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European Council: 11-12 December 2008 and Prime Minister’s Visit to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan

Volume 706: debated on Monday 15 December 2008

Statement

My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister entitled EU Council and Prime Minister’s Visit to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

“First, Mr Speaker, I am sure the whole House will join with me in sending our profound condolences to the family and friends of Corporal Lee Churcher, of the Royal Engineers, who died while serving in Iraq, and Corporal Marc Birch, Marine Damian Davies, Lance-Corporal Jamie Fellows and Sergeant John Manuel, of the Royal Marines, who lost their lives in Afghanistan. This is a tragic loss. We owe them and all those who have lost their lives in the service of their country our gratitude for their service and sacrifice. As a House, and as a nation, we will never forget them. As I saw in Afghanistan on Saturday, our troops are serving with great skill, courage and dedication. It can truly be said that Britain's Armed Forces are the best in the world and we are immensely proud of all who serve in them.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the European Council held last Thursday and Friday and on my visits to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan this weekend. The European summit focused on two global challenges—economic recovery and climate change. I can report first of all that the Council agreed measures worth around 1.5 per cent of GDP—that is, around €200 billion—that will provide a fiscal stimulus for the European economy. This 1.5 per cent fiscal boost is in addition to the work of the automatic fiscal stabilisers. The measures agreed included support for,

“increased public spending, judicious reductions in tax burdens and direct aid to households, especially those which are most vulnerable”,

exactly the measures Britain has taken. France has announced a package of measures worth €26 billion, Spain a package of measures worth €11 billion and Germany a fiscal package worth €32 billion.

Just as Europe came together in October and November to lead the recapitalisation of the banks, so too Europe has agreed unanimously on co-ordinated action which will support employment and growth. The Council agreed to act in a “united, strong, rapid and decisive manner” and, while committing to medium-term sustainable public finances, to “mobilise all the instruments available to it”. By acting in a concerted and co-ordinated way, the impact on jobs and growth in each country is much greater than if we acted on our own. The action across Europe will be of help to Britain with nearly 60 per cent of our trade being with the rest of Europe. The co-ordinated European action includes speeding up public procurement, a “continued, general and significant reduction in administrative burdens on business” and an additional €30 billion from the European Investment Bank to be invested in Britain and throughout Europe in the coming year.

So the debate about the use of fiscal policy to stimulate our economy and give direct support for families and businesses in Europe is resolved. Europe favours substantial fiscal stimulus alongside cuts in interest rates, and I am confident that the new US Administration of President-elect Obama will also introduce a fiscal stimulus.

This European set of announcements from the Council in advance of the G20 is the answer to those who have said that nothing could be done; that the recession must just take its course; that fiscal policy has no role to play; and indeed that even at this time of difficulty public spending should now be cut. To back up the loan guarantee scheme, the export credits and the deferral of tax, today the Chancellor will announce new measures to speed up the resumption of lending to business and homeowners. The Minister for housing will announce a £400 million package of measures that, building on our help with mortgages to avoid repossessions, will help up to 18,000 first-time buyers draw on the popular home-buy shared equity scheme to get onto the first rung of the housing ladder—real help to families and businesses now.

In advance of Copenhagen next year, the summit agreed a new energy and climate change policy supported by all member states. When approved by the European Parliament—as I believe it will be—the programme will put into European law four far-reaching commitments: a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, which as part of the right international agreement we will raise to 30 per cent; a target that 20 per cent of the EU's energy will come from renewables by 2020; a strengthened EU emissions trading scheme with 100 per cent auctioning of permits in the power sector, the introduction of auctioning for other sectors of the economy and help to ensure that businesses in international markets can adjust; and a financing mechanism to make potentially around €9 billion available for the commercial demonstration of carbon capture and storage. This is a transformative technology and every major economy will need to ensure that it can continue to use coal, oil and gas without contributing to climate change.

These historic commitments make Europe the first continent to make legally binding the detailed policies required to set itself on a path to a low-carbon economy. They provide a clear signal to the rest of the world that an international agreement on climate change can be achieved in Copenhagen next year. This was matched by agreement at the United Nations talks in Poznan on a framework for countering deforestation, with Britain making a contribution of £100 million from our environmental transformation fund for sustainable forestry activities in developing countries.

