The centres, which we have models for, do exist and it would not be difficult for the Government to develop them along those lines. Several years ago now, when I chaired the Rethinking Crime and Punishment initiative, we funded the Fawcett Society, which issued an important report, before even the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, saying that we should make this specialist provision. We now have one or two important Together Women groups, and a total in this country of about 55 groups altogether, which is not very many. We have the 218 service in Glasgow and the Willow partnership, which we are very proud of, but they are a drop in the ocean compared with the needs of these women. I have been to a women’s centre recently and not only were the women telling me how much their lives were being changed but there were people at the centre who had been users and were now coming back to support other people who were going through the same terrible experience.

The facts and the figures, as well as this kind of affective argument, seem irresistible. I hope that when this amendment talks about the particular needs of women that the Government will have ears to hear and will take this forward immediately.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Corston, to whom tribute has been paid again today—as it is regularly, and rightly, when these matters come up—has spoken with her customary passion about the problem which her report so significantly addressed. The implementation of her report has, alas, as yet not gone far enough by any means. The Committee will, I am sure, agree completely with the thrust of her powerful argument this evening. I certainly support the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, to which other noble Lords have spoken.

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It should not be necessary, but it still clearly is, to remind your Lordships’ House, and indeed others, of the impact of the present system on women offenders, particularly those who end up in custody. There is a shockingly high rate of suicide and self-harm for those in custody; it is much more significant than it is among male offenders. We are in essence discussing those who perhaps will be in custody for a short time, but even short-term prisoners will be subject to the temptation of self-harm, and that will apply, particularly again, to women. It is important that we look at this issue for a discrete group and take the sort of measures that deal properly with their problems. Although we are concerned today with the provisions of this Bill, that will need to be at various levels of the justice system. I hope we will have a sympathetic and practical response from the noble Lord when he replies.

I take this opportunity to refer again to resettlement prisons and women, because there is an issue here that that was mentioned on the last occasion in Committee and needs stressing: the proposal, which is welcome in principle, for resettlement prisons for those in custody who will be returned to the community to be nearer the place to which they will return. I pointed out that there are only 13 women’s prisons in this country and that there might well be a problem with housing women in a women’s institution close to where they live. It is a significant issue and a concern to organisations involved with this issue. It would be wrong to house women in an essentially male establishment simply because that happens to be nearer and there is no women’s institution in the appropriate geographical area. In fairness, in replying, the Minister did say:

“it is very important that we make the best use of the existing provision for women offenders in the prison estate, both taking account of its size and the geographical spread. We will be consulting with both providers and stakeholders to design the most suitable resettlement arrangements”.—[

Official Report

, 5/6/13; col. 1270.]

It is only a week since the noble Lord addressed the issue, and we are not expecting a result now, but an indication of the timescale for the consultation and who will be consulted would be welcome and would help to allay concerns about this issue. I hope we can get a sympathetic response.

5.45 pm

I also take the opportunity to raise a problem that has not yet been referred to in our debate on the Bill and is not yet the subject of any amendment: the question of black and minority ethnic prisoners. I remind the Committee that the statistics show that, for crimes of a comparable nature and for people with a comparable record, the rate of refusal of bail is much higher for BME alleged offenders, while custodial sentences are more frequent and longer than for non-BME offenders with similar records and for similar offences. The question occurred to me somewhat belatedly but is provoked by the perhaps comparable needs of the other neglected body that we are discussing with this amendment, namely women, and I raise it now because it will the last opportunity to do so before Report. Do we not need to pay particular heed, in the context of the Bill, to arrangements for BME offenders? That in no way minimises the importance of the issue which this amendment raises, which has been so long on the

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agenda, but this other item has not really been on the agenda to any significant extent. I hope that, in the course of the Bill, we might be able to look at that. Perhaps the noble Lord will consider it when he replies.

I hope particularly this evening that we have an unequivocal response to this matter and that the Government will support this amendment, or at least take it back with a view to embodying it in the Bill, and give some indication of what other progress we can expect on this critical issue, which after all affects half the population of the country.

Lord McNally: My Lords, this has been an extremely useful debate, fully living up to the reputation of this House for taking an ongoing interest in this matter. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in particular, for bringing it forward. We have had a very useful debate, with a number of interesting points being raised. We already realise that if the problems of women within our criminal justice system could be solved by reports, or even clauses in a Bill, they would have been solved a long time ago.

Perhaps part of the problem, going back to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, mentioned earlier, is that we also need a change in culture and general approach. We have made painfully slow progress in this area. Too many women are in our prisons. It is palpably obvious that women have different problems and needs and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has reminded us, the collateral damage from the imprisonment of women is substantial. Nothing divides us on this.

I was pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, made her contribution. I regret that her assessment is that we are going back 10 years. I do not think that we are. That is not the direction of travel. However, we face difficulties. She knows that her report was not implemented in full by her Government because of some of the financial constraints that face this Government. I have never moved away from the fact that her report is a template for action and we will re-examine it in the light of what we are trying to do with these reforms.

Of course, one of the key factors of these reforms is that we are picking up the challenge of dealing with sentences of under 12 months. As has been pointed out on a number of occasions, it is that cohort, if that is the new in-word to use, that has the greatest preponderance of women offenders. So, in that respect, this legislation gives us the opportunity to deal with and respond to the challenges posed by women offenders in a positive way.

A number of points were raised during the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, mentioned the review that is under way of the women’s estate. The Justice Secretary is conscious that female offenders have particular needs and that the custodial female estate should be organised as effectively as possible to meet gender-specific requirements while delivering best value to the public. That review is expected to report by the end of the summer. I do not know what that means. I was told today that summer has not yet started but it will report by the end of the summer.

Of course, although the implementation of the Corston review has not been complete, the National Offender Management Service accepted 40 of the 43 recommendations. Progress has been impressive,

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including ending the mandatory full searching of women in reception and moving to a risk-based approach; embedding gender-specific standards for women in all areas of prison regimes; encouraging greater use of specialist accommodation in the community for offenders who pose a high risk of harm; and introducing the women awareness staff programme for those in the criminal justice system and the community who work with female offenders. So, as I say, I do not believe that it is entirely negative.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, made a valid point on resettlement accommodation for women. We will look at it and think about it. I agree that the issue poses real problems.

Interestingly—I lift the veil on the workings of the MoJ—we had an interesting discussion this morning when my noble friend Lord Ahmad made exactly the point that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, made about whether there is a lacuna in terms of black and ethnic minorities. If we had had the common sense to listen to my noble friend this morning, I would have had a full answer this afternoon. However, it is a point that should be looked at.

The approach of the Bill, which has given rise to some of the issues in the debate today, is, basically, let a thousand flowers bloom. Let us see what comes back in offers, ideas and approaches and consider how we can reshape the service to it. Again lifting the veil on the MoJ, I have argued at times whether the contracts should be women-specific—and, who knows, that might happen—but the reason that that is not there at the beginning is to encourage the widest possible contributions to the debate.

I am sure that no one in the House disagrees with the principle underlying the amendment. As the noble and learned Lord knows, the Government fully share his belief that service providers should take a different approach where there is a need to differentiate provision for female offenders. Where the challenges are different, our response should likewise be different. The Government’s commitment to ensuring the provision of services that recognise and address the specific needs of female offenders where they are different from those of male offenders is set out clearly in our recent Strategic Objectives for Female Offenders strategy. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, thinks that it is rather sparse, but it does point the way forward.

All probation trusts are required to make appropriate provisions for women in the community to address factors associated with their reoffending. One of the Ministry of Justice equality objectives for the period 2012-16 is the,

“provision of gender-specific community services to improve support for vulnerable women in the criminal justice system”.

Let me make it absolutely clear that this objective will continue to apply as we move to a new framework for supporting offenders in the community.

Our plan is to open up provision to a diverse market of large and small providers. This will provide the opportunity for groups delivering women’s services, which are often small, community-based organisations. Helen Grant, the Minister for Victims and the Courts, and I have visited a number of these women’s centres,

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as the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, mentioned, and I have been greatly encouraged by the work that we have seen being done with female offenders to help them turn their lives around. I pay tribute to the work of Helen Grant. She has made a significant impact since she came into her role. I know of her commitment to this issue and that she will particularly appreciate the tribute from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf.

I am equally clear that our new framework must encourage providers to work in partnership with other public services to ensure that the broader life-management issues associated with women offending, such as drug misuse, domestic violence and sexual abuse, are addressed. As we design the new commissioning process, the need to ensure the delivery of services that take account of women’s needs and their often troubled backgrounds will be embedded into the new approach.

Service specifications for the commissioning process will include gender-specific outputs, where appropriate, which providers must meet. In order to win contracts, service providers will be required to demonstrate that they understand and will respond to the particular needs of female offenders where these differ from those of men. This will include, for example, taking account of women’s family and caring responsibilities. Many female offenders have children, and any activity requirement clearly must take account of their needs too. There will be a robust approach to evaluating bids to ensure that potential providers are offering innovative and effective services to female offenders.

The payment-by-results approach will in itself be an incentive to providers to take a gender-specific approach where appropriate. Put simply, they will not rehabilitate female offenders unless they take account of and address women’s needs and the factors that lead them to offend. I also reassure noble Lords that those safeguards for female offenders will not end with the commissioning process. Once contracts have been awarded, contract managers within the Ministry of Justice will monitor service delivery to ensure that key outputs for female offenders are being delivered. Service providers will be supported by guidance on working with female offenders and the sorts of provision that are known to be effective.

6 pm

I am delighted that this is being prepared in collaboration with members of the new advisory board on female offenders. In fact, a workshop is taking place tomorrow to take that important work forward. The guidance will be completed in time to inform the competition process later this year. The advisory board, which was announced in March, has a key role in safeguarding the needs of female offenders as we take forward our reforms. The board brings together key stakeholders, criminal justice partners and senior officials from across Government. One of its tasks is to ensure that the needs of women are recognised and addressed in the new arrangements for commissioning probation services.

I was very impressed at the challenge and support offered to officials when this was discussed at the board’s first meeting last month, which I attended. I have every confidence that the board will continue to

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work to ensure that the interests of female offenders are an integral part of the new commissioning agreements. I hope that what I have said has reassured the noble and learned Lord that the Government are committed to ensuring that the particular needs of female offenders will be safeguarded as we take our rehabilitation reforms forward.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee accused me of teasing her—something I would never dream of doing. I admire the fact that she gets the same pleasure from taking to bed a 200-clause Bill plus schedules as some women get from Fifty Shades of Grey. I would not dream of teasing her. She asked me how you put a marker down here. That is certainly a challenge. As I said, it is a tribute to this House that it keeps concerns about women to the forefront of our agenda. Although I cannot give the House assurances today, I suspect that we will return to this matter on Report. I know the passion and interest in the House about this—which I share. One thing that has struck me most powerfully in the three years that I have been in the department is that it is just wrong to keep 4,000 women in prison. The move to get those numbers down has been painfully slow. I believe that the Bill will open up opportunities for a radical new approach. Certainly, the help, support and wisdom of the House in that direction is wholly welcome. I anticipate returning to this matter on Report.

