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Democratic Republic of Congo


2.58 pm

Asked By The Lord Bishop of Winchester

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we have yet to finalise the report on the Democratic Republic of Congo by the UN sanctions committee on actions to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1857. All of the elements of Resolution 1857 are being fully implemented in the UK and we remain fully committed to ensuring that sanctions further our goal of delivering a peaceful future for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response. I am surprised at his point about “yet to finalise”. I understood—this is clear from the wording of the Question—that the report had to be within 45 days after 22 December, which, by my reckoning, was last week. Perhaps I may tempt him into more detail and urgency. What other steps, and through what other fresh mechanisms and with what new degrees of energy and urgency, will the Government take to bear down on importers, processing industries and consumers of Congolese mineral products so that they exercise due diligence on their suppliers and the origins of the minerals they purchase? Will the Government appoint—I have asked this question before and received no answer—senior and able officials to develop these mechanisms so that they are effective, in and out of this country, for the people of the Congo?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I reassure the right reverend Prelate that there is no question of the UK in any way resiling from its commitment under the United Nations resolution. I point out that only two countries in the world have so far completed their

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response to the sanctions committee, and our response is imminent. Consequent upon having submitted that response, we will take care to ensure that we are able to implement the commitments into which we properly enter regarding sanctions on the Congo. On the more general issues, we support the United Nations Mission in the Congo and are all too well aware of the challenges it faces.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, this is indeed a deadly conflict, involving the deaths of possibly millions of people, to which the right reverend Prelate has repeatedly and rightly drawn the House’s attention. What role does the Minister think that Sir John Holmes, the UN representative presently touring the Congo, can play in accelerating some kind of help and aid? Can he say when MONUC will get its extra 3,000 troops promised by the UN? Can he say whether the visit of Sir Richard Dannatt, our CGS, to Kampala recently is an opportunity to develop new contributions to dealing with the horrors? Finally, as we are talking of disasters, can he think of ways in which the House of Lords can somehow express our sympathy and understanding, and send a message to our Australian friends about the disasters that they are facing at this moment?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the whole House will join the noble Lord in what he said concerning the horrendous situation in Australia.

With regard to the Congo, the noble Lord asks me several questions, which will take me longer to answer than I have time for; he asks about those points where constructive activity is taking place in the Congo. I emphasise that the Government intend to be as active as they can within the framework of the United Nations actions in the Congo, particularly with regard to MONUC, the United Nations commission there. I reassure the House that of course the Government take the issues in the Congo, particularly the loss of life, very seriously indeed.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, while acknowledging the importance of the sanctions committee, I should like to ask the noble Lord about other matters that are outstanding from this and previous resolutions of the Security Council. In particular, what steps are being taken towards the reprofessionalisation and re-equipment of the national army to a smaller size so that it can fulfil its own commitments to protecting the civilian population? Given that in the recent rampage by the LRA in Haut-Uele, MONUC was able to supply only logistical help, can the noble Lord answer the question put to him by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, about when we expect the additional 3,000 troops, and the 20 helicopters that were supposed to accompany them, to be provided by the Security Council?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a clear demand and we expect it to be fulfilled in the near future. There is no doubt that MONUC requires increased resources. The other aspect of arms for the army and its professionalisation is helped by the sanctions procedures which we intend to fulfil and we expect the United Nations to do so as well. If we can stop the flow of arms to the illegitimate groups in the Congo,

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by definition, we strengthen the position of the law enforcement authorities and the proper responsible Government. We know how we need to take action regarding the effectiveness of the sanctions, and we intend to do so.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I applaud the Government’s efforts to get the Government of Congo to obey United Nations resolutions and other countries in Africa, but will the Minister give this House an undertaking that the Government will persuade all Governments outside Africa, including some of our friends, to obey United Nations resolutions and international law?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, in relation to the needs of the Congo, we are confident that the United Nations will get the necessary support. One of our European friends, Belgium, has already responded to the sanctions committee and therefore set a fine example. We expect in the very near future responses to the request for information on how states will implement and operate sanctions in relation to the Congo.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, we have heard about the terrible situation in the Congo. Will the Minister give us an assurance that there will be no forced removals from the United Kingdom to the Congo? The previous forced removal was, I think, in 2007. If he can give me that assurance, will he send a message to Mrs Bolble and her three children in Cardiff, who were forcibly placed on an aeroplane and had to be taken off it because the children were in such a stressed state?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I have no particular information on that individual case, but the noble Lord will know how careful Her Majesty's Government are about the return of citizens to a disturbed and difficult political situation, as exists in some, but not all, parts of the Congo. The noble Lord is right that we should have every regard to the safety and security of anyone whom we seek to return to another country, when that country may be in a parlous state as far as law and order are concerned.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, is it possible to ask the noble Lord to check his facts?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Sorry, my Lords, we have hit 30 minutes.

