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The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, tried to get in earlier. I think that it is his turn, after which we will take my noble friend.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, my noble friend talks about fundamental principles, which are all about lifesaving activity. Under the National Health Service a person is entitled to have treatment. If the National Health Service refuses to provide the particular medicines required to ensure that that persons life will continue, is it not legitimate that that person should be able to buy those medicines outside the National Health Service and still be a National Health Service patient?
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, it is important to clarify this. Mixing private payment with NHS treatment is not only inconsistent with the founding principles. If a private patient arrives at an NHS facility, of course they will not be refused treatment; they will be treated in exactly the same way. Also, PCTs have a statutory duty to fund the use of drugs that are recommended by NICE. If, however, a patient opts to have private treatment, they cannot have it within the treatment that they are already receiving from the NHS. I am sure that my noble friend will understand that that would mean that there would be a subsidy. However, in terms of drugs
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister would agree that a child would not be denied state education if their parents were also giving them private tuition and paying for it. I cannot understand why she is arguing in the way that she is about private prescriptions for health service patients. Could she admit that it is perhaps a Stalinist leftover from the days before new Labour embraced the market?
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, would the Minister be kind enough to set out for me in a letter the legal basis on which the NHS refuses to treat any British citizen who is entitled to universal treatment under the NHS, and will she put a copy of that letter in the Library?
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I would be happy to do that. The noble Lord needs to understand this.
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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, it is a matter for the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association to decide what advice is given to athletes representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games. However, as a Government we remain extremely concerned about the situation in Tibet. We urge restraint by all sides and a return to dialogue without preconditions to find a sustainable and equitable solution to the underlying issues.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. I am not asking him to support a boycott of the Olympicscertainly not at this stagebut what is his response to the statement made by the President of the European Parliament yesterday that politicians should consider boycotting the opening ceremonies if the violence in Tibet continues? Will he give an undertaking that Her Majestys Government will make it clear to the Chinese authorities that, if the brutality being used against the demonstrators in Tibet and now elsewhere in China continues, that will jeopardise peoples opinion of the suitability of China as a venue for a great sporting event that is based on individual freedom and cultural and ethnic diversity?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, on my noble friends first point about whether to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics, I think that the Olympics is a total event and that you cannot pick and choose your courses; if there is support for the Olympics, it is support for the entire event. On his second point, I have already made it clear in the media that China will damage its own interests and the reputation of the event, perhaps irrevocably, if there is extensive violence in the coming days and weeks in a crackdown on Tibet. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said today in another place that he had spoken to Prime Minister Wen of China this morning and had asked him to show both restraint and a willingness to negotiate with the Dalai Lama.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, does the Minister agreeI think that he has already said sothat the world, maybe led by us, needs to put all the pressure that it can to curtail abuses of civil rights in China? Will he also agree that this has no impact on the Olympic Games per se? I do not agree with him that the Olympic Games will be damaged by this. The Olympic Games should not under any circumstances be used as a political tool.
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me completely confirm that point. We as a Government insist that any boycott of the Olympic Games would be a misplaced action, but China needs to be aware that the reputation of the Games and its own reputation will suffer if there is violence against the people of Tibet in the coming days and weeks. So no to a boycott but yes to China exercising real restraint at a time when a lot of blood could easily be shed.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, did the Prime Minister in his discussions this morning urge the Chinese leadership to allow the foreign media and organisations such as Amnesty International into Tibet and the surrounding provinces? If so, did he have any success? What access will the foreign media be given in China during the Olympics?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am not aware whether the Prime Minister raised specifically the issue of the foreign media in his conversation this morning. Unfortunately, a number of foreign media have been forced to leave Tibet in the past few days, as the noble Baroness suggested. We are monitoring the situation carefully. We have also sought, so far without success, to send British diplomats to Tibet to get a first-hand view of what is happening. As for the period of the Olympics, it has been agreed with the International Olympic Committee that journalists will have access to the whole country and will follow the Olympic flame when it passes through Tibet.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a policy of repression will never bring stability to Tibet? Has any consideration been given to raising these human rights issues in the United Nations Human Rights Council?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I completely affirm the noble Lords first point that there is only one solution to the problem of Tibet, which is to take up the position held by the Dalai Lama, who is demanding not independence but autonomy based on negotiation and full respect for the sovereignty of China. That is a basis for a peaceful resolution of this situation, which we hope both sides will seize and move on. A reference to the Human Rights Council is being considered, but the pros and cons need to be weighed carefully.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, while the Olympic Games have a massive capacity for good, that nevertheless pales into insignificance side by side with the consideration that Tibet, this small country
