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House of Lords

Thursday, 11 June 2009.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool.

Iraq: UK Aid


11.06 am

Asked By Baroness Rawlings

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, in the immediate aftermath of the war, the UK completed over 650 projects to refurbish schools, hospitals and bridges in Basra. We have also given £250 million to the UN and the World Bank, some of which has been used to build schools, hospitals and bridges across Iraq. However, the UK Government have been clear that in the long run it was more effective for us to help the Iraqis best use their own resources to fund reconstruction. With our support, the Basra provincial council has spent a further $58 million on schools and hospitals in Basra.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. However, since 2003, despite HMG pledging £744 million, of which £540 million from DfID was meant to go towards the rebuilding of Iraq, plus a visit by the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, the Deputy Prime Minister, with 23 big British companies, few British firms have invested beyond the oil and gas giants and few schools, hospitals or bridges have been built. Why have HMG not checked on the funds and the reconstruction instead of subcontracting to local Iraqis, many of whom, it was reported, have creamed off millions of the aid money? That report has been repeated today on the BBC website. Can the Minister give a breakdown of the figures and tell the House what the Government have actually achieved?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, it is at moments like this when I feel really pleased about the fact that I am giving up the DfID brief. Efforts by the British Government have put together commitments up to $10 billion at recent conferences through the Basra Development Commission. Some $1 billion has already been committed for inward investment. We do not take the noble Baroness’s view on the diversion of funds. Our detailed appraisal of projects in Iraq found one instance of fraud in the Southern Iraq Employment and Services Programme during the extremely difficult period of 2004-05 when security deteriorated quickly and DfID was unable to undertake the usual monitoring of how funds were spent.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord will have noticed the UN Secretary-General’s warm commendation of the British and European Union contribution to

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the International Reconstruction Fund Facility in Iraq, but as the contributions to that fund come to an end at the end of this month, what is the United Kingdom doing under the alternative UN development assistance framework, which is now being evolved?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I do not have the precise details of that involvement but, broadly speaking, we support the UN’s approaches. We are very strongly of the view that Iraq, which has the third biggest oil reserves in the world, will fund its own development. The problem is that Iraq is extremely difficult to do business with. We are trying to help it and, through the UN, build its capacity to do business with the rest of the world.

Bovine Tuberculosis


11.10 am

Asked By Baroness Byford

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there are currently no plans to make significant changes to the table-based valuation compensation system for TB-affected cattle.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful for that response and I formally welcome the noble Lord to his new ministerial post—I think that I am correct—at Defra, although he is the third person to be responsible for this Lords brief in little more than a year, which is regrettable. Is he aware that, in 2006, a cattle compensation advisory group was established? Recommendations were made that have not been implemented. Will he address this matter urgently?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s comments, although they do not quite have the accuracy that she normally reflects. I am being asked merely to take primary responsibility for Defra in the House, although I have some other responsibilities in the department. On the Question, which is the most important thing, she will know that the fairness of the compensation scheme has recently been tested in the courts. I cannot comment too much on that, except to say that, in the case that was brought, the judgment was in favour of the way in which Defra operates the scheme. There is the possibility of appeal to the House of Lords, so I am not in a position to comment much further. The scheme that was introduced in 2006 is the subject of some anxiety and concern, but she will recognise that that will always be the case with the valuation of compensation, particularly when the disease is still pronounced in certain parts of England and Wales. That is as far as I can go at this stage.

Lord Cunningham of Felling: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that approximately 10 years ago some 5,000 cattle were being killed because of bovine tuberculosis, whereas last year, I understand, the number was 40,000? Is it not a bad use of taxpayers’ money to pay ever more compensation to slaughter ever more

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cattle because of bovine tuberculosis when it seems that nothing is being done, at the moment at least, to eradicate the cause of the problem?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, of course we are concerned about the costs of compensation. That is why we introduced the new valuation scheme in 2006; we wanted to produce a further degree of fairness for the taxpayer as well as to ensure that farmers are properly compensated. However, my noble friend is not right to say that nothing has been done. Considerable work is being done to develop a vaccine. We have already put £20 million into the research programme and we are looking at ways of developing that research further. We are concerned that all measures should be taken to reduce the incidence of the disease. Let me make the obvious point that, if compensation is set at the proper level, which we believe it is, it encourages farmers to give early notice and to take early action to prevent the development of the disease.

