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Lord Carter: My Lords, as this is the noble Earl's last appearance with the agriculture brief, perhaps I may thank him from this Dispatch Box for the unfailing courtesy and helpfulness that he has shown in his three-and-a-quarter years at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and wish him well in his new post.
In the circumstances, perhaps it will be appropriate if I ask the Minister an easy question today. Does he agree that the common fisheries policy, as it has developed, is beginning to make the common agricultural policy look like a beacon of common sense and sweet reason?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord. I too have much enjoyed and appreciated our exchanges over the Dispatch Boxes over the past three-and-a-quarter years. I very much appreciate the constructive way in which he has approached our exchanges. In reply to the noble Lord's question, to put it at its mildest, the CFP is far from perfect. In particular, it is too bureaucratic. As I have said, we are reviewing our approach to it and shall continue to press for improvements. However, there are benefits as well as drawbacks to the CFP and any changes will need to be considered with great care.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that since many fish migrate between waters near the shores of different countries, regulation and restraint are what matter most in the areas in and near north-west Europe because fishing methods and technology are now lethally effective?
Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend draws attention to an extremely important point. Although one may have capacity targets, total allowable catches and technical conservation measures, they have to be enforced properly. It is perhaps a truism to say that fish are no respecters of boundaries, but the CFP is a more effective vehicle for policing those boundaries and the entitlements of member states than unilateral action could ever be.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, is the Minister aware that efforts to reduce fishing by decommissioning seem to be more than outweighed by the efficiency of the vessels which catch the fish? As there is considerable evidence, as submitted to the North Sea ministerial conference, that supplies of cod in the North Sea are likely to fall below what is renewable, what do the Government propose to do?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the Government's decommissioning plan is only part of a raft of measures which we hope will deliver the necessary results in terms of conserving stocks, which is most important. The Government recognise that in the longer term the state of North Sea cod stocks remains a matter of concern. It is important that total allowable catches are set at prudent levels. However, given the large size of that stock, which at current reduced levels still numbers over 500 million fish, and its extensive distribution, it is not thought likely that North Sea cod will become extinct, as has been predicted in some quarters.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Malawi Government are obliged to give Dr. Banda and his co-accused a fair and public hearing. We expect those obligations to be fulfilled completely. We shall be monitoring the trial and note that the defence counsel is British. There are no grounds at this stage for us to make representations.
Baroness Macleod of Borve: My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for her helpful Answer, perhaps I may also thank her on behalf of the people of Malawi for all that she has done over many years to help that very poor but very beautiful and kind country. However, in view of what she has just said, is my noble friend aware that on 14th February 1995 the Director of Public
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am always pleased to do all that I can for poor countries in the world. I was, of course, aware of the comments that had been made on the BBC, but not all comments that have been made on the BBC and in other places about that situation have been wise or accurate. We have sought to ensure that the trial is properly conducted. We have through our "Good Government" initiative arranged training in the UK on the conduct of jury trials for Malawian judges, including Justice Mkandawire who is presiding at this trial.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, may I ask the Minister to bear in mind that this country of ours is looked on throughout the world as the country that created democracy and decent justice? To that extent, will she add to the excellent statement that she has just made by assuring the House that we shall attempt to get the support of all democratic countries on this issue? I believe that our country can provide that lead and that we shall be supported.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, this is a very vexed issue but, as the noble Lord knows, we have not only sought to promote sound democracy in emerging countries, but to ensure that they have the training and the institutional capacity to run a proper judiciary which has due respect for human rights. It is critically important that human rights are properly respected both in Malawi and other countries. There have been improvements in the past year or so in Malawi. Where democracy is to flourish, it is right that there should be freedom of the press, freedom of speech and full regard for the courts of law.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Dr. Banda is a very old man with a very long and distinguished record of public service? Will she assure the House that Her Majesty's Government are watching carefully to see that, if he has to be put on trial at all, he has a fair trial?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we are all aware of the many years of dutiful service that Dr. Hastings Banda has given to Malawi. We have been at pains to ensure that any trial, and particularly this trial, is conducted properly. The trial is now expected to start on 10th July when the judge will hear pleas. The jury selection is planned for 11th July. The whole world's eyes will be on the conduct of justice in Malawi. That is absolutely right and proper.
Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that merely because of the tyranny and repression which characterised the previous regime it is tremendously important that this trial, of all trials, should be conducted in a way beyond reproach? Does she realise that she will have the full support of this side of the House in ensuring that that happens? Will she inform the House how much priority is given within the aid budget towards strengthening the administration of justice as part of good governance in the third world, to which the Government are committed?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. He is absolutely right: this trial must be conducted in a way that is beyond reproach. That is why the United Kingdom has focused much of its support for good government on the proper training, for jury trials, of judges and of others. I can give the noble Lord details of the training attachments: six High Court judges and two Supreme Court judges are being trained in this country; and three jury trial workshops are being conducted in Malawi to ensure that that happens. I am glad that we have the full support of the Opposition. All the work that we are doing in institution building in Malawi and other countries is designed to make them self-sufficient in running a system which is responsible and which enables every person to be heard before a court, with a proper defence, and that they be judged innocent until they are proven guilty.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this or the next Bill standing in my name on the Order Paper and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee on either of them. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I shall beg to move in each case that the order of recommitment be discharged.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of recommitment be discharged.