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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister also said today in another place that he would meet the Dalai Lama when he visited London in May. That is an indication of our respect for the people of Tibet in the terrible suffering that they have undergone. I do not agree that the solution to this is a boycott of the Olympics. I am in good company, as the Dalai Lama himself has said that there should not be a boycott of the Olympics.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Dalai Lama has conducted himself over many years with great restraint and dignity on these issues, as I am sure everyone in this House would affirm? Does he further accept that, while we should honour and indeed encourage the conscience of individual athletes attending the Games, these are properly matters that belong with Her Majestys Government and thatwitness the 1936 Munich Gamesit is the manner of peoples participation that sometimes leaves a long-lasting record of the dignity of all cultures and people?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes an extraordinarily important point. We expect our athletes to respect British values of courtesy and respect for the country where the Games are being held but also that supremely important value of speaking the truth as they see it and speaking openly of what they see. However, it is enormously dangerous to compare Beijing to the situation in 1936. China is a country that has come out in a dramatic way in recent years. It has engaged in the world in ways that have led not just to a reduction in the poverty of its people but to incremental improvements in its internal political freedom. We have allChina and the rest of the worldpursued a strategy of engaging; we have not wanted to isolate China and force it to turn back on itself. We should not forgo that strategy at this point. There should be pressure to cease from violence but no disengagement from China.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
The primary duty of governmentour abiding obligationis, and will always be, the safety of all British people and the protection of the British national interest. Following approval by the National Security Committee and the Cabinet, the Government are today publishing the first national security strategy for this country.
It states that while our obligation to protect the British people and the British national interest is fixed and unwavering, the nature of the threats and risks we face has, in recent decades, changed beyond all recognition and confounds all the old assumptions about national defence and international security. As the strategy makes clear, new threats demand new approaches. A radically updated and much more co-ordinated response is now required.
For most of the last half-century the main threat was unmistakable: a Cold War adversary. Today, the potential threats we face come from far less predictable sources, both state and non-state. Twenty years ago the terrorist threat to Britain was principally that from the IRA. Now it comes from loosely affiliated global networks that threaten us and other nations across continents.
Once, when there was instability in faraway regions or countries, we had a choice: to become involved or not. Today, no country is, in the old sense, far away, when the consequences of regional instability and terrorismand other risks such as climate change, poverty, mass population movements and even organised crimereverberate quickly around the globe.
To address these great insecuritieswar, terrorism and now climate change, disease and poverty; threats which redefine national security not just as the protection of the state but as the protection of all peoplewe need to mobilise all the resources available to us: the hard power of our military, police, security and intelligence services; the persuasive force and reach of diplomacy and cultural connections; the authority of strengthened global institutions, which can deploy both hard and soft power; and, not least because arms and
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Mr Speaker, the foundation of our approach is to maintain strong, balanced, flexible and deployable Armed Forces. I pay tribute to Britains service men and womenand those civilians deployed on operationswho every day face danger doing vital work in the service of our country and, in particular, I remember today the sacrifices made for our country by all who have been injured or lost their lives in recent years in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theatres of war.
To raise recruitment and improve retention, we will match our new public information recruitment campaign, launched this week, with the Governments first ever cross-departmental strategy for supporting our service personnel, their families and veterans, to be published shortly. In the last two years we have raised general pay levels and introduced the first tax-free bonus of nearly £400 a month for those on operations, as well as a council tax refund. Today the Secretary of State for Defence is announcing new retention incentives for our Armed Forces. There will be increased commitment bonuses of up to £15,000 for longer-serving personnel. Starting with a new £20 million home purchase fund, we will respond to the demand for more affordable home ownership for service men and women.
To meet the threats ahead, after a trebling of its budget since 2001, the Security Service will rise in number to 4,000, twice the level of 2001. We will be increasing yet again, this time by 10 per cent, the resources for the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which brings together 16 departments, including the police and intelligence agencies, and giving it a new focus on the longer-term challenge of investigating the path to violent extremism.
I can confirm that, to meet future security needs, we have set aside funds to modernise our interception capability; that at GCHQ and in the Secret Intelligence Service we are developing new technical capabilities to root out terrorism; and that the new Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, which we set up last year, will provide a higher level of protection against internet- or cyber-based threats.
The strategy published today will be backed up by a new approach to engage and inform the public. Two years ago we removed from being classified as secret the information on threat levels for the UK. We will now go much further. Starting later this year, we will openly publish for the first time a national register of risksinformation that was previously held confidentially within governmentso the British public can see at first hand the challenges we face and the levels of threat we have assessed.
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