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24 Mar 2010 : Column 954

Baroness Thornton: We remain strongly committed to reducing death and suffering through tuberculosis. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is today hosting an event for World TB Day which will launch a campaign to obtain the commitment of all the main political parties to continue to support and scale up the fight against TB, globally and in the UK, and to ensure that TB is a priority in the global health agenda. Thirty-six million people have been cured of TB since 1995. That is a good start but it is not sufficient. I invite all parties to sign up to my right honourable friend's campaign.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: How many healthcare workers have contracted TB and how many have died of TB in the past 10 years?

Baroness Thornton: I am afraid I do not have the answer to that question. I beg the noble Baroness's pardon. I shall certainly find out and ensure that I write to her and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords-

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords-

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I think it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: The extra funding that will be made available globally for combating tuberculosis and drug-resistant TB is very welcome, not only at an international level but at the individual level of directly observed therapy, which has proved very effective in different countries. Can the Minister tell the House how much of the funding will go to advance directly observed therapy, as well as to the more major approaches?

Baroness Thornton: The noble Lord has given me the words I was groping for earlier: DOT, a therapy he is very aware of and has been championing. As noble Lords will be aware, in this country TB manifests itself in particular areas such as London, Leicester and Bradford. It is therefore very important that PCTs in those areas put resources into the DOT programme to which the noble Lord has referred.

Burma

Question

3.30 pm

Asked By Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Brett: My Lords, first, I commend to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and to the House the Written Answer to a similar question he put a few days ago, which makes absolutely clear our belief that the election laws are manifestly unfair and fall well short of international demands and standards. On 15 March

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the Prime Minister described the targeting of Aung San Suu Kyi and opposition political parties as "vindictive and callous". He has written to the UN Secretary-General supporting an early meeting of the Burma Group of Friends and a possible discussion in the UN Security Council. The Government have reiterated their call for a universal arms embargo against Burma.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: In the light of the outrageous decision of the Burmese Government to ban Aung San Suu Kyi from not only contesting but even being able to vote in elections, I strongly welcome what the Minister has just said about the demarche planned by the Prime Minister. Do we intend to seek to enlist the ASEAN countries and China in that initiative? Can the Minister also tell the House what our response is to the recent report from the United Nations special rapporteur on Burma about the continuing atrocities against ethnic minorities in Burma? He identified crimes against humanity and war crimes and suggested that a UN commission of inquiry should be established. Will we support that?

Lord Brett: My Lords, on the noble Lord's first question, the Government continue to raise Burma at the highest level both within the EU and the UN. Over the past months our network of embassies in the region has lobbied numerous countries. The Prime Minister raised the issue with the President of China at the UN General Assembly last September, as did the Foreign Secretary with his opposite number, the Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs-the ASEAN network is chaired by Vietnam at the moment-and Indonesia. Singapore and Thailand have publicly condemned the Burmese election laws.

On the noble Lord's second question, it really is a matter of timing. We strongly support the rapporteur's recommendation, but if we are to press the issue it is important to do so in a way that carries support within the Security Council and not to fall victim to veto or lack of support, as that will be seen in Rangoon as a victory for the military junta. But we are strongly supportive of it and are seeking support.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, can we propose that the European Union make representations to ASEAN not to recognise these sham elections and the fake parliament that will result from them as being contrary to the ASEAN charter? That provides for member governments to adhere to the rule of law and good governance, and the principles of democracy and constitutional government. How can they support these elections, which do none of these things?

Lord Brett: The noble Lord makes an important point. Those issues have been raised, and as I have said the Governments of Singapore and Thailand have already indicated the view the noble Lord sets out. We hope that by the time the elections are announced and take place that view will be shared by the whole ASEAN group.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, quite rightly mentioned China. Does the Minister accept, as I am sure he does, that although the arms embargo is entirely right, one effect

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of sanctions and cutting off links with Burma is simply to open the way for more and more Chinese enterprise and official activity to move into Burma? Chinese activity has moved in this way into east and west Africa, Latin America, Sri Lanka and many other places as well. Will he ensure that any further pressures on the dreadful Burmese Government are tailored in a way that does not simply open the door even wider to Chinese undermining of our efforts, and that we gain the support of the Chinese in putting real pressure on that regime?

Lord Brett: The noble Lord makes an important point. As I previously stated, the Prime Minister raised this issue at the highest level with the President of China in New York in September. We continue to raise it, not only within the ASEAN group but in particular with those important south Asian nations that have trading and other links with the Burmese regime. The influence of those who are in the ASEAN group is perhaps greater than that of those of us in Europe, but we take on board the point made previously that we should work through the European Union. We shall continue to press at all levels-as it is seen as a very high priority by the Prime Minister-to bring about democracy in that country as opposed to sham elections to maintain a military Government.

Lord Dubs: Will my noble friend confirm that India has recently supplied helicopters with possible military uses to the Burmese Government? If that is the case, what representations have been made to India that it should desist from this?

Lord Brett: I have to confess to not being aware whether India has provided helicopters to the regime in Rangoon. I shall make inquiries in that regard and respond to the noble Lord.

Lord Elton: My Lords, the Minister mentioned the contact between our Prime Minister and the Chinese in New York late last year. What response did he get?

Lord Brett: The dialogue is ongoing.

Representation of the People (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Motion to Approve

3.36 pm

Moved By Lord Davidson of Glen Clova

Motion agreed.



