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I have one final question for the Minister before ending-some may call it my hobby-horse. The Government say that there will be a standardised assessment tool to assess eligibility for the new entitlement. Should I assume from this that the care package will be fully portable, following the recipient wherever they decide to live?

I welcome some of the fundamental principles behind the Bill, but, for now, it throws up more questions than answers.

3.46 pm

The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, we must be the first generation in human history in which a substantial number of people retire and then find themselves fully occupied both babysitting grandchildren and looking after even older parents. Last week, a man who is now 70 and well retired talked with me about the care of his mother in her late 90s, who was still in her own home and who valued her independence, but whose needs he was anxious about his own capacity to meet. There is a good side to this, of course, since those with no one to care for do not always feel liberated as a result, but caring for those in the greatest need can, as we all know, be emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting. Yet people do it, frequently out of love and loyalty even more than duty. Those with advanced dementia or Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or motor neurone disease often become needier very gradually. That seems to be why their carers often do not receive the right degree of support; they often simply do more gradually. Then they find it impossible and the person being cared for has to give up the simple but effective therapy which comes from being at home. The distressing final year of my father's life might have been ameliorated if this Bill had been in place. I therefore welcome it, although not simply through personal experience.

The moral status of any society must be judged by the way in which it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members. In ancient Israel, the care given to widows and orphans was unusual, but was derived from a belief that every human being was made in the image and likeness of God. In our own age, it is the way in which we care for those least able to help themselves, so that they can have some quality of life, which is the test of our common humanity. The people who care for those in greatest need must have some quality of life as well. Who could dissent from the direction of travel of this Bill? The moving testimony of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, illustrated why it would be cruel to those and their carers whose hopes have been raised by the publication of the Bill to reject its provisions.

Why then can I raise only two cheers for the Bill? I think that it is because someone with a single, exaggerated virtue in their personality often seems lop-sided; and

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there is definitely something lop-sided about the Bill. Others will be able to judge much better than me whether the financial estimates add up or the efficiency savings are achievable without harming some other group of vulnerable individuals. Even if we get a more precise definition from the Government about the qualifying criteria for assistance and how those needing significant help are defined, there can still be perverse consequences arising from this Bill's exaggerated virtue.

It is a virtue to encourage people to remain living at home and to receive personal care in that environment. It is what most people want and what I would want. They often want it because it enables them to remain living with spouses or other close relatives. Receiving the cost of such care is not simply a financial blessing. It can be a strong incentive, perhaps even an inducement, to receive care at home. Faced with the choice between receiving free personal care at home or having to pay for such services somewhere else, who would not opt for the former? In those cases where carers, often close relatives, may really have to make that choice, what assurances are there that the most appropriate care setting will be provided for these vulnerable people? Remaining at home may not be the best setting for some people, but would it be right if leaving home would incur a financial penalty? That penalty might even be felt in the future by those who would benefit from the estate. It is appropriate to indicate from these Benches the perverse effect of human sin on virtuous aspirations.

The proposed measures in this Bill could lead to a two-tier system in funding arrangements. I assume that the Government have concluded that universal funding is simply too expensive, and that would be understandable given the current experience in Scotland. It also seems that finding a suitable mechanism to manage both personal care at home and support for those in residential homes is simply too complex to offer at the present time. But in choosing to promote the real interests of a significant group of people, the needs of others may be left unaddressed. The Government have promoted this Bill as a first step towards a national care service, but it is not at all clear on what basis this has been chosen as that first step. Why exaggerate this virtue? Why not wait until other complementary steps can be put in place? The big care debate has scarcely been concluded. The valuable and varied contributions of its many respondents cannot surely have been adequately evaluated, so why such haste in bringing forward this one proposal?

Issues of fair funding and the universal provision of services are immensely complex, as the outcome of the Royal Commission on long-term care demonstrated over 10 years ago. I fear that there will be a plethora of exaggerated virtues on display in the run-up to the next general election, and that is why I shall be supporting the amendment to the committal Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Warner. In relation to the Bill, the task of this House must surely be to shape this legislation so that it does not have unforeseen and undesirable consequences, and so to assist in the valuable formation of a national care service with truly balanced virtues.

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Afghanistan Conference and Yemen Meeting


3.53 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made earlier today by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in the other place on the Afghanistan conference that took place on 28 January, and the Yemen meeting the previous day.

