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Lords Chamber

Volume 722: debated on Wednesday 10 November 2010

House of Lords

Wednesday, 10 November 2010.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.

Mental Health


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to address mental health factors in their public health agenda.

My Lords, mental health is recognised as an integral part of public health. The public health White Paper will set out a new approach to public health, giving mental health the same prominence as physical health conditions such as cancer and heart disease. The Government recognise that there is no public health without public mental health.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Of course, he will recognise that there is a long way to go. Some 50 per cent of all smoking related deaths in this country are attributed to people with mental disorders, and in fact those with mental illnesses account for almost half of all the tobacco consumed. People with schizophrenia and other mental illness have by far the worst outcomes in terms of mortality, losing on average 20 years of their lives. Will there be specific targets in the forthcoming White Paper around the physical health outcomes in terms of mortality and morbidity of those with serious mental disorders?

My Lords, yes. We know that people with severe mental illness die on average 20 years sooner than others and that the majority of these deaths are smoking related. Improving public health is at the core of the Government’s health policy, as I expect the noble Baroness is aware. We will make clear our priorities in this area when the public health White Paper is published.

My Lords, we know that early years development is absolutely critical to whether adults will be vulnerable to mental illness later. What things do the Government intend to do in terms of early development, not just in health but across departments, to try to ensure less vulnerability not only in young people, although that is important, but also in adults, since these vulnerabilities develop early on?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right: this is a cross-government effort. It is not simply for the Department of Health to deal with the issue because just about every department has some sort of remit in this area. I would say that, in particular on the attainment of children at school, we will focus very much on children from disadvantaged backgrounds because there is a high correlation between mental ill health and poverty, and mental ill health and deprivation. That will be a major focus.

My Lords, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that GP consortia have access to the expert advice they will need if they are to commission positive mental health messages and the prevention of mental illness?

My Lords, many GPs understand the issues very well and are keen to get on with the agenda. Our proposed model of GP commissioning means that practices will have flexibility within the new legislative framework to form consortia in ways designed to secure the best healthcare and outcomes for their patients. That will include mental health and could involve, for example, taking commissioning decisions collectively with perhaps a lead consortium for mental health.

My Lords, I know that the number of young people being detained in adult mental health hospitals is decreasing steadily, but can the Minister tell us, first, how many remain, and secondly, what policy will be set out in the framework for seriously disturbed young people who will be contained within the community?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to say that there is legislative provision to ensure age-appropriate accommodation for young people in particular suffering from mental health difficulties. A range of products has been produced by the National Mental Health Development Unit to assist hospitals to meet the legal requirement to provide that age-appropriate setting. It does not mean, of course, that no under 18 year-olds may be treated on adult psychiatric wards as there are circumstances where that is appropriate. But my understanding is that this legislation is being observed and is making a difference.

My Lords, given that two-thirds of the women in prison have diagnosable mental health disorders and that services are currently commissioned through primary care trusts, how will such services be provided once the trusts are abolished?

My Lords, we have just completed the consultation on the White Paper and we have received 6,000 replies. We intend to publish our response before the end of the year, and prison health, in particular, will form a part of that response.

My Lords, the noble Earl has already mentioned children with mental health problems. Does he agree that a parent with mental health problems can have a serious and damaging effect on a child’s life chances? Are there any statistics on how many children are today growing up in families with a parent with mental ill health? If not, will the Government consider collecting such statistics in the future?

My Lords, I do not believe that we collect data on the attainments at school of children with parents who have mental health difficulties. However, we know that severe parental mental health problems are one of a range of risk factors that are statistically associated with poor emotional health. There are some statistics, which I will endeavour to supply to the noble Lord, but my understanding is that long-term outcomes are not particularly clear. Nevertheless, there is evidence that children and young people who are emotionally and mentally healthy and active achieve more and participate more fully with their peers at school.

My Lords, we know that a range of mental health issues disproportionately affect black and minority ethnic communities—for example, the high risk of developing psychosis among the black Caribbean community. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that we have targeted prevention strategies in this area to continue the work of the previous Government?

My Lords, the previous Government’s Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care programme ended in January of this year. That programme was delivered through working in partnership with service users, carers, clinicians and third sector agencies. A tremendous amount of information came out of it and the learning and findings from that programme will inform the work that we are now carrying out on a new mental health strategy, which we plan to publish in a few weeks time.

My Lords, Professor Marmot’s review of health inequalities found that unemployment has a significant impact on both physical and mental health. In the light of that and indeed of the rest of that excellent report, what are the Government doing to implement its recommendations?

My Lords, we very much welcome the Marmot review. Fairness and social justice are both key principles of the coalition Government. The Secretary of State for Health has said that he wants to build on the review’s findings and its six main policy objectives, from early years to ill health prevention. The forthcoming public health White Paper will set out our approach to tackling health inequalities and addressing the wider determinants of health.


Housing: Mortgages


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Financial Services Authority’s new affordability rules, what is their assessment of the current housing mortgage market in terms of the availability and price of mortgages.

My Lords, the Financial Services Authority is engaged in a review of mortgage regulation, the Mortgage Market Review. The Responsible Lending consultation paper published in July, which looked at proposals on assessing affordability, forms one part of this ongoing consultation. The Government will continue to work with the Financial Services Authority, mortgage lenders, intermediaries and consumer groups to ensure a mortgage market that is sustainable for all participants.

Is my noble friend aware that mortgage lending is at a 10-year low? The main reason seems to be that, on the one hand, the lenders—that is, the building societies and the banks—are saying that they require a 25 per cent deposit and that they have to waive certain supplementary income, while, on the other hand, the FSA is saying that it has not prescribed a 25 per cent deposit but is imposing tough new proposals. Will my noble friend bring together these two parties so that couples who want to buy a modest house of, say, up to £200,000 in value, but who cannot possibly find £50,000—which is the 25 per cent requirement—are asked to put forward a 10 to 15 per cent deposit?

My Lords, the level of new gross lending in the mortgage market is above levels seen throughout the 1990s, but, inevitably in this part of the economic cycle, it is low, as my noble friend said. Although loan-to-value thresholds are taken into account by the FSA for prudential purposes, they are not hard limits. The FSA says in its recent consultation paper that no case has been made for LTV caps on consumer protection grounds, and the FSA is not proposing to impose a maximum LTV cap. I note from just scanning mortgage products available on the internet this morning that there is still a range—admittedly a reduced range—of products with 80 per cent and 90 per cent LTV available.

My Lords, will the Government keep in mind that the affordability criteria are important given that in the past three years more than 40 per cent of mortgages have been approved without proof of income? Will they accept that further checks and balances are needed in the mortgage market to protect consumers from mis-selling, and also to prevent another reckless housing boom?

My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord that questions of affordability should be addressed, which is why the FSA is carrying out the consultation. The consultation is due to close shortly and forms an important part of the FSA’s ongoing work to ensure a sustainable mortgage market for the medium term.

My Lords, I am sure that I misheard the Minister, but he seemed to imply that it was inevitable that mortgage lending is so low at this stage of the cycle. There is nothing inevitable about it. The fact is that the banks are not lending as they should and they are demanding 30 per cent and 40 per cent deposits from people with good prospects. What does the Minister think is a fair deposit for a bank to ask a creditworthy borrower to put down to get a fair and affordable interest rate? The banks are not doing it at the moment.

My Lords, it is certainly not for government to make judgments about the right terms on which mortgages should be advanced by individual banks. There is a rebalancing going on from an excessive household leverage which built up in the past decade. There is also a necessity for the banks to price all their products, including mortgage products, at an appropriate margin, because it was quite clear that they were extending a whole range of credit products, including mortgages, at submarket rates before the crisis. The Government’s interest is to make sure that we have a sustainable balance, which means that people, including first-time buyers, can get mortgages on appropriate terms, but also that it is sustainable and does not lead to another bubble. We are following very keenly the work of the FSA in this regard.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, said, many prospective owner-occupiers are unable to afford a deposit and will therefore linger for a decade or more in the private rented sector, therefore increasing the demand and rents in that sector. The Government’s policy is to cut housing benefit to reduce private sector rents, but that cannot and will not happen. Instead, will it not increase the misery for thousands of people?

My Lords, I do not accept the premise that there will be a raft of people somehow prevented from getting on the mortgage ladder for a decade. I have no idea what the basis is for that rather broad and sweeping assumption. The Government are ensuring that we keep interest rates low and that the banks can access the funds they need to underpin a good flow of mortgage lending, as well as other lending, particularly to SMEs. It is for the FSA in that context to ensure that the affordability criteria are appropriate. In particular, we have extended the support for mortgage interest by a further year to January 2012.



Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to provide assistance to the economic recovery of Zimbabwe.

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord’s hard work and commitment to the African continent. The economic situation has improved significantly in Zimbabwe since the formation of the inclusive Government. Hyperinflation has ended, growth has resumed and dialogue has begun with the International Monetary Fund. The UK has played a pivotal role in supporting progress, including providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance. We are also working to boost economic growth, including by stimulating local markets and supporting planned multi-donor infrastructure programmes.

I thank the Minister for her reply and accept the reality of the progress made in the past 18 months. However, does she agree that the situation of the Zimbabwean people is still desperately difficult, with about 80 per cent unemployed and the vast majority living on the breadline? DfID’s contribution for day-to-day matters is substantial and honourable, but is there a prospect of a contribution towards the infrastructure needs of Zimbabwe, which are immense? Is it possible to make such an award conditional on free and fair elections being held in June next year, as has been stated by President Mugabe?

My Lords, I support the noble Lord in his desire for free and open elections. In the mean time, we are supporting the people of Zimbabwe through our development programmes. We are in dialogue with the inclusive Government, but, as the noble Lord knows, we are undergoing bilateral and multilateral reviews of all our programmes.

My Lords, would the Minister agree that the necessary role of the MDC in the economic recovery in Zimbabwe has been much weakened by the recent discovery of huge deposits of uranium in that country?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the European Union common position on Zimbabwe will be under review in February. Does she anticipate that there are likely to be calls for modification of the common position on targeted measures against Zimbabwe? If there are, can she assure us that the United Kingdom will insist that, before any such changes are made, there has to be a serious improvement in human rights, good governance and democracy in Zimbabwe?

My Lords, we agree with the noble Baroness that there have to be improvements in human rights issues. We are in discussions with our EU partners about the future of the restricted measures which, as she rightly says, are up for review in February. Any UK support for the easing of targeted measures will be guided by progress on the ground. These are not sanctions; they are appropriate measures targeted at individuals and entities that have played a major role in the mismanagement of Zimbabwe and in associated human rights abuses. We hope that as progress is made we will able to work much more closely with Zimbabwe.

My Lords, can my noble friend assure us that the bulk of our aid to Zimbabwe goes to projects that the department has identified and can monitor and that it does not find its way into the general coffers of Mr Mugabe’s Government?

Can my noble friend confirm that SADC has still been unable to get ZANU-PF to honour the commitments that it made in the global political agreement? Can she also reassure noble Lords that the ban on ZANU-PF Ministers travelling to the EU will remain in place and will not be lifted until those agreements are honoured—and not “honoured” by easy promises that are so readily dismissed and broken?

My noble friend can feel reassured that we will be working very closely with SADC and South Africa to ensure that the reforms we want to see in Zimbabwe are happening. On his final point: yes, of course, we will make sure.

My Lords, can the Minister explain what support is being given in order to expedite and help with the drafting of the new constitution of Zimbabwe? Does she agree that until such time as a constitution is implemented, there is very little chance of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and that the expectation is that there will be an election in June of next year? Surely, without a referendum and a credible voters’ roll, this is an unrealistic time assessment.

My Lords, it is up to the people of Zimbabwe to ensure that they hold their Government to account; we can only offer assistance to ensure that the processes are as fair as possible. However, we will offer assistance if it is asked for.

Does my noble friend agree that the best way for us to assist in the economic recovery in Zimbabwe would be to offer President Mugabe a safe, comfortable and well looked-after home in Britain?

My Lords, my noble friend’s suggestion is interesting but I think that I will not comment on it further.

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether there are still restrictions on certain members of Mugabe’s family et cetera coming here?

Yes, restrictions are in place on Mr Mugabe’s family members who have been involved in abuses, as there are on some members of the Government of Zimbabwe.

China: Liu Xiaobo


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, and if so how, they will raise concerns about the imprisonment of the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo during the Prime Minister’s visit to China.

My Lords, the Prime Minister discussed the full range of our interests during his visit, reflecting the many-sided dialogues that we have with the Chinese Government. His discussions included human rights. No subjects were off limits.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that all countries that are free and democratic should not hold back from exercising their right to freedom of speech by publicly supporting the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo and demanding his immediate release, the release of his wife from house detention and that his lawyer be permitted to attend Oslo to receive the prize on his behalf? Does the Minister agree that the best way of ensuring that countries can exercise their right to freedom of speech on these issues is by working together with a single strong voice to demand greater respect for human rights in China so that its Government cannot prevent other people from speaking out on these issues, extracting trade concessions at the expense of the human rights of their own people?

We work together with our EU partners in the various dialogues and will continue to do so. As for individual cases, I say to my noble friend that there is a time and a place. It may be that the handling of some of these perfectly valid cases is better done away from the glare of publicity, particularly when heads of state are exchanging views.

In view of the Minister’s first reply, will he confirm that the subject of China’s use of the death penalty was one of the subjects that Mr Cameron raised on this occasion, as indeed he did in 2007? Is the Minister aware that Amnesty International still says that it is impossible to calculate the number of executions that are carried out in China because it is a state secret, but the number runs into thousands?

So far as I understand it, all human rights issues were discussed, and that would certainly include the one that the noble Lord has mentioned. We welcome reports that a forthcoming revision of Chinese criminal law may reduce the scope of the death penalty by 10 to 15 non-violent crimes. In our language, of course, that would not necessarily be enough but it is something to welcome, and we hope that China will continue to limit the scope and application of the death penalty.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, while he is right that there is a place and time for delicate discussions, China does itself no favours in barring other people who are not related to this particular instance from travelling? I raise the plight of Mo Shaoping and He Weifang, legal scholars who were due to come to London for a legal conference, who have no visas for Norway and were not in any sense going to draw attention to the Nobel prize; they have been barred from coming to a conference here, although they are entirely legitimate and innocent. We must defend the right of people to travel and to mix with the rest of the world, while at the same time being sensitive towards China.

My noble friend puts it extremely well. I have a long list here of individuals whose particular problems have arisen and whose instances have been raised by our ambassador and our representatives at different times. We will continue to press for an enlargement of freedoms and human rights with the Chinese, but there are different ways of doing it and my noble friend is right: some are best done publicly while some are best done in a more sensitive way.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask two questions. First, have the Prime Minister or any member of his entourage met any Chinese dissidents in the past few days while they were in China? Secondly, does the Minister agree that members of the public who are interested in human rights in China might look at the human rights overview on the FCO website? That is exactly what I did today, and I was interested to see that the latest update was that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has discussed human rights with China’s Premier and that Foreign Secretary David Miliband has spoken to his counterpart on the same subject. Does the Minister think that that really is prioritising human rights in China?

I do not know whether the noble Baroness slipped into a time warp; it sounds as though the website did. I will look into that. When I glanced at the site this morning I thought that I saw a more up-to-date version, but strange things happen in the cyberworld of the internet. It may be that the noble Baroness was misled by the machinery of the FCO’s website. I will examine it to see what went wrong.

I do not have any information on meeting dissidents. The visit is continuing and I do not know what the rest of the programme will involve. However, I will write to the noble Baroness when I have precise information on that, as opposed to the other official-level meetings about which we have already heard.

Is my noble friend aware that if we seek to impose our views excessively on other sovereign states we may set a precedent for some of them to impose their views on us, and that many states, particularly those which observe Sharia law, might have some fairly strong comments to make about the state of our society in this country?

In answer to my noble friend, I saw a Matt cartoon this morning suggesting there might be Chinese concerns about overcrowding on railway carriages in the United Kingdom. So there is always room for two-way commentary on how other people live. However, the point is that our commentaries are about our own standards and they are put forward in a spirit of friendship and support. As the Prime Minister made absolutely clear, we are not in the business of going round lecturing and hectoring other great nations and great powers about how they should organise their affairs. But we can give friendly advice, and friendly advice is usually quite welcome.

Legislative and Regulatory Reform (Regulatory Functions) (Amendment) Order 2010

Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Motions to Refer to Grand Committee

Moved By

Motions agreed.

Immigration (Biometric Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Asylum (First List of Safe Countries) (Amendment) Order 2010

Motions to Approve

Moved By

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 11 October and the draft order laid before the House on 12 October be approved.

Relevant Document: 3rd Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 8 November.

Motions agreed.

Contaminated Blood (Support for Infected and Bereaved Persons) Bill [HL]

Order of Commitment Discharged

Moved By

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that nor has any noble Lord indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Piracy: Operation Atalanta (EUC Report)

Motion to Take Note

Moved By

That this House takes note of the Report of the European Union Committee on Combating Somali Piracy: the EU’s Naval Operation Atalanta (12th Report, Session 2009–10, HL Paper 103).

My Lords, for those of us who have young children, or even grandchildren, pirates are a great topic of play, conversation, enjoyment and reading, particularly in children’s books. Those of us who go to the cinema might see Johnny Depp or Keira Knightley playing roles in films set in the Caribbean. We enjoy that fun and think of piracy in terms of skulls and crossbones, sailing ships, the Caribbean, gold bullion, pieces of eight and possibly parrots. However, piracy nowadays is nothing like that at all; it is modern day and real. In many ways, it constitutes job sharing, as Somali pirates are sometimes fishermen, sometimes people traffickers between Yemen and Somalia and sometimes pirates. It is a very different trade and a very dangerous one that threatens not just individuals but international trade and security on the high seas. It is in that context that Operation Atalanta was started at the end of 2008—it is about to reach its second anniversary.

Let me give the House some background. Some 25,000 vessels a year pass through the Gulf of Aden and on into the Indian Ocean, so in some ways the 47 vessels that were hijacked last year and held to ransom seem a very small number. The 30—the number will probably be slightly larger by the end of the year—that have been hijacked during 2010 again seem a very small number in comparison with the 25,000 vessels passing through. However, that in no way represents the scale of the problem and the sore that this is to the carrying on of free trade and free movement across our oceans. For instance, as we speak, there are more than 400 detainees—people who are being held for ransom as hostages. Ransoms have risen from something like £2 million per vessel to £3 million per vessel from last year to this. There is an increasing amount of violence and the pirates are increasingly sophisticated, using mother ships and various ways to get round the technology and the forces that the western world in particular deploys. There are all these issues and some are getting worse.

Operation Atalanta is the first European naval operation and our committee reports that it has had considerable success in that, although the number of hijackings remains approximately the same, the number of attacks has gone down. The EU Atalanta force is just one of three in the area: there is also a NATO force and there are the combined maritime forces led largely by the United States. The great thing is that all these three operations, together with a number of individual navies from as far and wide as China and India, have been working closely together to overcome this problem. That is the good news. However, we also have on the other side the fact that the radius of pirate attacks is spreading far away from Somalia itself, out into the Indian Ocean. What the Navy often calls the risk-to-reward ratio—the amount of money that can be gained set against the risk of being caught—is very much still in the pirates’ favour, despite all this international effort. However, there are also a number of agreements—two at the moment, with Kenya and Mauritius—under which pirates who are captured can be prosecuted. Those processes are moving forward as well, although there are some questions in this area on which I shall come back to my noble friend the Minister.

As I said, we have a number of good things happening, but the problem is far from solved. When the committee visited the operational centre at Northwood—this operation is very much run by the British military—we saw how well the situation room operates. The co-operation was not just between different national militaries but also with the merchant navies of many nations. That side is working extremely well and I congratulate Northwood on its operations and, in particular, the past commanders, Admiral Hudson and Admiral Jones, who appeared as witnesses before the committee to present their case and who ran Operation Atalanta very successfully.

Our report brings out a number of issues that we feel could still be put right and where matters could be improved quickly and effectively, often without greater resources.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Everybody will be grateful to him for bringing this important issue to the House. Does he agree that it is quite absurd that the taxpayers of the European Union should be supporting the deployment of all these warships in the Atalanta task force and that the lives of our sailors should be at risk in this way while we do absolutely nothing to inhibit the payment of ransoms to these pirates—for example, using the money-laundering rules, the terrorist asset-freezing rules or whatever other mechanisms might be available to us—and while the pirates continue to accumulate their ill gotten gains with complete impunity?

I thank the noble Lord for his intervention; in fact, I should like to come on to some of those issues, because they are important. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is nodding strongly and I am sure that he will intervene on some of those areas.

A key point is that this is a personal and dangerous issue to a number of people, not least the Chandlers—the two British subjects being held in Somalia. I should be interested to hear from the Minister about any progress there, as real lives are threatened. There is increasing violence and a risk that lives will be lost, either of hostages or of naval forces. Perhaps I could come back to that.

On the areas that the committee saw as particularly important, not many people realise that one of the prime objectives of the EU Atalanta force is the protection of the United Nations World Food Programme’s deliveries of key aid into Somalia, without which much of the Somali population would hardly be able to survive at all. In this area, all the vessels delivering aid have been protected successfully, yet many of them, because of the World Food Programme’s tendering system, are among the slowest and least capable of even staying afloat; they are often delayed for many days in port, while our own expensive and otherwise-to-be-used naval forces are waiting to convoy them in and out of those ports. We feel strongly that there should be an agreement in the tendering process that vessels delivering aid are up to the international standards of modern shipping, so that they can be properly guarded and therefore not so susceptible to piracy. Also, the EU naval forces should be able to board those vessels, rather than having to use a whole ship or asset to protect a vessel. That is an important area.

At the moment, there are no unmanned surveillance vehicles or aircraft that can be used. Understandably, they are not available to the United Kingdom forces because they are being used in Afghanistan, where the mission is more important. However, we believe that other EU forces could put such vehicles into operation and be far more effective in seeing and predicting attacks.

We believe that the insurance industry in particular is not taking enough responsibility for the vessels that it insures. The industry does not put enough pressure on international shipping to comply with best practice for vessels moving through the area. The statistics show that, for captains who comply with the strong procedures for booking in, going through the Gulf of Aden at certain times and being looked after by naval vessels, the rate of being hijacked is extremely low by comparison with others. Therefore, insurance companies should ensure that the best management practices are complied with by commanders and captains of vessels moving through the area. Improvement could well be made by the industry in various other areas. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, will talk about that.

The EU’s Operation Atalanta has been a reasonable success, but I should like to ask the Minister one or two questions. First, on prosecutions, many people ask, given all the resources that we put in, why, when we capture pirates or people who clearly have that purpose, they may be sent back to Somalia to reoffend, although their boats may be sunk. In Kenya, a number of prosecutions are taking place. It would be useful for the committee and the House to have an update on that. However, the agreement is faltering. Although it seems to be reconfirmed by Kenya every now and again, where is it actually going? Has the Mauritius agreement now been concluded and how are we going to make sure that pirates who are captured are properly prosecuted, jailed and removed from the scene?

