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Lords Chamber
15 January 2001
Volume 620

House Of Lords

Monday, 15th January 2001.

Reassembling after the Christmas Recess, the House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of St Albans.

Age Discrimination In The Professions

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asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will seek to promote the employment of professionals over the present retirement ages where there is need for their services and they are competent to perform those services.

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My Lords, the Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment already sets the standard for good employment practices for all, including professionals. It promotes a flexible approach to retirement that does not use age as the sole criterion. It is being vigorously promoted with employers. Retirement arrangements should take individual and business needs into account. The evaluation of the code's impact will inform further plans for promoting the benefits to employers.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she agree that to force people out of work because of their age when they are fit and capable and there is need for that work is totally unacceptable institutionalised ageism? Bearing in mind that many Members of this House have a personal interest in her answer, perhaps she will give an affirmative, friendly, positive and constructive answer to this first Question of the new year; namely, what steps will the Government take through legislation to ban ageism and institutionalised ageism of this kind?

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My Lords, I accept that there is much interest in this House in a Question of that kind. As I grow older I daily become more interested myself. The Government's view is that we should be much more flexible about this matter where people over the age of retirement continue to make a positive and worthwhile contribution in whatever employment they are in. The Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment encourages employers to be more flexible in that respect. It is a complex issue so far as concerns legislation. I cannot respond other than to say that the issue requires a great deal of thought before we go down that road.

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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on reaching the Privy Council. I have some sympathy with her not wanting to legislate on this rather delicate matter. The professions vary a great deal, but is she aware that lawyers do not always reach the prime of life until they are about to retire?

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My Lords, l thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks about my elevation to the Privy Council. It is not for me to comment on when lawyers reach their maximum level of performance; there are many better informed noble Lords who can comment on that matter. We need to take a sensible, commonsense approach to the employment of older people. I am sure that Members of your Lordships' House will agree that many people over the age of 65 can make a contribution, just as many noble Lords do in this House. I am glad to say that there has been an increase in the number of people over the age of 50 in employment. Over the past two or three years the figure has risen by 6 per cent.

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My Lords, has the Minister's attention been drawn to an article in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago which indicated that the voluntary code to which she referred in her first Answer is not widely known among employers, and is certainly not widely adhered to? Perhaps she can say something more about the promotional activities to which she referred also in her first Answer?

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My Lords, I did not see the article in the Sunday Times. However, I accept that there may be many employers, particularly smaller employers, who are not yet familiar with the con tents of the code. My department is in the process of evaluating its impact. It is perhaps too soon to tell my noble friend Lord Borrie what its impact has been and what further promotional activities are necessary. I hope that my noble friend and other noble Lords who feel this is important will help the Government in making clear to employers that age discrimination is unacceptable.

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My Lords, does the Minister agree that often in the professions it is ageism which makes people anxious to get rid of older people and that, at least in the case of the teaching profession, it is the expense of employing older people rather than younger people? Does she further agree that many schools are desperate to have turnover among staff so that they can employ the cheapest teachers, who are the youngest and beginner teachers?

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My Lords, there are many reasons why employers want to retire older people earlier than is perhaps necessary. Sometimes they are good reasons. Perhaps an older employee does not have the skills and qualifications needed to carry out their particular job in different conditions.

In relation to the teaching profession, there was a substantial increase in the number of teachers retiring early in the early to mid 1990s. But the previous Government made sensible proposals for reducing the number of early retirements by making the cost fall on the employer rather than on the national scheme. As a result, over the past two years the numbers taking early retirement in the teaching profession have reduced substantially to around 2,500 a year.

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My Lords, does the Minister agree that in this House noble Lords do not reach the full prime of their maturity until they achieve the age of 80 but that the rest of us are all trying?

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My Lords, that puts me in a very difficult position. Quite a few Members of your Lordships' House reach maturity a little under the age of 80 but some may not get there until they are nearly 90.

School Playground Injuries: Liability

2.43 p.m.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they intend to take to mitigate the impact of no-win, no-fee litigation on school liability for injuries incurred during the playing of traditional schoolyard games.

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My Lords, the Government see no need to take any new action. The numbers of injuries to pupils in schools have reduced over the past three years. We have published guidance on making playgrounds safe. Schools can reduce the risk of litigation by having effective procedures for handling parental concerns and complaints. But where local education authorities or schools have concerns about the potential cost of litigation, they can take out insurance.

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My Lords, as the Minister may know, my Question is based on research carried out by the University of Keele, published just before Christmas, which suggests that this kind of litigation is having an effect on schools. If the noble Baroness had been watching ITV Channel 3 at a quarter to two this afternoon, she would have seen an advertisement by Claims Direct specifically aimed at litigation for accidents to children. In the Manchester Evening News on Thursday 11th January an article stated:

"Britain has gone compensation crazy. Analysts estimate that compensation is costing taxpayers £9 billion a year".
According to the article, Manchester City Council has already complained to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor about the effect on council budgets and council services of paying compensation. I have raised this issue on previous occasions. I am afraid that the noble Baroness shows the same complacency as did the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack.

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Question!

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My Lords, how long will we tolerate going down this slippery slope, with everyone being afraid to provide services because the lawyers will be at their throats?

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My Lords, I am not aware of the research published by the University of Keele to which the noble Lord referred but I shall certainly try to get hold of it. There is no evidence of an increase in the number of cases being brought as a result of injuries to children in school playgrounds. The DfEE monitors the position and I shall ensure that we keep a close eye on the impact of changes in the legal system. The noble Lord referred to advertisements on television. It is perfectly reasonable that people with good cases should be entitled to know where services are available to them. Provided that the companies which advertise them do so with propriety, I think that they can extend access to justice.

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My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that one of the reasons for the reduction in the number of incidents is the reluctance on the part of teachers to engage in various activities? They are vulnerable and often defenceless when it comes to defending their part in taking young people on adventure training or walking in the country. Sadly, some of these activities are now on the decline in schools. It is disappointing that our young people should not be enjoying canoeing, walking, riding and hiking.

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My Lords, my Answer to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, concerned accidents in the playground. There is no evidence that the kinds of activities to which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, refers are on the decline. The Government are keen to encourage schools to take young people and children out of the school environment into worthwhile activities of this kind. There is always a balance between putting children at risk and being overprotective. It is a matter of common sense as to where the line should be drawn.

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My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the dangers of an increasing culture of compensation is that it increases the risk of people making false allegations, perhaps many years after the event—I think in particular of allegations of child abuse—because they have their eye on the pounds, shillings and pence as opposed to the truth of the situation?

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My Lords, in raising the issue of child abuse, my noble friend is moving rather a long way from the Question on the Order Paper. Perhaps I may say to him that in no-win, no-fee agreements the client's solicitor and insurer bear the risk of paying both sides' costs if the case is lost. Therefore, they take on only good cases. That should be an important factor in reducing the number of compensation claims that are not based on a very good case.

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My Lords, is the Minister aware that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who has just entered the Chamber, is 90 years old today?

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Hear, hear!

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My Lords, I was not aware of that, but I should like to wish the noble and learned Lord a happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.

Natural Disasters In Developing Countries

2.50 p.m.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:

What specific action they will take to reduce the impact of natural disasters on developing countries, in the light of the White Paper on international development (Cm 5006).

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My Lords, the Department for International Development is working to strengthen the UN-led International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as well as incorporating disaster preparedness and mitigation objectives into individual country programmes. Reducing risks and hazards, building capacity to withstand sudden shocks, as well as strengthening local arrangements for responding effectively when disaster strikes, are all essential aspects of our support for developing countries.

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My Lords, will the Government help to ensure that, when working with the international strategy for disaster reduction, all the UN agencies will work hard on the question of the prevention of disasters? As we saw so tragically during the recent events in El Salvador, planning, technology and training might have helped. Will the Government also ensure that they make maximum use of UK technology and capability in this area, where we certainly have a great deal to offer?

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My Lords, I should like, first, to join my noble friend in expressing regret about the tragedy resulting from the earthquake in El Salvador. As regards the detail of my noble friend's question, the International Strategy on Disaster Reduction is a new mechanism which was set up following the International Decade for Disaster Reduction. We are working with the UN Secretariat to ensure that it adds value to the mechanisms which are already in place. Recently we received the 2001 work programme for ISDR and we shall consider it as a part of our strategy to enhance disaster reduction efforts through international organisations and networks. My noble friend may also be aware that, as a part of our effort to ensure the effectiveness of UN activities, our strategic partnership with the Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs seeks to strengthen that UN system as a whole. We shall continue to ensure that, through using UK technology, we work to develop disaster preparedness and prevention.

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My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of Plan International. Does the Minister agree that two impacts result from any natural disaster? The first is the immediate impact at the time, when often many lives are lost. However, the impact continues long after the event and the delivery of immediate relief. Many NGOs—l should point out that the Department for International Development has been extremely helpful in assisting here—are required to go in after the event to rebuild stable lives for people, thus enabling them to return to what was their normal way of life before the disaster.

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My Lords, I agree entirely with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. When a crisis strikes, immediate needs must be met. The humanitarian department of the Department for International Development deals with that aspect. However, the noble Baroness will be aware of our long-term strategy, which seeks to build sustainability in the countries in which we are working. That is why our strategy embraces working with countries to ensure that, as a part of their own planning, they incorporate issues surrounding disaster preparedness and mitigation.

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My Lords, perhaps I may start by commending the swift reaction of the DfID to the crisis in El Salvador. I believe that representatives are already undertaking work in the region. However, is it not now time to look at responses towards debt reduction? Many small countries that are hit by disasters bear unsustainable debt. Would it not be a welcome initiative to look at the immediate suspension of debt to the Bretton Woods institutions rather than providing aid?

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My Lords, I should like, first, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for his comments as regards DfID staff who have been working around the clock since we learned of the earthquake in El Salvador. As regards debt relief, the noble Lord will be aware that we have played a central role in the HIPC initiative by working with the World Bank and other Paris Club members to hasten the process of debt relief. Indeed, at the end of last year, not only did we meet our target of 20 countries receiving interim relief, but we exceeded it; 22 countries qualified.

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My Lords, this Question is timely and will be addressed more fully in the Statement to be taken later. However, I should like the Minister to respond to a more general point. Why is there no mention at all in the Government White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty, of disaster relief or emergency responses? Furthermore, when shall we be able to hold a debate on this extremely important subject?

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My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness may not have looked at the White Paper in detail. There is a reference in the paper to disaster preparedness. Indeed, I could read out the reference if that would be of help. I shall certainly write to the noble Baroness with the details of that. As regards a debate in this House, I am aware that discussions are taking place through the usual channels.

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My Lords, in light of the present disaster in central America, and in view of the efforts made and help given following the devastation resulting from Hurricane Mitch in the same area—help given not only by the British Government but also by many NGOs—can the noble Baroness tell the House what steps were taken to monitor that aid effort? What kind of feedback was received from those working on the ground in order to ensure that procedures could be improved and that we were able to learn from that experience?

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My Lords, I can tell the noble Baroness that, since Hurricane Mitch, we have been working in the area and looking at the issues around disaster preparedness and mitigation. I shall write to the noble Baroness with further details on that point. As regards the monitoring of aid efforts, the noble Baroness may recall that some concerns were expressed, not about the emergency response, but about the delivery of some of the long-term aid which had been promised, in particular by the European Union. I can say to the noble Baroness that some delay has occurred with respect to that. However, some of the mechanisms within the European Commission have been improved as a result of pressure from member governments, including our Government. We hope that such delays will not occur again.

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My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the efforts of Her Majesty's Government, and in particular of her department, in connection with the scale of overseas aid, are very much appreciated? Will she bear in mind that the actions of the Commission have already been commented on by the "three wise men" established to investigate fraud and irregularity, some cases of which lie with the department in the Commission responsible for its share of overseas aid?

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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his positive comments on the work of the department. Perhaps I may repeat that the Department for International Development is working hard to improve the performance of the EC. Recently, member states held meetings with EU officials. We are putting in place mechanisms which will enable us to monitor how effectively and quickly money is being spent.

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My Lords, returning to the original supplementary question put by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, concerning the response of the United Nations, does the noble Baroness agree that the history of the UN response to emergencies has itself at times been a disaster? Have we improved our international response at the UN level as well as at the level of individual countries?

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My Lords, we have been working hard to improve the response made at UN level, not only through OCHA, but also through the new mechanism of ISDR which has recently been established. We are looking at the workplans set up by ISDR, as well as assessing what the Office of Humanitarian Affairs is attempting to do, to see how those efforts can best be complemented. The noble Earl may also be aware that the World Bank has set up a prevention consortium. This brings together a key group of stakeholders—businesses and NGOs as well as governments across the world—to see how best humanitarian activities can be co-ordinated.

Prison Population

3 p.m.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it is still their objective to reduce the number of prisoners.

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My Lords, the objective of the Government is not to set artificial targets for the overall prison population but to reduce offending, ensure that the courts have adequate powers to be able to effect a just disposal in the cases that come before them and to ensure sufficient provision for those whom the courts sentence to imprisonment.

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My Lords, I am grateful to the excellent Minister for his gallant attempt to defend the indefensible. Everyone knows that the Government have no case to answer here. Are they aware that the Lord Chief Justice has come out strongly against them, describing the overcrowding as a cancer undermining the whole prison system? Are they aware that the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has called for a reduction in the number of prisoners? Are they aware that the all-party Penal Affairs Group has done the same? I do not expect the Minister to put up a defence—that is impossible—but I am sure that he will do his best.

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My Lords, it will come as no great secret to the noble Earl that I disagree with him. The Lord Chief Justice probably disagrees with him as well because, speaking on the Today programme on 27th December, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, said:

"Let me make it clear first of all that, if a person has committed a serious crime, I am strongly in favour of the person receiving serious punishment".
He went on to say:
"I also—and I've emphasised this—do not favour sending people to prison unless it's necessary but if it's necessary I'm all in favour because society has to be protected and it's very important that society knows that the judiciary will protect them".
The attitude of the Government is very much in keeping with that spirit. The Home Affairs Committee made the point that,
"Prison will always be necessary for the most dangerous and/or the most persistent criminals, but it must be closely targeted on them, with other offenders being given non-custodial sentences which are effective and in which sentencers and the public have confidence".
I would also echo that.

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My Lords, there is growing concern that in the coming months there will be a competition in the public debate and in the public arena as to who is toughest on crime. In what way are the Government prepared to demonstrate that being tough on crime can involve proper attention being paid to the rehabilitation of prisoners and preventive activities rather than to their upwardly mobile statistics?

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My Lords, of course the Government are concerned to reduce reoffending; of course we are concerned to reduce reconviction rates. It is for those reasons that we have put in place a whole package of measures to ensure that when people are sentenced to prison they receive proper access to education and training which will enable them to lead a straight and fruitful life when they come out of prison. That will always be the case. We continue to press ahead with that investment and SR 2000 underpinned that. It is an important part of our policy.

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My Lords, does the Minister accept that there are concerns about the large number of women in our prison establishments? Are there any plans to set up some kind of inquiry to look at the situation regarding women offenders, particularly those in penal institutions? In the meantime, will he draw the attention of sentencers to the fact that community sentencing is 15 times more effective and 15 times cheaper than prison?

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My Lords, a review of the sentencing framework is currently being undertaken. No doubt it will look at some of the issues to which the noble Lord has drawn attention. We have made it clear, particularly through legislation such as the Crime and Disorder Act, that we see community penalties as being very important. The recidivism rates for those serving community penalties are much in line with those serving prison sentences. They have equal merit and equal value. We need sentencing which is appropriate to the crime and which has an impact on the life of the criminal.

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My Lords, does the Minister recall that at the time of the inception of the home curfew scheme his right honourable friend the Home Secretary undertook that no releases of prisoners serving sentences for serious offences would be made? Does he not agree that up to 30th November last year, 62 prisoners serving sentences for manslaughter and 269 for homicide or attempted murder had been released and that there have been 25 assaults on police officers by prisoners released under the scheme? In the light of the Home Secretary's undertaking, can the Minister assure the House that the practice of allowing early release for serious offences will be discontinued?

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My Lords, I understand the intention behind the noble Viscount's question. Home detention curfew has been a very successful policy. It replaced a very unsuccessful policy—the early release scheme—which was chaotic. We have made sure that there is something like a 95 per cent success rate for HDC. Of course, HDC means that when people are released earlier in their sentence than otherwise would have been the case they are under a kind of close supervision and licensing. That was not the case with early release, which led to abuses. That system was incoherent; it lacked clarity and cohesion as a sentencing strategy.

Business

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My Lords, at a convenient time after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Amos will, with the leave of the House, repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer to a Private Notice Question tabled in the other place on British assistance to El Salvador. Immediately afterwards, my noble friend Lord Whitty will, again with the leave of the House, repeat a statement which is being made in another place on neighbourhood renewal.

International Criminal Court Bill Hl

3.6 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

I cannot overstate the historic importance of the creation of the International Criminal Court. To quote Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the subject,
"People all over the world want to know that humanity can strike back—that whatever and whenever genocide, war crimes or other such violations are committed, there is a court before which the criminal can be held to account; a court that puts an end t o the global culture of impunity".
The Bill before us today will put into practice the Government's commitment to that principle. It will pave the way for us to implement our obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to ratify it.

Your Lordships will be aware of the background. The International Criminal Court was debated in your Lordships' House on 9th June 1998 at the time of the diplomatic negotiations at Rome which led to the adoption of the statute, and on 20th July of that year after the statute was adopted. During those debates the International Criminal Court received eloquent support from all sides of this House.

The creation of an international criminal court is a tremendous step for international justice and the rule of law. The court will bring to account individuals responsible for genocide, for war crimes and for crimes against humanity.

The idea of creating a permanent international criminal court is not new. The ICC is the culmination of the will of the international community dating back 50 years. The process began at Nuremberg. The international community resolved that the appalling acts of the Second World War should not go unpunished; that the fact of conflict must not negate the rule of law. The creation of the Nuremberg tribunal was the first, crucial, step along the road of international accountability for conduct against international humanitarian law. This court will be a massive step forward along the same road.

I should like to pay tribute to the contribution of distinguished Members of this House to the remarkable achievements of Nuremberg. The principles identified then are the basis for the work we are doing now—that individuals, not states, commit crimes, and individuals should be brought to account.

But two world wars did not teach us our lesson. Crimes against humanity continued. Even in the past decade horrific atrocities were committed in Rwanda, in former Yugoslavia and in Sierra Leone, to name three examples.

It is an inescapable fact that the perpetrators of atrocities in the last century were largely left unpunished. The new century must not follow suit. When the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia again flagged up the need for justice at an international level, the United Nations responded by creating two ad hoc international criminal tribunals. The United Kingdom has given its full support to the tribunals, as we intend to do to the court.

The ad hoc tribunal only served to illustrate the need for a permanent court. A permanent court would be in existence before a conflict broke out, and so would already have the skills, the personnel and the structures to enable it to respond quickly. That must be a better model than a tribunal which must be created after a conflict, sometimes years later, and when there might be allegations of victor's justice.

Through the 1990s the international community worked together to prepare for such a court. The process was completed in 1998 with the Rome Diplomatic Conference when a statute of the international criminal court was adopted. The negotiations were difficult and many predicted failure. But the outcome was a triumph. In an unprecedented vote for international justice, 120 countries voted in favour. I am pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that, by 31st December 2000, the number of states that had signed the statute had exceeded the number that had voted for it in 1998: 139 states have signed. We have undertaken several campaigns of lobbying around the world to encourage others to sign too, most recently in December. We are delighted that the overwhelming majority of the international community, countries from all continents and of all sizes, have given their assent to the court, joining their voices to the cry for justice.

We are delighted that the United States, despite the voices of reservation there, has also signed the treaty. President Clinton, making a statement on the day that the treaty was signed, described signature as a reaffirmation of the US's strong support for international accountability for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. We welcome that commitment. We hope that in time the United States will ratify the statute.

One of the reasons the Rome statute enjoys such widespread support is that it is based on internationally agreed principles of international law. It draws on existing international humanitarian law, including the jurisprudence of Nuremberg and Tokyo, the Geneva Conventions and the work of the ad hoc criminal tribunal of Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The Rome statute identifies and codifies some of the worst crimes known to humanity. The ICC will deal with genocide. It will deal with the crimes against humanity which are atrocities committed on a widespread or systematic scale. It will deal with war crimes committed in either international or internal armed conflict. The definitions and the extent of the crimes are set out in the Rome statute and in the Bill before the House. They are further elaborated in the elements of crimes document agreed by the ICC preparatory commission in June last year. War crimes include the intentional targeting of civilians, the use of human shields, serious sexual violence, and the forcible recruitment and use of child soldiers. The statute is equally strong on respecting the rights of the accused and the rights of victims and witnesses, including provision for reparations for victims.

The ICC will have jurisdiction over not only those individuals who have directly carried out crimes, but those who ordered them to be committed. It will have the authority to indict a future Pol Pot, a future Milosevic or a future Saddam Hussein. I say "future" because the ICC's jurisdiction will begin at the point it is established, once 60 states have ratified. It will not have retrospective jurisdiction. But all states will be on notice that atrocities may be punished in the future. The court will be a powerful deterrent.

The court will consist of a panel of 18 judges and an independent prosecutor, all elected by the states parties to the court. We intend to be among those states parties which will have the task of making the crucial first decisions. I hope that the Bill will receive favourable support both in this House and in another place to promote swift passage in order to give us a seat at the table as one of the court's founding members.

I should like to make three points about the way in which the court will work. First, the purpose of the court is not to take cases away from our own courts. The international criminal court is complementary to national systems. This means that it cannot investigate or try a case unless a state is unable or unwilling to launch an investigation itself.

The most common situation in which the court will act is when the rule of law in a particular country has broken down and a domestic prosecution is not possible; or when a dictatorial regime has refused to punish its own abuses. To quote again the United Nations Secretary-General:
"the Court represents no threat to a State with an organized criminal justice system".
To allow our courts to take advantage of this so-called principle of complementarity, we are introducing into our law all of the crimes which the court itself will be able to try. If there should ever be any allegation that a British citizen or member of the British Armed Forces has committed one of these crimes we shall be able to launch our own investigation. Any such accusations will be tried in British courts.

Secondly, how will a case get to the court? It will happen in one of three ways—an allegation could be referred to the court by a state, or by the UN, or the prosecutor could consider information sent directly to the court. In each case, the prosecutor would notify all states parties that an investigation is being considered. At that point any state with jurisdiction may declare that it will investigate. If so, the ICC investigation may not proceed unless a pre-trial chamber of judges authorises it, if they conclude that the relevant state is not itself able or willing to investigate.

Thirdly, how will the court's provisions be enforced? One-hundred and thirty-nine states have signed up to express their backing for the court; 27 have ratified. The number of ratifications is going up all the time. These are the states which will give, indeed will be obliged to give, practical assistance to the ICC in implementing its mandate—from arresting suspects to enforcing reparation for victims. The court will also be able to call on the assistance of the United Nations when the UN has referred a case to the court. This is a powerful international coalition of support. They will make the first steps of the court a reality. We hope that in time the whole international community will join them.

I now turn to the provisions of the Bill itself. It is a complex and technical Bill which has required careful preparation. The Bill extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since much of the subject matter falls within the devolution provisions of the Scotland Act, the Scottish Parliament will be considering the ICC Bill in parallel. But certain provisions of our Bill also apply to devolved matters. The consent of the Scottish Parliament to these provisions is being sought by the Scottish Executive

Perhaps I may now turn to the details of the Bill, while leaving aside the introductory provisions of Part I. The second part of the Bill provides for assistance to he given in the arrest and detention of suspects indicted by the ICC and for their transfer to its seat at the Hague. This will be by an expedited process based on those provisions already in place for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The Bill covers each eventuality so that wanted criminals landing in the UK would find themselves quickly en route to the ICC at the Hague, while respecting their rights.

The third part of the Bill enables us to give full assistance to the ICC in other respects; for example, assistance in investigations, including the seizure of evidence and interviewing suspects and witnesses. There is also provision for the investigation of the proceeds of ICC crimes, and the freezing and seizure of property and assets at the request of the court. These provisions draw on existing principles and procedures developed for providing mutual legal assistance to other states.

Part IV of the Bill makes provision for prisoners convicted by the ICC to serve their sentences in British gaols. The details of arrangements providing for them to do so will be the subject of an agreement with the court which will be discussed at a later date. The Bill provides for a similar agreement to be reached with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Bill also sets out how we shall put into effect other orders of the court—sfor forfeiture of assets, restitution and compensation.

The Bill creates new offences under domestic law. As I said earlier, the ICC is designed to step in only when national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling genuinely to do so. We intend to be both able and willing. The offences created in part V of the Bill, therefore, reflect the offences in the ICC statute itself, so that our courts will always be in a position to try these offences themselves. Domestic courts will have jurisdiction over ICC crimes if they are committed in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. They will also have extra-territorial jurisdiction over these offences if committed outside the United Kingdom by a UK national, or by anyone subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the UK armed services.

Your Lordships will be aware that we published a version of this Bill in August. I should like to express my gratitude for the learned and helpful comments received from a number of noble Lords in this House. A report on the consultation process has been placed in the Library of the House. The Bill before us has been amended in the light of the comments received. In view of the large number of comments on two particular points, I should like to mention those issues now.

The first issue was the question of immunity for official capacity. Commentators were concerned that suspects indicted by the ICC might be immune from arrest in the UK if they enjoyed state or diplomatic immunity. In the Bill before us today, your Lordships will see that there is a clear provision that in the case of a representative of a state party indicted before the ICC no such immunity will apply. This also applies to representatives of non-state parties where the sending state has agreed to waive their immunity. By ratifying the statute, states are accepting that their representatives will not enjoy immunities.

The second issue was separate from, but related to, our obligations under the ICC statute. Many respondents sought to have this legislation extend the jurisdiction of British courts not only to UK nationals but also to anyone suspected of an ICC crime committed anywhere in the world. We do not favour the taking of such wide jurisdiction, so-called "universal jurisdiction", in this case. This is an issue that we have considered with great care. The primary responsibility for the investigation of crimes committed outside the United Kingdom lies with the state where the crime occurred, or whose nationals were responsible. If that state is not able or willing to investigate, the ICC will be there to step in.

The British criminal justice system is based on a territorial link to the United Kingdom and there are significant practical difficulties when our courts have to prosecute crimes that have taken place elsewhere in the world. Even in the furtherance of a cause as great as that of upholding the rule of international law we have to be practical and ensure that we can deliver what we undertake. It is our policy to assume universal jurisdiction only where an international agreement expressly requires it. The Rome statute does not. Rather than taking jurisdiction that will be difficult to enforce, we believe that those countries in which the offences took place should be encouraged to prosecute.

However, we have made one change to the Bill which is relevant to that issue. Under UK extradition law, it is the normal rule that we are unable to send people to another country to stand trial or to serve a period of imprisonment unless we could try that person under similar circumstances in the United Kingdom. This is the so-called "dual criminality rule". But under this Bill we are going to disapply that rule in the case of ICC crimes. This means that even though a state that requests the extradition of an individual suspect takes a wider jurisdiction than we do ourselves, we shall now be able to extradite that person to stand trial in the usual way. So even in cases where suspects were not liable to prosecution in this country or before the ICC they would be liable to extradition. This will ensure that non-UK nationals who have committed crimes overseas will not be able to come to the United Kingdom thinking that they will be immune from the reach of the law. They will be vulnerable to prosecution before the ICC, and they will be vulnerable to extradition.

My time is nearly up. I look forward to listening to a high-quality debate on the International Criminal Court Bill. The Bill before the House this afternoon will enable the United Kingdom to take its place at the heart of the development of the rule of law at the international level. The UK has been fully involved in the International Criminal Court since discussions began in New York in 1995, through the negotiation of the statute of the court at Rome in 1998, and into the ongoing technical discussions at preparatory commission meetings. We look forward to playing a full part in support of the court itself.

The International Criminal Court statute will come into force once 60 states have ratified it. To date, 27 have done so. This legislation will pave the way for us to join them— to join the global commitment to end impunity for some of the worst crimes known to mankind and to send a message to those who think that massacre and mutilation are acceptable, even as tactics of conflict, that they will be stopped. They will be apprehended, and they will be brought to justice. They should not sleep peacefully in their beds, expecting a long retirement. They will be on notice that the world is watching, and that the world will act.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

3.28 p.m.

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My Lords, I am sure that everyone in your Lordships' House will be extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she set out the detail of this very important, but undeniably complex, Bill. At the outset, I should like to make clear that we on this side of the House strongly welcome all forms of enhanced international cooperation to bring to book the butchers and perpetrators of monstrous crimes against humanity who would otherwise go free. That must be a worthy aim. It is right that people in many countries have striven very hard over the years in good faith to achieve it. I should also like to make clear that we also agree with the principle of the Bill. I hope that there will be no doubt in that respect.

