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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand the concerns that led to the moving of this amendment. There is the particular concern that, while those in Scotland will have on the face of the Bill a right of appeal to a higher court, people in England and Wales will have that right only through subordinate legislation. I should like to make it very clear at the outset that there is no question but that a right of appeal will be available to the High Court in England and Wales. Placing that right in regulations is simply a practical arrangement designed to cope with the fact that provisions governing what happens to an appeal are currently being reviewed. The review affects England and Wales only.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, was certainly correct to say at Committee stage that, as part of the review, the main rules of court had already been published. They have and they will come into effect on 26th April 1999. The provisions which appear in the schedules to the rules, however, re-enact existing court rules. The schedules are still under review by the Civil Procedure Rules Committee.

The provisions which will govern appeals from the High Court in England and Wales are found in Schedule 1. They, in turn, re-enact provisions found in Order 55 of the Rules of the Supreme Court. Order 55 applies to cases where an appeal lies by or under any enactment. They are general provisions covering many types of appeals from courts, tribunals and other decision makers. We are particularly interested in the provisions which govern what the High Court may do with an appeal. The provision of Order 55 enable the court to give judgment or to remit the matter for rehearing and to make further orders. Order 55 specifically provides that its provisions have effect subject to any other provision made by or under an enactment. We do not at this stage anticipate making

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any further provision for NHS charges appeals to the High Court, because the provisions in Order 55 cover the matter.

It would, however, be unfortunate if NHS charges appeals were always bound to follow general provisions without the flexibility to ensure that the system properly meets the needs of parties to the appeals and the court, especially when we do not know how the provisions found in Schedule 1 to the rules will look in the future. An important element of the scheme is that we want to work with insurers to ensure that it operates well for all parties. Removing the flexibility about appeals would endanger that aim.

Some concern was expressed in Committee that the provision in Scotland is somehow stronger than the provision which applies in England and Wales. I hope that I have satisfied your Lordships as to why there is a need for regulations in England and Wales. However, I understand that in Scotland it is simply not necessary to make provision for the Court of Session to remit the matter being looked at by the court to a tribunal; it is part of a court's inherent jurisdiction. So the Scottish rules of court do not deal with the matter at all, nor do they need to. As a consequence, regulating powers are not necessary for Scotland.

I conclude by repeating that there is no question but that a right of appeal will be available in England and Wales to the High Court.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply which was extremely clear; indeed, it even amplifies the terms of the letter to which I referred. In making that clear to me, he has effectively answered in the affirmative the question of whether or not it would be possible to have a right of appeal despite the fact that regulations may not be made. Therefore, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Clause 11 [Provision of information]:

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Clause 14 [Regulations governing payments into court, etc.]:

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 9, leave out lines 19 and 20.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in speaking to this amendment I should like simply to make one comment. In Committee I raised the issue of payments into court because it seemed to me that Clause 14(2) of the Bill was saying that regulations would treat all payments into court as though they were compensation; in other words, all payments into court would trigger the 14-day period within which the NHS charges had to be collected. However, I now understand that that is not the case. Indeed, I am grateful once again to the noble Baroness for what she said in her letter about this matter.

I now realise that the regulations which will be brought forward will distinguish between instances where a payment into court does constitute a compensation payment and instances where it does not.

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Having said that, I should like simply to add that I am entirely content. We await perusal of the terms of the regulations when they emerge. I beg to move.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I follow the noble Earl in thanking the Ministers for the letter on this subject. I am very impressed by the sheer ingenuity displayed within the Department in terms of their approach to the payments into court. We had quite a discussion in committee about the whole issue and it was a little difficult to see quite how regulations would bite on payments into court. This does clarify it and it is reassuring that it will be enshrined in this level of detail in the regulations. On that basis I would agree that these amendments are unnecessary.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, perhaps I may simply thank the noble Earl and the noble Lord for their comments. These possibly quite complicated matters will be covered in the regulations.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]


Baroness Amos: My Lords, before we move to the Statement on events in Uganda I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.


4 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement on Uganda which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

    "Madam Speaker, with permission I will make a Statement on the recent kidnappings in Uganda.

    "I must first say to the House that these events occurred in a remote part of Uganda and we do not yet have official corroboration of the most recent developments. We will of course make further public statements as we receive confirmation, but the House will wish to hear what is known so far.

    "Yesterday morning 14 tourists, including six British nationals, were abducted from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the Kisoro District of Uganda. In addition to the British nationals, those abducted included US, New Zealand, Canadian, Australian and Swiss nationals. Several others who were present at the time of the attack, including one British citizen, managed to avoid capture. Those who

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    did so returned to Kampala last night, where they were all debriefed and offered support by the British High Commission.

