9.13 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, I declare an interest as deputy leader of Pendle Borough Council, for reasons that will become obvious. The leader of the council and I have issued a welcome on behalf of the people of Pendle for up to 20 families, at present, to come and live in Pendle and we have told the Government that that is the case. My question for the Minister is how many local authorities in England and Wales—or certainly in England—have made an offer to welcome refugees from Syria? I am told that it is quite a few, but I do not know the number. Do the Government have the details of these people and are they communicating positively with them?

I want to talk a little about Syria. The Prime Minister, in one of his statements on refugees from Syria—which have swung from one extreme to another but have included some remarkably silly comments—said about a week ago that our job was to provide jobs and

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security for people so that they did not need to leave. I think that he has now been to a refugee camp in Jordan and perhaps now understands why people are leaving. It is not about jobs, it is about security.

When Parliament debated whether this country should take part in bombing operations in Syria and the House of Commons voted against it, the suggestion was that we should take military action against the Syrian Government—Assad’s people. Now it seems that the people we are most against in Syria—for very good reason—are those who belong to ISIL, or Daesh, and the debate is whether we want to take part with the Americans in attacking them. The fact is that Syria is being wrecked. When the Prime Minister says that the displaced people he spoke to in the refugee camp in Jordan wanted to go back to Syria, I am sure that that is the case. The question is not whether people want to go back to Syria, it is whether it is possible for them to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, who is not in his place at the moment, talked about the problem of there being two sides in Syria now and that we are against them both. The world is no longer a simple one of goodies and baddies; it is much more complicated than that. I have to say that there are more than two groups in the country, and that is complicating the situation. It used to be said that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, but it is more complex than that in Syria since some of the groups seem to be on the same side as more than one other group and then turn against them. We are not quite sure what is going on.

The Syrian Government have their army based heavily on the Alawite sect, which is Assad’s group. It is said that of the 250,000 men of fighting age in Syria on that side, one-third have already been killed. I do not know if that statistic is true, but that is what is being said. It is certainly true that an increasing number of Alawite people on the coast and in Damascus are leaving Syria, partly because the young men do not want to be called up and partly because they are frightened of the future. The main opponent used to be the Free Syrian Army, which still controls a lot of territory in the north-east and south-east of the country. It was the original opposition and it includes defectors from the Syrian armed forces, but in some areas it is now working with ISIL/Daesh, paving the way for an ISIL takeover. But whatever happens, people are leaving because of the fighting that is going on.

Then there is ISIL/Daesh itself, comprised as we know of hard-line fundamentalists, which now controls about half the area of Syria. It started off by working with the al-Nusra Front, which is an affiliate of al-Qaeda, but now they are fighting each other. So not only are they fighting the Syrian Government, they are fighting each other and probably anyone else who comes along. ISIL is now the strongest opposition group, with its headquarters based in the city of Raqqa in the north. The dilemma the Americans must face, as would we if we were to take part in military combat there, is that if we attack ISIL/Daesh, we help Assad. If we attack Assad’s troops, we help ISIL/Daesh. There appears to be no way through that. The al-Nusra Front, otherwise known as Jabhat al-Nusra, is still active in the same region as the Free Syrian Army. Its troops are fighting

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each other, ISIL, Hezbollah and others up there. Hezbollah is active in the north-west and controls territory on behalf of Assad, but it has its own agenda, and as we know it will turn on anyone if circumstances change. But whatever happens, Hezbollah is also driving refugees into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, first, because people do not like the regime and, secondly, because of the violence.

I turn to the Peshmerga Kurds. Two parties have been successfully attacking ISIL in parts of the north. The Turkish Government, who were being urged to join in the military attacks on ISIL, had been conducting bombing raids in Syria, but it seems that for the most part they have actually been bombing the Kurds because that is part of their own domestic dispute. The whole thing is unbelievably complicated. Iran has put troops in on behalf of Assad, allegedly including 15,000 special forces personnel. Russia has an unknown number of people in the country, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are supporting the rebels.

The country is a shambles, so if people want to know why the problems in Europe are not going to go away and why the refugee camps are going to grow and grow, and why the situation is not going to be solved easily, they have to look at Syria. Somehow all the regional parties, including ourselves, must get together to try and stop the war. I do not think that anyone has the slightest idea of how to do it, so we had better get used to the fact that the stream of refugees coming across Europe will continue. I do not know how many there are at the moment; no one seems to know and there might be half a million on the move in different places. Moreover, as the winter comes, the stream is going to increase.

9.20 pm

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, I think we have to be grateful to the brave TV camera men and women and reporters who bring this crisis before us every day. Yet the images are so bleak, and the crisis is almost beyond our island imagination. Such a degree of hardship thankfully does not exist in our society. We cannot conceive of a world without anything at all to live on, yet we have to make judgments which we think can somehow change it.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced he would at last increase the numbers of vulnerable Syrians to be resettled. Some of us, along with the Refugee Council and Amnesty, have been pressing the Government for months on this. We were told that, up to March, only a handful, 183, and by June, only 216, had been resettled under this scheme. Media reports undoubtedly changed the Government’s mind, and we now, as a country, have responded modestly to the plight of refugees in the region and to UNHCR’s call for resettlement. I fully endorse what the Minister says about bringing stability to lands in conflict, but the Government’s otherwise welcome Statement failed to address the key question of Europe. As others have said, it is astonishing that we appear to be doing nothing to help thousands of Syrians and others stumbling along railway lines towards us.