The key thing that the report underlines is that this problem will not go away while we have a lawless state in Somalia. This sore will be there not just this year but next year and the year after, unless we are able to solve the problem of a failed state that is clearly unable to police its coastline. We all know that there is no easy solution, but I ask the Government how they see the international mission to assist the Somali forces progressing and what other areas of international co-operation they think can achieve what is needed.

The EU’s Operation Atalanta, as I understand it, is about to be extended for another two years—the proposal will come before the Council in December. Although our committee has not yet considered it, I personally believe that that is the right decision. However, I warn this House that, if we do not solve this problem, there will be a number of dangers ahead of us. One is that we have, in ransom and hostages, a whole black market and black economy, involving very large sums of money. We do not know where that money goes. It certainly goes into criminality and no doubt some of it goes into supporting very poor communities, but there is an ongoing risk that this money will be diverted and used by others for terrorism.

A second concern is that, although so far there have not been deaths of crew members and hostages, the committee believes that this is a very real prospect for the future. However good we get at finding ways around and avoiding hijacks, at some point lives will be lost. This means that this subject must remain a top priority for all of us.

Thirdly, it will not just be us here in Westminster, in this House, who are looking at this problem and seeing that an estimated £100 million was raised by piracy last year. Elsewhere in the globe, this will be copied in other failed states or in places where the writ of government does not extend throughout the territory. I know that there have already been incidents off the coast of west Africa. This is a cancer that could grow.

We like to see Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and pirates on our cinema screens and we like our children and grandchildren pretending to be under the skull and crossbones. However, this is a dangerous area, particularly for those hostages—some 400—who are held at the moment. It is a problem that the world community must solve. Operations such as the EU’s Operation Atalanta may be successful, but they are sticking plasters. At the end of the day, the core of the problem is about bringing failed states into proper government. I beg to move.

My Lords, before I left Sub-Committee C, I was very concerned that this report was going to be both inconsequential and thoroughly wet; I am afraid that that is what it has turned out to be. It is inconsequential because its main findings are that everything should carry on as it has been over the past few months. As my noble friend Lord Teverson pointed out, things are not improving in any way whatever. I would have been much happier if this report had shown courage in trying to change the way that we are dealing with this very serious problem.

The report, as my noble friend Lord Teverson has indicated, called for additional resources—as all reports like this are liable to do—but that is flying in the face of the fact that certainly the Europeans are cutting their defence budgets in every direction. UAVs are in very short supply. Certainly, the British could not produce them, because if we have any we want to use them in Afghanistan. I do not know whether any other European countries have spare UAVs. Everybody wants helicopters, and our strategic defence review has cut the number of capital ships that the Royal Navy will have, so we would ask for more resources more in hope than reality.

My noble friend Lord Teverson referred to the risk/reward ratio for Somali pirates that was mentioned in the report. It is extraordinary that it is almost impossible to catch any of these pirates. You have to catch them in the act of committing piracy, which is extremely difficult. It is not legitimate, if you catch a small boat with ladders and grappling hooks and God knows what else, to say that this indicates that these people are pirates. All that you can do in those circumstances is confiscate the ladders and grappling hooks, if they have not already been thrown overboard before you capture the boat. The risks that Somali pirates run of being caught are very small. We will have to see whether the 400 who are awaiting trial receive any significant punishments. We should make no mistake: the law enforcement going on is not much of a disincentive to these pirates.

The rewards—the millions paid in ransoms—amount to multiples of lifetime earnings for Somali fishermen. The rewards are extremely high for these people, and the risks have not been developed nearly enough. The stakes must be raised. It was extraordinary that the report said it was a very good idea if uniformed military people went on cargo ships, presumably so that if they were attacked by pirates, they could shoot at them; but that it was not a good idea to use civilian security guards to do the same thing—although, as we know, civilian security guards in these circumstances might have been people in uniform a few months earlier, and just as well trained as any of the military. There is a hang-up about this. The International Maritime Organisation and the shipping industry do not like the idea of using armed security guards, but we must do this. There is a moment when pirates approach a ship to attack it when they are extremely vulnerable. At that point, a guard with a machine-gun can create appalling havoc in that boat. We must start raising the stakes, otherwise we will get absolutely nowhere.

My noble friend Lord Teverson referred to the fact that the violence is now increasing. This blows away the idea that somehow, if we use violence against pirates, they will increase the violence that they use against us. We are at the moment collapsing under every threat from the pirates, yet still the violence is increasing. In the evidence given in the back of the report, I mentioned that I had listened to a programme about a merchant captain who had been attacked by pirates. He was sprayed with AK-47 machine-gun bullets on his ship, and two rocket-propelled grenades were fired. One of them missed the bridge and the other went into a fuel tank. The tank was empty, which I said at the time was probably a good thing. As noble Lords will know, if you have a fuel tank with a lot of fumes in it, you can end up with an explosive mixture which can blow apart a ship. If the tank had been half-filled with fuel, that probably would have been the most likely thing to have blown up the ship completely. These people are not mucking about. They are playing a very dangerous game and we are treating them with kid gloves. I fail to understand why.

I also thought that the whole attitude of the report to paying ransoms was unbelievable. We said that we should go off and employ professional ransom negotiators. Has it not occurred to members of the committee that if you do this, you are merely feeding the dragon? You are encouraging more people to go out and kidnap people on ships and ask for ransoms. It would have been better if the committee had shown a bit of courage and said that we should stop paying ransoms because, until we do, this piracy will go on indefinitely. Why do we recommend that armed military personnel should go on merchant ships but not private security guards who carry out precisely the same operation?

This is a disappointing report. It will do nothing to reduce the amount of piracy in the Red Sea and I regret that I came off the committee and could not express my views more forcefully there.

My Lords, that was a typically combative and robust contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton. Like him, I have now left the committee. I have a somewhat more positive view of the report than he does, although I can see that it was rushed at the end because of the imminence of the general election.

I had the honour of visiting Northwood Headquarters on two occasions, one with the committee and another with the European Security and Defence Assembly committee. I have also on two occasions in recent years visited Somaliland on a governance mission. I was struck at Northwood by the degree of co-operation between the military and the private sector—ship owners, oil companies and so on—and, as the Government stress in their reply to the report, the unprecedented international co-operation in the region.

Atalanta is a European Union operation commanded by the UK, based in the UK and relying on a UN mandate. I hope this experience of the first CSDP naval operation will lead the Government to have a warmer attitude to the worth of the CSDP. The EU exercises both hard and soft power with an array of military and civilian instruments. It is not a threat to either the United States or NATO; indeed, the US welcomes the EU CSDP operations, while NATO provides the Berlin Plus arrangements to assist.

Overall, the committee was impressed with the operation but highlighted a number of shortcomings, some of which have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson: for example, maritime surveillance, including helicopters; UAVs; and tanker and medical facilities. The government reply points out that at a meeting on 10 June there were agreements “in principle” in this sector. I ask the Minister when we will see real progress and not just agreement in principle.

The evidence before the committee revealed certain matters for further exploration. First, there was a lack of available interpreters. We have a Somali diaspora in the UK of 300,000 people. Surely it would be possible to find some interpreters within this community.

Secondly, there was a lack of sufficiently robust response from the insurance industry, whose representatives seemed extraordinarily complacent. I anticipate that my noble friend Lord Sewel will have one or two words on this matter. Why not vary the premiums according to the degree of compliance by ship owners with advice and best practice?

Thirdly, there was the need to improve the quality and speed of the vessels chartered for the World Food Programme. Again there was an agreement in principle but nothing much appears to have happened.

Fourthly, perhaps the experts too readily rejected the citadel concept of fortifying a part of the ships so that the pirates have to spend more time. On 12 September, US Marines re-took the MV “Magellan Star” as the crew had hidden themselves safely in a secure room below deck.

Fifthly, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has suggested, perhaps the main failure has been in dealing with pirates who have been captured.

There has been a relative worsening in the position. In 2009, there were the highest ever number of attacks by Somali pirates—over 200 attacks, with over £40 million believed to have been paid in ransoms. Currently, 19 ships and more than 400 civilian hostages are being held. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, suggested, it is not true that no one has been killed. Indeed, one yachtsman was killed last week because he refused to board a pirate vessel. Perhaps the Minister could indicate whether that person was, as some suggest, a British national. Certainly the South Africans say that he was not a South African national.

What has been called the “legal shambles” has been recognised by the UN Secretary-General, who at the end of August appointed Jack Lang—not only a French politician but a distinguished professor of international maritime law—as his special adviser on piracy. Lang, as is his wont, has been most active since and will report to the UN Secretary-General by the end of January. The officials to the committee and elsewhere praise, of course, the agreements reached with Kenya, Tanzania and the Seychelles, and others are being negotiated, particularly with Mauritius. The truth is that impunity is the norm and the cost benefit remains very substantially in favour of the pirates. The crews of warships routinely release the pirates after throwing their arms into the sea. Six hundred or so pirates have so far been released and will no doubt be back in the water within a week or so. Obviously, we in Europe do not wish to fill our prisons with Somalis, but there are allegations that these local agreements are in disarray. The Government reply that Kenya has announced publicly its decision to continue, but some commentators doubt that this will happen. The Seychelles did indeed sign an agreement in February but on condition that those convicted are imprisoned elsewhere. Will the Minister confirm that Mauritius, after several months of deliberation, has still not reached a decision?

Yet the needs are vast. The UN report published in July stated that 2,000 prison places are needed before the end of next year. Surely, as the UN report argues, there should be a step change—perhaps Somali courts in third countries or increasing contributions from ship owners. The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, has offered Somaliland—which is of course effectively independent, although not recognised as such—and Puntland substantial aid if they co-operate against the pirates, and the UN has already refurbished some prisons there. One naval officer to whom I spoke suggested that the solution might be an island off the Somali coast, fortified by the UN and EU but under Somali sovereignty.

In short, we should not be carried away by the evidence of partial success. The situation has only been stabilised. We need new and intensified initiatives, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, suggested, the starting point is as Jack Lang stated on his appointment: “Piracy is a symptom”. Mr Lang also said:

“We have to attack piracy at its source—poverty, instability, the growing presence of Al-Qaeda in south Somalia”.

In replying, will the Minister say how valid the allegations are that western companies have contributed to the problem by illegal fishing, pillaging the Somalis’ fishing resources, and dumping toxic waste off the coast of Somalia, removing the livelihood of Somali fishermen? What is being done to counter this? We should also recognise the real danger of increased regional instability. I cite the bombing in Uganda and the evidence of financial irregularities in Kenya. The African Union and regional organisations such as COMESA point out the hidden cost to the countries of the region of increased insurance premiums—apparently more than £400 million for Kenya. The Wall Street Journal reported on 11 September that terrorists have moved beyond taxing pirates’ receipts to direct piracy themselves.

Surely we need to go a step further beyond the current containment, which was the theme of the recent African Union conference. This conference recognised the comparative failure of the current strategy and the dangers of increased terrorist activity. Let us be realistic about Somalia itself. The internationally recognised Government, the TFG, controls only a few blocks in Mogadishu, and are now themselves subject to splits. According to a recent Chatham House speaker, a country of 9 million people needs a stabilisation force of 100,000, not AMISOM’s 5,000 to 6,000 Ugandan and Burundi forces, which now have an excessively limited mandate.

We need to look seriously at the status of Puntland and particularly at Somaliland, the old British protectorate with its capital Hargeisa. Somaliland is a relative haven of stability in that benighted region. It held democratic elections on 26 June—88 per cent of the 1 million-plus electorate voted—and it has a free press. An article in Le Monde diplomatique on 1 October, comparing Somalia with Somaliland, stated:



“is a failed state, the other”—



Somaliland, working as it does in a pretty democratic way, is one example of how Somalis, given the chance, can rule themselves in a proper way. The Somalis in Kenya are extremely enterprising, particularly in shopping malls and real estate, although sometimes one wonders where they get the money from for these particular enterprises. The international community should consider renewing the recognition of Somaliland, which was briefly independent in 1960.

Finally, as Rear Admiral Condreau, the naval force commander, has argued, the international community should consider taking action on land against pirate camps on shore. Equally, it should consider further steps to help fund the coastguard service in Somalia; this was the theme of a German conference of the DIW in July. The government reply says this has already started. The international community should also initiate a robust anti-money-laundering operation and further capacity building within Somalia, particularly Somaliland and Puntland, in prosecutors, courts and buildings.

Yes, the report shows some success, in spite of the formidable obstacle of 3,000 kilometres of coastline to be policed. It shows a limited but impressive military operation, but we should not allow ourselves to be carried away. We must recognise that, if we are to proceed beyond the current containment, we need greater resources, a greater commitment and more innovative thinking.

My Lords, I, too, have to join the club of past members of the committee, so I am really pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. It enables me to place on record my appreciation of the efforts of the witnesses in our inquiry, who gave their evidence with great clarity and in great depth. We gained a better understanding of these complex issues than would otherwise have been possible.

With the passage of time, our inquiry has to be seen in perspective. The evidence was taken between November 2008 and March 2010. Now, some eight months and a general election and a change of Government later, I think we should take stock of the developments over time. In that regard, I think the publication of the report of the United Nations Secretary-General just two weeks ago is particularly timely and helpful.

Our inquiry highlighted the fact that one of the strengths of the EU Operation Atalanta, headquartered at Northwood, was the clarity of its mandate. Visiting Northwood, as we did under the guidance of our chairman—and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on his report—we found it was really clear that the group of naval officers drawn from several navies, working together with merchant shipping specialists, were operating as an integrated team, unlike anything I had ever seen before. This occurred under the very effective leadership of a British admiral, Rear-Admiral Hudson, who I thought was doing an amazing job.

Atalanta’s mandate is quite clear. To summarise it, it is to support humanitarian aid to Somalia through the World Food Programme, to support supply ships to the AU mission, AMISOM and the TFG, to protect the world merchant shipping transiting a high risk area and, finally, to deter, disrupt and break up pirate groups. This last objective is clearly proving to be the most challenging.

In delivering the framework of Operation Atalanta, the Royal Navy has rightly earned universal praise. The Navy’s experience and credibility has been an outstanding feature, in the best traditions of the service. Having spent my youth in Portsmouth, noble Lords will understand my affection for the work of the Royal Navy. There is nothing new about acts of piracy, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, pointed out, and the Royal Navy’s engagement with piracy on our vital trade routes is part of our history and heritage over hundreds of years. The days when East India merchant ships could be disguised as a Royal Navy ship of the line by painting them black and white around their gun ports are long gone, and so are the guns, but piracy always was and remains vicious, cruel and intensely criminal.

As the inquiry has shown, Somali piracy is as much linked with events on the land as it is with taking valuable prizes at sea. The Secretary-General confirmed in his report that more than 20 nations, together with the EU, NATO and the League of Arab States, as well as international shipping and related agencies have all been engaged in the UN-led assessment and recommendations to tackle Somali piracy. They have helped to develop anti-piracy and counterpiracy measures as part of an overall strategy of the Djibouti peace agreement, contributing to the long-term solution for the country.

As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also mentioned, in evidence to our inquiry, the number of successful pirate attacks was given as steady at, I think, 48 in 2008 and 43 in 2009, with a 100 per cent record of protecting World Food Programme ships. Comparing that with the UN report eight months later, 164 attacks were reported in 2010, of which 37 were successful, mainly in the western Indian Ocean. The number of thwarted attacks rose by at least 70 per cent, which shows some measure of success.

We can confirm that Operation Atalanta has proven to be a credible force in combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It is not perfect, it is not absolute, but it has made some credible steps. Let us bear in mind that we are considering one of the busiest marine channels in the world, with one-quarter of global trade being carried, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned, on about 25,000 ships every year. It is a vital marine artery and an important supply route from the Gulf of Aden into Europe and the United States, carrying up to 100 ships a day.

By establishing an international transit corridor with credible shipping management and policing, as has been done through Operation Atalanta, piracy activities have effectively been pushed further out to sea—as much as 1,500 miles into the Indian Ocean. Clearly, there never could be enough warships to police the tens of thousands of square miles of sea involved. Much more still needs to be done with and by the shipping industry to counter this long-range piracy, which brings me directly to the point that noble Lords have mentioned on the topic of capacity shortfalls.

In 2010, pirate activity has increased with the development of the concept of the mother ship, able to tow two or three attack skiffs behind and allowing long-range attacks on larger merchantmen much further out at sea. The availability of long-range surveillance patrol aircraft has been mentioned. It is true that that is essential to the operation’s ability to track down deepwater pirate activity. Marine patrol aircraft were the asset that the operation felt was needed most, but to enable a full daily sortie in the Gulf of Aden, there was a minimum threshold of three patrol aircraft over and above ship-based helicopters. This requirement has not been met and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, points out, probably cannot be met because those resources are just not available. At the time of the inquiry, as well as an absence of patrol aircraft, the EU had no access to unmanned airborne vehicles either, although the US apparently had some at a base in the Seychelles. Perhaps in his response, the Minister can bring us up to date on where we are with that.

As the report has noted, it is a measure of the success of Atalanta and of other international forces that pirates have been forced to operate further offshore, increasing this risk-to-reward ratio with the use of more easily identifiable mother ships. With pirates now roaming extraordinarily long distances from their home shores, the number of successful hijackings versus the number of attempted hijackings has dropped from 50 per cent to around 25 per cent. At the same time ransom demands are increasing together with the duration vessels are held and, much more worryingly, threats of violence to crews.

The vice-chairman of the Oil Companies International Marine Forum, Jan Kopernicki, speaking recently in Parliament at Westminster, was concerned that as pirate activity intensified, there was a growing danger of civilian seamen being killed. He believed we were approaching a tipping point and that, should great violence and possibly deaths occur, civilian seamen would basically take the view that it was not worth the gamble to take up contracts to sail ships through this area. With the latest payment of ransoms of more than $11 million to release just two ships and the total ransoms now paid being somewhere in excess of $150 million, does the Minister acknowledge that we are reaching a point where discussions need be had with the international marine insurance industry over the investment that it could make to enhance the capacity of anti-piracy measures to reduce the risks to the industry and, therefore, the cost of insurance? In the latest release of a Saudi supertanker, the value of its cargo was put in excess of $150 million, which gives us some idea of the figures involved.

The inquiry has recorded similar concerns with shipping arrangements for the World Food Programme. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, mentioned, the small, slow ships it tends to charter may be cheaper but they are far more vulnerable to attack and thus more costly to protect. The proposal that shipping companies should make a contribution to enable the WFP to charter more suitable vessels has to be welcomed, strongly supported and pressed for, as do proposals that ships’ flag states should allow military personnel on board WFP vessels bound for Somalia. It is almost a return to the 18th-century piracy prevention custom, perhaps, to allow armed men on board, but in the last three years EU, NATO, and Russian Federation warships have escorted 110 ships chartered by the World Food Programme, carrying over half a million tonnes of food to 1.8 million Somalis. To their great credit this protection has been provided at no charge.

Clearly, the spread of piracy in Somalia and the Horn of Africa will not be reversed without addressing the root causes. There is a good deal to do to overcome instability and the lack of the rule of law. The United Kingdom, together with the EU, is a member of the International Contact Group on Somalia, supporting the efforts of the fledgling transitional federal Government and the African Union’s AMISOM towards establishing a peaceful environment, but this does woefully less than it needs to to bring the stability that we need. There is no doubt that capacity-building is the key issue. The EU is taking a comprehensive approach but the causes of the fighting and insecurity in Somalia are deep-rooted and complex. We have to give the Somalis the means and the incentive to gain peace and security through the TFG by their own actions in due course.

Piracy in the region has had an immense impact on the economies of East African nations. The severity of the problem off the coast of Somalia is a relatively recent phenomenon but it will be with us for a long time to come and has the potential to become far worse unless the international community and Somalia address the root causes. In this regard, it is disturbing to find that even this week the UN reports on human rights issues in the Horn of Africa highlight the abduction of children by armed groups in Somalia to be taken not now as child soldiers but as child pirates to supplement the resources of the businessmen who operate the piracy scene off the Somali coast.

My final comment is that we should look carefully again at the work of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. He makes the point very strongly that there is an urgent need to address and combine vital sea-based and judicial counterpiracy measures, which are set out in his report and, as has been highlighted in this debate, in support of the Djibouti peace agreements. Maritime security needs complementary action inshore and in the zone between the coast and international waters in addition to counterpiracy action on the high seas. Increased Somali capacity on land and in inshore waters needs to be linked to institutional strengthening of the security sector. In particular, there needs to be economic development to provide alternative activity in the maritime environment, especially among the young, to lure them away from the pirate economy.

My Lords, the whole House will want to welcome the 12th report of the European Union Committee entitled Combating Somali Piracy and the introductory remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The report is timely and urgent, and it is clear from the preceding speeches that those who served on the committee have done us all a great service in bringing this important issue before us for debate. I read the report against the backdrop of two public lectures I have chaired for my university over the past 12 months, and here I declare an interest. One of those lectures was given by the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, the former Minister for Africa, and the other by General Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of our Armed Forces. Both said that they suspected that if there was going to be the deployment of an international force anywhere else in Africa in the future, it would be in Somalia. Both pinpointed that country as being one of the most dangerous places in the world today.

I was also struck, when I was in Africa myself in September visiting southern Sudan, southern Ethiopia and Lake Turkana in the north-west of Kenya, by how frequently I heard the refrain that Somali insurgents had been responsible for often low-level crimes but also killings, cattle raiding and rustling, thus adding to the destabilisation of many parts of that already destabilised area of Africa. So I turned to what I think was the most important point made by the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Chidgey, about the root causes. The executive summary states quite baldly that:

“There will be no solution to the problem of piracy without a solution to the root causes of the conflict on land in Somalia”.

In her evidence, the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, confirmed that:

“the EU was pursuing a ‘very comprehensive strategy’ to tackle Somali piracy and its root causes, which were instability and lack of rule of law”.

Paragraph 61 of the conclusions states:

“It is clear that without addressing the root causes of the conflict in Somalia, piracy will continue to flourish”.

That was a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, in his evidence:

“The real answer is that this is a product of conditions on land in Somalia and obviously what we have got to do is press on with our political-cum-development efforts to stabilise Somalia and to deal with the authorities in Somalia proper”.

He added:

“We are cautiously encouraged that we are finally getting some traction on a political strategy for the country”.

However, that evidence was given on 19 March 2009, and certainly the reports referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, in his speech and to which I will return later in my own remarks, do not demonstrate that any optimism about the situation in Somalia is called for at the moment. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, has to say about his assessment of the current situation.

I want to talk about the root causes of this failed state. The United Nations independent expert on Somalia calls the situation,

“One of the most difficult humanitarian crises in the world”,

stating that Somalia’s human rights situation is “deplorable”.

