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House of Lords

Thursday, 13 November 2008.

The House met at eleven o'clock: the CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

Climate Change: Shipping

Lord Higgins asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, estimating global greenhouse gas emissions from shipping is challenging due to a lack of data and scientific uncertainty on overall impacts. However, the International Maritime Organization estimates annual carbon dioxide emissions from international and domestic shipping at approximately 1,019 million tonnes, which is 3.3 per cent of total global emissions. Work is continuing to estimate the global climate impacts from the emission from ships of black carbon and nitrogen oxides, which are more uncertain.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Since more than 90 per cent of world trade is carried by ship, shipping is naturally a large contributor to global gas emissions. On the other hand, it is the most efficient form of transport. In view of the various proposals for regulation that have been put forward, does the Minister agree that a global system under the IMO is likely to be far more effective than a regional system? If one has a purely European system, there is some danger that the competitive position of British shipping, which is of great importance to the UK economy, not least with regard to the balance of payments, could be jeopardised, so any system has to be flag-neutral.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, the secretary-general of the IMO has stated that he wishes agreement on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships to be achieved at the IMO assembly in late 2009. We strongly support that way forward. The most likely scenario for progress within the IMO by 2009 is agreement on a CO2 design index for new ships, as proposed by Japan, along with a voluntary operational CO2 index, a management plan for current ships and a range of voluntary operational and technological improvements so that we get the global approach that the noble Lord seeks.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of a rather more pressing issue facing the maritime industry, which is a strike called next week by workers in the port of Dover? It will effectively close the port for several days. Given that the Channel Tunnel is working at part capacity and that most of our imports

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come from the Continent through Dover, what action is my noble friend taking to try to meet the parties to the dispute and resolve it?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the industrial dispute to which my noble friend refers is a matter for Dover Harbour Board to resolve. It is a trust port and independent of Governments. We are told that the port has detailed contingency plans in place to minimise any disruption to its customers during the strike action announced this week, and I note that the chief executive was quoted yesterday as saying:

“We have put in place a thorough contingency plan with particular emphasis firstly on safety and security, and secondly on maintaining regular ferry services which will ensure the port remains open in the event of any industrial action prior to the implementation of the new arrangements”.

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, given the significant percentage figures that the Minister quoted earlier, is it not essential that shipping is included in Europe’s emissions trading scheme at the earliest opportunity?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we are in discussions on that issue but, as I said in an earlier answer, we are also strongly supportive of a global approach to the issue through the IMO and we note that the secretary-general of the IMO is also committed to seeking a way forward on an international basis.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, if I may also stray very slightly from the Question, will the Minister join me in congratulating the Royal Navy on starting to get to grips with the pirates off the coast of Somalia?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I think so.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, getting back to the Question, I think that my noble friend said that the current rate of emissions from shipping is 3.3 per cent of total emissions. What is the rate of growth of emissions from shipping, and can he put that in the context of rates of growth in other industries, especially aviation?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the IMO’s estimates suggest that the 843 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is its base case for international emissions as of 2007, will rise to between 925 million tonnes and 1,058 million tonnes by 2020 and 1,903 million tonnes to 2,668 million tonnes by 2050, which is an average annual growth rate of between 1.9 per cent and 2.7 per cent. I do not have the comparable statistics for aviation to hand, but I will let my noble friend have them.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, as we seem to be so keen on wind power on land for energy generation, has any thought been given to combining wind power for shipping—in other words, sails—with mechanical power driven by oil?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, that is a question for my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who knows so much about energy generation from his new departmental responsibilities. I do not have an immediate answer to the question, but I will write to the noble Countess.

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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, will the Minister take account of the likely downturn in world trade as a result of the credit crunch, and so on? That will reduce the volume of shipping. My father was a master mariner after the Wall Street crash, when the shipping trade nearly dried up completely—in fact, he lost his job as a result. What impact will the downturn have on global warming, for example?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the IMO has published a range of statistics to take account of different scenarios for both the growth of shipping and economic growth in the period ahead. I think that the noble Lord would accept that short-run changes in economic growth do not avoid the need to take action in respect of changes in greenhouse gas emissions that may take place over 40 to 50 years.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, pursuant to the Minister's answer to my noble friend Lord Attlee, does he recall that in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Royal Navy swept slave trading from the waters off east Africa?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I do indeed recall that.

