First, if I were a Scot, I would immediately say, “Don’t you think I know these consequences? Do you think I am so stupid, that I am your country cousin that you need to be telling me all this? This is what you have been doing for all these 300 years. We have resented your patronising, condescending attitude, and that is precisely at work here”. Secondly, the Scots might feel that we are bullying them or blackmailing them and not allowing them freedom of choice. Thirdly, and more importantly, we are confronting them with a stark choice: if you want to be Scottish, you cannot be British. If you want to be British, you cannot be Scottish. That is not at all what we want. I therefore suggest that, rather than use the politics of intimidation, we should be adopting a twofold approach.

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First, we should invoke common history, common ties and ties of affection that have been built up over the years and show the Scots that they have every reason to be proud of their history and the kind of liberal democracy they have achieved precisely because they have been part of the UK. They would not have achieved what they have achieved, of which they are rightly proud, without being an integral part of the UK. In other words, the source of their Scottish pride lies in Britain, not in Scotland. We need to appeal to shared history and shared ties of affection. Secondly, we should also make it clear that the choice is not simply between things as they are and separation, and that, as my noble friend Lord Judd and others have said, we are prepared to discuss greater devolution of power, although the word “devolution” sounds rather patronising—so perhaps greater decentralisation of power. If we thought in those terms, we might be able to win the Scots over.

7.02 pm

Baroness Humphreys (LD): My Lords, in my short contribution to this debate on the gracious Speech, I intend to make a few comments on the Wales Bill and some matters relating to Wales. The Wales Bill, which has completed its passage through the other place, will give the National Assembly some powers over taxation, establish a five-year term for Welsh Assembly Governments, allow for dual candidacy in future elections and put an end to double jobbing where successful parliamentary candidates continue to hold on to their Assembly seats. I look forward to the debates on those issues.

It is now 15 years since the National Assembly for Wales came into being and the end of May marked the 15th anniversary of the Queen opening our Assembly. The Minister—my noble friend Lady Randerson—and I share a birthday with the official opening of the Assembly, and I remember very well the birthday celebrations over breakfast that day. We were not, of course, celebrating only the opening of the Assembly; we were celebrating the fact that the National Assembly had actually come into existence and we were among its first members. For those of us who in the 1980s and 1990s were committed to devolution, it was the dream becoming a reality. Liberals and Liberal Democrats have long believed in home rule, and it is ironic that this long-standing Liberal policy was enacted by a Labour Government but, I would argue, it was delivered by a coalition of parties for the yes campaign in Wales. The abiding, iconic image of the devolution quest for most Welsh people is not the image of Her Majesty opening the National Assembly, although that is valued and admired; it is, rather, an image from two years earlier of the Welsh party leaders, including the late Lord Livsey and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who were part of the yes campaign, with arms aloft in celebration after Ron Davies’s simple, historic words, “Good morning—and it is a very good morning in Wales”. Those of us who stayed awake the previous night through the tension of the referendum count, who bemoaned the losses and cheered the gains, will never forget the sheer joy of the last result from Carmarthenshire: the referendum had been won.

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Now, 15 years later, this week has seen the BBC in Wales mark the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Assembly with a series of programmes looking at a different aspect of devolution each day. The inevitable question put to all Welsh politicians is, “Have your dreams for the Assembly been realised?”. To answer that question one has to begin by being charitable. The National Assembly for Wales is only 15 years old; in terms of the age of other democratic institutions all over the world, it is a mere child. The reserved powers model granted to Scotland was not granted to Wales. The Assembly was given an arbitrary number of members—60 members is fewer members than in a great many unitary authorities in Wales and presents problems in terms of scrutiny of measures emanating from its current powers. Estimates suggest that the application of the Barnett formula has deprived Wales of £300 million every year.

Devolution has certainly given the Welsh Assembly Government the freedom to make their own decisions and to do things differently, but herein lies the challenge. The challenge is to follow a different path but to be as successful as, or even better than, one’s neighbours. Doing things differently means that the Welsh Government’s record in key areas is disappointing. On the economy, Wales continues to lag behind, with the lowest GDP per head in the UK, at 74% of the UK average, down from 84% in 2007. In education, where we compete not only against our neighbours but against the world, Wales has slipped down the PISA rankings. Wales’s NHS continues to miss its own targets on waiting times.

My response to the BBC’s question has been that the dream has been tempered significantly by reality, but that new reality fires a new ambition to ensure more effective government for the people of Wales.

7.07 pm

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I wish to focus on the plight of women suffering from sexual violence in war, as this is particularly timely, given the global summit which has already been mentioned by noble Lords, and is a much needed initiative. My small NGO, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, takes us to places, often off the radar screen of major aid organisations and international media, where women are routinely subjected to such violence and where Governments allow it to continue with impunity. I shall give two examples: Burma and Sudan.

All is not well in the beautiful land of Burma. Despite some welcome reforms, the Burmese Government are continuing brutal policies of repression against the Muslim Rohingya people and the Burmese army has been continuing military offensives against ethnic nationals, with frequent violations of ceasefires in Shan and Kachin states and associated atrocities, including the use of rape and sexual slavery as weapons of war. As one story can portray horror more powerfully than a hundred statistics, I shall give an example: when our small team from HART was across the border in Kachin state, we came across a deserted village. The local people explained why the villagers had fled. There was a Burmese army camp on the mountain above the village. One day, a group of soldiers attacked

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villagers working in the paddy fields below and abducted a woman. She was tied to a stake in the camp, in full view of the villagers below, she disappeared at frequent intervals over the next few days and eventually disappeared for ever. One can only imagine the horrors inflicted on her or the anguish of her husband, parents and children having to watch her endure her fate.

Therefore, while we welcome the recent signing by the Burmese Government of the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, one cannot help but wonder a little whether the timing of the signing, on the eve of the global summit, was designed to maximise positive publicity for the Burmese Government. I understand that a delegation of women from Burma is attending the summit to highlight the ongoing use of sexual violence by the Burmese army. I therefore ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government will urge the Burmese Government to make essential commitments—to be implemented within a timeframe of, say, six months—to end impunity and to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account; to support an independent investigation involving international expertise; to amend the 2008 constitution that condones sexual violence by guaranteeing impunity for sexual crimes; and to provide support for international civil society organisations, including women’s organisations such as the Women’s League of Burma, for their work in documenting cases of rape and providing support for victims of sexual violence.

Secondly, like my noble friend Lord Alton, I return to Sudan, where the Government of Khartoum are continuing genocidal policies against their own people in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Although these currently consist primarily of aerial bombardment of civilians in the Nuba mountains and Blue Nile—which has cynically escalated since the tragic outburst of conflict in South Sudan has attracted international attention—rape has been consistently used on a massive scale in Darfur, perpetrated by the Rapid Support Forces, formerly known as the Janjaweed. While the Government in Khartoum used to claim they had no connection to the Janjaweed, now they embrace the Rapid Support Forces, who are accountable to the National Intelligence and Security Service. Under the Sudanese constitution, the NISS is supposed to gather and analyse data, not run a paramilitary force. Rape as used in Darfur—as a weapon of war—is therefore clearly a regime policy.

I therefore ask the Minister what particular representations have been made to the Government of Sudan to call perpetrators, including the army, to account in order to ensure the cessation of violence against girls and women, and whether there has been any consideration of the provision of treatment, aftercare and support for such victims. Further, given the hard-line Islamist ideology of the Government of Sudan, a woman who tries to make a complaint related to rape is constrained by certain forms of Sharia law whereby she has to provide four independent male witnesses, and she herself may be charged with adultery, thereby becoming vulnerable to death by stoning.

I conclude by asking the Minister what steps are being taken to ensure that the full reality of all situations in all countries relevant this evening, including those

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in Burma and Sudan, will come under consideration, and what substantive measures will be taken to help women trapped in countries with obdurate Governments and armies still perpetrating sexual violence with impunity.

7.12 pm

Baroness Quin (Lab): My Lords, unsurprisingly, even given the wide-ranging nature of the debate, the approaching referendum in Scotland has occupied a prominent place in it—quite rightly so, since it is by far the most important and imminent issue facing the United Kingdom. That importance is increasingly borne out in headlines as we approach the last 100 days of the campaign, with headlines such as, “100 days left to save the union”, and dramatic questions being asked, such as, “Is this the end of the union jack?”, and so forth. All this reminds those of us who are passionate about the union, wherever we live, of the imminence of the vote in Scotland and the vital importance of that vote to our future.

The gracious Speech says that the Government will make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. I very much welcome that commitment. I applaud the fact that the Government have already issued some useful publications to make the case, such as the booklet Scotland in the United Kingdom, which contains both useful information and powerful points in favour of the union. However, it is clear that the Government, in making the case, must recognise sensitivities. I was struck by Gordon Brown’s article in the Guardian yesterday, particularly his comment that,

“instead of using the language of threats and ultimatums”—

about the threat to Scotland’s shipyards and the orders on which they rely—

“a far better pro-union argument is to praise the unique contribution of Scottish defence workers and to support Scots who argue for pooling resources for our mutual defence”.

I strongly agree with him that it is essential to make the case positively in this way.

Recognising sensitivities is important, particularly when London-based Ministers visit Scotland and make statements there. As a north-easterner, I have an instinctive empathy with people in Scotland in this respect. In the north-east we have certainly experienced over the years a catalogue of disastrous ministerial visits. Long ago, when I was very young, I remember the late Lord Hailsham coming to the north-east and sporting a flat cap. Unfortunately—despite the fact, I am sure, that this was well intentioned—it came over as the action of a toff with a patronising and stereotyped view of northerners.

Another Conservative luminary, whom I will be kind enough not to name, came a few years ago to the constituency that I then represented in the House of Commons. Because he was in the north-east he obviously thought that it would be a good idea to praise Newcastle United. He started doing this, saw that his audience looked a little bit glum and wrongly drew the conclusion that perhaps he was not praising Newcastle United effusively enough—not realising that, in that particular part of the north-east, probably 80% of the people supported Sunderland. I could give many other tragicomic examples, but of course the difference this time is simply how important the issue is, and that such

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insensitivity in Scotland at the moment would be particularly unwelcome if it in any way jeopardised the chances of a strong no vote in the referendum.

It is important to stress the positive, as my noble friend Lord Reid did so cleverly in his take on the “Monty Python” sketch, and in the comments that were subsequently made by my noble friends Lady Liddell of Coatdyke and Lord McFall. I agree with them, too, that while emphasising the positive, we cannot simply ignore some of the big issues to which separation could give rise: economic turbulence, currency uncertainties, uncertainties over EU membership and many other aspects. I know that when these issues are raised, very often the pro-independence supporters claim that this is “Project Fear”—my noble friend Lord Parekh referred to this—and is designed simply to scare voters into voting no. Actually, fear is not restricted to voters in Scotland; it is very much shared by people on both sides of the border. So it should not be seen as trying to scare Scottish voters but simply as dealing with some of the important issues that we have to face.

In his speech in January, the Minister—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace—mentioned the position of many cross-border workers: some 30,000 cross the border in both directions each day, and up to 100,000 have longer commutes, such as former Tyneside shipyard workers who now work on oil rigs in Scotland. I know that many cross-border businesses and the people who work in them are concerned about how complicated and disturbed their lives would be if they were coping with two separate countries with separate administrations and financial systems instead of one United Kingdom.

In conclusion, I simply wish the no campaign every success in its efforts to maintain our United Kingdom and to keep, not break, the strong ties that bind us together, whether they be economic ties, defence and security ties, or ties of social justice, family links and human solidarity, which have characterised the union of which we have been part for more than 300 years.

7.18 pm

Lord Loomba (LD): My Lords, I welcome the gracious Speech. This year, without much fanfare, Bill Cash MP introduced a fundamentally important Private Member’s Bill. As noble Lords will recall, the International Development (Gender Equality) Bill received such unanimous support that it sailed through both Houses without any problem and received Royal Assent in March. It alters the very nature of the law that governs the UK’s aid decisions.

We put at the very heart of the International Development Act 2002 the necessity of the Secretary of State to direct funds with the aim of reducing inequality between men and women. It also forced the Government to cast a critical eye over the aid we give as a country, and to consider whether we are doing all that we can do to work towards MDG 3.

The UK can be a little smug about some of the millennium development goals, but there is no cause for self-congratulation just yet. Goal 3—to promote gender equality and empower women—will never be reached if we ignore the specific economic challenges faced by one group of women in particular. Noble

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Lords will not be surprised to hear that I am talking about widows. Every time I get to my feet in this House, noble Lords may think, “There he is, talking about widows again”. However, just a few weeks ago the British Army lost five men in a disastrous helicopter crash in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Three of those men left wives behind, but do we stop to think what that means? It is impossible to imagine how devastated their widows must feel.

I declare my interest as a founder and chairman trustee of the Loomba Foundation. We all know by now that there are more than 245 million widows around the world, with 500 million children. Through no fault of their own, many of them face many challenges such as discrimination and physical, psychological and sexual abuse. The question is: is Britain doing its bit to end these practices, empower widows and ensure that they and their children are treated as full members of society, or does our Department for International Development prefer to ignore the millions who are voiceless in order to tiptoe around cultural sensitivities?

As a country we spend more than £150 million in India—2% of DfID’s current budget. One of the four goals for DfID in India is to improve the lives of more than 10 million poor women and girls. Yet, among the 6,500 words the Government use to outline their operational plan in India, the word “widow” does not appear once. The current plan for UK aid to India finishes in 2015, after which our contribution will fall to just £29 million by 2016-17. However, even as we give less to India financially, we can give more intelligently.

First, we need to name the problem. Discrimination against widows and their children is real, so why do we not mention it? The UK is outspoken about the need to empower Dalit girls, but widows and their children in every state and social class can be seen as just as untouchable and as easy victims. Secondly, we need to continue to work with the Indian Government and partner groups to empower women and girls, and to improve gender equality. Cruelty towards widows is embedded in a culture that says that when a woman loses her husband, she has no real life any more. That is cultural suttee, and it can happen only when women’s inferiority is taken for granted.

