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House of Lords

Wednesday, 20 January 2010.

3 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Question

3.06 pm

Asked By Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My Lords, we remain deeply concerned by the lack of progress on reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and by recent challenges to the authority of the high representative and to the Dayton peace agreement. We are particularly concerned by positions taken in December by the Republika Srpska Government. We strongly support the Dayton agreement and the authority of the high representative and are engaging intensively with the Peace Implementation Council and European Union partners to address concerns about the current situation.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, in warmly thanking the Minister for that comprehensive Answer, may I ask her to confirm three brief statements? The first is that the British Government and the European Union will do whatever is necessary to preserve the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it would be well if the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska understood that. The second is that Bosnia cannot fulfil its progress towards Europe unless it increases the functionality of the state, and all politicians in Bosnia would be wise to recognise that. The last is that this Government will provide our new European Union Foreign Minister-the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, of this House-with all the support she needs to preserve the territorial integrity of Bosnia and to enable the people of that country to make the changes necessary for Bosnia eventually to be a full member of the European Union.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I pay tribute to the authority and expertise that the noble Lord brings to this subject. I can assure him that the UK and the European Union are fully committed to maintaining the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian politicians need to focus on European integration and not on separation and nationalism. Urgent reforms are needed to make the Bosnian state more functional, as the noble Lord says, and to prepare it for the challenges of the EU integration process. The recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights underlined the importance of constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We welcome the appointment of the noble Baroness, Lady

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Ashton, and indeed the prospect of her engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we will increasingly support the high level of engagement that we need to see. The need for implementation of the Lisbon treaty could not be clearer than in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The need for stronger, more focused and more co-ordinated European policy is what the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, is rightly calling for.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the warnings implicit in the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, are very well timed indeed. Does the Minister agree that the politics of Bosnia-Herzegovina are extremely negative, with the actions on both the Muslim side and the Republika Srpska side getting very aggressive and antagonistic? It is a very bleak situation and a very poor country, with 25 per cent of the people unemployed. Will she reassure us that, through the European Union and through our own efforts, we will do everything possible to preserve the integrity of this difficult and struggling nation? Has she had any news on reports that, in the north-east of Bosnia-Herzegovina, substantial camps of Muslim extremists and Islamic terrorists have been forming? There have been comments on this in the newspapers and the threat to our own security here in Europe and here in the UK could be very serious indeed.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I have read about the reports the noble Lord mentions but I have not had substantial confirmation that that is the case. I shall happily look into the matter and respond to his request. Things are not going well in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There has been little progress over the past year on the key reforms that would allow European integration, which is the greatest incentive we have to draw them into a process of constitutional and other reform. As I said in my previous answer, this is echoed in the latest Commission progress reports. The Foreign Secretary visited Bosnia-Herzegovina in November and I visited in July. The UK Government are fully and strongly supporting the high representative in the efforts that are being made to bring about more stable systems in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for what she said about territorial integrity. What efforts are being made to convince all Bosnians that they are only likely to accede to the EU as one state and, more generally, convince them of the benefits of accession?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, they are well aware of the benefits of accession to the European Union. As I said, we are forcefully following with the European Union a process to ensure that they meet the conditions-based response that we expect from them. Quite rightly, strict conditions need to be met before European integration can take place and we hope that that will be the incentive to make possible further movement. The most important thing is that we have strong and united international support for the efforts that need to be made in Bosnia at this time.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the root problems is the difficulty in creating social cohesion in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Has

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her attention been drawn to a recent UNDP report, entitled The Ties that Bind, on the question of social cohesion, which emphasises the difficulties of creating social cohesion in a country in which family ties form such a strong element in civil society? These family ties tend to lead to cronyism, clientelism and other difficulties. Will she ask her friends in the Government to study this report with care? It is a very good one and suggests ways in which we may be able to help them overcome that problem.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I thank my noble friend for that information; I am not aware of the report but I can assure him that we will look into it. Anything which contributes to the need to bring the social cohesion he mentions closer to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina is welcome.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the leader of Republika Srpska is threatening to hold a referendum on independence, which would clearly be disastrous for the future cohesion of Bosnia and might well lead to a resurgence of conflict. What are Her Majesty's Government doing, with other interested parties, to discourage Republika Srpska from moving in that direction?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: We are making every effort to impress on Republika Srpska and its leadership that this will not support or encourage the international community to work as closely as we want with Bosnia-Herzegovina. We are disappointed by the lack of progress and the UK will continue to work with all the leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina and encourage them to work constructively together towards the reform processes that we need to see in place. I emphasise that this means a rigorous application of the conditions-based approach to EU integration and enlargement throughout the western Balkans. That applies to Bosnia-Herzegovina and to any other country in the western Balkans.

