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Grand Committee

Wednesday, 22 May 2013.

Housing

Question for Short Debate

Noon

Asked by Lord Dubs

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to address the difficulties faced by families living in temporary housing or in overcrowded conditions.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, there is a very serious housing crisis in this country. Too many families are homeless, badly housed or in temporary accommodation. The situation has got worse largely as a result of coalition policies: first, too little housebuilding, especially for the poorest members of our society; and, secondly, the results of government policies on welfare. The more I have looked into this situation, in preparation for this debate and even before that, the more I feel that one cannot look at housing in isolation; one has to look at the whole social welfare system in order to understand the effect of changing the social welfare on housing. Part of what I want to say will be to do with that.

One has to ask: why is there such a housing crisis? No peacetime Government since the 1920s have presided over fewer housing completions than this Government of the past two years. It is actually getting worse. In 2012, housing starts were 11% lower and dropped below 100,000. Housebuilding in Britain has now hit new lows. The actual figure of housing starts last year was 98,280. New home starts have been lower in every single quarter than when Labour left power in 2010.

We have a definition of statutory homelessness—I do not believe it covers all homelessness but it is a working definition—and that has risen by more than a third since the election that brought the coalition to power. At the end of the second quarter of 2010, the number of homeless people stood at 10,100 and hit 13,890 in the last quarter. In practical terms, homelessness may be higher than that because the statutory definition is somewhat limited.

The Government have introduced the benefit cap, which I believe will make more people homeless. In London alone 7,000 families stand to lose more than £100 a week. Mr Leslie Morphy, the chief executive of Crisis, the homelessness charity, said:

“For the sake of cutting just a few pounds a week from their benefits, families and individuals are being forced out of their homes, to be put up in B&Bs or temporary accommodation that costs us all far more”.

The Labour Party’s contention is that there are regional variations and the Government’s benefit-cap approach has not taken account of that fact—it is not a matter of one size fits all. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said that the benefits cap should take into account housing costs in each region. He said:

“We've said we're in favour of a benefit cap but it has got to be adjusted regionally depending on housing costs in each region. The danger of the way the government is doing the cap is that it

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forces people into temporary accommodation, bed and breakfasts, which drives up costs not reduces them. And actually what we're seeing with the welfare bill is, despite the cuts the government is making, the welfare bill rising and not falling”.

That is a real condemnation that the Government are putting people through a lot of pain, allegedly to save money, and they are not even saving the money.

What we all call the bedroom tax is going to have a very important effect on housing. Frankly, it is hard to find anybody who has a good word to say about this policy. It is likely to cost far more than it saves. It has been estimated that 31% of working-age housing benefit claimants in the social rented sector—that is, 660,000 claimants—are likely to be affected by this measure. The problem is that there simply is not the smaller accommodation for people to move into. If there were, it might just about be a viable policy. For example, in the Hull City Council area, 4,700 tenants are likely to be affected by the policy but the council has only 73 one- or two-bedroom properties to let. It does not make any sense. How can it be possible to force, drive or coerce—whatever word one wants to use—tenants out of accommodation in which they are alleged to have an extra bedroom when there is nowhere else for them to go?

The other killer is that two-thirds of the households being hit contain within the home someone who is disabled. The Government have tried to meet the needs of disabled people in such circumstances, but it is going to be very cumbersome to measure those needs. Indeed, we know that disability is not a constant. People with disabilities often find that they have a developing condition, so that someone who is a bit disabled one day may be more disabled in the future. If they are forced out of their home, the situation can become particularly difficult for that family.

It has been estimated that, over the past four years, the cost to councils of bed and breakfast hostels and shelters has been £2 billion. The problem is that the figure is increasing, which makes any savings to be made on the welfare bill look even more remote. There is now a clear pressure on families to move out of central London simply because they cannot be rehoused in their own local area; that is to say, never mind that they cannot afford the rent because of the benefits cap because there is also the bedroom tax. London boroughs in particular are rapidly accelerating the rehousing of homeless households outside their home boroughs. During the year up to this April, almost 11,000 households were rehoused in this way, a rise of 16% on the previous 12 months. Most of those households left inner London for the cheaper outer suburbs, but some were moved to towns completely outside the capital, such as Dartford in Kent and Slough in Berkshire, or to the borough of Spelthorne in Surrey. Inevitably this has put a strain on local services and many council leaders outside London are now complaining about it. For example, Mr Edward Smith, a Conservative councillor in Enfield, has said:

“The pressure will not abate … Before long, we will have to build more secondary schools”.

That will be one of the consequences of the Government’s policy on welfare. The leader of Slough borough council has said:

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“You can’t just pitch up halfway through a year and expect to get a school place. It’s not McDonald’s”.

The housing Minister, Mark Prisk, insists that councils should be careful about placing families in B&Bs that are far from their home boroughs:

“There is absolutely no excuse for families to be sent miles away without proper regard for their circumstances, or to be placed in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation for long periods of time”.

That is fine, but the trouble is that the policy is not happening. He may be insisting on it, but it is simply not the way it is working. I should mention in passing that rough sleeping rose by 23% two years ago and by 6% last year, which represents a rise of a third since 2010. Rough sleeping is, of course, one of the most serious aspects of housing difficulties.

I turn briefly to the issue of temporary accommodation. The latest Government figures show that 53,130 households were living in temporary accommodation at the end of 2012, a rise of 9% on the previous year. The statutory limit for families living in bed and breakfast accommodation is six weeks. However, estimates suggest that a third of British local authorities are in breach of this limit, largely because of the shortage of suitable temporary accommodation. Last year, 12 of Britain’s biggest cities spent £464 million on temporary accommodation, an increase of almost 6%, while the London boroughs are budgeting for significant further increases this year.

Before I conclude, I want to say a word about overcrowding. There is a definition of overcrowding, but even accepting that definition, it varies according to the type of accommodation in which the household or family is living. Under the definition, almost 7% of social renters and 6% of private renters are overcrowded in their accommodation. I appreciate that the Government’s answer is that the bedroom tax will deal with overcrowding and that the Minister will quote figures to show how many people have spare accommodation. I have already talked about why the policy is not working. If one could simply switch people from one to the other property within the same neighbourhood, it might be easier, but housing does not work that way and the Government must surely know that. The problem is that the policy is causing enormous dislocation to households and families. If people have to move a long way away from where they have been settled, that is upsetting for them, it is not desirable and it is yet another sign that the Government’s policies are not working. There is a real crisis here and everyone who is looking at it says that it is getting worse. I hope that the Government will do something about it because the next Labour Government will certainly have to.

12.10 pm

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for introducing a housing debate, which we have far too infrequently in the House of Lords. Twenty years ago when I entered the House of Commons, I devoted considerable time in my first or second year there—I am not sure which it was—to the Housing Bill which was then proceeding through Parliament. We focused a lot on the duties of local councils to the homeless. Not long before that, one of

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my colleagues who was at that time the MP for the Isle of Wight, had, successfully introduced a Private Member’s Bill to establish some of the first duties to be imposed on local authorities with regard to homeless people. But here we are, 20 years later, still facing a situation in which we are unable to provide sufficient housing for people in our country. I find it even more amazing that for many of those years our economy was doing very well, yet we did not address the need for more affordable homes. We were raking in huge amounts of stamp duty. At the beginning of the previous Labour Government’s term of office, less than £1 billion was received in stamp duty; by the end, it was many billions of pounds. I said at the time that we should have used some of that money to address the shortage of social housing. If a fraction of that money had been spent on social housing, we would be in a much happier situation today.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, described the housing crisis. I agree that when the coalition came to power in May 2010, we inherited a housing crisis. Some 1.5 million homes had been lost from the stock under previous Governments since 1979. Those Governments continually failed to build enough homes to cover the social housing that was sold off. We saw social housing waiting lists soar from 1 million in 1997 to 1.8 million in 2010. Housing targets were routinely missed. Even the top-down regional spatial strategies of the previous Labour Government consistently failed to meet that Government’s targets and, in the last year of that Government, they fell short by 78,000. We find ourselves with not enough affordable homes to go round and a difficult task for the coalition to address when we are also trying to address the effects of the economic crisis we are still going through. The coalition announced in the comprehensive spending review that it would build 150,000 new social homes during this Parliament, and it now expects to exceed that. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will give us a little more detail on that when he replies to the debate. The coalition has also committed more than £160 million to bringing empty homes back into use as social and private housing—another issue on which I have campaigned for the past 20 or so years. A total of 11,200 homes will be brought back into use as part of this fund. This comfortably exceeds the target that was set of 3,300. However, another 5,000 homes will be brought back into use as part of the £300 million capital programme, taking the total to over 16,000.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, rightly discussed how we deal with families living in temporary homes and in bed and breakfast for rather longer periods than anybody would want, and asked what the Government were going to do about that. Local authorities have a duty to provide temporary accommodation and it is up to them how they meet that duty, although it is, of course, subject to central government guidance. There are two main reasons why we need to deal with this. One, of course, is the human cost, which has already been mentioned. It is not only the awfulness of not having a home of your own to imagine living in for a period but the effect on children’s education and so on. We would all agree that human misery is one of the most important reasons why we have to deal with this.

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At the same time as trying to alleviate human misery, one spends money, and therefore the financial cost of putting people in temporary accommodation is huge, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said. A recent report stated that the 12 largest cities spent nearly £2 billion on temporary accommodation in the past four years. That is enough to build 72,000 homes. In the past year, the cost of bed and breakfast has risen by more than 25%. If you look at the financial benefits of building more homes, it is clear that the money should be focused on this because we get a benefit of around £2.84 for every £1 spent.

As I intimated earlier, part of the action and a lot of the solutions have to be local. I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association, and I am grateful to it for some of the information that I will mention about how local authorities are dealing with this. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, it is clear that the way local authorities deal with those in bed and breakfast and temporary accommodation varies hugely. In December last year, the worst offender was, amazingly, Conservative-run Croydon which had 156 households in bed and breakfast for more than six weeks, followed by Labour-run Barking and Dagenham which had 69 households. Some of the councils run by Liberal Democrats have very low numbers, but I shall not labour that point.

The picture is emerging for a variety of reasons. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, pointed out the changes to benefits and so on, and there are new pressures on councils. Even councils that have a very good record on dealing with people in this situation are finding it very difficult. I asked the Local Government Association for some information about what the best local authorities are doing in this respect. One thing is very clear: if local authorities maintain a balanced portfolio of accommodation, they are in a much better position to spread the risk and to respond when markets and funding change. The other key thing is having an efficient housing benefit service that landlords who are taking people can rely on. Councils that work very hard to maintain good relationships with providers by not messing them around and being very responsive do better at keeping people out of bed and breakfast.

There are two particular things I would like to highlight about the London Borough of Sutton which, as noble Lords will know, is run by the Liberal Democrats. My noble friend Lord Tope was the leader of the council for many years. It was considering closing a local authority-owned care home, not an easy thing to do, because of the way care was changing. It decided to use the building for temporary accommodation. The path was quite tricky because it was closing a care home and the stereotypes that people discuss when homeless families are coming to live in their area had to be overcome. It has been a long process, but the council envisages that the converted property will provide accommodation for between 40 and 43 families that would otherwise face the dislocation of living outside the borough for several months. That backs up the other point that I made about the importance of councils working with private sector providers to find tenancies for families. They have worked very hard to attract landlords, keep them and deal with them. I particularly noticed that they prepare a helpful and

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innovative welcome pack for landlords, and they have been advised that they value this very much. That way, they have been able to keep a pool of landlords that help them to meet their statutory responsibilities.

I hope that my noble friend will be able to enlarge on some of the issues that I have talked about. It is important that we deal with this, because, as I say, the most important thing is the human misery for families who have to live in these conditions. My mother left my father when I was 11, and we went to live in a small town on the south coast. We lived in private rented accommodation and never stayed more than nine months in any place. I am pleased to say that, in my grown-up life, I have not had to do that—so I can say from first-hand experience that this is not satisfactory. We are a wealthy nation, we have known about this for 20 years, and we still have not managed to do anything about it. We all need to work to try to spread best practice. We are where we are with the money and benefits and so on, and I hope that the Government will work with local authorities to help to spread best practice to try to reduce the misery for families in these conditions.

12.21 pm

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Dubs for initiating this debate. I am delighted to be back on the same stamping ground with the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. For quite a long time, she and I shared many debates and exchanges on social housing, and she is a great stalwart of it. Indeed, she has worked for a long time in it, so I am delighted to see her name on the speakers list.

My noble friend has dealt with the subject of the housing shortage. It might seem quite a crass statement to make, but I believe that the people out there could not care less about political policy or about who is dealing with it and who is right or wrong. They care about having a home, which provides so much to the rest of their lives. It brings stability, a feeling of well-being, security, and the opportunity for them to bring their children up in the family environment that they want. At the other end of life, for older people who may be occupying accommodation that we may agree is rather larger than they need, it is nevertheless where they have been for years and years—and it provides the opportunity for their daughter or son, or another member of their family, or even a carer that they may need from time to time, to stay with them. So the housing shortage is not just about housing; it is about the whole of our lives.

The bedroom tax, as it has been christened, is not a new idea. It was something that was discussed and sought to be applied—and was applied, in some respects—many years ago. But then it was concentrated on students going off to university and the family having affordable rented accommodation from a housing association or local authority, when it was said that the bedroom was no longer needed. So I do not want this to be a party-political debate, but let us put one or two things straight. With the new affordable homes budget, the money available from central government to the provision of affordable housing has been cut by 60%. The previous Government allocated £8.4 billion for the three-year period from 2008 to 2011, under the

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last comprehensive spending review that they applied. The current Government have allocated just over half of that, at £4.5 billion for the four-year period 2011 to 2015. The Homes and Communities Agency has announced—and the agency knows, because they are the people who allocate the funding for affordable homes—that it is down 68% year on year. That figure meant that in 2010-11 just under 50,000 new-build, affordable homes were started. It was the first year of the new coalition but the last year of the previous Government’s comprehensive spending review. That was the number of new homes in the first year of this Government but in 2011-12 it dropped substantially to 15,700 homes. So here we are with a housing shortage, and it is going to get worse rather than better.

The Minister, Grant Shapps, announced that the Government claim that by 2015 170,000 new homes will have been provided under government funding. However, what he did not say was that 70,000 of that 170,000 were started by the previous Government. So let us get the facts straight: the previous Government were not an utter failure. They did not build as many homes as I would have liked and I would have been critical of the policy, but it is not all down to the previous Government. In any case, even if there is a part of you that feels it was and you want to rectify the situation, you do not do it by cutting the budget by half or, indeed, by claiming that you are building houses that you did not actually commence.