As the noble Baroness said, and as my website confirmed from an early morning consultation, as of today 139 countries have signed the statute—or had signed by the deadline of 31st December, before which it was possible to sign without also committing to ratify. After that date, any signatures made require the signing country to ratify. As I say, it appears that 139 have signed and 27 have ratified the measure so far. A number of those who signed before 31st December entered reservations on the website with regard to the way in which they would like the statute to be further reformed. The United Kingdom Government do not appear to have reservations. We seem to accept the measure as it stands. However, a number of countries have expressed reservations. Some signatures are missing. Japan and China have not signed the measure and, surprise, surprise, neither has Serbia, although I suppose we live in hope.

The United States of America signed on 31st December. When it did so, the outgoing President, Bill Clinton, made clear his motives in signing. He stated in the Financial Times that,
"the decision to sign was driven in part by a desire to keep the US actively involved in negotiations over the court's powers".
It was not, apparently, driven by the desire to ratify at this stage. He continued:
"With signature we will be in a position to influence the evolution of the court. Without signature we will not".
That is an important statement because it indicates that, as far as the United States is concerned, the deal is not done, the matter is not settled firmly in concrete, and there is a great deal more to negotiate.

We all understand and, indeed, admire the desire of the noble Baroness for a swift passage to enable ratification to proceed and the desire of the Foreign Secretary and the Government that this should be a project where Britain is in the front row as a founder member, as it were. However, concerns and worries are obviously entertained by dedicated, senior American personnel and others. We must be careful not to overlook them even though we desire a swift passage for such an obviously desirable set of goals and aims. As I am sure noble Lords will agree, despite all the consultation that has taken place, your Lordships' House and indeed this side of the House have a duty to make sure that these concerns and worries are fully examined during the passage of the Bill. Some of them are serious and fundamental and should worry all those who love justice and wish to see the rule of law deployed even where the most hideous crimes have been committed whose perpetrators are the most deserving of punishment.

I begin by focusing in more detail on the American position and approach as I think that that provides guidance on where, if anywhere, we should seek to make further improvements or air worries on the Bill as currently drafted. The American negotiator, David Scheffer, is an extremely dedicated international lawyer who is widely admired and well known. David Scheffer is the State Department's first ambassador at large for war crimes issues. Over the years he has worked extremely hard in a positive way—which should not just be dismissed or criticised—to seek the signature of the United States to the measure, as has now occurred. No doubt he would also like to see it ratified. That involves taking, with the new President, the Congress of the United States which will clearly not be easy.

In early December Mr Scheffer said of the measure:
"If it were adopted—
in other words, if the whole project were ratified—
"I think it would have an injurious effect on US national interests and it would set back the cause of international justice unnecessarily … Through five years of intensive negotiation on this treaty and on the supplemental documents the United States has laboured constantly to achieve two major objectives. One: establish a truly legitimate engine for international justice on a permanent basis, and two: ensure that there are appropriate safeguards in the treaty and the treaty regime so that American personnel are not subject to any unwarranted investigation or prosecution by the court".
Those are Mr Scheffer's views. I do not think that anyone questions his determination to make progress on the project. However, we should listen carefully to what he and his colleagues say. The basic difficulty for the United States is that it has a written constitution. Therefore it cannot sign away the rights of its citizens; its hands are tied. We want to make sure that even though our hands are not tied, we do not sign away rights too readily. The issues that worry the Americans are: the basic right of free citizens of a free republic to open trial; the right to examine witnesses on equal terms; the right to have trial by jury; the right to no unlawful detention, rights of appeal and so on. It is clear that, even if others are satisfied that these rights are not being discarded, there are many in the United States who are not so satisfied, particularly, as I have already said, in the Congress of the United States.

We have no written constitution and therefore in a sense that problem does not arise. However, we have our ancient liberties and we have our new semi-written constitution; namely, the European Convention on Human Rights which is now within our law and is, indeed, all written. Article 6 is specifically concerned with the right to a free trial and all the necessary accoutrements to make that a truly solid right and for free and fair trials to take place. We need to ensure that we do not run into the kind of difficulties that, apparently, the United States legal profession envisages.

On the front of the Bill the noble Baroness is recorded as having satisfied herself that its provisions are compatible with the convention I have just mentioned. On rereading the articles and an excellent Home Office memorandum and explanation of what these extensive articles mean and what is implied by them, I am not yet 100 per cent satisfied. The noble Baroness may have satisfied herself and clearly her officials feel that she has the right to be satisfied, but she has not yet satisfied us. We shall want to be told more, both in this debate and at later stages, to enable us to be sure that the trials which take place—trying to put aside the fact that they may involve monstrous people whom we think should never have walked the face of the earth—are compatible with our ancient rights and liberties and anything that is now codified in writing in the European Convention on Human Rights.

That is the first American worry which I believe should also be our worry to some extent. We should not be too dismissive of that. The second US concern is one to which the noble Baroness rightly referred; namely, ensuring that servants of the state are protected. That matter arose at the consultation stage. I suggest that we need to take great care here and not dismiss the American worries as trivial or insignificant. Once the law has been passed and the statute has been ratified by the signatories, to put it in blunt layman's language, the International Criminal Court must be obeyed. Of course, its work complements that of national courts. However, if a state is unaKte or unwilling to bring charges against an individual, the will of the International Criminal Court will prevail as regards all state parties to the statute.

A state may have good reasons—perhaps it should not have—for being reluctant or unwilling to bring charges. However, once a provisional warrant is issued or, in some cases, even before a warrant is received, the domestic courts are powerless. They are on tramlines and they are obliged to proceed along strictly laid down rails. Article 59.4 specifically denies power to domestic courts to ask whether a warrant was properly issued or whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a trial. Those issues are denied to the domestic courts. The only protection seems to be the right of review—I am not sure whether the noble Baroness mentioned it—which is allowed. Other than that, there is no protection against the overriding will of the International Criminal Court. In most cases people would welcome that and say, "Well done, we need this strong will to get hold of these horrible people". But we need to ensure that the power is not used in a more indiscriminate or arbitrary way.

The fear of the United States is that military commanders, soldiers, naval personnel, or pilots who have bombed civilian targets, will be charged. Although the Bill is not retrospective, we remember from the ghastly Second World War pilots who were forever strafing women, children, refugees and defenceless personnel or even people who had surrendered. Under Clause 65, politicians are protected under the standing conventions. However, Clause 72 is very wide. It states that people can be charged even if the alleged offences were not offences at the time. This is a very difficult area; one might well find a state unwilling to pursue matters.

A great deal will depend on who initiates the charges and why. The noble Baroness reminded us that these initiations can come from the UN Security Council. It seems a little unlikely given the present composition of the council, but that could change. Alternatively, they could come from a state party to the statute, the court prosecutor or as a result of some information placed in the prosecutor's office.

It is perfectly true that there is a pre-trial chamber of judges—I should like to be reassured that they are not the same judges who will try the case later—so there is a filter. Nevertheless, these are the ways in which the names will come up and the targets chosen. Can we ensure that they will not be picked on the basis of countries settling old international scores? There are plenty of international scores to be settled and plenty of people ready to try to settle them.

Can we be confident that the Bill's provisions will not be directed at criminals who happen to be accessible at the time? That is the other difficulty. Is it possible that the only people caught up internationally in this formidable and substantial new machinery will be criminals at large in small states which are without armies and suffering legal and social disintegration and where the international community in the form of US or NATO troops, or UN forces, can move in at will and make an arrest? How many such countries are there? One has to remember that while some people were picked up in Bosnia, a country where NATO is in effect in control, there has been reluctance to pick up many others. So what would the chances be in countries where it is not in control?

What will the Bill do for the atrocities committed in Chechnya where innocent civilians have been mowed down in the past year, or in Tibet where there have been massacres? What about the people who gave us the horrors of Tiananman Square; or the pilots who strafed civilians in World War II; or almost character monsters like Idi Amin who is still apparently at large? What about the Iranian child killers who do not hesitate to string up young children for various reasons; or the IRA terrorists who blow off the legs of little children? I had to visit them when I was a Minister in Northern Ireland. Terrorists are excluded from the Bill, so those kinds of monsters will not come within its reach. What about Mr Kim II Sung and his delights in North Korea? Has Mr Putin something to explain from his KGB past, or the actions of his generals in Chechnya? None of the people involved in that list of atrocities will be touched. Perhaps I may quote from an interesting article by my noble friend Lord Hurd, the former Foreign Secretary. In the Financial Times recently he concluded—it is a conclusion upon which we may ponder—that,
"only the weak or the defeated are likely to find themselves in front of the new court".
That is not an encouraging prospectus for this operation despite our high hopes.

To "only the weak", perhaps one may add only those whom the state has good reason to protect. Through its own well-ordered machinery it must deliver the goods and obey the ICC. That could include intelligence officers—people deemed to have served the state well. The ICC selection process is bound to be selective and arbitrary. I put it in deliberately crude terms. I withdraw from those if readily challenged. In future it could get James Bond but not Pol Pot.

We cannot just dismiss these matters. We should have double concern that this enormous system will be accountable. We are setting up many international bodies and independent institutions outside the conventional channels of democratic control. The great question of our age, I suggest, is how we make those bodies accountable and link them to the democratic process. That applies as much to the ICC as to other institutions.

We shall wish to discuss many other items. My noble friend Lord Kingsland will bring his expertise to bear towards the end of the debate. However, it sounds nonsensical to introduce into the UK statutes genocide as a crime when we already have powers under the War Crimes Act and the Genocide Act. It may be necessary but it sounds absurd. The enforcement of sentences leaves us uneasy. Where will these prisoners serve their sentences? Some will be in UK gaols. However, they will not be held there at Her Majesty's pleasure, like every other prisoner, but at the pleasure of the ICC with no question of early release by the domestic authorities.

The system will not start tomorrow morning; it will happen a year or two ahead. Some big criminals will not be caught by this system and will wander around for a good while to come. What will the system cost? In the Explanatory Notes there is a shot at a figure of £5.7 million in the first year. After that the picture is vague. It is suggested that the costs are unquantifiable. However, such costs can become very high indeed. There is no provision in the Bill about who will scrutinise and monitor them. We all have experience of what happens to pay rates, expenses and facilities in these large institutions. They have a habit of soaring into a world far removed from the normal remuneration of dedicated public servants.

Finally, I return to the key questions on the Bill with its important goals. First, will it catch the big fish or only the minnows? Is it a serious force that will carry forward our aims? Or is it, as many feel, a cosmetic exercise? Secondly, do the democracies, and the citizens or subjects within them, have anything to fear from the Bill? The noble Baroness says that they do not. My question is "Are you so sure?" It seems to me that there is something to fear. Expert American legal minds see it. The UK is in a rush to sign, as the noble Baroness explained. We shall have to look closely at some of the American concerns to ensure that we do not allow liberties to be taken from our citizens of a kind we would later regret. My view is that the project will not get under way until the US is convinced and on board in this vast international undertaking.

I understand the hurry to see justice done, but there is a wide gap between rhetoric and reality. A sensible government—I am not saying that we do not have one—should proceed slowly, carefully and thoroughly. I have an uneasy feeling that that is not happening.

3.50 p.m.

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My Lords, we greatly welcome the Government's decision to introduce the Bill, which will enable the UK to ratify the ICC Statute and to be among the court's founding members. The ICC Statute is the product of half a century's search for a balance between diverse political interests and an acceptable synthesis of the world's legal traditions. The statute is a great achievement—although, having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, giving curiously tepid and unenthusiastic support, I wonder whether that is accepted on the Conservative Front Bench. It is a great achievement and a fitting culmination of that historic process. The Government and their advisers are to be congratulated on having played an influential and constructive role in making the statute and on introducing the Bill. The Minister is to be congratulated on her characteristically powerful speech.

Unfortunately, I shall be the only speaker from these Benches, because my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, who would have spoken at the end, cannot be here throughout the debate. That is a misfortune, as I shall speak as a lawyer and she would have spoken as a human being.

Before I turn to the statute and the Bill, I draw attention yet again to the pressing need for proper machinery for parliamentary scrutiny of important international treaties that the Government intend to ratify on behalf of the UK. Some years ago, I introduced a Private Member's Bill to improve scrutiny and create a treaty scrutiny committee. Under the previous Conservative Government, I managed only to obtain a new system for publishing explanatory memorandums about treaties under the Ponsonby rule. The Bill well illustrates the pressing need for such a committee, similar to the scrutiny machinery for EU law and institutions, to explain the content and effect of such international treaties for the benefit of parliamentarians and the public.

It is not enough for there to be scrutiny of legislation designed to implement parts of a treaty. As the Minister has said, the Bill is inevitably complex and technical in nature. One cannot understand its implications without a firm grasp of the principles contained in the treaty, but only gobbets of the treaty are schedules to the Bill.

The concise explanatory memorandum published with the treaty last year is accurate, but it is far too brief to enable Parliament or the public to understand the content of the treaty or its implications. Worse than that, as the noble Baroness may not know, the memorandum is FCO samizdat—that is, it is not available to the House for debate, because the Printed Paper Office has no copies of it. The explanatory memorandum is not there to serve its limited purpose.

Thorough scrutiny of the treaty would he possible only if it was referred to an expert committee to advise the House. It is unacceptable in a modern democracy that there is still no proper parliamentary accountability or scrutiny when the Government use their prerogative powers to enter into a binding international convention of such importance. As the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, rightly observed in his report in July last year:
"Parliamentary scrutiny should be seen by Government as a benefit, not a threat. A healthy and vibrant Government is one that is able to justify its measures and welcomes critical scrutiny".
I hope that we shall not have to wait much longer for a treaty scrutiny committee to be established and that the Government will support the proposal at last. After all, it emanates from Ramsay MacDonald's era and has still not been implemented.

The agreement achieved at the Rome conference creates a permanent international criminal justice system derived from the distinctive legal traditions of the world's major criminal law systems. This system consists of seven general principles of criminal law, together with essential legal provisions, safeguards and procedural rules. As a student of Harvard Law School many years ago, I think that I am entitled to say—pace the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford—that those procedural safeguards are as effective as anything to be found in American constitutional law.

The provisions in the treaty are designed to secure an effective and efficient justice system while protecting individuals from frivolous, vexatious or politically motivated investigations. I have heard nothing from the noble Lord, Lord Howell, to suggest that they are other than well designed. The prosecutor is given independent and discretionary power, but there are adequate safeguards to ensure impartiality and to avoid abuse. The prosecutor's investigative powers are carefully balanced with the rights of the accused.

Some may object to the ICC on the grounds of state sovereignty. Such an objection would be misplaced. The statute is intended to tackle crimes against the whole of humanity. As the great French jurist Teitgen observed 50 years ago about the supranational character of the European Convention on Human Rights:
"I think we can now unanimously confront 'reasons of State' with the only sovereignty worth dying for, worthy in all circumstances of being defended, respected and safeguarded—the sovereignty of justice and of law".
The permanent international criminal system will not displace the important role of national courts. Prosecution and enforcement of law are carefully guarded sovereign prerogatives of the state. National courts must act in partnership with the ICC. That is why the key to the statute and one of the real achievements at Rome is the principle of complementarity. Complementarity means that the international court will complement rather than supersede national jurisdictions. States will still have the primary duty to prosecute those guilty of international crimes, but the ICC will act when national courts are unable or unwilling to perform their tasks genuinely or effectively. Detailed definitions of when the court will have jurisdiction avoid the possibility of arbitrary or politically motivated prosecutions.

The statute bears the hallmarks of political compromise. Criticism has been directed at the provisions of the statute that permit the Security Council to delay investigations and at the provision in Article 124 that enables a state party temporarily to suspend its acceptance of the ICC's jurisdiction over war crimes.

The statute does not provide for the principle of universal jurisdiction by specifying that the territorial state or the state of which the alleged perpetrator is a national must be a party to the statute or must accept the jurisdiction of the court ad hoc before the court may hear a case.

Those weaknesses reflect current political forces and realities in the international community. The reluctance of powerful democratic states such as the United States even to sign the treaty until the last moment—indeed, I understand that the Americans lobbied behind the scenes against it for a long time before and during the Rome negotiations—shows the importance of achieving a sensible political compromise. The key achievement is that a compromise that creates a universal, independent and impartial court to deal with the most heinous of crimes has been settled upon. By signing and ratifying the treaty, the international community no longer accepts that impunity for such crimes can exist; rather, it recognises that perpetrators must be held individually to account for their wrongdoing.

There is a political and moral responsibility to support the ICC and to implement the statute as soon as possible. The Bill fulfils that responsibility. It is careful to reconcile the principles of English law with the relevant principles of international law. It enables the UK to co-operate fully with the court. However, for the Bill to be fully effective, it must also allow us to take proper advantage of the complementarity principles by ensuring that the UK can exercise jurisdiction effectively.

We welcome the changes to the draft Bill and, most particularly, the addition of a range of ancillary offences, procedural improvements, the setting aside of the double criminality provision and those provisions intended to remove diplomatic and state immunity for ICC crimes. As the chief US prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Robert Jackson, observed:
"The common sense of mankind demands that the law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched".
Close to home, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, said in the Pinochet judgment:
"How can it be for international law purposes an official function to do something which international law itself prohibits and criminalises?"
However, we are concerned about some aspects of the Bill which we raised during the consultation process. I am grateful to Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill for his expert advice on some of those points. I very much hope that in his reply to the debate the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will be able to respond to our concerns.

It is a matter of concern—this has been touched on by the Minister—that the Bill does not fully implement the complementarity principle. The domestic offences created by the Bill will apply only to UK territory, UK nationals or those subject to UK service jurisdiction. It is a welcome development that the Bill extends jurisdiction to the actions of nationals overseas. But there can be little justification for refusing UK courts full and universal jurisdiction over ICC crimes committed by non-nationals.

The preamble to the statute refers to the duty of every state to exercise its jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes. The complementarity principle means that states must recognise that duty if the regime is to be comprehensive and coherent. The jurisdictional weakness of the ICC underscores the need for full and effective justice at a national level. Even after 60 states have ratified and the ICC is established, it could be at least another half-century before the majority of states are subject to the automatic jurisdiction of the ICC. That is particularly troubling when one considers that the state of nationality of the accused is often the same state on whose territory the crimes were being committed. In practice, that would mean asking Iraq to give the court jurisdiction to try Saddam Hussein or Chile for permission to try Pinochet, and so on. In effect, there may be significant gaps in the ability of the court to consider cases—gaps which should be filled by national courts but which are left partially open by the Bill.

Clause 56, which makes some reservation for universal jurisdiction recognised in existing enactments, seems insufficient to compensate for a clear statement of universal jurisdiction in all cases where it is afforded by international law. Genocide, certain grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and torture, as defined by the 1984 convention against torture, are already accepted as international crimes of universal jurisdiction. The UK courts already have jurisdiction over other crimes committed outside the UK by non-nationals, including torture and hijacking. Under existing legislation, those who commit torture or grave breaches of the Geneva conventions outside the UK and are found in UK territory may be prosecuted by the UK courts.

However, under the Bill as it stands, if a UK citizen and an Iraqi citizen were to be involved in a crime against humanity abroad and fled to the UK, the UK national could be prosecuted under the Bill before the domestic courts but the Iraqi citizen could not be prosecuted. That may mean that if the ICC has no jurisdictional basis to try the non-UK national, conceivably his crimes could go unpunished. As a practical matter, our courts will only rarely face such cases, but they should be ready to shoulder that responsibility should a suspected perpetrator of genocide or war crimes come within our territorial jurisdiction in circumstances where the ICC is unable to take over.

The Bill stops short of providing a comprehensive legal base for the exercise of jurisdiction in the UK but it fails to take full account of the principle of universal jurisdiction. We very much hope that that is a defect which, although considered carefully by the Government, may yet be removed in Committee.

Clause 23 is drafted in order to allow state and diplomatic immunity to apply to ICC crimes tried before our national courts. Understandably, the Government may wish to give due regard to future relations between the UK and states which are not party to the statute. However, post-Pinochet it is questionable whether immunity should attach to anyone suspected of these most heinous of international crimes. Again, I hope that in his reply the Attorney-General will be able to touch on that point.

Article 75 of the Rome statute provides a framework within which the court may award reparations to or in respect of victims against convicted defendants. It contemplates that the judges will establish principles relating to reparations, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation, and will apply those principles in determining the extent of damage, loss or injury to victims. However, the Bill does not consider compensation either for victims of crime or for those wrongfully arrested. Clause 49 leaves the matter of reparation to victims to be dealt with by future regulations. We very much hope that the Attorney-General will be able to explain what is envisaged and, in particular, how such compensation or reparation will be catered for under the English legal system.

As I said, the safeguards for the accused are as robust as any provided for under US, German, South African, Canadian or British constitutional law. But in one respect the domestic safeguards in the Bill for the accused may be too narrow. This point is a little technical and I apologise for that, but it may be quite an important point. As I made clear during the consultation process, it seems to me unnecessarily restrictive to confine the remedy for the right to review of a delivery order to an application for habeas corpus rather than the broader application for judicial review on the usual principles of administrative law. Again, hope that the Attorney-General will be able to clarify why the remedy has been confined to habeas corpus.

Clause 12(4) provides that the court which hears the application for review must consider the same issues as the court that made the delivery order, including those provided for in Clause 5(6)(b) requiring a determination on whether a person's rights have or have not been respected. That seems to go further than the issues that one is entitled to raise by way of application for habeas corpus, which concern only whether a person has been lawfully or unlawfully arrested and detained.

The success of the ICC depends on its ability to make a difference in the real world. That success will depend not only on the degree of support among states but on the initial actions of the inaugural assembly of states. The first 60 states will convene not only to adopt the rules of evidence and procedure and the elements of crimes negotiated at the preparatory commissions but, crucially, will also discuss the details of the financial regulation of the court. A significant role of the first ratifying states must be to convince other states of the values of the statute and the importance of the court; for example, neither China nor India—states which represent a great proportion of the world's population—feels able to sign and ratify the statute. Even though the United States has now signed, it is likely to take a very long time before it ratifies the statute.

One may reflect that the ICC would have been of great value in resolving recent international crises and concerns. For example, had the provisions been operational during Pinochet's regime, perhaps Chile's ordeal would never have assumed such tragic proportions, and the Law Lords would not have had to go through the great pains that they did in that regard. Those intending to engage in heinous human rights abuses would have known that sooner or later they would have been summoned before the ICC to account for their acts. Cases such as Pinochet, Ocalan and even Lockerbie could perhaps have been usefully or more expeditiously dealt with by the ICC rather than by national courts.

All that is speculation. However, one can say with reasonable certainty that there is now recognition across a large part of the world, north and south, of the fact that humanity requires a universal, independent and impartial court to deal with the worst of crimes and that there is a political and moral responsibility to implement the provisions as soon as possible.

Many of your Lordships have played a key role in lobbying for the proposal. My friend, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, whom I see in the Chamber, has for years been campaigning for such a court. We will have the pleasure of hearing him later. The Bill will effectively discharge that great responsibility, and is to be welcomed not in a lukewarm or tepid manner but wholly enthusiastically.

El Salvador: British Assistance

4.11 p.m.

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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat the Answer given this afternoon by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development to a Private Notice Question in another place.

"At 17.33 hours GMT on Saturday, 13th January, a major earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale occurred off the coast of El Salvador. The epicentre was offshore, about 105km south-south-east of the capital, San Salvador. It was also felt in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica and as far afield as Mexico City.

"The Government of El Salvador report more than 400 people killed, some 800 injured and more than 1,300 still missing, many of them in an area of San Salvador that has experienced a major landslide. I am sure the whole House would wish to join with me in expressing our sympathy to the people of El Salvador. The airport was damaged and, although some relief flights are being allowed to use it, it is closed to civilian traffic.

"Since the main earthquake, there have been a number of aftershocks, some of which have been of significant strength. The president has declared a national emergency and appealed for international assistance.

"The Department for International Development emergency response centre has been operating round the clock since the earthquake struck and is in regular contact with British Embassy officials in El Salvador and operational agencies on the ground in order to obtain further information and to provide advice on regional procurement of urgently needed supplies.

"We have been in close contact with the Ministry of Defence but, regrettably, the West Indies guard-ship is not in the area. We responded immediately to a preliminary appeal from the United Nations and the Red Cross. We have given financial support to the UN disaster assessment and co-ordination team, which includes a British member, Mr Joe Bishop, and we have given a commitment to fund Oxfam's emergency water and sanitation programme and the Pan American Health Organisation—PAHO—programme of emergency medical assistance.

"Since Hurricane Mitch hit the region in October 1998, we have been providing support to the Centre for the Co-ordination of Natural Disaster Preparedness in Central America for a disaster preparedness programme in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and plan to support a similar disaster preparedness programme with PAHO focusing on reducing vulnerability in the health sector.

"Once again, the UK has responded quickly and effectively to help people struck by a natural disaster. Our commitment to date is now more than £600,000, and we will respond sympathetically to further requests."

My Lords, that completes the Statement.

4.15 p.m.

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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, for repeating the Statement made in the other place. It is sad to start the new year with such a horrific disaster. We on these Benches deeply regret yet another tragedy and commend the Government for their response so far and for the £600,000. But why for the second time have we been found lacking?

On the mention of the close contact with the Ministry of Defence, it is sad that the West Indies guard-ship is not in the area. Has any other equipment been made available? We remember the images last year of the tragedy in Mozambique, the Government's response to that disaster and the squabbling between the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence over the use of much-needed helicopters and the need for the Prime Minister to intervene so that a ship was diverted from the Gulf. Has an assessment been made of the possible use of the West Indies guard-ship, or is it unable even to come to the area, despite the preparedness programme that the Government are supporting?

The situation in San Salvador illustrates the dire need for a plan for a coherent and immediate response to disasters. In the light of this tragedy, I quote the Government's position stated in their last Command Paper in 1997, page 41, paragraph 2.30:
"We will continue to be swift and effective in our response to emergencies and disasters, seeking not only to save lives but to rebuild livelihoods. This is described at Panel 17".
On which page and paragraph in the latest White Paper can we find even a reference to disaster relief? As I have already said, that is not obviously apparent. Is the Minister aware of the comments of one survivor, who said:
"Nobody has food or water. Children do not have milk … We need help please"?
The United Nations and the World Food Programme have donated food and emergency aid, but is the Minister confident that it will reach the area in good time? Will she tell the House what progress the Government have made in delivering food to the region?

Will the Minister also tell us about the European Community Humanitarian Office? Have the Government been in contact with ECHO; and will she give the House an assurance that after the emergency phase is over EU aid will not take two-and-a-half years to reach the region, as it did in the wake of Hurricane Mitch?

Finally, what plans do the Government have to make resources available to deal with the immediate aftermath of the disaster and, even more importantly, with the reconstruction phase, as so many other countries are doing?

4.18 p.m.

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My Lords, I, too, would like to echo the sentiments expressed by the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and extend our sympathy to those caught up in the disaster.

Earthquakes cannot be prevented as yet, and the country will suffer the immediate effects and the staggering costs of the blow to its infrastructure, which will affect its economic competence for some years hence. Rather than put questions to the Minister, I welcome the immediate and positive assistance that is being given. I believe that the £100,000 that was at first promised has now been raised to £600,000. Much work is taking place through local non-governmental organisations. Will the Minister assure us that, as in other places, the use of local NGOs on the ground and local procurement are the most effective means to provide financial assistance and are better than sending help from this country? Will any of the specialised teams that operate in this country consider going across?

The disasters raise various issues, including whether or not the Government should reconsider establishing a permanent UN rapid reaction force that could be sent to an area in time of need. The amounts that the Government are looking to give, although generous, will not go a great way to easing what is a terrible disaster. Obviously this earthquake is not as bad as the one that occurred 10 years ago. But it will take many years for the country to mitigate the effects. I hope that the Government will consider calling for a suspension in interest payments on debt relief until the country has dealt with and spent resources desperately needed in the disaster areas.

4.20 p.m.

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My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that this was a terrible disaster and not the way we would want to start a new year. I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their positive comments in regard to the speed of our response and the work of the DfID staff who have been working round the clock since hearing of the disaster.

In relation to specific questions, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that government departments are working extremely closely on this matter. We have been in consultation with the Ministry of Defence. I said in the Statement that it was unfortunate that the West Indies guard-ship was not in the area. Unfortunately, the ship is not close enough to be of assistance right now. But we are sure that the help we are able to give through organisations like PAHO, the Red Cross, Oxfam. and the focus of all our emergency efforts on sourcing locally and regionally, means that the impact of what we are trying to do is swift and immediate.