Power over most of the country has passed into the hands of the Islamist group, al-Shabaab. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, said earlier, the transitional federal Government have neither the effective power nor the capacity to deal with many of the systematic abuses that are taking place. Somalis experience severe restrictions on freedom of opinion and press; they face capital punishment, human rights violations and gender-based crime—female genital mutilation is performed on 91 per cent of Somali girls. Children have been recruited and taught how to assassinate and how to plant bombs. In violation of both international and African regional human rights law, al-Shabaab threatens, unlawfully punishes and kills civilians, including journalists, who it sees as sympathetic to the transitional federal Government, or who do not conform to its interpretation of Islamic law. Almost no area of existence escapes al-Shabaab’s gaze.

A report compiled by the human rights group, Jubilee Campaign, which I helped to co-found, details how al-Shabaab has outlawed activities as trivial as dancing at weddings, playing football, watching television, storing pictures on cell phones and sporting western clothes or hairstyles. One report claims that a patrol even jailed a group of teenagers for playing Scrabble.

Academic freedom is not respected and some schools have been penalised for teaching so-called “western” subjects, including English and science. The right to freedom of assembly is also denied. In many areas public gatherings are prohibited unless al-Shabaab has organised them, and those who protest al-Shabaab’s edicts are harshly punished. In 2009, al-Shabaab violently dispersed a peaceful protest against the outlawing of the chewing of khat, arresting 50 people in the process.

Most Somalis are too afraid to oppose al-Shabaab. Human Rights Watch aptly refers to a “climate of fear” prevailing in Somalia, citing one Somali who told it that,

“we just stay quiet. If they tell us to follow a certain path, we follow it … anybody who does not follow their beliefs they call a traitor and kill”.

While, in theory, Somalia’s transitional federal charter calls for freedom of speech and press, in reality these are very limited. Freedom House states that objective reporting in Somalia is a “rarity”. Somalia is regarded as the deadliest country for journalists in Africa. According to the National Union of Somali Journalists, nine journalists were killed in 2009 alone, and at least three of those killings were targeted. Al-Shabaab is also reported to have closed radio stations and occupied the offices of those it suspects of sympathising with its opponents. Many journalists have chosen either to leave Somalia altogether or to exercise rigorous self-censorship.

But if press freedom has been suppressed in Somalia, so has religious freedom. The majority of Somalis are moderate Sunni Muslims of a Sufi tradition. However, with the help of foreign jihadists, and often through violence, al-Shabaab has been forcing extremism on communities under its control. As for minorities, Somalia’s small Christian population has experienced discrimination, violence and detention because of its beliefs. In particular, those suspected of conversion face harassment and even death. In 2008, al-Shabaab beheaded 11 people accused of converting to Christianity, and it also killed one man for possessing a Bible. In 2009, the insurgents executed a clan leader for alleged apostasy and beheaded two sons of a Christian leader. The non-governmental organisation Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked Somalia number four on a list of countries with the worst records on Christian persecution in 2010, following Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Members of other Muslim groups were also targeted by al-Shabaab. The UN Security Council’s Monitoring Group on Somalia reported that al-Shabaab has,

“attempted to ban Sufi Religious practices”.

Since 2008, al-Shabaab has destroyed a number of graves belonging to Sufi saints and clerics, as well as banning the traditional Islamic celebration of Maulid and arresting 50 Sufi clerics for breaking the ban. Al-Shabaab is also reported to have killed Sufi clerics, officials and civilians in acts of targeted religious violence. For example, in 2009, members of al-Shabaab gunned down Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim “Elbuur”, a prominent religious leader, allegedly for his moderate Islamic views and his condemnations of violence.

Al-Shabaab’s fanatical religious agenda has also led to the implementation of a crude version of Sharia law, resulting in the cruel and degrading treatment of countless Somalis. All activities considered immoral or contrary to Islam are targets for corporal and capital punishment. Amnesty International reports, for example, that, in 2009, members of al-Shabaab flogged women for wearing bras, claiming that it was against Islam. Attention is directed particularly towards extra-marital sex, punishable by flogging or execution. Theft is punished by amputation, and the renunciation of Islam is punished by execution on the grounds that certain texts prohibit such activities and endorse their corresponding punishments. The level of abuse is staggering. In contempt of international law, al-Shabaab is reported to have carried out numerous amputations and other forms of violent punishment, often in front of community members whom they force to attend. In 2008, for instance, al-Shabaab gathered hundreds of spectators in a football stadium to watch a stoning for alleged adultery, imposing the death penalty for actions such as extra-marital sex. That is clearly contrary to international law. UNICEF reported that the girl in question was only 13 and had been sentenced to death after being gang-raped.

Women suffer deplorable treatment. While all society has been affect by al-Shabaab’s repressive measures, women have been hit the hardest. Reports of sexual and gender-based violence are widespread. I have mentioned female genital mutilation, but domestic violence is reported to be a major problem. There are reports of rape being on the increase in some areas. The key issue is that there is no functioning judicial system to which women can turn, and victims of rape are often stigmatised as impure. Law is enforced by the demand of payment of blood money or forced marriage between the victim and the perpetrator.

Somalia has also generated human trafficking, child soldiers and refugees. There are reports of systematic forced recruitment of civilians, including children, into insurgent ranks. All warring parties are accused of swelling their ranks with child soldiers. UNICEF has expressed concern that the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia is rising, with widespread recruitment from schools and madrassahs and among street children. Al-Shabaab recruits children deliberately and systematically. In March 2009 alone, it was reported to have recruited 600 children. The insurgents train and use those children to carry out assassinations and to plant bombs. As the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said, they are also now recruited to join pirate crews.

As for refugees, today’s November update from the UNHCR gives a glimpse of the situation. It has issued an urgent appeal to Kenya to halt the refoulement of Somali refugees. It states:

“UNHCR remains very concerned over the fate of the more than 8000 Somalis who were ordered out of the Mandera area of northeast Kenya at the start of November. Initially most moved into the no-man’s land between Kenya and Somalia and refused to go further. As of 5th November it appeared however that some have dispersed, while others are believed to have fled into neighbouring Ethiopia”.

What can the Minister tell us about their fate? The update continues:

“In his speech to UNHCR’s executive committee, in October, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, appealed for Somalis to receive international protection in line with the updated eligibility guidelines that UNHCR issued earlier this year. Those guidelines point to the very substantial risks for anyone being returned to central or southern Somalia”.

Are we assisting in that process?

The situation inside the country fuels the exodus of refugees. In Mogadishu, civilians suffer from repeated, inaccurate and indiscriminate exchanges of mortar fire between warring parties. Numerous civilians have been killed and many injured, and their homes, hospitals, schools, mosques and marketplaces have been destroyed. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch highlights the use of improvised explosive devices and indiscriminate firing of mortars into densely populated civilian areas without regard for either civilian lives or the international law that seeks to protect them.

Lest the House imagines that Somalia’s violence is simply an internal matter, let us recall that Somalis are increasingly responsible for terror attacks in other countries. On 12 July, 74 people died in a bomb attack in Uganda believed to have been orchestrated by Somali terrorists. Piracy, which has been a serious problem since 2005, has fuelled the terrorism and the criminality. Somali piracy now looks like a sophisticated and organised multi-million pound industry. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime considers Somali piracy,

“a serious organized crime problem”,

and warns that it has been,

“feeding national organized crime networks”.

In addition to piracy, Somalia has reportedly become a “free economic zone” for all kinds of smuggling and trafficking: drugs, arms, natural resources, hazardous waste as well as people. The same boats used for piracy are used to smuggle migrants from Somalia to Yemen and to bring arms and ammunition on their return journey to Somalia. The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia suggests that the smuggling of migrants, especially across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, has resulted in numerous casualties. Smugglers pack hundreds of Somalis and Ethiopians into small vessels, throwing tens of people overboard when they enter troubled waters. In 2006, the Independent newspaper reported that dozens of corpses were found floating in the Arabian Sea every month, often with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs.

This is not a marginal issue to be wished away or ignored. As the Committee rightly recognises in its timely report, unless the root causes that destabilise the country and degrade Somalis are tackled, we can expect to see more acts of piracy—acts which are simply a manifestation of something far more fundamental, a deadly dangerous internal situation in Somalia, which the international community cannot afford to ignore.

My Lords, first, I should say how much I enjoyed being a member of this sub-committee, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton. I learnt a great deal, although what I learnt rather depressed me.

There is no doubt that the piracy problem in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean remains a significant threat to international shipping. We have to recognise that we are in this for the long haul; there are no quick fixes to the piracy problem in that area. We have to remember that Yemen is becoming more of a threat in the area. Certainly, Operation Atalanta has helped to reduce the level of piracy, but I agree with the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton—and I declare an interest as an adviser to a private security company—that unless some international shipping is prepared to put guards on its boats, the piracy problem will remain a significant threat. Those guards would have to be properly trained and registered.

This will be a long-term problem. Separating the problem of piracy from the problems on land in Somalia is extremely difficult, because the Somalis are a ruthless, successful enemy and well capable of changing their tactics and methods of operation. They have never been used to a strong Government. I am also worried about internal instability in Yemen, which, in my view, will increase the threat and is not going to be defeated easily. With the combination of Yemen, piracy and the problems on land in Somalia, we must recognise that if we in the international community are going to do anything, we are in this for a very long haul and will require considerable forces to do it.

In all this, good intelligence is absolutely vital. We are improving our intelligence co-operation. Collection has improved, but why cannot we get a Gulf country, if need be, or a European nation to provide proper maritime surveillance aircraft, as that is the main intelligence gap? It is rather sad that we are cutting Nimrod from the capability of the future equipment programme of our Armed Forces. If the European Union or NATO cannot provide that capability on a rotation basis, we must recognise that a significant gap will remain in our operational effectiveness. We should talk to our Gulf allies, as some of them have quite sophisticated maritime intelligence-gathering capabilities, and ask whether they would be prepared to help, particularly given the problems increasing in Yemen.

I should be interested to learn from the Minister what other capabilities the Government believe are required to improve the operational effectiveness not only of Operation Atalanta but of the protection of shipping itself. Would the Government be prepared to have guards on board ships, if they were properly trained? That would be a great improvement in the capability.

Furthermore, have we talked to the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia about how they tackled piracy in the Malacca straits? I am told that the problem may be on the increase there, although they clearly dealt with it at one stage. I wondered whether there were any lessons that we could learn from that. Other noble Lords have spoken about the World Food Programme’s use of small ships and the requirement for greater military protection. I hope that we will manage to do something to make them co-operate more clearly with Operation Atalanta.

Finally, much has been said on this by others, but will the Minister say whether we are being realistic in thinking that the Seychelles and Kenya will try these pirates and whether that will have any real impact on their operational effectiveness? I shall not repeat much of what has already been said, but I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for what he did in leading the team. I believe that this is an issue that we need to stay with, because it is not going to go away anytime soon.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my friend and neighbour, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge. Although I am now a member of Sub-Committee C, sadly I was not a member when this report was put together. However, I am at the same time a rapporteur of a committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and a year ago I presented a report on behalf of one of its committees on the Somali piracy situation, which was accepted by the Assembly. This weekend in Warsaw, at the annual meeting of the NATO Assembly, I shall again be presenting a report, which is entitled Maritime Security: NATO and EU Roles and Co-ordination.

I have spoken here before about the need for much closer co-operation between NATO and the EU. In some cases, that co-operation continues to be abysmal. The lack of co-operation between NATO and the EU is often explained away because of the situation with regard to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, but in spite of that I believe that there should be no reason not to have much greater co-operation in certain fields, especially now that France has rejoined the central command structure of NATO. As an example—this has nothing to do with Somalia—in the Mediterranean, NATO and the EU both operate, on one hand with FRONTEX and on the other hand with Active Endeavour. However, the separate activities there, although similar, are barely co-ordinated. It is true, I think, that NATO and the EU work together a good deal better in Somalia than in other places, so that is a start, which I very much welcome.

The situation off the Horn of Africa is becoming even more worrying—I agree with many of the things that my noble friend Lord Hamilton said about that. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to the continuing, very serious situation: the number of kidnapped seafarers; the fact that 2010 is likely to be worse than 2009; the almost £100 million that the terrorists got last year; the widening area of pirate activity; the problem of arresting Somalis cruising around in small boats with heavy weapons and no fishing nets and therefore no evidence to convict when they throw their weapons overboard; and the hesitant legal process in Kenya and other places. We badly need to encourage the development of much better international legislation to enable the prosecution of suspects to be made easier. Introducing photographic evidence of weaponry being thrown overboard in certain designated areas in prosecuting a criminal offence might be one way of doing it.

Of course it is true, as others have said, that the long-term solution to this problem lies in the establishment of a much firmer Government in Somalia, but other, wider things can be done in the mean time before we achieve a major improvement in that field. We heard a moment ago from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, about the Strait of Malacca. Somalia is, of course, not the only place in the world where maritime safety and security are challenged. Although to a lesser extent compared with Somalia, there are also significant piracy problems in Nigeria and off the coast of Indonesia.

I want to say a few words about the need for new initiatives to achieve a better maritime security picture worldwide, which includes ways of trying to improve the situation in Somalia. First, I am sure that there is a need to address the current gaps in the type of information that is collected on maritime flows. Currently, only commercial ships over 300 tonnes are required to use the automatic identification system transponders. These are gadgets that broadcast the basic information of a ship’s destination and cargo. If smaller ships, which are widely agreed to be most likely to be used to support illicit activities at sea, were required also to use these AIS transponders, that would significantly help to develop a comprehensive picture of maritime traffic.

Secondly, there is a need for better information sharing. There is a good deal of agreement that information is not shared as well as it could be and that there are far too many obstacles and difficulties in the sharing of information. There are political difficulties, largely because of the reluctance of some states, which we quite understand, to share information with certain participants in these sorts of difficulties—one does not need to mention names. There are legal difficulties with, for instance, data protection rules and restrictions over sharing information that arises from commercial sources or from criminal investigations. Here, again, we have problems with rules of engagement, which brings us back to the possibility of prosecutions.

Thirdly, there are technical difficulties that make it hard to share crucial information, such as the use of non-compatible or non-interoperable systems. Again, there has been reference to the lack of UAVs. I have been told in the past that there was a possibility of UAVs operating out of the Seychelles, on the return journey from the Gulf or wherever they have been, to be used in their journey back across the ocean.

We need new efforts to minimise these difficulties at both regional and international level and to increase information sharing on maritime flows and activities. With regard to Somalia, some good initiatives have already taken place. The European Union’s maritime security centre on the Horn of Africa and its Mercury web-based information tool, as well as the shared awareness and deconfliction mechanism, have already been extremely useful in improving the sharing of information, in breaking down some of the barriers and in fostering exchanges between the military and the shipping industry. My impression and my information are that the inclusion of the shipping industry in recent times has been very productive indeed.

Above all, we need to bring up to date the co-ordination of efforts to improve maritime security overall on a global basis. This does not, of course, mean that we need a new overarching structure—I believe that it can be done within existing structures—but we need different systems and assets to operate better together, whether at national, regional or international level, and a number of political, legal and technical changes need to be made. I hope that the Minister when he replies will accept that these necessary changes and improvements need to happen and that he will be able to tell us that a start on that will be made shortly.

Finally, I very much agree with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, said about this being a long haul. The international community must not sign off as a result of mission exhaustion. That would be absolutely fatal. This is a long haul and we must stick with it.

My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, not least because I usually agree with what he says, perhaps because his wife and my wife are members of the same book group. Leaving aside that rather frivolous comment, he has made very good points. This is a very opportune debate, not least because of the renewal of the Atalanta mandate. I want to concentrate on a particular aspect which other noble Lords have raised. First, I remind your Lordships what the summary of the report says. It states:

“There will be no solution to the problem of piracy without a solution to the root causes of the conflict on land in Somalia”.

It is worth having a look at where we are at the moment, with a record ransom of $12.3 million for two ships and estimates of a total sum of $100 million. Although Atalanta and other operations in theatre can claim successes, the International Maritime Bureau reported that ship hijackings in the world reached an all-time high in the first nine months of 2010. Although we recognise that Atalanta and some of the other operations have been reasonably successful, there can be no room for complacency, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, pointed out. I will come back to something that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said at the end of my speech, but it is worth looking at why we are in this situation and at the history of Somalia.

Somalia is the size of the state of Texas and has a coastline of some 1,600 miles. It is in the Horn of Africa, which, since the opening of the Suez Canal, has been a strategic point between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, and hence from Europe to Asia. Its population is poor, ill educated, belongs to clans and has benefited—if I may put it like that—from the fact that in the Cold War Somalia was part of the Soviet system. Ethiopia, its neighbour, was part of the American system—that changed in the 1970s—so that whenever anyone in Somalia wanted arms they called either Washington or Moscow.

The remains of a Russian—or actually Soviet—base can still be found in Somalia. I shall never forget the after-effects of the Cold War. At the end of the Cold War, Somalia deteriorated into civil war. There was no particular government, there was no particular regime, and the colonial powers had departed. In the end, a federal state and a transitional federal Government were established, which were meant to keep control of Somalia as a country. That has not really worked because Puntland in the north, which is the centre of piracy, has more or less disassociated itself from Mogadishu in the south, which is the federal capital. The south of Somalia is controlled, by all reports—and I would welcome the Minister’s comments on this—by al-Shabaab, a very sinister organisation to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred and which has now admitted, in February of this year, that it is associated with al-Qaeda. That, as I will make clear at the end, is why this is such a serious problem and not just a maritime problem.

Who are the pirates? They are associated mainly with the old fishing industry of Somalia, which was pretty well destroyed by international, big, heavy fishing operators who cut the nets of the local fishermen, blew up the coral and blew up the fish. The only thing a Somali fisherman could do was to capture the ships, which was a very simple operation because there were plenty of arms flying around after the Cold War. Everyone had AK47s or whatever, and there was a big arms-smuggling trade coming from the Yemen. All they could do was say, “People are more valuable than fish”, so they captured the people. This is what happened and what continues to happen.

The pirates form gangs. They call themselves companies, with names such as Somali Marines, Central Somali Coast Guard and Ocean Salvation Corps. These gangs have spokesmen; their leaders call themselves Big Mouth, Silver Tooth, Red Tooth and so on. They are heroes, they are rich. They come into Eyl—the centre of piracy in northern Somalia—and they scatter money around. There are piracy weddings, like the Mafia weddings in Sicily. We have not yet learnt to grapple with this, but we must. There is even a stock exchange that trades shares in pirate companies. Where do these revenues—$100 million—all go? Part of it goes of course to buying arms; there is, as I said, a big arms-smuggling trade across the Gulf of Aden from the Yemen. However, part of it, more sinisterly—5 per cent according to reports—goes to al-Shabaab and finances terrorism. This is where the Government, the EU and the United Nations have to make a serious response, not just to the maritime problem that other noble Lords, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the report have described, but to the consequences of not doing anything. This is, as I said, finance for terrorism.

I quite understand why historically the Somalis have engaged in this form of piracy—or kidnapping as I call it, because they do not involve themselves in the cargoes of the ships, they just want the people. That is why people pay ransom. I quite understand that, but it is a serious problem that has so far been underestimated. If it were just a question of ship owners or insurers paying out large ransoms, we could be relatively relaxed about it. We could say it was a nuisance and a bore, but it is much worse than that. Somali piracy is financing terrorism.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, quite rightly said, there is no quick fix. One thing is absolutely certain, however—I join the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in stating this categorically—there will be no solution unless and until there is effective governance in Somalia, respect for the rule of law, reliable security agencies and alternative employment opportunities for the Somali people. I very much hope that in his response the Minister can show us the path he thinks we should go down to achieve that objective.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, has quoted the Select Committee which makes it clear that without addressing the root causes of the problem in Somalia, we shall not deal with piracy. A precondition for dealing with the root causes must be a functioning and stable central Government.

I congratulate and send best wishes to the new Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, whose appointment by the president was confirmed by the parliament on November 1. He is a member of the Marehan subclan of the Darod clan, which has produced many notable Somalis. He is reported to be experienced in conflict resolution and has offered to begin peace talks with the rebels, in whose leadership the Marehan are well represented, but he has warned the rebels that if they reject this offer, he will drive them out. Judging from the threat last week by one al-Shabaab commander Fuad Shongole that Kampala and Bujumbura will suffer fresh attacks if they do not withdraw their troops from Somalia—the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to the Somali bomb attack in Kampala that cost 70 lives—the dominant view in al-Shabaab must be against any form of compromise. However, in the past few weeks, AMISOM has been gaining ground in Mogadishu and now claims to control half the city. The international community must give Prime Minister Farmajo and AMISOM its full support so that if talks begin, either with al-Shabaab or with individual commanders who peel off, the Prime Minister negotiates from a position of strength. If negotiations prove to be impossible, it will be even more important that the TFG is strengthened and stabilised.

I warmly congratulate the Select Committee of my noble friend Lord Teverson on what must be seen as a practical contribution towards solving this other huge problem that is weighing down the in-tray of the new Prime Minister—that of piracy based on Somali territory. There may or may not be a link, as has been suggested, between the pirates and al-Shabaab, and perhaps my noble friend can tell us whether there is any international investigation of what happens to the large sums paid by ship owners, such as the $12.3 million paid this week to release two vessels and their crews. In spite of the increasing effectiveness of the EU’s naval operation, which has escorted 73 WFP-chartered vessels safely into Mogadishu and has successfully disrupted more than 60 attacks on other vessels, the overall record for the first nine months of 2010 is slightly worse than for the equivalent period in 2009, in terms of the number of ships hijacked. It has also been mentioned that the pirates are adopting new tactics, such as the posting of hostages on their attack vessels, which was reported yesterday when pirates tried for the first time to hijack an EU-escorted AMISOM supply ship. The Spanish escort ship was unable to open fire on the pirates for fear of killing the hostages, and the rules of engagement need to be considered if they do not include an effective response to this tactic.

The Select Committee and the UN Secretary-General in his report of 27 October to the Security Council also agree that much more needs to be done and that the root causes of conflict and instability in Somalia need to be addressed if piracy is to be eliminated. It will be very interesting to hear from the Minister what specific ideas we have for ramping up the pressure on the pirates and for liberating the hostages without having to pay out millions of dollars in ransom, as we are doing now.

Meanwhile, the Select Committee makes several proposals which are not in the Secretary-General’s report. Do the Government normally draw the Secretary-General’s attention to the recommendations of our Select Committees that touch on matters that are before the Security Council? In his report, the Secretary-General appeals to,

“all ships traversing the high seas off the coast of Somalia to follow IMO recommendations and industry-developed best management practices, which have proved to significantly reduce the risk of being hijacked”

The Select Committee goes further, urging,

“that the terms and conditions of insurance effectively reflect the need to discourage shipping companies from failing to follow recognised best practice”.

Should it not be provided that the insurance industry grants cover to ship owners only on condition that they adhere to best practice? It would be useful to know whether the UN has discussed this with the IMO and, if so, what its reaction was.