At the European Council, agreement was also reached on measures to answer concerns expressed to us by Ireland. All countries were agreed that there could be no change or amendment to the Lisbon treaty and that we should proceed to ratification with the Irish agreeing to hold a referendum within the next year. At the same time, it was agreed that, in order to meet Irish concerns, the Lisbon treaty, as we have always made clear, in no way affects the rights of member states to make taxation decisions; that the treaty in no way affects the individual defence policies of member states, including our obligations to NATO and Ireland’s traditional neutrality; and that because, as we have been clear, the charter of fundamental rights creates no new rights at EU level, the Irish constitution provisions on the right to life, education and family are not affected by its incorporation into the treaty. Nor are they affected by the justice and home affairs provisions of the treaty from which Ireland has an opt out.

The Lisbon treaty allows for the Council, by a unanimous decision, to agree to ensure that each member state retains a commissioner and this, we stated, we would be prepared to do.

The Council made an important statement on the Middle East peace process. The Council welcomed efforts to give renewed momentum to the Arab peace initiative and affirmed that the EU will do all it can, practically and politically, to support the peace process and to urge the new US Administration to make it a major priority in the new year.

Let me turn to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. I reiterate the tribute I have already paid to the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces. Today I can inform the House that increased compensation payments come into force—a doubling for the most serious injuries to a new maximum lump sum of £570,000 for Armed Forces personnel wounded in action or otherwise; an increase which means around £10 million will be paid to 2,700 troops who have been awarded lump-sum payments. While in Afghanistan I met President Karzai and took stock of our strategy with commanders and senior officials and saw at first hand the hard and dangerous work our Armed Forces are doing in arduous conditions far from home.

Our goals in Afghanistan are clear: to support democracy and confront terror at its source; to build the Afghans’ capability by training the army and police to spread the rule of law into empty spaces on the map which shelter terrorism, narcotics, and other problems; in all this, to respect local ways of life and strengthen traditional Afghan structures; and to give Afghan people an economic stake in the future. Free and fair elections are an essential part of Afghans taking control of their own security and destiny, so as we approach the Afghan elections planned for next year, on top of the work we are doing with NATO and the Afghan army to ensure security for those elections, we are pledging to contribute $10 million to help with voter registration. In return for this renewed commitment from Britain, I asked for quicker progress of the decisions at the NATO summit on burden-sharing in Afghanistan and I asked President Karzai for leadership in tackling corruption, with our co-operation in the shape of a multi-agency task force which we are ready to send immediately.

Five years on from the first free and fair elections Afghanistan has seen in decades, we should reflect on the scale of what has been achieved. Governor Mangal of Helmand, who I met on Saturday, said last week:

“It has been a hard year for our brave police and soldiers, but it has been a much harder year for our enemies who have found through experience that they cannot defeat us”.

Today, with 5 million refugees returning, 4 million more children in school, great improvements in healthcare including massive reductions in child mortality, and GDP up 70 per cent, our task is to ensure that violence and insecurity do not threaten this progress.

Security depends on proper burden-sharing. In recent weeks we have had to respond to the threat from insurgents in the district of Nad e Ali near the provincial capital of Helmand. The operation involves 1,800 troops, not just from Britain but from Denmark, the US and Estonia, It is a model of burden-sharing that we need to see replicated across Afghanistan. Forty-one countries are involved but the burden is not always shared equally. As the international community and the American President-elect contemplate strengthening our commitment to Afghanistan, it is vital that all members of the coalition contribute fairly.

The second pillar of security is Afghanisation, enabling the Afghan people to take greater control of their own affairs. We have trained thousands of Afghan soldiers and police. With our help, Governor Mangal is starting to work with tribal leaders who I met in Musa Qaleh, only last year in Taliban hands, and to build basic services such as roads, power and water that are having a tangible impact on the lives of Afghans. This is starting to bring to Helmand the wider progress we have seen across Afghanistan since 2001.

To reinforce this progress, and having been briefed on the decision by the British commander, as is his right, to call forward reserves to work with our allies and deploy them on a temporary basis, the Defence Secretary and I have decided, on the advice of the defence chiefs, to approve until August, including the period of preparation for the elections, an increase in the number of British troops deployed to Afghanistan from just over 8,000 to around 8,300.

