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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, has the noble Lord had the opportunity to look at the definition of the word "independent" in the Oxford English Dictionary? If he has not, perhaps I may remind him that it says:

Does the noble Lord believe that to be a fair description of the Trident fleet?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord's question is irrelevant and rather silly. The simple question is: can we or can we not use our independent nuclear deterrent? The simple answer is that we can: it is under the ultimate control of the Prime Minister at all times.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, if my question was silly, the noble Lord's response was ludicrous. Under what circumstances would the Prime Minister remove our Trident fleet from NATO and use it independently?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not have to answer that question. The important point is that he can use it if the national interest so requires.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, does the Trident missile depend on United States' satellites for targeting? If that is so, and the United States refused to give access to its satellites, would our deterrent still be independent?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the targeting is under our own control.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is not the truth of the matter that "interdependence" is the right word to describe the position of Trident and to some extent of the American nuclear missiles as well? There is a large degree of interdependence. Is the noble Lord now prepared to admit that?

Lord Henley: My Lords, since the 1958 agreement there has obviously been a considerable degree of

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co-operation between both countries. But co-operation between the two countries does not affect the operational independence and the use of that weapon.

David Rundle: Parole Board Recommendation

2.49 p.m.

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have overturned the decision of the Parole Board to detain David Rundle, a mandatory life prisoner recalled to prison last March, in an open prison for one year.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, the Parole Board recommendation was rejected because Mr. Rundle was considered to be an unacceptable risk for open conditions following his recall to prison in March 1994.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that that is one of the most pathetic Answers ever given by a Minister from that Bench?

Noble Lords: No!

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I cannot think of a worse one. Is the noble Baroness aware that Mr. Rundle was recalled to prison last March—nearly a year ago—without having committed any criminal offence? Is she further aware that after eight months' consideration the Parole Board, having twice considered the case, came to certain conclusions? Can the Minister tell us whether the Home Secretary has any information which was not available to the Parole Board in November?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I do not regard considering the safety of the public or the public interest as being a pathetic reason for overruling a decision of the Parole Board. The vast majority of recommendations made by the board are accepted by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, but Mr. Rundle was recalled because of concern about public safety following police and probation reports that he posed a danger to a vulnerable woman. Mr. Rundle had a history of volatile relationships with vulnerable partners. Mr. Rundle's deception in continuing the relationship bore similarities to the events surrounding his murdering his wife in 1978. He did not co-operate when on licence. He ignored advice from his probation officer and a formal letter from the Home Office about his unsuitable relationship with a woman. He deliberately misled his probation officer by continuing the relationship in secret. All the information that was available to my right honourable friend is made available to Mr. Rundle himself.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that her original Answer was thoroughly sensible and her second answer conclusive?

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, does the Minister believe that that nonsensical intervention by the noble

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Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, helps her case at all? He knows nothing whatsoever about Mr. Rundle, whom I have visited for 13 years. What the noble Lord believes he can contribute is beyond me. But does the noble Baroness agree that the truth is that all this information was available to the Parole Board after eight months' consideration and that the Home Secretary, knowing absolutely nothing about it, reached a different conclusion? That is the situation.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Earl is absolutely wrong in what he says. To say that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary knew nothing about the case is totally wrong. All the information available was given to my right honourable friend. He takes advice from all his legal colleagues in these matters, including the Lord Chief Justice. Certainly part of that advice comes from the Parole Board; but consideration of the public interest and public safety must be paramount. I believe that I have made it clear that there were very good reasons to be concerned about Mr. Rundle.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I accept that I know far less than either the Home Secretary or the Parole Board about this matter. The supplementary question which my noble friend Lord Longford asked, however, was as regards the information available to the Home Secretary which was not available to the Parole Board. The noble Baroness did not answer that question.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I did answer it. Hansard will bear me out. I said at the very end of my answer that all the information that was available to my right honourable friend was also made available to Mr. Rundle.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that does not answer the question. The question was this: what information did the Home Secretary have which the Parole Board did not have, not which Mr. Rundle did not have?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there was no information that the Parole Board would not have had. It can consider as much information as it wishes in order to come to a conclusion. My right honourable friend is the long stop in these matters. He takes information from the Parole Board, but he also has a specific responsibility in law to consider the public interest as well.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, so the Minister is confirming that the Home Secretary had no further information than that which was available to the Parole Board but simply made a different judgment. Therefore, the question becomes political. Is this the right system, when an amateur politician can overrule the views of those who are paid and expert in these matters?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, all the information which the Parole Board wishes to have to come to its conclusion comes from the police and the probation service and it can also call for information. As regards Mr. Rundle, it asked for further reports. Mr. Rundle and

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his solicitors took three months to present that information. The decision was held over until it was received. It was fully considered and all the board's deliberations were made available to my right honourable friend, who in law is accountable to Parliament. He has the long stop decision to make, taking advice from his legal colleagues, including the Lord Chief Justice, in coming to a decision about the public interest, which he is specifically charged to consider.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Home Secretary, like other Ministers, is responsible and accountable to Parliament and that public safety is the responsibility of Parliament?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that is absolutely true. It is a specific obligation in law laid on my right honourable friend which he carries out to the letter. I have also made the point that in the vast majority of cases my right honourable friend accepts the advice given to him by the Parole Board. As regards Mr. Rundle, he considered that the public interest had not been fully met.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, the Minister has referred twice to the Lord Chief Justice. Do I take it that he was consulted in this case? That sounds a most unusual proceeding in a parole recall case.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, no. I was making a general comment that my right honourable friend can take information from the Lord Chief Justice as regards release. I cannot comment now on whether he did so in this case, but I can write to the noble Lord.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sure it is my fault, but can the Minister make the situation clear, at least to me? Is it right that when the Home Secretary came to his decision he had no information which had not previously been made available to the Parole Board?

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