"It is a grim but important feature of all discussion on Afghanistan to remember the loss of life, coalition and Afghan, in the past eight years. As I saw for myself again two weeks ago in Kandahar, Lashkar Gah and Kabul, British troops are showing fortitude beyond measure, and their families support beyond compare, that deserves the recognition of the whole nation.

The stakes are high, not just for those serving in Afghanistan, but for all the Afghan people, for the south Asian region, for the credibility of the NATO alliance and, ultimately, for our national security. As I explained when I spoke in this House on 14 January, 2010 will be a decisive year for Afghanistan. With a new Government, a refreshed counterinsurgency strategy and a commitment to increase international troops by 60,000, the Afghans and their allies now have the chance to reverse the momentum of the insurgency, if the military and civilian effort is directed towards a durable political settlement in Afghanistan. That was the impetus behind the decision taken by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to convene the London conference. Our aim was to mobilise international resources, military and civilian, behind a clear political strategy to help deliver the ambitious agenda that President Karzai set out at his inauguration last November. Our goals are threefold: to win over the active support of more of the Afghan population; to split the insurgency; and to encourage Afghanistan's neighbours to become part of the solution.

Following my consultations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Washington, Istanbul and Brussels, representatives from over 70 countries and international organisations travelled to London to attend the conference. The communiqué, which was agreed among all conference participants, provides the detail of what was agreed. With respect to security, the focus was on the Afghan national security forces. The growth and development of the indigenous security forces is intended to give the Afghan population the confidence to resist Taliban bribery and intimidation. Afghanistan now has almost 200,000 soldiers and police, who are already assuming greater responsibility in military operations. But the London conference agreed new, more ambitious targets to increase the Afghan national security forces by over 50 per cent by October 2011 by training 70,000 additional members of the Afghan National Army and 38,000 more police.

The conference also marked the beginning of the transition process, agreeing the necessary conditions under which we can begin, district by district and province by province, the process for transferring responsibility for security from international to Afghan

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forces. The intention is for some provinces to transition by late 2010 or early 2011, on the road to meeting President Karzai's target that within three years Afghans should have taken the lead and be conducting the majority of operations in insecure areas. With additional troops, Afghan and international, the insurgency will come under increasing military pressure. President Karzai is launching a peace and reintegration programme for those who can be persuaded to switch sides. The rest will face growing military danger. It is essential that all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan are given a route back into Afghan society, as long as they respect the Afghan constitution and break links with al-Qaeda. We support all efforts towards this goal. The peace and reintegration trust fund, announced last Thursday, is the vehicle through which the international community will provide financial assistance. Already $140 million has been pledged for the first year.

Governance and development were the second priority for the London conference. Local and provincial government in Afghanistan is chronically weak. Less than a quarter of Afghanistan's 364 governors have electricity and some receive only $6 a month in expenses. That is why the conference agreed to provide additional support to train over the next two years 12,000 sub-national civil servants in core administrative functions. If the Afghan Government are to win the support of more of the population, they need to govern in their interests, so the commitments they made at the conference to take steps to end the culture of impunity are important. They have promised to strengthen the independent High Office of Oversight to investigate and sanction corrupt officials, to bring their laws in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption, and to invite a group of Afghan and international experts to develop benchmarks for progress and report regularly against those benchmarks. Their first visit will take place within the next three months.

These promises must now be translated into rapid action. The international community again pledged its support on Thursday, and for the first time it said that, once key conditions are met, it will increase the proportion of development assistance channelled through the Government, and will support the Government to meet those conditions.

Development assistance is important in its own right but it will also help to draw people away from the insurgency and the drugs trade. That is the significance of Thursday's announcement that Afghanistan will receive up to $1.6 billion extra in debt relief from major creditors and that there will be a new IMF programme from June 2010. The legal economy, notably agriculture, needs substantial support. The progress in reducing drug production is also welcome in its own right.

The third element is relations between the countries of the region. The situation in Afghanistan is destabilising south Asia. Crime, drugs, terrorism and migration spill across its borders. There is a growing awareness within the region that the status quo in Afghanistan benefits no one. Afghanistan's neighbours also increasingly accept that no country within the region, let alone the international community, will allow Afghanistan to become a client state.

