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The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, felt that, with regard to detail, this was a bit of a kitchen sink. When presenting Statements, it is important to be able to give the level of detail that will indicate the Governments commitment to the issues raised in a strategy and ensure that people understand that those commitments are not just words but turn into actionsthat resources are made available and that there are details about why the resources have been made available and what is being sought with them. When noble Lords read the strategy in detail, I hope that they will see the ways in which the Government have turned the vision of a strategy on security into the reality for the people whom we are trying to support in the many areas that the strategy covered.
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The noble Lord has asked before why we have not banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the answer is the same: the legislation is very clear, and we monitor organisations very carefully to make sure that those that should be banned under the legislation are banned. We are not at that point, and it is being monitored. Equally, Mr Moussawis visa was reviewed, and it was decided not to revoke it at this point.
On the broader issues that noble Lords have raised, particularly the 42 days and the issues that will come before us in legislation, we will no doubt debate them at great length, and I look forward to that. The Governments position has always been that we should be clear that when evidence is presented to us that we may need to hold people for longer than 28 daysnoble Lords will know that I and my noble friend have many times in your Lordships House discussed the reasons for that, which are partly to do with technology and partly to do with the need to gain information from other countrieswe should have at our disposal the capacity to do it in those exceptional and, we hope, rare circumstances. It is much better to discuss and deliberate on those issues in advance of that need; I fear being forced to make decisions too close to the time because of incidents that had occurred. From the evidence that we have before usnoble Lords will debate this at length in the legislationit is clear that that time may be approaching and we should therefore discuss and deliberate on it. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said about opposing it. That does not surprise me in the least, but I hope that when noble Lords hear the rationality of the debate, we will be able to get consensus in your Lordships House that it is important to have on the statute book, with careful political, judicial and parliamentary safeguards, that ability to keep our country safe. That must be the paramount reason on which we operate.
The question the right honourable Mr Clegg asked in the other House was, I think, whether the missile defence system will be here. The answer that my right honourable friend gave was that it will be in the Czech Republic and PolandI am doing this from memory as I was watching from the Gallery. There was nothing wrong with the question or the answer. The answer was correct for the question. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked a broader question about the involvement of the UK. Discussions are ongoing; the noble Lord would not expect anything else in terms of our discussions with the US. I agree with him about co-operation across Europe with our European partners. It is an important element in what we do, although in much of what was said in the Statement the role of NATO is also essential. I am grateful for the welcome for the important work we have done on failing states. I am waiting for the noble Baroness, Lady Park, to ask a question on the ISC. I know she will ask me; in fact, I think she would agree that I have prompted to her to do so, so I shall deal with
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Lord Boyce: My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of the VT Group. At the moment the Ministry of Defence is in meltdown because the budget it has been given is totally inadequate to service the demands of the defence programme in the short, medium and long term. We thus see woeful shortcomings in readiness levels, as set out in the defence planning assumptions; we see ships unable to meet their sailing programmes because of logistic underresourcing; we see troops unable to train on the equipment they will use in theatre; we see debilitating mini-saving measures being inflicted upon our service establishments, which completely undermine quality of life; and we also see our future programme, which will ensure our ability to fight future wars, being reprofiled out of sight because there is no money to pay for it. Future-proofing has gone out of the window as we struggle to deal with how to manage today.
Lord Boyce: My Lords, if the Government are serious about delivering the national security strategy, how do they intend to ensure, to paraphrase part of the Statement, that the military can be responsibly mobilised if they continue to short change the military in the way they are doing at the moment?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for bringing his remarks to a close. I did not want to cut him off but I am conscious of the time. A very useful discussion took place in my office between the Secretary of State for Defence and noble Lords. The noble and gallant Lord was away and could not be there. I had a nice letter from at least one of the noble Lords who participated about how useful and valuable they found the opportunity to put forward their comments directly to the Secretary of State and to my noble friend Lady Taylor.
It is very clear that there is an increase in the budget for defence. If the noble and gallant Lord looks through the strategy he will see that many of the issues that were raised with me by colleagues in your Lordships House have been addressed by the Ministry of Defence in thinking through what needs to be done about retention, about training and so on, issues which are of great concern to him. I do not agree with his analysis.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their comprehensive and energetic approach. Will my noble friend confirm that there is no suggestion intended in the Governments Statement that the Joint Intelligence Committee has at any time been influenced in its assessments by inappropriate political considerations or pressures?
