Previous Section Home Page

The Attorney-General : The Court of Appeal has allowed appeals in the Guildford and Woolwich cases, as well as in respect of the Birmingham matter. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can sensibly expect me to go beyond the words of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in each case. As for his remarks about the purpose of those

Column 633

who set up Sir John May's inquiry, I can give an authoritative answer, as I was one of them. The answer is no.

Mr. Favell : Every conviction of an innocent person is a tragedy, not only for the person concerned but for his or her family and, of course, for the British judicial system. But it is also a tragedy when a person guilty of crimes as abhorrent as these gets away scot free. People worked hard to establish the innocence of those who were convicted. How much help has my right hon. and learned Friend received from these people to identify those who were guilty of the crimes?

The Attorney-General : I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his question. Those who have had their appeals allowed in these circumstances are entitled to the presumption of innocence, as is everybody else in this country. Equally, of course, when very serious crimes go unpunished, that is a very serious matter, and very much against the interests of justice. My hon. Friend made his point in the concluding part of his question.

Mr. Hind : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many hon. Members, in their capacity as members of the British-Irish parliamentary body, have been to Dublin and had discussions with members of the Dail and senior Ministers in the Irish Government about the Birmingham, Guildford and Woolwich cases? The Irish authorities are more than happy about the result and recognise the strength of the British legal system in its ability to rectify mistakes, regrettable as they are. It is a credit to the system that that has been achieved.

The Attorney-General : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who, I know, takes a close interest in these matters. I have close contact with Dublin-- particularly with my opposite number--and I know that there is ready appreciation there of the fact that the judicial system in this country led to the overturning of these convictions. There is also very ready understanding of the fact that all criminal justice systems depend upon the quality of the evidence that is presented.

Mr. John Morris : Will the Attorney-General confirm that, despite Sir John May's membership of the royal commission, the Government expect him to move swiftly to establish the facts and to report as quickly as possible? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that Sir John's report on the facts will not be subsumed in the royal commission's inquiry into wider policy or procedural questions? Can the Attorney-General say when the trial of the three police officers will take place? Can he assure the House that those trials will not be unduly delayed and that, in respect of those aspects of Sir John's inquiry, there are no other complications and that we can expect interim reports?

The Attorney-General : I am glad that Sir John May has agreed to serve on the royal commission. There is very widespread admiration for the quality of the work of his inquiry so far. The appointment of the royal commission will not preclude a very full inquiry by Sir John into the Guildford, Woolwich and Maguire matters. I cannot say when prosecutions, if any, will take place, but no one is the slightest bit anxious to delay any matter of this kind.

Column 634

Birmingham Pub Bombings

31. Mr. McFall : To ask the Attorney-General what recent representations he has received concerning the Birmingham pub bombings ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : I have received correspondence from one member of the public about this case since the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment.

Mr. McFall : Does the Attorney-General realise that, in 1975, the trial judge Lord Bridge, said that if the Birmingham Six were telling the truth, the police were involved in one of the greatest conspiracies in the annals of history? At the Appeal Court two months ago, it was stated that 14 police officers lied or their evidence was unreliable. One of the police officers is a superintendent in the complaints department of West Midlands police. When will the Attorney-General take action so that the criminal justice system can be seen to be upright and clean, and British justice can hold its head up high?

The Attorney-General : The hon. Gentleman must have missed what I said a few minutes ago. Last week, the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police delivered a report on the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Industrial Espionage

32. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss prosecution policy in cases of industrial espionage.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : English law contains no specific offence of industrial espionage, but those engaging in such conduct may incur criminal liability, depending on the circumstances. The decision whether to prosecute in any particular case is taken in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Has the Attorney-General discussed with the Director of Public Prosecutions the case of Mr. Gordon Layton of National Car Parks and of Jane Turpin of KAS, a security company, and the allegations made about their activities? They are alleged to have committed industrial espionage and to have stolen documents. Will there be a prosecution in that case?

