|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will not be disappointed to hear that on this occasion, and most unusually, I fundamentally disagree with him. It is clear that there were a number of significant difficulties with the property Glencairn. The noble Lord will know that the distance from Glencairn to Dublin caused difficulty. Indeed, a notorious murder was committed on that road and therefore security issues were involved. The advantage to be gained in selling the property, buying a most suitable Victorian property to replace it and making use of the opportunity to expand and invest was nothing other than plain good sense.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, it may have made financial sense to sell the Ambassador's residence of Glencairn, with low fixed interest rates, money cheap to borrow and booming house prices which are a consequence of Ireland's EU membership. But that aside, may I seek the Minister's assurance that this costing down is not part of an overall reduction package? Do the Government have any plans to reduce the complement of staff in Ireland?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I have no indication that the complement of staff in Ireland will be reduced. If that comes to my attention I shall advise the noble Baroness of it. House prices in Ireland have risen and at the time we sold Glencairn we got good value for it and were able to purchase another property at a good rate. There has certainly been no dumbing down or costing down. We are making judicious good use of the properties available to us and to the maximum advantage. We shall continue to do that.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, unfortunately, I found it difficult to hear the noble Lord. I wish him a very happy birthday. The noble Lord referred to the closure of various embassies. I do not know whether he has particular embassies in mind. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, to date we have not closed any without giving proper notice and opening others elsewhere.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, can the noble Baroness indicate whether, generally speaking, when new premises are required for embassies the policy is to buy rather than lease them, which was the policy in the past that did not turn out to be very cost-effective over the long term?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are trying to make the appropriate decisions. To date, the market has tended to indicate that purchase is the most stable way to proceed, but the noble Lord will also be aware that sometimes we need temporary accommodation which is conveniently dealt with by leasing. There is no hard and fast rule. We shall make the best commercial decision for the long term so that we make proper use of all our resources.
Baroness Young: My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us whether the policy, which I believe she described as asset recycling if I understood her correctly, includes the disposal of other buildings of comparable standing and merit to the residence in Dublin? Does the noble Baroness agree that when in the past Foreign Office buildings have been disposed of, the result has been singularly unfortunate and has not helped our diplomatic representation abroad?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, Mongolia has been hit by two consecutive winter disasters, or "dzuds". This winter's dzud alone has affected over 300,000 herders in 20 out of 21 provinces and 1.5 million livestock have died. The Government of Mongolia have launched an appeal for £8.2 million through the United Nations. The DfID has offered £1 million for the provision of emergency relief under the framework of the UN appeal.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. Her figures for the losses are not the same as those given me by the Mongolian ambassador to London. He told me that last year nearly 3 million livestock perished in the severe winter and it was anticipated that nearly 6 million would die this year, leaving the herders with no alternative means of livelihood. Does the noble Baroness share my enthusiasm for the Save the Children Fund and will she join me in offering great plaudits for its marvellous work, which I have seen, in difficult conditions in Mongolia?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am aware that the noble Baroness has visited Mongolia three times and is becoming quite expert in the field. The projections come from the Government of Mongolia and run until May. Therefore, the figures that I have given relate to the position as of now. As to the work of Save the Children Fund, I agree with the noble Baroness that it does an excellent job in Mongolia. That organisation manages the DfID small grants scheme to the tune of £225,000, which is in addition to the money that we provide through multilateral organisations like the World Bank, the EU TACIS programme and the UN.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, as someone who served very briefly in Mongolia, I have a particular admiration for that country, which survives between two very large super-powers. It admires us because we established an embassy there before anyone else. Can I persuade the Minister that, although we have been generous in what we have given multilaterally through the World Bank, the UN and others, direct bilateral aid means a great deal to a small country? Before the UK-Mongolia meeting in May, will the Minister consider the possibility of further
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have been examining how we give funding to Mongolia. We believe that, because of the additional leverage we achieve through multilateral funding at this time, that is the most important aid to that country. As I said in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, we have a small grants programme. I do not anticipate that we shall have a bilateral programme, but we shall study the matter again in the light of the noble Baroness's comments.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, we welcome the £245,000 that DfID has given to the Red Cross for operations in Mongolia. Sadly, the recent meteorological tragedy is nothing new to central Asia; it is a recurring problem. Can the Minister tell the House what assistance the Government are offering the authorities in Mongolia in regard to long-term planning and the avoidance of catastrophe?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, long-term assistance is provided principally through the UNDP co-ordination mechanism in Mongolia. The recent UN disaster and assessment team report, produced after a visit in January, pointed out that it was vital to Mongolia's future to transform the entire livestock production system into a fully sustainable sector of the economy. The suggestion is that UNDP, UNEP and the FAO should together prepare an appropriate project proposal to put to donors. Our assistance is through multilateral sources like the UN, the World Bank and the TACIS programme.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Department of Health has received over 500 responses to the consultation paper and draft guidance. While some of the main principles of the draft guidance have been welcomed, concerns have been expressed over aspects of the proposed guidance, particularly on the treatment of earnings and possible disincentives for disabled people to take up paid employment. The Government are giving careful consideration to those responses.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|