House of Commons: Financial Privilege


3.07 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, before Christmas, I undertook to look into the current arrangements relating to Commons financial privilege. At my request, the Clerk of the Parliaments has prepared a paper setting out

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these arrangements. I am grateful to him for his work and have today placed a copy of his paper in the Library of the House.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for taking action very promptly after the matter was raised in the House by me, my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding and the noble Lord, Lord McNally. We urge the House to read the statement that she has prepared and put in the Library of the House.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Copy of Bill
Explanatory Notes
Constitution Committee Report
1st Report from DP Committee

Committee (4th Day)

3.08 pm

Clause 43: Preparation and coming into force of statement

Amendment 85C

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

85C: Clause 43, page 22, line 19, at end insert—

“(2A) Where a policy authority, as defined in section 42(4), decides not to prepare an MPS jointly with the other policy authorities, they must publish notice in each of the Gazettes (as defined in section 46(9)) of their intention not to prepare an MPS and provide their reasons.”

Baroness Hamwee: Amendment 85C is grouped with the Question on Clause 43 stand part and with Amendments 86E, 86F and 86G. The amendments, as distinct from the Question on clause stand part, have been suggested to us by the Link Coalition, the membership of which I explained in our previous Committee sitting.

These amendments would strengthen the provisions for a marine policy authority to opt out of or withdraw from a marine policy statement. Under the Bill as drafted, individual Administrations can opt out of preparing and adopting a marine policy statement with the other devolved Administrations and the Secretary of State. As it is suggested that there should be an incentive in the legislation for what one might call “political buy-in” to the marine policy statements, we believe that the devolved Administrations should be allowed to do things as they see fit. We do not want to be too heavy-handed about this. However, when an Administration do opt out they should be required to publish their rationale; and when an Administration have agreed to a marine policy statement in the first place, they should perhaps be prepared to stand by it. At any rate, if they are withdrawing, they should again publish a rationale in addition to the notice required by the Bill. A time limit between notification and actual withdrawal should also be prescribed to allow for negotiation and discussion.

I gave the Bill team warning that I was opposing the Question that Clause 43 stand part in order to ask the Minister for an update on the timetable for MPSs. At

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the end of our previous Committee sitting the Minister referred to the issue when he said that,

However, he did not want to be too precise. Perhaps he can say more this afternoon.

I have used the term which is used in the Bill: “withdrawal from” the statement. Although I am beginning to understand Clause 46, it is still not an easy clause. I hesitate to say that because my noble friend Lord Greaves and I find this Bill—and we are both labouring on a different Bill in another part of the House, sometimes on the same day and sometimes on different days—though it is so much longer, a great relief because of the way in which it is drafted. I do not want to sound patronising but we find this Bill easy to follow and well drafted. We are extremely grateful for that.

Lord Greaves: In some parts.

Baroness Hamwee: “In some parts” is the caveat from the Front Bench. I cannot commit my Front Bench.

The term “withdrawal” puzzled me at first because it is used in quite an old-fashioned sense here. I also had a little difficulty, and this is pertinent to Amendment 85C, with Clause 43(2), which says:

“An MPS must not be prepared by the Secretary of State acting alone ... unless the Secretary of State has first invited ... the other policy authorities to participate”.

I suppose it is implicit in that that the invitation has been refused either outright or because conditions attached to it were unacceptable, or something of the sort. Those issues led to my confusion and, therefore, to some of these amendments. I beg to move.

Earl Cathcart: This group of amendments follows on naturally from the discussions we had in our last day in Committee. I thank the noble Baroness for giving us the opportunity to probe this area. She is quite right that it is to be hoped that no authority would withdraw from an MPS, but that it would instead continue to operate in co-ordination with the Secretary of State and the other authorities. The requirement to publish any decision to withdraw is the minimum that one would expect from an authority taking such a drastic step. It would allow the public and other stakeholders the opportunity of identifying whether their authority was pursuing the wrong path. It is conceivable that the withdrawing authority will have a very good reason for doing so, but such a reason should be made public for a proper assessment.

Of course, even if there were a good reason for one authority to withdraw from the MPS, it would still be preferable for the MPS as a whole to be reviewed rather than for the authorities to go their separate ways. A compromise would be preferable. We therefore hope that the Minister will look carefully at Amendment 86F.