Thirdly, we need to ensure that DfID leads the way in showing other nations that widowhood means an extra layer of difficulty through which many women and girls have to fight. As we move towards the next round of MDGs, and since UN Women has designated 23 June as International Widows’ Day, I ask the Department for International Development to work closely with UN Women to include the plight of widows in the post-MDG framework.

7.24 pm

Lord Cromwell (CB): My Lords, I left this House in 1999 along with a number of others, as I am sure noble Lords will recall. I am very honoured to have been invited back as the result of a Cross-Bench by-election. As I am on my second innings, I will let the cricketers among noble Lords decide whether I am now doing a maiden, a second maiden, or whether is just a question of “maiden over”;—I am not quite sure myself. Either

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way, I am very grateful to have this chance to contribute, as far as I can, to the debate today.

I have listened to the whole debate and have heard a range of views on Ukraine and Russia, which is the subject I will address. I declare an interest as a director of the British East-West Centre, which provided the UK contingent of election monitors for the recent elections in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine are economically and strategically important to us for reasons which I do not have time or probably the necessity to go into with this audience. The events of the past few months seem to have brought their relationships with “the West”—the revival of that cold war term is telling in itself—to a new low.

Ukraine became an independent state in 1991. Russia retains definite strategic, economic and other interests there. The West has tried to draw Ukraine ever closer to political involvement with Europe, and the population of more than 45 million have their own interests, loyalties and history. Recent events suggest that the West, either by misadventure or deliberately, got itself into a tug-of-war with Russia over Ukraine. Each side—and they became sides—offered multi-billion dollar bids for the country, gave come-hither promises, and accused each other of covert interference. It is very unwise to get into a tug-of-war with somebody who is likely to pull out a gun.

As the tension escalated between the EU and Russia, two things happened. First, Russia simply annexed Crimea militarily. That completely illegal action has been rightly condemned, but it is of little surprise to anyone who knows the historical or strategic background to that relationship. President Putin’s subsequent swaggering contrasted sharply with western battle fatigue. I was reminded very much of that old playground cry, “Oh yeah? You and whose army?”. As a number of speakers have mentioned, that has not gone unnoticed in areas of the world such as the South China Sea. Earlier a noble Lord suggested that economic sanctions were the way to go. They are one of the tools in the box, but do we wish to economically destabilise a country that should be one of the guarantors of peace in Europe?

Secondly, Donetsk and Luhansk, the two eastern regions of the country, have descended effectively into warlordism. Beyond the reach of the proper authorities, roadblocks in and out of towns there are manned by well armed but ill trained men. Torture and disappearances are not uncommon. The new president, Mr Poroshenko, lost no time in declaring that the Crimea and eastern Ukraine would be, to use his phrase, “recovered”. The response from the separatists in those regions has been fairly dismissive. However, as we sit here tonight, firefights and shelling are going on, and large numbers of those soon to become refugees are beginning to pour out of the region. Are we facing a civil war? Possibly. Will Ukraine have a war with Russia? That is unlikely. My concern, however, is that this is a mess created by external actors which the new Administration in Ukraine will have to try to sort out.

I emphatically do not suggest that NATO should have escalated matters into a military conflict, nor that Russia’s actions are defensible, if understandable. I

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have worked for more than 20 years with that region, and a robust approach is usually the way to conduct negotiations. However, my overall concern is how we got into this situation in the first place.

The depth and subtlety of understanding that is found in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office consistently impresses me. However, it seems to have been brushed aside by our partners in their enthusiasm to grab hold of the western end of the rope and tug.

In conclusion, in seeking stable relations with Russia and Ukraine, we really must do all that we can to help and guide our western partners into a more nuanced recognition that mutual interest is what will solve this problem, not indulging in cold war rivalry, which will find a very ready echo in Moscow.

7.30 pm

Lord Balfe (Con): My Lords, my remarks are addressed first to the current controversy surrounding the next President of the EU Commission, and secondly to our perceptions of, and relations with, our MEPs whom we have just sent to Brussels. I should declare an interest for those who do not remember it: I was an MEP for 25 years, and I still hold one or two appointments in Brussels—of an honorary nature, let me say.

I remind noble Lords that the legal position under the Lisbon treaty is that the European Parliament must give a positive endorsement to the incoming President. That is an important starting point because we should note that the three major groups in the European Parliament—namely, the largest, the centre-right European People’s Party; the centre-left social democrats known as the PES; and the Liberals—represent 62% of the votes and indeed of the seats in the European Parliament. In other words, you cannot get a President through the Parliament without the support of those groups.

The candidates for the presidency were not chosen in some backroom way; all three major parties had conventions of their European party to choose the three candidates. I regret to say that the Conservatives chose to marginalise themselves, first by leaving the EPP and secondly by setting up their own group, called the European Conservative and Reformist Group, whose contribution to the debate was not to choose any candidate for President at all. I suppose they can say that they are not committed, but that is about as far as it goes. It would not be so bad but I am afraid that Labour stood on the sidelines of the PES and has conspicuously failed to endorse Martin Schulz, the PES candidate for President. Both those candidates were picked at party congresses, not in smoke-filled rooms. I must give credit to the Liberals; they played a full part in choosing Guy Verhofstadt as the Liberal choice. Indeed, according to the latest rumours he may well become the next President of the European Parliament.

We have a candidate in play, chosen by the party that won the most seats. I have met Jean-Claude Juncker on a number of occasions. He is a skilled negotiator, has been an extremely good chair of the euro group and excels in what is known as quiet diplomacy. I would have thought that those were very useful attributes. I have also met the other person who

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seems to be mentioned at the moment, Christine Lagarde, strongly pushed by some and, let me say, a most formidable candidate of enormous ability and clear vision. If it is the wish of Her Majesty’s Government to move away from a natural conciliator such as Jean-Claude Juncker to a figure more akin to Jacques Delors, then Christine Lagarde is the candidate for them to back. But please do not come to any conclusion that somehow out there is a marvellous candidate who is going to endorse the position of the British Government, which, I regret to say, both major parties have pushed so far out of the mainstream of parliamentary politics that it is sad—that is the only thing that I can say about it.

Lastly on this subject, I remind the House that Jean-Luc Dehaene was the candidate in 1994. The British Government moved heaven and earth to get him removed. We ended up with Jacques Santer, who led the only Commission that has been forced to resign. We could well end up in the same position here. I say to the Government: “Be careful what you wish for”.

My second point is about MEPs. I am astonished at how little attention we pay to them. When I was an MEP, you used to be able to get a pass to come in here; you were not necessarily very welcome but you could get through the door. I asked this week what the arrangements now were and I have been given the current guidance, which says:

“Security staff in the House of Commons have been instructed not to grant access to UK MEPs unless they are accompanied—throughout their visit—by a passholder who is entitled to escort guests”.

They can get a pass for this end of the Building, but in fact we have moved backwards. I say to this House: if you keep on kicking the dog and telling it that it is horrible, do not be surprised if some people agree. I put this to both major parties: it is time for us to look very carefully at the way in which we relate to the European Union, to stop being so negative and to start to settle down and ask how we can build a constructive relationship that will deliver what Britain needs. We are on a loser and we need to change.

7.35 pm

Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab): My Lords, the gracious Speech did not refer to Egypt, but when a group of us from this House visited there earlier this year, Egyptians, knowing that their country had been mismanaged for some time, asked us for our help. They face huge problems with education and healthcare, the large numbers of unemployed causing unrest, the need to retrain people for technical jobs, an acute shortage of energy that is limiting industrial expansion and their reliance on imported basic foods, wheat, sugar and oil to expand their agriculture.

Since that visit, we have established an active All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt, and the Egyptians that we met there have worked hard, through Samir Takla, a devoted Egyptian expat here, to arrange for 20 of us, from both Houses and all parties, to go again to Egypt this coming weekend. The Mohammed Farid Kamis Foundation, which built the British University in Egypt, has arranged for us to meet the Prime Minister, the Foreign and Interior Ministers, the Grand Mufti, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, His Holiness the

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Coptic Pope, Mohamed Fayek, the chairman of the National Council for Civil Rights and people from all sides in the parliamentary elections, and we will be accompanied by the British ambassador to Egypt, James Watt.

In view of our country’s historical relations with Egypt, its strategic location and its influence in the Middle East, Egypt must be a priority for our help. I am told that in Syria, following the collapse and descent into chaos of that country, we have allocated £600 million for humanitarian aid for those affected. If we aid the new Egyptian Parliament, as soon as it is in place, to act decisively, responsibly, transparently and mindfully, we could perhaps, with the use of tens of millions of pounds, help it to turn that country around. The Minister offered this “smarter aid” in her opening remarks for good governance and the rule of law.

We in your Lordships’ House have a part to play too. Egyptians asked for the experienced parliamentarians of our APPG to be part of a process to facilitate with them a continuing national dialogue. We are already in discussions with them on their need for religious freedoms, civil liberties, women’s rights, the rule of law and equality in their economy, but they want us, immediately their Parliament is formed, to help them to begin to mobilise all available energies within Egypt by creating what we have now termed the Middle East Centre for Civic Involvement, MECCI, which would be used to identify issues, find solutions and prioritise them for the people. We would do this using the facilities in their great international universities where the faculty would involve their wider academia, the students would link to youth, and experts from the UK could act as facilitators.

Within Egypt’s 94 million people, there are many groupings that have their own hopes, fears, grievances and aspirations—Copts, Nubians, the youth, women’s groups, health professionals and educators. MECCI would establish within Egypt a robust process of sensitive, patient long-term dialogue with short-term feedback, and would facilitate listening to each and every group and help to translate their frustrations and fears into pragmatic slates of requests. At the same time, we would offer the parliamentarians and local devolved authorities tools to find solutions and prioritise these. There would be continuous feedback to the people on plans, actions taken and progress. I would like to make it clear that this new Middle East Centre for Civic Involvement would be a tool for parliamentarians and the people to communicate with each other, and would be closely affiliated to our All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt.

Today I am asking noble Lords to help us to help Egypt to gain the governance that it seeks, and for Her Majesty’s Government to support this work whereby Britain could help to facilitate wider reform and stability of the whole region. Over time, with the experience that we gain in Egypt, MECCI will begin to link with other individual countries in the region. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al-Jaber’s MBI Foundation has generously this month provided ample funding for a scoping exercise for MECCI. Sheikh Mohamed has been promoting better education and governance across the

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region for over 20 years. His generosity now has allowed us to spend time interviewing consultants familiar with the situation who have successfully dealt with similar conditions elsewhere. Together we will plan out how MECCI might work in practical terms, what it would cost to set up, and how it can be funded sustainably.

We have consulted on all this with the Egyptian ambassador here in the UK, its Minister for Foreign Affairs, its team who put together the constitution, and all the people we met on our first visit. They all realise that they are taking on a huge task to restore Egypt to its former glory. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will see that if we do not succeed in helping Egypt to rule with the will of its people, it could become another Syria. There are forces afoot within Egypt and in other countries that would actually like Egypt to follow Syria and for mayhem to ensue. We need to support Egyptians through this dialogue to help to remove the causes of conflict, instability and extremism; to promote national unity and thus restore peace; and to re-establish their tourist industry and regain the confidence of foreign investors through the respect for the rule of law. Were Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and others in the Maghreb to find their feet in these next years and begin to work and trade together, they could serve as a light to the nations that surround them, which could be the beginning of a Middle East and north Africa that contributes greatly to the world’s economy, ecology, art, science, medicine and culture.

In closing, having kept the Foreign Office and DfID informed on all this since we returned, I ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government are prepared to offer a positive message of support for MECCI that we 20 parliamentarians can take to the people of Egypt and their parliamentarians this weekend.

7.41 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, what a privilege it is to share in this debate and to hear so many outstanding contributions. I would even use the word “awesome” to describe some of them. One feels, as a little Welsh lad from the hills, that it is a tremendous honour to be able to do this—and I am sure that I am not the only person to feel that. This House and the House of Commons over the years have done so much and been so wonderful in the lives of people. From the time of the Magna Carta through Wilberforce, to expanding the franchise and to recent legislation, we have moved from serfdom to citizenship—a tremendous move.

Individuals have benefited and are benefiting from the rights that we acquire and also from our obligations as citizens. Of course, we need to continue this so that each person in the UK has a sense of belonging and ownership. We must seek to make it possible for every individual to achieve his or her potential and become what they might be. We need a wide educational system, teachers who both inspire and enable and are themselves encouraged and recognised, so that from the early years youngsters grow up with the knowledge of our society and a desire to be part of it.

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The Private Member’s Bill that I introduced yesterday is to encourage voter registration, especially among young people. At present, 6.2 million people in the UK aged between 16 and 24 are able to register to vote. How I hope that becoming a part of society and community will be highly valued not only in the UK but also in Europe itself, and that people will want to be part of the communities to which they belong. That Bill is going ahead. I referred to those 6.2 million people being able to register, but only 55% are registered and, of those, only 24% are certain to vote. We have a big job to do to make people feel that this is their country, that they have the last word and that they can themselves influence a policy.

We have the problem mentioned already this afternoon of how we relate citizenship to newcomers to the United Kingdom. That demands our attention, and not only as individual political parties. I am sure that the question could be tackled better together. We should find some way to work together in a positive way, as members of all parties and no parties, to bring about the relationship that we require—or rather, that we would desire, in the United Kingdom. Nowadays we are allowing a spirit of hostility to enter our existence and talk and so on, which will destroy our centuries-old record as a people who have welcomed those who are different from ourselves. There is nothing easier than a populist message; it is easily done, but it is so destructive in so many words and so many ways. When the Huguenots fled from France they were welcomed here. The Jewish people in 1937, 1938 and 1939 were welcomed to these shores as they fled the evil of Nazism. Folk from the Caribbean came here and supported our health service and transport service; they have contributed so much to us as a culture. Kenyan Asians came—and then we had the locals, as you might call them, from Ireland and Scotland, and even dairy farmers from Wales. About 40 years ago, I am told, there were 3,600 Welsh dairies in London. We came and were welcomed, and you could not do without us.

Every community that comes here contributes so richly to our wide culture. I would like the Minister to give me an assurance that nothing will be done to make it more difficult for us to be the beneficiaries of this wider culture, so that we can live together in a harmony that the rest of the world will envy.