Lord Woolf: I thank the Minister for that reply. I know the sincerity of what he says, but patience has limits. The House has indicated on previous occasions that it feels that something should appear in statute to make these responsibilities absolutely clear to not only Ministers but everybody concerned with female offenders. Although it is pleasing to hear that some things are happening, I fear that the reassurance that we get from Ministers will not continue to satisfy this House. On Report, I hope there can be something positive proposed to deal with a situation that has been left unacknowledged in legislation for far too long ere now. In the circumstances, I will not press the amendment and beg leave to withdraw it, but this is certainly not the end of the matter.

Amendment 33 withdrawn.

Amendment 33A

Moved by Lord Beecham

33A: After Clause 17, insert the following new Clause—

“Veterans’ courts pilot

(1) Veterans’ courts shall be established for the purpose of assisting the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel convicted of offences for which non-custodial sentences could be imposed by the trial court.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, before instituting the provision of veterans’ courts, the Secretary of State shall prescribe by statutory instrument a scheme for such a system, which shall be laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

(3) Before such system may come into existence, the Secretary of State shall undertake a pilot scheme lasting three years in duration, which shall be independently evaluated to include consultation with magistrates, with the evaluation report laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.”

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Lord Beecham: My Lords, this amendment reflects the suggestion I made at Second Reading that the UK should follow the precedent set by the United States and establish veterans’ courts to supplement the trial courts when ex-service men and women plead guilty to or are convicted of crimes for which non-custodial sentences could be imposed, to assist the rehabilitation of those ex-service personnel. Consistent with earlier amendments moved in relation to payment by results and probation, it calls for such a scheme to be piloted before being eventually embodied in the system on the basis of a resolution to be approved by both Houses of Parliament.

There were two sources of inspiration for this amendment. The first was a report published in 2011 by the North East Regional Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, led by officers of Newcastle City Council, looking at the mental health needs of the ex-service community. The second and in many ways more relevant source was a recent seminar on veterans’ treatment courts organised by Justice for Vets and the Community Covenant—two voluntary sector organisations—and the city council. That took place in Newcastle about three weeks ago.

Estimates of the numbers of UK former service men and women vary. The Department of Health says that there are around 5 million in England while research by King’s College for the Department of Health and MoD in 2010 estimated only 3.8 million, with about 20,000 men and women leaving the forces each year—a figure likely to grow now that the size of the Armed Forces is being reduced. Around 2,000 service men and women a year are discharged on health grounds, with the main issues being adjustment disorders, depression and alcohol abuse. They have a significantly higher rate of post-traumatic stress syndromes than the general population.

Evidence collected by a community veteran mental health project in the north-east suggests that most mental health problems occur after discharge. There are varying estimates, too, of the numbers in the criminal justice and penal systems. NOMS figures are at the lower end of the range, but even if they are right, between 3% and 5% of the national prison population at any one time may be veterans, and many more veterans will have been before the courts and received non-custodial community sentences, probation or suspended sentences, giving a total of around 20,000. The incidence of mental health disorders among the 16-to-44 age group of veterans, their families and carers—the so-called ex-service community—is threefold that for the UK population, and combat stress referrals have risen by two-thirds in the past few years. Early service leavers who are young are particularly vulnerable to emotional and mental health problems and are up to three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

The seminar to which I referred was addressed by a former state prosecutor from Little Rock, Arkansas, who has also served in senior positions in the state’s correctional service. He describes himself as “not a bleeding-heart liberal”. With that experience, one might well accept that. Nevertheless, he enthusiastically espouses and promotes the concept of veterans’ courts. The presentation included a video by a senior trial judge who also presides over the veterans’ court in Little Rock.

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The US has some 20 million veterans, around five times the number in the UK, and in the last five years every state has established a veterans’ court. The offender can be referred from the trial court and is required to attend monthly so that progress can be assessed. A veteran mentor is appointed and systematic efforts made to help the offender deal with the range of problems with which he or she may have failed to cope. Substance abuse, mental health issues, lack of housing, skills or a job, family breakdown and other problems are addressed by development agencies. Failure to co-operate on the part of the offender leads to recall by the trial court and the possible imposition of a custodial sentence.

The system has proved remarkably successful. The court in Buffalo, New York, which I think was the first to be established, has a 100% success rate in avoiding reoffending. In Minnesota, reoffending rates fell very sharply for 83% of those participating. The potential savings were found to be considerable. In the analogous system of US drug courts around $5,700 was saved per participant. Even Texas, a state not known as a stronghold of bleeding-heart liberals, is looking across the board in its justice system for more cost-effective approaches than imprisonment. When considering the position of men and women who have served in the Armed Forces, it is surely time for us to extend the reach of the military covenant by piloting veterans’ courts here.

I suggest beginning with the north-east. The region is the largest contributor of recruits to the armed services, and veterans comprise around 5% of its prison population of 10,500 against an ONS estimate—which may be on the low side—of 3% nationally. The 2011 scrutiny report produced a series of recommendations covering services for veterans, especially in the mental health arena, which play such a significant part in offending and reoffending. This is influencing the necessary development of a more co-ordinated approach between the relevant agencies. The potential clearly exists to build on this experience so that the MoD, NHS bodies—including health and well-being boards, clinical commissioning groups, the national Commissioning Board and trusts—councils with their responsibilities for housing and social care and the Department for Work and Pensions can, we hope, help to prevent ex-service men and women from offending in the first place. Together with the probation service and the voluntary sector, these bodies will help to prevent reoffending should they fall foul of the law.

Having discussed the problems in terms of policies and statistics, I should like to illustrate their nature by recounting the story of one individual who was helped by probation and About Turn. About Turn is a charitable organisation in the north-east which is headed by a former serviceman and supports veterans.

Mr A comes from a service background with a father who served for more than 20 years in the Army. Now middle-aged, Mr A served for nine years as a young man before leaving the forces at the request of his wife. Unfortunately they divorced and he began to suffer alcohol problems. He joined the TA and a few years ago was employed as a training team instructor but lost the job after a serious accident caused by drinking. Depression and increased drinking exacerbated

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the effects of medication to treat the ongoing consequences of his accident. He was arrested for a serious offence of violence and was himself severely injured. Thanks to the probation service he was put in touch with this veterans’ charity following a community rehabilitation order and a suspended prison sentence. Under their auspices, with mentoring and support, he has obtained permanent accommodation and recognised qualifications, reduced his alcohol consumption, drug misuse and self-harm, improved his physical health, increased contact with his children and ex-wife and has avoided reoffending. He has engaged in 969 hours of positive structured activities organised by the charity. In a moving letter he says:

“At present I’m on a Veterans’ Mental Health course and would love to get involved with the next one. I have attended meetings on Civic level supported charity events and am at present laying plans for charity events. All of this has played an important part of me not reoffending, self isolating and drinking and it has also given me reason to look to the future”.

He concludes:

“It is a crying shame that I had to get into trouble to achieve all of this”.

It is also a crying shame that men and women who have served their country in difficult and often dangerous circumstances should fall into a similar state as Mr A, at such great cost to themselves and to society.

By systematically incorporating approaches such as those Mr A has successfully undergone into our criminal justice system, we can do much to reduce the likelihood of such damage, and the veterans’ court concept offers a real prospect of achieving that goal. The Minister expressed sympathy with the idea when I floated it on Second Reading, and Mr Damian Green, the Minister of State for Criminal Justice in the Commons, has agreed to meet my honourable friend Dave Anderson MP and others—I hope to be one of them—in the near future. I hope that the noble Lord’s sympathetic response—I know that he wishes to see this carried forward—will be reflected in a positive response tonight. I hope that we can look forward initially to the establishment of a pilot scheme and subsequently to rolling it out in the interests of society and indeed of the ex-service men and women. Those who serve our country under arms deserve no less. I beg to move.

6.15 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, on this I should declare two interests, first as a former Adjutant-General—or personnel director of the Army—and secondly as president of the Veterans in Prison Association. I have been very interested in the attention given to this particular idea; and although I have not been to it, I have had reports of the activities in Buffalo to which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, referred. I entirely endorse all his suggestions about the north-east being used as a pilot area. I have been in contact with organisations working up there and have been very impressed by the supporting network that is available. It is one of the crucial parts of doing this.

Unfortunately the figures on exactly how many ex-service people are involved in the criminal justice system are slightly distorted by the fact that numbers of them who claim to be members of the services

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failed even to make the training. While they may make the claim, they actually have no right to do so. I think, and always have, that it is very important to establish that fact right at the start. Some excellent work was done by the Kent police to try to work out exactly how many ex-service people came through the police stations in Kent. They found that it was very important to ask them for their service number and then to follow it up to establish whether in fact they were genuine ex-servicemen or—as it were— pseudo ex-servicemen who did not deserve the same treatment.

In presenting his case, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, has very rightly focused on the support mechanism that is needed in addition to the courts. There needs to be something equivalent to the diversion scheme which the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, has pioneered for the courts in general. It is very useful to recognise—as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, has done—that there is a vast network of supporting service charities which act on behalf of the individual servicemen in their long-term and short-term needs. This is something of which account should be taken.

I also commend some other excellent work that has been going on in this country. The Cheshire probation service have been funded by the Royal British Legion to train probation officers to understand the particular needs of ex-servicemen so that they can apply that when deciding exactly how they should be supervised should they be sentenced. What would be very important in establishing these courts—which I entirely recommend—is to make certain that the courts have got a very wide supporting network behind them which should cover things such as mental health and probation. They should also make use of the service charities in whatever action they take with these unfortunate people. I am also very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, mentioned that many of these people come into the sphere of the criminal justice system comparatively late. The average age of 48 was mentioned. Therefore you are not dealing so much with the young adult as the person who has fallen on hard times through trying to come to terms with civilian life and needs particular help to enable them to re-engage.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, I support very much the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. I like the way that he has gone into the depth of the problem. I declare that I deal with veterans, from 18 year-olds with one leg to 90 year-olds who have been in various campaigns. I find that middle age is a tricky time for veterans, and it is a big problem.

I do not want to rehearse all the arguments. I believe that the Minister should look kindly on this, and a trial period is what we need. A veteran today gets a fair amount of help when he leaves the Army but the Minister will find, particularly as 25,000 service men and women are in the process of being chucked out of the Army, that the problems are going to increase, and something more will be needed than what is being done at the moment.

I merely state that there is a problem and I do not believe that we are doing enough about it. These veterans’ courts are proven elsewhere; we ought to look at them

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carefully and trial them. I hope that the Minister understands the problem and is able to do something about it.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I want to add only that just one court with a proper support network would be very much better than nothing.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for tabling this amendment. I listened carefully to the very poignant story that he told of Mr A’s experiences and how we can build upon that. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who is extremely well placed and well qualified to speak with authority on this subject, with his background in the Armed Forces, as a former Chief Inspector of Prisons and as president of the Veterans in Prison Association.

As my noble friend Lord McNally said at Second Reading, we share the concerns that have been expressed by all noble Lords in this debate and by the House as a whole—indeed, by Parliament as a whole—that ex-service personnel are ending up in the criminal justice system and, even worse, at times ending up in prison.