Climate Change: Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Question

3.14 pm

Asked By Lord Lea of Crondall

Lord Brett: My Lords, an individual's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions depends on the goods and services consumed over their lifetime. Countries with the highest population growth are among the poorest in the world. However, they also have the lowest consumption. Notwithstanding that, it is important for the achievement of the millennium development goals to expand contraception services to meet the unmet demand for family planning. Further research

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is needed to assess the long-term impact of population growth on carbon dioxide emissions, taking into account economic growth.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the spirit of that reply. Are not highly desirable green technologies such as carbon capture being subsidised to the tune of up to 80 per cent? They have their place, but will the Government publish their methodology for making like-for-like comparisons between the benefits of each of those programmes and meeting demand for contraceptive services? Secondly, is it not cowardice on the part of the industrial democracies post-Copenhagen to refuse to put a public spotlight on this critical agenda item? Is that not very short-sighted and, indeed, unsustainable?

Lord Brett: I am not sure that it is cowardice, but it might be arrogance to suggest that we should point the finger and say to other countries that we are not all in this together. For example, Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa, but in less than half a year the average UK citizen will be responsible for more carbon emissions than the average Ugandan in the whole of their lifetime. Forty-one countries have identified population expansion as a major issue. They include Uganda, which has made a programme looking at reproductive health a priority. We believe that the way forward is to look at reproductive health. We estimate that, if the family planning needs of 215 million women in the developing world were met, unintended pregnancies would be averted to the extent of some 53 million. That seems a more ethical approach. I do not think that we are yet in a position to make the calculation that my noble friend wishes in relation to the different programmes.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: What is the Government's view of evidence that has recently come to light of seriously unprofessional conduct by the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Mr Pachauri, and of the worrying conflict of interests between his IPCC responsibilities and his business activities?

Lord Brett: I am afraid that I consider that to be quite a long way from the Question on the Order Paper. The noble Lord seems to be becoming on climate change what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has become on Europe.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that family planning commodities are essential to curb population growth, but they are also essential-particularly condoms-to curb the spread of AIDS. One problem in recent years is that money for reproductive health services generally has been diverted to the AIDS pandemic, to deal with antiretroviral drugs. If you look at DfID's budget reports for each year, you find that everything is under confused and confusing headings, so that it is almost impossible to find out how much DfID is spending on contraceptive supplies. Will the Minister please clarify these budget headings so that we can track how much money is being spent on contraception worldwide?



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Lord Brett: My Lords, the noble Baroness seeks relief from her confusion. I shall seek that information and write to her on it.

Lord Winston: My Lords, are we not in danger here of peddling an urban myth? The evidence shows clearly that contraceptive services do not decrease the population in the undeveloped world-far from it. That is quite clearly shown from the WHO's own efforts. What changes population growth are better hygiene, better housing, better education and better healthcare.

Lord Brett: I could pay no greater compliment to the noble Lord than to agree totally with him. The Department for International Development takes a holistic approach across a whole range of poverty reduction measures, including sanitation and water provision. All meet the point made by the noble Lord, with which I totally agree.

Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: Does the Minister agree that this is a no-brainer? Contraceptive services are good for women, good for their children, good for countries and, if we look at the projections for greenhouse gas emissions, good for the world climate.

Lord Brett: I am not sure that I would use the term "no-brainer" in your Lordships' House, but the whole question of how we deal with reproductive health is certainly important. We are a major player in the production of contraceptives worldwide and give considerable assistance, so there is no either/or. In seeking to deal with climate change, we must look at all the factors and impacts, which are different in different countries and regions. I remind people that, at the end of the day, the developing world wishes to develop. We must find space for it to do that. We cannot condemn it to its current standards of living.

Baroness Rawlings: Does the Minister agree that we should tread sensitively in this area? What action have Her Majesty's Government taken to assist the developing world in decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions? Have they made any effort to reform the ECGD to prevent it from supporting the development of dirty energy projects in these parts of the world?