With respect to the point made by the noble Baroness in relation to disaster preparedness and response to it, in answer to a Starred Question earlier today I undertook to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, drawing her attention to where both those matters are mentioned in both White Papers.

ECHO has promised 2 million euros. The noble Baroness will be aware that we have been working hard with the European Commission, advising it on ways of improving the effectiveness of its humanitarian effort. As the noble Baroness will be aware, the UK led the way in that regard. Indeed, we see ECHO's response to the disaster as a way of testing the new Europe Aid which was launched on 1st January.

With respect to the question on the reconstruction phase, at the moment we are focusing on the immediate need. It is too early to tell what we will do in terms of the reconstruction phase. We need to wait for the El Salvador Government to come forward with some ideas of what they would like to see. We have committed £600,000 to date in terms of the immediate humanitarian need. We have said that we will look at other needs sympathetically. Of course, we will also look sympathetically at what we will need to do in the long term. However, I am unable to tell the noble Baroness at this moment what that will be.

I have already answered in relation to working through local NGOs and procurement. On the matter of reconsidering a permanent rapid reaction force, we looked at that and agree in principle. However, we recognise that it is important that the agencies on the ground are properly resourced to respond immediately. We learnt from our work in humanitarian action over the years that immediate response is the most effective. While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that we need to look more closely at how the UN system might work and be co-ordinated in practice, support to local NGOs, working and co-ordinating what donor governments are doing and ensuring that our own rapid reaction force is up to speed are things we need to continue to do.

With respect to suspending interest payments, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will be aware that we have worked tirelessly in respect of the whole Pacific initiative. The World Bank has been looking at 'areas of conflict across the world and whether or not there should be some additional ways of thinking about debt relief payments. I am sure that it will continue to do that and will also look at disaster areas and whether or not they need special assistance.

4.25 p.m.

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My Lords, I too welcome the Government's speedy action and financial assistance in response to humanitarian need, following this sad and terrible disaster in Central America. Just over half a million pounds—£600,000£sounds like a lot of money in a personal context, but it is a drop in the ocean in terms of the real need. So I welcome what the noble Baroness said about the Government reviewing the position and, if necessary, producing further aid.

Do the Government efforts vis-à-vis El Salvador extend to neighbouring countries which also suffered damage, such as Nicaragua and Honduras?

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My Lords, at the moment we are focusing on El Salvador, partly because of the results of the landslide which meant that the effects were felt mostly in El Salvador. If any other countries or NGOs working in those countries come to us because there has been significant impact and they need assistance there, we will look at that sympathetically. The noble Baroness will be aware that since Hurricane Mitch we have been looking at disaster preparedness in the region so are already present there. Organisations working in those countries know that we are available to support them if that becomes necessary.

Neighbourhood Renewal

4.27 p.m.

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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my colleague, Hilary Armstrong. The Statement reads as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal action plan—New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal—that we are publishing today.

"When we published the Urban and Rural White Papers (in November) we set out our vision to ensure a sustainable quality of life. We made it clear that an important part of the framework was to turn around our most deprived areas and that the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal would spell out our ideas.

"This strategy is a long-term response to the appalling conditions created over decades in communities up and down the country. When this Government came to office, the most deprived areas of England had, when compared with the rest, nearly two-thirds more unemployment; a mortality ratio 30 per cent higher; and two to three times the levels of poor housing, vandalism and dereliction.

"Over the 1980s and into the 1990s the gap between poor neighbourhoods and the rest of the country grew steadily. Places that started with the highest unemployment often also saw the greatest rise in unemployment. Health inequalities widened. The proportion of people living in low-income households more than doubled.

"This was partly the result of global social and economic changes. But it was also a legacy of a lack of political attention and policies that did not work. Past government action was unfocused and uncoordinated. Departments worked at cross-purposes on problems that needed a joined-up response. Regeneration initiatives were short-term and limited to a few areas. Mainstream services, like schools and hospitals, were failing in far too many deprived neighbourhoods. Crucially, there was a failure to harness the knowledge and energy of local people and to empower them to work out their own solutions.

"The result was both socially and economically damaging. Communities were trapped in unemployment and deprived of the good schools and services that would help them get back on their feet. The economy was deprived of workers, taxpayers, customers and entrepreneurs and the bills of social failure mounted up.

"The Government have made tackling this long-term decline a priority from the outset, through new policies such as Sure Start, raising school standards, the New Deal, crime reduction, and the New Deal for Communities. Those policies are already showing results. Britain is a fairer and more prosperous country. Economic prosperity and educational opportunity have increased in all areas. Nineteen of the local authorities with the highest unemployment have seen their unemployment fall faster than the national average, and 44 of the most deprived local authorities are among those with the fastest improving key stage 2 numeracy results.

"But deep-rooted problems require a long-term and integrated approach that can be sure of avoiding the mistakes of past decades. In 1998 the Social Exclusion Unit was asked to develop a national strategy for neighbourhood renewal. Over 400 people from inside and outside government have been involved with the SEU in developing the strategy through 18 policy action teams. In addition, thousands of other people up and down the country—many of whom live and work in deprived neighbourhoods—responded to the consultation on the framework for the strategy that was published last April.

"In parallel, in the spending review last year we identified new resources to be invested in improvement. This has produced a framework for action that has the support of the people who need to make it work on the ground. It sets out an ambitious vision that, within 10 to 20 years, no one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live; that the gap between the poorest neighbourhoods and the rest will be narrowed. This is an ambitious goal, but in the Government's view a vitally necessary one. It will take time to achieve, but we have clear steps in place to chart our path towards it.

"The action plan sets out a three-year commitment to raise the standard and performance of public sector services in the most deprived areas with clear outcomes of reducing crime; reducing unemployment; improving education and skills; improving health; and improving housing and the physical environment.

"There are three key elements to the strategy: first, new policies, funding and targets to tackle the causes of neighbourhood decline, such as unemployment, crime and poor services. Mainstream services—health, law and order, housing and education—will be judged for the first time ever on their achievements in improving things where they are worst, rather than just on national averages. For example, the Department for Education and Employment will be working towards ensuring that by 2004 no local education authority has less than 38 per cent of its pupils getting five good grade GCSEs, and by 2005 no area should have a burglary rate three times the national average.

"In the spending review 2000, departments were given substantial new resources, like the £1.6 billion increase in spending on the police by 2000–4 and therise in education and health spending, and this year they will be reviewing their resource allocation to ensure they will meet these targets.

"Secondly, we will promote integrated action at local level to get services to work better and deliver for their communities. The local implementation of this strategy will be the responsibility of a single body, the local strategic partnership. These partnerships will bring together public, private and voluntary service providers with the community and business sectors. They will be responsible for drawing up local strategies that address the specific problems and aspirations of all their deprived neighbourhoods, and give communities a single door to knock on rather than being endlessly passed from pillar to post.

"We have already announced that the neighbourhood renewal fund will provide £800 million over the next three years to help local strategic partnerships in the 88 most deprived areas kick-start the process. In addition, I am announcing today that a community empowerment fund of over £35 million will support communities to develop their ideas for change and participate as equal partners in the local strategic partnerships. This will amount to an average of £400,000 over the next three years per area and will allow all residents the chance to have their say.

"There will be other models for community involvement too. A £50 million community chest fund will provide small grants to local communities in these areas to help run their own projects and we will put £45 million into at least 30 neighbourhood management pathfinder projects over the next three years. These projects will explore the benefits of putting one person, or a team of people, in charge of looking after a neighbourhood. They will provide a local presence to whom residents can go if they have concerns about the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood manager will be someone who has the clout to get things done in the area.

"These measures are essential. Communities are at the heart of neighbourhood renewal. Some past government efforts to address neighbourhood deprivation failed because they did not engage with communities in those areas effectively. We must learn from this. People living in deprived neighbourhoods know their area better than anyone else; they must be at the heart of neighbourhood renewal.

"The third key strand of the strategy is better national and regional support to local activity. Central Government must be more joined up and work better with their local partners. The strategy will ensure this happens. We must bring to an end the problems faced by deprived neighbourhoods who are shunted from one service provider to the next, from one department to the next, where no one takes responsibility.

"In September, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced that a new neighbourhood renewal unit in the DETR would be established by April. The unit, headed by Joe Montgomery, will have a cross-cutting, outward focus. It will be staffed by civil servants from across Whitehall and secondees with a broad range of experience in working with local communities. It will be responsible for overseeing and co-ordinating the implementation of the strategy. It will make sure that the Government as a whole deliver on their commitments to neighbourhood renewal, supported by neighbourhood renewal teams in government offices and annual statistics about how neighbourhoods are progressing.

"As our vision turns into reality in more and more neighbourhoods, people on the ground will see huge differences. For the first time someone locally will be prepared and empowered to take responsibility for the many joined-up problems that the poorest neighbourhoods face. There will be a genuine opportunity for residents to get involved and communities will have resources to support them in this. Residents will see further improvements in local and regional economies, new ideas like neighbourhood wardens and IT centres coming on-stream, and improvements in the quality of core public services such as schools, health and policing. Areas that suffer from the worst performance at the moment will see standards brought up to minimum floors.

"It is easy to be sceptical about change, but the improved policies of the last three years, and the concrete examples of what can be achieved by community groups and social entrepreneurs, are a measure of what can be achieved. They give us confidence that we can aim for a position where more neighbourhoods are advancing on all fronts.

"This new commitment to neighbourhood renewal builds on our existing policies; to end boom and bust and put the economy on a stable footing; to invest in public services; to invest in people and their futures, and to take active measures to ensure that everyone benefits from the prosperity and opportunity we have created".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.37 p.m.

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My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place. I am bound to say that I find these occasions, when a new and wonderful initiative such as this is being announced, rather depressing. There is a simple, old-fashioned reason for that, with which I suspect the Minister's noble friend sitting at his side, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, is familiar. The primary agency which should undertake the functions of urban regeneration and renewal is the local authority. It is a depressing fact that over a period of time governments have found it necessary to use other agencies in this way to try to achieve their specific ends, because, I am bound to say, local authorities have not been particularly good and effective in fulfilling functions which should properly be their responsibility. The fact that the majority of the local authorities in these areas happen to be under Labour control is, perhaps, coincidental, but it is a fact.

The first point that requires to be made on this paper is very serious. Inevitably, the paper seems to be almost exclusively biased towards the inner-city areas. The recent third Wealth of the Nation report is beginning to reveal frightening statistics about rural communities, particularly those which are agriculturally based in the more western and northern parts of the country. Deprivation in those areas is now beginning to equal some of the worst in inner-city areas.

My first question to the Minister is whether there is sufficient flexibility within the programmes to permit help to go to those areas. The failures in those areas are of the same nature and come from the same services as those which affect inner-city areas.

We must be careful about how we use statistics. It is certain that measures of expenditure are not measures of output and still less of future expenditure. We must recognise that much of the document contains promises of future expenditure rather than matters of fact. It is interesting to note en passant that the Ocean Estate, where this morning the Prime Minister made a precursory comment to today's Statement, was a recipient of funding under the housing action trusts of the previous government. I say that in order to illustrate that deprivation has been with us in inner cities for a long time and that for a long time governments have been concerned about it. There is nothing new in this programme, apart from a few intervening agencies which may or may not do a good job.

A government Statement which is a genuine attempt—and I give the Statement credit for being that—to assist such areas is bound to be welcome. The fact that we are running towards an election is neither here nor there. If elections do no other good, they occasionally focus attention on matters which require action. We should be grateful for that.

The proposal may result in benefit to the areas with which the paper dealing with urban renewal is concerned. I note at the back a list of 105 separate commitments. Many are the result of existing programmes and some are new. I wish them success; one can do no other than to wish for success in benefiting the areas with which the proposal is concerned. But we should not pretend that it is the solution to the problem or that it is particularly new: it is not. For a long time people have been trying to find the answers to the problems and I have no doubt that they will be trying for a good deal longer.

4.42 p.m.

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My Lords, we on these Benches share the Government's concerns to make inroads into poverty and poverty of aspiration in many of our urban areas. We also share their view that such changes must come from the bottom up; that members of the community know best what is happening in it and how best to deal with the problems. However, the various documents and statements do not make it clear how these aspirations will be realised. Will the Minister make it clear precisely what the role of local government will be?

Last year, we on these Benches welcomed the fact that the Local Government Act 2000 had at last recognised the role of local governments as community leaders. The Statement mentioned neighbourhood managers and we wonder how they will fit in with the local government set-up. Will they have more power than local government and how will the strategic partnerships relate to local government? Who will appoint the management? Will it be the local community? I shall be grateful if the Minister will clarify those points.

Secondly, we have concerns about funding—the type and the amount. There are many different projects for which people can apply so it is "challenge-type" funding. Many authorities find that costly and consuming and are demoralised when they do not win money for their particular projects. I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify how the Government can improve what has previously gone wrong with challenge funding.

Thirdly, it is not clear how much of the funding is new money. Various figures have been bandied about today but we have heard other figures in the past. Can the Minister explain them? When one looks at the problem, the new money does not appear to be a large sum. Will the Minister say exactly how much it will buy? Some of us are cynical—perhaps more so than the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith—about the Government's intent in the run-up to the general election.

We on these Benches also agree that it is vital to raise the standard of public services in these areas. That is the key to the sustainability of communities and programmes. Much has been said about what has been done and what will be done, but perhaps the Minister can clarify what is new money and what is recycled money. Some of us are cynical because such money and ideas are not always new.

However, like the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, we welcome the fact that the Government want to tackle the problems and we wish them every success in doing so. It is not an easy proposition. When I arrived home today from Alexandria in Egypt I found it difficult to deal with a Statement on urban renewal because there I looked around and wondered how they dealt with it. At least we do not have problems on that scale and I wish the Government success in their proposals.

4.46 p.m.

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My Lords, I appreciate the welcoming comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and his wishes for the scheme's success. I am sure that all noble Lords welcome a move to provide a greater coherence and focus to the activities which speakers on the Opposition Front Benches indicated. Those activities have been tried in various forms for some time in an attempt to tackle the problems, but they have not focused on the areas of maximum deprivation. The approach will identify ways in which new and existing local authority and national programmes can be directed at raising the basic standards of our most deprived areas. Some of them are improving but others are declining.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised the role of local authorities. They play a major and central role in our proposals. That is complementary to what is provided at national level and will be a significant part of what is provided locally. The neighbourhood management and identification of a single point of focus will enable many local authority programmes to be delivered more effectively and local authorities will be able to direct money and the services they receive from central Government, the police and the health authorities to more deprived areas within their boundaries.

The noble Lord suggested that all the areas were in inner cities. They are not. Many of the local authorities listed in the table on page 89 are not inner-city authorities. The bulk of cumulative deprivation arises in our inner cities and therefore that is where many deprived areas are to be found. But there are also one-industry towns—today there are no-industry towns. I refer to coal mining areas, which are basically rural, and to rural areas, particularly parts of Cornwall and Cumbria, which fall inside the 88 most deprived local authority areas identified in the Statement. Sixteen of the 88 most deprived areas contain significant rural deprivation. We recognise that there are special problems relating to poverty in rural areas, to which the rural White Paper published just before Christmas responds. The 88 authorities named in the report cover some 82 per cent of the deprived wards on the deprivation index. Therefore, they cover the vast majority of the situations in which there is cumulative deprivation and poor performance.

I believe that the noble Lord also asked about flexibility, in the sense of whether when areas moved up the relative index they would be replaced by those which moved down. There will be such flexibility. One is talking of a 10 to 20-year programme. Many areas will take 10 or more years to turn round in the way that we seek; some will achieve success more rapidly than others and the strategy will need to take account of that. There is flexibility to enable local strategic partnerships and local authorities in these areas to address changing problems of relative deprivation. But it is important to identify at the outset the most deprived areas in the country and gear national and local expenditure and services to them to ensure that there is a minimum performance floor so that cumulatively they are able to enter a benign cycle and escape the vicious downward spiral that has taken place in many areas—rural, single town and inner city—over the past decade or so.

The noble Baroness asked what was new in the package. The overall allocations for regeneration and neighbourhood renewal were indicated in the spending review, but for the first time their direction is spelt out in the Statement and the earlier announcement about the £800 million for the neighbourhood renewal scheme. What is new includes such schemes as the community chest of £50 million over the next three years to be spent by communities on projects in deprived neighbourhoods; the community empowerment fund of £35 million over the next three years; the community task force which brings together everybody concerned with the delivery of services and the encouragement of community activity; the neighbourhood management fund which is a £45 million programme to support two rounds of pathfinder authorities which will run for at least three years; and the bringing together of both the public and private sectors into local strategic partnerships. The noble Baroness asked whether local authorities would be subordinate to them. All stakeholders will play their part and be brought together. Local authorities will continue to deliver services and be responsible for their functions which have been enhanced by recent legislation and policy changes.

Therefore, local authorities will be one of the major deliverers of, and influences upon, local strategic partnerships. But there will be a wider coalition which brings together the private, public and voluntary sectors. The £800 million neighbourhood renewal fund has been established for the development of those areas and the interface with their communities so that they can be resourced and provide back-up and access to better education, health, crime prevention, housing and quality of life in those neighbourhoods.

4.54 p.m.

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My Lords, the Minister has announced a whole raft of admirable initiatives. I should be grateful if he could further clarify the way in which the public money directed to those initiatives is to be administered. What is to be the precise accountability? Who is to be responsible for that, and to whom? As the Minister made clear, the key to this is cross-departmental co-operation. Does the noble Lord envisage that there will be a series of small committees in each local authority area to deal with each independent initiative which will all come together under one supremo? Who is to ensure that there is value for money and public funds are properly accounted for?

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My Lords, the allocations of the new funding will be made by the local authority which will have its usual responsibilities in relation to the provision of funds. The point of the local strategic partnerships and the other relatively small-scale funds to which I have referred is to ensure that there is a degree of continuity and cumulative effect as between the programmes that already exist. Some of those programmes, for example those concerned with public and social housing and housing generally, are funded through local authorities; others remain the responsibility of the health service or the police. The aim is to co-ordinate and bring them together. It does not cut across the primary responsibility on public authorities to deliver value for money and effective outcomes in relation to mainstream budgets. However, it gives authorities targets for the expenditure of that money to ensure that it is spread more equitably and the identified neighbourhoods benefit more than the rest of the country in the deployment of those funds. However, management of the mainstream funds remains where it is.

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My Lords, I am grateful for the Statement. I note with satisfaction, and a degree of wry amusement, that when I was the incumbent of a parish I was, without knowing it, a community pathfinder. I think of the battered wife with black eyes and bleeding mouth who sought refuge and counsel from me and my wife. I also think of the number of times that the police phoned me as the vicar of a parish to ask whether I would help someone they held who was mentally disturbed. I also have in mind the countless homeless people who knocked on my door and asked for advice and help. I did what any parish priest would do anywhere.

First, can one guarantee that if local managers are to be appointed they will, like the clergy of this country, live in the places where they work; or will they, as I suspect, go home whenever appropriate? Secondly, will there be discrimination in the disbursement of funds against those religious and faith communities which stay in urban and rural areas of high deprivation, or will their central role in the provision of pastoral, physical and spiritual care be recognised in both word and action?

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My Lords, it is important that faith communities in these areas are brought into the partnerships and play a major role for the very reason indicated by the right reverend Prelate. In many cases the parish priest, minister, temple, synagogue, or whatever, provides a major focus to improve the lot of families subject to the worst effects of living in these deprived neighbourhoods. An enormous amount of experience needs to be brought on board. It is certainly the case that the local strategic partnerships and the other bodies to which we refer should bring in the faith communities.

As to the appointment of staff, obviously it is sensible and desirable that whoever is appointed to a management role is familiar with the area and has considerable knowledge of the community with which he or she has to deal. Whether as a job condition we can express that one actually has to live in the area being targeted is probably taking the matter further than I would be prepared to take it. But the objective behind that issue is clear.

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My Lords, the question of accountability for desirable work and expenditure has been raised. First, it would be much clearer if accountability came through regional authorities in England, as already happens in Wales and Scotland.

Secondly, the two Opposition Front Benches raised some points that they were critical of or unsure about. I believe that the key to them may be in the concept of community development. I point out that community development is completely different from consultation on official plans, desirable as that may be in its own right. Community development is concerned with the personal development of local leadership and the working out of local priorities for what needs to be done first. Without that structure one finds that potential local leaders move somewhere else as soon as they reach a certain degree of prosperity.

I hope that the Government will have a new look at community development as a subject. The issue has had a rather chequered history because it tends to threaten some of the established structures, whether local or central.

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My Lords, on the first point relating to regional level activity, it is important that the regional structure is fully involved. At present it is administrative. Although I would advocate moving towards a certain degree of regional government within England, we are operating on the structure as it is and it is important that the government offices are fully involved in this process. The government offices will have neighbourhood renewal teams which will be the link with the local strategic partnerships bringing together activity at the regional level. There are roles for other regional bodies such as the regional development agencies, particularly with regard to physical regeneration and employment creation. Therefore, there is a regional dimension to this issue. But the most important dimension must be at the local level.

I agree with the noble Lord's point about services and reallocation of funds not being provided solely on a top-down basis. This is about empowerment. It is about enabling communities to stand on their own two feet to bring forward local leadership and to develop communities through the process which he describes. Therefore, those communities will have some control over their own lives. They have so often suffered from the effects of decisions taken miles away without any regard for their own interests. Part of the process is that government and local government become more conscious of their needs and gear their activities towards them. But an important dimension is generating self-help.

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My Lords, perhaps I may commend to the Minister a scheme which took place some years ago in one of the most deprived wards in my then constituency of Plymouth. A committee of local people living on a small estate, together with various local professionals, local authorities and so on, worked out schemes really from the bottom up. They were not just consulted; they took initiatives and were guided and helped by the relevant professionals. That seems to me the answer because for too long it has been the other way around. In these very difficult areas it rarely works. It must come from the bottom up. That little estate was transformed from the time when I attended the committee's first meeting and was told that on no account was I to bring a car because it would not be in one piece by the time I left at the end of the evening.

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My Lords, I agree that there are a number of heartening examples across the country. I am sure that the one in Plymouth is apposite. Many others are referred to in the document. We wish to generalise that without taking a uniform approach. Certainly we can learn from and follow the example of communities which have managed to develop schemes, persuading both public authorities and the private sector to back them. This produces a benign cycle of increasing confidence and therefore increased ability to deal with problems and to improve the quality of life. The more locally-generated proposals that we can come up with, the better in order for us to deliver the intentions of this programme.

International Criminal Court Bill Hl

Second Reading debate resumed.

5.6 p.m.

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My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate today, I, too, strongly support the aims of the Bill. I can state my reasons briefly, and, I fear, superficially compared to the learned speeches we have heard from the three Front Benches.

I was one of those who took part in the Pinochet case when the matter came before this House. The Bill is not in any way a response to the Pinochet proceedings. It is a response, perhaps a belated response some might think, to the Rome Statute agreed as long ago as July 1998, which was three months before Senator Pinochet was arrested.

It is perhaps interesting and instructive to look back at the Pinochet case now and to speculate as to what would have been the result if the International Criminal Court had then been in existence. Indeed my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill has already indulged in a little speculation in that respect.

One of the arguments advanced on behalf of the Government of Spain, and advanced very forcefully as I remember, was that there must be a means of bringing a person such as Senator Pinochet to justice. My answer at the time was a simple and perhaps even rather ingenuous one. My view was that he should be returned to Chile and tried there. That may yet happen if Senator Pinochet is found fit to stand trial. However, that course did not appeal to the majority of my brethren so I say no more about it.

If sending Senator Pinochet back to Chile seemed to me to be the obvious way to deal with the case, it is certainly not the only way in which such a person can be brought to justice. I pointed out that he could have been tried in the domestic courts of other countries, claiming jurisdiction on whatever grounds in the case, provided the Government of Chile did not assert immunity on Senator Pinochet's behalf as a former head of state. In the event the Government of Chile vigorously asserted a state immunity.

Another alternative was that he should be tried in a specially constituted international criminal court, such as happened in the case of Yugoslavia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994. Lastly, I said that Senator Pinochet could have been tried in the International Criminal Court if it had then existed because Article 27 of the Rome statute, which is the critical provision, in simple terms overrides a claim for sovereign immunity in cases of states which are party to the statute.

I am glad to see that Clause 27 of the Bill reproduces the effect of Article 23 of the statute. That is one of the most important, if not the most important, provisions of the Bill. If the court had been in existence in 1998 and Chile had been a state party to the statute it would have been idle for Spain to seek the extradition of Senator Pinochet, with all the trouble that then ensued. Senator Pinochet could, and no doubt would, have been arrested here under the relatively simple provisions of Part II of the Bill. The Bill has already been described as complex, as must be any Bill with 83 clauses and 10 schedules, but I am not sure that Part II of the Bill is much more complex than the provisions of, for example, the Extradition Act 1989 on which it is to some extent based.

If Senator Pinochet had been arrested under the Rome statute, it would have meant that he could then have been tried for all his alleged international crimes in a truly international court instead of the domestic courts of one or other of a number of different countries, all asserting international jurisdiction and all competing with each other to exercise that jurisdiction. That would surely have been a great advantage. It would also have meant that it would have been unnecessary—this is perhaps a more personal matter—to stretch the principles of customary international law in order to secure his extradition to Spain. However, I recognise that that is a minority view which perhaps I should not even have expressed. What I will say is that the Pinochet case proves the need for a court such as the International Criminal Court. It also proves the need for this legislation. To my mind it is an important Bill and I give it my warmest welcome.

5.13 p.m.

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My Lords, the House enjoys the presence of many human rights warriors. I join them in warmly welcoming the Bill. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, I see the Bill as one of the important actions of the Government. It should not be forgotten how hostile previous administrations were to such a court. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State on their role in the negotiations for the court and on securing a leading position for Britain in its creation.

The idea of a world criminal court is not new. It has had a long gestation period. It received its first concrete shape in 1937 when a draft statute for a court to try international terrorists was produced by the League of Nations. It came up again in the wake of the Second World War. After the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, the UN made a passing reference in the 1948 Genocide Convention to an international penal tribunal and draft statutes were produced over the next few years by the International Law Commission. But the project soon went into the deep freeze of the Cold War and was not brought out again until Gorbachev suggested it as a measure against international terrorism. The General Assembly asked the International Law Commission to resume its work, hurrying it along after large parts of a shocked world expressed enthusiasm for its creation when war crimes in the former Yugoslavia were exposed. The other important engine of change was that many governments were under pressure from NGOs active in the human rights arena to support an International Criminal Court. We should not miss the opportunity of saluting the many dedicated organisations—Amnesty International, the Helsinki Human Rights Watch, and others—which have campaigned for the court for many years.

What kind of court was a matter of wide disagreement and generated a very fractious debate internationally. While it is a source of celebration that 139 nations have now adopted the statute to create the court, we should also remember that 21 nations abstained. The seven which opposed included China, Israel, India and the United States, representing a massive concentration of people and power. There is, of course, a group of countries which does not want a court at all. I suppose that we could call them the usual suspects. The list will not surprise anyone: Iraq, Iran, Libya and Indonesia.

The United States initially wanted a court, but one that would never work against the interests of the United States. The model which the United States preferred was one where the court was controlled by the Security Council, where the US could use its superpower veto against any embarrassing prosecutions. Not surprisingly, China took the same view. That model for a court did not meet the aspirations of Britain, Canada, Germany or any of the other "like minded" group of 42 nations which believe in international human rights. However, trying to find compromises to keep America on side has greatly weakened the statute that was finally agreed. Concessions were constantly made in the negotiations to woo the United States and that has created flaws which are now embedded in the legislation that we are now endorsing. The legislation goes so far as to require a state's consent before one of its nationals can be prosecuted, a clause introduced in a desperate attempt to placate Senator Helms, who demanded 100 per cent protection for American GIs. It does not take much vision to see the practical problem that that creates. Imagine Cambodia ruled by Pol Pot surrendering him or one of his henchmen for trial!

The court also has no "universal" jurisdiction—again at the objection of the Americans. The Rome statute gives the court jurisdiction either by remit from the Security Council—the Security Council gets to decide—or by the consent of the state of which the defendant is a national or in which the crime was committed. The "state consent" provisions within the treaty mean that no one occupying a position of current political or military power in any state is likely to be put on trial unless he invades another state or commits war crimes on its territory. Any retired war criminal like Pinochet in Chile who retains a power base in his state of nationality will remain safe, despite the belief of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that he could have been brought to trial.

