countries have come together with the people and Government of Afghanistan to rebuild the failed state, to prevent the return of the Taliban and to root out al-Qaeda. I can tell the House that Britain will continue to meet our obligations and honour our commitments, discharging our duties to this task and to the people of Afghanistan.
Having been reviewing our strategy since July, I now want to announce the next stage. It is a long-term and comprehensive framework for security, political, social and economic development for Afghanistan. This long-term comprehensive framework entails, first, more Afghan ownership: the Afghan army, police and Government building on NATO military achievements and taking over more responsibility for their own security. Secondly, we support localisation and then reconciliation: Afghans building on the creation of a democratic constitution by developing and strengthening their institutions, not just at national but at provincial and local level, as we support their search for political reconciliation.
The third aspect is reconstruction. In what is still one of the poorest countries on earth, where only one in three has clean drinking water, where life expectancy is just 43, and where 80 per cent of
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Fourthly, and to underpin this great burden-sharing by all partners and allies, each of us playing our part, as hard-headed realists not idealists, in the long haul to help the Afghans themselves govern and secure their own landtogether, shifting our emphasis from short-term stabilisation to long-term development.
The foundation, now and in the future for our comprehensive framework of support for Afghanistan, is military support for the Afghan Government and denying al-Qaeda a base from which to launch attacks on the world. Throughout last winter, Taliban propagandists repeatedly promised a spring offensive. Instead, it is the British and other NATO forces, together with the Afghan army, who have taken the initiative. We have been driving the insurgents and extremists out of their hiding places, preventing them regrouping and attacking the areas around the provincial capitals where stability is now taking hold.
It is this military success that has preserved Afghanistans emerging democracy. It is a constitution fragile but still intact, a free media and a changing society where unlike six years ago, when women were banned from education, work and virtually all of public life, now there is a higher proportion of women MPs than in many western countries; and 5 million children are at school2 million of them girls once denied an education.
We need to hold and to reinforce what together we have achieved. So Britain will maintain a strong military force in Afghanistan, of around todays figure of 7,800. It is a contribution, second in size only to America. We will increase support for our forces. I can announce today, fully funded from the reserve, 150 new protected patrol vehicles specially procured for Afghanistan, bringing to 400 the total of new protected vehicles bought in the past 18 months for Iraq and Afghanistan together. We will combine this with an increasing number of Sea King helicopters in Afghanistan and through NATO negotiating new contracts for hiring commercial helicopters to move routine freight, freeing up military helicopters for military tasks.
However, because we know that military success is only one part of the frameworka necessary but not sufficient condition for progresswe will train Afghan forces to take ownership of their own security. Next year, we will aim for 70,000 trained Afghan soldiers, 20,000 more than now, supported by a rising number of British trainers and mentors340part of an overall NATO training force of more than 6,000. Already the Afghan army is proving itself in Musa Qaleh.
But the challenge of supporting an Afghan lead on security goes wider than the armed forces. It includes the police, courts and prisons. Here we are dealing with decades of failure and corruption. Progress has been slow. By March 2008, there will be more than 800 international police trainers,
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To ensure that longer term political and economic objectives are the guiding force behind the security campaign, we have brought the British civilian and military personnel together into a co-located headquarters. We will continue to strengthen their integration and at the same time we will recruit and deploy more specialists who speak the local languages and understand the tribal dynamics.
But again the Afghans themselves must be persuaded to take the lead in improving local and national government. On my recent visit, I saw the scale of the challenge but also the opportunity and the importance of our support. I can announce today that, from our Afghan aid programme, which has already spent £490 million in six years, Britain will fund two additional programmes for local government. The first will help the Afghans to create stronger provincial and local governance, including building the capacity of the Directorate of Local Governance and supporting civil society groups to hold local government to account. The second will offer more support for the national solidarity programme, which builds the capacity of local communities to run their own development projects. As a measure of the importance that we attach to stability in building local capacity, we will immediately move infrastructure projects forward in Musa Qaleh, which we have recaptured and on which we wish to build from firmer foundations. They will include a cash-for-work programme for up to 10,000 people and plans to rebuild and refurbish the district centre, the main high school and four mosques.
Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating its leadership. I make it clear that we will not enter any negotiations with those people. I have also made it clear on countless occasions, most recently in Afghanistan, that our objective is to root out those who preach and practise violence and murder in support of men and women of peace. President Karzais message to former insurgents is that if they are prepared to renounce violence, abide by the constitution and respect human rights, there is a place for them in the legitimate society and economy of Afghanistan. He and his Ministers told me this week that some 5,000 fighters have already laid down their arms. We will support President Karzai and his Government in their efforts to reconcile all parties to Afghanistans democratic constitution.
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