My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:
“First, Mr Speaker, I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan in the past few days. They were: Rifleman Daniel Hume, 4th Battalion the Rifles; Private John Brackpool, Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards; Riflemen Daniel Simpson, Joseph Murphy, James Backhouse and William Aldridge, and Corporal Jonathan Horne, all of 2nd Battalion the Rifles; and Corporal Lee Scott, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment. Three of them were just 18 years of age. It is at times of loss and sadness like these that we become ever more aware of the service and the sacrifice our Armed Forces make for our country. We owe them, and all those who have been killed or wounded in conflict, a huge debt of gratitude.
I want to make a Statement about the conclusions of the G8 meeting, the major economies forum on climate change, and our outreach meetings with African leaders; and I also want to thank Prime Minister Berlusconi for his organisation of the summit. But, first, I will focus on one of the most important challenges considered by the G8. This is a time of great challenge for our Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan. I have written to the chair of the Liaison Committee and placed a copy of the letter in the Libraries of both houses. We are also making time available on Thursday for a debate on Afghanistan. Perhaps I could take this opportunity to update the House on our current strategy and operations in Afghanistan, alongside 40 other nations, and our work with Pakistan.
Eight years ago, after September 11 2001, the case for intervention in Afghanistan was clear: to remove the Taliban regime and deprive al-Qaeda of a safe base for terrorist plots that were a threat to countries across the world. In 2009, the case for our continued involvement is the same—to prevent terrorist attacks here in Britain and across the world by dealing with the threat at its source: that crucible of terror on the border and mountain areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We must not forget that three-quarters of terror plots against the UK have roots in these areas. To succeed, we must succeed in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our strategy, which I set out to the House in April, reflects an integrated approach to both countries. If progress in one is to be sustainable, we must have progress in both. Progress requires three things: military action against terrorists and the insurgency; action to build the rule of law; and economic development to give local people a stake in their future.
In the last few months, the Pakistan Government have taken action, launching successful operations to drive out the Pakistani Taliban from the Swat and Buner regions. While the overwhelming majority of the Pakistani people fully support their Government’s action, operational success has come at a heavy humanitarian cost, with about 2 million displaced. Since we must ensure that that does not become a pretext for radicalisation, we are helping to lead in providing humanitarian assistance to Pakistan for those internally displaced people, combining our support for Pakistani military action with development assistance and help with reconstruction. In Afghanistan, international forces must take the lead in the front line, because the Afghan army and police are not yet able to maintain control alone. Again, our strategy is to combine coalition military action with civilian support for development and training the Afghan forces to take more control.
As the House knows, British troops are today involved in a major military operation, “Panther’s Claw”, fighting to bring security to areas in central Helmand until now beyond the reach of the Afghan Government. American forces are engaged in a similar co-ordinated operation in the south of the province. We are combining our military advance with civilian action. When we go to towns, villages and districts in Helmand, our forces are supported by Afghan army and police who, with our help, can hold the ground we have cleared and prevent the Taliban returning. Our civilian and military stabilisation experts work with Governor Mangal and his district governors to follow up with plans for new roads, clean water, other basic services, and, above all, justice—not the medieval brutality of the Taliban but the rule of law.
Earlier this year, we announced an increase in our numbers for the summer campaign and Afghan election period to around 9,000. Today, the figure on the ground is 9,100, as commanders rotate troops who have been fighting at peak intensity. It is right that those operating in the most arduous conditions are given respite when they need it. We keep our force levels under constant review depending on the operational requirement, and I have been reassured by commanders on the ground and at the top of the armed services that we have the manpower we need for the current operations.
I spoke with President Karzai yesterday. He expressed his condolences at the loss of precious lives in Helmand and I urged him to make available this summer, in addition to the 500 already involved in “Panther’s Claw”, more Afghan army personnel for operations in Helmand, so that our hard won gains can be fully consolidated. Our troops will continue to face a tough and dangerous battle and we will continue to give their safety the highest priority. Since 2006-07, we have increased funding to the Afghan operation—it is from the Treasury reserve and in addition to the defence budget—year on year from £700 million, to £1.5 billion, to £2.6 billion, to over £3 billion this year. That is over and above the defence budget of over £30 billion. The Chancellor has made clear that all urgent operational requirements will be met. In the last two years, we have increased helicopter numbers by 60 per cent and, because we have provided more crews and equipment, we have increased capability by 84 per cent. Since 2006, we have spent over £1 billion in urgent operational requirements for vehicles, including 280 Mastiffs, which offer world-leading protection against mines and roadside bombs. We will go further this year with the deployment of the new Ridgeback vehicles and of Merlin helicopters. We have just agreed a £100 million programme for the upgrading of Chinook helicopters.