One might ask why the UK has decided to stand apart from other member states and always hide behind the Schengen and Dublin agreements. I believe, with

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the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that this was in part a soothing message from the Government to some of its Eurosceptic Back-Benchers that, for the moment, it does not want to spell out EU membership too clearly. I fully accept that Europe has not got its act together, largely because of the resistance of eastern European members. Hungary’s use of tear gas and barbed wire is incomprehensible to those who remember 1956, when its own refugees were pouring across the Austrian border. Unfortunately, Mr Orbán does not represent the view of Hungarian people any more than, say, Mr Rosindell reflects his own Front Bench in another place. Monday’s EU meeting at least showed that there is unity among the richer member states—we are meant to be one of those—which will inevitably have to share the responsibility. Much more, however, as has been said, must be done at the United Nations level. I wonder whether fear of numbers lies behind the reaction of some critics and Eurosceptics. The numbers are daunting, but surely there are not so many that they cannot be contained within and around Europe. We have to rely on crude estimates from UNHCR and FRONTEX, but we know they are six-figure numbers. The EU would like us to contribute now. Is that unreasonable?

I recommend doubters to examine the UNHCR list for refugee applications compared with populations in Europe. Sweden tops the list with 7.8 per 1,000 in 2014. Hungary is next, surprisingly, with 4.2, then Germany with 2.1. The UK is way down the list, at 0.5, which means only one refugee applied for asylum for every 2,000 of our citizens. If you compare our total population to recognised refugees, the number is of course lower, and the absorption of an annual 5,000 is barely noticeable. As Hilary Benn said in another place last week:

“The fact that we are not in Schengen does not mean that we should opt out of our responsibility to stand shoulder to shoulder with our European friends and allies in playing our part”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/9/15; col. 427.]

I assume that that still forms part of Labour’s foreign policy, but we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, on that.

It is a pity that Lord Moser is no longer with us to join in this debate. As a teenage refugee himself from Nazi Germany who was cruelly interned here during the war, he said that he discovered his love of numbers by counting his fellow internees. He went on to run the Central Statistical Office and an Oxford college, besides making many contributions to education and music. He is already much missed on these Benches. I also add my own thanks to my friend the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for bringing good humour to our debates over so many years.

Perhaps the Minister can help us with numbers. She cannot answer for the Home Office but she will know, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, will remember, that this country has already been generous to an earlier generation of boat people, having received more than 24,000 refugees from Vietnam, who were resettled over time by local authorities. My main questions relate to her department. Was DfID fully consulted on the decision to take money out of the aid budget? What will be the consequences for other DfID

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programmes? As my noble friend Lord Hannay said, why should Syrians be singled out when there are so many other nationalities involved? What about Kurds and Iraqis—indeed, those who come across the Middle East through Libya, Turkey and other countries? What about eastern Europeans? Are Kosovan or Afghan refugees to be treated differently? These are difficult questions but they will have to be answered at some point. The Balkan states are now receiving EU funding but are still dealing with the aftermath of their own civil wars. The Syrians are special now, but other priorities must come up in future.

9.26 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton (Con): My Lords, it is a privilege to take part in this informed debate and to have listened to the valedictory speech of my noble friend Lord Brooke, although it is tinged with great sadness that he is leaving us.

Five days ago, Arwa Damon, a journalist covering the refugee crisis for CNN, wrote:

“Some assignments fill you w/such sorrow U can’t imagine genuinely laughing again”.

The plight of thousands of refugees fleeing terror and poverty has touched so many. It is hardly surprising that countless people want to help. Just yesterday, Amir Khan set off from Bolton with a convoy of vehicles bound for Greece. People have given money, clothes and food. They have even offered refuge in their own homes. We all want to do something—to do more—but this is a catastrophe with no easy solution. I am afraid that in the not-too-distant future we will have some very difficult debates and some hard decisions to take over the future of Syria and the role that we play. We will probably need to look seriously at the provision of safe havens in Syria.

I will spend the rest of my time speaking about a particular group of refugees and their unique plight, already touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Green, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge. In doing so, I declare my interest as president of Medical Aid for Palestinians and as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy for Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Before I do that, I ask my noble friend the Minister: what will happen to the refugees who have found their way to Europe and are now trapped between countries? I understand very well and sympathise with the Government not wishing to encourage people into the hands of the traffickers, but are we as a country offering practical help to the refugees who find themselves stranded? What, ultimately, will happen to them? When we take in the Syrians from the camps will we continue to offer the vital help to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, which have so selflessly welcomed those in need?

I, too, was delighted when the Prime Minister went to see with his own eyes what is happening on the ground. His visit to the refugee camps on the Syrian border in Lebanon earlier this week, followed by a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, has highlighted the valuable and crucial work done by the UNHCR and its partners in the Lebanese and Jordanian camps to support those fleeing war in Syria.

However, one of the most vulnerable populations in the region cannot access these services. Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp just outside

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Damascus, fleeing the horrors of siege and assault by ISIS and the Syrian regime, have no access to the proposed resettlement programmes proposed by EU countries, which leaves them with the only option of putting their lives in the hands of traffickers. Before the Syrian civil war started in 2011, Yarmouk, established in 1957, was home to 148,500 registered Palestinian refugees, more than half of them under the age of 25. In the four years that have followed, 3,000 are estimated to have been killed in the conflict and 18,000 Palestinian civilians are still living in Yarmouk, including 3,500 children.

In addition to the £1 billion the Government have so generously given towards refugee programmes, they have now pledged to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrians living in the camps. This is most welcome but will not help those who cannot register with UNHCR. Palestinians are prevented from accessing the safety of resettlement because they cannot register. This leaves thousands of refugees languishing in the remains of Yarmouk with no access to proper healthcare, regular food or clean water, and with an outbreak of typhoid. As Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s spokesman, so starkly observed:

“Yarmouk is at the lower reaches of hell”.

As well as those in Yarmouk, another 460,000 or so registered Palestinians, many of them Christian, remain in Syria and are in continuous need of humanitarian aid. Borders are closed to them and this drives many to make the perilous journey through Turkey or across the Mediterranean in search of a safe home and a basic standard of life, placing themselves at the mercy of the sea traffickers. These are the very people we see daily on our television screens.

