In paragraph 247, the committee cautioned that transport infrastructure did not always lead to development. The experience of London points strongly in the opposite direction, with the M25, the Limehouse link and the Jubilee Line extension, which opened up Docklands, and HS1, which opened up the Stratford area and was crucial in changing the perception of the IOC about access to the Olympic park. Without that line, our bid would not have succeeded. That process is still going on—for example, in the land around King’s Cross Crossrail, and Crossrail is revitalising the rundown fringe of central London from Shoreditch to Paddington and expanding the boundaries of what is perceived as central London. It is estimated that over £2,000 per head has been spent on London transport infrastructure, against less than £200 elsewhere in the country. I am confident that using transport to change the economic geography, which has worked so well in London, will work in our other major cities. I believe that the Government have a good story to tell but that they are failing to tell it.

6.04 pm

Lord Berkeley (Lab): My Lords, I declare my interest as the chairman of the Rail Freight Group, and apologise to the House and to my noble friend Lord Hollick for being late and for missing the start of his speech. It was due to a 24 hour-plus failure of the Government’s queue-busting e-border system at Gatwick North. I expect that it will get mended one day; it may even work one day.

I am still not clear whether the HS2 people and the Government are really sure about what they are trying to build. We have heard many noble Lords speak this afternoon about the purpose of HS2. Is it a sort of vanity project to be the best in the world, going between lovely new stations at very high speeds— 360 kph to 400 kph—then making people walk 20 minutes to the nearest classic or existing station or bus station, so we can say how wonderful we are? I prefer to look at it as something that will provide more capacity as part of an integrated network so that most of the trains—certainly in phase 1, apart from those going to Birmingham—can go on to the existing network and give people more reliable and quicker through-services to wherever they want to go. As my noble friend Lord Monks said, that is what happens in France and Germany, where there are very few places where a special new station has been built some way from existing stations. Lille is one example, and I know quite a lot about that.

The other issue is whether we need to go that fast on a small island such as ours. France and Germany are very big, geographically, and they seem to think that 300 kph is enough, so why do we want to go 360 kph or 400 kph—especially when, certainly in phase 1, with all the lovely long tunnels being built under the Chilterns, you have to go slower because of the piston effect? But there we are.

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I recall advising the then Secretary of State for Transport, my noble friend Lord Adonis, that we should start at the north end, partly for political reasons and partly because, as many noble Lords have said, the railways are a lot worse there than they are in the south. But there we are; we will be starting from scratch again—and we have all agreed that there is no actual route for HS3 across the Pennines. This at least has a route, and the project is going through the Commons Select Committee. So the best thing to do is to go ahead with it, get it right and make it cheaper.

There is a problem of capacity on this route corridor. My noble friend Lord Lea said that I should speak about rail freight, which is forecast to double in 20 years. That is not something plucked out of the air; that forecast has come from rail freight industry reports, from operators and everybody else in it. Passenger traffic on the railways in the past 20 years has doubled, and both of those are ahead of the Government’s forecasts at the time. So we can suddenly say that everything is going to change and there will be no more growth in future, but we would be unwise to do that. New lines and services have been started, with the Victoria Line in London, new services in Scotland, and even the new line to the Borders. The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, said that HS2 would be the first new line for 100 years, but he ought to know that the Queen opened a new line in Scotland last week. I am told that the traffic on that is already exceeding expectations, although that may just be a blip.

There is a capacity problem, but the analysis that I have done with some expert colleagues shows that growth is going to be greater on the longer-distance commuter services into Euston than on HS2. So my argument is that we should look at Euston as a terminus for HS2 and the west coast main line as one project. That is why we sent to the Secretary of State last week a project that involves not demolishing half of Camden, coming down the west side of the west coast main line, but diverting the tunnels from Old Oak Common into Queen’s Park—if noble Lords can follow my geography—using the existing lines into Euston and the existing platforms, but extended south. Noble Lords said that there is a capacity problem at Euston. In fact, there is not. An analysis of train turnaround times will show that they are a lot more relaxed and slower at Euston than they are at Paddington or Liverpool Street, and Euston has space for HS2 and most of the existing west coast main line trains on a similar turnaround time, provided that you divert some of the shorter suburban trains on to Crossrail, which is another plan, through Old Oak Common.

This project we have developed would save about £1.5 billion to £2 billion. It would avoid all the demolition around Euston. I do not agree with the idea that Euston should become a massive development like King’s Cross Railway Lands. After all, the railway lands were government-owned property. There is no government-owned property around Euston, apart from the station and the railway boundary. If people want to build towers all over the line going out as far as Queen’s Park, that should be a separate planning application, but there is not the same potential as there was at King’s Cross, which is lovely. It would be very good if Ministers could accept a scheme such as

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the one I have developed and save at least £1.5 billion and probably £2 billion, plus reducing the speed of the trains from 360 kph or 400 kph to 300 kph, which I am told would save 50% of the cost of the train. These trains would then be built to the British gauge, like the old Eurostar, and could go anywhere in the country. This probably offers them the best of both worlds: cost saving, less hassle at Euston, shorter Select Committee time perhaps, and a project that would not involve 20 years of construction at Euston. The latest figure is 680 trucks a day out of Euston for several years, taking spoil away. Why they cannot use rail freight I have not yet discovered, but I shall try.

6.11 pm

Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise (Con): My Lords, HS2 from a business perspective is a conundrum: a great idea, an inspiring vision and yet, sadly, a very bad investment. Of course there are manifest benefits, but they simply do not justify the costs. In his committee’s excellent report, the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, rightly asked why businessmen like me should not pay for the supposed benefits we receive from faster journeys on this railway. The answer, I am afraid, is that it would bring into sharp focus the fact that we would not pay the extraordinary price required to justify this faster railway: a 30% to 100% premium on fares to travel a little bit faster for people who are making better and better use of their time on railways simply would not be worth it.

There is another and deeper reason why the failure to translate benefits into revenue streams is financially dangerous in this appraisal. It allows the benefit cost ratio to pull off an extraordinary accounting trick. The BCR is essentially designed to appraise government services that are provided for free—schools, hospitals et cetera—but it begins to fall down and is not fit for purpose when it assesses revenue-generating projects because the BCR assesses only non-financial benefits. It conveniently assumes that much of the capital cost can be eliminated from the appraisal by offsetting it against discounted future revenue streams. In doing so, it effectively eliminates £30 billion of costs from the returns calculation, vastly overstating the BCR and the returns on sunk capital.

I gather that some may not be hugely interested in this, so let me give an example. Be wary when the Government claim that HS2 will deliver £2 of benefit for every £1 invested. It is simply not true because it does not include the dead weight of capital that has been offset against future revenues. It is like a business promising you a return of 100% on a £1,000 investment and only in the small print mentioning that you have to invest a further £10,000 at 2.5% to order to get this special return.

This problem relates directly to a second and more fundamental problem of the BCR. In business terms, it assesses only the net present value of an investment and ignores the equally, often more, important measure: the internal rate of return. In doing so, it conceals the fact that this project delivers pitifully low returns. It is like being asked to choose between two options: Option A, which doubles your money, and Option B, which gives a 20% increase. Everyone would choose Option A until they were told that Option A would take 100 years to

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give you your return and Option B would do it in 18 months. Then you would change your mind. That is the difference between looking at internal rate of return and net present value alone.

This might sound like an accountants’ tragedy that will not affect real people, but it will. If we have learnt anything since the credit crunch in 2007, it is that the Government’s capacity for debt is finite, and by flittering away the nation’s balance sheet on this project we will miss the opportunity to invest much more wisely in other infrastructure. This project will decimate our transport capital budget for years to come.

The alternative to HS2 is not another grand project, it is myriad small, high-return projects that would deliver benefits in the near future: bypasses, flyovers, underpasses, junction improvements, filter lanes, bridges, commuter line upgrades, carriage improvements, platform improvements and more. Such projects would serve people every day of their working life rather than just for the odd long-distance journey. They would be projects that would serve the many rather than the few. Transformative projects in every town and city of our nation could improve the quality of life and productivity of millions of people who will instead be stuck in slow, crowded commuter trains and unnecessary daily traffic jams—all so that a relatively small number of the people can whizz past on a very fast train while they are sitting there. If they are lucky, they will see them.

Listening to this debate, my worry is that the proponents of HS2 have made the terrible business mistake of falling in love with their investment, and that that love in its ardour has blinded them to the costs, risks, debt, downsides, potential redundancy and, most importantly, lost opportunities. I hope that this excellent report brings a little sense to this debate because it seems that for the proponents of this project there is literally no cost too great for HS2. So I finish with a simple question for the Minister: at what price would we not build HS2?

6.17 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Select Committee for its excellent report. Over time, I have come to accept, if not to love, the need for additional capacity on the railway network, but it is always important to test public policy proposals and I think that it is generally accepted around your Lordships’ House that HS2 has not been properly examined. This is an exemplary report. It must have been great fun watching economics in action. It was a joy to read the forensic demolition of the Government’s economic case, as it was to hear it distilled in my noble friend Lord Hollick’s excellent speech. As many people have said, the Government’s response was tokenistic and not appropriate in the circumstances.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, for raising the question of the Chilterns AONB. I declare an interest in that I and my family live in Little Missenden, which lies very close to the line of HS2 phase 1. I want today to raise the concern that, for reasons which are still not clear, the HS2 Bill Committee has effectively ruled out extending the deep tunnel which at the moment goes part of the way through the Chilterns AONB—a decision which might

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seem to be rather discourteous, to say the least, as it was taken at the very start of the petitioning process for this area, effectively denying some 800 applicants in person the chance to give their evidence to be considered by the committee.

It is obvious that at the heart of a decision to allow a long Chiltern tunnel is a cost versus value decision, which is familiar territory for economists. There has to be a trade-off. There are additional costs that a longer tunnel would bear, but there are significant savings from reduced compensation payments and reduced land take. However, such a trade-off cannot ignore the benefits which accrue to the nation from preserving a special part of our countryside. After all, the whole business case for HS2 is based on a much disputed calculation of the benefit that business men and women get from saving time by faster travel. If that can be done, why can we not value the countryside? There are ways of quantifying these benefits, and a methodology is available that is already used by government. So far, though, the department and the Bill Select Committee have been highly resistant to engaging in this debate. Why is this?

Large infrastructure projects going through relatively unspoiled countryside effectively urbanise it. It is proposed to have 18 trains an hour each way, which cause noise and vibration. Maintenance activity will take place all night. The trains cause light pollution, and parts of the route have to have fixed lighting. There will be vent shafts where there are tunnels; access points; security fencing and sound proofing baffles; maintenance roads; balancing ponds; power lines and gantries; earthworks, planting and huge earthwork bunds to mitigate what is built; and soil from cuttings deposited right across the Chilterns. The materials are not natural, the scale is grotesque and the impact is to introduce alien cityscape elements into a predominantly rural environment.

The attempt by the promoter and the department to minimise the impact of these intrusions into the AONB—for example, by arguing, as they did recently to the Bill Committee, that:

“It’s really only a very, very small percentage impact, less than 1% impact, that we’re having on some particular feature of the AONB, whether it’s ancient woodland or woodland area”,

is as demeaning as it is misleading. The clue is in the title: it is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and the value placed on it has to be on the whole area, not by extracting fractions or percentages. It is an irreplaceable resource. You can put the earth back on a cut-and-cover tunnel, you can grass it and you can grow some new trees, but you do not have what age and interaction with people and their dwellings over centuries have produced in the rich patina of a landscape that is largely unchanged since pre-Saxon times, which is the key reason why it has merited an AONB designation.

As the Bill Committee has heard in evidence, designation as an AONB brings with it a requirement on Ministers and statutory bodies to do what they can to conserve and enhance our higher-quality English landscapes and protect their scenic beauty. What evidence is there that Ministers have taken this responsibility seriously? The National Planning Policy Framework says that major development should not take place in

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AONBs except in exceptional circumstances after appropriate tests have been made. What evidence is there that these tests were done properly?

The statutory framework also lays down that a relevant authority shall have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB. A relevant person is any Minister of the Crown, public body or statutory undertaker. Given that requirement, why would a rational promoter—or a rational Secretary of State, for that matter, if that is not a tautology—not wish to see the AONB protected, first by considering routes other than through the AONB but, failing that, by considering a deep tunnel through the Chilterns?

HS2 itself has recently accepted that there is no rational basis for rejecting a tunnel. In its recent report, applying its criteria and using its consultants and its judgment, it says:

“It is clear that a Chiltern Long Tunnel would provide overall environmental benefits compared to the HS2 Proposed Scheme during operation and construction”.

It also confirms that such a tunnel would not adversely affect the programme.

Faced with over 800 petitions from individual organisations and local councils calling for a long tunnel through the Chilterns, recommendations from the statutory bodies concerned with the Chilterns that a deep, long tunnel is the only possible mitigation, and the requirement under the statutory framework and the national planning framework to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB, the HS2 Bill Select Committee takes the view that the tunnel is too expensive. We do not know what persuaded the committee to take this view, and it has not published any evidence in the form of a calculation that demonstrates that the benefits from preserving the Chiltern AONB do not outweigh the additional costs of a long tunnel.

The missing ingredient at the moment is a sense of what we will lose if the scheme goes ahead in its current form. People might be much more willing to support HS2 if they knew that the only AONB on the line had been preserved by a Government who knew not only the cost of the project but the value of what was affected.

6.23 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, I believe that I am one of the majority of people in the north of England who are in favour of HS2, if not necessarily of all its details. I thought that the report was a little disappointing because it cannot seem to make up its mind whether it is against the whole project or is simply making some specific—in some cases, quite positive and constructive—suggestions. I suspect that this was the compromise that the committee came to in order to produce an agreed report.

A lot of the detail in the report is useful. I shall read out one of the main conclusions and recommendations:

“An investment decision on the scale of HS2 should have been made with reference to a co-ordinated transport plan for passenger and freight traffic across all modes of transport”.