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Building Societies (Insolvency and Special Administration) (Amendment) Order 2010

Building Societies (Financial Assistance) Order 2010

Motions to Approve

Moved By Lord Myners

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My Lords, I beg to move en bloc the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Lord Naseby: Does the Minister recognise, as I think he does, the importance of the mutual building societies movement to our country? Will he confirm that nothing has happened in the recent past to alter the need for these two statutory instruments?

Lord Myners: I am very happy to confirm the Government's absolute commitment to the concept of mutuality, a form of ownership which has served its members well and has been free from much of the scandal and mischief that we have associated with the plc model in the financial services sector. The proposals in the orders are designed to ensure that the sector remains resilient and that we have available to us a wide range of resolution instruments should they ever be required.

Motions agreed.

Criminal Defence Service (Information Requests) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Criminal Defence Service (Representation Orders: Appeals etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (Code of Practice for Interviews of Witnesses Notified by Accused) Order 2010

Motions to Approve

3.37 pm

Moved By Lord Bach

Motions agreed.



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Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Parental Orders) Regulations 2010

Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Parental Orders) (Consequential, Transitional and Saving Provisions) Order 2010

Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Disclosure of Information for Research Purposes) Regulations 2010

Motions to Approve

3.38 pm

Moved By Baroness Thornton

Motions agreed.

Arrangement of Business

Announcement

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, 41 speakers are signed up for the Second Reading of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill today. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to eight minutes, the House should be able to rise this evening at around the target rising time of 10 pm.

It might also be a convenient point to remind the House of the guidance in the Companion about attendance at debates. Members taking part in today's debate are expected to attend the greater part of it. It is considered discourteous for Members not to be present for the opening speeches, for at least the speech before and that following their own, and for the winding-up speeches. I am most grateful.

Personal Care at Home Bill

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
Amendments

Third Reading

3.39 pm

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments..

Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes

Second Reading

3.39 pm

Moved By Lord Bach

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, much of the Bill crosses familiar territory for your Lordships. It was preceded by the Government's draft Constitutional Renewal Bill which was published in March 2008 for pre-legislative scrutiny. The draft Bill was also put out for public consultation in the Government's draft legislative programme. In total this Bill has been preceded by 18 consultations and publications. Many of its parts have been extensively debated by your Lordships over the years.

Perhaps, therefore, it is appropriate at this time for me to put on record again the Government's gratitude to the Members who served on the Joint Committee on the draft Bill. I also thank the Constitution Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for their work in scrutinising the draft Bill and this Bill.

The Bill that is before us today goes much further than the draft Bill, and I make no apology at all for that. The Bill before your Lordships is a historic package of measures forming part of a wider obligation, crossing all party divisions, to rebuild trust in our democratic and constitutional settlement and to reinforce the principles of transparency, accountability and probity across government and Parliament.

The Bill has been progressing through Parliament against the backdrop of an unprecedented crisis of confidence in politics. The additions we have made to the Bill are a direct response to that. It is testimony to the seriousness of the situation we face that, for example, the provisions to implement the Kelly report, the 30-year rule for public records, and the tax status of parliamentarians all have cross-party support. Let me deal briefly with each part of the Bill.

Part 1 deals with the Civil Service, which has hitherto been established under the royal prerogative. The Government are of the view that it is now time to put the role, governance and values of the Civil Service onto a statutory footing, to give Parliament and the public confidence that an impartial Civil Service will be maintained for the future. Our Civil Service is admired across the world for its professionalism and impartiality. By placing the key values of the Civil Service on a statutory footing, we will be safeguarding the aspects of the Civil Service which we might take for granted. Your Lordships' Constitution Committee has highlighted this as one of the most significant parts of the Bill.

Part 1 will establish the Civil Service Commission on a statutory footing, thus guaranteeing its independent status. It also provides for the Civil Service and the Foreign Secretary's general power to manage the Civil Service and the Diplomatic Service respectively to be delegated, as now, to the head of the Civil Service and the permanent heads of department.

Part 1 also lays down a requirement for the Minister for the Civil Service and the Foreign Secretary to prepare and lay before Parliament a code of conduct for the Civil Service and the Diplomatic Service respectively. The codes must include the key Civil Service values of integrity, impartiality, objectivity and honesty. The codes will form part of the terms and conditions of civil servants.



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Clause 7(2) provides that the Civil Service and Diplomatic Service codes must require civil servants who serve an Administration, mentioned in Clause 7(3), to carry out their duties for the assistance of the Administration as it is duly constituted, whatever its political complexion. The Administrations in question are Her Majesty's Government and the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales. This does not affect civil servants who are on loan to or directly employed by bodies such as the Supreme Court, the Scottish Court Service or arm's-length bodies, whose duty is to serve the organisation they are seconded to or employed by, and not the aforementioned Administrations.

Clause 8 provides for the publication of a code of conduct that prohibits special advisers from authorising expenditure, managing permanent civil servants and exercising statutory powers. This prohibition was added by the Government as an amendment in the other place and is consistent with the recommendation made by the other place's Public Administration Select Committee. The Bill provides that all appointments to the Civil Service, subject to limited exceptions, must be on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition. Civil Service Commissioners are required to publish a set of principles which will be applied to appointments into the Civil Service. The Minister for the Civil Service and the commission may agree that the commission can carry out additional functions in relation to the Civil Service. In response to issues raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, I confirm that this power would not be used to confer functions on the commission that are already conferred by statute on some other person or body.


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