The particular vulnerabilities of Palestinian refugees and their sensitive status in the region compound the already stark and violent devastation they share with Syrians. It is absolutely right that we as a Government should provide vital support for vulnerable Syrian nationals but we should also ensure there is life-saving sanctuary and assistance for all vulnerable people fleeing conflict in Syria, including Syria’s Palestinian population.

9.32 pm

Baroness Kidron (CB): The Prime Minister said that,

“we must use our head and our heart”—[

Official Report

, Commons, 7/9/2015; col. 23.],

as he set out a staggeringly inadequate response to the refugee crisis, and then threw in news of drone attacks on individual UK citizens in Syria. The drone attacks were neither discussed or ratified by Parliament but were described in the Statement as an “act of self-defence” to kill a named individual in Syria who had been intending to murder British citizens. While that is not the subject of tonight’s debate, it deserves more interrogation on another occasion. But what is important for this debate is the conflation of these two issues. In conflating them, the Prime Minister chose to evoke fear of the “other”. It appears that the head of the Prime Minister was trying to divert a nation whose heart had been broken by the sight of three year-old Aylan Kurdi dead on a beach.

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In the last several days, without going out of my way at all, I have been privy to a number of conversations about refugees from Syria. A couple with young children discussed how they would manage if they opened their home to refugees, how long they might stay, whether they would have to teach them English and be responsible for administering their immigration status and so on. At no point did they consider the discomfort to them or their young family, the cost of putting food on the table or the enormous burden of living with people in a traumatic state, estranged from their birthplace. They were looking at how, not whether, to open their homes to strangers in need. In another, a small group of teenagers studying to be professional chefs discussed how they could set up a soup kitchen. These young people were planning recipes that would give Syrian families far from home the comfort of the familiar. They worked out how they would raise money, shop, cook and serve on a rota, because this would be in addition to their studies. They were looking at how, not whether, to feed the influx.

Then there is my own mother, a refugee from Europe given safe haven in this country with my grandmother while her father hid in occupied Vichy. Perhaps, in the tradition of the House, I should here declare my interests. My family have been political migrants, economic migrants and refugees no less than six times in four generations. My mother, her parents and a single cousin were what was left of her family after World War II. They were granted asylum; others were not. She has donated and she has petitioned, but what does a woman in her late 70s do when her Government do not provide for this generation’s refugees the same safe haven that saved her life and the absence of which cost others theirs? She is looking to her Government to work out how, not whether, to save a life.

To find the balance of head and heart, the Prime Minister must use his head to fulfil what is in the hearts of the British people, who cannot unilaterally save, feed or welcome refugees into their homes but rely on Her Majesty’s Government to create mechanisms that enable them to do so. I share with the noble Lord, Lord James, a desire for action, although his anxiety about Islamic contagion is unfounded. We are the second largest bilateral donor in the region, and, as the Minister set out in her opening remarks, the Government are committed to a long-term political solution that might one day stem the flow. Neither of these approaches, however, is the answer for the tens of thousands of refugees who are, right now, in dangerous transit from somewhere to nowhere.

In setting out what he considered to be a comprehensive approach of causes and consequences, the Prime Minister said nothing about separating foreign policy from our arms trade; nothing about working for a pan-European approach; nothing about destroying the market for human trafficking gangs by providing safe passage; and nothing about our own responsibilities for military interventions and chosen alliances that have contributed to destabilising the region.

The Prime Minister’s statement had no apology for the language of swarming; nor was there an explanation for why we operate a “Not in my backyard” refugee policy. It failed also to address UK citizens whose

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families and friends come from the conflict zones, who feel alienated by the Government’s response and worry about what it says about their own place and identity in this country. We need a comprehensive approach, but this is not it.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that this is an excuse not to take more migrants. The resettlement figure is simply too little over too long, and in refusing to accept resettlement from Italy, Greece and Hungary and using their opt-out to avoid signing up to a common EU plan, the Government are simply adhering to the ideological prejudice, or xenophobia, of those who have this Government on the back foot about Europe and immigration.

These refugees, who have escaped violence in their own country, risked their lives on their journeys and find themselves pressed against both the literal and metaphorical razor-wire fences of implacable European nations, including our own, are no less deserving and arguably more vulnerable than those already settled in camps. They are—as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said—equal, unique, precious and human.

UK citizens in their thousands are having conversations up and down the country like those I alluded to, from the powerful and privileged to those with very little who are willing to share that very little with desperate strangers in need. Our citizens are not bleeding-heart liberals but pragmatic and practical. They do not want this crisis on their conscience. We said “Never again”; this is “Again”, so until we have filled up every bedroom that is offered, we have not done enough.

9.40 pm

Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords, I, too, would like to be associated with the tributes paid to my noble friend Lord Brooke. In cricketing terms, he has carried his bat and scored a century in his last innings.

My speech is not about the plight of refugees, which I recognise, but about how to stop the war, eradicate ISIL and make it possible for the people to return and live in peace. During the Recess, I decided to study Saladin, guided by a book recently written by John Man. Saladin faced not dissimilar problems to the ones we do today. His answer was to provide single-minded leadership that united Sunni and Shia factions, with the objective of throwing out the Franks—that is, the West. His methods were a combination of force and soft diplomacy, which succeeded only because they involved—I emphasise this—Sunni and Shia. The challenge is not just a Middle Eastern one. It affects much of the world including China, India and Russia, all of whom face the danger of this radical, fanatical, vicious and fundamental Muslim sect. We need, I suggest, to analyse dispassionately the context.

First, in relation to Syria, this is the fourth Sunni-Shia war. Assad and his Government will not collapse because they are supported by Iran, Hezbollah and other Shia factions, plus the Russians; that is the reality. Secondly, we in the UK have to admit that we made some errors. We made a fatal error on 20 November 2012, arising out of the Doha conference, in recognising what we thought was a pro-western, modern Sunni

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faction opposed to Assad when we had no idea who they really were. We really should be ashamed at our total diplomatic failure to anticipate this. In fact, it turned out that the vast majority were Sunni jihadists, with some ISIL and a few western-educated Syrians. Thirdly, it does us good to reflect on our own disastrous Arab spring policy: in Libya, where we managed to destroy all law and order; in Egypt, where our interference nearly resulted in the Brotherhood fanatics taking over; and, sadly, even in the Maldives, which I know well, where having promoted a UK-educated Maldivian we have ended up with a jihadist threat there as well.

