Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



29 Apr 2009 : Column WS17



29 Apr 2009 : Column WS17

Written Statements

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Afghanistan: Troops Levels

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in his Statement to the House on Afghanistan today that our force levels in that country will increase to 9,000 over the course of the Afghan elections. They will then reduce to an enduring presence of 8,300 in 2010. The following units will be committed over the Summer:

854 Naval Air Squadron

Elements of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 16th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)

Elements of 38 Engineer Regiment

15 Field Support Squadron Royal Engineers

65 Field Support squadron Royal Engineers

Elements of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group

Elements of 10th Signal Regiment

Elements of 4th Battalion, The Rifles

Elements of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment Royal Logistics Corps

Elements of 1 Military Intelligence Brigade

Elements of Joint Medical Command

Elements of 2 Medical Regiment

Elements of 4 Medical Regiment

Elements of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry

Elements of 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of No.3 Royal Air Force Police Wing

Elements of 15 Squadron Royal Air Force Police Wing

The House will recall I announced on 16 December 2008 that elements of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers would deploy from April until August 2009. They will now serve throughout the election period.

A small number of volunteer and regular members of the Reserve forces will deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package. The majority will serve on operations for six or so months, although some may have shorter tours.

These units will provide important additional capabilities for UK forces in Afghanistan. The reinforcement of two infantry companies will enable us to provide extra security during the Afghan elections. We shall also enhance our capability to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These devices are a major threat to our troops, those of our allies and to the ordinary Afghan people. We are deploying personnel with a range of skills to detect, dispose and exploit IEDs and to prevent them being laid. Other personnel will improve our ability to defend our bases while we shall also reinforce our already significant reconnaissance capabilities. We shall increase the number of tactical

29 Apr 2009 : Column WS18

unmanned aerial vehicles. We shall also deploy Sea King Air Surveillance and Control helicopters and the new Airborne Stand-Off Radar. These complementary systems use radar to track movements on the ground. They can help our forces to detect, follow and intercept insurgents before they can lay IEDs.

In addition, the UK will deploy the Headquarters of 6 (UK) Division to command the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command (South) from November 2009 to November 2010. MERLIN Support Helicopters from 78 Squadron, Royal Air Force are also being prepared for service in Afghanistan. On current plans, they will be available to deploy by late 2009.

Autism

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today launching a consultation on the development of an autism strategy for adults.

We are committed to delivering real change for adults with autism through this strategy but, before deciding on the final content, we are inviting contributions via the consultation from people whose lives are affected by autistic spectrum conditions including Aspergers (autism), whether personally or professionally.

The consultation strategy document has benefited from input from an external reference group comprising people with autism, family, carers and health and social care professionals involved in front-line delivery of services. Together, we have identified five key themes: health, choice and control, social inclusion, employment, and raising awareness and training. These themes were chosen as representative of the main concerns that we hear from people with autism, and as such are the areas that we believe can deliver the greatest change. However, there is general recognition that these themes do not cover all the issues and we are using the opportunity afforded by the consultation to invite people to inform the developing strategy by letting us know about their own direct experience and identify their priority areas for action.

We have made clear our determination to drive improvements in the National Health Service and local authority services so that people with autism experience real improvements to their everyday lives. We believe that this action is best taken without recourse to legislation, which risks restricting the flexibility of service commissioning and provision. Our priority is to ensure the strategy on adults with autism takes account of the views of people with autism and their families, alongside those of professionals and practitioners in the field.

In addition to the consultation and subsequent strategy we are spearheading activity in a number of areas that will enable us to understand and meet the needs of adults with autism; and drive service improvement. These include:

addressing issues relating to the collection of data on adults with autism;

29 Apr 2009 : Column WS19

research on the prevalence of autism among adults;research into the transition of young people with autism to adult services;evidence-based good practice guidance on choice and control from the Social Care Institute of Excellence;work with professional bodies to take action to address training issues, e.g. the work being taken forward by Skills for Care on new knowledge sets to support people with autism; andlinks with the implementation of the learning disability strategy, Valuing People Now, which will secure improved support for adults with autism who also have a learning disability.