    "As soon as we learned of the abductions we were in immediate touch with the Ugandan authorities. Our High Commissioner told the Ugandan Foreign Minister that we expected every effort to be made to achieve the rapid and safe return of those abducted. He made clear that there should be no intervention which might put lives at risk. The Foreign Minister gave us that assurance, and undertook to keep us fully informed. Two members of the High Commission travelled to the area to liaise with the local authorities.

    "This morning we received reports that some of the hostages had been killed, but that others had been rescued. I regret to inform the House that our present information is that four of the six British nationals were among those who were killed. The whole House will wish to join with me in expressing our deepest sympathies to their relatives and families.

    "We are seeking urgent clarification from the Ugandan authorities of the circumstances in which these deaths took place. It is not yet clear whether the Ugandan military intervened directly, but if that is confirmed we will want an immediate explanation of how this happened despite the assurances we were given yesterday.

    "From our interviews with those who escaped we believe that the abductors were a rebel group opposed to the present Government of Rwanda, and operating from over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the first such incident in Uganda, although last August the same rebel group seized a number of tourists, including one British dual national, who had strayed over the border into the Democratic Republic.

    "Our travel advice for Uganda was last updated on 19th February. It warned:

    'Rebels are periodically active in Uganda/Rwanda/Congo border areas around Kisoro District. Although the situation is currently peaceful, it can change quickly'.

    "Yesterday, in the light of these kidnaps, we revised our travel advice to warn against all travel to these border areas.

    "My honourable friend the Minister of State for Africa has just returned from an extended trip to nine countries involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In each of them he pressed the need for a negotiated settlement and underlined the willingness of the United Kingdom to do all we can, both in the European Union and the Security Council, to support such negotiations. This latest tragedy demonstrates the distressing human cost of that continuing conflict and the urgent need for a settlement."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.4 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and I should like to associate these Benches with the Government's sense of shock and outrage at the tragic

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outcome of this unprovoked attack on British tourists in Uganda. Our first thoughts must go to the families of those involved who have been anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones. To the families of the victims we extend our deepest sympathy.

It seems that history has repeated itself as the tragedy in Yemen is now mirrored by events in Uganda. There still remains much uncertainty about the exact chain of events which led to these tragic deaths. I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is vital that this uncertainty is cleared up as soon as possible for the sake of all those involved.

Can the Minister give an assurance that when our High Commissioner saw the Ugandan Minister of State yesterday he made it clear that above all the Government sought a peaceful end to the hostage affair? I note what the Foreign Secretary has said in his Statement, but perhaps the noble Baroness the Minister could elaborate as to whether he stressed the importance of mediation and the importance of avoiding a rescue attempt which could be botched and which could cost the lives of innocent men and women. Were offers to mediate made and what co-operation was asked for or received from other western diplomatic posts? Can the Minister say how the French authorities, through their deputy ambassador, Anne Peltier, were apparently able to negotiate the release of all the French hostages and some Australians? Can the Minister confirm that a member of the High Commission staff, together with Ugandan officials and American colleagues, will be flying to the scene to ascertain exactly what happened and to establish the exact chain of events which led to the death of the tourists? Does the Minister agree that the reports that the British and American tourists were deliberately singled out for mistreatment by their captors are extremely disturbing?

I totally understand the position facing the Minister and the Government in terms of details available to the Government at this stage, but is the Minister in a position to be able to confirm these reports and can she shed light on what motivated the Hutu rebels in this way?

I am grateful to the Minister for outlining the Foreign Office's travel advice. Keith Betton of the Association of British Travel Agents has said that, while the Foreign Office advised people of the potential dangers, he felt that the advice was not clear and referred to armed robberies and hi-jackings rather than to abductions. Of course, although those who travel to dangerous places do so at their own risk, I am sure that the Minister would agree that they must be in no doubt from the Foreign Office's advice that the regions which they are visiting are potentially hazardous. However, given the recent kidnappings of foreigners which have ended in tragedy in Chechnya, Yemen and now Uganda, does the Minister feel it is timely to review the detail contained within, and indeed the quality of, the Foreign Office's travel advice?

This incident is a stark reminder of the wider theatre of bloodshed in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The conflict there is real and dangerous. Unchecked, it is raging on and threatens to engulf the entire region, denying all Africans who live there any hope of peace and prosperity. It is incumbent upon us to work with those

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governments who share our values in order to help them establish the rule of law and political systems which respect human rights, democratic values and liberty itself.

4.7 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, we on these Benches would like to echo the sympathy that is being expressed on all sides of the House to the relatives and families. I would also like to associate those feelings with my noble friend Baroness Williams of Crosby who would have taken this Statement if she could have done.

From the information available it seems to me that the advice given by the FCO was entirely in accordance with the situation that existed at that time. It is extremely difficult to provide information for all parts of Africa and it has been my experience in the past that the FCO has always given a judged and well valued opinion. It is extremely unfortunate that this area has now become unsafe due to the activities of this rebel group.