As the Chief of the Defence Staff has said:
“The British Armed Forces are better equipped today than they have been at any time in 40 years”—
but we are ever not complacent. Our troops operate in a dynamic, ever changing environment. This Government and our military commanders recognise the need to adapt as conditions develop. Despite the tragic losses of the last two weeks, our commanders assure me that we are having a major impact on the Taliban in central Helmand and that morale is high. But our brave service men and women know that taking the fight to the enemy as they are now doing, to prevent terrorism on the streets of Britain, will inevitably put them in harm’s way.
The majority of recent casualties have been sustained, not in direct confrontation with the insurgency, but from improvised explosive devices—and from April we have begun to deploy additional units to tackle this growing threat.
As I made clear in April when I announced for the period of the Afghan elections the temporary uplift to around 9,000 through the summer, we will review that commitment after the Afghan elections, with the advice of our commanders and in discussion with our allies.
And at the same time we will continue to strengthen our approach in the ways set out in our April strategy: by better campaign continuity, further improvements in civilian-military integration, the closest possible co-ordination with American forces, and above all by a gradual shift towards training and mentoring of the Afghan army and police.
At the G8 meeting, all members agreed on the importance of the work now being done in Afghanistan, and I talked directly with President Obama about the challenges we face together.
It has been a very difficult summer, and it is not over yet. But if we are to deny Helmand to the Taliban in the long term, and if we are to defeat this vicious insurgency, and by so doing make Britain and the world a safer place, then we must persist with our operations in Afghanistan.
I am confident that we are right to be in Afghanistan, that we have the strongest possible plan, and we have the resources we need to do the job.
Let me turn to other matters raised at the G8 summit. The summit will be remembered as the climate change summit where we achieved real progress towards our goal of reaching a global climate change agreement at Copenhagen in December. First the G8 and then the Major Economies Forum concluded that average global temperatures must rise by no more than two degrees Celsius. This is an unprecedented and universal agreement, taking in developed and developing countries alike. It reflects a worldwide consensus unthinkable only a few years ago: that the scientific evidence for climate change is irrefutable and all of us now have a duty to act.
The summit also agreed,
“that developing countries will contribute to a global agreement by promptly undertaking actions whose projected effects on emissions represent a meaningful deviation from business as usual in the mid-term”;
“financial resources for mitigation and adaptation will need to be scaled up urgently and substantially and should involve mobilising resources to support developing countries”;
and that, in order to take this forward, G20 Finance Ministers should work on this further—considering the proposals the British Government have set out, including the Mexican green fund, and reporting back at the Pittsburgh summit in September.
For the first time, the G8 countries agreed the goal of reducing their emissions by 80 per cent or more by 2050, as part of a global goal of at least a 50 per cent reduction; and that,
“consistent with this ambitious long term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions”.
These are the most ambitious targets ever agreed by the G8.
This summit also sent out a second wake-up call on the world economy: strongly reaffirming the commitments made at the G20 in London to take,
“all necessary steps to support demand, restore growth and maintain financial stability”;
pledging “to implement swiftly” these measures, and calling on,
“all countries to act decisively to reinforce the international economic and financial system”.
In advance of the next G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September, the summit laid the foundations for a new “strategy” to,
“lead the global economy to stable, balanced and sustainable growth”,
by acting both “individually and collectively”.
We agreed to,
“vigorously pursue the work necessary to ensure global financial stability”,
with more bank lending, reform and funding of the international financial institutions, and fast progress on regulation of financial services; and we agreed to do what it takes to make progress on growth, on commodity prices and on trade. And we reaffirmed our commitment to a green recovery by,
“investing in measures encouraging the creation of green jobs”.
