|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
In partnership with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank, the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, the European Commission and UK Trade and Investment, we organised a conference on African Regional Integration on 4 March 2010 in London. Around 200 representatives of African regional economic communities (RECs), African and development partner Governments, multilateral organisations, business and commercial bodies and civil society attended.
Regional integration is an important political and economic priority for Africa increasingly supported by its development partners. For example, last year the UK supported the North-South Corridor Conference in Lusaka where several African leaders announced plans to improve cross-border trade, reduce transport delays and costs, and promote investment. At that event donors agreed to provide over $2.5 billion of funding to upgrade road, rail, port and energy infrastructure
The Joining up Africa event aimed to help maintain momentum and support for regional integration, and looked at how African institutions, donors, business and other investors can work better together.
I opened the conference and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also addressed conference guests. Some 30 eminent speakers from a range of backgrounds spoke during discussions on how we can collectively overcome the political, economic and bureaucratic obstacles to greater regional integration. The major organisations represented at the conference agreed to sign an "outcomes statement", which can be found at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Documents/publications /Joining%20up%20Africa%20-%20Final%20 Outcomes%20Statement.pdf. Other development partners are being invited to sign this statement as well.
The statement highlights how essential greater regional integration is for Africa's growth and development. It recognises the urgent need to strengthen and increase support for regional integration as well as the need for more co-operation by all the relevant African stakeholders. The statement calls for action to:speed up progress with transport, trade, energy and other infrastructure programmes at a regional level and to resolve the obstacles and non-tariff barriers to trade;involve the private sector more effectively in support of regional integration;
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
During the defence in the world debate on 15 March I set out my intention to announce a number of important equipment procurement decisions over the coming days that will deliver vital capabilities for the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force, ensuring they are well equipped to undertake future missions.
My approach continues that which I set out in the House on 15 December, and on 3 February with the defence Green Paper that paves the way for a strategic defence review after the general election. Many of the decisions we face in the future of defence will be left for the review but there is also a clear need to maintain momentum on projects that are integral to any future defence programme, and to continue to work to ensure the long-term affordability of the overall programme.
Today I am pleased to announce the successful outcome of the specialist vehicle competition. This represents a very important milestone towards replacing the ageing combat vehicle reconnaissance (Tracked), and is one of the highest equipment priorities for the Army.
Preferred bidder status has been awarded to General Dynamics UK for the demonstration phase of the specialist vehicle programme, subject to successful completion of contractual negotiations. This decision was made following a robust assessment of the tenders received, ensuring value for money throughout the life of these vehicles.
The solution offered by General Dynamics UK is based on an upgrade to the ASCOD vehicle that is already in service with a number of European nations. The British variants of this design will employ the 40mm cased telescoped ammunition and cannon, and provide protection against a wide range of threats. Once in service, this new capability will bring significant benefit to the Army including improved protection, greater firepower, longer-range sensors and sighting systems, and a higher level of reliability.
General Dynamics UK's proposed solution contains 73 per cent UK content within the supply chain and the assembly, integration and test facilities at the Defence Support Group Donnington. This ensures the sustainment of UK jobs, UK skills and UK capabilities within the armoured vehicle sector.
We are determined to provide the Armed Forces with the capabilities they require, and the SV decision follows the announcement of our commitment to order an initial batch of 200 light protected patrol vehicles (LPPV), which we will get to Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The initial batch of 200 vehicles will be funded from the Treasury reserve as an urgent operational requirement. The LPPVs we are assessing through competition are at the cutting edge of technology, providing the optimum balance between protection, weight and manoeuvrability required by our Armed Forces on operations in Afghanistan.
This is in addition to the announcements I made on 15 December, of further reserve funding of £280 million for equipment for Afghanistan including additional vehicles, and £900 million of enhancements from the core defence programme, including 22 Chinook helicopters, an additional C-17, a doubling of our Reaper capability, and strengthening our counter-IED capability-funded by savings in lower priority areas, and based on our determination to support the current campaign and our belief that we expect such capabilities to feature in future conflicts.
We are not able to announce the outcome of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme competition today. Following an assessment of the tenders from BAe Systems Global Combat Systems and Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill, we intend to invite the competitors to revise and confirm their bids. Further announcements will be made in due course.