7.46 pm

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, in a defence debate it is a tradition to start with a tribute to those who have fallen in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and I open my remarks today with a tribute to aid workers, who have also died on active service, working on the front line in Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and many other areas of conflict. Aid workers in Africa and Asia are now targeted as if they were a fighting force. They will not, generally, be remembered, except of course by their families and colleagues.

I would like briefly to mention my concerns about Ukraine. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, has already mentioned EU Sub-Committee C’s timely inquiry, and I know many Peers today share his concerns and those of the noble Lord, Lord King. My own suspicion,

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already much better expressed by my noble friend Lord Cromwell, is that the EU has overreached itself and has not taken sufficient account of the historical ties between Russia and some of its neighbours, notably Georgia and Ukraine.

Conflict seems to be on the increase, especially in Africa and the Middle East, partly because the media, notably Al-Jazeera, have brought conflict much closer to us. Victims of conflict are added to the high toll of poverty, which is the biggest killer of all. Countries such as Somalia and South Sudan have already low levels of literacy and health, which keep them on the lowest rungs of the ladder; civil war has almost thrown them off the ladder altogether. It seems to outsiders that whole swathes of Africa are now out of bounds to aid workers, yet the staff of the ICRC or United Nations agencies such as the UNHCR risk their lives in regions like Upper Nile and Darfur, and in many areas there is no authority except for local militias which often aggravate the conflict. But there are many areas where peaceful development is a real possibility. Even South Sudan has vast stretches of fertile land; minerals are another source of wealth. Investors and agencies have a common purpose in bringing prosperity to the poorest developing countries, but their frustration often stems from the lack of information, which means knowing the level and scale of poverty.

It is difficult to count the numbers in need. Because of the variations between and within countries, it is nearly impossible to set standards or calculate how many people live in extreme poverty. It is no wonder that the World Bank has had trouble with its poverty statistics. The $1 a day calculation was a handy way of describing the millennium development goals. It enabled the UN to proclaim that the number of extreme poor in the world, which had long remained at around 800 million, had been halved—and so it had, until the $1 a day was updated to $1.25, when the numbers accordingly went back up by 400 million. With the help of the Overseas Development Institute, I have been trying to learn how economists reach these calculations. They do it on the basis of household surveys that take account of purchasing power parity through something called the International Comparison Programme, which is carried out every six years. The latest survey showed that consumption in China and parts of Asia was growing much faster than previously thought. For some economists, this meant that poverty again fell dramatically, from 20% to about 9% of the world population. Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution did a different calculation, raising the poverty level to $1.55 and basing its results on the 15 poorest countries. Again it came up with an extreme poverty figure of 870 million. The end result is that the poor, in the biblical sense, remain with us just as before; and the UN says that a billion people could still be extremely poor by 2030.

The one thing that has been agreed is that we can no longer base our statistics crudely on GNP per capita, which has been so convenient in the past. We must now take account of social factors such as employment, access to education and so on, and these are extremely difficult to assess and compare. Can the Minister say what our Government’s policy is on data collection for the new millennium goals? Is this a

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priority for DfID? Can he confirm that the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda recommended that the new targets be tailored to different income and social groups? This will surely mean that a concerted effort must be made to assess the numbers in each group. This is a herculean task in about 40 of the poorest countries that still lack the necessary data and means of collecting the information. Nevertheless, the work has to be done if we are going to have confidence in achieving these goals in years to come.

7.52 pm

Lord Risby (Con): My Lords, the competence and quality of advice given by Foreign Office officials are fundamental to the judgment calls that Ministers subsequently have to make. Therefore, high morale and a sense of being valued and appreciated are obviously important. It would be fair to say that the accretion of foreign affairs control and activity into Downing Street, which had taken place over the years, did not improve either morale or the quality of judgments on issues abroad.

However, the central importance of our Foreign Office is now felt to have been restored in large measure, to our national benefit. Today, new strategic or commercial opportunities have arisen and have been recognised, and extra staff deployed accordingly. This has happened, for example, in Latin America, China—particularly outside Beijing—Turkey and east Asia. A new language training centre is most welcome, now that it has been established. Similarly, we should note the close co-operation that now exists between UKTI and the FCO. A huge export effort is now underway, and more export finance is available, particularly to smaller and medium-sized businesses. There are 16 trade envoys appointed by the Prime Minister, covering 30 markets. They come from both Houses and are cross-party. I cover Algeria, and I should like your Lordships to know the support that all of us have received from UKTI in our respective roles. I have been superbly guided and encouraged by our diplomatic staff in Algiers, and all of us can provide similar reports.

I should like to mention two countries in particular. Ukraine continues to dominate headlines. For a number of years, I have been chairman of the British Ukrainian Society, met many of the politicians and got to know the country well. Since its independence and subsequently the Orange Revolution, it would be fair to say that the level of governance in Ukraine has been poor, and that prime ministers and presidents have left office extremely rich—at times in a grotesque way. All this has either stunted or bled the exchequer. In November, Ukraine was due to sign an EU association agreement, linked into a deep and comprehensive free-trade accord. However, no money was available from the EU. So, at the last moment, President Yanukovych turned to Russia. The rest, regrettably, is history. No country can divorce itself from its geography, and Ukraine remains heavily dependent on Russia for its exports and energy provision, however unpalatable. It is therefore welcome that contact between President Poroshenko and President Putin has been made. The EU association agreement, however, needs to be signed, and conditionality will then be imposed. That should lead to vital judicial and commercial reform. I very much hope that we will

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get assurance from the Minister that our Government will encourage the Ukrainians to go down this route, which is so necessary. If nothing else, the actions of Russia in Crimea and the provocations in eastern Ukraine make it crucial that dependence on Russian energy supplies, used as an arm of foreign policy, is reduced.

There is one country, a major energy provider of oil and gas, with which we have quietly developed a remarkable relationship—Algeria. Historically, our links have been minimal but, following the visit of our Prime Minister there in January last year, our bilateral ties have developed at every level, including as a reliable energy supplier, and particularly in the area of security. Given the porous border of that country, this is a huge aspect on which we are giving our encouragement and support. Latterly, we have seen our business with Algeria soaring, not only in respect of energy but in areas such as health, education, satellite technology and agriculture. Considering its geographical location, Algeria’s social and political stability has been remarkable. Algeria’s Government are spending extensively on its physical infrastructure, health and education; and the desire to learn and be trained in the English language is limitless. We are addressing this. Algeria would like to become an associate member of the Commonwealth; it is not a member of the Francophonie. Algeria exemplifies what I am trying to say this evening and what I was referring to earlier—finding fresh business opportunities and political contact, and forming a much closer, multifaceted, overall relationship with a country with which our traditional links have not been great. It is now a partnership that is mutually valued and strong.

There is much greater functional coherence in our often new relationships in many parts of the world, and I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those who are driving this process on.

7.58 pm

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, the hotchpotch of issues that this debate has thrown together bears little relationship to the content of the legislative programme, and the same goes for most speeches so far. I therefore thought that I would start by referring to at least one piece of legislation that I approve of and is actually in the programme. It will need strengthening, but I strongly support, and congratulate the Government on bringing forward, the Modern Slavery Bill. That Bill and the topics that it deals with have a number of dimensions. They clearly include the appalling sex trade and the trafficking of women and children in particular. As my noble friend Lord Collins mentioned and as the Guardian highlighted this morning, the Bill also deals with the trafficking of workers. I will seek to ensure that those aspects are strengthened as the Bill goes through this House.

The second thing that I should like to say—which I was not expecting to say—to the Government and my own Front Bench is that I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, in terms of the need for this country to have much more positive engagement with the institutions of the European Union. Whatever we

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may think, it is necessary to take that on board. The referenda are already dominating this debate in some ways. I hope and believe that the Scots will vote to stay in the United Kingdom, and I hope that if we have to vote in a referendum on Europe we vote accordingly to stay within the EU. I hope the case for both is put rather more positively than it sometimes is. However, even if Scotland votes no and even if we vote to stay in Europe, the very process of those campaigns will change the nature of our politics and the nature of our democracy.

In particular, it is clear that there will be more devolution to Scotland following a no vote. We have before us a Bill for more devolution to the Welsh Government, which I support, including on taxation. In Northern Ireland there are calls for more devolution on taxation as well, particularly corporate taxation, for obvious reasons in relation to competition from the Republic. In many respects we are becoming, and have become, an asymmetrical federal state. That has implications for our constitution. It has implications for this House, which I will not go into today, but we will have our chance to debate that in a few days’ time. The issue I wish to focus on is that that raises the issues of subsidiarity and devolution within England. I should declare my interest as a vice-president of the LGA, although I am not speaking for it here.

Some may ask, “What subsidiarity in England?”. In essence, outside of Greater London there is no devolution of substance in England any more. We argue for subsidiarity but, despite the supposed intentions of the Localism Act, less is devolved to local authorities than 10 years ago, and a huge amount less than 40 years ago. Successive Governments have taken more and more powers away from local authorities. They allow them fewer and fewer resources, give them less and less discretion and have taken away whole chunks of responsibilities, such as housing, education, the ability to set their own budgets and to raise their own resources.

Local authorities are simply becoming delivery mechanisms for the central state. That is politically counterproductive. We clearly recognise in Scotland and Wales the distance and resentment towards Westminster-dominated decisions. We need to recognise that the same instincts apply in Newcastle, Norwich, Cumberland and Cornwall. I am not in any sense arguing for an English Parliament—I do not think that is the right outcome—nor am I suggesting that we should go back to the construct of the rather artificial English regions and make them a political entity. However, we do have to think again about how power is devolved in England. I am quite attracted to the idea of city regions, but I am probably more likely to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, who said at the beginning of this debate that we need a whole constitutional commission to look at these issues. That needs to start as soon as possible.

I have two other quick points. First, I have a small note of dissent on Ukraine. I hold absolutely no brief for Putin and his strategy, but I query the precipitation of this crisis and the alacrity with which the West—all of us—accepted the legitimacy of a street-based coup to depose, effectively, an elected Government. That

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came not that long after virtually the same thing had happened in Egypt to an elected president. I hold no brief for the Muslim Brotherhood, nor for the previous corrupt Ukrainian Government, but I ask policymakers to think how this looks in the eyes of the Arab world and the citizens of the former Soviet Union in terms of the legitimacy and reality of the West’s commitment to democracy.

My last point is on the culture and DCMS brief. A year ago there was one DCMS issue that probably should never have been a DCMS issue but dominated our discussion in this House: what we were doing post Leveson. That seems to have disappeared from view; I have not heard any speech on it today. The Government and Parliament have retreated. We have been foisted with a partial, industry-based quasi-regulator that is probably no better—in some ways it may be worse—than the one we had before. The issue of regulation of press behaviour has obscured the central issue here, which is plurality of ownership of the media. We have retreated definitely from that so that it is out of sight, yet your Lordships’ House has a committee that has done a very good report on that area. I do not agree with all of it, but we need to return to this issue. True democracy needs diversity of opinion; that means plurality of ownership. Some time—not too far in the distance, I hope—politicians will grasp that issue and do something about it, but evidently not this Government and not this Queen’s Speech.

8.04 pm

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, I am delighted that the gracious Speech highlighted the Government’s commitment to continue building a stronger economy and a fairer society, especially for our children. The inclusion of the Modern Slavery Bill, the extension of free childcare for more disadvantaged two year-olds and the Serious Crime Bill, which will tackle child neglect, are all welcome news. I look forward to debating those issues, as they will dramatically affect out children. However, I was slightly disappointed not to have heard anything about the creative industries, as this is an area that also affects our children and young people’s well-being.

First, I congratulate the Government on the bold initiatives they have already taken to help our creative industries. Because of tax credits, Britain has become a magnet for international film, television and animation productions. The introduction of tax credits for the theatre was also welcome news. However, there are still major issues that need to be addressed. Two of them are very close to my heart.

The first is the representation of our diverse society in the media, especially in film and television, both on screen and, most importantly, behind the camera and in the boardrooms where, at present, a person of colour is a very rare sight. During awards ceremonies there is virtually no diverse representation in the production teams receiving awards, which is always so disheartening. This lack of diversity in the media is an issue I have tackled for the past 40 years, and although great strides have been made during that time, more desperately needs to be done for the sake of our young people, who need to see themselves reflected positively in our society and be given role models to aspire to.

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I am pleased to say that the honourable Ed Vaizey, who I have been working with, is making exciting progress by gathering interested parties from across the creative industries to find a permanent and inclusive way forward. We must not fail. We must seize this opportunity to make a lasting difference, because major British successes, like “12 Years a Slave” and the soon to be released “Belle” demonstrate the untapped talent we have in this country. Opportunities need to be accessible for this success to continue.

The National Film and Television School, which trains the next generation of film makers, is holding a Striving for Diversity Nirvana gala, which I chair, so I declare an interest. Its aim is not only to celebrate the UK’s diverse talent but to provide a career path for those from diverse backgrounds to learn creative skills. This is all good news, but as I said before, more needs to be done to reassure young people who feel alienated by the lack of inclusion. Perhaps the Government can tell the House what more is being done to ensure that we have positive outcomes on diversity in the creative industries.

The second issue I wish to address is the need for more investment in children’s television programming—and again I declare an interest. Pact, the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, is leading a campaign to introduce a tax credit for children’s live-action television. The Government’s investment in media tax credits has demonstrated a healthy rate of return in both domestic investment and overseas interest in co-productions. Why not open up these opportunities to the makers of children’s productions by introducing a tax credit, not just for animation but for children’s live-action television as well: entertainment, documentaries, factual and current affairs, but most of all dramas?

The Children’s Media Foundation also believes that a tax incentive will stimulate commissioning of more uniquely British programming and encourage international collaboration. This is so important, because, in the past 10 years, we have seen a significant decline in the number and range of quality programmes produced for children in this country. Ofcom’s statistics are simply shocking: only 1% of newly made programmes are made in Britain. That is not good enough, and it matters. If our children are to feel part of the society in which they live, they need to see themselves represented on screen, to help them understand their world. So they need to be engaged by programmes, websites and apps of relevance. If this tax incentive can stimulate ITV to start commissioning children’s programmes again and encourage the international giants, Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, which all want to increase locally produced UK-relevant programmes, this can only add to the variety of programmes that speak to our children.