On development, we agreed that the global recession is no excuse for abandoning our commitments to the poorest. So we reaffirmed our ambitious pledges to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion, and by $50 billion globally by 2010.
The G8 agreed a global consensus on maternal and child health “to accelerate progress” on those millennium development goals where historically we have made the least progress to date.
And, in meeting with leading African nations, President Obama, I and other leaders agreed decisive action on food security to avert a hunger emergency, with a $20 billion package of assistance over three years to support the agricultural sector in poorer countries. And I am pleased to say that the United Kingdom will contribute $1.8 billion to this initiative.
The G8 leaders issued a strong statement on non-proliferation. We welcomed President Obama’s proposal to hold a conference in America next March, before negotiations on the review of the non-proliferation treaty begin, and the UK Government will be setting out their proposals to prepare for this summit in 2010. We said that if Iran does not respond to the international community’s offer of a supervised civil nuclear programme, we will put together a tougher package of sanctions in the autumn. I welcome the solidarity shown by our G8 partners, who agreed that,
“embassies in Iran must be permitted to exercise their functions effectively … without arbitrary restrictions on, or intimidation of, their staff”,
“unjustified detentions of journalists and recent arrests of foreign nationals are unacceptable”.
On Burma, we reiterated our support to do all we can to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The G8 also discussed the measures we must take together to address swine flu.
In the coming months there will be crucial summits: on the global economy in Pittsburgh; on climate change at Copenhagen; and on non-proliferation in New York. If these meetings are to secure lasting change, now is the time for global leadership—to build a new strategy to deliver global growth; to face up to our obligations on climate change and poverty; and to face down those who would threaten our global security.
This G8 has laid the foundations for such progress, and once again—within the G8—Britain has played a pivotal leadership role.
I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I join the noble Baroness and indeed the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the servicemen killed last week in Afghanistan. I also welcome the progress made at the G8 summit in several important areas. The key now is to turn these G8 statements into practice. Agreement and talk are all very well but action is now needed.
The events last week in Afghanistan must be at the forefront of our minds. All those who serve in that country should know that they have the support and admiration of all sides of the House. Is it not time, therefore, to be absolutely clear about what our mission should be? It must be tightly defined, it must be realistic, and the Government must never lose the opportunity of explaining why they think we are there and what our objectives really are. When does the noble Baroness expect this House to be able to have a further debate on the military consequences of British troops in Afghanistan? We must learn the lessons of Iraq and focus predominantly on security and safety, and we must ensure that our troops have the equipment that they vitally need and deserve.
On Iran, we strongly support the Prime Minister’s line on non-proliferation. We know of the threat. The Iranians should disarm. We know all too well of the deplorable post-election violence and the unacceptable treatment of our embassy staff in Tehran. Does the noble Baroness agree that we should take a lead in pushing for new EU sanctions that should be adopted if Iran does not enter into meaningful talks?
The summit focused on the fundamental quartet of trade, the economy, climate change and development. On international development, we on these Benches welcome agreement on the food security plan. This morning, my right honourable friend David Cameron reaffirmed our own commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of gross income to be spent on aid by 2013. It is important to have cross-party and cross-border agreement on an issue that deals with people’s lives and welfare. Will the noble Baroness encourage other countries to do more?
Let us also consider the G8 Gleneagles commitments. By 2010, development aid was meant to increase by $50 billion, with $25 billion of that going to Africa. The campaign organisation ONE estimated in May that by the end of this year countries will be on track to meet only around half of their commitments and that there will be an $11 billion shortfall in aid to Africa. What hope is there for the latest G8 summit if there can be no assurance that the Gleneagles commitments are going to be put into effect? Can the noble Baroness tell us what they are doing to honour this country’s commitments, always bearing in mind that aid must be effective and promote real wealth creation rather than stifle it?
On climate change, we welcome the fact that all the countries signed up to a 2 degrees target for the first time, along with the G8’s 80 per cent goal for industrialised countries. Can the noble Baroness confirm reports that the major economies forum—crucially emerging economies such as China and India—could not agree on the target and that it had to be removed from the final communiqué? If that is the case, what prospect is there of an agreement with these countries before the vital Copenhagen conference in December? Are there not now too many sticking points for us to anticipate a successful solution to that conference?
