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Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, does the Minister recall that when we were negotiating the tunnel treaty, the issue of French customs officers carrying guns on British trains and British soil arose—the dangerous material to which the first supplementary question referred—and that the Treasury replied that

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French customs officers could carry guns on tunnel trains, provided they gave an assurance that they would apply in writing to the chief constable of Kent if they wished to use them?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I cannot think of the answer to that question. The noble Lord has better historical knowledge of the negotiation of the Treaty of Canterbury than I do.


2.58 pm

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, over 30 million people in Ethiopia live in extreme poverty, of whom more than 6 million are dependent on emergency food aid. The Department for International Development expects to spend £130 million this year on improving governance and accountability, promoting human development, supporting sustainable growth and providing humanitarian assistance, as well as an additional £35 million in response to the humanitarian crisis.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Ethiopia has received £4.7 billion in aid between 2001 and 2005 and the £130 million from DfID, but that mainly contributes to the protection of basic-services programmes, to help the Ethiopian Government implement their own poverty reduction plan. Does the Minister agree that it is disgraceful that aid agencies are unable to conduct surveys into the scale of need in the region because they require government permission and military escorts which the Government are failing to provide? How are HMG monitoring this situation and the very worthy projects that are, after all, funded by taxpayers’ money?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the issue raised by the noble Baroness was one of the key concerns raised with the Ethiopian Government by the Secretary of State at recent talks. Whether it is related or not, in the past few weeks we have seen encouraging signs that humanitarian access and delivery in the Somali region, in particular, is improving. The military has begun discussions, the UN World Food Programme has begun to operate, and, key to the process, the Government have agreed to nutritional surveys and needs assessment to ensure that a humanitarian response is based on the most up-to-date numbers.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, a few weeks ago, when the Secretary of State visited Ethiopia, did he not threaten to cut aid to Ethiopia because he found on his visit that children seemed to have been thrown out of a hospital on the border with Somalia because it would have looked bad if he had discovered as many children in difficulty as there were? Is that what happened? Did he threaten to cut aid? What happened to those children, and how was the episode resolved?

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Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I do not have the specifics of the incident, but I can assure your Lordships that the Secretary of State was not driven by that incident. He visited Ethiopia on 16 and 17 October and, at the end of his visit, he raised two particular UK concerns: the humanitarian situation in the Somali region, which we have already discussed, and the likely impact of the proposed legislation to regulate civil society funding and activities. Mr Alexander explained that because of those concerns, he was unable to announce multiyear DfID funding for Ethiopia at the current time. He indicated that he would follow progress on those issues closely. Forthcoming DfID programme decisions will be informed by developments on the ground and consultation with international partners.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, arising from that answer, will my noble friend confirm that it remains the position of Her Majesty's Government that development assistance will be provided only to democracies or to countries that are seen to be moving towards democracy, and that we give no funds whatever to dictatorships?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I wish the world were that simple. The simple DfID commitment is to reduce poverty. We of course then caveat that in a series of ways. We caveat against the effectiveness of the Government, whether they are straight and honest and what is their attitude to issues such as human rights. Ethiopia is a poor country trying to make good in a very tough neighbourhood. The case for aid is extremely strong. Comparatively speaking, Ethiopia is stable and has a capable Government who have demonstrated commitment to addressing poverty with an impressive record of pro-poor spending, sound financial management and low levels of corruption.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, as Ethiopia is such a poor country, do we know where it is getting the money to purchase the weapons and other armaments to pursue battles in Somalia and Eritrea?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I did not entirely hear the question, but in our aid programmes, we have withdrawn from budget aid—five years ago, I believe. The money targeted for Ethiopia goes through a programme of budget support tied to local government delivery. It is checked all the way. We make sure that the money goes into those programmes and we believe that we are having a positive impact on poverty in Ethiopia as a result.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Northover raised an important issue about aid agency reports of children being thrown out of hospital. If the Minister does not have the answer, will he look into the matter and place a reply in the Library so that she can have a proper reply to the question?

Lord Tunnicliffe: I am sorry, my Lords, but I feel that I have answered the question. We strongly audit all our programmes. Ethiopia, of all the countries that we give to, has some of the strongest governance