The BBC is the dominant and sole remaining buyer of children’s content, so a tax credit would address the current market failure in PSB children’s programming. For a modest investment, the UK could support a sector that often struggles fully to finance programmes. It would also support a sector that acts as an incubator for on-screen and off-screen talent, providing valuable training and skills development. The economic and financial case is very strong. More production would

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take place in the UK; more studios would be used here; more technical and production staff would be employed; more British talent could write, compose and perform; and programmes would have more export potential through international and format sales. This is a win-win situation from every angle because the cultural case is also overwhelming. A tax credit would secure relevant British programming for a generation of children to come. We can all gaze back at our favourite children’s programme through the square window. A tax credit would ensure that there was less cultural invasion.

There is much concern about the media that our children consume. We worry about the influence of the internet, games, television and advertising, and about other sinister influences on our children. However, so often we do little to support what is good, relevant, challenging, stimulating and meaningful for them. Why is that? A society is judged by how it treats its children and what it provides for them. Therefore, will the Government consider putting measures in place to bring about a tax credit for children’s television productions? This tax credit is essential. It is desperately needed for our children and our young people’s well-being and it should be put in place now, during this Parliament, as a gift for our children.

8.12 pm

Baroness O'Loan (CB): My Lords, Her Majesty stated in the gracious Speech:

“My Government will continue to work with the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland to … promote reconciliation and create a shared future”.

The devolved Administration are not succeeding in their attempts. It was disappointing that, having travelled so far towards resolution of matters relating to the past, to parades and to flags, politicians were unable to reach agreement at the Haas talks. It is to be hoped that the Government will give every encouragement and assistance to those involved in the further talks, which are starting now.

Our security situation and our peace remain fragile, and that is of importance to the United Kingdom as a whole. During the year 2013-14, there was one death, 54 shooting incidents, 69 bombing incidents, 28 paramilitary shooting casualties and 42 paramilitary-style assault casualties, and 10 firearms and 23 kilograms of explosives were seized. Thirty-two people were charged under the Terrorism Act.

Critical to the security of the peace process and our shared future are the institutions established under the Good Friday agreement. They form part of a complex structure which underpins the growing acceptance of the rule of law and constitutional process. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is one such institution. It is facing major budget cuts, which will reduce its income to the level that it was at 13 years ago, when it was established. Responsibility for the Human Rights Commission remains here, not in Northern Ireland, and today the Joint Committee on Human Rights wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland expressing concern at the situation. If the cuts go ahead, there is a very real fear that the NIHRC will

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not be able to comply with the Paris principles. Its category A status will be put in jeopardy and, because of that, the category A status of the British Equality and Human Rights Commission will also be jeopardised. What we have achieved in human rights terms gives us the moral authority to speak on the international stage on such matters. If category A status is lost, the UK’s standing internationally will be harmed.

Many people wish that the past would go away; it will not do so. At present, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the other place is inquiring about the Government’s “on the run” scheme, under which comfort letters were provided through Sinn Fein to various people who had reason to believe that they might be under investigation by the state. The revelation of the OTR scheme has caused outrage, not least because, as your Lordships know, a man was freed by the Old Bailey in March this year, having been charged with the Hyde Park bombing, because he had received one of these letters.

Another issue which is causing significant concern and which has the capacity to undermine attempts to build a shared future relates to matters falling within the grey area between justice, which is devolved, and national security, which is not devolved. National security, as your Lordships know, does not have a specific definition. The problem is that it can be used, sometimes without justification, as a reason for refusal to allow access to material required by those charged with investigating what has happened in the past.

There are serious problems with our inquest system. While justice is devolved and security is not, it is the UK which has a duty to provide timely Article 2-compliant inquests. That is not happening. Inquests for people who died at the hands of paramilitaries and of the state, and which were opened soon after the deaths, were adjourned because coroners could get neither the necessary information nor the resources. In a letter, which has been made public, dated May 2014 to the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland from the coroner service, it was stated:

“It should be viewed as an enormous … embarrassment to the State that these Inquests have not been held”.

Some of these cases are decades old. In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights awarded damages to one family who were still awaiting an inquest after the shooting of their son in 1992. The damages were small—£10,000. Thirteen years later, the High Court in Belfast has awarded the same family £7,500 for frustration. Again, they are small damages but the costs of such actions are enormous, and the embarrassment to the Government for failing to provide a proper inquest system is high. This money could have been used to improve the coronial system. Further damages claims are now inevitable.

In January this year, the findings of an inquest into a police shooting 20 years ago were quashed on a variety of grounds. In delivering his judgment, the judge found the PSNI responsible for a delay of up to 11 years in holding the hearing. At present, the coroner is trying to conduct inquests into cases which were investigated by John Stalker and Colin Sampson. He opened the inquests again in 2007 and asked for access to the reports. In 2010 he got some access to redacted

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reports, but access to the full files has remained very difficult. In 2010 he also asked for an investigator to assist the process—a perfectly normal request. This has not been granted.

Over four years, only 50% of the Stalker/Sampson material has been examined and made available to the coroner. The process of redaction is being carried out by former RUC/PSNI Special Branch officers. Some of these former officers have been identified as having served with or known 92 of the potential inquest witnesses. In the May 2014 letter, the coroner stated that the present attitude of the PSNI to classification of the material is driving up costs, not reducing them.

A few years ago, Her Majesty’s Coroner was allowed to go into a police station and look at the secret material. He could make notes on it but could not take them out of the police station. Now, he is allowed to send in junior counsel. Junior counsel can record notes on a laptop, which is provided, but junior counsel is not permitted, except in very limited circumstances, to take that laptop away. Junior counsel, who is security-cleared, then has to brief senior counsel, who is not and not working full-time on the job. The consequence is that junior counsel cannot tell senior counsel what junior counsel has found out, yet senior counsel has to advise the coroner.

There are two obvious consequences to that situation. One is that the gatekeepers to access to this material are people who have a possible conflict of interest. I say no more. The other is that the whole process is so slow that at this rate it is not even possible to contemplate when the inquests might begin. As the state is seen to fail repeatedly in the discharge of its obligations under the law, the process of growing trust in the rule of law is inevitably damaged.

There are things that the Government can do to address these issues—they are not complex. I acknowledge and defend the need to protect national security. The concept can, however, be used as a barrier to due process rather than a shield from threats against the state. I acknowledge that much resource has been made available to Northern Ireland, but the reality is that Northern Ireland is carrying a burden which England, Scotland and Wales do not. It is the burden of the legacy of the Troubles. It requires both resources and courage to face the extent to which wrong things were done.

Government have a significant responsibility to ensure that the coronial system is fit for purpose and resourced to succeed. Failure to do so will end up only in our being back in the European court. There is an enormous funding deficit in this area. Government have recently submitted to the Committee of Ministers plans for a legacy inquest unit and a cross-agency group on delay, but there is little detail on what is being proposed and it is far from clear whether it will address the enormous problems and endemic delay currently in the system. I therefore ask the Government to deal with these very real problems and, by so doing, to give real assistance to those currently trying to sustain and consolidate the peace process and to build a shared future.

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8.20 pm

Lord Pendry (Lab): My Lords, the gracious Speech has already had a good airing of the measures it contains in this House and in the other place. With the indulgence of this House, I should like to raise an issue that was not specifically contained in it. One of the most acute problems facing our society now and in the longer term is obesity and the lack of facilities to combat it. One area for progress, but by no means the only one, would be for more emphasis to be placed on the need for more sporting and recreational facilities, especially for the youngsters in our society. The British Medical Association estimates that half the population of England alone will be obese by 2050. Currently in the UK, one-third of children are overweight or obese, which underlines the need for improved facilities.

The gracious Speech referred to the Government’s infrastructure agenda. I understand that this measure is intended to be wide-ranging and, therefore, is relevant to my proposals. Numerous experts have argued that smaller infrastructure projects are vital in addition to those listed in the gracious Speech. For example, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors points out that,

“infrastructure projects don’t need to be big to be effective in creating growth … a small amount of capital investment would quickly deliver great benefits”.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research produced a report that evidenced the major positive impact to the UK economy that investing in our local sports infrastructure has in terms of jobs and growth, aside from the obvious health and regeneration benefits.

Crucially, a massive number of these sports facility projects right across the country are “shovel-ready”. In other words, we would not have to wait, say, 10 or 20 years to see the economic and social benefits of this investment, as we would for large-scale infrastructure projects. Many of these projects would be ready to commence in months if given the capital. Some schemes are currently in existence. I declare an interest as president of the Football Foundation, which is well known to Members of this House as the largest sports charity in the UK. It brings together the FA, the Premier League, the Government and Sport England to help rebuild the country’s dilapidated grassroots facilities.

I would like to refer to some facts that have only this week come to my attention from a report relating to the problems of grassroots facilities. The report states that,

“the relatively poor facilities encountered by players outside of school environment are an important factor in the fall-off in participation … a major difficulty for many clubs in relation to training is to find suitable areas for use in the dark winter months”.

I refer to those quotes because they were not from a report published this week, last week, last month or even last year but from a report written 42 years ago and submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Sport and Leisure. This report was unearthed by Glenn Moore, football editor of the Independent, for which I am grateful.

However, the future is not all doom and gloom, despite the absence of successive Governments to

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tackle the need for action in a positive way. As illustrated in that report of 42 years ago, floodlights are critical to illuminate playing services during dark winter evenings. Since 2000, when the Football Foundation was founded, together with its partners it has contributed £500 million to the grassroots game but the scale of the problem for our country’s 40,000 playing pitches will take many years to tackle.

The foundation research shows that there is an average increase in football participation of 10% when facilities have been upgraded by investment and an increase of 12% in other sports such as cricket, rugby and netball. The recent England Commission report by Greg Dyke, the chairman of the Football Association, highlights the pressing need for grassroots facilities. He points out that in this country, and in the regions in particular, no play takes place on the pitches of this country for many months of the winter. I hope that Greg Dyke’s policies are approved.

I am sure that I carry everyone here when I say that we will be cheering on Roy Hodgson’s England team when it plays Italy on Saturday on its way to winning the World Cup in Brazil.

8.26 pm

Lord Stephen (LD): My Lords, I would like to build on some of the excellent speeches from earlier in this debate as regards Scotland, including in particular the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, and an especially powerful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan. The issue of Scottish independence is currently the biggest challenge facing our nation. The potential consequences not only for Scotland but, as has been pointed out, for the rest of the UK are profound.

Everyone in the UK, particularly those in Scotland aged 16 and over who get the opportunity to vote in this referendum, carries a significant responsibility on their shoulders for this and for future generations. It is not only about getting the decision right, although that is vital, it is also about the tone of the debate and the potential impact of the outcome for the whole of the United Kingdom

Put starkly, this could be the final Queen’s speech before Scotland becomes an independent country or, in contrast, it could be the start of a different kind of change in the United Kingdom with a stronger, more powerful Scottish Parliament with major new powers and change too across the rest of the United Kingdom, devolving powers away from this overcentralised democracy that is our current-day Westminster.

The potential for change that affects the whole of the United Kingdom was highlighted by the noble Lords, Lord Hennessy and Lord Whitty, and by many others in this debate. The all-party group on further decentralisation and devolution in the UK established by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and my noble friend Lord Purvis, is tremendously important and can influence the leadership of all the main political parties. I say that because all the main parties are now supporting substantial new powers, including major tax-raising powers, for the Scottish Parliament beyond the referendum. That is a good thing.

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I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde who often over the decades has been a political adversary for the work of his Conservative Party commission in this area, which, for the first time in my political memory and I am sure in the memories of most in this Chamber, commits the Conservative Party to radical reform in a way that home rule Liberals could only previously have dreamt of—so well done. These are issues of fundamental long-term importance to the political landscape of each of our nations and all parts of the United Kingdom. So, too, is the quality and the tone of the debate, to which I will return.

I have been telling people about the vicious, negative, so-called cybernats for many years—for more than a decade. They are not a new phenomenon. Politicians and journalists have had online attacks and smears from nationalists for years. A member of staff employed by Cabinet Secretary for Education Mike Russell was forced to quit for abusive postings exposed back in 2009. At the time, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, correctly called it the politics of vile hatred.

University principals and college heads have spoken privately to me and to others about the intimidation they have been subject to from very senior figures in the SNP Government. In my view, academic freedom has been undermined. Supporters of the Better Together campaign are now routinely online called quislings, traitors or collaborators. Today that has perhaps come to a head. The author JK Rowling, who announced a donation of £1 million to the no campaign, has been subjected to a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse by the cybernats. Much of that abuse would be inappropriate to repeat in this Chamber. A Scottish charity called, ironically, the Dignity Project tweeted at lunchtime today:

“What a #bitch after we gave her shelter in our city when she was a single mum”.

The charity has been reported to the Scottish charity regulator.

Worst of all was the attack today by the First Minister’s special adviser on the mother of a disabled child. Her crime was to speak at the no campaign’s press event on Monday. Alex Salmond’s special adviser tried to smear her, questioning whether she was a normal mum. One cybernat said of her today,

“A liar now and forever whatever the outcome of the vote, a known Quisling and collaborator”.

This woman, Clare Lally, is a carer whose daughter requires round-the-clock support for her cerebral palsy. It is worth closing by repeating Ms Lally’s words as they are important. She said:

“The comments were really bad, things about me being a mum, about me being a carer, about the work I do, the campaigning I’m involved in. Just really nasty, nasty things, very personal and very upsetting … People think this is ok behaviour, that if we don’t agree with one side then we have to be shot down, we have to be publicly ridiculed, we have to be belittled, we have to be discredited for anything that we do”.

It is not okay behaviour.

This is a defining moment for Alex Salmond, the SNP and the yes campaign. He likes to denigrate and attack the no campaign for being negative. So Mr Salmond, what have you got to say about your

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campaign and campaigners tonight? Will you speak out? When you go to the Scottish Parliament tomorrow, what will you say? Do you have the strength of character and leadership to do what is right and end these damaging, divisive, disgraceful attacks right now and for the rest of this campaign or will you stay silent? Scotland awaits the answer.

