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House of Lords

Monday, 1 June 2009.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Introduction: Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony

2.36 pm

The right honourable Sir Anthony Peter Clarke, having been created Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, of Stone-cum-Ebony in the County of Kent, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers and Lord Judge.

EU: Fisheries


2.43 pm

Asked By Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, at the May Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Government made clear our willingness to consider fundamental change as part of a comprehensive package of measures. The UK Fisheries Minister endorsed ecological sustainability as the basis for a stable economic and social future for European fisheries.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but does it not mean that all member Governments must give strong support to the Commission’s long-running efforts to prevent the extinction of certain crucial stocks? Could the specific mechanism of regional management bodies be considered as a future structure?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I agree with both those points. It is encouraging that there is general acceptance that the current basis of the common fisheries policy is not working and that sustainability and dealing with overfishing are very important indeed. I believe that the noble Lord is right that regional management will give incentives for people in the industry to do the right thing. That must be the way forward.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, do Her Majesty’s Government agree that the Conservative Party’s current election manifesto is flagrantly dishonest—

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I have it here, my Lords, and it promises that Conservative MEPs will reform the common fisheries policy. Why do we not take back control of our waters, which contain a large majority of all European fish, thus to repair our decimated fishing industry, and then lease the surplus to foreigners? Is that possible if we stay in the European Union?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not going to come between the noble Lord and his former party. Leaving the CFP would be an isolationist and disastrous action by this country. The best policy is for us to work within the CFP and the EU to make the changes that I indicated.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, how long is the reorganisation of the common fisheries policy likely to take?

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we must not be hasty in these matters. Some reform took place in 2002, although it is clear that it has not succeeded in the way that was required. We will work with all energy to encourage the Council to make the necessary changes, but a great deal of consideration will have to be given to this. At the end of the day, we have to deal with the issue of sustainability. It is very important that we make progress.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords—

Lord Berkeley: My Lords—

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I think that it is the Conservatives’ turn.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, given that there seems to be consensus around the House that the common fisheries policy is not working effectively, what plans do the Government have for bringing in conservation policies to preserve our own fish stocks, as the common fisheries policy appears neither to conserve fish nor to preserve the livelihoods of fishermen?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Government undertake work in a number of areas to conserve stocks, such as encouraging improved selectivity and implementing closed areas to protect spawning fish. More recently, they introduced a number of seasonal closed areas—for instance, in the North Sea—to protect cod stocks. We will continue to take measures such as that, but, fundamentally, we need to achieve reform within the CFP.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, will my noble friend explain how the present policy and any beneficial change that he has mentioned will be enforced on the high seas? I know that our Royal Navy does a very good job of enforcement, but I cannot believe that the Spanish navy, assuming that there is one—

A noble Lord: The armada!

Lord Berkeley: The armada, I am sorry, my Lords. I cannot believe that the Spanish navy makes the same effort to enforce the rules in respect of Spanish fishing vessels anywhere in the EU.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, alas, I am not in a position to respond to my noble friend’s comments on the size of the Spanish navy, but compliance is a key issue. One of the criticisms of the current operation of the CFP is that there is uneven compliance among the member states that are covered by it. We shall look for greater consistency in the reform process, but it is worth pointing out that the European Court of Justice ruled in December last year that Spain had failed to meet its control obligations, leaving it liable to a fine if it does not take corrective action.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, what is being done to prevent fish that are not wanted from being thrown overboard instead of being used? They are dead; all they feed is seagulls, whereas they could be used on land.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Countess has referred to discarding, which is a major issue. Sample work done in 2007 in the North Sea suggested that there is, in relation to English and Welsh registered vessels, a discard of 40.6 per cent of total catch. For some stock, the figure is much higher; for instance, for plaice it is 74.7 per cent. That is a very stark figure. Clearly, action needs to be taken. At European level we need rules on gear types and restrictions to be enforced. We are also looking at the example of other countries in relation to discard bans to see to what extent that might be part of the reform process.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that the proportion of the EU budget devoted to the common fisheries policy is reduced in a way that avoids risk to food production while providing a broader range of environmental and other benefits?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the structural fund makes sums of money available to deal with issues around the fishing fleet. We would like to see much more of the available resource, as part of the reform process, being used to incentivise fishermen to do the right thing in terms of sustainable fishing. We see that as the way in which reform should be taken in future, so that the fishing fleet itself takes much more responsibility for providing the solution to the problem.

