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Alan Johnson: The issue regarding extradition begins with the courts. It is the courts that decide: the district court, the High Court, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, all of which have been open-and are still open-to Gary McKinnon. When the courts make a decision on the forum-the place in which that gentleman should be tried-the process kicks into action.
Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): Will the Home Secretary look at the number and depth of inspections of county constabularies, not least because they impose a huge burden on resources and manpower, and divert time, energy and police officers away from front-line policing?
Alan Johnson: I will consider what the hon. Lady has said, but the role that Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary plays in inspecting police forces around the country is important, as we found out recently with one particular police force where the public had huge concerns. HMIC's role is to ensure that it can assist police forces in reaching the level of the best. There is always a case for keeping such burdens to an absolute minimum and ensuring the right balance, which we will look at as part of our constant war against bureaucracy in the police force.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary guarantee that the new chairperson of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will be someone of genuine scientific independence who will challenge the evidence-free policies pursued by all Governments since 1971, which have resulted in Britain having the worst drug problems in Europe?
Alan Johnson: I will of course ensure that the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has those attributes. Indeed, we have agreed to a member of the advisory council being part of the interviewing panel for the new chairman.
T8.  Chloe Smith (Norwich, North) (Con): Does the Minister not agree that the number of speed cameras in Norfolk should be increased to a level that would allow more of my constituents to benefit from the Norfolk safety camera partnership?
Alan Johnson: It is good to hear someone speaking up for speed cameras; indeed, I am delighted. The issue is of course an operational matter for Norfolk police, which I am absolutely sure will be aware of the hon. Lady's intervention. I, for one, am a big fan of speed cameras.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The number of procedures under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 continues to rise, with 4 million sentient beings the target that we see each year. Is the Home Secretary happy with the effectiveness of the legislation? The policy of reduction, refinement and replacement is clearly not working. What alternatives might there be?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier):
We have a policy of reduction and ensuring that we do not license unnecessary animal procedures. We do not have an upper cap on
such procedures, however, and it is important that each application is considered in the proper way on the science available.
Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): When the Home Secretary dismissed David Nutt, the chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, two other independent scientific advisers resigned. When the Home Secretary said that he had no regrets, three others resigned. Is he still of the view that he would do the same thing now, given the outcry from independent scientists, if the circumstances were the same?
Alan Johnson: I would absolutely do the same thing. The Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is chaired by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis), who is the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend, has done us all a service by not concentrating on the past, as he continually does, but by looking to the future, particularly in relation to the contribution made by Lord Rees from the other place.
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I had a very useful meeting with the Immigration Minister earlier this summer to discuss my concerns about the administration of the visa system in Pakistan. I wonder whether he can now reassure the House that the administration of visas in that post is up to speed, satisfactory and being carried out with integrity.
Mr. Woolas: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising those issues as she did; they were important to the process. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary visited Islamabad and gave assurances, which we have now met. There is some work remaining to be done on appeals, where the appeals have been won and the visas have to be issued and we have to contact the individuals concerned, but we are now on top of that situation.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): The Home Secretary referred earlier to the HMIC report "Adapting to Protest", and its relationship to the White Paper. What are the Government intending to do about an HMIC recommendation that has not been carried forward into the White Paper-namely, that the position and status of
"the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) must have transparent governance and accountability structures, particularly when it is engaged in quasi-operational roles, such as the collation and retention of personal data"?
Alan Johnson: Of course, that is a matter not just for us but for ACPO itself. The new chairman of ACPO is keen to look at how the association can be changed. He has a number of ideas, and it is right that we take that recommendation from HMIC forward in discussions with ACPO. That it not to say that it has been shelved; it is being progressed, but in a different way from the other recommendations that were placed in the White Paper.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The Office for National Statistics projects that, unless immigration is brought into balance with emigration, it will be impossible to keep the UK's population below 70 million. Is the Home Secretary concerned about that? If so, what is he going to do about it?
I have made it absolutely plain that I do not believe that we will get to 70 million. The projections from the ONS do not take into account the changes over the past few years, and it would be a big mistake to think that the next 10 years are going to be
like the previous 10 years in relation to movements around the world, in relation to the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Indeed, I think that those projections will change over time, as previous projections have done.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on my visit to Afghanistan and to report on the conclusions of the European Council and our role in the global talks on climate change. First, Afghanistan. On Saturday and Sunday this weekend, I visited our troops in Helmand and Kandahar, and met President Karzai and his Defence, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Security Ministers. I also met our commanders on the ground, and Afghan army leaders. Today, I have had a meeting of our National Security Committee, with the Chief of Defence and the chief of our security services, and talked to NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen.