That might be a little ambitious, but the decision should certainly have been made with reference to a co-ordinated plan for passenger and freight traffic on

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the railways and perhaps beyond that. This criticism, which I think is right, is not of HS2 but of the infrastructure planning system in this country, which does not do this; it puts projects forward in a piecemeal way, not as part of a co-ordinated national planning system. Noble Lords who have attended debates on planning and planning Bills will know that I consider that the whole planning system in this country is fairly bust; this is an example of that at national level. However, we have the system that we have and we are not going to get a super-modernised, streamlined planning system that works in the short term or indeed beyond that, so we have to deal with HS2 as we have it.

One of the little things in the report that niggled me was its continued references to “taxpayers’ money” and “taxpayer subsidies” and quotes such as,

“many taxpayers would derive no benefit from the project”.

The use of the word “taxpayer” in this context is sloppy, ideological right-wing language of the sort that has taken over in this country. I find that disappointing coming from a committee of your Lordships’ House, from which I expect better.

As far as the money is concerned, everyone is talking about £50 billion, although, as we know, the figure is £28 billion plus contingencies plus the rolling stock. Some people think that the existing network can be fettled in such a way as to cater for the required extra capacity, but that would need the extra rolling stock anyway, so at least some of that rolling stock is to be discounted, and we do not know how much of the contingencies might be required.

Even if the cost is £50 billion, I wonder why people are upset about it. Perhaps it is because it is a railway line to the north of England—to Manchester, Leeds and strange foreign places like that where people talk a bit odd. Let us look at the London schemes that are around. There is Crossrail, costing £15 billion—a super scheme with some fantastic engineering, but expensive. We have Crossrail 2, which is forecast to cost £25 billion, although I do not know whether that includes contingencies. Thameslink has cost at least £6 billion. The proposed extensions to the Bakerloo line could cost £3 billion or £4 billion, depending on how far they go.

So we are talking of investment in London that is of the same order as HS2, but no one says that these projects are too expensive, cannot be afforded, are going to bankrupt the country and all the technical stuff that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, came out with, which I am afraid I did not understand, although I am sure that it was all very good. Why? Because it is in London. Not very long ago, the Mayor of London, bless him, was calling for a scheme for a great ring rail around the outside of London—a sort of M25 railway, as I understood it—and he was happily saying, “Oh, it’ll only cost £40 billion, that’s all right”. That seems to have been put on one side for the moment, but who knows? If you are talking about things in London, money does not matter; when it comes to the rest of the country, people say that it cannot be afforded.

I associate myself with everything that my noble friend Lady Kramer said in her excellent, passionate speech. I also associate myself with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Snape, who talked about line capacity with more expertise than I could, so I shall

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not try to say some of the things that I might have. However, the meaning of capacity seems to have been misunderstood both in this report and in a lot of what is said. People look at capacity as being the proportion of the seats that are occupied on the trains that are running. If one is running a transport service, be it bus, rail or some other service, capacity is about the whole service provided. One cannot expect to run late-night trains and to have them as full as at peak times, such as teatime. Without the late-night service, there is no overall service and some of the daytime trade that would go back at night will be lost. Therefore, a proper, comprehensive and regular service is bound to have lots of trains that are not full. That does not mean to say that they are under capacity.

My time is up. Some of the points in this report should be taken forward. We should get a better response from the Government, because the Government’s response was pretty pathetic. However, for goodness’ sake, let there be no more delay. Once people start putting their feet on the brakes, this scheme will never happen. For the economic good of the north of England and the Midlands, of all the cities, the towns and the whole area, we need this railway line built as soon as possible.

6.31 pm

Baroness Randerson (LD): My Lords, on these Benches, as my noble friend Lord Greaves indicated, our instincts are in support of HS2. Our allies include the leaders of our great northern cities, because they know what is good for their area. From the start, as my noble friend Lady Kramer indicated, we have supported the concept of HS2. Far too few major long-term infrastructure projects were planned by the Governments of the latter part of the 20th century and the early 21st century, so the Labour Government’s 2010 Command Paper setting out the strategic case for HS2 was welcome.

We are convinced of the need for additional capacity. It is important to recognise that the term “capacity” means two things here: it means seats on trains and it means train slots. Although various remedial actions can increase the number of seats on the train—having an extra carriage and so on—we are getting to the point where there are simply no more train slots. One issue that has not been aired much in this debate is that of freight. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, indicated, freight transport is going to double in the next 20 years and there is simply not space for it on the existing railway.

Therefore, if we are to build at all, we need to be ambitious. We also need to learn the lessons of the past. Rarely in this country have Governments overestimated future demand for any infrastructure improvements. Reference has already been made to the Borders Railway, which opened only last week in Scotland and already appears to have a problem of capacity. The operators are already looking at putting on longer trains, given that only a single-track railway was built, making it impossible, or possible only at the margin, to increase the number of trains.

The travelling population of this country is bound to grow. We know that. The population is increasing and despite the predictions over many years that we

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shall all work increasingly from home—as indeed we do—in practice business use of trains has increased dramatically. We are social animals. We need to go and see our customers and so on. Also, leisure travel is for ever on the increase. Since 1997 train usage has doubled, as we recently heard in a report.

For economic reasons, on these Benches we support HS2. We do so for environmental reasons, too. Recent levels of air pollution near our roads have surprised the Government and local councils and they have led to EU penalties. That has to be addressed. Levels of congestion in our towns and cities and on our motorways make trains an attractive alternative. As a party that puts the environment at the top of its agenda, we particularly welcome HS2 because its speed and long-distance nature make it a real alternative to domestic air travel.

We are not deterred in principle by a high price tag, since the investment is very long term. We certainly do not believe that the capacity issues can be solved by improving existing lines. That cannot produce the capacity that we already require without immense disruption over decades for the travelling public; the impact on businesses would also be massive. There can, of course, still be incremental increases while HS2 is being built, but that does not take away from the need for HS2. We are, therefore, HS2 supporters, but we are critical friends.

I thank the Economic Affairs Committee for its report because, although I do not regard some of its criticisms as valid or necessarily relevant, there are a number of good questions that the Government need to answer. The first relates to the need for an overall transport master plan. We have the plan for a northern powerhouse, but the Government need to persuade us that HS2 will be part of that co-ordinated approach and will fit in properly with that plan. It is also important that account be taken of the impact of HS2 on north Wales and Scotland as well as on the north of England.

On cost estimates, with electrification plans on hold the Government are not in a very happy place. I have three observations. First, the cost of HS2 must not be allowed to swallow up investment, driving out other investment. This has to be used to enhance our network overall. Secondly, much of the cost is associated with the plans for Euston station. The alternatives to which the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred, which were circulated to many of us, would allow significantly less costly investment there. The changes would also be much less disruptive and much quicker to build. We need to build this line as quickly as possible. As my noble friend Lady Kramer said, we are already late to the game in comparison with other countries.

Thirdly, speed costs money. HS2 is planned to achieve 360 kilometres per hour. It is estimated that if it were to be built to achieve 300 kilometres per hour, which compares well internationally, that would save 50% of the cost on trains. Given that in practice 360 kilometres per hour cannot be reached over quite a lot of the journey because of tunnels and stations, is the significant extra cost worth while?

I urge the Government to reconsider the issue of rolling-stock gauge. The plan to use continental-gauge rolling stock is expensive and restrictive because that can only be used from Euston to Birmingham. Classic,

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compatible rolling stock is much more flexible. It makes the whole scheme much cheaper and it would bring the benefits more quickly to a wider part of the country.

On the issues relating to Euston station, if one looks at the overall rail network, one can see that Old Oak Common will be very well connected as a hub because of Crossrail and so on. Many passengers will want to get on and alight there; one therefore wants to consider whether the impact on Euston in terms of passenger numbers has been accurately assessed. Are the Government satisfied that they have fully considered the alternative plans for Euston? If they have not had a chance yet, will they provide an assurance that they will do so?

In conclusion, I fully accept that any big project will always have objectors—those opposed in principle and those opposed to the detail. Sometimes those opposed in principle dress up their arguments as opposition to the detail. Two weeks ago, I visited the railway museum in Swindon, where I saw records on display of the vociferous opposition to the Great Western Railway, including its route. By the way, it took Brunel only two weeks to survey and choose the route—in your dreams, nowadays. There was also opposition in principle from those who thought that the railway was new-fangled and unnecessary. That struck a strong chord. Nowadays, we look back and admire the vision and ambition of Brunel and his backers. I say to the Government that we are pleased that they continue to adhere to the ambitious aims for HS2 espoused by the coalition but ask them to reassure us that the public purse will be spending its money wisely.

6.41 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I welcome today’s debate and the powerful speeches that we have heard, including from my noble friends Lord Adonis and Lord Prescott, and from my noble friend Lord Mitchell, who told us that reports of the impending death of the railway industry were not premature. I also thank my noble friend Lord Hollick and the Economic Affairs Committee for their report, which, as my noble friend Lord Monks pointed out, looked at HS2 from one particular, albeit important, angle.

The report displays a certain lack of enthusiasm for the project, though not for investment in rail infrastructure. It says that:

“The Government has yet to make a convincing case for proceeding … it is not at all clear that HS2 represents the best, most cost-effective solution to the problems it is intended to solve”,

and that the Government “must answer” the list of questions set out in chapter 9 of the report before the high-speed rail Bill completes its passage through Parliament.

The Government published their response in July and presumably its content will form part of the Minister’s response—though not, I hope, the whole response, in the light of the views that some noble Lords have expressed about the adequacy of the Government’s replies to the questions posed in chapter 9. The July response, however, includes a statement in paragraph 1.13:

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“Together with the Government’s Northern Transport Strategy, HS2 will bring the Northern cities closer together”.

We had a debate before the Recess on the Government’s northern transport strategy, followed by an announcement shortly afterwards that made it clear that everything was not quite as rosy with that strategy as a reasonable person might have concluded. Any lack of openness and transparency about HS2 will not assist in bringing a successful conclusion to this project, which was an important commitment of the last Labour Government and my noble friend Lord Adonis, and one to which we continue to give our support—including, despite what I am about to say, myself personally.

I have an interest to declare, in that I have a home close to the intended line of route. I live in an area where there is considerable opposition to HS2, as the HS2 Select Committee is by now aware. There will be no direct benefit to the residents of the area in question from HS2 since there will be no HS2 station nearby, but only the inevitable disruption to many residents over a lengthy period which arises from the construction of any major new piece of infrastructure in a semi-urban area, and the still-unresolved loss—despite visits by more than one Minister making sympathetic noises—of an important and substantial outdoor activity centre used by a great many young people.

My noble friend Lord Stevenson of Balmacara has also raised concerns felt by residents in the Chilterns about the impact of the present HS2 plans. The London Borough of Camden, while opposed to HS2, has said that if it to proceed there needs to be a commitment from the Government to a properly funded and timetabled programme to develop the whole of Euston station to facilitate the building of affordable homes, create new jobs and give a significant economic boost—a point to which my noble friend Lord Adonis referred.

On the line of route for phase 2, the Government simply say that they will outline the way forward before the end of this year, which is not same as saying that they are anywhere near confirming their intentions on the line of route. Thus the uncertainty continues, and with it the associated concerns.

Some concerns to which I have referred can never be fully addressed, short of abandoning HS2, but a number of concerns can be addressed in whole or in part. The Government ought to be taking that point seriously and addressing outstanding concerns and unresolved issues as soon as possible. They should also recognise that most of those who will feel the greatest impact of the inevitable upheaval from the construction of HS2 will gain no direct benefit. In that regard, a bit more care and thought might also at least avoid own goals, which call into question competence. I understand that at the Select Committee, HS2 Ltd had to make an apology for having told concerned residents in one location for more than two years that the tunnel would be 30 metres beneath them, when the reality was that it would be only about half that depth.

I have already indicated our continuing support for the HS2 project. We are of course far from alone in taking that stance. The House of Commons Transport Committee, at the end of 2013, expressed its support for the strategic case for HS2 and said that it stood by the conclusion that HS2 is needed,

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“to provide a long-term increase in the capacity of the railway and that alternative proposals to increase capacity are not sufficient to accommodate long-term forecast demand”.

The General Secretary of the TUC has welcomed the decision to invest in high-speed rail, stating that it will,

“prove vital in getting more passengers and freight onto rail, narrowing the north-south divide and speeding our economic recovery”.

There have also been responses to the report we are considering today. The CBI shares the view that a modern railway is needed to deal with lack of capacity on the west coast main line. The CBI said that HS2,

“will better connect eight of our ten biggest cities, boosting … economies along and beyond the route … It’s vital we avoid any further delays to the project”.

The British Chambers of Commerce agreed that the Economic Affairs Committee,

“is right to investigate the cost of the project and its ability to rebalance the economy”.

However, the BCC went on to say that,

“if businesses have to wait several years for the details to be fleshed out, the UK’s competitiveness will be further compromised. There is a convincing case for HS2, as it is the only solution that can deliver the step-change in capacity that Britain’s north-south railways require”.

The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce said it believes that the Lords committee has largely ignored evidence given to it about the impact outside London and has focused on the capital, and that HS2 will provide massive opportunities to redevelop greater Birmingham and reskill parts of the workforce in the West Midlands.

Network Rail has said that, with over 4,000 trains running every day on the west coast main line, our busiest and most economically important line is all but full, and that HS2 will fundamentally reshape the UK’s rail network in a way that incremental improvements simply cannot deliver.

Elected leaders in our northern city regions, including Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, have also reiterated their support for HS2 and the benefits that it will bring. The chair of Transport for the North has said that we should not undermine one of the most significant measures, which alongside—not instead of—east-west transport improvements is necessary to help rebalance the nation’s economy. In his words:

“We need to stop the British habit of finding every way to delay major infrastructure investment and get on with delivering and maximising the very real economic benefits it will bring as it creates the long term capacity to bring our great cities within easy reach of each other and international markets”.

I appreciate that the Economic Affairs Committee has not actually said that HS2 should be delayed or put on hold, but rather has raised a number of questions about the case for HS2 and the need for the Government to provide convincing answers before the enabling legislation for the first phase of the construction completes its passage through Parliament. It is up to the Government to provide those convincing answers.