NATO: Georgia and Ukraine

11.14 am

Lord Skidelsky asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, we remain committed to the decision made by NATO heads of state and government at the Bucharest summit in April 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO. December's meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers will provide the first review of progress so far.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Given Georgia’s disputed territorial frontiers, mounting evidence that Georgia was indeed the aggressor in the war with Russia in August, and the deep political fissures in Ukraine, does he agree that the early accession of these countries to NATO would be dangerous and undesirable? Will the Government join their European allies—France, Germany, Italy and Spain—in pressing that view at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Budapest on 2 and 3 December, even if it goes against the wishes of a dying American Administration?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, a European commission is investigating who started the war, and we should wait to see what it can uncover about the circumstances in which this conflict began. However it began, we can also conclude that the Russian response was disproportionate. As to the meeting in December, I assure the noble Lord that there is very unlikely to be an early accession to NATO. There is a recognition

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that the umbrella, if you like, of future membership is important to these two countries—to their security, economic development and political development—but that should not be done in a way that is provocative or before they have developed the necessary internal societies that comport with membership of NATO.

Lord Morris of Aberavon: My Lords, I am encouraged by the Minister’s reply. Was it wise for the Foreign Secretary to go to Kiev—apparently, at a week’s notice—to give encouragement at that difficult time and to continue to support Ukraine’s application to NATO? Would it not be better to hesitate a little until the situation has clarified? Furthermore, in view of the mutual defence commitment under Article 5 and the fact that British interests count as well as those of applicants, should we enter into mutual defence commitments that we possibly cannot hope to fulfil?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, it was important that the Foreign Secretary made it clear that there was no backing down under Russian force from commitments that had been already made. However, this certainly needs to be advanced with an understanding of the Russian point of view. The goal remains membership, but the path to full membership needs to be cautious.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that co-operation between the new American Administration and the Government of Russia is crucial if we are to get any forward moves on disarmament and, for that matter, on nuclear proliferation? Given that, does he agree that consultation with Russia on the expansion of NATO might be very important? Although no one could condone the scale of the Russian reaction to the Georgian feint into South Ossetia, the level of responsibility is by no means clear, and perhaps we should consider Russian concerns about encirclement when we proceed further.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes the case very elegantly. The decision by European Ministers last week reflected the fact that it was important to restart the dialogue with Russia on a successor to the European partnership agreement, but also to ensure that these issues of Russian behaviour towards Georgia, and indeed towards Ukraine, become part of that dialogue. However, she is correct; the process is to talk through these issues.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, have the Russian troops in Georgia retired to the positions agreed in the ceasefire?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we do not yet have the complete compliance with the ceasefire arrangement that we would like.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, on the more general point, as there is no obvious connection in most people’s minds between Georgia and Ukraine on the one hand and the north Atlantic on the other, is there any geographical boundary that would define the applicants that could be considered as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the original purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which was an alliance against a resurgent Soviet Union, has obviously been overtaken by circumstances. It always was a defensive alliance, but its purposes have changed to reflect the new realities. Therefore, countries in this region that commit to its principles can be seen as joining over time, but in a way that must be seen as unthreatening to Russia.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the Minister recollect that the purpose of NATO, as defined by General Pug Ismay a long time ago, was to keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out? But the world has changed rather since then. Does he agree that offering NATO membership to these countries is almost as provocative as it would have been for the Russians to offer Warsaw Pact membership to Belgium or even the Isle of Wight?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is in good company in making that argument—George Shultz and Henry Kissinger have made a similar argument in the American media. That is why we need to have a balance between the commitment to membership, which we should not back away from because of the action in South Ossetia, and understand that that commitment must be advanced in a way that is not provocative or unfair to Russian interests.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that in the short term it is important that we get Georgia and Russia to accept their obligations as members of the Council of Europe where they are in breach of their membership obligations? They are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, and it is absolutely clear that those obligations have to be fully met, fully understood and fully accepted before we consider their membership for any other international organisation.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend correctly points to the fact that there remain important outstanding human rights issues. Displaced people have been unable to go home, and there are issues of violence and of who originated it, all of which need to be sorted out. The Council of Europe is playing a lead role in that. There will be no solution to this issue that does not address the injustices that took place during the conflict.

