I am not sure how he would have been able to prosecute that case if he had not been there. To take what is perhaps a trivial example, we would not have been having this discussion and this Statement today if Britain had chosen to sit on her hands. Therefore, I think that it was the right decision. If one looks at the political and media coverage to date, the profile that the summit has achieved over the past few days is far greater than would have been the case if my right honourable friend had not been there.

On the other specific questions that the noble Baroness asked me, the Prime Minister pressed the case for an independent, credible and transparent inquiry to start by March. We will continue to build on the work started at CHOGM to maintain pressure on the Sri Lankan Government for that independent inquiry to get under way. The Prime Minister was absolutely clear that, if that does not happen, he will use his good offices through the UN to press for an international inquiry. That obviously remains a possibility should progress not be made.

Regarding whether President Rajapaksa is an appropriate person to be chair-in-office, the noble Baroness will know that the whole basis on which the Commonwealth proceeds is by consensus. There is no precedent at all for the removal of a member state from the chair-in-office. As it happens, there is no formal role for the chair-in-office following the CHOGM

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other than chairing the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting in September. The Commonwealth is effectively run by the Secretary-General and not by the country that happens to be in the chair. As I said, there is no precedent for removing a member state. The decision was effectively taken back in 2009 and, given that it is an institution that proceeds on consensus, there was no prospect at all of that being unravelled.

However, I come back to the point that lay behind the noble Baroness’s final question concerning whether it was right for the Prime Minister and the British Government to be represented there, as opposed to the stance that a couple of other countries took. For the reasons that I have already given, I contend that it was the right decision both for the Commonwealth and for shining a spotlight on the situation in Sri Lanka.

5.38 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): Does my noble friend accept that, despite the perfectly understandable concerns about human rights issues in Sri Lanka, the visit of the Prime Minister, my right honourable friend Mr Cameron, did a huge amount of good both in focusing on the issues and, indeed, in helping to promote trade and investment with a rapidly expanding pattern of economic dynamism throughout the modern Commonwealth? Does he also accept that the words of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who said that the Commonwealth was a means of bringing a “touch of healing” to a troubled world, were extremely apposite? Does he therefore conclude that the mugwumps, including the Financial Times and the British Labour Party, who argued that the Prime Minister should not go look pretty silly?

Will my noble friend also explain to the noble Baroness that at Perth in 2011 there was absolutely no chance of reopening the Colombo decision, because it had been settled at the 2009 meeting, which was attended by Gordon Brown, the then British Prime Minister? It was agreed that there should be a postponement but that the decision for 2013 should be locked in. It is all very well after the event saying that somehow the decision should have been reopened. It could not have been; it was settled in Trinidad in 2009. Will he explain that to the noble Baroness opposite? I think that those opposite are experiencing some embarrassment that they suggested that Mr Cameron should not go when it was obviously wise for him to do so. He did a lot of good for us, for the Commonwealth and, indeed, even for Sri Lanka.

Lord Hill of Oareford: I obviously agree with my noble friend about the contribution made by the Prime Minister, particularly as far as the point about trade is concerned. There is about £250 billion worth of trade every year between Commonwealth countries, and any progress that we can make to encourage that to be taken forward can be only for the good. As for my noble friend’s request to explain to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, certain events that happened in 2009, I do not think that I could do any better than my noble friend.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, given what the Minister has said to the House about the response of both the public and the British Government to the people of the Philippines, does he not agree that, in the light of the long disputes that have taken place between China and the Philippines, this would be an admirable opportunity to draw China in to the relief operations? Does he further agree, given the response that was made to China at the time of the Szechuan earthquake, that these catastrophes can be times, to use a phrase used elsewhere in the Statement, for healing and reconciliation?

When discussions took place about the reference to the Human Rights Council of the atrocities that occurred in Sri Lanka, did any discussion take place of the model used in South Africa of a justice and truth commission to examine what took place as an opportunity for both sides to come to terms with the depredations that have occurred there?

Lord Hill of Oareford: On the first point, I agree with the noble Lord that these awful events could provide an opportunity for a little bit of healing. I hope that other nations will take part in providing help to the Philippines. As far as the detail of the conversations is concerned, I am not sure which parallels or analogies were raised. I am sure that it was the case, however, that some of our experience in Northern Ireland—the difficult times that we went through and the lessons that we learnt in trying to make progress there—were raised and would have been apposite. If there is anything further that I can find out for the noble Lord, I will certainly let him know.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, the Minister was right to say that the core values of the Commonwealth are set out in the charter: human rights and democracy. Does he not at least agree that those aspirations become much less credible when, for the next two years, the lead country in the Commonwealth will be Sri Lanka? It is not just a formal matter: Sri Lanka will also chair the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which deals with penalties against those who default. Here is a major defaulter being in charge of judgment against the others.

The Minister will see that a number of Commonwealth countries were mentioned in the communiqué: Belize, Cyprus and so on. Why was there no mention of overseas territories such as Gibraltar and the Falklands, when surely one could look for some Commonwealth solidarity in such important matters as Gibraltar and the Falkands? Did the Prime Minister in any way try to influence his colleagues to show solidarity in respect of these two very important overseas territories?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, on the first point, no one is claiming—I am not—that making progress on human rights across the Commonwealth is a straightforward process. I think, however, that it helps that the charter that was signed in March has that commitment. The nature of our meetings is that we just have to keep pushing forward and trying to make progress. I do not claim that it is straightforward, but I claim that Britain being there—flying the flag for those values, arguing for them and shining a spotlight on the case of Sri Lanka where some of them are in

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question—was the right thing to do. As for the noble Lord’s specific question about Gibraltar, I do not have any information readily to hand, but if there is something that I can dig out for him, I will happily do so.

Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): On the Philippine tragedy, I agree with the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition that the response of the British public to this disaster has been truly heartwarming and really generous. I also commend the Government and the Armed Forces for the efforts they are making to add to the relief of that terrible tragedy.

On the Commonwealth meeting, does my noble friend agree that it was not only unfortunate, but almost inevitable, that the coverage of this conference was dominated by conditions inside Sri Lanka itself? In order to avoid that happening again, would it not be a good idea if the heads of Government were to make it clear among themselves and to the Secretary-General that future heads of Government meetings will only be held in those Commonwealth countries that abide by what he called the core values of the Commonwealth charter? Does he agree that if that policy decision were made in advance, that in itself would help the promotion of human rights and democratic values throughout the Commonwealth?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I am grateful to my noble friend for his comments on the Philippines. On the Commonwealth conference, I would argue that going to Sri Lanka—and I obviously understand the points he makes about the anxieties that many people have about the situation there—will enable us and the rest of the world to have a greater focus on the problems there and help to address them. Therefore, while I understand the general point he made about wanting to work to ensure that all Commonwealth countries abide by basic human rights, in this case, having the CHOGM there has helped to take forward the case of the human rights of those people, particularly those living in the north of the island.

Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB): My Lords, I think that the Prime Minister was right to go to Sri Lanka; it is much better to confront difficult issues than to duck them. It is equally important, however, that now that the issue has been confronted, the confrontation should continue. Will the Leader of the House say a little bit more about how the Prime Minister intends that the pressure on Sri Lanka over human rights be continued in the year or two ahead? Was there support for that pressure from within the Commonwealth itself?

Lord Hill of Oareford: At the moment, I am not able to add any specific information as to the next steps that will be taken. This was the beginning of a process initiated by the Prime Minister in Sri Lanka just a few days ago. He made clear, for instance, the need for an independent inquiry to say that if there are not steps taken and some progress made by March, the next step would be an escalation through the UN, pressing for an international inquiry. Other steps have started: the establishment in August, for example, by the Sri Lankan Government of a commission into the disappearances. That would be another initiative—another piece of work—that we would all want to observe to

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see what progress is made. There will be a number of strands that we will need to observe as the months go on, but what I can certainly say is that, having been there and seen for himself the situation in the north of the island—the first head of a foreign Government to go there for 65 years—my right honourable friend will do everything he can to keep up the sort of pressure for which the noble Lord is calling.

Lord Soley (Lab): My Lords, may I repeat the point made a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and ask for a more positive reply? It is possible—this should be outside of party politics here—that in future, any chairman of such a conference must abide by the charter of the Commonwealth. Surely he could take that suggestion back to the Prime Minister. Secondly, perhaps the Minister could tell me whether he agrees that Britain, along with other Commonwealth countries, could do a lot more to advance the rule of law in Sri Lanka for both communities and particularly in relation to the protection of journalists, who are very much at risk at the moment? I declare an interest as the chairman of the Good Governance Foundation.

Lord Hill of Oareford: On the point made by the noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Steel, I am sure that people will learn from some of the decisions taken in the past. As has already been alluded to, a lot of the decisions about where these things will take place are made many years out. The Commonwealth is an institution which proceeds on the basis of consensus, so the notion that Britain alone is able to determine these things clearly is not the case. I understand the noble Lord’s point about the need for continuing an emphasis on the importance of human rights. I did not mean to imply any negative response to that. I very much agree with the importance of that which has been encapsulated in the Commonwealth charter.

I believe we would all share the noble Lord’s concerns about the situation that has been affecting journalists in Sri Lanka. Partly for that reason, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was very keen to have journalists with him on his visit to the north. Again, he has made clear that the eyes of the world will be on Sri Lanka, in particular the way in which journalists there are treated in the wake of that visit to make sure that proper standards are upheld.

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I thank the Government for this remarkable reminder of the generosity of the British people and DEC, and for the commitment of “HMS Daring” and other support. “HMS Daring” of course is connected with Birmingham, the most landlocked city in Britain. Perhaps I may ask the Leader of the House about not just the emergency phase, which is so important, as regards food, water and shelter, but the recovery phase in disasters such as this where we are looking for housing, infrastructure and livelihood. In looking further ahead than just the natural response to the ghastly situation, will he take into account two matters? One was raised by the Philippines climate change commissioner, Yeb Sano, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. He said, “Typhoons such as Haiyan”—

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or Yolanda as it is called in the Philippines—

“and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action”,

and that the emergency response should look into the much more serious long-term effects of these kinds of climate changes.

The second matter is the understanding that is growing in the use of quick aid into resilience. For example, Tearfund investigated the Government’s expenditure in Malawi. It noted that for every £1 spent, £24-worth of infrastructure, resilience, and the ability to cope not just with ordinary difficulties but with disasters can be achieved. Will the Government please take into account these longer-term matters so that we are stronger when the next time comes?

Lord Hill of Oareford: The right reverend Prelate makes an extremely wise point about the long-term future. I am grateful for what he says about the short-term response, although, as he rightly says, a lot of that is down to the natural generosity and human feeling of the British people in terms of their charitable response. The Government are glad to have been able to play their part alongside them in increasing the amount of aid that they have made available.

The right reverend Prelate is obviously also right that there is a difference between the short-term crisis response and what one can do longer term. As he has said, DfID was working with the Philippine Government prior to the emergency on some of the issues which he mentioned which come from climate change. Certainly, helping those countries invest in homes and infrastructure that in future would be better able to support some of these natural disasters is the wise thing to do. I am sure that through the work of DfID, the Government will continue to reflect on that.

Lord Naseby (Con): As chairman of the all-party group I welcome enormously that the Prime Minister went to Colombo. Is my noble friend aware that the reaction from the nearly 500,000 Sri Lankans living in the UK, whether they be Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, has not been at all positive? My e-mail has virtually collapsed because people are deeply concerned at the way in which the Prime Minister raised, in their view, an unbalanced view of what progress had been made, particularly the manner in which it was delivered to the President of Sri Lanka? I have to say that I partially share that concern.

As we move forward, which is the key to all this, does my noble friend, as he sits in the Cabinet, recognise that it has been only four years and that in those four years there is peace? There are no bombs and you can go where you like. You do not have to have your cards with you and there are no checkpoints. That is enormous progress in four years. After all, we took nine years to get rid of rationing. Even as one of those who suffered from the bombing in London, we did not succeed in producing an ideal situation within four years.

Perhaps I may bear on the House for a moment; two dimensions are involved. First, we now know the number of people who disappeared, of whom, sadly, some 600 were children, who I suspect are child soldiers. We now know that. There is a commission. I think

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that it would be great progress if the International Committee of the Red Cross were to join that commission, because it has helped in producing the numbers.

Secondly, we now have established the numbers who were killed. We know from the Tamil teachers who did the audit that the number is somewhere around 9,000, which is a number that we can handle. Will my noble friend please give maximum encouragement to the processing of those 9,000 to make sure that we find out exactly who they were?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I certainly accept the point. The Prime Minister was very clear in his Statement that one cannot disassociate oneself from the awful history of Sri Lanka over the past 30 years and the history of bloodshed and civil strife that it has gone through. That having been said, I do not accept that the Prime Minister made his case to the President of Sri Lanka in an unbalanced way. There is quite a lot of contention around figures of the sort to which my noble friend refers. That is precisely why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister stressed the importance of having a credible transparent and independent inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened during the closing phases of the civil war and then addressing the situation so that it is possible on that basis to move forward with reconciliation to a shared understanding of what the future might be like. Until that has happened, it is very hard to work out how there can be reconciliation that will last.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (CB): My Lords, it is clearly good that the Prime Minister’s visit to the north had the impact that it did in the wider world and among the Tamil community in the north. Will the Leader of the House tell us anything about how this was reported elsewhere in Sri Lanka, where perhaps sympathies were rather different? It is important that there is impact there as well.