However, we should not make our genuine concern, which we have heard today, about our ex-service personnel appear unduly alarmist about service in our Armed Forces. To keep this in perspective, there is some evidence that points to the fact that having served in the Armed Forces is a preventative factor in offending—that is, those who serve in the Armed Forces are less likely to offend than the general population. However, many of those ex-service personnel who offend—Ifully acknowledge this, and I am sure that this sentimentresonates with everyone in your Lordships’ House—have served their country, and we owe it to them to ensure that we are doing all that we can to support them.

I do not want to go into the specific wording of the amendment because I acknowledge, and I am sure that this was the intention of both noble Lords, that it was designed to highlight this issue so that we could discuss it further. The amendment raises some fundamental and important questions about the different approaches that could be taken. For example, should we be looking at a body designed to divert ex-service personnel before they get to the criminal courts? Should we be considering whether there is a case for ensuring that courts have greater knowledge and awareness in dealing with this group of offenders? Or should we be considering an oversight role, looking at the most effective ways to rehabilitate ex-service personnel? These are questions that we will look at in conjunction with the judiciary, my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and other government departments.

This is not to suggest that there is nothing going on in regard to veterans. It is true that some ex-service personnel will struggle to adjust to civilian life, but the Armed Forces do much more than other employers in retraining and reskilling staff who are leaving their employ. We are doing more to identify the particular needs of those offenders who end up in prison, including issues arising from their previous service. All prisons

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should now have a “veteran in custody support officer” to help with and co-ordinate the assessment and support of ex-service personnel offenders.

I should like to take a moment here, and I am sure that noble Lords across the Chamber will want to join me, to praise the excellent work that many voluntary sector organisations do both in prisons and in the community with offenders, notably the Royal British Legion and SSAFA, the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association.

Important work is therefore going on, and we will be looking at how that may be best developed. I should say that, as part of our plans to improve the rehabilitation of offenders, we will expect providers of probation services to provide flexible and tailored services to offenders, including addressing the particular needs of ex-service personnel. During meetings that we have had around the Bill with the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State and indeed with all Peers, I know that this issue was raised by other Peers. The noble Lord, Lord Reid, raised specific examples of what he had seen in Scotland. We have seen examples of this through the PbR pilots. For example, as part of the pilot at HMP Doncaster, ex-service personnel are being matched up with mentors who themselves are from service backgrounds to support their rehabilitation on release from custody.

I cannot say that we will bring back amendments in this Bill to create a new veterans’ court, and in fact legislation for a pilot may not be required. However, to pick up the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, I fully acknowledge that we need to give this issue particular thought and much more careful consideration, and the department is already looking at it. I invite all noble Lords across the Chamber to work with us in this respect; I would welcome the opportunity. That will enhance and develop our discussions further, and I think that we will benefit a great deal from the expertise in your Lordships’ House.

While we will continue to ensure good practice is continued and developed among providers, we will also consider what further options may be required for the longer term. I noted in particular the comment by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, when he talked about the establishment of such a court and what surrounds that court—the need for support that goes much wider. It is important that the Government, and indeed the House in its contributions in looking at this matter, take a very holistic approach.

With those reassurances of our continued and passionate shared commitment, as expressed around the House today, to develop support for ex-service personnel, I hope that the noble Lords are able to withdraw their amendment.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I express a sense of slight disappointment with the Minister’s reply. I am grateful to the noble Lords who have supported the amendment. I rather expected the Government to say that they would at least go forward with a pilot, whether or not legislation was required for that. I would have hoped that they would acknowledge that there would be space in the Bill to allow for the establishment of these courts if legislation were required for that, although

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maybe it is not—it will be interesting to find out on Report if it would require legislation to establish this system—and for the Government to allow for such an eventuality after a pilot. If the Government are not prepared to give an assurance that a pilot will be mounted, it will be necessary to bring this amendment or something like it back before the House and, perhaps, to test its opinion. Sympathy is welcome but, as we have heard already this afternoon, sometimes it only goes so far.

6.30 pm

I acknowledge that both Ministers are sympathetic. I hope that in the discussion with Mr Green we will be able to take matters further; but if it does not appear that significant action is clearly on the Government’s agenda, I will invite the House on Report to ensure that the Bill reflects what I suspect would be the view widely shared across the House, that we should get on with this and not allow another situation to develop in which sentiments are pronounced but nothing much happens. This is too important an issue to allow that to occur. We have already seen this afternoon, in an area of policy not entirely dissimilar to this, how disappointing it can be to wait for action to be taken. Having said that, and hoping that we will see something more positive and more immediate than the Minister’s reply suggests is perhaps on the agenda, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 33A withdrawn.

Schedule 6 agreed.

Amendment 34

Moved by Lord Ramsbotham

34: Before Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—

“Secretary of State’s duty

(1) The Secretary of State shall in each year publish a report on the financial and resource costs and benefits of the implementation of this Act.

(2) A report published under subsection (1) shall include, but need not be restricted to, information on the financial costs and benefits associated with—

(a) the supervision of offenders following release from custody,

(b) breaches of supervision requirements,

(c) changes in arrangements for the provision of probation services,

(d) any changes in sentencing practice attributable to the implementation of this Act.

(3) Publication under subsection (1) shall be effected in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the report to the attention of persons engaged in the administration of criminal justice and of the public.”

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, this is a probing amendment drafted by the Prison Reform Trust, reflecting a great number of concerns put to it by practitioners. Although there is general approval of and welcome for the intent of the Bill, as has been voiced throughout this Chamber today and on the previous Committee day, there is concern that we do not know a great deal

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of the detail. Based on experience, those of us who have been involved in the criminal justice system in one way or another are concerned that it is the very lack of detail that it is likely to inhibit the advance of whatever is proposed. The amendment therefore does not aim to put a spanner in the works—far from it. Like many other noble Lords, I want to see the Bill come to fruition. I want something to be done about this terrible reoffending rate, if that indeed is the right term. What is more, I want whatever is introduced to be sustained and not a sort of one-day wonder.

At the heart of a lot of what is being proposed is the introduction of payment by results. I declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Penal Affairs Group. We have been involved with the drug and alcohol recovery pilots, eight of which are currently running. They went live in April last year and are being run by the NHS. There was a long two-year period before they were introduced and they are being academically evaluated over three years by Manchester University and Birkbeck University. I think that they are very relevant to what is being proposed for the criminal justice system because they involve practitioners in the field. Those monitoring these pilots in the National Health Service have looked at the payback mechanism straw-man proposal for this Bill which, like all the papers we have before us, was published only last month. Although saying that in some respects what is proposed looks promising, they point out that it raises questions, many of which relate to the absence of numbers or qualitative weighting—or, indeed pilots—which does not give one a great deal of confidence in what is alleged.

In addition, they are concerned that there is no mention of the overlap and tension for both users and providers involved with other payment-by-result schemes such as the Work Programme, the NHS alcohol treatment programme, the NHS dual-diagnosis programme, the troubled families programme and indeed, in the case of the Ministry of Justice, the drug and alcohol recovery programme, all of which are connected with the offender rehabilitation programme and some of which could impact on the plans made and payment claimed for an individual who is subject to more than one payment-by-results programme. There does not appear to have been any resolution of that.

Various concerns suggested by other payment-by-result initiatives do not seem to have been fully addressed. For example, there is considerable concern about what is referred to as gaming—the public’s private sector providers playing games with the payment, the assessment or the people they actually put forward for it. To get over that, the National Health Service has put in place a mechanism called the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System, which has treatment outcome profiles and local area assessment and referral services, because it found that unless it does that, there is a great danger of it being taken for a ride, which it cannot afford.

There is also something proposed called the learning-curve discount scheme that nobody seems to know much about because we do not know whether providers are going to be able consistently to reduce costs and/or improve performance and therefore come up with something earning a discount. Also, there is no mention

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of the significant transition costs of payment by results, which other people have found both in establishing the data management systems for managing the outcomes and the substantial bureaucracy required to manage them. If they are being managed by the current system, which is working flat-out to manage current offenders, I wonder how it will cope with the problems of the payment-by-results schemes. There is also the problem of verification of outcomes which when they are delayed can cause problems with cash flow and therefore the whole payment-based system. I mention those not to be a Jonah but to say that I hope that all these have been taken into account by the Ministry of Justice, which, not having pilots of its own does not have the advantage of practical experience. I hope that it is cashing in on the experience of others to make certain that it does not fall into the same trap.

I admit to two other doubts which I must voice. The first is about costings, and I refer to an answer given by the Minister to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, on Amendment 7A when he said that,

“competing the community payback contracts in London saw a £25 million saving over four years”.—[

Official Report

, 5/6/13; col. 1214.]

It is true that the Serco bid undercut the probation service bid by £24 million for a four-year contract. However, that started only last year and that £25 million does not include the costs of running the competition which went on for more than two years and must have been substantial. We also have to consider, when looking at value for money, that the contract has only been running so far for less than a year with three years to go. The probation service is very sceptical that someone such as Serco will put in quite such a low bid next time when recompetition comes up based on actual experience of running the thing. It would regard its bid as being more realistic based on its experience. So the jury is out and I am concerned that too much emphasis is being placed on savings that have been made when a contract has cost less when we have not yet seen the outcomes. The Prison Service has a bad track record on this. I remember complaining once when it excluded central administrative costs from a competition bid with the private sector to run a prison and then claimed that it had won. When the National Audit Office looked at it on a level-playing field it found that the bid had not been put in correctly.

My second doubt concerns time. I refer to the chart on page 34 of the White Paper, which sets out the Government’s timetable. This says that the new probation service, which presumably will include the 77% of privatised elements, will be introduced by autumn next year, after which the new competed services will go live.

If it took two years to compete the London community payback, and if it took two years for the National Health Service to set up its eight pilots for the drug and alcohol recovery schemes, I wonder whether it is realistic to expect that, in the one year between now and then, the Ministry of Justice will be able to complete all the contracts, all the recruiting and all the training of all the people who are needed to carry on with what is proposed while, at the same time, with the same staff, conducting the essential work that has to be done now with offenders. As I say, it is not that

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I doubt the intent but I question the practicability. I therefore wish that we would be given a more realistic timetable based on actual possibilities rather than the allegations we have been given on page 34.

My last request is that the Minister, who said that he hoped to have the new impact assessment with us by Report, will make certain not only that it is with us by Report, but that it is with us in plenty of time for us to consider it before Report, to make Report a more meaningful exercise.

That is why I am asking the Secretary of State to produce an annual statement of how all this is working out. Certainly, if I were the Secretary of State, I would want such a document on my desk every year anyway. Therefore, rather than asking for something additional, I am asking for something which I presume will be produced to be shared with both Houses so that we can keep abreast of what is going on in this hugely important venture which, in intent, enjoys the support of the whole House. I beg to move.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, the noble Lord has fired a salvo of questions and critiques of the Government’s proposals. It will be interesting to see what defence the Minister can put up to them. The noble Lord has made many telling points, not least the question of the timetable, which looks ridiculously short. The Secretary of State in his previous capacity introduced the markedly unsuccessful Work Programme, which was also rushed through with pretty abysmal results. There must be some danger, particularly if the exercise is rushed, that we will see repetition of that. It occurred to me to think as the noble Lord was talking about this transition that one can envisage staff members being involved in that transition. Does that mean that they take, for example, their caseload with them? Will the cases of those who are being supervised and who will transfer into the payment-by-results system remain with probation or, if the probation officer in question is to be moved over—presumably some of that will happen—will the case go across to the payment-by-results providers? Or will they be excluded? It all seems highly mysterious.