The class of criminal most likely to be arraigned at The Hague is persons who commit barbaric crimes in a cause which has utterly failed, in a country which decides to surrender them because it lacks the facilities to try them itself. Otherwise the ICC will become a kind of permanent ad hoc tribunal dependent on references from the Security Council to investigate countries like Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia where none of the combatants has superpower support. It will take strong advocacy by countries like our own to ensure that the court has teeth. As the noble Baroness said at the outset of this debate, the new court will not have any retrospective powers and will be able to deal only with future abuses, so there is no justice here for many of those monstrous criminals of the 20th century who are still alive and who still enjoy their freedom.

The powers of the prosecutor are also greatly shackled by the court. Perhaps that was because President Clinton had the unhappy example close to home of the special prosecutor in the form of Kenneth Starr. Whatever the reason, it is certain that the powers of the prosecutor fall short of what I would have hoped for.

However, I do not want to minimise the importance of this legislation. It is a truly great achievement. To take words from the preamble to the Rome statute, this is a huge step towards global justice:
"Conscious that all peoples are united by common bonds, their cultures pieced together in a shared heritage and concerned that this delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time".
The security of peoples and the patina of civilisation can easily be shattered. The Bill is probably the best deal that the human rights movement could secure with the realpolitik of state power in the late 20th century.

Finally, the viability of the International Criminal Court ultimately will depend more on the calibre and experience of its judges and prosecutors than on the fine print of statute. I truly urge our colleagues, the Secretary of State and others to ensure that the judges in this court will be our finest.

5.21 p.m.

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My Lords, as one of the speakers that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, categorised as a "human being" among so many fine legal minds, it is increasingly daunting to participate in the Second Reading of this Bill. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the opportunity to make some general observations. I echo much of what was said by my noble friend Lord Howell in his far from tepid and excellent speech. I, too, have no hesitation in strongly supporting the concept of an international criminal court.

We all desire a more just, a more peaceful and a more secure world. No one who believes in the protection of human rights, in justice and in the rule of law could doubt the worth of the principles underpinning the International Criminal Court. No one could doubt the importance of bringing to justice the perpetrators of many of the worst crimes known to man. Yet, despite millions of victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as citizens of a world society, and as the Minister rightly pointed out, we have frequently failed to do so.

All too often in the past, these criminals have gone unpunished. Most clearly believed that that would be the case and they have been right. The 20th century saw a tyrants' gallery overflowing with unpunished dictators. As a result, the world is awash with men, women and children denied justice, while true reconciliation between conflicting groups or states has often proved elusive.

The establishment of the first permanent international court dealing with individual accountability for crimes against international law is a step on a hard road towards ensuring that the most egregious evils of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes which have stained the 20th century with blood and tears, do not likewise stain the 21st century.

In 1998, the Rome Statute established the ICC as a permanent international body to be in harmony with national judicial systems, not in competition with them. That point has been reinforced from all sides of this House. There was a strong British contribution to the complex process of instituting the statute of which we can be proud.

Before I make my substantive points on the Bill, I should like to make some general observations on the efficacy of the court which needs to be explored in further detail. While the need for action is clear, we must ensure that what we are creating is a truly legitimate vehicle for international justice. Such a body must be a powerful deterrent with a broad reach, based on global fundamental principles of justice, able to respond quickly to events and, critically, it must be above damaging accusations of selective justice, under which the strong and powerful are favoured while the weak and defeated are prosecuted. Anything less risks harm to the credibility of the ICC and to international justice.

Lawyers, politicians and human rights groups have all lined up to give their opinions on the ICC and controversial issues, from whichever end of the political spectrum they are viewed, have abounded. For some, it is too much world government: for others, it is too little. The seven-year wait before some countries will accept the jurisdiction over war crimes, the potentially indefinite wait in relation to the definition of crimes of aggression and the failure to tackle terrorist offences have drawn criticisms on the one hand, while issues of national sovereignty and jurisdictional borders have been equally hotly debated. The degree to which concessions were required to reach consensus on the statute, in particular in the efforts to persuade the United States of America to sign, has caused some to wonder whether the result has inevitably compromised an effective, independent and fair body. I hope that that is not the case.

Yet I do have concerns about the court's efficacy. Except when the UN Security Council refers situations to the court, the ICC will have jurisdiction over crimes only in countries which have ratified the court's statute, or by their nationals. The preconditions for the court's jurisdiction are either territorial or nationa litybased, although only one is required. But while state parties are obliged to co-operate with the ICC, non-state parties must give their consent.

Much of the debate in setting up the statute centred around the question of where the international legal boundaries should lie between sovereign states and universal human rights. There is, of course, a delicate balance, but to what extent will this limit the effectiveness of the court, since those countries with the worst human rights records are precisely those which are least likely to become parties to the treaty? Iraq and China come to mind. Furthermore, the governments of non-party states whose members may be the subject of investigation are unlikely to cooperate. If they do not consent, what can be done? Will it be impossible to prosecute crimes across jurisdictional borders if states do not consent, and where do those borders lie in reality? To what extent is the back door left wide open for those who commit crimes in countries that have refused to accept the jurisdiction of the court and does this potentially de-claw the court before it has even begun to operate? There is, of course, the mechanism by which the UN Security Council can decide that a situation presents a threat to international peace and security and refer that situation to the court under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The court can then take action regardless of whether the state concerned is a party to the court or has given its consent.

Yet, speaking from the point of view of a layman, this creates a new set of problems. The Security Council would have to carry the resolution and the recent record of the disagreement and paralysis which has stricken the Security Council on issues from Iraq to Kosovo does not always augur well for such unanimity. The Foreign Secretary has predicted that the Security Council would have referred Saddam Hussein to the ICC, had it been in existence. But what about the example of China, which is a non-state party, but which is of course a permanent member of the Security Council? What action would the court have been able to take in response to the individuals responsible for the crime of Tiananmen Square? What will the court do when faced with such acts by future world leaders of non-state parties?

The absence of American support for the statute was initially a cause of grave concern. Here I echo many of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. Without the blessing of the US, the court would always struggle to claim the global mandate necessary for its credibility. However, at the eleventh hour, in a milestone for the ICC, President Clinton signed the statute. Yet US ratification is far from assured. President Clinton made it clear that in signing, the US was not abandoning its concerns about what he called "significant flaws" in the treaty, in particular in terms of the court's jurisdiction over the personnel of non-party states. There was a further sting in the tail. President Clinton said that he would not, and did not, recommend his successor to submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until the fundamental concerns of the US were satisfied. In effect, the US signature ensures a continued place at the negotiating table to influence the court's establishment, but no promises on ratification.

Only last month, Donald Rumsfeld, President-elect Bush's nominee for Defense Secretary, warned that,
"American leadership in the world could be the first casualty of the Court",
and there has even been speculation that George W. Bush could repudiate the signature.

In a sharply-divided Congress, where Republicans have vowed that they will never ratify the treaty and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, has promised to work to erase "swiftly and surely" President Clinton's signature, the ICC and the international system of justice is likely to become a pawn in a vicious game of partisan politics in which clashes over the court's impact on US national interests and the President's constitutional powers to conduct foreign policy will raise the stakes sky-high. I ask the Minister, to what extent do the Government consider that the American Servicemembers' Protection Bill, which has attracted considerable support and which would prohibit American co-operation with the ICC while the US is not a party and would cut off US military aid to non-NATO allies who ratify the ICC, amounts to undermining the treaty?

Naturally, there are gaps and loopholes which will need to be addressed and appropriate safeguards put in place during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill—the issue of diplomatic immunity for representatives of non-state parties; the question of who is to carry out the enforcement of ICC orders; the question of a statute of limitations in the case of ageing war criminals; and the issue of the application of universal jurisdiction and its implications.

I end on a slightly different note, which I hope is not a controversial one. Criminal prosecution is but one thread in the web we can weave around the perpetrators of these crimes. War crimes tribunals are not the only means of facilitating peace. In certain situations, plea bargains, amnesties and pardons can be important too. Criminal justice should never be an instrument for revenge. Contradictory though it may seem, peace and justice are not always bedfellows, but without peace there cannot be justice. Establishing the truth of what happened in order that nations emerging from a post-conflict situation are able to confront and exorcise the ghosts of their past, has as much of a role to play as criminal prosecutions. In this respect, the example of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the aftermath of apartheid has much to teach us.

In conclusion, in formulating our strategy for a more peaceful world, a one-size-fits-all prosecutorial strategy or, for that matter, a uniform preference for a non-juridical alternative, would be too narrow an approach. It is true that circumstances differ and circumstances matter. I am glad to say that the atrocities with which the ICC will be concerned are still unusual. For precisely that reason, their resolution should be too. I hope that the ICC will be a further string in our bow for achieving such resolution. I look forward to the next stages of the Bill.

5.33 p.m.

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My Lords, this very important measure raises quite fundamental questions, including, I am glad to say, the wider picture outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, of the contribution that different approaches can make towards an objective which I am sure the whole House, without dissent, shares; that is, how best to deal with the beastliness of the misuse of power and tyranny which some countries inflict on their own people.

We have in the United Nations Charter many defences against the tyranny of aggression. Indeed, the crime of aggression of one country against another is the one great reality to come out of the post-war world and the United Nations Charter. That is why throughout my political life I, and I am sure others, have always felt that when the call came—whether in South Korea or, more recently, in Kuwait and Iraq—the international community had the obligation to act. While the acts may not have been perfect, they were part of the civilising effect of the arrangements made in our post-war era.

The great gap in our post-war era has not been so much the means and organisation to deal with cross-border aggression but what to do with the appalling tyrannies that exist within the territories of sovereign states. One is straightaway up against enormous practical difficulties—the difficulty of power, for example. I am sure that I am not the only Member of the House who has had to do quite a lot of rethinking about our approach to such issues in the light of the Kosovo war and the appalling behaviour of the Serbs in relation to the Kosovar minority. Let no one have any doubt. We crossed an enormous frontier of international action and law when we waged war on Serbia for mistreatment of its own people. No frontier was crossed and no crime was committed against neighbour states—except indirectly, perhaps, when they were burdened with the vast outflow of refugees and so on—but the enormous step forward was taken of criminalising the actions, which we all agreed were criminal, of a tyrant against his own people.

I have since thought a lot about the issue, as, no doubt, have others. When I try to apply that approach to other situations in the world in which we live—either those which have occurred in the past or those which we are facing today—I find that it offers very little opportunity of redress. Can anyone imagine that we would bomb China in order to rescue the people of Tibet? Does anyone think it would be right to bomb Moscow because of Russian behaviour in Chechnya? No. It is not possible. It is possible to contemplate measures of that kind only against insignificant military powers. I do not recommend it.

That is why I am interested, not, as it were, in abandoning the attempt to deal with tyrants but in looking at the whole range of possibilities available to us if we have the intelligence and the will to apply them. That is why I am in favour of this Bill. It is one of the many measures available to us, if you like, short of waging war. Economic sanctions, diplomatic approaches and diplomatic reprisals of one kind or another are there. Looking back on Kosovo, yes, if need be, open our frontiers, however temporarily or for however long, to give some shelter against the evil oppression of tyrannical rulers. Looking back on it, that would have been a better way of trying to deal with that problem.

The intensification of measures against those who behave wickedly against their own people is something with which we should be seriously concerned. I know that noble Lords on all sides of the House share that concern and the worry about how effective the measures will be. I approve without reservation the general purpose behind the Bill. A measure that can bring to justice and punish evil men who misuse power is to be applauded.

Secondly, it must not be forgotten that if virtually all the nations concerned make it clear that they will do their utmost through international law to bring people of that kind to justice, however many years after they may have committed their crimes, it will have a deterrent effect. Those in power who are about to commit acts that are more wicked than usual will think harder about doing so. They will give thought to the fact that they may later want to retire to another country; they will wonder whether they will be arrested. Therefore, this matter should not be judged simply on its own, but as part of what I hope is a growing arsenal of effective measures which—short of waging war on countries that misbehave inside their own frontiers— can be effectively mobilised to the benefit of the many millions who suffer at the hands of tyrants.

That said, I must probe a little the provisions of the Bill. To some extent I follow the sensible approach of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench. I say to his critics on the Liberal Democrat Benches that no Opposition can fail to scrutinise legislation in a serious way, as the noble Lord did, if it is to do its duty to Parliament. We all have a duty to examine carefully the measures placed before us.

In that context, I should like to raise a question and then home in on two worries I have. The question follows the line of thought developed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. I should be grateful if, in replying, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General would give his view on the following. If this Bill had been passed and the convention had been activated by the 60 signatories, how would that have differently affected the arrival of ex-president Pinochet in the United Kingdom? It would help to clear my mind and would possibly help others.

I turn now to my worries. The first is a minor one. The Bill enacts Articles 6, 7 and 8(2) of the statute. I am slightly surprised that noble Lords have not directed their attention more to the content of those articles. Article 6 deals with genocide. Virtually all its provisions are unquestionable and present no problem. But one or two of the categories raise questions. One such example is,
"actions which are aimed at destroying an ethnic or religious group … in whole or in part … by causing mental harm to members of the group".
I select the words deliberately, but there is not the sharpness one might wish for in a legal document. I shall not make too much of that; it is merely that I should like to feel that opportunities are not presented in terms of loose wording for mischief makers to embarrass or to claim the headlines through judicial proceedings and so on. That, of course, partly depends on the good sense of the judges and the court. But, inevitably, as a court has not yet been established, one can only say that it is important that it should build up confidence in itself and its judgments as time goes on.

Now I must share with the House my major concern. When I looked at Article 8(2), dealing with war crimes, I could hardly believe my eyes. It provides a long list. Some items I wholly accept; they present no worry whatever—for example,
"Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science … Killing or wounding treacherously … Declaring that no quarter will be given".
A further such example is,
"Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations [etc.] involved in a humanitarian assistance".
All these are outrageous, and they are adequately dealt with.

However, I direct the attention of the House to subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iv) and (v) of Article 8(2)(b). The items come under the general heading of other serious violations of the laws and customs applied in international conflict. Sub-paragraph (i) refers to,
"Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities".
What is air warfare about, for heaven's sake, if it does not involve such actions? The last time I had anything to do with this matter was when I was in uniform and about to enter Bomber Command. I had to wrestle with my conscience, as I am sure did many others, over the question of whether it would be right to drop bombs on German cities. My answer, reluctantly, was, yes, it would be. I did not have to do so because the war ended, but that has been accepted so far as a legitimate act of war or punishment.

I am concerned, too, by the reference in subparagraph (ii) to,
"Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives".
Sub-paragraph (iv) refers to,
"Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attacks will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment".
Sub-paragraph (v) refers to,
"Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives".
I am not an international lawyer, and it may well be that my astonishment simply reflects the fact that I have not kept up to date with the latest in the Geneva Conventions. But we have surely not forgotten the war which ended only months ago over Kosovo and against Serbia. Civilian targets? The radio and television centre in Belgrade? Objects of no obvious military use? Bridges over the Danube? Installations that have a major effect on the life of communities, as well as an environmental effect. I refer, for example, to the bombing of oil refineries and power generators. It is almost unbelievable that this part of the document should simply go through on the nod and without major amendment. Indeed, I cannot seriously believe that it will be the case.

If we read on through the document and the Bill, we see that all of this applies directly to military commanders. There will be no excuse for them if they defy the new convention and its law. Therefore, if they do partake in a bombing raid on, say, the bridges over the Danube or on the suburbs or major power stations around Belgrade, they will be committing an international offence. But what are they to do? Are they to defy their governments and obey international law? That really is nonsense. We need to hear a very considered explanation for the presence of these provisions and especially the way around them.

I may be exaggerating the position, but when my noble and learned friend responds to the debate I ask him not to conclude that I am deliberately trying to point out difficulties and possibilities that are perhaps remote or unreal. Frankly, on the face of it, it seems to me to be all too real. The problems are there in the convention that we have signed and in the Bill. Indeed, I believe that Schedule 8 lists the matters that I quoted from the convention.

Perhaps the following has some significance. We signed the document in either June or November of 1998. Of course, the war in Bosnia began in March/ April 1999. It is just possible that those who devised all these words were not in touch with NATO and its peace-enforcement mission plans. Was NATO committing a crime? When the number of signatories reaches 60 and the legislation comes into effect, being, perhaps, dated from the moment of signature in 1998, will my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary be faced with the prospect of their arrest when visiting some other country in five or 10 years' time for their activities in Kosovo?

As I said, we need answers to those questions. I am not in any way happy to have to put these points to the House. I very much hope that my noble and learned friend will be able to give me reassurances and explanations that will at least leave me satisfied for now.

5.53 p.m.

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My Lords, it would be very unwise of a bishop, not least following the noble Lord's speech, to rise to speak in this House and make simplistic and naive claims about Christianity's role in creating a just society or a just world. Our track record as Churches in this respect is very patchy. Even those claims for Christian leadership in such matters for example, Wilberforce's fight to abolish slavery—often fail abjectly to mention that there were many Christians who were in favour of slavery and who brought to their terrible arguments a plethora of biblical "proof texts" as their justification. That kind of behaviour makes me hang my head in shame.

Therefore, I am very aware of some of the appalling things done throughout history in the name of the Church. Yet I am equally aware of those very courageous individual Christians and Churches who have, because of their faith and often at great cost with great heroism, tried to change the world for the better. Notwithstanding our failures and while acknowledging them, there is within the Christian faith a recognition that in a fallen world a proper relationship needs to exist between justice and peace. In a sense and at a philosophical level, the substance of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, was just about the ethical dilemmas of the relationship between justice and peace. Further, there is now an increasingly keen awareness among Churches that the plight of the most vulnerable in our world should always be at the forefront of our thinking; and that, if any society wishes to call itself just and civilised, it will be to the care of the vulnerable that we should look to test whether or not its claims are genuine.

I warmly welcome this debate, believing that the creation of the ICC may be one of the most critical and most honourable steps that we are likely to take in our generation to create a more equitable and righteous world. But, among others that have already been mentioned, there are two areas that seem to me to require further thought. The first relates to Britain as a potentially safe haven for lesser players from overseas who may have carried out the wishes of their particular tyrannical leader. If I have understood the situation correctly—and I may not have done—I wonder whether it is just or logical that a British citizen, who served as a mercenary, could quite properly be tried in this country for committing exactly the same crimes as a foreign national. Because of our understanding of the relationship between law and territory, the foreign national living in this country would not necessarily be brought to trial. If that is the case, there seems to be a great anomaly, not to say a very great injustice.

Secondly—and I may also have misunderstood this point—would it not be wise and generous to mention somewhere in the Bill, or elsewhere, the envisaged United Nations trust fund for victims? That would at least give some of the people who have suffered so severely some hope of justice.

The phrase that seems to me to sum up some of the debate comes from Nicholas Stewart, who said that our task is,
"to see our national interests from a truly international perspective".
I believe that the redemptive and healing effect that the creation of the ICC will have upon societies that have been subjected to tyranny could well be enormous. It is for those reasons that I warmly welcome the Bill in principle. However, I recognise that trying to establish a proper and fruitful relationship between the absolute moral demands of peace and the absolute moral demands of justice will require all the wisdom and the charitable ingenuity and energy that we in this Chamber and the rest of the world can muster.

5.58 p.m.

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My Lords, I rise somewhat reluctantly and ambitiously to participate in this debate. I say "reluctantly" because the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Moynihan—and, to some extent, my noble friend Lord Shore—welcomed the changes envisaged by the Bill, but they did so with a certain reluctance. It is not easy to change and, to some extent, I echo their views. But I ask each of them one question: would they prefer the Bill as it is, with all its inadequacies (the same could be said of any international statute) to no Bill at all? Of course they would not. Indeed, I hope that they would not.

The noble Lord, Lord Lester, was enthusiastic about the Bill. I also welcome it, but I welcome it in a world that is far from perfect. The United Nations is living proof of the inadequacy of the rule of international law. But would we rather have a world without a United Nations organisation? I think that the answer to that is certain and clear.

Therefore I welcome the Bill with all its faults. We should appreciate that, increasingly, nations of the world have accepted it. There is a reluctance on the part of some in the United States to accept that point of view. However, I ask those in the United States whether they would rather have no United Nations at all? Perhaps some in the United States would prefer it if that were so, but it is our burden to go ahead with the Bill as swiftly as we can, whatever its inadequacies. However, it is clear that there should be a greater degree of political scrutiny and we should be more pervasive in what we seek.

The Bill seeks to fill a serious gap in international law. It is clear that individuals who have committed crimes of genocide—we understand what that means as it has been practised in Europe—crimes against humanity and war crimes should be tried. It is right that the International Criminal Court should complement national courts, as has been argued.

If we have criticisms, they do not seek to undermine the Bill but to improve it. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General may respond to criticisms when he replies to the debate, but there is still some point in placing on record some of the alleged deficiencies in the Bill.

First, with regard to the International Criminal Court itself, how many states have to ratify the statute? We have heard a number of different comments on that point today. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will make that point clear. To its credit, the United Kingdom signed the statute last November. It is now in a position to ratify. In my view it should lead the way in that regard.

The Government received some 45 submissions from a number of people who had read the original Bill. I am told that as yet the report has not reached the Library of this House. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will be able to inform us whether and in what way the Bill reflects the submissions which have been made.

I am told that the Bill does not include the crime of aggression. What progress, if any, has been made in defining that crime? Will the House be given its place in coining such a definition? I know that we have at least seven years after the statute has come into force, but perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General can give us some idea of the timetable.

I turn to the question of legal aid. So far legal aid has been organised on a national basis The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that legal aid is determined by the courts in which the defendant is due to appear and it does not apply outside England, Wales or Scotland. How can legal aid or legal assistance—if there is a distinction between the two—be applied as regards the International Criminal Court? The Explanatory Notes remain absolutely silent on that point. The issue may be referable to another enactment. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General obviously approves of that argument because he nods affirmatively. But is it not possible for the Bill to refer to that issue? We should not have to identify what the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General has to say with regard to the Bill. It should be made clear in the Bill.

A defendant may have no or insufficient means to employ a suitable advocate. The case may not attract much attention. Paragraph 53 in the Explanatory Notes refers to a number of issues but I do not believe that it refers to legal aid. Why is that? That matter should be referred to in clear terms.

Paragraph 54 refers to powers conferred by the Bill,
"to facilitate the voluntary attendance of expert witnesses".
But, frankly, I do not understand it. I think that the issue ought to be made clear in the Explanatory Notes. I ask the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General to make it clear this evening. I do not believe that the voluntary attendance of expert witnesses ought to be left to chance. What precedent can he cite in support of any argument that he seeks to adduce?

Finally, paragraph 21 of the Explanatory Notes headed "Proceedings for delivery order" refers to Article 59.2 and states that,
"The Statute does not … specify which rights must be respected and nor does it specify what is to happen if the judicial authority determines that there has been a violation of (b) or (c)".
Paragraph (b) of the article states that,
"the person has been arrested in accordance with the proper process".
Paragraph (c) states that,
"the person's rights have been respected".
The Explanatory Notes continue:
"In particular, nothing in the Statute allows a State to refuse to surrender a person to the ICC on the grounds that the person has not been properly arrested or his rights have not been respected".
I do not understand that. I have been a lawyer for some 47 years. We should not have an issue where lawyers of my standing do not understand the point the Government seek to make.

What I have said amounts to a Committee point. My noble friend Lord Shore will agree because he made the point in the first place. These may be Committee points but they are of such importance that I hope the Attorney-General will make clear in his winding up speech the Government's stand on them. I welcome very much the enactment of the Bill. I hope that the number of countries which will ratify and sign up to its purposes will be numerous indeed.

6.12 p.m.

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My Lords, perhaps I may give double congratulations, first, to the Government on bringing forward this Bill, and, secondly, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, who has worked tirelessly on the issue. I hope that he feels a sense of personal satisfaction today.

The Minister's opening remarks were detailed and I look forward to the opportunity to digest them. From both the noble Baroness and Peter Hain, the Foreign Office Minister, we have a commitment from this country to tip the international balance away from impunity towards justice. However, while I am delighted that Britain will put its full weight behind the establishment of the ICC we must, I believe, attempt to ensure that this Bill will be sufficient to ensure the proper functioning of the court in the exercise of international justice.

International law has long been described as an imprecise science based as it is in part on state practice. It would be unfortunate if we added to the overall complexity by introducing unclear or incomplete definitions of war crimes; or failed to include aggression as a war crime—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis; and if issues of jurisdiction and referral are not clarified.

Who will decide when a country has proved unwilling to investigate? Are there adequate existing international standards of universal applicability? Is the court's remit perhaps a little too broad in these early stages? Are we seeking to try the "top dogs", the leaders, at the ICC or, as some would have it, any individual who commits, orders, facilitates or otherwise assists in the commission of the crime? If it is the latter, the court will be overburdened and parallel truth and reconciliation approaches will have no opportunity to thrive.

Any legal system survives because it has the consent of the majority of those to whom it applies. We must be careful to ensure that the same applies to the jurisdiction and enforcement mechanisms of the ICC. We must be quite clear that this initiative is a genuine one and not an exercise in politicking. If we so disable the court at its inception that any exercise of independence or impartiality is impossible, then it will lose credibility and moral authority. Universal jurisdiction must be accompanied by universal application.

No one can be above the law. On a previous occasion during an Unstarred Question, I sought to introduce consideration of terrorism and narcotrafficking as crimes against humanity. Obviously the possibility of British nationals' involvement, in particular in funding these operations, is considerable. Is there scope for inclusion under Article 7, section 35(k)? If not, I again ask the Minister to widen consideration to those areas.

I believe we all know that in the area of terrorism organisations and individuals based in the United Kingdom are funding or otherwise aiding terrorism outside the United Kingdom, generally giving this country a reputation as a safe haven. If I heard the Minister's remarks correctly concerning the international targeting of individuals, am I to understand that from this point on individuals who are deemed to have ordered, for example, an execution of an individual abroad would now face the ICC, should the UK system elect not to pursue justice? By extension, will proven funding of an overseas terrorist organisation now finally be stopped by the UK authorities, so rendering it unnecessary for a state signatory to pursue the case through the provisions of the ICC?

In conclusion, it is vital that we not only record our commitment to establishing the ICC but that we ensure that every safeguard is in place to deliver international justice. That is the clear message that the world's tyrants will fear.

6.18 p.m.

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My Lords, the need for such a court has been recognised by every noble Lord who has spoken. However, the main problem is how to resolve the practical difficulty of impleading the strong. That has been referred to in some detail by my noble friend Lord Moynihan' the noble Lord, Lord Shore, and others. It is as yet a practical difficulty which has not been resolved and may not be able to be resolved. But it is right that if possible an all-but-universal norm should be set to deter and serve as an aid to peacekeeping and diplomacy and, when possible, to be enforced by arrest, adjudication and sentence. It will be welcomed no doubt as a beacon of light for those of whatever origin or faith, or none, who in times of peace or war, or in situations short of war, could suffer grave, perhaps the ultimate, indignity.

The court is assuredly a grand design, rooted and grounded in justice, the servant of human society, which could afford an effective means of resolution when the age-old fault lines erupt with volcanic intensity, but would it? Military intervention has afforded no lasting settlement and justice could do so only if it could reach out to and deal with the strong as well as the weak and not become a cosmetic exercise or a placebo for the conscience of the world.

There is much on which we have to be satisfied before we can ratify. I agree with my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford that we should not rush to ratification. There are serious reservations, particularly in the United States, which have been referred to by my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Moynihan and others. There are improvements to be considered and appropriate safeguards to be introduced. As the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, rightly said, the Bill stops short of a satisfactory basis for jurisdiction. It fails to implement the complementarity principle—that is terrible treaty jargon. In those regards, it requires amendment.

Articles 6 to 9 of the statute can be amended only by members of the assembly of state parties. I read Article 8(b) with incredulity and would have referred to it, like the noble Lord, Lord Shore, if I had not been going to refer to another aspect of Article 8, to which I shall come in a moment.

Consideration must be given to improving the safeguards not only in the matters under Article 8(b)(i to iv), but for prisoners of war taken in international armed conflict, who are not covered by Article 8(c)—indeed, they are excluded. An agreement on those matters should be sought before ratification. We must ensure that threatening a prisoner of war with any form of slavery or humiliating or degrading treatment, implementing such a threat or selecting or using a prisoner of war as a hostage is expressly prohibited.

Relevant material is available from the Ex-Prisoners of War Association, of which my noble friend Lord Haig, who was one of the pre-selected hostages held at Colditz, is president. This narrative demands a declaration of interest, as I spent nearly five years of an indeterminate life sentence in Colditz, until I was fortuitously released in mid-April 1945 on the surrender of Colditz to the United States armed forces. That was fortuitous, as the castle was not designated as a prisoner of war camp on the campaign maps. The German armour was around the camp pending re-engagement. But for a home-made Union Jack, which was spotted by chance fluttering in one of the heavy artillery gun sights, we should have been taken out. As President of the Colditz Association and an erstwhile gunner subaltern on the reserve, one does not presume to speak on behalf of members, some of whom were of field rank and later became admirals or generals. The few members who survive prefer to speak for themselves.