Why do we not reflect for a minute on what happened in the Second World War? It cannot have been easy for Churchill to decide to sit down to discuss how to attack Germany and deal with Nazism, when we know from history that there was very little rapport between him and Stalin. However, they worked jointly to defeat the common evil. That common evil is now ISIL, and it is on ISIL alone that we should all be focusing. That includes using Assad’s Syrian forces. All of us—Sunni, Shia, Turks, Kurds, Russia, the Western powers, China and India—must eradicate ISIL. It can be done. The House will know that I have been deeply involved in Sri Lanka for some 50 years. In May 2009, what was then the worst terrorist group in the world, the Tamil Tigers, was obliterated there. If we do not do this, the world will suffer; in particular, the West will suffer. So we must think again about Assad and the Shias. We need them all. We need to reflect on what Churchill faced and how he acted. We need to involve the great powers of Russia, India and China. We need to listen to those of our noble friends who have detailed experience of Syria and that part of the world. The noble Lords, Lord Wright, Lord Kerr and Lord Green of Deddington, know that area of the Middle East in depth.

We need to switch off the engine of publicity, particularly in the West. We need to be brave enough to ban any marches in favour of ISIL. It is a proscribed group, and therefore every flag-waving ISIL supporter is flouting the proscription and we must not be weak, but act. Defeat ISIL and the refugee problem will fade away as people return and rebuild, ideally helped by what I hope will be the equivalent of a modern Marshall plan.

The real question is: who will provide the leadership and soft power diplomacy to bring together Sunni and Shia Muslims to make the eradication of ISIL happen? In my view, somehow or other, that leadership must come from the Muslim world and a rapprochement between Sunni and Shia.

9.45 pm

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, this is been a long and worthwhile debate. I have found myself very much in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and my noble friend Lord Hannay, but this evening I want to ask two questions. Will the Government give greater attention to the needs of refugees and displaced people living outside the official camps? Secondly, will they seek to redirect the total aid from Europe towards the Middle East and the northern half of Africa? These questions arise from visits that I made with colleagues to Lebanon in March and to the Kurdish

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Regional Government and the Jazira canton of north-east Syria in May. I have also had news from friends working in Tunisia and Jordan.

At great risk to themselves, Lebanon and Tunisia have each taken in about 1 million refugees. The KRG have coped with huge numbers of those displaced from the rest of Iraq. The aim should be to make all those people, both those in camps and those outside them, as self-sustaining as possible. That means education and training for all, but especially for the young. It would also help to prevent the camps becoming permanent.

I want to urge the case for redirecting the huge volume of aid given each year by Europe. As a number of speakers have mentioned, we have to meet the needs of those who have already reached Europe, most of whom cannot be repatriated. They deserve to be welcomed, as the Pope and many bishops and other faith leaders have requested. They will require language assistance and help to settle into many different societies—above all, for family reunion. Here, I mention two practical points. A Europe-wide tracing service would help families find their separated members, wherever they may be. Secondly, a Nansen-type passport or visa would enable them to apply for reunion and for protection.

We need to ask ourselves why so many leave home and risk dangerous journeys. The reasons are wars, oppression, lack of government, drought and poverty. Many thousands come from the Horn of Africa, the Sudan, the Central African Republic and other countries around the Sahara. At the same time, from Morocco to Pakistan the demography is almost the same: 30% or more of the population is under 30, but they have far too few opportunities to work. That is true even for graduates.

Europe can, I am sure, cope with large numbers of new arrivals, and should do so, given that in some of our countries the population is ageing and declining. However, it is in all our interests that the northern half of Africa and the whole of the Middle East should be prosperous. If they are not, there will be endless pressure to enter Europe at a pace that would destabilise European societies. There is ample scope for combining the resources and skills of Europe with the oil wealth of some Arab states. In this way, a large pool of investment capital could be created to generate jobs for the rising young generation. Locals would benefit just as much as refugees and migrants. We should start on this even while wars and conflicts continue to rage. I call on the Government to re-examine the following needs: war survivors outside official camps; camp dwellers; new arrivals in Europe; economic migrants; potential movers; and the unemployed young. Will they do so urgently, together with the European states and the EU Commission? Having assessed the available resources, will they then seek partners in the City of London and with the Middle East sovereign wealth funds? This could be the greatest job creation and resettlement exercise ever seen.

9.51 pm

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, this has been a vital debate, and I am glad that the Government agreed to table it. I know that this required some

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distinct encouragement from my noble friends, including my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness. It is surely not by chance that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, chose this important debate for his valedictory speech. I thank him for his life’s contribution to public service, not least in this House.

Contributions have been of a very high order. The Minister laid out clearly the Government’s position in her wide-ranging speech at the beginning of the debate, and I thank her for that. I hope that when she replies, she will do her very best, as I am sure she will, to answer all the main questions and themes that have been raised, with the possible exception of the most technical questions. It is less useful in terms of how this House operates to receive a letter some time later, copied though it might be to the Lords Library, responding to a debate. It is far better and more transparent to have the answers in Hansard, easily accessible. I am sure that she and her wonderful officials will endeavour to assist us in this regard.

High on the news agenda this summer have been those whom some have termed “swarms” of migrants or “marauding” migrants: the terrible scenes of overcrowded boats plying their way across the Mediterranean. We were shown the appalling sight of the little boy lying face down on the Turkish beach. I could hardly bear to look at him, or his smiling face or that of his brother in earlier photos. I think of his poor mother, who could not swim and did not want to take a boat at all. How desperate she must have been. I think of the Canadians who refused his family asylum.