Lord Brett: As I said in answer to an earlier question, it is a matter of taking forward-through persuasion and co-operation regionally, nationally and internationally -those policies from Copenhagen that will be acceptable to those countries in that state of development and meet the world target. In those senses, that debate continues. The noble Baroness makes valid points. I do not have an answer to the ECGD question in my brief, but I will seek one and write to her with it.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Question

3.21 pm

Asked By Lord Wallace of Saltaire



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My Lords, as a result of exchange rate movements, the FCO faces a shortfall in its 2009-10 budget of an estimated £110 million. We estimate this shortfall will increase slightly in 2010-11. In addition, international peacekeeping costs, UK subscriptions to international organisations and the FCO's security costs have risen.

Although the FCO has pursued a vigorous efficiencies programme, these budget constraints have led to staff redundancies, cuts to travel and training, and reduced programme funding including our work on counterterrorism and climate change.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the Minister for that reply. From the figures, it looks to me to be about a 20 per cent cut in the effective resources available to the FCO since the Treasury removed the overseas price mechanism which allowed it to compensate for the fall in sterling.

Can the Minister assure us that this has not made it impossible for the FCO to operate in the number of countries in which we need to operate? What does the FCO intend to do? Will it cut some major functions, such as consular support for people in developed democracies, or are we faced with having to put much more effort into making the European External Action Service work simply because we cannot do a lot of these things on our own in many UN member states?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: The noble Lord clearly makes some good points. We must look at every aspect of the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that we can make the cuts where possible, but it is not always easy. We have had staff redundancies in Argentina, Japan and across the United States. Counternarcotics programmes in Afghanistan, capacity building to help conflict prevention in Africa, and counterterrorism and counter-radicalisation in Pakistan have all been cut; the list goes on. However, we are extremely conscious of the need for the FCO to continue its essential work as a global player, taking into account the enormous influence we have, and need to have, across the world.

The European External Action Service issue will clearly impact on all work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It will make the EU's foreign policy more effective. However, I assure the House that we have no plans for the EEAS to replace our global network of embassies and diplomats, which remain an important asset for this country that we should and must maintain. The Lisbon treaty makes it clear that the EEAS shall work in co-operation with the Diplomatic Services of member states.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, aside from the falling sterling problem, which has hit the Foreign Office very hard, is the Minister sure that the Government have the balance right between the departments? Does she agree with her immediate predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, that at a time when Britain's interests are so global, the budget for our overseas representation has been steadily cut? That sounds crazy. Does she agree with him that, if things go on as

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they are, the Foreign Office will be reduced to landlord and events organiser for other parts of government? That seems a very dangerous trend. Is the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, who should have full experience of these matters, identifying a very serious problem?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: None of us working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would disagree with the fact that we are in a time of a great pressure, not least because of the effects of the currency exchange rates on funding, and the effects of having to pay our subscription to the United Nations and the European Union in different currencies. Indeed, we work in about 120 currencies, which does create its problems. The FCO is adapting to reflect modern Britain and its place in the world. As my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown, said, we are shifting in dangerous ways, and often to dangerous places, but we must maintain the United Kingdom's priorities. I can assure the noble Lord that we will continue to do that in a modern, cost-effective way.

Lord Acton: My Lords, did my noble friend say that counterterrorism in Pakistan has been cut? If so, is that really wise? Will she consider looking at that again?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: It is a fact that counterterrorism and counter-radicalisation projects in Pakistan and elsewhere have been subject to the cuts that the Foreign Office has been obliged to make. I listed others-on climate change and delivering key objectives on the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans. I say these things to assure the House that none of this is done easily or lightly. It is an extremely difficult set of decisions that have to be made at a time when we are under such financial pressure.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Does the Minister not agree that her first Answer demonstrated that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is subject to a number of cuts, exogenous in their origin, which do not apply to domestic departments? Would not it therefore make more sense if the Treasury, which seems to have a singular unwillingness ever to answer questions about the resources allocated to the Foreign Office, were to take that into account when dealing with the matters going forward? Does she not agree that a Government who say that their watchword is delivery are not going to get much successful delivery if the number of deliverers is constantly reduced?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I share the noble Lord's concern about the effects of these cuts, which he will understand very well. The FCO's resource budget is, in fact, one of the smallest in Whitehall. We receive £2 billion, of which more than £1.1 billion is ring-fenced for the British Council and the BBC World Service. Then there is peacekeeping and subscriptions to international organisations, as well. Only £830 million is discretionary spend, and that has to include our contribution to UKTI.


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