UN: Durban Review Conference


2.51 pm

Asked By Lord Janner of Braunstone

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, the Government will continue to play a leading role in combating racism and anti-Semitism in all fora, including the United Nations. We welcome the strong stance taken by the UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning the Iranian President’s hateful words at the Durban review conference. We will always stand up to such intolerance and will continue to encourage key figures in the United Nations to speak out when such unacceptable statements are made.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. I warmly commend our ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Peter Gooderham, for leading the walkout of the United Kingdom delegation, which included me, joined by other European delegates, when the Iranian President Ahmadinejad made his disgraceful anti-Semitic speech. What specific steps do our Government now intend to take to ensure that the failed Durban framework is replaced by a much more effective approach to the vital global fight against racism and discrimination of all kinds?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I certainly echo the noble Lord’s kind words about our ambassador in Geneva. While in some ways this was a bad day for UN human rights, it was a pretty good day for British diplomacy, as Britain was a leader not only of the walkout but of the walk-back to ensure that there was an agreement at the end of the meeting that was positive and which excluded the references to Israel that had marred the first conference five years earlier. There is no call for a further follow-up conference. Therefore, we hope that this exercise has come to an end under its own momentum.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, would the Minister agree that, although President Ahmadinejad’s views are wholly obnoxious on these matters, at least four weeks ago he apparently said in a speech that if the Palestinians were to continue to accept a two-state solution, the Iranian Government would back that 100 per cent? What is the reaction of the British Government to that particular comment?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, it is relief that the President of Iran occasionally says something sensible. However, I do not think that it has led us to any fundamental reassessment of his judgment on international affairs at large.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, would the Minister agree that, far from learning very much from the wild ravings of the Iranian President, the Human Rights Council seemed to have wandered into a further area when it addressed the Sri Lanka issue? The Tamil Tigers may have adopted atrocious methods in the past, but there is no doubt that an appalling massacre has taken place; yet the council seems to be completely blind to it. Would the Minister like to comment on that?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the UK was one of those who pushed very hard for the special meeting of the Human Rights Council. We were deeply disappointed by the unbalanced result. The issue mentioned by the noble Lord of the Tamil Tigers’ terrorist past won the argument for many countries. It is an enormous pity that it could not balance this and, particularly, acknowledge fully that serious war crimes were almost certainly committed, and that the international community and peace in Sri Lanka will be served only by getting to the bottom of it.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one lesson to be learnt from this incident is that Her Majesty’s Government, and, indeed, the international community, should make a robust, effective and balanced response to all violations of international law and of human rights, whether in Iran, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Gaza or the Palestinian Occupied Territories?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very important point. There is no doubt that, as Sri Lanka was debated in the corridors of the Human Rights Council last week, the back story was

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of double standards and the need for all countries, whatever their position on this, to show a universal approach across the situations that the noble Lord mentioned.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, several delegations, even the majority, sat in their seats during the raving of the Iranian ambassador. What do the Government propose to do about that?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord will understand if I tell him that, ultimately, whether delegations stay in their seats, or are prised from them and leave, is a matter for them, their consciences and their national policy. We were very pleased that we walked out, and that the rest of Europe walked out with us, but we felt that it was equally important to come back, because we must retain universal forums like this where even someone as abhorrent as President Ahmadinejad has the right to be heard.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is not too soon to start thinking about the review of the Human Rights Council’s operations, to be undertaken in 2011? We should start to talk to a wide range of countries around the world about how the council could perform better, as it is performing so lamentably badly at the moment.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I notice that the noble Lord has already contributed to that process in a recent editorial piece. He is absolutely right: the Human Rights Council is performing well below our hopes, but I have to put it in the broader context of something of a global crisis in human rights. I am afraid to say that double standards and the shifting in power between the West and other parts of the world have put many of the gains that we took for granted in human rights—whether they cover the rights of women or the so-called doctrine of the responsibility to protect—in crisis across many of these areas.