We, the Americans, and the international community as a whole increasingly recognise that we cannot deal with Afghanistan in isolation from Pakistan. There is a chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of the UK and other countries around the world, and it must be broken.

On 27 November the whole world learnt that terrorists based in Pakistan can strike anywhere, when in a murderous assault condemned by the whole world 12 terrorists killed 175 people in Mumbai, including British citizens. This weekend I met Prime Minister Singh in Delhi and President Zardari in Islamabad to discuss action to be taken. I expressed my condolences to Dr Singh and through him to the Indian people, and assured him that Britain stands fully alongside India in its determination to see those responsible brought to justice.

I pay tribute to the efforts of Pakistan to deny the federally administered tribal areas as a training ground for terrorism, and for the insurgency in Afghanistan and for terrorism. More than 100 Pakistani troops have died in the Bajaur agency since July this year. Plots hatched in the FATA have a direct impact on the UK. Of the security services’ top priority terrorist investigations, three-quarters have links into Pakistan. Our commitment to countering terrorism and the empty spaces that shelter it, and to build local capacity to do so, must be just as strong in Pakistan as in Afghanistan.

The time has come for more action, not more words. We will offer our support for the democratic Government of Pakistan but that Government must act rapidly and decisively against the terror networks based on its soil. Pakistan’s own future depends on action against those within its borders who are bent on the destruction of its elected Government and Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours. To make this effective, Britain will work with both India and Pakistan to continue building counterterrorism capacity with help that I announced yesterday on bomb disposal, scanning devices, airport security and help with new laws. Our assistance programme to Pakistan is the most comprehensive we have with any country and now includes a programme, initially worth £6 million, to tackle the causes of radicalisation.

No matter how serious the other tasks we face, security is the first duty of government. We will always maintain our vigilance against the evil of terrorism. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating this Statement from the Prime Minister.

Let me treat first the matters relating to Afghanistan. It was right that the Prime Minister should visit our troops. I am sure that he, my right honourable friend David Cameron and all who visit to assure them of the total support they have in our country, are moved and humbled by the professionalism and heroism of these young people. Each week, in Prime Minster’s Questions, we hear the names of new casualties and, with them, new partners and parents who see the irreplaceable fruit of years of loving care laid down in sacrifice. We should give thanks every day for our young men and women on active service wherever they may be. We must never accept the litany of young life lost as routine, never fail to test the reasons or probe the objectives behind it or ask what will constitute success in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Is there not disturbing evidence of growing confidence among the Taliban and of serious defects in the Karzai Government? What are we doing to address those issues? Should not the prime focus of the mission be security and the destruction of terrorist training? What commitments were given at the EU summit to deploy additional troops from EU states and to do so in the front line? What evidence is there that the Pakistani army can and will act to drive al-Qaeda and terrorist camps out of Pakistan? What bankable assurances did the Prime Minister receive?

We also stand with the people of the great nation of India, our staunch friend, scarred by the savagery of slaughter in Mumbai. The battle against terrorism is world-wide. The enemy is ruthless, determined and unflinching. The world must stand together against this threat. The terrorists want to divide us, divide parties, divide nations. They must not be allowed to do so. There is no meeting place between us and the truly evil men ready to order women and children to blow themselves apart to kill. Can the noble Baroness confirm that the Lord Chancellor is studying changes to the Human Rights Act to make it easier to sling their criminal apologists out of this country?

I now turn to the EU summit. Let us look at the fine print of the so-called 20-2020 package, which, of course, we support. Can the noble Baroness confirm that, in effect, some of Europe’s most polluting industries are excluded? Can she confirm that the UK target for renewables is lower than 20 per cent, at 15 per cent of total energy consumption by 2020? Is there any plan to revise that? Can she confirm that paragraph 22 of the presidency conclusions makes it clear, first, that any further reduction depends on a successor global agreement to Kyoto being agreed in Copenhagen and, secondly, on India and China signing up? That does not sound like world leadership to me. It sounds more like, “this year, next year, some time, never”. Will the noble Baroness tell the House what firm commitment to 20-2020 and beyond the Prime Minister received from India on his recent trip?

Does the noble Baroness agree with the statement by the Europe Minister, Caroline Flint, that the crisis makes no case for joining the euro? On the Lisbon treaty, Europe’s leaders had to make a big decision: to respect the wishes of the people who live there or say that the Irish were ignorant. Is it not shameful that the Irish people are to be made to vote twice because our Government did not like the result the first time, while the British public are not allowed to vote at all?

