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Sir Wyn Roberts : It is too soon to assess the overall effect of this winter's weather on the lambing season. Lambing is still in progress on many upland farms where the most recent spell of warmer, drier weather should have eased some of the problems.
Mr. Carlile : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his answer. Given the terrible weather of late March and early April, will he keep an open mind ? If it can be shown that this year's losses were higher than could reasonably have been expected--taking into account business risk --will he then consider the possibility of special weather aid payments ?
Sir Wyn Roberts : That is why we have special payments--particularly for upland farmers, who must contend with special problems. Those difficulties are taken into account in the autumn review, after we have considered exactly how problems such as the current ones involving lambing have affected farm incomes.
Mr. Gapes : Is it not about time that the Government put some serious pressure on the Denktash regime in northern Cyprus, directly and through Turkey, to secure Mr. Asil Nadir's extradition back to this country --or is it true to say that the £440,000 that Mr. Nadir gave the Conservative party is now reaping its rewards ?
The Solicitor-General : The Department of Trade and Industry drew that question to the attention of the Serious Fraud Office at the beginning of its inquiry. Having considered all the issues, the SFO decided to focus its attention on the frauds that are at present before the court.
I emphasise that the SFO--which is an independent prosecuting authority-- made its decisions without reference to Ministers or to the Law Officers. We would welcome any pressure from any quarter that would persuade Mr. Nadir to return to this country and stand trial.
Mr. Booth : Does not the law of extradition allow any fugitive from justice to surrender voluntarily ? In this case, should not every encouragement be given to Asil Nadir--who is currently besmirching the fine island of Cyprus and its fine people--to come back voluntarily and stand trial ?
The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : The Serious Fraud Office keeps its working procedures under review with a stocktaking after each case. The Government are also considering important recommendations by the Royal Commission on criminal justice, including the case for more detailed advance disclosure by the defence.
Mr. Mans : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, where possible, defence counsel should give a clear indication of their line of defence at the beginning of trials, in their opening statements, so that juries do not have to wait many months to find out ?
The Attorney-General : My hon. Friend has picked up an important point, which was made by the royal commission itself : once the defendant knows precisely what case he must meet, it is right that he should give a sufficient indication of his defence so that the jury knows at the outset what issues are to be tried and to be decided by it, rather than having to wait for many weeks--sometimes months--to find out.
Mr. Bermingham : Does the Attorney-General agree that the problem with the Serious Fraud Office has always been the over-complicated indictments that it prefers ? Should it not simplify those indictments, and go for the simple, main criteria of criminality ?
The Attorney-General : The problem that is always faced in such complex cases is to prefer the right charges so as to focus on the true criminality without either over-complicating the issue or so narrowing the focus that
Column 14justice cannot be done. The Serious Fraud Office has made great improvements in recent years in this matter, as its conviction record shows.
Mrs. Roche : If Lord Justice Scott finds that the Attorney-General was wrong to advise Ministers to use public interest immunity certificates in the Matrix Churchill case, will the Attorney-General resign ?
The Attorney-General : Lord Justice Scott's consideration of these matters involved a serious consideration of common law, on which there is a great deal of judicial authority. For a serious and thoughtful consideration of the matter, I recommend that the hon. Lady reads carefully the evidence before the inquiry, which she will find illuminating.
Mr. Matthew Banks : Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House on how many occasions in recent years a judge has had to decide which documents that are the subject of a public interest immunity certificate should be disclosed to the defence ? Was it on each and every occasion ?
The Attorney-General : Without any doubt, I can tell my hon. Friend that on every occasion when a judge in a criminal case has to decide whether documents that are the subject of a public interest immunity certificate should be disclosed, the judge will read the documents, consider them carefully and then decide. The notion that the system is designed to suppress documents is completely inaccurate.
Mr. Fraser : Will the Attorney-General answer the question that he felt unable to answer earlier? Why was the special nature of the certificate given by the President of the Board of Trade not drawn to the attention of the judge or defence counsel ? What steps is he taking to ensure that that sort of lapse does not occur again ? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he would resign if he was criticised by the Scott inquiry. How many of the Ministers who gave evidence to the inquiry share the Chancellor's view ?
