|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hoon: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's consistent and well-balanced approach to a difficult issue and her efforts to highlight it reasonably and thoughtfully. I shall re-examine the Select Committee's recommendations.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Is it not the case that, although Saddam Hussein was isolated internationally 10 years ago, the American-British action is currently isolated? Does it not worry the Secretary of State that a regime as murderous as that of Saddam Hussein can gather international prestige and support? Does that not suggest that there must be a better way of approaching the matter? Will the Secretary of State inform hon. Members of any observations and suggestions about the American-British action that he has received from members of the Security Council?
Mr. Hoon: I simply do not recognise the world that the hon. Gentleman describes. I cannot think of any country that regards Iraq as having "prestige", to use his word. The international community's position was set out in resolution 1284, which is supported by a range of international opinion. If Saddam Hussein chose to accept it, it could lead to Iraq's restoration to the international community.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Does the Secretary of State accept that there should be some consistency in policy in the region? In that context, can he explain the reason for his belief that he has the legal authority to bomb Iraq while uttering no criticism of Turkey for its frequent military actions against Kurdish people, incursions into Iraq and denial of Kurdish people's human rights? Similarly, there is no condemnation of, let alone action against, Israel's development of weapons of mass destruction, which is well known, and equally contrary to any United Nations resolution.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): No one envies the Secretary of State his difficulties in framing a policy--difficulties that were evidenced by his problems in replying to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). However, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the longer the Anglo-American strategy of no-fly zones continues, based on legal authority to prevent a grave humanitarian crisis, the flakier it becomes while it is difficult to establish a direct link between the no-fly zones and the stability of the Kurdish autonomous zone and the condition of the Shi'a people in the south? The thesis of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) almost needs to be tested for Anglo-American strategy to continue through military action on the ground. Does the Secretary of State accept that this cannot continue for ever as an Anglo-American military strategy unsupported by anyone else and with no other strategy in view?
Mr. Hoon: That might have been an interesting intellectual analysis if the hon. Gentleman had not reached a rather lame conclusion. We are considering not a military strategy, but a strategy for ensuring the prevention of a grave humanitarian crisis in the northern and southern no-fly zones. There would be no need to resort to military action if our aircraft were not attacked when fulfilling that humanitarian responsibility. We responded to protect those aircraft, and to allow them to continue to protect people on the ground. That is not a military strategy in the sense that the hon. Gentleman describes.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that intelligence information suggests that biological weapons, which we know Saddam Hussein will use without compunction against the Kurdish people, are currently being manufactured? Does not that
Mr. Hoon: Without in any way wishing to confirm the premise of my hon. Friend's observation, I certainly agree that it is important to have an effective inspection regime. That is why we worked so hard to incorporate such a regime in resolution 1284. We must have the strongest suspicions about what Saddam Hussein is trying to do inside Iraq, given his previous history. In those circumstances, it is right that we should be allowed an inspection before relaxing the sanctions in any way.
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): The Secretary of State mentioned support from Kuwait and from the international community for UN resolutions. However, if the position on the bombing is as clear in international law as he suggests, and the logic of that bombing is as clear as he suggests, why does he think that international support for that bombing has been non-existent?
Mr. Hoon: I do not accept that it has been non-existent. I have set out the reasons why it is necessary for us to protect our aircrew while they are performing a humanitarian task over the northern and southern no-fly zones. That remains clearly justifiable in international law.
Mr. Desmond Browne, supported by Fiona Mactaggart, Ms Sandra Osborne, Mr. John Robertson, Mr. Jim Murphy, Mr. Eric Joyce and Mr. David Stewart, presented a Bill to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to establish a register of drug trafficking offenders; to prescribe the circumstances in which, and by whom, the register may be consulted; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 23 March, and to be printed [Bill 50].
The Criminal Defence Service (Advice and Assistance) Bill seeks to clarify two points arising out of the Access to Justice Act 1999. It has become apparent that the powers taken in that Act are likely to be insufficient to maintain the current levels of legal assistance available to those involved in criminal investigations and proceedings. It is essential to remedy that so that we can bring in the criminal defence service. I want to place on record my gratitude for the support that the Bill has received from all parties in the other place, and I hope that it will not be contentious today.
First, there is a doubt that the interaction of sections 13 and 14 of the Access to Justice Act allows for advice and assistance to take the form of advocacy in certain proceedings. Secondly, the Bill would ensure that advice and assistance were available to those involved in criminal proceedings, rather than only to those involved in criminal investigations.
Criminal legal aid is currently governed by the Legal Aid Act 1988, which makes it possible for those involved in criminal proceedings or investigations to receive advice and assistance, including limited representation in court or in certain other hearings. That is known as advice by way of representation, or ABWOR, which is commonly used in a magistrates court at first hearing. The Government always intended that that important form of limited representation should continue to be available when the relevant provisions of the Access to Justice Act were brought into force on 2 April 2001. These provisions replace criminal legal aid with representation orders from the new criminal defence service. The criminal defence service is to be administered by the Legal Services Commission, which is the successor to the Legal Aid Board.
During the drafting of the detailed secondary legislation necessary to support the new criminal defence service scheme, my officials raised doubts as to whether the Access to Justice Act achieved all that was intended. As hon. Members may recall, the Access to Justice Bill was amended considerably during its passage through this House and another place in response to issues raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The original draft of the Bill would have maintained the provision of advice by way of representation. One inadvertent result of those amendments--which was not spotted by anyone on either side in either House at the time--appears to be that the continued provision of limited representation in those circumstances would probably not be possible.
The Bill therefore clarifies the extent of the Legal Services Commission's duty to fund advice and assistance as part of the new criminal defence service from April. The limited form of representation for which the Bill provides will be known as advocacy assistance, and it will