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The noble Baroness and a number of other speakers referred to bureaucracy and red tape. None of us wants to see excessive bureaucracy, but I fear that there has been too much of that within the police. Sir Ronnies report contains a package of measures to reduce unnecessary police bureaucracy that could save time equivalent to 3,000 police officers. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, we are implementing
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The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, raised the issue of selection of senior police officers and touched on the requirement for training for senior police officers, which is extremely important. I am looking at my response, but I am not 100 per cent happy with it. I know from being part of a very large structured organisation that you have to go through that sort of mechanism very carefully. In military terms one has the Royal College of Defence Studies, the Higher Command and Staff Course and so on and I know that there are certain colleges in the police service. This is so important that we need to look at it quite closely so I should like to take it away for consideration. It is an important area and if it is not right, we need to get it right. Only by doing that will we have the right people to drive forward all the changes that we need to make.
On bureaucracy, I know that the Home Secretary wrote to the right honourable David Davis, showing how 9,000 forms had been abolished. That rather worries me because if 9,000 forms have been got rid of and everything moves on normally, then maybe things were not right. Thank goodness we are actually tackling that.
The noble Lord, Lord Dear, raised the issue of perceptions, which I have touched on, and their importance. He also mentioned targets and the police in the future. I understand where the noble Lord is coming from because there have been such huge changes in the world, and that is partly the reason why we have produced the national security strategy, on which I shall respond to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, later. Those changes have impacted on all areas of public life, not just on the police. It would be wrong to say that we have just tinkered with the police and that the previous Government, the Conservative Government, just tinkered with the police.
Over the years, a number of changes have been made. Although, in the Green Paper, we shall have to consider clearly where the police force is going, we cannot expect a root-and-branch statement of total change because every public sector area has had to change over the past 100 years. The changes that have taken place are not just tinkering. After the previous debate on this subject, I looked very closely at the possibility of a royal commission and it did not make sensethat was not the way to gobut I hope that the Green Paper will address some of those matters. I
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I believe that our police force will be able to handle the London Olympics. That does not mean that we do not have a huge amount of work to do. I have just changed the structure of how security will be looked at for the Olympics. We have produced a proper risk assessment because there was not one before and stemming from that will be a fully costed and detailed security plan, which we shall have to amend as time goes on. Does that mean that there will be changes in certain areas? Yes, it does.
Various noble Lords asked what the impact will be on the whole of the United Kingdom when this event takes place. This is a gigantic event when one considers the sheer numbers of people involved. During the Games all sorts of other things will be going on. I believe it will be the Queens jubilee, or some such event, and there are the normal events such as the Notting Hill Carnival, Cowes week and Henley; they all have to be looked after in the same timeframe. Yes, I believe our police can do it and we are putting in place the right measures. It is highly complicated. The linkages and the interdependences are great but we shall get there. I have a number of people putting a great deal of effort into this. So far we are probably ahead of any other nation that has put on the Olympics. I have to admit that we have more problems than, say, the Games in Sydney where the geographic position made matters easier than it is for us in this country.
The noble Lord raised the issue of empowering local people. We will make local crime data available on a monthly and a consistent basis to people by July this year, which I hope will help them to understand community safety issues. I hope that covers that point.
I shall turn to the very good points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. Cybercrime is an issue about which I have been particularly worried. Perhaps in the past we have not taken it as seriously as we should have. The Government and I take this seriously. I have been in touch with the Cabinet Office to try to ensure that we start doing the right things. We have a range of public and private-sector initiatives which have been mentioned by a number of speakers: for example, there is Get Safe Online, which lets people know and understand this issue. The noble Viscount is absolutely rightI was not aware of this until I started to look into itthat this issue worries more people in the UK than many other crimes such as burglaries, muggings, car thefts and so on. It is a real worry and people are right to be worried.
We are taking the matter seriouslyI must not call it unimportant as it is bloody important for people who lose things. The subject covers wider matters, such as security of the state as well. There are some real issues here; it is highly complicated and very difficult. One has to put against it the fact that we are probably the leading e-commerce economy in Europe and one of the leading such economies in the world. That is why we are so successful in a globalised way, but we have to get this right because if we do not we shall be in real trouble. I thank the noble Viscount for raising the issue. We have much to do.
The noble Viscount also raised the issue of DNA. That should be a debate in itself and I hope it will be. I will not go on about that but there is no doubt at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, mentioned, that DNA is a wonderful tool for getting people who have done dreadful things. However, there are so many other aspects to the subject that we need to debate them. I am sure everyone would agree with that.