There is certainly some opposition to HS2, but there is also widespread support for the project related primarily to capacity, connectivity and regeneration, including the support reiterated by the shadow Transport Secretary in the Commons yesterday.

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6.52 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the Economic Affairs Committee, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, for its work, which is the basis of today’s debate. I also thank all noble Lords for their contributions this afternoon.

It has been a stimulating and interesting debate, and one that has made us cast our memories back through history. I must admit that, when I heard my noble friend Lord Wolfson talk about NPVs and IRRs, I did cast my mind back to the many seminars I attended on investment analysis during my degree. Nevertheless, he raised some points that I will come on to.

We also heard views, and rightly so, from a scientific, economic and, with the right reverend Prelate’s comments, biblical basis. We can agree on one thing above all else: it has been a very absorbing debate, for over three hours now, and important issues have been raised. I will seek to address most, if not all, the questions with the caveat that, if there are certain questions that I do not cover, we will review those and write to noble Lords in that respect.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, put it aptly when she said we can all agree that high-quality transport infrastructure is essential for our future prosperity.

I previously quoted the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, as saying that we should, “Get on with it”—which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, just paraphrased—but I was a bit perturbed when he said that people in Yorkshire hate members of the Government. I am a member of the Government who has many family members in Yorkshire and have visited there, both before my membership of the House of Lords—and pre my ministerial experience and responsibility—and also during it. I have always found the people of Yorkshire to be particularly warm towards me. Maybe there are exceptions to every rule.

Lord Prescott: Ask the Prime Minister.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Prime Minister has great regard for people from Yorkshire. Great cricketers come from that area as well. I am sure we can have a debate on cricket in due course, but I will move on to transport.

It was almost 200 years ago that the early canals and railways helped make Britain the most powerful economy in the world. The fundamentals are the same. Good freight transport, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, gives manufacturers a competitive edge by cutting the cost of deliveries and distribution. Good passenger transport links businesses with customers and links people with jobs, friends and family—from London to Yorkshire, indeed. Rail remains an essential part of the solution to the country’s transport needs today, but not to the detriment of other elements of transport.

The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, Lord Greaves and Lord Monks, made particular mention of a national transport plan. I assure all noble Lords that the

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Government have set out how HS2 fits within the wider transport policy.

The Strategic Case

for HS2

, published in 2013, explained in detail how HS2 fits with investment in the existing rail network and the wider government strategic aims of supporting growth and addressing the productivity gap between the north and south of the country. Several noble Lords mentioned the northern transport strategy, which was published earlier this year. It sets out the transport role in creating that northern powerhouse, of which HS2 is key. In July this year, the Government published

Fixing the Foundations,

setting out our plans to address the UK’s long-term productivity problem. All parts of the Government will contribute to that, including HS2. Let me assure noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Wolfson, that investment in rail is just one part of it. For example, we have committed through our roads strategy to invest £15 billion in our roads network over this Parliament.

Investing in rail is every bit as important today as it was in the pioneering Victorian era. For the last half century, we have allowed our infrastructure to fall well behind that of our competitors. Instead of building new capacity and modernising the network, and despite soaring passenger numbers, we have tried to patch and mend our ageing railway.

Central to the case for HS2 is data that reveal the true extent of the capacity crunch facing the UK rail network. Even with over £50 billion of planned transport investment over the next six years, the railways will be overwhelmed. As several noble Lords said, we are not just planning for today; this is about planning for the future. Overall, demand for rail travel has more than doubled since privatisation to 1.7 billion journeys a year. Intercity lines have experienced even faster growth, with journeys between London, Birmingham and Manchester trebling in the last 20 years. This is putting acute pressure on the infrastructure. The west coast line, for example, is now the busiest mixed-use rail line in Europe. Despite an extensive £9 billion upgrade programme completed in 2008, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, pointed out, train paths on this line are effectively full.

Today we have the power to deliver the transformation in rail capacity that we so desperately need. HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put the years of underinvestment and neglect behind us. Therefore, I welcome the support from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson—support from both parties—on how we move forward with HS2. HS2 will bind Britain together and provide the space that we need to grow. As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, articulated, without HS2 we would end up spending more money.

The project was always going to attract critics. Anything this ambitious will be controversial, particularly in a country that has seen no major new national transport infrastructure built since the coming of the motorways. The original railway was controversial; the Channel Tunnel was controversial, and some would argue that it still is; and the M25 remains, at times, a source of controversy and debate—anyone who has travelled on it will understand why. However, nobody questions the case for these schemes today. Frankly, the easy option for any Government would be to do

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nothing and leave the problem for some future generation to tackle. But the fact is that, if we do not take action now, major routes are going to be overwhelmed, as was so eloquently summarised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.

The benefits of HS2 are something that the Government, the Opposition and all major contributors have talked about before. It is about improving connectivity. HS2 will deliver the step change in capacity that we need to keep our vital arteries flowing. Compared with today, HS2 could triple the number of seats out of Euston. It will also unlock the capacity for freight on the west coast main line, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned. It will link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, directly serving one in five of the UK population, a point well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. It will benefit places not directly on the HS2 route by freeing up much-needed capacity on the existing railway.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, suggested that HS2 would suck investment into London and away from other cities. HS2 is designed to improve the connectivity of the north more than London, which has good transport links. More than 70% of the jobs supported by HS2 are expected to be outside London. A study by Network Rail has shown that over 100 towns and cities across the country could benefit from extra commuter and intercity services on existing lines, with capacity being liberated by the development of HS2. It will be particularly beneficial in the north and the Midlands, helping to rebalance the economy.

The legacy of HS2 will be felt well beyond those who use our transport networks. It will inspire a generation, providing new skills and jobs across a wide range of disciplines. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, talked passionately about the need to invest in skills beyond just looking at infrastructure. This provides just that initiative. Recently, 11 September was the opening day of a programme of visits that I am making as the skills Minister in the Department for Transport, one of which will be HS2 themed. Currently, only 5% of our children aspire to a career in transport and only 8% of Britain’s engineering workforce is female—the lowest rate in Europe. That is something we need to change, and the National College for High Speed Rail will be an integral part of the Government’s strategy for delivering a national high-speed rail network for Britain as well as designing and delivering the high-level technical skills needed for the industry more generally. HS2 is part of the Government’s growth strategy.

Of course, HS2 is a key strand of the Government’s commitment to support economic prosperity across the UK, but it is not the only one. In July 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer launched Fixing the Foundations, setting out our plan to address the UK’s long-term productivity problem—every part of government will contribute. For example, the HS2 growth strategies set out ambitious goals for regeneration and development on the back of HS2.

Our economic case is robust and shows HS2 represents good value for money. If anything our methodology is quite conservative. The benefit-to-cost ratio, which was mentioned by several noble Lords, is valued at 2.3

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—or providing £2-worth of benefits for every £1 spent. The BCR could be even higher, reaching 4.5 if rail demand continues to rise until 2049.

We are committed to maximising benefits while keeping a firm grip on costs. We have established a robust framework of delegations and approvals. There is a joint HM Treasury, DfT and HS2 Ltd cost and risk group to ensure that there is a shared and continued drive down on costs. The spending round in 2013 set a clear funding envelope of £50.1 billion for HS2.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, raised the issue of fares and why the Government do not increase fares for business passengers to cover costs. The actual decision on fare structures will be taken by future Governments. However, our underlying assumption is that it is more important to maximise usage for the wider benefit of citizens and the economy than charge premium fares. The Government have also committed to keeping fares down, which is clearly illustrated by our commitment to cap fares at RPI for the term of the Parliament.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and my noble friend Lord Caithness, among others, raised the issue of the economic case, and clearly the committee was looking at HS2 on that basis. Our appraisal techniques are regarded by the DFT as being world class, and a number of experts provided evidence to the Lords committee that showed that the economic case was robust. Some have been mentioned already but, for example, Professor Venables noted that our quantification of user benefits and wider economic impacts was,

“done very well and very professionally”,

and Professor Graham, who is a transport economist, also commended our use of sensitivity testing.

The issue of transparency was raised about assessments of the HS2 case. In March 2010, we established the case for the high-speed rail network serving London and the West Midlands. In February 2011, we announced the consultation into the Government’s high-speed rail strategy and the preferred route for phase 1 of the scheme. In January 2012, there was the Government’s decision to proceed with phase 1 of HS2. There has been full transparency in that regard.

The right reverend Prelate raised the issue of the impact of HS2 on Chester. Phase 1 of HS2 generates significant journey-time savings to the north-west of the country and Network Rail estimates that up to 100 cities could benefit. I assure the right reverend Prelate that no decisions have yet been taken on rail services that will run when HS2 is complete, but the Government aim to ensure that those currently served by direct services will continue to be so.

Suggestions have also been made over the overall spending package, but as the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained to noble Lord, Lord Hollick, last week, in the context of an annual government budget of £750 billion, the cost of £50 billion for HS2 over 20 years to improve the nation’s infrastructure, I can assure my noble friend Lord Wolfson, is something that the Chancellor believes we can afford.

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The Government have also considered a range of alternatives to HS2 and published a series of substantial reports that weighed up the options, including upgrades to the existing rail network, the use of alternative modes and a conventional speed line. The truth is that none of these alternatives would provide the big increase in capacity that several noble Lords referred to, and, more importantly, the connectivity that we need to meet future demand. Nor do they address the issue of reliability.

I shall seek to answer some of the other questions raised by noble Lords. The right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chester raised the issue of wanting the fastest railway in the world. Sir David Higgins has been clear that we must build a railway that stands the test of time. We have undertaken extensive assessment of alternatives including slower speeds, but none of them offers the same scale of benefits as HS2.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, also raised the issue of extending HS2 to Scotland. HS2 delivers significant connectivity improvements to Scotland. The full Y network reduces rail journey times to Glasgow by 30 minutes and Edinburgh by 45 minutes. I assure noble Lords that the UK Government are considering with the Scottish Government opportunities to improve links further between HS2 and Scotland.

The noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Lea, raised the issue of HS3 linked to HS2. The Government are moving forward with plans for the east-west high-speed rail links and will invest £13 billion in this Parliament for better connecting the region, so that northern towns and cities can pool their strengths to create a single economy. The DfT is working jointly with Transport for the North to develop and prioritise the rail options for the first tranches ready for consideration and construction in the next rail investment period.

The noble Lords, Lord Prescott, Lord Snape and Lord Greaves, and the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, raised the issue of spending on transport beyond HS2. I assure all noble Lords that this is in addition to the other £38 billion that the Government have already confirmed as spending in this Parliament. This is broken down with various schemes and I will seek to write to noble Lords listing some of the schemes and expenditure included in that £38 billion.

The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, and my noble friend Lord Wolfson also wanted an assurance that HS2 is not at the expense of other investment. I assure them that HS2 will not be at the expense of other transport investment. Overall, there is £73 billion of transport spending between 2015-16 and 2020-21.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, talked about platforms at Euston. I assure noble Lords that HS2 will not reduce the number of platforms at Euston. The noble Lord, Lord Truscott, said that it would. It will not; it will deliver 11 new high-speed platforms and 11 for the existing network. That is a total of 22 platforms, which is four higher than the current 18 platforms.

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Lord Berkeley: Will the noble Lord clarify that? There are 18 platforms at Euston at the moment and if they will be reduced to 11 or 12 for the west coast main line, surely that is a reduction.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: That is also part of what will be the structure serving the intercity network, and some of that burden will be eased by the opening of the HS2 platforms. The overall capacity will rise to 22 platforms, but the noble Lord is quite right to point out that the current 18 platforms serve both the commuter network and the existing intercity network.

The noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, talked about ministerial direction and the value-for-money case for HS2. I have already alluded to the benefit-cost ratio and I have also talked about the number of experts who provided evidence to the committee in this respect. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, asked about the pause mentioned in relation to Network Rail on the appointment of Sir Peter Hendy. Sir Peter has a proven track record in delivering on major transport challenges. He will develop proposals for the rail upgrade programme and, as I have said before from this Dispatch Box, he will report to the Secretary of State in the autumn and we will come back to that. The noble Lord also asked about confidence in Sir David Higgins. The short answer to that is, yes, we have full confidence in his ability.

The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and other Peers asked about terminating at Old Oak Common. The vast majority of passengers coming into London want to travel on to other parts of the capital, so by having a stop at Old Oak Common, the links that will be provided by Crossrail will be available to all those using HS2. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, talked about ignoring the impact of technology. I believe he said that he will be 92 by the time HS2 comes live. I hope to join him in that carriage. I will be a tad younger, but nevertheless we will hook up at that time. But let me assure him that the Government are committed to the extension of broadband, as I am sure he is aware. The previous Government invested heavily in it and broadband remains a priority. But technology should not be used to the detriment of other investments. We can see that passenger rail journeys have increased at an incredible rate up to the current figures that I quoted earlier, and there is no evidence to suggest that technology such as videoconferencing will significantly reduce future rail demand or the spread of the internet. Time will tell, but thus far the evidence is not in support of that.

The environmental impact of HS2 was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, my noble friend Lord Framlingham, and among others I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, also touched on it in terms of the Chilterns. Let me assure noble Lords by giving examples of the steps being taken to avoid or significantly reduce the effects in the phase 1 environmental mitigation. These include some 127 kilometres of tunnels and cuttings to reduce noise and visual effects, as well as providing 102 kilometres of noise barriers along the surface sections to reduce the effect on communities.

I am coming to the end of my comments because I can see that the clock has run down on me. However, I will certainly respond to other questions which I

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have not had a chance to cover. Perhaps I may turn briefly to the question put by my noble friend Lord Framlingham about the Chilterns. Since the scheme was announced, we have introduced major changes to the proposed route through the areas of outstanding natural beauty. As recommended by the Select Committee, we are promoting a further extension to the Chilterns tunnel, which will offer broadly the same environmental benefits as the longer tunnel proposed by the residents’ environmental group. I will come back specifically on where we are with the Select Committee, which I believe has taken evidence from most of the witnesses. However, we are still awaiting the final comments of the committee in this respect. As I have said, if I have missed any points, I will return to them.