We are also taking forward a range of initiatives aimed at children, which are designed to benefit the way services are commissioned and delivered for everyone. These include:

the Child Health Strategy, with its focus on early engagement and early intervention;Aiming High for Disabled Children, to transform services for disabled children, including those with autism;increased funding to the Autism Education Trust (AET) to improve commissioning of services for children with autism;improvements to training and support for professionals working in mainstream education; andnew regulations and statutory guidance for Children and Young People’s Plans.

This Government believe that people with autism have a right to live life as full and equal citizens. We are committed to developing a strategy that supports the delivery of real change for adults with autism.To support delivery of the commitments in the strategy we will issue statutory guidance, subject to consultation and assessment of benefits.

The consultation period will run from 29 April until 15 September, a total of 20 weeks. This extended consultation period will maximise people’s opportunity to consider, discuss and respond and will help us gather a range of examples and evidence about existing good practice and local delivery approaches to inform the proposals to be contained in the final strategy and assess the likely benefits and costs.

Engaging Communities in Criminal Justice

Statement

The Attorney-General (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I are today announcing the publication of Engaging Communities in Criminal Justice (Cm 7583), which has been laid before Parliament. We are also announcing the publication of the associated consultation-stage impact assessment, which has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies of both documents are available from the Vote Office, and the Printed Paper Office. Both documents will be available from the CJSOnline website at

29 Apr 2009 : Column WS20

http://consultations.cjsonline.gov.uk/ and on the websites of the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Attorney General's Office.

Significant reform of the criminal justice system in England and Wales has already been delivered but there is more to be done. Engaging Communities in Criminal Justice sets out and invites views on the Government’s proposals for further improvements to the design and delivery of local criminal justice services. It represents the next stage in the Government’s programme for a criminal justice service that is effective, delivers justice for all, has the interests of victims and witnesses at its heart and which inspires the trust and confidence of the people it serves.

The proposals are part of a consultation and are centred on three areas: strengthening the connections between communities and their prosecution and court services; ensuring that justice outcomes are more responsive and more visible and improving communication between local people and their criminal justice services. The proposals are designed to better open up the whole justice system to communities so that services are more transparent, responsive and more accountable to local people. The Government believe that a number of measures likely to be of direct benefit to local communities could be established more quickly in a number of areas. We are therefore establishing 30 pioneer areas across England and Wales which will implement a package of measures during 2009.

The consultation-stage impact assessment sets out such evidence as is currently available in relation to the Government’s proposals. It contains estimates of the actual or potential costs of the proposals and an assessment of the potential operational impact on criminal justice services and other local delivery partners, including those in the third sector. The final impact assessment will be revised and updated in light of information received during the consultation and any further available evidence from pathfinder and pilot projects. It will then be published alongside the summary of consultation responses and the Government’s proposed next steps.

The Government will undertake a full equality impact assessment of the proposals in this consultation document. This will help to identify and enable the Government to reduce any unintended negative impact on individuals and particular segments of the community. The final equality impact assessment will be published.

The consultation period starts today and will close on Friday 31 July 2009. Responses to the consultation can be made using the online response facility at http://consultations.cjsonline.gov.uk/?conid=1 , via email to:

EngagingCommunities@cjs.gsi.gov.uk or by post to the address indicated in the consultation document.

Afghanistan: Country Plan 2009-2013

Statement

Lord Tunnicliffe: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has made the following Statement.



29 Apr 2009 : Column WS21

Afghanistan and Pakistan are of critical strategic importance to the UK. Helping both countries to ensure their own security, stability, growth and development is vital both for the Afghan and Pakistani people and for our own national security.

In January 2006 we signed a 10-year development partnership agreement with the Government of Afghanistan. I am today announcing our new four-year country plan, at a moment when we so urgently need a renewed effort from across the international community. The plan explains how we will support the Afghan Government in achieving their goals under the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), which was launched at the Paris Conference in June 2008.

DFID’s support to Afghanistan is part of the wider UK Government strategy for the region set out by the Prime Minister. Our programme fits alongside the work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, forming a comprehensive effort to help strengthen state institutions, counter the threat of violent extremism, and pursue sustainable economic growth across the region. Over the same 2009-13 period, we have pledged already to spend £665 million helping the Pakistani Government to achieve their vision of becoming a stable, economically and socially developed country.