8.33 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB): My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this debate on the gracious Speech. I make no apologies that most of my remarks deal with the Middle East, an area I know well and where I served the United Nations for several years. It is my belief that security in the region from the Maghreb to the Gulf is deteriorating and many of the threats to this country emanate from that region—as other noble Lords suggested.

Three days ago, Pope Francis, in an extraordinary gesture on Sunday, invited the Israeli President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas to Rome, where they participated in prayers in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. It was a bold gesture but also a poignant one. It was, after all, more than 20 years ago in 1994 that these two men—90 year-old Shimon Peres and 80 year-old Mahmoud Abbas—contributed so much to peace in the region by signing the Oslo peace accords that led to the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority. It was poignant, too, because President Peres will shortly step down as head of state, to be replaced by Reuven Rivlin, who has espoused the concept of a greater Israel. On the Palestinian side, President Abbas is now ageing and his successor—whoever that might be—will find it much more difficult to make peace with Israel.

A year is a long time in politics and it is worth reflecting where we were this time last year. Then in the debate on the gracious Speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, referred to “a critical year” ahead for the peace process between Israel and Palestine and also mentioned,

“the first ever democratic presidential election in Egypt”,—[

Official Report

, 15/5/13; col. 404.]

when President Morsi was elected. Some 12 months on, I am afraid there is little optimism to show for that. Once again, progress on an Israeli/Palestinian peace process has eluded us and is for the foreseeable future halted with seemingly little pressure from the quartet of the United States, EU, Russia and UN. The quartet was established 12 years ago precisely to advance that process. Tony Blair is now in his seventh year in his appointment as envoy of the quartet. A few more years and he will match his tenure in office as Prime Minister. He said in his speech last month that economics goes side by side with politics. On that he is clearly right. But, frankly, progress on either has been meagre. How could that be otherwise when one party—Israel—is a powerful nation state that controls nearly all the borders of Palestine and occupies most of the territory while continuing to build settlements?

As for Egypt, the first ever democratic election—mentioned last year in our debate—ended in a putsch leading to the trial and imprisonment of President Morsi. I have no truck with the Ikhwan—the Muslim

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Brotherhood—but point out that Morsi’s successor was elected on a smaller turnout of 47% even though the concept of polling day was elastic and was extended not once or twice but thrice and with all sorts of incentives offered to prospective voters. I gently remind the House that President Morsi remains the only elected President of Egypt who is a civilian in the 62-year history of the Arab Republic of Egypt. All the others have been generals or, in the latest case, a field marshal. What is our policy now? Do we still believe in peace between Israel and an independent Palestine? What are our hopes for a democratic Egypt? The Minister should answer these questions.

For all the difficulties in Palestine and Egypt, the heart of the storm remains the conflict in Syria. I take this opportunity to praise the efforts of my former UN colleague, Lakhdar Brahimi, who worked tirelessly as the envoy of the UN and chaired the Geneva peace process. The immediate prospects for Syria are grim, and dire for resuming that process. In the short run we must do more to expand the UN’s humanitarian endeavours and to reach refugees wherever they are. There is no doubt in my mind that more can be done here.

In that regard, the limited truce achieved recently in the city of Homs could perhaps be followed by others. There are reports of a similar initiative in the second city of Aleppo, perhaps aided by the apparent resumption of back channels between Iran and Turkey. In the absence of a global peace, the pursuit of local humanitarian measures, as we saw many times in the Bosnian war of 1992-95, may be all we can achieve in the coming months.

In neighbouring Iraq, the sudden military attack on Mosul yesterday and on Tikrit today underlines the increasing dangers of the Syrian war encompassing neighbouring countries. We need to do far more to help, with allies, the neighbouring states of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

I shall finish by pointing out that we have heard much today of Russia—a key country in any settlement of the Syrian conflict and without which it will be impossible to make progress—but little of China, a country far less democratic than Russia, which today published a White Paper on Hong Kong, asserting its rights as a unitary state to establish comprehensive jurisdiction over all local administrations including Hong Kong. It seems clear that the Communist Party in Beijing is increasingly intent on thwarting moves towards universal suffrage in Hong Kong in the coming years and our Government must give close attention to this issue.

8.40 pm

Lord Rennard (LD Ind): My Lords, when I was involved in preparing the proposed Liberal Democrat responses to the gracious Speech in previous years that preceded a general election, it was often easy to describe it as being only half a Queen’s Speech. It was clear in those years that the parliamentary programme was expected to last only half a Session and that even quite a few of the proposed Bills were never likely to reach the statute book. The uncertainty over the timing of a general election did not make for good planning

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of the legislative timetable. I believe that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act should help the legislative process in future.

I was, however, disappointed to hear last week the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, describe the Fixed-term Parliaments Act as gerrymandering. The principle of fixed-term Parliaments has previously been accepted by the Labour Party, and should it form a Government again I expect the principle to be retained. There are good reasons for keeping the term at five years, which I would like to explain.

The most controversial issues with which I have been involved during the course of this Parliament relate to parliamentary boundary reviews and electoral registration. Widespread concern was expressed during the many lengthy debates that we had on those issues about the millions missing from the electoral register—perhaps as many as 6 million in this country—who are effectively denied the right to vote because they are not on the electoral register. This caused major problems in our debates when it came to deciding how to redraw constituency boundaries in order to make them more equal in terms of the number of voters in each seat.

It is understandable that these issues will not be addressed again in this Parliament, but we must all learn lessons from the arguments that we had previously if we are properly and fairly to address those issues in future, as we must after next May’s general election. Therefore, a proposal that I would make to help the process of redrawing constituency boundaries would be to combine the electoral registration process and the census when it takes place every 10 years. The effort and the expense put into conducting the census would be more justified if the data were also used in that year to help compile the electoral register. Of course, many other things should also be done to improve both the completeness and the accuracy of the electoral register each and every year. The annual canvass, in my view, will remain very important; but if we have the most accurate and complete electoral register every 10 years, we should conduct the constituency boundary reviews every 10 years as well, based on those data.

It is my belief that one of the first things that Members of Parliament will want to change after the next general election is the idea of a review of parliamentary boundaries every five years. The current legislation means that no MP, when elected, can be sure that their constituency will still exist at the following general election. Conducting boundary reviews every 10 years and every two Parliaments would make much more sense, but this will also require maintaining the fixed-term Parliament principle at every five years.

I believe that all those currently involved in drawing up their parties’ proposals for the next general election and a future Parliament should look at this idea and help to try to avoid the acrimony that we saw over the issues of parliamentary boundary reviews and electoral registration earlier in this Parliament. Draft legislation that can be properly examined in advance of its introduction to both Houses would help to avoid many of the problems we saw when debating these issues and help us provide for fairer and better outcomes in the future.

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8.45 pm

Lord Norton of Louth (Con): My Lords, I wish to focus on constitutional issues. For reasons of time, I do not propose to address those which have already been addressed today—we have had some outstanding speeches on the case for maintaining the union—and which we will be debating further during the Session. Rather, I wish to comment on two issues that are not scheduled for debate, but which I believe we should address. One derives from the overall legislative programme and the other from the consequences of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The provisions of that Act determine that we are in a fifth Session, but they also raise wider constitutional questions. Both issues are core to the relationship between the Executive and Parliament.

The Government have been criticised for the fact that there is a light legislative load this Session. At the same time, we are variously told that there is too much legislation. Like my noble friend Lord Tyler, I prefer the emphasis to be on quality rather than quantity, and I therefore do not complain when there is not a heavy legislative programme. Where I think critics do have a point is in criticising the fact that the House does not sit so regularly when there is a light legislative agenda. The Government appear to think that when they have not got Bills to be considered then there is no point in either House sitting. Legislative scrutiny is a core function of Parliament but it is not the only one. Parliament gives expression to the views of the people. It serves, crucially, to call the Government to account for their actions. The Government need to accept that Parliament should sit even if there is not much legislation to discuss. As my noble friend Lord Tyler indicated, there is a great deal that we can and should be doing. One cannot rely on the Government to provide the time. We therefore need to address the issue of who determines the business and, more fundamentally, when we sit. The former issue was addressed by the Goodlad committee, but not endorsed by the House. The latter is a fundamental constitutional issue that has yet to be addressed.

I turn to a question of constitutional significance that has been neglected. The Constitution Committee’s report last Session on the constitutional implications of coalition government addressed the importance of collective responsibility. One feature of the doctrine is that the Government rest on the confidence of the House of Commons. It was a convention that if a Government were defeated on a vote of confidence, they either resigned or requested the dissolution of Parliament. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act translated the convention into statute, something that is very rarely done. If an explicit vote of no confidence is carried, an election is triggered unless within 14 days a new Government are formed and achieve a vote of confidence from the House.

The Constitution Committee report notes that a vote on the Queen’s Speech is often seen as a traditional means of expressing confidence in the Government. But what happens now if the Government are defeated on the Queen’s Speech or on a major issue of public policy? There cannot be an early election under the provisions of the 2011 Act. One presumes that the Opposition would move a Motion of no confidence,

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but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a Government could be defeated on a substantive issue, but that the third party or dissident government Back-Benchers responsible for the defeat do not want an election and are not prepared to vote for a Motion of no confidence. What happens then? The Government could resign—the other option under the old convention. What if they do? No provision of the 2011 Act has been engaged. What does the Palace do?

I was going to develop the point but I am conscious of time. These are important issues. It is up to the House to take the initiative rather than simply responding to what the Government have placed before it. I hope that we will take the opportunity of using this Session to address issues that are fundamental to the relationship between Parliament and the Executive and deserve to be addressed sooner rather than later.

My comments are addressed to the House but I conclude with a question to the Minister: when will the long-awaited response of the Government to the Constitution Committee report on the constitutional implications of coalition government be published?

8.50 pm

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, I welcome the commitment in the gracious Speech that the Government will continue to,

“make the case for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom”.

As we all know, in less than 100 days’ time Scots will vote in a referendum on independence. All Westminster parties are committed to reform of the devolution settlement. All are committed to reforming the union rather than destroying it. I would like to take this opportunity once more to express the negative consequences of a yes vote for Scots and for all inhabitants of the British Isles.

Unlike my noble friend Lord Parekh, who is not in his place, I do not regard pointing out financial consequences to Scottish people as frightening them or trying to intimidate them or boss them about. I echo the point made by my noble friend Lady Quin: outlining difficulties and consequences is the act of a friend, not of someone being threatening.

Arrangements for devolution are founded and based on the fundamental principle that the union is a collective partnership. Scottish independence would end a 300 year-old agreement of working together for the common good of all. In its stead it would erect unnecessary barriers to the prosperity and well-being of Scots and the inhabitants of the remainder of the United Kingdom.

It is not a question of whether Scotland could go it alone—of course it could—but should it? The answer is firmly no. Withdrawal from the union would diminish Scotland. It would be a signal of Scotland turning in on itself, at precisely the same time that co-operation and collaboration are becoming ever more important. To draw a dividing line between Gretna and Berwick would see Scotland drift away from its biggest market and lose significant economic clout.

At the moment there is completely free movement of people, goods and investment between the four nations of the United Kingdom. This movement is

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clearly to the benefit of all. It is unlikely that such a situation would continue were a border to be drawn on the map. Today one in five Scots is employed by companies based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 70% of Scotland’s exports, accounting for around 35% of Scottish GDP, go to the rest of the United Kingdom.

The openness of economic and political union has benefited the Scottish economy. Independence would erect barriers that would threaten current and future prosperity. Already Standard Life, one of Scotland’s most successful companies, has announced that it is preparing contingency plans to move some of its operations to England in the event of a yes vote. Royal Bank of Scotland has expressed similar uncertainty about its place in an independent Scotland. Scotland’s largest employer, the nuclear base on the Clyde, employs more than 6,000 people. Under UK government plans, it will employ an additional 1,500 people by 2020. These existing and future jobs are dependent upon UK military contracts, which would vanish due to barriers erected by independence.

The Confederation of British Industry—not an organisation that I usually quote with approval—whose members employ 500,000 people in Scotland, has been damning of the vision proposed by the Scottish Government’s White Paper. It has warned that Scottish industry would face two lots of red tape and Scots higher borrowing costs, and that on jobs and growth there is a risk of “jeopardising” Scotland’s future success.

The key point, as my right honourable friend Gordon Brown has made a great point of indicating, is that the United Kingdom has been a “sharing union”, in which the wealth, in all senses of the term, has been shared. Independence would prevent a sharing of the resources that make the United Kingdom a social union as well.

Labour established a UK-wide welfare state, which has provided for common pensions across the UK. That social union has sought to deliver a decent standard of living for all. Social security and the allocation of resources on the basis of need are best provided for by the union. In this instance, I join with the Government in continuing to make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Remaining part of the political, economic and social union which is the United Kingdom is the surest way to secure Scotland’s future prosperity and common living standards for all.

8.55 pm

The Earl of Glasgow (LD): My Lords, as many other speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, and my noble friend Lord Stephen, have already highlighted, for the 20 or so Scottish Peers who actually live in Scotland, there is no issue more critical, in or out of the Queen’s Speech, than the oncoming referendum on Scottish independence. A year ago, we were reasonably confident that a sizeable majority of our fellow Scots would vote to remain in the United Kingdom, but now we are not so sure.

Apparently, there are still about 20% of Scots who have not made up their mind on how they are going to vote, and the crafty Mr Salmond has cleverly made the

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prospect of an independent Scotland seem more and more glamorous and exciting: a great new adventure into the unknown when we resourceful and inventive Scots will have the power to make our own decisions and overcome all the obstacles that the patronising English—and patronising Scots with suspect English connections—will attempt to put in our path. No, all the disadvantages and new problems that, we are told, an independent Scotland will have to face are either greatly exaggerated or, in time, will be resolved to Scotland’s advantage. Even those independent and unbiased assessments of future difficulties, even a mild warning from President Obama, are interpreted as a form of bullying by outsiders who do not have Scotland’s best interests at heart. Anything that can be construed as a foreign threat only makes a few more of my fellow Scots more defiant and more determined to give independence a try.

