House of Lords to debate piracy

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The UK House of Lords will debate Somali Piracy on Thursday 11 November when it takes note of the EU Committee report Combating Somali Piracy: the EU’s Naval Operation Atalanta which examined the effectiveness of the operation set up by the EU to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Subjects expected to be discussed include capability shortfalls of the operation such as airborne surveillance and tanker support, methods used by pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and resources deployed to steward ships chartered by the World Food Programme, who the Committee recommended should be actively encouraged to charter faster, larger vessels in order to release resources to carry out anti-piracy activity elsewhere in the region.

The report, published in April, criticised the insurance industry for not accepting greater responsibility for promoting adherence to best practice by shipping companies to deter pirates. The Committee also urged the Government to oppose efforts from the UN to make the payment of ransoms difficult, and endorsed the position in the UK that paying a ransom to pirates is not a criminal offence.

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean is a serious and continuing threat to UK and EU interests. With this in mind the Committee strongly recommended that Atalanta’s mandate should be renewed in December 2010 in order to make further progress in combating piracy, an opinion endorsed by the British Foreign Secretary earlier this year at the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

Commenting ahead of the debate, Chairman of the Committee Lord Teverson said: “Somali piracy remains a big challenge to the world’s seafarers. Europe’s operation Atalanta may have had its successes, but as we have seen this week, big ransoms are still being paid as the world’s navies stand by and watch. So far no crew has been killed and the ransoms appear not to have been channelled into terrorism. But there are no guarantees for the future.

“In this debate we will be pressing the Government very hard to make sure that more steps are taken to confront this outburst of lawbreaking across an increasing area of the Indian Ocean”.

Lord Teverson will introduce the debate, which will also hear contributions from Members including former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Inge, and Lord Anderson of Swansea, who co-founded the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa. Lord Howell of Guildford will speak on behalf of the Government.