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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that is not the case. Some of that £600 million has been used to fund the provision of care which might have been financed from running up debts because of the pressures on the health service. However, the additional resource has enabled agreement at local level as to how those services are to be provided. It has also enabled us to meet identified pressures for the winter and to develop many of our services.

I think that noble Lords are being somewhat churlish in relation to the issue when one considers the extraordinary amount of additional resources that this Government are putting into the National Health Service.

Army: Response to Bullying Complaints

3.8 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Army does not tolerate any form of harassment. All allegations of ill treatment are thoroughly investigated with appropriate disciplinary action taken. A number of

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measures have been introduced to enforce the policy of zero tolerance, including information on how to complain, a confidential telephone support line and equal opportunities material to explain the position of the Army on these issues. These measures are, of course, kept under review and are re-focused as necessary.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Does she agree that a call to tackle bullying is not a call for "soft soldiers"? Perhaps I may ask her a question of which I have given notice. Is she aware of the statement made to me in a Written Answer on 7th June 1988 in the other place to the effect that the Ministry of Defence was introducing a comprehensive programme in regard to bullying? Some 10 measures were involved, including the formal banning of improper initiation ceremonies. Has that programme been implemented? If so, in view of the fact that allegations of bullying and brutality are still being made, what further steps can the Government take?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree wholeheartedly that such measures are not ones that will lead to "soft soldiers", to use my noble friend's term. I am aware of the statement made in 1988, as the noble Lord was kind enough to give me notice of his question.

In addition to the banning of initiation ceremonies, we have established additional posts in training organisations to allow officers and NCOs to devote more time to their supervisory role. There is guidance on how to complain about bullying. People can go not only to the commanding officer but to equal opportunities officers, the medical officer or the padre, and in the past 18 months a confidential telephone line has been introduced so that individuals can discuss these issues and seek advice. In addition, in February we published two booklets for all ranks providing specific advice, inter alia, about bullying.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is possible to go slightly "over the top" on this matter? Life in the Army--I do not know why, of the three services, the Army has been selected for this Question--has always been fairly rugged. There has been a certain amount of what the Americans call "hazing", which is not quite the same as bullying as we understand it. Does the Minister further agree that, in contemplating this issue, if we are talking about actual ill-treatment and denial of human rights, we can take a little too tragically the subject of so-called bullying in the services?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, in theory the noble Lord has to be right. It is possible to go over the top about virtually anything. The use of physical strength or the abuse of authority to intimidate or victimise others or to give unlawful punishment is unacceptable behaviour which will not be tolerated in the Army. That is very different from a regime which allows for operational effectiveness,

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which--I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord--is essential. Those in the Army do have to be physically robust and, where necessary, to display controlled aggression. I believe that those factors are properly spelt out in various ways, particularly in the Values and Standards pamphlets that have been circulated round the Army. If the noble Lord wishes, I will send him copies of those pamphlets; and I hope he will agree with me that they certainly do not go over the top.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I wonder whether there is any evidence of an actual increase in bullying in the armed services since the time when many noble Lords served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, or whether, today, we simply have a heightened consciousness of bullying that has always taken place in some form or another. If there is evidence of an increase, do we have any understanding of the causes?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, alas, I am not able to tell the right reverend Prelate how the statistics are moving because statistics relating to this matter were not kept until December 1997. However, I can supply figures for the complaints investigated since that time. In 1997 there were 118 complaints; in 1998, 100; and in 1999, 51. So far this year 16 complaints have been investigated. That indicates a downward trend in investigations, but not necessarily in complaints. We know, for example, that there have been over 3,000 calls to the telephone hotline in the past 18 months--although they may not all be about bullying. There is a means for people to make complaints and seek advice. I hope that the statistics now being kept will allow us to track what is happening as regards bullying.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I apologise for intervening again, but does my noble friend agree that it is nonsensical to claim that it is going over the top simply to ask for investigations into bullying? Will my noble friend tell the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that when I was campaigning on this issue in the House of Commons there was evidence and proof before courts martial: men in the British Army were found guilty of appalling conduct. There was evidence of men being tied up, stripped, having their genitals painted and being beaten and gagged. All these things are happening in the British Army, and the noble Lord says, "Don't go over the top". I did not go over the top. I simply asked the Minister to look into the whole question.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I rather thought that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, considered that I was going over the top rather than my noble friend. To be fair to the noble Lord, I do not think he said that we were going over the top; he said it was "possible" to go over the top--as it is in any matter. I hope that I have made the position of Her Majesty's Government abundantly clear. The practices in initiation ceremonies to which my noble friend has alluded have been illegal in terms of Army

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discipline since the 1980s. It is now spelt out clearly to all Army personnel that what is expected in the Army is mutual trust and proper respect for individuals.

Noble Lords: Next Question!

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, perhaps I may--

Noble Lords: Chalfont!

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, as I heard my name mentioned a moment ago, I crave the indulgence of the House to say that I did not suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, was in any way going over the top. I know the noble Lord far too well for that. Nor was I suggesting that the noble Baroness was going over the top. She gave a good, straight Answer to a straight question. Although neither did so, it is possible to go over the top; many people do, and I wish they would stop.

Developing Countries: Tied Aid

3.17 p.m.

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made towards phasing out tied aid to developing countries.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, discussions have been going on in the OECD for over two years to reach an agreement on the multilateral untying of development assistance to the least developed countries.

Despite considerable efforts by the UK, other like-minded donors and the Secretariat of the Development Assistance Committee, I am sorry to report to the House that, yesterday, a small minority of countries continued to block progress towards an agreement. We do not accept that this should be the end of the matter, and the Government will pursue all avenues to secure an early and meaningful agreement.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that inevitably depressing Answer. Bearing in mind that an astonishing 71.6 per cent of American aid is tied to American products, so that the receiving countries cannot use their own procurement strategy or indeed local procurement, can the Minister say with more precision what can be done to hasten agreement over untying?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, given the difficulties in agreeing a text at the recent OECD meeting, it must now be a question of political will. We shall continue to use our influence. Discussions will have to be undertaken at the highest levels, including at the forthcoming G8 summit in Okinawa. I hope that like-minded countries within the OECD will also use their influence. The outcome has been extremely disappointing. The last two G7 summits, in

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Birmingham and Cologne, urged action to secure early agreement on untying. This failure threatens the credibility of the OECD to deliver, and also sends mixed messages to G8 members who urge liberalisation on developing countries but cannot break the link between trade and aid in their own bilateral programmes.


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