I realise that I have gone on far too long but I would like to turn to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I thank him for his welcome and his unexpected accolade for this Government. I have never had a problem with bureaucrats; I can normally handle them quite well. I think his view of the Home Office is rather an old view of the Home Office; it is a very different place now. A national security strategy is very impressive. I have not been able to answer all the questions that have been put and I am sorry that I have not got on to the issue of counterfeiting because I wanted to touch on that. Perhaps I can reply in writing. I am aware that I have gone well over my time.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I am greatly encouraged by the part of the Minister's speech which dealt with the future finances of Crimestoppers. I shall read and reread that part over and over again. Those taking part in this debate have more than justified my hopes. I thank them all very much indeed. I wish all noble Lords a happy Easter. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Trumpington for allowing me a short time from her debate, which would have otherwise gone the full five hours. Actually, with the noble Lord, Lord West, replying, that was probably about what was needed.
The issues surrounding the conflict in Iraq are of the utmost importance. They have been thrown into sharp relief by the fact that this week is the fifth anniversary of the invasion. In our debates, nothing should be more important than the plight of the 4 million refugees that the conflict has caused. They often live in appalling conditions, having been driven from their homesmen, women and, most tragic of all, children.
I last raised Iraq in a debate in the House on 24 January. I argued then for a full-scale inquiry to be set up and I repeat that call today. I do not intend to repeat all the arguments that I used then; suffice it to
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Since then the Prime Minister has repeated his acceptance of the case for an inquiry, as reported by the Independent earlier this week, but has again refused to commit himself to when. Although we are now at the fifth anniversary and our troop commitment is down to 4,500 and reducing, Mr Brown argues that an inquiry would divert attention away from the need to rebuild Iraq. That argument should not be accepted. If there are lessons to be learnt from this tragedy, that is best done when memories are fresh and when the need for an inquiry is agreed as urgent both by the original opponents of the invasion and by those who supported it. History is also against delay. If the Asquith Government in 1916, in the midst of the First World War, could have an inquiry into the Dardanelles when Britain itself was directly threatened, we should be able to manage an inquiry five years after the start of the Iraq conflict. Above all, the Prime Ministers argument should not be accepted, because some lessons need to be learnt now if action is to be taken to help to deal with the problems identified. Top of that list is the welfare of 4 million refugees.
The Middle East faces the worst refugee crisis since 1948. Ironically, it is the neighbouring countries to IraqSyria, Jordan and Lebanonthat took no part in the invasion that now have to cope with some of the most serious consequences. There is an obvious strain on resources and capacity, and the result is that children are being brought up without education or stability and often in fear. We should not forget either that young people are being radicalised by those experiences. An excellent Channel 4 report on Sunday night contained an interview with a young teenage boy. In spite of the continuing violence, he wanted to return to Iraq. Why? So that he could join the struggle against the Americans. Refugees can easily be turned into extremists, as I remember from the 1970s when I reported on the position of two Palestinian camps in Lebanon. The sub-editors put on my report the headline Camps of Hate, which I thought at the time was too loud. In fact, that was exactly what they were. We allowed that position to fester and had no adequate response, and we have seen some of the consequences.
I shall give the basic position so far as the Iraqi refugees are concerned. I take the figures from the UNHCR and Amnesty International, and pay tribute to both organisations. Syria has taken the greatest number of Iraqis forced to flee their country, 1.4 million. According to Amnesty, most of them
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In Jordan, there are a further 500,000 Iraqis. Of course, Jordan already has a formidable problem of Palestinian refugees. I saw something of their conditions a few months ago when I was there. There is inadequate housing and overcrowded classes for the childrenalthough at least they have schooling from some dedicated teachers. Jordan is not a rich country and understandably is concerned not only about the influx but about the violence spreading. When I met one of the senior Ministers in Jordan, he was quick to correct me when I used the word refugees. The Government regard them not as refugees but as temporary guests, who they hope will be able to return to Iraq as early as possible. In the mean time, however, it is Jordan that has to cope.
In Lebanon, there are estimated to be a further 50,000 Iraqis. As Human Rights Watch reports, Lebanon is a country of only 4 million people including, again, over 250,000 Palestinian refugees. It is a reluctant host and treats many Iraqis as illegal immigrants.
Then, of course, there are the internally dispersed people inside Iraq itself. Once again, I point the House to Marie Colvin in the Sunday Times, whose reports from Iraq have been in the highest traditions of British journalism. Last Sunday she reported that children in one camp are,
On any analysis, the position is desperately serious. The question for the House is how well we in Britain are responding to it. Has the response from the Government matched the gravity of the suffering? Have we who were partners with the Americans in the invasion recognised and met our responsibilities? Those are questions for us allthose who opposed the invasion from the start and those who, like me, supported it and want an inquiry to see among other things whether the information that we were given at the time was inadequate and whether the process of government itself was deficient.