As the Government seek to inform the public about, and engage them in, the range of threats to their security, publishing a national register of risks, how do they plan to influence media presentation and public attitudes, to ensure that people do not either panic or shut their eyes and simply hope that this menagerie of horrors will go away, but instead maintain a sensible alertness? Do the Government accept that at hearings of the Intelligence and Security Committee held in public, nothing of any sensitivity or significance will be said? If scrutiny by Parliament of the agencies is to be enhanced, will not the Intelligence and Security Committee need the powers, the will and the resources to ensure that it can reach anywhere within the entrails of the agencies, and will the Government facilitate that?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The committee has the powers to which he refers. Although I am still waiting for the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, before I get into the detail, I agree on the issues to do with the committee. He is right about the principle that issues of sensitivity must not be discussed in public. I also agree that it will be very important to engage the media and the public in the appropriate way to ensure that they do not panic but find the information of value and feel themselves party to what we are trying to do on security. I shall have to come back to my noble friend with more detail, but he has raised a very important point.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, as the brooding presence, perhaps I may say yet again that, although there are many good things in the Statement, it is totally mad to think of having open discussions and open meetings in the ISC. Agents will not come forward to be recruited if they think that is going to happen; agencies such as the CIA will be very reluctant to tell us what they are doing; and, not least, it is absolutely idiotic to think that only people of goodwill are going to be earnestly asking, Are we doing the right thing?. There will be many people of ill will taking advantage of the situation. That is something no one can get round.
My second point, about which I feel equally strongly, concerns the idea of investigations within the services. Inside the services there is a policy of strict need to know. When I left Moscow after two years, the day after ended all my access to whatever was happening on the Soviet Union; it was no longer my business. Inside the services, that has been a vital safeguard. If we were to have investigators coming and saying, That is a very interesting file; there is a reference to it so I would like to see that as well, it
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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall quickly try to divide up the different issues that we have tried to address within the Statement. First, the Statement refers to the need for Parliament to have more discussion and debate about security issues. Noble Lords have already asked for more debate in this House on the strategy and, in general, that is a good thing. I think the noble Baroness would agree with that.
Secondly, the function of the ISC in terms of its ability to educate and inform is inevitably underestimated. Perhaps in that arena one would see the opportunity to do things, if one liked, in public. I do not think that anybody is suggesting that evidence of a sensitive nature would ever be provided by the services in public. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, in response to a question in another place and, subsequently, in other discussions that I have been party to this afternoon, has made it clear that the balance that he is looking for is the opportunity for more debate and discussion about security issues while not, at any point, wishing to put the services at risk.
We will not only have to convince the noble Baroness, but, obviously, my right honourable friend and others will have been talking to the services. We would not wish to do anything to damage the way that we work with the services or, indeed, as the noble Baroness said to me in the Corridor, recruitment and retention in those services. That is very important. The investigations are generic; they would not be able to do what the noble Baroness fears. I understand that they have happened satisfactorily in the past and they would take place in that way.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, towards the end of the Statement, the Leader of the House referred to 30 known terrorist plots and 58 convictions in the past year. The Terrorism Act, as she will know, contains many offences at the minor or less serious end of the spectrum. Last summer, five young Muslims were convicted under Section 57 of that Act of possessing an article for terrorist purposes. A week or so ago their appeal was allowed and the Lord Chief Justice went so far as to question whether they should have been prosecuted in the first place. Incidentally, I assume that those five are not included in the 58. The House will certainly want to know, before we debate the Counter-Terrorism Bill, the breakdown of those convictions and, as far as can be given, the breakdown of the 30 plots. Without that information, I do not see how the House can seriously address the question of an extension of detention beyond 28 days.
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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who has enormous expertise in this area. I can confirm that the five are not included in the 58. I am sure that a breakdown of convictions will be available as noble Lords begin to discuss the legislation. For lots of reasons, I do not think that we will be able to give a breakdown of the plots per se, because it is very difficult to see how one could do that without revealing information. However, I have noted the point and I will take it away.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, the Statement made several welcome references to strengthening international institutions. I have not had a chance to read the whole document but I think that the Statement, unfortunately and regretfully, made no mention of the rule of law. Respect for international law has been one of the great casualties of the past seven years, including UN instruments such as the torture convention and the refugee convention. Unfortunately, we have had torture, disappearance and rendition. Recently, President Bush vetoed a Bill outlawing torture, and there have been allegations, not least from the European Parliament, of European Governments colluding in extraordinary rendition. We had a recent admission from the Foreign Secretary of an overlooked rendition through Diego Garcia.
Can the noble Baroness reassure me that the Government now see upholding the international rule of law as vital to national and international security? Will the Government make every effort to prevail on the President of the United States and other Governments that the exercise of rule of law is essential to our security?