I am, however, pleased to announce that on 19 March we reached agreement with the US Government to purchase three Rivet Joint aircraft and associated ground systems delivering vital capability for the Royal Air Force to replace the Nimrod R1 capability that will be retired from service in March 2011.
The Rivet Joint system was selected following an extensive assessment phase that considered a number of possible solutions. Rivet Joint was selected as it is the only viable option that meets the requirements of our Armed Forces.
Publication of the report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry has been long-awaited and it promises to be a hugely significant event in Northern Ireland's history. But this is also an occasion that will have an enormous impact on the private lives of ordinary people. I am determined to ensure that arrangements for publication are fair and reasonable, and at all times, I intend to act reasonably in recognition of the interests of the families, soldiers and others involved in the inquiry, and of my obligations to Parliament.
I am responsible for publication of the tribunal's report, once it is delivered to me. I am advised that I have a duty, as a public authority under the Human Rights Act, to act in a way that is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). To fulfil this duty, I need to take steps to satisfy myself that publication of the report will not breach Article 2 of the convention by putting the lives or safety of individuals at risk. I am advised that these obligations must be met by me personally, in my capacity as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Although the inquiry is also a public authority under the Human Rights Act, I am not entitled to rely on the inquiry to satisfy my Article 2 obligations and I have a duty to assess this myself. I also have a duty to satisfy myself that publication will not put national security at risk, for example by disclosing details of sources of confidential information.
During the course of the inquiry, the Government submitted to the tribunal some material that was relevant to its work but which was too sensitive to be disclosed publicly, usually because it contained information which had been provided to the security forces by individuals. If these individuals could be identified from the details they provided it would endanger their lives. This was explained to the tribunal in public interest immunity certificates signed by Ministers, which the tribunal accepted. I understand that the tribunal does not intend to refer to any material covered by public interest immunity certificates, but I have a duty to satisfy myself before publication that none of this material has inadvertently been revealed in the report. The tribunal also agreed that the identities of a small number of individuals who were engaged on highly sensitive duties should not be disclosed and I need to be assured that these individuals have not been identified.
I intend to establish a very small team of officials and legal advisers to assist me in carrying out this necessary exercise. The team will need to include members drawn from the Ministry of Defence and Security Service, who are familiar with the material covered by the public interest immunity certificates, but they will be granted access to the report under strict terms of confidentiality and for the sole purpose of carrying out the necessary checks, and they will report directly to me alone. For the avoidance of doubt, and contrary to some press reports, I want to make absolutely clear that this team will not include any legal representatives of the soldiers who were interested parties at the inquiry. In response to a proposal made by some of the families of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday, Lord Saville has agreed that this team can carry out the necessary checks on the inquiry's premises while the report remains in his custody, before it is submitted to me. I have confirmed to Lord Saville that I am content with this proposal. I understand that the report will be made available for checking some time this week.
I believe that these checks are absolutely necessary in order to meet the legal obligations on me. I have listened to the concerns raised with me by representatives of the families of those killed or injured on Bloody Sunday and I have sought to find ways to address those concerns. With this in mind, in addition to supporting the proposal made by the families that the
22 Mar 2010 : Column WS95
I want to publish the report in its entirety. Should any concerns about the safety of any individual arise, my first course of action would be to consider whether these can be addressed through alternative means. Were I to reach the conclusion, on advice, that a redaction to the text might be necessary, I would consult Lord Saville. In the very unlikely event that any redaction were deemed necessary, my intention would be to make this clear on the face of the report.
Once the checking process is complete, a publication date can be set and the report can be printed. The report will be published for this House, in response to an Order for a Return which I will invite the House to make. It is, of course, possible that a general election might be called in the meantime. Lord Saville has informed me that if it becomes clear that it will not be possible for the report to be published in advance of the dissolution of Parliament, the tribunal will agree to retain custody of the report until after the general election.