Let us look at the present. I fear that the answer to the question whether we are doing enough is, frankly, no, we are not. My attention first came to this issue because of the plight of the interpreters who worked for the British forces and the British administration in Iraq. I raised the issue on the Floor of the House in April and again in June because I felt that, if ever this country had a direct responsibility, it was in relation to them. Ministers came to the Dispatch Box and frankly stonewalled, but then there was a media campaign in July and August by the Times and the BBC. Suddenly the Government became engaged and a carefully confined scheme was announced.
Any inquiry set up should urgently examine whether that scheme meets our responsibilities to the men and women who have worked for the British in Iraq, who often face danger to their own lives and whose families share that danger. Is it a generous response to people who have helped us or is it the least that the Government can get away with? An inquiry should examine whether the limit of 600 on staff and dependants to be helped is an adequate response and whether the condition of 12 months continuous employment after January 2005 is unduly restrictive. I believe that an Iraqi interpreter who has worked for the British for, say, seven months is in just as much danger as the official group. I doubt very much whether the would-be assassin makes too many discriminations so far as length of service is concerned. If you work for another British organisation, such as a newspaper, you also place yourself in peril of attack. PerhapsI put it no higherwe owe some debt to those Iraqis who have directly helped our understanding of what is happening in Iraq.
I am pleased to read that seven interpreters are being resettled here but, in all conscience, that is a small number. The reports that I am receiving indicate that even those whose applications have been accepted face months of delay before resettlement takes placedelay when they remain named targets as spies. I am told of other cases where the applicant has certainly worked for the British but where the application has been turned down. One such case was that of the tailor on one of our Army bases, which has now been closed down. A tailor?, I can hear people say. Yes, a tailor who put himself in danger by working for us but whom we do not intend to help in any way. He now lives in exile in Syria. At the beginning of March, he wrote a letter to Dan Hardie, who has done much to help in this area, saying that, day by day, his money is running out. He is caught in a position where he can neither go home nor live in Syria. The final irony is that, as he said, one day he found by chance an Iraqi translator working with British forces. He told the translator that there was a United Kingdom programme for former Iraqi translatorsthe translator had had no idea. The translator asked how to send an application and the tailor gave him the details. The net result was that he helped the Iraqi translator to resettlement in this country, but not himself.
I wonder just how generous and welcoming we are being to people who have directly helped us and put themselves in danger. I was in no way encouraged by the story in the Guardian this week that 1,400 rejected Iraqi asylum seekers are to be told that they must return to Iraq or face destitution in Britain, as the Government now consider travel back to Iraq to be both possible and reasonable. The story said:
Let us remember that the cases of the interpretersand even the 1,400 asylum seekersare only the tip of the refugee iceberg. They are important in themselves and they are important for the attitude that is revealed of the British Government, but we also need to know just how much we are helping refugees in other countries
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For these reasons, this very day, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the International Rescue Committee and the Refugee Council have sent a joint letter to President Bush and Mr Brown, expressing their deep concern that so little has been done by their Governments to address the desperate plight of Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict. Their letter summarises the case. Obviously, I pay tribute to the efforts being made in Iraq to restore some kind of stability. I pay tribute to the bravery of our troops, who are in a difficult situation. However, we cannot ignore the fact that most of those currently returning to Iraq are doing so not because of the improved security position but because their money has run out or their visas have expired. We cannot rely on an overnight transformation of the position that will set us all free.
The refugee crisis will continue. We need to recognise our duty to deal with this in as humane and as generous a manner as we can. If we do, perhaps some good can still come of this situation. It seems to me that we have a responsibility for what has happened and that we should not in any way seek to run away from it. My concern today is that we are not fulfilling our duty. I beg to move for Papers.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on his impeccable timing, five years after the war, and on his persistence in a good cause. He has been assiduous in his campaign on behalf of the interpreters and others, a good example of what an individual Peer can do with positive effects. My only quibble was with his point about including the plight of the refugees in any inquiry relating to the course of events leading up to the war. If one adds to refugees and their plight in different countries, one could almost go on indefinitely. It would perhaps be as long as the speech of the noble Lord, Lord West, which he mentioned.
It is also true that we in the UK must shoulder our responsibility in terms of hosting refugees in this country, financial assistance for refugees and the financial bill for internally displaced persons and others. I only suggest that if we look at the total contribution made by the United Kingdom under various headings, and compare that with some of the regional powers, such as Saudi Arabia and others, we in the UK would not be doing too badly.
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