|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): What proportion of people who are giving the Government cause for concern came to this country illegally? Of those, how many would be returned if memoranda of understanding could be reached? What will we do if the courts decide to strike down those memoranda of understanding?
Mr. Clarke: I do not have figures on the first question. The hon. Gentleman's third question contradicts his second, by which I mean that the role of the MOU and how it operates and how effective the MOU is in returning people to countries from which they have come depends entirely on the court judgment of the integrity of the MOU process. His two questions are related. I cannot require a court to agree with my decision purely because an MOU is in place. However, in a case that I make to a court, I can point to or conclude an MOU and try to operate in accordance with it. I cannot prejudge how a court will decide to interpret a particular MOU.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that experience shows, certainly over the past few years, that however much co-operation he seeks from the Oppositioneven from the Liberal Democrats on a good daythe problem is that the writ does not extend to the House of Lords. On almost every single issue of this kind, that has been a stumbling block. I do not know what my right hon. Friend will do about that, but it is a problem. Finally, the biggest poser is the political question: someone's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.
Mr. Clarke: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's comments. His point about terrorist or freedom fighter is exactly the issue that the UN is addressing, and it is why some of our hon. Friends pressed the need for a new look at the definition of terrorism in the debates on the legislation last year. It is a difficult problem, because the question for freedom fighters is how their fight for freedom is undertaken and who is brought into the firing line. I accept my hon. Friend's point and it needs to be part of the process.
On my hon. Friend's first point, he is a far more experienced parliamentarian than I am, but I regret to say that it is not simply a question of what has happened in the other place. In this House, we have seen some sharp exchanges in some debates. I never make political comments about the Lib Dems or the ConservativesI eschew that pleasurebut I hear what my hon. Friend says and there is much substance to it. All parties would do themselves credit in front of the public if they took the issues seriously, addressed them directly and could not be accused of political point scoring.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):
Terrorists cannot commit their atrocities unless they are funded to do so. Is the Home Secretary satisfied that the present
2 Feb 2006 : Column 489
controls over the international financing of terrorism in this country are strong enough? Does he intend to bring forward further legislation in that area and is he satisfied that we receive sufficient co-operation from the EU in those matters?
Mr. Clarke: We have already made legal changes in relation to the financing of terrorism for the reason that the hon. Gentleman expresses. Of course, the question of whether those controls are adequate is something that we can address if new legislation is required. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I have worked closely together to try to achieve a regime that attacks the funding sources of terrorism. I am satisfied with the co-operation of the European Union on this matter. Indeed, one of the acts during the British presidency of the EU was a resolution at the Justice and Home Affairs Council just before Christmas, which was brokered and led by Britain, to reach agreement on several measures to counter terrorism, including measures on terrorist financing of the type that the hon. Gentleman describes. Of course, the question of turning all the intentionsthe law, the action plans, the declarationsinto a tight working relationship is always an area where more work needs to be done, and we are focusing very much on that.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): I am pleased that the word "pruning" was mentioned in regard to this statement, because while we need robust legislation on terrorism, it is possible to build the walls too high and over-legislate, which affects our civil liberties and our daily lives so that the terrorist wins long after the bomb has gone off. I welcome the fact that we will be able to review the legislation.
In comparison to the victims of the 7/7 bombings, who received good compensation, the Britons who were affected by the bombings in Egyptcarried out by the same terrorist groupreceived no financial support. Would the Home Secretary advise the House on the Government's intentions on that point and will it be addressed in the new legislation?
Mr. Clarke: Measures on compensation could be included in such legislation if that is what the House wishes. I know of the hon. Gentleman's own family losses to terrorism in relation to certain events. It is difficult to decide how far the international obligations run and what the relationship is between a compensation scheme, such as the criminal injuries compensation scheme, and the insurance principle. There has been much discussion in Government about that matter to see how we could make progress and we will set out any proposals that we have in due course. I do not think, however, that there is a simple equity between somebody who loses their life on the London underground and someone who loses their life in a terrorist atrocity in some other country, whether it be in Sharm el-Sheikh or Bali. It is a difficult issue.