We have to put a human face on refugees, to recognise that they are as us and our own children. Our common humanity was emphasised so effectively by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and my noble friend Lord Roberts. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, in her extraordinary speech, injected great passion and urgency into this debate. I hope that we have now moved beyond the use of words such as “swarm” and “marauding”, but are we seeing an effective answer to a hugely pressing crisis?

We know that the refugees are from war-torn and desperately fragile states: above all, at the moment, Syria, but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has pointed out, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. My noble friend Lady Tonge and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, emphasised the particular plight of Palestinians, so many of whom have spent their lives in camps. The people traffickers do not care about those whom they traffic. Many die and many women are raped. Supporting development in fragile states has never been more important. In 2004, the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change—of which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was a notable member—rightly pointed out in its report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility,that, as I often quote:

“Development and security are inextricably linked. A more secure world is only possible if poor countries are given a real chance to develop. Extreme poverty and infectious diseases threaten many people directly, but they also provide a fertile breeding-ground for other threats, including civil conflict”.

Is that not crystal clear today?

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Under the coalition Government, the UK finally met its commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid. Liberal Democrats Michael Moore in the Commons and Jeremy Purvis—my noble friend Lord Purvis—in the Lords then ensured that this was put into law, with Royal Assent on the last day of the last Session. I am very glad that we did that but the UN statement also speaks of the necessity of countries working together for international action, with engagement through the UN not only on long-term development and security but also, in this instance, on seeking a political solution in the Middle East. The noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Desai, and others made very clear the necessity for such international action, which is so lacking in the United Kingdom’s approach. The noble Baroness, Lady Helic, knows a thing or two about conflict and refugees. She rightly argued that the current policy is not working and that the UK must engage more at the UN. However, the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, have possibly different views on military action in this instance. My noble friend Lord Greaves showed how complex this is.

Right on our doorstep, are we working with our EU partners? Clearly not. Here we have been very laggardly, as so many have made clear. The noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, demanded an answer. We must hear that. To tackle the crisis in Europe and the war in Syria, it is critical that the UK works with our EU partners so that we play a central role as decisions are made. The Government’s total reluctance to do so not only damages our reputation but limits our ability to shape the EU reaction. It limits what we are doing to help those fleeing the terrible situation in Syria, as well as jeopardises our later campaign on the EU referendum, as my noble friend Lord Ashdown also emphasised. How can the Government thus endanger our future, as well as those who are in this plight? Various noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Ashdown and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, strongly suggested that this is simply to manage Conservative Back-Benchers. We need to lead, not reluctantly follow.

We welcome the increase in resettlement of refugees from camps in Syria and the region, but it is too little too late and does nothing to tackle the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Europe. As my noble friends Lord Roberts, Lady Tonge and Lady Hussein- Ece made clear, this may involve only just over 1,000 families a year. It should not be an either/or choice. We clearly need to tackle both problems. Interestingly, my noble friend Lord Ashdown and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby emphasised not only the need for generosity but also the economic benefit we could gain from the skills the Syrians have to offer.

The Government should opt in to the relocation programme proposed by the EU Commission president. Can the Minister assure us that the UK is able to opt in to take refugees who arrive in the UK, despite what her noble friend Lady Stowell said the other day? That includes accepting a small number of refugees who are already in Europe, but also seeking better ways to manage the EU’s external borders and strengthen the EU asylum process.

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On the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, there are rules for working out what proportion each country might take, based on a number of criteria that he mentioned, as my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece said. Not being involved means that we play no part in devising those rules. As we know, the conflict in Syria has affected the whole country and led to millions fleeing it and millions more being internally displaced. Many of those fleeing have ended up in the refugee camps in the surrounding region. As my noble friend Lady Tonge pointed out, the UK under the coalition Government became the second biggest humanitarian aid donor in the region, and I am very proud of that. I am glad that this is continuing. We know only too well how destabilising it is to have millions of refugees in the fragile countries around. We must do our best to assist them. As she will know, we took precious few into the UK from those camps and, at first, the Prime Minister would take none. It was only with pressure from his deputy, Nick Clegg, that that policy changed at all.

Here I wish to address the aid budget. I note what the Chancellor said about using the aid budget more directly in the UK's interest, which has a rather chilling sound. As the UN High-Level Panel made clear, development is important for global stability, affecting us all; it is not something that it makes sense to view only as involving limited UK immediate interests. I note what has been said about using ODA for refugees in the UK, and I realise that it is permissible, but it is a concern. Can the Minister tell me when the aid budget was first used to support refugees in the UK? Can she tell me how much was used each year in the last five years to support refugees in the UK? Does she accept that the ODA budget cannot be used to integrate refugees in a donor country’s economy? What are the implications if they are to be so integrated? I do not find an adequate answer either in DfID’s annual reports or accounting to the OECD. Can she tell me what happens to the support for refugees after the first year has concluded? What will be done to ensure that they do not fall on hard-pressed local authority budgets after that first year?

The UK has a long history of supporting the most vulnerable, and reference has been made to what happened in the Second World War, when of course we accepted 10,000 Kindertransport children, one of whom is a Member of this House. So what are we doing now?

This has been an extremely important debate, and I am glad that pressure secured it. The Government have rightly been commended for their action in supporting refugees in the region—but, from all sides, the Government have been condemned for inaction in inadequately supporting refugees in the United Kingdom and for inaction internationally, and especially for inaction in the appalling inability to work with the EU and to help to lead in the EU to resolve this crisis, with a terrible effect on refugees themselves but also in terms of our very place in Europe. Why should our European partners help us to win that referendum when it comes down the track? There are very big questions here about our shared global future. I am not optimistic that we will get those answers tonight, but I can but hope.

