Hughes of Stretford, B.

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Ukraine, Syria and Iran


5.55 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, with permission I will repeat a Statement that the Foreign Secretary is making to the House of Commons.

“Mr Speaker, with permission I will make a Statement on the situation in Ukraine and Syria and relations with Iran.

Last week more than 80 people were killed and 600 injured during the worst bloodshed in Ukraine since the fall of communism. It was the culmination of unrest that began in November when President Yanukovych announced that the Government would not sign an EU association agreement. The House will join me in sending condolences to the families of those who died or were injured.

On Thursday I attended the emergency meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which agreed sanctions on those responsible for the violence, as well as assistance to promote political dialogue and help for the injured.

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On Friday President Yanukovych and the opposition signed an agreement, also supported by the whole European Union, and I pay tribute to my French, Polish and German colleagues for their efforts to bring this about. But events have moved rapidly since then, including the departure of President Yanukovych from Kyiv and the removal of guards from government buildings.

On Saturday the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, voted to restore the 2004 constitution, to release Yulia Tymoshenko, and to impeach the President. He has said that he will not step down, but it is clear that his authority is no longer widely accepted. A number of members of the previous Government have been dismissed and appointments made in a new unity Government. Rada Speaker Turchynov has been appointed acting President until early elections on 25 May.

Ukraine now has a pressing need for constitutional reform, improvements to its political culture, free elections, an end to pervasive corruption and the building of a stable political structure. We look to the new Government to create the conditions for such change and, in a spirit of reconciliation, to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

For our part, the international community must work with the new Government to discourage further violence and agree international financial support. Ukraine’s financial situation is very serious and, without outside assistance, may not be sustainable. An economic crisis in Ukraine would be a grave threat to the country’s stability and have damaging wider consequences.

I discussed this work with the German and Polish Foreign Ministers over the weekend and spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia earlier this afternoon. The Prime Minister has spoken to President Putin, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Tusk, and the Chancellor discussed Ukraine with G20 Finance Ministers in Australia. Later today I will go to Washington to discuss this and other issues with Secretary Kerry.

While in Washington I will hold talks with the International Monetary Fund, which is best placed to provide financial support and technical advice in Ukraine. Such support could be provided quickly once requested by the new Government. It requires a stable and legitimate Government to be in place and a commitment to the reforms necessary to produce economic stability. International financial support cannot be provided without conditions and clarity that it will be put to proper use.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, is visiting Kyiv today and I will visit shortly. Our fundamental interest is democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine. This is not about a choice for Ukraine between Russia and the EU; it is about setting the country on a democratic path for the future. We want the people of Ukraine to be free to determine their own future, which is what we also seek for the people of Syria.

On Saturday the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2139 on Syrian humanitarian assistance, which the United Kingdom called for and co-sponsored. This is the first resolution adopted by the Security Council on the humanitarian crisis since the start of the conflict three years ago and it was agreed unanimously. It demands an immediate end to

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the violence, the lifting of the sieges of besieged areas and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid including, importantly, across borders where necessary. It authorises the UN to work with civil society to deliver aid to the whole of Syria. It condemns terrorist attacks, demands the implementation of the Geneva communiqué leading to a political transition, and says that this transition should include the full participation of women.

The passing of this resolution is an important achievement, but it will make a practical difference only if it is implemented in full. We will now work with the United Nations and our partners to try to ensure that the regime’s stranglehold on starving people is broken.

The UK continues to set an example to the world on humanitarian assistance. Our contribution to the Syrian people now stands at £600 million: £241 million allocated for humanitarian assistance inside Syria; £265 million to support refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt; and £94 million of allocations that are currently being finalised. We have pressed for other countries to do more, including at the Kuwait conference on 15 January that resulted in more than $2.2 billion in new pledges.

The Security Council resolution is a chink of light in an otherwise bleak and deteriorating situation. An estimated 5,000 Syrians are dying every month. Nearly 250,000 people remain trapped in areas under siege. The bombardment of civilian areas with barrel bombs continues unabated and there are reports of attacks with cluster munitions as well. An inquiry led by distinguished British experts reported on the photos of the bodies of around 11,000 tortured and executed Syrian detainees. Some 2.5 million Syrians are refugees in the region, 75% of them women and children. The UN expects 4 million refugees or more by the end of this year.

Against this horrifying backdrop we continue to seek a negotiated settlement to end the conflict. But there is no sign of the Assad regime having any willingness whatever to negotiate the political transition demanded by the United Nations Security Council.

The second round of Geneva II negotiations ended on 15 February without agreement on future talks. UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had proposed an agenda for a third round of talks focusing on violence and terrorism—the regime’s stated priority—and a transitional governing body, in parallel. The regime refused this. As a result the talks were suspended, with Mr Brahimi clearly laying responsibility for this at the regime’s door.

The National Coalition, by contrast, approached the negotiations constructively and in good faith. It published a statement of principles for the transitional governing body, stating that it would enable the Syrian people to decide their own future and protect the rights and freedoms of all Syrians. Those supporting the regime side, including the Russian and Iranian Governments, need to do far more to press the regime to take the process seriously and to reach a political settlement, as we have done with the opposition.

We will continue our support for the National Coalition and for civil society within Syria. We are providing £2.1 million for Syrian civil defence teams

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to help local communities deal with attacks, and improve the capability of local councils to save the lives of those injured and alleviate humanitarian suffering. This includes training, which is now under way, a communications campaign, and £700,000 of civil defence equipment. This includes personal radios, rescue tools, protective firefighting clothing, fire extinguishers, stretchers and individual medical kits.

The UK is also proposing a £2 million package of training, technical assistance and equipment support to build the capacity of the Free Syrian Police, working with the United States and Denmark. I have laid before Parliament a minute to approve £910,000-worth of equipment, including communications equipment, uniforms and vehicles for the Free Syrian Police. We also intend to make a contribution to the Syria Recovery Trust Fund, established by the UAE and Germany, which will focus on healthcare, water supply, energy supply and food security; and we are working with the Supreme Military Council to agree the best way of restarting our non-lethal support, which we halted temporarily in December.

The regime’s foot-dragging is also clear on the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. According to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, only 11% of Syria’s declared chemical stockpile has so far been removed, and the regime has missed the 5 February deadline for removing all chemicals. This has delayed the destruction operation by months and puts the 30 June final destruction deadline in jeopardy. This slow rate of progress is clearly unacceptable. The UN Secretary-General and the OPCW have made it clear that Syria has all the necessary equipment to enable the movement of the chemicals. The OPCW’s director-general is pressing the Syrians to accept a plan that would see the removal of all Syrian chemicals in a considerably shorter period, enabling the 30 June deadline to be met.

Turning to Iran, the first step agreement with Iran came into force on 20 January and continues to be implemented. The E3+3 and Iran met last week to start negotiations on a comprehensive agreement aimed at ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is, and always will be, exclusively peaceful. The talks were constructive. The E3+3 and Iran agreed on the issues that need to be resolved as part of a comprehensive agreement; and in broad terms on the approach to negotiations for the coming months. The next round of talks will be in mid-March in Vienna. The E3+3 and Iran plan to meet monthly in order to make swift progress on the issues that need to be resolved in the ambitious timeframe we agreed under the November Geneva deal of implementation starting within a year.

The House should be under no illusion that the challenges here remain very considerable. A comprehensive solution must address all proliferation concerns related to Iran’s nuclear programme. To that end, existing sanctions remain intact and we will continue to enforce them robustly.

We continue to expand our bilateral engagement with Iran. Indeed, Iran’s non-resident chargé d’affaires is visiting the UK today. Last Thursday, we and Iran brought the protecting power arrangements to an end. This is a sign of increasing confidence that we can

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conduct bilateral business directly between capitals rather than through intermediaries. I thank the Governments of Sweden and Oman for acting as protecting powers since the closure of our embassy, and for their strong friendship and support for the UK. We will continue step by step with these improvements in our bilateral relations providing they remain reciprocal. We are, for example, working together on ways to make it easier for Iranians and British citizens to obtain consular and visa services.

On all these issues we will maintain intensive diplomatic activity in the days ahead and I will continue to keep the House informed on our work with other nations—whether it be in Europe, the Middle East or the prevention of nuclear proliferation—to ensure a more peaceful and stable world”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

6.08 pm

Lord Triesman (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for repeating the Statement made in the other place, and the Foreign Secretary for providing an advance copy of it to the shadow Foreign Secretary, which I have read and which was of great assistance in preparing for our discussion this afternoon.

The events in the Ukraine demonstrate just how dangerous a moment this is. The deaths of more than 80 people and injuries to many hundreds more is ample demonstration of the personal cost to the population of a country eager for democratic change. I join the Government in expressing our condolences to the families of those who have been killed and our profound hopes for the recovery of those who have been injured.

It is far from clear what will happen next. I can see that there are deep differences in the Ukraine between those who want a modern European identity and those turning back towards a Russian, indeed, even, I think it is fair to say, Soviet-style identity. I do not accept, and fear the consequences of, the pejorative name-calling that we have seen in recent weeks. There may be a small number of nationalist extremists in the group who overthrew Mr Yanukovych, but I see no evidence at all that warrants the denunciation of the opposition by Yanukovych’s supporters or, indeed, by the Russian state media, in terms of an uprising of fascism in the country, as they have described it. Using the language of 1941 may be useful to opponents of change but bears no relationship to the real events of today.

What is needed today is systematic constitutional reform. What are needed are democratic institutions supported by popular elections to those institutions. What is needed is a willingness to determine democratically the balances between the different peoples in different parts of the country and the platform for reconciliation that only they can construct. What is decidedly not needed is any Russian statement about the potential need for what it has called “fraternal intervention”. That very phrase has a history, not least from the Czechoslovakian intervention of 1968. It is fundamentally unhelpful to hear that language because it leaves serious

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ambiguities as to what might happen next. No military intervention would be tolerable, and President Obama is surely right: Ukraine is not a piece on a Cold War chessboard. I assume that Her Majesty’s Government agree with this when they say that this is not a matter of choice between the European Union and Russia for the people of the Ukraine. It is essential that Mr Lavrov understands the goals of greater democracy in that country and a new generation potentially taking up the mantle. The global consequences of any military intervention are unthinkable. Ukraine is, whatever its financial difficulties—to which I must return in a moment—after the European part of Russia, the largest nation in Europe. It is rich in agriculture and many other resources, and in its culture. It stands at a key strategic frontier. Nothing could make a fraught situation worse than if there were to be some form of military intervention.

I make one other observation after talking with Ukrainian diplomats in the past couple of days. For the most part, they have said that they want to turn towards Europe and the EU. These are matters of choice for them, not me, but that is what they have expressed. They see it as a great economic opportunity, which sadly they need greatly, but just as much as a bulwark against corruption and a foundation for a reliable system of rule of law. However, you will find that if you speak to them they also think that the United Kingdom has far too little or possibly even nothing to add to the argument that they want to advance. They will tell you, without much diplomatic small talk, that the United Kingdom’s attitude to Europe is, at best, one of weak co-operation with that body that they aspire to join. At worst, the attitude is one of somewhat bloody-minded hostility likely to be seized on by those who are hostile, for nationalistic reasons, to a Ukrainian future that is more closely bound with Europe. Those diplomats take this matter seriously. Least of all can they understand—and they made this point to me with some strength—how the main party of government here in the United Kingdom left the centre-right Christian Democrat bloc, to which many Ukrainians see themselves as fairly naturally aligned, to gravitate towards a more extreme right alignment that they abhor and think is a risk to their country. That risk is being seized upon by the Russians.

Today the House will want to know what the United Kingdom can contribute to a peaceful outcome. I suggest that it could start by appointing a dedicated special envoy. This is a problem that is not going to go away overnight and will need to be addressed over a period of time. Ukraine’s economy is, as we have heard in the Statement, despite the fundamentals that should augur well, close to being wrecked. Is Russia still willing to contribute the financial support that it has hitherto offered to the Yanukovyck regime, or has that offer been withdrawn? I hope that the Minister will be in a position to tell us.

What contribution does the Foreign Secretary believe the IMF could provide? Two months ago he dismissed the idea advanced by my right honourable friend Douglas Alexander. Yesterday the Foreign Secretary agreed with the idea. Do the Government regret that the past months have drifted by, with the Ukraine

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drifting towards calamity? Of course conditions would have been needed at all stages, but how is the work on the conditions to be conducted in good time in order to have the impact that we now need it to have—it is plainly needed—yet avoid the mistakes, because the conditions are also about those, made by the Orange Revolution in 2004?