Lord Burnett: My Lords, I should declare that I am an owner and landlord of agricultural property. Two weeks ago, the president of the British Veterinary Association said that in some areas TB was out of control. As the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, has rightly said, the incidence of the slaughter of cattle is increasing year in, year out. The problem has gone from bad to worse since the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in 1998 kindly came to my former constituency. Nothing seems to be being done. It is also a badger welfare problem in that badgers suffer a terrible death if they get TB. Given these shocking figures, will the Government follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly and immediately authorise a badger cull in TB hot spots?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we certainly are following closely developments after the Welsh Assembly Government’s decision to carry out badger culling, but the scientific evidence that we have indicates that that may not prove to be a significant solution to the problem, although it may make a contribution. If it proves to be successful, of course we will learn from those lessons. Scientific evidence from a committee set up to examine exactly this issue does not lead us to believe that we can invest in the concept of badger culling in its totality.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the noble Lord recognise that bovine TB is not just a disease of cattle and badgers? It has been found in 30 different species of wildlife, including sheep, goats, pigs and camelids. With the number of bacilli expelled by badgers and cattle floating about in the atmosphere, there is a risk of it becoming a public health problem. What is the Department of Health doing to observe the atmospheric numbers of bovine TB bacilli and what precautions are being taken?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Countess emphasises just how significant this issue is. I am not briefed by the Department of Health on this issue; I am dealing with the Department for Environment,

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Food and Rural Affairs. We are concerned to tackle this issue as effectively as we can. The noble Countess has identified how extensive and how difficult the threat is and why any single solution may not prove to be a solution at all.

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, although, touch wood, I do not have the problem on my farm, surely the best solution is vaccination, rather than the killing of the 40,000 cattle last year and perhaps badgers in the future. If a vaccine for Mexican flu can be produced in months, why will it take another 10 years to produce a TB vaccine for cattle?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, vaccine against illness in humans affects a large percentage of the population of the world, so it is not surprising that enormous resources are put into that far beyond any contribution by any single Government. We are dealing with an issue that is restricted to parts of the United Kingdom, to Spain and to Ireland; it does not occur in most of Europe. We are not able therefore to bring together resources for research beyond our own. As I have indicated to the House, we are interested in doing exactly what the noble Lord says, which is to do the research that we hope will produce the vaccine.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, with regard to my noble friend’s Question, exactly what are the noble Lord’s ministerial responsibilities? Does he have an office in the Ministry of Agriculture, as was? The departure of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, was much lamented by the industry, as he exercised over that department an iron control with great effect, the absence of which has become all too apparent. Perhaps I may remind the Minister and the Government that they probably have another year in office and that they should do something properly about the department with responsibility for agriculture. They owe it to the farming community.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a pretty general question on the matter of this disease. Of course I lament the loss of my noble friend Lord Rooker from the department. I also lament the loss of my noble friend Lord Hunt, who followed him and occupied the role with great distinction. I have an office in the department and I will do my best.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords—

Lord Grantchester: My Lords—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, let us hear from my noble friend and then, if we have time, from the noble Baroness.

Lord Grantchester: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his new responsibilities. I come back to the question of the tabular valuations of cattle and suggest that there are one or two deficiencies that could be looked at. I refer to false positives on the one hand and, on the other, to the inconclusives, of which the Minister will also be aware. The inconclusives are retested and, if they continue to be inconclusive, are deemed to be positive and are taken. Often at slaughter

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they are negative, and negative also at culture test. They have never been positive. Could the valuation form be looked at to take account of these anomalies?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we have gone from the general to the precise and I now find myself floundering on the precise. There are real issues with regard to the compensation scheme, as my noble friend appreciates. I will take on board the point that he makes about the problem of definition and see what can be done.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, would the Minister like to demonstrate joined-up government? While I appreciate that he is dealing with agriculture and the environment, none the less, given the extreme rise in the bacilli of the tuberculosis infection in the children of farmers whose farms are heavily infected with tubercular cows and killings, will he not connect with the Department of Health and try to make a reality of referrals of those children to the department? It is a very serious problem.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is the second time that the point has been made about the importance of the Department of Health in this respect. It is a very serious point and I will take it on board. The noble Baroness will forgive me if I felt that being briefed on the Defra aspects of this Question was quite sufficient today without looking too much into the health aspects.