Was not one purpose of the Lisbon treaty to slim the number of commissioners from one national of each member state? Can she confirm that the conclusions say that the EU will take legal action to ensure that the number will stay the same? The statement says that no legal change is required. If the text means what it says, Ireland has won concessions on tax policy, security and defence, education and social policy. However, the Prime Minister says that nothing has changed. Those statements cannot both be right. Perhaps the noble Baroness can explain. Will the Prime Minister be sending the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, to Dublin to put the case during the next referendum campaign?

Do the guarantees on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, for example, apply to this country? Do they have legal force, or are they just promises designed to gull the Irish people into doing what they were supposed to do the first time around? If they have legal force to modify or add to the treaty, will they be put before the UK Parliament and the British people? If so, when and how; and if not, why not?

On the economy, the Government claim that Britain is uniquely well prepared. Knowing what we now know about No. 10’s addiction to dodgy statistics, one has to ask, “Well prepared for what?” Tomorrow’s headlines, perhaps. If we are so well prepared, why are the high streets of Britain closing down; why are British workers being asked to take pay cuts or face merciless job losses; and why has sterling fallen to another record low? Is it the fault of the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats, or is it because world markets have heard the Prime Minister’s boasts and found them utterly out of touch with the realities of British policy failure? Why is Britain forecast to be heading for a worse recession next year than any other major economy? Could it be anything to do with the fact that, for years, the Prime Minister has been supervising the banks running a policy of spend, spend, spend and promoting a decade of borrowing and financial irresponsibility? Why, again this morning, has the IMF said that there will be no recovery at all in 2009, whereas the Chancellor forecasts a surge next July?

The Government say that the EU leaders agreed with their saviour—always a prudent position—that every country should provide the same fiscal stimulus regardless of its situation. Why, then, does the European Commission statement, to which the communiqué refers, say:

“Those that took advantage of the good times to achieve more sustainable public finance positions and improve their competitive positions have more room for manoeuvre now. For those Member States … which are facing significant external and internal imbalances, budgetary policy should essentially aim at correcting such imbalances”?

Is that not Eurospeak—the noble Baroness will be well versed in these matters—for, “If you’re in a hole, stop digging”? Is it not preposterous in the light of authoritative comments in Germany to say that there is a Eurochorus singing karaoke with their saviour and that the answer to a debt-fuelled recession is to double the national debt? Germany’s Social Democrat Finance Minister has called this crass and mistaken and said that Britain’s debt will now rise to a level that will take a generation to pay off. Tony Blair spent years worrying about his legacy, and so he should have because we are now living with it. Should this Prime Minister not worry about the catastrophic legacy that he is piling up of busted pensions, lost jobs, negative equity and debts piled on debts for our children and grandchildren? When will the Government act to deal with what the Governor of the Bank of England says is the single most pressing challenge: getting banks lending again? Will they now adopt the Conservative Party’s policy of a national loan guarantee scheme, so that we can get business trading and Britain out of this recession?

When the summit is over and the back slapping done, each EU leader has to go back to his or her own country and deal with what the communiqué states are very different national problems. So I again ask the noble Baroness whether she will, on behalf of the Government, accept any part in this disastrous recession and whether she will apologise to those who have lost jobs, savings and homes because of the mistakes that her Government have made and continue to make.

My Lords, I share in the thanks given by the Leader of the Opposition for this Statement and in the expressions of sympathy for the losses of life reported among our troops. I notice that the Canadians also suffered casualties, which is a reminder that this commitment crosses the globe.

This is a very broad-based Statement, which goes from the nitty-gritty of a European Council meeting to important meetings that the Prime Minister had over the weekend in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We welcome the fact that he found time in a heavy schedule both to visit the troops and to have those crucial meetings. It is important that someone such as the British Prime Minister should visit India and Pakistan at this time to make sure that both of them realise that co-operation between them, even if relations are strained, must be the way ahead.