Will the Foreign Secretary call for the renewal of negotiations on the EU association agreement? In doing so, will he emphasise, as he will need to, the United Kingdom’s continuing support for the European Union, so that it is understood to be, in our view, a positive benefit? The Foreign Secretary has been talking to Mr Lavrov, as was said in the Statement, and I sincerely welcome it. Will he make these kinds of proposals to Foreign Minister Lavrov? Will he seek Mr Lavrov’s guarantee that Russia will not encourage south-eastern Ukraine to break away from Ukraine as a whole?

On Syria, we, too, welcome United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139. The position in that country, as the Foreign Secretary says, is grotesque and horrifying. He is quite right. Nevertheless, the humanitarian appeal is in desperate straits. We have called for a new donor conference to build funds that are desperately needed. Will the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, back this call this afternoon? What proposals do the Government have to encourage the regime’s supporters, especially Russia and Iran, to press Syria for a political settlement? There is every reason to think, as the Statement says, that the Syrian regime is not addressing the negotiations with any degree of seriousness. Assad is not serious. What are the Government’s objections to establishing a Syria contact group to encourage negotiations? As the Statement says, the current position is—I use the word used by the Foreign Secretary—“unacceptable”, whether we are talking about the use of chemical weapons or their decommissioning, or indeed anything else that the Syrians were expected to do as a result of the discussions that had begun.

On Iran, I repeat the congratulations offered to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. She probably feels burdened by congratulations these days but, goodness knows, nobody deserves them more. We welcome the framework agreement in Vienna last week. It is helpful and, I suspect, constructive in a limited way. Progress, however, is dependent on Iran sticking to the agreements it made last November. The number of centrifuges is reportedly still in excess of 10,000. A far lower limit was set in November. What steps do Her Majesty’s Government advocate to bring Iran into line with the deal that it itself has agreed? How will the Government here review the sanctions regime? I make none of these final points in order to be negative about what can be achieved or, indeed, about what has been achieved, but I know that these are conditions in which, if pressure is not continued in the right direction, the opportunities for backsliding are profound, and the dangers that come with them are still more profound.

I ask these questions out of sympathy, not hostility, for the objectives that have been expressed in the Statement, but the House will want to know the answers.

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6.18 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support for the Government’s approach. Perhaps I may simply say that the British Government do not presume that they do anything on their own in any of these circumstances. On Iran, we are working as part of the E3+3, which, as the noble Lord said, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, chairs so well. We are working on Syria with the Syrian core group, which consists of European countries, the United States and a number of Arab countries. The group continues to meet regularly as a means of pulling together those most concerned about the future of Syria. As the noble Lord said, the Foreign Secretary talks to his opposite number in Russia on a very regular basis. On Ukraine, we gave active support to the Polish, German and French Foreign Ministers in their efforts to help in Kiev. The Poles, after all, have a common border with Ukraine—and, to some extent, a common history—and we are part of a group of European countries that are of course actively engaged. However, in none of these, whatever Ukrainian diplomats may think, do we think that we operate separately from our partners and allies in Europe, across the Atlantic and across the Middle East.

In terms of asking the Russians not to do anything to encourage parts of Ukraine to split off, Crimea may in some ways be more of an immediate danger than south-east Ukraine. It may be one of the impacts of what has been shown on Ukrainian television in the past two or three days—in terms of the depths of personal corruption of the Yanukovych regime—that eastern Ukraine will be less prepared to resist the changes than it might otherwise have been. The Yanukovych regime, which was most strongly supported in the Donetsk region, as the noble Lord knows, has been more thoroughly discredited than we anticipated three or four days ago. Of course, what is happening in Ukraine is moving very rapidly and it is unclear what will emerge. We are working with others; I take the noble Lord’s point about whether we intend to appoint a special UK envoy, but I suspect that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary would say that we are working with others—we are part of the international community on this—and we intend to go on working with them.

In terms of the compliment made to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, we should also recognise that, of the women doing extremely valuable work in international diplomacy at present, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, is also doing a certain amount of very valuable and quite dangerous work in humanitarian assistance to Syria. We should be proud of the extent to which British women—Members of this House—are attempting to assist in these very difficult and, to a considerable extent, interconnected conflicts.

Certainly, a number of Governments, including our own, have said that the Vilnius association agreement remains on the table for Ukraine, but I again stress that we are not trying to make Ukrainians make a definitive choice between joining the European Union and leaving the Russians behind or the reverse. Clearly we have to find a solution through which Ukraine can adopt a more open form of government and a much

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stronger sense of the rule of law, begin to rebuild its very battered economy and restructure its enormous debts to a range of other countries. That, however, requires a new Government to emerge and we and others will do all we can, as we move towards the presidential elections now set for May, to assist the interim Government in moving in those directions.

6.22 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, I say to my noble friend that I am extremely relieved to hear that the Foreign Secretary is travelling to Washington to have discussions with the US Administration but, more importantly, to have discussions with the International Monetary Fund. Can he tell the House how much leverage we have with the IMF? We know, of course, of its exasperation that €300 billion was expended on very necessary eurozone bailouts but that only €610 million was pledged to Ukraine before the crisis started in November. Perhaps there has been a lack of urgency on the part of the IMF-EU relationship with Ukraine that has led us to where we are now.

I also congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the very measured tone that he has taken in terms of Russia. We need to co-operate with Russia and Ukraine and we also need Russia on Syria. However, on Syria—I do not wish to detain the House, I will be brief—surely we need to be tougher with Russia because we have wasted, some might say, two opportunities now in Geneva without seeing any progress whatever. To what extent might we help the Free Syrian Army to gain access to weapons so that it can defend wives and children?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: On Russia and Syria, I remind the noble Baroness that the resolution passed on Saturday in the UN Security Council was passed unanimously. This demonstrates, to an extent, that the Russians are beginning to lose patience with the regime, which is bombing, starving and besieging its own people throughout much of the country. That is at least some step forward. Of course we engage with the Russians as actively as we can on these and a number of other subjects.

On the question of help to the Syrian National Council and the moderate opposition in terms of weapons, the Government take the position that the House of Commons showed its unwillingness to provide military support in Syria and that we will not change our policy on that until we have brought that issue back to the Commons. That may happen at some time but, at present, we are providing non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition and will continue to do so.

Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB): My Lords, first, I welcome what the Minister has said about the moves to re-establish normal diplomatic relations with Iran. The more difficult and more complex our relationships are with countries, the more important it is to have a well plugged-in embassy in place and I hope very much that we will have normal diplomatic relations with Iran as soon as may be.

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Secondly, and this echoes what the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, was saying, it seems that the link between these three countries—Ukraine, Syria and Iran—is the role of Russia. I was glad to hear that the Foreign Secretary has spoken to Mr Lavrov this morning. Will the Minister confirm that the strengthening of our engagement with Russia, both bilaterally and through the EU and other international organisations to which we belong, should now be a real priority for our foreign policy?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am well aware from many conversations with the Foreign Secretary that he has been working extremely hard over the past six months and more to engage the Russians on a wide range of issues; as the noble Lord will know from long experience, this is not always easy. It has been something that we have needed to do. Whether one calls the negotiating group on Iran the E3+3 or the P5+1, some of the members of that group are easier to work with than others but we do try to hold them all together.

On the current question, as I said in the Statement, we are moving forward gradually and proportionately and looking for reciprocal gestures and, so far, so relatively good. As the noble Lord will know, the current regime in Iran is complex and one always has to be aware that there are other aspects of the regime from the ones to whom we are talking.

Lord Howe of Aberavon (Con): I wish to say only a few words and to concentrate on Ukraine in this context, because it is an unusual subject for us to be considering and it is in a very serious condition. I am glad also to be here in the presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, as very shortly after Ukraine began emerging from the regional history the two of us were invited to form part of a multinational advisory group in Ukraine, helping it to develop its nationhood. At different stages we had the privilege of meeting both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. It is very important to hear that our Government are supporting Ukraine with its problems at present; it certainly needs it.

I remember that when the two of us went down for the first time into Independence Square it was full of people, and we could not help noticing the statue of Stalin covered over with posters on behalf of the Pope. I remember that it was Stalin who said:

“The Pope! How many divisions has he got?”.

It shows, in a way, the extent of the divisions between the two groups in those early years of Ukraine’s growing independence. Having met both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko, one realises that they are both figures of some substance and figures facing real problems without all that much background and without assistance. It is important that we recognise the significance of Ukraine as an independent country of some real substance in the future, and I am delighted that Her Majesty’s Government are already doing so to that effect. It deserves it and I am sure that we can give some real help.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble and learned Lord for all those comments, with which I agree.

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Lord Hurd of Westwell (Con): My Lords, has my noble friend seen some rather disturbing press reports today about rows and ructions within the group of Syrians who are opposed to the Assad regime? This has happened before and it may happen again, but how does my noble friend assess the cohesion of the anti-Assad forces in Syria?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: That is a very difficult question to answer in some ways because, as the noble Lord well knows, there is a very large variety of fighting groups. Indeed, in north-eastern Syria in the past week or two the moderate forces in the opposition have been fighting radical jihadis to expel them from ground otherwise occupied by the opposition. However, my experience of the Geneva II talks so far is that the representatives of the Syrian National Council have been more coherent and more constructive than some had predicted in advance. We are doing all we can to support the Syrian National Council in being an inclusive body, including Kurdish and Christian representatives, women and so on, and in strengthening its links with the moderate fighting forces on the ground. Of course, the picture remains extremely unclear. It is currently very difficult to get around inside Syria for obvious reasons, but we are a little more confident than we were that there is a reasonable opposition willing to work for a transition regime, through which we and others can work.

Lord Wills (Lab): My Lords—

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords—

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): I think that we should hear from the noble Lord, Lord Wills, because he has been trying to get in for a while.

Lord Wills: I am very grateful and my question is brief. The Minister will be aware of reports that there has been a significant flight of capital from Ukraine in recent weeks. What steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking to ensure that assets that have been corruptly acquired in Ukraine are not being laundered in this country?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, that is a question that I have asked myself inside government. We are concerned about the movement of funds whose origins are not entirely clear. I am assured that the Government are monitoring these movements, but of course it is a matter of concern.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, it is utterly laudable and understandable that the United Kingdom and the other countries of the European Union should commit themselves to substantial economic aid for Ukraine. However, will the Government give an unreserved commitment to abjure every temptation to try to involve Ukraine in any militaristic alliance or allegiance with western European countries, bearing in mind that the chief port of Ukraine, Sevastopol, is the base of

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the Russian Black Sea fleet and that such a militaristic course, though tempting on the face of it, would be utter insanity?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I have seen the base of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol with the Ukrainian Black Sea fleet, such as it is, not far away. I recall that someone for whom I used to work, Admiral Sir James Eberle, was invited in the early 1990s to advise the Russians and the Ukrainians on how the Black Sea fleet should be divided between the two. His recommendation was that the best thing was to scrap the entire fleet. Unfortunately, the advice was not taken.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, perhaps I may focus my question on Ukraine. It seems to me that there are some senses—not exactly repetitions—in which we are seeing replayed some of the things that were not resolved in the early 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I remember that at that time I was working at Lambeth as the archbishop’s foreign secretary, as it were, and on one occasion the telephone was brought to me in the bath. There was a call from the gatekeeper telling me that Mr Gorbachev was in captivity in the Crimea and he thought that I ought to know so that I could do something about it. Some very good and quite low-key, and low-cost, initiatives were taken by Her Majesty’s Government at that time to support the development of democracy in the various republics that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine. Can we be reassured that, once things become a little more stable, those sorts of initiatives might be looked at again? I am suggesting not carbon copies but that sort of thing.

My other point is that only the churches never recognised the division of Europe. The Conference of European Churches always worked across Europe. There are very serious divisions in the churches in the Ukraine, often reflecting some of the fragmentations that exist in the country as a whole. Again, that is another area where Her Majesty’s Government might work with others to see how one moves towards a more democratic situation.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I continue to learn how close church links can be across national boundaries. I was in Armenia some months ago and was met by a very chatty archbishop, who seemed to know almost every bishop I had ever met in this country. However, we all know that the Orthodox Church in and across the former Soviet Union is a very complex and divided entity, and not all its branches are committed to anything that we would recognise as a liberal approach to organised religion. Sadly, the different branches of the church in Ukraine represent that rather well.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, I had the honour to be one of those who advised the Ukrainian republic at the moment of its independence from Russia, and I have kept closely in touch with it ever since. I begin by saying—I shall not be long—that the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, is absolutely right in indicating that the way in which Ukraine has been

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desperately trying to find security and, not least, to strengthen its relationships with the EU is an astonishing statement of trust in the EU. Perhaps it is time that we recognised that rather more than we sometimes do. It is a statement of belief in the future of a united Europe.