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systems. We have high levels of confidence that aid going to Ethiopia goes to the purposes for which we have agreed it. We have strong co-operation with other donors; hence, right across the board, we believe that the aid is going to the hospitals, the educational establishments and the programmes. I do not believe that there is any doubt that the aid is going where we intend it or that it is properly monitored.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps I may follow on from the question asked by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. Ethiopia is currently engaged in military operations in Somalia and in Eritrea. Its operations in Somalia have, as I understand it, been substantially funded by the US Administration of President Bush. Does the Minister join me in hoping that the change in Administration in the United States may change some of the priorities of the Ethiopian Government in this respect?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, my understanding is that there is no military activity in Eritrea and that the Ethiopian operations in Somalia were intended to achieve a particular objective which has largely been de-scaled. We keep pressing the Ethiopian Government to withdraw their troops from those operations. They want to do so but need an appropriate African force to fill the vacuum. It is not a simple matter of “these are the bad guys”; these people are trying to do their best. We do not approve of the original incursion, but we see that there is a real problem of just how quickly they can withdraw.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, while the Ethiopians may not be engaged in any military activities in Eritrea, would it not be possible for Britain and the European Union to increase aid to Ethiopia if it would finally settle its dispute with Eritrea on the frontier, on the lines of the recommendations made by the Lauterpacht commission?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, we in this country pride ourselves on drawing a strong distinction between providing aid and seeking to use it for political influence. That is enshrined in our law. The case for providing aid to a country depends on its level of poverty, and whether we provide money for that aid depends on whether it will be spent effectively through organisations such as NGOs or by the country itself. We also check against factors such as the level of corruption and so on. We do not use our aid in a quid pro quo for political decisions.


3.07 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will be aware that tomorrow is Armistice Day. At 11 tomorrow morning, the House will not be sitting. Members of the House, their staff and the staff of the House will nevertheless be going about their work outside the Chamber. I hope the House will

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agree that it is appropriate that we should observe the two minutes’ silence at that time so that we might remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their life for this country. If the House is content, instructions will be issued to heads of department, so that those members of staff who wish to observe the two minutes’ silence should be enabled to do so.

Planning Bill

3.08 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

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

Clause 12 [Pre-commencement statements of policy, consultation etc.]:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis) moved Amendment No. 42:

42: Clause 12, page 6, line 17, after “may” insert “exercise the power conferred by section 5(1) to”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 42 to 46 directly respond to the views and concerns expressed by noble Lords opposite in Committee on the issue of pre-commencement statements of policy and whether they could be designated as national policy statements once this Bill becomes law. There was particular concern that no proposal should go to the IPC on the basis of a national policy statement that failed to take account of significant changes of circumstance since the policy was issued, where that circumstance was both unanticipated and not properly provided for.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in introducing his amendments during the Committee stage, was concerned that the Secretary of State might,

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, likewise worried that Clause 12 suggested that the Secretary of State could,

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was concerned that Clause 12 could,

We have given a good deal of consideration to these concerns. I know that they were particularly felt in relation to the air transport White Paper, which is why I have personally been engaged with the issue and am speaking to these amendments on behalf of the Government.

Accordingly, government Amendments Nos. 42 to 45 seek to clarify that where the Secretary of State wishes to use existing statements of policy or work that was done for the purpose of existing statements

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of policy, the standards set out in the Bill still apply. All national policy statements, including those designated under Clause 12, must meet the standards for appraisal of sustainability, public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. The Secretary of State will not be able, in the words of the noble Earl, simply to dust off an existing policy statement and designate it as a national policy statement for the purposes of this Bill without meeting the requirements set out in these new provisions. Furthermore, where the Secretary of State comes to designate a national policy statement under Part 2, the Secretary of State will have to ensure that this complies with the UK’s obligations under Community law and other relevant legal frameworks.

However, having proposed these changes to meet the concerns of the House, we continue to stand by Clause 12 and seek the support of the House in so doing. In some cases, considerable technical, scientific and public consultation work has already been undertaken in the context of pre-commencement statements of policy, as well as work which continues to have relevance to the nation’s current and future circumstances. We believe that in these cases it would be not merely foolish but extremely wasteful of public resources to throw away all the work which has gone into existing policy statements and start again from scratch. It would also generate significant and unnecessary uncertainty for business, causing economic damage.

Our amendments accordingly make it clear that the Secretary of State can take into account the work that has already been done towards pre-commencement statements of policy in order to build up new national policy statements. I should add that further work may well be necessary to ensure that new national policy statements meet the tests laid out in this Bill. There will be a new appraisal of sustainability for every national policy statement. The Secretary of State will also have to satisfy himself that consultation on a national policy statement meets the standards for consultation, even where some prior consultation has been taken into account. This might require additional national-level consultation to be undertaken over and above that done at the local level for previous policy statements.

I believe that the amendments strike a sensible and effective balance on this issue and show that the Government have been listening to the concerns of the House. I commend these provisions and I beg to move.

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, the cornerstone of this Bill is the national policy statements and the robust processes that each statement must go through before it can be designated as a national policy statement. There are strict processes regarding consultation and publicity, and the noble Baroness has said,

strict processes regarding parliamentary requirements, appraisals of sustainability and compliance with all existing legislation, both UK and European. All this is excellent stuff until we get to Clause 12, where it is quite extraordinary that the Government can just dust down policies regardless of how old they are or whether they are able to meet the correct procedures. Like

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other noble Lords, I agree that if opponents to a national policy statement felt that the Government had cut corners or had not followed the strict processes set out in the Bill, there would be legal challenges not only in the UK but in the European courts. This would bog down and delay the process of speeding up planning decisions, which is one of the core aims of the Bill.