On the European summit, it is always difficult to winnow out the practical advances from the broad wishes of better things to come. I welcome the response from the Conservative Front Bench. I understood from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the Conservatives want to go faster and do more on environmental issues. That is welcome because it will be difficult to get practical advances on some of these environmental targets and, if there is a broad base of political agreement, the more likely we are to achieve them. The Americans are already showing that perhaps some of the answer to economic regeneration coincides with environmental needs. The technology that will be needed to deliver the environmental objectives offers real prospects for new industries and jobs, but we need to see some practical machinery put in place to achieve that. That is why we have been critical of the VAT cut as a misdirected use of public funds when more direct stimuli could have been used instead of that rather blunderbuss approach.

On the state of the pound and the euro, I wonder whether the Prime Minister ever revisits—I still have them stacked up in the corner of my office—the volumes of assessment that he produced 10 years ago that were the killer blow to us even going into the euro. I remember a lot of the predictions at the time from Conservatives and Eurosceptics that the euro was doomed to failure before it was even launched.

One of the things that I welcome about the Statement is the number of times—I did not have time to count them—that Europe and European co-operation are mentioned by the Prime Minister. This is a really welcome change. He spent 10 years being the Iago of this Government, whispering into the Prime Minister’s ears against European co-operation. This council shows that it is a whole lot safer inside the European club than outside, which is why I think that it is sensible in the new circumstances for the Irish to re-examine this. Keynes said that, when the circumstances changed, he changed his mind. Well, the circumstances have certainly changed and the Irish are wise to have another look.

It is a little worrying that Zimbabwe does not seem to have been given much attention. We have to put that at the top of the agenda, as the situation is so appalling. As far as Afghanistan and Pakistan are concerned, the great worry is that, although the Statement contains strong words, President Karzai’s regime has been condemned as one of the most corrupt in the world. Unless he is willing to do something about that, it will be extremely difficult—to turn full circle to the beginning of the Statement—to convince the British people that their young men and women should sacrifice their lives in defence of such a regime. Likewise, in Pakistan, there really has to be practical, on-the-ground activity. I understand it when the Pakistani losses are cited, but much more needs to be done.

This is one of those reports that one gets of business in progress on a whole range of levels. We thank the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister for updating us on that business in progress.

My Lords, I welcome the broad welcome from both Benches opposite for many aspects of the Statement. On Pakistan, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is absolutely right that we must take action against terrorism and ensure our security. That is exactly what the Prime Minister has been doing. It was one of the reasons why he went to Pakistan and India, both to express our solidarity with the people of India, but also to ensure that we are working with the Pakistan Government in making some practical demonstration of a way forward. I cited, in the Statement that I repeated, some practical aspects of that partnership.

The noble Lord mentioned the Human Rights Act. I know that the Lord Chancellor is talking about that but, as to what he is contemplating, I cannot tell the noble Lord at the moment. However, I am sure that we will come back to that in due course.

I am delighted that, on all sides of the House, there is a warm welcome for the movements on climate change. This is an historic part of the agreement in Brussels at the weekend. It bodes well for Copenhagen and demonstrates that we really are showing global leadership. I believe that it will make it much simpler for us to get a good result at Copenhagen next year. That is where we must engage in discussions with India. I do not think that climate change was part of the Prime Minister’s discussions on his very brief visit to India over the weekend. If it was, I will certainly come back to the noble Lord.

The EU’s 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 is not negotiable, and a further 10 per cent is pending a global deal next year. This is a very ambitious package but it sends the right signal to our international partners. We are, as I say, leading by example. Overall, the EU’s renewables target is 20 per cent. The UK’s share of that is 15 per cent, which is a tough target in itself.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, spoke of the much needed opportunities for employment that fighting climate change will bring. As we move forward on the climate change agenda, becoming less dependent on carbon and less addicted to oil, and embrace the low-carbon technologies, more and more jobs will be forthcoming. The agreement reached on carbon capture and storage and the fact that €9 billion, I think, will be put into the scheme represent a real move forward in job creation as well as ensuring that we will become less dependent on carbon.

I turn to the Irish and the treaty of Lisbon. Whether there will be another referendum—and I think that there will—is entirely a matter for the Irish. It is for them to decide. It is not for the other European member states to say that they must have a referendum; it is up to the Irish Government and, ultimately, the Irish people. The EU agreed a package of measures to offer Ireland the reassurance that it needs on the Lisbon treaty, and those reassurances cover taxation, defence, social issues and the size of the Commission. The Taoiseach is now content to go back to Ireland with those assurances. However, these measures do not change the Lisbon treaty, and the legal guarantees are in line with the red lines that we in the UK secured in negotiation on the treaty. We have always said that the EU must listen to the concerns of the Irish people, and that is exactly what is happening.