Lord Hill of Oareford: I fear that I have not seen any other coverage of how it was reported in Sri Lanka. Obviously my friends at the Foreign Office and so on will have done. I am sure that they spend their days doing that and other productive things. Oh dear, I can feel that my briefing is now going to dry up on me.

On the point that some of the world’s press were able to go there, I saw the transcript of the press conference that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister gave on, I think, the Saturday morning, which had representatives of the press from both Sri Lanka and the rest of the world. That gave the opportunity for a wide range of people to report honestly and openly on what went on.

Lord Wills (Lab): My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister to be a little clearer about what the Government are going to do to persuade the Commonwealth to take action to mitigate the very real damage that will be done to the credibility of the Commonwealth and the charter signed only this year, with all its emphasis on human rights, if the Government of Sri Lanka are to carry on representing the Commonwealth in international forums for the next two years. The Prime Minister did a good job, and I congratulate him on all his work on behalf of human rights in Sri Lanka on

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his visit, but it is clear that the regime has ignored him, just as it has ignored all representations in the past and clearly intends to ignore all such representations in the future. It is crucial that the Commonwealth takes such action to mitigate the damage that this regime will do to the credibility of the Commonwealth. What will the Government do about that?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I will be brief because I think the essence of that question was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon. It is something that the whole Commonwealth is going to have to do. The noble Lord asks what the British Government are going to do. We are only one of 53 members and the institution operates by consensus.

My earlier answer was that we will seek to work through that body by emphasising at every possible opportunity, as we did again in Colombo, through the Commonwealth charter, that these values are important and need to be upheld. I do not have a magic wand to wave, much as I would like to, because I share the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Wills. I cannot say that we can simply do A, B and C and that it will all work in the way that we would like.

Wales: Commission on Devolution in Wales


6 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): My Lords, with the permission of the House I will repeat a Statement made by the Secretary of State for Wales in the other place:

“This Government have already committed over £2.25 billion to new infrastructure that will benefit Wales, directly or indirectly. We are spending almost £2 billion to modernise the rail network, including electrifying the Great Western mainline to Swansea and the railways serving the south Wales valleys. We are investing £250 million to build a new prison in north Wales that will create up to 1,000 new jobs and require a supply chain that will bring an estimated £28 million a year more into the local economy. We have also committed £57 million to bring superfast broadband to Wales, a key element of a modern infrastructure network. Alongside this, Hitachi’s investment in new nuclear at Wylfa Newydd is a great opportunity to create jobs and drive economic growth across north Wales.

Earlier this month, I confirmed in a Written Statement to this House that we will enable the Welsh Government to use their existing borrowing powers to start work as soon as possible on the sorely needed upgrade to the M4 around Newport, tackling the congestion that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister described as,

‘a foot on the windpipe of the Welsh economy’.

Today, in making our full response to the Silk commission’s recommendations, the Government are unveiling a new and extensive package of financial powers that will be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government.

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I would like to commend my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Jane Hutt, the Welsh Minister for Finance, for the positive and collaborative approach taken in agreeing this package of powers. It demonstrates the strength of the United Kingdom and the flexibility and adaptability of devolution within our union.

The Silk commission made 33 recommendations, 31 of which were for the Government to consider. Today we are accepting, in full or in part, all but one. We are devolving many new financial powers to the National Assembly and the Welsh Government, potentially giving the Welsh Government control over more than £3 billion of tax revenue, with commensurate levels of borrowing.

We are providing the Welsh Government with additional tools to invest in the areas they are responsible for, to enable them to upgrade Wales’s infrastructure and help quicken the pace of economic growth. It will facilitate the improvement of Wales’s deteriorating road network—not only the M4, which I mentioned earlier, but also the other key Welsh trans-European route, the North Wales Expressway.

The devolution of tax and borrowing powers will also make the Assembly and the Welsh Government more accountable to the people of Wales who elect them. Since devolution the Assembly and the Welsh Government have been accountable only for how they spend taxpayers’ money. They will now become more accountable for how they raise it.

The Government’s response to the Silk commission’s first report builds on the announcement made by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister earlier this month and sets out in detail the devolved financial powers we are giving to the National Assembly for Wales.

We will give Welsh Ministers borrowing powers so that they can invest in the capital infrastructure I described earlier. We will devolve landfill tax and stamp duty land tax in Wales, ensuring that the Welsh Government have an independent funding stream to pay back the money they borrow. We will provide for a referendum to take place so that people in Wales can decide whether some of their income tax should be devolved to the Welsh Government. Subject to the approval of the people of Wales in a referendum, we will deduct 10p from each of the main UK income tax rates in Wales, with the Welsh Government able to set an unrestricted Welsh rate of income tax for all Welsh taxpayers. This is consistent with the system being introduced in Scotland, and will increase the accountability of the Welsh Government while avoiding significant risks to UK revenues that would result from different Welsh rates for each band.

We will also fully devolve non-domestic business rates raised in Wales, so that the Welsh Government budget benefits more directly from growth in Wales. We will enable the National Assembly for Wales to create new taxes with the UK Government’s consent and devolve the tools to manage these new powers. A cash reserve will be created that the Welsh Government can add to when revenues are high and utilise when revenues are below forecast, and we will provide the

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Welsh Government with limited current borrowing powers to deal with shortfalls if their cash reserve is insufficient.

I was pleased that Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, welcomed the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this month. This package of powers gives the Welsh Government additional tools to invest in Wales to rejuvenate the Welsh economy, which has languished behind the rest of the United Kingdom for far too long. It will make the Assembly and the Welsh Government more accountable to the people they serve, and place important taxation levers in the hands of the Welsh Government which, if used wisely, can help make Wales a more prosperous place. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Wales. I hope that the Welsh Government will rise to the challenge, and look beyond the M4 to invest wisely, and strategically, across the whole of Wales. I will place a copy of the Government’s response in the Library of both Houses and I commend this Statement to the House”.

6.07 pm

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): I thank the Minister for her Statement today and for outlining the UK Government’s response to the recommendations of Silk part 1. On this side of the House we welcome the Statement and the UK Government’s acceptance of the majority of the Silk commission’s recommendations. I thank Paul Silk and his fellow commissioners for their excellent work, which is continuing into next year as they prepare for the next phase of their report.

These additional powers give the Welsh Government the tools they need to stimulate the Welsh economy and to support the creation of jobs. Amid all the talk of constitutional settlement, we must remember that it is how these powers are used that matters. On our side, no one is seeking more powers simply for the sake of it—they are important because of how they can be used to support the living standards of the people of Wales. The people of Wales have been hard hit by this Government’s policies, with real incomes down by £1,700 a year, energy bills rocketing, public services under pressure and welfare cuts hurting the most vulnerable. It is therefore critically important that Wales has borrowing powers which are afforded to other devolved Administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as to local authorities, to enable it to invest in infrastructure. This is particularly important given the huge cuts to the Welsh Government’s budget. The capital budget will shrink by a third over this Parliament as part of a £1.7 billion cut to the overall budget.

The M4 relief road is the most immediate concern—not to politicians but particularly to businesses, which depend on fast, reliable roads to get their goods to market. But we also need to invest in other transport projects across Wales and in our schools and hospitals. Will the Minister first clarify exactly when she expects that a package will be in place to support the development of the M4 relief road? Will she also tell us the process by which the level of borrowing will be agreed?

The Government have previously indicated that devolution of minor taxes such as stamp duty and landfill tax is a sufficient independent income stream

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against which the Welsh Government can borrow. But today’s response suggests that it will also be contingent on income tax revenues. Will she confirm whether that is the case and how much borrowing will be released once minor taxes are devolved prior to any ability to vary income tax?

We welcome the devolution of a number of smaller taxes. These will give the Welsh Government a number of additional levers to support the Welsh economy and the revenue stream needed to trigger borrowing powers. Both the original consultation carried out by the Silk commission and the additional consultation over the summer clearly showed widespread support for the devolution of stamp duty. Prior to the introduction of these new tax powers, the method for calculating the offsets to the block grant will need to be agreed. Will the Minister give us some detail on the process for agreeing these offsets?

Our position has always been that we support the proposal on income tax laid out by Silk, which my honourable friend in the other place the shadow Secretary of State for Wales has called the triple lock. It allows for the ability to vary income tax rates subject to: first, the referendum; secondly, a period of assignment to ensure that Wales is not worse off; and thirdly, a fair funding settlement. That remains our position. We are pleased to see that the idea of a sunset clause, which was previously suggested on the timetable for a referendum, has been quietly dropped.

Of major significance today is that the Government have rejected the recommendation by Silk that the Welsh Government should be able to vary the bands independently. Will the Minister give us more detail on why the Government rejected this recommendation? Are the Government concerned about the potential introduction of a progressive tax? That would be particularly ironic given that the only tax rate that the UK Government have sought to lower is the additional rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year. As we all know, there are not many of those in Wales.

On fair funding, the Government clearly believe that last year’s joint statement with the Welsh Government meets the recommendation laid down by Silk. The statement said that both Governments would review relative levels of funding for Wales and England in advance of each spending review and, if convergence is forecast to resume, to discuss options to address the issue in a fair and affordable manner. Will the Minister tell us what these possible options are and what would trigger action as a result of these discussions? Will she also give us more information about the nature and timing of these discussions?

The Welsh Secretary of State, David Jones, this morning urged the Welsh Government to hold a referendum soon. He said that his party would campaign for a yes vote in order to cut taxes by 1p or more. Will the Minister clarify if this is the position of the Liberal Democrats as well? If so, will she clarify what services in Wales would be cut in order to make up the shortfall in tax receipts?

I repeat my thanks to the Minister for the Statement. I welcome the UK Government’s acceptance of the majority of Silk’s recommendations. These measures are a real step forward for Wales and for the Welsh

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Assembly and I would be grateful if the Minister could address my queries on the detail of when and how the recommendations will be implemented.

Baroness Randerson: The noble Baroness has given me a large number of questions to answer and I will do my best to cover all the major points. I take issue with her opening comment that the Government have accepted the majority of the Silk recommendations. Although technically that is the case, I feel that it is a pretty large majority to accept 30 out of 31 recommendations. “The overwhelming majority” is the way I would put it.

The noble Baroness makes the point that the Welsh economy is lagging behind the rest of the UK. It has lagged behind the rest of the UK for many decades. It is a matter of great sadness to me as someone who lives in Wales that it has fallen further and further behind the rest of the UK. This is not a recent thing since the coalition Government came to power: it is something that has existed for far too long, and the coalition Government, in making this series of announcements today, are determined to give the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales the tools with which to do the job—the tools with which to repair the Welsh economy and ensure that it becomes fully efficient and effective again.

On the timing for the M4 financial package, our intention, as with everything else in this series of announcements, is to ensure that it can be put into practice as soon as possible. Early borrowing powers will be put into practice very rapidly. The Welsh Government are currently undertaking a consultation on a possible route for the M4 relief road and it is clearly going to be some time before any kind of actual building on the ground will take place. But I promise the noble Baroness that the tools will be in the hands of the Welsh Government in plenty of time to undertake that. It is the Government’s intention to ensure that that legislation is passed in this Parliament if at all possible. We intend to set about that with all speed.

In relation to the question on the level of borrowing that the Welsh Government will be able to undertake, clearly, as with prudence in one’s household budget, the level of borrowing that one can undertake must be related to the potential for revenue raising—your potential income. There will be one level of borrowing possible for the Welsh Government with the minor taxes, but there will be a much higher level of borrowing if the Welsh Government and the Assembly go forward with a referendum and the people of Wales vote yes on that. The timing of the referendum is firmly in the hands of the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government, and that is appropriate.

The noble Baroness asked about the model for income tax devolution. The Government have taken the view that the Scottish model is appropriate. It has been welcomed in many quarters and therefore it is a good model to follow in this case, particularly as Wales has a very porous border and people move all the time across the border—very much more than they do between Scotland and England. There was concern that the model of income tax put forward in the Silk commission report could lead to an imbalance in terms of tax receipts.

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Finally, the noble Baroness referred to the October 2012 joint statement. She asked what would be the trigger for reviewing funding for Wales. The trigger would be agreement that convergence was occurring again. At the moment, there is divergence. It is estimated and, I believe, agreed by both the Treasury and the Welsh Government that it is likely to be at least 2017 before convergence occurs again. The Liberal Democrats have always been in favour of a very high level of devolution and I strongly welcome, as does my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, the fact that I am able to make this Statement here today.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, may I remind the House of the benefit of short questions to my noble friend the Minister so that she can answer as many as possible? I can help.

6.20 pm

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, I welcome the general thrust of this important Statement, based as it is on the Silk commission’s recommendations. To understand the import of the Statement it is necessary to read the accompanying paper that has been placed in the Public Bill Office. Paragraph 2.6 emphasises the enormous importance of,

“an integrated economic and fiscal union”,

and of the need to make sure that:

“Any changes to the funding of the Assembly and the Welsh Government must be consistent with maintaining the integrity of the system”.