Perhaps most important was the discussion on the economy. On trade the communiqué says that there needs to be agreement in Doha by the end of 2010. The 2007 G8 spoke of an agreement by the end of 2007, and last year we were told that it would be by the end of 2008. The noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, assured this House last week that,
“the Prime Minister most certainly will be pressing very hard for good, strong, positive conclusions at the G8 in favour of progress in the Doha round”.—[Official Report, 8/7/09; col. 670.]
Is this the positive conclusion that he envisaged? Is it still the case that the only stumbling blocks are now America and India, and if so, can the noble Baroness say what discussions are taking place?
On the domestic front, the G8 discussed financial regulation, support for business from banks, and the need to get the deficit under control. What can Britain be proud of out of these three things? I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister was not offering advice to others. I do not think that any of us is blind to the failure of banks to lend money to those who need it most, but a long-term recovery also means lowering the deficit. Can the noble Baroness confirm the IMF’s finding that this country is heading for the largest budget deficit not only in the G8 but in the entire G20? Is it not the case that we are heading for a deficit of 14 per cent, which is by far the largest figure since the war?
The foundation of a lasting recovery from this vicious recession must be sound banking and sound public finance. Can the noble Baroness assure the House that the Government will acknowledge their mistakes, will finally stop blaming others and take away from the G8 summit the lesson that it is action that this country needs, and not more words?
My Lords, until the last few moments when we had the party-political broadcast, I was thinking, “What a measured statement from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde”.
I have been involved in these gatherings since the 1970s, so I have never been overenthusiastic that any one of them would be the decisive major breakthrough. On the other hand, I have not been as cynical as many about them. I think that it is good that our leaders get together and that there is peer pressure and general encouragement to keep moving forward. From what I can see, despite our media’s ever-willingness to make snide comments about Italy—often actively encouraged by the Prime Minister of Italy—it seems to have been a well organised and effective conference. However, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is right that in terms of tying in what is said at international conferences to what is done domestically, we are looking for action not words.
The House earlier associated itself movingly with the losses in Afghanistan and I have no doubt that Ministers responsible feel as strongly as anyone in the House. However, there must be doubts and real concern about whether there is a tie-up between the strategy being expounded and the supply of men and equipment to carry through that strategy. I echo the call from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that it is time that we had a full debate again in this House on Afghanistan, as I understand that they will in the Commons—not to score party points, but to talk through the issues and to look at whether the kind of commitment that this country is making can be justified and that we can carry the British people with us in it. I worry that if it continues to look like an effort purely by the United States and the United Kingdom, we will lose British public opinion.
I know that there is the emphasis in the Statement on 40 countries being committed to Afghanistan, but I wonder whether, as well as the talks with President Obama, the Prime Minister had talks with any other leaders, European leaders, to see whether we could get some more sharp-end commitment from our allies in what is a battle for the security of us all. On the matter of Pakistan, it is important that we understand that defeat in Afghanistan and further disintegration of order in Pakistan would have massive implications for security here in the United Kingdom. Again, that emphasises the seriousness of the issues at hand.
On non-proliferation, I take a slightly different emphasis from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, although his words on Iran were valid. We now have in the White House a president who really does seem to be giving a high priority to nuclear disarmament. We have the Prime Minister's own group, on which my noble friend Lady Williams has been serving, looking at the British contribution to the review in 2010. This may be one of those opportunities to make progress in that area.
On the climate change summit, as the Prime Minister described it, it is again a question of whether the high words of summitry tie in with what is actually happening in domestic policy. There is still a worry that that is out of kilter. It is important that we get Brazil, China and India signed up on issues concerning the world economy. I welcome what was just reiterated by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I refer to the commitment of the Conservatives to development aid. Their commitment to the ring-fencing of development aid is a major step forward in our domestic politics. We now have an opportunity to play a really positive role in Africa and other parts of the world in development with a broad cross-party consensus.
I have to say that, like most other Prime Ministers I have come across, the Prime Minister now always looks more at ease, more comfortable, at international conferences than he does back home, but within the context of these conferences, it seems to have been a worthwhile weekend.
