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Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, within two years it is projected that aid to Africa will be 50 per cent more than the total FCO budget. Yet Kenya, for example, shows that although there is abundance of aid, the politics can be wrong and can mar much of the effect of that aid. Is my noble friend sensitive to the view that the balance between the two departments may not be quite right?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend asks another of those questions to which I would not presume to have an answer. Obviously diplomacy does not require the huge and heavy project expenditures that poverty reduction requires. Therefore, although these comparisons are important in ensuring that the Foreign Office is properly funded for its critical work in Africa and elsewhere, this is a comparison between apples and oranges. DfID is doing great work meeting the British goal, committed to at Gleneagles, of doubling our assistance to Africa by 2010 in a way that makes a tangible difference, such as more kids in school, better public health and better governance in Africa.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, does the Minister agree that now is not the time to cut back on aid to Africa? Surely he is right when he says that the FCO and DfID should complement each other. However, does he share my enormous concern from my experience of visiting some of these places that enormous expertise is being lost as the FCO cuts back on staff, particularly those who have a long track record in some of these countries? Given the critical need to have expertise, particularly in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East, what is being done to ensure that people with great experience are retained?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness puts her finger on the recognition shared by all current or former Ministers in the Foreign Office that it has huge expertise—language knowledge and cultural knowledge of countries—that does not exist outside. It is a talent pool that we must preserve. We are moving more diplomats from posts in places such as Europe to posts in developing countries. We are making the leadership of those missions—the ambassador and high-commissioner positions—more senior, relative to the old European transatlantic footprint. We are making efforts to do this, but I share the noble Baroness’s concern that we do not lose the human capital of the FCO.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, does the Minister recall that the first speech made by the present Foreign Secretary described the Foreign Office as a “unique global asset”, and that the Foreign Secretary said in his most recent speech that:

Given those premises, is the Minister not a little disturbed by the fact that we have no diplomatic representation whatever in 23 out of 53 African states?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, in his quotations from my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, rightly points to the fact that the Foreign Secretary and I, with our other ministerial

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colleagues, are deeply committed to building an effective Foreign Office. We are pleased that we did a little better in this budget round that we had done in recent years. Although we do not have missions in 23 African states, that means that we are still just ahead of the game, with missions in the majority of African countries. If anything, we are trying to grow our diplomatic footprint in Africa as a reflection of the increased importance that we give to that region.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a recent report from the World Health Organisation estimated that 40 per cent of healthcare provision in sub-Saharan Africa is provided by the churches in Africa? Does DfID have a strategy to engage those assets in delivering better healthcare systems for Africa?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, having run the UNDP for many years I know extremely well, at a personal level, the extraordinary contribution of churches to service delivery in both health and education at the community level. I have made a point of saying that to friends and colleagues in DfID, and I understand from conversations that it is recognised and that collaboration is growing. However, I fear that I will have to refer the right reverend Prelate to those colleagues for a fuller answer.

Taxation: Oil Companies

3 pm

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, tax policy is reviewed as part of the annual Budget process. There are no current plans to introduce a windfall tax on oil companies.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I assume that the Government might be looking for some ideas to make them more popular with the public after Thursday’s results. Would it not be a good idea to consider an eye-catching proposal, whereby they would levy an extra windfall tax on the extra profits for 2008-09 of international oil companies based in Britain? The Government could then use part of that money—if not a full equivalent of that amount—and other resources to encourage British companies and others who have the energy, courage and imagination to invest in wind farms to do so with Government tax offsets.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord portrays his proposition as an attractive one; I find it a little less so. The Government increased the supplementary charge on the oil companies in 2005. It is important to realise the remaining assets of the North Sea. We require investment in those North Sea assets to provide this country with an important and

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secure energy source. The noble Lord will expect eye-catching initiatives, attractive to the public, to be in the next Budget.

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the definition of windfall implies a one-off event, yet we have had persistently high oil prices for a considerable period? Therefore, the challenge is to have a form of taxation ensuring that the Exchequer gets a reasonable return, while at the same time not prejudicing the prospect of further exploitation of our resources in the North Sea. That has a far higher priority than fiddling around with wind farms.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will recognise my noble friend’s substantial experience in this area. He is of course right that we need consistency in taxing the oil companies. The windfall profits of the oil companies in recent months are derived largely from their overseas investment. The North Sea accounts for only 10 per cent of BP’s profits, so we should see the limitation of any windfall tax in that respect.

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, does the noble Lord think that a windfall tax on oil companies—or, for that matter, any other type of company—will assist the Prime Minister in halting the current corporate exodus from this country?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that corporate exodus is extolled in certain parts of the media but is not borne out by many recent facts. Let me make it clear that any windfall tax, as far as oil companies are concerned, is nothing at all to do with their location. Shell and BP are firmly rooted in the United Kingdom. The issue is to guarantee that they invest sufficiently in the North Sea to return its resources, which this country will assuredly require in the future.

Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the major oil companies would be in a better position to resist calls for windfall taxation if they were seen to be investing more of their profits in sustainable energy projects rather than, as Shell did last week, pulling out of wind farms at the earliest possible opportunity?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, Shell’s withdrawal from the proposition last week was a disappointment. However, the oil companies play their part in the development of renewable energy—BP has certainly played an important part in the recent government initiative. We all want to encourage the development of renewable energy, but we also appreciate that, as far as any of us can foresee, oil and gas—particularly, British oil and gas—will play a significant part in our economy.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the corporate exodus referred to is as long on rhetoric and as short on reality as the threat of so many people in 1997; namely, that they would leave this country if a Labour Government were elected?

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend is asking me to act more as a historian than as a Minister in terms of answering this question. But he is right that from time to time the Opposition see it as being in their interest to follow the latest scare in certain aspects of the press about people leaving the United Kingdom. There is very little evidence that it happens.

