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Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the numbers that we have, not just of soldiers but of members of all the forces, are kept under constant review. Were we to change our tasking, we would have to look at that. I am not saying that we do not need any more helicopters; I am saying that helicopters are not the simple answer to countering the problem of IEDs. I mentioned the increase both in the number of helicopters and in flying hours, but we are doing many other things such as deploying RAF Merlins that have been in Iraq and providing more powerful engines to Army Lynxes so that they can operate in that atmosphere.
Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, my noble friend referred to the fact that operations in Afghanistan are under the aegis of the United Nations. Will she consider reminding the BBC and ITN in MoD press releases that that is the case and that 40 other nations are fighting alongside us in Afghanistan under the United Nations' remit?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, that point is very well made. Sometimes this is presented as being only the United Kingdom and the United States. Obviously we are trying to convince more of the partners there to provide more armed forces to do their share there. Burden-sharing has improved slightly, but there is still a long way to go and we still press the matter. This is an international commitment, because the threat from terrorism is international and could strike anywhere.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, may I express the deep regrets and condolences of those on these Benches to the families and friends of those who were so tragically killed last week? There is no doubt that overambitious aims and under-resourcing have played a part in the position that we are currently in in Afghanistan, but is not another cause also this: that we have learnt through bitter experience that unless the international community can act to a single plan in a unified manner and speak with a single voice, we cannot succeed in these matters? Will the Minister explain why, after eight years and so many deaths, this is not possible to achieve in Afghanistan? Is not at least one reason for the sacrifice of so many young lives without success being delivered that the leaders of the international community have completely failed to get their act together under a unified policy in Afghanistan?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the mission has changed over time. When troops first went into Afghanistan, they were operating more in the north to get to Kabul to stabilise the situation there, but the real threat from terrorism has always been al-Qaeda, which was centred around the Kandahar area. It is true that not everyone has always realised that threat, and many nations operate with caveats of the kind that neither we nor those who are working with us in the south have. It is difficult in an international situation to get proper co-ordination, but we are working well with our allies in the south and we are happy with co-ordination there.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, we on these Benches too send our condolences and our prayers to those who have lost their lives. Perhaps we in the House might also remember those in the Chaplaincy Service, for whose services there will be considerable demand as a result. Is not one of the difficulties that we face in a situation such as this that the presence of large numbers of particularly American and other western troops in Afghanistan can add strength to the radical Islamist argument that this is about western imperial ambitions? Will the Minister accept that, unless we are absolutely clear about the purposes of this operation and the boundaries of what we are seeking to achieve in a very different and distant culture, hopes for success will be undermined?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I am very happy to pay tribute to the Chaplaincy Service. In the present circumstances, it will be strained, but it has worked well with those who have been bereaved and its contribution is very welcome and much appreciated. On the radicalism of people in that country, it is important that we try to work with the people in Afghanistan: hence the comprehensive approach and the great deal of care that is taken in developing our tactics and holding territory and working with people there. However, I remind the House that the terrorism that most shook people on 9/11 happened long before anyone went into Afghanistan or, indeed, Iraq.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether negotiations between British Overseas Territories and the Government of the United States for the acceptance of detainees formerly in United States custody fall within their delegated authority for conducting international negotiations.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, negotiations between British Overseas Territories and the Government of the United States for the acceptance of detainees formerly in United States custody does not fall within
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer and I thank the Foreign Office for its useful briefing on general entrustments and individual entrustments, and the technical terms of which I had not been previously aware. Is it not extraordinary that the Government of Bermuda negotiated directly with the United States Government that senior members of the White House staff would accompany the Uighurs from Washington to Bermuda without informing the British Government? Do the Government think that it is possible to sustain the current relationship with our overseas territories in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, given the extent of their dependence on the United States for American money-legal and illegal-in those territories and the extent to which the American Administration now expect to influence what goes on in those territories, and I have not even mentioned Grenada yet?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, it is extraordinary. Clearly, there was a real breakdown here. The United States has assured us that it understood that the Prime Minister of Bermuda had the right to negotiate in this case because he asserted such to them. It has led us to announce a review of the operation of this entrustment, but it is clear that there was a breakdown.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is a case for a wider review of the position of our overseas territories, given that the Turks and Caicos Islands are subject to direct rule from the United Kingdom because of events there? Given the problems in relation to the use of overseas territories as tax havens, as well as the remarkable issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is it not about time that overall, comprehensive consideration was given to the role of the overseas territories, their constitution and their future?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I certainly think that the overseas territories, which have probably lived in the shadows of British foreign policy for a while, are for a number of reasons becoming more central, most of which have been mentioned in the previous two interventions. Tax havens and the impact on the economies of a number of these territories as a result of removing tax privileges, the broader impact of the economic crisis combined with the criminal issues with which some have been grappling because of their location and now this issue have put them front and centre again. It is in understanding what we do and do not delegate to them, and ensuring that they understand it, that the solution lies. I am not sure that a wider review is necessary for that common sense to prevail.
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, they did. I suppose that we had hoped that they had been resolved then and that we had an understanding from future Administrations, particularly one as typically sympathetic as the Obama Administration. But it shows that even in this situation really unfortunate slips can occur.