On the overall approach, legislation certainly benefits from being clear, and that is one of the arguments for a codification, which would at least lead to a reduction in the quantity of words andI hopea gain in the clarity of the legal intent.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I fear that I may have inadvertently misled the House on Monday. In Church Commissioners questions, I mentioned the funding of cathedrals and the fact that they are not funded by the state. I said:
I have now received a letter from the Venerable Chris Liley, the Archdeacon of Lichfield, saying that unfortunately that is not the case. Although the suggested payment is £4, the amount contributed by visitors is only 80p and is given by a little under half of those who come in. It would seem that people are loth to give donations, even when voluntary
Michael Fabricant: My point of order is that I wish to set the record straight. I did not wish to mislead the House and I hope that you agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the people who visit Lichfield cathedral appear to be rather mean.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek some further advice on an important matter for my constituents. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health have stated that the maximum waiting time for NHS in-patient treatment is six months. My local hospital has just announced the cancellation of 579 operations and 2,849 out-patient appointments and has confirmed that in-patients will not be treated within six months. I tried, through parliamentary questions and letters, to clarify the situation. Can you give me any further advice?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a matter directly for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman must persist through the normal channels available to Members of Parliament. My suggestion would be that he apply for an Adjournment debate and make his point to the appropriate Minister in that way.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): As Minister for the armed forces I have the privilege of working with and meeting our servicemen and women on a day-to-day basis and know that they are the finest in the world. The nation is fortunate to have them. In an uncertain and difficult environment, they stand ready to respond to any challenge, whether in support of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans or elsewhere, or assisting in civil disaster relief, such as in the aftermath of the Pakistan earthquake or the 2004 Boxing day tsunami.
As the House will be aware, following the recent deaths of Lance Corporal Allan Douglas from the 1st Battalion the Highlanders and Corporal Gordon Pritchard from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, 100 British personnel in Iraq have now lost their lives, 77 of them as a direct result of hostile action. Our thoughts go to their families, friends and loved ones at this difficult time.
As well as those who have tragically lost their lives, we should not forget those who have been injured. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence made clear on his visit to injured service personnel, some 230 UK personnel have been treated at UK medical facilities in theatre for wounds as a result of hostile action between March 2003 and December 2005. Over the same period, some 40 UK service personnel have been categorised as "very seriously injured" as a result of injury in Iraq, whatever the cause, meaning that their life was imminently endangered. Between February 2003 and December 2005, about 4,000 military and civilian personnel were medically evacuated from theatre, the majority of whom were not casualties of hostile action. Given the focus on that issue, I assure the House that the Ministry of Defence is taking steps to ensure the accuracy of our information on casualties, which we will publish in the next few weeks.
Our care for our personnel is world-class and it will continue to be so. I know that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the men and women of the armed forces in Iraq and elsewhere who have done, and continue to do, a tremendous job serving their country.
Despite those tragedies, we cannot let ourselves be distracted from the job to be done in Iraq, where we are acting to assist the Iraqi people and their elected representatives. We must honour our commitment to the Iraqis and we will leave once our job in Iraq is doneonce the conditions for the handover of security to the Iraqis have been met and we, the Iraqi Government and our coalition partners are confident that the Iraqi security forces can operate without our support.
The UK also remains committed to the emergence of a prosperous, democratic, secure and stable Afghanistan. We have already transformed the country from a pariah state that harboured international terrorists into a functioning democracy. For the first time in 36 years Afghanistan has both a democratically elected President and Parliament.
2 Feb 2006 : Column 492
Life for ordinary Afghan people has changed and is continuing to change for the better. More than 6 million children are back in education, a third of them girls, and many thousands of children have been immunised against serious diseases. We are seeing the staged progression and development of the ISAFinternational security assistance forcemission across the whole of Afghanistan.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|