6.45 pm

I cannot resist, largely because I have been asked to do so by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, recounting something that he reported to me which illustrates some of the problems that one might well encounter with the involvement of these private contractors. A colleague of my noble friend apparently visited a building scheme to which Serco had brought offenders to be involved in a community payback scheme. Several of them were standing around doing nothing. My noble friend’s colleague asked what was happening. “Oh,” said the representative of Serco, “the beneficiary” —that is, the owner of the building—“hasn’t provided the paint”. In other words, people were standing around doing nothing because the system had not operated in such a way that the materials required were on site. That was either the fault of Serco for not doing it, or of a contract which did not specify that they should do it, or of the beneficiary for not providing it if he was expected to do so. It is an illustration of the problems that we can easily get into, and a telling case

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to support the noble Lord’s amendments to require rigorous scrutiny of and regular reporting on what will ensue if this legislation is passed.

However, the point raised tonight about the timetable requires urgent attention in itself. It does not look realistic—unless, of course, pre-legislative implementation is already under way again and contracts are already being discussed and developed with some of these suppliers. If that were happening, it would be quite wrong.

I hope that the Minister can give us some assurances, and I entirely endorse the noble Lord’s repeated request for information to be made available in advance of Report stage which is, after all, only a few days away, on 25 June. If we are going to consider amendments, they will have to be tabled before then. We have only a week, really, in which information can be meaningfully made available. If we cannot have that assurance then I am afraid that Report stage will be unsatisfactory from the perspective of the House and embarrassing for the Government. I hope that the Minister can avoid such an embarrassment.

Lord McNally: Deary, deary me. If the best we can do is some anecdote about paint not turning up on time, that must be a sign of some pretty thin paint. Of course, we are at the very start of the Bill’s progress; it is the second day of Committee in its first House. I am perfectly happy to acknowledge that noble Lords can ask all kinds of questions about what is done—“Give me firm answers now”. However, the truth is that we are doing something extremely radical, which the previous Government tried and backed off from. Let nobody doubt that payment by results in this area is exciting.

By the way, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, should take full responsibility for that paint story. I cannot imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who is a gentle soul, would attempt such a malicious intervention. It has Beecham fingerprints all over it. Let us be clear on that.

Lord Beecham: Is the noble Lord going to put me on probation?

Lord McNally: Yes. I have never suggested that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is trying to throw a spanner in the works. I know that he wants this to work as much as I do. One of the values of the parliamentary process is that legitimate questions are asked about how this or that will be done. As the process unfolds, I will do my best to make sure that the House is informed.

We are working at this moment, not in advance of legislation but within the department, on how contracts and competition will work. We are not entirely flying blind on this because, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, payment by results has been tried in other parts of Whitehall. Of course we are taking advice and learning from both the successes and the failures of other departments. That is being built into our process. The noble Lord referred to gaming in the NHS experience. That will certainly be looked at. He mentioned transition costs being built

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in, and verification. We are working and consulting with other departments on these matters. It is very interesting. I can remember the first prospects for privatisation of prisons and a lot of the debates that went on. Even the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, would acknowledge that with the privatisations of prisons lessons and efficiencies have been shown and standards set which have been to the benefit of the prison system as a whole. We anticipate that a similar process will take place in this case.

The Government are very clear that we are trying to carry through quickly a very radical programme, addressing a problem which defeated the previous Government. As earlier debates today have shown, our attempts to address it have widespread support across the House.

We will need to have a good understanding of the support that probation providers give to short-sentenced offenders during licence and supervision. We will need to keep a very close eye on the proportion of offenders breaching supervision, and on how magistrates decide to respond. We will also need to watch very carefully for any changes in sentencing practice.

As I have made clear, it is not the Government’s intention that this Bill will result in changes in sentencing practice, and nothing in the Bill alters the existing custody threshold. However, let me reassure noble Lords that we will be monitoring this and other issues extremely closely. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is quite right that there are a lot of other initiatives. This Government are exciting and radical, and are doing things across the piece. Of course, progress we are making in other areas will impact on the criminal justice system, just as our successes will impact on other parts. That is what happens when you have a radical Government.

We will also make sure that we are open and transparent about sharing data and information wherever we can. There are already well established mechanisms for making available many of the types of information that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has highlighted in his amendment. On changes in sentencing trends, for example, we publish every quarter a Criminal Justice Statistics bulletin that includes detailed information on sentencing outcomes and trends. This is a national statistics publication, so it is subject to the appropriate checks and safeguards. Any changes in sentencing practice will be clear from this report. In addition, the Sentencing Council has a duty under Section 130 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to publish a report every year on the impact of changes in sentencing practice on prison and probation costs. Any changes to sentencing practice as a result of this Bill will fall under that duty. The independent council, with all its expertise on sentencing, is best placed to carry out that analysis.

Similarly, on breach we already publish licence recall statistics every quarter in the Offender Management Statistics Quarterly Bulletin. Again, that is a national statistics publication. We want to make sure that, in the future, that includes recalls of prisoners released from sentences of less than 12 months, and includes committals to custody for those proven to have breached a supervision requirement. Likewise, we publish proven

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reoffending rates every quarter, broken down by type and length of sentence. That is also a national statistics publication.

I hope this makes it clear that we are not starting from scratch. I also take pride in the fact that this has been one of the most proactive Governments in putting out their statistics and information, allowing various parts of the Government to be checked on performance. The Government have worked hard over the past three years to improve the transparency of the criminal justice system, and we would look to make available much of the information that Amendment 34 details through the existing mechanisms we have.

The Secretary of State is already subject to a duty to publish information of this sort. As I suspect the noble Lord is aware, given that his amendment follows some of its language very closely, Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 requires the Secretary of State every year to publish such information as he considers expedient on a range of topics, including information that allows those working in the justice system to become aware of the financial implications of their decisions and information that allows those working in the justice system to understand the effectiveness of different sentences in preventing reoffending.

We already consider it expedient to publish not just annually, but quarterly, much of the information that Amendment 34 mentions. That will continue to happen if the provisions of the Bill receive the agreement of both Houses. Therefore, while I understand, welcome, and agree with the intentions of the noble Lord in tabling this amendment, I hope that what I have said reassures him that the Government are committed to understanding and sharing the impacts of this Bill and to being as transparent as possible in delivering it forward.

In doing so, I remind noble Lords that costs for extending supervision will ultimately be dependent on the outcome of competing offender services in the community. If we were to give figures at this stage, it would put at risk our ability to agree value-for-money contracts with providers. However, I hope that my commitment last week to take away the impact assessment for the Bill and to consider how we could expand it will provide some additional assurance. Work is under way to revise the impact assessment as I speak, and I hope to be able to bring back a revised version soon. I know what has been said about the value of that on Report. In the light of these assurances I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Treasury has set a fixed sum for the transition to the rehabilitation of short-term offenders and for the changes to the probation service? If so, how big is that sum, and over what period?

Lord McNally: One of the things I have learnt in three years is that when a noble Lord asks me a question like that, I promise to get advice and write to him for the benefit of the Committee. I am quite sure that on almost every aspect of life the Treasury has fixed sums in mind, but I will check on that and report back to him.

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Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for that reply, and for the dialogue we have had about the various issues that were raised. The noble Lord has quite rightly appreciated the deep interest that all Members of this House have in this issue. It is too important to be let go by default. We have a certain amount of expertise, as well as interest, in this House, which we are extremely anxious to deploy if we possibly can. Therefore I am very happy at this stage to withdraw the amendment, but I would like to consider the content of the impact assessment before deciding what action I take on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Clause 18 : Consequential and supplementary provision etc

Amendment 35

Moved by Lord Beecham

35*: Clause 18, page 17, line 17, leave out subsection (2)

Lord Beecham: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, provokes a vision in my mind. I see him as a sort of parliamentary Caliban, proclaiming constantly: “Oh brave new world, that has such legislation in it”. I cannot say that he is altogether persuasive in the claims that he makes for this legislation, well motivated though it is, let alone the rest of his Government’s exciting and radical agenda.

In these amendments I look at two exciting and radical parts of the Bill. Amendment 35 addresses the provision in Clause 18 that empowers the Secretary of State to make an order that may,

“make different provision for different purposes, and … amend, repeal or revoke legislation”.

These are probing amendments only, but it would be helpful to know what the Minister envisages by, to quote the preceding subsection,

“consequential, supplementary or incidental provisions in relation to any provision of this Act”.

Can he exemplify the sort of thing that might be covered by the order-making power conferred by Clause 18(2)?

Amendment 36 relates to Clause 19, the substance of which goes even further in giving the Secretary of State power to,

“make other transitional, transitory or saving provision in connection with the coming into force of any provision of this Act”.

Such an order may,

“make different provision for different purposes”,

and so on, and,

“An order … is to be made by statutory instrument”.

Would that require the affirmative procedure or only the negative? The power is potentially so wide, as is the power in the previous clause, that it should require the affirmative procedure rather than merely the negative procedure. Will the noble Lord elucidate the position?

7 pm

Lord McNally: The noble Lord beat me. I have been racking my brains for a suitable Shakespearean quote to come back at him. I suppose we could say that this

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is a “Government of wonders”. I am reminded of the late Lord George Brown, who, when he was Economics Minister, stood up at the Dispatch Box, banged it and said “This Government are running the economy in a way that it has never been run before”, and was then surprised when the Opposition cheered him to the echo.

In this last group of amendments, we turn to the provisions on consequential and transitional arrangements. The provisions in Clauses 18 and 19 are mainly technical, and are also fairly standard constructions, which can be seen, for example, in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, seems to be saying that these amendments are designed to ensure that Parliament has a say before order-making changes are made.

Clause 18 allows the Secretary of State to make provision that is consequential, supplementary or incidental to the provisions of the Act by an order that is subject to the negative procedure. This clause mainly amends other statutory schemes, some of which are complicated and technical in nature. It is therefore eminently sensible for there to be a power to make the consequential or other changes needed to ensure those provisions work well with the provisions of this Act.

Those changes should be subject to the negative procedure where possible. Clause 18(6) makes it clear that where an order under Clause 18 is made that amends another Act, it is subject to the affirmative procedure. Amendment 35 would remove Clause 18(2), which makes it clear what the power can be used for. The power itself is conferred by subsection (1), so the amendment makes it unclear what the power may be used for: it would not remove the power. There will be an opportunity to scrutinise the technical changes made by any order made under Clause 18. I do not believe that these have to be affirmative orders, and where the order is not subject to the affirmative procedure it will be subject to the negative procedure.