I hope very much that the Government will express their appreciation of those Ugandan soldiers who were killed in the rescue attempt. Sometimes it is too easy to lay the blame for the deaths of people who are taken hostage at the doors of those who would have rescued them. When we consider the nature of the rebels who took the hostages, it would be extremely unfortunate not to thank them for and recognise the sacrifice the Ugandan soldiers made in trying to rescue the hostages. It is obvious that mediation with this group of rebels is extremely difficult, as they have few political objectives. It seems that this was a well planned and co-ordinated attempt to kill people and to destroy property at the camp. I hope that the one thing this tragedy will have achieved will be to redouble the effort to restore peace to this extremely troubled region of Africa.

4.10 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Redesdale, for their comments. I join with them in expressing sympathy to the families who are caught up in this appalling tragedy. The agony those families must be suffering is compounded by the uncertainty, alas, as to who has been so tragically killed. There is also much uncertainty as regards the exact circumstances in which these appalling events took place. It must be an agonising time for the families until we are able to bring a little more certainty to the position.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked me about the way in which our High Commissioner had dealt with this issue with the Ugandan authorities. The High Commissioner stressed to the Ugandan authorities that every effort should be made to secure the rapid and safe return of the hostages. Alas, we have all too sadly in recent weeks had some unhappy experiences with British tourists being taken hostage. I assure your Lordships that our paramount concern in all these incidents is the safety of the British travellers who are caught up in these appalling events. That was made absolutely clear yesterday to the Ugandan authorities. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, in acknowledging that others have been killed in trying to secure the safe return of the

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hostages. I say to the noble Lord that we do not have the details of what exactly has happened. There may be a number of conflicting reports. It would be quite wrong for me at this Dispatch Box to make any authoritative statement on what has happened until we are absolutely clear about the details in this case.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked about the position of the French. As I understand the position, no French hostages were taken. I believe that a deputy high commissioner from the French post was a tourist at the time. We shall have to get some details on that before I say anything more on the point. I hope that the noble Lord will bear with me until I am able to give him and indeed the House a fuller explanation. That also holds good for the reports that he, and I expect other noble Lords, have seen with regard to the singling out of United States and United Kingdom citizens. It is terribly important that we get some certainty on this. At the front of my mind--I am sure it is at the front of all noble Lords' minds--is the fact that British families are waiting for advice on what has happened. That advice must be accurate.

The noble Lord referred to the travel advice. The travel advice on Uganda was focused on different parts of Uganda. A clear section of the advice referred to the Kisoro district and mentioned the periodic activity of the rebels there. Up until these appalling events occurred, the position was peaceful. However, it was pointed out that this could change quickly. We constantly examine this travel advice. We shall continue to do so in respect of Uganda and indeed other areas which may be affected by this activity.

We held a useful seminar in the Foreign Office last week on the way in which the Foreign Office pulls together travel advice. As I say, that is done on a regular basis. We received some useful indications from members of the travel industry as regards what they would find helpful. We stressed to the travel industry and to those who travel abroad that travel advice is what it says it is; namely, it is advice. That is all we are able to give. There are no guarantees involved in giving advice. I believe that everyone who travels to this remote area does so because it is remote. That is part of its enchantment. There is wildlife to see there which in so many other parts of the world simply does not exist.

I agree strongly with what both the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said about the absolute importance of focusing every effort--as my honourable friend the Minister of State has done during his recent trip to the area--to try to find a peaceful solution to the appalling conflict that is raging there around the border area and which is spilling over so tragically to involve totally innocent tourists.

4.16 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I rise to support the Minister in what she has said. I apologise for missing the Statement, which I have just read. I am sure the noble Baroness will agree that it is crucial that people realise that all the Foreign Office can ever do is to issue advice, as she has just said. This area has always

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been notoriously uncertain, shall we say? It forms the triangle between what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

I, too, express sympathy for the families involved. Having dealt with some of these situations in the past, I can well understand what they must be feeling. However, I urge the Minister--I believe she is inclined to do this--not to make any further announcements until we have some certainty about the situation. This will take time. I have travelled to that area, but not deep into the park, and I know how difficult the communications are. I am quite certain that Michael Cook, the High Commissioner, will do everything he can to resolve this matter as quickly as possible. However, we must be certain about what has happened.

Will the Minister and her colleagues make it quite clear to the British tourist authorities--whoever they are--that at no time can the Foreign Office do more than advise? It is quite wrong to try to hold--as I heard one commentator do--a high commissioner or any of his staff responsible because people entered this region. That is just simply not possible. If one travels to uncertain regions where we know there have been machete wielding Hutu rebels, one runs a risk. It is as simple and as short as that.

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