The second major difference between the two reports is the absence of any mention by the Secretary-General of the capability shortfalls discussed by the Select Committee and referred to by several of your Lordships this afternoon. There is a shortage of tankers that are needed to increase the proportion of time spent at sea by operational vessels; there is a shortage of seaborne medical capacity; and there is a shortage of maritime patrol aircraft to carry out the essential task of surveillance. Ideally, as the Select Committee says, we would be deploying UAVs, as several of your Lordships have said, but EU air forces do not have any, as far as I am aware, and it is going to be several years before the UK and France jointly develop reconnaissance and attack systems—a matter which has been discussed in the papers recently, under the heading of a possible agreement between Dassault and BAE to develop these vehicles.

It was announced a year ago by the Americans that they were operating unarmed Reaper MQ-9 UAVs experimentally in an anti-piracy reconnaissance role from the Seychelles under an agreement with the Government of the Seychelles. Could the Minister say whether this operation continues; whether the intelligence that it provides is shared with NAVFOR; and whether there are any plans to extend the agreement to allow ultimately for the use of armed UAVs, as in Afghanistan? And, if so, what protection would there be for the hostages? That is not an ingredient in the problem in Afghanistan, but it certainly would be if UAVs were to deploy armed attacks on pirate vessels.

There is no mention of the use of geostationary satellites for surveillance, although there are plenty of references to the technology on the web. It should be feasible to identify the large mother boats, referred to by my noble friend Lord Teverson as being introduced now by the pirates, towing several attack skiffs, allowing them to carry out attacks far off the coast of Somalia—they say up to 1,300 nautical miles—and against ever larger freighters. Have the EU, NATO or the US-led combined maritime forces considered satellite observation to pick up suspected pirate operations? What conclusions have they reached?

There are also pirates, as have been mentioned, off the coast of west Africa, where there are easy targets on oil rigs, as we saw only yesterday when five crew members were kidnapped from a rig operated by a British company, Afren. It would be wise to look ahead even if for any reason the technology cannot be employed today.

The Select Committee says that in-theatre co-ordination is working well between the three multilateral operations and the eight individual states that have what the Secretary-General describes as,

“varying degrees of coordination with the coalition forces”.

He concludes that,

“there is a need to expand and formalize the mechanism whereby information obtained by military assets at sea is effectively collected and made readily available to various law-enforcement and judicial bodies”.

The IMO and Interpol are developing guidance on the collection of evidence following acts of piracy. In the mean time, there must be a temporary solution. Perhaps the IMO would be an appropriate custodian of the evidence until an authority is established for that purpose.

Finally, I ask my noble friend whether a bolder policy than the one we are adopting should not be considered. If the AU were to increase the strength of AMISOM to the point where not only could it clear the pirates out of Mogadishu, as it bids well to do at the moment, but could reoccupy the coast as far as the border with Puntland on behalf of the TFG, the pirates' bases along that stretch would be eliminated and the new Government of Prime Minister Farmajo would receive a tremendous boost. Uganda has argued at the UN that AMISOM should have 20,000 troops on the ground and that the Security Council should provide sustained and predictable financial and logistical support for it, instead of the present system of voluntary contributions. It says that piracy would be effectively dealt with by addressing the situation in Somalia itself. This may be a unique moment for putting both the pirates and al-Shabaab on the back foot.

My Lords, this report is another landmark for the European Union committee, just as Operation Atalanta is a flagship of the EU's post-Lisbon foreign policy. Like my noble friend Lord Alton, I will focus not on shipping but more on international development. I congratulate the Royal Navy on leading the European Union's first ever naval CSDP operation involving more than 10 member states. I declare an interest as the uncle of a young RN lieutenant who has seen his share of anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean. I am also a junior member of the EU committee.

The report makes it clear that Atalanta is rated as a limited success in terms of naval performance and protection, international co-operation and the thwarting of attacks on shipping. The operation's objectives could hardly be extended onshore. It would be unfair to conclude that the EU on its own has failed to control piracy or to contain the appalling poverty, insurgency and failure of government in Somalia that allow it to continue. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, piracy is getting more dangerous, and the African Union force AMISOM, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, can hardly be expected to solve these problems unaided. Remembering the US experience in Somalia and in the Middle East, I see no case for scaling up outside military intervention. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, said in his evidence that a large UN peacekeeping force would not just interfere with but could actually disrupt the internal peacemaking process. I would be interested to hear whether the Minister agrees with that, and whether the UK supports a much more subtle EU intelligence role in that internal process. I doubt whether the international community could solve Somalia's internal problems even if it had the necessary will and resolution to do so. This is a depressing thought in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, said so fluently.

Nevertheless, one or two areas of our foreign and development policy could be strengthened. The committee quite properly encourages the efforts of the FCO and DfID to bring stability and good governance to Somalia, and support to AMISOM. This is essential to the general population of Somalia, even if it will have little effect on the pirates.

There are some European NGOs in Somaliland working hard to bring stability, not just through humanitarian assistance but through skills training and job creation. I wonder whether western donors are too timid about investing in education, training and employment for young people in areas which are relatively secure. Will DfID be increasing its development budget in Somalia in line with the overall planned increase and can it do more to invest in these kinds of projects? They would surely prove effective alternatives to piracy and kidnapping in the long run.

Children as young as 15 are being used both as pirates and as fighters in the civil war and, according to the UN, some have ended up alongside adults in Bosaso Central Prison. The new Somali Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, has pledged to stop the recruitment of child soldiers and I am encouraged by what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said. While the TFG troops and their allies remain underresourced and lacking in discipline, however, he will find this an impossible task.

I am not sure the committee paid enough attention to Kenya, given its coastline of 536 kilometres along the Indian Ocean. Kenya’s vital judicial role in providing court facilities in Mombasa is recognised. Soon after this report was published in April, Kenya protested that it could not cope with any more pirates. Through a mixture of international pressure and financial inducement, however, it has been persuaded to continue. Therefore, I ask the Minister to reflect on the capacity of the Kenyan judicial system and its ability to cope, two years on from the memorandum signed by the noble Lord, Lord West. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, have already asked whether the Seychelles, Tanzania and Mauritius are pulling their weight. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has given an answer to some of those concerns.

Are we expecting too much from Kenya, given that it has been working out its own constitutional problems following post-election violence in 2007-08? The ICC prosecutor has been in Nairobi lately and I know that DfID is also investing in conflict resolution in Kenya with a view to the 2012 elections. Can it do more to implement the Waki recommendations of two years ago and finally end corruption in the police and judiciary? These are all relevant to the issue of piracy.

Has enough been done to help Kenya to expand the Mombasa law courts and prisons elsewhere, where 136 pirates are currently held pending trial? The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has made some suggestions about increased capacity in Somalia itself but this has its own dangers. I know that, following the visit of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, the new court at Mombasa’s Shimo la Tewa prison is being funded by several donors, including the EU and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. This is encouraging.

It is not only pirates and fishermen who cause trouble for Kenya but also Somalis attempting to escape from the fighting. We have heard the point made by my noble friend Lord Alton about refoulement. We should not underestimate the intense pressure on Kenya all along its border with Somalia. Faction fighting among Somalis, with a lot of money changing hands in Kenya, does not always translate into peaceful representation by articulate MPs of Somali origin in the Kenyan Parliament, as I learnt during a visit two years ago.

UNHCR, as we have also heard, says that there were 1.46 million IDPs—internally displaced persons—inside Somalia, mostly around Mogadishu. Recent fighting between al-Shabaab rebels and Somali troops near Mandera has displaced up to 30,000 people, 8,000 of whom are now missing. There are already more than 280,000 Somali refugees in one refugee camp in Dadaab, 90 kilometres from the Somali border inside Kenya. The militias are said to be infiltrating and recruiting in that camp. Again, we should be more aware that the conflict in Somalia continually threatens to destabilise a country which we generally see as a strong anchor of east African security and prosperity and as a cornerstone of the Commonwealth. I am grateful to the committee for giving me this opportunity to mention Kenya, as I did two years ago, as the Minister may remember.

Incidentally, I am among those who have long argued for a Lords foreign affairs committee and against the argument that the Commons already covers all these subjects. That is simply not true. For example, Somalia, Sudan and Kosovo are obvious examples of urgent foreign policy questions behind the headlines which are ignored by the House of Commons. The progress of FRONTEX is very important as well. Perhaps these matters could be addressed by an ad hoc committee—at least, to start with—in this House. Another reason that I welcome this report is that it fills one of these gaps. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has supported this view over a long period, although I shall not expect him to respond to that point today. None the less, I look forward to his reply.

My Lords, in following the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I share his enthusiasm for Operation Atalanta and also many of his concerns. It was reported only last Sunday that the president of the British Chamber of Shipping, Jan Kopernicki, had warned the Prime Minister of the potential threat to our energy resources from the criminal activities of pirates in the Indian Ocean and in shipping lanes which take a quarter of the world’s marine trade. He feared that the threat from piracy was becoming so great that seamen might refuse to serve in the Gulf of Aden, with a consequent disruption to fuel supplies and the raising of prices for the public in this country.

Be that as it may, his concern in general is echoed by the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, who has denounced the pirates as “a scourge” and has warned that they are setting up bigger fleets to prey on shipping. Last week, he said that some 389 hostages are being held in Somali territory, and our thoughts in this House are with Paul and Rachel Chandler from Tunbridge Wells, who have now been held for more than 12 months by the pirates. Only days ago, we heard the alarming news that the largest ransom so far—£7.7 million—had been paid to pirates for two ships which they had hijacked. The magnitude of such booty can only lure more young men to take up robbery on the high seas. All this calls for a policy of maximum deterrence.

So what has been our response to this growing threat? As part of the coalition’s spending review, we are reducing the number of Royal Navy frigates and removing from our country the capability for maritime reconnaissance by standing down the Nimrod fleet. I note that the Secretary of State for Defence admitted recently, in a debate in the other House, that the decision over the aircraft was “extremely difficult” and that it meant taking a calculated risk on the capability that Nimrod provides.

We were in this situation before when we had no look-down radar over the Falklands, and during the Falklands war that was a contributory factor to the loss of HMS “Sheffield”. In the case of Nimrod, nine of these aircraft, which are among the best of their kind in the world, are coming off the production line almost immediately. I make a very strong plea to the Minister today that these aircraft should not be destroyed. If the decision has been made that the Royal Air Force will not fly them, at the very least they should be sold to allies or friendly countries, bearing in mind that they are the culmination of a £2 billion-plus investment.

The seriousness of the situation that we face makes it very clear, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, that piracy today is a sordid business with none of the spurious glamour of the past. On a much lighter note, I recall that one of my own family, a former Lord Selkirk, was the object of an attempted kidnapping in 1778 by a man denounced as a pirate by the British authorities. However, Lord Selkirk was not at home in St Mary’s Isle, Kirkcudbright, when John Paul Jones, captain of the USS “Ranger” with its 18 guns, came calling with his crew. So instead they purloined the family silver but first had to face the formidable Lady Selkirk, who demanded a receipt from them for all the items they were stealing. The Scots-born John Paul Jones went on to reinvent himself as a person of respectability and distinction, and later returned the silver before going on to become a hero of the American Revolution and being recognised as the father of the American navy.

The situation today is totally different. The criminals and hijackers we are confronted with in the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden extorted some £67 million in ransom last year—a very sad situation. Was it not Rudyard Kipling who said:

“Once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane”?

With this background in mind, we have made some strong recommendations for action in our report. Three of them are of the utmost importance to Operation Atalanta, led by Rear-Admiral Hudson, and deal with the subject of shortfalls in capability.

The first is one already mentioned and referred to in this debate: that additional airborne surveillance with maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters is essential in order to identify suspected piracy activities. Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones would assist, and it has been noted that support provided by Luxembourg from the Seychelles has made a difference. I am glad to see, in the Government’s response, that they share our concerns in this regard, and are working bilaterally, and through the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, to secure additional assets for counterpiracy operations—France having many of them. Addressing this shortfall should be a top priority for the countries of the European Union, which must make the best use of present resources. It is perhaps ironic that this recommendation is made when we know that we might have to be reliant on other countries for photo reconnaissance, but photo reconnaissance, none the less, will be essential.

Secondly, the Admiral confirmed, in evidence to the committee, that more tanker support is required for refuelling in mid-ocean, so as to make the best use of existing assets to provide continuous cover and protection for legitimate shipping. I was glad that the Government will continue to assess the operational mechanisms for providing fuel at sea to ensure that the task force can meet its obligations. I am also glad that the Minister will continue to encourage EU partners to provide tankers.

Thirdly, there was the recommendation that the EU should work out with its member states how best to increase the access to medical facilities needed for surgery and other purposes in order to avoid shortages. It is welcome that the Government are exploring possibilities with our partners to close this gap. I hope that they will give top priority to ensuring that all of these matters remain prominently on the EU’s agenda for action.

We made two other extremely important recommendations. One was endorsed by the former Field Marshal, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge. It was that the World Food Programme should declare as a condition of contract that, when asked to do so, the flag state of the ship concerned would allow authorised military personnel on board to ensure that such vessels would not become prey to piracy. Incidentally, the report also makes the very relevant point that if the World Food Programme could bring forward plans for larger, more modern and faster ships, these would require fewer armed guards and patrolling ships. That would release naval and military resources to carry out piracy-prevention measures elsewhere.

A very important point raised in committee by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, was that the insurance industry should take on board more responsibility for promoting best practice so as to deter piracy. In other words, if ships adopt the necessary self-protection measures, and the terms and conditions of insurance have those requirements incorporated into their contract, then best practice is likely to be followed with a corresponding reduction in the opportunities for piracy.

We may no doubt be told that some of the pirates are merely poverty-stricken individuals trying to scrape a living. I need hardly remind the House that that has been the cri de coeur from armed robbers from time immemorial. The reality is that they constitute a grave and growing threat to life, freedom of passage and property. Our Government, along with other EU Governments, should give top priority to deterring them.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, in an important NATO report last year, stated that,

“pirates operate first and foremost as a ‘business’ and not as a political movement or a paramilitary force”.

What we know for certain is that the relative success of Operation Atalanta has made pirates move their activities to more than 1,000 miles from the Somali coastline. Indeed, I know that they are now operating off the coast of Tanzania, which is a long way further south. This means that those dealing with them have to be one step ahead of their activities all the time.

We completed the report very speedily, within a very short timescale before the election, and we did not have time to consider in depth the case advanced by Russia for establishing an international tribunal or court, but I believe that the Government would be well advised to leave this subject on the agenda. We also did not find out exactly where the proceeds of the £67 million of ransom to free vessels already referred to have gone, but we recommended that the Government continue to monitor the potential risk of funds reaching terrorists. This has been mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Avebury. We have to keep in mind that this is an area which 25,000 ships frequent every year. If European nations do not commit themselves to a strong and united front against the seagoing predators with courage and conviction, we may find ourselves confronted by another golden era for piracy, with all the misery, disruption and loss to freedom which that would entail. We should aim to deter the pirates, not just to disrupt their activities.

I hope that when the Minister replies he will be bold and forthright in speaking up for the EU's naval operation—Atalanta.

My Lords, I think that we have heard enough during this debate to realise that, in relation to Somali pirates and Somalia generally, there are very few grounds for optimism. That is made even more worrying by the fact that we are dealing with a failed state—an almost ideal, typical failed state—in what is emerging as the most dangerous part of the world. That is a real and pressing problem. One difficulty is that so few people have heard about Operation Atalanta, which, with limited resources, is none the less making a significant contribution to tackling one of the key problems that we face. That must be recognised.

On a lighter note, when we were collecting evidence and preparing our report, I was tempted—fleetingly, and I resisted—to suggest that the report ought to be entitled, “Tough on piracy and tough on the causes of piracy”. I am glad that I resisted, but there is a truth in that, because we need a pretty tough and robust military operation going hand in hand with a tough capacity-building and development strategy in parts of Somalia. The two must march together if we are to have any hope of confronting this problem successfully.

Other noble Lords can speak with much greater authority on the military aspects of the report. I underline what has been said about the need to have in place tanker refuelling facilities. There is a danger of a heck of a lot of time being wasted as our ships steam backwards and forwards to refuel when they could be doing the job for longer if they could be refuelled at sea by tankers. Others have mentioned airborne surveillance, which is clearly of great importance.

I want to say something about the World Food Programme. I am a great supporter of the World Food Programme and think that it is one of the best international organisations operating at the moment, but it is short-sighted of it almost to insist on chartering at the lowest price. I can understand the pressures on it to do that, as it wants to spend its money on food delivery and humanitarian aid. However, if it is chartering at that low price, while it is saving itself some direct costs, it does so at the disadvantage of transferring the indirect costs on to the Atalanta operation. I hope that the World Food Programme can respond to the requests that I know have been made. The Minister might be able to help in this. I read that it had agreed to modify its policy, but I am not sure that this has been implemented.

There is also the issue of the role of the insurance companies. I was enormously disappointed when we took evidence from the insurance companies. They adopted an indifference and a detachment and failed to see any sort of contribution that they could make in ensuring that best practice was observed by those trans-shipping in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf. However, if offshore activities are to be met with a greater degree of success, that essentially depends, as many noble Lords have indicated, on changing the reward to risk ratio. I understand and share the frustration of many noble Lords that the constraints of operating within the confines of international law seem to put our people in the position where the greatest sanction that they can give out is something slightly more than a slap on the wrist. Have the Government looked at this and made absolutely sure that, when our military personnel are in a position to be able to identify someone who is going about ready for piracy, they can administer something more robust than at the moment?

The other great weakness is the relative lack of successful prosecutions. I can well understand why some countries do not want to find themselves looking after hundreds of Somali pirates in their own prisons, but it would be useful to know from the Minister the latest figures on successful prosecutions—not just those who are being held—and which states are now fully signed up, because it seems that from time to time some states come in and then subsequently move out of co-operation in this area. Also, what efforts are being made to trace the money? We hear stories of the money being used to finance major retail investments throughout Africa and large houses in Africa and parts of Europe. There is also the central question of the relationship between the ransom money and the financing of terrorism. That must be a fundamental concern. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to give us any information on that, but clearly it would be very helpful if he could.

If there is a solution, it must in large measure lie onshore rather than offshore. Here, we come to the security and development dimension of the response. That must be in the form of trying to create a secure environment within which development can take place. Given the nature of Somalia, I am the first to recognise that we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge. These things are easy to say, but I think that it is going to be exceedingly difficult to deliver. The only heartening information that I have picked up recently came when I was in Ethiopia, talking to a group of ambassadors from EU member states. They all agreed that even now there is a real possibility of investment in parts of Somaliland and possibly Puntland in order almost to establish areas of security within which development can take place and then gradually to build out from there. That is not much, but it is most likely our best bet. I wonder whether the Minister would like to comment on the type of development strategy that he sees as being at all possible to implement in that part of the world, because it cannot depend on using the institutions of a state that basically does not exist.

My noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel made the point that the livelihoods of fishermen in the area have been adversely affected by illegal fishing for tuna by both European and Asian fleets, as well as by the dumping of large quantities of toxic waste in the waters around Somalia. Have the Government any information on this? Has an assessment been made of whether a viable fisheries industry could be established again? If you have a development-based approach, that is going to be an important part of it.

Despite all the efforts of the Atalanta operation—along with others, I pay due credit to the work that has been done—in the longer term we cannot rest on Atalanta as the solution. The solution must come from a combination of capacity building and development, because otherwise we will be left with a limited military containment strategy that will most likely come under resource pressure and be subject to questions about whether it can be sustained indefinitely. I do not speak with any great sense of optimism about this issue, but it is one where we would underestimate its importance in terms of global security in the medium term at our peril.

My Lords, I asked to be put at the end of the speakers list because, due to a longstanding engagement later, I was not quite certain whether I would be able to stay until the end of the debate. If I do have to leave, I apologise to the House and to the Minister. For that reason, I will not direct any questions to the Minister.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his committee for their comprehensive job, and I broadly agree with everything they have said. The subject has been well covered by other speakers, so I would like to confine my remarks to looking at the problem from the shipping industry point of view. As has been said, piracy is nothing new. It has been around for centuries and it waxes and wanes. Going back 20 years, Brazil, west Africa and Indonesia were all causing problems. Pirates then operated on a random and opportunistic basis. They were basically after the cash that was held in the ships—and ships have to carry considerable amounts of cash around the world.

I will never forget when, 20 years ago, our parliamentary maritime group was addressed by a captain from a reputable British shipping company. He had joined a ship in Singapore and the ship had sailed. She was a big container ship, lightly loaded and therefore very high out of the water, and steaming at 19 knots, which is a reasonable speed. It was dark and, when she was about three or four hours out of port, the captain was sitting in his cabin and suddenly found himself confronted by four men in balaclavas armed with AK47s. They knew exactly what they wanted. They said, “Keys to the safe, please, captain”, and he had no option but to take them to the safe and to give them the money. They then asked him to come with them; they went down on to the deck and told him to turn round. He thought the worst—that he would get a bullet in the back of the head—but nothing happened. After a couple of minutes he dared to look round, and they had vanished. One must not underestimate the skill of some of these pirates. I have climbed up pilot ladders on big ships in the dark—that is frightening enough—but to do it in those circumstances is a quite skilful operation.

As we have heard, today piracy is a very different game. It is well organised and run as a business with a business plan. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, said, people are even taking shares in it. We have heard about the huge amounts of money that are paid out in ransoms. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, asked why we could not stop the payment of these ransoms. I understand the United States has done exactly that by executive order, and the rest of the world will watch closely to see how that pans out.

There are, of course, other expenses for the shipping community—the additional costs of security measures and extra fuel costs as a result of deviations due to pirate activity. We should not forget that these additional costs filter down through the market to the high street.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, that we are approaching the tipping point; a major incident could happen at any time involving serious loss of life. If it happened in the Gulf of Aden, it could well lead to a blocking of the most important sea route between Asia and Europe, either through crews not wishing to serve on ships in that area or ship owners being cautious and not wanting to risk their ships. If that happened, it would be similar to what happened when the Suez Canal was blocked and would lead to an 8 to 10 per cent increase in the cost of fuel.

Of course, the main concern of the shipping community is the risk to human life. I shall say a little more about that later. There is also a great humanitarian concern for the seafarers who have been taken hostage. Organisations concerned with their safety and well-being, such as the Mission to Seafarers, are particularly worried about this aspect. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said that one person had been killed on a yacht recently. I understand that a Yemeni hostage, the second officer of a ship, died of malnutrition the other day and that three of his colleagues are in a very serious condition. That is a different aspect. There are two sides to all this.

There is already an agreed system of best practice for ship owners, which appears to be working well but, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson said, it is by no means universal and we must try to educate the more wayward ship operators to take it on board.