Perhaps I may ask one question of a practical kind. Outside the realm of governmental relations, how far does the Minister believe that in relations on a cultural level, on a religious level—indeed, with the appointment of Pope Francis possibly much more easily than in the past—and, not least, on an educational level we could establish a much stronger and more helpful relationship with Ukraine than we have done without putting at risk its relationship with Russia? I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that that relationship should not be made into a military one. I believe that there is much ground here for extensive and helpful relations between this country and what I hope will, before long, be the emerging democracy of Ukraine.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I did not answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, about military alliances. Across what the EU has called the “eastern neighbourhood”, we are aware that some countries—for example, Georgia—have a stated ambition to join NATO, and that is another delicate set of issues with which we will all have to deal. I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that I think I beat her to help the new Ukrainian Government. The John F Kennedy School of Government asked for a Wallace to go to a conference in Kiev in December 1991. I found it almost surreal talking to a newly independent Government about the attributes of statehood that they suddenly found themselves having. I know that the noble Baroness, with the rest of the Kennedy school and others, then took over a much more detailed programme.

We are, of course, entirely open to cultural and educational relations. We very much want to work with Ukraine. I have no doubt that the British Council and others will wish to be engaged in as much assistance to Ukraine as possible—in particular, helping it to develop a much clearer concept of the rule of law and of the importance of law in every aspect of the economy, society and government.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, on Syria, in discussing UNSCR 2139, the Minister made the point that it was passed unanimously, which is very much to be welcomed. However, did the British Government press for it to be a chapter 7 resolution? As the Statement rightly said, the passing of the resolution is an important achievement but it will only make a practical difference if it is implemented in full. As it is not a chapter 7 resolution, what sanctions can be invoked if the siege of the 240,000 people continues; if there continue to be 5,000 deaths every month in Syria; and if the chemical weapons are not dismantled by 30 June this year? Without a chapter 7 resolution, is there really nothing very much that the UN will be able to do?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are doing our best to carry the P5 with us as we go. That is an important part of where we are going. It is extremely

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important that we got the first resolution on Syria for some time agreed unanimously by all participants. That is a significant step forward and we should not underrate it.

I agree that the situation is appalling. I am told that somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people are trapped in Aleppo at the moment. Part of the expectation of what will happen is that there may be another surge of refugees across the frontiers in the next six months if some of these sieges are lifted, as, of course, we very much hope they will be.

The fact that this is not a chapter 7 resolution does not necessarily mean that attitudes—including the Russian attitude and, perhaps with it, the Chinese attitude—will evolve. The behaviour of the regime in killing and starving its own people is losing the sympathy of the whole international community.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, the Minister answered the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, by talking about the role which the United Nations Security Council might play in the future. One of the things we should be doing is looking at the role of the International Criminal Court and the ability of the Security Council to make a referral—not least because Ban Ki-Moon only this week said that unspeakable suffering was being experienced by the children in Syria, with some 10,000 of those killed so far being children. In the Foreign Secretary’s Statement we heard about the barrel bombs that are continuing to rain down on Aleppo; the sieges being undertaken in places such as Homs, where people are being starved to death; and, in previous times, the use of Sarin gas and the fact that only 11% of chemical weapons have been removed thus far. Surely it is time for us to start thinking about collecting the evidence against those who have been responsible for these deeds, whether they come from extremist militant groups or the regime, to ensure that one day they will face their day of trial.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, a number of groups, both governmental and non-governmental, are collecting evidence of atrocities in Syria as we go forward. We are committed to a transition regime rather than a destruction regime because we are well aware of the lessons of Iraq where, under American leadership, most of the institutions of Saddam Hussein’s state were dismantled, leaving us with an ungoverned and ungovernable country. We are also very clear that in any transition there is no place for the core members of the Assad regime, and that is what we intend to negotiate through the Geneva II talks.

Pensions Bill

Pensions Bill

Report (1st Day) (Continued)

6.44 pm

Amendment 3

Moved by Baroness Hollis of Heigham

3: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—

“Pension statement

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(1) The Secretary of State may by regulation introduce arrangements for the periodic notification to individuals of their entitlement to request a pension statement.

(2) Such regulations shall not require the provision of such notification before a person has reached the age of 45 nor, subject to subsection (3) below, more frequently than once every five years.

(3) Such regulations shall require notification of entitlement to receive a pension statement in the penultimate year before a person reaches state pension age.”

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, like others, I am delighted that we are introducing a new state pension, based on 35 years of contributions, which will help to float older people off poverty and encourage savings. However, if that is to happen, people have to know where they stand as they go along, especially women who may have acquired credits and young people on short hours-contracts, on which we voted earlier today. They need to know how reliably their state pension entitlement is building up and whether they need to take any action to make good shortfalls.

It seems obvious, does it not, that if we want people to build a pension they must know how they are doing, how far they have got and what they may get? We expect this from the private sector. Most of us get not only yearly but six-monthly statements about our ISAs, for example, and how they and we are doing. Usually—not always—it encourages us to save more. We all agree that we need transparency about charges and better information and guidance about our financial choices. The Government set up a money advice service to help people do precisely that.

Along with my noble friend Lord McKenzie, who regrettably cannot be in his place today, I was again taken aback in Committee to learn that there will be no such service and support in the field of state pensions. On the biggest investment a person may have—their pension—which, for many people, will be worth more than their home, they are working blind. People will be working and contributing, or not, and claiming credits to which they are entitled, or not, without any information and guidance to help them until shortly before they retire, when it may be far too late to change the hours of their job or claim a carer’s credit which might have brought them safely into the NI system.

How many women in their 40s and 50s with teenage children know that if they work 16 hours a week at minimum wage they will not usually be building a state pension, but at 18 hours a week they will? How many women know that by caring for elderly relatives for 20 hours a week they could, and should, get a carer’s credit? Not many, yet it is one of the most important things they need to know. How many women even know that they will not get a married woman’s dependant pension from 2016 on? Very few, I suspect. We do not and will not tell them, unless they have the wit to ask, until it is almost too late to do much about it. It is absurd and shameful. The DWP’s refusal to provide a level of service is unacceptable. None of us would accept this from the private sector. Indeed, the private sector would probably be pursued and prosecuted if it behaved like we do.

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What is the Government’s position? They will respond to a query, which is likely to come from the alert, educated and informed, but they will not bother to trouble those who most need advice, information and guidance. Those who do not inquire and those who leave it too late are most likely to retire with a pension shortfall. Who are the people who are most likely to retire with a shortfall and who will not know until it is too late? What a surprise—women, I fear.

In Committee, the DWP quoted the cost of providing annual statements as a deterrent—a cost which, none the less, we expect the private sector rightly to bear. I therefore suggest that we consider the “nudge” theory: that if we cannot afford to provide annual, or even five-yearly, individual statements, at the very least DWP sends out periodically a standard letter, in bright bold print, two paragraphs only—I offer a draft— saying for example:

“You are able to draw your state pension at 65. To get a full state pension you need by 65 to have made 35 years of contributions into the National Insurance Fund which pays out your pension. Pension contributions may come from your job or you may be receiving free contributions credited towards your pension if, for example, you have children under 12, you are a carer, you are on universal credit, you are disabled or in other circumstances”.

Paragraph 2 would say:

“You may want to find out how many years contribution you have already built up. If so, please contact us either by phoning us on “x” or online at “y”. If as a result you think you may not have made enough contributions by the time you reach 65, we can send you a leaflet which tells you what steps you can take to build a full pension”.

I offer this template letter to the Government as a possible way forward. One standard letter—a nudge—telling people what they may wish to know, in bold print, going out to everybody at five-yearly intervals from the age of 45. It is a nudge for people to find out where they stand and if necessary to do something about it, to help people to help themselves. Otherwise why bother with a Pensions Bill—one that is more generous and certainly one that I support—if we do not want or seek to encourage people to build a full state pension at the end of it? Why bother? It must make sense to nudge people. I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab): I support my noble friend Lady Hollis on this amendment. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, is not here to second it, The Government have had a long-term policy—they kept telling us about it at every stage of this Bill—of being in favour of people saving for themselves in addition to having the pensions provided in the Bill. They expect people to save for themselves and they regard the pensions provisions that they are making as a kind of platform from which people can then make savings for themselves.

How are people to save for themselves if they do not have the necessary information about what their entitlement is? The amendment addresses the entitlement to a pension statement and notification of entitlement to a statement. All that is very necessary if people are

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to make sensible arrangements for their retirement. I am amazed to think that the Government may not accept this amendment. I hope however that they will because it is in line with their own thinking on the Bill. They want people to save. How do they expect people to save if they do not know what their entitlement is? They have an obligation to tell them what it is. Certainly it happens in the private sector; I belong to a private pension scheme and I get a regular statement as to what my entitlements are. Why can that not be the case for people who are receiving state benefits?

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hollis has raised some significant questions and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s answers. This amendment follows an ultimately rather unsatisfactory discussion we had in Committee during which my noble friends Lord McKenzie and Lady Hollis, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and others tried valiantly to get the Minister to explain exactly when somebody would receive a communication from DWP to warn them that the state pension they would get in future would not be the same as what they might have expected. I went back and reread the record. I think the answer we got was that they would get a statement if or when they asked for it and then normally only digitally. The Minister kindly arranged for officials to explain their communications strategy to Peers, and I am genuinely grateful for that. However I think it is fair to say that the exercise did not entirely allay our fears or perhaps fill out all the gaps in our knowledge. I hope the Minister is looking forward to finding a consultancy fee for my noble friend Lady Hollis for her contribution to what will doubtless be the next mailshot from the department.

In Committee I raised comments that had been made during the Select Committee inquiry and elsewhere from quite a wide variety of bodies about this subject. It is worth highlighting a couple. Citizens Advice has been stressing that considerable complexity inevitably remains in the system because of the transitional provisions. It says that,

“a sustained communications programme could improve outcomes, manage expectations, minimise misinformation, promote action on NI contributions, and support personal saving for retirement”.

That last point is one made by my noble friend Lady Turner. The Association of British Insurers had also stressed that adequate communication was essential because it was important that people did not feel unclear about how much they would receive, and it should be clear that they would need to save. That is a crucial drive behind all of these reforms and the Labour reforms that preceded them. People need to understand what they are going to get to make sure they save enough for their retirement.

The Select Committee certainly found that there was a lot of confusion out there. Many people thought that from now everybody would get £144 a week instead of the current state pension. Many people thought that all means-testing would disappear and that if they would have got more than £144 now that they would lose that in future. The committee stressed how important it was that people have full information about their future entitlement.

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I reiterate three simple questions which I raised in Committee; they did not get answered at the time but I think the Minister has had an opportunity since then to reflect on them. First, how and when do the Government propose to contact people to tell them of the changes to their entitlement? Secondly, at what point will the Government contact people who have previously requested and received a pension statement to warn them that it may no longer be accurate? Finally, in setting up a communications campaign on this new scheme, what outcomes are the Government seeking and how will they measure them? I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): My Lords, the single-tier pension reforms are designed to simplify the current state pension system, to make it easier for people to understand what they will get from the state in retirement. More so than for other reforms, therefore, communication is critical to success, so I certainly share the interest that noble Lords have shown in this issue. Effective communication requires both the right message and the right channel for delivering that message. This forms the basis for our communication strategy to support these reforms, a summary of which I circulated to noble Lords this morning and which will be placed in the Library.

We will deliver a phased approach to our communications, building from Royal Assent towards the implementation of the reforms and beyond. This will allow us to provide accurate and up-to-date information as quickly as possible before we issue more tailored communications through a range of channels to reach all our audience groups.

State pension statements will remain a key communication with future pensioners and will be an important vehicle for helping individuals understand how they are affected by the reforms. The introduction of these reforms gives us the opportunity to radically transform the way we currently provide this statement service. Our ultimate vision is to provide an online system that is integrated with HMRC’s national insurance data, enabling people to access this information at a time to suit them and in a way that allows them to model the impact of gaining further qualifying years.