The report must be published first for this House, but I acknowledge the importance of this inquiry's findings in the lives of a large number of individuals and I have received the consent of the Speaker to facilitate a period of advance sight on the day of publication to those most directly affected by the report's contents. I will seek to offer advance sight on the day of publication to one representative of each of the families designated as full interested parties to the inquiry and to their legal representatives, without distinction between the families of those killed and of those wounded. Equal arrangements for advance sight will be offered to those soldiers most centrally involved in the subject matter of the inquiry. In keeping with practice for other public inquiries, some Members of this House will also be granted a period of advance sight on the day of publication to enable them to respond to the Oral Statement which I propose to make to this House on the day the report is published.
I am grateful to the Speaker for his acceptance of the proposals which I have made in relation to advance sight. I will write to Lord Saville, legal representatives of interested parties, the leaders of political parties and others as necessary to confirm arrangements as soon as possible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I have today published the first Annual Report of the Government's strategy for countering international terrorism, CONTEST (Cm 7833). This report provides a written account of our progress against the objectives set out in our strategy over the last year. The report has been developed to be read alongside the 2009 publication of CONTEST (Cm 7547) which remains one of the most comprehensive and wide-ranging approaches to tackling this threat in the world. Copies of the annual report will be made available in the Vote Office.
The greatest security threat we face continues to come from al-Qaeda and related groups and individuals. The nature of this threat has changed over the past 12 months. Al-Qaeda's leadership has come under severe pressure in Pakistan and NATO's presence across the border continues to deny them a safe haven in Afghanistan. However, an increase in the capability of some al-Qaeda affiliates and associated groups, highlighted by the attempted Detroit airline attack, demonstrates the evolving and diffuse threat we continue to face.
CONTEST explains how contemporary terrorist organisations aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear (CBRN) weapons. The availability of information on the internet, changing technology and the theft and smuggling of CBRN materials make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the past. To support delivering our response I have also published today the United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism which addresses the specific threat posed by terrorist use of CBRN materials. A copy of the strategy will be placed in the House Library.
During 2009, thousands of people, including British citizens, have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks around the world. There have been no attacks, successful or unsuccessful, by international terrorist groups or individuals associated with them in the UK over the past 12 months. This reflects the resources and capabilities that we have put in place to deal with the threat. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, responsible for setting the UK threat level, currently assesses that the UK threat level is "severe" meaning an attack is highly likely and could happen without warning at any time.
Our response continues to be based at all times on principles that reflect the core values of the UK including human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance and opportunity for all.
We recognise that our response must continue to be founded on partnerships across the spectrum from local, national to international. Communities, local authorities, departments, agencies, devolved Administrations, and overseas partners all play vital roles in the successful delivery of CONTEST.
We judge that to date CONTEST has achieved its aim-to reduce the risk to the UK and to its interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Ministry of Justice is publishing today outline proposals for restructuring of the delivery of publicly funded criminal defence services. This follows the announcement in December 2009 that the ministry would work closely with the Legal Services Commission (LSC), the Law Society and individual practitioners to develop such proposals by the end of March 2010, and that these would replace the LSC's planned pilots for best value tendering. Even with the necessary savings and reforms, our system of legal aid-civil and criminal-will still be far and away the best funded in the world.
The Government strongly believe that there must be a significant restructuring of the provision of criminal defence services in order to achieve greater value for money from legal aid, while still ensuring fair access to justice and enabling legal aid providers to remain profitable and sustainable. The Ministry of Justice policy statement proposes that this would be achieved by creating a more consolidated market, in which larger contracts are let to a smaller number of more efficient providers, enabling them to take advantage of economies of scale.
The Ministry of Justice intends to undertake a consultation later this year on more detailed proposals, including a tendering model capable of delivering this restructured market. The Government will wish to consider the views expressed by respondents, including on any alternative options that would ensure the sustainability of criminal legal aid at reduced overall expenditure, before making final decisions.
Copies of the policy statement, Restructuring the Delivery of Criminal Defence Services, will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The document will also be available from the publications section of the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Thornton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Mike O'Brien) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Department of Health's overall Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) is unchanged from the Written Statement made on 23 February 2010 (Official Report, col. 40WS) at £105,564,260,000, the Administration Cost Limit is unchanged at £218,191,000. The impact on resource and capital is set out in the following table:
|Voted £m||Non voted £m||Voted £m||Non voted £m||Total £m|
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|