Measures of self-defence are made more difficult today because ships are larger than they used to be and generally carry much smaller crews. This is largely due to the cost of crews and alternation. The industry is definitely against having armed personnel aboard ships because this would immediately up the ante. Do we really want fire fights in which some crew will inevitably lose their lives? It might be both cheaper and more effective to have more crew keeping watch, because, if you can see the pirates, you have a chance of doing something about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, mentioned the safe citadel approach, which, it has to be admitted, has worked quite well on two or three occasions recently. However, there is a drawback to it, because the pirates are forever resourceful. I heard that they may deploy plastic explosives to blast the crew out of wherever they are hiding. The strategy also depends on there being a secure means of communication with any warship that might happen to be in the area.

The shipping industry would certainly like to see a reduction in the frequency of piracy and a return to the more sporadic incidence of the past. However, it is realistic and is only too well aware, as has been said by a number of noble Lords, that the problem could easily spread to other parts of the world, largely by imitation.

I join others in commending the work of EU-NAVFOR and Operation Atalanta. I am delighted that their remit has been extended. I know that ships and resources are tight at the moment—we would all like to have more ships—and I fully agree with what has been said about the Nimrods. It is absolutely disgraceful not to spend that amount of money on a very capable aircraft that would be ideal for this sort of anti-piracy effort in the Indian Ocean.

If we build more warships—this point can be developed in the defence debate on Friday—they should be smaller and have a helicopter capability. A situation such as this calls for smaller ships and possibly amphibious ships, which are also going to be chopped.

I do, however, draw a crumb of comfort from the fact that, as both our and Europe’s naval power declines, so it is growing in other areas of the world, notably in India and China. I was surprised to read only this morning that India may have five aircraft carriers in five or six years. The mantle of policing the seas and trying to combat piracy may move to those new navies in time.

My Lords, I join others in expressing appreciation for the endeavours of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his committee. They have produced a valuable report with practical recommendations. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, was being a tad harsh in his description of the report. It was impacted by the date of the general election and it provides a valuable snapshot at least of the situation that then existed. The Government’s response, with which I shall deal, looks at its recommendations and seeks to give us the answers.

Like others, I welcome what both the report and the Government say about Operation Atalanta’s success as an EU commitment under British leadership. We welcome the extension of the mandate for Atalanta and the continuance of Northwood as its operational headquarters.

Although the report’s recommendations are practical from a narrow perspective, it is inevitable that the debate goes much beyond that. I have on occasions in the past thought that Members opposite are better on diagnosis than on providing practical solutions. However, this debate has been particularly helpful. Its premise is one with which we all agree: that the problem underlying piracy in the Horn of Africa is the failed state of Somalia and how that country can be aided back to giving its people a life worth living, thereby making the prevalence of piracy in that part of the world, if not everywhere, a matter of history. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, gave us an important history of the country and spoke of the misfortune that may have been visited by Europeans and others on its fishing industry.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, was right to say that this was going to be a long haul—I think that we all agree with that. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, set out the broad solutions that are required, including better information sharing, better EU-NATO co-operation and better international law on piracy, which all points to international collaboration. Co-operation is the only way in which to deal with the problem.

Noble Lords raised myriad questions, some of which I support and some of which I was going to ask myself. I shall not, therefore, add to those myriad questions, but I do have a couple. First, the noble Lords, Lord Chidgey and Lord Selkirk, raised the point that I was going to raise about the fears of the Chamber of Shipping about oil in transit and the possibility that it could be put in great danger by piracy. That was linked to the question of decommissioning the frigates and, as the noble Lords, Lord Selkirk and Lord Greenway, said, the value that could be kept in aerial surveillance if we could find another solution other than simply scraping the Nimrod aircraft.

In some cases, the Government’s response to recommendations is clear and in some cases it is ambiguous. Recommendation 5 refers to encouraging other nations to provide assets and personnel. Does the Minister have anything to add to show any practical fact or encouragement in that direction? Recommendation 10 refers to how there might be industry commitment and assistance; it refers to the Friends of World Food Programme label. I note that while some recommendations are supported in the Government’s response, this recommendation gets a slightly different response, as it is simply noted for discussion. Within those discussions, are the Government supportive of the recommendation and, if not, why not?

Another point valuably made was on the role of the insurance industry, which was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Avebury, and my noble friend Lord Sewel very trenchantly. My noble friend’s contribution echoed my own view that in that part of the industry an awareness or concern is shown that is shared by almost everybody else. If the Government would like to encourage adherence to best practice, in what manner are they seeking to do that and what is the degree of encouragement they can get from other shipping nations that have industry insurance problems of a similar nature?

A whole series of questions arose on the international collaboration that we seek. I would content myself by asking whether the Government are clear that what can be done is being done in collaboration with all our potential international partners in this arena, including the United Nations and the European Union in its post-Lisbon, much extended and much more influential role. Then there is an area in which the Minister has a particular interest—the use of the Commonwealth. Bilateral discussions with countries are one thing, but a much more comprehensive response is required if we are to see a serious diminution in piracy today.

The report is a practical document with practical recommendations, and no doubt the Minister will have to respond on a much broader basis than that. But it is a very useful report and one that the Government should appreciate both in its contents and the recommendations that it makes. I hope that we see action arising from what appear to be discussions and encouragements in the Government’s responses. One noble Lord asked a very simple question earlier in the debate: what in practice is happening and what practical changes and improvements are being made? I echo that question.

My Lords, I think that the Government have already indicated in their response that they welcome the committee’s report on the counterpiracy operations by the EU off the coast of Somalia and its support for our efforts to tackle piracy. I would go further than that. Listening to this debate, I feel proud to be a Member of your Lordships’ House. The report has promoted an enormous range of very valuable thoughts. I possibly disagree with my noble friend Lord Hamilton, who seemed to be having a bit of a bad day with this report. I recognise that no report is perfect and no report can produce a whole string of solutions—nor is my speech going to produce such a string of solutions to the colossal problems that we face, which go far deeper than the phenomenon of piracy itself.

The report contains extremely valuable insights and promotes a debate such as the one we have had this afternoon, which in turn will hold the Government to account, as it is intended to, and sharpen and focus our policies as we grapple with this problem. I want to leave no doubt at all that we take the menace of Somali piracy extremely seriously and believe that it is vital to play a leading role in the international efforts to counter this threat. The situation is full of dangers and I hope that there is no suggestion of any complacency, despite the fact that there have been successes and solid advances, which I shall enumerate in my speech.

The efforts so far have been achieved not only militarily, through our command of the EU counterpiracy operations and our contribution to other naval operations in the area, but also by the strong political leadership that this country has provided within the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, whose co-ordinating efforts from Northwood and Bahrain have been referred to. The UK has substantial economic interests in protecting freedom of navigation on the seas in this area, as throughout the world. My noble friend Lord Selkirk and the noble Lord, Lord Brett, are quite right that this problem could directly affect the maritime flows of oil and other crucial commodities, which provide a network that in a sense is just as important as the cybernetwork that people are coming to realise is the other vital latticework and web holding together our entire global prosperity.

We must be realistic, as many noble Lords were this afternoon, including my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge and the noble Lord, Lord Sewel: there are no quick fixes and it will be a very long haul. I am very grateful for the broad support for Operation Atalanta that the noble Lord, Lord Brett, on behalf of the Opposition offered this evening. To use a phrase that I am afraid has slight political connotations, we are all in this one together. We must work resolutely together to maximise the contribution and do more.

It must be remembered that Operation Atalanta was set up with two tasks in mind. One was to protect World Food Programme vessels delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia, as well as protecting shipping assisting the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM. These escorts have helped the delivery of more than 500,000 metric tonnes of food to Somalia, feeding on average more than 1.35 million Somalis each day. Atalanta has also ensured a continuous flow of supplies to the African Union Mission for Somalia. I should say to my noble friend Lord Avebury, who raised this matter, that the plan is to enlarge AMISOM to 8,000 and then 12,000 personnel. We will then be able to contemplate a much more ambitious programme on land. So far none of the ships in that continuous flow of supplies has been hijacked while being supported by Operation Atalanta. We must not talk about winning, success and victory, but we can talk about a most satisfactory degree of containment of the situation and a genuine advance from an otherwise deteriorating pattern.

The second task of Atalanta is, of course, to deter and disrupt attacks on vulnerable shipping in the region. Working closely with the other international operations, the EU naval force has had significant success in deterring and disrupting pirate activity in the critical Gulf of Aden trade artery. I have been asked at several stages whether things are getting better or worse. Activities and disruption in the Gulf of Aden are down this year, but activities and disruption in the much larger area off Somalia in the Indian Ocean are somewhat up. Overall, the balance is slightly down in terms of numbers of incidents, although more people have, I am afraid, been involved.

The reference to EU-NAVFOR looking out for shipping that is vulnerable is deliberate. Most of the 20,000 merchant ships that go through the Gulf of Aden each year need little or no protection. Ships with high freeboard, travelling at reasonable speed, with lookouts deployed properly and with physical barriers erected against pirate boarding, should be safe from attack. The military operations have made it clear from the start that the first line of defence against pirates is adherence to common-sense self-defence measures. That should be obvious. It is a pity that it is not more obvious to some ship operators.

The big industry associations have been critical allies in getting this message across—and we have to get it across. It is thanks to their close work with EU-NAVFOR and with the other military operations that we have industry-agreed best management practice for all ships active in the region between Suez and India. I pay tribute to all the seafarers and companies that stick closely to these guidelines and therefore reduce the risk both to themselves and to the military. I also share the frustration of the military at the numbers—it may be as high as one in five, or 20 per cent—that still consider compliance with these measures as optional. It is staggering, frankly, that some ships go through this area without even bothering to post lookouts and that the first notice that the military get of a hijack is to hear the words, “There is a pirate on the bridge”, by when, of course, it is very nearly too late. We are there to support the shipping industry, but we need its support, too.

My noble friend Lord Hamilton said that brisk retaliation by armed private security on ships, opening fire at approaching pirates, would be the answer. There are problems with that. The British Chamber of Shipping is cautious about that on the grounds of jurisdiction and the escalation of violence and so on. Of course, there is the question of vessel protection detachments, which I shall come to in a moment and to which I think my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge was referring, but there are difficulties that realistically and carefully one must face. If there are to be armed personnel on ships, put there by the military through these various methods, they have to be properly trained and advised, as my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge rightly said.

Operation Atalanta has delivered substantial success—I do use that word—in its efforts. Through its direct military efforts, but also through its innovative approach in co-ordinating closely with industry and Governments, it has substantially reduced the risk of successful hijack in the Gulf of Aden. It has pioneered the use of the internationally recognised transit corridor and its partnership with industry associations, about which several noble Lords asked, has pushed hard the need for compliance with that best management practice. EU-NAVFOR has also worked with Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority to pass on information on best management practice to all ships going through the canal. It is noteworthy that every recent successful hijack in the Gulf of Aden has been the result, not surprisingly, of non-compliance shipping.

Successfully combating this piracy infection in the wider Indian Ocean is a much more demanding task. There are 1.5 million square miles to cover—an area larger than the Mediterranean—and ensuring the same protection as in the Gulf of Aden would require hundreds of warships, which no country has today. However, the volume of trade is, of course, much lower and the practical and effective approach being taken by EU-NAVFOR in monitoring pirate action groups and disrupting their efforts has delivered positive results. To date, more than 60 pirate attacks have been successfully disrupted as a result of EU operations. The Government commend these proactive efforts most highly.

I have suggested that, to do much more, the operation needs more assets; indeed, several of your Lordships have reinforced that obvious point. The commanders have said that they have sufficient assets to achieve their mandate, narrowly drawn, but quite rightly they want to do more. The Government have supported actively, including through our leadership in the contact group, the need for specific additional assets. Top of this list has been aerial surveillance assets, about which several of your Lordships made comments, but the Government are also trying to help to provide more oil tankers, more helicopter-capable warships and a greater use of military vessel protection detachments, as I mentioned.

Let me deal with some of these issues more specifically, as noble Lords did in their speeches. On aerial surveillance, France, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg and Sweden are already providing maritime patrol aircraft coverage, but much more would certainly be welcome. The UK, it is true, is no longer able to provide support in this area, but we have been engaged in discussion with partners to provide more and to help in support with basing over this enormous area. I would like to single out the generous support of the Government of Japan, who in addition to sending warships have also deployed three maritime patrol aircraft, which make a vital contribution, supplying data to all the multinational operations. I was asked by my noble friends Lord Selkirk and Lord Avebury about UAVs. The UK has none of these. There are some in the coalition, but I cannot comment on details for security reasons.

The UK is providing oil tanker support, a point that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, raised, and we are discussing with partners whether they can do more, maximising the time that warships can stay on station. The Government are grateful in particular for the provision by the Government of Saudi Arabia of a tanker. Helicopter-capable ships are also essential, as helicopters are usually the first means of response and deterrence. I cite as an example the deployment by the Netherlands of a landing ship rather than a frigate, which has made a substantial contribution.

I want to enlarge on what I said about vessel protection detachments. This means putting marine or other military personnel aboard a vulnerable vessel. They can help to ensure its security without the need for a frigate in close proximity, which, of course, can then free up the frigate for wider counterpiracy duties. There is a growing list of partners keen and willing to make their contribution in this way, in the most part partners who are unable to send warships. The use of VPDs both broadens the coalition and makes best use of the warships deployed—I think that that was the point that my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge rightly and perceptively made.

Several of your Lordships mentioned the insurance industry, which is obviously important as well. There has been constant dialogue, through the contact group, with the insurance industry and the Government welcome the announcement at the working group meeting on 21 October—only the other day—by representatives of the insurance industry that they will require higher premiums for vehicles that are not seen to be complying with best management practice. We look forward to hearing a lot more about the impact of this development in practice, but it clearly makes sense, as it begins to introduce into the whole insurance pattern incentives to get real and to organise properly and in compliance with best management practice, rather than floating through serenely in a cavalier manner. That must be an advance.

In its report, the committee highlighted the fact that the World Food Programme’s use of small slow ships contravened the advice given to the shipping industry—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and others raised. The programme has a dilemma: it wishes to maximise the food that it delivers, but the bigger, better and more modern the ships it has to charter, the more money goes on the ships rather than on the food. It is wrong, though, for military support to be unduly skewed to the protection of these deliveries if they can be done by other, better means. Negotiations are going on between the military operations, the United Nations and the World Food Programme to do better. I welcome the fact that these discussions include, once again, the greater use of vessel protection detachments. I am also pleased by discussions with other multinational and national operations to enable them to share the burden of these duties and therefore enable EU-NAVFOR to pursue its much wider mandate. Indeed, I welcome the fact that convoys have now been carried out by Russian ships, with NATO interests helping in this area, too, again reinforcing the impressive nature, almost unmatched in recent times, maybe even in wartime, of the co-ordination going on between the different navies and naval detachments of the world.

I turn to the legal issues that were raised by several noble Lords. I make it clear that the UK will always prosecute pirates wherever there is a chance of success and I know that that is also the intent of the EU-NAVFOR naval commanders. We are grateful for the support of industry in helping to provide the witnesses who are essential to prosecute these cases. On a point that the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, raised, the UK and the EU are also providing technical and financial support to Kenya, the Seychelles, Somalia and soon, I hope, others, in order to support work in developing courts and prisons to accept more pirates. I suppose that in the longer term one would look to places that are relatively calm, such as Somaliland—in contrast to Somalia—for developments of that kind.

Mr Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has talked about some international facilities such as courts and prisons for dealing with pirates. Negotiations on an EU handover agreement with Mauritius, which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked about, are now at an advanced stage and I expect renewed discussions to begin with Tanzania shortly. Of course there is a question over whether these countries have the capacity for these things—some concerns were expressed in Kenya—but nevertheless prosecutions have been carried out. I think that some are going on while I stand here. There are currently over 130 pirates in prison, of whom to date 54 have been successfully prosecuted and convicted, following the handover from counterpiracy operations. The eight pirates detained by HMS Cumberland in November 2008—that is a couple of years ago—are now serving 20 years in Kenyan prisons for piracy. That is a deterrent.

I turn to the other major theme of the debate, spoken about perceptively by many of your Lordships, which is embraced in the words “root causes”. There is wide acceptance that piracy off Somalia will not be stopped until the problems of lawlessness and instability within Somalia are addressed, a point correctly made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, my noble friend Lord Avebury, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. Foreign Office and DfID ministerial colleagues are working with African leaders and Foreign Ministers to ensure that a long-term solution for Somalia is found. That is, naturally, what one would say, but of course it embraces a huge challenge. It is important not just to stop piracy—that is not all that we are talking about—but to curb the much wider threats that emanate from Somalia towards British interests. Most notably, that includes terrorism—al-Qaeda-related, no doubt—but also includes the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs, and threatening the destabilisation of the wider region.

As the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said in a very interesting contribution, al-Shabaab may well be benefiting from that. Certainly, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda appear to have links. Then again, such is the complexity of the Somali situation that al-Shabaab may actually be working against the pirates. There was one report that they have cleared out the port of Eyl—for the benefit of Hansard, that is spelt E Y L—which was a pirate nest and from which the pirates have now fled. It is a complicated situation, but what can definitely be said is that many of these evil developments, including terrorism, are flourishing in that unsettled area.

Finding solutions inside Somalia and in the region is therefore essential. The UK has played an important role in mapping a way forward through its leadership of the contact group working group on capability development. The contact group has agreed a needs assessment report, assembled by a UK-led team, making clear the key priorities for action. This is the outline of the plan for which many noble Lords today have rightly called. The Government also welcome the results of the Mauritius regional ministerial meeting on maritime security on 7 October, which agreed a strategy and action plan broadly consistent with the contact group assessment. Inside Somalia, it will be important to continue the work to support the development of good governance through the transitional federal Government.

I know that the time limit is being pointed to, but there have been so many fascinating points that it would be impertinent not to refer to some of them. I move into the final phase by saying that it is obviously important to support economic development in coastal regions and to support community and religious leaders in continuing to speak out against the pirates, saying that what they are doing not only is morally wrong, obviously, but is distorting and destroying the economies of many coastal areas and delaying the establishment of law and order. The regional action plan agreed recently includes a request to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to take forward work inside Somalia to address piracy at its roots. This is correct and welcome.

I shall talk briefly about tackling financial flows, where the money goes and so on. I am afraid that the money disappears into lavish living—a Mercedes, new weapons, drugs and all sorts of other things—but we are working closely with international partners, as well as supporting the work of Interpol, Europol, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Financial Action Task Force towards the tracing and recovery of the illicit gains of piracy. We are also working with regional partners to develop effective anti-money-laundering legislation and action to enhance our ability to prosecute the financiers of piracy.

The UK pays no ransom—that is absolutely against UK government policy—and we strongly counsel third parties against doing so. Obviously, though, if they are foreigners or non-British nationals, we do not have any direct influence.

The Government agree with the committee’s report of the continuing high value of Operation Atalanta. The Foreign Secretary has agreed with his European counterparts that, subject to scrutiny requirements of both Houses, the operation should be extended for a further two years, with Northwood continuing to act as the operation HQ and the UK continuing to provide the commander. The Government hope that this can shortly be agreed. The task ahead is tough. This is a serious danger globally and to our national interest and we intend to pursue it with all possible vigour.

My Lords, I will make very short concluding remarks as I am aware that in the following debate noble Lords have only two minutes each in which to speak and I do not want to reduce that even further.

I am sure that the committee very much welcomes the Minister’s statement that the UK will always prosecute pirates. That is one of the core issues around this risk-reward ratio. I will refer only to the speech of my noble friend Lord Hamilton, which I welcomed very much. The risk-reward ratio is an important area. Many of us feel that we should not just stand by and pay ransoms for hostages held by pirates, but neither would I want to be a member of a ship’s crew, or a relation of one, when that policy changed. That is the difficulty in making decisions in this area. I am sure that the committee will continue to look at this matter, track it and ask the Government and the European Union questions about it. All that remains to me to do is to thank the committee’s staff: Kathryn Colvin, Oliver Fox and Bina Sudra.

Motion agreed.

Parliament: Elected House of Lords

Question for Short Debate

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what would be the effect of an elected House of Lords on relations between the two Houses of Parliament.

My Lords, this Question seeks the Government’s view on the effect of an elected House of Lords on the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament. I hope it does not sound presumptuous of me to say that I think this is a matter of fundamental constitutional importance, albeit that we have only an hour and a half in which to debate it. It needs to be addressed, not least because the present relationship between the two Houses is the right one and works very well. That is not just my judgment; it is shared by a committee of this House, the Cunningham committee, which reported a few years ago and whose report was adopted unanimously by both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, if my judgment is not considered sufficiently strong, I hope I can persuade the House that that committee’s report is conclusive.

The basis of the relationship could not be simpler; the primacy of the Commons is secured by the fact that it is elected and we are not. That is the conclusion of the report, which explains the current relationship. My argument is very simple and I shall try to develop it. An elected upper Chamber—whatever you call it—would fundamentally change that relationship for the worse. This question has been disgracefully neglected or ignored by the previous and present Governments. Every time I have attempted to raise it on various occasions it has been dismissed as something we should not spend too much time worrying about.

First, I wish to look at the key arguments of those who say that this does not constitute a major problem, that the two Houses will be fine after any reorganisation of the House of Lords and that we are worrying unnecessarily. They use two arguments most frequently. The first is that the Parliament Acts are supposed to be the absolute guarantor of the supremacy of the Commons over the Lords because in the last resort the Commons can insist on its legislation going through. People who recite that mantra do not know, or do not want to know, anything at all about the practical day in, day out consequences of the ways in which the two Houses relate to one another, which is demonstrated most vividly when ping-pong occurs. That is rather a dismissive title for a fundamentally important part of our constitution but we all know what I am talking about. I recall that ping-pong between the two Houses has occurred six, seven or eight times, but it always concludes in the same way in my experience, which is that the Commons defers to the Lords.

I am sorry. I should have said that the Lords defers to the Commons. I remind the House of a much admired Peer whom we remember with great affection, the late Lord Kingsland, who took many Bills through the House that were subject to ping-pong. On one occasion when the Lords finally deferred to the Commons, he said to the House that this procedure would not happen if the House of Lords was elected. That is obvious to me but I wished to cite a higher authority than myself to demonstrate that point. Frankly, it would be bound to be the case. People who say that there is nothing to worry about do not even begin to imagine what it would be like to stand as a senator for this House—I refer to senators for the sake of argument—and say to one’s electorate, “I very strongly oppose the poll tax”, or, “I very strongly oppose the imposition of an identity card system and will do so as strongly as I can as a senator in the House of Lords but ultimately I will stop opposing it if the Commons insists”. That would be a very peculiar plea to put to your electorate when you are hoping to be elected to this House.