Many of us are old enough to remember the television film “Cathy Come Home”. Not only was it searing for people who were homeless and interested in the subject; it really shocked the country. The day after the programme was shown, everybody was saying, “We didn’t know it was as bad as this and we need to do something about it”. Something did then start to be done by the then Conservative Government. If you talk to Shelter and housing providers who deal with homelessness, they will say that it is now time for another “Cathy Come Home” film to be made because we are going backwards as a nation—we are not making any progress.

I started by saying that housing affects whole lives and that it is not just a matter of where people stay. That is true. It was certainly brought home to me when, as chairman of the Housing Corporation, I went to a lot of areas. It was the simple statements that brought home to me the difference that housing could make. I remember one mother standing up at a local conference that we had organised. She said, “Since we’ve moved into this council flat, it has made two key differences to my kids. One is that one of my children was always off school with colds and being unwell. Now we are in a decent home, I’ve suddenly realised that they’re going to school regularly. Their health has improved substantially. But also their attention at school has improved because they have somewhere to sit and do their homework. Yes, they do it in the kitchen—we don’t have a spare room—but there’s a homeliness there and there’s peace and quiet for them, and it’s made a substantial difference to our family’s quality of life”.

I agree that with the bedroom tax and housing shortage we concentrate on areas of biggest need—London and the periphery of London—but we should

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not forget the provincial cities, which increasingly also have problems with homelessness. Nor should we forget the rural areas, as many people tend to do. They think that they are sublime areas in which to live, but some of the greatest housing poverty in this country is in those areas and we must not forget that.

Housing is at the centre of our lives and impacts on our lives, and where it impacts negatively, society picks up the bill further down the line, whether it is a bill relating to health problems or children not concentrating or getting the attention they need at school. Therefore, it has an enormous impact on their life chances, as I think we all recognise.

There is one other factor, which is the overall medium and long-term impact on registered social landlords. If they are not getting the money to build, obviously they will not build, so what are the long-term prospects for the prosperity of these organisations? If the registered housebuilding sector, such as housing associations, is diminishing, what does the future hold? What will happen if we start to dilute or reduce their ability? Remember that, although they are called housing associations, one great asset they bring to housing is that they do not just build houses. Until recently, I was a non-executive director of Taylor Wimpey. We were not in the regeneration game; we were in the game of building houses. Housing associations are great regeneration agencies. They look at the whole community and provide services that other organisations cannot or do not provide. If because of their balance sheet they are restricted on their investment, and therefore on their overall strategic policy and have to draw back—and remember that they are also substantially funded by the private sector through bonds and other means—when we come through the Government’s austerity measures, we will not have the facilities to pump-prime the massive housebuilding programme that we need.

I am not saying that this Government are responsible for the serious housing shortage, but they are actually ensuring that we do not get out of the housing problem. Their policies are regressive rather than progressive in this whole area. I ask the Minister to address how the Government are going to deal with this growing problem—the social scars and the homelessness that we see, with people begging on our streets. We need to have an incremental policy that will reduce those problems in our society.

12.31 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Dubs for initiating this debate. As he said, even using the limited definition of “statutory homelessness”, that went from 10,100 at the end of 2010 to 13,570 at the end of 2012. As a result, local authorities are placing a worrying number of families in temporary accommodation. There were 53,130 households living in temporary accommodation at the end of 2012, 9% higher than the previous year. The failure to tackle this problem, as highlighted by my noble friend Lady Dean, is devastating for many families and, according to new research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, referred to by my noble friend, is proving incredibly costly.

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The UK has spent almost £2 billion over the past four years housing vulnerable homeless families in short-term, temporary accommodation. In that time, £1.88 billion has gone on temporary accommodation in 12 of Britain’s biggest cities—enough to build 72,000 homes in London and house all 53,000 or so households which are currently homeless, as the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said. As my noble friend Lord Dubs highlighted, London Councils are rapidly accelerating the rehousing of homeless households outside their home boroughs; 32,643 homeless households have been rehoused out of their borough since 2009. In the year to April, 10,832 households were rehoused in this way, a 15.86% rise on the previous 12 months, and 44,860 households in temporary accommodation—84%—were in self-contained accommodation. Moreover, 40,860 of those in temporary accommodation included dependent children and/or pregnant women, in which households there were 76,790 children or expected children. Of these, the number placed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation increased from 630 at the end of March 2010 to 1,690 at the end of December.

Official guidance says that bed-and-breakfast accommodation should be avoided wherever possible and is not suitable for families with children or pregnant women,

“unless there is no alternative accommodation available and then only for a maximum of six weeks”.

However, a recent freedom of information request showed that the number of families with children and/or a pregnant woman housed in bed and breakfast for six weeks or more has risen more than eightfold since the coalition came to power.

As my noble friend Lord Dubs said in opening this debate, we face the biggest housing crisis in a generation, and the Government’s housing and economic policies are not helping. The first priority must be to address, by building more homes, the housing shortage that is the underlying cause of homelessness, overcrowding, high rents and low standards of accommodation. House-building is crucial to the economic recovery and in helping to get families on the housing ladder. The Government have launched four major housing schemes in three years and made more than 300 announcements on housing, yet all these schemes have so far completely failed to tackle the housing crisis. By simply stimulating demand through plans for help-to-buy mortgage guarantees and equity loans rather than directly boosting supply, there is a danger that they will simply push up prices. Although we had some positive news this morning from the Nationwide Building Society that first-time buyers are beginning to get into the housing market, it is still too little and, perhaps, a little too late.

As we have heard in this debate, we also need subsidised housing for those who cannot afford to purchase or to pay full market rents. Action on affordable homes is needed, and the announcement that an extra £225 million will be available is welcome news, but only £125 million will be spent before 2015 according to the OBR and, as my noble friend Lady Dean said, that is dwarfed by the £4 billion cut in funding for affordable housing that the Chancellor made in his first budget.

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While one government department introduces measures to support housing, another exacerbates the problem, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Dubs. The bedroom tax, the levy on housing association and council tenants deemed to have a spare room, penalises those in work as well as those who must find the money from their other benefits by cutting back on essentials. While scrapping this measure would be best, when the Government are reviewing its impact, will they consider the current discretionary housing payments, which local authorities need to deploy in the many cases of hardship where tenants cannot be offered a suitable smaller property?

As chair of a credit union, I am only too aware of the issues that my noble friend Lady Dean raised. Many housing associations have tenants who are going to be hit by the welfare changes and are anticipating major problems of rent arrears. This not only means they must cut back on spending on new housing investment just when the Government need them to do more but, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, highlighted in his contribution on the gracious Speech, they will be less able to undertake broader community work, such as addressing those with special needs, tackling anti-social behaviour and supporting young people into training and jobs.

At the root of the temporary housing problem is the failure to build enough affordable housing. With the huge squeeze in living standards and a faltering economy, the Government’s failure to provide affordable housing means that millions of families are priced out of living in a decent home. As my noble friend Lady Dean pointed out, official statistics from the Homes and Communities Agency show that affordable housing starts collapsed in the last financial year by 68%, dropping from 49,363 in 2010-11 to only 15,698 in 2011-12. Furthermore, at 80% of market rent, many of the homes under the Government’s affordable homes programme are not affordable in many parts of the country.

The Labour Party has previously called on the Chancellor to use the money raised from the 4G mobile spectrum auction to build 100,000 affordable homes, and the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has also called for an immediate tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund 25,000 affordable homes.

As we have heard in contributions from all sides in today’s debate, and as my noble friends pointed out, for people in our communities this is not a party-political issue but one that affects them and needs urgent action. I ask the Minister to respond in detailing what urgent action is to be taken.

12.41 pm

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in commending the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for initiating this debate. In doing so, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in debating what is, undoubtedly, an important issue. In responding, I should say from the outset that the Government see—and certainly I saw this at first hand during my tenure in local government—that the best way in which to tackle homelessness is not by politicising it, as the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, said. This is about people’s

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future and their lives, and often their families, who are desperately in need of support to get themselves on their feet. I totally share the sentiments, as expressed by the noble Baroness, about ensuring that what we do is to put the people at the centre of any reforms or changes that we seek to make.

I also recognise that the issues raised by noble Lords in the debate reflect the growing importance of housing, acknowledged by all sides. This is not something new; the housing crisis is a reality that has been faced by successive Governments, and which this Government are certainly facing up to today.

I turn to a few facts. I acknowledge that, if one casts one’s mind back to about 2003, there were then about 135,000 households in England that were accepted as being homeless by local authorities. At the end of last year, this figure was just in excess of 53,000. I would like to clarify one point. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, raised the issue of 53,000 in terms of temporary bed and breakfast accommodation, which is currently 4,000. Overall numbers in temporary accommodation are much smaller than they reached in 2004, when it was closer to 100,000. That said—and we can talk about statistics—I acknowledge the fact that, after 2004 the previous Government took some stringent steps to address that particular need, and also to bring it to the attention of local authorities, which are at the forefront of tackling this particular issue.

The Government are committed to tackling and preventing homelessness and reducing the use of bed and breakfast accommodation. This is reflected in the increased level of funding that we have provided for homelessness work at what are, as my noble friend Lady Maddock acknowledged, very challenging times for the Government. The Government have invested £470 million over the spending review period in prevention of homelessness, including the reduced use of temporary accommodation. There has been an additional £70 million this year, including £18.5 million to tackle rough sleeping, targeted at local authorities and £20 million for a transition fund.


I share the sentiments that have been expressed by several noble Lords. The Government are keen to ensure that local authorities support homeless households into stable, secure and suitable long-term accommodation as soon as possible. In my time as a local councillor, I saw for myself the importance of this issue, particularly where children have spent long periods in temporary accommodation. It can be very damaging. That is why we have retained the order introduced by the previous Government in 2004 to limit the use of bed and breakfast accommodation, and I will return to this in a moment. The order makes it illegal to place families in this type of accommodation for any longer than six weeks.

I fully acknowledge that despite the order, during the first half of last year we did see an increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation, but I am pleased to say that when the latest figures were released in March, the numbers had dropped in comparison with the preceding quarter. However, I reiterate that the Government are in no way complacent about this. Where authorities are placing families in bed and

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breakfast accommodation for longer than six weeks, let me make it clear that it is unlawful and unacceptable. I share the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in this regard. Officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government are working closely with those local authorities which have the highest number of families in bed and breakfast accommodation to help them address the issue. We are confident that the numbers being left in this type of accommodation for longer than six weeks can be reduced.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also mentioned the issue of rough sleeping. We will make sure that we continue to tackle and prevent rough sleeping, and I am greatly encouraged by the success here in London of the mayor’s No Second Night Out pilot project, which has ensured that 87% of new rough sleepers do not spend a second night on the streets of London. We are rolling out the No Second Night Out project nationally, and all local authorities are planning to introduce the scheme. Many key rough sleeping areas like Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Oxford and Northamptonshire are already operating schemes. Again, I am very supportive of this. I focused on a project for my own party which looked in particular at inner cities, and I know how acute the challenge and associated problems of rough sleeping can be.

I want also to address the location of the housing being offered by local authorities. Vulnerable households need protection and it is not acceptable for families to be dumped en masse long distances away from home. This matter has been raised by my honourable friend Mark Prisk, the housing Minister, and it is a point that he has reiterated and made clear to councils. For our part, we introduced new powers in the Localism Act 2011 so that councils can now use good quality private rented sector accommodation to meet the main homelessness duty, thus helping to reduce the need to use temporary accommodation. Where councils do feel the need to move families away from their home borough, they must by law take account of the suitability of the accommodation being offered to each homeless household and consider the impact that the change in location will have, including possible disruption to employment, education and, of course, caring responsibilities. The law is clear, and councils not doing this will be challenged. During the consultation for the suitability order, both the London Development Agency and London Councils welcomed the flexibility afforded to local authorities to discharge their homelessness duty in the private sector.

The issue of the suitability order and outer borough policy was again a concern of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. It will ensure proper accommodation. For the information of noble Lords, it will look at five broad areas: the physical condition of the property, health and safety, matters relating to the property such as electricity and fire safety, licensing for houses in multiple occupation, landlord behaviour and elements of good management.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and my noble friend Lady Maddock, mentioned overcrowding. As has been acknowledged by various speakers, the Government aim to deliver some 200,000 new affordable homes by 2016-17. This

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will be achieved through our new Affordable Homes Programme and additional homes under the Housing Guarantee Scheme. With a total investment that includes £19.5 billion from the private sector, our main affordable programme remains on track to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes for rent and ownership by March 2015. I totally acknowledge that this is not just about quoting figures; we need to ensure that we build those houses—a sentiment aired by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, which I share. Up to a further 30,000 homes will also have been started on site by March 2015, supported by our affordable housing guarantee of £10 billion and a grant of £450 million. Taken together, the reforms to social housing allocations, homelessness and tenure in the Localism Act 2011 will make it easier for social landlords to manage their existing stock generally to reduce homelessness.

I have already alluded to the fact that 200,000 new affordable homes will be delivered, and we are on target to achieve that. Almost 58,000 affordable homes, including first-buy homes, were delivered in 2011-12, which is a third more than the average delivery in the 10 years between 2001 and 2009-10. We are also confident about delivery. In 2011-12, the HCA exceeded its target by more than 13,000. Almost 60,000 completions have been delivered in the first 18 months of the affordable homes programme—that is, 37% of the 170,000 being delivered between 2001 and 2015. The UK Statistics Authority has confirmed that there was a loss of 421,000 social rented homes under the previous Government. The extension to the affordable homes guarantee programme to 2016-17 will, we believe, help providers to develop stronger bids for more homes. In the 2013 spending round, we will be looking at the range of policy options on the supply of affordable housing beyond 2015. This will give providers greater clarity on the policy relating to affordable housing beyond 2015 to inform their long-term business planning.

My noble friend Lady Maddock raised the issue of certain local councils. I know the challenges faced by, for example, Croydon, which she highlighted. It is a borough not too far from where I used to serve as a local councillor. I know for a fact that the Government are working with Croydon to reduce those figures. We are informed that they have come down significantly and, indeed, are set to reduce further. However, I would highlight that, because of new arrivals into the UK, Croydon faces particular acute challenges in housing provision.

My noble friend Lady Maddock raised the issue of best practice among councils, and this is very important. Perhaps I may again quote the noble Baroness, Lady Dean: this is not about politics; it is about ensuring that we get the right result. Where there is good practice, whether it is in a Conservative council, a Lib Dem council, a Labour council or a council of whatever other colour we may conjure up in the years ahead, it is important that that practice is adhered to and shared. I acknowledge the work done by, for example, London Councils in London and by the LGA across the UK in encouraging this.