There is nothing in the decisions announced by the Government that threatens that integrity. I refer to paragraph 2.12 of the document: the Government were particularly wise, in taking their decisions about income tax, to recognise that any distortion,

“of the redistributive structure (or progressivity) of the income tax system … could potentially be detrimental to the UK as a whole”.

The paragraph goes on:

“While the impacts are uncertain … this would be unprecedented in the United Kingdom”.

The Government are wise for the reasons that my noble friend has given. Perhaps I should declare an interest. I now live only 500 hundred yards or so from the border. The truth is that a great many people live close to the border and therefore the issues that she addressed are important. It is also very important that the issue of taxation should go to the Welsh people for a decision in a referendum. I welcome that.

I have a final question. There is emphasis again in the paper that has been laid before both Houses about the need to strengthen the institutional arrangements. The Welsh Government are going to have a major task in managing these new responsibilities. Has any estimate been made of the cost that will fall on the Welsh Government, and therefore on the Welsh people, of the institutional changes that will be needed?

Baroness Randerson: I thank my noble friend for his support on this issue and for underlining the importance of this Statement. I am proud of the record of the

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coalition Government: we have already, through our facilitating the referendum on increased full legislative powers for the Welsh Assembly, enabled one step forward on devolution to be taken. Today’s announcement heralds a second giant step forward for devolution. While expressing full confidence in the model of devolution throughout the United Kingdom, however, the Government have been concerned that we should not in any way undermine the union. It is important to bear that in mind.

My noble friend referred to the need to strengthen institutional arrangements. I cannot give him an estimate of the cost, because that strengthening is largely a matter for the Welsh Government. It is essential that they go ahead with this rapidly. I am aware that they are already in the process of strengthening their financial arrangements for establishing a Treasury function within the Welsh Government.

Lord Wigley (PC): The Minister understands that I support the thrust of the Silk report and the response of the Government, but can I press her on the way in which she is blindly following Scotland in insisting on the introduction of a lock-step rule whereby all three rates of income tax can only be varied in tandem, without the right to vary one rate independently of the other? In other words, if the Welsh Government wanted to bring down the top rate from 45 pence to 40 pence—an 11% reduction—there would have to be a 25% reduction in the standard rate of income tax, making such a choice totally impossible. Does she understand that the Holtham and Silk reports rejected such a lock-step approach? This not only denies the voters the choice of policy, but also flexibility to the Welsh Government and binds them into a straitjacket of relativities imposed on them by Westminster. Why do a Government who claim to support greater tax-varying flexibility in theory refuse to deliver it in practice?

Baroness Randerson: I am disappointed that the noble Lord, who has given a great deal of thought to this matter, has not been able to welcome the vast majority of the Government’s response. I take issue with the idea that we are blindly following Scotland. There is no blindness about this. The Treasury has made its decision on this, based on the evidence that it took in relation to the specific situation in Wales. I have already referred to the significance of the very porous border between England and Wales, and to the fact that so many people live close to and cross it on a daily basis. That was borne in mind by the commissioners at the Silk commission when they produced their report, and the Government have had to take that into account as well.

Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Statement, and Mr Paul Silk and his fellow commissioners for the work that they have done.

In general, I welcome warmly the new powers for the Government of Wales, particularly borrowing powers, which are badly needed. But first, as the income tax proposals require a referendum, do I understand it correctly that the Welsh Ministers will campaign for a

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yes vote for all the tax powers proposed? Secondly, can the Minister clarify a problem that I have already raised with her at Question Time? Will the borrowing powers to be used for the upgrading of the M4 around Newport and other major road improvements in Wales be financed solely from the new powers of taxation, or will some funding still come from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if so how much?

Baroness Randerson: I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, for referring to borrowing powers. As we discuss tax-raising powers, we should not overlook the significance and importance of borrowing powers, particularly as they will enable us to be fleet of foot and ensure that the Welsh Government get the money that they require.

The noble and learned Lord asks how Welsh Ministers will be campaigning in a referendum. I cannot speak for Welsh Ministers. They must make up their mind—they are members of a different party and Government from me. However, it seems fairly unlikely that a referendum would be called if they were going to campaign against it, but it is not impossible.

I am unable to give the noble and learned Lord a detailed answer on the precise funding model for the M4. That still has to be worked out. The devolved responsibility for infrastructure means that the burden of the repair and construction of roads in Wales falls on the Welsh Government to a very large extent.

6.30 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD): My Lords—

Lord Touhig (Lab): My Lords—

Earl Attlee: My Lords, we have not had a Lib Dem spokesman yet.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, it is all very well saying that you are going to vote yes for a referendum. Would my noble friend the Minister be good enough to say who is going to frame the question which is to be put to the Welsh people? It has been noticeable that the First Minister, Mr Carwyn Jones, has not been overanxious to commit himself to timing for a referendum. Can we take it that the legislation will ensure that a referendum will be held and will not be deferred until some replacement for the Barnett formula has been found? In the 13 years of the previous Labour Government, they were unable to do that, despite all the pleas that were put to them at that time. Will my noble friend confirm that this referendum will go ahead with a proper question, within a reasonable time and with the Welsh Assembly having the power to determine precisely when?

Baroness Randerson: I thank my noble friend for raising two new issues, the first relating to the question for the referendum. The Government’s response on this has laid great emphasis on how well we believe arrangements worked for the previous referendum on full legislative powers. In that case, the matter was very much in the hands of the Welsh Government and Welsh Assembly in consultation with the UK Government. However, there was a very important role for the Electoral Commission, whose advice was taken and

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was pivotal. I hope that the Welsh Government will lead the call for a referendum and that the situation in Wales will enable them to lead that call relatively soon. It is important that the Welsh Government feel that they are in a position strongly to call for a referendum, because the UK Government believe that the joint statement of October 2012 meant that there was agreement between the two Governments on the way in which future funding for Wales would be dealt with.

Lord Touhig: My Lords, the document accompanying the Statement states:

“The precise levels of capital borrowing will … depend on the outcome of the income tax referendum”.

Twenty years ago when I chaired Gwent finance committee, I borrowed £37 million from the European Investment Bank and paid it back on time. If a county council had such borrowing powers 20 years ago, why cannot the Welsh Government now be trusted to borrow to invest according to their own assessment of their ability to service that debt, rather than wait upon a referendum?

Baroness Randerson: The noble Lord makes an excellent point; I, too, was a councillor a long time ago. We should bear in the mind that councils raise a significant amount of funding via what we nowadays call council tax. Therefore, their level of borrowing depends on their level of tax receipts. The UK Treasury is proposing exactly the same model for the Welsh Government.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, while applauding those impactive and genuine matters of devolutionary significance which are contained in the Statement, may I tempt the Minister to a wider consideration? Does she not agree that in so far as fundamental constitutional changes in the United Kingdom are concerned they should be planned and administered on a comprehensive, and not a piecemeal or haphazard, basis? In other words, once the Scottish people have given their verdict on the issue of independence, a powerful body of the wise, the good and the great should be set up to consider, first, the relationship of the House of Commons to the House of Lords and vice versa and, secondly, the relationship of Westminster government to devolved authorities, whether they be two or three in number. Does she agree that that is the only way in which we can avoid the humiliating debacle of what was called an attempt to reform this place two years ago?

Baroness Randerson: The noble Lord maintains a keen interest in constitutional issues and I have a similar interest in them—I do not always share the same prescription or viewpoint, but I have a similar interest. It is important that once the changes that we have proposed today have worked their way into legislation and the referendum on Scottish independence is dealt with, whatever the outcome, those people who look at constitutional issues start looking forward again. I have always espoused this rather neat and tidy approach to the British constitution, but that is not the way in which it has developed.

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Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): In welcoming this enhancement of devolution, I particularly welcome the improved prospect that we now have for the construction of the M4 relief road, which when it is opened will be of great benefit to quality of life and economic development in Newport and south-east Wales.

Perhaps I may press the Minister further on the points rightly raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon and my noble friend Lord Touhig on the funding of infrastructure. The Statement seemed to suggest, entirely implausibly, that, as a result of these changes, the land of Wales would flow with milk and honey and that the Welsh economy would be rejuvenated. Surely she recognises that the substantial cost of investment in transport and other infrastructure needed in Wales can be met only in limited part—I would say in small part—by the revenues from the minor taxes that are to be devolved and the limited borrowing powers that are proposed for Wales. Surely devolution should not mean an opportunity for the Treasury to be off the hook and for the important infrastructure needs of Wales to continue to be neglected.

Baroness Randerson: I know that the noble Lord is very conversant with the problems of the M4, and in the Newport area in particular. I am glad that he has welcomed the contribution that these changes will make to alleviating them.

The early part of the Statement set out the contribution that the UK Government have made to infrastructure in Wales, in particular railway infrastructure. The noble Lord needs to bear in mind that when an issue has been devolved the funding is devolved as well. If there are flaws in the devolution settlement in Wales, we have to look back to the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the original devolution settlement at the end of the last century. It has possibly been difficult in the past for the Welsh Government to deal with major infrastructure projects, which is exactly why we say that, as well as devolution of minor taxes, there needs to be a referendum to offer the people of Wales the opportunities given by the devolution of a portion of income tax.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): Given that the current settlement has been recognised as inadequately taking into account the high number of older people in Wales who are not economically active and the demands that those with multiple comorbidities put on health and social care, and given the widely acknowledged poverty of infrastructure of roads and other forms of communication, particularly IT and telephones, will the Government undertake to review the funding settlement that followed the Act so that, during the transition phase, there can be some correction in the perceived deficit in core funding to Wales?

Baroness Randerson: I remind the noble Baroness of the October 2012 joint statement in which the Welsh and UK Governments acknowledged the procedure that would be followed in future if Welsh funding were again to become unfair in terms of further convergence. The settlement has been set out very clearly in that joint statement, so it is important that she bears that in mind for future reference.

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Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)


Amendment 20

Moved by Lord Faulks

20: Clause 1, page 1, line 8, after “conduct” insert “that might reasonably be regarded as”

Lord Faulks (Con): My Lords, we return to considering Part 1 of the Bill, in particular IPNAs. I have already addressed the Committee about my views generally on Part 1, which support the Government, and I have no need to repeat them. However, I acknowledge that concern has been expressed both within the House and outside that the test for what is,

“capable of causing nuisance and annoyance”,

could be regarded as subjective. This would, potentially at least, result in a court ordering an injunction on the basis of some perceived nuisance and annoyance which, looked at objectively, should not be constituted as one.

In fact, the words “nuisance and annoyance”, which have, as we have heard, a considerable pedigree both in terms of the common law in reviewing breach of covenant cases, and in a number of Housing Act statutes, have been considered by a number of judges to carry with them a degree of objectivity. I would expect that they would not be viewed entirely in subjective terms, were a case to reach court. In fact, I very much doubt that either the agencies which were to seek an injunction under this part of the Bill or the courts would come to a different view in any particular case as a result of the insertion of these additional words. However, they would serve to allay some of the anxieties that have been expressed about anti-social behaviour being too subjective a concept, and the amendment should ensure that both the agencies and the court stand back and view the behaviour objectively before deciding whether it can properly be described as,

“capable of causing nuisance and annoyance”,

and whether it is “just and convenient” to grant an injunction. This added safeguard will, I suggest, fit reasonably into the structure of the Bill without weakening the protection that it provides for communities and individuals who are so often beleaguered by anti-social behaviour.

I noted that during the course of the debate, my noble friend the Minister indicated to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, that he was considering importing the word “reasonable”, as I understand it, into Clause 1(3) in relation to the “just and convenient” element of the judge granting an injunction. I respectfully suggest that the word “reasonable” might be better imported as a description of the relevant behaviour, rather than be imported into the discretion that a judge has in whether or not to grant an injunction. The judge would regard himself as being reasonable in any event when deciding whether it was “just and convenient” to grant an injunction. With respect, I would suggest that it would be better included further on in Clause 1. I beg to move.

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6.45 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I have three amendments in this group. Let me take the last one, Amendment 20H, first. I have lifted the wording from the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and it would provide that the court disregards,

“any act of the defendant”—

I have said “defendant”, although I should have said “respondent”—

“which he or she shows was reasonable in the circumstances”.

That follows neatly from the comments which have just been made, and I agree with what my noble friend said about that. I used the term “defendant” when I tabled the amendment because we think of the respondent as a defendant. This provision would allow the respondent to defend himself or, if you like, respond to the allegations. This goes to the behaviour which my noble friend has just mentioned.

My first amendment would insert the word “a”, and turn “nuisance” into “a nuisance”. This enables me to ask whether “nuisance” in this context is wider and less specific than “a nuisance” in the Housing Act. My second amendment, Amendment 20C, is to leave out “or annoyance” and is not only for the reasons which other noble Lords have given during the course of the afternoon as examples of conduct that each of us undertakes which our colleagues might regard as annoying—in my case probably putting down too many amendments. It is also to understand the distinction between nuisance and annoyance.

I have noticed during the course of the afternoon that many noble Lords have talked as though the clause referred to causing “nuisance and annoyance”. In fact, it is “nuisance or annoyance”. I am sorry to be picky—or, as my noble friend Lord Greaves would accuse me of being, legalistic—but these words are important.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 20GA, which is tabled in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and is coupled with this group. It seeks to address concerns that the Bill does not adequately take account of the likely impact which these new provisions will have on people with a learning disability. The amendment says:

“Consideration should be given to people with a learning disability in the issuing of an injunction to ensure they are not discriminated against”.