I wish to dismiss the other common argument reasonably quickly: that is, when people say that there is nothing to worry about because other parliaments across the world have no difficulty whatever in having two elected Houses. The answer to that question is so obvious that I am almost embarrassed to repeat it; they started with a blank sheet of paper. We have a House with existing powers, which in most respects are identical to those of the House of Commons. That is the difference between us and other parliaments. If we were starting with a blank sheet of paper, of course we could define what the Lords does and what the Commons does and away we go—there would be no problem. It clearly would be a problem if you had an elected House taking over the powers that we enjoy but which—this is crucial—we choose not to enforce. That is the difference between the present position and the one that would apply if this House were elected.

I am more than half way through my time, so I shall recount quickly what I think are the inevitable, predictable consequences for the relationship between the two Houses of an elected second Chamber. First, there would be a constant battle for legitimacy between the two Houses and constant arguments about which represented the most authoritative voice of the British people. Would noble Lords on the Lib Dem Benches who are so passionately in favour of proportional representation—we are told that we will have proportional representation in the upper House—declare that an upper House elected on the basis of proportional representation is not as legitimate as the other House down the Corridor, which is elected on first past the post? Of course they would not say that. There would be endless debates and arguments about which was the most legitimate Chamber.

The second inevitable consequence would be that this House would demand more powers. I do not know of any House anywhere, whether it is the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the European Parliament, where people, once they are elected and in situ, do not demand more, not fewer, powers. I say that to people who argue that the only answer is to have a written constitution. I ask them whether they can really imagine sitting down and writing a constitution, the first few paragraphs of which would have to state, “We are now going to have an elected upper House instead of the appointed upper House, but we think it is important to start by reducing its powers”. That would be quite a difficult argument to get across in any rational debate.

I wish to ask two more questions to which I do not know the answers, but perhaps brainy people in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Constitution Unit will have worked them out. In a situation in which there are two elected Houses and a Motion of no confidence in the Government, what is to stop both the Houses having Motions of no confidence in the Government? What happens if one says, “We have confidence in the Government”, but the other says that it does not? I should like to know the answer to that question. I do not know what it is. I should have mentioned earlier that, if this were an elected House, there is no question whatever of its having far more Secretaries of State. There is no reason why any of the key offices of state should not be held by Members of this House, except, I suppose, that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the 19th century, the Prime Minister sat in this House, when it was an hereditary House and a Prime Minister could do so again if the House were fully elected.

We have had the Deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Business and the Secretary of State for Transport in this House. What is to stop this elected House having a roughly coincident number of Secretaries of State, or even more, than the other House? The question about the votes of confidence is not mischievous, but it would be an odd thing if this House had passed a Motion of no confidence in the Government, and half the members of the Government were in it, while the other House thought the Government were wonderful. Even more seriously—this is not frivolous—we have now decided that it is pretty important for the elected House of Commons to make a judgment before our troops are committed in battle. If one House, democratically elected, said yes it is right to go ahead, and the other House, also democratically elected, said no it is not, I would not like to be the lawyer to work that one out. Those are the kinds of questions, when there are two elected Houses with equally democratic legitimacy, that simply have not been sensibly addressed.

The only reason why I wanted to raise this issue today is that I believe it is the absolute duty of the Government to think not only about whether the House of Lords should be elected or not elected, but about the consequences not just for the House of Lords but for the House of Commons, for MPs’ relations with their constituents, and for relations between the two Houses. That needs to be addressed before any fundamental change is made. If this debate makes a small contribution towards that, it will be time well spent.

My Lords, three questions ought to be answered in light of the prospect of the arrival of elected Members in this House. First, will any fault be corrected thereby? Secondly, will any improvement be achieved thereby? Both those questions have so far secured only absolutely void answers. On the contrary, virtually all the judgments on the performance of this House have been strongly positive. The House will remember the Jay White Paper—as I call it—in 1999, which stated:

“The most valued features of the present House”,

are summarised by the following epithets:

“distinctive … real expertise … well regarded … distinguished … particularly valuable”.

More important than that, perhaps, the fifth report of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee—the Wright committee—stresses the considerable virtues that should be preserved, and sets the objective of building upon the strength of the present Chamber.

I come to the third question: is there therefore any reason for change in the direction of elected Members? Only one answer is actually offered by any of the champions of change, to the effect that the present membership of the Lords lacks legitimacy, on the assumed basis that only election can confer true legitimacy. This presumption sits uneasily alongside the Wright committee finding that the principal cause of today’s widespread public disillusionment with our political system is the virtually untrammelled control by the Executive of the elected House. Hence the two conclusions of the Wright committee: first, that there is a need to ensure that the dominance of Parliament by the Executive, including the political party machines, is reduced, not increased; secondly, that the second Chamber must be neither rival nor replica but genuinely complementary to the Commons and therefore as different as possible. On that basis, it surely cannot make sense that the most fundamental change proposed for the second Chamber—the introduction of elected Members—is the most likely to extend the influence of the elective dictatorship that so manifestly provokes disenchantment with the present elected House.

The Prime Minister said a few years ago that we keep what is good and we change what needs to be changed. Let him be sure that we keep what is good.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Grocott for securing this important debate. Sadly, I cannot go all the way with the implications behind some of the questions he was asking, which seemed to me to be extremely leading towards a particular set of conclusions. I think there are answers to some of the points he raised. I particularly want to stress that the problem with having a legislature that is not elected is that it is simply both unacceptable in principle and unsustainable in practice.

There are three answers to the question that is implied in the Question. First, relations between the Houses will certainly be affected by the way in which the House is elected. It surely must be common ground that the way in which the House is elected will determine its legitimacy, perhaps not just in absolute terms but in the way in which that legitimacy is perceived. That may be key to whether we have the authority to act when we come to do so.

Secondly, relations will be affected by the powers that are allocated to the House after it becomes an elected House, and not necessarily a straight continuation of them. My noble friend referred to the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949. According to Professor Vernon Bogdanor and others, this has established a unicameral system in this country in the sense that a determined Government can always get their business through, irrespective of the wishes of this House, except in two very narrow cases: extending the term of the elected House, and the dismissal of judges. On the other hand, as we learnt to a considerable extent yesterday, the Parliament Acts do not affect secondary legislation, so this House has powers over those. In practice, although it is a restraint, we really have not used the powers that are allocated to us. It will be interesting to see whether they will develop in time. Between 1911 and 1949, the Parliament Act was invoked three times; since 1949, it has been applied only four times.

Thirdly, relations should not be affected in the areas in which the House has earned a fantastic reputation—I have certainly enjoyed in my short time here the sort of debates we have just experienced. Committee work seems to be the envy of the world. It is one of the most extraordinary features of this House when you first come into it, it goes on virtually unnoticed and yet is of terrific quality, and in the specialist debates often arising from that committee work we hear contributions from noble Lords on all sides of the House that are of the highest quality. Indeed, that third function—in addition to legislative scrutiny and efficient government—is what really sets out this House as different.

In closing, I suggest simply that we might think about separating out the functions along the lines suggested by my noble friend Lord Maclennan of Rogart and the late Lord Bingham, who made proposals for a council of state that could deal with issues that are separate from the legislative processes we have been talking about.

My Lords, I am a great fan of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, but I really think he ought to be more frank about his motives. This is going to be seen to be yet another attempt to delay long-overdue reform. The idea that somehow or other these issues have not been properly examined in the past is frankly nonsense. They were constantly and exhaustively examined.

In 2002, the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform envisaged,

“a continuation of the present role of the House of Lords, and of the existing conventions governing its relations with the House of Commons”.

That is clear enough.

Then there was the Joint Committee on Conventions—the Cunningham committee—which has been referred to and which I also sat on, which looked at those conventions and spelled them out very carefully. Under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, we rejected any idea that there should be a cut in its powers and set out very clearly the present relationship. It, too, could not be clearer.

Even more important, the Government responded to that report. I know I have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, in this contention because it was his Government who said in response to the Committee’s report:

“the Committee’s report shows that there is general agreement about the current role of the Lords in Parliament. The Government—

that is, his Government—

“believes that whatever further reform of the Lords takes place, that role is the right one. The question of composition of the House of Lords does not dictate its role”.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott—who was Chief Whip at the time—would have signed off on that particular point.

The truth is that the relative responsibilities and roles of the two Houses have been constantly re-examined. Yes it is true that when we get the draft Bill in the new year and there is again pre-legislative scrutiny, we will have to face up to the fact that all three parties have committed themselves to thoroughgoing democratic reform of your Lordships’ House. If we believe in the primacy of the Commons—and I know the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, does—that cross-party consensus must surely be extremely important. Our challenge as a House is to look at that draft Bill when it is published and do our best to make sure that it produces a new House that is worthy of its predecessor.

My Lords, the issue of relationships between the two Houses is important, whether or not there is to be an elected upper Chamber. Election to the House of Lords has its attractions, but election to the upper House, whether 100 per cent or less would involve considerable constitutional upheaval, for which we must ask: are we ready? We might equally ask: how would it serve the people better? The general public understand something of their MP; would they so easily identify with their Peer?

Four areas concern me. First, on the potential for conflict between the two Houses, we do not have the kind of situation that exists, for example, in the United States of America, where the major institutions of government are held by different parties for a time. However, as President Mitterand once said when describing the relationship between a socialist President with a right-wing parliament, cohabitation does not make for easy government. Here, two elected bodies of the same political persuasion could be disastrous without parliamentary checks and balances. Equally, two elected bodies of different persuasions could deadlock the country, even if Parliaments had fixed terms.

Secondly, I am concerned about the cost. In the current climate of recession and in the wake of the expenses scandal, is this a wise time to increase spending on Parliament?

Thirdly, while the present system undoubtedly has faults, your Lordships’ Chamber provides space for scrutiny of legislation; and the range of experience in the present Chamber provides some very expert scrutiny indeed.

Finally, a fully elected House of Lords would inevitably contain more active politicians whose loyalty to the Government or Opposition would, without doubt, prevent the kind of dispassionate and well informed testing of legislation that is one of the features of our present system. If the House is to be reformed, we need in the first instance to set out its powers and codify the relationship it should have with the Commons. Only then can we decide who should sit within the reformed upper House.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, on securing this debate, which strikes at the heart of reform of this House. His remarks reinforce the point, so well understood in this House, that our legislative structure rests on the fact that we have two Houses in our Parliament and their work is complementary, not competitive. It follows, therefore, that reform of one of the Houses cannot be undertaken without considering the impact on the other; and it seems to me that we are in danger of doing just that.

It seems equally obvious that if we have two elected Houses, instead of one, there will at some point be a struggle between them for electoral supremacy, as the noble Lord said, along the lines of which kind of elected Member is more accountable than the other, and which House has the greater legitimacy. I am not sure whether such a struggle will enhance the quality of law-making, but it certainly will not enhance relations between the Houses.

I can well understand, as we all can, that the easy answer to the question, “Should all legislators be elected?” is, “Yes, of course”. However, the next questions are not quite so easy. For example, would that make the legislative process better or more transparent? What happens if the Houses clash? Or even—we really need to face up to this—whether there is an unquenchable desire on the part of the public for more elected politicians. However, these questions will have to be tackled if there is to be any kind of credible attempt at reform of the House of Lords.

After those questions, we should ask this one: if we proceed to reform this House without a thoroughgoing examination of all our process in both Houses, will the result be a more accountable, and above all—as the right reverend Prelate mentioned, at man-in-the-street level—a more comprehensible system of government? That is because, in comprehensibility lies accountability.

My Lords, my earlier speech was on Somali pirates; my second is on reform of your Lordships’ House. There is no connection.

With this question we come to the nub of the issue which was highlighted immediately. It is quite simply: how can you have an elected second Chamber without fundamentally changing the relationship between the two Houses? The primacy of the House of Commons rests on its monopoly of democratic legitimacy. That principle underpins the restrictions on the House of Lords’ powers brought in by the Parliament Act 1911. You have that Act only because you accept that principle.

Give the second Chamber democratic authority and you change everything—not immediately, but inevitably. The elected second Chamber will become more and more assertive. Indeed, if elected by STV, as my noble friend Lord Grocott said, some will argue that the second Chamber has greater legitimacy than a House of Commons elected on first past the post or even AV—God forbid. Create a legislature that has democratic authority, and it will push for more and more power. You do not have to have a crystal ball for this; look at what is happening in Scotland or in Wales. We are promised a Calman Bill, we have already done something for Wales, and there is to be a referendum on more powers for the Welsh Assembly.

The previous Government thought that they could get out of this issue in their draft Bill, which admittedly received limited circulation, by including a clause which stated that the powers and—listen to this—the conventions of the House of Lords would not be changed. That is simply not good enough. It will not work because it lacks any underpinning principle. If you are doing constitutional reform, you actually need an informing and uniting underlying principle, and there is not one in this debate.

My Lords, what is particularly frustrating in trying to dissuade the Government from implementing their ill-conceived plans to legislate for a fully or partially elected second Chamber is that your Lordships still do not have a clear idea of the number of Members envisaged for it or, indeed, the method of election that will be proposed.

What is equally confusing is why on earth the coalition Government, who are rightly or wrongly determined to achieve significant changes to the Commons covering the size and boundaries of parliamentary constituencies, should at the same time want to take on the replacement of the House of Lords with a second Chamber that will inevitably become a serious challenge to the supremacy of the Commons. Surely it would be more logical to deal with the Commons, and only then turn to trying to achieve whatever changes to the House of Lords make sense.

It is of course acknowledged that some changes are needed. The Steel Bill proposes to make the House of Lords Appointments Commission statutory and end replacing hereditary Peers, for example. However, to plan simultaneously for a completely new Chamber, either wholly or mainly elected, is surely asking for trouble.

Perhaps, as one of the first tranche of 14 of that new breed of life Peers selected by the Appointments Commission, I can offer a relevant insight into how things might develop. Inevitably at first, we sought and took the advice of the established Cross-Benchers that, like them, we should stick to those issues where we had the expertise and experience for which we had been selected. It did not stay like that for long, and we became more interested in wider and more politically sensitive issues. We gained confidence and wanted to play a more active part. Our contributions and votes have therefore played a growing part in the decisions made on amendments to Bills in your Lordships’ House.

Against that background, consider just how, in a so-called reformed House, with Members who claim they are more legitimate because they are elected, this new wave of elected Members would be likely to behave. Even if they have originally accepted a Commons decision that the second Chamber, elected or not, should have only the same or broadly similar powers as your Lordships' House possesses today, how long will that restraint last before a challenge is mounted? The conflict will assuredly become a battle between two tribes, each with an equal claim to legitimacy. What, if anything, will our so-called mother of Parliaments have gained from that?

Lastly, we should remember that the Prime Minister has forbidden MPs to continue with any job or profession outside their parliamentary role. In these circumstances, how can it make any kind of sense to do away with an appointed House, containing as it does this incredible range of experience and expertise that has contributed effectively to our legislative process?

To give one recent example of that, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam—

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, for introducing this debate, because it seems elementary not to realise the huge problems that there will be between the two Houses if your Lordships’ House becomes an elected Chamber. It seems obvious.

People—particularly our dear friends the Liberal Democrats—always say, “Reform the House of Lords”. It is as if they feel they are in the sixth form and have been told to write an essay on how you make a democratic Parliament and the answer is “Two elected Chambers”. Of course that may be so, but as the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said, we are not starting from there. That is what the dear Liberal Democrats do not ever seem to understand; we are not starting from scratch. We have inherited a constitution, which is the envy of all other countries, and it works. It works. Yet we are now out to try to destroy it. It is a great privilege. It has worked for 600 years and the answer is that you want to build on it, and not destroy it. Whatever Members of another place may say about wanting an elected second Chamber, their successors will hate it because there will be another Chamber saying, “We have been elected too, we have got just as much right as you have to have our views prevail and our votes too”. Are people going to offer themselves for election to a House which has the powers that we have? The answer is no. The power between the Houses is finite and if your Lordships’ House gets any more powers, another place will have to give up some of their powers. Is it likely to do that? No.

How do you get an elected Chamber? The first thing is to throw out all the Members of the present Chamber. You cannot get the elected ones in as well. I see my noble friend Lord Attlee is getting all bouncy. The next thing is you are going to have to pay them to leave. That is grotesque. I suggest to your Lordships that it is far better to retain what we have got and build on it—not destroy it.

My Lords, I chaired the Power inquiry into our democracy. We took evidence around the country and a high percentage of the public thought that the House of Lords should be reformed. There were many things about the current House that people liked, especially our role over the last few decades—not just with the previous Government, but with the one before—in holding the Government to account and challenging policies which might have slid through without sufficient scrutiny. However, they still wanted this House to be elected. Here is the rub. When you asked them what sort of person they wanted to see in this House, they said independent-minded people with expertise. That is the problem. They did not want it to be full of people embedded in party-political machines; they wanted people who were going to contribute some wisdom—perhaps a tall order. They wanted a House that took the long view and was not just looking over its shoulder. They were making a high demand.

We ultimately made a recommendation. It was because of the concern of the public to square that circle that we recommended that there should be a 70 per cent elected and a 30 per cent appointed element. Many have sought to complain about a hybrid House but in fact that was what we recommended. We thought that retaining a cohort of appointed independents would help to maintain the culture of this House as a forum of independents, as a forum that protected the constitution and would guard future generations’ interest when there was a rush to legislation because of demands, particularly of the tabloid press.

You cannot imagine what it feels like to people outside to hear what sounds like self-interest when we all say that we should be left as we are, that we are wonderful. It really is too self-congratulatory. For this reason, I suggest that one of the recommendations that we should be making is that there should be a role for the public in considering the way forward. Why should parliamentarians be the ones to decide how they should be reformed? There should be a deliberative poll where you have a cross-section of the public and you organise it in a way that has been done in other jurisdictions—in Canada and elsewhere. That cross-section of the public would hear evidence about the role of this House and how it might affect the Commons. It may be that the public would opt for little or no change, because they would understand how you all worked. I suggest that that should be done.

We should be very careful in constitutional change, but caution is not a recipe for resisting change. It is important that we recognise that there is a desire out there for this House to change; we should go at this with some care, but we should listen to the public and not just our own voices.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, made points which I hope will be considered by those who are drafting the legislation that we are going to see in the early new year. But he is somewhat too complacent in suggesting that our constitution could not be improved in the balance of duties and responsibilities which are discharged by the two Houses. The overriding criticism of the constitutional arrangements we have is that our Executive is too dominant. That is largely because the Government consist of those who are Members of the House of Commons, predominantly, and they are too acquiescent in what the Government put forward.

The House of Commons, furthermore, is seriously overburdened. It has grown in the number of committees that it has established, which were sensible in the form of departmental select committees under the St John Stevas reforms. There should be a proper distribution of functions between the two Houses of Parliament. The Commons should have primacy in respect of money Bills, but why should this House not have primacy in respect of the ratification of treaties? That is not something which exercises a constituency Member of Parliament as much as other things closer to home.

All responsible Ministers should be required to account to the relevant Chamber. That a member of the Government is in one or other Chamber seems to me to be old-fashioned and something that deserves to be changed. The second Chamber could have a function which is predominantly bringing the regional attitudes of the country to bear on legislation. If we want to have scrutiny and expertise of the kind that this House is so distinguished at delivering, then let us think of separation; let us think of a council of state that could have such appointed people without the power to block or amend legislation, but which, because of its composition, would be listened to.

My Lords, if there is a change in the composition of this House with Members being elected, then that has consequences for the power of the House—a fact recognised by those responsible for the passage of the Parliament Bill in 1911. A Cabinet committee in 1907 rejected a reform of the composition of the House because it accepted that this would strengthen the House of Lords against the Commons. As Chris Ballinger notes in a forthcoming article on the Parliament Act 1911, members of the Cabinet were reluctant to consider going further. As he writes:

“Any reform to composition would have augmented the power of the Upper House, and thereby its ability to impede the enactment of the social welfare policies to which the Liberals had become committed.”

I also remind the House of the resolution passed by the House of Commons on 26 June 1907, which stated that,

“in order to give effect to the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives, it is necessary that the power of the other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House should be so restricted by Law as to secure that within the limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the Commons shall prevail. [Official Report, Commons, 27/6/07; col. 1523.]

In other words, the supremacy of the Commons rested on its Members being the elected representatives of the people—that is what they were asserting. There were no elected representatives of the people in the other Chamber. Once one has Members elected to the second Chamber, then the rationale for the Parliament Act disappears. The Government may seek to maintain it, but they will have problems maintaining their claims for its legitimacy. Its foundations will have been kicked away.

My Lords, I am one of those who feels strongly that the proposal to turn the present House of Lords into a wholly or partly elected Chamber is not reform but abolition. It is the abolition of an institution that has a unique history and performs a valuable function in the scrutiny of new legislation, while at the same time recognising the supremacy of the House of Commons. An elected senate would be bound to challenge that supremacy. The strength of the House of Lords is the experience and expertise of its Members in most walks of life. They have made a mark in life and would be reluctant to stand for election. A new senate would be more party political and considerably more expensive.

Another question is whether the public are ready for yet another election. The Deputy Prime Minister said in his Statement on 5 July that it is important to avoid asking people to keep traipsing to the ballot box. There is room for some reform measures—for example, those set out in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel—but I do not believe that an elected Chamber would improve relations between the two Houses.

My Lords, when we speed-debated House of Lords reform last month, I said that the purpose of your Lordships' House was to protect the public interest. While I am sure that the public interest will dominate whether the House is elected or appointed, it is inevitable that an elected House will have a different interpretation of how assertive it should be against the other place in order to protect the public interest.

The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, raised the primacy of the other place. Clearly, if different parties dominate each elected House, as will be entirely possible, each House will claim a different democratic mandate, and there will inevitably be less willingness to give way on legislation. The game of bluff known as ping-pong will become more like a war game. While the Parliament Act will remain the ultimate weapon to protect the primacy of the other place, it is a blunt weapon. We saw with the Hunting Act what a mess can be made when the Parliament Act is used.

By convention, we do not vote down statutory instruments. However, as recently as 1994, your Lordships' House reaffirmed its power to do so, as set out in the Companion. Why should an elected upper House be content with non-fatal Motions on secondary legislation that is poorly drafted, insufficiently consulted on or just plain wrong? We must expect more fatal Motions.

The coalition Government need to wise up to the fact that creating a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords is full of problems. My noble friend knows that the Government will have huge difficulty in getting legislation for an elected House through your Lordships' House. More importantly, the Government need to recognise that they are playing a dangerous game with the constitutional balance between the two Houses, for which history may well condemn them.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Grocott on securing this debate. I am afraid that I agree with very few of his views on the issue, but his continuing focus on it should be welcomed by all of us who care about our constitutional arrangements. He is right about its importance, and everyone should care about this because it concerns the very distribution of power in our country.

I recognise the force of my noble friend's arguments. It is logical to assume that a democratically elected second Chamber would acquire greater legitimacy and would challenge the pre-eminence of the House of Commons, which could lead to all sorts of undesirable outcomes. However, when the argument is scrutinised it becomes a little less compelling. It is predicated on the assumption that this House as currently constituted knows its place and seeks only—and meekly—to tweak legislation in order to improve it. This is not exactly so. The power of this House to delay, especially at the end of a Parliament, can lead to significant legislation—as all noble Lords have seen—being abandoned by the democratically elected Government of the day.

