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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, again, I will have to get back to the noble Lord on that. As he is aware, we are the second largest donor in Afghanistan. Police training is a significant priority for us as it is for all our European Union partners. Nevertheless, the
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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, has the Minister noted the $100 million initiative being promoted by the bank Goldman Sachs to develop administrative skills, accountancy and marketing administration for women in developing countries, particularly Afghanistan and Zambia? I believe that it is called the 10000 Women initiative. Will the Government encourage other cash-rich institutions to use their money that way rather than handing it out in telephone-number bonuses? Will he also bear in mind, as I am sure he has, that in Afghanistan the Taliban perpetuates the most vicious, revolting, anti-women regime of almost any organisation in the world? Those who ask why we are fighting in Afghanistan might remember that that is one very good reason: to root out that kind of evil.
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am glad to join the noble Lord in bipartisan praise for Goldman Sachs. It is a magnificent initiative and I agree that many others should do something similar. The nature of the Taliban regime and the blight on civilised life that it presentednot only in its housing of terrorism but in its policies towards women, civilians and ordinary people generallywere utterly unacceptable.
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as the noble Baroness knows, the number of girls who have enrolled in school has increased dramatically. There are now 5.4 million children in school compared with 1 million in 2001 and over a third of them are girls, who were denied access to education under the Taliban.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, will the Government extend proper security to women working for British NGOs in Afghanistan? I declare an interest as patron of the mother and child clinic in the Panjshir.
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, there is a security system in Afghanistan in which NGOs participate, which is managed by the United Nations, but real difficulties have been posed for security for NGOsmen and womenworking in the south of the country. I am afraid to say that there have even been incidents in Kabul. We will certainly keep that under advisement. NGOs are critical to the goals of development and gender improvement in Afghanistan. If they were unable to work there it would be a huge blow to our collective efforts.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the proportion of young people who are drinking has declined in recent years, but those who do drink are consuming more alcohol more often. That is why the Governments renewed alcohol strategy, Safe. Sensible. Social, set out a package of measures to tackle alcohol-related harm among target groups, including young people. We have committed to producing clear guidance for parents later this year about safe and sensible levels of drinking by young people based on the latest available evidence and advice from an expert panel of academics and clinicians.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. As he will be aware, a document produced by the Home Office reported a 25 per cent increase in serious violence between 3 am and 6 am in 2006. Does he seriously suggest that that has nothing to do with drink being served 24 hours a day?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there is an element of displacement with regard to serious crime, which is at quite a low level in the early hours of the morning but nevertheless needs to be tackled. What has declined is the overall level of crime throughout the night. That reflects the fact that we have a great improvement in crime levels before three in the morning. The noble Lord is right that there is some displacement of crime to that time, and we need to address that.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the new legislation transfers tremendous powers to the police and to local authorities? Does he agree that the answer is to enforce the legislation and to hit deviant outlets where it hurtsin the pocket?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend is right that the Licensing Act permits much more stringent controls and the question is one of enforcement. We are strengthening those measures and making it clear to licensed premises that, if they break the law by selling to underage shoppers, they can expect forthright action by the licensing authority.
Baroness Coussins: My Lords, in their revised national alcohol strategy, the Government said that they would launch a social marketing campaign in April 2008 to help to create a culture in which it would be more socially acceptable for young people to choose not to drink or, if they did, to do so more
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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I can answer positively two of those three questions. The campaign will be launched and monitored, but I have not got the budget for the campaign. We must recognise, in tackling the particular problem among young adolescents, that the issue is not where they buy the alcohol. I am afraid that friends and their own homes provide the alcohol and it is there that we have to educate young people about the dangers of consuming more alcohol.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, if I heard the Ministers original reply correctly, he said that advice would be given to parents later in the year. Why does it have to wait until later in the year? Why can it not be given now?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the comments made by the Secretary of State earlier this week were part of that general advice. However, we want to target the advice. We are producing a programme for schools and it is proper that that programme is thought through and that it works when it is addressed to young adolescents. We need to get that programme right.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a valuable point. Only a small minority of young people drink to excess. As the noble Baroness indicated, they often have greater respect for advice from their peer group than for that from adults. There are areas in which it is clear that we need action by authorities and it is that action that we are co-ordinating, making a major push as far as schools are concerned later in the year.