The Solicitor-General : The Attorney-General and I do not make public our discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, on the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers, investigations are continuing but a report has not yet been received by the director.

Mr. David Martin : When and if my right hon. and learned Friend has an opportunity to raise with the Director of Public Prosecutions matters of industrial espionage, will he also see whether action can be taken against the perpetrators of notoriously false literature that circulated at a recent by-election? Should not the matter be investigated urgently before the perpetrators have a chance to flee the country?

The Solicitor-General : I think that I have already heard the Opposition make a statement from the dock on "Today" this morning.

Column 635



36. Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent visit by the Minister for Overseas Development to Brazil.

40. Mr. Arbuthnot : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the visit to Brazil by the Minister for Overseas Development.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : My second visit provided an important opportunity to see the environmental projects under our bilateral programme, and to discuss further co-operation with key Brazilian Ministers, scientists and institutions. Together with the Minister for Environment, I attended the special environment seminar hosted by President Collor and HRH The Prince of Wales. This is helping to advance preparations for the United Nations conference on environment and development in Rio in 1992.

Mr. Bottomley : Does my right hon. Friend agree with me and the Environment Committee that the perception of those issues, the resources and technical expertise matter, and that it is no excuse to cut overseas aid to the third world when things go wrong?

Mrs. Chalker : My hon. Friend is right, but the Governments of the tropical states need to ensure that their perceptions of what is going on are up to date with the issues. Donors can help with resources and technical expertise, and we shall definitely do so.

Mr. Arbuthnot : What help can donors give, and what help is the United Kingdom giving, to combat the growing urban problems in Brazil, such as the drift to the cities, slums and drug taking, which affect a quarter of all children in Brazil?

Mrs. Chalker : My hon. Friend is right. That is a major issue. By the year 2000, 75 per cent. of the populations in Latin America and the Caribbean will be urban dwellers. We are giving them help in Olinda in Brazil and are exploring urban environmental management projects in Sao Paulo, and we have projects to help street children through the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and Oxfam.

Mr. Dalyell : Does the right hon. Lady's visit confirm her belief that before the House of Commons goes into recess, it should debate the well-researched Select Committee on the Environment report on the rain forests? I am not a member of that Committee, but I feel that our colleagues have done an excellent job and that the report should be debated. On the right hon. Lady's letter of 17 April to me, what further possibilities does she foresee for the work of Salati and Lutzenberger?

Mrs. Chalker : I shall bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council the hon. Gentleman's request for a debate. As for my letter of 17 April, I have no more to report at present.

Dr. Kim Howells : Will the Minister say something about the problems that have beset many of the communities in Amazonia, where many of the laudable

Column 636

projects presently supported by the Government are taking place and where there is open abuse of human rights, including murder and torture? Will she give an undertaking to the House that the next time she meets the Brazilian authorities she will tell them that the money that this country donates to research projects in Brazil will very much depend on Brazil's human rights record and that this country will take measures designed to wipe out those barbaric practices?

Mrs. Chalker : I am well aware of what the hon. Gentleman says. I have already raised those issues with Brazilian Ministers, and shall do so again if necessary.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : My right hon. Friend will be aware that tropical rain forests contain many seeds and other products of great medicinal value, about which science is often as yet unaware. Bearing in mind that this country has Kew gardens and other institutes of worldwide renown, what assistance is it giving to the Brazilians to remove from the tropical rain forests, without damaging them, those products of great value which yield resources for the people in those districts?

Mrs. Chalker : We have approved a host of environmental projects, including those related to aromatic plant development and flood plain ecology and managements. I can assure my hon. Friend that, in all our work, we seek to develop the whole bio-diversity of the forests, not just trees.

Foreign Students

37. Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the number of foreign postgraduate students who study in British universities helped by Her Majesty's Government grants.