The first purpose of my visit to Afghanistan was to thank our brave armed forces in a year in which 100 of their colleagues have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I wanted to acknowledge and congratulate them on the dedicated work that they continue to do, day after day, and, as Christmas draws near, to wish them and their families well. I think that I speak for everyone when I say that the thoughts and prayers of the House and the whole country are with them. British people are safer at home because our troops are fighting for our safety this Christmas in Afghanistan.
I wanted also to assess progress to reinforce our campaign in Afghanistan, and, in my meetings with President Karzai and his team of Ministers, to begin preparations for the conference on the future of Afghanistan that will be held in London on 28 January-an event which I believe will galvanise the international effort on political and economic progress, as well as on security, and to which President Karzai has agreed to present his plans for the country's future.
Our strategy is to ensure that al-Qaeda can never regain free rein in Afghanistan. To achieve that, we must weaken the Taliban and strengthen Afghanistan, stage by stage, district by district and province by province, putting the Afghans in control of their own security. But we must first address the Taliban insurgency with all the resources and power that we have at our disposal. Yesterday, I flew on one of the newly deployed Merlin helicopters. Over the past three years, we have doubled helicopter numbers, and more than doubled helicopter flying hours. There will be further increases in both over the coming months.
I also saw the mine-resistant Mastiff patrol vehicles and the smaller but equally well-protected Ridgback vehicles, and heard how since the summer we have increased the number of Mastiff by more than 80 per cent. and almost doubled the number of Ridgback-hundreds of new vehicles funded from the Treasury reserve, which are now every month saving lives in Afghanistan.
Aerial surveillance helps us track and target Taliban improvised explosive devices, and that surveillance has now been increased by over 20 per cent. Yesterday I asked for and received an assurance from President Karzai of the new assistance the Afghan people will give us in detecting and dismantling these improvised explosive devices. Afghan forces will now be trained, as I saw yesterday, to detect and disable IEDs. There will be more local police on the ground and we will be
training 10,000 police recruits. There will be better intelligence from the Afghan people about the source of planned IED attacks and encouragement not to harbour those planning explosive attacks on British soldiers.
I can say now that we will go further in providing more equipment and support to our armed forces. Tomorrow, the Defence Secretary will announce plans for more equipment for the Afghan campaign, including more specialist counter-IED support. The latest tranche of urgent operational funding from the Treasury will include an extra £10 million for hand-held mine detectors to follow the £12 million set aside earlier for new explosive disposal robots, over 30 of which are now in operation tracking IEDs. I can also announce a package of longer-term investment in our counter-IED capability, including new and enhanced facilities for training and for intelligence. This will amount to an extra £50 million a year-£150 million in total this year and over the next two years.
Our strategy involves working with the Afghan army and police so that over time they can take security control. President Karzai confirmed to me that he is increasing the number of Afghan troops in Helmand to 10,000. Already in the last few days, 500 new troops have arrived. Once the police training college we are running in Helmand is at full strength from the spring, there alone we will be able to train 2,000 police officers every year.
Yesterday I saw for myself the reality of British forces mentoring and partnering Afghan troops and the new momentum that is resulting from that. The Taliban are a determined adversary; they will not give up easily. I am under no illusion-there will be hard fighting ahead-but I draw great confidence from the immense professionalism of our servicemen and women and from the telling effect they are already having on the enemy and the galvanising impact they are having on the Afghan forces they are partnering.
I can report that 36 countries have now offered additional manpower to the Afghan campaign. We know that the planned increase in American, British and Afghan forces over the coming weeks and months will allow us to review force ratios and develop a new balance in Helmand. As I have said to the House, the priority for the additional British forces is to thicken in central Helmand and to shift the emphasis towards partnering Afghan forces. I can report to the House that commanders on the ground told me yesterday that already in two thirds of British bases, our forces patrol jointly with their Afghan counterparts. It is by partnering in this way-first in the army and then with the police-that we will enable the Afghans to step up to the challenge of dealing with the Taliban and with extremism, and, ultimately, when the conditions are right, that we will allow our troops to return home.
