Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

9 Jun 2008 : Column 369

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that humanitarian aid, important as it is, is not a substitute for effective political action, because without such action the humanitarian crisis is likely to continue indefinitely? Does he also agree that the responsibility to protect is now generally accepted in principle but frequently fails to deliver in practice? While I accept that the Government have made mammoth efforts up to this stage, will they urge on the UN Security Council the need to address the slaughter, disease, displacement, famine and slavery in the area, if necessary by direct international intervention?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble and learned friend is right to say that the responsibility to protect unfortunately remains a doctrine recognised more in principle than in practice. All of us who were involved in its development had hoped that Sudan, particularly the Darfur region, would be one of the first places for its effective application. Instead we face continuing conflict throughout Sudan which, as my noble and learned friend rightly observed, humanitarian assistance alone cannot address. The UN Security Council, under the joint leadership of the British ambassador to the council, has just been in Sudan trying to achieve political progress on Abyei and more generally on north/south and Darfur issues. We continue to press for a political solution here because Darfur and Sudan as a whole remains a blot on the collective international conscience.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, are the Government relying on government reporting of the security situation in Darfur and southern Sudan, or are they listening to aid organisations working on the ground that might be more accurate? More specifically, which organisations are they listening to? Further, what are the Government doing to encourage China and other countries that buy oil from Sudan to use their influence in a responsible way?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, much to the chagrin of the Sudanese Government, we do not use government statistics but rely on those from the UN which are themselves aggregations of information provided by its NGO partners. The statistics paint a sorry picture of reducing access, of seven international NGO workers killed this year, of more than 125 vehicles and trucks stolen, of more than 25 drivers of those trucks still missing, and, as I have said, of less and less access to different parts of Darfur. We continue to press in the UN and elsewhere for effective action.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, in an earlier response the Minister mentioned an agreement which is said to have been reached between the north and the south on Friday, but he did not say whether it includes any mention of the sovereignty of the disputed territory of Abyei. I would be grateful if he could say a few more words about that. Further, what does the enhanced role and presence of UNMIS involve, and is there anything in writing yet?

9 Jun 2008 : Column 370

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord will recall that I did say that the details of the agreement are only just coming in at this stage. Therefore we do not have full information on exactly what level of UNMIS deployment will be allowed. However, we are assuming that it will be full access by UNMIS to Abyei. I also said that on the Abyei issue itself, both sides have agreed to renewed international arbitration, which presumably will deal with both the border and the oil revenue-sharing issues. I would be happy to come back to the noble Lord as more details on precisely what is intended become available, and I shall put a copy of that letter in the Library.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, is it recognised that there is great instability flowing from Sudan into the neighbouring region and particularly into Chad?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, it certainly is recognised. Just last week I went to Paris to discuss with colleagues there the need for Britain, France, the United States and others, with the regional neighbours, to try to find a way of securing a peace agreement between Chad and Sudan. While both continue to undermine the Government of the other, we will never get regional peace.

EU-Latin America Summit

3 pm

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the summit made progress on several UK objectives. It raised regional awareness of the need for action on climate change and its impact on poverty. It launched a co-operation programme between the two regions on climate change. It helped to generate renewed momentum on the millennium development goals in advance of the September UN meeting and it was an opportunity to press for intensified co-operation on drugs.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, that is a very encouraging reply. The delegation led by the Leader of the House has obviously been a great success. In view of her first ever visit to Latin America—I hope she will return frequently—can I prevail on her to use her new-found enthusiasm to persuade her Cabinet colleagues that they ought to take Latin America a little more seriously than they have in the past few years and to stop closing down some embassies, down-grading others, virtually eliminating the British Council effort there and generally taking us back to where we were some years ago?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Viscount, to whom I pay tribute for the incredible way in which he has kept this region on the agenda in your Lordships’ House and, indeed, for the Government for a very long time—he was instrumental in my going on that trip and I did indeed return enthusiastic—will