Constitutional Renewal Bill: Joint Committee

3.06 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should draw your Lordships’ attention to the membership set down in the Motion. The Committee of Selection proposed 11 nominations for the Joint Committee, as set out in its third report of this Session. Regrettably, one of the members nominated is no longer able to take up his position on the Joint Committee. The Motion therefore proposes an alternative member to complete the committee’s complement of 11 members. The Committee of Selection has been consulted and has raised no objections. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Commons message of 30 April be considered and that a committee of eleven Lords members be appointed to join with the committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill presented to both Houses on 25 March (Cm 7342-II) and that the committee should report on the draft Bill by 17 July 2008;

That the following members be appointed to the committee:

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster

Lord Campbell of AllowayLord Fraser of Carmyllie Baroness Gibson of Market RasenLord Hart of ChiltonLord Maclennan of Rogart Lord MorganLord Norton of LouthLord Plant of HighfieldLord TylerLord Williamson of Horton;

That the committee have power to agree with the committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a chairman;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the reports of the committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the committee shall, if the committee so wishes, be published; and

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That the committee meet with the committee appointed by the Commons today at 4 pm in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, it is appropriate on this Motion to pay tribute to the former chairman of the predecessor committee, Lord Holme of Cheltenham. I have been asked to do this because for 12 years during my time as leader of the Liberal Party, he was my closest, most senior and trusty adviser. We miss him very much.

He was a great servant of this House. In fact, very few people have made such a wide variety of contributions to public service: the list includes the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Hansard Society, Charter 88, the Green Alliance, Greenwich University, Middlesex Polytechnic, Nuffield College, Oxford and the English College in Prague. The list could go on and on. Yet his remarkable contribution to public life was married to a very successful business career. After being my adviser for 12 years, he continued in that role with my noble friend Lord Ashdown. The fact that he survived 20 years of the two of us was testimony to the sheer stamina of Richard Holme. Stamina was part of his characteristic. He used to get up very early and before he came to my office, he would have read all the newspapers. He was pretty useless after 10 pm, but first thing in the morning he was brilliant. Therefore, he was more suited to my noble friend than to me.

Lord Holme fought five elections in his attempt to enter the House of Commons, coming closest at Cheltenham. When I first met him he was fighting a by-election in East Grinstead, just immediately before I was to fight my by-election, which was why I went to help him, and we became close personal friends. What united us? It was a view which he held very strongly that there was no point in beavering away in the Liberal Party alternating between six MPs and 12 MPs, depending on whether it was a good or a bad election, but that one should gather allies and work across party on a range of issues.

That was put into effect during the Lib-Lab agreement with Mr Callaghan’s Government in 1977-78 and, most notably, after the formation of the SDP, with the coming together of the two parties in the alliance. I clearly remember how that happened. Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams, as they were then known, were with me and Richard Holme at the K√∂nigswinter conference just after the SDP had been launched. We had a convivial lunch out of doors and, discussing how the two parties might co-operate together, Richard was determined we go further. He seized a paper napkin and wrote down the heads of agreement, which became known as the K√∂nigswinter Compact and was, in fact, the beginning of the alliance between the SDP and the Liberals and hence of the Liberal Democrat Party as we know it today. I remember, as he put the paper napkin into his pocket, Shirley rather sweetly saying to him, “Richard, does this mean I have to embrace proportional representation?”. He said, “Well, it is not obligatory but it would help awfully”. And so she did.

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To end on a personal note, I remember particularly the help he used to give me every summer, coming up to my house as we discussed the leader’s speech for the annual conference. We had a convivial weekend walking in the hills, discussing current politics. Few people know that he spent some years in his publishing career in the United States and he campaigned very strongly for the Democratic Party. When I go this summer to Denver for the Democratic Convention, it will be my sixth Democratic Convention but the first without Richard. It will not be the same.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and a message was sent to the Commons.

European Union (Amendment) Bill

3.11 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 2 [Addition to list of treaties]:

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 10A:

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 18, inserted Article 9D TEU, paragraph 2, relating to the Commission’s right initiative over Union legislative acts; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: This amendment would remove the European Commission’s right to propose EU legislation and so it goes to the heart of the project of EU integration. This right of proposal by the Commission has its origins in the big idea which gave birth to the EU and which still, in the eyes of its supporters, underpins it today. It is perhaps worth recalling what that big idea was. It was that the nation states had been responsible for the carnage of two world wars and so those nation states, with their unreliable democracies, had to be emasculated and diluted into a new form of supranational government run by a commission of wise technocrats. That is also why, once the Commission’s proposals have been negotiated in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives, or bureaucrats from the nation states—which takes place in secret, and once the Council of Ministers has signed the proposals off and they have been rubber-stamped, where necessary, by national parliaments, the Commission becomes the executor of all EU legislation. It is supported, when necessary, by that engine of European integration, the Luxembourg Court.

New Article 9D confirms this situation very clearly and it is worth quoting very briefly from it from the Lisbon treaty. It states:

Article 2, to which this referendum specifically refers, states:

It would be very helpful if the Minister would let us know where the treaties provide for laws to be proposed other than by the Commission.

3.15 pm

Item 3 in Article 9D refers to the quality of these enormously powerful people:

I hope that it will be in order if I ask the noble Baroness the Lord President or the noble Lord who is to reply what they think about the recent appointment of Monsieur Jacques Barrot, who is the new EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner. I think that I am right in saying that Monsieur Barrot received an eight-month suspended jail sentence in 2000 for corruption and was later pardoned by no less a personage than Monsieur Jacques Chirac, who was involved in the same scandal. Are the Government happy that this man is now the EU Justice Minister?

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