This referendum is not really about economics, jobs, business or the future prosperity of Scotland. It is about passion and romantic nationalism. It harks back to a time when Scotland as a separate country had legitimate reasons to hate the English. That position is not helped by those English—who tend to be Conservatives, by the way—who say, “Good riddance to the Scots. In spite of the generous concessions we make to them, they don’t like us. Let them go. We don’t need them”. How short-sighted those English are. They have not grasped how much a greatly weakened Britain—a United Kingdom without Scotland—will adversely affect them too.

I fear that I am a very poor spokesman for the union for two reasons. First, I was educated, if that is the right word, in England, so I am regarded as deeply suspect by supporters of the Scottish National Party and by some other Scots. Secondly, my title, the Earl of Glasgow, was earned almost entirely for work on the Act of Union in 1707. David Boyle, who became the first Earl of Glasgow in 1703, was one of the architects of the union. He was Treasurer-Depute in the Scottish Parliament, and worked tirelessly to ensure that the Act of Union came about, supported and egged on by the merchants of Glasgow, who saw union with England, particularly the ability to trade with the English colonies, as essential to their future prosperity. It is rumoured that the first Earl acquired stashes of slush money from the Court of St James specifically to bribe Jacobites in the Scottish Parliament to vote against their natural instincts. Even if that is true, I have always contended that it is not the person who does the bribing in a good cause who should be condemned; it is those who accept the bribes who should look to their consciences.

We must remember that at the time of the union, England and Scotland were very close to being at war with each other, particularly in the Caribbean, where England refused to let the Scots trade with their colonies. In an attempt to compete with the English, the Scots suffered the humiliation and tragedy of the Darien scheme, which resulted in near-bankruptcy for Scotland. After that, union with England became the only possible answer and, after five years of negotiation and hard bargaining, Scotland secured a pretty good deal. It retained its own independent legal system and

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its own church and England paid off Scotland’s debts from the Darien fiasco. The passing of the Act resulted in a period of great prosperity for England and Scotland, not to mention the flowering of Scotland’s age of enlightenment.

As we approach the day of the referendum, it is important to remember why the Act of Union came into being in the first place. Scottish nationalists will argue that circumstances are very different now: that Scotland is prosperous and does not need support from England. I am sure we all agree that Scotland could manage perfectly well as an independent country, much as the Republic of Ireland does now, but no major world power would take a blind bit of notice of what Scotland thinks or believes. Within the United Kingdom, however, the Scots still have influence in world affairs. Mr Salmond argues that Scotland today is virtually disenfranchised because a Conservative Government are in power. He forgets to mention that the Scots disproportionately rule the whole of Britain when Labour wins an election.

Scotland’s history has been the same as that of the rest of the United Kingdom for more than 300 years. It is incomprehensible to me that so many of my countrymen now wish to break up a union that has been so comparatively successful for so long. In spite of a few changing circumstances, it seems to me that most of the issues that resulted in the Act of Union are as relevant today as they were then. We Scots have the misfortune, unlike the Scandinavian countries, of having a much larger and more powerful country occupying the same island as we do. I can hope only that a majority of my countrymen will appreciate that is in our interest as well as England’s that we remain partners, rather than returning to the days of being rivals.

9.01 pm

Lord Crisp (CB): My Lords, I want to speak briefly about international development. I was disappointed that in the noble Baroness’s opening remarks for today’s debate, there was very little reference to international development and no comment on the fact that in 2015 the millennium development goals come to their conclusion. We will then be negotiating the future sustainability goals. I say this in the context of congratulating this Government, and indeed their predecessor, on their achievements in international development.

Like other noble Lords, I travel considerably. I spend time within health services, in particular in Africa, and I see the result of that international development and the ways in which the UK is regarded. I would cite three ways: first, it is regarded as compassionate and showing solidarity with the poorest people in the world; secondly, it is regarded as extremely capable, with remarkable skills that we are able to bring from all parts of our society; thirdly, it is also seen as very powerful—as a real leader and a country to be influenced. This is of course not just the Government’s doing but reflects the thousands of people and their many supporters who in the UK pay attention to working in aid, international development and co-development around the world. I declare my

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interest as the chair of the trustees of Sightsavers, which works on preventing and dealing with blindness in 34 countries around the world.

The specific point I want to make is to urge the Government to accept the proposal of having a disability-inclusive development strategy as part of their negotiations around the sustainability goals. I appreciate that I am pushing partly at an open door here. I also know that the International Development Committee, in its 11th report on disability and development, set out clear proposals on how this might be done. These included making sure that there are clear targets and timescales, making sure that disabled people have a central role within DfID’s discussions and policy-making, and making sure—this is probably the most key point of all—that the results on international development are disaggregated by disability. That is so that if, say, 5% of people are not being dealt with in the appropriate way, we can see what proportion of those people are actually disabled. We need those results disaggregated by disability. We also need to embed that notion and treatment of disability, and of working with people with disabilities, into DfID culture. I know that the Government will respond in due course to the report from the International Development Committee. I should be grateful if the Minister could say anything about that at this stage.

This is not just about compassion, although compassion is extraordinarily important. It is about the waste of potential. I know through my association with Sightsavers that a cataract operation performed quickly enables the patient to regain his or her economic status within a year. It helps the patient to get back to work.

The UK is a very powerful, critical and influential leader in relation to the post-2015 sustainable development goals. I urge the Government to use their political capital to influence others to ensure that development goals never again exclude people with disabilities and other marginalised groups. After all, it was this Government who said last year that their international development plans should never leave anybody behind.

9.05 pm

Lord Rana (CB): My Lords, I welcome the gracious Speech. In the past few weeks there has been all manner and shape of talk about the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and the resulting benefits or disadvantages. However, there is hardly any talk about another equally important organisation—the Commonwealth.

Her Majesty the Queen has provided outstanding leadership to the Commonwealth over the past 60-plus years. The Commonwealth has proved a great asset and is a potential source of strength for all its member nations. Of the 53 members, four are developed countries—the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There are some fast-developing major economies such as India, South Africa and Nigeria, and many other member countries rich in natural resources and cultural heritage are now developing their economies. However, there could be a much more vibrant, closer, practical and beneficial relationship between the member states in the Commonwealth and

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there is much more scope to develop business between the Commonwealth countries. A focused and strategic effort to develop trade between the member countries would help all round. This would supplement the increasing exchange of students, academics and research scholars between Commonwealth countries and encourage the development of new knowledge-based enterprises.

The Prime Minister led a large delegation to India last year aimed at developing business, educational and tourism links. However, the level of business between the two countries is nowhere near what it should be. There is a new Government in Delhi after the recent elections whose main focus is on development and business. Of approximately 814 million voters in India, nearly 550 million actually voted. That is about 66% of the total. The result was a clear mandate for the Bharatiya Janata Party. There has, however, been much negative comment in the press about the BJP and, indeed, its leader, Mr Narendra Modi. Various malign and unjustified allegations have been made against him. The BJP was commonly labelled as a Hindu fundamentalist party and Mr Modi was unjustly blamed for the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. This charge against him has been proved untrue.

Mr David Cameron, our Prime Minister, was the first world leader to congratulate Mr Modi on his success. Her Majesty’s Government need to work hard to strengthen their relations with Mr Modi. Indeed, the Government will no doubt wish to build on their relations with all the major democratic parties of India. Mr Modi is pro business. The electorate have given him a clear mandate to carry on the economic development of India and the national and international business community has shown confidence in the new Government. The stock market value in India has gone up approximately 20% in the past few weeks. It is predicted that India’s GDP will double in less than 10 years’ time.

The UK has an outstanding opportunity to play an active role in developing trade with India and so become a partner in India’s economic growth and welfare. It should be a win-win situation for both countries. India is a union of 29 states and seven union territories with a population of 1.2 billion. To develop trade, we here in the UK would best have representation in each state. Here, I would like to express an interest, having led many trade delegations from Northern Ireland to India since 2001. As a result, Northern Ireland has attracted many more IT companies, employing about 6,000 people. There is no reason why the trade between India and the UK cannot double over the next five years. There is little barrier to such growth. Most barriers are more imaginary than real. There is so much in common between the two countries and a tremendous amount of good will which will readily facilitate working together even more closely.

9.11 pm

Baroness Berridge (Con):My Lords, the infamy with which the Central African Republic was known due to its brief, self-declared existence as an empire under Emperor Bokassa has been replaced by such anonymity that it is now known only to the tea-time audience of BBC1. “Central African Republic” is a frequent pointless answer on the popular quiz show of

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that name. I wish briefly to shine a spotlight on the Central African Republic, which even as a failed state remains one of the world’s donor orphans.

Despite the sacrifices of the French peacekeepers and the AU force over many months, even the capital Bangui has not been fully secured. On 25 May, three young Muslim men on their way to a reconciliation football match were set upon and publicly dismembered. A reprisal attack on 28 May on a Catholic church that was housing 8,000 internally displaced people saw the priest attacked in front of the congregation, grenades thrown and 15 people killed. Not surprisingly, a few days later a mosque was attacked. Whatever the UN might label this violence legally, it is clearly now of a religious nature. Not surprisingly 97% of the Muslim population in Bangui has fled, often assisted by peacekeeping forces so inadequate in number that evacuating populations under attack was their only option. Many of these people have gone to the more remote and less fertile north-eastern border region with Chad, and while the world has had its focus on Syria and South Sudan, the CAR has now been de facto partitioned on religious lines and the hatred and distrust among communities shocks even the most experienced aid workers who visit the nation. Sources now report that young Muslim men in the north-east with little to do but much anger are listening to or reading extremist messages on smartphones, and Hausa-speaking people from northern Nigeria are reported to be among their number. It is reported that, on Saturday 26 April 2014, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called on all Muslims to provide military support to their brothers in the Central African Republic. This is increasingly a regional security crisis, and as the Lord’s Resistance Army area operates with impunity in the south-east of the Central African Republic, why would Boko Haram not think it could do the same?

The entire 4.8 million population of the CAR is affected. There are over a third of a million refugees in neighbouring countries and half a million internally displaced people. The UN fund remains chronically underfunded at just 31% of the $565 million needed. To its credit, the UK is the second-largest bilateral donor, but at a relatively modest £23 million. Healthcare is run by MSF, 75% of schools are shut, those that are open are run by NGOs and there is no judicial system or police. Although the UK is not the lead nation in the CAR, we are seen as a trusted neutral arbiter and there is much we can do. Will the Minister encourage the EU and the UN to devise a 10-year development plan for the CAR? Will he outline whether the UK will reassess its lack of ambassadorial presence in the CAR? The United States has recently announced its decision to appoint a special representative.

Elections are scheduled for February 2015, but the population has dispersed and the national archives have been destroyed. With no state infrastructure, there is no electoral register. With no security, people will not give their names to any official documentation. Would my noble friend the Minister please investigate whether the African Union or UN could send a team of electoral commission officials, especially from other African nations, to assess if holding an election is possible in the timescale envisaged?

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However, there is a good news story in all of this: the close relationship and reconciliation work being done by the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, the nation’s Imam, Imam Layama, and the leader of the evangelical churches, Reverend Guérékoyame-Gbangou. I was recently encouraged to learn of a trip by the UK Muslim charities fund and CAFOD, the Catholic charity, which went together to visit the nation. DfID must allocate more money to the CAR, but perhaps this could be done in the form of a fund for consortiums of aid agencies to bid for, which must include our own Catholic, Muslim and evangelical agencies. What better way to support the brave interfaith reconciliation work in the CAR than to send our aid through the same representatives? For every £1 we spend on this aid would then also be £1 spent on reconciliation. If the Christian community in the CAR gets its food aid from UK Muslim aid agencies, this will help to rebuild much-needed trust among the communities. The domestic splash-back would be some much-needed encouragement to UK Muslims at the moment.

9.16 pm

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, I will refer to two issues: Northern Ireland, and then Moldova in relation to Ukraine.

First, on Northern Ireland, I am particularly concerned about dealing with the past. It seems quite a long time since the Prime Minister was cheered outside the Guildhall in Derry when he accepted the report of the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday. In fact, to many people, the idea that a Conservative Prime Minister would be cheered in Derry in that way was quite remarkable.

Of course, other aspects of the past have not been dealt with. I fully accept that the British Government have less of a direct responsibility since some of their powers have been devolved. Nevertheless, we still have a real responsibility, together with the Irish Government. We have got to deal with the past. There are too many unanswered questions.

We have had the Eames Bradley Consultative Group on the Past, which has been referred to in earlier speeches, with its suggestion of a legacy commission. We have had the Haass report; I refer in particular to the section contending with the past. These are important. They have not yet been accepted. What is clear is that there is still a great deal of pain in Northern Ireland on the part of people who have suffered through the Troubles: people who have had loved ones killed or are still suffering from injuries.

I will refer to two matters which are quite contentious. The Ballymurphy families, whom I met some time ago, still have a serious grievance about what happened and they want some sort of resolution. Of course, there is also the stalled inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane. However, there are those on the other side of the disputes in Northern Ireland as well. I have just referred to two involving the British authorities, but of course some of the issues may refer to state action while others refer to actions by paramilitary organisations. Indeed, one of the suggestions in the Haass report is that people have to acknowledge what they did, and that that process is part of dealing with the pain of victims.

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This is not the time to go through the Haass findings in detail, but they talk clearly about the need to provide more support for victims and survivors, including the mental health aspects of what the victims have gone through. The Haass report talks, as I said earlier, about the need to acknowledge past acts. It suggests that, although we have a number of different institutions or mechanisms for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, they have not actually worked all that well. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Haass report suggests that there should be a new historical investigations unit which would encompass the other processes and procedures for dealing with the past. That is quite an interesting and persuasive idea. The report also has a number of other suggestions of how to deal with it. Yet some very difficult issues remain, such as the difficulty of immunity for people who may wish to come forward to give evidence, and the difficulty of anonymity. All those issues have to be resolved. Indeed, the Haass report acknowledges that it has not resolved all those issues; it has not even been able to decide on how to define a victim, which is itself a contentious issue. It is absolutely clear that the British Government have to move forward and encourage the parties, with the Irish Government, to deal with this issue, otherwise it will be like a cancer in that society.