The Attorney-General : The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. The special nature of the certificates signed by the President of the Board of Trade was expressly drawn to the attention of the judge by counsel--it leapt from the page. Nobody reading that specially designed certificate who had any understanding of the subject of public interest immunity could fail to realise that it was a special certificate designed to leave the decision on whether the documents should be disclosed to the defence to the judge.
Mr. Maclennan : Pending the report of the Scott inquiry, what arrangements has the Attorney-General made to strengthen his position when he has to advise his colleagues so that we do not experience problems in the interim ?
The Attorney-General : I had the benefit of the advice of junior counsel to the Treasury, now a High Court judge, and a leading Queen's counsel, then the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association. My advice was given with great care and with the best possible backing.
The Solicitor-General : Two persons charged with the murder of Anthony Alliss were acquitted on the direction of the trial judge at Bristol Crown court on 24 June 1991. After causing extensive inquiries to be made into the conduct of the prosecution, I am entirely satisfied that it was conducted to a high standard.
Mr. Knapman : I appreciate that my hon. and learned Friend cannot comment in detail on individual cases, but he will understand that, in this particular case, we have a body, an unfinished case and therefore no conviction. In the light of those circumstances, one must understand the feelings of the family involved. Will my hon. and learned Friend please try to ensure, however, that those circumstances do not occur again ?
The Solicitor-General : I congratulate my hon. Friend on the assiduous way in which he has pursued his constituent's interests in this case, but the trial was conducted by a High Court judge and the Crown was represented by a very experienced leader on the western circuit. After the judge had heard all the evidence, he concluded that it was not fit for the jury to consider. In a case of that sort, that is the end of the matter.
Mr. Bottomley : Can my right hon. and learned Friend recollect any suggestion from the media or any Opposition party in the past two or three years for a change in the law or the procedures of public interest immunity certificates ? If he cannot recollect any such suggestion--I certainly cannot--does not he think that they are merely trying to exploit a situation in which the law has been laid down by judges in court and duly followed ?
The Attorney-General : My hon. Friend is entirely right to say that the law in this sphere is the common law laid down by the high judiciary in the courts. I cannot recall any constructive observation from the Opposition at all.
29. Mrs. Browning : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Overseas Development Administration has taken to improve dialogue with non-governmental organisations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : The Overseas Development Administration recently helped establish a new network known as the British Non-Governmental Organisations for Development, or by the acronym BOND. We expect this to be an effective mechanism for non-governmental organisations to share information with the Government on how to improve the impact of overseas aid.
Mrs. Browning : Does my hon. Friend accept the grateful thanks of the Corona Society whose members recently accompanied me to see Baroness Chalker and who do an excellent job in many countries ? Will my hon. Friend explain to the House how he sees the joint funding scheme helping those organisations which work in very difficult parts of the world ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes, I am happy to confirm what my hon. Friend says. She is also absolutely right to say that the joint funding scheme is extremely well thought of in the Overseas Development Administration. It has nearly doubled in the past five years and in the current year we plan to increase its funding by 14 per cent.
Dr. Howells : But has the Minister spoken to the non-governmental organisations Oxfam and Action Aid about the murder of their workers in Rwanda where 100,000 people have been slaughtered in the past two weeks ? Why has Britain, which is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, agreed as part of the unanimous decision to reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in Rwanda from 2,700 to 270 ? Is there one level of compassion for our European friends in Bosnia and another for black Africans ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Every non-governmental organisation employee in Rwanda who wished to be evacuated has been. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is about to answer the next question on precisely that subject.
30. Mr. Donohoe : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures he will take to facilitate humanitarian relief to the victims of the conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : Since February 1993, we have provided £12 million ofemergency aid to Rwanda and Burundi, including our share of European Community assistance. In the past week, we have committed some £820, 000 through British non-governmental organisations for those suffering in the present conflict.
Mr. Donohoe : That is all very well, but, as my party's Front-Bench spokesman just asked, as the United Nations security force is doing absolutely nothing but is, in fact, withdrawing from an area that requires its assistance, when will the Government put pressure on the United Nations to bring back its troops to prevent further slaughter ?
