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Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Lord is right in terms of policy changes. The basic reason has been the last two harvests. Three years ago the grain stocks were 330 million tonnes, so 80 million tonnes have gone in three years, generally speaking as a result of those two poor harvests. That caused the Ukraine and Russia to stick on export controls, which had an adverse effect as well. There will be volatility regarding animal feed stocks for some time. Relatively speaking, all livestock producers will be similarly affected, although pigs and poultry are obviously more dependent on the crops than cattle and sheep. The difficulties will all be treated the same, because this is a world commodity with world prices.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although there is no need to panic, we need a thorough examination by government and officials of the consequences of the extremely high world prices for wheat and, even more significantly, world record prices for rice, the principal food of the human race? Does he also agree that some countries have imposed export bans or intervened in the market already, and others plan to set up emergency stockpiles, so clearly the issue goes wider now than UK food prices and supply and is likely to affect food hunger, food aid and possibly political stability in some countries?

Lord Rooker: Yes, my Lords, to a greater or lesser extent, all the factors that the noble Lord mentioned will be relevant. There is no question about that, but there is no easy answer. The countries that have imposed export restrictions, including some in South America as well as the Ukraine and Russia, have done that for domestic purposes, trying to keep inflation down in their own countries. That has had added effect because of the adverse weather conditions; we have volatile weather conditions, as everybody knows. However, the actions taken will probably bring more land into production. So far as the EU is concerned, I mentioned set-aside. There will be a need to look at using land for biofuels. An inquiry was announced during the passage of the Climate Change Bill, in which the chairman of the Renewable Fuels Agency will have a look at the environmental impact and the impact on food prices of using food crops for biofuel. That is important, no doubt. Also, diets are changing round the world, especially in Asia and India, requiring more of the crops. Therefore, there will be more pressure on prices if we do not supply more crops. Clearly, no one Government can deal with that matter, but it is being looked at in the EU and on a world basis.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords—

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords—

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the Conservatives have had two speakers on the Question, so it is our turn.



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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, has any estimate been made as to what contribution set-aside can make to resolving the problem?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not know the full figures at present. It was a late decision last year; by and large, farmers had set their cropping plans for this year before the EU announced zero set-aside for one year. Long term, our aim is to abolish set-aside. It was 10 per cent, but not all of it will go back into production. The estimate is that about half of it has gone back into production this year. Do not hold me to the last 10th of a per cent, but about 5 per cent extra land will be for crops. We want to take account of that, but not to lose all the environmental benefits that came from set-aside. However, one has to remember that set-aside was not an environmental measure in the first place, but a production measure. Now that we need more production, it makes sense to question why set-aside is there.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is it not worth considering the following calculation? If every Chinaman eats one more chicken a year and it takes something like 10 pounds of grain to produce one chicken, that 10 pounds multiplied by 1.3 billion people is an awful lot of grain. Does that very simply not show why there is a terrible pressure on the grain market?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, yes, and indeed those calculations have been done. If you then combine them with two bad harvests in both Europe and Australia, you get the doubling of prices which we have seen in the past year. Those have not all come through in food prices at the retail end of the market; there are still quite a few more. At present, the world stocks of wheat are at less than 70 days of consumption and the world stocks of maize are at less than 50 days of consumption. A lot of people around the world are looking at these figures in order to form a plan to deal with the issue.

Iraq: Inquiry

3 pm

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, as the Prime Minister said in his letter to the Fabian Society last week, we recognise that a time will come when an inquiry is appropriate, but we are not prepared to make a proposal for a further inquiry at this time, while important operations are under way in Iraq to support the Government and people of that country.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, although this is not the Minister’s direct responsibility, does he not think it a bit fresh, to say the least, that the Tories have launched a motion about an inquiry into the Iraq war when they

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were so gung-ho at the launch of the war in 2003? By contrast, some excellent Bills have been announced over the past few days in the other place by our Liberal Democrat colleagues, and the Bill of my noble friend Lord McNally had its First Reading on Thursday. Remembering the words of Hans Blix, is the Minister—a former UN man with many years’ distinguished experience—going to persuade the Prime Minister at long last to change tack on this matter? Is it not about time that the British public were given justice as well with an immediate inquiry following the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, noble Lords may recall that it was in this House that we agreed that it was not a matter of “if” there should be an inquiry but “when”. There remains a precedent, since the rather abortive Dardanelles inquiry of 1916, that inquiries wait until after the conflict is over.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, on the simple question of “when”, as it is apparent that these operations are going to continue for a considerable time, what can “when” mean?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am no soothsayer but just today in Basra hostilities have resumed around an effort to disarm the militia. So there is still—today, at least—a sufficiently active level of military action in both Basra and the country at large to make it seem premature for such an inquiry.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, when that time comes, how do we prevent a repetition of the time and cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, that will weigh heavily on those who design this inquiry. We have already had four independent inquiries into the war, 60 parliamentary debates and a slew of important books, so any new inquiry, while asked to take a more holistic view, nevertheless has a lot to start with.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we realise this is a difficult and delicate issue and certainly too serious to be the subject for silly party-point-scoring and rivalries, but does the Minister accept that the difficulty is that the longer we wait, the more of a problem there will be in providing some really useful conclusions, both for the policy-makers where policy has obviously gone wrong and for the military who are all the time looking with General Petraeus and our own military for new and better ways of dealing with this kind of warfare? There is a strong case for “soon”. He or others say that we must wait until troops withdraw but has he noticed that Senator McCain, who may shortly be—who knows—President of the United States, has talked about a military presence for another 100 years? Would he like me to come back in 2108 and raise the issue again?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I think I can certainly assure the noble Lord that it will happen in our lifetimes, rather than in 100 years. Let us

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acknowledge the fact that we have generals in Iraq, most notably General Petraeus, who are showing that they are acutely able to learn the lessons of earlier mistakes and fashion new strategies and approaches. I very much doubt that this kind of inquiry will contribute to the day-to-day management of the war at this stage. What it can do is give us lessons for the future to make sure that, when we embark on interventions of this kind, they are done in the correct way, which enjoys full support internationally and domestically.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I understand that it is intended that the inquiry should be held when the British forces’ work is done. In the event that the American forces remain for some time after the British withdrawal, would the inquiry be affected by the presence of American forces?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the precedent that we have drawn on is that of British forces remaining actively engaged.