My speech may disturb some noble Lords, as the House must recognise that if Hitler had won the war, the disposal of prisoners of war would have been truly horrendous. Colditz, a former palace of Saxony, remained in use as a lunatic asylum until it was occupied by an international closed community of prisoners of war from the three armed services. We were under the disciplinary command of our respective senior officers. There was a joint command on escape co-operation.

Over five years, the composition varied from time to time. That is relevant to the proposed new provisions. In the early days we were 25 in the British quarters, under the command of Colonel German. There was a massive presence of French, under the command of General Le Brigant. There were also Dutch and colonial troops and the brave remnants of the Polish cavalry. At the time of our release, there were many more British, together with Australians, Canadians after Dieppe, with one VC, New Zealanders, with another VC, Czechs, Poles and Yugoslays who had served with the RAF, Gaullist French and SOE, all under the command of Colonel Tod. The Americans were under the command of Colonel Duke and the Poles were under the command of General BorKomorowski. By that time, the French and Dutch were no longer with us, having been removed in 1943. Just before our release, a number of prisoners of war with family connections of no little consequence who were held at Colditz as hostages had been removed ahead of the US advance. I shall return to that in a moment.

In the early days, before the tide had turned in the battle for the Atlantic and before the United States entered the war, a tannoy was rigged up in the courtyard to give us a chilling blow-by-blow account of each disaster befalling every stricken or sunken vessel. A Feldwebel—a sort of RSM—came up and said, "For you the war is over. You will be put to work in the salt mines of Silesia. Without an eye guard you will go blind within three months and you shall die there". There is reason to believe that that was not his own idea, but a message. It was then state policy to use those from occupied territories for slave labour. Later, Russian prisoners of war taken on the Ostfront were so used. The Geneva Convention would have been repudiated as yet another scrap of paper. There was no international criminal tribunal and no way in which the implementation of state policy could be obstructed. If Hitler had won the war, all of us at Colditz—all prisoners of war—would have been liable to be put to slavery, and assuredly many would have been.

Perhaps I may return to the prominentes, which included Elphinstone, Lascelles and Hopetoun Winant, as they then were, Haig, Winert, the son of the United States ambassador at the Court of St James, Romilly and others. On 13th April 1945 they, together with General Bor-Komorowski and the Polish officers under his command, were removed from the castle to be taken to Hitler's last fortress at Berchtesgarten. That was so that, when put to torture, their lives could be bartered for the freedom of those later condemned at Nuremberg. The plan was devised probably in the wake of Stalingrad, when it occurred to the German high command that they might not win the war. The prominentis were selected as part of the plan and were kept in separate quarters and guarded night and day.

Fortunately, the senior British officer, Colonel Tod, had forewarned the Swiss protecting power on his last visit prior to the United States advance, as we knew from our radio. Therefore, when they reached Konigstein, the Swiss intervened and persuaded General Berger to give them safe conduct through the German lines and then took them and handed them over to General Patch at the United States headquarters in Augsberg.

This narrative of events, when Hitler and those condemned at Nuremberg knew that they had lost the war, is relevant to the proposed provisions for further protection to which I refer. When the noble and learned Lord comes to reply, I wonder whether he could advise the House whether, in his opinion, there is a case for further provision. Article 8 makes no provision for dealing with any of these matters. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord could also advise the House whether trials within the remit of Articles 6 to 9, in which the victor impleads the vanquished, should henceforth be conducted by the ICC. Could he also advise whether, when the ICC has been set up to implement the statute, an indictment laid under the War Crimes Act would be remitted to the ICC for the conduct of proceedings and whether the War Crimes Act should remain on the statute book. I apologise for making such a long speech.

6.33 p.m.

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My Lords, it is not on every occasion when I intervene in a debate that I shower praise on the Government. Even today, I do not pledge my unqualified approval for every jot and tittle in the Bill. But fair's fair. The Government's record in the negotiations leading to the statute, in their lobbying since the statute, and in finding time for this Bill despite the other pressures on their legislative programme, have earned not only my approval—whether or not that may serve as a comfort to them—but the approval of a wide sector of civil society not usually noted for its praise of governments of whatever political complexion.

Both my noble friends on the Front Bench have earned a special commendation for their appreciation from the beginning of the negotiations of the importance of this opportunity. Without appearing too fulsome, perhaps I may add a word of gratitude to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, who I believe will be long remembered for his vision in this as in other matters.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, were kind enough to remark, some of us have waited a long time for this day. When I first emerged from my political chrysalis—admittedly deep in the recesses of history—the prevailing wisdom was that governments had a duty to protect their own nationals so far as they could within the rules of private and public international law, to punish their own nationals when within the jurisdiction they committed offences against nationals of other countries, and, beyond that, simply to maintain law and order within their borders. National sovereignty was sovereign.

However, in the 20th century events in Europe, which had believed itself to represent the ultimate in civilisation, persuaded the world that while bullies and tyrants anywhere could murder and butcher with impunity, peace and security were endangered everywhere because we humans are members one of another. Even in 1945 the International Law Commission began to explore the concept of an international jurisdiction. When in 1947 the General Assembly discussed the genocide convention, the topic was widely, if not particularly loudly, ventilated.

As my noble friend the Minister said in opening the debate, more recent events have reawakened the world's imagination. Events in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, which have been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, have persuaded governments that there are some depths of human wickedness and some degrees of human suffering which cannot be dismissed as someone else's business, and that agreeing on standards and insisting on judgment are the right and the duty of the global community.

We come to this debate from differing backgrounds. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, spoke very movingly of his own experiences. My noble friend Lord Shore made a rather different point. But all of us agree that those who contemplate committing horrific crimes against humanity should know that they will suffer the curse of Cain, and that the blood of their victims will follow them wherever they seek to hide, not primarily out of malice towards them but, it is hoped, for the protection of their potential victims.

We are debating the Bill; we cannot amend the statute. Of course, criminals may evade justice in one way or another. That is true of any criminal. However, like Senator Pinochet, who was mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, they can never be sure what the future will hold. Of course the statute was a compromise; otherwise, we would never have got a statute. But it is not the end of the story; it is the beginning. And it will be a continuing process towards the global rule of law.

It is a jurisdiction which can be made effective. When I last checked, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had already recorded seven convictions and 35 cases were awaiting trial. The Security Council has found it necessary to authorise the appointment of more judges. No one ever considered that there would be thousands of convicted war criminals in prison—simply enough to make political mass murderers stop and think.

We have just seen an international tribunal take place in Tokyo to rule on the allegation of sexual slavery practised by the Japanese army during the Second World War. A few weeks ago I noticed that the National Council of Resistance in Iran had called for an international tribunal to try certain of the mullahs for murder and torture.

Of course, now that the world has accepted the responsibility of the international community to protect victims, there will be a temptation to drag that concept into political controversies. After the Falklands war, there were allegations of war crimes by British military personnel. They were investigated, I believe, carefully and rigorously, by the Metropolitan Police, and considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions, although and no further action was taken. It might have been more satisfactory, particularly for those against whom the allegations were made, if they had been investigated under a reputable international procedure. I fully take the point made by my noble friend when she introduced the debate about complementarity.

One great advantage of a permanent court, an agreed statute and established procedures is that proper safeguards for defendants can be institutionalised and the court can be insulated from improper political pressures.

Having played a commendable role in the negotiations leading to the statute, the Government are understandably anxious to be among the first 60 ratifications. I pay tribute to the many NGOs, some of them mentioned by my noble friend Lady Kennedy, which have campaigned for this result and which have—I hope that my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General will confirm this—made available to the Government a body of expertise that even the Government's own experts found helpful, in particular those NGOs that formed the coalition for the International Criminal Court. Expertise is not the monopoly of governments, and dialogue between the Foreign Office and civil society can be a source of enrichment to both.

The Bill is to be welcomed for many reasons. Internationally, it is a the pledge that Britain is not about to repeat the mistakes made so often during the past half century of absenting ourselves when a new adventure was taking shape but, when events drove us willy nilly to the table, complaining that if we had been there earlier we should have suggested something different.

Domestically, it is to be hoped that if national governments provide a domestic jurisdiction for dealing with some cases, that would alleviate the need to channel them all through the international procedure. The great benefit is the establishment of an international culture, as my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney said. At a date not far in the future I believe that even the American Senate—I emphasise the Senate—will admit that some of the disasters that some of its members predicted have proved to be false prophecies and will accept that no state claiming a place in the community of nations can hide permanently in the 19th century.

I turn, admittedly belatedly, to the content of the Bill. It is disappointing that, as so often when a British government have played a noble role and could have taken the stage and received the applause that the world was waiting to accord, they could not quite bring themselves to rise to the occasion. The Government could have included in Clause 51 a provision conferring on British courts a universal jurisdiction of the kind that is already on the statute book in the Geneva Conventions Act. That would have avoided some of the problems arising from the complementarity principle, alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Lester. At a later stage in our deliberations, some of us may seek to institute further discussions about that. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that he will not be totally alone. The Government are clearly open to dialogue. It appeared from the consultation document that the Government were contemplating retaining diplomatic immunity for offences under the Bill so that a future Pinochet could still rely on a principle that was never intended for that purpose. They have listened. That fact is reflected in Clause 23, although there still appears to be a gap in the domestic jurisdiction, which is open to discussion.

However, I say at once that I do not propose to embark on a game of poker with my noble friends. I answer the question of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis: if the Bill were lost, or if it did not proceed quickly enough to enable us to be among the first 60 ratifications, the tragedy would far outweigh our disappointment about a Bill that could have been better.

I hope that I will be permitted a closing comment in this debate, which many people will read. There may be those among my friends in NGOs who believe that they should lend their support to nothing less than the whole of what they had hoped for. That dilemma does not arise for the first time. In 1833, when at long last the anti-slavery movement in this country was in sight of the objective that it had fought and hoped for—the abolition of slavery in the British empire—the movement split because the government offered emancipation subject to a provision imposing a period of apprenticeship on freed slaves, and compensation for the former owners. William Wilberforce was dead, and Thomas Buxton, who led the movement, believed that the best should not be the enemy of the good. He and those who agreed with him accepted the government's terms. There were others who accused them of betrayal, but there are few historians of the movement now who blame them—certainly not the liberated slaves and their descendants, nor the potential victims.

I believe that we are privileged to take part in this historic debate, and I venture to predict that within a generation the concept of global responsibility for crimes against humanity will have become so much a part of the global legal order that most people will have forgotten that there was a time when it had to be worked at.

6.46 p.m.

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As one of the minority of lay Members speaking this afternoon, I am not qualified to discuss most of the technical details of the Bill but I would like, if I may, to comment on its principles and implications. I must try to do so with caution, otherwise Members of this august Chamber may suddenly resemble a Bateman cartoon, with hair standing on end, jaws dropping and hands raised in horror. From that, one may deduce that I have considerable reservations about the Bill, heretical though these words may sound.

First, the Bill is surely yet another step in the direction of world government. As I pointed out the first time that I inflicted my views on the public at large 40 years ago, if a world government were in place, there would be no political asylum for anyone anywhere. Moreover, a world government would soon become a tyranny—a benign tyranny, of course. However, a benign tyranny that is utterly convinced of its own righteousness is in some ways more alarming than a malign tyranny, which usually contains within it the seed of its own eventual destruction, in the form of the human conscience. However, those sentiments will cut little ice with those who are either indifferent to or enthusiastic about the prospect of world government, and I shall therefore give some further reasons.

An international criminal court, like all similar organisations and all bureaucracies that have ever existed at any time, is bound to become more and more activist in order to justify its existence. That has nothing to do with weaknesses or failings of individuals—those working in the court will doubtless be of the highest calibre and will be motivated by the noblest ideals—but it has everything to do with the eternal verities of human nature. That is bound to mean that sores will be re-opened, when those on the spot may have decided that the lesser of two evils is either to let sleeping dogs lie or to deal with past oppression and violence by means that exclude criminal prosecution and may even exclude civil restitution. In other words, they take the view that there are some objectives that must take precedence over justice. One thinks, first and foremost, of South Africa post-apartheid, post-1975 Spain, post-1990 eastern Europe, where there have been hardly any prosecutions, and, of course, of Northern Ireland. How disconcerted the British Government would be if an international body, composed mainly of individuals living thousands of miles away with little knowledge of the situation on the ground, declared that justice must prevail and that those deemed guilty of mass murder or torture must not escape prosecution and, if convicted, must not be released after serving no more than a year or two of their suitably lengthy sentences.

If the Bill had come into existence, say, 55 years ago in 1946, the court would have had its hands full, what with the killing of approximately one-third of the population of East Timor and the now largely forgotten earlier killings of tens of thousands, some claim hundreds of thousands, of Chinese throughout Indonesia on the grounds that they were Communist sympathisers; massacres by both sides in Vietnam; massacres when Bangladesh was breaking free from Pakistan; massacres at the time of Indian partition, though they may have been more spontaneous than directed from above; massacres in Algeria both before and after 1962; massacres by Syrians and, to a lesser extent, Lebanese, Israelis and Palestinians; and in Europe the expulsion (and sometimes the murder) of over 1 million Sudeten Germans up to one year after VE Day.

If the Bill had been in existence before World War II, it would have had to pursue not only German and Japanese war criminals, but would also have had to go into numerous Russian atrocities which are unaccountably omitted from the War Crimes Act. The writer, Anne Applebaum, described how, when Soviet forces invaded East Prussia early in 1945, they literally crucified German women, children and elderly men by nailing them to barn doors. We all know about the rape of tens of thousands of women from eight to 80 in Vienna. Of course, those were acts of revenge; they did not occur in a vacuum. But revenge has never been held to justify such behaviour.

The court might have overridden Churchill's decision (taken for raisons d'état) not to prosecute Italian generals responsible for atrocities in the Balkans in 1943 following the Italian surrender. It would also have to examine the thankfully many fewer war crimes perpetrated by the western allies. I remember vividly a school lecture in 1944 in which an American brigadier general boasted that during the Italian campaign he ordered his men to take no prisoners at all. Even at the gung-ho age of 12 in the gung-ho atmosphere of successive allied victories at that time, I found that boast somewhat disconcerting.

The British Army of course—this is universally agreed—behaved better than anyone else. But even we were not immune, as I know from reliable first-hand accounts from people who served both in the European and Pacific theatres. I was thinking originally only of killing prisoners in cold blood. But from what both the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Lord, Lord Shore, said, it would appear that the Bill, if it had been in force then, provides that our airmen could have been prosecuted for bombing residential areas of German cities.

If the court had come into existence as long as 80 years ago, it would presumably have had to prosecute those who drafted and signed the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which set in motion ethnic cleansing on a truly massive scale, as well perhaps as those who expelled at gunpoint at least 110,000 Protestants and pro-monarchist Roman Catholics from the south of Ireland at approximately the same time.

Despite all that, it may be argued that provided states could be given the right to opt out of the provisions of the Act in favour of reaching their own internal settlements, a permanent court would surely be preferable to the present ad hoc arrangements which are apparently favoured by most, I read, of the United States Senate and Congress. In principle I agree. There is something distasteful about only going for "soft" targets, such as leaders of small countries which are not nuclear powers, which possess no oil or other mineral reserves to speak of, which are not strategically situated, whose inhabitants are not adherents of a religion which promises eternal paradise to those who are killed in combat fighting for their faith and where there is no huge Diaspora scattered throughout the western world, some of whose members are likely to commit acts of terrorism or sabotage if they felt their leaders back at home were being unjustly persecuted, as they saw it.

So casting the net wider than those relatively small number of countries is right in principle. But in practice things are likely to turn out rather differently, as both the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Shore, pointed out. However badly they behave, I do not believe that politicians or military men from Russia, China, Burma, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya or Algeria will ever come before the court as far ahead as one can reasonably look. I have my doubts too about those from the United States, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, most Latin American countries and Israel. At risk, therefore, will be those from smaller countries like Sri Lanka or Lebanon, or some of the less important African nations together with those from western and central Europe, and highly improbable candidates like Canadians and New Zealanders.

Even so, it will no doubt be argued, is not imperfect global coverage better than virtually no coverage? Even if only a handful of people are deterred in practice from inflicting unnecessary suffering, is that not worth it? The answer has to be "perhaps". One of the reasons the answer cannot be "definitely" is that the prospect of prosecution may encourage a ruthless politician or soldier to go much further than they originally intended by making sure that they eliminated all potential witnesses to their crimes.

Finally—this may be Committee stage material and if so I apologise for raising it now—I should like to say a brief word on Schedule 8, Article 8, which lists war crimes. Ridiculously, dumdum bullets are outlawed, but not the new bullets which splinter into 100 or more fragments when they hit human flesh, causing far worse injuries than a soft-nosed bullet does. Nor are the thermobaric bombs and shells used by the Russians against the people of Grozny, the blast from which apparently sucks people's eyeballs out, among other things. Surely something ought to be done about those omissions.

6.57 p.m.

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My Lords, I too warmly welcome the introduction of this Bill, which will enable this country to ratify the statute of the international criminal court.

This Government played an important role in securing agreement on the statute of the court. If I may say so. the commitment more generally of this Government to human rights is very much to be praised. In the Human Rights Annual Report 2000, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said,
"No British Government has given a higher priority to human rights than this one".
I agree. That has been evident not only in the domestic sphere, particularly with the introduction of the Human Rights Act, but also in foreign policy; in the conduct of the Government as regards Kosovo, Sierra Leone and in relation to this Bill. So it would be entirely fitting for the United Kingdom to be one of the founding members of the court by being among the first 60 to ratify the statute.

Why is the court so important? If I may say so, that has been powerfully explained by my noble friend Lady Scotland, by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer with passion, by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and, with clear logic, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. It is particularly plain, if he will forgive me saying so, that when one of the more hesitant voices in the Pinochet case supports this Bill as an important step towards justice and world peace, that should be very much heeded.

The preamble to the statute says that the court has a purpose; that is, to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of grave crimes, and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes.

As my noble friend Lord Shore clearly demonstrated, that deterrent element is an important part of what the court will produce; that is, the fear that prosecutions may in future come about if particular conduct is engaged in. The need is for the court to establish individual accountability for the violation of international human rights' standards. No clearer justification for the court can be found than in statistics provided by the United Nations on its website. I find such statistics both horrifying and hard to believe. In the past 50 or so years there have been 250 conflicts; 86 million civilians, mostly women and children, have died, and over 170 million people stripped of property, rights and dignity. Many are simply forgotten while the men responsible walk free. The court is needed as a most important element in the strategy of trying to bring to an end that sort of injustice and evil.

At the heart of the need for the court is a need to reassess the idea of state sovereignty. It was probably John Austin, in his lectures in jurisprudence in University College in the early 19th century, who most developed the idea of state sovereignty; the idea that law is a body of rules fixed and enforced by a sovereign political authority that led to the view that there could be no such thing as international law as there is no sovereign political authority able to enforce it. It also led to the view that no individual within a state could complain outside that state about treatment because it was for the state, the sovereign political authority, to determine what happened in that state.

In many ways sovereignty is a good concept. It allows citizens to order their own affairs without external interference from powerful neighbours. But sovereignty—or at least this exaggerated notion of sovereignty—has also provided an excuse for despots behind which they can hide to justify no interference in the domestic affairs of the country. Many changes have been made over the past 50 years which have led towards an erosion of that sovereignty. However, it will take this court finally to establish not just that there are international standards but that there is a proper mechanism to enforce them.

In 1950 the great international lawyer, later a judge of the International Court of Justice, Hersch Lauterpacht, stated:
"the individual has now acquired a status and a stature which have transformed him from an object of international compassion into a subject of international right".
Perhaps at the time that statement was more wishful thinking than fact, but the court could make it now a reality.

Those are my reasons for warmly supporting the Bill. Before I turn to the content of the Bill, perhaps I may comment on two particular themes which have emerged in the debate. First, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, started warmly to support the Bill. However, he appeared to lose his enthusiasm towards the end of his remarks. I respectfully suggest that one should look carefully at the points he made. I did not find them persuasive. Perhaps highest among them was the concern that the statute establishing the court might not give rise to the rights of fair trial to which citizens of this country are entitled. He put that on the basis that that was a concern of the United States. I am not sure that it is the concern of the United States or those concerned about this statute, or whether the idea of a politicised court, the fear of an interference with sovereignty, does not lie more at the heart of those concerns.

However, when I look at the statute of the court—I respectfully urge the noble Lord, Lord Howell, to do so—I find all sorts of safeguards. In Article 15 I find the basis for an investigation by an independent prosecutor. Article 22 contains the principle that there should be no criminal responsibility unless the matters constituted a crime at the time. Article 40 contains the idea that the judges as well as the prosecutor must be independent. I could go on through the statute to the right of appeal. However, I draw particular attention to Article 67, which provides the provisions for a fair trial: the right to be informed in detail of the charges; the right to have adequate time for preparation of a defence; the right to be tried without undue delay and the right to examine and cross-examine witnesses—indeed, all the safeguards which we find in the European Convention.

I understand that in the United States there is a different constitutional issue, on which not all lawyers agree; that is, whether there is a problem under the United States constitution in allowing a "foreign court" to try US citizens. That is not our problem. I very much hope that it is one which the United States' authorities will overcome.

The second theme raised was a concern that the statute—it is the statute and not the Bill—may go too far in the definition of certain offences. My noble friend Lord Shore developed that point with power and eloquence. I am not a public international lawyer. However, my understanding from that deficient background is that the statute identifies what is now recognised to be the definition of war crimes. Perhaps I may briefly refer to the example given by my noble friend, which is reproduced in Schedule 8 and relates to incidental loss of life or injury. I draw attention to the fact that the full provision contains a number of important safeguards; that the act should be intentional and done in the knowledge that certain events will occur. In particular, the question is whether that incidental damage, injury or loss of life would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.

I believe that it is only in the clearest cases, in which there have been direct and deliberate attacks on civilians for no discernible military objective, that that definition would apply and that today we would say that that is, indeed, a crime.

The two strands of concern about the Bill are not ones I share. However, before I conclude I wish to make two other points. The first relates to the question of diplomatic immunity. I readily acknowledge the great improvements to the Bill which have been made. The addition of Clause 23 to deal with diplomatic immunity is undoubtedly one such improvement. However, a distinction is drawn between diplomatic immunity attaching to a person by reason of connection with a state which is party to the statute and one which is not. In at least two cases the court may have jurisdiction though that particular exception for immunity would not apply. I refer first to the case in which the person is subject to jurisdiction because he has committed these offences in another country of which he is not a national, and it is only that other country which is a party to the statute, and, secondly, to cases where the Security Council refers the matter to the court. Perhaps when my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General replies he would indicate whether there is still concern over immunity and how that might be dealt with.

The other more important question was referred to by several speakers, most recently by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell. It is the accountability gap. Only when all states are parties to the statute will it be inevitable that the court has jurisdiction in all cases. That will not happen—or will not happen for a long time. Yet this country could itself have taken universal jurisdiction by not limiting, as Clause 51 does, the right to prosecute to the case of British nationals or offences committed in this country.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans said, it gives rise to anomalies. The situation could arise where two people residing in this country are both accused of commiting the same atrocities. However, as one is a national and the other is not, we could prosecute the one but not the other, notwithstanding that there might be the clearest evidence and the clearest public demand for prosecution.

There is a second anomaly. We have universal jurisdiction in certain cases; for instance, the convention on torture and certain breaches of the Geneva Convention. In those cases, we can prosecute those who have committed offences abroad who are not British nationals but are sheltering in this country. It is anomalous that we could prosecute a man for torture but not for murder.

I accept that those are important and difficult questions, but I hope that the Government will think again about whether they can take the step of filling the accountability gap. People are already raising the spectre that the United Kingdom might become a safe haven for war criminals and those who commit atrocities. That would be terrible. I understand that Canada, New Zealand and Belgium in their statutes have assumed universal jurisdiction but that Germany and Switzerland, to name but two, have indicated their intention to take on that jurisdiction. Therefore, I hope that the Government will reconsider the issue.

Subject to that important point, I repeat my warm support for the Bill. Secretary-General Annan described the statute as,
"a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights and the rule of law".
The statute is not perfect; it has compromises. It is not the only instrument to secure universal peace and justice but it is an important one. By introducing the Bill, the United Kingdom will continue to take a lead in the march towards that universal peace and justice.

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My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down and in view of his criticisms of the speech of his noble friend Lord Shore, perhaps I may ask him to look at paragraph 2(b)(ii) of Article 8 which appears at the top of page 63 of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Shore, said that that provision was liable to misconstruction; that it was not a realistic presentation. In order to save time, I take only one aspect but it is most important. The provision states:

"Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects".
I suppose that the railway tracks to Auschwitz were civilian objects, as were the engines driven around Germany pulling trains. They were objects which were not military objectives. Therefore if the allied high command says that the railway tracks to Auschwitz and the engines are military objectives that is all right, so what is the object of the provision?

Does not the noble Lord, as a lawyer, agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shore, that those provisions should be examined?

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My Lords, far be it from me to do so; I do not have the noble Lord's distinguished record. However, I should have thought it clear that there will be circumstances in which roads, generators and bridges are military objectives. Perhaps I may make two other points. First, we are talking about the statute and not the Bill. We cannot amend the statute; it exists. It may not be perfect but it is what we have.

Secondly, I turn to the safeguards in the statute. They are, first, an independent prosecutor who must investigate the material; secondly, a pre-chamber which must decide whether a warrant shall be introduced; thirdly, a confirmation of the charges before a trial takes place; fourthly, independent judges to determine it; and, fifthly, that the Security Council can still suspend investigations if it considers it appropriate to do so. Those safeguards satisfy me.

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My Lords, perhaps, by leave, I may inform the noble Lord that in my speech I made it plain that the statute could not be amended. That is why ratification should be delayed.

7.16 p.m.

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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shore of Stepney, who I am sorry is no longer in his place, raised with some incredulity several questions about the list of crimes in Article 8 within Schedule 8. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, in his speech and in his recent intervention, reverted to that topic. My interest is in paragraph 2(a)(i) of Article 8, which refers to wilful killing. Having been Minister for the Armed Forces at the time of the sinking of the "General Belgrano", I shall await with interest the reply of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General on this subject.

I support the Bill and hope for the success of the court. I am concerned that it should have wide and general support. I propose to point out some of the factors which I believe it should take into account if it is to succeed in earning that support.

The background against which the debate is taking place is a steady erosion of national sovereignty. The setting up of the court is a further step in that erosion.

That erosion has been caused by a number of factors with which we are familiar. I refer to two terrible world wars; disorder in the world following the end of a number of empires, including the Soviet empire; the unbelievable speed of global communication; and the military intervention in Kosovo, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shore, which involved the acceptance of the doctrine that in order to avert a serious humanitarian catastrophe it is permissible to intervene in a military sense in another country, even if that intervention is not backed by a specific resolution of the United Nations. Moreover, the Prime Minister, in his Chicago speech last year, said that the democracies have an obligation to intervene wherever bad things are happening in the world.

This process of the erosion of national sovereignty can have benefits in a world which is dominated by democracies, as it is at present. But should we not ask ourselves whether that would be different if the world were dominated, as probably it will one day be, by dictatorships. I believe that there must be limits to the speed at which the process of the erosion of national sovereignty can proceed and I believe that that is relevant to the actions of the International Criminal Court.

It is important that the court should have political antennae. I am not talking about politics entering into its judgments, although it will often be difficult for the court to escape entirely from political considerations. In particular, I have in mind the preliminary decision to bring a prosecution by the prosecutor and the tribunal which assesses that question. The mistaken timing of a prosecution may cause considerable damage.

To revert to Kosovo, during the negotiations for an end to the fighting the international war crimes prosecutor announced that Mr Milosevic would be treated as a war criminal. That announcement, the timing of which was, I believe, ill-judged, did not prevent a satisfactory conclusion to the fighting, but it might have done so. I believe that that provides a lesson as to the care to be exercised by a prosecutor, not least in the timing of any prosecution. That decision could stop negotiations which might otherwise put an end to fighting in the modern world, with all its horror.

There is another recent example of a doubtful announcement by a prosecutor. Carla Del Ponte, Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor, is reported in today's edition of The Times as saying that,
"her tribunal could open an investigation into the use of depleted uranium ammunition by NATO, which many blame for cancer among soldiers who served in the Balkans campaign".
It would be wise for Mrs Del Ponte to reflect very carefully before proceeding in that direction. That is a highly sensitive issue which, if pursued, could discredit the development, which in general we support, of international tribunals.