It may not be the most elegant English, finishing with the word “against”, but I think the gist is generally understood. I should also declare my interest as vice-president of Mencap Wales.

As we heard in the debate on the previous bank of amendments, the Bill introduces civil injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance—IPNAs as they are called. These may be imposed if the court considers it “just and convenient” to prevent anti-social behaviour. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, in scrutinising the Bill, highlighted that this is a lower test than the test of necessity, as required by human rights law. Furthermore, it considered that the new IPNA definition of anti-social behaviour is broad and unclear.

This has set alarm bells ringing with Mencap and others who work with people with a learning disability, fearing that this will lead to IPNAs being used

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inappropriately. As many know, people with a learning disability are disproportionately likely to be victims of anti-social behaviour. Mencap's report

Living in Fear

found almost nine in 10 people with a learning disability had experienced bullying, harassment or some form of anti-social behaviour.

The root of this, of course, is attitudinal and is based on the value that we as a society place on disabled people. In some people's eyes they are different and sometimes regarded, sadly, as dangerous. This was brought into sharp focus by the recent murder of Bijan Ebrahimi. Bijan was a disabled man picked upon for being different on his estate in Bristol. He suffered from low-level harassment before being accused of being a paedophile. He was questioned by the police, who found him innocent, but unfortunately by this point rumours had begun circulating that he was a child abuser and two days later he was brutally murdered.

My concern is therefore that a lower threshold for IPNAs, together with a murky definition of anti-social behaviour, will result in these new injunctions being used out of misunderstanding, fear and ignorance of people with a learning disability, and of behaviour that might be associated with their impairment. It could also lead to a rise in vigilantism and will do nothing to improve people’s understanding of the needs of disabled people.

There is also a fear that victims may in turn be branded perpetrators. For example, a person with a learning disability might be continually verbally abused by a neighbour. What if that victim is at the end of his tether and snaps, so to speak, at the neighbour? Such behaviour might in turn result in an IPNA being placed on that individual. The Bill sets out examples of certain prohibitions and requirements in Parts 1 and 2, and the amendment would include consideration of learning disability at this juncture. Such a step, if backed by robust guidance, would undoubtedly go some way towards meeting these concerns. I hope that the Government might look at this area further, not least because I understand that no equality impact assessment of the Bill has been carried out to date. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s thoughts on these matters.

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, Amendment 20 was recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its fourth report—a committee on which both my noble friend Lord Faulks and I serve. Amendment 20 is a modest compromise and adds an element of reasonableness or objectivity, giving the test more rigour, and will aid the authorities and other agencies. It will enable them to better explain their refusal to act on behalf of some people who just have different views on what they should have to tolerate from their neighbours and other people in the neighbourhood. I agree with my noble friend Lord Faulks that at this earlier stage, the test should have a reasonableness requirement, as it is at this stage that the officials of the authorities outlined in Clause 4 have to consider that behaviour.

As has already been outlined, reasonableness and proportionality are a requirement that the judiciary has to take into account when granting an injunction. This means that there will be reasonableness applied

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in the test by the officials and, of course, by the court rather than having a more subjective test by the officials and only later on encountering the reasonableness threshold. I spoke at Second Reading about the inordinate lengths to which witnesses have to go to collect the necessary evidence to get an ASBI or an ASBO. Merely adding after “conduct” the words “that might reasonably be regarded as” does not increase the evidence that has to be gathered and I therefore support this amendment.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, I will add a brief word to what has just been said in support of Amendment 20. The words “any person” at the end of Clause 1(2) are rather important; I would have thought that they make it all the more important that the words which the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, has suggested are put in. Without that, one would have the very difficult task as a judge of having to assess the evidence of one individual and deciding whether that individual is to be believed. If that individual says that he or she has been annoyed or suffered a nuisance, it would be quite difficult to say that the test was not satisfied. The reasonableness test is the one which would soften this and make it more realistic, and I would have thought that it was compatible with the general aim of the measure.

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, if I sometimes tell my noble friend Lady Hamwee that she is being legalistic, that is a compliment since she is a lawyer and I am not, which means that she sees things that I do not. When it comes to the meaning of words, however, I take a straightforward, common-sense view. Words have meanings and we ought to try to stick to them, but sometimes words have different meanings. A word that may well have a respectable legal background in terms of its meaning may not necessarily mean what ordinary people in the street think it means. I think that that is why “annoyance” is causing a reasonable amount of difficulty in the Bill. It has caused many to ask, “Are we really going to have an injunction just because someone is being annoying?”. I take the view that it is a human right to be annoying to other people from time to time, because if it does not happen there will never be any progress. Perhaps that explains some things. The difficulty, however, is at what level annoyance becomes unacceptable. “Harassment, alarm and distress” are clearly degrees of annoyance but they go rather further than what people nowadays tend to think annoyance means.

In the representations that we have had on this there has been quite a concern among those who are used to ASBOs—civil liberties groups and so on—about the way in which the changes are being made, switching from ASBOs and apparently making it easier to obtain an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance, and about the possibility that the words “nuisance” and particularly “annoyance” are far too feeble. On the other hand, the housing associations which have been writing to us in the past two or three days are saying, “No, the existing ASBIs”—which are injunctions—“work very well and those are the words that they use”. They would be very concerned if the test was increased.

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One reason for this is that you might live next door to somebody who says something foolish to you or wags their finger at you every time you go out in the morning. If it happens to you one time out in the street, and even if the person is going round doing it to lots of people, it really is no reason to serve an injunction on the person, however daft they may be behaving. But if it happens day after day or every time you go out of your house, it becomes a very serious matter. There is a considerable difference between repeated, annoying, low-level anti-social behaviour which irritates and harasses neighbours and is totally unacceptable in a residential context and the same behaviour out in the street. This is happening partly because, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, told us earlier, the Government are bringing lots of different things under the same umbrella.

However, what does “annoyance” mean? Being a fairly boring person and having it on the shelf, I looked in the Oxford English Dictionary,and I found four definitions. These are definitions of the verb “annoy”, but “annoyance” is clearly about annoying somebody. The first definition was “Be hateful to” or,

“Be a cause of trouble to”.

That is a fairly high level of unpleasant behaviour. The second was to,

“be troubled, irked or wearied by”,

which is a much lower level. The third was to:

“Cause slight anger or mental distress to or irritate”,

which seems a very low level. There was another, which was to harm or attack repeatedly, or harass, but it said that that was archaic and the illustration of it was, “A gallant Saxon who annoyed this coast”. Well, I am all in favour of gallant Saxons annoying the Yorkshire coast in the past, otherwise I might not be here, but that is clearly not relevant now.

To bring it up to date, the Merriam-Webster internet dictionary defines it as,

“to cause (someone) to feel slightly angry”,

which is clearly something that we ought not to be legislating about;

“to disturb or irritate especially by repeated acts”,

which might be; and,

“to harass especially by quick brief attacks”,

which probably is anti-social behaviour. That dictionary then said that “annoyance” may be,

“slight anger : the feeling of being annoyed”.

I thought “I’m giving up” but I looked further and it then said it was,

“a source of vexation or irritation”,

and then it defined it as a nuisance, so I thought, “We are going around in circles here”.

Annoyance actually has lots of different meanings, and for most people in this country today it is very low level. If we want it to be higher, the Government ought to make a real effort to define it in the legislation. It is assumed that the words “nuisance” and “annoyance” are in the law already and that everybody knows what they mean. I do not think that they do if the Government mean that they are a sufficiently high level to warrant injunctions against people.

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7 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I think that I can be very brief at this point. I have sat in the noble Lord’s place, albeit in the other place, and one thing he will have in his file is a note on the amendment saying, “Resist”. May I tempt him not to on some occasions? Amendment 20 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, seems eminently sensible and reasonable. It actually seeks to put some necessary clarification in the Bill. The Minister said he would look very sympathetically, and I hope he will, at Amendment 20GA in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. There is a serious issue about people with learning disabilities. It does not mean that they are not capable of causing distress through anti-social behaviour, but the measures by which it can be addressed and dealt with have to take into account any special measures and any learning disabilities that an individual may have. I hope that the Minister can look favourably on both those amendments.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, I may be about to surprise the noble Baroness. Well, to some degree—modestly surprise her. With these amendments we return once again to the issue of the test. I understand the concerns that noble Lords have articulated. Some of the arguments are returning to this issue and it is very important that we debate them and get them clear in our minds. I shall start with Amendment 20GA in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins.

This amendment raises the important issue of the proper considerations which must be considered in applications for IPNAs under Part 1 against respondents with learning disabilities. The amendment may not be necessary, because I have already spoken at length about the test for the injunction and the two limbs of the injunction, but I reiterate that, in deciding whether to grant an injunction, the court will consider whether it is fair, reasonable and proportionate to do so. That is within the terms under which a court would consider any injunction. In doing so, the court will be aware of its obligations to prevent discrimination against any respondent and to ensure that a respondent’s human rights are respected. Of course, the court will also ensure that the respondent is capable of complying with the terms of the injunction—indeed, that is specifically mentioned in the guidance. If the noble Lord will look at that section he will find that it is referred to. It is all part of the “just and convenient” part of the test which goes along with the whole business of nuisance and annoyance as being a joint, two-limbed test.

Returning to Amendment 20B, my noble friend Lady Hamwee pointed out that the Housing Act refers to “a nuisance”, not simply “nuisance”. I can reassure her that the test for the new injunction is based on that used for anti-social behaviour injunctions in the 1996 Act. No difference is intended but one of the two usages had to be used in this case to provide that continuity. Similarly, in respect of Amendment 20C, the use of the term “annoyance” in addition to “nuisance” also derives from the Housing Act 1996. The two

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terms will take their ordinary meaning. The dictionary definitions we have heard from my noble friend Lord Greaves are very interesting, but there is a meaning in law, by precedent, which is clear to the courts and, indeed, the Law Society has made clear that it welcomes that definition. They are commonly used together and may cover a broader range of behaviours than either would alone. We see the benefit in retaining the familiar test that includes both; that was mentioned in previous debates.

My noble friends Lord Faulks, Lady Hamwee and Lady Berridge, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, all made similar points about Amendments 20 and 20H, as, indeed, did the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Faulks was, of course, one of those recommended by the JCHR. Both amendments seek to add an explicit test of reasonableness to the threshold for making an injunction. The Government are aware of the concerns about the test for the injunction under Part 1 and I listened carefully to those concerns expressed at Second Reading and again today. I agree that it is important that the courts consider reasonableness, fairness and proportionality in deciding applications for injunctions to prevent nuisance or annoyance. The courts will consider these factors as a matter of course as part of the second limb of the test—that it is just and convenient to grant an injunction—as I said in my answer to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. However, the courts will be aware of their obligation to discharge their functions compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights, an exercise which requires a consideration of necessity and proportionality. However, we will want to consider whether we have done everything necessary to ensure that this is so with the drafting of Clause 1.

That is not to say that we necessarily agree with the amendments as they are drafted. Both would revise the “nuisance or annoyance” test, and I have made it clear that we see the merit in keeping a test that is already familiar to the courts. However, we want to consider whether we can make it clearer in the legislation that the courts must be satisfied that it is reasonable to issue an injunction under Part 1. This is what the amendments seek to achieve and, in that sense, we are not very far apart on this issue, so I will reflect carefully on Amendments 20 and 20H in advance of Report.

In conclusion, the test for the new injunction is tried and tested, it has a long pedigree and I see no evidence that it has given rise to the difficulties that a number of noble Lords have suggested in this and previous debates. The previous Administration sought to recast and strengthen the “nuisance or annoyance” test for an anti-social behaviour injunction back in 2003. This House endorsed that strengthening and on this issue, as I have said before, I am happy to endorse the position then taken by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. The police, local authorities and others will not act lightly in seeking an injunction. They and the courts must exercise such powers in a reasonable, fair and proportionate manner. As I have said, I am ready to take away Amendments 20 and 20H and explore, without commitment, whether it would be appropriate to introduce into the test an explicit reference to reasonableness. That point aside, for the sake of the

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victims of anti-social behaviour, who must be at the forefront of our deliberations on the Bill, I would be loath to weaken the effectiveness of the new injunction. I have no doubt that we will return to this matter on Report. I thank noble Lords for speaking to their amendments and I hope that they will be content not to press them.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before my noble friend responds, of course let us all think about it, but may I put one further, supplemental thought in the Minister’s mind? He talked about the pedigree of the term “nuisance or annoyance”. If a lot of that pedigree comes from the housing context, then we need to be careful about transposing the words without the constraint around it. That may not be the right word, but we need to consider the reasonableness of the term if we are moving into a different context.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Perhaps I should rely less on the Housing Act and draw attention to other matters such as the abuse of alcohol in public places, for example, which uses a similar test, or the parking of vehicles on highways and the obstruction of highways, which was also mentioned by me in a previous debate. This does not apply just to housing matters; there are other issues that have used the test of nuisance and annoyance. I do not see the problem that my noble friend suggests.