Amendment 36 is more specific in that it would make any order made under Clause 19 subject to the affirmative procedure. Clause 19 makes arrangements for transitional provisions and introduces Schedule 7, which sets out in what circumstances the changes made by the Bill apply. For example, it sets out how the new supervision changes apply to different sentences in different circumstances. The power to make transitional, transitory or saving provisions can be used only if those provisions are related to a commencement order. Under this Act, commencement orders are, as is usual, not subject to a parliamentary procedure. It would therefore be odd for the power to include transitional, transitory or saving provisions on commencement to be subject to the affirmative procedure.

Clauses 18 and 19 are needed to implement primary legislation flexibly, and they are often technically complicated. I do not think that noble Lords would particularly welcome a detailed debate on affirmative orders. I do not know: I could think of one noble Baroness who would relish a detailed debate on affirmative orders. Oh, she has gone. We teased the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, earlier. I am not convinced that such a debate is a good use of your Lordships’ time, or is what this amendment actually intends.

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In asking the noble Lord to consider withdrawing these amendments, I take the opportunity to say that this has been very useful and productive Committee consideration of this Bill. We will return to detailed points on Report and we have already had a few Mafia-like warnings—you know where we live—that there will be consequences if we do not respond. However, I have appreciated the general support on all sides of the House for what we are trying to do in tackling the problem of reoffending, which has proved very difficult for successive Administrations. We claim no genius in our solutions, but we are genuinely trying to find both the resources and the flexibility to tackle this problem. The contribution of this House to getting it right is enormously appreciated.

Lord Beecham: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply and his essentially good-humoured approach for most of the time we have been discussing the Bill. I made it clear at the outset that these were probing amendments only, so he perhaps went a little further than he needed to in responding. Nevertheless, I am grateful. I echo his words about the proceedings having been useful. How productive they have been will very much depend on the Government’s response on Report. I hope it will be a little more positive than he has indicated, or has been allowed to indicate, so far. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 35 withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed.

Clause 19 : Transitional provision etc

Amendment 36 not moved.

Clause 19 agreed.

Schedule 7 agreed.

Clauses 20 to 22 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.

International Development: Budget

Question for Short Debate

7.09 pm

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to transfer a portion of the international development budget to the budget of the Ministry of Defence.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, because the noble Lord’s Question for Short Debate will be taken as last business, the time limit for it will become 90 minutes rather than 60. Therefore, speeches should be limited to seven minutes, except for those of the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and the Minister, for which the limits will remain 10 and 12 minutes respectively.

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Lord Empey: My Lords, it is often said of politicians that they should not ask a question until they know the answer. However, I can truly say that I do not know the answer to the question that I will ask this evening, and that my motive in securing this debate is to seek answers and clarification.

There is no doubt that large numbers of our fellow human beings live in terrible conditions that we can barely imagine, and which our community finds appalling. Whether it is hunger, slavery, exploitation and trafficking, disease, war or natural disasters, there is virtually no end to the misery suffered by millions of people, with the young and old as the principal victims.

There is a long tradition in this country of being willing to help others, both financially and in other ways. One has only to look at the money that is raised annually by appeals such as Children in Need, and at the response to international disasters, when the British people give generously. There is a well established tradition of volunteering, with many young people, in particular, willing and anxious to spend some of their lives in the service of others. Sadly, on a number of occasions this has put those young people in personal jeopardy, and some have lost their lives. My own region of Northern Ireland always punches above its weight in such enterprises, and this creates a great sense of pride in our fellow citizens.

In recent years, there has been growth in the amount of taxpayers’ money that has gone to international development. In the Budget 2013 document of March this year, the figures were stark. Resource DEL for the Department for International Development will rise from £6.1 billion in 2012-2013 to £8.8 billion in 2013-14. When capital DEL is added, the total figure will increase from £7.8 billion in 2012-13 to £10.7 billion in 2013-14—an increase of 37%. No other department of state enjoys such largesse in this time of austerity. By comparison, the Ministry of Defence’s total resource and capital DEL figures show a more modest increase of 5% due to increased capital spending.

This Government have set out on a number of occasions their ambition to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid. In recent days, the Prime Minister has, in his capacity as chairman of the G8, chaired a conference designed to raise money for many starving people. However, earlier this year, in February, David Cameron alluded to the possibility that funds currently allocated to the Department for International Development could be reallocated to the defence budget in order to provide security and stability in regions where this was necessary to distribute aid safely.

There is already co-operation between the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is essential to ensure that UK policy is properly co-ordinated. Military campaigns are often accompanied by humanitarian projects, and the foreign policy objectives of Her Majesty’s Government can often be advanced by such spending, as the briefing pack for the debate demonstrates. The flurry of parliamentary Questions, both in your Lordships’ House and in the other place, suggests that I am not alone in seeking clarification of what is proposed.

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The OECD and the International Development Act 2002 define what is regarded as legitimate aid spending. This could be in conflict with the MoD’s understandable concern about recovering costs and relieving pressure on its overstretched budget. I do not have a problem with that. The work of the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be part of a seamless process designed to help those in greatest need. Without a proper framework of security, this is often neither safe nor possible. I regret, for instance, the trite and sarcastic statement by Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of policy, that what is needed is spending,

“on hospitals and not helicopter gunships”.

This makes no positive contribution to the very difficult balances that Ministers have to strike.

Given all this, what exactly was the import of the Prime Minister’s intervention in February? If nothing has changed, why was his speech necessary? If something is changing—and maybe it needs to—why are Ministers being coy about it? Given our current financial circumstances, and considering that many people in the country simply do not believe that all their hard-earned taxes always get to the people who need them, but instead, in a minority of cases, go to corrupt officials, gangsters and despotic regimes, it is necessary for the Minister to tell the House exactly why such an intervention was necessary, and explain what exactly is happening to the very large international development budget.

I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and other Ministers take great pride in the fact that the United Kingdom is taking the lead in a number of important projects throughout the world. Undoubtedly it is something in which all people in this country take pride. It is also true that our defence forces are under great strain and pressure. However, there is in some cases an inextricable link between having support from defence forces on the one hand and allowing them to be co-ordinated with staff from the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I seek clarification on why the Prime Minister said what he said if there was no change taking place—and, if there was a change, perhaps the House may have an adequate explanation so that a judgment can be made.

7.18 pm

Lord Bates: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and I pay tribute to him for securing this timely debate. Noble Lords on all sides of the House, irrespective of their point of view, will look forward to hearing the answers to the questions he posed, which should be in the public domain.

Essentially, he reminded us that there is a choice about how we spend our budget, and whether we devote it to overseas development assistance or whether we spend it on military interventions. On that subject, I will underline some important facts that are sometimes overlooked in the current debate—understandably, because these are incredibly tough fiscal times for the country and times of great hardship at home. Therefore, people are asking questions about how we are spending our money overseas. For every £1 we pay in taxes, just over 1p is spent on aid. For every £1 we spend on aid, we

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spend £6 on defence. Clearly we need to look at that situation and keep it constantly under review. I was impressed by some figures that came out of the weekend summit to which the noble Lord referred—and it is wonderful to see Northern Ireland in the spotlight this week, in the lead-up to the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Enniskillen. Therefore it is timely that we should focus on that in particular.

Save the Children sent me some figures which pointed out that, in 1990, 12 million children under the age of five died from preventable diseases. They then showed that, in 2011, that figure had fallen dramatically to 6.9 million. Aid has played a crucial part in that; so has trade. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, was a distinguished Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland and knows the importance of trade in lifting people out of poverty. None the less, 5.1 million fewer deaths of under-fives per year is an incredible return that the British people and others are getting on their investment in the poorest in the world.

It is always very difficult when these things happen because, when we see need around the world, a hue and cry goes up that “something must be done”. We are finding this at the moment in Syria. There is no doubt that, if you are in a ministerial office—at the Foreign Office, in the Ministry of Defence or in No. 10—the pressure to show immediate responses is immense, and military action is an immediate response. It has impact, it is visual and it shows a degree of leadership. To invest in aid, training people in how to develop crops, drilling wells, improving sanitation and educating the child takes longer. In a sense, they are less immediate, but the long-term return is vastly more.

We need to look at this very carefully and I read the Prime Minister’s speech about it with care. It could have been interpreted as leading to some potential change in the way that we allocate aid. Yet, the Prime Minister has nailed his colours to the mast on this to a greater extent than probably any leader in recent times. He has been inextricably associated with arguing the case for aid, not least last weekend. Within the Conservative Party, which is part of the coalition, he vigorously makes the point about the value of our aid spend in the world. That is very significant. We are just reaching the point of achieving our goal of 0.7%. We are seeing the returns: 5.1 million fewer lives lost. We are being told by the UN that the eradication of poverty for under-fives by 2030 is a real possibility, and that a further 1.7 million lives per year could therefore be saved. When we are on the brink of that incredible breakthrough, it would be unthinkable to look at blurring the edges between two very distinct types of spend. They are two very necessary types of spend in their correct context but we must not blur the edges. There are international agreements as to what overseas development assistance means and they come together in the Conflict Pool, the work of which I applaud. It has been a great innovation in bringing together the Ministry of Defence, DfID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, getting them to work together in control of a single budget to tackle prevention, rather than by intervention.

When the Prime Minister launched this, he said, in another place, that,

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“we must get better at treating the causes of instability, not just dealing with the consequences. When we fail to prevent conflict and have to resort to military intervention, the costs are always far higher”.—[

Official Report,

Commons, 19/10/10; col. 798.]

We know the impact of that through our intervention in Iraq and our continued presence in Afghanistan. That intervention is critically important. We know that more than 1.5 billion people live in fragile or conflict-affected states and it is no surprise that none of these has achieved a single millennium development goal. There is a link there.

I understand the argument that you need the military solution to create the security on the ground to allow trade, education and assistance with governance to develop, but I profoundly disagree with it. When people are without income, without hope, they have nothing to lose or to live for and that is then a catalyst for violence, rather than something which abates it. We need to remember that as we consider all the options open to us.

7.25 pm

Lord Judd: My Lords, it is always good to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bates, because he brings judgment, wisdom and a strong humanitarian commitment in so much that he contributes to debates on issues of this kind. He argues his case particularly convincingly. I hope that my words will underline the significance of what he has said.

I want to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on having introduced this debate. It is incredibly important and not something to be swept to one side after the remarks by the Prime Minister, so I hope we can have clarification of what exactly he meant.

It is quite a long time since I was in government. My first job was in defence and, after two years there, which I enjoyed greatly and found very challenging, the Prime Minister asked me to move to overseas development where I became the Minister for a short while, until Tony Crosland died and I moved to the Foreign Office. When I made the change, quite a lot of my friends asked me, wasn’t this an incredible change to make from defence to overseas development? I looked at them straight in the eye, because I believed it, and said, “Not at all. Both are about human security and well-being”. During my years in defence, I was always impressed by the number of senior officers, civil servants and others, who used to say in discussion, “Of course, we’ve lost if war breaks out. Our job is to prevent war and to ensure that peace can prevail”. Of course, development is ensuring that peace is not just the absence of war, but it is the ability of people to live full lives and to develop their potential.