I believe that the court should also consider the effect of a prosecution in the country concerned. Even democracies may sometimes be reluctant to take proceedings, or to have proceedings taken, against their nationals or to surrender them to the court if in the judgment of their governments stability would be upset. I refer to the example of General Pinochet to whom frequent reference has been made in this debate. When the charges against him were originally brought in this country there was turmoil on the streets of Santiago. The situation was fairly delicate, because the history of Chile during the time of Pinochet, and before, had been fairly bloody and stability had been achieved with some difficulty between the supporters and opponents of General Pinochet. At the time that charges were brought against the general in this country there was a serious risk that stability might be upset. One was glad to observe that matters calmed down, but it is possible that if General Pinochet had stood trial in this country the turmoil would have been much greater than it was at the time he was charged.

I conclude by referring to the United States. I am glad that President Clinton has signed the treaty. What I say is put in a friendly way because I am a great admirer and supporter of the role of the United States in general in the world. I believe it is extremely important that the United States should ratify the treaty and become a member of the court. Voices in the United States have called for a guarantee that no US citizen will be convicted or imprisoned by the court. That is comparable with saying that the US will not engage in any military action if there is any risk of a casualty being suffered. Those two propositions are parallel one to the other and are inconsistent with the position of a great nation, let alone the most important democracy in the world.

One noble Lord referred to the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Defense, Mr Rumsfeld. He has said that American leadership in the world may suffer if the US is a member of the court. I believe that that is entirely the wrong way round: US leadership will suffer if America is not a member of the court, because its influence, which is generally for the good, will be weakened. I recall what happened at the time that the United States decided not to join the League of Nations. That emasculated the League which was never of much use. Although the issues here are not as important as America's failure to join the League, which we know was one of the contributory factors of the Second World War, I believe that that example should be borne in mind by the United States.

7.25 p.m.

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My Lords, as I speak as near as proves practical to the gap perhaps I may be permitted to turn away for a moment from the substance of the Bill to pay a compliment to the draftsman of the Bill and explain why. I invite noble Lords to turn to Clause 80 of the Bill on page 38. That clause is an index of expressions defined in the Bill. The first column sets out the expressions which are defined in the previous clauses, and the second column points to the clause in which the particular definition is to be found. That admirable drafting technique serves two purposes. First, the index tells the reader immediately whether a particular word or expression has its popular meaning or a special meaning. Secondly, if the word or expression has a special meaning it tells the reader immediately in which provision that meaning is to be found. For example, the first column of Clause 80 tells the reader that "war crime" is a specially defined expression. The second column of that clause tells the reader to turn to Clause 50 for that definition or, more accurately, exactly where to find it.

This admirable drafting technique is not new but is not used as often as I believe it could and should be. It was used in one Act in Session 1993–94: in four Acts in the bonanza Session 1997–98; and in one Act in the previous Session. I congratulate parliamentary counsel on using the technique in this Bill and express the hope that it may be used more frequently in future Bills. It is immensely helpful to the reader.

7.29 p.m.

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My Lords, in a few days' time we shall observe Holocaust Day, but so far not much has been said about it. Noble Lords will recall the way in which the Germans turned killing into an industrial process on a massive scale: 6 million Jews, 80,000 to 100,000 romanies, or New Age travellers as we now call them, many trade unionists, homosexuals, the mentally handicapped, who today are described as people with learning difficulties, and those suffering from mental illness and physical handicap were killed. Most of that process, particularly the persecution of the Jews, began within a month of Hitler assuming power on 30th January 1933. While we talk about Africa and one or two other places, we should remember that the backdrop to this must be the Middle East and the problems faced by Israel.

The noble Lord, Lord Lester, with whom I am delighted to be in harmony on the Bill, referred to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, as "tepid". That was more elaborately put by my noble friend Lord Goldsmith, who said that he "lost his enthusiasm". He raised several important points. I should like to say a few words about them because most of my other material has been pre-empted by the 16 previous speakers.

The noble Lord referred to the United States' worries and that we must take them seriously. Particularly with the new president taking office in the United States, it is important that we do not make rash statements which will prejudice people in the Americas who are not particularly well inclined towards this legislation.

On 2nd January the Independent—to my prejudiced mind, that is about the only independent thing about that newspaper, otherwise I regard it as a chattel of the chattering classes—there was an editorial which stated:
"Bill Clinton's welcome move towards international justice".
It mentioned Senator Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has already been mentioned. It said:
"Mr Helms is worried that the establishment of the court, which 139 countries have now signed up for, would make US citizens liable for prosecution. Well, yes. Why should Americans think they are different?".
That is an example of the level that some political debate is reduced to these days; that is, if someone puts up an argument against you try to show them as isolated, bizarre, cranky and even call into question, in a polite kind of a way, their mental state.

I have always regarded the Americans as a quite remarkable people. They live on a very large land mass with great natural resources. They are separated from their neighbours to west and east by thousands of miles of ocean. They would have a perfectly legitimate case for an isolationist policy and could live perfectly well on their own. But we are all aware of their efforts in two world wars. Some of us actually saw them here and lived through the last war when without their help we could not have moved into western or southern Europe. We have to remember that they think about these matters. Since the Second World War they have assumed a much greater role in the world and when necessary have been prepared to send their men to various parts of the world. With their isolationist position and the possibility that they could have adopted that attitude, we have to respect that. When they express doubts we need to look at them rationally and allow them time to come to terms with what they are being asked to do. Justcastigating them will harden any resistance to going the whole way.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, also mentioned cost. The Americans may well feel that if this legislation gets under way they will have to pick up most of the tab. It is coarse, but that is the kind of argument which appeals to people. With 4.5 per cent of the world's population, already they pay 25 per cent of the United Nation's expenses. That is the absolute maximum that any one country is allowed to pay. They are coughing up there. Yet from time to time we hear them castigated in the Chamber for being a little behind with their expenses.

If this legislation gets off the ground, we have to make sure that the accounting—the money—is entirely transparent because there is nothing more destructive to an international organisation than accusations that someone is fiddling and money is going astray. Everything has to be absolutely above board. We have seen the damage done in the European Community when various issues have surfaced in the way of expenses abuses.

I am not over impressed with the consultation process that has taken place here. The document refers to it and to the responses, but I have an awful feeling that the people who have been consulted and who have responded come from a limited section of society. That is a matter which I previously mentioned in the Chamber when we were talking about constitutional changes. They are not truly a representative sample of the British people. Yet if they give the say so everyone clutches them to their bosom and says, "Well, here you are, a great groundswell of opinion", "endorsement", and so on. We should think more about how we consult.

I understand that this matter was on a website and that people could make contributions there. Not everyone has access to the network or can even use it. Instead of the old class system, we are now creating a new class system of people who have access to websites and people who have not. Noble Lords may think that this is an academic point, but in my former constituency the local council is consulting, people on secondary education. People can make their views known via its website. One can guess which parts of Bristol are benefiting from that. I have previously referred in the Chamber to the closure of a secondary school in the most deprived area of my former constituency because the people did not know how to make their voices heard.

The appointment of judges needs to be absolutely above board. There must be no question that anything other than merit is the criterion. If there is any talk about quotas or so and so's turn, the integrity of the court will be destroyed. One may say that integrity is automatically assumed in these matters.

A lady called Biljana Playsic has just surrendered for trial. There has been much speculation in the broadsheets that some kind of deal has been done. The court says that there has been no deal and there have been no talks. I simply do not believe that. Neither do a great many people who have studied the matter. If we start off with people suspecting that they are not being told the truth the whole process will be undermined. Otherwise, I welcome the Bill very much indeed.

7.37 p.m.

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My Lords, I hope the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General and the noble Baroness the Minister will not mind if, first of all, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, on the arrival of the Bill in your Lordships' House. More than anyone else in your Lordships' House, indeed in either House, he has played the main role in making sure that the Bill is with us today. He has been persistent; on some occasions he has been intransigent; but, above all, he has been indefatigable in his pursuit of that objective. Perhaps my only sorrow is that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, who also played such an important part in earlier years, is not here today to listen to the debate. One of the reasons why the debate has been so successful is because at the end of his contribution the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, said that he was in total harmony with the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. That is indeed a statement to be much admired. We also heard it with some relief. I shall not attempt to summarise what all noble Lords will agree has been an outstanding debate today. I simply wish to add one observation which is primarily about the Bill and not about the statute.

As the noble Baroness the Minister said in opening the debate, the principle that underlies the Bill is the principle of complementarity. That is to say, as long as a national government investigates and prosecutes an alleged offence, the International Criminal Court has no role.

The matter is dealt with in Article 17 of the Rome Statute. Paragraph 1 of the article states, inter alia, that,
"the International Criminal Court will determine that a case is inadmissible where—
  • (a) the case is being investigated or prosecuted by a state which has jurisdiction over it unless the state is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution,
  • (b) the case has been investigated by a state which has jurisdiction over it and the state has decided not to prosecute the person concerned unless the decision resulted from the unwillingness or inability of the state genuinely to prosecute".
  • Thus, unless the United Kingdom is either unwilling or unable to prosecute the matter, the International Criminal Court plays no part.

    Clause 5 sets out the procedure for making a delivery order for the International Criminal Court as a consequence of its issuing to the United Kingdom something called a request for surrender. However, as a result of Article 17 of the Rome statute, such a request will be admissible only if the United Kingdom Government are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute.

    As my contribution to the debate, and looking ahead to the Committee stage, I want to ask the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General some questions about Clause 5. First, in what circumstances does the noble and learned Lord anticipate that government would be unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute? Second, if there are circumstances in which the Government are unwilling to prosecute, it surely means that they are willing that the International Criminal Court should prosecute. What motive would they have for that? Would it be that they might consider the rules of procedure of the International Criminal Court to be more appropriate to a prosecution than our own rules of procedure?

    That would be unlikely, from the point of view of the defendant. What about the position of the defendant, for the defendant will surely have a view about whether he or she would prefer to be prosecuted in the United Kingdom rather than in the International Criminal Court? Should that individual have the opportunity to have that decision of the United Kingdom Government tested in the United Kingdom courts? Should not the individual benefit from a procedure in our own courts whereby he can question the fairness of the Government's decision to refuse to pursue him in our own courts—a refusal which will, inevitably, lead to a request for surrender by the International Criminal Court?

    Perhaps I may help the Minister by saying that I do not think the precedents in relation to the ad hoc court in Yugoslavia and Rwanda are helpful because the basis for the establishment of those two courts is not the principle of complementarity. As the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General is aware, those two courts were established by a resolution of the Security Council under chapter 7 which makes both those courts subsidiary organs of the Security Council. It is clear that, in those circumstances, there is a judicial hierarchy where the international courts are superior to the national courts. But the situation here is in a sense the opposite. It is clear from the Rome statute that the principal court is the national court and that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction only by default.

    That brings me to my next question, which concerns Clause 5(4). It states:
    "In the case of a person alleged to have committed an ICC crime, the competent court may adjourn the proceedings pending the outcome of any challenge before the ICC to the admissibility of the case or to the jurisdiction of the ICC".
    As I understand it, the clause is intended to stay the proceedings in the United Kingdom while the question of admissibility or jurisdiction is considered in the International Criminal Court. It is clear from Articles 55 and 67 that in a full trial of a matter before the International Criminal Court an individual would be entitled to legal aid. I can understand the uncertainty of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, about that because the matter is not dealt with in the explanatory statement which emerged at the same time as the Bill. But would legal aid be available to an individual who wished to challenge the issue of admissibility as a preliminary matter in the International Criminal Court?

    Furthermore, let us suppose that the United Kingdom Government disagreed with the International Criminal Court about issuing a request for surrender. In other words, let us suppose that the United Kingdom Government had initiated a bona fide investigation with an intention to prosecute and therefore did not believe that the International Criminal Court ought to take jurisdiction. Would the United Kingdom Government deploy their own counsel at the admissibility hearing to pursue what they considered to be the national interest in that case?

    Clause 5(6) states that if it appears to the competent court that in the process of the issuing of the warrant and of arrest a person's rights have not been respected, the court—the United Kingdom court—shall notify the Secretary of State of that fact and the Secretary of State shall transmit the notification to the International Criminal Court. What is the use of that to the individual involved? The rights here are not rights which are set out by the International Criminal Court; they are rights set out in our own law underpinned now by Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. What is the point of protecting something if there are no adverse consequences for the state if it does not protect it? In other words, what is the point of setting out this protection in the Bill if an individual can seek no remedy in his own courts when the rights granted under the Bill are not respected?

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    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way and I apologise for interrupting the list of interrogatories that lie is administering to the luckless Attorney-General. I want to encourage the noble Lord to go further. Does he agree that Article 59(2) of the ICC Statute plainly contemplates that a person arrested is to be brought before the competent judicial authority in the custodial state, which shall determine in accordance with the law of that state, among other things, whether the person's rights have been respected? Is it not therefore rather strange that, instead of the Bill providing for the determination by the UK court by judicial review as to whether rights have been respected under UK law, all that can be done is for the Secretary of State to pass on something which the UK court has itself mentioned? Does that accord with Article 59.2?

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    My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for drawing the attention of noble Lords to that part of the Rome Statute. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, made the same point in a different context when he drew attention to the right of review covered later. I respectfully submit that he was quite right to say that it is a pity that the Bill allows only for a habeus corpus remedy when a judicial review remedy would be much more appropriate.

    Underpinning these questions—they were more harshly described by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, as interrogatories, although I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General does not perceive them as such—is my fear that the model taken for Clause 5 is not the model that should naturally flow from the principle of complementarity, so ably outlined by the noble Baroness the Minister, but a model which seeks to reflect a practice which has grown up over the past few years as a result of the jurisprudence of the ad hoc courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

    This has been a splendid debate. All noble Lords will have been greatly moved by the intervention of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. Although some criticisms have been made of the outstanding speech of my noble friend Lord Howell, we remain to hear—I am sure that the response will be delivered in Committee—the reasons why the noble Baroness is so confident that the procedures set out in the Rome Statute accord with those set out for our citizens in the European Convention on Human Rights.

    7.52 p.m.

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    My Lords, I believe that we all recognise that this evening we are starting to make history. My noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell deserves our full-hearted gratitude and I particularly wanted to acknowledge the extremely generous tribute made by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to my noble and learned friend. This is not the first time that my noble and learned friend has undertaken such noble work. Let us never forget that it was he who moved the amendment to the Human Rights Bill which did away for ever with that grotesque blot on our jurisprudence, capital punishment. I shall not be partisan, but it will be remembered by all noble Lords that no vote was registered against his amendment. Voices were raised, but no one voted.

    This is an extraordinary time. I think that it is right to say that full credit ought to be given to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. He has been quite indefatigable in pursuing this purpose. It is not a purpose that is likely to secure enormous electoral support, in that many people would not put their mind to this topic while casting their vote.

    Perhaps I may mention two points by way of background. Last week I spend two days in Holland, one at Camp Zeist to attend the closing stages of the Lockerbie trial. The following day I attended the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia on the very day that Madam Playsic attended to be indicted. If we had held these exchanges 10 years ago and I had recited that short history, noble Lords would have thought that I had—temporarily, I would hope—taken leave of my senses.

    In 1999, I was in Cambodia, talking to a Minister of justice who endured strains and pressures that none of us can possibly imagine. I discussed with him, reasonably and carefully, the prospect of establishing a tribunal to bring to account those who had committed dreadful and unimaginable crimes under the former regime. There was some difficulty. However, now the United Nations and the Cambodian Government have agreed on the creation of a special court involving both Cambodian and international judges and lawyers. On 2nd January, the parliament of Cambodia unanimously approved the law to establish a special court. So when we are asked to pass this Bill, perhaps we should undertake the task in the context of other, nobler acts to which our colleagues in other jurisdictions have put their hands.

    Perhaps I may recite to noble Lords only some of the countries—I have picked them almost at random, though perhaps not wholly—who have signed the statute. As my noble friend the Minister pointed out, 139 have already signed. These include Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Haiti, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Zimbabwe and—I know that this recent signatory will please my noble friend Lady Kennedy—Iran. Not all of those names, which I have chosen at random, would have been immediate candidates for your Lordships' thoughts as regards who might be among the early signatories to this important statute. As my noble friend has mentioned, 27 countries have already ratified the statute. It is our purpose and determined desire to be among the first 60 countries.

    This will be a transformation in the jurisprudence of mankind. I entirely agree with what was said by my noble friends Lord Shore, Lord Goldsmith and Lord Cocks, that this is not simply to bring about punishment, because one of the true and moral purposes of law is to prevent criminality. This is not, to use the jargon, a "signal". This is a weapon. If those who wish to commit gross crimes require any warning, it is to be found here.

    A number of questions were put. They were not, I think, interrogatories, which would require me to respond on oath. If I get anything wrong, I hope that most noble Lords will forgive me. I respected and appreciated the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. The caution and prudence he demonstrated and the questions he put were legitimate. Not all states will sign with equal good faith. Furthermore, not all will ratify with anything other than reluctance. To many of us, that would imply that perhaps the statute and our Bill are quite useful steps forward.

    The noble Lord also asked whether this would affect only the weak and the defeated. I think not. When Madam Plavsic surrendered herself to an international court, that suggests that this does not cover only the weak and the defeated. Will it be simply cosmetic? I believe not. One does not wish to be overly dramatic, but if there were still chancellories around the world, I think that some groaning might possibly be heard. Will it catch only the big fish? The growing and developing experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia is demonstrating the contrary. I do not wish to prejudice any future arrests or trials, but one can see—I put this quite neutrally—that up the scale of responsibility, more and more people are in fear, probably legitimate fear, that they may well have to answer to a lawful tribunal for their alleged crimes.

    However, the noble Lord is right to say that the United States has reservations. We shall have to wait and see. Neither my noble friend the Minister nor I know more than that President Clinton signed the treaty on 31st December last year. We understand perfectly well that some of his congressional colleagues—as they will continue to be when he has passed from his presidential stage—have serious doubts. I echo what a number of my noble friends have said: this is not a perfect Bill. It is not a perfect statute, but it is infinitely better than doing nothing at all.

    The noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, asked a number of questions. One of them, as the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland said, related to the question of appeal by way of judicial review in so far as it was in harmony or disharmonious with the question of judicial review. I shall be writing to the noble Lord on that question. I shall copy my reply to other noble Lords who have shown an interest and I shall ensure that a copy is placed in the Library.

    There is no doubt that it is an important question. It raises the general issue of the relationship between judicial review and habeas corpus, a matter on which the noble Lord has touched before in correspondence. He will know that the general issue is being considered by the Lord Chancellor's Department at the moment. There has been the Bowman review of the Crown Office List and it may be—I genuinely do not know—that some advantage may come from those questions. I simply do not know. When I have further information, even if it is disappointing—I do not know whether it will be—I shall communicate it to the noble Lord.

    The noble Lord, Lord Lester, also raised the question of scrutiny, in this context and more generally. We are open—I say this quite deliberately—to considering ways of contributing to the efficient parliamentary scrutiny of treaties. I have to say—not simply because I am standing in this House—that this House does extremely well in carrying out that work. We made that point quite clearly in evidence to the Royal Commission inquiry into the reform of this House. Essentially, of course, it will be a question for each relevant House but, as far as we are concerned, we think that there is substantial virtue in the proposal.

    The noble Lord, Lord Lester, raised questions about immunities. The Rome Statute provides that immunity shall not be a bar to prosecution before the ICC. States which have signed and ratified will have agreed to that provision and therefore diplomatic and state immunity cannot shield representatives—but I take his point—of states parties. The same is not true of non-states parties, a matter raised by my noble friend Lord Goldsmith. We are required by virtue of international law obligations to give diplomatic and state immunities unless the state concerned has agreed to waive them. We hope that as many countries as possible will become states parties. If they do not, we are in the position that has already been accurately described.

    Clause 23 was the subject of particular inquiry by my noble friend Lord Goldsmith and my noble and learned friend Lord Archer. That clause provides that the Secretary of State may direct that arrest and surrender proceedings be not taken against someone enjoying state or diplomatic immunity. However, I remind the House that he can do that only after consulting the ICC and the state concerned. I should say as plainly as I can that the Government's clear policy is generally that all those indicted by the ICC should be brought to trial. The provision in Clause 23 is simply a prudent measure against a possibly uncertain future.

    I turn now to the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for which my noble friend the Minister and I were extremely grateful. It is very valuable to have the view of someone who sat judicially in Pinochet's case. I believe that, post-Pinochet, the maps we formerly read have needed to be rolled up. This is, in part, one of the consequences of a changed world, which we are capable of improving.

    In the context of the noble and learned Lord's remarks in regard to Senator Pinochet and the question put by my noble friend Lord Shore—I am dividing his questions into two—whether or not Chile had been a state party at the time that Senator Pinochet committed his alleged offences, he would have been triable domestically in Chile unless Chile was unwilling or unable to try him. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said, on the basis of complementarity Chile had been unwilling or unable to try him, then the International Criminal Court would have had jurisdiction. I have put that answer carefully, of course, reminding the House—as did my noble friend the Minister earlier—that this is not retrospective. I have therefore put the conditions around that answer in that way.

    I was grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. I am happy to be able to say that, as a fairly late signatory, Iran has now included itself.

    I particularly welcome the strong support for the concept, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan described it. I simply do not know what the consequences of the protection Bill in the United States will be. I understand that there are strong, powerfully held views in the United States about the proposition that United States nationals should not be tried elsewhere. That is a political judgment for our friends in the United States to make. I echo, if I may, what my noble friend Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe said: we should not be too eager to castigate the United States. In many ways it is an open, generous-hearted, fine country. Not that we agree with it on everything, but at least we can disagree, I hope, in an agreeable and decent way.

    The noble Lord, Lord Shore, then invited my particular response to the question of Article 8, an issue touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. I remember of course that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, also raised these questions. On pages 62 and 63 of the Bill, Article 8 contains descriptions of war crimes. They are purely descriptive of what international law presently regards as offences. We are bound by the Geneva conventions and the protocols we have signed. What one finds here have already been described and assented to by this country as being war crimes.

    They are not as bald nor as brutal as they seem. The noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, was quite right to point, for instance, to Article 8(2)(b)(iv). One has the proportionality or the excessive argument put there. One has the necessity to prove intent. If one goes to the protocols—which I shall not because I do not have time to do so—there are many installations, devices, buildings and objects which are capable of military use and also capable of civilian benefit, such as electricity generators. One has to approach these matters proportionately, rationally and reasonably.

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    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for turning his mind to this rather difficult problem. Certainly one wishes to ban war crimes but, within the memories of all of us, specifically listed are actions which were undertaken by the whole NATO alliance in defiance of what is now written into Article 8(2). It is a very serious contradiction. The fact that the Americans, for example, may be rather reluctant to ratify the convention as it is at present may be well understood. But also, surely, we agreed. We took part. We bombed civilians, we bombed the bridges and we bombed electricity plants. We did all that, not because we are aggressors and ferocious people but because it was a necessary part of liberating, as we saw it, the people of Kosovo from the oppression of Serbia. There must be some way in which this different motivation and approach can be recognised in the treaty or in the Bill. We must find a solution.

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    My Lords, I profoundly disagree with what my noble friend has said. We did not act unlawfully in Kosovo. We acted on perfectly legitimate international grounds. We did not deliberately bomb civilians. It is not illegitimate in international law to bomb bridges if they are used for military purpose—and plainly they can be. It is not illegitimate to bomb railways if they are used for military purpose.

    I return to the cautionary note sounded by my noble friend Lord Goldsmith about Article 8(2)(b)(iv) on page 63 of the Bill, referring to,
    "Intentionally"—
    I stress that word—
    "launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians … which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated".
    That is a well-known and well-understood concept in international law.

    I repudiate as firmly as I can that the British Government or our Armed Forces were acting unlawfully in Kosovo in terms of international law. I do not believe it to be correct. The Government have taken the most careful advice about the legality of such actions and the Armed Forces have similarly taken their own advice.

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    My Lords, I merely seek information in view of the previous exchange. I am not returning to the matter of Kosovo but deal merely with a point of construction as to the words used. Is the noble and learned Lord saying that they originate from the 1957 Geneva Convention and that, therefore, they are part of international law and we must accept them today in our modern concept of war? Is that the position?

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    My Lords, that is what I am saying, except that I include for completeness the 1949 convention, which is set out at page 62 of the Bill under the first definition of "war crimes". The noble Lord is right. The world has changed. We have international obligations. It is useful, if I may say so as respectfully and gently as I may, occasionally to remind ourselves of what they are. In the context of the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, which fits in here, in his example the protection is that given to those who are protected by the Geneva Convention: in other words, protection for those who are specified—as, for instance, civilians—by virtue of their having particular protection under the Geneva Convention.

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    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for giving way. I shall be brief. To make it absolutely clear, I do not for a moment consider that our actions justify the charge against us of committing war crimes. But how do we defend ourselves from accusations by those who are not friendly to us that we have committed war crimes, given the range of actions that we are obliged to take for military purposes?

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    My Lords, we do so without the slightest difficulty; indeed I should be happy to do so if called upon, as I may be. The fact is that we studied carefully the ambit of our international legal obligations. The fact is that we have the right in international law to prevent overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe. I assert that on behalf of the Government. I would put it forward to any court that 700,000 or 800,000 people being driven from their homes, in the greatest act of mass forced deportation since the end of the last war, is an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe requiring action. It is true that some civilians were killed. Did we set about the deliberate murder of civilians? No, we did not. Did we sometimes make errors? Yes, we did—but those errors were made in a nobler cause and I believe that history will applaud us.

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    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. Am I right in thinking that Justice Richard Goldstone's independent commission appointed by the United Nations to look into the matter concluded that there was a technical problem about the absence of authorisation by the Security Council under the charter, but that so far as the merits were concerned what had happened in Kosovo was entirely justifiable and that there might be a need to amend the UN charter in that respect; but that so far as any other matter was concerned, what had been done was in accordance with international law? That is my recollection; I wonder whether I am right.

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    My Lords, I do recollect fully the text of what Judge Goldstone said. However, I am content in my view that we were lawfully justified in what we did—bearing in mind that if one carries out such activity mistakes will sometimes happen. No one regrets those mistakes more than I. But, qualitatively and legally, it is wholly different to make a genuine error—bombing, firing and shelling from a distance is utterly different from the wilful, monstrous ethnic cleansing that was carried out on defenceless people. To deviate for a moment from the purpose of the Bill, we had no selfish interest there: we had no investments, oil wells or installations to protect. We behaved properly, decently and lawfully.

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    My Lords, I admire the robust way in which the noble and learned Lord defends the right and lawful actions of this nation in our involvement in Kosovo. I agree with him 100 per cent. But is that the point? Is not the question whether other state parties who may take a different view hold us in the same admiration for what we did? Might they not interpret what we did in the name of liberty and right as aggressive and damaging to their interests and their national viewpoint?

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    My Lords, that may well be so—and where parties disagree, even for ignoble motives, the courts then decide. I should be happy to argue the case in any domestic court; Britain will be a state party and we should be willing and able to examine such allegations. I should also have no difficulty in arguing the point in an international court. It is not simply a matter of presentation but of whether what was done was right. I entirely agree with the noble Lord. Did we do the right thing? Did we behave lawfully? I believe that those two short questions offer their own internal reply.

    The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davies, asked a number of specific questions about legal representation. He is right to make those inquiries. The statute makes provision for legal aid to be provided to suspects being prosecuted if they do not have sufficient means to pay for legal assistance. That is one of the rights recognised specifically in Articles 55 and 67 of the statute. As it is in the statute, and as the Bill gives effect to the statute, no specific reference to legal aid is necessary.

    The noble Lord asked detailed questions about ratification. Sixty signatures will be needed before the court can be established. The NGO coalition for the International Criminal Court, to which I readily pay tribute, has set July 2002 as its goal. Eight of the European Union countries have ratified; the other six are in the process of doing so. In terms of signatures, four of the permanent five members of the Security Council have signed; all members of NATO apart from Turkey have signed and, as I said, all of the European Union nations.

    The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davies, asked about the definition of "aggression". That has not been arrived at. Rather than spend further years attempting to produce an agreed definition, we decided to proceed at this stage. If there is agreement about the definition of "aggression" as a crime in international law, it can become a crime only by virtue of this statute when the statute itself is amended, which cannot happen for seven years.

    The noble Lord also asked about the report. I can tell him that it was placed in the Library of the House on Friday 12th January. I am sorry if a copy of it was not readily available for him. As to the question of expert witnesses, we have not, in practice, found any difficulty in getting many expert witnesses to attend the Yugoslav tribunal or the Rwandan tribunal. Therefore, we have not considered that the power would be required.