I also saw from my visit and from my discussions with our commanders and civilian leaders that we are seeing the beginnings of the political process, which must complement our military strategy. Tribal and town elders already provide the kind of effective, accountable grass-roots government that will be the foundation for any successful political strategy.
So the decisions we have made in 2009 set a new framework for action in 2010. Partnership with Afghan forces will turn Afghanisation from an aspiration into a real force for progress in every district. Even closer
working between our military and civilian missions will allow military action to provide the space for Afghan institutions owned by the Afghan people to develop at a faster pace.
Mr. Speaker, 68 international delegations will come to London for the 28 January conference on Afghanistan. All 43 powers engaged in the international coalition will attend, together with other regional and Muslim partners and international organisations, and they will be led by the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and NATO. I agreed with President Karzai that this conference will deliver a new compact between Afghanistan and the international community based on priorities that he has outlined.
The first of those priorities is security. We expect nations to announce troop deployments building on the total of 140,000 troops promised for 2010. I hope that the London conference will also be able to set out the next stage in a longer-term plan: the changing balance between alliance forces and Afghan army and defence forces as the number of Afghan forces increases from 90,000 to 135,000 next year and possibly to 175,000 later, as well as, of course, the future numbers, roles and tasks of the police, intelligence services and local security initiatives in Afghanistan.
Secondly, in London, NATO and international security assistance force partners must set out an outline programme for the transfer of lead responsibility from coalition to Afghan forces, along with an agreed set of conditions and criteria to establish the eligibility of provinces and districts for transfer. I hope we can agree in London that that process can begin during 2010, subject to conditions on the ground.
The third priority relates to reintegration. London must secure international support and financial backing for Afghan-led resettlement and reintegration programmes. Fourthly, there is the issue of economic development. As President Karzai proceeds with an anti-corruption programme, London must provide comprehensive long-term support for the Afghan economy, including support for farmers and working people in the towns and villages, in order to offer them a greater stake in the future of their country. That will include providing Afghans with credible alternatives to the poppy and the insurgency.
Finally, London must address the issue of co-ordinating international efforts on Afghanistan. That means reaffirming the role of the United Nations, announcing the new special representative of the Secretary-General, and announcing stronger civilian co-ordination in ISAF. London must also encourage a new set of relationships between Afghanistan and its neighbours, and, in particular, better joint working with Pakistan.
Although Afghanistan and Pakistan are different countries with their own cultural traditions and histories, they are both at the epicentre of global terrorism. Our national security interests require us to deny al-Qaeda space in which to operate across Pakistan, and also to deny it the option of returning to operate in Afghanistan. One of the biggest advances of the last year is increased co-operation with the Pakistan authorities in support of the efforts involved in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and we want to build on that in the coming months.
As part of our partnership with the Pakistani armed forces, construction is now under way of the new UK-funded Baluchistan training facility, in which British
mentors will be working with Pakistani training staff to build counter-insurgency capability for the 30,000-strong Baluchistan frontier corps. As part of our partnership with the civilian Government of Pakistan, the new education taskforce, which is focused on implementing education reforms, is meeting for the first time today in Islamabad. Moreover, £250 million of Britain's development assistance to Pakistan is directed towards education, as I agreed with President Zardari earlier this month, because nothing is more important to addressing the root causes of so many of Pakistan's problems than the building of a strong universal state education system, free from extremist influence and offering a viable alternative to low-quality schools, which include the poorly regulated and extremist madrassahs.
One of the first decisions of the European Council was to reiterate its strong commitments to promoting stability and development in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A second decision was to express the united view of Europe that there was "grave concern" about Iran's nuclear weapons intentions. We recognised-here I quote from the communiqué-that Iran has
"so far done nothing to rebuild confidence of the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme."
While we agreed that our offer of renegotiation and negotiation remains on the table, because of our continuing concerns about Iran's nuclear programme we agreed to begin working on options for sanctions in the new year.
The Council also discussed the economic recovery, jobs and sustainable growth, and how Europe could move forward a climate change deal at Copenhagen. We reiterated unanimously that policies in support of the economy should
"remain in place and only be withdrawn when recovery is fully secured."
"welcomed the rapid and determined action"
"Remuneration policies within the financial sector must promote sound and effective risk management".
"Member States to promptly consider available short-term options"
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