My Lords, I am very grateful to both noble Lords for their positive comments about the Statement and, most importantly, about the conclusions of the G8 summit. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, it is action and not words that we want, so we will have to wait to see what the summit delivers. Those at the summit pushed for an accountability report on overseas development assistance—there was one report before them, and they are expecting another in the autumn. There is much more focus these days on results and outcomes and not just on warm words.
I will deal with overseas development aid up front, because I am very proud of what we in the United Kingdom are doing to ensure that we meet the 0.7 per cent target. As both noble Lords have said, it is very good that all parties at the moment are committed to it. However, just last week, the Guardian canvassed the parliamentary candidates for the Conservative Party for the next election, and while I entirely recognise that Mr Cameron, his colleagues on the Front Bench and all colleagues in this House are very much in favour of ring-fencing development aid, I do not think that quite the same is true for the Conservative Party candidates.
Our mission in Afghanistan is absolutely clear. My noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton explicitly said at Question Time today:
“Our aim is to stop Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for those who plan terrorism that can threaten security in the United Kingdom. We are there to help Afghanistan become an effective state, with a view to transferring responsibility to the Afghan security forces over time, with international forces moving to a training and supporting role”.
I think that is clear. The noble Lord is right that the Government have to explain their role, but it is in the interests of all of us in this House to explain better what we are doing in Afghanistan. I hear what noble Lords have said about the need for a debate. That will be taken up by the usual channels.
I welcome the support from Members on both Benches for what we are doing in relation to Iran. The current situation may well involve the need for future sanctions, but it is slightly too early to discuss that need at the moment. The E3+3 has made a clear offer, and we await the response to it. However, I hear what the noble Lord says. If sanctions are needed, we will argue for them, but for the moment we wait for the diplomatic way to take its course.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked about the prospect of an agreement on climate change because of the attitude of the MFA. I do not know what the discussions were in the MFA, but the agreement at the G8 was that there is an awfully long way to go before we hit 2050, and who knows what will happen at Copenhagen? The fact is that it was agreed that temperatures should not exceed an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, that developed nations should cut emissions by 80 per cent before 2050 and that the whole world should cut emissions by 50 per cent. That is the first time there has been any agreement on that, so we should celebrate that. However, I recognise that there is a long way to go before Copenhagen, which is where the agreements must be made. I do not know whether agreements will be made before that date.
The Doha round is extremely important. Indeed, it is the linchpin for ensuring the economic recovery of the world. There is the political will to conclude the Doha round in 2010. I know that we have heard that before, but with President Obama in the White House—even though the Americans have some difficulties—the opportunity must be grasped, and we look forward to further progress on this at Pittsburgh.
The noble Lord asked about financial regulations. I am very proud of what the Prime Minister has done to get this country and the world out of the economic crisis. I recognise that we are heading for a large deficit, as are many countries, but we have a clear strategy for getting out of it. We believe that we must invest and continue to invest to ensure that we get out of the economic crisis in the best way possible.
I hear the doubts expressed by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about Afghanistan and our strategy there. I am glad he believes that it can be justified. However, I shall take this opportunity to say that we should all take more pride in what our troops are doing in Afghanistan and to express our sadness at the death of our troops. I have read the statements made by the families of the 18 year-olds who were killed over the weekend. Their families are very proud of these troops and we should keep reiterating our pride in them. This is not something just from the government Benches, I recognise that all Members of this House share that pride, but it is very important to restate it from time to time.
With President Obama giving nuclear disarmament a high priority, I agree that this is an opportunity for the world to grasp and I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is on the Prime Minister’s group.
As for the number of troops that we have in Afghanistan and the need for more, I am confident that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had discussions with other EU leaders in and around the G8 summit to try to ensure that more troops come from other member states of the European Union and other countries. He continually discusses the issue with his counterparts because Afghanistan is not a matter just for the United Kingdom and the United States. It is a global problem and we need a global solution, and we need as many troops from as many countries there as possible. I am very grateful for the support of both noble Lords.