Lord McNally: My Lords, did the Minister note last week that the Prime Minister in the other place, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, here, and a Labour Back-Bencher justified the war on the basis of regime change? Will the Minister confirm that conducting a war on the basis of regime change is against the terms of the UN charter? Does he not think that a war that has already cost 100,000-plus lives—many more have been maimed and many millions have become refugees—and which has turned Iraq into a training camp for international terrorism, should be learnt about now and quickly?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, on the noble Lord’s point about regime change, the defence rested more on the case of the terrible role that Saddam Hussein played in his country towards his own people and the fact that, whatever other disagreements there might be in this House or elsewhere about the war, we could all agree that the removal of Saddam Hussein from office was a net plus for the people of Iraq and the people of the world. More broadly on the issues that the noble Lord raises, much has already been written and debated, and that debate will continue. An official inquiry is not needed to throw light on those issues.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that many of us believed that we were right to go to war in Iraq because we were told that there were weapons of mass destruction? With no defined exit strategy, where does that leave us?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness is aware that the Prime Minister has sought to lay out a timetable for a reduction in the number of British troops and has made it clear that the exit strategy rests on putting the Iraqi security forces in Basra on their own feet, enabling them to carry out the job without active British support, except, perhaps, in a training role.



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Business

3.07 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I should advise the House that, if Back-Bench contributions to today’s debate on the Second Reading of the Health and Social Care Bill are kept to eight minutes, we should rise at around the target rising time of 10 pm.

Retail Development Bill [HL]

Lord Cotter: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to the Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Children and Young Persons Bill [HL]

3.08 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Adonis.)

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, the welfare of children in the care of the state is of the highest importance, which is why we welcome the ambitious intentions of this legislation, although there are still issues to be resolved and much of its success will depend on a well motivated workforce and good practice. It is a reflection of how much the Minister has listened and a tribute to him and the Bill team for working so constructively with the whole House that we send a better Bill to the other place. I wish it well.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the various concessions that he made during the passage of the Bill, which will certainly improve the lives of children in care. He would have been gratified to see the avalanche of correspondence that I have received over the last few days about the Government’s concession on paying fees to foster carers who are being investigated over allegations. There are some impressive stories—perhaps I will pass them on to the noble Lord. We will watch carefully to see how the Government handle this important matter at the other end and look forward to seeing what comes of it. I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to deal with it.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I, too, shall say a few words of thanks. Last week, the Minister, with support from others in the House, moved what I consider to be one of the most important amendments to any Bill addressing disability that has passed through this

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House in the last few years. I am most grateful to all who supported the amendment. I apologise for my absence—unfortunately, my temperature was slightly higher than it is today. I thank everyone who spoke in support of the amendment and, in particular, the Minister and the Government for making that amendment possible.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Rix, is holding in his hand the Bevin Boys medal that he was awarded earlier today. The congratulations of the whole House should be conveyed to him as he displays that wonderful medal. I promise the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that I will not perpetuate the avalanche of letters that I have inflicted on her and on other noble Lords during the passage of the Bill. I thank her and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for their kind personal remarks and for their praise for the Bill team, which was well merited. I also thank noble Lords in all parts of the House, including my noble friends behind me and noble Lords on the Cross Benches, for their invaluable contributions to improving this Bill. I echo the opening remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris—there is no more important priority in society than improving the regime that the state puts in place for children in care. This cross-party measure that we have forged over the last few months will improve the lot of children in care. That will be an immensely valuable thing for us to do as a society.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I ask the Leader of the House to confirm that the Companion states that the Third Reading of a Bill is formal and no debate should take place.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I can confirm it. However, there has been some discussion about the exact moment to do what the House was willing to do—namely, to consider what the Bill has done. The issue is whether that should be done at Third Reading or on the Question whether the Bill do now pass. The Clerk and I will deliberate further on this, because different instructions are given at different times, and we will come back to the House on it.

On Question, Bill read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Health and Social Care Bill

3.13 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill contains a number of vital measures to improve and enhance the regulatory arrangements for health and social care. I am pleased by the number of noble Lords who are due to speak today, as that demonstrates the amount of interest in these important issues. The Bill has enjoyed a full debate in the other place, where it benefited particularly

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from the informed comment during evidence-giving sessions. I know that the Bill will further benefit as it makes its progress through this House from the wealth of knowledge and expertise that so many noble Lords have in this field.

The primary concern of the Bill is to improve and enhance the quality and safety of the care that patients and users receive. Its focus is on regulation, both of the health and adult social care system and of health and social care professionals who work within that system.

As noble Lords will be aware from the interim report that I published in advance of the next-stage review, I am passionate about the quality of care received by patients and service users. I understand that some concerns have been raised about the timing of the Bill and how this will fit in with my next-stage review. It is my view that this is the right time for the Bill, as it will introduce a framework that focuses on reforming regulation so that it is adaptable to the changing priorities of patients and users. The next-stage review will build on this vital regulatory framework to ensure that quality becomes the connecting thread running through everything that we do.

I turn now to the specific provisions in the Bill. Part 1 creates the Care Quality Commission, which brings together the existing Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission. The commission will be an independent, responsive and proportionate regulator with safety and quality at its core.


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