Baroness Hamwee: Or even “nuisance or annoyance”?

Lord Faulks: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords and noble and learned Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am grateful to the Minister for his reassuring noises; he has shown himself, as usual, to be a listening Minister. The expression “nuisance or annoyance” has a pedigree, as I think he said, in the housing context. It is almost a term of art, so widely has it been used over the years in the context of breach of covenant in common law, and it has found its way into statute.

Of course, a particular housing situation is not precisely analogous to anti-social behaviour. Nonetheless, there is a substantial accumulation of case law that the judges will understand and, I suggest, they will interpret it accordingly. I repeat what I said earlier: it seems that in any event the reasonableness is part of the judge’s task in deciding whether or not it is just and convenient to grant an injunction. Reasonableness will be the watchword, as will the obligations that the court has under the Human Rights Act.

Where I suggest it is important to import reasonableness, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said, is at the stage of defining with some degree of objectivity the nuisance and annoyance so that neither the agencies nor the court are in any way diverted by simply having to accept a subjective interpretation of what counts as anti-social behaviour. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that. I appreciate that this does not in any way weaken the power, but it should reassure those who are naturally concerned about the potential for this power to be used oppressively, and that reassurance would be at least provided, I hope, by an appropriate amendment. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment 20 withdrawn.

Amendments 20A to 20E not moved.

Amendment 20F

Moved by Lord Greaves

20F: Clause 1, page 2, line 4, after “respondent’s” insert “ethical or”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I shall speak also to three other amendments in this group. The amendments are small but useful. The first two refer to IPNAs and the second two to criminal behaviour orders; otherwise they match each other. Clause 1(5) says about IPNAs:

“Prohibitions and requirements in an injunction under this section must, so far as practicable, be such as to avoid … any conflict with the respondent’s religious beliefs … any interference with the times, if any, at which the respondent normally works or attends school or any other educational establishment”.

I want to add “ethical or” to the religious bit and “or training” to the educational bit, so that it reads “educational or training establishment”. The wording in the criminal behaviour order is almost identical, so the amendments are identical.

It is right that people should not have to give up religious beliefs or practices in order to comply with an injunction. There are some people who have strong ethical humanist views that might involve regular attendance at events each week that they would say were equivalent to religious events—they are clearly not religious so do not come under that definition—and it seems reasonable to include those. It is also possible that there may be genuine objections by some people to requirements in an injunction that require them to take part in otherwise excellent facilities or proceedings that are organised by religious groups or particular religious groups. It therefore seems that the word “ethical” ought to be there as well to cater for probably the very small number of people with humanist beliefs who would have these views.

7.15 pm

When it comes to education and training, the question is: does “education” encompass training? The Government may say that it does but another part of the Bill, Clause 34(3) on dispersal orders, which we will no doubt come to some time or other when we are discussing the Bill, says:

“A constable may not give a direction under section 33 that prevents the person to whom it is given attending at a place which the person is … expected to attend for the purposes of education or training”,

or for other purposes. So one part of the Bill specifies education and training, but this part does not. Whatever the right wording is, it ought to be consistent between the two, and it is sensible for the benefit of avoiding doubt to put “education or training”. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 20FA in my name. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is seeking to broaden the scope of the potential areas where it may be possible for the courts to limit the prohibitions and requirements of an injunction. I am going to raise some queries about whether or not any of this really

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makes sense. I do not disagree with anything that the noble Lord has said, but I wonder where we are going when we talk about religion in this context.

Noble Lords will remember that in 2001, 390,127 people put down on their census forms that their religion was “Jedi”. I wonder whether, for the purposes of excluding someone from requirements under one of these new injunctions, saying that you had to follow your religion of Jedi would enable you therefore to say, “I should be allowed to carry on exactly as I wish”. Similarly, are we including in religion Satanism or the proponents of animal sacrifice?

I pose these questions not because I seriously seek to know whether, when the Bill was being drafted, those drafting it were considering proponents of animal sacrifice or even those who consider themselves to be Jedi knights. I am, however, quite clear that I have come across plenty of people who behave in an anti-social fashion who, if they thought that there were some exemption from the requirements of an injunction, would suddenly pronounce that they had all sorts of religious beliefs, beliefs that a normal person—or to your Lordships here, if that is not the same—might consider was not really a bona fide religion. Is there a requirement now for the Government to define what they consider to be a religion? If there is such a definition somewhere, the noble Lord will have it to hand and explain it to me.

My second concern is that, even in an established religion which we would all recognise as bona fide, there are certain norms of behaviour. If, however, you pursue your belief in that religion with an excessive degree of zeal, does that excessive zealotry automatically mean that you can have exemptions from the requirements of an injunction? What is or is not reasonable in pursuit of your religion? We may get advice from one of the right reverend Prelates, although I suspect not.

Many years ago, meetings of the Tottenham Labour Party used to take place on Sunday mornings, next to a black church where the singing of hymns was extremely loud. The church was extremely well attended: far better attended—and probably more fun—than the meetings of the Tottenham Labour Party. However, what constitutes reasonable pursuit of your religious beliefs? For example, is it acceptable that, in pursuit of your religious beliefs, you decide to go into the common parts of an estate and pray extremely noisily every night at 2 am? Some people might claim that was pursuit of their legitimate religious beliefs, but is that reasonable in this context?

My final point is: even if this is the reasonable pursuit of a bona fide religious belief, does that pursuit have a disproportionate impact on other people? I pity the courts that have to interpret this and the local authorities or housing agencies trying to pick their way through it. I hope that, by tabling this amendment, we will get some elucidation from the Minister on what is intended by this phrase. I absolutely support and accept the principle that these injunctions should respect bona fide religious beliefs. However, we will have to define what a set of bona fide religious beliefs is, what the normal extent of practising those beliefs is and in what circumstances their normal practice has a disproportionate impact on other people.

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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I say in response to my noble friend’s point about education and training, “Call me legalistic”. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is very bold in raising these important points. He used the phrase “bona fide” several times in his speech, as well as in the amendment. Followers of paganism would say that their religion was bona fide. As the noble Lord was speaking, it occurred to me that a call to prayer at a very early hour is very annoying to some people, but would one challenge that? He raises bold and brave questions.

Baroness Berridge: My Lords, I refer to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The examples raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, all seem to relate to the manifestation of somebody’s religious beliefs. The report states that the holding of religious beliefs by any individual is an absolute right under both the European convention and in international law, under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is only the manifestation of one’s religious or humanist beliefs that can be restricted by a country on certain grounds, as defined in European and international law. Would the Minister please outline why the Bill, as currently drafted, only allows prohibitions and requirements to,

“so far as is practicable … avoid any conflict with the respondent’s religious beliefs”?

It should, surely, be the manifestation of those religious beliefs that the Bill is aimed at.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, in standing up and responding I feel like the Jedi knight next to the Jedi master. May the Force be with us all.

Amendments 20F and 22CA raise an important point in respect of the duty on the court to ensure, so far as is practicable, that any prohibitions or requirements attached to an injunction do not conflict with the manifestation—as my noble friend so eloquently put it—of the respondent’s religious beliefs. In line with the Equality Act 2010, reference to religious beliefs should go further than so-called “traditional” religious beliefs. I believe that this can be covered in guidance but I would like to go away and consider further the points made by my noble friend. We can return to the wording of this section if required. I hope my noble friend will accept my assurance that we will further consider this point and those made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I support the words of my noble friend Lady Hamwee: he raised bold and challenging concepts. As I said, in response to an earlier amendment, what may be perceived as perfectly acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. The courts are used to considering a person’s religious beliefs and do not need to be told that they can reject beliefs if they are spurious. In addition, to try to second-guess what would, in the words of the amendment, constitute activities “that would normally arise” is very difficult given that two people of the same religion may have different ways of practising their faith. I am a Muslim and there are 73 different denominations within Islam. During Ramadan, the time of your fast can differ

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depending on where you are. One obviously prefers to be at a place where the fast closes as the sun sets rather than when the sun is set totally. That is a practical illustration from a faith which is widely recognised.

The crucial point here is that, in considering an injunction, the court must avoid, so far as is practicable, any conflict with the manifestation of a respondent’s religious beliefs. If that is not practicable because, for example, avoiding the conflict would result in the respondent engaging in further anti-social behaviour purporting to be religious practice, the court would not be prevented from imposing prohibitions or requirements that it considered appropriate. This is something we can safely leave to the courts; they are more than capable of assessing the bona fide status of a respondent’s religious practice without express provision and, indeed, we have recently seen examples of that.

Amendments 20G and 22CB, tabled by my noble friend Lord Greaves, raise another important point. As we have made clear, the injunction should be available to help turn a troubled person’s life around, especially when they are young and impressionable. As such, it would not be helpful for requirements or prohibitions to unnecessarily stop them engaging in constructive training.

However, what is considered as training by some may not be worthy of special consideration by the court and some will try to use this term to delay the court’s process. Where training is worthy of consideration it is likely to be linked to an educational establishment or even a formalised work placement and, as such, is already provided for in the Bill. My noble friend also raised the issue of different wording in different parts of the Bill. We recognise that Clause 34(3) imports the word “training” whereas Clause 5(1) does not. I will certainly reflect on those two variations and return to them as required.

For the reasons I have given, I hope that my noble friend Lord Greaves will withdraw his amendment and that the noble Lord, Lord Harris—notwithstanding the important issues that he raised—will not press his.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am very grateful for that helpful response from the Minister and I look forward to the results of his reflection. To my noble friend Lady Hamwee I say, I am never legalistic; I may sometimes be pernickety, but that is a bit different. I had great sympathy for what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said, and had great sympathy for him, having to go to his Labour Party meetings on a Sunday morning. However, that reminded me that in the old days, and perhaps here and there now, there were things called socialist Sunday schools. If lads and lasses were getting out of hand, I am sure that going to socialist Sunday schools might have helped them. I cannot see how it could have done so, but it might well have helped them at least to organise their lives. Therefore, the question of regular events—such as non-religious ethical meetings—is important. I am grateful for the Minister’s comments, and I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 20F.

Amendment 20F withdrawn.

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Amendments 20FA to 20H not moved.

Clause 1 agreed.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.31 pm.

Central African Republic and the Great Lakes Region

Question for Short Debate

7.31 pm

Asked by Baroness Berridge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, I shall begin with the good news. The M23 rebels have been defeated militarily, so their only option is now the negotiating table. Towns in North Kivu, in the eastern DRC, are celebrating, and the UN has shown its capability, along with national Governments, to deal with an intractable conflict. The BBC reported that M23 officials in Uganda said that their fighters had retreated because government and UN forces had launched a joint assault. However, the UN has yet more work to do, as one of the newest threats to regional security now lies in the little-known country of the Central African Republic. A landlocked country, it lies at 180th out of 186 on the UN developmental index, bumbling along near the bottom but never getting the attention of being in the relegation zone. It borders Sudan, South Sudan, DRC, Chad, the Congolese Republic and Cameroon, is about the size of France and is rich in oil, timber and diamonds. After independence in 1960, there have been many coups and the notorious brief existence of a Central African Empire under Emperor Bokassa.

Why, then, would the world pay much attention to the latest coup, which happened on 24 March of this year? The Foreign Secretary expressed his concern the next day but his plea,

“on all sides to make every effort to show restraint and to respect human rights”,

was not heeded. However, not only are there flagrant human rights abuses, but the world needs to pay attention, as this time CAR has gone from coup to failed state. In August 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that there had been a,

“total breakdown of law and order”.

Unicef goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow visited the weekend before last and one of her tweets stated:

“I see no evidence of any functioning government”.

Not only have I found the reports of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and CAFOD invaluable, but I have also, through a UK charity, been receiving reports directly from CAR, from people on the ground, and it is their stories and pleas for help that led to this evening’s debate.

There is basically no security for the civilian population. The new President Djotodia is a militant Islamist and has no effective control outside of the capital Bangui and not totally within it. He used three groups of rebels, now known as the Seleka coalition, to gain

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power, and now those rebels are left to control sections of the country. Many of them, perhaps 80% or 90%, are foreigners, recruited from Chad or Sudan. The rebels have taken control of key customs towns and diamond mines. They have become the local police force, and most schools and hospitals are not functioning. I was told:

“At the end of August when there was a deterioration of the security situation in the Rabe and Boeing districts of Bangui the inhabitants went and occupied the runway at the International Airport, believing this to be the only safe place to go”.

This very weekend, Modeste Martineau Bria, the director of judicial services, was killed in the capital, Bangui, by Seleka rebels. The UN and all NGOs agree that these rebels loot, rape and pillage with impunity. Whole villages, such as the village of Bohong, 25 kilometres from Bouar, have been burned down. According to CAFOD, there are 40,000 internally displaced persons in Bossangoa, and 65,000 people have fled the country. Sometimes the rebels will spare lives in return for money, but often they rape, and resistance means execution—literally being hacked to death with a machete—said Thibault Ephrem to the Guardian newspaper in July.

The rule of law has vanished. In the same report, in the town of Kaga-Bandoro, the town’s catholic priest recounts that many families are still in the forest or the bush and that people are dying without any assistance. He estimated that 60,000 of the region’s population of 130,000 were hiding in the jungle, living ferally in a malaria-prone region, with no clean water and where 11% of the population aged between 11 and 45 is HIV positive. If there can be a worse report, my stomach churned on seeing a photo sent to me, of an elderly lady with the caption:

“A lady forced by Seleka to eat human flesh”.