Mrs. Chalker : In 1990-91, Her Majesty's Government supported approximately 25,000 overseas students studying in the United Kingdom at a cost of £143 million. About 44 per cent.--11,000 students--were from non-Commonwealth countries. The majority of awards were at postgraduate level. We expect to maintain that level in the current year.

Mr. Wray : When Ministers appeared before the House of Lords Select Committee in 1989, it showed some concern at the dwindling numbers. Will the Minister assure us, as she assured the Select Committee, that the Government will be giving more aid to organisations?

Mrs. Chalker : I am not sure to which figures the hon. Gentleman refers, but in each category of scholarship--the ODA, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Council, Department of Education and Science and Department of Trade and Industry--the numbers have risen during the past five years, and I see no reason why that should change.

Mr. Wells : Do my right hon. Friend's figures include the excellent Institute of Development Studies, which many postgraduate students have attended, which has established a world-renowned reputation and which the ODA supports to a considerable extent from its budget?

Mrs. Chalker : The short answer is yes, and many other good institutions besides.

Column 637

Sir David Steel : Does the Minister acknowledge that during the past decade there has been a regrettable shift away from students from poorer overseas countries towards richer countries such as those in north America and the middle east? If that is true of the undergraduate population, is it also true of the postgraduate population?

Mrs. Chalker : We believe that the undergraduate population should best be helped within its own countries and that more specialised training, which can rarely be afforded overseas, should be given in this country. That is why there are more postgraduate students here than there were some years ago, but fewer undergraduate students, who can benefit from the courses and technical co-operation that we give recipient countries through our aid programme.

Disaster Relief

39. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provision has been made for disaster relief in the ODA budget for this year.

Mrs. Chalker : From within the existing aid budget for this financial year I have already allocated £94.5 million. On 29 April, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced a further £30 million addition to the aid budget.

Today, I am pleased to announce a further £30 million addition to the aid budget to be used for humanitarian relief in Africa and Bangladesh. I now look to other donors to follow our lead.

Mr. Campell-Savours : Perhaps I can be forgiven for asking the following question because you, Mr. Speaker, will know why I am asking it. Does the Minister have time to argue for moneys from the Treasury given that Mr. Andrew M. Smith, her former personal assistant, stated that it was impossible for the Minister to do a proper job for her own constituents?

Mrs. Chalker : The hon. Gentleman is making a very snide point. The prospective parliamentary candidate for Cynon Valley asked questions about the time that the hon.

Column 638

Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) spent in her constituency. I have made it clear that I spend every weekend that I can in my constituency, and I will continue to do so. I will not let the hon. Gentleman's remarks detract from the £30 million extra, making £60 million extra for the aid budget in the first two months of this financial year.

Mr. Wilshire : I have spent part of this morning at the warehouse at Heathrow airport which Heathrow Airport Ltd. has made available free of charge for storing clothes that are to go to Kurdistan. I know that my right hon. Friend is well aware of the tremendous job being done there. Is she aware that that warehouse is now full because of a lack of flights to get the donated goods to Iraq? Will she, therefore, meet me and others to see whether it is possible to make more arrangements for more mercy flights?

Mrs. Chalker : I am well aware of what my hon. Friend says. It has been somewhat difficult with some of the clothing and other donations because they were not acceptable to the recipient Governments. We have done all that we can--and will continue to do so--to get relief supplies through as they are needed. I will, of course, meet my hon. Friend. However, the system on the whole is working well when the countries will accept the goods that have been donated.

Mrs. Clwyd : Does the Minister believe that economic circumstances now permit an increase in the overseas aid budget to 0.7 per cent. of gross national product, which is the United Nations target?

Mrs. Chalker : I am interested to note that the shadow Treasury Minister, the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), said yesterday on television :

"0.7 per cent. is a goal and that we will do our best to meet it as resources allow."

I find that rather at variance with what the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) is saying. As the shadow Treasury Minister replied that the interviewer was nitpicking, I must respond by saying that I do not think that an increase of £2,000 million, however worthy the cause, is nitpicking.

Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page