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10.03 pm

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, on his valedictory speech, and thank him for his four decades of public service to this country. He has made a huge impact on politics in the United Kingdom, and on behalf of the Opposition I would like to wish him very well in his retirement.

The crisis in the Middle East and north Africa has created a humanitarian disaster on the borders of Europe, which has now spread into Europe itself. We know that the conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of migration, but the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and human rights abuses in Eritrea mean that 71% of the Mediterranean Sea arrivals are from just three countries. Getting aid into Syria is becoming increasingly difficult, and humanitarian agencies are finding it extremely hard to provide food and basic provisions within this damaged country, so many people have had to move out of their country simply to survive. This situation will become more critical as the winter months come on.

The Minister outlined that in Libya the lack of government and lawlessness has meant that half a million people are using that country as a launch pad to cross the hazardous Mediterranean. Iraq continues in a quagmire of violence, and the situation in Yemen is increasingly desperate. According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59 million at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II. So, yes, this is a humanitarian disaster that Europe is having to cope with, but let us not forget that the brunt of migration around the world is borne directly by countries adjacent to the areas of conflict and human rights abuses, many of them desperately poor countries.

While the vast majority of people have stayed in the region, one of the features which distinguishes the current situation from other serious humanitarian crises in the past is that affluent people have been affected by this crisis. Many have the means to pay for their travel and, unfortunately, become subject to the whims and caprices of human traffickers who are exploiting this situation for all it is worth, but it would be wrong to define all those who are travelling as the fittest and wealthiest.

There is no sign in Syria of the causes of this mass exodus stopping. Military intervention would be risky and would throw up all kinds of new and dangerous issues in an extremely complicated environment. There are no simple answers to stopping the number of refugees, and therefore we, in the international community, must accept that we have a moral obligation to support those in desperate need, not just in the immediate region but in Europe and our own country, despite it not being part of the Schengen area.

Nobody can deny the UK Government’s generosity in supporting camps on the border of Syria. We understand that it is far better to help people near the conflict area, thereby preventing dangerous journeys and making it easier for those people to return if things improve. The statistic quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, on the percentage of refugees from Syria being helped in Lebanon, Jordan and

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Turkey is worth repeating; it is 94%. But now that people are on the move, countries on the borders of the EU, such as Greece and Hungary, are under considerable strain. Greece is under profound economic pressure, and it does not seem fair that accident of geography determines how many asylum seekers each nation must bear. In the Greek islands alone, 30,000 people are currently asking for sanctuary and help, including 20,000 on the island of Lesbos—the same number that we are offering to help over the course of five years.

Despite the Government’s generosity to fund camps in the region, their response to the Europe situation has been unacceptable. The fact is that the Government misread the views of the British public on this issue, and a determination to dance to the tune of the anti-immigration lobby has back-fired. The Government are, I know, already working with our European partners to challenge the criminals who are trafficking these people and taking advantage of their desperation, and we need to support Europol and police forces across the EU to do more. How would we co-operate on these issues if we were outside the EU—who knows?

We welcome the deployment of HMS “Richmond” to operations in the Mediterranean, but let us not forget that the work of this vessel will be limited to searching for and seizing smugglers’ vessels. It is not, as a government Minister has emphasised, a passenger-carrying service. In October last year, the Mare Nostrum project was withdrawn by the Italian Government, and the British Government withdrew support for future search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, claiming, as the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, emphasised, that they simply encouraged more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing. It was withdrawn, but they still came and are still coming. Desperate people will do desperate things. This was a dreadful decision, and one to which these Benches drew the attention of the House at the time.

Belatedly, in May this year, the Government sent HMS “Bulwark” to rescue desperate people in the Mediterranean, saving 5,000 people. The smaller HMS “Enterprise” was then sent to replace HMS “Bulwark” but, after a month at sea, had not rescued anyone. Will the Minister clarify whether HMS “Enterprise” is still operating in the Mediterranean and, if so, how many people it has rescued? Is she confident that the search and rescue capability—which should be distinguished from the attempt to stop traffickers—is equal to the task of saving lives in the Mediterranean?

We welcome the Prime Minister’s belated decision, following that public outcry, to agree to welcome 20,000 Syrians from the border refugee camps by the end of this Parliament. However, we are welcoming 20,000 over five years, when Germany is on course to host 1 million by the end of the year. That provides some perspective on the challenges that our continental friends are confronting. Some 20,000 people at some point in the future will do nothing to ease the burden that our continental friends are facing today.

It was heartening to hear the Minister state that we need to be part of a comprehensive European solution to this problem, but I am sure that her idea of a comprehensive European solution looks very different

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from mine. The Government must stop confusing people with talk of Schengen, asylum seekers, refugees and the free movement of people in the EU and all their rights in one breath. All of these are different, and confusing those issues stirs the sensitive immigration debate in a way that is unnecessary. The fact is that these people will try to come to Europe and the UK irrespective of our relationship with the EU. Migrants will gather in Calais in search of a better life on our shores. Desperate people will not wait for the Government to act, and it is in our interests to work in concert with other European member states.

It is clear that the Dublin regulation, the system that prevents asylum application to numerous EU member states, has stalled, and that there are considerable strains on the Schengen open-border system. How can the Government set a cap on the number of asylum seekers coming to this country over five years when they have no idea how the situation will unfold in the next few weeks, let alone the next five years? The time for action and help is now, so why not get on with the job and bring 10,000 people in before Christmas?

A senior UN official has claimed that, if the war continues, 1 million more refugees will find their way to Europe by the end of this year. Ultimately, we will need to find a solution in Syria. We need to increase the diplomatic pressure on Assad, and we need people to feel safe in their country and their region. We know that there are no quick fixes or immediate answers, but some kind of strategy would be a good start.

The issue of immigration is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We must not forget that at one stage or another we were all immigrants to this country. I remember that when I was a little girl our family was asked to take care of a Vietnamese boat family. They came, integrated and contributed in a real way to the economy and to the community. Today’s asylum seekers will do the same. I pay tribute in particular to the moving speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, on this issue.