As noble Lords may be aware, we have also recently announced the gold standard scheme, which is being run by NHAS and Winchester City Council, with

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nearly £2 million being made available for a peer review and accreditation scheme. Again, we hope that this will allow us to share good practice across the country.

In addressing issues of overcrowding, I also wish to mention HomeSwap Direct, which will make it easier for underoccupying households to help each other. It is too early to say whether the removal of the spare room subsidy will reduce overcrowding, but we are seeing a significant increase in applicants for home swaps and a 28% increase in the swap rate.

At this point, I want to turn to a concern raised by the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Collins of Highbury, and indeed by other noble Lords, not just in this debate but previously, relating to what has been referred to in the media as a bedroom tax but was in fact a subsidy granted by the Government. There are specific exemptions and mitigations that I wish to highlight in this regard. Those mitigations and exemptions apply, for example, to approved foster carers and to the parents of adult children in the Armed Forces who normally live at home but are deployed on operations. People living in supported exempt accommodation are not affected by this measure. DWP guidance is that local authorities may also allow an extra bedroom to address issues of disability, particularly where a disabled child or children are unable to share a room because of their severe disability. As I believe the noble Lord, Lord Collins, acknowledged, a discretionary fund is available. I do not want to go into individual cases but we are encouraging this, and the Government have made £350 million available in discretionary housing payments across the spending period to help the most vulnerable people through this reform. These will be distributed at local authorities’ discretion. If local authorities are very much on the front line in dealing with these issues, it is important that they address them and that money is provided to do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, talked about the cut in the housing budget. We have increased the supply of affordable housing compared with the average over the years 2001 to 2009 and 2010. The affordable rent product allows us to achieve much better value for money and the average grant is in the region of about £22,000 per unit. However, I acknowledge the point made by the noble Baroness in her usual articulate fashion that it is not just a question of stating what is being built but of ensuring that new houses are built to address local needs. The Government remain committed to fulfilling our promises and targets in this regard.

I believe that I have covered most of the issues that were raised. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, referred to bed-and-breakfast accommodation. I acknowledge that some councils are not fulfilling their pledge on the six-week limit. My honourable friend the housing Minister has looked at this and the ministerial working group on homelessness is calling on local housing authorities to deliver on the 10 challenges, which include a commitment not to use B&B accommodation for families. Recently, Mark Prisk, the Minister concerned, held a round table with London boroughs with high homelessness numbers, including families in B&B accommodation, to address these issues and to share good practice across boroughs, to which my noble friend Lady Maddock referred.

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I once again reiterate that the Government remain absolutely committed to addressing homelessness. We believe that progress is being made in reducing current homelessness levels across the country. Does more need to be done? Of course, it does. We need to look at the extended use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation beyond six weeks and to ensure that there is greater affordability in the market by increasing the supply of affordable homes. Through the ministerial working group on homelessness we are working across government to tackle the complex drivers of homelessness. Although these remain difficult times for all of us, we are calling on local authorities to play their part in tackling this issue. There is no excuse for housing families in unsuitable accommodation, be that bed-and-breakfast or other unsuitable accommodation. We continue to work with local authorities, organisations such as London Councils and the LGA to ensure that good practice prevails. No council should send tenants en masse to different parts of the country, so we have changed the law to ensure that local authorities properly consider the location of accommodation alongside other matters.

The Government remain committed to tackling this issue, which we are confronting despite the challenges. I know from my own experience that there is nothing better than turning a key, walking through a door and entering a house that meets the family’s needs. We are committed to fulfilling that aspiration for homeless people. That should remain at the centre of our thinking.

12.59 pm

Sitting suspended.

Kenya: Presidential Election

Question for Short Debate

1 pm

Asked by Lord Chidgey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the Government of Kenya concerning the impact within the region of the outcome of the recent presidential election in that country.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, this is a remarkable year for Kenya. In December, it will celebrate 50 years of independence from Britain, after Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, took over the reins of government as Prime Minister in 1963. A year later, Kenya’s Parliament amended the constitution to make Kenya a republic, with Jomo Kenyatta as its first President.

There was much pessimism during Kenya’s build-up to independence. Kenyatta had been tried, convicted and imprisoned by the British for “managing” the armed insurrection known as the Mau Mau on charges that were widely regarded as spurious. He was described by a former British governor as the,

“leader to darkness and death”.

Yet he was instrumental, even in the sensitive areas of the so-called White Highlands, in calling for peace and unity. When he died in 1978, he was admired—in an

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era of instability in post-independence Africa—as having presided over stability and economic advance for his country.

Today his oldest son, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the fourth President of Kenya since independence. He was elected in March when, again, there were gloomy forecasts of violence, chaos and political instability. Like his father, Uhuru Kenyatta can take considerable credit for peaceful elections, particularly when elaborate electronic equipment failed and Kenyans had to endure a week of waiting as the votes were counted manually.

Kenyatta and his Jubilee Alliance were clear winners and thus avoided a run-off against his main political opponent, Raila Odinga and his Coalition for Reform and Democracy. The Jubilee Alliance won by just 8,000 votes, a victory confirmed by Kenya’s Supreme Court. Raila Odinga must take credit, too, for accepting the result, which unquestionably kept his supporters off the streets. However, the country remains sharply divided across ethnic lines, which is a major challenge for the new Administration.

In the disastrous 2007 elections, there had been a similarly close result between Raila Odinga and the former President, Mwai Kibaki, which caused appalling intertribal violence and loss of life. This in turn led to the involvement of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, when Kenya’s Parliament decided not to establish a special tribunal. Charges of crimes against humanity were brought against Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate—and now Vice-President—William Ruto for their alleged roles in the post-election violence of six years ago. At that time they were on opposite sides, but to their credit both men have now agreed to attend the hearings to clear their names. However, it has produced an extraordinary situation with no coherent way forward at the present time. Kenyans remember that during the 2008 post-election violence, Kenyatta went to one of the worst-affected areas, the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, and publicly called for peace, showing considerable personal courage in doing so—not unlike his father before him.

His father’s regime had changed the constitution, but Uhuru Kenyatta inherited a radically different constitution from that which had served Kenya for nearly 50 years. For the first time, the country has a two-tier Parliament: the Senate or upper house, with 67 nationally elected individuals, and a much expanded lower house, the National Assembly, comprising 349 MPs, divided into 28 parliamentary committees. The country has also adopted a devolved system of government with 47 counties each with its own governor and supportive county assembly. This takes the place of the previous provincial administration and moves Kenya away from a centralised system of government and domination by the ruling party and Executive. The new system will be a significant challenge for President Kenyatta to deliver.

The British Government describe the modern-day relationship between the United Kingdom and Kenya as one of partnership. With Britain as the former colonial power, there is a special historic and cultural relationship, as well as commercial and strategic linkages that are vital to both countries. For example, Britain has more than £4 billion invested in Kenya and is

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home to half the top 10 taxpaying companies in the country. British visitors are also vital for Kenya’s tourism industry, while Britain is Kenya’s second-largest bilateral donor, contributing more than £100 million a year. Trade between Britain and Kenya exceeds £1 billion a year, with British exports to Kenya rising by 38% between 2010 and 2011. No small part of Kenya’s trade with the UK are the millions of cut flowers and tonnes of high-value vegetables heading for British homes every year.

For its part, Kenya is a critical regional business hub, with the largest and most robust economy in the region, and the trading gateway not only to the countries of the East African Community but to eastern Congo and central Africa. A new rail, road and pipeline proposal seeks to link South Sudan with a new port at Lamu, opening up new opportunities for investment. Furthermore, there is enormous potential in oil, gas and minerals in Kenya itself, with substantial oil strikes in the north of the country which could transform the economy in the next decade.

While Kenya is developing as an IT hub with an ambitious new project designed to create an equivalent of Silicon Valley within 60 kilometres of Nairobi, Kenya’s highly articulate and entrepreneurial business class is well placed to lead the regional IT revolution, as Kenya led the world in creating the M-Pesa electronic banking system through the use of mobile telephones. The British-based Eastern Africa Association recently commented that significant numbers of new investors from abroad are attracted to Kenya both as a regional centre and because of its prospects and mineral resources. British investors and expertise are fully behind Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya’s target to become a middle-income country.

The centre of a key region for Britain’s commercial interests, Kenya makes considerable sacrifices in the cause of regional security, including by providing refuge for tens of thousands of Somali refugees. Five thousand Kenyan troops are playing an important role in keeping al-Shabaab at bay in Somalia and in combating piracy along the coast, where anti-piracy activities involve 27 countries, with the result that there are 80% fewer hijacking cases since co-ordinated international action was first taken 18 months ago. The British Army trains 10,000 British soldiers in Kenya every year for active service in Afghanistan and other theatres of war. There are shared values and mutual respect between the Armed Forces of both countries.

In this 50th anniversary year, never have interests between the United Kingdom and Kenya been more important or interdependent. Few in Kenya will forget that while Her Majesty the Queen has just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years ago she journeyed to Kenya as a Princess and, while at Treetops, received news of her father’s death and so returned to England as Queen.

Following the decision of the Kenyan Supreme Court to uphold Kenya’s recent election results, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to congratulate the then President-elect Kenyatta and his team. He stressed that President Kenyatta’s election represented the end of a remarkable process in which more Kenyans than ever before turned out to vote. The Prime Minister

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urged the Kenyan people to be proud of the strong signal that they have sent to the world about their determination to exercise their democratic right peacefully. He added that the Kenyan people had made their sovereign choice and had resolved disputes through the rule of law and the strong institutions of the Supreme Court and due constitutional process. Despite the delicacy of the International Criminal Court proceedings, President Uhuru Kenyatta was welcomed to London for the Somalia conference and met with Prime Minister Cameron, a recognition of shared interests between Britain and Kenya and the peaceful political transition for which President Kenyatta deserves considerable credit.

One note of concern is over the slowness of the investigation into the death of Alexander Monson at Palm Beach Hospital after being detained overnight in police custody in Ukunda. Over a year since his death occurred, what progress has been made in liaison with the Kenyan authorities with investigations into the causes, and what discussions have been held with President Kenyatta’s office since his election on this point?

There is a strong commitment to the partnership that exists between Kenya and the UK. Our relationship is deep and historic, with a substantial shared agenda of stability, security, development and prosperity that benefits both our countries. We in this House look forward to working with Kenya’s new Government to build on this relationship and to help to realise the great potential of a united Kenya, in line with Vision 2030.

1.10 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: I am delighted to follow the noble Lord. He and I share a common love affair with Africa, along with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and I agree with all that he has said in his analysis. The elections in Kenya were good news, in part for what did not happen. There was no repetition of the awful events of 2007 and the tribal massacres and there was an ending of what had been a muddle in Africa, where Presidents in uniform had often been the order of the day. That was the case for a number of reasons, including the new constitution, the new electoral commission, the Supreme Court and, as some might more cynically say, because two of the opponents at that time had now become the President and Vice-President. Of course, there were allegations of vote-rigging, but the President received a majority on the first round—the turnout in the elections of roughly 80% puts us to shame in terms of enthusiasm for voting. It was an excellent example of the loser, having first questioned the results, then wholeheartedly accepting it as soon as the Supreme Court had given its ruling.

I need hardly stress the importance of Kenya, as the noble Lord has done, with its internal growth and the extent of UK interests. Externally, Kenya has been a force for good in the region. Like the noble Lord, I think not only about Somalia and Kenya’s assistance against piracy, including with the courts, but also about Kenya as a key ally against terrorism in the region—and, of course, as a good Commonwealth partner.

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The problem is clear, as the noble Lord said; it is the one posed by the International Criminal Court, especially for us, now that the President and his Vice-President are both indictees. It is something of an embarrassment for us and for the international community. Clearly, the indictees have been properly elected—the first time that that has happened. Do we shun them or have minimum contact? What consultations have there been with our European Union partners and with the Commonwealth? Already the President has been to the Somalia conference in London and I assume that he will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka. The experience of the indicted President al-Bashir in Sudan is quite different. Here we have a good ally, too big to ignore. Is it still the case that the proceedings are scheduled to begin in July or, as some rather hope, is the case collapsing? I suspect that the British Government would want the whole procedure at the International Criminal Court to fade far away so that we can forget it.

This raises a general point about the work of the International Criminal Court. After the series of ad hoc tribunals in the 1980s and 1990s, the Rome treaty on the International Criminal Court was warmly welcomed at the time. Yet, of course, there is not universal membership—I believe that the current membership is about 130 or 140—and there has been only one conviction in the period since 2002. Equally, a number of key countries, including the United States and other P5 members, are not members of the International Criminal Court.

Perhaps philosophically we have here a clash between justice and politics. Some will say, “Let justice be done whatever the result”, yet there is the question of politics. For example, suppose in Syria President Assad were to say, “Yes, my time is up. I will be prepared to go into a friendly country in exile, together with members of my family and entourage, so long as no proceedings are taken against me”. There would be a great temptation in the international community to proceed against him because of the very clear massacres and human rights violations in Syria. However, allowing him to move into a safe haven could save many thousands of lives. This is part of the dilemma that the international community would face.

I refer to the criticisms made at the inauguration of the new President by President Museveni of neighbouring Uganda. He said—and perhaps we should not pay too much attention to this—that it is to be noted that all the indictees thus far have been African. Is there a degree of bias against Africa in the ICC? Is it right that there has been poor evidence-gathering on behalf of the ICC—for example, too great a willingness to collude with Presidents, as it is alleged happened in the Congo and perhaps with Prime Minister Odinga in Kenya? I think that that probably is answered by the fact that the indictees included members of both Mr Odinga’s party and that of President Kenyatta. At least, those criticisms need to be examined.

What is the Government’s view? Do they accept in part the criticisms of President Museveni on the validity? Perhaps it would be helpful if the Minister, in responding, could say specifically how we intend to deal with the President of such an important Commonwealth country.

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What are the instructions to our high commissioner, remembering that these proceedings may take many years and there will be, as the Kenyans say, a trial by Skype? Do the Government, at least in part, accept the criticism of the conduct of the International Criminal Court raised by President Museveni?

1.18 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, this is an interesting subject and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for introducing it. We can all feel considerable satisfaction with the Kenyan elections. Not only were they peaceful and the outcome decisive, but the electoral process was internationally approved as free and fair. This was a great relief to all who remember the terrible experience at the end of 2007. I was in Kenya with a CPA delegation shortly after that. Having visited Kisumu, where many of the killings took place, I can still feel a chill on hearing first-hand accounts of what had happened.