Mr. Hurd : I am not sure how either hon. Gentleman supposes that maintaining a United Nations force on the original scale will help assuage those horrors. Have not they read the report by the Secretary-General on which the Security Council acted ? The Security Council concluded, on the advice of the Secretary-General, that it was no longer possible for that United Nation force to carry out its mandate in the form expected. Therefore, as happened some months ago in Angola in a slightly similar situation, it was decided to run down the force. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no magic in keeping troops there if there is nothing useful that they can do.
Mr. Lester : Will my right hon. Friend do everything that he can to assist the Organisation of African Unity in what has to be in the end a negotiated settlement--preferably negotiated by Rwanda's neighbours ? One attempt has been made already to bring the parties together. Will we offer all our experience and assistance to enable that process to begin ?
Mr. Hurd : Indeed, the initiative here is with the President of Tanzania. He called for a peace conference on Rwanda in Arusha on Saturday, but it did not take place in the form intended. He is renewing his efforts, and that must be right. The effort must be to bring an end to the fighting. That cannot be achieved, as has been proved, by the United Nations force on the ground. There must be an end to the fighting ; in the meanwhile, we shall do all that we can to relieve the human suffering. That is what the Community is doing.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We have provided more than £93 million in balance of payments support for Uganda's economic recovery programme since 1987, which has helped to ease the debt-servicing burden. We have also forgiven all Uganda's old aid debt to the United Kingdom.
Mr. Luff : Does my hon. Friend agree that his answer provides further evidence of Britain's excellent record on aid and debt relief to the poorest nations, such as Uganda ? Does he also agree that for countries, such as Uganda, which face serious debts to multilateral institutions, similarly enlightened attitudes will be required from other countries, especially Japan ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend is right. The Prime Minister was responsible for the Trinidad terms which have given enormous relief to many countries, including Uganda. We very much hope that Japan will join any Paris club consensus for improving the existing terms. I should add that Japan implements the existing Trinidad terms with other creditors and has made clear that it has a commitment to help developing countries.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Given that Uganda is one of the five poorest countries in the world, how is it logical and justifiable that over the next five years, Uganda will be repaying £200 million to the International Monetary Fund, one of the richest institutions in the world ? How can that be justified ? If it cannot be justified, what can we do about it ?
Mr. Hurd : We are working with the European Commission to improve the effectiveness of EC development expenditure, with some success so far. In the mid-term review of Lome IV, we are seeking changes that will also improve effectiveness, notably by directing funds more to those countries that can make best use of them.
Mr. Wells : Is not it true that the bank is now paying more in overheads than it is disbursing ? My right hon. Friend made vigorous representations at the bank board's recent meeting against that practice. When does he expect delivery of the European development fund programmes to exceed expenditure on overheads ?
Mr. Hurd : I think that my hon. Friend and I are on slightly different tracks. I am answering a question about the European fund for development. I think that my hon. Friend is asking me about the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I shall have to answer his question on the running costs of the EBRD at greater leisure.
Mr. Enright : On the European development fund, does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is a very good instrument for converting emergency aid into long-term aid ? I think especially of Mozambique. The moment that it gets off the front pages, people stop considering long-term needs. The EDF is well geared to satisfy those needs. I hope that the Government are working along those lines.
Mr. Hurd : It is certainly true that the EDF shares many of the objectives of our bilateral aid programme. I am very struck by the increase in our commitment to the EDF ; it was more than £440 million in 1992- 93. It is a very large part of our multilateral aid which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is growing as a proportion of the total. We need to be sure--surer than I am at the moment--that the priorities and effectiveness of the EDF are as great as those in our bilateral aid programme. That is why the mid-term review of Lome IV is so important.
33. Mr. Matthew Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Overseas Development Administration ensures that all aid projects are assessed for their environmental sustainability.
Column 20undertake an environmental sustainability assessment before making a decision on an especial aid project and that, when that has taken place, the decision will be taken with due regard to all factors, including economic factors and the quality of the programme under consideration ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes. Sustainable development is a central aim of the aid programme in all that it does. Environmental impact assessments are always conducted before any aid project is undertaken. Indeed, I should also add that many aid projects are designed to improve the environment. For example, forestry conservation and management projects improve the environment.
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