We believe, and the Government are clear, that there is a case for HS2. We have a 19th-century rail infrastructure that is trying to support a 21st-century economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Lea, put it so eloquently. Many of our main intercity routes are reaching capacity at busy times. As the passenger crowding statistics released last week clearly show, demand is growing rapidly and will continue to do so as our economy recovers. HS2 will have a transformational effect. It will improve connectivity, transform capacity, and free up space on our crowded rail network. It is important that the Government of the day should invest, and that is what we are seeking to do. We welcome the support of many noble Lords. This is our chance to do what the Victorian rail pioneers did all those years ago. We want to leave an infrastructure legacy that is fit for generations to come.

7.13 pm

Lord Hollick: My Lords, I thank all the speakers in today’s debate. My noble friend Lord Desai wanted us to conjure up some animal spirits. I think that we have certainly had some very spirited contributions, and I am grateful for that. The Minister will have noted that many speakers, including those who are very much in favour of HS2, are concerned that many of the questions we have raised have not been answered, and time has not permitted him to respond to them in detail today. So for the third time of asking, because I have already written twice to the Secretary of State, I urge the Minister to seek to get us detailed answers to these questions. He has a good case to make, so why are the Government failing to make it in a persuasive way? I hope that the appointment of my noble friend Lord Adonis to the board of HS2 will encourage them to enter into the spirit of debate and answer the questions. None of the speakers in the debate is reluctant to see us invest in the future of this country, but we want to know that this is the best investment and that it has been prioritised and handled in the best way.

Motion agreed.

Middle East and North Africa

Motion to Take Note

7.15 pm

Moved by Baroness Verma

That this House takes note of the humanitarian impact of developments in the Middle East and North Africa.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) (Con): My Lords, the world is facing humanitarian emergencies in unprecedented numbers, scale and complexity, from the Ebola epidemic that hit Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea last year to the devastating earthquake in Nepal in April, and from the current crisis in Yemen to the conflict that has raged in Syria for more than four years now. We have all been struck by the tragic images of desperate refugees putting their lives in the hands of criminal gangs and people smugglers, risking and sometimes losing their lives. Some of them are fleeing conflict and persecution and others are seeking economic opportunity.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria has reached catastrophic proportions and is contributing significantly to the increased flows of people we are seeing across the Mediterranean and into Europe. More than 220,000 lives have been lost and 11 million people forced from their homes in Syria, often moving multiple times. Some 4 million people have fled from Syria to countries in the region, and 7.6 million are internally displaced.

The lack of effective law and law enforcement in Libya has facilitated the growth of smugglers and smuggling networks. The year 2013 saw just under 43,000 migrants making the sea crossing from Libya to Italy; this rapidly increased to 170,100 in 2014. Many of the people crossing the Mediterranean are fleeing conflict and insecurity, and it is estimated that at least 5% of migrants making the crossing die on the way. The UK’s priority is to stop the senseless deaths of people making these perilous journeys. Our assets in the Mediterranean such as HMS “Bulwark”, HMS “Enterprise” and our two Border Force cutters have played their part in the European response, helping to rescue more than 6,700 people this year.

Britain has also been at the forefront of the humanitarian response to the conflict in Syria from the beginning. To date, we have pledged more than £1 billion to help Syrian refugees in the region, making us the second biggest bilateral donor after the United States. This is the largest sum we have ever committed to a single crisis. As the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, the UK has scaled up its support. We are helping to provide vital services so that both those seeking refuge and the communities hosting them are better able to cope. Our aid has so far provided 18 million food rations, 2.4 million medical consultations and clean water for more than 1.6 million people. In addition, DfID has allocated £9.5 million from the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to support local capacity and build longer-term stability. This support is reaching millions of people and has saved lives in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

The UK’s life-saving work in the region, however, goes beyond this critical and immediate humanitarian assistance. More than half of all registered refugees from Syria are children. We are now looking at how we can provide education for this generation. In 2013, alongside UNICEF and other international leaders, the UK launched a No Lost Generation initiative to give children who had lost everything a chance of a better future. In support of this, we have allocated

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£111 million to provide protection, support and an education for children affected by the crisis in Syria and the region.

As noble Lords will be aware, in addition to this, the Prime Minister announced earlier this week an additional £10 million per year to support education in Lebanon for the next three years. This will support 59,000 more free school places for Syrian refugees and vulnerable children. It will also provide education to 30,000 out-of-school refugees and poor Lebanese children. This amount doubles Britain’s planned investment in education in Lebanon over the next three years. Investing in education supports the aspirations of Syrian refugee families, helping them make the academic progress that will enable them to make a contribution to the region and ultimately return to rebuild Syria.

In Syria 4.6 million people live in areas where humanitarian access is extremely restricted. In response the UK co-sponsored and lobbied hard for the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2165 and 2191 which enable the UN to deliver aid across border without the consent of the Assad regime. Between the adoption of the resolutions and the end of August this year the UN and its partners have delivered 175 convoys across the border. These convoys of aid are helping to provide food, blankets, water kits and vital medical supplies to thousands of people in Syria.

Without the humanitarian support led and often shaped by the UK, many more refugees could risk their lives in the journey to Europe, so we are also taking action to provide support to those refugees closer to home. We have already provided sanctuary to more than 5,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began. On Monday last week the Prime Minister announced that over the lifetime of this Parliament we will expand the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme to resettle up to 20,000 additional Syrians in need of protection, the costs for this scheme being funded through overseas development assistance for the first 12 months after arrival.

The Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme has prioritised those who cannot be supported effectively in their region of origin—women and children at risk, people in severe need of medical care and survivors of torture and violence. The scheme is in addition to those we resettle under other programmes which offer protection in the UK under normal asylum procedures. These other programmes focus on a wider set of nationalities—people from Iraq, Somalia and other countries. Over the coming months we will work with local authorities, the UNHCR and others to ensure we deliver on the expansion of the prime minister’s announcement.

While we are doing all we can to support people fleeing the region, we must not lose sight of the need to help the overwhelming majority of Syrians still in the region. Indeed, around 3% of the 11 million Syrians displaced by the conflict are claiming asylum in Europe. Most have sought refuge inside Syria itself or in neighbouring countries. We have already given more aid than any European country and more to the UN appeals than Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Poland combined. Our commitment will continue, but we need other countries to step up.

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The UK continues to play a leading role in the international community by encouraging our international partners to pledge more generously in response to the crisis. The UK has led a sustained lobbying effort, pressing other countries to follow our lead and increase their funding. Our efforts have helped to raise more than $6.9 billion for the Syria response over the past two years, including $1 billion raised at a ministerial consultation co-hosted by the Secretary of State for International Development at the UN General Assembly last September.

At the G8 summit at Lough Erne in June 2014, G8 leaders agreed almost $1.5 billion in additional contributions to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and its neighbours. In addition, the UK has lobbied hard to mobilise funding from other donors ahead of the third Kuwait Pledging Conference in March, which raised a further $3.6 billion for the UN appeal for Syria. Despite all these efforts, the UN Syria appeals for this year are still only 37% funded, and the 2015 UN appeal for Iraq is only 46% funded. That means limitations on food, water and urgent medical care, all of which puts pressure on people to leave the region. The immediate refugee crisis can be tackled only by effective, co-ordinated EU and international action supported by much-needed resources.

At the same time, dealing with the humanitarian crisis and ensuring aid reaches those who need it is not enough. We also need to take a long-term look at solutions to tackling the drivers of the crisis at source. Eighty per cent of refugee crises last for 10 years or more, and two in every five last for 20 years or more. This means children born in refugee camps today are likely to grow up in exile, away from home. It also means we need a step change in the way international communities support refugees, recognising that the current international model works for short-term support but not protracted displacement. DfID’s work is targeted to deliver, over time, more stable, secure and increasingly prosperous countries. In this work we are especially concerned by the particular needs of women and girls, who are affected disproportionately by poverty and crisis.

We should be proud that the UK has delivered on its legal commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on development assistance, becoming the first G7 country to meet this long-standing commitment. In Africa DfID is spending £2 billion in bilateral aid in 2015-16, of which £540 million is targeted at economic development and £360 million at humanitarian support. An additional £2 billion is being spent in Africa through our share of multilateral aid.

The World Bank predicts that an extra 600 million jobs will be needed globally over the next decade to keep up with the number of young people in developing countries entering the job market. At the Department for International Development, we have already refocused our priorities to be more jobs-focused and livelihood-focused than ever before.

In the long term, development assistance addresses the root causes of instability and insecurity by promoting the golden thread of democracy, strengthening the rule of law, establishing property rights and creating accountable institutions. This helps reduce inequality

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and provides economic opportunities for all. This in turn helps to build more effective states and reduces some of the pressures to migrate.

If people can find stability, prosperity and opportunity in their home country, it means a more stable and prosperous world for us all. The UK will continue to demonstrate the leadership we have shown throughout our response to the Syrian crisis to mobilise the international community.

I look forward to all noble Lords’ contributions this evening—particularly to my noble friend Lord Brooke’s contribution as he makes his valedictory speech. I beg to move.

7.28 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, the Minister is right to put the issue of migration in the global and longer-term context, but there are immediate issues to face. Part of our problem is finding the right balance between the heart and the head. The scale of global migration is so immense that it is increasingly difficult to manage. People living in poverty and insecurity see the good life outside their borders, hear from relatives and friends who have reached the promised land and, understandably, long to improve the conditions of themselves and their families. We in Europe, drawing on our Christian and Enlightenment traditions, are clearly a magnet, the envy of less happy lands.

The Motion is careful to avoid words such as “economic migration” or “refugees”. Some claim that it is difficult to differentiate between the two. From my experience, as both a barrister and a constituency MP, I beg to differ. Who, then, are the economic migrants? I recall, in the late 1960s, speaking to the then Immigration Minister, who had just visited Bangladesh. He had asked a large assembly of villagers how many would like to settle in the UK. A high proportion raised their hands. He, although of a very liberal and open disposition, was forced to reflect on his position.

The blunt truth is that we are a small island that is highly attractive to those around the world who have disadvantaged lives. We are overcrowded compared even with France. We in the UK and Europe cannot reasonably be expected to accept all those who suffer the effects of civil war. We could not, for example, accept the whole Tamil population of Sri Lanka after the troubles there. The number of Nigerians affected by the atrocities of Boko Haram can reasonably be expected to move elsewhere in Nigeria.

Clearly we cannot expect to have an open-door policy. If Germany and Sweden have until recently appeared to have had such, it can clearly affect us through secondary migration. It is claimed, for example, that many Somalis from the relatively peaceful Somaliland see Sweden as a staging post en route to the UK, where, understandably, they wish to join well-established communities. Do the Government have any concern about the ultimate intention of migrants who migrate to Sweden and Germany? Clearly, co-ordination at European level is vital. We should not pursue a narrow, unilateralist policy, which would only harm our broad negotiating position on EU reform.

If we are to have a coherent immigration policy in general, we must have a prioritised system. We must be firm on those migrants, however poor, from countries

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where there is peace. Those from the Balkans, for example, cannot use this emergency to jump on the Syrian bandwagon. The position of refugees is wholly different—in the case of Syria and some other countries, for example, where we have convention obligations. We must use all our compassion and experience from history to help this tragic people.

If the presumption must be against accepting migrants from safe countries, except those within the accepted current criteria, we must be generous to those who have a well-founded fear of persecution. We see in Syria devastated cities, the effects of barrel bombs and chemical weapons, and of the medieval brutality of ISIS. We have responded magnificently in financial terms, providing up to £1 billion. Yet, the UN has received only $1.67 billion of the $4.6 billion it needs this year. We must encourage those countries that are failing in their response. The UN humanitarian agencies are now overwhelmed. Will the Government join those who argue that such agencies should receive assessed mandatory contributions, as is the case with the regular UN budget?

What has been the response of the UK? After a bad start, the Prime Minister has had to respond more generously. If he rightly criticises other EU countries on their financial contributions, he should expect criticism from them on the numbers that he is prepared to receive. It is not either/or. The Prime Minister is right to concentrate on the solution for Syria, but for him to focus on the camps alone causes problems as certain minorities—Christians and Yazidis—are often excluded. There is an element of haste about his response, so that he is talking to local authorities only after the announcement. We have heard today about the gold command team. What is the structure underneath that at the regional level?

The UN speech by Mr Juncker on 9 September was a more generous note, but it begs many questions as to how the 160,000 refugees will be assessed, how many will be repatriated and so on. I notice that Australia has agreed to 12,000 refugees and the US 10,000, yet Saudi Arabia and the Gulf none. What are the prospects of the international community shaming the Saudis and their neighbours into a more positive response to their co-religionists?

One final thought: we are now seeing a new and widespread global migration. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan may be the first, but there are many failed states on the horizon—Libya, Yemen and certain west African countries are already in that category. We must surely be prepared, with the international community, to meet potentially even greater challenges to our hospitality and principles. At present it is Hispanics from central and South America seeing the US as the promised land; Afghans looking to Australia; Burmese Rohingya Muslims fleeing south; or those from the Middle East and north Africa looking to Europe. The world is far from finding a solution to these increasing migratory flows.

7.35 pm

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord. I agree with so much of what he said, most especially the fact that the Government’s concentration on the refugee

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camps in Lebanon is necessary but insufficient. The noble Baroness’s speech, effective as it was, nevertheless concentrated on that as a cover for doing so little in this appalling humanitarian catastrophe that Europe is now experiencing. I declare an interest as the president of UNICEF UK.

It is not the fact that many of us regard the Government’s policy towards this catastrophe as morally deficient, rather that it is also logically totally inconsistent. Take the Government’s main argument: that if we help the asylum seekers we will encourage more. That was the discreditable argument that the Government put to us last December, when they said that if we stopped refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, the consequence would be that we would have more. It was an immoral policy and one very soon discredited, as the Government saw.