We cannot simply dismiss it as ethnic violence between Luo and Kikuyu, as we are prone to do when we are talking about Africa. It was on one side armed gangs, stirred up for political and ethnic reasons, but on the other it was the police, with a shoot-to-kill mandate, who simply opened fire. This is still, for Kenyans, a very recent experience. There are still burnt-out buildings and camps for the displaced, who still await proper homes.

Incidentally, I have watched traffic police beating up minor offenders in Nairobi and it is not a pleasant experience. The police in the latest election also used excessive force and even live ammunition against some demonstrators in Nairobi and Kisumu. However, according to the International Crisis Group, they generally showed much more restraint and efficiency this time, as in the rapid deployment to put down further violence in Mombasa.

The election violence of five years ago is of course the reason for the uncertainty surrounding the ICC indictment of President Kenyatta, who is to appear before the court in July. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, and I visited Khartoum a couple of years ago, and we are both well aware of the irony of the Kenyan position alongside that of President al-Bashir in Sudan. President al-Bashir has taken little notice of the ICC and, despite the obvious inconvenience of sanctions, he carries on normally and goes on unauthorised visits abroad. At the same time, on the l0th anniversary of Darfur, the Foreign Office happens to have mentioned in its latest report that there has been progress on human rights in Sudan, such as the appointment of an independent commission on human rights, so perhaps good behaviour somehow pays off.

Long-term African presidents, even elected ones, seem to think that they have earned some impunity because of their long service. In passing, I could also mention the apparent integrity of President Museveni of Uganda, whom we have all admired. This week, he decided to close down the highly respected Daily Monitor and two radio stations simply because they reported disaffection among the generals about his son’s possible succession in three years’ time. When you are high and mighty in Africa, you get away with a lot.

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The ICC does appear to Africans to be biased against African states, although I know that our Government would deny that. It is a very contentious issue. The Minister may well say that due process is being followed and that the ICC has merely taken over from the local tribunals. The UK was one of the original backers of the ICC in 2002 and has consistently supported it at the Security Council. It is argued that the extent of violence in Africa justifies a higher level of international judicial involvement, which can take the weight off the courts in the countries concerned. In that direction, much is expected of the ICC’s first African chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, a former justice minister in the Gambia.

However, perceptions also matter, and inevitably there is post-colonial resentment of Britain and other European powers suspected of trying to influence the political scene in Kenya. There was already some feeling during the elections that European diplomats were playing a negative role, although this was denied. People see that, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, the ICC has an Achilles heel in that major powers, including the US, China, Russia, Japan and India, have refused to join it, so that it therefore has no genuine international standing.

I enjoyed reading the Commons debate about Kenya on 20 March, in which Eric Joyce raised the issue of the ICC’s image. He has a lot of experience of the rough and tumble of life, especially in central Africa, and he analysed—I thought very fairly—the limited status of the ICC as a world arbitrator, showing that in practice it has drawn up indictments only in Africa. Perhaps the Minister could explain how it is that the ICC suddenly seemed to take over from the local tribunals in Kenya, of which much was expected after the last elections. I remember that we debated that. The Mombasa court, of course, has since rightly earned a reputation for its role in the EU-backed Operation Atalanta campaign against Somali piracy and for taking the lion’s share of the prosecutions there.

Because of the high rank of those accused for inciting post-election violence, political pressure was bound to be brought to bear on the Kenyan judiciary in the years after 2007. Witnesses are withdrawing or changing their statements even now for this reason and because of the time that has since elapsed. I gather that William Ruto’s case has been deferred, and therefore there is a real risk that the whole ICC prosecution will be postponed again and, ultimately, cancelled. This would not reflect well on the new Jubilee Alliance Government, who have declared themselves anxious to conform to the new constitution and preserve the independence of the judiciary. Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, as the son and namesake of the founder of Kenya’s independence movement, will want to get on with the business of governing and, we all hope, ridding the country of its worst excesses, many of which lie within government itself.

To begin with, as the International Crisis Group has argued, the new Government need to show robust commitment to the implementation of the new constitution, in particular to devolution, land reform, the fight against corruption, and national reconciliation. Ask anyone involved in wildlife conservation and tourism in Kenya and Tanzania about corruption and they will

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say it is their worst enemy because it flouts the law, condones poaching and enables very senior civil servants to draw salaries without actually doing anything.

There is always a correlation between corruption, violence and poverty, especially in crowded urban areas such as Kibera. To mitigate this, DfID Kenya has many innovative projects throughout the country; I will not list them all. It concentrates on a whole range of issues, including: improving maternal and reproductive health; increasing school access and the quality of education; and helping Kenya to develop green energy and adapt to a changing climate. Good governance is another priority. Parliamentary exchanges, including training and shared technology, are carried out very effectively by the CPA and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, as I saw for myself in 2008.

I know that the noble Baroness has a human rights brief and is closely associated with the Government’s campaign to join the once-despised Human Rights Council, for which I applaud her. As a younger-generation Minister, she will understand that the UK cannot condemn human rights abuses without accepting its own historic responsibilities. I am thinking of the compensation claim of a limited number of Mau Mau victims of British Army torture following their successful High Court ruling in October 2012, for which negotiations are under way. This case sets a precedent and will have significant repercussions in other Commonwealth countries.

As the noble Lords, Lord Chidgey and Lord Anderson, have said, despite this cloud on the horizon Britain has enjoyed very good relations with Kenya; for example, inviting the President to the Somalia conference. The whole east African region has benefited from Kenya’s growing international trade and the oil boom. Kenya’s success in curbing the power of al-Shabaab in Somalia has won worldwide admiration. The training in Kenya of British troops, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, seems likely to continue. Our FCO and Trade Ministers have promoted Kenya’s Vision 2030, which involves leading British investors. All that must be to the good. On these and many other fronts, Kenya can be proud of its relationship with Britain, and vice versa.

As we are having an African debate, I will close by commending Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the receipt of the Templeton Prize. I gather he is in this House today. I witnessed the ceremony yesterday. Of course, he accepted the prize with his usual humility.

1.28 pm

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I start with an apology. I intended no discourtesy to the Committee but an urgent family medical problem delayed me. I hope that no one will take offence. I am very grateful that I am able to contribute, and have been advised on what has been said so far.

In the disputed election of 2007, approximately 1,200 people lost their lives. The conflict was glibly and inaccurately described in much of our media as “tribal”, whereas the complexity of the land grievances, separatism issues, corruption, ethnic tensions and a culture of impunity all contributed. Kenyan state

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institutions, including regional bodies, had not and still have not addressed the sharp socio-economic inequalities which fed the events of 2007. Our Foreign Secretary at the time, David Miliband called on,

“Kenya’s political leaders and democratic institutions to work together to address those concerns, seriously, in a spirit of unity”.

Together with the then Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Douglas Alexander, he said the election marked a “pivotal moment for Kenya”. They emphasised, quite rightly, the democratic processes have,

“to be seen to be fair in the eyes of the Kenyan people”.

Through the next two years, the Government of this country provided aid to support democratic reform and the work of civil society institutions and offered strong support for the role taken, with his customary energy, by Kofi Annan in the reform process. I extend my appreciation—and probably that of all of us—to him. Six years on we have seen an election which tested Kenyan democracy before polling day on 4 March and the declaration of the result on 9 March by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The election was tested by a number of attacks on security forces on the coast and Somali border areas, principally launched by separatists. But the enormous queues that formed, the desire of people to vote, and even the bane, which we all suffer from, from time to time, of computer glitches, did not change the fact that the outcome was immeasurably more peaceful than it had been at the previous election.

Uhuru Kenyatta was declared elected on the first ballot, and his election was immediately challenged by former Prime Minister Odinga who immediately challenged his victory in court. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the declaration of Mr Kenyatta’s victory rejecting claims of electoral rigging. Mr Odinga held a press conference immediately—and it was helpful that he did—to accept the decision and acknowledge defeat.

A process that involved a ballot box and a full court hearing demonstrated what the chief justice declared had been a,

“free, fair, transparent and credible”,

election. It had taken massive levels of policing to achieve, but it is of the greatest significance to Kenya and to sub-Saharan Africa as a whole that the process was vindicated. Mr Kenyatta was sworn in, as noble Lords know. I rehearse these facts only because the issues which should now focus our attention have to be understood against that backdrop.

For me there are three sets of issues upon which I would welcome the Minister’s view. The first is that the new president is currently charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. He may well be the first person who has been elected as head of state while facing such charges. Inevitably, these circumstances produce a real diplomatic difficulty in calibrating our relationship with Kenya and its new president, a difficulty all too evident when he recently visited the United Kingdom for the Somalia conference. That was handled very carefully and sensitively in all the circumstances by the Prime Minister. The charges relate to allegations, which he has consistently denied, that he choreographed inter-communal violence after

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the 2007 presidential election. He has repeatedly said that he would work with the court to clear his name. Since we are clear that there should never be impunity, it must follow that the legal process must be completed satisfactorily to yield a decision in one direction or another. He appears to share the view that that is what is desirable, which is in my view to his credit.

Let me be plain that when I have read criticisms, particularly from President Museveni of Uganda, that the ICC process constitutes “blackmail”, to use his word—an unfortunate word in the circumstances—or demonstrates why Africans should distrust the ICC generally, I do not accept that view at all. Where it has acted, as it acted in Africa with Charles Taylor, in events with which I was directly involved as a Minister, or seeks to act with respect to the president of Sudan over Darfur, there has always been, or is currently, a case to answer. These are cases about crimes that have been committed in Africa. But the proposition is also true for President Milosevic, and General Mladic in Bosnia. No impunity in my view means no impunity, and that has been the attitude that, generally speaking, the ICC has taken, and which I believe that Governments of all persuasions in this country have systematically supported. The notion that it has been directed specifically at Africa seems to fly in the face of almost all the recent evidence.

I make no inference in saying this about President Kenyatta or what happened in 2007, but I am encouraged by his willingness to answer the charges and his intention to clear his name. His intent may also be signalled by some of the appointments he has made to his Government, because they could hardly be said to be people who are desirous of avoiding legal consequences or proper processes. I mention particularly the appointment of Mrs Amina Mohamed as Secretary for Foreign Affairs. She is a world class diplomat and has an outstanding legal reputation. Her work in international organisations has been first class.

The Minister may be able to tell us by how much the position has altered since the election campaign, or if it has altered. During the campaign, the EU and the United States limited themselves to what they described as “essential contacts” with ICC indictees, but that, I suspect, can be only a short-term position. We must balance such a policy with fostering close ties with Kenya. It is a vital ally in sub-Saharan Africa and, I think, across Africa more generally, both in economic terms and in the regional battle with militant Islam. It would be a mistake to abandon political or trading influence in Africa, and certainly not in east Africa, to the commercial interests of China or some of the other major Asian powers. How will the Government strike this balance and how rapidly will they do so? Does the Minister agree that the earliest possible attempt to grasp what I think is a new opening in relations with Kenya would be prudent?

Secondly, local commentators, including Mr Kenyatta, have suggested that the United Kingdom interfered in the elections by deploying abnormal numbers of British soldiers to Kenya both before the polls and since, and have claimed that our high commissioner, Dr Christian Turner, who I believe is an excellent diplomat in the FCO, had somehow taken part in what was described

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as a “rather animated involvement” in Kenya’s election. Let me be clear: I do not believe the allegations. I know the people involved and I have thought about it, and I repeat that I do not believe them. However, it might be as well to put on the public record through

Hansard

the statement of the Government that these were not interventions of that kind, and they should not disturb our relationship with Kenya.

Finally, let me turn briefly to the Kenyan economy at this new juncture. There are different assessments of the prospects for the Kenyan economy. I have read papers by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Many see the prospect of significant developments in what is a very entrepreneurial economy that involves significant numbers of the Kenyan people, not least the women who run so many of the small businesses in Africa generally, and certainly in east Africa. Equally, if the country were to become more isolated and it was impossible to create the kind of relationship that I have tried to describe, it may well be that rather than moving upwards and becoming more successful, the economy will drop through several layers. In my view, it is hard to get on to the first rungs of the ladder of economic development and to take the steps towards prosperity that we all desire for sub-Saharan Africa. It is very easy to fall off those first rungs and find yourself back where you started. I would be pleased to hear if the Minister takes a view on the Kenyan economy and what steps might be taken by the United Kingdom and, indeed, by the European Union, which is no small player in this, to ensure that the 44 million people of Kenya receive their entitlement; that is, to look with optimism to the future.

1.39 pm

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Chidgey for proposing this debate.

As noble Lords are aware, in March the Kenyan people elected their fourth president since independence. Last week, nominees to the new Kenyan Cabinet were confirmed by the Kenyan Parliament. Kenya now has a new senate and new devolved administrations. It is therefore a timely moment to take stock of what this means for Kenya, for our relationship with Kenya and for the region.

At the outset, I echo much of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman. I also echo his support both for the ICC and for our general relationship with Kenya. Our partnership with Kenya is both deep and broad. We enjoy a shared history that has given us strong personal links. Some 20,000 British nationals live in Kenya and some 200,000 visit Kenya each year—more than from any other country. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, referred to this.

I assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that the modern-day relationship should be, and is, viewed as a partnership. We have a mutual interest in strong trade, defence and security co-operation. Britain is, for example, the largest commercial investor in Kenya. Last year, DfID’s Kenya programme was worth more than £92 million, and this year it is forecast to rise to

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£143 million. The UK trains 10,000 troops in Kenya each year and we work together closely on regional security issues, such as Somalia and counterterrorism. We look forward to building on this substantial shared agenda in our partnership, including on the economy and in trade.

Kenya’s general election in March was the most complex in its history, with voters electing candidates in six separate votes. It was also one of the most peaceful. We congratulate the Kenyan people on this achievement, and we congratulate President Kenyatta on his victory. After the terrible violence of 2007-08, in which more than 1,000 people were killed, this outcome could not have been taken for granted. It means that Kenya is now in a position to build on the reforms started under the previous Government and described in its 2010 constitution. Kenya is well placed to achieve a more secure and more prosperous future.

The UK played an important role in supporting successful elections. We provided £16 million in funding to support peaceful and credible elections, some of it delivered through the United Nations Development Programme. This helped to ensure that a record 14 million Kenyans were registered to vote and had greater confidence that their vote would count.

The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, referred specifically to the election process. The assistance that we provided was designed to achieve credible and peaceful elections. The UK provided £16 million to fund a range of projects to support free and safe elections, including support to the electoral commission. Our support contributed to the production of a more accurate voter register, using separate optical mark technology and putting in place an independent parallel vote counting system. This helped to ensure that more than 14 million Kenyans were registered to vote and therefore had greater confidence in the vote. I utterly reject any allegations of interference by the UK Government and the British high commissioner. We have always said that the election was a choice for Kenyans alone to decide, and we did not endorse any one candidate over another.