On Moldova and Transnistria, I had the chance to visit the former in March, one of several visits I have paid as a member of an all-party group, lately facilitated by our excellent ambassador in Chisinau, Phil Batson. It was clear in March, as it is now, that events in Ukraine dominated thinking in Moldova, whether on the part of the Moldovan Government or the part of the Transnistrian regime, which we also visited. It is quite an eye-opener to visit the Supreme Soviet in Tiraspol, which is a throwback to a bygone age. The people there were adamant, saying that they had had a referendum in 2006 which wanted independence for Transnistria with a view to eventually joining Russia. They had just written to Moscow to say that they still thought that.

On one occasion during a previous visit as a parliamentary delegation we suggested, both in Moldova and to the Transnistrian people, that an element of devolution might be a possible way forward. We referred to what had happened in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and they were quite surprised at the extent of the powers that had been devolved. Nothing much came of those discussions, although they all said that they were interesting. However, I have noticed that recently the Russians have said that they would like some element of devolution in Ukraine. We cannot tell the Ukrainians what they should be doing, but on the other hand devolution does not seem to be an impossible way forward for Ukraine, just as it would not be impossible for Moldova.

One of the other things we were able to point out to the people there apropos of events in Crimea was that the process of giving devolution here—save the recent, rather nasty incidents that my noble friend Lord Reid and other noble Lords have referred to—was agreed by two Governments, which has taken more than two years, and that the question was agreed. It was not a

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matter of sending troops in, but a proper democratic process. Perhaps they should think of taking that way forward.

Finally, I will refer to another, quite different issue. We shall shortly debate the Assisted Dying Bill, in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer. I support that Bill, and hope that the House will not end up being out of line with what most people in this country want.

9.23 pm

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): My Lords, this House, in this Parliament, in a unique country in the world, has dedicated its time today to celebrate and to debate the very meaning of our kingdom and our place in the world. As a Liberal Democrat, I believe that it is worth noting that almost a quarter of our parliamentary party has chosen to speak in this debate. For me it is a cause for pride that four of our parliamentary party are Ministers on the Front Bench.

The four days of debate on the humble Address draw to a close, and over those days many noble Lords have remarked on Bills that were not in the gracious Speech. Many from the Opposition Benches have looked forward to next year, when they hope to be drafting their own Speech, with the Bills they would hope to see in it. However, I am pleased that there is one omission this year. I am glad that this parliamentary Session will not have, at its start, an independence for Scotland Bill. I fervently hope that one will not be necessary towards the end of this Session. I also hope most fervently that the next gracious Speech shall include measures to provide for powers to be transferred from this Parliament to the Scottish Parliament, permanently.

There are two routes open to us in the Westminster Parliament: to have to respond to a vote for independence that will mean the end of the United Kingdom or to proactively lead on reforming, modernising and improving this kingdom and how it is governed for the people. This House is perhaps not the best model of reform, but in our deliberations in the coming weeks we have an immense responsibility on all our shoulders. We must seize the opportunity that is presented by the desire for reform that is so evident in the nations, and which we have heard in today’s debate. I am talking about reform not as a response to nationalism but rather as an idea in and of itself—an idea for more decentralised, balanced and accountable governance across the nations. It is also an idea founded in the sovereignty of people. Sovereignty seems to be used too frequently in the debate in Scotland by nationalists in the argument for independence, but sovereignty is also for those of us who believe that we can pool authority and share power but retain independence and identity.

Some in this debate have regretted constitutional affairs and devolved issues being debated with foreign and Commonwealth affairs or development and culture, but in many respects they are all interlinked in the choices that people will be making in Scotland in September. How we see ourselves and how others see us around the world is a central issue in our debate, not only within Scotland but, as my noble friend Lord

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Ashdown said today, for our country and the United Kingdom as a whole. On Friday I will be marching in the Selkirk Common Riding. More than 300 riders will commemorate the town’s sole survivor from the battle of Flodden, 501 years ago. It will be a tangible reminder for us of how governance in these islands can be bloody and can allow there to be victims of political disagreement. I will march as a member of the Selkirk Merchant Company, which was established in 1694 and has marched every year since then—at one point, to raise funds for the Darien scheme that the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, referred to. That is my identity; it is in my heart. We value our past and cherish our identities, but we must lead the future.

Those of us who do not support independence and the political parties operating within Scotland are finding common ground on the principles for further reform in the event of a no vote, and that is immensely positive. There should also be a commitment to deliver legislation in the Queen’s Speech of the new Administration, whichever party forms the new Government. I am particularly pleased that my right honourable friend Alistair Carmichael has announced that in the event of a no vote in the referendum he will convene within 30 days a conference on the new Scotland, to bring together those who have put forward proposals for the future of Scotland that can inform legislation in the new Parliament after the 2015 general election. I wonder if it would be a good idea if that new Administration of the UK Government also convened a conference of the new union so that we could discuss and debate all the nations’ relationships across these islands, but particularly reform of this Westminster institution.

We do not need to rest on our laurels in the debates within Scotland, nor do we need to sacrifice debates of the head for debates of the heart, but we as legislators need to take this opportunity and lead for the future. Those of us on the Liberal Democrat Benches will be seizing that opportunity with relish.

9.28 pm

Lord Truscott (Non-Afl): My Lords, I welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to achieving peace and stability in Ukraine. I wish the new Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, well in securing a peaceful settlement based on greater autonomy for parts of eastern Ukraine and respect for the linguistic rights of ethnic Russians. Crimea is a special case, a historical anomaly that has been Russian since the days of Catherine the Great, with only a relatively short interlude under Kiev’s sovereignty when it was gifted to Ukraine in 1954. It is home to Russia’s strategically vital Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol. Its current status is non-negotiable for Moscow—it is their Falklands.

In my view, a full-scale military incursion into eastern Ukraine would occur only in the event of very heavy loss of life among ethnic Russians living there, which I do not think is likely. As I wrote in my book, Russia First, in 1997:

“For over two hundred years Russia has had a love-hate relationship with the West. All signs now show that Russia is leading towards more comfortable and familiar territory away

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from the West, developing a ‘Russia First’ policy and its own ‘Tsarist’ solutions with profound effects on domestic and foreign policy”.

I conclude that nothing has changed much in the intervening 17 years. The only surprising thing about the Ukrainian crisis was that the West was surprised.

In recent years, Moscow has sought to diversify its energy flows away from passing through Ukraine, developing Nord Stream and attempting to bring on South Stream, and latterly pivoting to the east, with its $400-billion 30-year gas deal with Beijing. The Russian Federation is presently the largest exporter of oil and gas to the European Union, supplying it with around one-third of each. Energy accounts for nearly two-thirds of Russia’s total exports, with the EU being its biggest customer. But the cooling of the political relationship between the EU and Russia is changing the energy security landscape. A race to diversify energy supplies is now on, with Europe looking to alternative pipelines to bring gas from Azerbaijan and central Asia, with possible future shale gas supplies from the US and the development of renewables, liquefied natural gas and new nuclear in some cases. Meanwhile, the EU Commission is seeking to block the South Stream pipeline project to reduce Europe’s dependence on Moscow.

Russia is seeking to open up new energy markets in the Far East, particularly China. This may affect the financial viability of LNG projects in the region, as more Russian gas is piped to China’s domestic market. The question will become: who will win the race to diversify energy supplies, Europe or Russia? The mutually beneficial arrangement of the past, with virtually guaranteed supplies, is no longer a given. The reaction of the West, slipping back into Cold War mode and rhetoric, has not been inspiring. It has at times appeared like an existential crisis, harking back to the certainties of the Soviet era. Taking on Moscow is familiar comfort territory for the West. Yet the crucial challenges now facing our societies in the 21st century are social, economic and environmental, and the wider threat of Islamic fundamentalism and the far more potentially destabilising territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. These are the areas on which the United States and its European allies should be focusing. Washington’s much vaunted “pivot to Asia” appears temporarily derailed, as the old zero-sum game of Europe’s nation states again holds sway.

Western foreign policy is the weakest that I have seen it since the end of the Second World War, which is worrying with a world that has just one hyper-power. If the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda Iraq, it will come back to haunt us. International terrorism and cyberwarfare are less tangible by nature than conflicts among nation states, but they have a potentially massive impact on the stability of our societies. Recently, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. It should remind us not only of the massive sacrifice of that time, but of what can be achieved when nation states unite to defeat evil.

I look forward to a diplomatic and political solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and to former allies again working together to tackle the real challenges facing this interconnected and interdependent world.

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9.33 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My noble friend Lady Morgan has already most effectively and comprehensively addressed current national and EU issues from this Dispatch Box, as well as the horrors of violence against women and children, and constitutional issues, including the referendum on Scotland’s future, in which Alistair Darling is playing such an effective and leading role in the campaign, making the case for keeping the United Kingdom united and together. I do not intend to try the patience of the House by seeking to cover the same ground again. Neither do I intend to repeat the comments made by my noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury on our approach to international development.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, the number of speakers today reflects a numerical level of interest normally reserved in your Lordships’ House for debates on assisted dying or House of Lords reform. This has been at times a sobering debate, not least through those contributions on the level and nature of violence against women and children, and those expressing serious concerns on developments in north Africa, the Central African Republic, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ukraine.

As has been said, included in today’s debate is the heading of “culture”. It is not entirely clear why it has been included, given that its relationship and relevance to other topics listed is not immediately obvious. That is particularly so because Foreign Office funding has been withdrawn from the BBC World Service—a service that projects British values and plays an important role in extending our influence through soft power. Nevertheless, I wish to raise a few points on DCMS matters. I should declare that I am a vice-president of Level Playing Field, an organisation that seeks to secure a better experience and better facilities for disabled supporters at sporting events, not least at our major football clubs and grounds.

We in this House recently debated the report of the Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, spoke earlier today about governance in sport and the need for a more professional approach, and on disability access to sporting events. I believe that this Government are taking the issue of improved facilities for disabled supporters very seriously. In the higher echelons of football, though, with certain honourable exceptions, the lack of action in improving the situation for disabled supporters has been all too obvious. Following the recent furore over the comments on women expressed by the chief executive of the Premier League, the FA top leadership voiced strong criticism but basically said that it was powerless to do anything. That in itself is a sobering commentary on the state of the structure of football governance in this country. The danger is that the continuing lack of a single powerful governing body responsible for and accountable to the game at all levels in this country, with the necessary powers and financial clout to act—whatever fine words are spoken and written—will also thwart the delivery of an Olympic legacy, including for disabled supporters.

On the wider question of governance, I simply remind the Minister that the Government have previously said, in the light of two highly critical CMS Select

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Committee reports, that they will act if the game itself does not address governance issues. Can the Minister confirm that that is still the Government’s position and that they do not regard the football authorities as having yet adequately addressed the matter? Can he give some indication of how much longer the Government intend to wait, and the reasons for deciding not to proceed with any legislation or regulatory action at this stage?

I said that I felt that the Government took the issue of facilities for disabled supporters seriously. I am not sure, though, that the same can be said regarding sport in schools. Following the Government’s decision to scrap ring-fenced funding for school sport in 2011 and cut the money available, provision has become patchy across the country. More than a third of schools have reported a decrease in participation since the loss of ring-fenced funding for school sport partnerships. There is nothing in the Government’s programme to indicate any change of tack; indeed, there was no mention of sport in the Queen’s Speech last year—just eight months after the 2012 Olympic Games.

I have one final comment related to the DCMS’s responsibilities. We have had one Secretary of State who appeared to be such an admirer of Mr Murdoch that, had he still been Secretary of State, one wonders whether the Murdoch dynasty would have fancied their chances of filling the post of chairman of the BBC Trust. It is imperative that the appointment to this position is made on merit, because it is vital that the BBC gets the best person for the job who will fulfil his or her responsibilities in the best interests of the organisation and the licence-fee payers. It needs to be an appointment that commands confidence and attracts widespread approval if that person is to take the BBC forward.

Defence Bills are normally a rarity. However, the gracious Speech indicated the appearance of a third defence Bill in this Parliament, this time to create a new service complaints ombudsman. If we continue at this rate, defence will be on a par with crime when it comes to enthusiasm for legislating. The Bill is shortly to have its Second Reading in this House. In view of that and an imminent debate on our Armed Forces, which should provide, among other relevant issues, an opportunity to consider today’s damning National Audit Office report on the Government’s incompetence over the planning and implementation of its Future Force 2020 programme, I will confine myself to a couple of points on defence matters.

First, the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings and the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War are poignant and powerful reminders of the debt our nation has owed and continues to owe to our Armed Forces. Without their bravery and sacrifice over the years we certainly would not be able to have any of our current debates about the meaning and embodiment of British values.

My second point concerns the further strategic defence and security review scheduled for next year. The last one in 2010 was a rushed job that had little to do with strategy and everything to do with finances and making cuts. The next SDSR needs to determine exactly what it is we need our Armed Forces to be able

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to do to deliver clearly defined strategic and security requirements, and then ensure the necessary personnel, investment and equipment are provided to enable those requirements to be delivered. What we cannot do is expect our Armed Forces to carry out roles and deliver capabilities for which the necessary resources have not or will not be provided.

Some of this debate has been about the European Union. The Government’s Bill guide on the Queen’s Speech refers to the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the USA. It would be helpful if, in the light of concerns that have been voiced by some about the possible impact of a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Minister could give assurance that any such partnership will not weaken or amend any current legislation in this country that applies to employment conditions or the working environment, and that it will not weaken the current ability of a British Government to determine the areas in which it does or does not think it appropriate for the private sector to be involved in providing public service, including in respect of national security and defence, and health provision. Could the Minister also tell us—at least in respect of overall objectives—what is the negotiating mandate to which the Government have signed up to for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations? What is the timetable for concluding the negotiations and then seeking approval at parliamentary level?

This is the final day of the debate on the Government’s limited programme for the final Session of this Parliament. The programme that began four years ago with gushing words about the allegedly nation-changing impact of the now hastily forgotten big society is being brought to an end with the Government’s decision actually to include, in what should be a major Speech setting out their programme, a pronouncement relating to a charge on plastic bag usage, which does not even appear to need a government Bill to implement. We certainly have gone downhill fairly steadily as far as this programme’s activities are concerned. We now await the response to this lengthy and wide-ranging debate from the Minister, who will no doubt rise to speak with the words, last Wednesday, of his noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market ringing in his ears: that he should strive to avoid “too much passion” and “too much irascibility” and follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and keep calm at the Dispatch Box.