Lord Brett: My Lords, according to United Nations figures there are more than 10 million refugees, more than 14 million internally displaced people and 6.5 million so-called stateless people. The Government provide substantial funding to help prevent and respond to forced population movements caused by conflicts and climate change. We also press other Governments to respect and promote the welfare, protection and right to return of refugees and displaced persons.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, will the Minister remind us how many Palestinians have become refugees since 1948 and how many still want a right of return to their homes? In view of the latest World Bank report on Israel's consumption and control of water in the Middle East, what can this Government do to ensure clean water supplies for the refugees and displaced people in the West Bank and, in particular, in Gaza, where they are now suffering from water-borne disease?
Lord Brett: My Lords, from memory, the refugee figure in 1948 was approximately 750,000, and I think that the refugee population in Israel and the countries around it is currently 4.7 million. On the water issue, the noble Baroness referred to the World Bank report. The issue of water management in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a continuing concern to us. As the World Bank assessment rightly points out, there are a number of obstacles to improving water sector management and development in the Occupied Territories. We continue to press the Government of Israel to ease restrictions on movement and access and seek to make progress on this at the earliest possible time.
Lord Brett: My Lords, that is a $64,000 question. The conflict in Darfur has many sources though I am sure that climate change is aggravating a situation which is fairly intolerable in the first place. I doubt that climate change is the major cause of the conflict but I am not an expert in that field. However, I do
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Lord Naseby: My Lords, does the Minister recall the wonderful support that Her Majesty's forces gave to Sri Lanka and the Maldives at the time of the tsunami? As the biggest problem facing the 300,000 refugees today is the clearing of the mines laid by the Tamil Tigers, and as India has sent forces there, could not Her Majesty's Government at least release a couple of teams to help with the de-mining and thereby assist the earlier re-housing of the refugees?
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that with sea levels rising twice as fast as was predicted by the IPCC only three years ago and with Britain already planning for a rise in sea levels of one metre in its coastal defence planning, we could be looking at as many as 650 million people displaced from coastal areas and small island states by the end of the century? What are we doing at Copenhagen to steer the discussion in the direction of measures that will reduce energy consumption and population growth so as to confine atmospheric CO2 within the limit of 550 parts per million equivalent, the minimum that will allow us to survive as a world without enormous disasters?
Lord Brett: My Lords, there are many forecasts of displaced persons and other climatic tragedies arising from climate change which underline the importance of getting an agreement at Copenhagen to stabilise CO2 and reduce emissions. However, forecasting seems to me to be less important than taking action now, as we are doing in this country. We are also providing additional funding. There is a £40 million input from the disaster reduction programme at DfID. We are putting money into the international Environmental Transformation Fund, the climate development fund in Africa and the southern African regional climate change fund. There is a whole host of such funds. As I know that your Lordships like short answers, I am happy to supply a list to the noble Lord. I am sure that I would bore the House if I were to read them all out now.
Lord Brett: My Lords, my understanding of an economic migrant is someone who moves from one country to another to improve his or her lot as the other country offers opportunities of employment and income that can sustain the family better than the country that they were born into. We are not talking
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The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, what steps are the Government taking to raise awareness among the public of the plight of the refugees whom the noble Lord was just describing and the issues of, for example, child soldiers and the treatment of women?
Lord Brett: My Lords, the Government do seek to publicise these issues; they seek to make people aware and to use the media to do so. I have to say that parts of our media are fixated on migration but not on the human tragedy behind it, just on the selfish political argument of making a case against all migrants. Migration has been very helpful to this country. In the view of the Government and, I am sure, of every Member of this House, migrants have a right to be treated fairly and not to be maligned as they are in some of our national newspapers, day in and day out.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, as we have time slightly on our side, can the Minister suggest any work or works which the silent majority could consult in order to realise the full scale of the contribution made by refugees to this country?
Lord Brett: My Lords, I think your Lordships have a part to play. Everyone I have met in this House has far more expertise than me in almost every subject, and they are also people of influence in their communities. If we all did a lot more, whether writing to newspapers or speaking in our local communities, to ensure that there is a more balanced view of the important role of migrants, we would be doing a great service. We all have a part to play when it comes to the silent majority out there or the not-so-silent majority in here.
That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Monday 20 July to allow the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill and the Finance Bill to be taken through their remaining stages that day.
Lord Goodlad: My Lords, will the noble Baroness the Leader of the House give an undertaking that there will be an early response to the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on the Constitution, published on 7 July, about fast-tracking legislation? Will she also give an undertaking regarding the report's recommendation that, before seeking to suspend Standing Order 47 that no two stages of a Bill be taken on one day, Ministers should give this House the reasons why the standing order be dispensed with?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I think that the noble Lord is probably referring to the next Motion, but I am happy to respond to the point that he makes. As he will know, it is up to the usual channels when a debate takes place, but I fully recognise the importance of the report from your Lordships' Constitution Committee. It is in all our interests that it should be debated at the earliest opportunity.
I have taken on board the point about a Statement from Ministers if a Bill is to be fast-tracked. I need to consult with others, but I can certainly see the merit in a Minister coming forward to the House with a Statement in some shape or form-it may be a Written Statement; that is yet to be discussed-explaining why a piece of legislation needs to be fast-tracked.
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