As for whether the number of Commissioners can be changed without reopening the treaty, yes it can. The Lisbon treaty provides for a reduction in the size of the Commission to two-thirds of the number of member states from 2014, but the same article allows the European Council by unanimity to vary the number of Commissioners. I believe that that is exactly what will be done.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked about others pulling their weight in Afghanistan. It is vital that ISAF is properly resourced. We expect others regularly to review their contributions, as we do in the UK. We welcome the increased ceiling for German troops to 4,500, which was voted through the Bundestag on 16 October, and I believe that France has also approved the continuing presence of its military contingent in Afghanistan. Much more is needed but that shows that we are moving forward.

Both noble Lords mentioned the euro, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, cited a comment made by my right honourable friend Caroline Flint. The Government have always said that we are in favour of euro membership in principle. In practice, however, the determining factor underpinning any government decision on membership of the single currency is national economic interest and whether the case for joining is clear and unambiguous as set out by the five economic tests. I therefore think that we will have to have another look at this issue, with a lot more paper being produced at the relevant stage.

When it comes to the economy, the Statement makes it clear that the Government’s actions are entirely in line with those that have been accepted and adopted by the European Council this weekend, including Germany, which signed up to the package, as the UK did. Just as we have an immense fiscal stimulus, so all the European Union countries will be boosting their economies by 1.5 per cent, which is quite extraordinary. It is Europe’s way of responding to the worst financial crisis for generations. That is why we have problems in this country, as cited by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. It is not to do with mismanagement of this economy, but because the world economy is entering a major downturn in the face of the most dangerous shock in mature financial markets since the 1930s. That is why we have problems in this country and why we are working with our European partners in trying to resolve them.

The noble Lords mentioned unemployment. Clearly, unemployment is not a price worth paying; it is extremely painful for the individuals concerned, their families and communities. That is precisely why we are doing everything possible to keep people in jobs, retraining them when they lose jobs and offering them all the assistance that we can in finding new jobs.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness assure us that, in addition to any military surge in Afghanistan, there will also be a political surge, whereby the contributors to ISAF and NATO will get together to prevail on the Karzai Government to address that Administration’s weaknesses?

My Lords, the political aspects of policy on Afghanistan should always be seen to be in balance with the military aspects. When we talk of policy in Afghanistan, it is both military and civilian. We have to ensure that our European partners work together, including in their discussions with President Karzai, to ensure that the situation on the ground in respect of civilians, civil society, capacity building and corruption in that country is addressed. We will do that politically with our partners.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, whereas this summit communiqué is packed full of constructive and concrete steps on issues ranging from the Irish question to CO2 emissions, and whereas all 27 countries have agreed that this type of close co-operation is essential for us to get out of the recession, there is not a word of recognition of this by the Official Opposition, who seem to be living on a different planet from everybody else?

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend’s comments. It is true that 27 countries are acting together in partnership. We know that the Administration of President-elect Obama will also be acting in the same way. That shows the isolation of the Official Opposition on this particular aspect.

My Lords, the Prime Minister’s Statement talks about building counterterrorism capacity in relation to the Indian subcontinent and about help with new laws. What does the Prime Minister have in mind? Is he talking about an international approach to dealing with terrorism? Does that mean that international communities are now prepared to deal with terrorists who commit heinous crimes and that there is no place for them to hide?

My Lords, I understand that my right honourable friend was talking in terms of the bilateral relationship with India and ways in which we can work together on this issue. However, I am sure that there will be some multilateral aspects, but if I may I will seek further guidance and come back to the noble Lord in writing.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness see any inconsistency between the brave and welcome words on Afghanistan and the apparent delays in defence expenditure on armoured vehicles, especially when there are simultaneous announcements of increased domestic public expenditure?

No, my Lords, I do not see any inconsistency. As I understand it, we have recently spent £700 million on new vehicles for our Armed Forces and are doing exactly what we should be doing. This is always a matter of contention, but in recent discussions with members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, serving soldiers have all willingly said that they are now better equipped than they ever have been.