3.15 pm

Amendment No. 46 seeks to leave out Clause 12. Before noble Lords opposite get too exercised, it is a probing amendment in the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will clarify one or two issues, if he has not already done so. If Clause 12 were removed, all national policy statements would have to go through all the rigorous processes from scratch. Some would argue that that is exactly what should happen. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, argued in Committee—and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has just repeated it—that that would be absurd when certain processes had already been carried out. She referred to Clause 12 ensuring that:

“Ministers can take on board all the good work, the analysis, the evidence and the judgments that have gone into making current policy sound ... It is not sensible to throw that work away. We cannot start from scratch. It would be completely ridiculous to do that”.—[Official Report, 14/10/08; col. 624.]

I totally agree with her, provided that the previous processes had been conducted according to the high standards set out in the Bill as though it had been started from scratch.

Since the Committee stage, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, has listened to the concerns expressed by noble Lords around the House and I would like to put on record our thanks to her and her team for coming back on Report with these government amendments which seek to make the process more watertight.

The Minister also wrote a letter explaining the aims of the government amendments which have been so ably spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis—namely, first, to make it explicit that all national policy statements have to meet the tests set out in the Bill for consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and appraisal of sustainability; secondly, that parliamentary scrutiny of each draft national policy statement will start from scratch; and, thirdly, to ensure that no national policy statement will be designated where there has been a significant change in circumstances that was not anticipated at the time and, had it been, would have meant that the policy would have been materially different.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for putting on record the Government’s thinking in these areas, but I would like to delve a little deeper. In Committee, a number of noble Lords, including me, used the air transport White Paper 2003 as our template for this clause. Although the Government’s policy for air transport is no skin off my nose, one way or another it affects tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people and organisations who live and work around Heathrow and Stansted airports. If an air transport NPS were carried out today from scratch, the consultation process would, as the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, said in another place,

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The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that where the consultation had been only localised, it would have to go out again for national debate. Perhaps the Minister can clarify whether that means the consultation on the air transport White Paper. Given the perceived imperfections of the consultation process relating to the air transport White Paper, I would like to know where the Government stand on this. If they get it wrong, no doubt there will be numerous legal challenges that will delay the whole process, which we would all prefer to avoid.

Will the Minister confirm that the White Paper, or any other dusted-down old policy, will have to be subject to all the subsequent legislation—specifically, the strategic environment assessment and the habitats directive? If I heard him correctly, he said that they would have to be.

What does the Minister envisage would happen, once the Secretary of State had responded to recommendations by Parliament, if the Secretary of State did not follow and act on the recommendations that Parliament had proposed? Parliament might say that a process had been inadequate and the Secretary of State might respond that no further action would be forthcoming. Does the Minister feel that, by doing that, the Secretary of State would leave herself open to legal challenges?

The Minister said that he wishes to ensure that no national policy statement will be designated where there has been a significant change in circumstances that was not anticipated at the time. Again using the air transport White Paper as a template, does the Minister feel that the following subsequent changes are sufficient for the Government to look again at the issue?

First, in the new Acts and directives that I have referred to, and now in the Climate Change Bill, it seems increasingly difficult to reconcile the policy set down in the White Paper with the wider UK policy context for addressing the problems of climate change. We heard in the first Question earlier today about the problems with aviation and climate change.

Secondly, the structure of the UK airports market will soon be significantly changed, now that the Competition Commission has called for the BAA monopoly to be broken up. If London’s three main airports are to be separately owned, it would seem entirely wrong for the Government to predetermine, in advance of any planning applications, which ones should be allowed new runways and on what timescale. This may be why the Competition Commission has been critical of the prescriptive nature of the air transport White Paper.

Thirdly, the recent dramatic change in the global economic climate requires the air transport White Paper’s demand for protections for air travel, based on forecasts produced in May 2000, to be reassessed. No one can now seriously believe that we are still in a business-as-usual situation regarding future growth in the market for air travel.

Fourthly, the Government’s own Sustainable Development Commission has called for an independent review of the evidence base underpinning the air transport

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White Paper, but the Government amendment says that subsection (1) does not apply to the pre-commencement statement if the Secretary of State thinks—I emphasise that—that there has been a significant change in any circumstances. Here there seems to be ample wriggle room for the Government. Who would be advising the Secretary of State that there had been a sufficient change of circumstances? Would it be the parliamentary scrutiny committee looking at national policy statements, would it be the IPC or would it be by weight of representation from individuals and other bodies? Does the Secretary of State have to listen? What would happen if she did not? Would she lay herself open to legal proceedings, which is something that we all want to avoid?

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