Turning back to the issue of the International Criminal Court, which was raised by all noble Lords, President Kenyatta, alongside Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang, are facing charges at the International Criminal Court. Of course, there have been recent changes and concerns in relation to witness statements. However, we support the court as the cornerstone of international justice. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in July last year:

“We have learnt from history that you cannot have lasting peace without justice, accountability and reconciliation”.

We believe that the ICC process has already served peace in Kenya by providing access to justice for both victims and accused and by encouraging responsible campaigning in the recent election.

We must let the ICC process run its course. It is for the court to run the trials, and it goes without saying that we will respect its decision. We have no role in that judicial process. We welcome President Kenyatta’s commitment to respect Kenya’s international obligations, and we welcome the fact that he continues to co-operate

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with the ICC. We believe that the suspects must be considered innocent until proven guilty before that court. Our engagement will reflect this and we will judge our approach according to the issue. This approach is consistent with that taken by the EU and many other international partners. In the mean time, we do not think that the issue should dominate our bilateral relationship.

The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, asked whether the cases would still be heard in July. That is for the ICC to manage. The trials, including setting trial dates, will be a matter for the ICC and we will respect the decisions that it takes.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked broader questions about the ICC, including the question of bias against Africa. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Triesman. The ICC is an impartial, professional and independent court. It is a court of last resort which is complementary to the national legal system, and it gets involved only when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute. Kenya and 121 other countries are state parties to the Rome statute of the court, including half the countries in Africa. That is a positive sign. There are more parties to the Rome statute from African states than from any other region.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, also mentioned the criticism of the ICC by the Ugandan President. Of course, the ICC is a young institution and has a long road ahead. It is the first organisation of its kind; it breaks new ground with every case and ruling, and is required to cover most of the globe, often while conflict is still occurring. It is only 10 years old and criticism is therefore inevitable. But I know from my own dealings with, and policy responsibility for, the ICC, it is a system that we must continue to support. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked how the ICC came to take on the Kenya cases. Initially we encouraged a local process but it was the Kenyan Parliament’s decision not to establish a special tribunal that led to the ICC taking on the cases.

Returning to Kenya’s broader relationships in the region, we are pleased that President Kenyatta was able to attend the Somalia conference. Kenya is one of Somalia’s most important partners and has a vital role to play in bringing stability to Somalia. It has nearly 5,000 troops in Somalia and is actively engaged in discussions on local administration arrangements. It is also host to more than 500,000 Somali refugees, more than any other nation. It was therefore important that Kenya was represented at the conference at the highest level.

My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary met President Kenyatta at the Somali conference, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, for his warm comments about the way in which that conference was handled. As well as co-ordinating our approach to Somalia, those meetings provided a valuable opportunity to establish the basis for a future working relationship on a shared agenda, from regional security to prosperity and development. Following the conference, we will continue to engage with the Somali Government to deliver lasting change in Somalia.

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We are grateful to Kenya for providing protection and assistance to refugees from Somalia and will continue to support it in shouldering that burden. But the Somalia conference also recognised the importance of scaling up efforts to create the security, political and developmental conditions inside Somalia to make the voluntary and sustainable return of refugees viable. We also endorsed the tripartite dialogue initiated by the Somali and Kenyan Governments alongside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which we hope will lead to a framework for refugee return.

Another facet of UK-Kenya co-operation in the region concerns piracy, which again is linked to Somalia. Encouraging progress has been made: 12 May was the anniversary of the last successful hijacking by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia have fallen. Kenya is on the front line in responding to this reprehensible practice. It currently holds 130 suspected or convicted pirates in its prisons and has previously accepted the transfer of 14 suspected pirates from UK vessels for prosecution. However, it is important that we continue to co-operate closely to sustain this progress. We are in discussions with the Kenyan Government to renegotiate a memorandum of understanding that would facilitate the future transfer of additional pirate suspects to be brought to justice in the Kenyan courts.

Kenya plays an important role in other regional issues, such as Sudan. Kenya facilitated negotiation of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that brought to an end the long-running civil war in Sudan. We look forward to Kenya encouraging both countries to continue implementation of the Addis agreements.

Kenya is also a regional economic hub, with the biggest economy in the region. The IMF estimates that GDP growth will be 5.8% this year. Other East African Community countries rely on its infrastructure, as we saw at the end of the previous decade, when the crisis in Kenya resulted in a quadrupling of oil prices in Uganda. Through TradeMark East Africa, the UK is supporting regional trade and infrastructure integration. The programme aims to see a 15% reduction in transport time, above-trend increases in intraregional trade and exports, and a 60% reduction in non-tariff barriers.

Supporting regional integration and better infrastructure is also good for UK business. Britain remains the largest cumulative investor in Kenya and bilateral trade amounts to £1 billion each year. UK firms are leading the way in helping Kenya to develop its resources in the energy sector. These efforts are supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UKTI. My honourable friend the Minister for Africa is leading a high-value opportunity programme that highlights opportunities for British businesses in the oil and gas sector in east Africa and helps them to access these markets.

My noble friend Lord Chidgey asked about the case of Alexander Monson. It is now more than a year since his tragic death, and I am heartened that Lord Monson has found our assistance helpful. We have been active on this case at both ministerial and official levels. My colleague, the Minister for Africa, raised the case with the then Minister for Internal Security in Kenya in October last year. Officials in Kenya have

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raised it with the Police Inspector General, the Attorney-General and the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, and we will continue to raise this matter. Regrettably, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority currently reviewing the police investigation has not offered an assessment of progress to date, or given us an indication of when the investigation will be completed. We continue to urge the Kenyan authorities to conduct a thorough and urgent review of the case and to keep the Monson family informed of developments. I am sure that this is not the best news that the family would like to hear, but I can assure them, through the noble Lord, that we are doing all we can. The prospects of a public inquest into this case are unclear, at least while the investigation remains ongoing, but we are committed to supporting the noble Lord, Lord Monson, in his search for answers and stand ready to support him and his legal team in their calls for a public inquest if the investigation fails to demonstrate that a full and transparent investigation took place.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, raised the Mau Mau issue. We believe that there should be a debate about the past. It is an enduring feature of our democracy that we have to be willing to learn from our own history. We understand the pain and grievance felt by those on all sides who were involved in this divisive and bloody event of the emergency period in Kenya. It is right that those who feel that they have a case are free to take it to the courts. Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on and is now characterised by close co-operation and partnership, building on the many positives of our shared history. The parties exploring the possibility of a settlement in this case are Kenyan clients of Leigh Day and are currently in discussions. In these circumstances, it is possibly inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

In conclusion, we agree that our relationship with Kenya is important and that we have a wide-ranging shared agenda. Regional security issues and trade are areas of particularly active co-operation and we want to strengthen our links with Kenya across the board. The appointment of a new Kenyan Government committed to upholding their international commitments provides an opportunity to work together on our mutual interests with renewed vigour.

1.52 pm

Sitting suspended.

Pakistan: Religious Violence

Question for Short Debate

2 pm

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Pakistan on curbing religious violence in that country.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, there are good reasons why the international community needs to pay attention to the upsurge of religious violence and hatred in

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Pakistan over recent years, and indeed to the related political violence during the recent elections in which more than 100 people were killed. Pakistan is due to be the largest recipient of UK aid in the world when it gets £446 million in 2014-15. It also receives billions of dollars from the United States in both economic and military aid in the effort to shore up the country’s stability. However, since 2001, an estimated 30,000 civilians have been killed in religious and political assassinations and massacres—all that aid money has not reduced the level of violence in Pakistan. There was a temporary lull during Pervez Musharraf’s presidency between 1999 and 2007, but over the past few years there has been a further deterioration.

At the same time, the stability of Pakistan has become vital to the peace of the region, with the withdrawal of allied forces from Afghanistan. The new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has said that he will help the process by allowing NATO to use Pakistan’s roads for the transit of troops and equipment, but large convoys of US or UK forces on their way home will make a tempting target for the local Taliban and its associates. The presence of well organised and well armed groups of terrorists in Pakistan also poses a threat to neighbouring states, as we saw from the Mumbai atrocity in 2008.

Last Wednesday, my noble friend Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon perceptively suggested that Russia’s support for Assad was not a matter of looking after its only remaining supporter in the Middle East but a consequence of its experience in Dagestan and other Muslim republics where there was a war between Sunnis and Shias. My noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater also referred to the Shia-Sunni conflict, and he coupled this with the spread of jihadism and fundamentalism. In Syria and Iraq, there are interreligious civil wars.

The agenda of Sunni extremists such as al-Qaeda and its imitators across the Islamic world is to eliminate the Shia and other varieties of Islam, as well as the Kaffirs or unbelievers, from the face of the earth. Their ultimate goal is a universal caliphate based on what they imagine were the principles of governance under the four “rightly guided caliphs” who followed the Prophet in the seventh century. In Pakistan, one active and ruthless group of terrorists belonging to this loose coalition is the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. This outfit tried to kill Nawaz Sharif when he was Prime Minister in 1999, and the suicide bomber who killed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and 26 others in 2007 was probably a member of the organisation. It claimed responsibility for the murder of four American oil workers in 1997 and for the bombing of the Protestant International Church in Islamabad in March 2002. But its main target has always been the Shia, as it brazenly acknowledges when it takes credit for the atrocities that it commits. The group says that the Shia are infidels, that they should be labelled as non-Muslims under the law, and that they are “wajib-ul-qatl”, an Urdu expression meaning “worthy to be killed”.

A semi-legal organisation with the same ideology of hatred is the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, which took over from a banned organisation called Sipah-e-Sahaba. The ASWJ fielded 130 candidates in the recent Pakistani elections, generally under the banners of the PML-N

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and an alliance of five Sunni religious parties generally known as the MDN. Under one of these labels, a man who had spent five years in prison for murdering six people in 1998 was elected to a seat in Punjab, and other terrorists may well now also be MPs. The Election Commission of Pakistan directed that in 55 constituencies, listed sectarian terrorists should be disqualified from standing, but it turned out that this was not within the powers conferred on returning officers by the ECP itself.

I am not going to recite the whole appalling history of the crimes perpetrated by these terrorists because it would take all day, but a couple of examples illustrate their mode of operations. On 3 April 2012, six buses were stopped in Chilas in the northern territories en route to Gilgit, Baltistan. The male passengers were taken off the buses and their identity cards examined for Shia names. At least 25 were shot dead on the spot. No official report has been published on this massacre and, although I understand that four or five people were arrested, no trials have taken place.

In January, twin bomb blasts in the busy market area at Alamdar Road, Quetta, killed at least 108 people and injured 120. A LeJ spokesman telephoned the media to say that it had committed this outrage and threatened that no Shia would be allowed to leave Balochistan alive. In February, a bomb contained in a water tanker exploded in Hazara Town, Quetta, killing at least 92 people and injuring more than 200. The police arrested 170 suspects, but there has been no news of trials, let alone convictions. In March, a bomb in the Shia area of Abbas Town in Karachi killed 45 people and wounded 150. These atrocities and the targeted assassinations of Shia intellectuals are part of a concerted attempt to wipe out the entire Shia population of Pakistan. That is genocide, as defined in Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

I have been sent hundreds of eyewitness statements and other reports from Shia organisations throughout Pakistan on these events, and have forwarded them to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Religious Freedom and on Extrajudicial Executions. I know that the Government do not intervene in the choice of subjects the special procedures take up, but as this is obviously one that would demand resources well beyond those available to the special rapporteurs, I would be grateful if we might consider making a one-off contribution to the Human Rights Commission, if the matter is pursued.

The special procedures should also take action on the relentless persecution of the Ahmadi Muslims, in spite of the enormous contribution they have made to the development of Pakistan; for example, in the persons of Sir Zafarullah Khan, the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan, and Dr Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize-winner. The most heinous atrocity against this community was in May 2010, when simultaneous terrorist attacks on its two principal mosques in Lahore during Friday prayers killed 94 people and injured more than 120. The Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslims, are victims of relentless persecution under the blasphemy laws, are denied voting rights and are in practice denied access to the higher ranks of all the professions.

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As with the Shia, the Ahmadis are victims of targeted assassinations, encouraged by another extremist organisation, the Khatme Nabuwwat, which is free to spread its messages of hatred and violence. In 2012, 20 Ahmadis were killed, and the leader of the community in Rabwah, the centre of the community, was tortured to death by the police. Ahmadi places of worship were demolished, mostly in Punjab, and the police themselves demolished graves in Faisalabad and Mangat Uncha. A dozen armed men vandalised 120 gravestones in Model Town, Lahore. Dozens of Ahmadis were arbitrarily arrested, and Ahmadi publications were summarily banned. The Friday Times said that the fetters imposed on the Ahmadi community were reminiscent of the restrictions imposed on the Jews by Nazi Germany in 1935.

I return to the ideology which threatens the survival of religious minorities and poses an even wider menace to the safety and stability of Pakistan itself, being promoted as it is in mosques and madrassahs financed by Saudi money to the tune of an estimated $100 million a year. It is intolerant and exclusivist, maintaining that all who do not subscribe to the Salafist version of Islam are infidels belonging to the Dar al-Harb, the realm of the unbeliever. In the extreme forms it takes in Pakistan, it promotes sectarian and religious hatred and teaches that killing unbelievers is approved by God. We need a worldwide strategy to combat this monstrous ideology. I believe that such is the magnitude of the danger it presents to world peace, only the United Nations Security Council has the authority and resources to grapple with it. I hope that the Government will consider how best to raise it at that level.

2.09 pm

Lord Desai: My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for bringing this topic to our attention. He described the problem, and I do not need to add very much. I shall concentrate on the why of this problem and on what we can do about it as an interested party.

A persistent problem since the foundation of Pakistan is its duality. Although Muhammad Jinnah supported a Muslim nation in pre-independence India, he was not an Islamist or a very religious person. He wanted a western, liberal regime for the large Muslim population in the subcontinent. As it happened, the majority of Muslims lived in Hindu-majority areas, and Muslims in Muslim-majority areas were a minority of Muslims. Pakistan was established, but soon after its establishment, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan died, so there has been an identity problem. Is Pakistan a western, liberal-type democratic regime or a state founded upon the Islamic faith that should put forward Islamic policies? Along the way, especially after the departure of East Pakistan—Bangladesh—a persistent problem has been the tendency to emphasise Islamic anger, most particularly by military dictators who have no democratic legitimacy. Zia-ul-Haq played the Islamic card and was encouraged to do so because at that time the Americans were interested in getting the Russians out of Afghanistan, so they aided Zia-ul-Haq in his programmes.

