|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is completely correct, and this year has demonstrated that fact, as we have ended up spending a lot more on peacekeeping. We have gone into the budgets of the FCO, DfID and the MoD to make up the shortfall created by just the squeeze he describes. Yet even with that, we have seen discretionary spending having to fall. It has been an expensive year for peacekeeping and a bad year for currencies. I hope that the Government will keep the noble Lord's point under review.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of the simulation exercise carried out by the Carnegie foundation after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which concluded that a timely intervention could have prevented that enormous loss of life. Do these sorts of consideration enter into the Government's thoughts when they look at the costs; namely, that a timely intervention might save finance and enormous human suffering in the longer term?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I reassure my noble friend that I have been absolutely adamant in decision-making across government on peacekeeping that the political, security and strategic arguments for a peacekeeping operation must always prevail and that we must work out how to pay for it subsequently. Otherwise, we would have a terrible inversion of the priorities we must have when moving on peacekeeping operations. The best comparison to Rwanda today is Somalia, where at the moment we believe there is not a case for an immediate UN peacekeeping operation. However, were that moment to arrive, it would have an entirely damaging and deleterious effect on an already overstretched peacekeeping budget.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we all know that the Treasury is desperately short of funds for these purposes, however worthy. As the noble Lord indicated, when the currency goes down and the pound is weak, things become very much more difficult. However, when and if the happy time comes when funds become more available for international contributions, will he bear in mind the need not only to meet our UN obligations but to push more funds in the direction of the Commonwealth, which is grievously short of funds, and yet is carrying out a range of operations across the globe which help maintain peace and promote and protect this country's interests as well?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I, too, acknowledge the important role of the Commonwealth, particularly in conflict resolution and mediation, which has headed off conflicts which might otherwise have later called on UN peacekeeping forces. I remind the noble Lord that we have recently increased our share of the Commonwealth budget from 30 to 31 per cent.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following the statement by the European Heads of Mission on the recent violence and loss of life in
6 July 2009 : Column 447
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we are very concerned by the events in Bagua and welcome the Peruvian Government's invitation to the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people to investigate the recent violence in the Peruvian Amazon. We look forward to receiving his report into events. We condone any excessive use of force and urge the full protection of indigenous people's rights. We are very concerned by reports that people are still missing.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, since I tabled this Question, the UN rapporteur has, in fact, visited Peru and we understand that he has recommended an independent inquiry into these events, with participation by the indigenous people's representatives and the international community. Can the Minister say whether this is going ahead? What is the Government's policy on the issue underlying the disturbance, which is that the agreements between Andean states and the European Union appear to give carte blanche to multinational companies developing oil and mineral resources in the Andean region at the expense of the indigenous inhabitants?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as to the noble Lord's second point, there is a genuine long-term need for dialogue between the Government and indigenous groups about the social and economic development of the Amazon region of Peru. This has been a long-standing sore in the political life of the country, and the disturbance is just the latest tragic expression of that. On the noble Lord's first point on the report of the special rapporteur, I am afraid that he is ahead of me, as it has not yet been received. While the rapporteur, Mr James Anaya, made some comments while he was there and encouraged the creation of an independent commission, as the noble Lord said, we must wait until we get the official report before we know exactly what the Government of Peru should do to implement it.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the position of the indigenous Peruvian Amazonians may seem a little remote from our immediate national interest, but given the current negotiations between ourselves, via the EU, and Peru on a free-trade area agreement, do we not have a considerable interest in maintaining the stability and development of the minorities in Peru and elsewhere? Will the Minister ensure that in our connections with the Peruvian Government we encourage them in their stance to ensure the rights-particularly the property rights-of these indigenous people, and that they continue to be involved fairly in a way that gives them respect?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is completely correct. It was indeed a free-trade agreement-not the one with Europe-which prompted this dispute that led to the loss of 33 lives. It came precisely because the Government exercised powers to overrule existing legislation on landholdings and other related issues. The overruling has been reversed, which shows the need to deal with this issue with great delicacy, not just on behalf of the Government of Peru, but for outsiders like ourselves.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, will the Minister consider making representations-or persuading HMG to make representations-to the European Union, and possibly to the United States, about the extent to which the protection of indigenous people in the Amazon is very much part of a green agenda? The indigenous people have resisted massive logging in the Amazon and have done their best to protect the biological resources in that huge forest, often for very exciting new cures for diseases. Has not that issue become bigger than the question of one small tribe in Peru, and is it not one that the Government should address?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness is completely correct-it is part of a broader issue. The rights of indigenous people throughout the Amazon and the Andes is an increasingly important political issue in the region in terms of its development and in terms of the need to include those people in the political dispensation of those countries and support them in their need to assert control and sustainable usage over the natural resources that are the basis of their livelihoods.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, given the UK's position as the second largest foreign investor in Peru, what advice is given through the British embassy in Lima and other government agencies to potential British investors about the importance of prior consultation with local, especially indigenous, communities throughout Peru before final investment decisions are made?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I hope that the advice is to be careful, sympathetic and fully conscious of the issues-to be good corporate social citizens with the kind of investment programmes, and the kind of respect for corporate social responsibility standards, that will ensure that such investments do not become a source of political confrontation and controversy. I will take the question of the right reverend Prelate also as advice, and make sure that that is what we are saying.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, one method that is essential if indigenous people are to be able to assert their rights is an effective system of mapping, so that they know the exact boundaries of where they are entitled to their rights, and where people who are seeking to develop the resources of the area can do so. Is it not clear that accurate mapping must be part of any solution to the problem that has been discussed?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I suspect that the noble Lord is completely correct. Many of these land claims are disputed and were asserted when accurate mapping was not possible. Therefore, there is a lot of history to work through in dealing with the claims, which would no doubt form part of a good mapping exercise.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister have any concerns about the character of the military in Peru, which has only recently come through some years of very heavy criticism of its behaviour? Does he feel that the military is now properly under the control of the civil authorities?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as far as concerns this incident, of the 33 known deaths, 20 were of police who were involved in seeking to suppress the incidents. There is a report just out by the ombudsman of Peru-a well regarded, independent figure-and there will be the report of the UN special rapporteur. We will have to see whether the police in this case acted in any way extra-legally. At the moment, there is no confirmation of that.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Cusichaca project in the Andes for 20 years. Would the Minister pay tribute to the contribution made by British non-government bodies towards relations with Peruvians in a series of similar episodes across the country?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, perhaps I should have declared an interest, because I lived and worked in Peru at one point in my life. That gave me the privilege of seeing the extraordinary role of the British NGO and civil-society community around these issues in Peru.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Davies of Abersoch will repeat as a Statement an Urgent Question allowed in the other place, asking the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will make a Statement on the Companies Act inquiry into the collapse of MG Rover, including an explanation of why the results of the lengthy government investigation cannot be made public in whole or in part.