In August, the AU took over the small group of peacekeepers from ECCAS member states, namely Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Congo and the DRC. Including civilian police and human rights monitors, this new force, MISCA, should be about 3,500-strong, but there are currently only 1,000 troops, and only Burundi has promised a further 500. Some estimates put the numbers of the Seleka rebels as high as 23,000, so how will the MISCA force be sufficient?

Will my noble friend please outline whether Her Majesty’s Government will support the transfer of MISCA to a UN-led operation, such as the one that has been so successful in the DRC? Can he also outline how the United Kingdom will vote in a Security Council decision at the end of the month?

The particular results of this coup also necessitate the involvement of the UN, not only the AU. This failed state for the first time has broken down along sectarian lines. The most recent reports by the BBC and the Guardian accept this, but early accounts contained warning signs. On Sunday 14 April, the Brethren church in the Cité Jean XXIII quarter was shelled during a worship service, leaving a number of people, including children, killed or seriously injured. Some of the children’s feet were amputated in the attack, but there was no comment from either the President or the Prime Minister.

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After the coup in March 2013, a letter dated April 2012 began to circulate, whose authenticity President Djotodia has not denied. The letter, from him to the OIC, allegedly outlined his vision to form an Islamist republic from CAR, Darfur and part of Chad. Of course, much if not most of the Muslim population of CAR does not support the Seleka rebels or the president, but they are powerless to stop this dynamic.

Anti-Seleka rebels, called “anti-balaka”, meaning “anti-machete”, have now formed. The name says it all. Vicious reprisal attacks are now being reported against the Muslim and Fulani populations. Father Anastasio Roggero, a missionary who has worked in the CAR since 1975, said in an interview with Fides:

“We are in the heart of Africa, and the danger here that a centre of terrorism is set up is real, in my humble opinion”.

He did not need to be humble. As the UN director of humanitarian operations in CAR, Mr Jing, said:

“We are seeing the seeds of a profoundly dangerous development between communities … It’s a tinderbox that can ignite into something very, very big and very, very bad”.

A genocidal interfaith civil war is a risk, and needs to be averted. The religious leadership in CAR is trying to bring about reconciliation, and travels the country trying to talk to the anti-balaka rebels, and the four major Christian leaders signed the Bangui declaration, which includes a request for the UN, not the AU, to be involved in peacekeeping. However, will Her Majesty’s Government please outline their view on the alternative request in that declaration of the MISCA force being at least 10,000 strong?

Such conflict and insecurity of course means that there is a humanitarian crisis at the moment that affects the entire country. Subsistence agriculture is the primary livelihood for the majority of CAR’s population, and many were previously self-supporting, if not exporting food. However, due to fighting and looting of agricultural equipment and cattle, 1.1 million people face food insecurity, 1.4 million people are without access to clean drinking water and up to half a million people require urgent, immediate food assistance.

In July, the UK pledged £5 million, but the UN emergency appeal for the Central African Republic remains one of the most underfunded appeals. To date it has received only 42.5% of the £121.5 million that is required. So far, the UK’s prompt contribution amounts to just under 6% of the funds received. The UK is a leading humanitarian donor, so will my noble friend outline whether the amount of UK aid is going to be increased and whether aid is managing to get beyond the capital, Bangui? One further urgent priority is to secure the mineral wealth that is the future of this country. Will my noble friend outline what discussions Her Majesty’s Government are having with the French Government on the general situation in CAR and particularly in securing these mineral sites?

I find it so sad to hear my good friend Pastor Nims Obunge, who spent his teenage years in Bangui, remembering,

“the beauty of a peaceful city ... and the beauty of the people was reflected in their well crafted art and rhythmic music and dance ... I recall Bangui with the beaming smiles of local people”.

It will take a long process of reconciliation to get back there, but if the world acts now, it is possible. If it does

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not, CAR may become well known, like Rwanda, for all the wrong reasons. As UN Resolution 2121 makes clear, such genocide will be with guns, not just machetes.

7.42 pm

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, whose Question enables me too to focus on the human catastrophe and humanitarian emergency that continues to enfold in a country little known outside France—the Central African Republic. It is a country that has been unstable for most of the time since its independence from France in 1960 and its history is characterised by a callous disregard for human life. I am talking about what is clearly a failed state where there is violence, anarchy and little evidence of international attention, a country where for 10 years there has been civil war, relentless poverty and a succession of coups, which means that the population now show signs of deep trauma, and aid workers are being targeted.

The CAR has for far too long been a forgotten country suffering from a forgotten crisis. Now, at last, there are some signs of unprecedented attention, given in particular by my noble friend Lady Amos and, indeed, by the European Union Humanitarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who has both visited the CAR and has been at the vanguard of efforts to increase international awareness of the suffering of that country. People are starving. They are resorting to the eating roots and leaves of manioc plants. They rarely have access to clean water. There is no functioning health service. Malaria is a major killer, especially of children, accounting for 70% of paediatric deaths. HIV prevalence is the highest in central Africa and life expectancy is 48 years. Women have suffered rape, abduction, torture, mutilation and other crimes, all inflicted with impunity.

Last March the self-styled Seleka rebels seized power. There has been a state of lawlessness ever since with large-scale attacks on civilians. Looting and murder is widespread. The Seleka has failed to investigate or prosecute any of the abuses committed by its own members. The UN has now made a response. Adama Dieng, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, and John Ging of OCHA have recently briefed the United Nations Security Council after a harrowing visit to the CAR. Mr Dieng reported that Muslims and Christians were inciting violence against each other and expressed concern about this new dimension to the conflict. He did indeed speak of the possibility of genocide, in what he described as a “tinderbox” and a country where,

“the scale of suffering is among the worst in the world”,

and where a daunting host of problems impede delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The Security Council was briefed last December on the effects of the Seleka rebel offensive and there have been regular briefings since then, yet no effective action has been taken. Can the Minister explain why there has been such a failure to act? The CAR is not yet Somalia, but the signs of endemic instability are there and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is predicting a full-blown conflict unless urgent action is taken to establish the rule of law and give humanitarian

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access to people who have such desperate need. Could the Minister give an estimate of when exactly the proposed AU 3,600-strong peacekeeping force is likely to be deployed? Since the promise made last July, less than half the troops in that country have been deployed. Is it not clearly the case that this number is hopelessly inadequate in a country that is more than twice the size of France?

The CAR has huge mineral resources, as the noble Baroness said, including diamonds, gold, uranium and copper, and oil deposits have just been discovered along the border with Chad. This fact in itself is surely a compelling argument for taking more interest in the CAR. Naturally, Seleka leaders are now already benefiting from tapping into the lucrative extractive industry and are controlling the diamond mines. Another deeply worrying factor is that arms are flooding into the country. The flow of AK47s has now been followed by rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weaponry. The UK is the fourth largest European exporter to the CAR and is a key supplier of arms to the unstable region of central Africa, including Sudan and Chad. Now the Seleka rebellion has been boosted by heavily armed fighters and warlords from Chad. Would the Minister clarify the current UK position on sending arms to the CAR? What, for instance, is the justification for the export licences? Finally, what we should be doing this evening is agreeing that the people of CAR deserve to be offered the hope of a better future.

7.47 pm

Lord Chidgey (LD): My Lords, I too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Berridge on securing this timely debate, in which I will confine my remarks to the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic. While in Addis Ababa last week, I had a message from a journalist who lives and works in the Central African Republic. He said:

“It's very nasty down there. It smells of mass murder. Since Rwanda and our experience a bit earlier in Burundi, I have not been in such an eerie place”.

The CAR has been in a state of chaos since the rebel alliance known as Seleka seized power in March this year, as my noble friend mentioned. It ousted President Francois Bozize from power, replacing him with its commander, Michel Djotodia. Last month, Djotodia formally disbanded the rebels and integrated many fighters into the national army. The rebels linked to Seleka, however, have continued to launch attacks on scores of villages, prompting the emergence of local civilian protection groups.

Tarak Bach Baouab, humanitarian affairs adviser for Médecins sans Frontières, reports from the CAR that the situation is dangerously unstable. He states that the main problem is that the fighting has specifically targeted civilians. Rural populations had become used to being displaced in the bush during the bush war of 2004 to 2007. However, the latest cycle of violence is different, increasingly taking on a religious undertone. It includes the execution, for example, by armed men of eight people who became separated from a larger group as they fled by truck; and the targeted killing of villagers, which caused many others of the same religion to flee. In Bossangoa, at least 35,000 displaced people are living on a Catholic missionary compound, far exceeding its capacity, while 1,200 people are in a

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hospital, effectively turning it into a makeshift camp. One thousand people are seeking shelter next to an airstrip—as I think colleagues have mentioned—while 400 others have gathered in a school. They are mostly Christians, afraid of retribution and targeted killings by rival Muslim groups. Similarly, Muslim communities now also fear revenge attacks by Christian militias. People are abandoning their villages, which often end up being burned by either party to the conflict, terrified by the tit-for-tat killings.

Since October, violence and deadly clashes have been reported in Bouca and Garga in the north-west of the country and in Mbaiki in the south-west. Civilians, medical staff and humanitarian aid workers have all been subjected to physical aggression. Médecins Sans Frontières has witnessed the execution of a healthcare worker, as well as multiple attacks on humanitarian staff. The United Nations has warned that the CAR is spiralling down into genocide, and that the international community must intervene to stop armed groups from inciting violence between Christians and Muslims. UN director John Ging is quoted as saying:

“More than half the population is in need of assistance and the scale of suffering is amongst the worst in the world and getting worse”.

Diplomats are saying that the Security Council should eventually consider plans to deploy a peacekeeping force of at least 8,000 to 10,000 troops.

While in Addis Ababa with the Inter-Parliamentary Union last week, I discussed the CAR crisis with the chair of the African Union, Madame Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and her deputy, Erastus Mwencha. Madame Zuma confirmed that an AU mission was being assembled, but stressed that it had to have the right mandate to be effective. Perhaps we should remember here that AU forces tend to do peacemaking not UN-type peacekeeping. Madame Zuma’s deputy was able to confirm that the UNSC had approved the deployment of some 3,000 to 4,000 AU forces, but stressed that this would be a long-term mission to take on and marginalise the rebel groups. He said that the AU troops would take on the governance and state-building roles, while being sure to maintain the role of the AU leadership.

Diplomats locally see the AU as the African response on African security issues, under the primacy of the UN. At a meeting last Wednesday of the AU Peace and Security Council, the UK confirmed a £5 million pledge in humanitarian aid, while the USA offered $25 million. The AU issued a formal Peace and Security Council communiqué of Wednesday’s meeting, calling on,

“all AU members States to contribute to the mobilization of the resources required for the successful deployment of”,

AU Forces. The council also requested that Madame Zuma initiated the necessary steps, while appealing to all member states and international partners to provide the necessary support to address the catastrophic situation facing the CAR. This is very positive language from the AU, but the question is whether it will result in the increasingly vital action.

There are serious questions that I hope the Minister will be able to answer. For example, as noble Lords have mentioned, will the French continue to take the lead in the CAR, as they did in Mali? Will the UK

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continue to play a subordinate role, limited to urging the AU to engage more and to supporting the French, while not becoming directly involved? Most importantly, will this be enough? The nature of the conflict is religious, Muslim against Christian. The cause is breakdown of government and governance, creating a vacuum of power. The solution is restoration of sound governance, underpinned by re-establishing security through deploying AU and UN forces of possibly 10,000 troops. To avoid a repeat of the horrors of the savagery and genocide of Rwanda and Burundi, the international community must act quickly and effectively.

7.53 pm

Baroness Cox (CB): I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on securing this debate, which addresses a deeply disturbing situation that has been largely off the radar screen in the international community.

I do not usually speak about countries that I have not visited, but I am moved to speak on the Central African Republic because people whom I know and respect and who know the region very well are so deeply worried. Also, I do have experience in nearby countries; the CAR sits at the heart of an arc of insecurity across sub-Saharan African, taking in Chad, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan and the DRC. I have visited Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda many times, and I know their beauty and their potential as well as the current crises and horrors which are largely hidden.

As we have heard, the CAR is in the grip of conflict. The wave of violence that has swept from north to south since March has affected the entire population. Since the coup in March and the Seleka offensive, the CAR has descended from a long-term crisis of poverty into a complex humanitarian emergency, resulting from decades of abuse, pillage and corruption by previous leaders and regimes who ruined the country for personal gains. It is said that the diamonds that Emperor Bokassa gave French leaders and politicians could have fed and clothed the entire population of the CAR. The Djotodia Government came into power promising to reverse the collapse of the state, but the task is beyond them and the situation is getting worse. Consequently the population, which had expected drastic changes from the new rulers, started returning to pre-state socioeconomic frameworks and loyalties when their hopes failed to materialise. These local dynamics bred intense fratricidal fighting over shrinking resources, infrastructure, food and water.