I strongly believe that this is a time of so many challenges, including hunger and malnutrition—which is particularly sinister with its long-term effects, not least on future productivity—of climate change and of infant mortality still, although we must all take heart from the great progress to which the noble Lord, Lord Bates, referred. However, this is not a time to start raiding the aid budget. There may be very real arguments about how we do it better, get better value for money and prioritise better. Some of that has begun with the examination of programmes in India and South Africa, for example. These are big, important arguments but it

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certainly cannot be said that there are still not demands which far outstrip what we are even now able to make available.

The British people should take great pride that we are setting examples to the world in our commitment to overseas aid and development. At a time of low morale in Britain about so many things, this is something about which we can get excited—the positive battle for humanity, and the well-being of people and the children who are being born, or who should be born today but still die before they have a chance to enjoy life. It is very significant that we can say to the world, “Don’t do as we say but follow our example because this is a challenge that we are determined to meet”. I make no bones about it: I congratulate the Government unreservedly on having honoured the pledge of allocating 0.7% of GNP to aid. There will be arguments about priorities and techniques, but having kept that promise and that determination is something in which the British people should take pride. That is not to say that the example should not be followed in the battle for social justice and against poverty, deprivation and inadequacy in our health service in our own country, but at least in our relationships with the world we can hold our head high. It is an example of what we should be doing in our own society, if I may put it that way.

There will always be an overlap between overseas development and defence—that is clear. Certainly, humanitarian assistance, let alone long-term development, cannot take place if there is insecurity and instability. Therefore, in some situations it is necessary for defence forces and aid operations to work hand in glove. However, there are tensions—for example, in Afghanistan. The Army liberates an area and wants to put things in quickly which give the people a stake in the liberation of their territory before the Taliban moves back. Overseas development workers say, “Hang on a moment. It’s not just a quick fix. If we are to put a school or a hospital in, it has to be sustainable because if we have a quick fix the whole thing will collapse and we are likely to lose everything”. Therefore, there are real tensions between the disciplines of long-term, sustainable development and the immediate needs of the Armed Forces. The challenge is how we bring those two aims together in a useful and sensible way. I always think it is very exciting when the military can feel that on occasions it is contributing positively to human well-being by ensuring that supplies get through and that goods are delivered. That is something which many people in all three services of the military enjoy and value. However, these two aims are not the same tasks and how you marry them together will always pose a very difficult challenge, but one with which I think we should grapple.

In conclusion, we still need to give far more attention to the issues of conflict resolution and conflict prevention, although we are giving them much more attention than we used to. The resources to do that should come from the aid budget although the military has a contribution to make. I hope that in all the Government’s considerations those issues remain priorities.

7.33 pm

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on securing this debate, on his thoughtful contribution and on the concise way in

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which he presented it, which is an example to us all. I will certainly try to follow that example.

It is a delight and a privilege to follow my old friend, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who was first elected as an MP in Portsmouth many years ago when I was a young student at Portsmouth Polytechnic. I am afraid that he did not persuade me to vote for him. Nevertheless, it is always a pleasure to hear him extolling with such oratorical skill his well-known absolute commitment to international aid and development. I shall try to follow him with a few precise words of my own.

For some months now, there has been a mounting campaign within the defence community for the MoD to be given an ability to draw upon elements of Britain’s aid and development budget. The attempt to access this ring-fenced budget as part of the comprehensive spending review has thrown up suggestions that DfID should, for example, pay for flights on RAF transport aircraft, in particular for military helicopters used to carry civilians as well as soldiers, by prepaying a guaranteed number of flights for each type of aircraft in regular use by DfID. There have also been suggestions that DfID should pay for some naval patrols and protective equipment required by civilian staff. The Royal Navy’s Atlantic Patrol Task is a case in point. Tasked with protecting our interests in the Caribbean, the APT takes on humanitarian aid during the hurricane season, together with assisting with counternarcotics and anti-terrorism operations.

There has been a push from the MoD to redefine more of its work as official development assistance, not surprisingly given the way in which the Prime Minister’s remarks about establishing effective links between defence and development have been largely, if not blatantly, misinterpreted in some quarters. They were spun to mean that more ODA should be spent on defence, increasing the momentum being created behind the campaign to that effect. However, the fact of the matter is that ODA can be spent by the military only on very specific activities due to strict guidelines from the OECD and the United Kingdom’s own International Development Act 2002, to which the noble Lord, Lord Empey, referred.

Apparently, discussions between the MoD and DfID are ongoing, so perhaps in her reply the Minister could tell us whether an options paper has yet been put to the National Security Council and, if so, when its response is expected. The Government have made it clear that they would like to see more of the aid budget diverted to defence by building up the Conflict Pool already used by DfID and the MoD.

If we can help states riven by conflict and war, and help to deliver security and provide stability, we also provide the base on which all development can proceed. The Government’s commitment to investing greater resources in preventing violent conflict before it breaks out is widely welcomed. The use of the Conflict Pool through the Building Stability Overseas strategy is widely seen as a step in the right direction.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s recent report, Evaluation of theInter-Departmental Conflict Pool, recognised that it has proved effective at identifying and supporting worthwhile conflict-prevention

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initiatives and has delivered some useful, if localised, results. It goes on to say that the Conflict Pool functions well as a responsive grant-making instrument for supporting small-scale peacebuilding activities by local parties in conflict-affected countries.

The ICAI report identifies a number of ways in which the Conflict Pool can be improved through greater attention to how the cross-departmental approach should work in practice, identifying more clearly how Conflict Pool spending can achieve impacts on the scale required, adopting a more conflict-sensitive approach, and improving monitoring and evaluation systems. I would be grateful if the Minister could inform the House of the actions that the Government have taken, and are taking, in this regard.

Aid is not the only mechanism that the UK can use to promote peace and support stability and development. According to Saferworld, there are a number of ways in which the defence community can contribute to conflict-prevention activities—elements such as security and justice sector reform, small arms counterproliferation and monitoring arms transfer control arrangements. Some may count as ODA while others may not. The MoD mentions the BSOS in its Defence Engagement Strategy paper but does not set out how it intends to contribute to upstream conflict prevention. This gives an impression of a lack of commitment to the BSOS and belies the MoD’s responsibility to ensure that its approach in fragile states works towards the vision of stability outlined in the BSOS. Will the Minister clarify how the MoD is working to fulfil its commitments under the BSOS, which sets out the UK’s approach to addressing conflict overseas?

Finally, I echo the words of Bill Gates who, with the Gates foundation, has set new heights in philanthropy in aid and development. When he opened DfID’s new offices in Whitehall last week—in fact, we should not really call them new; that is a misnomer as they are a refurbished conversion that will hopefully do the job—he said that the UK should take great pride in the compassion and generosity of its people and its commitment. Mostly, it should take great pride in its ability to deliver effective international aid on a scale that makes the UK a world leader, and the Gates foundation its preferred partner.

7.40 pm

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Empey for tabling this important and timely debate. We always have to consider the brave men and women of our armed services and be sure to leave no stone unturned in ensuring our absolute commitment to their success and to the protection of the nation.

However, I seek reassurance from the Minister with regard to switching funding from development towards defence because, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, made crystal clear, we are talking about the lives of millions of children. Even a small reduction in funding will be measurable in children’s lives. We as a nation are making a huge difference through our commitment and the example that we are setting to the international community. We are taking a leadership role in international development by saving children’s and adults’ lives, and

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showing other nations the way in doing so. Perhaps it is arguable that by taking these steps we are also contributing to an increase in the reduction in population growth across the globe. As families are supported as women receive education, birth rates drop, so population growth drops. It is arguable that that might contribute to long-term stability and a safer and more secure global environment.

I should declare an interest. I was funded to visit Angola during the civil war there 12 or 15 years ago. I have visited Angola on a couple of occasions subsequently, funded by Save the Children and Tearfund. I recall meeting AIDS patients in Luanda who were utterly helpless because there was no treatment that they could afford. They were living desperate lives. I also remember visiting an area for internally displaced people and seeing a group of men and a young woman who was with them talking about condom use and how important it was in preventing the spread of AIDS. I remember seeing street children who were living in the sewers of the city. They came up from there to make a life for themselves. I visited a school sponsored by an NGO that provided street children with an education and opportunities for employment. I visited a project funded by DevelopmentAid where young men were building their own homes. I visited a maternity unit, which sadly had no or very few incubators for babies. The main problem was that the roads were in such poor condition that mothers found it difficult to get timely help during their pregnancies.

The difference which the British people make internationally by their investment in educating women, reducing levels of poverty and ensuring that children get adequate nutrition is huge. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, drew attention to the long-term impact of malnutrition in early life. By making a difference in these areas, we are also contributing to lower birth rates and a reduction in the world population.

This is the right thing to do because we are saving children’s lives in Africa and across the world. It might also be argued that what we are doing is prudent because we are introducing more stability by reducing population growth by ensuring that women are educated and taking that step forward. I join in the tributes made across the House to the coalition Government for their commitment of 0.7% GDP to international development, and I look forward to what I hope will be some reassurance from the Minister that there will be no trans-switching of funding from international development to defence. Both are crucial and need to be treated independently.

7.46 pm

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I join those thanking the noble Lord, Lord Empey, for introducing this debate. It is very timely and perhaps gives us an opportunity for some clearing of the air after the Prime Minister’s recent comments and the reactions, or overreactions, in some cases, to them.

Let me emphasise from these Benches our complete support for the Government’s overall allocation to the aid budget. I believe that history will give a very favourable judgment on this country’s decision to maintain its increasing level of commitment at such a challenging economic time. Our world seems ever increasingly to

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be characterised by growing divides between wealth and poverty, whether between individuals in a given country or between countries themselves. I sometimes think that there are not many issues on which the Lords spiritual are in total agreement, but this is definitely one of them. At least, I believe that to be the case, but my right reverend friend the Bishop of Derby has yet to speak.

Aid should be directed to alleviate poverty, but that poses the question: what is poverty in our world today? When thinking about poverty we should, of course, take its obvious meaning which tends to come first to us: it is a lack of money and material resources. But poverty is not just a lack of material resources; it can also be poor health, which can be psychological as well as spiritual. Poverty can be not living in a democracy in which individuals are valued. Much poverty in its broader sense is caused by wars or other social upheavals, just as the greatest single source of poverty in this country is arguably family breakdown. The best way to address poverty in our country might well be to have a co-ordinated, cross-departmental strategy to reduce family breakdown, in as much as the Government can influence such major social trends.

The same applies to development aid overseas. Above all, it needs a joined-up, cross-departmental strategy, and in as much as this is what the Prime Minister was advocating in his recent remarks, I have no problem with them. I also have no fundamental objection to our aid programmes being integrated somewhat with our broader national interests or security strategy. There has been a tendency in the past for the development programme to be almost on its own plane, apart from other aspects of government policy. But it is distinct, as has been rightly said by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. It always seems to me to be part of the overall programme of what we are trying to do as a country. Surely we are learning the hard way, as has been mentioned, that soft power in all its guises is often more lastingly effective than hard power. Indeed, there seem to be many conflicts which have no purely military solution, as indeed is the case, it appears, in Syria.