Lord Broers: My Lords, have the Government considered increasing the age at which young people can buy alcohol to the level in the United States? I have observed in the university world that young American students coming to this country are amazed at the alcohol consumption of our undergraduates.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is certainly so. It is also the case that Americans have to show some identity when buying alcohol, even at quite an advanced age. On increasing the minimum age for purchase, much of our problem already relates to those who are underage. The issue is not the age limit but how we enforce the law and how we encourage a culture in which young people recognise that the overconsumption of alcoholand any consumption by very young peoplecan be dangerous.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister talks about enforcing the law on underage drinking, but is he aware that, according to the British Beer & Pub Association, the majority of licensees keep no records of refusals to underage drinkers or to people who are drunk and have no policy for helping staff to distinguish such people? Will the Government pay more attention to the Royal College of Physicians report that says that drinking is putting major burdens on the health service, particularly on A&E departments?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is certainly having that latter impact, but that has not greatly increased the overall burden on A&E in recent years because the overall consumption of alcohol is not increasing. On the noble Lords earlier point, it is important that we recognise that the approach to alcohol consumption is a very varied issue, to which the operation of licensed premises is a small contributory factor.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, will the Minister reflect on the comparison that he has just made with American practice? Many of our people start drinking underage at 16 or 17, whereas in America you have to be 21 before you can start purchasing alcohol and there are severe restrictions on where you can take it. I think that we need a fundamental review of just where we are going with our strategy. Age and cost are factors that need to be revisited.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend may be talking about increasing the age limit as a way of dealing with the problems of underage drinking, but underage drinkers do not go into licensed premises to buy their alcohol. A small number do, but most get it from home or friends or from someone else who purchases it. The idea that sales promotions result in very young people going into our big supermarkets to buy 24 cans of alcohol is a myth. That is not how they access alcohol, which is why a restriction on licensed premises is only a very small part of the answer.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the report relates to the funding of four inter-parliamentary groups: the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association United Kingdom Branch, the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the British-American Parliamentary Group and the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. Many noble Lords here today have long-standing associations with these groups and are closely involved in their activities. I do not intend therefore to describe their activities in detail.
The purpose of the report is to recommend to the House that the funding for these four groups should be transferred from the Treasury to Parliament. The committee has agreed that 30 per cent of the funding should be transferred from the Treasury to the House of Lords, subject to proper budgetary and governance controls, with effect from the start of the financial year 2008-09. The House of Commons Commission has agreed that 70 per cent of the funding should be transferred to the House of Commons.
It had been announced by the Treasury that the grants-in-aid to these four bodies would be cut by 5 per cent per annum in real terms from 2008-09. The transfer of funding to Parliament would result in no such cut being made. A budget of £3.3 million was allocated for the funding of the four groups in 2007-08 and £3.7 million has been set aside for funding in 2008-09.
The detailed conditions attached to the provision of funding are set out in paragraph 4 of the report and include the following: a financial memorandum should be drawn up with each of the groups on similar terms to the existing memoranda with the Treasury; any annual increase in grants should be no more than the retail prices index; the use to which grants-in-aid are put shall be subject to audit or value-for-money studies reporting to the Audit Committee; there should be no change in the status of the staff of the groups and the House would not assume any additional responsibilities for the staff of the groups; the participation of Members of the House of Lords in the activities of the groups and their executive committees should be not less than 30 per cent over a year.
The final point, which deals with the representation of Members of this House in the activities of the groups, is one which I would like particularly to draw to your Lordships attention. Given the proportion of funding that the House will be contributing to the activities of the four groups, it was the strong desire of the House Committee to ensure that over the course of a year the participation of noble Lords on such delegations should not be less than 30 per cent. That is a condition of the agreement to fund the groups to the extent that is being proposed. The House Committee has mandated its chair, subject to the agreement of the House today,
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Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, as the Chairman of Committees rightly said, this is an important report which marks a fundamental change in the relationship between Parliament, the Treasury and the relevant committees. It is therefore proper that some comment be made on behalf of the various interparliamentary bodies. I can claim only some experience I this as for more than 25 years I have almost continuously served on the executive of two of the committees, was formally chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK branch and now serve on the executive of three of the committees, including the Finance and Audit Committee of the CPA, popularly known as the politburo. From my experience it is clear that in the past there has been a clear opposition on behalf of the bodies to any move to put us away from the Treasury and under the commission and the House Committee, but perhaps the change mentioned by the Chairman of Committeesthe threat by the Treasury of a 5 per cent cuthas had some salutary effect in changing opinions on the matter. Now indeed the committees broadly welcome the changes that have been made.
I make one preliminary point for press purposes. My firm conviction is that these committees are good value for money and generate much good will for the United Kingdom, even on overseas visits, which are often billed as freebies by some sections of the press. This morning I received a letter in which my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon received compliments from the Ministry of Defence because of a campaign that he has waged following a CPA visit to Cyprus and seeing the conditions of our servicemen in the Ledra Palace Hotel there: a campaign which has led and is leading to a substantial improvement in conditions.
I would remind your Lordships that this week and next week a seminar is being held at Westminster by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at which 50 Clerks and legislators from Commonwealth countries will be debating parliamentary procedure. That is wholly consistent with what DfID and other departments are now making a theme of their work to improve good governance and clearly legislators have a key role in that.
As the Chairman of Committees mentioned, the major change is the funding transfer from the Treasury to Parliament. Thirty per cent of the funding of the four groups will be so transferred to this House and that has now received a broad welcome. The concomitant principle is clear that the participation of Members of this House in the activities of the groups and in the activities should not be less than 30 per cent. This is not a difficult principle to apply in respect of the executives where I anticipate that there will have to be some increase in
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It is said that, in future, any liabilities arising from events before 31 March should remain the responsibility of the Treasury. It would be interesting to know whether that principle has been accepted by the Treasury. The financial memoranda mentioned in the report are now being negotiated. It is also said that any additional expenditures will have to be met separately; for example, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is now writing to both the Lord Speaker and Mr Speaker to request additional funding for the centennial Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in 2011 to be held at Westminster. We also welcome, in the spirit of openness, transparency and value for money, the fact that there shall be an audit of the accounts.
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