Newly empowered forces are vying for power in the changing tapestry throughout the country through the use of arbitrary force. Almost the entire population of 4.6 million has been affected by violence and insecurity; 1.6 million people, one-third of the population, are in dire need of assistance as the humanitarian support system keeps collapsing despite great efforts by NGOs. The conflict has also taken on a sectarian aspect. Very little has been reported in the West, and what little we have seen portrays this as Christians versus Muslims, but that is not entirely the case as yet. The fighting that escalated along the sectarian fault line that runs across Africa from Uganda to Senegal and Gambia is the traditional struggle over water and land rights between the predominantly Muslim nomads and the

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predominantly Christian homesteaders. However, similar economic and religious conflict in Nigeria over recent decades has been exacerbated by Boko Haram into a self-avowed ruthless jihad against the local Christian population.

In the north of the CAR, a similar threat comes from Sudanese jihadist gangs seeking loot, young female slaves and rare animals; these are the same Sudanese militias who contributed to the massacres and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of women and children in South Sudan in the war that raged there until the peace agreement in 2005. Left unchecked, these Sudanese jihadists can transform the CAR conflict into another vicious jihad. As the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangui said, this violence was,

“something new. We haven’t experienced this before. Before we lived in symbiosis”.

Reports of violence and destitution are heartbreaking. There is an urgent imperative to reverse the country’s slide into chaos and to alleviate suffering. However, the international community can provide only a short-term remedy. The challenge lies in addressing the root causes of the myriad grass-roots conflicts, and in assisting the Government to implement a long-term national recovery programme to put the CAR on the right track to stability and growth. Ultimately, there should be no need for long-term large-scale foreign aid. The CAR is an extremely rich country. Land is fertile, water is plentiful, and there are immense quantities of oil, diamonds, rare minerals and ores which can provide wealth for funding the most ambitious reforms. Despite these resources, the CAR is suffering a horrendous humanitarian crisis. The urgent challenge is therefore to develop the resources in a way that will benefit the population. People will stop fighting over scarce resources once food, services, work and prospects for betterment of life are more easily available.

President Djotodia has promised to relinquish power in 2016, and has dissolved the Seleka rebel group that brought him to power; he has also promised to work with the international community on resource development and comprehensive social and economic reforms. His Government have expressed a commitment to human rights reforms, democratisation and credible, free and fair elections. He has also repeatedly committed his Government to implementation of such programmes in partnership with foreign corporations and the international community, and has accepted the need for close scrutiny to ensure accountability, but he has not had the opportunity to prove those offers and commitments. Will Her Majesty’s Government consider helping President Djotodia to put in place such development programmes and supervise their implementation? Will they also encourage, as appropriate, private businesses to formulate, audit and supervise comprehensive programmes where revenues could be devoted to the long-term development of the country to reverse the slide into humanitarian chaos?

Ultimately, the UK will also benefit from the ability to do business in the CAR, with the profit from ethical resource extraction by British companies. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond in ways which will

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bring hope to a people who are suffering such chaos, and who may be plunged into even greater suffering if the problems are not addressed appropriately and urgently.

7.59 pm

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on securing this debate and on introducing it with such clarity of purpose. Those of us of a certain age will remember graphically the tragedy of the Congo, going all the way back to independence itself. This was followed by the Katanga breakaway movement and the instability there, and the subsequent tragedies made the entire Great Lakes region a terrible, open wound on our common humanity. As we know, that conflict, which began all those years ago, continues in a number of countries.

It is now some four months since the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for International Development, Lynne Featherstone, described the situation in the Central African Republic as, “the world’s forgotten crisis”. It is shameful that this crisis remains hidden from sight, and that the UN humanitarian appeal still seems hopelessly underfunded. Our inability to address this complex emergency and to provide adequate protection for civilians has seen this crisis spread far beyond the republic’s borders to destabilise a region already facing significant challenges. Other noble Lords have already made similar points in this debate. As the Catholic Archbishop of Burundi has recently noted:

“There is a terrifying, real threat of sectarian conflict”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, has already hinted at this.

The UN Secretary-General’s recent report to the UN Security Council warned that the human rights abuses, such as,

“arbitrary arrests and detention, sexual violence against women and children, torture, rape, targeted killings, recruitment of child soldiers and attacks”,

are becoming ever more common. The reports from the republic confirm all that has been said by the International Federation for Human Rights, which describes the human rights violations as “international crimes”. Nor can there be any dispute that Seleka is the main perpetrator of such atrocities—that point has been made by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock of Holyhead, in the debate already.

It would be helpful to hear from the Minister what progress is being made by the international community to place sanctions on Seleka leaders and warlords, including the freezing of their financial assets. What steps are the Government taking to respond to the allegations of sexual violence and rape? Not long ago, I was fortunate enough to secure a debate on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. The Foreign Secretary’s Prevention of Sexual Violence Initiative and its team of experts ought to provide an excellent instrument to assist future prosecutions by the International Criminal Court. This is immediately germane to the conflict to which we are all referring in this debate. Measures such as these would surely go some way towards curtailing the level of violence which we are witnessing today.

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It is not surprising that the violence and insecurity that now plagues this country has hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid. As a result, local faith groups and a few national and international NGOs are the primary responders. The Catholic development agency, CAFOD, reported last month that the church is one of the few organisations at present responding to the crisis, by sheltering displaced people, delivering humanitarian aid and addressing religious tensions. Its efforts, however, have been hindered due to lack of funds and problems gaining access because of the violence. Could the Minister assure us that the UK will recognise and strengthen civil society and faith-based groups’ capacity for action, and ensure that they may play a strategic role in the process of reconciliation and reconstruction?

I thank the Minister—a near neighbour of mine in West Yorkshire—for all that she has been saying recently across the Atlantic about religious freedom and strategies for coherence across communities. Most importantly, perhaps, this will assist in the avoidance of sectarian conflict and of the use of religion for political purposes.

Finally, I merely note that it is a tragedy that a country with such abundant natural resources, already referred to by other noble Lords, should be one of the poorest in the world, and subject to such political unrest and economic instability. It is to be hoped that the UN peacekeeping effort will take steps to secure the country’s mining sites, so preventing the republic’s current crisis from spiralling into a wider resource conflict, fuelled by all those greedy for power and greedy for more money.

8.06 pm

Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB): My Lords, I too welcome this short debate and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on securing it. I must declare an interest as chairman, at least until this summer, of the international medical aid charity, Merlin, which has been active in the Central African Republic since 2007 and in Goma and the eastern Congo since some years before that. It is now working closely throughout the world with Save the Children. I visited Goma and the eastern Congo a few years ago and the sense of insecurity there was palpable. Nowhere else in the world have I had to climb over sleeping soldiers with machine guns to get to the check-in desk in an airport.

Thankfully, there has been an improvement since then. The M23 armed group has been defeated—militarily at least—by government forces. However, given the history of the region, it would be naive to think that sustained peace will now break out, and that human rights violations and suffering will now end. So I hope that the Government will continue to put pressure on the Government of the DRC and on surrounding countries, notably Rwanda, to persist with the peace process and to prevent human rights abuses. The Government have influence—bilaterally and multilaterally—through the European Union, through the United Nations and through the African Union, which is an imperfect but increasingly effective and important organisation, and through human rights organisations. I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government will continue to use their influence to put pressure on those organisations.

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We speak less often in this House about the Central African Republic. As the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, has said, it is a desperate country. It suffers from chronic instability, with coups, followed by widespread violence, anarchy and displacement. It is in the bottom 10 on the Global Peace Index. One noble Lord said that life expectancy is 48; I have heard that it is nearly 50. There is a one in 10 chance of dying in infancy or childbirth. There must be few more despairing places in the world in which to be born.

Does the Central African Republic matter to us? It does not matter hugely, either politically or economically, though instability anywhere in the world is dangerous to us all. However, poverty and deprivation and hunger and the fear of disaster matter to the British people, wherever they occur. We saw that some years ago in Ethiopia, and we are seeing it now with the response to the typhoon in the Philippines. So it is right that DfID should have a programme in the Central African Republic, and it is right that it should be to fund NGOs, such as Merlin and others, who can make a real difference to the lives of people who have very little hope and very little help. It is right, too, that aid should be offered with the flexibility that recognises that a hospital one day can be an empty shell the next, with the doctors, the patients and the nurses dispersed or working in the most primitive conditions but still needing the outside help that NGOs can provide. I commend DfID for the help that it is giving the Central African Republic at the moment.

Before I end, perhaps I may make some slightly broader points, and one or two which, I know, go slightly beyond the subject of tonight’s debate. First, we are debating some of the poorest and most conflict-prone countries in Africa. However, that is less and less typical of the continent as a whole. There are many examples of political stability and economic progress in Africa: South Africa, Nigeria—almost, anyway—Zambia, Ghana and others. We need to recognise that Africa is changing to respond to humanitarian disasters and conflicts when they occur but also to encourage economic growth in other countries.

Secondly, I want to stress the role that Britain has to play, as I have said, in the Great Lakes, in the Central African Republic and in other zones of conflict, zones of humanitarian disaster and zones of human rights abuse. This is, in the jargon, soft power at work. However, what matters here is our engagement and involvement where we can make a difference. Many noble Lords have spoken tonight about making a difference in the Great Lakes and about making a difference in the Central African Republic, and we can. Going a little more widely, as I said this afternoon in this House, in my view it was right for the Prime Minister to go to Sri Lanka and to highlight the human rights abuses there.

In my view, it would have been right, too, to send a representative to President Rouhani’s inauguration in Iran. It would be right now to reopen an embassy in Tehran rather than duck the difficult issues that the world faces or stay away from them. It would be better by far to engage with and confront the world’s problems, however difficult, and to use our still considerable influence, working bilaterally and through the international

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organisations to which we belong, to help to solve them in the Great Lakes region, in the Central African Republic or elsewhere.

8.12 pm

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for securing this debate. The haunting pictures that she painted and, in particular, her understanding of the region brought to life this tragedy that is occurring.

As a politician, I reel from the tragedy and the anguish of the Rwanda genocide. The massacre occurred in 1994 just before I was elected to the European Parliament. More than 800,000 people died, while we, the international community, stood around and did very little. The whole area is a complex morass of local rivalries, competition for power and mineral resources, and tribal conflicts, but the biggest tragedy of all is that the fall-out of that genocide is still occurring for millions of people in the Great Lakes area.

The situation that we have in the region today is a hangover from that tragedy of 20 years ago, when villager murdered villager and neighbour killed neighbour. Forgiveness is hard when the scale of the slaughter is so vast.

There are hints, however, that the African Union, and in particular its leaders, are starting to understand that they have a responsibility to engage more practically and forcefully in this regional conflict and to bring pressure to bear on the groups and countries that are perpetrating and encouraging continued violence and bloodshed.

I have just finished reading Mary Robinson’s autobiography, Everybody Matters. She is now the UN special representative for the Great Lakes region and has established what she calls a “framework of hope”. Hope is something that we must be able to offer the civilians who have undergone years of instability, violence and displacement.

Much of the tragedy of the region has been unfolding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From 1998 to 2003 millions died, and that dying continues today. This is the deadliest war in modern African history. It has directly involved nine African nations, as well as about 40 armed groups, and it has left 5 million people dead with over 2 million others having had to flee from their homes.

How is it that a tragedy on this scale is almost unknown today to the bulk of the general public in the UK at a time when we have mass and incessant global communication? There are tragedies occurring in many parts of the world—Syria, the Philippines and Afghanistan—but why is it that we never seem to hear about the African tragedies?

People are living in atrocious conditions, and there are countless examples of human rights violations, including the use of child soldiers. There are severe mental health problems in the region, with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following the events that they have witnessed or been a victim of.

Rape is being used as a weapon of war, and this is absolutely unacceptable. I should therefore like to repeat the question asked by the right reverend Prelate:

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what action are the Government taking to integrate the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative in the DRC and throughout the Great Lakes region?

So what is the framework of hope that Mary Robinson has been talking about? In February this year, a UN-brokered accord aimed at stabilising the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region was signed. The peace, security and co-operation framework was signed by 10 countries and it includes commitments at the national, regional and international levels to bring peace and stability to the eastern DRC and the region. This framework has been proactively pushed and supported by the UN, the UK and the US, and it has been a platform on which hope can be built. Included in this framework is a commitment by the countries in the region to stop supporting the many armed militias which operate in the region.

A UN-backed intervention brigade has meant a more proactive approach to engaging in the region, and it is this proactive approach which has undoubtedly influenced the outcome and the defeat of the M23. It is the African leaders—members of the African Union—who have been taking the initiative, but some very strong messages from the US and the UK have meant that countries which previously supported these militias have curbed their involvement. This has meant the defeat of this particular group.

We need an assurance that the natural mineral wealth of these nations will not be the cause of further conflict and destabilisation. We need an assurance from these countries that any extractive industries involved in the area will sign up and undertake commitments in relation to transparency and accountability. We need an understanding that local people will have the benefit from this wealth. It is the fact that the African countries themselves are the ones that own this framework that has made the difference.

There are still, however, tragedies unfolding in the wider region; the Central African Republic can be described as a failed state. There are more than 1 million people in the country who are at risk of hunger and the situation is likely to become worse in future months due to a poor harvest. There has been a dramatic escalation of violence since March which must be halted before it spins completely out of control and we see another potential Rwandan genocide on our plates, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey. We cannot stand by again and watch while our fellow human beings suffer in such a horrific way.