In Committee I said that we would provide statements that reflect the single-tier rules once we have the new IT in place and individuals’ NI contribution records are complete up to and including the 2015-16 tax year. Prior to April 2016 our plan was to continue to provide statements based on the current rules accompanied by additional information on the single-tier changes to those affected by the reforms. However, we believe there is trade-off in terms of providing information we have available based on current system amounts while trying to minimise the distribution of information that is potentially misleading or simply begs further questions. Noble Lords may wish to note that we are therefore currently reviewing the information we can provide to customers prior to April 2016 to ensure that it is as accurate and helpful as possible. We will make a decision on this by the end of March when we will

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make our plans more widely known through discussions with our stakeholders and within our broader communication materials.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, asked when we might contact previous recipients who will be affected by the changes. We will consider this to be part of the process. It is important to note that our data retention rules mean that our statement IT systems hold only a limited number of historic requests going back a maximum of 18 months, and therefore we cannot contact all previous statement recipients. The statements make it clear that the estimates they provide are based on the current rules and may change if individual circumstances alter or the law changes.

7 pm

I turn now to the specifics of the amendment. It sets out an approach for issuing periodic notifications to all citizens over the age of 45 advising them of the state pension statement service. The department has previously undertaken various forms of direct mailing to people in relation to state pensions. Indeed, between 2003 and 2006 the department issued many millions of unsolicited automatic pension forecasts across the working age population. Unfortunately, independent research found no real evidence of any significant response to these mailings. Only 33% of recipients could recall without prompting having received the forecast, and only 31% actually read the mailing. More importantly, the research showed that there was no significant difference in the retirement planning actions undertaken by recipients of the forecasts when compared with non-recipients. This, combined with the operational costs, resulted in the termination of unsolicited pension forecasts.

When people receive something that they have not asked for, it is most likely to be forgotten or ignored. However, when people ask for information, they are ready to get it and do something with it. Our communications approach will sow the seeds of the change, setting out the store in the channels that people read and hear every day, providing them with reasons to seek further information for themselves at the right time for them. It may or may not be that the draft provided by the noble Baroness is exactly what turns people towards wanting to investigate, but we will do the research to find out what actually works. The noble Baroness referred to nudge approaches and the use of behavioural insights. We are absolutely committed to testing such approaches. We believe that there is merit in getting messages to people through the newspapers they read and the magazines they buy. We have already seen the success of such approaches and we can see that they do prompt or nudge people to consider their plans for retirement.

Our past experience is not proof that direct mail will never be an effective method of communicating with members of the public, particularly given the behavioural change we are witnessing as automatic enrolment is rolled out. However, undertaking direct mailings comes at a cost, and an initiative such as that proposed in the amendment could cost in excess of £5 million in the first year of implementation alone. Before committing to such expenditure, we think it is essential to test different approaches to raising awareness

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of the statement service to understand their effectiveness. Noble Lords will already be aware that I am committed to this type of approach, such as in the support provided for the introduction of universal credit. During 2014-15 we will be undertaking trials of direct mailing alongside other communication approaches. This will allow us to identify how the right balance of timing, message, channel and environment can lead to greater awareness among individuals and encourage them to take action as appropriate. Depending on the outcome of these trials, we will decide which communication approaches are most effective as part of our ongoing communications activity.

Next year we will set a baseline across all our audience group to measure awareness and understanding. This will be remeasured every six months and will be published, which will inform our approach as we refine and improve it. I can assure noble Lords that following Royal Assent we will track levels of awareness about state pensions and the reforms across the population on a regular basis. The research findings will enable us to identify specific groups that our messages are not reaching, or where the messages are not easily understood, so that we can take action accordingly. Our communications strategy is designed to cater for the needs of different audiences. We recognise the need to test our approach as we go, and as part of this we will undertake the trials that I have mentioned. It is right to do this before committing to undertaking full-scale direct mailings, or indeed any other form of communication, which may not deliver any significant increase in awareness or action. In the light of this, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friends Lady Turner and Lady Sherlock for their contributions. I understand that the Minister is as committed as could reasonably be expected to trying to ensure that people are aware of and fully knowledgeable about their entitlements. I accept and absolutely understand that there is considerable virtue in having an evidence-based policy by building it up on the results of research into the most effective lines of communication. I also agree that a variety of responses may be wanted, including press, mailings and online, but I have to say that I would worry if it was largely dependent on online information, given what we know about many people’s recalcitrance over using online facilities as UC is rolled out. It may be that it is a generational thing and that over the next decade to 20 years the recalcitrance begins to disappear, particularly if places such as Norfolk end up actually having access to broadband.

My difficulty is that the Minister has a policy premised on the fact that those who know that they do not know will make the inquiry. The problem is around those who do not know that they do not know, and I am not confident that he has in place a strategy to make them aware of it. In the past, the people who were most vulnerable would have been married women who had been in and out of the labour market according to their caring responsibilities. They had a very straightforward safety net by the fact that they could have 60% of the husband’s pension as a baseline, and only if their own contributions exceeded that, as

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increasingly they have begun to do, would they draw on their own contributions. That is no longer the case. So the 60% married women’s pension is being withdrawn without, as far as I can see, ensuring that those women know, first, that they are losing what they would have counted on in the past and which is common knowledge, and secondly, what other benefits—or credits, I should say—they may be entitled to claim because that information is not being sent out to them in lieu.

I think that the Minister has a problem here. We are on the same side and I fully accept that he wants to make sure that people are aware of this, but I do not think he really understands what happens when the safety net of the married women’s dependency pension which has existed for 50-odd years is pulled away and women are told that they are on their own. He does not actually know, understand or appreciate what it may be like to find the headspace, resources and capacity to change behaviour in order to build up a pension. I am sure that this is not a gender point, but I really do not think that the Minister understands where women like that may be coming from. In the past, as the Minister will know, we had deficiency notices under NIRS 2. They told you whether you had incomplete NI records. When the computer, on which the Minister is relying so heavily, toppled over in the late 1990s or thereabouts and we could not get it back on its feet for several years, we increasingly lengthened the period during which someone could buy back their NICs or make contributions accordingly to cover the lack of deficiency notices. We were willing to do it then for everybody on an annual basis, as far as I recall, before the computer toppled over, yet the Minister is reluctant to go back to that. I understand the point about mailings and so on, but at the very least I press the Minister to identify in his research the at-risk group. For my money, the at-risk group are women, particularly married women, who had relied on the 60% married women’s pension, who were perhaps unaware in the past of the credits they could have claimed, including carer’s credits, and they are not on the list.

I would like some assurance from the Minister—it could just be a nod if he likes—that the at-risk group in particular can be identified. At 65 or 66, they could find themselves on their own with an incomplete state pension and it is too late to do anything about it because we have failed to keep nudging them. If the Minister could give me that assurance, I would be content.

Lord Freud: I would be very comfortable giving the noble Baroness that assurance. Clearly, a generalised mailing out is exactly what we are concerned about. The evidence is that people will get official-looking letters which they do not look at. We have to find a way of getting to the most vulnerable groups, who may take a Rumsfeldian attitude—they do not know what they do not know—and we have to find a way through that. Therefore, I can give the noble Baroness that assurance. I think we are basically agreed around this Chamber about the need to get the communication right, but we need to do the research. There is no point in us making it up without that knowledge.

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: With those assurances, I am content to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

Schedule 1: Transitional rate of state pension: calculating the amount

Amendment 4

Moved by Lord Freud

4: Schedule 1, page 31, line 34, at end insert—

“( ) Where regulations under section 22(5ZA) of the Contributions and Benefits Act have the effect that a person is credited, on or after 6 April 2016, with earnings or contributions for a tax year starting before that date, the earnings or contributions are to be treated for the purposes of calculating the rate under this paragraph as having been credited before 6 April 2016.”

Lord Freud: My Lords, in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, spoke movingly of the case of a service wife. Her husband, a commanding officer, was stationed in Belize. Travelling abroad with him meant she sacrificed a successful legal career in the UK, but she also gave up the ability to build up her state pension. It gives me great pleasure today to be able to present a means to redress this situation. I need to acknowledge, alongside the contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, those of the noble Lords, Lord McKenzie and Lord Browne, and I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, for her forensic analysis of this issue and her persistence in seeking a remedy for this group.

This amendment signals our determination to act. It places a duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations to allow service spouses and civil partners, due to reach state pension age from 6 April 2016, to apply for national insurance credits for periods during which they accompanied their partner on a posting outside the UK. The regulations will make provision to allow credits for periods between 1975-76 and 2010. This will ensure that, even in the rare circumstances that someone has spent their entire working life accompanying their spouse abroad, they will still be able to build the 35-year contribution record needed for the full single tier.

This builds on this Government’s commitment, set out in the Armed Forces covenant, to remove disadvantages that the Armed Forces community may face in comparison to other citizens, and to recognise sacrifices made. We continue to work on the finer details of the scheme, which will be set out in regulations. This will include the manner in which applications will need to be made and the precise start date. From information supplied by the Ministry of Defence, we estimate that up to 20,000 individuals could have a higher single tier pension from these credits.

Key to the impact of these amendments will be how effectively they are communicated. We recognise the importance of alerting people to the scheme to maximise take-up, and this will be incorporated into our wider single tier communications strategy. The MoD also anticipates using the ex-service communities’ charitable network and the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency communication channels. This amendment is also grouped with a small number of

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technical, tidying-up amendments to Schedules 1 and 12. These are all consequential on either Amendment 9 or provisions elsewhere in the Bill.

In summary, those who support our armed services abroad should not be penalised. The prospective earnings credit introduced in 2010 helped to ensure that single- tier pensioners in the circumstances I have discussed could build entitlement to state pension for years after 2010, but not before. These amendments address this and ensure that people who have accompanied their spouse or civil partner on overseas postings are not unjustifiably disadvantaged. I beg to move.

7.15 pm

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I will just say a couple of sentences. I am very pleased indeed that the Government are building on the work of the last Labour Government in recognising the particular obligations that go with the military covenant and ensuring that the spouses of service personnel are not disadvantaged when it comes to a full state pension. I welcome this and am very glad that the department and the Minister have been able to meet the concerns raised in Committee.

Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab): My Lords, we welcome the Government’s amendment, which requires the introduction of regulations to provide for spouses and civil partners of service personnel to gain national insurance credits for periods spent on accompanied assignments prior to 2010. As my noble friend has just said, these provisions build on the reforms of the last Labour Government, who allowed credits to begin from 2010. I thank the Minister for the generosity of his remarks about my noble friends Lady Dean and Lord McKenzie and, indeed, his recognition of my own small contribution to this outcome.

However, it would be remiss of me if I did not express from these Benches that we are in no doubt who is entitled to the greater credit for this amendment being tabled. It is my noble friend Lady Hollis who is the heroine of the hour. There is no question that the Government have acted because she raised the issue so effectively in an amendment in Grand Committee. Before she did so—and I am sure that the Minister will confirm this—the Government’s position was an honourable one, but, as expressed on page 33 of the document The Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow, they stated:

“At present the Government has no plans to make further adjustments to the tax and benefits system for Service personnel and their families but will keep this issue under review”.

The Minister indicated in Grand Committee that he would review it and his officials have kept us all informed of that review going on and it is to his credit that it has resulted in this outcome.

The Government deserve significant credit for responding in the way they have done and now at least we can say in relation to this issue that there is no disadvantage and that members of the Armed Forces community have access to the same benefits as any other UK citizen. As the Minister has said, the challenge now is to ensure that, of those potential 20,000 beneficiaries, the maximum number benefit from this

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opportunity. The current figures for applications for the 2010 credits are disappointing. Either the MoD now needs to build a process for credits to be automated, or it needs to improve its engagement with its own personnel, to inform people of the availability of the credits and to facilitate and encourage take-up.

I accept that the other government amendments are consequential and uncontroversial and we welcome them also.

Amendment 4 agreed.

Amendment 5 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 17: Effect of pensioner postponing or suspending state pension

Amendment 6

Moved by Baroness Hollis of Heigham

6: Clause 17, page 8, line 31, at end insert—

“( ) The weekly rate is not to be increased under subsection (1) if a person has opted to receive a lump sum.

( ) The amount of any lump sum to which a person who has deferred entitlement to a state pension shall be set out in regulations.”

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we move to a new subject: deferred pension and how it may be taken, whether as income or lump sum. Over the past 15 years, most pensioners have for the first time been lifted out of poverty. In 1997 nearly half of pensioners were below the poverty line. It is now about one in seven: 14%, compared to nearly 50%. Pensions have risen three times faster than earnings, pension credit has topped up their income and now, we are pleased to say, pensioners are no more likely to be poor than any other group in society.