War and human rights abuses are not the only reasons for people to come to this country, or to move at all. In future years, our response to climate change will come too late to stop extreme flooding and famine. We need a global dialogue on this issue that understands the best thing to do is to address the issue in a multifaceted way, investing in stopping climate change, investing in diplomacy to stop wars and securing safety for people in their home nations where possible. Raiding the development budget this year will only take the Government so far. If we are not fixing issues in developing nations, we will need to fix them here at a great much greater cost. In the long term, it is a false economy to raid the overseas budget.

We have an immediate problem now, though. The situation is urgent; people are dying now. Long-term solutions will not solve this particular problem. The time for talking is over and the time for action is now.

10.14 pm

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their incredibly passionate contributions this evening. I particularly thank my noble friend Lord Brooke for

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his valedictory speech, and on behalf of the House I thank him for his public service over many decades. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell summed up very neatly the work that my noble friend Lord Brooke has carried out.

As noble Lords have said, this is a debate about the head and the heart. We have to be proud of the work that we have done to support the Syrian people in this unprecedented crisis through our aid budget, through British NGOs such as Oxfam and Save the Children and through the amazing work of British humanitarian workers who risk their lives to provide life-saving assistance.

The picture inside Syria is unspeakably bleak. For four years the people of Syria have been bombed, starved and driven from their homes. Since the start of this crisis we have been there saving lives inside Syria and providing food, clean water, shelter and other essentials to support those who have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries. We are helping those countries cope with the strain that the crisis is putting on them.

We will continue to push for improved international responses to the unfolding crises. The deliberate tactics of the Assad regime to bomb and starve its people into submission and the rise of ISIL and other armed extremist groups in Syria and Iraq have all served to intensify the crisis and to worsen the plight of the Syrian people caught up in it. That is why the UK worked hard with others to achieve the critical UN Security Council resolution in July that enables UN aid delivery across Syria’s border without the consent of the regime. Ultimately, a political resolution to the conflict in Syria is the only long-term solution, as the noble Lord, Lord Green, pointed out earlier.

There are a number of questions to which I need to respond, but I want to say firmly from the outset that the UK Government have been committed to supporting Syria. The UK was one of the first countries on the scene. Let us not divert the debate into Conservative Members wanting this to be an EU debate where the Government and the Prime Minister have been frightened to respond. That undermines the great work that not only DfID but the whole Government are doing. I urge all noble Lords to keep this debate on the track that it should be, where we as a country should be proud of the work that we are undertaking and the commitment through the DfID budgets and the other schemes that we support—not just the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme but the other schemes that are already in place, such as the Gateway scheme and the Mandate scheme; schemes which are already bringing in refugees and supporting them when they come to our country and ask for asylum.

If we ensure that up to 20,000 more of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees can safely reach the UK, using the aid budget we shall help both them and local communities to adjust to their arrival. We have to be mindful that we are going to be settling these people who are fleeing because they are the most needy, because they need the most support. Therefore we need to make sure that we prepare the places to which they are going so that they are thoroughly ready to receive those people with their needs.

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By relocating them we want to make sure that we avoid adding to the trade in human lives that at the moment is the business of people traffickers. We must not forget that people are benefiting and profiting from the plight of people trying to flee. It is because of that that we need to make sure that we are working collectively with our European partners in ensuring that we tackle this heinous, horrible, horrendous use of people for profit.

However, as was rightly said by many noble Lords, the work that we are doing, and with other nations, is to try to make sure that we have proper funding, resources and responses to ensure that the people are helped. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, pointed out that 94% or 95% of the people of Syria are still either within that country or in neighbouring countries. We need to make sure that support is there in order rightly to let those countries manage the plight of the people who are being given such a miserable existence within Syria.

The goals and global challenges are complex. Later this month, at the UN General Assembly, the world will sign up to new global goals. In December, in Paris, we expect to achieve a game-changing global climate change deal, the likes of which we have never managed before. This is a time for momentous decision-making for the planet and its future. British people can be assured that we, the UK Government, are doing everything that we can to deal with this current crisis—from providing aid to people in the region to giving asylum to those in need and saving lives in the Mediterranean, and hunting down people-smuggling gangs. Britain cannot be accused of not pulling its weight.

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Richard Harrington MP as Minister for Syrian Refugees. He will be responsible for co-ordinating and delivering across government for Syrian resettlement, along with co-ordinating the provision of government support to Syrian refugees in the region. He will report primarily to the Home Secretary as well as to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He will also report to the Secretary of State for International Development on the provision of support to assist Syrians in the region.

The noble Lords, Lord Ashdown and Lord Anderson, asked what we were doing for those people who are living outside camps in Syria and the region. There are more than 4 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, of which the majority are being accommodated outside camps within host communities. The UK has allocated £519 million to support refugees in the region. This support is providing food, water and medical consultations.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s generosity in giving way, given our limited time. Perhaps I may ask a specific question, and the Minister for Syrian Refugees could address it if the noble Baroness cannot do so. The Government have said that they will put a specific emphasis on allowing orphans and children to come to Britain. Will she confirm that it remains the Government’s policy that they will be subject to deportation at the age of 18? We know that they can appeal against that, and the Prime Minister has said

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that there will be a presumption in favour of such appeals succeeding. Quite how that will work, I do not know. Can she imagine just how much insecurity that will create for those children’s education, not to have their future beyond the age of 18 clarified? Can she address that question directly?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I will address that question. Those people coming under the Syrian protected scheme will have, after five years, the right to indefinite stay. Among them, there will be young people who, when they reach the age of 18, will have applied through the system and remain here because of their status as having been among the 20,000 people who we will bring into the UK and will be supported under the Syrian protected scheme.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I am sorry, but “applied” means that they will not necessarily be relieved of being deported. That is correct and is the only way in which we can read the Minister’s words, I presume.