Nepal: Human Rights

11.22 am

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, we welcome the report published by the Advocacy Forum and Human Rights Watch,Unpunished Crimes from Nepal’s Armed Conflict. As the report highlights, the continuing

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failure to tackle previous human rights abuses risks undermining the progress that Nepal has made towards democracy. The UK has consistently urged the Government of Nepal to tackle impunity and to ensure justice for victims of killings and disappearances. We will continue to raise the serious issues that are highlighted in the report.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reassurance. However, two years after the end of the civil war, the Nepal army is still resisting police investigation, which is quite legitimately required by civilians, into cases of alleged extrajudicial killings. There were 47 cases of alleged killings, disappearances, torture in custody or rape committed by the security forces between 2002 and 2006. That figure does not include the atrocities by the Maoist forces. Will the Minister confirm that he met the army chief of staff, General Katawal, who gave him a personal reassurance that the army would comply with these investigations? What can the international community and the UN do about this to further the cause of human rights in Nepal?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on having brought attention to this issue. There is now a new, democratically elected Government in Nepal, of whom the leading party is the Maoist movement. Like any new democratic Government, they have to assert their authority over the national army. The noble Lord is right: I have raised this twice with the head of the national army, both in Nepal and in London. Compliance is critical, but Nepal is a country badly in need of a truth and reconciliation commission of some kind. The human rights abuses were on all sides and the process of healing needs the truth to be arrived at about atrocities committed by not only the Maoist side but also the national army.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, my noble friend will know that there has been a National Human Rights Commission in Nepal for some time. Can he inform the House what its role has been in relation to the alleged violations of human rights and what progress there has been not only in the setting up of the truth and reconciliation commission to which he referred but the commission on disappearances?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we have supported the National Human Rights Commission to which my noble friend refers financially as well as, if you like, morally. It has a unique constitutional responsibility in Nepal to protect the rights of the people. However, we go on reminding the Government that it is not sufficient: it needs to be supported by a truth and reconciliation commission and, perhaps most critically, its findings need to be acted on.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, to go back to the noble Lord’s response to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, what progress has been made with the Government of Nepal in setting up the truth and reconciliation commission and the commission on disappearances?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, unfortunately there has not yet been any discernible progress.

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Lord Avebury: My Lords, while acknowledging that enormous problems remain to be solved, should we not congratulate Mr Ian Martin on his outstanding achievements during his term of office as head of the United Nations Mission in Nepal, including the advent of a democratically elected Government? What further steps does the noble Lord think that we should now take to complete the process of demobilisation, disarming and reintegration in respect of the 19,000 former combatants who are still in cantonments and to persuade the parties that they should collaborate in the arrangements that are being projected for this purpose?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I certainly join the noble Lord in congratulating Ian Martin, a remarkable international civil servant who began his career here in the UK with Amnesty International. All parties would agree that he has played an extraordinary role. The renewal of UNMIN is just coming up. At this point, the Government of Nepal have yet to make a request for what continuing capacity they want but, while we must balance the needs of all these missions and their budgetary consequences, we do not want to wind up DDR activities in Nepal prematurely.

Baroness Verma: My Lords, given that Great Britain is a large donor country to Nepal, what is it doing to address with the Nepalese Government the increasing incidence of violence against women? How do the Government track the aid given to Nepal?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as the noble Baroness correctly points out, we are indeed one of the major donors to Nepal. I should say that over the past 10 years there has been a striking reduction in the incidence of poverty in Nepal. Aid and development are working despite the difficult political situation. Moreover, we do a lot on gender issues in the country.

Lord Elton: My Lords, is it the case that the Nepalese army, which had custody of 15 year-old Maina Sunuwar when she died in February 2004, is still refusing to give evidence to the police? The army has carried out its own inquiry, but it will not permit the police to cross-examine any of its members.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I raised this case with the head of the Nepalese army. At the time he gave me undertakings that the army would co-operate, but I am afraid to have to report to the noble Lord that it has not so far done so.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, is there any truth in the suggestion that the UN has been sending remittances direct to the Nepalese army rather than to the Nepalese Government?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, for the second time this morning, we will have to get back to the noble Earl.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, the Government are currently resisting the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Goodhart that attempts to define the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. Can the Minister explain what the Government see as the difference between the two in a country that does not have free and fair elections?

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