To some extent, some of the emphasis on orthodoxy and Islamism has been engendered by international forces, but there is a problem that even in establishing

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an Islamic nation, sectarian violence within Islam is the most serious problem of Pakistan. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has already pointed out, it is a Sunni/Shia, Sunni/Ahmadi battle. There is also a battle against Christians. There has been violence against the non-Muslim minority in Pakistan, which was 10% at the time of independence, but has now dwindled to about 2% or 2.5%.

How do we understand and tackle this religious violence? As the noble Lord pointed out, you have to see Pakistan not as a part of south Asia but as the eastern limit of western Asia. The tensions in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran between Sunnis and Shias—Iraq is the battleground of Sunnis and Shias—are now happening in Pakistan. One thing we ought to be able to do is to contribute to a real understanding of why it has happened. In UK universities, government, NGOs and embassies, we have expertise; we ought to understand why the problem persists. How much of this problem is religious and how much economic and social? Are there economic and social roots to this battle between Shias and Sunnis? In India, for instance, some of the so-called communal riots have economic and social roots. They may be jockeying for land, jobs or economic resources.

Our first task should be to deepen our understanding so that we can help Pakistani society and the Pakistani Government to understand and tackle this problem. Obviously, we cannot say anything to a sovereign country about how it should conduct its affairs.

I think that going to the UN Security Council, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested, would be a drastic step and I do not know whether the Security Council would actually decide anything, given the Cold War differences that persist. As an interested power with a large diaspora from Pakistan, we really ought to try to help Pakistan to reach an understanding and do whatever we can to ameliorate the situation.

The most interesting thing that has happened in Pakistan is the establishment of a new Government. For the first time in its history, Pakistan has had a proper constitutional transition from one democratically elected Government to another. Pakistan may be turning over a new leaf. Our task is to be there to help Pakistan improve matters at home as far as possible.

2.15 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the combination of inadequate religious freedom protections and an entrenched climate of impunity has strengthened the position of the more violent groups in Pakistani society, described by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, which have long been allowed to promote their own interpretation of Islam, narrowing the space for difference. What begins as an anti-minority sentiment can later divide the majority.

The noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Desai, rightly referenced the alarming growth of anti-Shia violence in Pakistan. In 2012, at least 325 members of the Shia Muslim population were killed in targeted attacks. In this context, counterextremism discussions with Pakistan are clearly incomplete without measures intended to bolster the protection and promotion of religious freedom or belief. Pursuant to the Written

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Answer that the Minister gave me on 17 May, I would be keen to know when we will raise these questions with the new Government.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmadi provisions remain key concerns. The blasphemy laws lack any definition of terms and ignore the question of intent. False accusations can be easily registered, as evidential requirements are inadequate. Dozens were charged in 2012 and at least 16 people remain on death row for blasphemy, while another 20 have been given life sentences. In 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian from Punjab province, became the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, and continues to languish in prison. Can the Minister tell us when we last raised her case with the authorities in Pakistan? The resolution of last year’s case against the Christian teenager Rimsha Masih was cited by Pakistan as an illustration that the situation is improving, but the subsequent blasphemy-related attacks on hundreds of Christian homes in Badami Bagh in Lahore in March this year suggests otherwise.

Access to justice is problematic for all vulnerable communities in Pakistan, including minorities. Perpetrators are rarely brought to justice, which means that minorities are often viewed as easy targets. Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Shias, Sufis and Sikhs have all been badly affected, with Shia communities suffering by far the most casualties. Hate speech and the propagation of inflammatory messages is a standard precursor to religiously motivated violence, but it is rarely punished in Pakistan, despite the fact that relevant legislation already exists. Even government officials inciting violence have not been held accountable for their actions.

The police and members of the judiciary need to be made far more aware of human rights and the unacceptability of impunity. In the aftermath of the Badami Bagh violence, many commented that it would not have taken place if the perpetrators of previous mob incidents—Gojra in 2009, Sangla Hill in 2005, Shanti Nagar in 1997—had been adequately dealt with. Official investigation reports exist for at least the high-profile cases. Will the Minister be pressing the incoming Government to make these public, or indeed to shed light on the murder of the federal Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, whose killers have never been identified? If the case of an assassinated Cabinet Minister remains unsolved, how can ordinary citizens have faith in the justice system and why should potential attackers fear the law?

Knowing that he was likely to be assassinated, Shahbaz Bhatti once said that he hoped his stand would send,

“a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair”,

adding that his life was dedicated to the “oppressed, downtrodden and marginalised” and to,

“struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower the religious minorities’ communities”.

Will we be pressing for an end to impunity and the repeal of the anti-Ahmadi provisions in the constitution, which legitimise violence and social prejudice? What will we be saying about gender-based violence, the abduction, forced marriage and forcible conversion of

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Christian and Hindu women and girls, which has increased in frequency in the past couple of years, with perpetrators emboldened by the relatively low likelihood of conviction? We have heard about the increase in aid provision this year from £267 million to £446 million, with Pakistan about to become the largest recipient of UK aid. What are we going to do in using that aid to press for the removal of hate-driven material from schools and emphasising the importance of forming teachers who nurture respect and tolerance? Donors such as the UK need to be sure that they are not inadvertently funding materials that bolster messages of religious intolerance and violence in Pakistan.

In 1947, at the time of partition, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, gave a speech to the New Delhi Press Club, setting out the basis on which the new state of Pakistan was to be founded. In it, he forcefully defended the rights of minorities to be protected and to have their beliefs respected. He said:

“Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”.

Pakistan’s new Government owe it to his memory, and to the memory of men such as Shahbaz Bhatti, and to girls such as Malala Yousufzai, the 15 year-old who was shot by the Taliban for pressing for the right of women to an education, and to the millions who bravely defied the Taliban to vote in recent elections in Pakistan, to make those sentiments a reality.

2.21 pm

Lord Soley: I agree with a great deal of what has been said. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the way he spoke and his well known commitment to freedom and religious tolerance. Let us deal with the political point first. I think that we all accept that Pakistan came very near to being a failed state with nuclear weapons. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, hinted, there are indications of a movement away from that towards being a more stable state. We must do all that we can to encourage that, and I know that the Government, as did the previous Government, are doing all that they can to help development and structure the rule of law.

The problem then becomes the issue of religion. We need to discuss that more openly, and I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, for the way in which she has raised this issue in public. At times, we tip-toe around it, for understandable and good reasons, because we are afraid of making a difficult situation worse or because we do not have the necessary depth of understanding and are afraid about making statements that might be misunderstood. Yesterday we saw an example in Iran, where a religious leader decided to exclude certain people from standing in the forthcoming elections. That is based on the assumption that the state is run on a religious guidance principle and that there is not a political judgment below that. I take the view that religions—not just Islam, but most religions—are a form of ideology. The problem then becomes how far you pursue that in a very heavy ideological way

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and how tolerant you can be of minorities. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has indicated a number of ways. When it becomes very authoritarian, religious minorities of any type are vulnerable.

I follow what the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said in response on the Statement on Syria on Monday on the Floor of the House. I asked how we dealt with the struggle between Sunni and Shia, and she indicated that in her background that difference between them was not a problem some 20 years ago. I agree with that; I knew of the differences, but I was not aware of any problem. I have certainly become aware of them strongly in recent years. What troubles me—and I had difficulty getting figures on this—is that well over 10 million Muslims have been killed in conflict, mainly in countries that have a majority Muslim faith. The majority have been killed not by Jews, Hindus, Christians, westerners, Russians, Chinese or anyone else, but by other Muslims.

We have to face the fact that a struggle is going on within Islam for its heart and soul. I am clear about whose side I would be on in this. I believe strongly in the rule of law and democratic principles, so I do not want to see the extremist ideology win in such circumstances. However, the question for a country like Britain—or, indeed, for people within Islam itself who do not want to see that happen is this: how do you respond to it? It is immensely difficult.

Britain has an impressive record of close relationships with Pakistan and, indeed, with many other states where Islam is the predominant force. We have many people who hold to Islamic values here. As we know, it is not just one of the fastest growing religions in the world, it is also one of the fastest growing religions in the United Kingdom. That might give us some influence. Perhaps what I was heading towards on Monday last with my question about Syria to the Minister is this: could we not play a role in what is almost a civil war within Islam in setting up discussions between the competing factions in a safe situation; that is, in Britain? That is because, frankly, they cannot do that in Pakistan. If you tried to arrange meetings between the Sunnis and the Shias in Pakistan in its current state, or indeed in Iraq or Syria, everyone would be in acute danger. We have seen that in the assassinations, bomb attacks and so on. There is a case for looking to see whether we can help, and that requires using the established leaders of Islam within the UK who recognise that there is a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam. It is a great religion. Although I do not like religions of any type—I am not religious and never have been—I recognise the importance of religion to many people. When people belonging to a religion are caught up in violent disputes that involve their own people being killed, we need to think of ways of helping them to discuss their problems in a more constructive manner. We have to face the fact that a struggle is going on within Islam for the heart and soul of Islam. I am clear about whose side I would be on in this. I believe very strongly in the rule of law and democratic principles, so I do not want to see the extremist ideology win in circumstances like this. However, the question for a country like Britain or, indeed, for people within Islam itself who do not want to see that happen is this: how do you respond to it? It is immensely difficult.

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Britain has an impressive record of close relationships with Pakistan and, indeed, with many other states where Islam is the predominant force. We have many people who hold to Islamic values here. As we know, it is not just one of the fastest growing religions in the world, it is also one of the fastest growing religions in the United Kingdom. That might give us some influence. Perhaps what I was heading towards on Monday with my question about Syria to the Minister is this: could we not play a role in what is almost a civil war within Islam in setting up discussions between the competing factions in a safe situation; that is, in Britain? Frankly, they cannot do that in Pakistan. If you tried to arrange meetings between the Sunnis and the Shias in Pakistan in its current state, or indeed in Iraq or Syria, everyone would be in acute danger. We have seen that in the assassinations, bomb attacks and so on.

There is a case for seeing whether we can help, and that requires using the established leaders of Islam within the UK who recognise that there is a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam. It is a great religion. Although I do not like religions of any type—I am not religious and never have been—I recognise the importance of religion to many people. When people belonging to a religion are caught up in violent disputes that involve more of their own people being killed than are killed by others, we need to think of ways to helping them to discuss their problems in a more constructive manner.

2.27 pm

Lord Hussain: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Avebury for securing this debate. Over the past couple of decades, reports of religious and ethnic intolerance in Pakistan have hit the headlines in the world’s media many times. Pakistan’s current scenario provides many examples of the increasingly intolerant behaviour of its society, including the tragic murders of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and of Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and the burning of properties belonging to religious minorities in Shanti Nagar, Bhamiwala and Gojra. In the city of Quetta during January and February this year alone, nearly 200 Shias of the Hazara ethnic group were killed in two separate bomb attacks, while in March in Karachi, some 50 Shias were killed in a truck bombing that caused extensive damage in the Shia neighbourhood. Ahmadi, Christian and Hindu communities are continuously being reported as the victims of sectarian violence in many parts of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, NGO and aid workers have been targeted across the country, often by criminal gangs and sectarian groups that are hostile to their work. The death on 13 March 2013 of Parveen Rehman, a leading NGO activist in Karachi and the director of the Orangi Pilot Project, one of the largest housing and drainage projects in slum areas in all of Asia, caused outrage in Pakistan and around the world. Her killing showed how powerful the land-grabbing mafia, whose abuses she brought to light, have become and the impunity they enjoy. Her tragic death followed the killing of some 16 aid workers in separate incidents during December and January.

Many people attribute this surge in religious tension to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which prohibits blasphemy against any recognised religion, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death. However, I am not aware

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of any executions having been undertaken under the blasphemy law so far. It has to be said that, from the date of its inception, Pakistan was a moderate, liberal and tolerant Islamic country. Very few cases of intolerance were reported during the best part of the first 35 years of its life.

There could be multiple reasons or causes for the change of attitude in that society. I would like to look into some of them.

The first and, in my view, biggest reason for the drastic change is the direct result of the western countries’ response, led by the United States, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Pakistan was asked to play a front-line state role by allowing its soil to be used to harbour, train and launch mujaheddin to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. After the Soviet withdrawal, the western allies walked away from the scene and left Pakistan with tens of thousands of armed mujaheddin, hundreds of madrassahs and millions of Afghan refugees to deal with. Those mujaheddin became Taliban and turned on Pakistan in their witch-hunt for what they perceived to be anti-Islamic forces. With their misguided and narrow interpretation of Islam—often described as Salafi or Wahabi ideology—they targeted non-Muslim communities as well as various Muslim sects that disagreed with their interpretation. Their actions included bomb attacks, shooting, suicide attacks, arson and kidnapping. Rival factions responded in the same manner, making the law and order situation even worse.

The post-9/11 military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan pushed the Taliban deep into Pakistan. Since then, terror attacks on civilian, Pakistani military and the law enforcement agencies have intensified. According to the Express Tribune of 27 March this year,

“Pakistan has lost 49,000 lives since the apocalyptic attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States on September 11, 2001”.

According to the Weekly Pulseof 10 June 2011:

“Pakistan has suffered the colossal financial losses of more than $68 billion … in the … war on terror since 2001”.

Pakistan had to use its armed forces to clear the Swat Valley and many other areas from the control of extremists. The perpetrators of this cycle of violence were rarely caught and brought to justice, which encouraged rival political groups, criminal gangs, drugs and land mafia and individuals to use the same methods to settle their own scores.

In many people’s view, different criminal gangs use these situations to their own advantage. For example, human traffickers would help to spread fear and insecurity successfully in the victim communities and offer advice—which is often very costly—to flee the country and obtain asylum. This advice is quite popular in some parts of Pakistan. In my own experience, religious violence in areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir is almost non-existent, yet in the past few years thousands of people from these areas have successfully obtained asylum in many countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Spain and Australia.

To combat terrorism, remould extremism, improve education and promote community cohesion, Pakistan needs some practical support in improving its law and order. It needs a transformation of its education system,

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particularly in the religious schools, the madrassahs; an impartial judiciary; and transparent, efficient and good governance. I understand that Her Majesty’s Government are providing substantial support to Pakistan in many areas. Can the Minister tell us what results we are seeing in this regard, and can she assure the House that our commitment will continue despite the challenges?

2.34 pm

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, I join all noble Lords who have praised the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this short debate and for his commitment to human rights and raising issues of minorities around the world, and in particular in Pakistan.

I begin by congratulating the parties that have won elections, Mian Nawaz Sharif, and also Imran Khan, because we expect a different type of governance from them. Their Government will need huge support because they face many challenges—on energy, economy, human rights, corruption, debt and sorting out this dysfunctional Government. I think perhaps there is work for the UN to try to help so that the law and order situation can also be improved.