9 Jun 2008 : Column 371

know that I do not quite accept his analysis of the response of the Government. We are doing a lot of work in the region, not least in our development assistance, which has increased; in the work with organisations in different parts of the region; and in the support we gave through the summit and through other measures.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Peru Support Group. I thank the noble Baroness for her reply to a letter from the group sent before the summit asking it to address matters such as inequalities of wealth and income, damage caused to certain communities by mining developments, and the climate change problem that she mentioned. On that point, is it generally recognised now that the Andean glaciers will disappear by 2050, according to authorities such as the Stern report, which means that very serious problems as regards drinking water will arise in major urban centres, not only in Lima, but in places including La Paz, and what has been done by the summit to address that problem?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stern, provided a video for the summit which I did not see in the group I was in, but which I know was very well received. It tried to tackle some of the issues that the noble Lord has raised. There is more general acceptance of the point that he raised. The whole point of the UK intervention was to get an understanding of the link between climate change and poverty and to start to address some of the basic facts of life; for example, the drinking water issue that there will certainly be in that region.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the summit which was, of course, attended by the Leader of the House with amazing celerity and vigour between EU debates, was dominated by the terrifying question of soaring food prices and food shortages. Was a clear link established at that gathering between the switch of farm crops from food to biofuels and food prices? Was a distinction made between energy-efficient biofuels made from cane sugar which come from Brazil, and the biofuels produced by corn farmers in America and Europe, which are energy-inefficient and are undermining food prices? Was any agreement in sight from the EU side that it would abandon the very demanding commitment to an increase in biofuels for all our energy use over the coming years, which appears to be adding to the problems of food prices?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, during the summit, the two regions agreed that they wanted to encourage more sustainable patterns of consumption and production and to make sure that we exchange experiences on biofuels technology. The noble Lord knows that the issues surrounding food prices concern not just biofuels but bad weather, low stocks, restrictions on trade by exporting countries and increasing prices for oil, fertilisers and other inputs. However, we accept that sustainable biofuels have a role to play. This was one of the features of the summit, as the noble Lord would expect. As far as the EU is concerned, we will

9 Jun 2008 : Column 372

have to await developments. The Prime Minister has made certain that they will be carefully examined in the light of the results of the review which is under way.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, can I reassure my noble friend that there are some of us on her Benches who share the noble Viscount’s interest in Latin America? I invite anyone else who would like to do so to come to Room 4A at five o’clock tomorrow afternoon when His Excellency Carlos Morales Troncoso, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, will be the guest of the Dominican-UK All-Party Group, of which I have the honour to be president.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I have nothing to add to the advertisement.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, the Lord President mentioned drugs in her initial response. Was the contribution to Colombia’s travails by President Uribe recognised and, if so, what further support was agreed to?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, there was recognition. In fact, my honourable friend Kim Howells and I had a bilateral meeting with President Uribe of Colombia in which we covered a range of issues: climate change, poverty, human rights and drugs co-operation. The president was keen to highlight the developments that have taken place in Colombia, which he is very proud of, but he recognises there is much more to do. This is an important part of his contribution to the summit debate.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, my question relates to the removal of DfID staff and DfID activities from many South American countries. My particular interest is in Peru; I understand that it is now, technically speaking, an average-income country, but there are, nevertheless, very poor people living in the mountain regions. What help can DfID staff from, say, Bolivia give in those regions?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, DfID is organised to enable support and help to be given, but I do not want noble Lords to think that we were not investing in the region with the support that development assistance is giving. The funding in the region will increase from £84 million in 2007-08 to £97 million in 2010-11. As the noble Baroness indicates, staff are working collaboratively.

European Union (Amendment) Bill

3.07 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

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

Clause 6 [Parliamentary control of decisions]:

[Amendments Nos. 17 to 24 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

9 Jun 2008 : Column 373

Lord Goodlad moved Amendment No. 25:

(a) Article 3 of the Protocol on the Position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, as amended and renamed by the Treaty of Lisbon, permitting a notification of the wish to take part in the adoption and application of a proposed measure pursuant to Title V of Part 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,(b) Article 4 of that Protocol, permitting a notification of the wish to accept a measure adopted pursuant to Title V of Part 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,(c) Article 4 of the Protocol on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework of the European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, permitting a request to take part in some or all of that acquis,(d) Article 10(5) of the Protocol on Transitional Provisions annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon, permitting a notification of the wish to participate in acts which have ceased to apply to the United Kingdom pursuant to Article 10(4) of that Protocol.(a) in each House of Parliament a Minister of the Crown moves a motion that the House approves Her Majesty’s Government’s intention to commit the United Kingdom to new obligations, or to alter the obligations of the United Kingdom, and(b) each House agrees to the motion without amendment.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 25 stands in my name and the names of the noble Lord, Lord Rowlands, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. The amendment was first debated prior to the publication of the Government’s response to the report of your Lordships’ Select Committee on the Constitution; the report was published on March 28 and the response has since been issued. I shall not reiterate today all the arguments that were advanced in favour of the amendment during the previous debate. Suffice it to say that, in the area of freedom, security and justice issues, criminal law and policing are being brought into Title V of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, an innovation that your Lordships’ committee was advised, in evidence, amounted to fundamental constitutional change.