Immediately after this Statement, my noble friend Lord Brett will repeat a Statement on the White Paper on international development, Building our Common Future. To prevent a clash between the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills Statement on MG Rover and the same department's business in Grand Committee, the start of Grand Committee proceedings will be postponed until five minutes after the end of the proceedings on the MG Rover Statement.
This may also be a convenient moment for me to inform the House of the arrangements for tabling Committee stage amendments to the Parliamentary Standards Bill. The Second Reading of the Bill is
6 July 2009 : Column 450
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Clauses 18 and 19 will create an offence of soliciting-that is, by potential clients of street prostitutes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. We fully recognise the negative impact that kerb-crawling can have in some areas, and the concerns that local residents might understandably have about it, but we do not support the creation of these offences. We feel the criminalisation of kerb-crawlers will do nothing to deter those with little respect for the law and is likely to lead to an increase in violence against sex workers. Like other prohibitory measures, it is likely to push street prostitution into more isolated areas.
We have talked about the need to make prostitutes safer and we feel that these provisions will make them less safe. We also emphasise that the measure against brothels in this Bill, which we will discuss shortly, will make prostitutes more likely to engage in street sex work. There are likely to be more street workers as a result of the Bill so these provisions are particularly crucial to get right. We are therefore suggesting that Clause 18 should not stand part of the Bill. We think that decriminalisation should be accompanied by the powers to enforce appropriate zoning so that street prostitution and kerb-crawling could take place only in designated areas. That is a very difficult issue which we need to debate. I know that some brave local authorities have already grappled with it.
We could be guided by the example from Scotland of the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project. When we asked what the effect of the kerb-crawling legislation in Edinburgh had been, we were told that women are working in isolation more, which is more dangerous for them, and that there are not as many clients around, but that the ones who are there are the more difficult and dangerous ones. The women felt that an alternative approach would be to get rid of the offence of loitering and replace it with an offence of breach of the peace-causing fear or alarm, for example. They were certain that the legislation had had a negative impact on the women they work with, but they did not feel the number of women on the streets had decreased significantly. We were told that there is more competition among the women and, crucially, they are often out for longer. Naturally, they need to make the same amount of money. In our debates about rehabilitation we have talked about why they need to make that money-whether they have a drug habit or they lack the education to get better jobs and so on. The fact is that the women who do that need the money and will keep on doing it. The critical thing is to make them safer.
Traditionally, there has not been a huge amount of pimping on the streets of Edinburgh, and that has not changed, but the project feels that the streets are much
6 July 2009 : Column 452
How many prosecutions have there been? Thirty men were charged in Edinburgh over the course of the year since the legislation was introduced. There have been only six complaints from residents in the year. Is the legislation enforceable there? There are no jury trials in Scotland; there are sheriff's reviews only. One woman was given an ASBO on no more evidence than that she was seen getting out of a car driven by a man. She was banned from entering the area, including access to the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project advice centre. Another woman, in front of a different sheriff for shouting in an area, was given an ASBO preventing her from shouting in the area, which was much more specific. I make the point that this is a particularly difficult area of the law in which to impose quite brutal criminal charges on women when they are not even entitled to a jury trial.
Clients are unlikely to get a jail sentence. Even in Sweden, from which the Government have taken their example, no one has been jailed. People have just been fined. We feel that the clauses are moving in entirely the wrong direction. We need to protect women better, encouraging them to go to advice centres and remaining visible where they are not in danger. If the Government say that much of the motivation for the clauses came from the Ipswich murders, they are moving in the wrong direction.
Viscount Bridgeman: We support the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. We agree that the effect of the Bill is very likely to be to take women on to the streets from reasonably safe places, as the provisions that we shall debate later emphasise. What is the definition of a public place?
Lord Pannick: I, too, support the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the observations that she made in her powerful speech. Clause 18 would remove the criterion of persistence from the offences of kerb crawling and soliciting as currently defined in Sections 1 and 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 1985? The criterion of persistence serves a valuable purpose. That is not because there is any right to solicit for the purposes of prostitution; it is because the criterion of persistence helps to ensure that there is no room for misunderstanding or doubt about the defendant's intentions. After all, this is an area of human conduct where there is ample room for ambiguity and a real danger of miscarriages of justice. I would welcome the Minister's explanation of why, in the light of that, it is thought appropriate to remove the criterion of persistence.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|