9.44 pm

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his encouragement regarding the tone I will set.

It is just over a week since the Motion for an humble Address was moved very eloquently and wittily by my noble friend Lord Fowler and was very ably seconded by my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market. The House has debated many issues since then. As has been pointed out by more than one contributor, today we are debating constitutional and devolved affairs, foreign and Commonwealth affairs,

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defence, international development and culture. My noble friend Lady Falkner said that it might have been better if those subjects had been taken on separate days, and I am strongly tempted to agree.

When I agreed to wind up this debate, I was told that it might focus very much on Scotland. There is another debate on Scotland planned for 24 June, to which I again have to respond. However, it is indeed a privilege to be able to respond to a debate which has ranged widely but has also included outstanding contributions from noble Lords who have such considerable expertise and knowledge in these areas.

It is probably also important to recognise some of the overlaps that are not immediately obvious. The Commonwealth Games were mentioned by my noble friends Lady Warsi and Lord Moynihan, and of course that links to the importance of the Commonwealth. It is one aspect of the Commonwealth where its nations and peoples come together and celebrate sport. The Games will also involve a considerable amount of work not only on the part of the Scottish Government but on the part of the United Kingdom Government in support for what we all very much hope will be a great feast of sport and a great success in Glasgow later this year.

My noble friend Lady Warsi also mentioned the importance of consular representation and talked about what we owe to our consular service throughout the world. She put it in the context of the many thousands of English supporters who will be travelling to Brazil. I very much regret that our consular officials in Brazil will not have to deal with Scottish supporters or indeed with Welsh and Northern Irish supporters. It is important that those of us who are arguing the case for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom should remind ourselves of the great service, advice and support that Scots travelling abroad get from a range of consular staff, as well as other Foreign and Commonwealth Office support, right across the globe.

It will be impossible for me to pick up every point, for which I apologise. However, I shall try to pick up some of the themes and, if particular issues have arisen, I shall write to noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank let me off the hook and said that he would accept a letter. I had actually anticipated being asked about English Heritage and had asked for briefing on it. However, the briefing had not anticipated the question that came from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich as to whether we can have a fast track for women bishops entering your Lordships’ House if, as we hope, the legislation is passed to allow women bishops in the Church of England. That would be a matter for the Government and the Church of England to discuss at the appropriate time.

The right reverend Prelate also raised the question of cathedrals. As he acknowledged, in the Budget in March it was announced that a two-year grant scheme will provide £20 million to help to carry out essential repairs to ensure that cathedrals are in a good condition, as they will play a central role in the First World War centenary commemorations.

On the subject of culture and sport, my noble friends Lady Bonham-Carter and Lady Benjamin mentioned the creative industries. Today, our agenda

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has been driven by the Creative Industries Council. It was originally set up by the Government but is now industry-led, and its role is to identify key barriers to growth for the sector and to propose actions both for the industry and for government to overcome. We are committed to working with the CIC as it develops and implements an industry-led growth strategy, building on its work to date. I understand that that strategy is due to be launched in the summer, and we will obviously want to reflect on it and respond to it.

I will write to my noble friend Lady Benjamin about tax credits for children’s programmes However, I very much take on board the point that she made about the importance of diversity in the media, particularly behind the scenes. It was a very well made point, and it is something not just for government but for the industry itself to reflect on.

Sport, particularly football, and governance were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman. In a courageous speech, he rightly praised the investigative journalism that has gone on with regard to a number of serious allegations which will have to be properly addressed. Governance obviously is recognised to be primarily in the gift of the national governing bodies. We expect good governance of all national governing bodies, particularly for funded sport—including Sport England and the UK sport NGBs—in achieving this and in overseeing the investment of public funds.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, raised the BBC. We have just announced the process for appointing the next BBC Trust chair. Recruitment is under way. The post has been publicly advertised. The chair will be chosen on merit in a fair and open way. The noble Lord also mentioned the BBC World Service. It is fair to point out that the former chair of the trust, my noble friend Lord Patten, confirmed in a statement in June 2013 that the funding for 2014-15, which is the first year of licence fee funding, would be £245 million. That is an increase of £5 million on the previous year. He also stated that the move to licence fee funding would give the World Service a far greater degree of financial security.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, it would probably save time if I do not give the huge list of things which the Government have achieved in terms of constitutional measures passed during this Parliament. He mentioned the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, as did my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. I say to my noble friend who asked about the Government’s response that I very much apologise to the House that once again we have not been able to respond to the Constitution Committee’s report on the constitutional implications of coalition government. I had hoped that we would have been able to respond by today’s debate and regret that that has not been the case. As my noble friend indicated, it raises important matters which require detailed consideration and agreement. I hope that that response will come as soon as possible.

My noble friend Lord Tyler mentioned the recall Bill and emphasised the importance of getting the right balance. Those who represent their constituents and express their views, which may be unpopular, should not be at risk. But if people break the rules or commit a crime, we will put in place a means for a petition by their constituents.

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The House will have been struck by the number of very considered contributions from those from Northern Ireland and from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who has considerable experience of the Province. Questions were asked about dealing with the past. It is certainly the Government’s view that they wish to remain engaged in the process but they very much recognise that the process must be led by the people and parties in Northern Ireland. We welcome the fact that the party leaders are resuming their meetings. The point was made in more than one contribution that we must ensure that confidence is not eroded. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, and others referred to the Haass talks. The Government and the Prime Minister take a close interest in this matter, which is very much at the heart of people and community groups in Northern Ireland.

I certainly will try to respond in writing about what has been happening as regards the royal prerogative of mercy. My right honourable friend answered Questions on Northern Ireland today and last month indicated that the records from 1987-97 would be looked at. I know that she wants to take that forward. My noble friend Lady Randerson, as the Northern Ireland Office’s spokesman in your Lordships’ House, certainly confirmed that we would be more than willing to arrange a briefing for Peers with an interest in Northern Ireland before the Summer Recess. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, raised the issue of coroners. They probably merit more than I can answer in a very short time. I hope that noble Lords who raised issues about Northern Ireland will accept the Government’s keen and continuing interest in this. We recognise the sensitivities involved and will certainly want to engage with noble Lords who have a very understandable interest in what is going on there.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, reflected on where we were 12 months ago and where we are today. It was a litany of crises that had magnified or new ones that have arisen. It was a very sombre but necessary reminder to us as to the uncertain world in which we live. His speech was certainly a very thought-provoking contribution to the debate. He obviously led on to argue the case for the importance of our defences, with military size and equipment being up to the challenges. That was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, who particularly focused on the capacity of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy remains one of the world’s premier navies. It has a bright future. We have shown our commitment to the Queen Elizabeth carriers and the Type 45s. Of the latter, the sixth, HMS “Duncan”, was commissioned last year. There are the Type 26 global combat ships, the Astute-class programme and the new offshore patrol vessels. Four new support tankers for the Royal Navy are being built and we also look forward to the Successor-class submarine programme. I know that there is more detailed concern about that; it was reflected in the debate.

A number of colleagues, including my noble friend Lord Lyell and the noble Lord, Lord West, called for a debate on this. Following the debate on 23 June—a week on Monday—on the defence legislation setting up the ombudsman, there will be a debate on the armed services when there will be an opportunity to deal with these issues more fully. My noble friend

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Lord Lyell asked about the future reserves. The expansion of the reserves is about doing defence differently, not about doing it on the cheap. Our recruitment campaign is a five-year programme. We are confident that we can meet our target of 35,000 trained reservists by 2018. It was never the intention that the bulk of these would be recruited in the first year.

One of the themes that ran through our debate today is the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. It was interesting that in a number of areas where issues of crisis and conflict arose they were also linked to issues involving sexual violence. The Government welcome and are grateful for the tributes paid not least to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary for hosting the summit. We heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry. My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby made a very important point about the extent to which sexual violence against women and young people is now used almost as an instrument of war. That was reflected in the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who gave specific examples. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, in a very powerful speech about events in Somalia, drove home the need for concern. It is absolutely vital that we address and counter this.

I think we all agree that identifying the problem is one thing and the next step is implementation. We very much hope that we will be able to start taking these matters forward. We note the challenges in many countries. Burma was mentioned, as were Somalia, northern Nigeria, Syria and Sudan. It is because women and girls are more likely to be poorer, more marginal and with fewer rights that DfID puts them front and centre. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry talked of the need to address social norms to counter violence against women and girls. That is very true and underpins the work that my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone has done in challenging and combating female genital mutilation. A number of practical outcomes—I will not list them all—are sought as a result of this global summit. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, referred to the violence in Kashmir but, with particular reference to Nigeria and Boko Haram, the Foreign Secretary will be hosting a summit tomorrow, 12 June, to facilitate regional co-ordination in the fight generally against Boko Haram. That is another welcome initiative by my right honourable friend.

I thank noble Lords for their tributes to the United Kingdom for finally reaching the milestone of contributing 0.7% of GNI to aid. As to what the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, said about her work in Somalia and what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, said in relation to health and education in Pakistan, I can assure them that all contracts are awarded strictly in accordance with extremely tight protocols. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, it is right that we assist. It makes sense for the UK to help in encouraging stability and growth around the world. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in paying tribute to aid workers. It is important that we recognise the contribution they make, very often in the front line.

My noble friend Lord Chidgey challenges our thinking on the private sector and we shall be responding to the ACI review shortly. We are already addressing its

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concerns. I hear what he says about the key importance of encouraging the development of parliaments so that they can hold governments to account. The rule of law, transparency and respect for human rights are also vital for a flourishing democracy, as a number of noble Lords have said.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, raised the issue of data collection. We agree that there needs to be such a data revolution as information enables us to ensure that no one is left behind. That theme was also reflected in the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Low, Lord Hunt and Lord Crisp, in relation to those with disabilities. DfID will be shortly responding to the International Development Select Committee’s report in this area. I recognise also the point made by my noble friend Lord Loomba that widows suffer a double discrimination both as women and as widows. He has a formidable record in championing them.

We recognise, too, that climate change affects the poorest the most. It was therefore important to have the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Prescott, Lord Hunt and Lord Collins, about the vital importance of reaching global agreement on climate change. We will seek to take that forward across different departments in government in the various discussions and negotiations that lie ahead.

On Ukraine, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for his comments and I can assure him that the situation will remain a priority. We are, as a Government, committed to supporting President Poroshenko and his efforts to tackle the challenges facing Ukraine. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, mentioned the Austrian state treaty. The bright young men and women in the Box have not yet come up with a specific answer but I shall make sure that he gets one. He asked about our strategy beyond sanctions. We continue to work in close co-ordination with our European Union and other international partners to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to help support the Government of Ukraine and President Poroshenko in delivering the stable, democratic and prosperous future that the Ukrainian people deserve.

We played a key role in ensuring that Ukraine had the support it needed to hold free and fair elections on 21 May. I welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, in what may or may not have been a maiden speech. He is welcomed back for the assistance that he and his company have given in that.

In partnership with Ukraine and the United States we hosted the Ukraine asset recovery forum in April in London in order to co-ordinate the next steps. We are providing up to £10 million in technical assistance. Plans include the World Bank Trust Fund, partnership with Germany, public financial management, managed funds for technical assistance and support to elections. There are a number of strands to this.

As to the relationship with President Putin, a point raised by a number of your Lordships, EU heads of state and government agreed on 20 March that relationships with Russia could not simply be business as usual. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have spoken to both President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov respectively during this crisis. As has been indicated, the Prime Minister met President Putin on 5 June and reaffirmed that the status quo is

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unacceptable and that the continuing destabilisation of eastern Ukraine must stop. President Putin must recognise the legitimate election of President Poroshenko and stop arms crossing the border into Ukraine. I think it was my noble friend Lord Jopling who asked about NATO in this context. The House will be well aware that NATO’s response to an attack is governed by Article 5 of the Washington treaty, but noble Lords will be aware of activity that NATO has been undertaking in some of the Baltic member states.

Clearly the issues in the Middle East—I think it was said from Mali to Mumbai—are of vital importance. Picking up a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on 2 June, President Abbas announced the formation of an interim technocratic Government, who the United Kingdom and others have welcomed, reuniting Gaza and the West Bank under a Government who are committed to peace. That, we believe, is a necessary condition for resolving the Israel/Palestinian conflict. It is very much in the long-term interests of Israel and of peace in the whole region for the two states to embrace a two-state solution, as I believe the alternatives to that would be much more difficult. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan, expressed from his own rich experience his concerns about these matters. He also asked about Egypt. We believe that inclusive political participation is essential in Egypt and that President al-Sisi needs to ensure that Egypt’s constitution allows for it. The noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath, told us about MECCI going off to Egypt this weekend. The Government welcome MECCI’s endeavours to strengthen parliamentary links between the United Kingdom and Egypt, and efforts to build accountable and democratic institutions. I will be interested to hear about the visit, and no doubt the noble Lord will report back to your Lordships’ House on his return.

It is clear that the events of the past 24 hours in Mosul underline the difficulties and the sensitivities. As the Foreign Secretary has indicated, they show the impact of Syria on the entire region and emphasise the need to renew efforts to find a political solution in Syria. It is also important for a new Government to be formed to ensure political unity in Iraq and to tackle terrorism. I would urge all Iraqis to unite. These are developing issues, but I can assure the House that my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will monitor them very closely. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry asked if the Friends of Syria Group could do more to prevent fracturing of the Syrian opposition and what the international community could do. It is important to recognise that the United Kingdom has driven international efforts to find political solutions to the crisis. At its request, we have provided political and practical support to help the opposition national coalition become a credible and unified body capable of engaging in the political process, and through the Friends of Syria core group, we have encouraged the national coalition to reach out to all sections of Syrian society and demonstrate that it is a credible alternative to the Assad regime. We will continue to work with our London 11 allies and the national coalition to strengthen it further.

Before moving on to Scotland, I have a final issue to raise on foreign affairs, but first I must respond to my noble friend about the structure of the Foreign

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and Commonwealth Office. I think that her points are well made and well understood, and I understand that efforts are being made to increase the number of women in senior ambassadorial and high commission positions. Perhaps I may write to her in more detail because her argument was well made and well received.