In relation to the Ministry of Defence, for example, I can see a strong case for offering assistance with mine clearance, or rehabilitating former soldiers into society after a conflict ends. We heard something about that in the previous debate about the Offender Rehabilitation Bill: there is a particular problem with ex-servicemen who find life difficult some years later. No doubt a whole range of activities, which might be regarded as aspects of peacekeeping and peacemaking, should involve the Ministry of Defence along with other departments. I see no reason why that should not be the case. That should involve not only other departments of government, but voluntary agencies—let us remember those too, including faith communities.

In Africa, in particular, there is a major problem of preventing aid money being swept up into a culture of corruption. Often the safest way to distribute money in those countries is through the faith communities. My most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot be here today, but this is a particular concern of his, as he has had a major interaction with Africa over the years, and indeed looking at his blog, as I do

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every night before I go to bed, there is an instance of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in Sudan using money from the overseas development budget— £3 million or £4 million —to train thousands of teachers in a country where only about 1% of the young women complete secondary education. Again, that is a really important example of collaboration outside the immediate structures of government, but that should be built on collaboration within government.

I believe that this country has a proud record on overseas development. I simply want the Minister to reassure me that that will long remain the case.

7.52 pm

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Empey, for raising this subject this evening and for giving us an opportunity not just to seek clarification but to express what is clearly a strongly held view among most Members of your Lordships’ House. I refer to the inference that the expenditure pattern on development might change to assist the Ministry of Defence in what may be perceived as current difficulties with its budget, and the real strategy at the heart of what successive Governments have been trying to achieve, which was damaged by that intervention, or at least the public description of it.

I associate myself wholeheartedly with the content of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and his analysis of the importance of this issue and of conflict in fragile states. I also wholeheartedly endorse the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester.

The Government have done remarkably well on the agenda for international development over these past three years. Many who were, perhaps in advance of the 2010 election, slightly suspicious of the Government’s commitment to international development, have been proven wrong. The consistency with which they have applied the comprehensive approach initially begun by the previous Government, by improving and expanding upon some of the procedures that were put in place, such as the Building Stability Overseas strategy, the extension of the Conflict Pool following its review, the establishment of a National Security Council, and the implementation this year of the 0.7% of gross national income of our national budget for international development, have all been important steps on the right road.

It is not just in their individual actions that the Government have been right. Having watched this closely and been pleased at what has happened over the past three years, even I was surprised to see the Chancellor on television at the time that this issue was raised, presumably by one of the Prime Minister’s aides, back in February or March, whenever it was first in the news. The Chancellor said that it was in this area of our expenditure, where we commit to an international agreement and we implement that commitment, that we give ourselves influence around the world in ways that are almost impossible through other means. To hear that coming now on a cross-party basis from these Houses of Parliament should give us all great pride.

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In that context it was with dismay that I watched the debate on this issue emerge in the early months of this year. The suggestion that money could be transferred from international development to help out with the defence budget was wrong on four grounds.

First, it is against the rules. So it was a silly thing to say in the first place—it cannot be done. The idea that the international development budget could be used for non-international development purposes was never going to have any traction, and therefore to suggest that for public consumption was frankly silly. Secondly, and allied to that, it is dangerous. It puts in danger those in the field who are trying to work in the most difficult of countries and situations—those states referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bates. It therefore makes the lives of those who take on the most difficult challenges in our world today more difficult.

Thirdly, such a suggestion reverses the strategy begun by the previous Government, built upon by this Government, on the comprehensive approach that says that, in today’s 21st-century modern world, defence, development and foreign relations cannot exist independently of each other. They will be successful only if they work together.

Fourthly, the suggestion reduces our influence internationally. Not only has the UK been implementing this strategy at home for most of the last decade, it has been leading the international strategy on this debate as well. When I was the previous Prime Minister’s special representative for peacebuilding between 2008 and 2010, I had the fascinating privilege to visit United Nations missions around the world, with both peacebuilding and peacekeeping missions. People consistently said to me—particularly local people, or those involved in national government in countries around the world where these missions exist—that the lack of co-ordination between defence, development, peacebuilding and peacekeeping, between a national strategy and the international intervention of agencies and donors, and the lack of a comprehensive strategy were the biggest blocks to building peace and ensuring that development is able to take place effectively.

If we have learnt that lesson anywhere over the past decade, we have learnt it in Somalia, where we have seen remarkable progress over the past two or three years. We should never be complacent about the situation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, certainly not in the short or medium term. The European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank, individual donors, those involved in development and those involved in military training and expertise are all coming together in one strategy, and making a difference in trying to build a new democratic parliament and some opportunity for Somalia to build its way out of the horrors of the past 20 or 30 years. To reverse that strategy now and to play games with this issue is a dangerous thing to do.

I hope that there will be further clarification. The Minister has clarified this matter in your Lordships’ House before, but I hope tonight she will be able to do so once more. I also hope that in seeking this clarification we will say clearly to the Government that it is essential that they not only implement this strategy here in the UK, but continue to lead on it internationally, and

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ensure that the United Nations, the World Bank and others work together in a truly comprehensive approach across every continent.

8 pm

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on securing this debate and bringing this topic to the attention of the House. It has triggered a memory for me. As a new Member of Parliament way back in 1997, I can recall very well that a new defence review was being undertaken. I attended an interesting discussion between Ministers past and present about the concept of defence diplomacy. To my innocent ears, it sounded like a new dawn. One of the MoD’s eight missions was to,

“dispel hostility, build and maintain trust, and assist in the development of democratically controlled armed forces”.

The defence budget would fund these activities; it was brilliant. The new dawn soon faded, however, as young and not so young Ministers got the smell of cordite in their nostrils, or whatever it is that makes men—it is mainly men, I am afraid—go to war in order to try to solve the world’s problems. The last Government certainly loved their military adventures.

I have not heard much about defence diplomacy since then, but I am extremely pleased and almost proud, although I do not like that word, that our coalition Government have committed to spend 0.7% of GNI on international development, 30% of which will be spent on fragile states, which we all know are the poorest in the world and unlikely to achieve the millennium development goals. Conflict produces poverty and poverty causes violence and war; we all know that cycle. I appreciate that because of this, there needs to be co-operation between the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development.

I am extremely concerned, however, at the suggestion that by some sleight of hand the protected DfID budget will be used to shore up the unprotected MoD budget. What a fall from grace that would be. How cynical it appears, especially if the money is used directly or indirectly for things like helicopter gunships. That would do great harm to our reputation for international development throughout the world. Development and military activity, even defence diplomacy if it is still practised, however well intentioned, must be seen as separate activities. Journalists have reported from Afghanistan that the Taliban has attacked aid workers because they were thought to be collaborating with western forces. NGOs—Christian Aid in particular —have expressed their fears that aid workers’ lives will be in danger in fragile situations if they are thought to be colluding with the military. It would be disastrous.

The best way to bring about peace and stability is through poverty reduction. Young, poor and under- employed people are used as fuel for conflict. We need to concentrate on giving them better lives by educating them, especially the girls, and improving their health and prospects.

As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population Development and Reproductive Health, I must add that around 350,000 girls and women die every year in pregnancy and childbirth. The majority

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of them live in fragile and conflict-wracked states with no access to family planning or safe abortion, obstetric care, or even skilled birth attendants. I must also remind the House that there is an enormous unmet need for voluntary family planning around the world. The consequences of not providing family planning resources are unsustainable population levels, which lead to conflict over the world’s diminishing resources. It is a very important link. While on the subject of women and girls, the Minister would expect me to say that we must not allow Department for International Development money for safe abortion after rape in armed conflict to be diverted away from this very necessary service because of the aid policies of other countries such as the USA.

There is too much demand for aid in fragile states for it to be diverted to the needs of the Ministry of Defence, however hard it argues the case that fragile states need military intervention. It is too dangerous to contemplate, both for the people in the country affected and for aid workers operating there. I have every sympathy for Ministers who are seeing their precious defence budget cut, but the remedies are staring them in the face. Perhaps I may make a few suggestions. First, we must stop thinking that the United Kingdom should intervene in every conflict and civil war around the globe. Secondly, we must stop just fighting terrorism and start addressing the causes of terrorism—noble Lords would expect me to mention the plight of the Palestinians. Thirdly, please can we abandon the ridiculous notion that Trident needs to be replaced? Some £20 billion to £25 billion could be saved in a stroke on Trident alone. That would pay for a few helicopter gunships.

8.05 pm

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, would like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Empey, for introducing this debate, and I hope that noble Lords will see that not only do the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester and I sit on the same Bench, we have a similar view on this issue. I thank my friend and colleague the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his wisdom. I hope that I can simply embroider his words because he has said all that needs to be said. Not least is the point that this is not simply about a crude choice, it is about priorities and the particularity of aid alongside the necessity of the military.

I need to declare some interests. I am a trustee of Christian Aid, but tomorrow night I shall be having dinner with the adjutant of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, so I have some military friends and connections as well. I want to take a steer in my brief remarks from the Book of Common Prayer. The morning prayer, the second collect, is as follows:

“O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord”.

I shall explore the difference between peace and concord. Peace is a spiritual state. It wells up in our hearts, developing harmony and good will towards others. It is what drives aid, it is what unites us across this House, and it is what unites the British people in the Government’s policy to protect 0.7% of our income for aid. There is a desire for peace through harmony, generosity and connection.

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When we come to the concord bit, we have to put in place arrangements to deliver it, and it is concord that we cannot agree on. That is where we need political arrangements and sometimes military interventions to try to ensure that there is some concord. These things do not fit together easily and must be properly distinguished. I want to look at each of these emphases and put some questions to the Minister.

If we think about ordering, about the concord that we have to try to create and support across the world, my military friends would remind me that the military has always been involved in creating concord through delivering what we call aid or humanitarian support. I can give examples of this from Alexander the Great to the Napoleonic Wars. More recently, there is a priest in the diocese I serve who was in the Royal Air Force. He tells moving stories about his time as a serviceperson of being involved in humanitarian work such as the rebuilding of schools and getting supplies through lines in order to feed people who were trapped behind them. There is a long and important tradition of the military playing a constructive role in the delivery of what we would call aid. In that sense, we need to look at that military capability, which is often important in a natural disaster. Aid agencies tend to need to plan and budget carefully, but the military has the resource and dynamism to get in there and connect. If the military is going to be part of the aid scenario, we have to look at how that co-ordinates with what we understand about aid, aid agencies and DfID. Is there a case for joint training and planning, especially in relation to natural disasters, and should a co-ordinated effort be made? It is a question that can be asked and it needs to be pursued.

Let us think about the peace that aid agencies, DfID and others stand for alongside the military trying to develop and preserve concord, particularly through aid exercises. Let us think about aid more narrowly—the peace that comes from the heart through trying to connect human beings by helping women and girls, reducing infant mortality or whatever it might be. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, there are tensions because, to deliver aid, people try to offer a kind of neutrality about the political context of finding order and concord. Whether there is peace or disorder, aid needs to be delivered.

Aid agencies and those in partnership with DfID try to work in partnership with the local, and often the local can see aid workers, if they are associated with the military, as foreigners and the enemy. Therefore, the aid operation on the ground, working through partnership, is put in serious danger by being associated with a foreign power.