With pension credit for most future pensioners being absorbed into the new, more generous state pension, together with the guarantee of the triple lock, that journey out of poverty continues. Pensioners’ incomes, especially for those with no occupational pension, will be stronger and more stable than ever before. It is good news and I am delighted. I congratulate the Government on it, I really do.

We know, in any case, that most pensioners are very careful and spend up to their income and no more. They cope and they avoid debt like the devil. However, the growing problem is that those pensioners dependent on the state system, who may in future have a more adequate state pension, are also less and less likely to go into retirement with some modest savings as a cushion against rainy days or as a resource to meet lumpy expenditure. Currently, 21% of pensioners—one in five—have no savings whatever; 37%, more than a third, have less than £3,000 in savings; and half have less than £8,000. If the Minister gives us any mean averages, they are frankly a waste of time, as they were in a previous debate about hours.

Pensioners face soaring quarterly energy bills—I imagine other noble Lords, like me, have been slightly shocked in the past week or two to receive an energy bill rather larger than anticipated. The roof may need substantial work, especially after the gales, and may

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not be fully covered by insurance. Washing machines and boilers pack up. If they live in rural Norfolk, they may need to replace their old car with another, otherwise they are effectively housebound. They may have an outstanding mortgage and want to pay it off. What do the one in five who have no savings at all do when they are hit by a large utility bill? What do the more than one in three who have savings of less than £3,000 do when one of them dies and they face funeral bills?

We have, understandably, concentrated on building up pensioners’ incomes, and rightly so. However, we have largely ignored the issue of accessible pensioner savings for those of modest income. You can always turn capital into income—you just draw it down as you need it for that energy bill—but it is very hard to suddenly find £400 or more to pay the winter quarter energy bill from state pension income alone if you have no savings on which to draw. In other words, pensioners need savings, just as we all do, and too often they do not have any.

We recognised this when we did the deal with what was then Age Concern as we introduced pension credit in, I think, about 2002. The first £10,000 of savings would be disregarded for pension credit, although thereafter there was a high notional tariff rate. We recognised this need for savings when my noble friend Lord McKenzie made means-testing far more light-touch as pensioners became older. That is why, incidentally, I am seriously bothered about the new class 3A contributions, which encourage pensioners to use up capital to buy a year of S2P, taking an unwise gamble on their life expectancy, increasing their income by a bit but heavily reducing their capital. That is very unwise.

Above all, we recognised this when, back in 2005, we allowed pensioners who had deferred drawing their state pension to take that saved-up pension either as an income addition to their future pension—which is what most did—or as a lump sum to give them some savings. The Government propose to abolish the choice of taking that saved-up pension as a lump sum; it will be available to people only as an addition to the state pension. They are removing the choice of a savings sum from future pensioners. Currently, of the 1.2 million who defer their pensions, 63,000 take the lump sum, which was, on average, just under £14,000. In future, that option will be scrapped. Why? The Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, is absolutely clear that he is doing it to “simplify the system”. It is not about costs at all, he says, just about simplicity. What is so difficult to understand about a lump sum of your two years or so deferred pension? It is complex, the Minister says, because DWP needs a 64-page leaflet to explain the choice. The Minister in your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Freud, says the same.

As the Minister would expect, I have that 64-page leaflet. It is well written—well done to the DWP—simple to understand and straightforward. I have worked through it. I calculate that if, in the name of simplicity, you removed the choice of a lump sum and allowed only an increase in the pension, you would remove precisely 11 pages in total—I will give him the references if he wishes—so that the 64 pages would come down to 53. The rest of the pamphlet would remain unchanged

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apart from occasionally deleting the words “or lump sum” from, for example: what happens when I die, if I get divorced or if I am widowed; can I combine them; what if I live abroad; what are the effects on my benefits or on my tax; where can I find out more; what organisations may help me; and so on. That is what the 53 pages are largely about. All that applies to any deferred state pension, whether it is taken as an increment or as a lump sum—the argument of simplicity does not wash at all. It is a complete myth, and if anybody worked through that pamphlet, they would see it for themselves. I am confident that the Minister has worked through that pamphlet and I am therefore confident that he will agree with my assertion that it removes only 11 pages out of 64 in the name of simplicity, thus denying choice to people who want to exercise that choice. Taking out that choice in the name of alleged simplicity is, frankly, laughable—it is absurd. I have never seen such a trivial justification. It takes 11 out of 64 pages and thereby denies the choice of a savings lump sum to 65,000 people. I presume the Minister thinks people can understand 53 pages but that 64 pages is just too much. Really? Because he thinks, without any evidence, that they cannot manage those extra 11 pages, he will take the decision out of their hands and make it himself. He knows better than pensioners what they should do with their money. He cannot trust people who have been working and scrimping for 50 years not to waste any savings—their money—that they may accrue.

Mind you, if you have a private occupational pension and get a 25% lump sum tax-free, that is fine. You can do what you want with it. If you simply defer your S2P element, your additional pension, for two years you can take that as a lump sum. The Minister will not tell you how to spend that either. However, on a state pension, he is taking away the possibility of a lump sum—your money—that you have saved for, because, frankly, he does not trust you with it and is calling it simplicity if he takes 11 pages out of a 64-page pamphlet.

Some people, after two years’ deferral, may want that £14,000 of their money rather than the alternative of £14 a week. I would. They would be better off taking the £14 per week instead of a lump sum only if they live, I calculate, a further 20 years until they are aged 87. Those without savings are also poorer and least likely even to reach 80, let alone 87. Who are we talking about? They may be husbands working longer until their younger wife also reaches state pension age. They may both work longer, and one takes the income and the other the lump sum. They may have a somewhat impaired life expectancy; perhaps one is a smoker and they want the lump sum up front just in case that person does not survive to 87. The unspent portion of the lump sum can be inherited by the surviving spouse and would help cushion her—but if taken as increased income it dies with him.

We rightly spend hours trying to encourage people of working age to work longer. We rightly spend hours trying to get them to save. We know we need to build a savings culture. In a low-paid job, perhaps the only way they may be able to build savings is to defer their state pensions for a year or two, work a bit longer and take it as a lump sum. That may subsequently save them needing to get loans at huge interest rates because

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they have a lumpy bill, perhaps an energy bill, to meet. It allows them to make choices, which each one of us in this House takes for granted. Having just that extra margin in savings means that they can decide to help a grandchild, buy a washing machine that works, replace the carpet, celebrate a golden wedding anniversary, turn up the heating when it freezes or give a donation to their local church. They cannot do that out of income. They need savings. It is their choice, not ours. Pensioners, as they enter pension age, are moral adults and we should respect that and respect them. They have earned the right to that choice and we—and the Government—have absolutely no right at all to take that choice away. I beg to move.

7.30 pm

Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, although we gave this a fairly good airing in Committee, I confess that I do not yet feel that I properly understand the nature of the Government’s objections to the taking of lump sums. My noble friend Lady Hollis explained her case for this, and there is no doubt that we have a crisis of savings in this country. Too many people do not have a safety net for a rainy day, and British households generally do not have enough money in savings. That amount has been falling in recent years—unsurprisingly, given the pressures on the cost of living. The case made by my noble friend about why people might need access to a lump sum deserves an answer from the Minister. She described when and why the option was introduced and what people might use it for.

However, having gone carefully over the record and the correspondence since, I did not get answers to some of the questions which I put to the Minister in Committee. Those answers would help me because I would like to understand two things. First, are the Government confident that they have worked through who will be affected by this, what the impact will be and what the alternatives are? Secondly, can they explain clearly why they are doing it? On the first point—and I did ask this—we know that 75% of those who are deferring are women, but do we know why?

My noble friend suggested in Committee that those people are waiting until their partner retires to claim their pensions. Have the Government been able to confirm whether that is why they are deferring, or are they deferring because they are still working and have not saved enough to feel able to retire? What do we know about the wealth of those who are deferring their pensions? These questions matter because they would go to the points made by my noble friend Lady Hollis about whether people without savings are going to end up accessing other forms of credit, which we would not want them to do as they may be problematic.

Most of all, I would like to understand what the Government’s objection is. We have had a few arguments made: the argument of simplicity was made and has been pretty well dispatched, so I will not revisit it. Another argument raised was that significant numbers of people deferring and claiming a lump sum are living overseas. However, we know from the data given to us that more than three-quarters of those people are living in the UK, so that is probably not the issue. Is it the administrative burden? Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether it is that or simply the cost.

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If it is the cost, I understand that. If the Government’s argument is that the costs are significant, the House, I am sure, will listen carefully. However, it would be helpful at this point if the Minister could simply come out and say whether he would like to do this but cannot afford it or whether the Government think for some reason that it is a bad idea, in which case my noble friend Lady Hollis has laid down a strong challenge which the Minister really should answer.

Lord Freud: My Lords, in designing the single-tier reforms our overriding aim has been to deliver a flat-rate pension above the basic level of the means test without increasing spending, and to do so in a way that recognises people’s contributions under the current system. This is not easy to do and it involves difficult trade-offs. Some elements of the transition necessarily generate costs in the early years, particularly the “better of” calculation, which means that people with low amounts of additional state pension, such as carers, receive a boost. There is also the fact that those with high amounts of additional state pension, which take them over the full amount of the single-tier pension, are able to keep the surplus as a protected payment. Nevertheless, we have been able to stay within 1% of projected expenditure until 2040, which is fair to current pensioners and to future taxpayers.

In answer to the blunt question of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, removal of the lump sum option for those who defer their state pension has played a key role in flattening expenditure. The early-year savings that this delivers have been ploughed back into the single-tier design. We are, however, still keen to preserve some flexibility for single-tier pensioners who, by choice or accident, claim after they reach state pension age, so people will still be able to build up an increase to their state pension that is paid on top of their single-tier entitlement for the rest of their lives. As discussed in Grand Committee, there remains the option of backdating a claim for a single-tier pension. By backdating their claim to a state pension, someone who has delayed claiming for whatever reason—either unintentionally or as part of a planned retirement—will be able to get up to 12 months’ arrears when they make their claim for a pension. This would provide someone who has qualified for the maximum weekly amount of £144 with arrears of almost £7,500 at 2012-13 prices.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Can the Minister help me with a technical point? With arrears, is the assumption that interest will be paid on the deferred money?

Lord Freud: What happens is that the amount is repegged to the year in which it is taken. If, for instance, someone’s delay in claiming exceeded a year, they would get an increment on top of the single-tier entitlement.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am sorry but I still do not understand. This is a very simple point. At the end of the year in which you have not drawn your pension, do you get the equivalent of a return on capital—in other words, an interest payment—over and beyond the direct addition of 12 months of state pension?

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Lord Freud: No, you do not get interest on arrears, but let me take the example of someone who delays claiming the maximum amount for two years and wants to backdate their claim for the 12 months. If we take the £144 example, they would get an increment of around £7.50 to £8 a week, depending on the value of the uprating, which would be added to their weekly entitlement. It would also include the calculation of arrears due to them for the backdated period. That would boost the overall arrears payment to more than £8,000, so that is the mechanism through which the delay works.

On the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, about why women in particular are deferring, one of the main reasons is that women have a lower state pension age than men, although of course the reasons will vary with individual circumstances. I am loath to go too deeply into the simplicity argument because we will have a row which will go on for ever. However, to conflate complexity with the number of extra pages in a particular pamphlet is, bluntly, a somewhat bizarre argument. The difficulty for individuals is in making the decision on what option is best for them in the longer term and what is best for their surviving spouse.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Has the Minister actually read the pamphlet?

Lord Freud: I must confess that I have not counted up the pages or gone through it in detail. I suspect that I have gone through it but I cannot remember it and have not done the counting job on pages that clearly I should have. I knew that I should not have said this. However, I am not going to back down and I will stay with my “bizarre” comment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Is this evidence-based policy? The Minister has not read it but it is “bizarre”.

Lord Freud: My Lords, I am most grateful for having a superb staff, some of whom have not only read the document but written it, so I am confident in the statement that I have just made.

The removal of the lump sum is not because we do not trust people; in fact, it is quite the opposite. We believe that people can make savings decisions for themselves. If they can afford not to claim the state pension, they can choose to save it.

Let me go to the figures on pensioner capital. We do not recognise the figures quoted by the noble Baroness. The figures I can quote—which are not averages, which I know the noble Baroness would scorn—are that almost three-quarters of the pensioner population already have more than £5,000 in capital, and more than half of all pensioners have more than £12,500 in net wealth.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Minister challenges my figures. Is that households or individual pensioners?