    I was grateful for the support expressed by the noble Viscount. Lord Waverley. I believe that I have dealt with the specific questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway because, in a sense, they intermingled with topics to which I have already responded.

    My noble and learned friend Lord Archer asked about universal jurisdiction, as did other speakers. My noble friend Lord Goldsmith was quite right to say that we have universal jurisdiction elsewhere in our domestic jurisprudence. However, we have had that in the past when it was part and parcel of an international agreement. So noble Lords are quite right: we have jurisdiction over torture because it is part of the convention against torture. Similarly, we have universal jurisdiction over grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions because that is an obligation of such conventions.

    As I believe all your Lordships know, there were very lengthy negotiations leading up to the Rome Statute but they did not deal with universal jurisdiction. The statute does not require universal jurisdiction; that is why it is absent from the Bill. I give way.

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    My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. This is such an important matter that I feel it worth taxing the patience of the House for a few moments in order to follow up the question. First, was the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, right to say that other signatory states in their implementing legislation—notably, New Zealand and Canada—are taking universal jurisdiction? Secondly, if we do not do the same, will there not be a problem of a hole in the middle; that is to say, that there will be some rare cases where neither the United Kingdom courts nor the ICC will have jurisdiction over offences that ought to be dealt with by one court or the other?

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    My Lords, I do not know the answer to the first question, but I shall undertake some research in that respect. My noble friend simply mentioned that in his speech and I do not have such information with me. It is not clear to me whether those domestic statutes have actually been passed. As regards the noble Lord's second question, I do not believe that there will be a hole in the jurisdiction. Obviously, bearing in mind the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and those raised by my noble friend Lord Goldsmith, I shall want to look into the matter.

    On behalf of my noble friend the Minister and myself I ought to have pointed out that any amendment that is put forward that is consonant with what we wish to bring about—in other words, that is consistent with the spirit of the Bill—we shall consider most carefully. Moreover, as both of us had agreed on this, I should have said earlier that, if there is any meeting that is usefully to be called, we should be more than happy to attend it in an effort at least to talk through these issues. I recognise, with a single exception, that all noble Lords have given the spirit of the Bill the most generous welcome. The exception is the noble Lord, Lord Monson—

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    My Lords, before my noble and learned friend proceeds, I must raise a further point. I apologise for being tiresome, but it is most unusual to catch him out in a non sequitur. I believe that he said a few moments ago that the statute does not require universal jurisdiction and that is why it is not in the Bill. However, does my noble and learned friend agree that that is not conclusive and that the Government will not regard that as a conclusive argument?

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    My Lords, it was not a non sequitur because my noble and learned friend forgot the first step; namely, as I correctly described it, the fact that the negotiations did not produce a consensus on universal jurisdiction. It is absent from the statute and, therefore, it is not to be found in the Bill, which is putting the statute into effect. That is not a non sequitur. It is a perfect sequitur, if that is the opposite.

    I return to the noble Lord, Lord Monson. He gave us a useful reminder of man's hypocrisy and endless capacity for self-deception. I agree with him. However, the fact that some powerful members of state organisations have committed what I believe I can fairly call "state crime" should not disable us from doing the best that we can, with limited opportunities, to bring about improvement in an area where lawlessness rules. I cannot dispute the noble Lord's historical references, but I would not draw gloom from them: I would draw from them the prospect of improvement.

    I have dealt with the points raised by my noble friend Lord Goldsmith and also the specific question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. I was very happy to have the commendation—vicariously, I have to say—for the parliamentary draftsmen and the Bill team from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. He had the decency to smile at me because he has constantly urged me to do this in the past. Although I should not really be saying this, the truth is that we knew many months ago that the Second Reading of this Bill would be dealt with today—which happens to be the 90th birthday of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. It was intended as a gift-wrapped birthday present for him because I know that he shares the same views as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman.

    I believe that I have covered the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Cocks, with which I fundamentally agree. It is very important that the quality of the judiciary be high. Judging from my experience of Monsieur Jorda, the president in the Hague of the Yugoslav tribunal and in particular, if I may say so, of the British judge, His Honour Richard May, my opinion of them in that respect could not be higher.

    I turn now to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and his questions. He invited me to contemplate circumstances in which I believe he said that this Government would be unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute those who pass through these shores. That is entirely my point: this is not a Bill for this Government. It is a Bill for the next 25 to 30 years. It is possible, even if unlikely, that a different government might take a different view on these matters. However, one has to allow even for catastrophe in Bills put before the House of Lords. There could well be occasions where, domestically, a government might legitimately not want to prosecute on the basis that it was more appropriate, say, for their non-nationals to be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. It might be logistically better; indeed, it might be better for all sorts of reasons if the opportunity—in other words, the option—is there contained.

    I have done my best to answer the questions that have been put with great courtesy and tact. My noble friend the Minister and I are both extremely grateful for that. The only regret that we have is that there was such a sparse attendance in the Chamber tonight for a measure that really matters for the future of this country and for the future of international legality. But, then, perhaps it is not enormously popular.

    On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

    Gulf War Illnesses

    8.27 p.m.

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    rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what further consideration they are giving to the needs of Gulf War veterans with still undiagnosed illnesses and of the dependants of those who have died.

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in opening this debate, I warmly congratulate my noble friend the Minister on joining the Privy Council and welcome her aboard. Nothing in my parliamentary life has given me me greater joy than being made a privy counsellor 23 years ago.

    As Clement Attlee said:
    "The way a nation treats its citizens in greatest need is ultimately more revealing of its moral worth than all the oratory of its leaders".
    By that and the no less-defining test of how a nation meets the compelling duty to act justly to those prepared to lay down their lives in its service—and the dependants of those who do so—the people this debate is about deserve well of your Lordships' House.

    My principal concern, on the eve of the 10th anniversary tomorrow of the outbreak of fighting in the Gulf War, is for the service men and women who sacrificed their health and well-being in the conflict and for the dependants of those who sacrificed their lives.

    Many veterans with still undiagnosed illnesses—scores of them terminally ill—now rank among the most needful of our fellow citizens. They include people known to me from my work, over many years, as Honorary Parliamentary Adviser to The Royal British Legion, and as a founder member in 1994 of its Gulf War Group of parliamentarians, medical and legal specialists, veterans of the conflict and ex-service charity leaders. Other members of the group, ably chaired by Colonel Terry English of The Royal British Legion, have included the noble Countess, Lady Mar, the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, Michael Mates MP and Paul Tyler MP; and Flight Lieutenant John Nichol among others from the veterans' associations.

    Medically A1 when they went to the Gulf, more and more of those who fought there were in broken health soon after coming home. Of the 452 who have since died, 83 took their own lives. One of the veterans now seriously ill and known to me personally, Major Ian Hill, wrote on 15th December to the Prime Minister recalling a pledge he was given as Chairman of the Gulf Veterans' and Families' Association that:
    "No stone will be left unturned to alleviate the physical, mental and social suffering of Gulf veterans".
    Major Hill's medical condition is now described as one of "total burn out" and his future as,
    "a slow and agonising death sentence".
    He recently became registered blind and his wife, on whose care he relies day and night, is also severely disabled with "a crumbling spine". They have to cope in inappropriate housing. Thinking about this debate earlier this month, I intended to refer to the case of Major Hilary Jones, ex-Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps, as the most distressing of any of which I was aware. Living alone and terminally ill, she was denied a 100 per cent war pension. Hilary was recently described to me as,
    "trying desperately to get her affairs in order while she can still attempt to do so."
    Very sadly, I heard last week that she had died. In deep anguish a friend, going to her funeral last Friday, said that she will be,
    "just another statistic before anything is done".
    None of us here wants Gulf veterans in broken health to suffer the gratuitously added strain and demeaning indignities of long delays in settling their rightful claims. There was no delay, 10 years ago, in their response to the call of duty. And there can be no excuse now for failure to meet in full our debt of honour to them.

    This 10th anniversary is a timely moment to reflect that the Gulf conflict was on a scale bigger than any British troops had been involved in since the Korean War. It was also the first in which chemical and biological weapons were deployed against British troops since 1918; and they seemed certain to be used. The stark effects of Saddam Hussein's use of these weapons against Iranian civilians had been widely televised only months before. Both US and British commanders expected their use to involve a high level of fatalities, the Pentagon as many as 150,000.

    MoD correctly appreciated the threat, but not all the health risks of the protective measures taken. These comprised an immunisation programme of unprecedented range and intensity—a veritable blitzkrieg of the immune system—that included protection against anthrax; the first ever issue of Pyridostigmine Bromide (PB) as antidote to biological agents; and the deployment both of toxic sensors and pesticides, including organophosphates, to prevent fly-borne diseases.

    Veterans say many of their illnesses were caused by the immunisation programme; inappropriate use of PB tablets; the effects of toxic substances; pesticides such as organophosphates; the heavy deployment of depleted uranium; massive oil pollution from burning the oil wells; and the normal stress of war, made worse in the Gulf by the imminent threat of chemical and biological weapons.

    Military training in preparation for the conflict is not questioned, but veterans blame flaws in administrative back-up for many of their problems. They include poor documentation in recording treatments of and the protection given to the individuals deployed; inadequate training and instructions for using antidotes for biological exposure, not least NAPS tablets; failure to record the nature of toxic substances; and poor debriefing and rehabilitation, more particularly for reservists, after the conflict.

    Within weeks of the conflict ending, US and UK veterans began reporting illnesses. An early trickle soon became a stream. Here it now exceeds 5,000; in the United States it has risen to 110,000. The number of war pension claims here is over 4,000.

    The initial MoD reaction to claimants was to say it was "open-minded" about them; but veterans say they were treated with disbelief and even cynicism. The department was slow to set up the Medical Assessment Programme (MAP), which became a fully established unit only in 1994; and there were constant official denials of any specifically "Gulf War" health problems. The use of organophosphates was denied as was the exposure of British troops to fall-out from US bombing of an Iraqi arms dump in Khamisyah where chemical weapons were stored. This latter denial was made by Ministers in Answers to Parliamentary Questions I tabled in another place, to assist the Royal British Legion's Gulf War group.

    It was this group that led to veterans' cases first being put direct to all Members of Parliament. Its effect—strengthened by pressure from the Defence Select Committee—brought admissions that there were specifically "Gulf War" health problems to address. MAP was placed on a full-time footing and epidemiological studies were initiated.

    The UK's most significant study, however, has been that funded by the US Presidential Committee and led by Professor Simon Wessley of King's College, London. He compared the health of veterans deployed in the conflict with control groups deployed to Bosnia or who stayed at home. The study reported in 1999 that Gulf veterans had a higher incidence of ill-health. The study is ongoing and has significant credibility both in the UK and the US.

    A similar study funded by the Ministry of Defence and conducted by Professor Nicola Cherry of Manchester University is believed to have reached similar conclusions to the Wessley study.

    My Lords, veterans and their families strongly resent the implication of being told to accept that, where mistakes were made, they were not deliberate. They know as well as anyone in Whitehall that decisions about protective measures often have to be made on a "needs must" basis. But they will never accept that the victims of mistaken decisions alone should be left to cope with their consequences. They rightly insist that the nation, not the individual, should meet the cost of such decisions.

    Moreover, claims that extra-statutory compensation is not paid by the state unless negligence is proven are simply not true. What about the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme and the Macfarlane Fund for people infected with HIV by contaminated NHS blood products? Again, what about the decision in 1974, by the then Minister for War Pensions, to treat as war-attributable the death of anyone who, having served in a theatre of war where gas was used, died of a cardiothoracic illness? I speak as the Minister who took that decision 27 years ago.

    As the cases of Major Ian Hill and other needful UK veterans demonstrate, care for them needs urgently to be improved. When veterans have been assessed by MAP, continuing care is provided by the NHS. That care is patchy, occasionally unsatisfactory and hampered by poor medical records for the Gulf War period; cynicism about Gulf War illnesses among some GPs and inadequate knowledge of symptoms; lack of any priority for hospital treatment, made worse by the closure of service hospitals; and lack of any continuous health monitoring of Gulf veterans by the MoD.

    I return briefly to depleted uranium. The mass media across the world headlined day by day over recent weeks Britain's growing isolation as the list of countries screening for adverse health effects from its use rapidly grew. Then came John Spellar's announcement last Monday of what The Times headlined as
    "Downing Street's retreat on depleted uranium risk."
    The paper reported a "morning of confusion" at the MoD. The Defence Secretary, it said, intended to make a statement two days later but pressure from No 10 required an announcement forthwith:
    "Downing Street intervened"
    said The Times,
    "after Tony Blair's advisers cautioned that the Government could not wait another 48 hours".
    DU shells were heavily deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo; but so were they in the Gulf. Yet Gulf veterans appeared to be excluded from screening by last Monday's announcement. It will be widely seen as incomprehensible and deplorable if they are in fact excluded and I hope that my noble friend can make it plain now that this will not happen. If it does, feeling among Gulf veterans will be further inflamed. But even today they are already saying that:
    "the MoD's vacillation is reminiscent of such denials as the use of organophosphates".
    It was strong feeling among veterans that led The Royal British Legion's annual conference in 1998 unanimously to call on the Prime Minister for a public inquiry into the handling of Gulf War illnesses. Over 16 months went by before a response came from the MoD in which John Spellar rejected an inquiry. Yet it had been emphasised to the Prime Minister that the Legion wanted the inquiry to go wider than the responsibilities of the MoD or of any other single department.

    The rejection was deeply unfortunate. For ultimately there will have to be an independent and wide-ranging inquiry, not only in fairness to those afflicted but to restore public confidence and demonstrate that our Armed Forces will be fully protected in future deployments. In my view, any further delay can only postpone, not frustrate, the securing of an inquiry.

    Too many families are bereaved for an inquiry to be indefinitely delayed. They crave the truth about their bereavement too strongly to allow any even possibly revealing stone to remain unturned. And public support for them is too strong for anyone to stop right being done.

    The inquiry will help to end speculation, establish facts and answer questions by parliamentarians that have long gone unanswered. Most of all veterans and their dependants will be assured that they are not being treated as "yesterday's people".

    My Lords, that should not be too much to ask on this 10th anniversary for those who served our country with such distinction and gallantry in the Gulf War.

    8.40 p.m.

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    My Lords, other noble Lords speaking in this debate know far more than I do about the long and complex saga of the Gulf War veterans and the illnesses to which they have been subject. There has been extensive publicity in the past week about the reported existence of an MoD report of March 1997 warning that soldiers who recovered or worked upon destroyed tanks,

    "should be warned that inhalation of uranium dust carries a longterm risk to health. They should be counselled appropriately. They should wear protective clothing if working on such vehicles in the Gulf".
    The MoD confirmed that a signal was sent but publicly acknowledged that it did not reach the appropriate people. It has also been reported that a US report of 1992 reached similar conclusions on the potential threat to health from depleted uranium.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the statement made by the Minister in another place that,
    "DU ammunition has represented a battle-winning military capability and that therefore it will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because when this country commits our forces to conflict, we fight to win. Our troops need the best available equipment to enable them to do that. To deny them a legitimate capability would be quite wrong".
    We do indeed have to remember that if we send our troops into war we must give them the best available weapons. However, Mr Spellar said in the same statement that,
    "alternative methods are not as effective".
    I find that difficult to square with reports that the Americans, recognising the dangerous nature of the depleted uranium, are replacing it with tungsten, and that the Royal Navy, which has bought these weapons from the Americans, is therefore phasing out its own Phalanx weapon. I hope that there will be no delay in replacing them also with the tungsten variant, since this does seem an acceptable alternative, and that this will not be at the expense of some other equally vital defence expenditure. The Treasury must meet any increase in the bill to equip our Navy safely as well as effectively in the light of this new development.

    But while we have an undoubted duty to equip our forces with what they need to be an effective fighting force, we have an equally paramount duty to protect them from any danger which need not be incurred. If healthy men and women are ready to go into battle, we must be equally ready to equip them to take proper precautions against threats to their health which could arise from that service. If we fail to do that, and more and more evidence is emerging to suggest that there have been failures in that regard, we must do everything possible—and I do not make this as a party point, since all governments since the Gulf War have failed in their duty to the forces in this matter—to rectify the damage to human lives which has arisen not from enemy action but from our own obstinate refusal to concede that there is danger. We must recognise fully that the Gulf War veterans, like the former PoWs in Japanese hands whose rights have at long last been recognised to some degree, went to war for us hale and healthy men and returned sick men.

    I honour this Government for recognising that the issue of the Gulf War veterans' illnesses should be dealt with openly and sympathetically. I quote the Minister's words in a recent Gulf War newsletter. But openness is just what there has not been. I also welcomed the setting up of the MoD's Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Unit when it was created by the previous government in February 1997 as a result of long, patient and unremitting pressure from the noble Countess, Lady Mar, above all others. But more and more men have been dying in this group in the 10 years since the Gulf War, some, as we have been told most movingly by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, by their own hand, and it is simply not good enough for the MoD to continue to await the outcome of a long series of academic and other research projects to determine whether or not there is such a thing as a Gulf War syndrome and to refuse to take any real action unless and until they have the results of the research. That will take years. Meanwhile both the men and their desperately unhappy families are left without help.

    What is the point of a Gulf War unit if the MoD and the pensions agency can continue to offer such contradictory advice to men and their dependants who are sick and in need? There has been total confusion, for instance, over the advice received by the former TA Reservists who served in the Gulf on the operation of the attributable benefits reservists scheme. Why were they told in writing before they went to the Gulf that they would be treated on exactly the same footing as regular soldiers only to learn later that this written statement had no legal standing? The Government, in their reply to the Defence Committee's report on 11th May 2000, said—and I quote this from the Gulf Update—that,
    "The government believes that the current financial provisions are the most appropriate way of compensating Gulf War veterans—they are able to apply for attributable benefits for reservists".
    How, in this joined-up government, was it possible, therefore, for the claimants to be told the week before Christmas—very nice timing—that they had no entitlement to this benefit? I wonder how many forms they completed and over what period before they heard that constructive reply to their problems? What does the MoD intend to do to ensure that hopes are not raised and then dashed by hopelessly contradictory advice?

    I believe that I first spoke in support of the efforts of my noble friend Lady Mar, and later in support of the noble Lord whom I shall also claim as a friend, Lord Morris of Manchester, and not least in support of the men themselves six or seven years ago. It beggars belief that we and the country can cheerfully send healthy men to war and then spend years denying in effect responsibility for the state in which they return, fobbing them off with endless research, especially when it now seems that an American report gave support to their case, that in 1997 there was a medical report from our own MoD and, to judge from The Times today, there were warnings long before from the Atomic Energy Authority.

    We must not treat this issue as a party political football. If we take the defence of the realm seriously, as I am sure we all do, we must surely recognise that no amount of excellent weaponry can replace the will of our men and women to put their lives at risk for the country's sake. I do not believe, however, that that will long continue if they and their families see what happens to those who come back as sick men. In reply to a Written Question in May 1998, I received from the War Pensions Agency a letter which, having stated that so far extensive international research had failed to identify a specific Gulf War syndrome, went on to say that,
    "it is however acknowledged that illness has occurred in relation to Gulf service".
    That is the nub of the matter. A significant number of claimants went out as healthy men and returned as sick men. They deserve better than the treatment they have so far received. I know that the Minister and, I have little doubt, her colleagues too care about this issue, but the question is what is going to be done now—not next year, or the year after, or when we have the results of further research. A great deal of money is being found for many worthy objectives just now, and I do not grudge money for education, the NHS or, certainly, pensioners. But I do suggest that there must be money, too, for this relatively small group of people who have deserved so much from us. This is a question of human dignity as much as anything.

    8.49 p.m.

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    My Lords, I declare an interest as patron of the Gulf Veterans' Association. Once again I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, for returning to this topic. As he said, we are now approaching the 10th anniversary of the beginning of what was known as the air war in what must be the environmentally dirtiest war ever fought.

    As noble Lords know well, the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and I, together with some other Members of your Lordships' House and those in another place, have been asking questions about the many factors which may have contributed to the ill health reported by Gulf War veterans for at least six years. Many ofthe responses I have received in that period have been at least unhelpful and have often been misleading. Whether or not this has been deliberate I leave for others to judge. It matters not which party is in government, the answers are similar and ministerial pronouncements, while they may be couched in slightly different language, all mean the same thing.

    The question of the effects of depleted uranium munitions will, naturally, be today in the forefront of our minds. In last night's news, the Secretary of State for Defence was repeating the MoD mantra that,
    "there is no scientific evidence that DU causes ill health".
    He said that if there is a problem, it is a very minor one and that the risks to our troops are outweighed by the protection that the use of DU gives against enemy tanks. He and his colleagues have also said that the possible damaging effects on health from exposure to DU have been known for anything from 10 to 40 years. Which is it? Is DU safe or not?

    Perhaps most important in this context is the ministerial statement to the effect that our troops have always been aware of the dangers and have taken the necessary precautions. That "always" seems to imply that British troops serving in the Gulf were advised of the dangers and that if they are found to have DU in their systems, it is their fault. Where have I heard that before? It is a disingenuous statement. There is a surfeit of evidence to show that British troops in the Gulf were not made aware of the risks. I have been told of coach parties organised for our troops to view the remnants of Iraqi tanks when hostilities ceased. I have photographs of members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in T-shirts and shorts clambering over tanks that had clearly been disabled by DU weapons. It is known that the radioactive constituent of DU can be found in dust. The inference that our troops were not exposed to any dust under desert conditions with hundreds of military vehicles passing through contaminated areas is nothing less than idiotic.

    I understand that today the MoD has offered to examine any Gulf veteran who has symptoms of DU poisoning. The veterans do not know what those symptoms are, unless they involve overt cancers. Will the Minister arrange for the two veterans' organisations to be informed of the symptoms so that they can tell their members?

    In the desire to find a universal illness with a universal solution, there would appear to be a measure of acceptance of post traumatic stress disorder as a diagnosis for the ills of the Gulf veterans. That is not corroborated by the epidemiological study conducted by researchers from King's College Hospital. Ministerial statements invite me to repeat Toyber's dictum:
    "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".
    If you do not look, you will not find, and, lo and behold, there is no problem. The Government have singularly failed to conduct new clinical research. Epidemiological studies and literature reviews are not new science.

    In fact, there is not an absence of evidence. Many medical researchers—some in the UK, but most in the USA—practising in a number of different fields have demonstrated organic causes for the illnesses of Gulf veterans whom they have examined. Those researchers do not have access to government funding and, of necessity, their sample populations must be small. Instead of stimulating scientific curiosity and encouraging those who hold government purse strings to sanction further research, the findings of those individual researchers are trivialised and attempts are made to discredit the men and women doing the work.

    I have thought long and hard about why that is. One difficulty arises from the apparent variety of signs and symptoms that the veterans present. Conventional medicine is currently divided into specialities. That means that patients are examined by a number of different consultants and are treated symptomatically. I am told that it is rare for a full history to be obtained from a patient. There seems to be an extraordinary absence of natural curiosity from clinicians about causation. As a result, not all the information is gathered. If any solution is to be found to the ills that the Gulf veterans are suffering, there is a need to look at patients as a single body and mind, not as a series of fragmented parts, and to look at all the various medications and toxins to which they were exposed. I understand that in their training, doctors are told to listen to the patient and the patient will tell them the diagnosis. They have obviously not done so in this case.

    Only yesterday it was revealed that US Government-funded research had found that pesticides used in the Gulf were not the cause of illness among Gulf veterans. Tell us something new. In the past, individual vaccines and NAPS tablets have been singled out and given a clean bill of health. That is not the way to tackle the problems faced by the Gulf veterans. I have always contended that there is not a Gulf War syndrome. That was an invention of the press. There are Gulf War illnesses. It has always been clear that there are variations in the reported symptoms, although there are underlying symptoms that are common to many illnesses. Not all the veterans had the same vaccination programme. There were significant variations in the frequency with which they took their NAPS tablets. Some were billeted in the desert, where their camps and equipment were sprayed frequently with an assortment of pesticides. Others were lodged in permanent housing that did not need the sprays. Some were exposed to fumes from oil well fires and others crawled on tanks that had been struck by DU munitions. In addition, they had to adjust to changes in their physical environment and diet. They would have been physically and emotionally stressed. The veterans have been exposed to several of those factors, if not all of them.

    There is a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the interdependence of all the systems and organs of the human body. There is also evidence that some individuals are better able than others to cope with toxic exposure, for a variety of reasons, such as age, gender, nutritional status or genetic make-up. It is too late for more than 500 Gulf War veterans, but it may not be too late for many more who are currently suffering from unpleasant and disabling illnesses. As the noble Lords who have already spoken have said, we must do something about those people.

    Since the departure of Group Captain—later Wing Commander—Coker from the medical assessment programme, there has been little trust or credibility placed in those who have run it. The current director, Professor Lee, has apparently said that he sees only the "well sick", that he is there to assess and reassure veterans and that he is not responsible to either the MoD or the Gulf veterans illness unit. Yet he told one of the Gulf veterans last November that he is a medical expert for the MoD and appears for the Ministry in medico-legal cases. Is that true? If so, in how many cases has Professor Lee appeared on behalf of the MoD? Is he to give evidence on behalf of the MoD if any of the Gulf veterans' cases reach the courts? Is it ethical for a medical practitioner who is in charge of such patients to place himself in a position in which it is apparent that his patients' interests are not paramount?

    Why has there been so much procrastination? Why have Ministers from successive governments voiced sympathy for the veterans, yet failed to obtain any substantive relief for their ills? With enormous reluctance and a careful study of the many, many answers to my questions, I am beginning to come to the conclusion that those who advise the Government have been aware for some time that the measures that were used to protect our troops in the Gulf were not without significant risks to the health of some of the members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. There is no other explanation.

    That stance of denial was adopted in response to the earliest parliamentary questions on the subject and has been steadfastly maintained until, as in the case of organophosphates, the evidence can no longer be resisted. Only a fool never changes his mind. These people have played a cruel and—dare I say it?—immoral game with the lives of men and women who were prepared to lay down their lives for the rest of us citizens of their country.

    I shall end on a conciliatory note. I thank the Minister for arranging for Gulf War illness unit staff and Professor Lee to visit the hospital that I told her about. I hope that, in the absence of any other apparent effective treatment, proposals for treatment for the veterans at that hospital will be seriously considered.

    8.58 p.m.

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    My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, for his Unstarred Question. Given the current media interest in the matter, it is surprising that more noble Lords have not put their names down to speak. The noble Lord posed his Question with his usual skill and vigour, so I shall not repeat all his very valid points. I remind the House that I have a peripheral interest.

    I intend to cover two points: testing for depleted uranium and allergies. DU is necessary to defeat the armour of modern enemy armoured fighting vehicles. It is not used for training, as it is unnecessary or undesirable for technical reasons. It is not a mini-nuclear warhead and is only very slightly radioactive. It works solely by means of kinetic energy.

    Ministers are adamant that uranium poisoning is not causing the problem. I am inclined to agree with them. Previously, DU testing would be undertaken at MoD expense only if clinically indicated. That was very convenient because generally the symptoms of DU poisoning have not been seen in Gulf War veterans. However, the absence of a medical indication for DU testing does not mean that there is an absence of a DU problem; for example, it may not be acting as a poison but as a catalyst for some undesirable effect. I believe that it should be eliminated as a problem. That could be achieved by a proper programme of testing with suitable controls. That would then insert a sense of reality into the debate about the use of DU ammunition.

    Can the Minister confirm whether that is what her honourable friend Mr Spellar announced last week, or will the test merely be available haphazardly when requested by an ill veteran and without the proper control groups to ensure that meaningful results are obtained? It is hoped that the Minister will be able to enlighten us tonight by answering the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, about exactly who will be tested. The Minister nods her head.

    Ministers rightly have made much of the epidemiological survey of Gulf veterans. I, too, was relieved to see the results and I am sure that the Minister will draw your Lordships' attention to them tonight. I have a slight anxiety that the survey concentrates on the death rate of veterans, which in some categories is better than that of the control group. However, as Gulf War illness has more to do with disablement than the death rate, is the Minister confident that the medical disability rate is no worse among the veterans than in the control group?

    There has been speculation in the media that troops on operations spend much of their time clambering over knocked-out enemy armoured vehicles. So far as concerned Kosovo and despite the claims of the Minister at the time, there were in any case few knocked-out Serb armoured vehicles. But, more importantly, troops would be ordered specifically not to go near a knocked-out vehicle because of the threat from mines and booby traps. That was certainly my experience.

    My second point concerns allergies. However, in making the point, I claim no special understanding or knowledge. It is a little unfortunate that, although we have a noble and gallant Lord with us tonight, we have no noble and eminent clinicians. Sadly, we know that the medical records of Operation Granby were poor, to say the least. We know that a veritable cocktail of vaccines and drugs were administered, but it is not known how they would have reacted with each other or in the presence of some other environmental pollutant. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, talked about some of those problems.