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In these twin changes-a recognition that a client state is out of reach for all, and that an unstable state is damaging for all-is the seed of our shared interest. This shared interest should be the basis for greater regional co-operation. Each neighbour needs to know that its restraint and co-operation will be reciprocated, so they need reassurances about each other's behaviour and intentions. That is why last Tuesday I attended the regional summit in Istanbul to discuss how Afghanistan's neighbours can support stability in Afghanistan and enhance regional co-operation. At the London conference, the Afghan Government requested that the relevant regional bodies develop a co-ordinated plan for Afghanistan's regional engagement as soon as possible. The prize of regional co-operation is immense: Afghanistan's neighbours cutting off the lines of funding, support and shelter that stretch across Afghanistan's borders. This is why the regional element of a political strategy will be given greater emphasis over the coming year.

Mr Speaker, this political strategy and the agreements reached on Thursday need to be pursued with drive and determination and without delay. The Afghan Government will host a further conference in Kabul later this spring. By then, President Karzai will need to have made real progress on security, governance and development. The international community, too, has an important role to play in ensuring effective implementation. That is why three new international appointments are being made-at the UN, in the EU and in NATO, where the NATO Secretary-General has created a new NATO senior civilian representative to strengthen co-ordination of development and governance work, and our ambassador in Kabul, Mark Sedwill, took up this role on Thursday-to create greater unity of civilian command.

Afghanistan and Yemen are 2,000 miles apart; they have diverse histories and different cultures and are fighting different enemies. But there are common themes. In both cases the lack of development, weak governance and the absence of security provide a vacuum for extremists who threaten our shores. In both cases, these underlying, long-term causes must be addressed.

The purpose of the London meeting on Yemen on 27 January, as agreed with President Saleh, was threefold: to forge international consensus about the challenges that the country faces; to build impetus behind the economic and political reform agenda; and to improve the international co-ordination of support for the Yemeni people and Government.

The Government of Yemen were represented by Prime Minister Mujawar. The Foreign Ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the key regional and international partner nations all participated, alongside representatives of the European Union, the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and other international institutions.

The Prime Minister gave an honest appraisal of the challenges his country faces-"brutally honest", in the words of the US Secretary of State. The threat from al-Qaeda has put Yemen in the headlines, but it has long been the poorest country in the Arab world, with a growing population, fast dwindling oil and water reserves, an armed conflict in the north, and increasing instability in the south.

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First, all present committed to support the Government of Yemen in the fight against al-Qaeda. The meeting welcomed the recent UN sanctions committee decisions on designation and called on all states to enforce the terms of the designation under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.

Secondly, the meeting agreed to engage in further helping Yemen to address its broader security challenges, including through increased international support for the Yemen coast-guard.

Thirdly, Prime Minister Mujawar confirmed that his Government would continue to pursue their reform agenda and start discussion of the IMF programme. The director of the IMF made a compelling case for the way in which economic reform could be supported by the IMF.

Fourthly, participants agreed concrete action to improve the disbursement of aid, and the GCC secretary-general called a meeting of Gulf and other international donors to share analysis on the barriers to effective aid disbursement and establish a joint dialogue with the Government of Yemen on their reform priorities. This meeting will take place on 27 and 28 February.

Fifthly, the 25 countries and organisations represented also agreed to establish a Friends of Yemen group to help the Government implement their national reform agenda. Two working groups-on economy and governance, and justice and law enforcement-will report to the first Friends of Yemen meeting.

Conferences and meetings can seem a long way from the daily dangers of IEDs in Lashkar Gah or the 40 per cent unemployed in Yemen, but neither problem will be resolved without coherent plans confidently advanced by sovereign Governments with huge support from the international community. As a result of last week's efforts, there is a new confidence and clarity. The test is to turn these words into deeds. That is what we are now committed to doing".

That concludes the Statement.

4.07 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for repeating this admittedly pretty long Statement. I take the opportunity, once again, to offer condolences from this side of the House to the bereaved families of those brave soldiers who have been murdered in Afghanistan, and repeat our praise for the fortitude of our Armed Forces. I will take the issues raised by the Minister in reverse order.

First, on Yemen, we welcome the meeting and the plans for a follow-up meeting in Riyadh later this month. Obviously, addressing the problems in Yemen will require sustained support from the whole international community and from the Gulf states in particular. I ask straightaway what steps have been taken to involve neighbouring states directly, both in sponsoring internal peace in Yemen, which is lacking, and in accelerating financial and economic support for this desperately poor country. I understand that unemployment is over 40 per cent, if indeed that measure can be made at all.