My Lords, does the Leader of the House not agree that the Opposition’s reaction to what was decided on Ireland is rather a case of looking a gift horse in the mouth? Are not some of the assurances and clarifications offered to the Irish of considerable benefit to ourselves? Are we not happy to see the situation on tax or the non-legal interference of the charter on human rights confirmed by the whole European Council? It surely bears out precisely the point of view of those of us who supported the Lisbon treaty, which was decried during debates in this House in the summer.

Yes, my Lords, I completely agree that the discussions over the weekend have ensured that there is further clarity about these issues. There is absolutely no change; the Irish people had expressed concerns, which have been addressed by ensuring that there is clarity about these very important issues, which were of concern to people in this House when they were debated.

My Lords, I noted that the Prime Minister said that the time has come for action, not words, on terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Do the Government recognise that the time has now come to end the right of UK citizens who are of Pakistani origin to hold Pakistani passports in addition to their British passports? That makes it virtually impossible to track the movements of those who may be planning to engage in terrorism,

My Lords, the noble Lord is speaking in terms of Pakistan and potential terrorism, but whether people have dual nationality is a matter for many countries and will have to be looked at in the round. While I understand the concern expressed by the noble Lord, this is perhaps a simplistic way of looking at things. However, I will certainly take the point back.

My Lords, narratives are quite important, as are the words we use to do with terrorism in sensitive situations. A phrase such as a “chain of terror” that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of the UK is very similar to the narrative we had after 9/11, when we heard of a “war on terror”. Such an expression, coming from powers that have a lot of imperial baggage in very sensitive areas where conflict has raged for many years, is perhaps unhelpful.

The Prime Minister says that he has offered £6 million for assistance which, according to my rather rudimentary maths, comes to something like 0.2 per cent of a counterterrorism budget of £3.5 billion for a country which has a very clear and evident problem, as we have heard from all sides of the House, and a population nearly three times that of the United Kingdom. I suggest that if we were serious about practical assistance, we might need to up that figure somewhat.

The question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is ongoing; it is not trivial. The Pakistani policy-makers have been putting it to me for about 10 years. The problem is simple: people who hold dual nationality passports leave the UK on their UK passport and enter Pakistan on their Pakistani passport, and vice versa. In that way, neither country can keep track of who went when. I have in the past put proposals to the Foreign Office regarding this particular problem with this particular country, and perhaps a few other countries where we have similar problems with security and terrorism. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to find practical ways of knowing who is coming and going, when 400,000 people a year are involved.

My Lords, I will certainly look at what the noble Baroness has said in the past on that last point and come back to her. The amount announced today by the Prime Minister is only one aspect of the support being given to Pakistan. Any support we can give is better than no support at all. This money is being made available very swiftly and is the first step in a particular process. Of course, I recognise the need for sensitivity in terminology, and that the terminology of the “war on terror” was, perhaps, particularly inept. The “chain of terror”, however, perhaps looks at a real situation. I am not sure and I will have to reflect further on that, but I recognise and will take back the points made by the noble Baroness.

My Lords, paragraph 5 on the second page of the Statement quotes directly from the communiqué:

“European action includes speeding up … ‘a continued, general and significant reduction in administrative burdens on business’”.

This is what the last communiqué said six months ago. Can the Leader of the House remind us what administrative burdens on business have been lifted during the past six months, and what she expects to be lifted in the next six months?

My Lords, that is an excellent and important question, not only for this Chamber, but for all the businesses that have too great a regulatory burden imposed on them. I cannot do justice to the question at the Dispatch Box at this moment. I will write to the noble Lord and put a copy of that letter in the Library.

My Lords, I return to my noble friend’s question about the £6 million that has been allocated to tackling the causes of radicalisation. I think that was the phrase used in the Statement. Is one of the main engines of fanaticism not the preaching of mullahs, who incite religious hatred, funded by very large sums of money from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia? Is the £6 million not a drop in the ocean compared to this enormous flow of money from the Middle East? What are we going to do to help Pakistan to tackle that matter?

My Lords, when one puts it like that it seems a small amount. However, this is for work that we are undertaking in co-operation with the Pakistani Government, so it builds on resources that are already there. As I say, it is better to spend that money than not to spend it. It ensures that we work in partnership on these issues. It is important that neither country works in isolation. These are issues that we must resolve together. This is a tangible demonstration of our resolve to do so.