3.15 pm

I should like to take this opportunity to probe a little more deeply the possibility of a partial withdrawal or opt-out by one country or authority. If, for example, one country agrees with the lion’s share of the MPS but cannot agree on one point or section, can it

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opt-out of that section only and sign up for the rest of the MPS? That section would state that all other policy authorities agreed except for “country X”. It could then state its preferred alternative policy for that section of the MPS. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response on the efforts to be made to keep everyone on board even if they perhaps do not agree with every provision.

Finally, I should like to probe the role of the MMO in the production of the MPS. Is it to have a role in preparing, reviewing and amending all compliance with the MPS? If not, should I add it to my list of areas where the MMO has no role? That would be number 6 on my list.

The Duke of Montrose: I approach Amendment 85C from a slightly different angle from my noble friend Lord Cathcart. Can the Minister clarify whether it would be correct to say that a policy authority that does not want to be part of the marine policy statement could not be a policy authority as defined under the Bill?

The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seems to presume that different Administrations might think that they can produce a marine policy statement of their own and still be regarded as a policy authority. Surely the challenge for the UK Ministers, as much as for any of the others participating, is that they must sit down together and come up with a marine policy statement to which they can all adhere.

The critical issue for the Minister and his colleagues is to ensure that the marine policy statement is not a toothless wish list, somewhat on a par with the list of general objectives that were put forward for the Marine Management Organisation. What criteria do the Government have in mind as the framework for a marine policy statement?

Lord Davies of Oldham: I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate, particularly the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, who has answered the broad thrust of these amendments succinctly and accurately. The obligation on the authority is to reach agreement and to put forward a position from which withdrawal is not sought.

I do not know whether it is that the Liberal Democrats have been out of central government for more than a century, but I have to say to the noble Baroness that it is an odd administrative concept to say that there could be partial withdrawal from the position—that an authority could indicate that it does not subscribe to a dot or comma in the framework and therefore does not wish to be totally identified with it. That cannot be how anyone envisages this policy developing, as the noble Duke rightly identified. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, emphasised this fact. The obligation is on the authorities to reach a position in discussion and negotiation and to ensure that the strategies potentially provided for in these amendments are rendered quite nugatory. We oppose the concept of partial withdrawal and the idea that a marine policy statement can make any kind of sense when key actors are part and parcel of the process but indicate that they want nothing to do with it. It is clear that the authority’s objective is to obtain a joint marine policy statement; that is its goal

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and intention. Of course I recognise that that is no easy task. However, I resist the concept that legislation should provide escape routes from developing a coherent, agreed policy. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the tribute she paid to the Bill’s draftsmen for the work that has gone into its preparation. However, I shall not comment on the objectivity of her remarks as regards this measure, or whether she is contrasting it with another measure.

We have made it clear that the Bill as drafted offers a number of incentives to participate in drawing up the marine policy statement. The negotiated and agreed status of the MPS provides all Administrations with the ability to influence its development and to be fully participative in the process by which it is established. Within that framework we do not expect any devolved Administration to withdraw from the MPS. In fact, I wonder what credibility a marine policy statement would have if a devolved Administration had sufficient objections to it for it to conclude that it wanted no part of it. The Government consider that these amendments are an insurance policy against failure. However, the objective of any Bill is to achieve the policy which the Government have identified as being in the public interest, and to provide proper arrangements whereby that objective can be realised.

The Duke of Montrose: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Surely he will allow that, in drawing up the marine policy statement, it will be possible to have certain specific exceptions built into the original statement to which the parties agree, although I suppose you would have to see what you ran into at that time. The amendment is concerned with somebody withdrawing from the measure. If somebody withdraws, will they no longer be a policy authority?

Lord Davies of Oldham: That is an interesting point. However, I am trying to establish the preceding point. Of course, we accept that the marine policy statement might recognise an authority’s reservation about a part of it. However, that is vastly different from saying that the authority can withdraw from the statement. The concept of an authority publishing its negotiating disagreements must be foreign to any sound Administration and would surely put any Government in a very complex position.

Lord Greaves: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Is he really saying that if there is a serious policy disagreement between the UK Government here and the Scottish Government in Edinburgh, there will not be statements made to Parliament and lots of other means by which it is put in the public realm? The idea that these things will not be published is surely not the case in the real world.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Exactly, and if they are going to do that, and nothing on earth will stop them—nor would anyone in this House wish to stop them—why do we need an amendment which paves the way for them to do it when, quite clearly, it will be done anyway? That is part of the give and take of negotiations on the marine policy statement. The noble Lord will recognise that, in resisting the amendments, the Government are merely asking why we need

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amendments to a Bill that is descriptive of the negotiating process when we are talking about serious authorities, with serious responsibilities, which know how to make themselves accountable to the public, because they all are accountable. Therefore, they know the circumstances in which they have to make their positions clear.

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