I would like to finish by asking the Minister the following questions. What recent discussions have the Government had with the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region on the situation in the Central African Republic and the Great Lakes region more generally? A regional approach is the one that needs to be taken. Is this an approach that is being undertaken—not just by the African Union, but also by the UK Government and their EU partners?

8.19 pm

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): I thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for introducing this timely debate. Both

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the Central African Republic and the Great Lakes region, in particular the DRC, are facing serious challenges. My noble friend laid out these challenges in harrowing detail. Both suffer from instability and violence impacting on civilian populations and have growing humanitarian needs.

In the Central African Republic, rising violence and vicious attacks against civilians have followed the brutal and unconstitutional seizure of power by the Seleka rebel coalition in March. Its forces have destroyed numerous villages, stoked faith-based violence and terrorised civilians with impunity. Although the Seleka has now—in theory—been disbanded, the violence continues.

The humanitarian situation there is deeply disturbing. The UN estimates that every one of the Central African Republic’s 4.6 million people has been affected in some way by this conflict. More than 600,000 people have been forced from their homes; 2 million are in desperate need of food assistance. The security situation means that humanitarian agencies cannot reach many of those in most need.

The Central African Republic has a new national transitional council, composed of former Seleka, civil society and former opposition politicians. Improving security must, however, be its first priority. It must ensure that civilians are protected, that perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice and that the rule of law is restored. It must also ensure that a dialogue is resumed to reduce tension and increase understanding between religious groups and that humanitarian agencies are able to reach those in greatest need. The national transitional council has committed to the political process begun in Libreville, including a return to constitutional government in 2015. The international community will need to work with it to achieve this aim.

We welcome efforts by the Economic Community of Central African States and the African Union to find a political resolution to the situation in the Central African Republic and their initiative of a regional security mission. This will help to stabilise the country, protect civilians and assist the humanitarian relief effort while the political transition takes place. Last month the European Union Foreign Affairs Council agreed in principle to support such a mission, and we now look to the African Union before making a final commitment of resources.

Furthermore, the UN Secretary-General is due to report today on how the international community can support these efforts. This report should build on the momentum gained by last month’s Security Council resolution, which called for action on the political, human rights and humanitarian situation, and an assessment of the effectiveness of its peacebuilding office, BINUCA.

While we work with partners such as France to press for political progress, the UK will continue to offer practical support in line with its two immediate priorities: first, to ensure that help reaches vulnerable civilians, and secondly, to see security re-established. To ease immediate humanitarian suffering, we have provided £5 million this year to humanitarian partners such as the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide essential medical and food assistance. We

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continue to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to provide further humanitarian assistance. We will consider with partners how the regional security mission can be supported further.

The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, asked about the French taking a leading role and the UK’s role. We are of course in contact with France, the USA and other international partners and will engage closely with them over the upcoming UN resolution. The UK has spoken on this at all three of the international contact group meetings and has provided the humanitarian aid to which I have referred.

Before I specifically answer some of the other questions raised by noble Lords, I would like to turn my attention to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are currently around 2.7 million internally displaced people in the DRC. Human rights violations against civilians, including sexual violence, are commonplace. Malnutrition and outbreaks of disease are endemic. However, we could be facing a more hopeful situation. There has been a recent breakthrough in the end of the M23 rebellion and hopes for conclusion of the Kampala talks give us a better chance of building lasting stability in the DRC than has been seen in many years. Ugandan President Museveni and other regional leaders should be commended for brokering this agreement, which will be an important step towards stabilising the region.

We therefore urge the region’s leaders to return their focus to implementing the UN-brokered peace, security and co-operation framework for the Great Lakes. This framework, which was signed in February 2013, must now be implemented. That work must now start in earnest. We urge the regions’ leaders to establish this quickly so that the impetus and fragile gains are not lost. Of course, there is no quick fix to resolving the conflict in eastern DRC. The DRC and its neighbours need to work together with the support of the international community to achieve peace and stability.

The UK has long been a partner of the DRC. We want to see a stable country which fulfils its full potential. The Department for International Development provides funding to those in greatest need, committing £790 million between 2011 and 2016. The DfID programmes are designed to respond quickly to displacement, epidemics and spikes in malnutrition, working with UNICEF and other partners. UK Ministers have been in regular contact with their counterparts in the region; for example, the Foreign Secretary recently spoke to the Rwandan President and Minister Simmonds spoke to the Foreign Minister of the DRC and Ugandan President Museveni. The UK is rightly credited with helping to bring about the reduction in external support to M23, leading to its decision to lay down arms.

My noble friend Lady Berridge and the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, raised the underlying religious tensions in this conflict. We are of course aware of reports of radical religious groups in the country and that some components of the Seleka coalition have pursued an agenda which has been divisive in terms of religious cohesion. However, we have no direct evidence of the presence of specific terrorist groups in the country at this stage. The Central African Republic traditionally has seen Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully

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but we are concerned about recent reports of religious tension. As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has said, the issue is much more complex than a single interreligious conflict. The point was also raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield, who I thank for his kind comments in relation to my recent comments on the persecution of Christians.

My noble friend Lady Berridge also spoke about the commitment of funds to a security mission. The UN and the EU are unable to make any firm commitments to a regional peace mission until the African Union presents a coherent strategy and details its costs. The UN Secretary-General’s report today is vital in determining these next steps. The UK supports a solution led by the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States. The UN Secretary-General’s report into options for international support for MISCA—which, as I have said, is due today—will be important in determining what further support the international community can provide.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, asked why effective action had not been taken so far. Improving the security situation and enabling humanitarian aid to access those in need was for us the important basis for a solution. The EU has set aside funds to support the African-led security mission and a UN resolution is expected in the coming days. We think that that will mandate the mission.

My noble friend Lady Berridge also asked about humanitarian support. I referred to the £5 million which has already been committed but the UK is also urging other donors to step forward and support humanitarian action in the Central African Republic. While access has been restricted due to the ongoing insecurity in the country, agencies have been able to operate there and some aid is getting through.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, also asked about the 3,600-person peacekeeping force and when that would be deployed. On 19 December 2013 there will be an official transfer from the previous peacekeeping mission to the new African Union-led MISCA. Troops from Chad, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo and Burundi are expected to take part. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield asked about sanctions. At this stage sanctions have not been ruled out. They will be considered when we can be sure that they will be effective and that they are targeted.

The right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, asked about preventing sexual violence in conflict. We firmly believe that preventing sexual violence and tackling impunity for these crimes is central to breaking the cycle of violence both in the DRC and more widely. The House will be aware of the Foreign Secretary’s launch of the preventing sexual violence initiative in 2012, which aims to address crimes of sexual violence by increasing the number of perpetrators brought to justice and to help states increase their capacity to do this. At this stage the Central African Republic is not a priority country for the PSVI but the international effort to restore security in the country will help to start to address this terrible problem. However, extensive work is being done within the DRC and we are working with the office of

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Zainab Bangura, the special representative on sexual violence in conflict, to support the DRC Government to co-ordinate the work of the international community.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about support for the President in relation to development programmes and their monitoring. Our immediate priorities are to provide security and a political transition to a constitutional government. However, I will ask DfID to respond on the question of what the longer-term development programme will look like. I will certainly write to the noble Baroness. I will also ensure that DfID takes into account and on board the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Jay, regarding what developmental support could be offered specifically in relation to health.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, also asked about the work of the UN special envoy, Mary Robinson. We have had extensive contact with Mary Robinson, strongly support her work and are working closely with her office in implementing her remit.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo both face enormous challenges. The situation in the Central African Republic is severe. The national transitional council must work with the region and the international community to provide security, protect civilians, provide humanitarian assistance and ensure a return to constitutional government. In the DRC there are many problems to overcome but the M23 rebellion has ended and a framework for peace is in place. It will need the sustained commitment of the region and the sustained support of the international community, including the UK. With these elements in place I believe that real progress can be made both there and in the Central African Republic.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

8.31 pm

Clause 2: Requirements included in injunctions

Amendment 20HA

Moved by Lord Harris of Haringey

20HA: Clause 2, page 2, line 26, after “must” insert “be satisfied—

(i) that the requirement is suitable and enforceable; and

(ii) that it is reasonable for the person specified under subsection (1) to be responsible for compliance,

and must”

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, the Minister and I have just made a fleeting appearance at the reception and dinner for the Police Service Parliamentary Scheme. It was a cameo appearance, at least as far as the Minister was concerned, as he had a speaking role. In his remarks he pointed out—I would not say with glee—that we had now completed our consideration of Clause 1 of this Bill. No doubt he is looking forward to the other 160 clauses. He did suggest that we might try to pick up speed. That was no doubt aimed at me as I was sitting directly in front of him.

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This amendment, the first on Clause 2, relates to the section of the Bill that says that requirements under these injunctions “must”—I stress the word—

“specify the person who is to be responsible for supervising compliance with the requirement. The person may be an individual or an organisation”.

The purpose of this amendment is to try to flesh out what needs to be done and what the court should be satisfied about before it designates a person, either an individual or an organisation, to be responsible for the compliance with the requirements of the injunction.

Obviously the first thing is to specify the persons concerned. It would be useful for the Minister to give us a little bit more insight into the range of persons he thinks this provision will apply to. There is obviously a world of difference between that person being, for example, the parent or guardian of a young person who is accused of being responsible for anti-social behaviour and the responsible person being the local police force, the local authority or the local probation service. It would be useful to understand what the balance is expected to be between those sorts of requirements as far as the Bill is concerned.

The substance of the amendment is that before the court requires somebody to be responsible for compliance, it must be satisfied that the requirement itself is suitable and capable of being enforced, and it is reasonable for the person charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the requirements are met to take on that responsibility. But if we consider the circumstances of a parent—an individual charged with this responsibility—that may be onerous. If they are a parent, they may feel obligated to take it on, but it may be impractical. If the underlying problem is that the parent cannot control their near-adult children, what is the point of this? Is it in fact suitable, appropriate, and reasonable for that person to take on that responsibility?

If it is a local authority, probation service, housing authority or the local police service, how reasonable is it? Is the court going to hear evidence as to whether or not they will be able to enforce the requirement? Do they have the resources to enforce the requirement?

Earlier today, I was talking to someone who has been advising me on the Bill. As it happens, they witnessed a crime a few days ago. They went along to the station with another witness to report the crime. When they got to the police station they were told that, unfortunately, the police service does not have the capacity to take two witness statements at once because of the number of officers on duty at the time. If that is the situation, how confident can we be in the current financial situation that the police service will have the resources to be responsible for enforcing some of these requirements? If it is not the police service it could be local authorities, which are facing reductions in their budgets of 30% or 40%. Where will they find the resources to manage this? These issues need to be addressed.

The purpose of the amendment is to say that the court needs to be satisfied about these things. One of the great concerns about the ASBO regime was the number of breaches, but it would be very silly if we created a new system that would result in a series of breaches simply because the people charged with

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ensuring compliance do not have the resources, the ability or the facilities to make sure that enforcement is achieved.

I am sure that the Minister will be able to help me with something else. I have searched through the Bill and cannot find what is intended to be the consequence for the person designated under Clause 2 if they fail to ensure compliance with the requirements of the injunction. Will they themselves be in contempt of court? Does that mean that chief officers of police will be subject to two years’ imprisonment because they have failed to achieve compliance? What is the requirement? If there are no penalties for failing to achieve compliance, what is the point of this? Again, I would be grateful for the Minister to enlighten us as to precisely what will happen in the event of the person who the court “must designate”, in the words of the Bill, to ensure compliance if they fail to do so either through wilful neglect, because they do not have the resources to do so or perhaps because it is impossible to enforce compliance because the individual is beyond those sorts of controls. I beg to move.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab):My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments 20J, 22F and 96 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Rosser. It is a slightly strange grouping. They do not hang together that well, but I hope I can help my noble friend Lord Harris on the points that we are seeking to address.

In principle we welcome the addition of positive requirements. There is no question about that. We introduced the concept, partly through individual support orders. The submissions that were made in the other place in the committee’s evidence sessions and the correspondence that we have received from local authorities and the police show that the point is not dissimilar to that made by my noble friend Lord Harris. It provides some clarification on how the requirements will be funded.

I took the opportunity, in the huge avalanche of a rainforest of paper that we have on the Bill, to see what the impact assessment said on the costs. Basically, every cost is caveated; the impact assessment is unable to make an estimate. Not all costs could be quantified and no benefits from reduced anti-social behaviour could be quantified. The costs took no account of the gains and losses. The Local Government Association is concerned that,

“given that use of positive requirements is predicted to impose an additional financial burden on councils, the overall estimates that the injunctions will be cheaper to use than ASBOs may not be right, and councils may be placed under an additional financial burden”.

The Association of Chief Police Officers gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee; it stated its concerns about agencies’ capacity and capability to deliver this support in difficult economic times, and said that that had to be considered. I was taken aback by the remarks in Committee in the other place of the Minister, Jeremy Browne. He said that it was important to establish how possible clients would be funded at the point of injunction being issued in the court. He did not agree that individual organisations should be responsible for supervising the compliance should be liable for the costs. He said,