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, my noble friend referred to the civilian standby capacity. Does she agree that apart from involving NATO and the European Union there must be an increase in linguistic capacity? How is that to be achieved? What priorities are to be set with regard to it?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the 1,000-strong group that we have described within the document are people who have particular expertise. We talked about police officers, the judiciary and so on. Linguistic capacity will be a part of that and that is why we will need to think about who will be relevant and necessary for a particular set of circumstances. But we have a long history of working closely with nations across the world where the provision of expertise from Britain has been highly relevant to trying to help states recover or not to fall into moments of turmoil.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, is the Leader of the House aware that while she is right to heed some of the warnings of my noble friend Lady Park on the matter, there is nonetheless a strong case for strengthening the role of the ISC. When I was chairman I envisaged that it might be possible to hold occasional public hearings, not discussing secret matters of course. I particularly welcome the statement that the staff of the ISC is to be reinforced to give it an effective investigative arm which we used to have and was unfortunately lost and not replaced, which was a great mistake.
The Statement is full of immediate matters and long-term matters. It recognises at last the serious problem of retention, particularly in the Army at the present time. Sadly, it is not a question of spending more money. Now the Government have to address the issue. The noble Baronesss friendly talks with the Chief of the Defence staff in her room are not a substitute for recognising the real problems. The real problem is in terms of resources and experienced people. They are willing to do one tour; they are willing to do two tours, bravely discharging their duties in a magnificent way; but when it comes to a third tour and the impact on the family, the Government face a challenge that money is not necessarily going to put right.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said about the ISC. Perhaps I need to ask him to talk to his noble friend. It fits well with what my right honourable friend Margaret Beckett, the new chairman of the committee, was saying this morning. I cannot hear what the noble Lord is saying to meI am sure I was not meant to hear it.
I take the noble Lords point about the Armed Forces. I did not mean to suggest that friendly talks in my room were anything other than an opportunity that I was willing and wished to give for those people with great concerns to be able to meet the Secretary of State for Defence. I am glad that it was friendly, but when I left the room I had no idea whether it would be.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, a purely national security strategy is probably relevant only to emergencies such as floods when more and more we need to co-ordinate our strategy with friendly alliances. Can my noble friend say to what extent the priorities in the document have been aligned with those of the European Union for their own security strategy and other international organisations?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, in terms of the relationships that we have described in the Statement, there is the bilateral relationship with the United States and our relationship with NATO. We talk about the role of international institutions whether that is the World Bank, the UN and so on and indeed our role with our partners as part of the European Union. All of those relationships are important. On Monday I reported back on the spring Council on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. It is clear, as noble Lords will know, that climate
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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Leader of the House agree that one of the crucial elements in preventing terrorism is taking action with regard to nuclear and other dangerous materials. In that context, will she look at the decision to send from Sellafield cargoes of plutonium dioxide, which is a very dangerous material, to France for reprocessing? Will the Government decide whether it is a completely safe method? Does the noble Baroness further agree that, in order to protect this country, it is absolutely essential that we play, as we are beginning to do, a major part in the creation of international architecture that will enable us closely to control nuclear materials and, in particular, materials that could lead to the construction of nuclear weapons; for example, through strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and strengthening the decisions to move away from short warning times for nuclear weapons?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I agree entirely with her on the important role that we must play in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We, too, are anxious about materials moving around. On Sellafield, my noble friend is conducting a review of a number of issues, of which this will form part.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, some very interesting facts have emerged this week about how the Government moved towards the resolution of the problems of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Do they intend to learn the lessons of that experience in dealing with the problems of terrorism now?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Of course, my Lords, though there are huge differences, as I indicated in the Statement, between what was a real problem in terms of terrorism from the IRA and the situation that we face now. However, all the lessons from the ongoing conflicts in which the UK has been involved in any way need to be learnt. As the noble Baroness said, it is important to make sure that those lessons play a part in how we put together the strategy.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, we are hugely grateful for the inclusion in the Statement of issues of shared values and the gathering together of the faith communities in this task. I am sure the noble Baroness would accept that, in the absence of confidence among the people and a sense of communality in our life together, no amount of technical arrangements for security will succeed. Does she also accept that the more one marginalises the leadership of key communities, the more one encourages unhealthy voices to arise within them, and the more we can engage in continued conversation and partnership, the more we make that more difficult? Does she further accept that it is important that DfID recognises the need to build up civil society in those weak states overseas in which we work if we are to provide a structure that preserves the values that hold our common life together?
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