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House of Lords

Thursday, 16 July 2009.

11 am

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

Introduction: The Lord Bishop of Bristol

11.07 am

Michael Arthur, Lord Bishop of Bristol, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Newcastle and the Bishop of Bath and Wells.



11.11 am

Asked By Lord Chidgey

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, we are aware of reports in May 2009 about incursions of Ethiopian security forces in Somalia, but we have not been able to verify these claims. The UK has no presence on the ground. The Ethiopians have stated publicly that, since the withdrawal of their forces from Somalia in January 2009, they continue to conduct only legitimate defensive operations to secure their own border with Somalia. We are of course concerned by any harmful foreign intervention, including by foreign fighters as insurgents in Somalia. We are worried by reports of Eritrean support for insurgent groups and we urge the UN to complete its investigation urgently.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. I also take this opportunity to thank him for the way in which he has answered Questions, prepared Statements and briefings to us all during his tenure at the Dispatch Box.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, in connection with that Answer, I am sure that the noble Lord is aware of the UN Security Council's concern over the reports of Eritrea arming al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia in breach of the UN embargo. Should these reports prove to be true, will the Government support a call for sanctions against Eritrea? Finally, AMISOM is seriously underfunded and underresourced and has no mandate to engage with the militants in Somalia. In that situation, what chance is there of any success for AMISOM without a full settlement in the region and a resolution of the boundary dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his remarks about me. I fear that it is in all likelihood the case that the Eritrean involvement will be confirmed. As ever, it is enormously important that effective measures are taken against Eritrea. First, we need to make sure that what we do will work, because in the past Eritrea has defied the will of the international community and has, if you like, called the international community's bluff. Secondly, I agree entirely that we need to strengthen AMISOM and its mandate. The UK has given it £15.8 million this year. We are encouraged by the suggestions that it will adopt, just as it did this last weekend, a more robust and proactive approach to suppressing the insurgency.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, perhaps I may add to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey. As this is positively the last appearance of the Minister at the Dispatch Box, unless he gets caught by a topical next week, we on this side, too, are sad at his departure. He has dealt with your Lordships' House with efficiency, charm and candour-and I say "candour" for both sides, not just for us. We admire that. This is the fourth time that I have had to say farewell to a Foreign Office Minister in the past seven years and I think that the regret is the greatest in this case, although possibly that is shared with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. He has done a very good job and we appreciate that. We thank him very much indeed.

The Prime Minister of Somalia has just announced that he fears that there is a large flow of al-Qaeda-backed foreign fighters coming into Somalia. There have also been intelligence rumours-I do not ask the Minister to comment on them in detail-that some of these are being trained up as terrorists and are coming to the United Kingdom. We are worried about what is happening in Somalia; it is not only a remote fight and none of our business. Would the noble Lord like to comment on these concerns about al-Qaeda's involvement in Somalia?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks and observe to the Benches opposite that, if in the area of foreign policy in this House we cannot find a spirit of bipartisanship, then on what issue where? It has been a great privilege to be faced by such supportive, if occasionally critical, questioning from the Benches opposite. It is parliamentary business at its best and I thank all noble Lords for that.

In the context of foreign fighters in the country, I have no doubt that they are there. President Sharif's allegations are, in broad outline, correct. We have to take steps to end this. We must make it clear that the internationalisation of the conflict in Somalia is utterly unacceptable and will be robustly addressed. The United States, France and others have already taken action in this regard and we will, too, through the Security Council and other means. The noble Lord is right: there is a worrying increase in the number of UK terrorist cases that have a Somali root.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, as this Question Time seems to be turning into a tribute, may I, from these Benches, endorse everything that has been said

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about the noble Lord? I particularly thank him for the courteous and effective way in which he has answered, I am afraid, far too many difficult questions from me over the past two years.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I have been delighted to be seduced and pulled by the neck, nose and other limbs into saying more on the Middle East than perhaps a prudent Minister would have done at the Dispatch Box.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I add from our Front Bench our view that the noble Lord will be an enormous loss to the House and to the Government. We shall miss him sorely. As to what is happening now in Somalia, has the noble Lord seen the statement by the Uganda army spokesman that 16,000 troops and a more robust mandate for AMISOM are necessary to quell the insurgency? What will happen when the recent IGAD resolution calling for neighbouring countries to contribute to AMISOM comes before the Security Council? Will we support that proposal? What alternatives have we for increasing the size of the AMISOM force?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, again, I thank the noble Lord for his questions over the past two years on a range of enormously important issues that otherwise often get overlooked. IGAD and the African Union have three essential recommendations: the first is sanctions against Eritrea; the second is strengthening AMISOM and its mandate to allow it to take proactive action; and the third is to supplement AMISOM by troops from the immediate neighbouring states. On the third, we have some cautions. We want to make sure that the conflict does not, in a sense, become a regional conflict with neighbours drawn in, as we have seen in the Great Lakes and, indeed, previously in Somalia. However, it is equally the case that we need to give AMISOM those extra troops. I have talked to the Ugandans, and the Burundians are now sending in an extra battalion. I hope that we can find ways other than through the neighbours to reach those troop numbers.

Schools: Cricket


11.19 am

Asked By Baroness Massey of Darwen

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, in asking this Question I declare an interest as a Lady Taverner.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, the Government are increasing participation in PE and sport in schools, including cricket. In 2008, 90 per cent of pupils did two hours of high-quality PE and sport each week, up from 62 per cent in 2004. Over the same period, the percentage of schools providing cricket for their pupils has risen from 85 per cent to 90 per cent. We recognise that Chance to Shine does a great job. Last year it delivered 20,000 sessions to 2,000 schools in the country.