At the meeting last week a new Friends of Yemen process was launched, as the Statement has told us.

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Can the noble Baroness tell the House what role the UK will play in this process, and exactly who the members of that group will be? What is her assessment of whether the Government of Yemen will now take the urgent and concrete action or the political and economic reform that they have pledged? It is a difficult question, I know, but may we have her judgment?

I now turn to the more preoccupying issue at the moment of Afghanistan, although things may change. After eight years and five major conferences, it is stating the obvious that the situation in Afghanistan remains an immense challenge. We hope that the timing and location of this London conference has helped to meet that challenge. We are all committed to ensuring sufficient stability in Afghanistan so that Afghans can look after their own security without presenting a danger to the rest of the world. Obviously, to that end, the new strategy set out by President Obama the other day must be given time and support to succeed and must be accompanied by a viable political process alongside the military efforts.

I want to deal with three main areas in my response: first, the military and security strategy, then the political strategy and, finally, the timetable for the transition to Afghan control. Indeed, I seek assurances that those three areas do not undermine each other and do reinforce one another. First, we welcome the decision by other countries to commit additional manpower, especially the announcement from Germany. How many of the 9,000 additional non-US forces announced will be stationed in Regional Command South, where the hardest fighting has been? Will every effort be made to ensure that the commanders' use of these forces will not be hampered by restrictive rules of engagement? How many of the additional 10,000 Afghan troops for Helmand, which the Prime Minister announced back in November, are now in place and when will that deployment be complete? The conference communiqué also urges countries to give more support to the Afghan National Police. When will the detail of the support be made more specific? Can the Minister confirm that there is, alas, still no agreed national strategy for the reform of the police? When does she expect that that will finally be in place?

On the civilian aspects of the strategy in Afghanistan, we welcome the appointment of a new NATO civilian representative and a new UN special representative. I understand that there is to be a new EU special representative with strengthened powers, as announced by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, in the conference. What has been done to ensure co-ordination of the work of these new officials to avoid the duplication of the past and give the unity and coherence to international efforts so often called for in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and others?

On the political strategy, is the Minister confident that the postponed parliamentary elections will now go ahead in September? Does she agree that the fairness and credibility of those elections is of huge importance, given what happened in the previous presidential elections, and does she think it is the true intention of the Afghan authorities to run a seriously improved electoral process? How realistic is that aim given the unique tribal and cultural patterns of Afghan society?

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The communiqué and report mentioned that President Karzai will host a grand assembly or Loya Jirgah within six weeks and that the invitation will be extended to the Taliban. Can the Minister say what the objectives of the assembly will be and how those tie in with NATO strategy? Can she assure us that there will be moves to involve the Pashtun tribes fully in this process, because there will be no progress without them?

A major focus of the conference was on the new peace and reintegration trust fund as well as a new IMF support programme. It has been reported that the fund will total $500 million. Is that right, and what contribution is our own country making to that fund? May we have a little more detail on how the money will be used, how its expenditure will be overseen and what mechanism will be in place to ensure that the funds will not be misappropriated? Who will be responsible for the distribution at regional level and how will oversight and follow-up be ensured? Can the noble Baroness update us on the poppy and drugs issue beyond what was in the original Statement? How will the large and welcome Japanese commitment of $5 billion over five years to Afghanistan be dovetailed with the other development strategies?

It is well known that Taliban elements operate in Pakistan's border area as a threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan-and the rest of us as well. Does the noble Baroness envisage any of these funds being channelled to the Pakistani Government for the same purposes? We understand that five Taliban leaders have been removed from the UN sanctions list as part of the reconciliation process. Is she confident that the security implications of that have been fully assessed? Are other removals planned?

Finally, on the handover plans, the communiqué says that the goal is for Afghan forces to take responsibility for physical security within five years. Meanwhile, President Karzai says that the training and equipping of Afghan security forces may take up to 10 years. I think I heard him say on the radio that they will need outside assistance for up to 15 years. Does the noble Baroness share those assessments? Above all, what specific steps has the conference achieved towards recognition that this is not just a western problem? Afghanistan's near neighbours, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and maybe even China, must be involved if progress can be made with them. I agree with the communiqué statement that the prize of regional co-operation is immense. One day, a less aggressive and negative Iran might be involved constructively. It could be said that the dewesternisation of this whole problem may be the only and best path to peace.

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