My Lords, from these Benches we would like to express the same pride in the troops who are fighting in Afghanistan and the same sorrow at the deeply regrettable loss of life. My colleagues and I have been pushed by several of those who talk to us to ask why we are in Afghanistan. If the answer is as was given during Question Time—that we are there because we are part of something mandated by the UN—it would be very helpful if that was said more clearly and more regularly. There is a widespread assumption that we are there simply because certain politicians thought that it was a good idea at one stage.
Noble Lords may have had their attention drawn to the new encyclical from Pope Benedict which has come out in just the past week; there was an article by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, about it in the Times this morning. In it the Pope draws attention to the urgent need globally for the UN to be more effective in what it was set up to do, which it has been prevented from doing by certain countries that are rather anxious about what might happen if it really did it properly. From these Benches—I speak for myself and, I suspect, for many of my colleagues as well—we would be delighted if the Government could say a bit more, a bit more frequently, about the way in which what we are doing coheres with a global international strategy, and that is not just something that we, with one or two friends, happen to have dreamt up.
We are grateful also for what we have heard about climate change. As noble Lords will know, several of my noble friends—the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Liverpool, the Bishop of London and others—have spoken on that in recent days. On swine flu, the churches have done a lot of preparation, hoping neither to be alarmist nor retrograde in doing what we are doing but nevertheless making appropriate preparations should there be the kind of national crisis which some have suggested might come.
A couple of other things were said on which I think some clarity would help. It is widely said among various agencies that when the western countries give aid to the third world, quite a lot of it is earmarked for the purchase of goods from our own countries. If that is not so—I see the noble Baroness indicating that perhaps it is not—it might be helpful if we could know what proportion is so earmarked. In the past it has sometimes been the case that aid has been earmarked not least for the purchase of arms, about which many people feel a very bad conscience. It would help if that could be clarified.
Finally, I was expecting to hear something—I may have missed it because the Statement ran by us rather fast—about international debt relief, on which I know the Prime Minister has been very keen in time past. He has spoken movingly and effectively about it at previous summits but I do not think that I heard anything about it today. However, as I and others have said before in your Lordships’ House, when the banks and some other large corporations were in difficulty last year we remitted debts on an enormous scale so that people could regroup and get back on track. Many of us have urged for many years that that should be done for third world countries. It has been done with very good effect for some, such as Tanzania, but there are many others, such as the Philippines, where it remains to be done. It seems to me that it is time to do for the very poor what we already, at the drop of a hat, do for the very rich. Perhaps the noble Baroness will enlighten us on what, if anything, the Government propose to do in that regard.
My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for enabling me again to say that we are in Afghanistan because there is a mandate from the United Nations. I accept that we should be much more up front in saying, “We are there as a part of a coherent global force”.
The Pope and the new encyclical were absolutely right to talk about the urgent need for the UN to be more effective. The Government, with the support of the Benches opposite, have been doing all that we can over the past 12 years to ensure that the UN is made more effective. Trying to get so many nations to agree to changes is rather like trying to turn round a tanker; however, slowly but surely, some are being made. But there is a need for further reform and we shall continue to press for it.
On behalf of the Government, I am grateful for everything that the churches are doing to ensure that we are properly prepared to deal with swine flu.
I can confidently say that these days the vast majority of, if not all, aid is not linked to trade. That strong link was broken some years ago and I can categorically say that there is no link between aid and arms sales.
I do not think that the summit dealt with debt relief. I recall the big three-pronged agreement on debt relief, aid and trade at Gleneagles. As a global force, the world did a great deal about debt relief at Gleneagles but we have now moved on to other things. That is not to say that to some countries, such as the Philippines, it is not still important, but at the moment our focus is on aid and trade. However, we must not forget debt relief and I can assure the right reverend Prelate that I shall take that issue back to the department.
My Lords, I wish to ask a question deriving from what the Statement says about the funding of the Afghan operation. It states:
“The Chancellor has made clear that all urgent operational requirements will be met”.
Who will determine whether a requirement is urgent or insufficiently urgent? Will it be the commanders or the Chancellor?
My Lords, I shall read what my right honourable friend the Chancellor said. He stated:
“You can’t send troops into the front line and not be, not be prepared to see it through in terms of the equipment, the resources that they need … these are things … discussions that we have continually with the chiefs of staff, with the commanding officers, to make sure that these troops are properly supported … we owe it to them to do it”.