Conflict between the two Chambers is nothing new. However, for those who worry—and I understand their worry—that the current tension between the two Chambers will become fiercer and less reconcilable if this House is elected, comfort is available. I agree that the pre-eminence of the House of Commons is essential, but retaining appointment for this House is not the only way of securing this. An indispensable part of any democratic reform of this House must be the codification of its functions, to put beyond doubt the respective roles of the two Chambers and their relationship. Nor would such a codification—as my noble friend Lord Grocott suggested—reduce the powers of this House. It could simply entrench its current powers, which so many noble Lords have celebrated today.

I conclude with a plea to the Minister that I have already made to his noble friend Lord McNally. Will he reconvene the working group of experts that the previous Government set up but never got under way, to look at the codification of this House and report to the Government within three months on how such a codification of functions might be achieved?

My Lords, on the issue of what is in my view incorrectly referred to as reform of the House of Lords, a collective madness seems to have taken hold of the leadership of our three main political parties. It appears bent on destroying what is here, which is good, and on replacing it with a variant of the Commons, which would be bad. Democratic legitimacy is the parrot cry. However, conflict would arise and both of our much-prized parliamentary institutions would be damaged. I emphasise the example given by my noble friend Lord Norton. The 1911 Act limits the blocking powers of the upper House on the grounds that the unelected House should not prevail over the elected one. However, if both Houses are elected, there will presumably be pressure to repeal the Act, and consequences will inevitably flow from that.

What could be more legitimate than the wide range of expertise and experience on which this House is now able to draw? What could be more in the interests of the people in our democracy than having a Chamber of Parliament able to hold the Government of the day to account and competent to scrutinise and revise complex pieces of legislation? Those qualities that we now possess are too precious to lose.

My Lords, it is time we were more frank about the vocabulary that we use in dealing with the future of the upper House. There seem to be two schools of thought. One is in favour of reform and the other is in favour of abolition. I say straightaway that if the committee of both Houses comes up with a proposal for a small, elected senate of, say, 200 Members, elected by proportional representation, not first past the post or party lists, with no constituency responsibilities, representing the devolved nations and the great regions of England, I will happily go along with that, because it would lead us towards a written federal constitution of the kind that has long been the policy of my party. However, my fear is that that is not what we will be offered. We will be offered some kind of fudge.

The phrase “wholly or mainly elected” has been co-opted from the previous Government. The words “or mainly” suggest that they have some doubts about whether they are doing the right thing and think that perhaps they should keep some of the expertise that is here already. However, simply adding nominated Members because they fear they may be making a mistake would itself be a fundamental mistake. Both the Labour and Conservative Parties believe in first past the post elections. That, too, would be a mistake.

I will repeat something I said before in this House. When I became Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, I presided over a system that we had legislated for in which we had regional elected Members in addition to constituency Members. I spent a lot of my time sorting out differences, both in the Chamber and in my office, between Members who were elected from the regions and constituency Members—usually of different political parties, but even sometimes of the same party. The minute we have elected Members here, trespassing on the territory of constituency Members of the House of Commons, we will be in real difficulty, and the Commons will come to rue the day that it agreed to an elected upper Chamber.

My Lords, it is completely naive to think that we could have an elected second Chamber without additional powers—or, indeed, with even fewer. Not only would the inhabitants of the Chamber demand more power, but their constituents would demand more power. They would say: “What on earth are we paying these people salaries and expenses for when they have no power?”. The drive would come not only from the Chamber but from constituents as well, who would demand value for money.

My second point is that the present situation is unique and virtually perfect. You have a unicameral system posing as a bicameral system, under which the House of Commons is all-powerful but is assisted by a group of people who are very well qualified to advise it, to slow it down a bit but not to usurp its sovereignty. My advice is, quite frankly, that if something works leave it alone.

My Lords, good legislation is rarely produced without the House of Lords. Often whole sections of Bills sail through the Commons with no debate at all. Disaster is avoided because this House works on those neglected parts—it holds debates, it moves amendments, it sets things right. As the Lord Speaker said last week, second Houses are for second thoughts and those are often essential. An elected or partly elected Lords may keep that rule but it would alter profoundly the quality of suggestions for improvements.

We have here a truly astonishing powerhouse of experience—former ambassadors, former leaders of industry and trade unions, heads of police forces, Cabinet Ministers, judges, service chiefs, education experts, professors. There is no end to the depth of experience here and I can confirm from long experience in both Houses that the level of expertise in debate is far higher here than it is at the other end of the Corridor. Whatever the subject under discussion, at least five or six top experts in that subject will contribute. These people have reached the top of their particular ladders. They would never stand for election. Can you see a professor facing a political election committee or a Bishop banging on doors to get votes? Those raring to do so may have star-studded futures but it is past experience which guides judgment and wisdom, not experience which is yet to come.

Some advocate only some Peers being elected but to have a mixed fish and fowl House would be hopeless. Every elected Peer would have to work hard in their constituency, seeing voters, visiting factories, schools and old people’s homes, mirroring and duplicating what the MP for the area would have to do anyway. They would not have time to do any scrutinising of Bills as they do at the moment. They could not be expected to do the same job as an MP voluntarily. Surely they would have to have the same rate of pay as an MP. You could not then have a House some of whose Members were salaried and some of whom were not. That would give big problems to any Government needing to cut public expenditure.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Lords, contrary to being broke, gives hugely valuable service to Britain for no salary at all. Let’s not throw it away.

My Lords, when the last Government set out their vision of what an elected second Chamber would be like, they imagined,

“A second chamber that is more assertive than the current House of Lords”,

to quote from their July 2008 White Paper. Such a reformed Chamber,

“operating against the background of the current arrangements for its powers, would not threaten primacy”.

That is precisely the argument which the present Government advance, among others, to convince us of the merits of an elected Chamber. They advocate, within the constraints set by the Parliament Acts, a more assertive House of Lords but one which does not threaten the primacy of the other place. This is a smokescreen and one in which they themselves now seem to be stumbling about in some confusion.

The danger in establishing an elected second Chamber lies not in some imagined threat to the primacy of the House of Commons because, as in the case of other countries where there is a wholly or partially elected second Chamber, constitutional arrangements and conventions are set in place to protect that primacy. In our case, we have the Parliament Acts and the Salisbury convention. Our focus instead should be on the relationship change because there can be a substantial change in the relationship between the two Chambers, as my noble friend Lord Grocott most convincingly said, without primacy being threatened.

With an elected senate, the relationship that will see the most significant change will be that Chamber’s relationship not with the other Chamber, although that will be significant enough, but with the Executive. Within the confines of respect for the primacy of the other place, an elected senate will seek the means to be more assertive in its efforts to hold the Government to account. In the interests of there being a better check on the Executive, that is in principle good but, shorn of the expertise to be found in this present House, I do not see the new assertiveness of an elected senate adding much if any value to the effort of Parliament as a whole to hold the Government better to account. The second Chamber will replicate the first and its relationship with the Executive will change accordingly, from an expert scrutinising House much to be reckoned with, as it is now, to a pale, unthreatening junior partner to the House still enjoying its primacy. The beneficiary of this change in relations will be the Executive. Is that really what we parliamentarians want?

My Lords, I have served in five different parliamentary institutions—seven years in the Northern Ireland Parliament, 10 years in the European Parliament, seven years in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 18 years in the other place and now nine years in your Lordships’ House. The worst of these was the European Parliament; the best is your Lordships’ House, in so far as quality of debate is concerned.

First, if we have an elected upper House, irrespective of the electoral system or the size of constituencies, there will be competition between the elected Members here and the elected Members in the other place. Secondly, there will be political yes-men and no independence. That will be a severe loss to this House—the loss of the independent voice. Most important of all, as I saw during my experience in the European Parliament, it had been a nominated Parliament and then became an elected Parliament. It spent every day struggling to take powers away from the European Commission in Brussels. The same would happen here with an elected body. It would spend every day fighting to take powers away from the other place. I hope that Members in the other place recognise that if they vote for an elected upper House they are diminishing their own status and it will truly become the lower House in the United Kingdom Parliament.

It is important that the public know what the role of the House of Lords is. Last night, as a taxi driver took me out, he said, “Are you a Labour Peer or a Conservative Peer?”. I said, “Neither, I’m an independent Peer—non-party”. To which he said, “I didn’t know there were independent Peers in the House of Lords”. The sooner we get the public educated, the sooner will the cry for an elected upper House disappear.

My Lords, I believe that an elected upper Chamber would have a detrimental effect on the delicate and subtle balance of power between this House and another place. Furthermore, it would impact adversely on the decision-making process of government and diminish the broad skills base in this House that is so important for our effective role within the constitution.

We must first understand and agree our collective purpose within the relationship. Our mandate is to examine, advise and revise but not challenge the supremacy of another place. The Executive must ultimately be given the chance to carry out their manifesto, as mandated by the people but not without the power of the upper Chamber as the quality control department.

If your Lordships were wholly elected, the terms of reference for complementary coexistence would change substantially for several negative reasons. First, there would be a divided accountability if the second Chamber was also answerable to constituencies; there would be the danger of a tug of war between factions—inter-Chamber, more equal in power—claiming a mandate for its preferred legislation. This could lead to paralysis of decision-making, but more probably decision-making where the lowest common denominator prevailed, with protracted negotiations as a means for agreeing legislation. This would surely be undesirable and undemocratic. The system could be open to influence by party faction and by interest groups in both Houses. There could be a lack of accountability.

An elected upper House would create the danger of more confrontational politics in this Chamber, with stronger Whips, which would detract from the necessity for complementarity. The Salisbury convention would undoubtedly be challenged, as would Bills of aid and supplies.

Your Lordships sit in this House as individuals, not Members representing a particular constituency. This allows for independent consideration and scrutiny. The breadth and depth of skills and experience in this House across a range of professions, sectors and regions, built up over time, would be compromised with election.

An election process would not replicate; it would more naturally attract candidates who were politically ambitious and who would see the route into the upper Chamber as a means to an end, with less focus on its purpose.

It is an easy but slack argument to say that an upper Chamber is legitimate only if it is democratic. Its legitimacy is confirmed only if it is “fit for purpose” in relation to the Executive. That is the point.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Grocott on securing this debate. We hold different views on whether we should have an elected or non-elected Chamber but I agree with one view that he expressed: if we had an elected Chamber, I would not wish to see a great change in the nature of the relationship between this House and the Commons, although there would be some change.

I believe that the key to that rests in two areas: first, the Parliament Act; and, secondly—my noble friend Lord Sewel pointed to this and it was also focused on by my noble friend Lord Wills—the conventions. The conventions need to be codified. In the 2002 Joint Committee on which the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, sat, we spent time talking about that but no progress was made. That Joint Committee was chaired by my noble friend Lord Cunningham, who subsequently chaired the committee that looked at the nature of the relationship, but again the question of codifying the conventions was not addressed. It was decided that, in the event of there being an elected Chamber, we might have to return to having codification of the conventions or changes to them.

On the last occasion that we had a debate on this matter, I asked the Benches opposite—and I particularly thank my noble friend Lord Grocott for giving me the chance to come back to this question—whether they had commenced work on codifying the conventions. I got no reply, so I ask the question again. If work has not started, I should like to know why not. I should also like to know whether they will make a start on it, because such a change is most certainly needed to ensure a proper relationship between the two Houses when we have elections.

My Lords, I rise to make a few short remarks in the gap. The issue being debated this evening was considered in 1999 and 2000 by the Wakeham commission, whose report came before the House in 2000. For the purposes of its deliberations, the commission engaged an eminent academic at UCL, Meg Russell, who wrote a report for it on each of the western European democracies with two elected Houses. She also wrote a report on the United States, Canada and Australia.

The Library very kindly downloaded for me all the reports that she wrote. However, I could not reach the end of them without feeling great gloom at the prospect of this country going through the same troubles and processes that the countries with two elected Houses have had. Moreover, I do not think that anyone could read the reports produced by Meg Russell and still think it a good idea to replace the current system in this country of a healthy constitutional equilibrium between the largely appointed House here and the elected House in the Commons. Those reports by the lady in question are important reading for anyone who retains any lingering wish to have an elected House of Lords.

My Lords, this is a debate of fundamental importance to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I pay tribute to the continuing force and validity of the considerations and conclusions of the Joint Committee on Conventions, chaired by my noble friend Lord Cunningham of Felling, to which many noble Lords have referred today.

I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, about the conclusions of that report—they were approved by all parties in both Houses—on the implications of any future change in composition for the relations between the two Houses:

“If the Lords acquired an electoral mandate, then in our view their role as the revising chamber, and their relationship with the Commons, would inevitably be called into question, codified or not ... should any firm proposals come forward to change the composition of the House of Lords, the conventions between the Houses would have to be examined again”.

That conclusion was right when the committee reported in October 2006 and it is right now. I am the only member speaking in tonight’s debate of the Government’s committee on further reform of your Lordships’ House, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. I can tell the House that the committee has given some consideration to this point, although not much, and that as yet it has come to no clear conclusion.

My own view, in addition to a point that I have repeatedly made—that the issue of any further substantive reform of your Lordships’ House is of such constitutional significance that it should be put to the people of this country in a referendum—is that, if the group chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister does come up with firm proposals to change the composition of the House of Lords, as specified by the Joint Committee, then the conventions between the Houses should indeed be examined again, in line with the agreed recommendation of the Joint Committee.

I believe that the right body for such an examination would, again, be a Joint Committee of both Houses and I roundly reject those, including the Deputy Leader of your Lordships’ House, who claim that such a view is the last refuge of reform refuseniks. I am a reformer; I want an elected House and I do not want to delay the process. For that reason, I suggest that a Joint Committee on conventions be convened to meet in parallel with the pre-legislative scrutiny committee on the draft Bill. I should be grateful for the Minister’s views on that. As I said, I am not a reform refusenik but I believe that the relationship between the two Houses and their powers is fundamental to the successful reform of this Chamber.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, for bringing forward this short debate and to other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. We appear to be beginning a series of these rapid-fire debates. Brief the contributions may have to be in accordance with the requirements in the Companion, but that does not lessen the quality or, indeed, the value of the debate.

The Government value highly the views of your Lordships on the implications of reform of this House. This afternoon’s debate has concentrated on one aspect of the reform—the relationship between the two Houses—and I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, has given us the opportunity to respond.

We recognise that this House has an important role, distinctive from that of the other place. I confirmed the Government’s view of the House’s role on 11 October, in response to a similar Question for Short Debate tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. This is, and we intend that it will remain, a scrutinising and revising Chamber, holding the Government of the day to account.

Many noble Lords—I should probably change my notes to read “most noble Lords”—took the opportunity once again to question the Government’s case for a wholly or mainly elected reformed second Chamber. However, this Government are committed to reform and I do not want to rehearse the arguments about that today. Those who make the laws must be democratically legitimate, and legitimacy must come from a significant element of election to provide a direct link between those who make legislation and those who must live by it.

The right reverend prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells asked whether we can afford such a change. The Government will of course carefully consider the costs of reforming the House of Lords. We believe that it is worth paying more for a legitimate second Chamber and we are still considering the size of a reformed second Chamber—an issue that will determine the overall cost of such a Chamber.

The Government recognise that their proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second Chamber will have implications for the relationship between the two Houses. I assure noble Lords that this is an issue that the Government and the cross-party committee are taking seriously. The Government are mindful that their plans for reform must allow the second Chamber to maintain its complementary role relative to the other place. The second Chamber must become neither a competitor to the other place nor a replica of it—a point reiterated by a number of noble Lords. Currently, the primacy of the other place does not rest solely on the fact that it is an elected Chamber while this House is not; it also rests in the Parliament Acts and in the financial privilege of the House of Commons—a matter to which I do not think any noble Lord referred. The Prime Minister and most senior Ministers are also drawn from the other place.

Most noble Lords have suggested that democratic legitimacy will embolden the second Chamber to act to the limit of its powers. However, the Government are clear that the other place should continue to remain the primary Chamber. Many noble Lords referred to the report of the Joint Committee on Conventions, which considered the practicality of codifying the key conventions on the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament. That committee concluded that, if this House were elected, its relationship with the other place would inevitably be called into question. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, asked me whether work was already beginning on the codification of conventions. I believe that that would be putting the cart before the horse in the sense that we need to see the horse—the draft Bill—before we are able to debate in detail the codification of the conventions and how they might apply to a reformed House.

The Joint Committee also concluded that, should any firm proposals come forward to change the composition of the House of Lords, the conventions of the two Houses would have to be examined again. I can reassure noble Lords that the cross-party committee is giving careful consideration to the issue of the powers of the reformed second Chamber and the relationship between the two Houses, including the conventions.

The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, raised two matters that are fundamental to the conventions. He asked whether questions of votes of confidence had been considered by the Government. I can assure him that the cross-party committee will consider this type of issue in its deliberations. He also asked about debates on treaties and the declaration of war. These matters are for the committee to consider and it will no doubt consider them and report on its conclusions with the draft Bill. However, we have only one member of that committee present—the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon. She has given us as much detail as she could on the committee’s progress. I am not privy to its detailed discussions, nor should I be.

My Lords, could I interrupt my noble friend? I was following what he was saying and I wanted to get it absolutely right because I could not believe what I heard. Is he saying that the Government are in favour of a fully elected House of Lords?

No, a mainly elected House of Lords is the phraseology that I think—and hope—that I have used, because that is the Government’s position. It may well be that the draft Bill will allow for the retention of unelected Members on an appointed basis. We know that the likelihood is that there will be a long transition period during which a large percentage of the existing House of Lords will remain to work alongside elected Members. That is an important aspect of House of Lords reform, to which we have not given full consideration in this debate but to which I am sure, when it comes to the draft Bill, we will probably find ourselves giving considerable thought.

As I said, there will be a process of transition. It will be a long process and it is likely to mean that the relationship between the two Houses, including the conventions, will develop over the time of transition. This is not big bang; we are talking about evolution. This House will have the opportunity to discuss these issues during pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill. The Government hope that pre-legislative scrutiny will be carried out by a Joint Committee of both Houses.

The cross-party committee is also considering other issues that will reinforce the differences between the two Chambers. The Government’s proposal for a proportional electoral system will set up a different relationship between voter and representative in the second Chamber compared with the link between a constituent and an MP. As set out in the coalition agreement, the cross-party committee is likely to advocate single, long terms of office for Members of the reformed second Chamber. This again would reinforce the differences between the two Chambers. Of course, the House will retain control over its affairs and, in particular, its committee system and it will be for both Houses to agree the degree to which they work jointly.

Many noble Lords have argued that the present House of Lords has expertise and experience to a degree that sets it apart from the other place and which makes it especially qualified to scrutinise and improve the legislation from the other place. This, they say, will be lost as a result of reform. The Government do not accept that the present means of joining this House are the only ways of securing expertise and experience. Elected Members are capable of possessing and drawing on their own experience. Moreover, the House already has in place a widely respected committee system that allows it to call on the evidence of outside experts.

The Government believe that the British people must be allowed a say in who makes the laws to which they are subject and that the character and design of the political institutions of this country should reflect the society that they serve. We consider that this House must be constituted on a more democratic basis. We recognise the implications for the relationship between the two Houses and we will consider these implications carefully.

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would confirm that it is the Government’s view that it would be better for one Joint Committee both to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and to consider the relationship between the two Houses, rather than—as I understand the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has suggested—for a separate Joint Committee to look at that issue. Would it not be better that that issue is looked at comprehensively by one Joint Committee in pre-legislative scrutiny over the full period to the Queen’s Speech in 2012 rather than that two exercises should act separately?

I thank my noble friend for that interruption. I think that I said earlier that the Government have it in mind that there should be a Joint Committee of both Houses, but in the end it is up to Parliament to decide how it scrutinises this legislation. The Government and the committee are accountable to Parliament and I have no doubt that there will be many debates on any draft Bill that is produced early in the new year.

Will the noble Lord confirm when in the new year this draft Bill will appear? Will it be in the first half of the year or the second half of the year?

The new year that is yet to come. I have been advised that early in the new year is the likely time of arrival. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, no doubt has a better idea than I have on the timing. She is shaking her head, so I suggest that the authority that I have in giving the House the timing is as good as we can have for today. However, we are engaged in a long process—I can hear my noble friend the Leader of the House by my side saying exactly that, as I think I said last time. We are engaged in a long process with much debate, and much of the detail—the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, rightly reminded the House of the conventions and their codification—is very much further down the track, given the type of reform that the committee is likely to bring forward.

I believe that I was saying that the House should be constituted on a more democratic basis. We recognise the implications for the relationship between the two Houses and we will consider them carefully. The Government and the cross-party committee will be mindful of the House’s view as expressed in this and previous debates. A draft Bill will be brought forward early in the new year, which will allow all sides to examine and discuss in greater detail the Government’s plans for reform.

I am sorry that I have not been able to answer or even refer to all noble Lords who have spoken. The free expression of opinion demonstrates the challenge that there will be for those of us who are charged with the task of presenting reform to this House. We welcome debates of this nature in preparing us for the task ahead. It has been a valuable and thought-provoking debate and I am grateful for your Lordships’ contributions.

Royal Family: Civil List

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they are making with the decennial review of the Civil List and grant-in-aid to the Royal Family.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to have a short debate on the basis for the Royal Family's financing. This is supposed to be done on a 10-year basis, and the last time was in 2000, so it is a timely opportunity. Of course, quite recently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made announcements about royal financing in the Statement on the comprehensive spending review.

As some background, at the moment, the Royal Family receives £7.9 million civil list for salaries, entertainment, opening Parliament, et cetera, £15.4 million for palace repairs and maintenance and about £7 million for travel. That comes to a total of about £30 million annually, plus security. That is designed to fund the Royal Family’s state activities and maintain the buildings and palaces used. I think that the buildings include Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle but not Sandringham or Balmoral.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh receive money to undertake royal work, as they do very well. They deserve credit for reducing their travel bill in the past year in parallel with the cuts that the Government announced. The Queen has also announced that she will try to reduce the running costs of the palace’s activities.

Prince Charles is in a different situation, as he relies on income from the Duchy of Cornwall to maintain his household and activities, which goes back to the time of the Black Prince and was seen by successive sovereigns as providing a separate income for the monarch's eldest son. Last year, the Duchy provided £17 million for Prince Charles. Sadly, I have not been able to see any evidence that he has followed his mother's lead in trying to reduce costs.

Looking at the travel of the Royal Family, in which I have taken interest for some time, in addition to the three members of the Royal Family whom I have mentioned, there are nine others who do not get paid a salary by the state but who receive royal travel finance, details of which are published every year in the royal travel reports. This may all sound fine and equitable, so why is there a problem?

