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House of Lords

Thursday, 22 October 2009.

11 am

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Chichester.

Introduction: The Lord Bishop of Blackburn

11.07 am

Nicholas Stewart, Lord Bishop of Blackburn, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Bradford.

Iraq

Question

11.11 am

Asked By Lord Astor of Hever

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the Iraqi Government have requested our continued military assistance, and we have therefore signed a government-to-government defence training and maritime support agreement that sets out areas where we will provide continued support. On 13 October the Iraqi Parliament endorsed the agreement, which now goes forward to the presidency council for formal ratification. We expect final ratification within the next few days.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am very heartened by the noble Lord's response. This is an important mission and will help to stabilise an area that is vitally important for this country. For how long will these sailors be deployed? Will the Treasury pay for this mission, and will the Iraqis themselves start to contribute as their oil revenues build up?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the agreement will be in force for 12 months from its entry into force, which will be a few days after the formal ratification. The funding will come from the Treasury reserve. The Iraqis will not contribute on this particular project but we have other arrangements with them, particularly for the training of officers in the United Kingdom, for which they do indeed pay.

Lord Addington: My Lords, what is the status of the servicemen undertaking this training? If the security situation deteriorated around them, would they be treated as front-line troops or would they be withdrawn? We do need to know that.



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Lord Tunnicliffe: I must answer that with care. This agreement has two parts. One part concerns the provision of training. I do not understand precisely the circumstances in which those individuals might be drawn into combat but I will write to the noble Lord on that. The other part concerns the direct provision of defence capability. When this is agreed we will have naval forces in the area and forces on the oil platforms, providing a defence capability until the Iraqi armed forces-particularly the Iraqi navy, which we are helping to rebuild-are in a position to do it for themselves.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, how many members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces are involved in this training operation?

Lord Tunnicliffe: Approximately 100, my Lords.

Lord Soley: Following events the other year when the Iranians took our navy personnel hostage, can the Minister reassure us that we have given them adequate training in case they should be taken hostage again? It is a very important area.

Lord Tunnicliffe: I am sure that the Royal Navy has reacted to that event and developed appropriate training for those deployed.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, what happened to the 100 people who were supposed to be involved in this agreement during the summer period? The agreement broke down, and now it will be delayed. As for the funding, how much is it all going to cost us, rather than them?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I do not know what actually happened to the naval personnel. There are two aspects to this. The deployed operational capability was withdrawn from Iraqi waters and replaced by a US capability. That was a reallocation of armed capability in the Gulf area. The people who were carrying out the training were physically withdrawn, but we hope they will return. I am afraid that I do not know the overall cost of this training, but considering the enormous contribution that the United Kingdom has made to creating a stable Iraq-this sovereign, now democratic, state-I put it to the noble Baroness that the money spent on completing this operation by helping them to rebuild their navy will be well worth while.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not follow the Minister's last point. Indeed, we have already made a huge contribution to helping Iraq, and I am delighted that this training exercise will take place. However, Iraq in 2008 produced an average of 2.4 million barrels of oil a day. At current prices, that is worth about $70 billion. I should have thought that we are rather more strapped for cash than they are. Should they not be paying for this very useful service?

Lord Tunnicliffe: Well, in the words of my business career, we are where we are. We have made the deal, we are going to honour it, and we think that it is a

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worthwhile deal to honour. We think that we are doing a good job and that it is a worthwhile job.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I do not think that the Minister quite answered the question put by my noble friend Lady O'Cathain. How much will it cost? He said that it was worth while. How can he know that it is worth while if he does not know what it will cost?

