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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, what he has said tonight is entirely at odds with

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what his noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell said, speaking for the Labour Party in January on this very same Bill. He had no disagreement in principle; he fully supported the Bill; he exhorted the then Conservative Government to accept it; and if they could not accept it through problems of timing, would they declare openly that they would bring it forward in a new Parliament? What has changed?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, what has changed is this. We have examined further the preparations being made for the foundation of the international criminal court. We believe, having examined the arguments both ways, having studied the various material available to us, that that is the proper way forward, as I believe the noble Baroness still thinks is the proper way forward.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene again. That is entirely right; the noble Lord has used all the arguments consistent with those that I used on that occasion. I was not supported by the Labour Party on that occasion. I merely wondered what had changed. Very little has changed. The noble Lord and his colleagues were as conversant with the information at the time. It seems another incredible U-turn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not accept that at all. We believe that having examined the advice we have received, to which we were not privy at that time, having considered various ramifications, of which we did not know the full detail at that time, having seen the state of the negotiations with our international colleagues about the approach of the ICC, to which we were not privy at that time, we have reached the conclusion which I expressed tonight and which I believe is a correct one.

8.25 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, as the noble Lord anticipated, I do find his reply very disappointing, not only in the light of what his noble friend said on a previous occasion but of what I believe to be the present Government's greater commitment to human rights than that of their predecessors. I therefore expected a rather more sympathetic attitude from this Government than I received from the Tories on 30th January. I was not surprised to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, repeating the arguments against the extension of extra-territorial jurisdiction, which were the main thrust of the opposition to my Bill by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, on the previous occasion. I had already pointed out that this report, which claimed to be a thorough exposition of the arguments for the extension of extra-territorial jurisdiction, entirely ignored crimes of universal jurisdiction. I thought that a rather important omission on which the noble Baroness might have commented.

These crimes of universal jurisdiction are crimes that can be dealt with either by the international criminal court or by the domestic courts of member states, and that is the way forward--not simply to rely entirely on

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the international criminal court, which, as the Minister said, still has some way to go before it can come into operation.

I am surprised that the Minister is not in a position to tell the House a little more about what instructions are to be given to officials attending the conference which will take place next month. They will have to make up their minds whether they want Common Article 3 to be included in the draft code of crimes.

The other question that I put to the Minister, to which he did not reply, was whether the draft code of the International Criminal Commission should be incorporated into the statute of the international criminal court. If the conference decides that it should, then it contains Common Article 3 offences as part of the crimes over which the international criminal court would have jurisdiction.

Everybody who has examined this matter agrees that the international criminal court will not be able to handle all these cases by itself. There will have to be complementary jurisdiction between the international criminal court and the domestic courts of member states. While I quite agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that that imposes some additional obligations on us in terms of the resources that will be required and the burden on collection of evidence and presentation to the court, I do not honestly think that is a serious objection when we consider that so far under the provisions of Clause 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 there has not yet been a prosecution against a person who commits torture in a foreign country. That is because of the intrinsic difficulty of bringing

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witnesses here, collecting evidence, and arresting the person responsible. The same will apply if this Bill comes onto the statute book.

I heard nothing from the Minister this evening which causes me to ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Bill. I believe it deserves to have a further airing. We may be able to improve it in Committee. We can promote greater discussion of whether or not there should be domestic legislation parallel with that of the international criminal court if we continue with our discussions in Committee and on Report than if I were to withdraw the Bill now. I believe that the Minister will at least concede that is a useful function for the Bill to perform and that the public should have greater knowledge of what is being done in the international community.

No one knows about the conference to be held next month to talk about the international criminal court. No one has even begun to think about the question of complementary jurisdiction. If we do nothing else in continuing with the progress of the Bill, we shall perhaps persuade some of the public, including the noble Lord's colleagues in the legal profession, to give the matter further thought. I beg to move.

On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

National Health Service (Private Finance) Bill

Returned from the Commons earlier this day agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes after eight o'clock.

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