Lord Freud: It is households.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My point precisely.

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Lord Freud: I am not sure why that was the point precisely, but those are the figures I have. The proposed amendment would allow for regulations to introduce a lump-sum payment into the new scheme. That would bring costs forward and would undermine the cost neutrality of the single-tier package, as well as the simplification.

Bringing costs forward may sound like a technical concern, but the timing of expenditure is vital. Without making offsetting savings elsewhere in the single-tier package, Governments in the early years of single tier would be forced to divert more spending towards the state pension system than under the current scheme, which means more government borrowing for future generations to shoulder, or less to spend on today’s priorities. We simply do not believe it is right to make this trade-off to enhance the personal financial management options for a relatively small group of people who do not need to draw the income from their state pension and are therefore able to exercise their option to defer.

We understand that a one-off payment can help people build up capital, and the backdating option can provide flexibility in this respect. However, we question whether there is a widespread problem of low capital for those in retirement. Introducing a lump sum would require us to make alternative savings from elsewhere in the single-tier package, most likely by reducing coverage. We simply cannot agree to that, and so I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, that was a very interesting reply. I only wish we were in Committee so we could show up more of the thinness of the Minister’s reply. For somebody who is so evidence-based—which is something I greatly respect about the Minister—he was dismissing it rather wildly out of hand.

The Minister pushed the argument that this is about cost and said that this removal played a key role in “containing expenditure”. That is very interesting. I had a discussion with his right honourable friend something like three weeks ago on precisely this point. He assured me most emphatically and vigorously—I am sure he would confirm the conversation, and there were witnesses—that this had nothing to do with cost but was only about simplicity. May I at least suggest that the Minister talks to his right honourable friend and agrees a common line on this? At the moment, one says it is all about cost and the other says it is nothing to do with cost but is all about simplicity. I suspect that the Minister in our House is probably correct about the cost argument, but that is not the position presented by the Minister responsible for pensions, who assured me emphatically to the contrary.

As to the point about simplicity, frankly, it is absurd. I checked my pages again. Pages 11 to 17 are a table showing the cost value of a lump sum compared with increments, and pages 26 to 29 are on taxing the lump sum. That makes 11 pages in total, and probably only three of those, on taxing the lump sum, would be regarded as any form of challenge beyond a reading age of seven and a quarter—so the Minister’s argument about simplicity is frankly absurd, patronising,

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condescending, lacking evidence and without any factual basis whatever. Frankly, we expect rather better from the Minister.

As for pensioner savings, as I suspected, the difference between us is that my figures are based on individuals, and I stand by them, and his figures are based on households, which does not help the argument very much. He seems to think that 64,000 people denied a lump sum is such a small number that we do not need to bother about them. It is three times the number of service spouses, if I remember correctly, that he is going to help through the military covenant, and no one said they were too small a number to bother about—yet the figure for a lump sum possibility which is three times larger is too trivial to be worth troubling ourselves with.

Frankly, I do not think the Minister believes a word of his argument. I think he does believe his argument about cost, but I do not think he believes anything else about it. He knows and understands that pensioners need savings. He knows that this may be a way for those who take this lump sum to exercise that choice. He knows that it is not difficult to understand. It could not be simpler. Do you want to take this two years’ worth of pension as a lump sum or do you want to add it on? If you are taking away the increment, that would be complicated to explain. A lump sum is the easier and simpler of the two options, and that is the one the Minister is taking away, to the pain of the individual who I calculate will reach their cross-over point—I asked the Minister for this figure, but it has never come to me—at about 87: I stand to be corrected if the Minister thinks I am wrong.

We are left with backdating—fine. All I can hope, and I am sure others do as well, is that we will keep up the pressure on Ministers to ensure that people are aware that they can take their pension lump sum in arrears, as a form of saving, after 12 months and get £7,500 or £8,000 for that sum, which will still keep them below any risk that other benefits, if they are necessary, including housing benefit, will be lost.

I am disappointed by the Minister’s reply, and I think that the Minister is disappointed by the Minister’s reply. He knows that it does not stand up to a scrap of scrutiny—not one scrap—but there is nothing much we are going to do about it at this time of night, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.47 pm.

UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Question for Short Debate

7.47 pm

Asked by Baroness Prosser

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made on the development of the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

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Baroness Prosser (Lab):My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I stand to introduce this Question for Short Debate on women, peace and security, but not because the subject is a pleasing one. No, I am pleased because the more we debate these matters, the more we place our commitments and concerns on the record, the more likely it is that women in areas of conflict, who desperately need our voices and our support, will grow in confidence themselves and will feel stronger and more able to fight off the degradations and humiliations all too frequently suffered.

I can also express my pleasure at the work currently being done by our Government. The UK leads on the women, peace and security agenda in the UN Security Council, which is a very practical demonstration of commitment to this issue. During the period of our leadership two further Security Council resolutions have been agreed. Security Council Resolution 2106 notes that rape and other forms of sexual violence in armed conflict are war crimes and calls upon member states to comply with their obligations by investigating and prosecuting those who are subject to their jurisdiction who are responsible for such crimes. Further, the resolution recognises the need for accurate information and monitoring and, importantly, calls for further deployment of women protection advisers. A second resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 2122, unanimously agreed in October 2013, looks at the UN’s own responsibilities by, for example, strengthening the Security Council’s commitment to deliver this agenda by ensuring UN departments provide effective reporting and increase women’s participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes. It also reiterates the Security Council’s decision to hold a high-level review of UNSCR 1325 in 2015.

I am also particularly pleased by the Government’s commitment to the elimination of rape as a weapon of war, as demonstrated by the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. In November 2013, when announcing the global PSVI summit, William Hague said:

“We intend it to be the largest summit ever staged on this issue. We want to bring the world to a point of no return, creating irreversible momentum towards ending warzone rape and sexual violence worldwide”.

These are, indeed, welcome words.

We welcome the positive moves taking place which we are all pleased about and which give us confidence on behalf of our sisters around the world. Now here comes the “but”. With any such complicated initiative with far-reaching implications, both across and between Governments, nationally and globally, there will always be room for improvement, both by better co-ordination and clearer resourcing. This is, therefore, a two-stage process with immediate and longer-term objectives. The need to focus, in the first instance, on keeping women and girls safe is absolutely understood. However, this is a problem based on power and women and girls will not be safe while they remain powerless. Plans which build on women’s involvement and participation in the decision-making processes in their neighbourhoods, regions and countries will contribute towards shifting the power away from men and towards women and will help to bring about the cultural shifts which are so badly needed.

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The national action plan and the review document published in October 2013 both recognise this argument and there is government commitment to putting women’s participation at the heart of the new national action plan. What is meant by participation? I would argue that participation must be seen in its deepest and widest sense: at local, regional and national level; in policy development around access to education, healthcare, employment, finance, et cetera; in the drafting of relevant legislation; in constitutional change and in access to democratic processes which enable women to become involved in all levels of public life. I am not always a fan of quota systems but they can kick-start a change to traditionally biased bodies and the need for the presence of women throughout society is so great that quotas would be essential. Will the Minister confirm that Her Majesty’s Government’s negotiation and mediation teams will be at least 30% female, in line with agreed best practice guidelines?

We also need to see meaningful and robust consultation with in-country women’s organisations. That way, national action plans can best be developed and implemented and progress monitored to ensure the delivery of the NAP objectives. This work must also ensure that women’s NGOs are invited to participate in official meetings, particularly when those meetings are attended by Ministers or other decision-makers, where local voices can well make the decisions taken more relevant and more easily implemented. Involvement of local women’s organisations also informs and guides priorities; changes to so-called social norms can best be led by these organisations. Continued efforts need to be made to build on the in-country workshops which so helpfully informed the 2012 national action plan review and which should set the template for the development of the 2014-17 national action plan.

Turning to the question of funding, there needs to be the political will to allocate ring-fenced resources for this particular work, and there needs to be exemplar interdepartmental co-operation to make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck. Although significant sums have been allocated to various programmes, some run by DfID, some by the FCO and others through the MoD, there have never been any dedicated or ring-fenced moneys allocated to the national action plan. This can cause uncertainty and can also lead to a less than strategic approach. For example, women, peace and security criteria have been included in Strengthening Alliances and Partnerships within the Conflict Pool as part of the Building Stability Overseas strategy but it does not ring-fence funding for thematic priorities such as women, peace and security. Also, the Conflict Pool does not have a centrally driven approach and, although local influences are invaluable, an overarching strategy must surely be key to achieving the best delivery outcomes. With this in mind, how will DfID, the MoD and the FCO be sure that posts are implementing projects and that they are aligned to the principles of the NAP?

In summary, much good work has been and is being done. I have tried to capture the need to shift our emphasis away from dealing with the results of powerlessness towards enabling women to drive the agenda by knowledge, education, participation and

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influence. We need to ensure that the funding strategy enables local decision-making which fits into the overall strategy of the national action plan and that all departments involved in this project are taking an integrated approach. Successful outcomes will change women’s lives and, in turn, will provide security to the lives of all in areas that for so long have suffered conflict and a lack of security.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, this is a rather tightly timed debate and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield has asked if he might speak in the gap. It would, therefore, be a help if all noble Lords could complete their speeches well before “6” comes up on the clock.

7.56 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, having flown overnight from a different time zone, I was rather tempted to scratch from today’s debate and I now feel a bit guilty that I did not. However, as I was just discussing with the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, in the Prince’s Chamber, these matters are so crucial that, although we seem to debate them regularly, it is important for the rest of the world to know how much we in this Chamber care and worry about our sisters across the world. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate and thank the noble Baroness for so ably introducing it.

I will start by going back to basics with a reminder of what the NAP actually is. The UK national action plan provides a framework to ensure that the provisions of UNSCR 1325 and associated resolutions are incorporated into the Government’s work on violent conflict. The creation of a new UK cross-government plan provides an opportunity to outline how UNSCR 1325 can be integrated into wider defence, diplomacy and development measures, and adopted in armed conflict and post-conflict situations. It helps the Government to identify priorities, determine responsibilities and develop measurements against which progress can be measured at the national level.

Why do we need such a plan? The horrendous impact of conflict on women around the world has long been underestimated and, in many cases, brushed under the carpet. More than half of armed conflicts reignite within a decade of peace. At the heart of this problem lie flawed peacebuilding efforts which have often excluded 50% of the affected population: women. Over the past 50 years, the nature of conflict has changed; almost all modern conflicts are intra-state, although external dynamics still influence conflict realities. This means that it is more dangerous than ever to be a civilian in today’s conflicts.

As wars shift from the battlefields to communities, civilians now suffer more than ever. In World War I, approximately 10% of all deaths were of non-combatants; in Iraq, since 2003, civilians account for around 90% of all fatalities. These changes have impacted enormously on women and modern peacebuilding and security agendas must address this challenge. As Major General Patrick Cammaert—I hope I have pronounced that correctly—former military adviser to the UN Secretary-General, famously stated:

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“It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict”.

I do not suppose I will be the only person using that quote today. It is time for the UK and the international community to recognise this and move forward to an era where women are free from impunity. The UN Security Council’s renewed determination to bring women into the centre of all efforts to resolve conflict and promote peace is to be welcomed. The goal is not merely to ensure that women have seats at the table of all conflict resolutions, but also to ensure that communities and societies as a whole can benefit from their expertise and knowledge.

I welcome and acknowledge the UK Government’s commitment to this issue, particularly the Foreign Secretary’s passion to achieve greater justice for women and girls. As he said at the launch of the “No Women, No Peace” campaign, no lasting peace can be achieved after conflict unless the needs of women are met. This means not only justice for the victims of crimes of war, but their active involvement in creating a society in which their rights are respected and their voices are heard.

In the short time available I am sure that others will speak in detail about the importance of June’s conference, where the updated NAP will be launched. I look forward to hearing from others with expertise on the subject.

Credit is also due to Ban Ki-moon for leading the way. He confirmed at the end of last year that women must be involved at every stage of efforts to reassert the rule of law and to rebuild societies through transitional justice.

“Their needs for security and justice must be addressed. Their voices must be heard. Their rights must be protected”,

he said, urging the council to deal with the full range of women’s rights violations during conflict. He is leading by example by appointing more women to senior positions throughout the UN. For the first time in history, five UN peacekeeping operations are led by women: in South Sudan, Liberia, Cyprus, Haiti and Côte d’Ivoire. He has also appointed the UN’s first woman lead mediator in a peace process: Mary Robinson, the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa.