Lord Tunnicliffe: I will try to ascertain how much it will cost and write to the noble Lords. I just feel that it is a reasonably commonsense concept to say that, compared with the campaign, 100 people for a year represents a modest cost in order to assure ourselves that the Iraqi people and nation have a navy, which has been rebuilt from the ruins, so that they can protect the oil installations and bring stability to the Gulf. Just in commonsense terms, that seems worth while.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, are there any Iraqi interpreters-those who worked with our former defence forces-still living in fear of their lives, and have they applied for entry into this country?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the UK has an assistance scheme for locally employed staff. It has had two phases, covering those employed before 7 August 2007 and those employed since. In the first phase, some 592 people-mostly interpreters-have entered the United Kingdom. As many again took a lump sum of money because they believed that their future would be better in Iraq itself. Employees since then have become eligible for phase 2 of the scheme. When people become redundant or for other good reasons cannot continue in employment, there is a lump-sum or resettlement option. Some 334 individuals have entered the UK on the basis of that scheme.

Climate Change: Copenhagen Conference

Question

11.18 am

Asked By Lord Hannay of Chiswick

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, the United Kingdom negotiates as part of the European Union in the international climate negotiations. The European Union has stated that it will increase its emissions reduction target from 20 per cent to 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 in the context of a sufficiently ambitious Copenhagen agreement. Subject to reaching a successful agreement, the European Commission must within three months prepare a report for member states on the implementation of commitments entered into at Copenhagen for agreement by member states.



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Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response, which is not in fact the answer to the Question that I posed. That is a trifle disappointing, since I told him last week what the object of my Question was. My Question is: what is the institutional follow-up to a package at Copenhagen by the collective international community? The point of the Question is made sharper by reports in today's newspapers that the head of the UK Statistics Authority has criticised the Government for the way in which they present their carbon emissions reductions. That shows the chaos that we will live in if we agree a package at Copenhagen and there is no international body charged with the follow-up and surveillance of the commitments entered into. Will the noble Lord have a second shot at this now?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for his patience. In July this year, the Government published The Road to Copenhagen. It is the first time that we have published our position on the global climate talks. We accept the point behind the noble Lord's Question, that the road from Copenhagen will be as important as the road to Copenhagen. We accept also that it is important that we move more quickly than we did after the Kyoto Protocol.

The importance of Copenhagen is, first, that we need to achieve an agreement that will limit global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, because, beyond that, the risks of dangerous climate change become much greater. We want also to reach agreement on actions to help developing countries to adapt to climate change. We will conduct these discussions through the international organisations and the European Union and we expect that they will start immediately after the Copenhagen summit has concluded.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government work with the United Nations technical agencies that are responsible for many of these tasks, because the UK and not the EU is a member of those? I refer particularly to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will now push forward on nuclear energy as part of our response, and also to the new agency for renewable energies. How will this be part of our follow-up to the Copenhagen agreement?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right that the discussions will be conducted with United Nations agencies as well as through the European Union. We must have a global deal that takes account of national and global emissions, and we need to make sure that countries are on track to meet their targets. We recognise the special action that needs to be taken by developing countries and the assistance that we have to give to ensure that that happens.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for reminding the House that the European Union agreement was changed to make it explicitly conditional on a satisfactory agreement in Copenhagen. Is he not aware, however, that that is not the case with the UK's unilateral Climate Change Act? According

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to the Government's impact assessment, this will cost the economy up to £18 billion every year from now until 2050, and there is no possible benefit unless everybody else follows suit. Since this is not going to happen at Copenhagen, will the Minister give an undertaking that, like the European Union agreement, the UK's Climate Change Act will be amended to make it conditional on a satisfactory agreement coming out of Copenhagen?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, the United Kingdom supports the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and regards that as providing the most authoritative perspective on climate change science. Its fourth assessment report was the result of six years' work by more than 1,200 scientists from more than 130 countries, including many authors.

Noble Lords: Answer the question.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, our planet is getting warmer and there is overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is the primary force driving climate change. Of course we will review all legislation in the light of developments and in the context of the agreement that we hope will come out of Copenhagen.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, as the Minister knows, there are increasing doubts about whether there is enough time or commitment to get a strong deal out of Copenhagen. Does the Minister agree that a postponed but strong deal would be preferable to a weak consensus that does not meet the challenges of global warming?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: No, my Lords, I do not agree with that. As the Prime Minister has made clear on a number of occasions, there is no plan B if Copenhagen fails. It is vital that an agreement is reached at Copenhagen, which is why such efforts are being made by all Ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change and by other Cabinet Ministers to ensure that we secure as much international agreement as possible. We are hopeful that that agreement will be forthcoming, and the discussions being held with the United States Administration are particularly promising at the moment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the Prime Minister is going to lead the United Kingdom delegation to Copenhagen? Is this not the kind of firm and decisive leadership that is needed-

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, it is about time that the people opposite listened. This is the kind of firm and decisive leadership that is needed to get not just a satisfactory outcome but a satisfactory follow-up, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, rightly said. Will my noble friend encourage others Heads of Government to follow our Prime Minister's example?



