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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 20 December 1999


Mitrokhin Archive

Valerie Davey: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement concerning the consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service of the five cases covering the Mitrokhin archive and related matters which were referred to by the Home Secretary in his oral statement of 21 October 1999, Official Report, columns 587-99. [103901]

The Solicitor-General: In his statement of 21 October, the Home Secretary informed the House that, in the light of Mrs. Melita Norwood's recent statements, the papers in her case were being studied again by the prosecuting authorities. He also stated that four other cases were being considered. Those cases included those of Robin Pearson and John Symonds.

I can now inform the House that the CPS has decided not to refer the papers in any of the five cases to the police for investigation. The reason in each instance is the same, namely, that sufficient is known about the case to make it clear that any prosecution would fail. Having reached that view, it would be quite wrong for the CPS to ask the police to undertake a criminal investigation.

In the case of Mrs. Norwood, the intelligence information about her case would not be admissible as evidence; her statements to the media would probably be ruled to be inadmissible as evidence; there is little prospect of obtaining admissible evidence; and in any event any prosecution would probably be stayed on the ground of abuse of process. Similar considerations apply to the case of Mr. Pearson. In the case of Mr. Symonds, an immunity, granted by the DPP's office in 1984 in connection with inquiries into other matters, precludes a prosecution.

The Law Officers have been consulted about each case, and we agree with the conclusions reached by the CPS. Each decision has been made only after careful and detailed consideration.

It is not usual for the Law Officers to make announcements concerning their consideration of individual criminal cases. The rationale for this is straightforward. If it is considered that there is a case against an individual, and the public interest is in favour of a prosecution, then the proper course is to put the facts before the court and let justice take its course. If it is considered that there is no case against an individual, or the public interest is against a prosecution, then to give publicity to that decision will inevitably draw attention to the individual, attention which he or she may not welcome and which will not often be deserved.

In this instance, a different course is being followed because the allegations against the three individuals named in this answer have been given extensive publicity,

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and not to name them could only prompt speculation about whether a case against them is still being considered.



Mr. Dismore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what other methods of consulting solicitors as part of the "secret soundings process" for applicants to the judiciary and for silk he proposes to adopt following the withdrawal by the Law Society and other solicitors' bodies from that process. [103581]

Mr. Lock: The arrangements for consultation on candidates for judicial and Queen's Counsel appointments do not in any way constitute a "secret soundings process". The identities of consultees are published. The arrangements are a system for obtaining assessments of candidates against the stated criteria for appointment, and were substantially endorsed by Sir Leonard Peach in his recent Report. The Lord Chancellor is disappointed that the Law Society decided to withdraw from the consultation process and did so before the publication of the Peach Report. In fairness to solicitor candidates the Lord Chancellor will continue to consult such representative bodies as the Solicitors' Family Law Association, the Solicitors Association of High Court Advocates and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association. The Lord Chancellor also proposes to develop other channels of consultation, potentially including solicitors' firms, senior practitioners and local and regional Law Societies.

Child Abduction (Greece)

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what discussions the Lord Chancellor's Department has had concerning the interpretation and application by Greek courts of Articles 7, 11, 16, 24 and 30 of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. [103080]

Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor's Department has no concerns about the interpretation and application of the 1980 Convention by the courts in Greece. As a result there have been no discussions on this topic between the Department and its counterpart in Greece, the Ministry of Justice. There have, of course, been discussions about particular cases, but these have not revealed any points of more general concern about the application of the Convention in the Greek courts.

Derbyshire Magistrates Courts

Mr. Todd: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what value-for-money study has been made of the private finance initiative for Derbyshire magistrates courts; and if he will publish it. [102824]

Jane Kennedy: A Public Sector Comparator has been prepared and this value-for-money study will be used to evaluate the bids when they are received. I have no plans to publish this value-for-money study or details of the bids received due to their confidential nature.

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Departmental Research Contracts

Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many research contracts have been let by his Department since May 1997; what is the value of each contract; and in each case whether the contract included (a) a departmental veto over publication of the research results, (b) departmental control over the date of publication of the research results and (c) a requirement that the final research results incorporate departmental amendments. [100149]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 6 December 1999]: We have not let any science or technology research contracts over this period.

Departmental Buildings

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for each of the buildings under his Department's control how many rooms are set aside for (a) ethnic minority religious use, (b) pregnant and nursing mothers and (c) smokers. [102326]

Mr. Battle: Following is the information:

Rooms available for use by pregnant and nursing mothersRooms for smokers
Main Building London SW111
Old Admiralty Building London SW1(1)21
1 Palace Street London SW112
8 Cleveland Row London SW100
1 Carlton Gardens London SW100
Cromwell House London SW111
20 Victoria Street London SW100
Apollo House Croydon11
Hanslope Parks Bucks(2)36

(1) Following refurbishment

(2) This figure includes a creche

There are no rooms set aside for ethnic minority religious use. Similar information in respect of the Overseas Estate, which comprises over 3,800 properties in 184 countries, is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Chinese Government concerning (a) religious liberty in China and (b) the treatment of house church leaders in China. [102684]

Mr. Battle: We raise our concerns about freedom of religion in China during our regular high level bilateral human rights dialogue with the Chinese Government. This includes specific references to the treatment of house church leaders and followers of other religions on China. Freedom of religion was a particular focus of the last round of the dialogue held in September, which included a special session devoted to the subject of freedom of religious belief at which British and Chinese specialists exchanged views. The treatment of Falun Gong adherents was discussed during the State Visit and I raised this subject with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister in

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November. I also made clear our concerns about the freedom of religious belief in Tibet, and raised individual cases.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the role of the British Government in encouraging China to continue its process of political reform. [102702]

Mr. Battle: Since 1979 China has been engaged on a programme of economic modernisation and reform. This has led to wide-ranging changes in the economic and social structures of the country and has resulted in impressive improvements in the living standards of the people. While the focus has been primarily on economic reform there have also been reforms in the political and legal areas, with moves beginning to take place towards the greater democratic supervision and participation in decision making. These have included the strengthening of the role of parliamentary type institutions such as the National and Local People's Congresses, the introduction of direct elections at the village level, and the building up and strengthening of a more effective legal and judicial system. We encourage these processes and want to see the human rights of Chinese citizens properly protected in accordance with the international Covenants which the Chinese have recently signed. We have developed a number of co-operative programmes and projects with the Chinese, especially in the legal and judicial fields, designed to help strengthen the rule of law in China. We also encourage parliamentary and other exchanges in order to expose China to the example of democratic institutions and practices.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to promote tourism in Britain by Chinese citizens. [102700]

Mr. Battle: China is not considered a large potential market for tourism to Britain in the short term. The British Tourist Authority are keeping this under review. We welcome the increasing number of Chinese visitors to this country, both business visitors and students, and hope that eventually the Chinese will be able to enjoy Britain's tourist resources.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the progress in China's observance of human rights after the UK and China's human rights dialogue in September. [102703]

Mr. Battle: The last round of the bilateral human rights dialogue with China produced some useful and frank discussions, particularly on the rule of law and the death penalty. We remain concerned about China's record over human rights. We continue to believe that a policy of dialogue, combined with practical programmes of co-operation in areas such as the law and the judicial system, is more likely to bring about improvements in China's practice over the longer term. We make regular representations on human rights. Both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary discussed human rights with the Chinese during the State Visit. I had lengthy discussions on these subjects (including Tibet) with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister during my visit to Beijing in November.

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