A few months into the new year, as many of us predicted, we discovered that it did not stop more coming. More came, even more came, and even more drowned. Then the Government acted. They sent Her Majesty’s Ship “Bulwark” to save them. By the way, they saved them from the Mediterranean and then dumped them on the European mainland, where they were abandoned for Europe to deal with. We got the bit that attracts all the attention—the rescue by one of Her Majesty’s ships—but Britain had no part when it came to doing something to give them a future. One presumes that the Government decided to send HMS “Bulwark” and the other naval units to save people in the Mediterranean because they were convinced of the argument that it did not encourage others. How can it be logical for the Government to say that they sent HMS “Bulwark” to save people from the Mediterranean because it does not encourage further refugees, but they will not help those crossing the Aegean because it does? These two facts seem completely inconsistent.

The Government fail to understand the true nature of what is going on when it comes to asylum seekers. The Government think that to seek asylum is a discretionary activity: that you do it if you can be helped and you will not if you cannot. The Prime Minister seems to believe that to be an asylum seeker is rather like going to the theatre—that one does not do it unless one has a ticket. The reality is that it is not like that at all. These families are living in hell. They are living with the barrel bombs of Assad on the one side and the whetted knife of ISIL on the other. You do not have to provide them with bliss for them to want to flee from hell. It is not that they are drawn to us by the welcome; it is that they are drawn away from the terrible circumstances in which they find themselves.

If noble Lords listen to the Minister’s speech, and that of the Prime Minister, they will come to a second inconsistency. The Prime Minister’s Statement—the noble Baroness used the same argument—says:

“The whole country has been deeply moved by the heart-breaking images that we have seen over the past few days”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/9/15; col. 23.]

We know what those images were: they were that dreadful image of the body of a small child being carried up from the beach. One would think that if the Prime Minister prays in aid that tragedy his policy that follows would address it, but it does not. The Government

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then announce a set of policies that would have done nothing for that small, tragic figure, or, indeed, for the thousands—the hundreds at least—who still follow him and the many, presumably, who still die. If, indeed, the Government are genuinely moved by the plight of those shown in that picture—one suspects that their reaction might have been due to the fact that the picture appeared on the front page of the


, but perhaps that is an unworthy thought—they should let their policy address that crisis. However, they did not do so, and that was the case with the subsequent tragedies that occurred. This seems to me curious, to put it mildly.

The next curiosity about the Government’s policy is that although they have offered to take 4,000 refugees a year—Germany by the way is taking 800,000—which is rather fewer people than arrive on the Greek islands in one weekend, the vast majority of their effort is poured into the refugee camps in Lebanon. That is fine. Who can oppose that? Who can oppose providing resources for that? But here is the paradox: at a time when we are experiencing a tidal wave of asylum seekers from the tragedy in Syria, the Government put most of their energy into the camps where there are no asylum seekers at all. Indeed, those in the camps are well housed, well fed and secure. They are not comfortable; of course, they are not. Why do the Government do so much to help those who are not suffering from lack of shelter, accommodation and security, but do nothing for those who are desperate and, indeed, dying for want of those things and are tramping towards us in Europe? How can that be a logical approach to this crisis?

I sometimes wonder whether it is not the word “suffering” to which the Government object but rather “Europe”, because the one thing they will not do is anything which puts them in concert with our European allies as that would create all sorts of problems with their own Back Benches. Perhaps that, too, is an unworthy thought, but what explanation is there other than the fact that they will not contribute to alleviating a European crisis and will not join a European strategy? If that is the case, and perhaps we are right to be suspicious that it is, those terrible desperate thousands tramping across the dusty roads of the Balkans towards us are hostages of the Conservative Government’s right-wing Europhobes on their own Back Benches. If that is so, and one suspects it may be, then, irony of irony, they are hostages of the very people that the Prime Minister is hostage of as well.

Of course we should put money into these camps; it is necessary. However, it is not sufficient. Yes, we can be proud of what we have done to help those refugee camps but we should be ashamed of how little we have done—almost nothing—for the tide of asylum seekers who look to us for support and help. Here is the third odd thing about the Government’s policies. We, too, have our refugee problem. We have 3,000 banging on the gates of the Channel Tunnel. Whether that is a large or small number when measured against Germany’s 800,000 or the 60,000, 70,000 or 80,000 going to France depends on your point of view. However, this problem—theirs and ours—can be solved only within a European strategy. It cannot be solved by our acting unilaterally and alone, as we are doing. The only way

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this can be solved is by working together with our European partners. It is the only way it can be done, but this is the very thing the Government will not do. In not doing it, they act against this country’s best interests, diminish our Prime Minister’s bargaining power in Europe to get the kind of deal he wants and act contrary to the values of this country and against its noble traditions. In that blindness, they also miss one other fact: these refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Germany are all desperate but are not poor or uneducated. These are the educated people, the Ugandan Asians of our day. The German Government are happy to welcome them; of course, they are. Have noble Lords noticed how many of them can speak English? These people would benefit our country in the future.

I am not pretending for one second that this is not an immensely difficult problem to solve; of course, it is. It is a very difficult problem to solve. We will have to discuss it and come to measured and difficult agreements on this. Perhaps we will have to adapt some of the principles that we are now applying, but let us do so as Europeans together and keeping in touch with European principles of decency and humanity as much as we can.

We are moving into very turbulent times. This is a problem for the future as well. It is going to be much larger when global warming takes place. We have to start considering this in a more measured way than this Government are doing. I do not think there are many lights that will guide us through the years to come except our wisdom and humanity. It is a shame indeed that the Government’s policies in this matter are inconsistent, illogical, against our country’s best interests and counter to our traditions and values and I, for one, with some regret, have to say that they are morally shameful.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): My Lords, I advise the House that the Back-Bench advisory time is six minutes. We would be very grateful if noble Lords would consider that in order for us to finish at a reasonable hour.

7.45 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, the humanitarian emergency which is engulfing the whole of Europe is a complex and accumulative one—a phenomenon that has been building up for several years. If we have been taken by surprise, it is only because we were unwilling to face up to realities before they broke over our heads. It is a phenomenon which goes much wider than one country, Syria, and the refugees fleeing for their lives from the civil war there. Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Eritreans and Yemenis also meet the criteria for asylum under the UN refugee convention and we have an obligation to be willing in principle to offer them refuge. So our response needs to be as complex as the phenomenon itself. So far that response, like that of some other European countries, has been patchy and inadequate and has fallen well short of the needs of the situation. To use the words of the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, it has been thin.

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Clearly, there needs to be a stronger, more powerful political response to the factors driving the current emergency: a more robust and better co-ordinated military effort against IS, including, I suggest, an extension of our air strikes into IS-controlled parts of Syria; a revived effort to bring about a UN-sponsored settlement in Libya, which could well require some deployment of UN peacekeepers; stronger support for the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan in their fight against their respective Taliban opponents and a readiness to renew the moribund efforts to achieve a political settlement in Syria. None of that activity will produce quick results, but without it we will continue to be like the Dutch boy putting his finger in the holes in a dyke.

On the most immediate and pressing problem of the handling of asylum-seeking refugees, I fear that we have not yet begun to find the right response, even if the Government’s reversal last week of their earlier unwillingness expressed in a debate on 22 July—the last day before the Summer Recess—voluntarily to take in more Syrian refugees is welcome. However, the numbers—20,000 over five years—are still pitifully small and compare poorly with the offers of others such as France and, above all, Germany. Why do we limit the offer to Syrians alone when there are many others such as Afghans and Iraqis persecuted by IS with every bit as strong a claim to our refuge? Why do we insist on extending our offer only to those in camps around Syria’s border and excluding all those who have risked their lives to get to Europe? On that point I share entirely the views of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown.

The arguments about a pull factor are highly theoretical and are pretty unconvincing in the circumstances that now prevail. I hope that, in replying to the debate, the Minister will say that the Government will look again at all those issues. The Government have expressed pride, and rightly so, in the massive resources we have contributed from the aid budget to the refugees in camps around Syria’s border. The substantial increase in those resources now announced is particularly welcome, but more of those resources need to be devoted to education, health and the creation of economic opportunities for those in the camps—I was glad to hear the Minister recognise that—if the present precarious situation is not to become even more unstable and to feed further flows towards Europe. I hope the Minister can say a little more, when she winds up the debate, on those longer-term issues.

I will say a word about the European Union dimension to all this. Of course the European Union has not covered itself in glory in handling this emergency in recent months. There has been too much dither and prevarication. I remain doubtful that mandatory quotas are either desirable or viable. A much-enhanced voluntary effort is, however, essential, and I hope we will play a larger and more constructive role in that. I also hope that we will increase our contribution to FRONTEX and will be prepared to give asylum to some of those flooding into other European countries. If we want others to respond positively to our positions and our priorities for European policy, we would do well to respond positively to theirs.

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In conclusion, this is a rapidly moving humanitarian emergency which still has far to run. We need flexible and humane responses, not ones driven by populist scare stories and xenophobic prompting. I hope that the Government will display that flexibility and will be ready to adjust our responses as the situation develops and demands.

7.51 pm

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I shall make a couple of comments and invite the House to think a little about the humanitarian basis of this debate.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has just said, and the Minister said in her introduction, the scale is unprecedented in our times. The challenge, therefore, to be nimble is very great. I applaud the Government for the amount of investment that has been made in refugees and migrants. I also applaud the Government’s scheme to target the most vulnerable, including victims of sexual violence and torture, the elderly and the disabled. However, I agree with Lord Ashdown that because of the unprecedented scale we need to be generous in our approach and spirit. It is interesting that in the Financial Times today—as some noble Lords may have noticed—a number of senior business people in the City say that we should welcome migrants because of the skills shortage that our country faces. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, stated, there are many skilled and able people looking to come into Europe.

In Derby, where I work, we already have many migrants and the pressure on our inner-city infrastructure is enormous. Yet people are keen for us to be generous and to do what we can to reach out to people in such need. Churches are on the front line, administering to those who have already arrived. We have more than 600 people waiting for decisions on asylum applications. So we need to get organised if we are to take any more people. On 2 October we are organising a summit in our cathedral for MPs, local government people, faith groups and civil society, so that we can help the energy to prepare and be generous become organised and make a proper offer.

I invite the House to think briefly about the humanitarian basis of this debate and of our country’s policy. I am privileged to be a trustee of Christian Aid, which for 70 years has been reaching into these situations, and which began—you may remember—by helping refugees and migrants within Europe. Christian Aid is especially involved with those who are still in Syria. It tends to be the better-off and the well-organised who are leaving and the poorest of the poor who are left. I ask the Minister to consider—she mentioned this—how we can continue to encourage investment within Syria to help the most needy as well as those who are leaving.

My main point is about the humanitarian understanding of this debate. Humanitarianism is really based on the Christian understanding in Europe of the unique value of every person in the sight of God. In our modern, secular times that has become the human right of each individual. Because—sadly, I say, in brackets—it lacks the Christian understanding of sin, forgiveness, sacrifice and things that nuance that attempt at equality, it just becomes a simple right. It is

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a common secular theology in Europe that every human being is unique and precious, and that we should reach out to them, which is why the spirit of generosity is rising up in people.

We have seen what is happening with ISIL: the beheadings; the horrific and systematic sexual violence; the selling of women and girls, especially from the Yazidi tribe; stories of fighters buying young girls for as little as £16, abusing them and selling them on. I heard yesterday of a girl of 10 who died from internal injuries because she was raped so often by her captors. I heard another story of an ISIL fighter, who, before he rapes a girl, kneels down and prays, because he believes that he is fulfilling the will of God. I share these horrific stories because the people who ISIL are recruiting are being recruited to found a new state. It is a state based on those kinds of values, which are horrific for women and girls and for violence against the enemy. Those values are totally incompatible with what we in Europe understand as humanitarian. This is a bold attempt to establish a whole state and society on values contrary to the Christian ones, which, in their secular mode, are recognised throughout the world under the banner of human rights.

So there is an urgent challenge to us all—in this Chamber, in our Parliament and through our Government—to, as the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown said, cohere with Europe around a set of values that are humanitarian, whether we are of a religious or a secular background, because those values are vital to human beings being seen as unique and precious. We face a very well-organised and well-funded organisation that is trying to set up a state on a totally different and contrary basis. I encourage the Government to engage clearly with the organisation of aid and generosity towards refugees in such great need but also to take a lead in Europe in reaffirming our common European, Christian-based values about the rights of every person to be treated generously when in need, and as a unique and precious individual.

7.57 pm

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Con) (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, if one is setting off on a journey, it is a privilege to be sent off by a bishop. I thank the right reverend Prelate for the quality of his colourful send-off. I shall use his book Thomas Hobbes and the Limits of Democracy as a gazetteer for my return to private life.

Fourteen years ago, in October, in my maiden speech, I did not use my allotted span, but this evening I hope that I shall not unduly claim it back. Indeed, I must apologise for having proved, over the years, to be a lineal descendant of Autolycus in “The Winter’s Tale”, whose most famous line is as,

“a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles”.

I hope that the time left to me enables me to press for one practical point of information in this debate, and another final proposal within valediction. On the former, I am relieved that—once a Whip always a Whip—I share Her Majesty’s Government’s analysis of Britain’s current obligations and intentions in the present crisis. Her Majesty’s Government favour a Syrian-based, UN-assisted operation, one criticised

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by others in that it omits those migrants in transit. I should declare an interest—as I always do in charity-oriented debates—in that I control two small charities within the Charities Aid Foundation. With the national and international charities under the Disasters Emergency Committee now in double figures, small charities like mine are under constant pressure for donations, in present circumstances, from Sierra Leone in Africa to Syria in the Middle East, with the transit migrants in between. One significant and common, but not universal, factor that recurs is these mega-charities explaining to us that Her Majesty’s Government are doubling up the proceeds of their current appeal. However, this information always comes haphazardly from the charities and not from Her Majesty’s Government. It would greatly help if Her Majesty’s Government, or the DEC, would not only announce the practice regularly but say why they are helping a particular appeal in this way. Is it just to secure leverage or is it a method of research to test which appeals have specific public support, or both? Is it to establish a pecking order of need? Whichever it is, it makes for an inefficient map among small charities of where their money can make the most difference. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can shed illumination on this dilemma.

As to valediction, in my maiden speech in 2001 I paid the habitual tribute to the help afforded by the staff of your Lordships’ House in welcoming us. Fourteen years later, I quote the Queen of Sheba’s tribute in the First Book of Kings, chapter 10, verse 7:

“Behold, the half was not told me”.