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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, my noble friend is of course absolutely right, and right in one very important respect. The most important part of the initiative that the Prime Minister has been taking in recent days is the climate finance initiative. Unless the world puts in place the finance needed to tackle climate change, it will not be possible to reach an agreement and to achieve the outcome of the Copenhagen agreement. A working figure of £100 billion a year by 2020 has been put forward by the Prime Minister, because it is vital that we give financial support to the world's poor to help them to respond to the challenges of climate change. The initiative taken by the Prime Minister this week has been welcomed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, by Kofi Annan and by developing countries. It is of fundamental importance that the initiative that is under way is carried through and that the Copenhagen agreement is successful.

Visas: Dependent Relatives

Question

11.27 am

Asked By Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the Immigration Rules contain provision for an applicant to be granted settlement in the United Kingdom as the dependent relative of a person present and settled in the United Kingdom. The term "dependent relative" includes a son, daughter, sister, brother, uncle or aunt, all over the age of 18, if living alone outside the UK in the most exceptional compassionate circumstances and mainly dependent financially on relatives settled in the UK.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, that is very interesting, but is the noble Lord aware that the dependent children of Latin American diplomats whose student visas expire while their parents are still accredited have to return to their country of origin and reapply for a visa at considerable expense and inconvenience? Is that really a sensible way to proceed?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, was kind enough to let me know of this issue beforehand and I have looked into it in some detail. Within the rules, we are able to make sure that that does not happen and I shall be talking to the noble Viscount about this specific case to see how it came to happen. If a diplomatic family is sent here with a child under 18 who is studying, they are allowed to remain until the diplomat goes back with his family. That is effectively the position. I shall be talking to the noble Viscount on the specifics to see exactly what happened in that case.



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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I refer the Minister to a Question that I asked on 25 June 2007. I shall not read it because it is too long but I asked about a Latin American person who, at that time, had lived in this country for 27 years invisibly because her passport had been stolen and so on. The reply given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, was that she should,

Does the Minister realise how extremely difficult that is? I saw her recently and for the past two years she has been trying to apply. She has been told to produce details of the school that she went to but it has closed and the company that she worked for originally went broke. She lost her passport and reported that to the police, so she could not leave the country. Again, no records were kept. What is the answer to those who are in a difficult and invisible position for a long time?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, it is very difficult for me to give an answer on a specific case. It sounds very bad. We are now a lot harder and more careful about people coming into the country. I came into this arena late-two and a half years ago-but for many years, through successive Administrations, I do not believe that we were tight enough on our border controls. In the past two and a half years, that has changed dramatically; for example, net migration dropped by 44 per cent between 2007 and 2008. These measures are beginning to have a real impact, which is crucial. Immigrants have given a huge amount to our country, but we have to control the situation and we are beginning to do that.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, the last time the independent monitor for entry clearance visited Latin America was, I think, 2006, when she made a report about the inconsistencies and lack of fairness faced by people when applying for visas. Can the Minister say how the inspection regime for that region is finding the situation now?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, 204 years ago today, the victorious British fleet was off Cadiz with its prizes and was hit by a great storm. In the same way, I feel taken flat aback by that question. I do not know the exact answer to it, so perhaps I may respond in writing.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, the Minister answered the noble Viscount's supplementary question in terms of diplomats with children under 18, whereas the Question specifically refers to those over 18. Can the noble Lord also explain why I am getting reports of British nationals in South America having to send their passports for renewal and extension to New York, rather than to the country in which they reside?


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