So there is a process. The Chancellor or the Treasury are in discussion with the commanders on the ground. There is a process and I am sure that the Chancellor will adhere to that process to ensure that the troops have the equipment as and when they need it.
My Lords, following on from the question of my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew, the Prime Minister’s Statement made clear that the cost of the Afghan operation is £3 billion a year, which is funded from the contingency fund. Is it not the plan that this should be phased out over two years? Basically, that means that for all other defence expenditure we are facing a cut of £1.5 billion next year and £3 billion the year after.
My Lords, this is a very complex subject and I am not entirely sighted on it. I shall come back to the noble Lord, but it is not as simple as he would perhaps say. I do not mean to be rude to the noble Lord but these are very complex issues. I do not think that we will change the way in which the Afghan war is funded in the way he suggests. However, I shall come back to him in writing.
My Lords, further to what the noble Baroness says, it is not at all complicated. The issue is whether or not the funds that are needed to fight the Afghan campaign are to be provided out of the contingency reserve and are additional to the defence budget. Can she confirm that that will still be the case?
Yes, my Lords, as I understand it, that will be the case. The Afghan war is still funded out of the contingency reserve. I again quote the Chancellor when he said that we owe it to them. He said:
“You can't send troops in to the front line and not be prepared to see it through in terms of the equipment, the resources that they need”.
I realise that there is a distinction with regard to the contingency reserve. Everyone is shaking their head, but this is what I am assured by my noble friend behind me, and I will come back to noble Lords in writing.
My Lords, it is certainly a question of money but it is not just money—it is men and women on the ground. If I heard the Statement by the Prime Minister correctly, he said that he felt that there was sufficient in Afghanistan at the moment. We can say that there are 5,000 troops or forces out in Afghanistan, but that is a paper figure. When you take away those killed, wounded, injured and sick, and those moving to and fro, the number comes down. Also, when a unit or a platoon has been slightly decimated, with five or 10 people killed, we do not have an immediate reinforcement programme that I can see. In most past wars, we have always been able to reinforce a unit quickly, within 24 to 48 hours, and not doing so has a very detrimental effect on the unit. What is the immediate reinforcement programme or system for bolstering a unit that has lost quite heavily?
My Lords, it is important to say that morale on the ground is high, but I understand the points made by the noble Viscount. Our response to needs on the ground is swift, and that is demonstrated by the way in which we have just provided 700 extra troops to go to Afghanistan to cover the period of the elections. That is a temporary increase in our number of troops and it is not yet clear what will happen after the elections. That demonstrates that we are able to provide extra troops as and when necessary. I remind your Lordships that we always talk in terms of numbers of troops, but there are many other personnel in Afghanistan, working in development and governance.
My Lords, the Minister has been kind enough to repeat a Statement that the Prime Minister made that one cannot send troops, by inference, into war underresourced. Does she not mean, in view of what has happened, that one should not send troops into war underresourced?
No, my Lords, I absolutely mean that we must not and do not send our troops into war underresourced. Our troops, as the commanders on the ground will tell us, are very well resourced, better resourced now than they have been for many years.
My Lords, the Statement refers to the $1.6 billion which will be contributed towards the food security plan, a figure much to be welcomed. However, does the noble Baroness agree that in the long run, if these intractable issues of food security, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, are to be addressed, it cannot be done just by aid, however generous? Ultimately, it will have to be done by the transfer of suitable technology, particularly in agricultural sciences. This country has a proud record of increased production and still has a reasonably successful science base. The problem is that the priorities are not determined according to the needs of those who need food security. Do we not need to reorganise the determination of how we set our priorities for agricultural research so that we make a lasting contribution to food security?
My Lords, the noble Earl makes an extremely important point which I shall take back to DfID. In terms of food security, the additional money that is being allocated is, I believe, not just for food aid; it is to assist farmers in the countries where aid is needed to produce their own crops. That is precisely where the noble Lord’s point about science comes in. I will take the point back to the department.
My Lords, I think it is the intention of the Canadians to hold a G8 meeting next year when they hold the presidency but, as I understand it, President Sarkozy has suggested that perhaps under his chairmanship the G8 should be in the expanded form of the G14 or the G20.