My gratitude to the staff was beyond the telling of it. However, I have one suggestion to make in departure about those of us who contribute to the work of your Lordships’ House in this Chamber, the Moses Room and the committee rooms upstairs.

In the interests of brevity, I shall take the liberty of infringing the rubric in this final speech to call my parents just that, rather than having the mild confusion between “my late noble kinsman” and “my late noble relative”. They were, however, in 1966—seven centuries after Simon de Montfort’s Parliament—the first couple to sit on the Front Bench together in either House, although non-partisan honesty obliges me to say that they did so in opposition in the Lords whereas, within a year, Dr Dunwoody and his wife, Gwyneth, also did it together but in their case in government, and in the Commons, which was a no-trumps victory. It is in this instance ironic that when at home in the 1960s and 1970s I heard my parents discussing which professions were missing from your Lordships’ House, a key gap was then Dr Dunwoody’s own profession of doctor—since then remedied, of course.

Those of us who are retiring under the new dispensation will be doing so from a variety of motivations but there may be a common sense of regret or loss. One use of the new valedictory principle may be to allow a departing Peer to nominate their private hope of how his or her gap may be filled. It would have no statutory significance but may be interesting for those making selections later. For myself, I once followed my noble friend Lord Waldegrave as Civil Science Minister, when both of us had been classicists. He was far superior to me in both disciplines. Although I am

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conscious that in my time my party has produced the Chamber’s archaeologist and the Chamber’s vet, I am less conscious of our having produced a pure scientist. That would thus be my own nomination. If pure scientists prefer the Cross Benches perhaps, in the wake of the departure of my noble friend Lord Jenkin, we could at least have someone who had played a significant part in the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.

Finally, as I come, after 38 years and 10 Parliaments, to what those who have ever sung “Abide With Me” in French will recall is known as le dernier rendezvous, I remember that my predecessor in the Commons—who was likewise the predecessor of my noble friend Lord Tugendhat—the late John Smith of Smith Square, the founder of the Landmark Trust, said that of all the human groups with which he had been associated, whether in school or university, in the army or in business, the one of which he was fondest were his colleagues in the House of Commons. Of course, he never came here and thus missed the spell of your Lordships’ House.

In closing, let me above all say—in familiar and oft-repeated words—thank you. I have been ever conscious of the hazards of such words since a member of my family wrote to me and said:

“The school did ‘Hamlet’ last week. Most of the parents had seen it before, but they laughed just the same”.

In this instance, the words of gratitude are wholly genuine and most enthusiastically true.

8.04 pm

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, I hope that I may be permitted a little extra time to pay what I fear will be an inadequate tribute to my noble friend who has just made his valedictory speech. I feel certain that I am not alone in feeling immensely sad that he is leaving after distinguished service in both Houses and making a contribution not just to politics but, among other things, to the national heritage, the arts, historic churches, charities and, of course, cricket. The tributes paid to him from all parts of the House yesterday after the Statement on Northern Ireland were an indication of the value of his work there as Secretary of State at a most difficult time. We are to be deprived of his wisdom but, perhaps even more, we will miss his wit and those historic and political anecdotes, of which he seemed to have a perfect recall and an endless supply. We wish him and his family many happy and peaceful years, in which I hope he will be able to pursue his passion for the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Over 30 years ago, I bathed from deserted beaches on the island of Lesbos; today, lifejackets discarded by refugees cover the beaches. Lesbos has received about half of the 250,000 refugees who have reached Greece this year. The local population seems overwhelmed, threatened and increasingly angry. Similar scenes are found on Kos, where the body of that little boy was found, and on other Greek islands. Many of those who have risked the crossing, and a good many who have died, had been living in safety in Turkey but had obtained sufficient funds to pay the criminals to escape from the camps to what they believed would be a better life in Europe. I am sure that the Government

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are right to concentrate on those who are identified as most vulnerable by the UNHCR. That is the way to provide hope to those in greatest need, without simply providing an opportunity for exploitation and adding to the death toll. The Government have been right, too, and deserve great credit for the way in which they have directed this country’s massive financial contribution towards providing food, shelter, education and medical assistance to those in the camps. I particularly welcome the Prime Minister’s important speech in Lebanon this weekend, in which he committed further aid to Lebanon and to the 1.1 million people in the camps there.

Critics argue that the policy may be right but the numbers are inadequate. The target is likely to provide a considerable challenge to the UNHCR, to our own officials and to local authorities. One thing seems certain: over a five-year period, the situation will change. I hope that the Government will not set the target in stone. I was pleased that on 8 September my noble friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said that it was,

“an evolving situation and the Government will continue to review the situation in terms of numbers”.—[

Official Report

, 8/9/15; col. 1316.]

I must press Ministers for greater clarity about the plight of Christians who cannot be in the camps because of attacks by Islamists.

The Prime Minister, on 7 September, and the Home Secretary, in her speech the next day, did not say that those to be admitted would come only from the camps but a briefing note from the Whips’ Office uses the phrase “straight from the camps”. There have to be exceptions. My noble friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said last week, in response to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, that all minorities suffering such persecution,

“will be dealt with in the proper way, by ensuring that their vulnerabilities are protected and they are given the protection they deserve”.—[

Official Report

, 9/9/15; col. 1432.]

That did not offer much enlightenment. Pressed by my noble friend Lady Rawlings, the Minister said that “the plight of Christians” and other minorities “is being discussed”. On Monday, after the Statement, my noble friend the Leader of the House said, in answer to a question from the Archbishop of Canterbury, that,

“this is something for us to discuss with the UNHCR”.—[

Official Report

, 7/9/15; col. 1260.]

I hope that the Minister will be able to give us more information this evening and that Parliament will be kept fully informed of the outcome of the discussions.

The vulnerable are not confined to Syria and its borders. There were questions last week about the horrors taking place in the Sudan. Would I be right in thinking that these cases will be dealt with under the normal asylum procedures? Last year, 120,000 refugees were living in the UK, and 25,000 entered the asylum system seeking asylum in this country.

I have concentrated on vulnerable refugees: the 4 million in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, the more than 6 million displaced from their homes but still in Syria itself and those fleeing from brutal regimes in Africa. Like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I believe that the situation created by the flood of economic

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migrants who have been pouring into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa is different. They have been coming in numbers that, taken together with the real refugees, are likely to have profound social, cultural, religious and economic consequences and create growing tension. We have to pursue policies that will discourage and reverse that floodtide of economic migrants. I support the Government’s policy, including the measures described by the Home Secretary last week, their refusal to take part in a European quota system and the new naval activity off the Libyan coast, for which I understand that we are now seeking United Nations approval so that we can deal with some of the criminal gangs before they take refugees on board.

Population densities, birth rates and job opportunities vary enormously from country to country. Germany, with a declining birth rate, wants more skilled and educated workers. Britain is densely populated and has absorbed a very large increase in immigrant numbers, so that facilities are strained. Even Germany temporarily closed its borders this week, and other countries in Europe are closing theirs.

The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, called for a more measured approach. His was a pretty emotional diatribe which offered few measured solutions.

I conclude by noting that Jordan has been remarkably successful in creating a buffer zone in southern Syria where large numbers of refugees have gathered in their own country. It would be an important step if it was possible to create a similar secure buffer zone in north-west Syria, and hugely helpful if the Gulf states, in addition to providing financial support, would take immigrants to ease the burden falling on Lebanon, in particular. As my noble friend suggested in opening this debate, other countries outside Europe need to play a much larger part.

8.13 pm

Lord Desai (Lab): My Lords, let me first pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. Knowing him has been one of the great pleasures of my life here and I shall always cherish his friendship and his wit.

Let me try a completely different and somewhat utopian solution to the problem at hand. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, said at the beginning, this problem has been going on for a long time. The war in the Middle East has been going on since, I think, 1973, but if not, at least since the beginning of this century. It will go on, it is not going to end. We are witnessing the consequences of the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire 100 years down the line, and they are not going to go away.

I think that the European Union can solve the problem, but it cannot necessarily accommodate all the people who are going to come. Indeed, it is a travesty for the European Union to believe that it has done anything to solve the problem. It is Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey who have housed more refugees than Europe has done or will ever do.

My solution is the following—it is very utopian, I agree. The European Union should go to the United Nations and propose a global solution to the refugee problem. There are sparsely populated countries in central Asia: Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and

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so on. Their population density is one-hundredth of the population density in Europe. I would like the United Nations to arrange a transfer of as many migrants and refugees as possible, with the co-operation of those countries, to settle them in those countries. The European Union should provide financial support and encouragement for that.

As the noble Baroness said, the UK’s contribution to humanitarian aid has been fantastic, whatever people may say about our ability or willingness to have people come here. Europe’s strength is in resources—money—and diplomatic clout. Europe should go to the United Nations and propose that global solution with the co-operation of the receiving countries. We can then transfer a lot of people from Lebanon, Jordan or wherever to those countries. They are Muslim countries. These are co-religionists of the people leaving Syria and Iraq.

Everybody will tell me that that is not possible, but what is the House of Lords for if not to propose utopian solutions? That is my solution, and I hope that someone takes it up. If anyone wants more information, I can give it to them, but if I stop here, I will contribute three minutes to the debate this evening, and that is more valuable than anything I have said.

8.16 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, first, I associate those of us on these Benches with the tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. We have appreciated all that he has done, especially for Northern Ireland, over the past years.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, spoke of the Middle East crisis starting in the 1940s or 1950s. I go back to biblical times. It has been there for at least 3,000 years, and the migration of the people of Israel from Egypt to the promised land is one of the first major migrations that we have heard about. I am told that about 50 million people in the world today can be put in the class of migrants. It happens in many places and over the years.

One of the first things that happened when I was a child—I do not quite remember it—was the influx of people from Germany into the UK in the late 1930s. Then there was what happened during and after the war: the migration from Poland and Germany. People went in their millions from one part of the world to the other. Then we had the division in the Indian subcontinent. It has been part of our lives to see people going from one part of the world to another. Every time, our hearts have bled. The world and the centuries go on. We know that 200 years ago, the total population of the world was 1 billion people. Today we are 7 billion people. In future, that will grow. It is a problem for our children and grandchildren. We must pray that they have the grace and the wisdom to tackle these problems in a more effective way than we have.

The Arab spring has become the Arab winter. There have been one or two biblical references here this evening. I think of the parable of the good Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, that poor guy was left at the side of the road and two very important establishment figures passed by. I am told that when they got to Jericho, they set up a committee to defend

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travellers on that dangerous road, but they left the poor guy at the side of the road. The person who is praised, of course, is the one who took responsibility and took this person to an inn, cared for him and paid for him. That is what we must do. The basics have been spoken of this evening. When we see the pictures of thousands and thousands of people trudging along those railway tracks and along those roads; when we hear of the immense amount of money that has been spent in order to get a place on a boat that will bring them to some sort of hope, and how that hope is often just shattered, we look at this and say, “Is there anything preventing us from playing our full part and being the Samaritans on this occasion?”. How can we look at these people without thinking what it would be like to walk in their shoes? What would our children and grandchildren be like in all that suffering that is going on at this very moment as we are having this debate?

We owe a great debt to Angela Merkel, who has contributed so brilliantly to this situation. I would also like to quote Edward Kennedy’s words:

“But we can perhaps remember—even if only for a time—that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek—as we do—nothing but the chance to live our lives in purpose and happiness; winning what satisfaction and fulfilment they can”.

It is personal; it is a situation that makes us all weep. The Government do not realise that. I must not take up too much time, but what have we done? Okay, we are going to take 20,000 people over five years. That is 4,000 people a year, probably mainly in the same families. That is 1,400 or 1,500 families a year. The figures of the United Nations on Syrian refugees say there are 4,015,256 registered Syrian refugees. Can we not do better than 1,400 families a year? I am sure we can and that our people want us to have the hearts and the emotions of the Samaritans, not those who walk on the other side. I beg—I really do—those who have any influence with the Government on this matter: please remember that you are not speaking for the people of the UK. They have marched, held protest meetings and contributed. We want to be with them.

Finally, when they come here, as I hope they will, I hope they will find a hospitable immigration regime. I hope we will be able to allow them to work and not to have them in indefinite detention. I hope we will not send their youngsters back when they reach 18. There is a lot that we can do and a lot that our moral convictions oblige us to do, so we must be a welcoming people. Looking round the Chamber, I do not know where everybody here comes from, but I know that we are not people from our own areas. We have all been migrants or refugees at one time or another, so we should stretch out our hands and say, “Okay, we want to continue this, to bring hope to those whose lives are so hopeless and helpless at the present time”.

8.23 pm

Lord Green of Deddington (CB): My Lords, as a former chairman of Medical Aid for Palestinians, I cannot let this debate pass without expressing my strong concern about the appalling humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and even more so in

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Gaza. They seem to have been tolerated—even ignored—for far too long by much of the international community. Today, however, I want to focus on Syria, a country whose affairs I have followed from a distance for nearly 50 years. I do not claim to go back to biblical times, but I was also there in fairly recent times as ambassador.

Humanitarian aid is essential, but it is also sticking plaster if we fail to achieve some kind of political settlement in that country and its region. What we are witnessing in Syria now is not just a humanitarian disaster: it is a destruction of an entire society, as indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, recognised. It is curious that for so long, Syrians have taken a pride in the diversity of their country, in their remarkable history and, unusually in the Arab world, in their links to Europe. However, they have had a very tough regime which did not hesitate to imprison them and even torture them if there was any opposition. People have lived in fear for 40 years of some six competing intelligence services, but they adjusted to it. The regime’s deal was this: stay out of politics, pay bribes as necessary and we will leave you alone. Another part of the deal, which is not often recognised outside of Syria, is that there was genuine freedom of religion and quite remarkable opportunities for women. That was far from perfect, but a million miles from today’s disaster.