Out of the £7 million for royal travel, when one looks at examples, there are some concerns. For example, the Duke of York took a £6,000 helicopter trip from his home in London to open a bridge in Sussex. That was last year. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall flew to Kirkwall and Edinburgh at a cost of £15,000 on a charter flight to visit some lifeboats and a marine centre. That is all very good. Also, the Duke of York spent £14,000 of our money visiting lifeboat stations. I am not saying that they should not do it, but there is a question whether they really ought to have charter flights and spend quite so much money on them. Perhaps it would be better if they went a bit slower.

Unfortunately, transparency has got more difficult since it was agreed between the Treasury and the Royal Family that only journeys over £10,000 are recorded separately. A couple of years ago, Princess Anne took a £5,000 helicopter trip from London to visit a pony club rally in the Midlands, and Charles took a helicopter from his Gloucester home to Gloucester. I have to ask: what is wrong with using cars or scheduled trains?

There are several issues here. Is it necessary for the state to fund the travel of 12 members of the Royal Family? Do they need to go so fast, so frequently and with so much so-called security that helicopters have to be used? For the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, that is probably reasonable, but what about some of the others? What was the value to the UK of a state visit to South America, including the Galapagos Islands, which cost more than £600,000 in 2009? It is a nice way of seeing the islands, but at taxpayers’ expense? There are some serious questions that need to be answered about whether the state should be funding all 12 of those people travelling for royal duties. Some people might suggest that they get jobs and pay for their own travel.

There is also another problem, exacerbated by the lack of transparency, about which activities are state functions and which are private. The activities of the Duchy of Cornwall are a good example. It is a business; it pays some tax; but it is also a way of providing the heir to the throne with some income to undertake his official duties. He has 124 staff to do that, who, I am told, write regular letters to Ministers—some of my colleagues who are former Ministers said that that caused quite a lot of trouble—lobbying for pet architects, commissions or whatever. Last year, I saw evidence in Cornwall of the Duchy encouraging one of its tenants to flout the planning and environmental laws to build an oyster farm on the Halford River. They put this metal cage down in an SSSI without bothering to get planning permission or to do an environmental study. That is wrong. It is throwing weight around with people who do not feel that they can respond. It is also meddling in government, with the taxpayer funding the meddling. I believe that he should be above politics, and certainly not paid by taxpayers to lobby.

Her Majesty the Queen has a much better track record of staying out of politics, and she is not wasting money, but I worry about Chancellor’s latest proposal in the CSR to give the royal household a proportion of the profits from the Crown Estate. It is suggested that it would be 15 per cent of the profits, which would give them about £37 million a year, which would be a 44 per cent increase on the present amount. The Chancellor claims that that is a better idea because it would avoid the embarrassment of regular negotiations with the Palace, but the Crown Estate has been a part of government revenue since the time of George III. He gave up his right to receive any revenue for them to get bailed out because he ran out of money. What is the future of the revenue of the Crown Estate? It has lots of land in London and, we hope, the revenue from that will increase, and there are lots of wind farms being developed around the country, for which they receive a royalty. However, that can go up and down in revenue, and it seems a bit odd to link a long-term arrangement for funding for the monarch’s official duties to a percentage of such a volatile revenue. If the percentage is not fixed, there will probably be many fraught and embarrassing negotiations every year. Another anomaly is that the Crown Estate is still owned by the sovereign, even though the revenue is handed over. I would suggest that consideration should be given to handing over ownership of the Crown Estate to the state once and for all. That would provide the opportunity for some rather better parliamentary scrutiny. I worry about the longer term because Prince Charles has a record of meddling. He supports wind farms so surely there is going to be a temptation to speak out in favour of these, which would have the effect of increasing his revenue if they are offshore. It would be a strong temptation which would be hard to avoid.

I hope that the Government and the Royal Family will start negotiating the next 10–year arrangement for the funding of official royal activities based on six issues: first, by stating clearly what buildings, contents, et cetera, are owned by the state and loaned to the monarch to enable them to undertake their constitutional duties; secondly, by transferring the Crown Estate to state ownership; thirdly, by stating clearly which activities and members of the Royal Family are part of the duties and who should get free travel—and I suggest there is an urgent need to review the roles of the minor royals in this context; fourthly, by reviewing the security needs and costs, particularly of the minor royals—royal security costs £150 million a year at the moment and I question whether that is all really necessary; fifthly, by fixing the 10-year figure for the Civil List, taking into account the savings and everything else we have talked about; and, sixthly, by doing the same with the Duchy of Cornwall, making it a state-owned landlord with any profit going to the state and giving Prince Charles an allowance for the Civil List. It is not quite clear from the Chancellor’s proposed changes whether this is part of his intentions or not.

In conclusion, the Chancellor has hinted that dealing with the royal funding has become a thorn in Ministers’ sides. I believe it could get very much worse unless the Government take this issue seriously and undertake a full and transparent review of the Royal Family’s finances.

My Lords, when I found myself being volunteered to speak in this debate, I was not sure what direction the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was going to go in. To hear from the Labour Benches a call for the nationalisation of private landholdings, which is in effect what they are, cast me back to my youth and speeches of days gone by, but that is by the bye.

Many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, have been made in many forms in the media over the years. The Prince of Wales is accused of throwing his weight around by everyone he wins against but he is applauded by others. He is not the monarch yet but he is entitled to his opinion. Does he abuse his position? Do we abuse our positions? Those of us who sat through the last debate heard how non-elected people are almost perfect. We have great worth and value, et cetera—those of us who have come here via a hereditary route, albeit with chinks and having been rebranded occasionally, and those who have not. Not everyone agrees with the architects the Prince of Wales has annoyed, and wind power is ultimately cleaner than other forms of power. So let us just stand back a bit.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made an important point about justifying who is on that list and who is taking on those duties, but when it comes to cutting down on security for anyone undertaking a public duty who is potentially an incredibly soft target, not only endangering them but everyone around them, I would step very cautiously towards that. Maybe we should just send them out less. I wonder how many members of the Royal Family, especially its junior members, would be quite happy to be sent out less. But the idea that they should not travel securely and safely, particularly in these times, is something we should think long and hard about.

The change to the sovereign support grant—or the SSG, as it is called in the briefing I received—sounds sensible, bringing everything together in one coherent lump. As for making money from privately owned land, inherited from a line of succession, with the Crown getting most of the money back, who knows? We are treading on some very uncertain ground. But ultimately, if we do not use the Royal Family, what else do we use? Once again, going back to the previous debate—I wonder whether I am cheating by mentioning it—would an elected President be any cheaper to run? I suspect not. The French President still has a lot of cavalrymen wearing heavy armour parading round in front of him. The American Presidents have marines in full-dress uniforms marching around in front of them. Would that be any cheaper overall? I do not know but I suspect not. I doubt whether any regime is going to sell off Windsor Castle as a theme park or shopping mall. So if we are going to keep the institution, if we want to have a head of state who fulfils the functions both publicly and diplomatically, it is going to cost some money. We cannot get rid of the historical infrastructure, and if we have people travelling outside on public engagements, including anyone who has a connection with them, we are going to keep them safe. I would be very careful about saying we should do things on the cheap because I do not want to be the one who condemns a historic building or causes a major terrorist incident.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for giving us the opportunity for this debate. My last intervention on a Royal Family issue was when I asked the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, when he was president of the Board of Trade, whether the Government would consider promoting or supporting a special classic horse race in 2012 to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee. A number of people were quite interested in that and I still hope there may be a possibility that such a unique race may be run because I believe that Her Majesty has been an outstanding public servant, and that when we come to 2012 we should do everything in our power to let not just the country but the world see what we think of her. So I come in as a supporter of the monarchy and not as a republican. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was speaking as a republican either, but, like him, I am also interested in how public money is defrayed, especially at a time of extreme economic constraints that are being forced through at the moment by the coalition Government. So I am interested in access to financial and related information on public expenditure in the way that my noble friend Lord Berkeley was seeking to shed revealing light on it.

It has not always been easy to access the Royal Family’s expenditure and its income—it is difficult to trace the real overall expenditure when a range of departments pick up a range of different bills—and freedom-of-information exemptions in certain areas prevent people from securing certain pieces of information. But it would be churlish not to say that there has been greater openness in recent years and that the Royal Household has made major efforts to increase its efficiency and to contain the growth of costs that we saw some years ago. The Civil List has been frozen for a number of years and it will remain frozen at £7.9 million for the coming year.

The present Civil List processes will then be changed and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his words,

“will propose a new means of consolidated support for Her Majesty for the future”,

and that will come at a later date. As part of this change, the Royal Household has agreed that, in future, Civil List expenditure will be subject to the same audit scrutiny as other government expenditure both through the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons. This is a strong step forward and should be welcomed by all. It is good that the Royal Household has been prepared to go down this route.

However, that progress was somewhat tarnished last month when George Osborne announced that the existing Civil List arrangement, which determines how much the state pays to the Royal Family, should be abandoned. Instead, the Royal Family will get 15 per cent of the profits from the Crown Estate’s £6 billion property portfolio. I shall give the reasons for making that comment. Over the past 10 years, the capital value of the Crown Estate has increased by £2.6 billion. The estate owns around £6 billion of land and other assets and chattels that last year brought in a profit of £210 million. But as my noble friend Lord Berkeley indicated, and as the high degree of press coverage of this shows, there are substantial rumours around that the profits of the Crown Estate are set to rocket in the coming decade as revenues come in from offshore wind turbines installed on the Crown Estate seabed. It is projected that the development of wind turbines and farms could more than double the current annual profits of the Crown Estate.

Developing wind power is expensive, especially when it is developed offshore. Progress to date has been slow because of the high initial investment costs—sufficiently so that, notwithstanding the current restraints we are facing, the Government, in trying to accelerate development and attract more money into developing offshore wind farms, recently stated that they would be prepared to make available an extra £200 million of subsidies for offshore wind farms and for the port facilities and grid links that will be needed to handle the electricity. Thus the Royal Household will additionally be indirect beneficiaries of a very substantial taxpayer investment of £200 million, which will help to boost Crown Estate profits. From those, the household will then take 15 per cent.

We already spend more on our Royal Family than is spent on any other royal family in Europe. It would be ironic if these new arrangements mean that, for the first time since Parliament bailed out George III’s debts by taking over the management of the Crown Estate and introducing Civil List payments that have to be negotiated between the Government and the Royal Household to determine its expenditure, this new coalition Government will now entirely reverse the system. Instead, our greatly indebted state—we are told this every day—will hand the Royal Family an independent source of income from the Crown Estate that could greatly outstrip the household’s current and anticipated costs. It does not surprise me that Prince Charles, who has an aversion to onshore wind farms, has now become a well-known campaigner for offshore wind turbines. If he was a parliamentarian, I think he would be requested to declare a personal interest before making any speeches about the development of green marine energy, but that is an aside that perhaps I should withdraw.

I will be interested to hear from the Minister whether my understanding of what is about to happen is correct. I should also like to know if there will be any public consultation on the review process that has now been put in train, the extent to which Parliament will be involved in that consultation and, indeed, whether the public will be involved. I ask this especially since only in the past few days Her Majesty the Queen has launched a Facebook page that has attracted a substantial amount of interest, with 100,000 people logging on to it. Answers to these questions and the detail that will arise from these topics are things that ought to be in the public domain. I think that more openness would strengthen the Royal Family’s position rather than weaken it because, as we all know in a modern society, secrecy creates more problems than it leads to solutions.

My final and perhaps most important question is this. If I am right and there is to be a 15 per cent take from Crown Estate profits, whatever they might be, given that there could be very substantial increases in those profits, have the Government given any thought to the need for a cap? How much could be paid over to the Royal Household? I ask this because even though the household will declare its expenditure to the NAO and so on, it is conceivable that there could be a very substantial gap between the costs of running the household and what the profits turn out to be by 2015 or 2020. In the interests of the Royal Family, I do not think that that would be the best way to go. There is a requirement for a reasonable approach to be taken, and we could end up with an option, the one we are now considering, that would lead to a level of unreasonableness that would be unacceptable to the public at large.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for tabling this timely debate. He has made some important points on which I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. As he said, the changes announced by the Chancellor in the CSR could potentially have large financial implications which should be the subject of proper parliamentary scrutiny, notwithstanding the sensitivity of some of the issues raised.

The monarchy and its funding has always been a tricky issue for those on this side of the House—populated, as we have heard, with both ardent monarchists and equally ardent republicans. I hope to tread lightly on this subject. But I am sure that my colleagues, whatever their views on the principle of a monarch in this country, recognise the strong and ongoing public support for the Royal Family in general and for the Queen in particular. She has been a constant in times of turmoil. She is on her 12th Prime Minister and is a constant in the world too. The Queen is widely admired throughout the world, and I have heard it said that she has met more heads of state than any other person, alive or dead, which is quite a feat. In addition, one could argue that the Royal Family provides good value for money for the Civil List. Its attraction in terms of tourism for Britain should not be underestimated, especially as tourism is the fourth largest employment sector in the UK.

I shall move on to the financial structure for the Royal Household, which is the subject of this debate. As we have heard, until now the Crown Estate has managed Crown land on behalf of the Government. Surplus revenue goes to the Treasury in return for which the monarch receives a fixed annual payment—the Civil List. It is an arrangement that has worked well for a number of years and the amount paid has been gradually falling in real terms. But there has been some worrying press coverage of the Chancellor’s recent announcement suggesting that there is some kind of secret deal afoot here. I am sure that that is not the intention or the desire of the Royal Family, and it is therefore vital to defend its reputation by providing further details as soon as possible. So I would be interested to hear from the Minister what pressures the Government came under to change the Civil List arrangements and what the reasons were. In what way was the Civil List system not working? What was the problem the Government were trying to solve when they came up with the new proposals for a sovereign support grant?

Reflecting the public mood on the Royal Family, since 1993 the Queen and the Prince of Wales have paid tax under voluntary arrangements agreed with the Government. Most of their sources of income are now dealt with in accordance with the usual tax rules. This includes activities such as private investments, profit and losses from farming at the royal houses, such as Balmoral and Windsor, and money generated from opening to the public the houses and gardens at Sandringham and Balmoral.

According to the comprehensive spending review document, grant support for the Royal Household will be static in 2011-12 and 2012-13 at £30 million, a further real terms cut. After that the Royal Household will receive the new sovereign support grant linked to the revenue of the Crown Estate. So, in echoing some of the questions that have been raised in the debate, I ask the Minister to give more details of how this will work in practice. There are no further details in the CSR document, or anything on the Royal Family’s website, or on the Crown Estate website.

In particular, the new arrangements in which the sovereign support grant is based on a proportion of the Crown Estate’s turnover could, as we have heard, vary wildly from year to year. How will the Queen budget for expenditure on that basis? Furthermore, in the welcome circumstances of the Crown Estate managing its activities particularly well—my noble friend Lord Berkeley gave an example of how this might work—the Royal Household income could rise significantly from its current position, such that there could be real public concern that the Royal Family was doing rather well while the public were living in a time of greater austerity. I should welcome the Minister’s comments on that possibility. Conversely, if the global economy was to take a serious downward turn, the Royal Household income could, potentially, fall substantially below its current level. What would happen in these circumstances? Would the Government be forced to step in?

It is hard to imagine that the Chancellor’s proposals are as sketchy as has so far been revealed. It would therefore be of great assistance if the Minister could provide details of the background to the agreements made so far, the remaining issues still to be discussed and the process of parliamentary scrutiny to be provided. We could then all be assured that the transparency and accountability developed over the years will still be honoured.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on securing this opportunity to debate a matter that is of considerable interest to people and I thank him for the clarity with which he advanced his arguments and sought information about the royal finances.

I am sure that noble Lords will join me in recognising the Queen’s long and loyal service and her immense contribution to public life, as several noble Lords mentioned. I will in a moment explain the proposed new arrangements for supporting Her Majesty’s official business as monarch, but I should perhaps first give some context.

Since 1760, successive sovereigns have surrendered to the Exchequer their hereditary revenues, such as from the Crown Estate, in return for an annual income, known as the Civil List, and certain other financial support. The Queen’s Civil List covers the central staff costs and running expenses of Her Majesty’s official household. Certain other expenditure of the Royal Household is met by government departments through annually voted supply grants, including, in particular, the grants in aid for royal travel and maintenance of the royal palaces. The Civil List Act 1972 requires the Royal Trustees to keep under review and report on Civil List expenditure and the sums available to meet it, with reports to be made every 10 years.

In the trustees’ 1990 report, the fixed annual amount of the Civil List was set to exceed projected expenditure in the earlier years, with the surplus being accumulated to meet later expected deficits as a result of inflation. Rather than forecasting inflation for the 10-year period, the Royal Trustees recommended £7.9 million as the fixed annual amount of the Civil List for the ensuing 10 years, assuming annual inflation of 7.5 per cent. In the event, of course, annual underlying retail prices index inflation averaged about 3.2 per cent during those 10 years, while Civil List expenditure increased by approximately 10 per cent less than inflation. Additionally, interest of about £12 million was earned on the surplus, leaving a reserve of about £35 million to be carried forward into the 10-year period to the end of December 2010.

In view of that substantial reserve and the expectation of low inflation, in July 2000 the Royal Trustees recommended that the fixed annual amount of the Civil List should remain at £7.9 million. Also, at the suggestion of the Royal Household, it took on responsibility for some £2 million of expenditure previously met from the votes of government departments or from the consolidated fund, utilising a substantial part of the reserve during the new 10-year period.

In his Budget Statement on 22 June this year, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the decennial review of the Civil List. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, my right honourable friend also announced that payment of the Civil List for the calendar year 2011 would remain unchanged at £7.9 million. Therefore, the amount provided for the Civil List will have remained unchanged for more than 20 years and is today worth only a quarter of what it was in 1990. The Chancellor also said that he would, in due course, propose a new means of consolidated support for Her Majesty in future. He made it clear that he wanted a durable settlement for the Royal Household that would not require frequent government intervention in future.

Before coming to the new arrangements, let me give your Lordships some details of the principal grants in aid that are made by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Transport. The property services grant in aid is the annual funding provided by DCMS to the Royal Household to meet the cost of property maintenance and other costs at the royal palaces used by Her Majesty in fulfilling the role and functions of head of state, known as the occupied royal palaces. DCMS has overall responsibility for the maintenance of and provision of services to the occupied royal palaces. However, since 1 April 1991, management and operating responsibility has been with the Royal Household.

The royal travel grant in aid is the annual funding provided by the Department for Transport to the Royal Household to meet the costs of official royal travel by air and rail. As with support for the occupied royal palaces, support for official royal travel is one of the expenses met by the Government in return for the surrender by Her Majesty of the hereditary revenues of the Crown. The Department for Transport has overall responsibility for the use made of moneys voted by Parliament for royal travel. However, day-to-day responsibility for that expenditure has been with the Royal Household since 1 April 1997.

In his spending review Statement on 20 October, the Chancellor announced the new arrangements for support of the Royal Household. He announced that grant support will be static in 2011-12 and 2012-13 at £30 million. As Her Majesty has graciously agreed, this will call for a 14 per cent reduction in cash terms for Royal Household spending in 2012-13, as the Civil List reserve will by then have been exhausted. In addition, in order to support the costs of the historic diamond jubilee, to which the whole country is looking forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, said, a one-off additional £1 million will be provided. I am sure that the whole House will join me in appreciating the Queen’s considerable achievements in leading and guiding the country with dignity and grace for such a sustained period.

From 2012, support for the Queen in her official duties will be simplified. It is intended that there will be a straightforward unitary grant to Her Majesty, replacing the current system of multiple grants. From 2012-13, the new sovereign support grant paid to the Royal Household will support Her Majesty’s expenditure on her official business, replacing the Civil List, which is paid directly from the Exchequer, and the voted grants in aid for royal transport and royal palaces. It will be set by a formula related to the revenue of the Crown Estate and paid through the Treasury vote. Her Majesty has graciously agreed that, for the first time, funding through the sovereign support grant will be audited by the National Audit Office, providing transparency and accountability. A single grant structure will allow the Royal Household to set its own priorities and control costs. These arrangements will be transparent, accountable and dignified, generating a durable outcome that gives the Royal Household security over future funding.

Giving effect to these proposals will require primary legislation. The necessary Bill has not yet been drafted, but the Government hope that it will be introduced so that it can pass in time for the start of the sovereign support grant in 2012. The proportion of the Crown Estate’s revenue to be used will be decided by Parliament, but there will of course be safeguards to ensure that the formula is fair.

The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, expressed concern about the volatility of earnings from the Crown Estate and whether it was an appropriate basis for annual funding. I quite accept the question. It is important to be clear: the Crown Estate’s earnings will continue to be remitted directly to the Exchequer as now. They will not be hypothecated to the Royal Household. Several noble Lords mentioned a figure of 15 per cent and I should like to try to correct a misunderstanding. The setting of the formula for the SSG, which is for Parliament to decide, will simply use Crown Estate revenue as an appropriate starting point. It will not continue into the future to be based on a simple percentage. However, I am not clear on that point; I shall write to noble Lords afterwards, as there may be a misunderstanding.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked whether the Prince of Wales accepts the need to reduce his costs and how the mode of transport for members of the Royal Family is decided on. In deciding those things, the household will have to bear in mind criteria including the safety not only of the royal person but also of people in their vicinity, security, value for money, the length of the journey, whether the transport is consistent with the requirements and dignity of the occasion, the most effective use of the Royal Family’s time and minimisation of disruption to others.

The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, commented on the need for transparency. The new sovereign support grant will mean that all royal expenditure will be audited by the National Audit Office.

My noble friend Lord Addington suggested that a president would be no cheaper. Other countries are strangely coy about publishing the full costs of their presidencies, so it is difficult either to agree or disagree with confidence, but I note the rumoured $100 million cost of President Obama’s inauguration. I wonder whether we perhaps do not enjoy a bargain in this country. My noble friend also made a strong point about security in answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I agree with him.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, asked about the publication of the finances. They are published annually. All trips of greater than £10,000 by air and rail are listed separately from the royal travel grant in aid.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked about a cap. The formula for the sovereign support grant will be set by Parliament. It is envisaged that there will be a mechanism to ensure that the formula is fair and neither adversely too high or too low.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny and for more detail about the new arrangements. The details will be set out in a Bill that will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

I suspect that I have not been able to answer all noble Lords’ questions—

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanations. It is an excellent idea to put all the different grants from different departments in the one pot, which will come from the Treasury at the end of the day. However, what is the argument for linking it to the Crown Estate’s profit, which goes into the Treasury in the first place? If he does not have the answer now, perhaps he could include it in his letter.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that question. I am conscious that I have not adequately answered it. I am finding it difficult to express the answer in words; I am out of time. I will write to him if I may and put a copy of the letter in the Library.

I hope that in the short time available I have been able to give some help to noble Lords in obtaining a better understanding of the provision of financial support for the Royal Household. The Government are extremely grateful to Her Majesty for accepting a measure of austerity in grant support in the near term and we all hope that she has a continuing long and happy reign.

House adjourned at 8.35 pm.