International Development


11.22 am

Tabled by Lord Judd

Lord Judd: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I remind the House that I am a trustee of the think-tank charity, Saferworld.

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, instability and crime destroy development and can create a vicious cycle of poverty and conflict. The UK Government are working to promote safety, security and access to justice in more than 24 countries worldwide—from promoting police reform in Bangladesh to reducing gun crime in Brazil. Multilaterally, we are promoting more effective and better co-ordinated international action. When giving budgetary support to partner Governments, we have a number of safeguards in place to ensure that spending benefits the poor, including consideration of human rights and security issues.

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Lord Judd: I thank my noble friend for that reply. Would he not agree that effective development can take place only in the context of a secure environment, and that getting that right is an essential part of development? This involves police, courts and the military, and of course the community itself. Are we concentrating on this, and making sure that in budgetary aid, funds are ring-fenced to ensure that this is happening, so that successful development can take place?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that supporting poor people’s physical security is a vital part of reducing poverty. DfID’s security and development strategy recommends that security and justice issues should be considered routinely by DfID country programmes. We will also expand the number of countries that we support, and accountability and security systems are in place. It is vital that the military are part of that combination. A major part of a forthcoming White Paper from DfID will be devoted to this issue. On the matter of budgetary aid, we monitor this extremely carefully, with particular regard to any possible military diversion and the human rights aspects of the countries involved.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, will the Minister not recognise that although the sentiments expressed in his two replies are impeccable they are totally at variance with the Government’s record and bear no similarity whatever to it? The Government’s development aid is increasing rapidly, which I welcome, but they are cutting back quite sharply on aid for conflict prevention and resolution. That is certainly not joined-up government. When will the Government start practising what they preach?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the Government do practise what they preach. Overall funding for conflict prevention has not been cut, but there has been a big increase in the UK’s assessed contributions to peacekeeping through both the UN and the EU due to exchange rates and increased activity. To compensate for that diversion, we have increased resources for conflict resolution by US $71 million over the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review allocation, giving a total of US $171 million for discretionary conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping activities.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, for the sake of transparency, British taxpayers have a right to know where, when and how aid money is being used. Will the Government take steps to improve transparency in British aid spending by publishing full details on the DfID website? Why is DfID still giving aid to countries that have their own aid budget?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the annual reports from DfID that I have seen—I do not whether they are on its website; I shall check and write back—are extremely comprehensive and transparent. If they were any more comprehensive, they would be even heavier than they are. I do not know of the all examples of where we give aid to countries that have their own aid budget, but I know about India. It has a modest aid

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programme, but there are considerable areas of poverty there. The aid that we tend to give is our specialist capability, not substantial sums of money.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps I may ask about the joined-up government aspect of this Question. How far is DfID working with the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on the security dimension to development, given the problems that we have with the structure of our police force in finding people to work in police training in other countries? How closely are we co-ordinating with other member Governments in the European Union on EU assistance to the African Union and its member countries?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the public service agreement 2008-11 commits us to seek global and regional reduction in conflict and its impacts through improved UK international efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. Delivering this requires all government departments to work together. The MoD, FCO and DfID have a specific pooled programme to that end. Will the noble Lord repeat his second question?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, how closely are we co-ordinating with other member Governments of the European Union in helping the African Union and its member Governments to strengthen their security policies?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the European Union is one of the largest donors of security and justice assistance. We work closely with the EU to ensure that its security sector reform and rule-of-law policy programmes are in line with the approach adopted by the UK to African Union and similar programmes.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, further to the Minister’s reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, will he clarify whether we continue to have an Africa conflict prevention pool to work in a co-ordinated way on conflict prevention issues on the African continent, and whether that budget has been cut?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I cannot give a specific answer on that budget, but we have a continuing pooled conflict prevention fund. The significance of the fund is not so much the money but understanding the importance of working across government in these areas. That is particularly so in conflict, working in-country across government, including the military.

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