While that is much to be welcomed, it is important to look beyond the top leadership positions. We need to examine where women are in the overall architecture of peacekeeping missions. Those in middle-ranking positions are just as critical because they are the ones who directly interact with the local populations who are directly affected by the conflicts.

I am going to cut most of the rest of this so as to give the right reverend Prelate a fair whack. I will say only that the only way to combat the dire threat to women across the world is to include them in peace processes. Without their input, no peace will ever be lasting.

8.02 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, for securing this debate. I declare an interest as vice-chair of the All-Party Group on UN Women. In doing so, I

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immediately seek an assurance from my noble friend as to whether the All-Party Group on UN Women will be involved in the London conference in June 2014.

This has been a proactive Government in pursuing this agenda. Looking back over the 14-year period, the past three have probably been the most proactive that we have seen, the credit for which must of course go to the Foreign Secretary, who has taken such a personal stand and has championed this; and to my honourable friend in the other place, the ministerial champion for tackling violence against women overseas, Lynne Featherstone.

There has been a great deal of progress. We achieved a declaration on the issue for the first time at the G8 last year. Also last year, we had an inclusion in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting communiqué. I know well how difficult it is to get the 54 countries of the Commonwealth to come to any sort of consensus, so that was really quite a remarkable achievement. Nevertheless, these fine steps along the road of progress have not necessarily been followed by much action. I will give my noble friend some evidence for this.

Of the core group of the G8 member states, a significant one, involved in ongoing conflicts in the Caucasus, is Russia, which has not adopted a national action plan. In the Commonwealth, the evidence leads to even greater pessimism. Of the 54 countries of the Commonwealth, only eight have adopted national action plans to date. Three were among the old Commonwealth—Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom—so I think that one would expect that. However, the five remaining nations, of the new Commonwealth—Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda—which signed up to these norms represent a counsel of despair. We know well that countries of the new Commonwealth, predominantly in Africa and south Asia, have very poor records of violence against women. Yes, we have come far but we still have a long way to go.

Particularly instructive about the absence of sign-up to national action plans is south Asia, as a region. Of the five countries in south Asia, four—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka—have persistent, ongoing and long conflicts, yet not a single one of them has signed up to their commitments in this regard. Moreover, not a single country in the Middle East or north African region has signed up: not one Arab state is represented in the list of 43 countries that have developed national action plans. We might have made some progress, but we have done so within what I would describe as the “usual suspects”, rather than among those where the need is greatest. Looking at the extent of conflict in the Middle East now, our failure to achieve any progress there is significant. I ask my noble friend whether Her Majesty’s Government will now—having got this far, through its leverage as a UN Security Council member, its role in funding UN Women as extensively as it does and having such a fantastic Conflict Pool—contemplate some form of conditionality in the aid and assistance they give to some of these countries, to pressure and leverage them to move forward and to prioritise action against violence against women.

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Finally, I turn to the role of civil society and cross-learning, upon which both the UN Secretary-General in his report and, indeed, we, have put quite a lot of emphasis. It is not clear to me how much of our funding supports cross-learning. As an example, I draw the House’s attention to a Zambian programme supported by Oxfam, called “I Care About Her”. The programme is an illustration of where they have given up on trying to educate men through the conventional methodologies—the church, educational programmes, leaflets and so on—and have decided to educate men in a rather different way: by asking them which women were important in their lives. The answer came back quite clearly that men in Zambia considered mothers, sisters and daughters to be the important women in their lives, not their wives. The greater extent of the violence against women was against wives. The re-education focused on showing that the women who were the subjects of violence were somebody else’s mother, daughter or sister. It has been a hugely successful programme, and Oxfam should be commended for it. I hope my noble friend will be able to tell us if they are funding cross-learning of that sort from one country to another.

In conclusion, I very much welcome this new United Kingdom national action plan which is to be developed and implemented through 2014 to 2017. While achieving a great deal across our own Whitehall departmental functions, the UK should also use its lead to influence, to cajole and, if necessary, to push this issue across other parts of the world. That will be the demonstration of its leadership.

8.08 pm

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, for securing this debate. I know that she has a long history of support for UN Security Council Resolution 1325. I am glad that in this debate we have the opportunity to highlight the important issues while Her Majesty’s Government are in the process of developing the next UK national action plan. I declare my interests as the chair of the advisory board of GAPS and a member of the steering board of the Foreign Secretary’s PSVI initiative.

The UK is a world leader in setting the women, peace and security agenda and played a crucial role in ensuring that UNSCR 1325 ever came into being. This resolution addresses both the impact of conflict on women, and the vital role that women do and should play in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and sustainable peace. This includes women’s role in preventing conflict, preventing violence against women, protection of women, and women’s social, economic and political participation. The new UK NAP provides a key opportunity for the UK to commit to an ambitious plan to take this forward.

Women’s participation in peace processes is a key element of UNSCR 1325, yet almost 14 years after its adoption there is still little progress in this area. Over the past 25 years only one in 40 peace signatories has been a woman, and only 12 out of 585 peace accords have referred to women’s needs. Therefore, I pay enormous tribute to our Foreign Secretary for speaking out so

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strongly about including Syrian women at the Geneva II peace process and his groundbreaking work through the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative that is making a huge impact with leaders around the world.

The next two years are key for women, peace and security both domestically and internationally, with the preventing sexual violence summit in June, the NATO summit in September, international drawdown of NATO troops from Afghanistan, the post-2015 framework, and the 15th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325 in October 2015. This new NAP gives an excellent opportunity for Her Majesty’s Government to consolidate and bring their women, peace and security agenda under one framework, maximising opportunities to ensure that women are at the heart of conflict prevention, peacebuilding and recovery.

Domestically, government co-ordination is central to enable the UK to meet its international women, peace and security commitments. To guarantee consistency of policy, the Government need a more joined-up approach to ensuring that all departmental policies and initiatives stem from the NAP, including policies relating to violence against women and girls, the PSVI and DfID’s call to action on violence against women and girls in emergencies.

Stronger mechanisms to mainstream gender and women, peace and security internally within departments need to be established, and gender training needs to be mandatory for some jobs in the UK and overseas. The Ministry of Defence has not yet developed distinct policies and training in line with UN Resolution 1325, and when the UK trains other national armed forces, all training should include women, peace and security. The PSVI summit in June will provide a good opportunity for the MoD to announce developments in this area, and for it to display its commitment to the women, peace and security agenda and preventing sexual violence on a global stage. At a country level, commitments to women, peace and security need to be reflected in FCO country business plans and DfID operational plans, and those commitments should be outlined in the new NAP.

As has already been mentioned, there is concern that the NAP has no dedicated funding. Neither do the Government currently use any systems to monitor their funding on this. For example, we know that the UK has women, peace and security programmes in many conflict-affected countries but we do not know how the UK prioritises this in its funding, and the use of the OECD gender marker would enable this.

As has already been mentioned, in-country consultation through talking to women and girls at grass roots is essential to ensure that the UK’s NAP and women, peace and security priorities reflect the needs of women and girls in conflict-affected and fragile environments. The new NAP should contain a plan for ongoing consultations in its focus countries. Most importantly, the NAP should acknowledge the role of local women’s rights organisations in prevention of conflict and violence against women, and their contribution to peacebuilding. Thus the NAP should commit to ensuring women’s civil society organisations have access to necessary funding including for campaigning and advocacy. This

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will transform their role and status so that they can fully participate in their community and national peacebuilding.

Monitoring and evaluation of the NAP is also important and the new NAP indicators should demonstrate impact, rather than just output, to enable identification of where its programming, systems and policies are effective, and where changes are required. The annual NAP report to Parliament is key and I hope that my noble friend the Minister can confirm that this will continue under the new NAP.

I am pleased to understand that Afghanistan remains a focus country, as women’s rights there was one of the reasons for our engagement, and we must not allow the gains that have been made for women there to roll back. The NAP provides an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate commitment to women’s rights in Afghanistan and support to Afghan women who so desperately need it. It is also essential that women from Afghanistan are included in the NATO summit in September so that their views are heard and that security for women in Afghanistan is not forgotten as NATO withdraws.

In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on all that they are doing on the women, peace and security agenda. This NAP is an excellent opportunity to push forward this work and to demonstrate the UK’s strong commitment, through funding programmes and ways of working, to ensure women truly are at the heart of conflict prevention, peacebuilding and recovery.

8.14 pm

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, there is actually currently no dedicated funding for the NAP. The UN Secretary-General has called for 15% of peacebuilding funding to be allocated to women, peace and security. However, when the NAP was discussed in the other place, the Minister, Mark Simmonds, refused to make such a commitment, saying that the Government do not want to be restricted to any percentage amount. In view of this, will the Minister tell the House how we can be confident that women, peace and security is integrated into all funding in conflict-affected countries, and how funding is likely to be monitored, such as through a gender marker? Further, could we have clarification on whether the conflict, stability and security fund will include a focus on women, peace and security? Can we have an assurance that women’s protection and participation and the prevention of violence against women and girls will ensure that women, peace and security is a priority for the fund?

On leadership and participation, UN Resolution 1325 makes it very clear that there must be women’s participation and leadership in domestic and international peace, security and justice issues. The facts are, however, that since 2010 only one in five ambassadors has been a woman; there has been very little representation of women in leadership positions in the Armed Forces and MoD; and there are no women as chairs or deputy chairs of the Cabinet committee. Against that rather discouraging background, how does the Minister consider that in the new NAP the issue of women’s

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leadership in the UK will be addressed? In addition, how will we fulfil commitments made to UN Resolution 1325? Women’s participation must feature as a priority across diplomatic, military and development policy and programmes, and must include women at grass-roots level. We need an assurance that this approach will be rigorously pursued.

We need to know what has been done to incorporate women, peace and security and UN Resolution 1325 into the MoD. It seems to me that specific and dedicated women, peace and security doctrine, including training for armed forces and staff, should be incorporated into training of other national forces. I hope that we will, this evening, have a reassurance that this will be a commitment under the new NAP.

On co-ordination, I remain concerned that we need, under the new NAP, to see all the WPS initiatives, including DfID’s various activities and the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, brought together under a broader women, peace and security agenda rather than being distinct policies led by different government departments. It would surely also be an improvement if the precise roles of the violence against women and girls champion, Lynne Featherstone in DfID, and the FCO lead on the NAP, Mark Simmonds MP, were to be included in the NAP, including the funding attached to each post. This would surely improve co-ordination between departments and bring some much-needed coherence to the process.

Addressing the root causes of violence against women and girls obviously has to be an essential element of efforts to build peace and stability. Is not it essential now to focus on those root causes—namely, gender inequality and discriminatory social norms?

I remain concerned about the murder and abuse of Afghan women human rights defenders and seek an assurance from the Minister that the recent high-profile killings are being raised forcefully with the authorities and that these brave women are being protected. In March last year, the DfID Secretary of State made violence against women and girls in Afghanistan a strategic priority. As we know, since then, things have become considerably worse for Afghan women and their rights. Eleven months after the statement, the Secretary of State is yet to announce what this priority will look like and how it compares with the financial commitment made to the other two strategic priorities for Afghanistan. Can the Minister therefore confirm that violence against women and girls will be a strategic priority in the new DfID operational plan for Afghanistan from 2015 and that women will be properly consulted in the development of the strategic priority?

As Syria is likely to be a focus in the next NAP period, can the Minister tell us how Syrian women’s future participation in the design, implementation and programming will be managed, prioritised and made more meaningful? It is surely time that the role of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and recovery is recognised, and is not the new NAP an opportunity to do exactly that?

8.19 pm

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on introducing this debate, looking forward as it does to the publication of

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the new action plan. Of course, I am very pleased that the UK is leading on this issue, but I want to widen the debate a little. We talk constantly of the empowerment of women, which is a very noble debate, but empowerment is hindered by two main factors. The power of men, of course, is the number one factor and very important. I remember in South Sudan years ago being asked to talk to the women of a certain area about their problems and possible ways of engaging them in decision-making. It took me all morning to persuade the men that we did not want them present at the discussions. A compromise was eventually reached in the end and the men encircled us, but at a distance where I thought that if we talked quietly they would not hear our conversation. I hope the women did not get beaten that evening, but they probably did.