Those of us who are concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Middle East have to be very careful about what we now advocate. In particular, calls for the overthrow of the present regime are extremely unwise, as my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond has pointed out on many occasions. Let us be clear: the regime and its supporters are by no means all Alawites, and they are fighting—literally—for their survival. A collapse of the regime would lead to the most appalling revenge killings on all sides, and total chaos would result. The fall of the regime would be an enormous psychological and religious boost to ISIL, which is our main enemy in that region. What is more, it is the most ruthless movement among the opposition movements, and it will be bound to increase its power in that region, and perhaps even come to dominate much of what is now Syria. Humanitarian efforts are, of course, essential, but they risk being blown apart by the misdirected policy on the part of western nations.

Fortunately, perhaps, Russia and Iran have signalled very clearly that they can see the dangers and they are striving to avoid them. If we are really concerned about the terrible humanitarian situation in Syria and its neighbours, we must press for some kind of modus vivendi among those groups in Syria that share our overriding concern about ISIL. It is ISIL that poses the most serious threat to the region, to British interests at home and abroad, and to any prospect of improving the humanitarian situation in the Middle East. For goodness’ sake, let us keep our eye on the ball.

8.28 pm

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): My Lords, on returning home on Saturday evening, I switched on my television to catch up on the news, but instead caught the revellers at the Last Night of the Proms, singing:

“Land of Hope and Glory, mother of the free”.

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It rather upset me in the circumstances. Sadly, we no longer have cause to be proud of ourselves as a nation after the last few weeks. In the eyes of the world, I am sorry to say, the Conservatives have turned the nasty party into a nasty Government, with their failure to act quickly in the present humanitarian crisis. On reflection, however, I do not entirely share that view; I hope to be constructive, and I commend the Prime Minister for his visit this week to the Middle East and refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Last year, I visited Zatari camp in Jordan and this year I saw several camps and enclaves of refugees in Lebanon, a country which has taken more than 25% of its population again as refugees in the last few years—a burden it simply cannot bear. These countries, together with Turkey, have taken hundreds of thousands of people, while UNRWA, which deals with Palestinian refugees, and UNHCR, which deals with the others from Syria and Iraq and elsewhere, are chronically underfunded. I congratulate our Government on being the second largest donor to UNRWA after the United States of America, but it is not nearly enough. That is the problem. Most refugees want a safe place to protect and feed their families until they return home, but the camps are overflowing and life in most of them is very grim. The fitter and braver ones head for Europe—and who can blame them? Our response should be on three fronts.

First, it is not enough to take a few selected families to come and live here. They are safe in the camps and should stay there. We should take the number requested of us and there must be European Union agreement on this. The United States of America should be involved and also the United Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, who has left the Chamber, recognised this as a global problem and of course it is. This evening I heard that refugees have been tear-gassed at the borders of Hungary with Serbia. We should be ashamed of what is going on in our continent.

Secondly—this is my main request—we and our allies must step up the funding to UNHCR and UNRWA immediately, and ensure that those bodies can do a much better job as long as is necessary. It needs action by the USA, the UN and our country to raise the estimated £2 billion now needed for a really good network of safe, well-run camps in the Middle East allowing people to stay close to home. As the Minister said, this could ensure that the children in particular receive proper food and education, and safety from the traffickers, over the next few years. It could prevent young people being attracted by extremist groups. I know that both suggestions are very expensive but remind the House that Trident costs £2 billion a year simply to maintain, and replacement would cost probably a hundred or two hundred times that amount—I do not know. We have the money. I know where I would rather spend it.

Thirdly, and as the noble Lord, Lord Green, mentioned, before the civil war, there were refugees from Palestine all over the Middle East. More than half a million were in Syria, looked after by UNRWA there. They had been looked after for decades. I have been unable to establish how many Palestinians are among the people fleeing Syria at this time, but have the Government

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pointed out those Palestinians to the state of Israel? More than 26,000 people were immigrants into Israel and welcomed last year alone, mostly from affluent countries, so apparently it has the room and wealth to cope also with refugees. Last week on “Thought for the Day”, I heard the Chief Rabbi express quite rightly what I have experienced: the generosity of the Jewish people. He called for a paradigm shift in the response to this crisis. Finally, here is Israel’s opportunity. Give Palestinians fleeing war once again the right to return. Sadly, miracles no longer happen.

8.33 pm

Baroness Helic (Con): My Lords, the Syrian humanitarian crisis and the international response are moving at an incredible pace. Only last week, Germany had something of an open-door policy towards refugees, yet this week Schengen has been suspended there and in Austria. Hungary and, tonight, Slovenia have closed their borders. Now new routes are already opening up as refugees and migrants try to circumvent barriers in their path. I hope the Minister will be able to update the House on what the European Union has done so far to help the Balkan countries cope with what could be the new reality there.

There is an urgent need for the international community to get ahead of the crisis on all fronts, rather than repeatedly playing catch-up. In that regard I will make three brief points. First, we must assume that we have not yet seen the worst of the crisis. Food rations for refugees have been cut dramatically. According to the World Food Programme, a Syrian refugee receives $13 per month—that is, 50 cents a day—to eat and survive on. The UN has warned that a further 1 million Syrians could soon be displaced by violence. Winter is coming, inevitably producing further human suffering. The massive shortfall in aid risks a crisis of even greater proportions, as people leave both Syria and regional camps in search of safety. After four years in which the gap between the aid that is needed and that which is provided has grown, surely the time has come to name and shame the countries that are not pulling their weight—unlike Britain.

Secondly, this crisis will not be resolved by mass resettlement. Neither we nor Europe as a whole can receive all the Syrian people who seek security. Even if we were to empty Syria entirely, the threat to the region and to our own security would not go away. The only way to end the human suffering and protect our own security is by taking the diplomatic route, possibly without preconditions, and by being prepared to back that diplomacy with the threat of hard power if necessary. When a policy pursued is not working—and I would argue that the current policy is not—we should have the courage to admit that, examine the reasons for its failure and come up with a better one. British diplomacy excels in putting forward workable solutions to complex crises in conflict. We saw it in the Balkans only 20 years ago, in our lifetime. Therefore, I hope that at the UN General Assembly next week in New York, we will see Britain actively and visibly putting forward new proposals with our allies for how to achieve a negotiated solution and a political settlement that brings stability and security, justice

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and accountability. There is a great need for that visible leadership and diplomatic momentum. Therefore, I hope that the United Kingdom will advocate and secure a visit by the United Nations Security Council to the region to see the humanitarian impact of the crisis and begin to build diplomatic consensus as an important practical and symbolic gesture. It is astonishing that, after more than four years of conflict, the UN Security Council, the very body that bears the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, has not done that yet.

Thirdly, we will need as much leadership and political will as we can muster in the coming months, and Parliament has a crucial role to play. Two years ago, there was a vote in the other place on limited and proportionate military action to save lives by deterring further use of chemical weapons in Syria. The coalition Government were defeated. At the time, the so-called ISIS was in its infancy; today it is believed to hold sway over half of Syria’s land mass and is drawing recruits from across the region, from Europe and as far away as Australia. At the time, there were around 1.7 million refugees; today, there are more than 4 million. Then there were 4 million internally displaced persons; today, there are more than 7 million. Who can argue that things are not getting worse and worse by the day? I hope that those who voted against the Motion will ask themselves whether a critically important opportunity to change the course of the conflict was lost. I sincerely hope that, if there is another vote to take strong but necessary action, for the sake of international peace and security and our own common humanity they will not say no again. To stop the Syria free fall, we shall need more than our humanity—we shall need leadership and a plan. Today the world is in desperate need of both.

8.39 pm

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, who always comes to this House well prepared with facts and figures. She usually goes out of her way to try to defend the Government, but she said this evening that our present policy in Syria is not working. That undoubtedly qualifies as the understatement of the evening. Our policy in Syria has been extraordinarily inept and extraordinarily unedifying.

As soon as the insurgency against the regime of Bashar al-Assad started, for some extraordinary reason the Government were determined to get involved with it, and the Prime Minister personally so, it appears. We sort of more or less declared war on Bashar at that point, and we have been in a state of war with him ever since. At the time I thought—and I continue to think—that it was a very bizarre decision. There does not seem to have been any particular national interest of ours in doing that; we should not deploy our forces frivolously. Of course, Bashar is an unpleasant dictator with blood on his hands, and much more blood now as a result of the insurgency against him, of course. But if that was a criterion for taking military action against a regime, we would be involved in at least a dozen wars overnight—all the way from Equatorial Guinea to North Korea—so that cannot be the explanation. We cannot say that we

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got involved because we wanted to avoid a refugee crisis, because it was the fighting that produced that crisis.

Most peculiarly of all, the decision flew in the face of all the lessons that I thought any sensible person would have learnt from Iraq and Libya—that trying to change regimes in other countries is always a problematic exercise and should never be embarked on unless one has available a viable and credible alternative regime to impose. That was clearly not the case in this situation, so I remain mystified as to why we did it. What is clear is that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, has just said—in words softer than mine, but the meaning is exactly the same—it has been a complete failure. The Government also made series of mistakes in political analysis and seriously underestimated the resilience of the Bashar al-Assad regime. We now find ourselves continuing to fight a war on two fronts in Syria, one a voluntary war started quite gratuitously by ourselves and the other an involuntary war, declared on us and the rest of the western world by Daesh. That is a very serious matter, but it cannot be very clever to engage in two wars at the same time, when one was inevitable.

That is the inept part of the story; the unedifying part of the story is the way in which we have handled the refugee crisis over the past few weeks and months. Until the PR agenda changed—because that is what changed everything, when the picture of the dead child on the beach was all over the newspapers—the Government were taking a very tough line, saying that they were not going to have any significant numbers of Syrian or other refugees here at all. The Government were completely obsessed by maintaining their arbitrary 100,000 person a year immigration total. Then suddenly, because the PR equation changed, they started making all sorts of declarations about receiving refugees and doing something for them. We have actually discovered that what they are doing, which the Prime Minister described as extraordinarily generous, was extraordinarily ungenerous, taking 10,000 or at most 20,000 over five years when other countries, as has already been said in this debate, are taking far more. What is more, as the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, pointed out very well, we are not actually taking the refugees who are most vulnerable, those who are on the road and have no accommodation or food and are in serious danger of dying on their travels. The refugees in camps are obviously not very comfortable in them, but at least they do not face those threats quite so immediately.

One has to wonder why we have not taken up our quota under the EU system. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, said that he thought it was because the Government could not bear to do anything that looked like co-operation with our EU partners, because it would be unpopular with the Eurosceptics. I have to tell him that that is an appalling suspicion to have—that in a matter of life and death a Government would be influenced by party-political considerations of that kind—and I am very sorry to have to say this, but in my heart I cannot think of any other explanation for their conduct.

It is a very unedifying situation, and one in which we have no influence with anybody. We lost a lot of influence with the Americans because the Prime Minister

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was foolish enough to say to Barack Obama that we would get involved in Syrian operations without mentioning that he needed a House of Commons vote that he was not likely to get. We clearly do not have any influence with the EU now, with the way we have behaved, and we do not have any influence with third parties. That is very important as it is very important in this crisis that we encourage the Gulf states to take refugees from Syria. That is the most obvious solution because those economies are systematically dependent on immigrant labour and they are common cultural and linguistic areas, so it would be an obvious thing to do. But they are not taking any refugees; they are just paying cheques to keep people in camps, just like we are doing. Since we are doing that, we have no influence with them whatever. That is the situation we now find ourselves in.

I do not want to come before the House and just criticise. I want to say a couple of words about what I think we should be doing instead. First, we should regard the Daesh problem as a completely unique situation, which it is. People are fleeing a murderous horde of fanatics who will kill them if they can. We must open our doors and prevent that happening. Secondly, we should under no circumstances allow this to be a precedent, so that anybody who comes from a civil war or an area where there is a lot of violence can immediately claim asylum in the European Union or this country. It is not a realistic possibility. Thirdly, we must look again at the need to co-operate with our European partners. I think Mrs May has learnt the lesson that we cannot just say, “That’s all right—we aren’t in Schengen. We’ve got the Channel, so we don’t have to worry about people in Sangatte”. She has now belatedly realised that Sangatte is a problem for us.

Actually, it is a problem for us if these refugees come into southern Europe or the Balkans. We need to make sure that there are proper controls on the common external frontier. We have every interest in making sure that there is a robust common external frontier. I believe we, together with our EU counter- parts, should invest considerable naval resources in patrolling the Mediterranean to make sure that these poor people coming through on boats run by criminal organisations—criminal gangs in many cases—do not get through to the mainland of the European Union. They are of course rescued and given food and water when necessary, but they are towed back or taken back to Libya, where they mostly come from. We should negotiate, which I am sure is feasible, with the various warlords who now govern the Libyan coastline to enable us to do that. We need to have robust measures where they are required. We need to have a humanitarian response to this completely unique and horrifying Daesh phenomenon, and we need to make sure that in future we have well-thought through and coherent policies in these areas, which we certainly have not had up until the present time.

8.46 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB): My Lords, I welcome this debate. The Middle East and north Africa is an area where I have worked and lived in the past decade.

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Sadly, it is a region where I have seen at first hand a very considerable deterioration of the humanitarian situation. In looking at the causes, the Syrian civil war has to come top of the list. It is a conflict that has now lasted longer than the Spanish civil war and indeed even longer than the First World War. To this can be added the turmoil that has ensued in Libya after the overthrow of the tyrannical rule of Muammar Gaddafi. Thirdly, there is throughout the region a deep-seated regional malaise stemming from the failure of the Arab spring to produce any real advance in reform and representative government.

In looking at the humanitarian situation in the region, I welcome the visit of the Prime Minister earlier this week to Lebanon and Jordan to see for himself the dire situation of Syrian refugees in those countries. He is one of the few European heads of government to have done so. I also pay tribute to the work of DfID in those countries and in the wider Middle East. I hope also that the Prime Minister’s visit will go some way to reducing the toxicity of the refugee issue in much of our media and, sadly, some of our politics. People and, indeed, Governments need to be reminded that 94% of Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey with only 6% currently in Europe.

However, that number is likely to increase as the refugees see no hope of a political settlement in Syria and rising instability in the countries of refuge in the region. In Turkey, we have sadly seen yet again renewed conflict between the Government and the Kurds. Lebanon has been without a president for two years, kindling fears that instability from neighbouring Syria could affect it. I remind the Minister that Hezbollah is an active fighter in the conflict in Syria, aiding Assad’s regime, and at any time that could have dire consequences for Lebanon and the refugees sheltering there.