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Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that response. Will she join me in congratulating the England women's cricket team on their enormous success in the World Cup, in the 20/20 and in beating Australia? Will she say what impact the Chance to Shine initiative has had on girls' sport?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am delighted to join my noble friend in congratulating Charlotte Edwards and the England women's cricket team on the tremendous success that they have had, not only in winning the World Cup but in the 20/20 and in retaining the Ashes. We must all be proud of that. It has a cascading effect on girls' cricket, and we should be proud that the England women's team members are actively involved through Chance to Shine in encouraging schools, particularly girls, to get involved in cricket.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, the Minister has just mentioned the words "cascading effect". Does she accept that there is a correlation between the lack of school playing fields and the rise in youth crime? If not, why not?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am disappointed that we should kick off this celebration of cricket in England and Wales and our success by concentrating on what I consider to be an out-of-date debate about playing fields. We have taken steps to ensure that we have the toughest ever measures to prevent the sale of school playing fields. Where a playing field is sold, we have set up measures to ensure that any proceeds of that sale are ploughed into investments in school sport. That is something that this Government have made an important priority.

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board. What government funds, if any, are available to expand the Chance to Shine project in getting cricket played in a majority of our state schools?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am delighted that we will continue to support Chance to Shine. Over the past three years we have invested £5 million in the Chance to Shine programme and, as I understand it, the allocation from Government now is £7.5 million over the next four years. We are committed to supporting Chance to Shine and working in partnership with it.

Lord Addington: My Lords, does Chance to Shine have the best model for making sure that people carry on playing cricket after they finish school? If not, will the Government be looking to other schemes and other sports that have other models? Any effort that goes into school sport that does not mean that people carry on is basically half-wasted.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Lord. I would add that whether in cricket, in rugby or in other sports, the connection between schools and the club network in this country is important. That is why we are investing in ensuring that those partnerships exist. For example, 45 per cent of schools in 2004 had partnerships with cricket clubs and we have seen that rise to 57 per cent, an important

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increase. Chance to Shine is an extremely good model, although there are important lessons to learn from other sports too.

Lord Condon: My Lords, I declare an interest: I have a 10-year involvement with the International Cricket Council. Does the Minister agree that cricket is a force for good throughout the world? Particularly in some of the most troubled areas such as Afghanistan, cricket brings together people from across cultural and religious divides. It is to be encouraged in our schools and in schools throughout the world.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Lord.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, would the Minister care to compliment Cardiff on hosting the Ashes for the first time ever, very successfully?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, of course, I would dearly love to take the opportunity to compliment Cardiff. I also remind noble Lords that when we talk about England, we are talking about the England and Wales Cricket Board, and when we talk about the achievements of the England women's team we must remember that we are talking about the achievements of Welsh women, too-for example, Hannah Lloyd from Neath, who is a member of the women's cricket team.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords-

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has acknowledged the role that cricket clubs play in collaborating with schools in Chance to Shine. As president of Adlington Cricket Club, I know that every Friday there are 100 to 150 children practising with three coaches. That is an example, but many other cricket clubs provide similar facilities, which is an encouragement to the youngsters, and I hope that they will carry on playing after they have left school.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend's comments. It is extremely important that we recognise that, since the Government launched our school sports strategy, we have transformed the sport terrain in this country. Between 1997 and 2000 we had a very small proportion of children-25 per cent-doing two hours of sport a week. Now that has increased substantially, and we are taking it further. We are linking schools with clubs and making sure that children and young people develop a habit of a lifetime-and, as we can see in this House, cricket really is the habit of a lifetime.

Schools: Teacher Training


11.26 am

Asked By Baroness Perry of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many six-month courses to train former City workers as teachers have been set up; and how many students have registered for them.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, the six-month intensive route to qualified teacher status will be trialled by the Institute of Education in the University of London. The courses will begin in September and conclude at Easter, with successful trainees employed by schools while they train. They plan to recruit up to 40 applicants: 15 in science, 15 in mathematics and 10 in information and communications technology.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and for the good news about the London institute, but would she accept that the announcement has caused a great deal of anxiety in many of those who provide courses of training for teachers? They feel that a course of six months will be of a lower standard than the current courses of 12 months and that this will create inequalities between those who have trained on the full 12-month course and those who have had only half that training.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that those in the teaching fraternity who are concerned about ensuring that teacher training is of the highest quality have expressed views about this initiative, and we are always extremely interested to learn. With this new six-month fast track, we are talking about a small pilot delivered by an extremely expert institution, which will be rigorously evaluated. It is not about any reduction in quality; it is about putting a small number of people through an incredibly intensive and testing training regime.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that this very short period of training will give enough time to teach the students about child safeguarding? As we have heard in the news this morning, if people working for the National Health Service are not able to recognise signs of abuse, we cannot expect City workers to do so.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that I am extremely concerned that all of us should give safeguarding the priority that is right and proper. Of course, that applies in teaching, as it does among health professionals. The important point about the six-month training course is that the trainees will have to achieve qualified teacher status during that time. That is what the evaluation is going to look at-at how effective that is, whether they can achieve that status and whether they go on to employment and through that employment are retained.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, what qualifications will these students need in order to gain a place on a course?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, it is a matter for the Institute of Education to develop exactly what criteria will apply most effectively, but we are looking at the top end of graduate applicants. We are looking at people who have experience and who you might term as "City high-flyers" who are looking to change career. It is a stretching requirement.

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