    However, it seems to me that the symptoms are similar to those which involve allergies arid what is known as "multiple chemical sensitivity". I understand that there are two main types of allergic reaction. The immediate allergic reaction is the best known, although it does not appear to be the type which affects Gulf War veterans. Occasionally, that reaction can be dramatic and life threatening, as in bee and wasp stings and peanut allergy.

    The other type is the masked allergic reaction. The symptoms are very similar to the type of chronic health problems that Gulf War veterans are experiencing: unusual and debilitating fatigue, headache, irritability, reduced mental alertness, muscle and joint pain, and respiratory and other problems. Such a variety of chronic symptoms have one possible common link: a damaged immune system. Given the cocktail of vaccines administered, all affecting the immune system, that is a very plausible scenario.

    My understanding is that it is possible to unmask those allergies or chemical sensitivities by keeping the patient in a carefully controlled environment for a few days, free from any possible allergens. lf the symptoms disappear, there is probably an allergy problem. Once the problem has been identified, treatment procedures are available.

    The Airedale Allergy Centre has had one ill Gulf War veteran—a staff sergeant who was treated, largely successfully, but privately at his own expense. Some noble Lords will recall the Starred Question in the House about the future of the Airedale Allergy Centre which was experiencing funding difficulties with the NHS. Having listened to the replies from the Minister the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I believed that the centre's future was secure. However, apparently it has now been mothballed due to financial problems. I certainly did not recall him questioning the validity of the centre's work. There may be other, similar facilities available elsewhere in the world but they are certainly not common.

    When the Minister replies to my suggestion, she may describe it as "interesting". If she does, it will be the first time that I have received that particular accolade.

    When she returns to her office in Main Building, no doubt her sensible senior medical advisers will tell her to have nothing to do with any alternative medicine. However, the fact is that we do not know what Gulf War illness is or how to cure it, and we should explore every possibility for a solution.

    In conclusion, your Lordships hold the Minister in high regard. Undoubtedly she will feel at least as, if not more, sympathetic to the Gulf War veterans as any other noble Lord. She will agree that it is indeed our duty to leave no stone unturned in the search for a solution. Among other things, we need a proper DU screening programme to eliminate the furore and widespread concern over DU ammunition and we need to check for masked allergies.

    9.7 p.m.

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    My Lords, I, too, greatly welcome the well informed initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on this matter. One of the troubles that underlies the whole problem is the fact that the phrase "Gulf War syndrome" means different things to different people and evokes quite different emotions depending on their different perceptions.

    To those who served in the Gulf campaign and subsequently, for whatever reason, suffered seriously debilitating, sometimes fatal, illness as regards which they and/or their close relatives deserve the greatest sympathy from all sides of your Lordships' House, it provides a possible, perhaps probable, reason why those who have served have been so tragically struck down and it provides an opportunity in their deep distress to apportion blame and obtain redress.

    However, to Whitehall officialdom—deeply apprehensive that such a condition, if established, could involve considerable financial compensation and set a precedent with untold ramifications to its already greatly over-stretched budget—that is seen as a contrived explanation. The various medical conditions are more likely to be attributable to the law of averages or the wheel of outrageous fortune than to anything that the patient experienced during or in the aftermath of combat in the Gulf War.

    To old soldiers such as myself, there must be, when one considers what generations of fighting men have endured from the Crimea, through the Somme, Paschendale, Alamein and Burma, right up to the Falklands, some built-in irritation about the fact that the general and undoubted pressures, traumas and risks of combat should somehow be linked in a blanket and imprecise phrase to account for all subsequent ills and misfortunes, and thus become a means for those who had served their country to get back at the government who sent them to war.

    On the other hand, like any other serviceman or woman, if, during or after the battle, those people incurred a medical or physical condition that was attributable to active service, let alone duty, they would be fully entitled not only to sympathy and understanding but a full and proper war disability pension that was appropriate to their condition.

    Through all the verbal sparring that has been going on during the past few years because of the different perceptions and attitudes that I mentioned, one glaring question stands out above all others. Was the cocktail of inoculations—the veritable blitzkrieg of the immune system, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, so aptly described it—some of which had been given individually for many years but not, because of the urgency of time, given all at once, liable to cause, in some individuals, a harmful chemical or physiological reaction that would lead to a loss of future immunity? Presumably, no tests were done before inoculations. For that the Ministry of Defence could hardly be blamed, because of the urgent need to give all those entering the Gulf War zone comprehensive protection, including protection against nerve gas and anthrax. I hope that we can keep the stigma of negligence out of this argument. Once the whole question of so-called Gulf War syndrome was raised, that should have been done at once.

    I was staggered, when I questioned the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert—then the Minister—many months ago, to hear him say that a comprehensive medical study of the whole question, including the medical histories of those who had subsequently so tragically suffered, would be undertaken, and that part of that approach would involve an analysis of the effects of dispensing all the inoculations at the same time. As I said, that should have been done at the outset, because it was by far the most likely common factor for inducing some subsequent indisposition, or worse.

    So I put it to the Minister to tell us what the results of that particular test have been. It must by now have been carried out—if it has not been, that can only mean that the Ministry of Defence is not serious enough about getting at the truth. As I said, given the circumstances prevailing at the time, there may well have been no negligence on the part of the Ministry of Defence, nor any need to prove that. However, if those tests raise the suspicion that certain individuals could have been affected by that form of battle contamination, or by any other—such as the stuff that was used to spray camouflage nets or the uranium shells that we are currently hearing about and which were fired from aircraft cannon—will the Minister tell us whether the Ministry of Defence or the Ministry that is responsible for pensions intend, at this appropriate 10-year anniversary, to pay a proper disability pension to those who are suffering and who have suffered?

    We keenly look forward to all that the Minister is now prepared to tell us on this very sensitive and emotive subject.

    9.13 p.m.

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    My Lords, I add my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, who has, yet again, eloquently highlighted tonight the plight of Gulf War veterans. I also pay tribute to those noble Lords who made some extremely moving speeches in tonight's debate.

    We last debated this subject in January 2000, when the noble Lord, Lord Morris, initiated the debate. The situation has radically altered since then. In a bewildering week of leaked documents, the credibility of the Ministry of Defence has, frankly, plummeted dramatically. Many people, including myself, have criticised the Ministry for its lack of urgency and care. However, there has been a severe loss of trust in the MoD since then. In fact, we are now in danger of having a catalogue of mistrust.

    The key issue that has most recently been raised is that of depleted uranium and its effects. But there is clearly a long line of reports which gave warning of the dangers now revealed in the leaked documents. It appears that the MoD was clearly apprised of the dangers of depleted uranium. In particular the report by the Atomic Energy Authority nine years ago gave due warning of those dangers.

    Have the Government revised their figures of the rounds fired in the Gulf War in the light of that paper, which was written at the time and claimed much higher figures? A 1993 US document from the Surgeon-General also gives the lie to the Government's attempts to minimise the dangers. It appears that there is an even earlier, 1990, document from the US which also makes clear the dangers of depleted uranium.

    The facts are clear. It is well established that depleted uranium ammunition was used in the Gulf. It is clear that all necessary safety notices did not reach their destination in the Gulf. Does the MoD categorically deny that depleted uranium dust inhaled by troops taking part in the Gulf conflict may lead to lung cancer, bone cancer, kidney disease and chronic kidney damage, or even leukaemia, as its own scientists advised was the case in 1993?

    A number of Gulf veterans tested in Canada have been found to contain high levels of depleted uranium. Does the Ministry deny that? The US Navy has withdrawn depleted uranium shells, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Park, and substituted tungsten-tipped shells. Why cannot we withdraw those for military purposes? Is that not all a prompt to action by the Ministry? Above all, we need a comprehensive publication of all the advice that the Ministry of Defence received to date to enable us to evaluate for ourselves what that scientific evidence is.

    On testing, following the Statement by the Armed Services Minister last week, can the Minister confirm what is being offered to Gulf veterans by way of tests for depleted uranium? Is it in accordance with the Government's response to Llew Smith MP's Question on 29th November, which said that only those who had paid for testing in Canada prior to August 1999 will be tested in London? Or is any Gulf veteran now entitled to be tested on request? The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, rightly raised the issues as to what those tests entail. What will they be? When will they start?

    The Secretary of State stated on "Newsnight" last week that if Gulf veterans had any symptoms of illness they would be tested. Surely, as the noble Countess, Lady Mar, said, it is not good enough to wait until veterans show signs of illness before allowing them to be tested. Furthermore, there have been doubts about the quality of the Ministry of Defence screening. The Ministry needs to offer independent screening. That should be available for all Gulf War veterans on request. It should be available as soon as possible and well before the end of this year.

    A further case of mistrust has been over government-funded research, not just that relating to depleted uranium. The research by Dr Nicola Cherry published in the Lancet last year purported to show that war veterans only had a marginally higher mortality rate than normal. But there are strong views that the selection of people was flawed; that they had, in effect, been picked by the Ministry of Defence. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what the methodology was of the Manchester research. Were the subjects selected by the Ministry of Defence?

    A great deal of other scientific evidence has been raised. There was research by Professor Abou-Donia of the Duke University in the United States; research by Matthew Hotopf on vaccines; claims by Mr Bernie McPhilips about the effects of Gulf War illnesses on his children. Work has also been done on post-traumatic stress disorder. I shall be grateful if the Minister could adumbrate the research being done to evaluate some of those pieces of work.

    Then we come to the legal actions. Perhaps the Minister can also tell us how many claims or notices of claims have been received so far from Gulf veterans. Will the Ministry now accept mediation rather than putting ex-servicemen through the full legal process? Or will the Ministry still insist on establishment of legal liability before agreeing to mediation? After all, why should veterans have to rely on that sort of legal action? Why should 1,800 veterans have to sue in those circumstances? The key questions are not so much causative as financial. The Defence Select Committee, in its conclusions in May last year, said that it might well be that the causes of Gulf War illnesses will never be found. We could spend another 10 years picking over the causes. We need, as the Select Committee said, to provide proper care, treatment and financial provision for those Gulf veterans.

    Gulf veterans expressed complaints about treatment by the War Pensions Agency itself. Why is the Ministry insisting on legal liability before paying compensation? Why does it not pay compensation simply on the basis that those veterans have been in combat? After all, the Gulf was the largest mobilisation of troops since the Second World War. Do we continue expecting establishment of legal liability and doing more and more research? As a distinguished American involved with the Gulf War veterans in the US asked in September,
    "Do we really give our veterans the benefit of the doubt? Or will we continue to study this until no doubts, and perhaps no veterans remain?".
    In the light of recent events and the failure of the Ministry to come up with adequate compensation, I fully support the call by the Royal British Legion for a public inquiry into Gulf War illnesses. We are rapidly reaching the point where there is no public confidence in the ability or willingness of the MoD to get to grips with the issue or provide adequate care and compensation. It is a measure of the respect in which our Armed Forces are held that veteran campaigners and claimants have been so patient and tolerant of delays.

    Ian Townsend, the Secretary General of the British Legion stated that,
    "If a member of the public suffered from chronic fatigue, hair loss, severe bouts of depression or cancer, they would ask for and receive assessment, answers and treatment. But many veterans of the Gulf. the Balkans and Kosovo, who have risked their lives in combat for peacekeeping appear not to for various reasons".
    That is a shocking statement. We must ask ourselves what effect all this will have on our troops and our ability to recruit for the future.

    On the tenth anniversary of the end of the Gulf War, as the noble Lord, Morris, said, it is high time for the Ministry to re-evaluate its approach. Failing that, no member of the Armed Forces, who, after all, risked their lives on behalf of our country, can confidently say that the Ministry of Defence is acting in its interests. The Ministry has always said that it owes a debt of honour to those veterans. It is high time for that debt to be repaid properly.

    9.21 p.m.

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    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, has shown considerable prescience in his timing of this Unstarred Question. It was, I have no doubt, scheduled to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War. In fact it comes at a time when depleted uranium, and all it involves, has been hitting the headlines, as mentioned by many of your Lordships.

    Depleted uranium has not hitherto generally been considered to have played a major part in the investigation and problems arising or not arising from conditions in the Gulf War. It is unfair to accuse this Government or the last of negligence in their attempts to discover the reasons why so many servicemen have suffered after having served in the Gulf, or, as it would now appear, in the Balkans. I use the phrase, "suffered after having served" because it is by no means clear that there is a degree of causality. Further, there would seem to be no real evidence that British servicemen are suffering after having served in the Balkans.

    Both in this country and in the United States controls have been set up to compare the health of those who have served in the Gulf and the Balkans with servicemen who have not so served. It is fair to say that everything has been taken into consideration: the "cocktail of injections", chemical agents, nerve agents, oil well fires and the general conditions, particularly in the Gulf.

    However, the helpful Gulf Update, published by the Government last month, does not mention depleted uranium. While the publicity given to the problems arising out of the use of depleted uranium may—I emphasise the word "may"—be excessive, there can be no doubt that it is a new factor which will have to be taken into consideration. Depleted uranium would seem to have caused few problems with regard to radiation and in its pre-use form it is unlikely to have any toxic effects. It is of course what happens inside an armoured vehicle after penetration that matters. A DU missile vaporises once inside, filling the interior with tiny lethal particles. Statistically, the risk of irradiation is small but soldiers, and civilians living in the combat area, cannot be blamed for concluding that DU is responsible if they become ill.

    For that reason the current scare cannot be ignored. My honourable friend in another place, the shadow Secretary of State, has said that it is necessary now for the Government to make a clear statement about the position of depleted uranium, given all the evidence which has been coming out in dribs and drabs. The Minister, Mr Spellar, made a Statement last Tuesday in another place which was helpful so far as it went.

    We need to be reminded of the comment made by Lord Wilson of Rievaulx that seven days is a long time in politics because in the past six days things have gone much further. Is it still the case that there is no evidence of unusual ill health among British peacekeepers in the Balkans? An honourable Member in another place pointed out that as in the Balkans there were not the problems of immunisation and environmental pollution, it should be easier to ascertain whether there is a definite link between DU and ill health. While much more DU was used in the Gulf—300 tonnes to 12 tonnes in the Balkans—it should not be impossible to draw conclusions about the problems of DU in the Gulf if there were none in the Balkans.

    During the debate on the Statement last week, the Minister replied that the Government were awaiting an independent study that the Royal Society was conducting. I should be interested to know whether that is the same study which the noble and gallant Lord said he had been informed of by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. Does the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, know when the study will be completed? The current publicity on DU adds a new factor and it is difficult for the problems of the so-called "Gulf syndrome", which is almost certainly no such thing, finally to be solved until one major factor—that is, DU—can be eliminated or confirmed.

    The Government must do more than just consider offering independent screening to veterans who may have come into contact with DU dust and who are seeking reassurance. The Government must also clarify the status of the March 1997 report on the problems of DU, which is said to be flawed. What also is the status of the BBC report which stated that half the British war veterans tested had abnormally high levels of DU in their bodies?

    DU is only one of the factors which may have affected Gulf veterans. The Royal British Legion has done an immense amount of work to help veterans and it is with the greatest sadness that I echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, about the recent death of Major Hilary Jones who was a member of the RBL committee for as long as I can remember. That is the latest of the deaths reported among Gulf veterans but it is of course nothing like the first. The Lancet figure up to July last was 395.

    In an article last July, the Lancet concluded that the excess mortality rate of Gulf veterans was not statistically significant, a point which was questioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. It also stated that the excess, compared with the comparison group of those who were not deployed, related largely to accidents rather than to disease. Nevertheless, the RBL has not been prepared to leave the matter there and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and to Colonel Terry English of the Royal British Legion for all their work, most recently for a most valuable visit to the United States in October. Their report shows that the United States has had as many problems as Britain, including failures in record keeping.

    I also pay tribute to Lord Effingham. My noble friend Lord Attlee regretted that there were few speakers in today's debate. Lord Effingham, who is no longer with us following the changes to your Lordships' House, played a most valuable part in all the work on problems arising out of the Gulf war.

    It is clear that the various programmes carried out in the United States do not always produce a single recommended course of action. After 10 years, the chief concern is inevitably to manage the limitation of veterans' illnesses rather than to determine the causes, although of course that may well be the same thing.

    The American Institute of Medicine report regarded DU with pyridostigmine bromide, sarin gas and vaccines as the most obvious causes of illness, but that is not totally accepted by the Department of Defense. Nothing is certain. It is clear from the report of the RBL committee, which was well received by medical and political experts at a high level, that in the United States there is as much concern and as little real knowledge about the causes of the problem as here.

    There can be no doubt that HM Government take the matter extremely seriously, but many questions remain unanswered which I hope the Minister will be able to answer. How does one persuade those who served in the Gulf and who are ill to report the matter when that may damage their career prospects either in the services or outside? How does one make it easy for someone who wants help to gain easy access to an expert? How does one train GPs to detect the symptoms of the various problems and refer their patients to someone who can help? How does one reduce the costs faced by those who look for help and may have to travel long distances to obtain it? These are not the only "hows"; there are many more.

    An important step has been taken to answer these "hows" with the introduction of the MoD website in 1998. Among other things, that is linked to the US Gulflink site. I hope that the Ministry will look at ways in which it can further enhance the information provided on the Gulf illnesses website, including facilitating contact between veterans. Perhaps that would breed harmony between the various associations which, as I believe the noble Countess would admit, is not perfect at the moment.

    The Ministry may also find it advantageous to make greater use of the medical assessment programme and its data. It might be pie in the sky, but it would be immensely helpful if all veterans could be seen to determine whether the symptoms demonstrated by patients were representative of the whole. All these matters will increase veterans' confidence in what is being done for them.

    I hope that the Ministry now accepts that it should thoroughly review the way in which it provides medical assistance to Gulf veterans and take full account of their views. The Ministry has an obligation so to do. In the meantime, I again pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to whom we owe this debate, Colonel English and all at RBL and Professor Malcolm Hooper and all those who have done so much to help. Above all, their work is a memorial to Major Jones and other Gulf veterans who now suffer or have suffered, if not because of their service, at least after it.

    9.33 p.m.

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    My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester who once again has provided an opportunity to debate the Government's policy on Gulf veterans' illnesses. His interest in the subject is well known and respected. I believe that this evening we have had a valuable opportunity to take a broad, and in some senses deep, view about the problems which have arisen. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in tonight's debate. This debate is particularly timely in view of the Statement in another place last week by my colleague the Minister for the Armed Forces concerning depleted uranium, to which most noble Lords referred during their remarks this evening.

    It is important not to overlook the vital work that continues into other aspects of Gulf veterans' illnesses, as most noble Lords recognise. Since our previous debate on this issue on 26th January last year a great deal has been achieved, and the next 12 months should see a substantial amount of new research material for us to assess. I stress that research is vital if we are to understand what has happened, help those who have suffered and mitigate any risks in future. Last May a team from Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Medical School published a paper on the hypothesis that multiple immunisations were associated with later self-reported ill health in Gulf veterans. More publications are expected from the team this year, including the results of clinical examination of 400 Gulf and other veterans who took part in the questionnaire-based Phase 1 of the study.

    The King's College proposals for Phase 3 of their study have recently been approved by the Medical Research Council. Phase 3 will involve a longitudinal follow-up study of UK Gulf veterans to determine whether their overall health has or has not improved as time has passed.

    In July last year a team from Manchester University reported the results of an MoD-funded study into mortality rates among Gulf veterans. The study found that over an eight year period from 1st April 1991 to 31st March 1999 out of a total cohort of 53,462 the number of deaths and the causes of death in the comparison group who did not deploy to the Gulf were similar to those recorded among Gulf veterans; that is, 452 deaths among Gulf veterans as compared with 439 in the control group. The Gulf cohort has experienced fewer disease-related deaths than the control group—156 compared to 190—but more deaths due to external causes, particularly road traffic accidents, some 289, compared to 239. That is something which the MoD is researching further. I can give my noble friend Lord Morris the latest figures on the sad deaths which have occurred. As at 31st December 2000, 477 Gulf veterans have died, but so also have 466 of the control group who did not go to the Gulf.

    Another MoD-funded study, under Dr Patricia Doyle at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is examining the reproductive health of Gulf veterans and their partners and the health of their children. Results from the study are expected to be available later this year.

    The programme of research initiated by the MoD to investigate the possible adverse health effects that might result from the combined administration of the Nerve Agent Pre-treatment Set tablets and vaccines used during the Gulf conflict is also making progress. That is the research referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. He will be disappointed when I tell him that the final results are not expected until 2003. But this is an enormously complicated study and in order to undertake it thoroughly that is the time needed by the medical experts.

    In addition, the MoD has published three papers; the medical assessment programme passed the 3,000 patient mark; and over 2,500 GP information packs have now been sent out.

    As the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, said, we are keeping veterans up to date with developments. The first edition of the Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit's newsletter came out just before Christmas and the website continues to be widely publicised and regularly updated.

    In May last year the House of Commons Defence Committee published its report on the progress that the Government are making on the issue of Gulf veterans' illnesses. The Government believe that the observations made by the committee were well balanced and acknowledged the complexity of the central scientific issues. The report's recommendations were in the Government's response published by the Select Committee on 3rd August 2000. That response is wide-ranging and I commend it to your Lordships.

    All noble Lords who have spoken today have referred to the possible health effects of depleted uranium and, in particular, the suggested link between exposure to depleted uranium and the illnesses being experienced by some Gulf veterans.

    In answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in March 1999 the Ministry of Defence published a paper entitled Testing for the presence of depleted uranium in UK veterans of the Gulf conflict: The Current Position. It explains that, although it is possible that small quantities of DU dust may have been inhaled or ingested by some UK troops taking part in the Gulf conflict, we believe that the health risks, both radiological and toxic, to be small.

    On 19th December 2000, the US Department of Defense published a second interim environmental exposure report on depleted uranium in the Gulf. That report concluded that the available evidence does not support claims that DU caused or is causing the illnesses that some Gulf veterans are experiencing. Indeed, the updated estimates indicate that exposures of the kind UK troops might have encountered—for example, working in or around tanks struck by DU—were far below any applicable US safety guidelines.

    Depleted uranium is a very dense heavy metal. It results from the uranium enrichment process, and because the majority of the more radioactive isotopes are removed in the process, depleted uranium is about 40 per cent less radioactive than natural uranium. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that we have long recognised that on the battlefield depleted uranium debris might present a hazard from chemical toxicity, in the same way as any heavy metal such as lead might do so, and a low-level radiological hazard. The risk from chemical toxicity would arise from ingestion of the soluble depleted uranium oxides, and the radiological risk primarily from inhalation of the insoluble depleted uranium oxides. These risks arise from the dustcreated when DU strikes a hard target such as an armoured vehicle. I am told that it would be necessary for a depleted uranium fragment to be in continuous direct contact with the skin for 250 hours before any statutory UK radiation dose limit for exposure of the skin of employees aged 18 years or over would be exceeded. Even in a tank fully loaded with DU ammunition—DU ammunition before it is fired—over 1,500 hours' exposure would be required before any crew would receive a radiation dose above the UK limit.

    Because of its density and metallurgic properties, depleted uranium is ideally suited as a kinetic energy penetrator for use in anti-armour munitions. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, rightly said that the munition provides a battle winning military capability. Alternative materials are not as effective at piercing the armour of main battle tanks. Therefore, depleted uranium will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because when this country commits our troops to conflict we fight to win. Our troops need the best available equipment to enable them to do that. To deny them that legitimate capability would be quite wrong.

    The noble Baroness referred to reports in the weekend press about the UK and US withdrawing DU ammunition. It is not true that the ammunition is being withdrawn in that sense. It is true that it is being replaced by the Navy with tungsten ammunition. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Park, that that is not because of concerns about safety. Rather it is because trials have shown that for this requirement—the Navy Vulcan Phalanx Close-In Weapons System—tungsten ammunition provides a longer range and a higher probability of bringing down its targets. The targets are missiles, not armour-plated vehicles. DU is needed and will still be needed to penetrate the armour of main battle tanks. When I saw those press reports, I, like the noble Baroness, thought that tungsten might be an answer about which someone had not fully briefed me. However, on being fully briefed, I am assured that it is being used for a quite different purpose from that which we are discussing here, which is the penetration of armour.

    We have a two-pronged policy for testing Gulf veterans. We will test any veteran for body load of uranium if the need is clinically indicated. Of the 3,000 plus patients who have attended the MAP, only two patients have so far needed to be tested under these arrangements. Their results were normal. We have also offered to test independently for depleted uranium the 30 or so Gulf veterans whom we believe had tests performed in Canada. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, there have been arguments about how this should be carried forward. I am sorry to say that not all our approaches on this matter have been positively received by the Gulf veterans'organisations. But we remain open on the protocols that we have sent them and we hope that there will be a positive reaction to them.

    Last week the Government announced a new initiative to help to reassure our service personnel who have served in the Balkans. The initiative involves, in consultation with appropriate national bodies, identifying an additional voluntary screening programme for our service personnel and of course for civilians who served in the Balkans.

    Details of the most appropriate form for this programme will have to be worked out, but I can assure my noble friend Lord Morris that unless independent scientific advice—I stress, independent scientific advice—is to the contrary, this programme will be equally applicable to Gulf veterans. I hope that that assurance will be of some comfort to him.

    Furthermore, I can assure the noble Countess, Lady Mar, that the form of such a voluntary screening programme will be based on the best possible science and that we shall consult with the appropriate national bodies such as the United Kingdom National Screening Committee at the Department of Health and, of course, the Royal Society, which represents another valuable source of independent research on this issue. We hope to be able to complete those consultations by the end of March. I shall then be happy to discuss with any noble Lord who feels that important points need to be put forward on screening any point that he wishes to put forward on this subject. In specific response to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, we hope that the Royal Society working group will report early in the summer.

    I hope that, in the short time available to me, I have been able to provide some reassurance to noble Lords as regards the way forward. I do not believe that any noble Lord should underestimate the importance that the Ministry of Defence attaches to the health of all our servicemen and women and to the health of all our veterans, as well as the importance we attach to the announcement we made last week. It is our business to be as open as we can, but to base all our conclusions on real scientific advice and, wherever possible, sound and solidly based research.

    I hope that all noble Lords will know from experience that I remain happy to discuss any of these issues. I shall be delighted to discuss any points noble Lords wish to bring forward on the way in which the screening programme announced last week can be taken forward.

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    My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, what is the current position as regards the attributable reservists scheme?

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    My Lords, the answer to that point, which I have in my papers, is fairly lengthy. Perhaps the noble Baroness will indulge me. I shall write to her and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House. I am also conscious of the fact that other detailed questions have been put to me, for example, the questions raised by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, on issues such as those on Professor Lee and other matters which I have noted in detail. I shall write to all noble Lords where I have been unable to reply in detail on any specific points.

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    My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask briefly whether she will say that the symptoms of DU poisoning are expected from the Gulf veterans; in other words, what is expected to be reported. They need to know because there is presently panic in the community.

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    My Lords, I am sure that the noble Countess knows that one of the most frustrating aspects of the illnesses reported by Gulf veterans is that there is no single stream of symptoms. I am sure that, were I by implication to exclude certain symptoms, the noble Countess would be the first to say that that was not right, fair or proper. The best thing that I can say to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, is that if individuals feel unwell and if they believe that they are suffering from illnesses caused through their service in the Gulf, then that should be looked at sympathetically. I shall certainly discuss this further with her if she would find that helpful.

    Kent County Council Bill Hl

    A message was brought from the Commons that they have made the following orders:

    That the promoters of the Kent County Council Bill [Lords] may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable to it shall be deemed to have been complied with;

    That, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, a declaration signed by the agent shall be deposited in the Private Bill Office, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill brought from the Lords in the last Session;

    That the Clerk in the Private Bill Office shall lay upon the Table of the House a certificate, that such a declaration has been deposited;

    That in the present Session the Bill shall be deemed to have passed through every stage through which it passed in the last Session, and shall be recorded in the Journal of the House as having passed those stages;

    That no further fees shall be charged to such stages.

    Medway Council Bill Hl

    A message was brought from the Commons that t hey have made the following orders:

    That the promoters of the Medway Council Bill [Lords] may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable to it shall be deemed to have been complied with;

    That, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, a declaration signed by the agent shall be deposited in the Private Bill Office, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill brought from the Lords in the last Session;

    That the Clerk in the Private Bill Office shall lay upon the Table of the House a certificate, that such a declaration has been deposited;

    That in the present Session the Bill shall be deemed to have passed through every stage through which it passed in the last Session, and shall be recorded in the Journal of the House as having passed those stages;

    That no further fees shall be charged to such stages.

    House adjourned at twelve minutes

    before ten o'clock.