One of the reasons that there is an increased flight of refugees is that Syrians have lost hope in the international community’s ability and, indeed, willingness to make any progress in handling the Syrian crisis.

When we are tasked with taking note of the humanitarian impact of developments in the Middle East, we must remember that we are not talking about a disaster like that which befell the Nepalese people in the earthquake in recent months. This is a man-made catastrophe that requires urgent diplomatic attention. Here I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Helic. The UN General Assembly meets next week. I expect the Prime Minister, like other heads of government, will be there. We need a diplomatic initiative. This conflict can be solved only through diplomacy, not through military force. Here the Security Council has great responsibility, and because the United Kingdom is one of only five countries that are permanent members of that council, the responsibility is particularly heavy. I hope that the Government, led by the Prime Minister, make some real diplomatic efforts in New York next week.

Lastly, I ask the Minister whether the Government will urge Gulf countries to take Syrian refugees. Their resistance to doing so is not understood in this country or elsewhere in Europe, and could all too easily affect our bilateral relations with the Gulf.

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8.51 pm

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan. I also welcome this debate. Much of what I was going to say has already been said so I will not repeat it, but I want to touch on a few points.

The Minister outlined the catastrophic level of suffering: 12 million people have been forced from their homes. That is more than half the population of Syria. This is a country with one of the most ancient civilisations, and we have been watching it being hollowed out before our very eyes for the past four years. As a result of the conflict there is also widespread unrest in neighbouring countries that for the past four years have absorbed the vast majority of the refugees.

Turkey, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, just mentioned, has close to 3 million refugees now. As a result of the widespread absorption of so many people in such a short time, Turkey has been destabilised, as had been predicted and warned about in previous years. I do not have time to go into the conflicts and challenges faced by people in Turkey, which I know something about and I have been following very closely, but there has been a negative impact. The positive steps to the peace process with the Kurdish community, which we welcomed, now lie in tatters. The landscape there has been irreparably damaged and affected.

Turkey has welcomed those 3 million refugees regardless of their religion. It is a predominantly Muslim country but it has not looked at people’s faith; it has taken in people who have come to their borders. The Turks have opened their borders and been criticised for doing so, but nevertheless they have taken people in.

So neighbouring countries have been absorbing this. For four years it was not a European problem but a regional one, and Europe was quite happy to allow neighbouring countries to bear the brunt of it. However, this has now reached saturation point, and the camps are full and grim. Now that this has come to the shores of Europe, the debate, as the noble Lord has just said, has become quite toxic and at times quite inhumane. I have seen various reports talking about migrants coming here to seek a better life. Can we please be clear? When we talk about Syrians in particular, they are fleeing not only the terrifying barbarity of Daesh; they are also fleeing Assad’s barrel bombs and chemical weapons. These are not economic migrants but refugees. The use of the word “migrants” to describe people fleeing Daesh is absurd, inhumane and misleading.

As we have heard, it took a photograph of a little boy on a beach in Turkey to start to change public opinion. I welcome that change—I think that we were all shocked—and it was clear that the outpouring from the British public was different from what we had been hearing from our Government. Many others have drowned, but that one event was a turning point. Far more people are beginning to realise that this is not an immigration problem but a humanitarian disaster.

We have seen that the Germans have welcomed the majority so far and have shown incredible leadership and humanity. However, as my noble friend who is not

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in her seat mentioned, we are now seeing incredible, chaotic and shocking scenes in Hungary and in some of the Balkan states, where people are fleeing and moving across central Europe to seek sanctuary. It is particularly shocking that Hungary, for example, has said that it will take only Christians as asylum seekers. As an EU nation, Hungary appears to share very little of the values and spirit, of the tolerance and generosity shown to Hungarians fleeing Soviet aggression by other countries including the UK. Today’s reports of tear gas and water cannons being used against people including women and children who are fleeing aggression, war and poverty is absolutely shameful. In behaving in that fashion, Hungary is not fit to be a member of the EU.

This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation. It is a global issue, and the population needs the support of the world. Instead, they are living in appalling conditions, sinking deeper into trauma and poverty or drowning in their thousands. Many of those in the terrible conditions in the camps have understandably had enough of the hand-to-mouth existence, lack of education, poor medical care and lack of a future for their children. Had any of us been in those camps for years with little hope, I wonder whether we would also have taken to the seas and looked for a better life. I know that as parents we probably would have—I certainly would have.

I do welcome the extra support and help that the Government have announced. That is important and we need to carry on with it. However, the Government’s pledge to take 20,000 people over the next five years, although welcome, is not enough, as others have mentioned. Today I have read reports that in Jordan cuts to aid are forcing more refugees to leave the camps and come to Europe. It is ironic that the Government have been warning us often and repeatedly that we are under threat from Daesh and that we must do more to stop some Muslim people from going to Syria to join it, yet when it comes to allowing sanctuary to Syrians fleeing the murderous Daesh we close our doors, pull up the drawbridge and refer to them as migrants. This makes no sense.

The UN, the EU and the West have failed in any positive engagement to secure a diplomatic resolution. We on these Benches believe that the UK should work with the UN to resettle its fair share of refugees already in Europe. The UK’s fair share would be established by considering a wide range of criteria including population, GDP and asylum-seeking cases. I was pleased to hear that the UK is doing more, but the UNHCR today said:

“Individual measures by individual countries will not solve the problem but will make an already chaotic situation worse”.

We must show more leadership, more collegiate working and work with other nations to bring about a diplomatic resolution.

8.58 pm

Baroness Prashar (CB): My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this debate and describing in some detail the Government’s response to developments in the Middle East and their impact. I was particularly pleased to hear the reference to the work on education

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for children, because given the scale, the nature and the extent of the problem it is important that there are long-term responses. Education is important in terms of economic and social prosperity for the future so that we do not have a lost generation. It would therefore be helpful if the Minister could assure the House that these initiatives will not only continue but be enhanced and look at the quality of the education provided.

We have heard in this debate that the humanitarian impact of the developments in the Middle East and north Africa is unprecedented in scale, suffering and tragic deaths but the responses to this crisis have been slow and inadequate, both by the UK and by the European Union. Conflict in Syria is approaching its fifth year, and in other parts of north Africa and the Middle East the situation has been deteriorating for some time. It is only the recent tragedies that have stirred consciences and some limited action.

We heard earlier that this is a complex and challenging situation that requires, as the Prime Minister said in his Statement on 7 September,

“a comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 7/9/15; col. 23.]

However, we have to recognise that these responses to the long-term issues have to be multifaceted and we have to involve the United Nations, the USA and even Arab nations. Here, I very much associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan.

The dire humanitarian consequences that we witness daily require immediate action to avert all the suffering of refugees and the strain on some of the front-line states in the European Union and the neighbouring states. It is recognised that the UK is the first major economy to meet the United Nations target of spending 0.7% of GNI, and the UK is the second biggest bilateral aid donor for the Syrian crisis. Of course the Government’s contribution of £1 billion in aid in relation to the Syrian conflict and the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where Syrian refugees are, is commendable, as are the efforts in collaboration with others to rescue migrants and deal with smugglers. The Government’s practical assistance to EU partners, by providing assistance, expertise and support to Greece, Italy and Bulgaria through the European Asylum Support Office, is welcome.

However, the emphasis of the Government’s approach is predominantly on bilateral assistance. There is complete reluctance by them to be part of the European effort to respond to the humanitarian crisis within Europe. Greece and Italy in particular are confronted with exceptional migratory flows. The situation in Hungary, Austria and Germany is not good, either. There are humanitarian crises within Europe that are urgent and require exceptional action. Having said that, I have to say that Europe has not covered itself in glory in the way in which it has responded. Even on the question of resettlement, the Government’s policy began to change only in early 2014. Prior to that, their response was to commit large amounts of humanitarian aid to the relief effort but not offer resettlement to Syrian refugees, either as part of or in addition to their annual resettlement quota. Since early 2014, there have been

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incremental changes. It was only on 7 September that the Prime Minister announced an extension to the scheme, with a plan to resettle 20,000 Syrians over the next five years.

The Government have set their face against any involvement in the relocation scheme, voluntary or mandatory, proposed by the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, in response to a debate in this House on 22 July, said:

“The Government have no plans to opt into any relocation scheme, whether voluntary or mandatory”.—[Official Report, 22/7/15; col. 1202.]

The Government’s objection that a mandatory scheme will change the EU approach to asylum by reducing national control over immigration is understandable. Indeed, it is right that immigration control should be the responsibility of member states. However, it is regrettable that the Government’s approach to a voluntary scheme is negative. In the report produced in July by my committee—the EU sub-committee on home affairs, which I chair—we urged the Government to take part in the negotiation on the proposals on relocation, provided that it is voluntary and is part of developing a coherent and co-ordinated approach to current and future situations.

Collective actions are the only way in which to deal with the current humanitarian crisis facing the EU. The lack of co-operation will undermine the EU’s ability to develop a coherent and adequate response. I would therefore like to hear from the noble Baroness why the Government have set their face against participating in the EU relocation scheme.

9.03 pm

Lord James of Blackheath (Con): My Lords, I come to this issue from a slightly different direction. I live in West Sussex and am looking at what is happening there as a result of all this. There is huge zeal and enthusiasm to be called upon to do something to help. In the absence of any direction or instruction from anyone, local people are trying to make it up as they go along. They are getting into a muddle and need some help. It is time that the Government started to actively participate in getting communities to prepare to take in refugees, if or when that happens. If it is not going to happen, they need to say why not and do something else. If it is, they need to get prepared for it.

In the network of villages that comprises West Sussex, there is an assumption that they will be high on the list of places that will be called upon to act. They want to act. However, there are four questions we need to think about. First, how many can they take? Secondly, how will they feed them? Thirdly, what will happen to the education system locally? Fourthly, what will happen to interfaith relationships? Each question needs a separate response, and they are floundering at the moment on all scores.

I will deal first with the issue of food. The assumption is that, because we are basically a hangover from the Second World War, we will go back to something like the “British restaurants”, where people could get a halfpenny meal a day with products supplied by the Government. People in the villages are assuming that nothing will be paid towards the meals and they will

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have to provide them free from their own pocket, getting no food from the Government. They are quite happy to cook and provide the meals, but they need to know where the food is coming from because there is not enough money in these poor villages for people to pay for it themselves.

At the moment, we have a network of fetes and little garden parties going on to raise money. Every local artist is putting up his work to be sold. At the moment, I have to book an appointment to have a cup of coffee with my wife because she has become the head of the sales desk for these pictures and is very hard to get hold of. They are making a little money, here and there, but it is not going to be enough to feed the population for more than a week or two when they get there. Can we please have some decision from the Government as to what they actually intend to do if and when refugees are sent to the villages? At the moment, it is causing chaos.

When the refugees get there, what are we going to do with regard to the education system? We have a network of mostly faith schools; Church of England and Catholic. Will those schools be required to take the young who come in? If so, I can say right now where the first local civil war is going to come. It will come on the day that any Islamic or Muslim family declines to send its girl children to school. That will lead to protests on the streets, which will get very violent, very quickly. People need to be told what to do about that problem before it happens. In the case of schools for boys under the age of 10, are they going to have to take in, say, two or three Islamic boys? In that case, what will happen during the religious training part of the day? Will an imam go in to do that? In that case, do they take the Christian boys out and let them play football while that is happening? Somebody needs to produce a code of practice for all these things and think it through.

The worst of all the issues that I am looking at came to me last week, and puts a significant demand upon the Church of England to do something. People have said that of course they are going to be very hospitable to these people and think that we should give them our churches to turn into mosques. To which, having picked myself up off the floor, I say, “Are you mad? Just think that one through for a moment”. They answer that they will give them the church for three or four days a week and keep it for themselves for the rest. Fine, I say. But Christmas Day this year is on a Friday. Are we going to have midnight mass at 11 pm on the Thursday? What will be done with the mulled wine stall outside the church, which usually makes such a roaring profit? “Oh, we’ll give the profits to them as well”, they say. That is a nice solution but it is unrealistic.

The church has to get off its backside and tell people what to do about all these faith issues, so that they know how to cope with them before they make fools of themselves and destroy the last vestiges of our own link with our own culture and society down the ages—it is coming if we do not do something about it very quickly. I ask the Bishops to please take that message back to his Grace and the synod and ask them what they are going to do.

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This is a real problem and it needs attacking. There is so much good will to make things happen properly, but we are doing nothing to use what is available to us, which is an enormous reservoir of good will, enthusiasm and determination to help. Please, Government, start this ball moving now, and please, church, do something really positive and effective.

9.09 pm

Lord Clinton-Davis (Lab): Like so many others, I have been saddened and outraged by the plight of those fleeing from tyranny. I am also outraged by our Government’s wholly inadequate response. My grandparents, like so many others, were themselves refugees. At the end of the 19th century, they fled here to Britain and like many were forced to endure physical and verbal assaults, as were the Huguenots before them and the Chinese, West Indians and many others. These were not Britain’s proudest moments.

We are now confronted with an equally sad situation. Genuine refugees cannot wait. They clamour for help. We have to heed their cries of pain. They cannot wait while Europe debates, however important that may be. This represents a real test of Europe’s capacity. Of course we cannot stand aside while all this happens. Joint European agreement is desirable, but that is for the longer term. Now is the time to respond: we have to act now. We cannot wait. We cannot delay. Young children, some of whom we saw on television as young as three, are drowning and they cry for help. That horrible sight is but one facet of a deeply unhappy event. Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Holland and many others cannot be expected to bear the whole brunt of this crisis. We must reject the utterly cruel and selfish posture of the Hungarian Government. It is unbelievable.

My plea today is that we here in Britain must do much more. The position adopted by the Government to reject the pleas of the refugees and then to come forward with an abysmally small number over five years will simply not suffice. There is on the part of the Government an attempt to play for time, and unhappily time is not on our side. The Government therefore must react now and not tomorrow.