Your Lordships’ Select Committee recommended that the Government obtain approval from both Houses of Parliament before using so-called opt-ins or opt-outs. The committee said that that would be consistent with the Bill’s policy to require parliamentary approval of the simplified revisions procedure and passerelles.

The amendment received expressions of support from all sides of the House in Committee. European matters have transcended traditional party lines since the debates of the early 1970s prior to British entry into the then European Community. Had they not,

9 Jun 2008 : Column 374

Britain would not be part of the European Union. They have transcended traditional party allegiances, as I personally have reason to remember from more recent parliamentary deliberations.

Noble Lords, before and since the United Kingdom’s entry into the then European Community, have consistently argued at the hustings, in Parliament and elsewhere for a strong and effective participation in the proceedings of what is now the European Union; I number myself among them. They are acutely conscious of the need to maintain public confidence in what the Government do in Europe on our behalf. Senior officials who often labour long into the night negotiating for British interests in European fora, some distinguished alumni of which I see in their places today, are similarly aware of that necessity—hence the need for the most effective possible parliamentary scrutiny.

Since the Bill was in Committee, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has engaged in extensive consultations, although not in any sense trying to—perish the thought—nobble committee members. She gave evidence to your Lordships’ Select Committee on the Constitution last week and, since then, has circulated a memorandum on justice and home affairs opt-ins. By the end of last week, she had succeeded in obtaining interdepartmental approval from the relevant government departments. Although, in an ideal world, it would have been convenient for the House to have had sight of the proposals at an earlier stage, as the Select Committee did, noble Lords who have been involved in seeking to achieve interdepartmental approval will recognise the phrase “trying to herd cats”. If I am reincarnated as a cat, there is nobody by whom I should prefer to be herded than the noble Baroness.

We look forward to hearing the proposals that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has brought forward after listening to your Lordships. In the mean time, I beg to move.

3.15 pm

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, suggested earlier that it might be helpful to the House if I rose now to explain the proposal. I say to the noble Lord that I am a fervent cat lover and, therefore, were he to return as a cat, I can assure him of my best attentions at all times. I agree with him that I was in no way seeking to nobble anyone; rather, I was seeking to listen, to take note and to put forward proposals on the back of the debate in Committee.

We have circulated details of the proposals to everyone who has spoken in Committee or on Report so far. I am extremely grateful to the Constitution Committee for enabling me to appear before it last week. I am also grateful to the EU Committee, which met on the back of my initial proposals and gave me helpful feedback. To be complete, I have incorporated into the proposal all suggestions made to me by both committees on how we might enhance that. I do not say this to “herd” them into having to agree with me on everything; I say it to make it clear that I did not stop there but took note of what was put before me.

I begin where I left off in Committee. I was struck, as I said to the Constitution Committee, by the fact

9 Jun 2008 : Column 375

that your Lordships were seeking to make sure that the existing scrutiny processes, which we consider to be extremely good, were looked at again in the light of changes that were going to be made to justice and home affairs and that the proper and appropriate role for Parliament and your Lordships’ House should also be considered. The original amendment tabled in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, was a serious proposition that the Government thought was worth looking at. We took it away and had a look at what might be feasible, bearing in mind contributions put forward in debate and in consultation with the offices of the Attorney-General, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Justice, which have endorsed what has come before your Lordships today.

I will briefly take your Lordships through the proposal that we have in mind. We begin by taking on board something raised by a number of noble Lords, which is the desire to have a sense of where the Government are going in strategic terms on justice and home affairs and to deal with the issue that I raised in Committee of seeking not to salami-slice all the different opt-ins, making a decision on each one potentially out of context with the others. First, the Government commit to bring forward on an annual basis a report that looks ahead at what the approach to the justice and home affairs policy and forthcoming dossiers would be, including where we know what our position would be on the opt-ins. I say “where we know” because, as I explained in Committee, it is not always possible to know, not least because of the consultations with other departments, stakeholders outside and the devolved Administrations. However, certainly where we do know, we will make it clear.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page