Our Afghanistan Country Plan focuses on four areas where we are best placed to provide support under the ANDS: building an effective state; encouraging economic growth; providing alternatives to poppy growing; and promoting stability and development in Helmand. We will maintain our humanitarian support, primarily through UN agencies. We will strengthen our focus on gender by building partnerships within the Government of Afghanistan and with other donors, particularly multilateral institutions, to increase their contribution to addressing gender inequality.

The commitment I am making today, of £510 million over the next four years, confirms us as the second largest bilateral donor in Afghanistan. We will continue to spend at least 50 per cent of our assistance through Afghan Government systems. As well as ensuring value for money for the UK, this is the best way to improve Afghan capacity to govern, and to strengthen the connection between the citizen and the state. We are asking other donors to do the same in order to strengthen Afghan capacity through co-ordinated and transparent planning.

Local Transport Act

Statement

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Government are today publishing their consultation on draft guidance from the Secretary of State to the statutory senior traffic commissioner as part of their implementation of the Local Transport Act 2008.



29 Apr 2009 : Column WS22

The guidance represents an important opportunity for the Secretary of State to express formal and public views on how the powers of the statutory senior traffic commissioner might be exercised, particularly to benefit the industries that the traffic commissioners regulate.

The consultation exercise seeks views on the content of the proposed guidance. The consultation runs until 21 July and the final guidance will be issued as soon as possible thereafter. The Government expect the Senior Traffic Commissioner to respond formally to the guidance, seeking views via a separate public consultation exercise.

Copies of the consultation will be available on the Department for Transport’s website at www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/trafficcommissioner, and are available in the Libraries of the House.

Sri Lanka

Statement

Lord Tunnicliffe: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Mike Foster) has made the following Statement.

I would like to update the House on my recent visit to Sri Lanka to assess the humanitarian situation. I urged the Government of Sri Lanka to support a ceasefire to allow the civilians still held in the conflict area to leave, to improve the conditions for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Government-controlled areas by dramatically increasing access for humanitarian agencies; and to focus the Government’s mind on the need for the early return and resettlement of the IDPs. There are two distinct humanitarian groups of concern.

The first is the fate of the civilians caught up in the conflict area in north-eastern Sri Lanka. There is still uncertainty about the exact number of civilians who remain in the conflict area with estimates ranging from 20,000 to 70,000 civilians. However, the UN estimates that up to 50,000 civilians remain caught in an area measuring less than 5 square miles. Since September 2008, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been the only humanitarian agency allowed to have a presence in the conflict area by the Government of Sri Lanka. Approximately three times a week the ICRC ships food and emergency items such as blankets and medical supplies into the conflict area, and evacuates the wounded and their carers out of the conflict area. The fate of these remaining civilians is our most pressing concern. It is vital that they are able to move away from danger to safety under UN oversight, and that, in the mean time, humanitarian agencies have access to the conflict area to deliver humanitarian assistance.

The second is the 180,000 or more IDPs who have escaped the conflict area to camps under Government of Sri Lanka control; including the 113,000 who have arrived in the last ten days. I spoke with some of the IDPs in the camps. Many were traumatised by their experiences in the conflict area and concerned at being separated from members of their families. It is essential that these camps meet international standards and

29 Apr 2009 : Column WS23

that the Government of Sri Lanka allow unrestricted access by humanitarian agencies to undertake their life-saving work.

During my trip I urged the Government of Sri Lanka to abide by their public commitment to return 80 per cent of the IDP population to their homes by the end of the year. It is vital that the camps are temporary in nature and that the IDPs are allowed to return home as quickly and safely as possible. The Government of Sri Lanka asked for UK help to respond to the humanitarian crisis and to return the IDPs back to their homes.

The UK will continue to provide support to mitigate the humanitarian crisis. During my visit I announced a further £2.5 million of humanitarian funding for Sri Lanka, bringing the total to £7.5 million. I would like to assure the House that all UK funding is provided directly to neutral and impartial international humanitarian agencies to save lives and reduce suffering. For example, on 27 April, the UK contributed £500,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to air lift 5,000 tents to provide temporary shelter for the IDPs. £3.1 million remains on hand to respond rapidly to needs on the ground.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page