Pakistan has suffered from the Soviet Union invasion and the war on terror, and I believe that there are external proxy wars in Pakistan as well. That is why various figures have been mentioned; the noble Lord, Lord Hussain, mentioned 49,000 lives, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned 30,000 civilians. I know that more than 6,000 police officers and army personnel have lost their lives. That is more than in any other country that has been fighting the war on terror. People have been killed in mosques, houses, businesses, bazaars and offices; even Pakistan’s intelligence service headquarters in Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi have been attacked. I say this because I will come to some conclusions later and make some recommendations. Even Pakistan’s army headquarters were attacked.

We have heard about the appalling violence against Christian, Ahmadi, Hindu and Shia communities and minorities. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned that at least 325 Shia were murdered last year. A barrister told me that last year 1,450 deaths were recorded, and there were targeted killings in Mardan, Kohistan, Mansehra, Gilgit and Karachi—and the list goes on. Even though under Pakistan’s constitution there is complete equality for every citizen, we know that in this part of the world religious extremists, whether the BJP in India or the Islamists in Pakistan, use religion for political power. Even Sunni tribes have been driven out of the villages of Beshara and Bohra. There is lawlessness in Baluchistan, whether by nationalists or the al-Qaeda-linked and banned organisation Lashkar-e Jhangvi, and there are attacks on the Hazara community. The worst thing is not the appalling terrorist attacks that take place but the fact the Government were silent and did nothing, until the coffins of victims were left on the road for days, after which the Prime Minister and government officials came from Islamabad and the bodies were buried.

I shall say a little about the allegations made in London about a political mafia. We know that there are nationalists and in Karachi there are land mafias,

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drug mafias, extortion mafias and political mafias. Serious allegations have been made against Mr Altaf Hussain, the leader of the MQM. I have an e-mail from an association of journalists in Pakistan stating that journalists’ families have been threatened. In his address, which was televised on 11, 13 and 15 May, Mr Hussain made direct threats against people who were protesting at the Three Swords roundabout. People have drawn my attention to the offences committed under Sections 44, 45 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act and inciting terrorism overseas. The British high commissioner in Islamabad and the British Government have been approached in relation to that. Will the Minister say whether the Government have had complaints and what action they or Scotland Yard will take against this gentleman, who is sitting in London and threatening Pakistan’s security?

Finally, I turn to what is needed in Pakistan. Strengthening the criminal law against terrorism is very important. People who were arrested for attacking the GHQ are now out. Every speaker has mentioned people not being prosecuted, but that is because they have been able to run free as the laws are not tight enough. Pakistan needs help, and I ask the Minister whether any help is available to the Pakistani Government in tightening up criminal and terrorism laws.

Police officers must be appointed on merit, although in Karachi the MQM has been insisting on police officers belonging to its group. No wonder there are so many problems. The rest of Pakistan is the same; it is not only happening in Karachi. As I said, such appointments must be based on merit, witnesses must receive protection and be free of intimidation, and there must be protection for officers and judges. There must be engagement with political forces which are disenfranchised and want to be part of the mainstream politics. There also has to be targeted action against al-Qaeda-linked organisations, whoever they are; they cannot hide behind political parties. We have to encourage this.

Finally, Pakistan needs help rather than criticism. I do not think that there is a war going on within Islam; a lot of it is political, and that needs to be resolved politically as well.

2.41 pm

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. As I suspect is the case for other noble Lords, the preparation for this debate has made some pretty depressing reading. I have looked at the Questions from Richard Burden MP and Angus Robertson MP, as well as the very many Questions from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, which have raised the issue of a whole sequence of really appalling circumstances. Questions have been robustly replied to by Mr Burt in the other place. Having read the replies, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has every right to be proud of his determination to test the Government on these and other issues, but he is perhaps also entitled to feel a little frustrated when the responses are that we are engaged in close monitoring and raising the issues. Perhaps that is all that one can reasonably say we are in a position to do, but I think we should explore some other options.

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Alongside parliamentary discussion, there has been a great deal of other discouraging and dispiriting coverage. Hindus and Christians say that they are living in hell. Their accounts say that they will try any means to get their families out of the country. Other newspaper accounts—not always with the detail that might be most useful—describe the violent persecution of Shias by Sunnis, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, regard some or perhaps all of the Shia population as heretical, and in some instances not Muslims at all. There is systematic suppression, targeted killings and endemic discrimination. Just a few moments ago, the noble Lord, Lord Hussain, added to the depressing story and, quite rightly, reminded us of the history of the way in which the western powers dealt with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its consequences. I thank him for that insight.

Perhaps I may start with one or two basic points. First, these terrible events and persecutions are taking place in a nation which has itself become the subject of more terrorist violence than almost anywhere else on the planet. Secondly, despite the threat of international terrorism, there seems on occasion to be some ambivalence in Pakistan about how to deal with it. That is illustrated by the relative ease with which Osama bin Laden could live in Abbottabad without anybody trying to remove him from Pakistani territory. As has been said in this debate, there seems on occasion to be a lack of response to extremist violence. There has been little discussion of nuclear proliferation issues, and the threats seem, as a number of noble Lords have said, to mean that we have to focus still more intently on Pakistan and recognise that the strategic content of what is taking place is fundamental to us as well. Thirdly, it is important for America to engage and to resist calls to sever links—something that one hears around the international circuit. I should be grateful if the Minister could set out the extent of our co-ordination with the United States on this question.

I ask these questions and make these points because, with the sixth largest population and the sixth largest military in the world, and with a nuclear arsenal, the country is—to borrow a concept from the world of finance—too big to fail. My noble friend Lord Soley was right to point out that there is a risk of it becoming a failed state. It is also too mission-critical for us in relation to Afghanistan and the withdrawal from that country. Other noble Lords have covered that point.

My noble friend Lord Desai asked why Pakistan is in its current position and made the point that the transition to democratic government is at least a positive sign. What are the sources of our influence? I accept that they are limited and they certainly require us to understand with greater sympathy what might be possible. For a start, nearly 1 million citizens of this country have direct ties to Pakistan. I wonder whether we have tried to encourage the discussion that could be held here among that very significant number of well meaning and honourable people, as my noble friend Lord Soley suggested. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, aside from our becoming Pakistan’s largest aid donor, we are its second biggest investor and fourth biggest trading partner. What leverage does this kind of economic engagement offer us? Might it be in any respect a vehicle for knowledge transfer and economic stimulus?

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Unless religious zealots try to prevent the modernisation of the economy, these may be ways in which relationships could become more productive and deeper.

In respect of religious freedoms, which are at the centre of this debate, and the active engagement with women’s rights that we wish to see, I wonder whether in the Commonwealth the Harare principles could be extended, better codified and urged on all Commonwealth members. This is one of the occasions when people talk in an interfaith sense of the need to win hearts and minds. That need certainly exists, but I confess that when I hear those words, I fear that they are a formula to avoid dealing with something that is rather more profound and difficult. When we call for gradual influence from the Commonwealth or comment on the impact of the diaspora here, it should not come to mean doing very little else.

I share the view that has been expressed, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that some of the persecutions that have been described are crimes of concern to humanity. I choose the word carefully and do not seek to be offensive, but they are crimes, and they would be in any part of the international community. Persuasion is, of course, very important and reshaping attitudes is vital but the buck must stop somewhere in all this. We need to explore urgently the role of the international community, perhaps through the United Nations in the discussions it has about the responsibility to protect, or, indeed, in the need to look further east to other Asian communities to begin to build a regional dynamic which is also economically sustainable. As I say, these are things that need to be explored with some urgency. Pakistan is too big to fail and I am afraid that some crimes are too big to fail to act upon.

2.48 pm

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Avebury for allowing us the opportunity to discuss this important and, indeed, timely matter. As I listened to so much expertise around this Room on religion, Pakistan, human rights and minorities, I began to think that my record of finishing within the allotted time, in which I take pride, might well be broken today. However, I will try not to go beyond my time. As the Minister with responsibility for both Pakistan and human rights policy, I am increasingly concerned about the levels of interreligious and intrareligious violence in Pakistan, as are all noble Lords present. Pakistan remains a country of concern in the annual FCO report on human rights and democracy, with the treatment of minorities representing one of the several acute human rights challenges that the country faces. Noble Lords will be aware that this and the intertwined issue of freedom of religion or belief have long been personal priorities for me, and I shall continue to use every opportunity I have to address them.

Some very interesting thoughts were raised by my noble friend Lord Hussain in relation to intrareligious tensions. I am thankful for his expertise and what he brought to the debate today. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, again raised the issue of the interpretation of

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faiths, while the noble Lord, Lord Soley, asked whether we could have some of these more difficult debates on UK soil if the opportunity presents itself.

We are building up FCO expertise on religion and in understanding these very difficult intrareligious disputes. To repeat what I said in the House the other day, 25 years ago when I was growing up, being from a mixed Sunni-Shia background was not discussed or seen as being unusual. The good that has come out of the intrareligious harmony in this country is that this debate is not live in the United Kingdom. Many of the national bodies that speak on issues affecting British Muslim communities are represented by both Shias and Sunnis—long may that continue.

Returning to the concerns raised in the Human Rights and Democracy report, the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief is one of the Government’s key human rights priorities; there is also the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Violence and persecution such as we have seen in Pakistan and in other countries across the world are the ultimate manifestation of intolerance and discrimination. We regularly see that where minorities are being attacked, other fundamental freedoms are also under threat.

I am committed to international action to address these issues. I spoke about this at the UN General Assembly last year. In January this year, I hosted an international ministerial conference in London on the freedom of religion or belief, where I felt it was important to build political consensus on the red lines around tolerance and the basic practice that we could expect each state to implement. Those discussions are continuing and are starting to solidify international consensus around the need to do more to combat religious intolerance and promote the right to freedom of religion or belief. Pakistan is engaging internationally on these issues both through that process—the adviser to the President on religious affairs was present—as well through the OIC-led Istanbul process, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly and our bilateral discussions.

My noble friend Lord Avebury asked whether we need to raise this at the United Nations. I know that the Secretary-General has taken note of the extremist attacks in Pakistan. He has been very vocal in condemning them. We continue to discuss these matters at multilateral UN level and, of course, at bilateral level.

We value our partnership with Pakistan, with its many distinctive characteristics, including the close personal connections between our citizens. There are more than 1 million journeys between the two countries every year. Britain is committed to an enduring relationship with Pakistan built on mutual trust and respect and on our many shared interests. As David Cameron said on his first visit to Pakistan as Prime Minister, there is the opportunity for “naya aghraz”—a fresh start. We are an unswerving supporter of Pakistan’s development and its democratic future. It is a broad relationship. Yes, it is based on security and terrorism, the economy and trade, but it is also based on culture, community and—dare I say?—cricket. Our understanding

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is nuanced and measured and the relationship is stronger than ever before. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, asked what leverage we have. I would say that all of the above are opportunities for us to leverage and make that relationship respond better.

I take this opportunity to applaud the recent elections in Pakistan. The elections on 11 May were a crucial milestone in Pakistan’s democratic history. It is the first time that power has transferred democratically between one civilian Government and another after a full term. I welcome the strengthening and laying down of deep roots of democracy in Pakistan. These elections were among the most credible in Pakistan’s history. There was an improved electoral register and the highest ever number of female and new voters. To protect that credibility, we hope that all allegations of malpractice will be thoroughly investigated.

Pakistan’s elections have strengthened democracy and the voice of the Pakistani people. They have given the incoming national and provincial Governments a clear mandate to meet the very significant challenges that Pakistan confronts, which we would like to help Pakistan in meeting. The new Government, whatever their make-up, will face some real challenges in their first 100 days, including a very difficult economic situation and critical energy shortfalls. We encourage all political parties to work together to use the start of the new parliamentary term to tackle the country’s problems.

The UK is committed to working closely with Pakistan on these challenges. Where appropriate, we can share our experience of the need for tough decisions to deliver future growth and prosperity. Our friendship and close ties mean that we feel Pakistan’s losses deeply. As was said by many noble Lords today, Pakistan has lost a shocking 40,000 civilians in the battle against terrorism and extremism. We feel the sacrifices that Pakistan has made, and we feel for the people who continue to make those sacrifices, specifically the minorities that suffer violence and discrimination. I have seen at first hand the positive impact of Pakistan’s minority communities on society. The focus of my visit to Pakistan in January last year was to meet and show solidarity with the Christian community in Karachi. I was able to meet the Archbishop of Karachi and see the inspirational work of Sister John Berchmans Conway, a nun from Ireland who has lived in Karachi for most of her life educating the next generation of young girls in Pakistan. She recalled fondly her memories of teaching the late Benazir Bhutto. I am delighted that she has been awarded a civil order by the Pakistan state for her contribution; it is well deserved.

In March, however, in a shocking incident of religious violence, rioters targeted a poor Christian community in the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore, damaging property and forcing people out of their homes. At the time, I discussed the attacks in detail with Paul Bhatti, who was then Pakistan’s Minister for National Harmony and Minority Affairs and is, of course, the brother of the tragically assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti. I expressed my sympathy and pledged our ongoing support in tackling sectarianism and religious persecution. Those riots were sparked by an allegation of blasphemy against one member of the Christian community.

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The blasphemy laws remain a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan. Indeed, some of those who have called for its reform have been tragically targeted by extremists, as my noble friend Lord Hussain mentioned in his speech

The infamous blasphemy laws are frequently misused against both non-Muslims and Muslims, a point that I continue to stress. I will make sure that we continue to raise the issue and that we carry on working closely with civil society in Pakistan and with groups in the UK to encourage interfaith dialogue. This is a sensitive issue, but that will never deter us from raising it. We will continue to do so at every opportunity.

I had the privilege of sharing dinner with Shahbaz Bhatti only weeks before his assassination. We talked about the work that we were going to do together, and I am pleased that, despite that tragedy, his brother Paul Bhatti, who has been in government, will continue to work with me. However, it is only right that those who assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti are brought to justice, and we will continue to raise the issue at every opportunity.

The Christian community is not alone in being targeted. I am increasingly concerned about attacks on Shia Muslims, in particular those of the Hazara community. I was saddened by the bombings in Quetta and Karachi earlier this year which killed many innocent members of the Hazara community. Such acts of sectarian violence demonstrate an appalling contempt for religion and for human life. However, this year is not a one-off and, as Human Rights Watch and others have highlighted, violent attacks against Shia Muslims have been on the increase. Moreover, the violence is not isolated to Shia Muslims. We have also seen terrible attacks on Sunni mosques in the Malakand district. We have condemned those attacks. As the Prime Minister has said, when it comes to terrorism, Pakistan’s enemy is our enemy.