Health: Self-care Dialysis


2.58 pm

Asked By Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the Government’s policy High Quality Care for All reaffirmed the Government’s intention to offer patients the right choice of treatment. For kidney patients this includes choice of a range of renal replacement therapies provided at home, in hospital or at a satellite unit. We know we need to do more and are actively engaged in looking at ways in which we can improve provision and the take-up of home haemodialysis.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. As there are significant advantages for the patient in self-caring at home, why is there such a discrepancy between the 2002 NICE figure, which

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was anticipated to be 15 per cent, and the actual figure for home dialysis of 2 per cent? What is being done to increase home dialysis?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite correct to point out that the NICE report said that up to 15 per cent of dialysis patients might be suitable for home dialysis. Of course, for a variety of different reasons to do with their frailty or condition, not all kidney patients will be suitable for such care, but we are very concerned to increase the number from the existing 2 per cent. I would say three things. First, we know that clinical leadership is crucial. When that works well locally, those PCTs are hitting a level of 10 to 15 per cent take-up. Secondly, we are challenging commissioners to increase home dialysis. We are particularly concerned to concentrate on home dialysis for children, so we are also working with the Great Ormond Street Hospital on a project to provide home dialysis for them. Thirdly and most importantly, we have sponsored an information flow to patients to ensure that they have the right kind of verbal and written information to enable them to make the right choices for them.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, important as that work is, it would be even better if we could increase the organ donation numbers? Organ donation gives a much better quality of life in the right circumstances. Does she not also agree that if the task force recommendations endorsed by our own EU Select Committee, which looked at organ donation, could be implemented, it would increase the quality of life for very many people, particularly children?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right: the best quality of life for people with kidney failure is achieved through replacement kidneys. As the Prime Minister made clear when the task force made its report, we want to start that debate and explore every option available for increasing donation rates. It is important to get the right infrastructure in place, and our target is to increase donation rates by 50 per cent within five years. I am also pleased to say that due to the work of noble Lords in this House, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, a policy change to enable the consideration of requests for the allocation of donations from deceased donors will help in the drive to increase the number of kidney donors.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, the UK National Kidney Federation has nevertheless estimated that the number of people needing dialysis or transplant will rise from 20,000 at the moment to about 40,000 in 2018. It is a huge number of patients to be dealt with. What plans do the Government have to ensure that there is enough dialysis available in hospital and at home—including peritoneal dialysis, which is very successful for some patients—to treat this huge number of patients while they are waiting for transplants?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I have already outlined some of the issues. We are concerned to attack this on several fronts, the first of which is to increase the

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amount of home dialysis, which is actually more cost-effective. Not only is it cheaper to provide people with home dialysis, it is also much more flexible and convenient for them, and we are very concerned to drive it forward. We also want to increase innovation. This month, for example, a very small home-dialysis machine is coming on line which people will be able to transport in their cars. We are pushing these possibilities and putting resources into them. We have increased the amount of money going into it. We are determined that the facilities and the choice will be there.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the Minister will no doubt know that a tariff is being developed for dialysis. She will also share my view that it is important to ensure that the tariff that is applicable to home haemodialysis is adequate to encourage patients who want to do so to take up that option without significant cost to themselves. Will steps be taken to ensure that the tariff covers reasonable set-up costs for home dialysis and thereby avoid cost to the patient?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Earl is right. Our objective is that by 2010-11 the different tariffs for each type of dialysis will reflect the differing costs. That will in fact help in our encouragement of home dialysis, the cost of which we know can be recouped within 14 months of it starting to be used. The intention is that all the costs will be included within the tariff for each of the different types of dialysis that should be available.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, of the measures being used, what kinds of checks are being put in place to ensure that the quality of services is being optimised? Are dieticians and counsellors included within these measures?

Baroness Thornton: Yes, my Lords; dieticians and counsellors are included in these measures and will be included in the tariff when it is considered.

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