Baroness Verma: My Lords, perhaps I am not explaining this very well. Among the 20,000 coming in, Syrian refugees of less than 18 years will be provided with humanitarian protection for five years under the scheme. Under the Syrian protection scheme, we will not be looking to remove any such child once they reach the age of 18. I hope that that adds clarity.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: Will the Minister confirm an answer that was given this very day last week in response to a question about the number of further leave to remain refusals that have occurred to people formally granted temporary leave as children upon applying as adults? Those refusals rose from six in 2006 to 870 in 2010; whereas, after plateauing at 871 in 2011, they fell in each year of the coalition thereafter to 374 in 2014. I personally regard those statistics as encouraging.

Baroness Verma: I thank my noble friend for his intervention. However, I reiterate that the scheme we are operating, the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme, is different from other schemes and, therefore, under this scheme, those reaching the age of 18 will remain.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: Is that a guarantee?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, so that we can make progress, I think it would be easier if I write to the noble Lord and put a copy of that in the Library.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked about the structure of the Gold Command team announced today. The Gold Command has been established in the Home Office as a dedicated resource to ensure that commitment to resettlement is fulfilled quickly. It will report to the new Minister for Syrian refugees and will co-ordinate the response across government, the third sector and international agencies.

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The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, said that the Government refused to co-operate with Europe, as did a number of other noble Lords. I repeat that the Government are working very closely with EU partners, through the Commission, the Council and bilaterally. There are very many areas that we agree on and will continue to work together on: securing the external border and establishing hotspots, and providing real help on the ground and practical support to front-line member states. So it is wrong to say that we are not co-operating with Europe. However, we have taken a decision that we will operate our national response in this way. We think that it is the right way to respond to ensure that people are settled and supported in their own country, or in the region near to their country, so that they can then return when the conditions improve.

Somebody asked how the people coming will be accommodated. I remind noble Lords that we have a proud history, over many years, of being able to operate resettlement schemes. We already have established and effective networks to accommodate and support resettled people. However, we recognise that the increase in numbers will require an expansion of current networks and have an impact on local communities and infrastructure. We will need to manage that carefully. That is why it is important that we work with a wide range of partners, including local authorities and civil society organisations, to ensure that people are integrated sensitively into local communities.

My noble friend Lord Crickhowell asked whether the 20,000 figure is a firm target. We have always been very clear that the 20,000 figure is not a target. Resettlement schemes must be designed to respond to need, not to fulfil arbitrary quotas. The figure will always remain under review. We will monitor the situation and do what needs to be done as we see fit.

Lord Greaves: My Lords—

Baroness Verma: I will just finish this point.

My noble friend also asked what we were doing to support minority groups as we have seen some horrific cases of attacks on Christians and other religious communities by violent extremists, including ISIL. I reassure all noble Lords that all UK-funded assistance is distributed on the basis of need to ensure that civilians are not discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion or ethnicity. We want to prioritise reaching the most vulnerable people across Syria. That includes Christians and those who have suffered from such violence. We will continue to work with the United Nations and the international community to ensure that all minority rights are protected and that our aid reaches those who are in greatest need.

Lord Greaves: Does the Minister have an answer to my question about how many local authorities have offered to assist the Government in welcoming refugees?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I remember the question. I will need to go back and source the answer for the noble Lord. At this moment, I suspect that we are

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working with local authorities and so will not have a precise answer for him, but I promise to take the question back.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked why we were limiting the expansion to Syrians. It is important to note that by the end of 2014 Syria was the top source country for refugees: one in every four refugees was from Syria. It was right and proper that we focused our efforts there first. The UK has already run many resettlement schemes that do not restrict nationality, such as the Gateway Protection Programme and the Mandate refugee scheme that I mentioned earlier. The noble Lord also asked how the UK was supporting health education and economic opportunities for refugees in the region. UK support in the region is providing medical assistance for refugees in Lebanon. The UK is working alongside the Government to expand the education system to reach thousands of Syrian children and improve basic services. The Prime Minister’s recent announcement will double education support for refugee children over the next three years— £30 million over three years. We will continue to talk to host Governments to expand livelihood opportunities for Syrian refugees.

I was asked about support for the work of the Navy and new naval activity. The Royal Navy has today offered the warship HMS “Richmond”, as has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, to boost the Government’s efforts to tackle people smuggling in the Mediterranean. It will support a surge of EU activity to tackle people smuggling before the start of winter and we welcome all noble Lords’ support.

I was asked whether there was a buffer zone in Jordan or other neighbouring countries. There is no official buffer zone for Syrians in Jordan. There are processing centres to register all Syrians for these countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, asked whether those arriving would be allowed to work. Under the scheme, they will be allowed to work and access benefits. They will have a five-year settlement visa and be able to have all the rights that come with that settlement. They will be assisted in the first year by ODA money and will then have access to the benefits and education systems, social services and health services that any British citizen would. That will be available to them.

I was also asked about what we were doing to encourage Gulf states to contribute more to the international response. We have actively engaged with the Gulf states on the humanitarian response in Syria. The Gulf states continue to contribute generously to the UN Syria appeals. Kuwait has hosted three fundraising conferences for the Syrian crisis, raising billions of dollars. This year, some $3.6 billion has been raised at the Kuwait pledging conference.

I have a number of responses to get through but I am fast running out of time. I would like to end by saying that it is really important to recognise that the work that the British Government, the British people and our NGOs are doing is going a long way towards helping to provide support for desperate people, but it is not enough. We need to encourage others to rise to the mark because as we try to build a more stable and

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prosperous world, there will be greater need. We are leading the international community in our response, but the UK cannot do it alone. Where I have not been able to respond to all the questions that have been put to me, I offer to write. However, as always, we could have taken a lot longer over this debate.

Motion agreed.

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Education and Adoption Bill

First Reading

10.36 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

House adjourned at 10.37 pm.