Continuing discrimination against the Ahmadi community remains a matter of concern. We have again expressed these concerns in this year’s Annual Human Rightsand Democracy Report, as we did during the universal periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council last October. Of course, I had the benefit of the great expertise of my noble friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who is sitting with me during this debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked when we last raised the case of Asia Bibi. I referred to the case directly last year with Shahbaz Sharif, then the chief minister of Punjab, who is tipped to be the chief minister again, and who is, of course, the brother of the potential future Prime Minister. They are powerful figures who are now in position in government and thus able, it is hoped, to take these matters further.

My noble friend Lord Hussain asked about the aid being provided to Pakistan. Over the next four years, we will support 4 million children in schools, many of them girls. In the light of the Malala Yousafzai case, we can see why support for education is so important. We are also supporting programmes that allow women to access credit, prevent mothers dying in childbirth and provide practical job training for tens of thousands of people. Pakistan could become the UK’s largest recipient of aid, averaging up to £350 million a year, but this increase is dependent on securing value-for-money

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results. It will also be linked to the Pakistan Government’s progress on reform at federal and provincial levels, including taking tangible steps to build a dynamic economy, strengthen the tax base and tackle corruption. As I have said before, it cannot be right that the taxes of the people of this country are used to support the poor in Pakistan when the rich in that country refuse to pay their taxes. UK aid is helping to address the underlying grievance that creates an environment in which extremism can flourish. It tackles inequality and promotes social justice.

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, raised the MQM and Altaf Hussain. Again, I am saddened by the recent outbreak of violence in Karachi, including the assassination of Zahra Hussain, a respected and popular political figure. The UK Government strongly condemn all acts of violence in Karachi, and we sympathise deeply with the victims, their families and all the law-abiding citizens of the city. The noble Lord referred specifically to the role of the MQM in the violence. Let me reassure noble Lords and the many members of the public who have written in that there is no place for the incitement of hatred or violence in the UK, and we have strict laws in place to deal with it. The Metropolitan Police has received an unprecedented number of complaints about alleged comments made by Mr Altaf Hussain. It is now formally investigating those comments and in due course it will take appropriate action.

In conclusion, it is in all our interests for Pakistan to be stable and prosperous. Religious tolerance is vital for peace and prosperity to flourish in that country, and the UK is committed to supporting efforts to achieve that. The British Government will continue to stress the importance of improving religious tolerance with the newly elected Government in Pakistan. Lastly, I apologise for breaking my record and not sticking to the time.

Leveson Report: Media Plurality

Question for Short Debate

3.02 pm

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to take forward issues of media plurality in the light of the Leveson report.

Lord Sharkey: My Lords, like most noble Lords, I very much welcomed the cross-party agreement on press regulation, and I very much hope that the current apparent contest between two rival versions of the royal charter is resolved in favour of the charter approved by Parliament. I am certain that our royal charter will help to prevent the kind of gross, shameful and even criminal behaviour that the Leveson report detailed so graphically. But no matter how very welcome this progress towards regulation is, I believe it is entirely timely for us to remind ourselves that Lord Justice Leveson was charged to look at both regulation of the press and ownership of the press—both important and, I believe, equally important.

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It is worth recalling briefly why we have had to discuss regulation of the press at all. The obvious and shameful behaviour of elements of the press is the proximate reason, of course. However, much of this behaviour was also illegal or in clear violation of the press’s own code of conduct, which raises the questions of why the law was not enforced and the code not applied. The reason for these failures is to be found in the historic cosiness between politicians, the police and some parts of the print media. The cosiness existed—and perhaps still exists; we shall see—because of the perceived power of the press to punish or reward political parties or individuals. This perceived power exists largely because of the sheer size and reach of some parts of the print media, and it was this perceived power, by virtue of size and influence, that allowed parts of our press to consider themselves above the law or immune from the consequences of breaking it. It was the sense of power and immunity that fostered the widespread and corrupt culture that Leveson detailed in his report.

I am certain that regulation of the press is a necessary condition for reforming this culture, but I am equally certain that it is not sufficient. Size and reach have been the drivers of press misbehaviour and of the complicity of other of our institutions in that misbehaviour. As long as there are great concentrations of media ownership, the drivers of potential future misbehaviour will always be present. To make sure that regulation of the press achieves long-lasting and deep cultural reform, we must also address the issue of concentration of media ownership. If we do not do that, the chances are that not far down the road we will find ourselves back again in the last chance saloon commissioning Leveson mark 2.

It is quite striking, looking back at the various media crises of the past few years, to see how little discussion there has been in the media of the issue of media concentration and pluralism. One can see why this may be, of course, but it will have to change. There needs to be more public discussion, more examination, more analysis and simply more noise about the whole area of who owns what and what they do with it. There is a clear lesson from the setting up of the Leveson inquiry, which is that the public is slow to take notice and the Government are slow to act unless there is a clear problem to address. Of course, I acknowledge that there is already a considerable body of research and argument about what to do about concentration of media ownership. However, as I shall illustrate in a moment, much of that work has not entered the public consciousness, and quite a lot of this work seems, at first or even second glance, to be as easy to grasp as quantum physics.

It is in this context that I should say how very much I welcome the inquiry currently being held by the Lords Select Committee on Communications under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. I have seen the written evidence so far submitted to the committee in the very helpful documents provided for this debate by the Library. Although I shall touch on some of the themes and characteristics of these documents, I shall, as is proper, leave their full examination to the committee. I should also

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say that I very much look forward to hearing the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, in a few moments.

There are those who say that the whole issue of media concentration is just too complex to deal with in any satisfactory way. It is easy to see why people might say that. The problem is not in setting down what we would like to achieve. Ofcom defines the desired outcome of a plural market as,

“ensuring there is a diversity of viewpoints available and consumed across and within media enterprises and ... preventing any one media owner or voice having too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”.

This is a pretty good objective and, as Lord Justice Leveson noted, it seems to be generally acceptable. The problems arise over how much is too much, and over how you measure it. Here is an invitation to complexity, eagerly seized by Ofcom.

In its report to the Secretary of State, Ofcom considered three types of broad metric: availability, consumption and impact. Within these, it considered five different types of consumption metric. The measurement proposals were certainly comprehensive, but also very complicated. Leveson noted this. He said that,

“its complexity is also a disadvantage, in that it will be difficult for most people to understand and could come under sustained attack from those media providers who feel that they may be the subject of plurality concerns”.

There is a very important point here: a complex system of ensuring plurality simply will not work. It will be opaque, user-unfriendly, difficult to explain and a bonanza for lawyers. What we need is simplicity and a measure that acknowledges the reality that the media exist in a revenue and profit-driven marketplace. When profits can be magicked away—something that we have seen quite a lot of recently—revenue is the best and simplest indicator of dominance.

There are already simple proposals for a measurement framework based on revenue, some put forward by Claire Enders and Professor Barnett. I urge the Minister to consider very carefully the merit of those simple proposals. Everyone will understand a rule that says that you cannot have more than X% of market revenue. If you can measure market presence easily, as I believe you can with such a simple rule, then Leveson’s next question applies: what action should be taken if plurality rules are breached? Again, simplicity and the commercial world should be our guide. The answer is that rule breach should lead to divestment. That is what happens when the size of an ordinary commercial company presents a danger, and it is what should happen to media organisations too.

One frequent additional source of complication in discussions of what to do about media plurality is the internet. Or, more precisely, should we include Google, Facebook, Twitter and others in our list of media organisations that should be scrutinised for possible concentration of power and influence? I know there has been a lot of discussion about all this, but again I think there is a simple and simplifying approach available to us. There should be a very simple test. Do these and similar very large internet players exercise meaningful editorial control? If they do, include them; if they do not, then do not. As things stand, I do not believe that

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any of these companies exercise meaningful editorial control. If it is simply their size that presents a problem, it is surely a commercial problem and best dealt with by the CMA.

In the time available, I have been able to deal with only some aspects of the issues surrounding media plurality. I am very much aware, for example, that the place of local and regional media in all this deserves detailed discussion at some point. I very much look forward to hearing the contributions of other noble Lords on the subject of plurality.

I also want to say to the Minister that I do not underestimate the difficulties that the Government will have in finding a solution to this problem, just as I hope that the Minister does not underestimate the need actually to find a solution in the near future. I realise that when the Minister replies to the Question—which is, it is worth repeating: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to take forward issues of media plurality in the light of the Leveson Report”—he will almost certainly not be able to give us dates or a very precise plan, but I should be very grateful if he could at least describe the process and the road map by which the Government intend to progress the matter, assuming that they intend to do so.

3.11 pm

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Sharkey pointed out to the Committee, the House’s Communications Select Committee determined on 19 March that its next inquiry would be into media plurality. On 26 March, members of the committee agreed a call for evidence that was issued shortly thereafter. It had a deadline for submissions of 1 May. We intend the inquiry to be as far-ranging and wide-ranging as possible. We believe that is right and proper. We shall consider as diverse a range of views right across the spectrum of opinion as we can, and we intend the inquiry to be comprehensive.

On 13 May, we received a response from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that struck me, the chairman, as—I shall put it this way—disappointing. After all, it was a response to a call for evidence from a Select Committee of Parliament. Having shared the response with other members of the committee, they agreed that it was a bit thin and, as a result, I wrote back to the Secretary of State for the department, drawing her attention to the committee’s concerns and the response’s shortcomings. Today, at 2.22 pm, in an example of what you might describe as “just-in-time government” the Secretary of State responded. I shall share one paragraph of her letter with the committee. She wrote that media plurality is an important and complex issue, and the questions raised in our inquiry get right to its heart. She went on to say that the Government will shortly be setting out how they plan to seek views on these issues and how they may take forward Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations and that, in the light of that, it did not seem appropriate to give a government position at this stage. She wrote that the Government are grateful that we have launched an inquiry to look at this area in greater depth and envisage the committee’s scrutiny and findings providing valuable help and support to the Government’s work

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in this area. I understand what the Secretary of State is saying and, perhaps more importantly, I appreciate what is behind her words.

Speaking for myself, without any reference to other members of the committee, I accept the point she makes, subject to what seems to me to be a very important proviso, which is that we need to know with certainty what this timetable is going to be. I am rather more emphatic than my noble friend Lord Sharkey about what the road map—to use the current phrase—for this process might be. During this Parliament, first there was going to be a Green Paper, which was delayed and then disappeared and was replaced by a White Paper. The date of publication of the White Paper seems to have been delayed and further delayed. If noble Lords remember the play “Waiting for Godot”, the characters were waiting for Godot at the beginning of the play and they were waiting for Godot when it concluded. Against that background, I ask my noble friend a very simple question: can he give us firm indications, to which the Government will adhere, about the process to which the Secretary of State has alluded? I invite him to put the reply in the Library of the House.

The committee wishes to co-operate with the Government in consideration of these matters but, at the same time, we have to deal with each other in good faith. My noble friend may not be able to give a precise reply now but I hope very much that in his concluding remarks he will indicate that he will, in an appropriate period—for example, within a couple of weeks after we get back from the forthcoming short recess—provide the House with a very clear indication of exactly what is going on and, as and where appropriate, furnish the committee, which feels very strongly about this, with the information that will help it in the inquiry. In considering a topic such as media plurality in the way that this House’s Select Committee is doing, it matters that we have some idea—and I am using the slightly vague words “some idea”—of what on earth the Government think, even if as a result of the inquiries and consultations that have been carried out they subsequently change their mind. It seems to me that it has never been a problem for a Government to change their mind to a conclusion that is better than their provisional one. I look forward to hearing my noble friend’s response.

3.16 pm

Lord Lipsey: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on bringing this important issue before us this afternoon. I just want to make a few short, almost staccato, points about the importance of media plurality.

In doing so, I do not underestimate the benefits that some of the big media companies have brought to the people of our country. Sky, for example, has revolutionised everything from sports coverage, where its standards have had to spread to other broadcasters, to, for example, the arts, where Sky Arts is frankly often upmarket of the pot-pourri that is now BBC Four. Therefore, there are advantages and they must not be forgotten. I have had advantages myself since News International provided me with a comfortable living

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after the electorate unaccountably removed the Government whom I served in 1979. I am grateful to it for that.

That said, monopoly in general is a bad thing and monopoly in media is a particularly bad thing, as it affects not only one sector but the whole of society. I just want to reflect on some episodes in recent history that I think have brought home the extreme importance of, certainly, holding the line against further media concentration and, preferably, rolling back the concentration that still exists, despite the impact of the internet. It is a scary thought that if it had not been for the fact that the hacking scandal broke precisely when it did, the then Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, would have waved through News Corporation’s takeover of the 60.9% of BSkyB that it did not own. He came within days of doing so before the company realised that it would have to withdraw the bid. It came that close.

We have also seen the dangers of monopoly in the way that the Leveson debate has been conducted. I have felt that we have been living in parallel universes. There has been the universe of the reasonably rational debate that has been occurring in Parliament, taking a progressive direction and ending with three-party agreement—a rational process and a rational debate where advocates of minimal parliamentary interference have made their points along with those who have said that something had to be done. I think that we came to quite a good solution. But you would not have the faintest idea of what that debate had comprised had you relied on the newspapers.

I cite as an example a debate in the Chamber on 25 March. In that debate, the noble Lord, Lord Black—and I will choose my words with great care—made a contribution that most noble Lords present did not feel was among the most distinguished of that particular evening. But in the newspapers next day, in particular the News International newspapers, only one contribution to that debate received a single mention—that of the noble Lord, Lord Black, in defence of the very extreme position that he has taken. That is not plurality.

Another example and an important caveat is that sometimes the newspapers say, “Yes, we must be allowed to amalgamate to develop things. Of course, we will offer safeguards if there are threats”. I now draw attention to another incident of which very little will have been read by anyone in any national newspaper. When James Harding decided to quit as editor of the Times—we will not go into the reasons—Rupert Murdoch wished to appoint as his successors John Witherow at the Times and Martin Ivens at the Sunday Times. I should say that I have the reverse of any objection to either of them. Martin Ivens has been a good friend of mine over a number of years, although we do not see eye to eye politically. I know why the appointment was suggested.

However, a system was set up at News International as a result of the contested takeover, now 20 years ago, whereby the national directors have to approve the appointment of editors. For reasons that I will not go into today, although I may at some future point, they have not approved the appointments. What has happened?

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What you would expect to happen with Mr Murdoch has happened. They continue as acting editors. That is the title that both of them hold and they will no doubt continue in that vein for as long as is necessary. Put not your faith in safeguards: they will come to nothing.