The other factor holding women back is our own physiology. Women cannot be empowered if they have too many children and too much work to do. They have not the time to sit on councils and engage in decision-making at any level. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, I must impress on Ministers over and again that the most useful intervention that we can make to empower women is to ensure that family planning supplies are available to control their fertility voluntarily. Some 220 million women are still without access to contraceptive supplies, with 250,000 women dying in childbirth and millions more suffering chronic ill heath and injury as a result of there being no healthcare when their babies are born. There is no empowerment for them or for the women raped in conflict with no access to emergency contraception or safe abortion in conflict situations, even though humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions decree that it should be available. No empowerment either for the girls who leave education at puberty to be married and start having babies far too early for their immature bodies. Empowerment is but a dream. Therefore, engagement in any of these decision-making processes is impossible.

Look at our own history. Our less well-off grandmothers took little part in society or decision-making, even if they had accessed higher education, because of the burdens of unplanned pregnancies. Contraception freely available will also help to prevent overpopulation and diminishing resources, especially water. There is more and more evidence showing this. This is another and major cause of conflict—the battle for scarce resources. Too many youths in particular, with little hope of jobs, are fighting for scanty food and water, which means more conflict, more suffering for women and less chance of their empowerment.

This Government have made huge progress in reproductive health rights, maternal health, family planning and safe abortion provision, in particular, in the past three years, and I thank them and commend them for that. But I am concerned about this action plan, and I hope that, when it is published, it will keep up this momentum and acknowledge the importance of these issues if we are ever to give women a share in decision-making and contribute to peace and security in future.

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8.23 pm

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, on securing this debate. I reassure noble Lords that I am not speaking simply to bring a modicum of gender balance to the Chamber.

Many years ago now, when we were living in the East Midlands, my wife was a volunteer at a women’s refuge. She was scrupulous in maintaining confidentiality about those who used the refuge. None the less, on occasion, she would return home shocked and distressed at the violence that women had experienced, even here in our own country. It was a phenomenon that did not relate to just one stratum of society.

More widely, my own experience internationally as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s International Secretary in the 1990s and, more recently, with the international links that I have nurtured since being a diocesan bishop, I have been appalled by many of the stories of violence and abuse of women across the world. From widespread genital mutilation in Ethiopia to violence against women employed in gold-mining ventures by unscrupulous individuals in Tanzania, the stories continued to be manifold. Also included was violence against women in the terrible civil war at the end of the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia.

The churches have played a key part in addressing all these horrors, particularly the issue of genital mutilation. In the continuing conflicts in both the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, each tells its own horrific tale.

I was fortunate enough to secure a debate in this Chamber last March on just this subject. In that debate I paid tribute to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for his very important initiative on sexual violence in conflict, which has already been mentioned on a number of occasions. As we all know, the first National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security finished last year. Noble Lords have already heard, most notably from the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, of the patchiness of plans across different nations on women, peace and security. As plans advance for the next stage of the national action plan, I ask Her Majesty's Government: will they conduct in-country consultations with civil society organisations, including faith leaders and churches, in each of the priority countries, before the development of the next UK national action plan?

8.26 pm

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Prosser on this debate and, indeed, all the speakers across the House, who, as usual, spoke with passion and expertise about this subject. I also thank Womankind and the Library for the excellent briefings they produced.

Hardly a week goes by without reports of the effect of conflict on women and children, whether it is in Syria, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. As this debate reflects and as all the speakers have said, the world faces dealing with the normalisation of rape and sexual violence in conflict and, too, the disproportionate

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impact the conflict is having on women and children. Yet the irony is that women always offer the best hope for building lasting peace in any conflict situation.

Women’s voices should be heard not only because they are the victims of war; their active participation in peace efforts is essential, because they are the most effective peacebuilders. As men take up arms, women hold communities together in times of war. That makes them stronger and better equipped to play a key role in securing real peace. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, said, Ban Ki-moon is to be congratulated on his recognition of the importance of women. As my noble friend Lady Kinnock pointed out, the importance of women is at all levels.

Peacebuilding involves not just political leaders, but all of civil society, including women. I think we would all agree that without their full support and participation, no peace agreement can succeed in the long run. We know from our own experience that women leaders can often be successful in what seem to be intractable situations; we can point to the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, in Europe and Iran.

The three-year review is very important indeed. I intend to spend most of the rest of my time listing questions that were in the briefings that we have been given and which have not necessarily been mentioned by other participants in the debate.

The right reverend Prelate was quite right in his question about the importance of consultation with civil society organisations. I, too, seek reassurance about that and on whether the Government are incorporating commitments to ongoing engagement and consultation with civil society organisations, particularly those to do with women’s rights, into the UK NAP to monitor and review its implementation and impact.

On capacity, co-ordination and consistency, will the Government seek a more joined-up reporting approach by departments in the new NAP? How will the Government ensure that desk officers, posts, country offices and the military use the new UK NAP content as guiding principles of their work? Will the new UK NAP link women, peace and security into the wider conflict and human rights work undertaken by the Government? Will there be commitments in the new NAP on how the UK will implement women, peace and security principles within its own security and justice systems, including the police and the military?

The MoD has already been mentioned by other speakers. Will it train UK forces on gender and incorporate WPS in efforts on security sector reform? Will the MoD appoint a gender adviser to take forward its work on WPS? Will it ensure that it includes WPS components when it trains other military organisations?

How will the Government measure the impact of their participation work? How will they work with and support local women’s rights organisations to support their capacity and participation? How will the Government ensure that women make up at least 30% of all negotiation and mediation teams in line with best practice guidelines? Finally, will the UK develop a roster of women whom it can nominate for peace negotiations?

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8.31 pm

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, for securing this important debate and for her tireless work in this area. I thank her and other speakers for the tributes they paid to the Government on the work that has been done, and note the comments about progress that is yet to come.

The noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, is right to say that the powerlessness of women is at the root of this problem, which is why the education of women, ensuring that they are independent, have bank accounts and participate at all levels of society is key. As she said that, I found myself thinking about groups that I met in India over the past few days. I could see that DfID’s support for women and girls was transformational, but also how far we have to go. It is in the light of this that we need to assess what is happening in terms of women, peace and security.

We firmly share the view so powerfully expressed in this debate that women must be at the heart of peace and security. They are central to efforts to prevent violent conflict overseas and to build strong societies yet too often, as speakers have said, women and girls are excluded from peace processes and continue to be especially vulnerable to violence, with dreadful consequences.

The UN estimates that at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetime. Although women and children represent 90% of casualties of conflict, only 8% of participants in peace negotiations have been women. Of nearly 600 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2010, only 16% contained references to women. Looking more widely, women are too often marginalised in society generally. For example, they account for only 21% of parliamentarians globally, and would not be at that level but for quotas.

There is international consensus on what needs to be done. The UN Security Council set this out in 2000, in its Resolution 1325, and in the six resolutions since mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser. The council called for action under four pillars: women’s participation in building peace; preventing conflict and preventing violence against women and girls; protecting them; and making them central to the provision of humanitarian relief and a society’s recovery from conflict.

The UK can be pleased with how far we have come across government to put women and girls at the centre of policy. As my noble friend Lady Jenkin mentioned, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is leading an international effort to shatter a culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict, building global momentum and taking practical action on the ground, including deploying experts to help in countries ranging from the DRC to Syria, and from Bosnia to Mali. The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, to which noble Lords referred, will take place in June, and 140 countries, international organisations and members of civil society will come together to discuss and agree what more we can do to

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tackle these terrible crimes. I will take back my noble friend Lady Falkner’s suggestion about the All-Party Group on UN Women.

My noble friend Lady Falkner flagged up those countries that do not have national action plans. I assure her that we are working bilaterally with such countries on security and justice reform, preventing violence against women and girls, empowerment, and tackling violence against women and girls in humanitarian settings. We are certainly encouraging those various countries to take that forward.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, mentioned Syrian women’s participation, and she will have noted that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has been urging that women are included in the discussions on Syria’s future, and we will continue to do so.

The Department for International Development, as many noble Lords will know, works very hard to try to prevent violence against women and girls. Its strategic vision for girls and women promotes women and girls’ health and rights, and their access to economic resources and education—very much building upon the ideas that the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, outlined. It builds women’s political and civil participation and puts women’s and girls’ needs at the centre of our humanitarian response. It makes the policy arguments, including at the UN Commission on the Status of Women and in the debate about what follows the 2015 millennium development goals. Noble Lords will know that the United Kingdom is pushing hard for a stand-alone goal on gender. My honourable friend Lynne Featherstone is the Government’s champion on tackling violence against women and girls, and has led groundbreaking work in this area, including on tackling FGM.

A number of noble Lords mentioned the Ministry of Defence. Its goals cover personnel, training and operations, as noble Lords will know. It regularly reviews the employability of women in the Armed Forces and aims to ensure that gender is understood in all that the MoD does. The noble Baronesses, Lady Kinnock and Lady Thornton, flagged up this area in particular. The MoD constantly reviews training and includes sexual violence scenarios in pre-deployment. Operational planning for new theatres will take into consideration tackling sexual violence. NATO has carried out a lot of work towards integrating UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and gender perspectives into its command structure. This is a template that the Ministry of Defence can apply. We are also looking at the example set by Canada in terms of training overseas, and are seeking to see whether that can be brought into the way in which we do things through the Ministry of Defence. In terms of senior leadership, which the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, mentioned, we have, according to this note here, two female air vice-marshals in the Ministry of Defence, so we are making some progress but are acutely aware of the challenges that the MoD faces. I am sure that her comments will be taken note of.

Action at home is equally important, whether through the Home Office’s work to end violence against women and girls or the Government’s agenda to see women play a greater role in public life. We want women to

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represent half of new public appointees by the end of this Parliament, and we have reached a figure of 45%.

The noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, raised the subject of quotas and whether negotiation and mediation teams will be at least 30% female. The Government are reluctant to set a specific figure on women’s representation, but we are pushing hard to improve numbers. I am sure that this will be kept under review.

The UN Security Council calls for member states to deliver on all four pillars through national action plans. The UK adopted its first such plan in 2006 and we will soon, as noble Lords mentioned, launch our third plan, for the next three years. My noble friend Lady Hodgson is right that this needs to be strategic and joined up across government for it to have its best effect. I read with enormous interest the independent review of the previous national action plan, which makes this point very clearly.

The challenge for the next plan is to bring together all the work that we do—we recognise that—and to ensure that we deliver both globally and on the ground and test our plans against what those in this field are saying to us. We will bring under one framework our work on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, the strategic vision for girls and women and the call to action on protecting women in emergencies, as well as our work at the UN Security Council and at the Commission on the Status of Women. I hope that this reassures noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, that that is the approach that we are taking. My noble friend Lady Hodgson asked about the review of the national action plan and whether it will continue to be reviewed annually and reported to Parliament. We will continue to report annually on this, as well as to hold frequent meetings about it.

We are also learning from what appears to be working. DfID has a fund of, I think, £25 million—I do not have the exact figure in front of me—which is a research and innovation fund. My noble friend Lady Falkner asked about what we were learning; that fund is seeking to analyse what works and, therefore, what should be taken forward further. We are seeking to bring all this together; I think that that is vital. We will deliver multilaterally, through the United Nations, NATO and the European Union and now also in partnership with the African Union. We will put in place stringent monitoring and evaluation to assess the impact and outcomes of our actions and to capture the changes that our national action plan will make for girls and women on the ground. We will integrate women, peace and security issues into the work of the new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. I hope that that reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock.

I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, that there will be central guidance from the fund on women, peace and security, although our conclusion is that a ring-fenced allocation would in fact encourage programme designers to take a compartmentalised approach to women. We think that it is extremely important, as that review indicates, to look at this strategically and make sure that it runs right through all the various programmes, but I understand people’s concern and the necessity to make sure that is does indeed run though every programme.

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We will also be consulting both in the UK and on the ground and we take very seriously the Associate Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security and Gender Action for Peace and Security. They were instrumental in delivering a successful workshop at our embassy in Kabul in December and will remain invaluable as we plan and carry out more workshops before April. We continue to be very engaged as far as the position of women in Afghanistan is concerned.

As we prepare to adopt and implement a new national action plan, we can be proud of what we have achieved but we recognise that we have much more to do and that we need impact that helps to shift general attitudes in society, protects women and girls and secures a better place for them in delivering peace and security. What lies behind all this, as noble Lords have made clear, is gender inequality. They are right that addressing this is fundamental to ensuring that women and girls are at the heart of all that we do, everywhere and in everything.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, we began this debate by having 62 minutes for a 60-minute debate, including the intervention in the gap. Thanks to the immense self-discipline of speakers—in particular, that of the opposition final speaker—we have now ended with three minutes to spare. Therefore, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.47 pm.

8.44 pm

Sitting suspended.