Of course, as we have heard, the whole aid thrust of DfID and the aid agencies is about poverty reduction. It is not just about good ordering and trying to create the stability that people need. It is about positive things, such as tax justice, land distribution and trade arrangements. There is a much bigger agenda than the military can ever be involved in. So there is a place for military co-operation with the delivery of aid in some contexts. However, that must not compromise the ability of DfID and aid agencies to deliver aid in complex situations where it might be a

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handicap to be associated too closely with military operations that are associated with interference from a foreign power.

I conclude by asking the Minister to address a number of questions. First, will poverty eradication remain the key purpose of UK aid? Secondly, will the 0.7% commitment be targeted to aid and development and ring-fenced from foreign policy costs? Could there be some kind of quadruple lock to preserve that? Thirdly, what plans are there for the MoD and DfID to work more closely together? Fourthly, does the Minister recognise our concern for aid work if we blur the boundaries between military activity and the provision of aid? That puts the whole credibility of aid and those who deliver it in serious jeopardy.

8.12 pm

Lord Rosser: My Lords, this has been an interesting, albeit brief, debate. Like virtually every other speaker, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on his opening speech and on giving us the opportunity to receive, we hope, some clarification from the Government about their intentions on this issue.

The Government have previously said on more than one occasion that they are committed not only to achieving but to legislating for 0.7% of gross national income, in line with the United Nations target, to be spent on international aid and development. There was, of course, no mention of such legislation in the gracious Speech, and no indication has been given about when such legislation might appear or, indeed, why it has not appeared to date, as promised. On top of that, we are hearing suggestions from the centre of government that some United Kingdom aid might be directed to prop up a defence budget facing further cuts and also to promote trade interests and British business. As has been said, the Prime Minister announced just under four months ago that he was “very open” to spending money from the UK aid budget on peacekeeping and other security operations, and that he would like to see more of the aid budget diverted to defence by building up the Conflict Pool that is already used by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development.

Clearly, today’s debate is an opportunity for the Government to put concerns at rest by explaining why the intended legislation has not appeared, and to give the assurances that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, is seeking that there are no government plans to transfer a portion of the international development budget to the budget of the Ministry of Defence. As the former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said, legislating on this issue of the aid budget “takes it beyond doubt” and,

“takes it out of politics”,

in a situation where all three major parties made it clear at the time of the last general election that they would legislate.

We accept, as we have consistently said, that it is essential that international development and defence are better co-ordinated and that, indeed, there should be a co-ordinated approach to tackling conflict that brings together defence, diplomacy and development. We support how the Conflict Pool can be improved

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and targeted and how a cross-government approach can better prevent and tackle instability. However, any suggestion that aid money can be used to offset deep defence cuts is misleading, since UK aid money can legitimately be used, in accordance with internationally agreed guidelines, only for security, demobilisation and peacekeeping, and not for core military activities. The major proportion of UK aid money must continue to be used to alleviate poverty, improve basic services and support job creation, all of which are central to ending conflicts everywhere. In that regard, can the Minister say whether any DfID review, or a review by any other competent body or organisation, is being considered or undertaken in relation to the definition used for overseas development assistance, or of the interpretation of that definition, and if there is, the purpose of such a review?

International development aid works, since it saves lives, helps reduce inequality and gives people the chance of a better future. It is also in Britain’s interests, since the unrealised potential of developing nations and their peoples represents lost trade and growth for the UK, as well as for those developing nations and the global economy. It is now time for the Government, when they come to respond, to say why the Prime Minister made the statements he did—to which the noble Lord, Lord Empey, referred—if there is no change in policy. In the light of some recent off-the-record briefings and ad hoc policy statements, as well as the continuing absence of promised legislation, it is also for the Government to show that their direction and good intentions on international development aid will not be compromised by either the consequences of their failure to meet financial targets at home or the need to appease those within their ranks who give such aid little or no priority.

8.18 pm

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Empey, for securing this debate and all noble Lords for their contributions. There has been gratifying agreement about the importance of supporting development and support for the UK’s stance in reaching 0.7% of GNI on aid. We are, of course, the first G8 country to do so. I thank noble Lords for that agreement. The noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord McConnell, the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and other noble Lords paid very generous tribute to the Government over that, which we really appreciate.

Especially in a period of austerity, I am very proud of the fact that we have done that and know how important it is morally. Singing, I suppose, in agreement, we have the right reverend Prelates, the Bishop of Chester and the Bishop of Derby, along with other noble Lords. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and other noble Lords emphasised that and pointed out what a difference it makes to the poorest around the world. However, it is also in our own national interest that we do this, which has been recognised as well. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister pointed out on Saturday at the Nutrition for Growth summit:

“We understand that if we invest in countries before they get broken, we might not end up spending so much on dealing with problems—whether that’s immigration or new threats to our national security”.

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The noble Lord, Lord Empey, and other noble Lords asked further about the Prime Minister’s position. Earlier this year, in India in February, the Prime Minister said,

“conflict states … haven’t met a Millennium Development Goal between them … it’s obviously true that if you can help deliver security and help provide stability … that is the base from which all development can proceed”.

He made it clear that spending would be compliant with international rules that define aid spending.

The Prime Minister did not say that he was filling some MoD black hole with the aid budget, whatever some decided he might have meant. He was saying that we need to work together to ensure we establish security for people in fragile and conflict-affected states, so that development can be built on. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and other noble Lords would agree with that. I note the real sophistication in this House in understanding how security and stability underpin development. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, both the MoD and DfID are about human security and well-being. That was a brilliant encapsulation. They are complementary.

I assure my noble friend Lord Bates that, as he knows, as do other noble Lords, that the rules do not allow blurring. As noble Lords are well aware, and as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, pointed out, the 0.7% must be spent in line with the definitions of official development assistance—ODA—as set out by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. These directives define ODA as flows to eligible countries and multilateral institutions, each transaction of which is,

“administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective”.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby should find the multiple locks of the OECD reassuring. As noble Lords are well aware, the OECD directives rule out, for example, financing military equipment or services—including helicopters—unless funding is used to cover the additional costs to the military of delivering humanitarian aid.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, in terms of aid workers being put in danger, that we are clear that humanitarian assistance should be administered impartially and on the basis of need. The protection and expansion of the humanitarian space protects aid workers from being seen as targets, but we are well aware of the general threats to them worldwide. We pay tribute to their efforts.

There is, of course, a wide understanding in this House that DfID, the FCO and the MoD need to work together, as the previous Government agreed, to ensure that we bring together development, diplomatic and defence expertise on the ground. The Building Stability Overseas strategy was produced jointly by DfID, the FCO and the MoD in July 2011 with a strong integrated approach across government at its heart, developing work done by the previous Government. Improving stability and security in fragile and conflict-affected states is vital for development. Conflict and instability undermine our efforts to reduce poverty.

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No conflict-affected country has met a single MDG. That is why the Government have committed to spend 30% of UK ODA in fragile and conflict-affected states by 2014-15. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, is right to emphasise that.

The UK-led Helmand provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan is demonstrating how DfID, the MoD and the FCO can work effectively together. There we use the military’s strengths in delivery, access and know-how and the civilian staff’s political access, sector expertise and longer-term focus. This ensures maximum impact from our combined resources and expertise. Civilian and military teams work jointly to plan and deliver infrastructure projects on the ground, building schools, clinics and roads where needed and in keeping with Afghan government plans and capacity. Support for such development would not be possible without the military, which provides the security needed for governance and development to take hold.

Of course, as noble Lords know, this co-operation cannot be funded in such a way as to go beyond the OECD definitions. Therefore, for such operations, a mix of ODA and non-ODA resources is required. The Conflict Pool, to which noble Lords have referred, provides a funding mechanism made up of both resources. This was put in place by the previous Government. The mix of ODA and non-ODA is to give maximum impact. This enables the Conflict Pool to pay for military-led activities that help create stability in the most conflict-affected environments. The Conflict Pool is separate from and additional to departmental budgets.

My noble friend Lord Bates is right to praise the Conflict Pool as a tried departmental mechanism to increase the effectiveness of our programmes. Its aim is to reduce the number of people around the world whose lives are or might be affected by violent conflict. It is jointly managed by DfID, the MoD and the FCO and operates on the principle that all policy and programming decisions are taken jointly.

In 2012-13, £175 million of ODA was available through the Conflict Pool. The MoD spent about £2 million of this. As noble Lords will appreciate, the MoD spends more non-ODA from the Conflict Pool: about £40 million in 2012-13.

Like my noble friend Lady Tonge, I found myself going back a little in time as I was preparing for this debate. In 2009, for example, I submitted Written Questions to the previous Government about transfers from DfID, and I shall give a selection of the detail in the answers from the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. Noble Lords will find a trail of questions and answers in the months following March 2009, should they wish to look.

In answer to me on 9 March the noble Lord mentioned that transfers from DfID to other departments included £1,650,000 to DCMS for developing sport to do with the Olympics; £300,000 to the MoD; £1 million to the FCO; £6,716,000 to the FCO; £18,899,000 to the MoD for the conflict prevention pool, and so on. There was another transfer of £917,000 to the MoD for stabilisation in Iraq and £1 million to the FCO for police reform in Pakistan. In summary, the noble Lord replied that overall transfers will not significantly affect the UK’s ODA/GNI ratio.

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The word “significantly” is interesting. I noted back in my questions that almost all the transfers were in one direction—away from DfID. I hope the noble Lords, Lord McConnell, Lord Rosser, and others, will note that there is a track record for the transfer of funds to other departments from DfID. For example, after the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, the military supported relief efforts, providing helicopters, engineers and airlift capability. A memorandum of understanding was developed in 2000 between the MoD and DfID which provides the framework for DfID to request the use of military assets where civilian capabilities are either unavailable or inadequate to meet humanitarian needs in accordance with international guidelines.

My noble friend Lord Chidgey asked about the NSC, which has considered the topic of development in conflict, as one would hope it would. This is to ensure that the Government’s efforts are as effective as possible. The MoD recently published a joint international defence engagement strategy with the FCO, and among the four pillars of that are conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation.

Of course we can understand departments looking across at other departments’ budgets, not only DfID’s, I can assure the House. I am sure the previous Government

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experienced the same thing. I can assure noble Lords that our commitment to cross-departmental work for development is carried out in accordance with OECD rules. Noble Lords have made it clear in the debate that they fully understand the need to ensure that we work across departments, and that is what we must do. Whether it is the MoD, the FCO and DfID, or DfID, DECC and Defra on environmental issues and climate change, or DfID, DoH and DfE on health, development and education, we must ensure that what the UK Government do has the greatest effect in the relief of poverty around the world.

Noble Lords would expect no less of us. We are clear that the Government are committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid. Aid is defined as official development assistance by the OECD. We need to work across departments to achieve as much as we possibly can while we work with international organisations, both public and private, as shown in the nutrition summit. We are all agreed on how important it is to deliver the MDGs and their successors so that we can eradicate poverty worldwide. There is a sophisticated understanding in this House that to achieve that requires working across government.

House adjourned at 8.30 pm.