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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I should not like the House to feel that our villages are police-free zones. They are not. Over the past few decades the number of police officers serving in this country has generally increased. I remind noble Lords that the trends last year in terms of crime statistics show a 1.4 per cent fall in the number of crimes recorded by the police. Violent crime was down by 6 per cent, with a fall of 10 per cent--
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I understand the question perfectly. The figures I have given cover the whole country. I shall be pleased to ensure that the noble Countess receives a precise breakdown between urban and rural crime. If that is what she wishes to have, I shall ensure that it is provided.
Earl Russell: My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government know what percentage of those convicted of indictable offences have been disentitled to social security benefit and therefore are without legal means of support? If the Government do not know, will they try to find out?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Earl has asked a taxing question, and I am most grateful to him for it. I cannot give the answer he seeks today, but I shall find out whether such data are kept on record.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend accept my congratulations on the Government's initiatives? However, does he know that in some parts of the country the rise in crime has been enormous, including four offences at my own home over the past three months? Will he note particularly that in some areas elderly people living alone are at serious risk, which generates great fear? In one case known very well to me, a lady was so brutally assaulted that she spent more time in hospital--including a long period in intensive care--than the sentence given by the courts to the brutal thug who attacked her?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, first, I express my sympathy to my noble friend as it appears that he has been the victim of a minor crime wave. I should like to place on record the Government's continuing support for the endeavours of our hardworking police officers in their efforts to reassure the public, in particular the elderly and frail who are thus most vulnerable to crime. We must all play our part in supporting our police forces and those in the criminal justice system to ensure that the job is done properly.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the Government have placed human rights at the heart of foreign policy. We believe in the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core United Nations human rights instruments. We are committed to protecting and promoting these rights, working through our bilateral relationships and with our European Union and other international partners. In implementing this policy we take account of the individual characteristics of each situation, and seek to use the combination of approaches--of dialogue and pressure--that is most likely to secure real human rights improvements on the ground.
The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware of an article this week in the New Statesman by John Lloyd stating that the ethical dimension of our foreign policy launched just over two years ago by this Government is now in great danger? Can the Minister assure the House that she is fully seized of the importance of protecting human rights in this country, particularly as regards the right to peaceful demonstration? It is only by example that we can expect to influence others.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can give the noble Earl that assurance. The ethical dimension of the Government's foreign policy is in fact a set of principles that informs all aspects of our policy-making. That means that we now give higher priority to human rights issues in our foreign policy, and the Government have made real changes. We have introduced tougher arms export licensing criteria and we have succeeded in persuading other European partners to implement similar criteria. In June 1998 at a conference in Rome, noble Lords know that we played a role in the agreement to set up the international criminal court. Furthermore, we have increased our support for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. We have done a plethora of things to support the structure that ensures that human rights are a reality not only here in Great Britain.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall that in the FCO's mission statement published just after the Government came into office there was a promise to promote the values of human rights and democracy for others that we demand for ourselves? Can the Minister tell us precisely what the Prime Minister did for the people of Tibet when President Jiang came here?
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how often the by-law that forbids demonstrations in the Royal Parks has been invoked during previous state visits? When did the necessary consultation take place with the police on such an important decision affecting peaceful campaigners during the recent state visit?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot answer the first part of the noble Lord's question in relation to the Royal Parks, and I shall endeavour to contact him as regards that matter. In every other respect, I can respond to the issues raised by the noble Lord. There was no difference in the procedure and protocol used in the preparations for the most recent visit by President Jiang from those used for every other state visit. So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, nothing differed on that occasion.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I recognise that the Government have done considerable and challenging things for human rights. Indeed, the noble Baroness did not even refer to our involvement in Kosovo and East Timor which was very much to do with supporting human rights. However, will she consider two other points? First, occasionally speaking publicly rather than privately can be part of a dialogue, as President Clinton's speech in Beijing indicated. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister might think about that. Secondly, will she consider the idea of pursuing the issue of human rights with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which in many cases is an excellent route to reach the Government of China and which is much more open to discussion with other countries than are the formal Government of that country?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her supportive comments. I shall certainly take her recommendation very seriously into account. As I said earlier, Her Majesty's Government have done many practical things in relation to the dialogue. I know that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor himself went to China and signed a memorandum of understanding on future co-operation with the Minister of Justice there. We have
Moved, That the promoters of the Bill have leave to suspend any further proceedings thereon in order to proceed with it, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that notice of their intention to do so is lodged in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than 12 noon on Thursday 4th November next and that all fees due on or before that day have been paid;
That if the Bill is brought from the House of Commons in the next Session the agent for the Bill deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by them stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill which was brought from the Commons in the present Session;
That the proceedings on the Bill in the next Session of Parliament be pro forma in regard to every stage through which the Bill has passed in the present Session, and that no new fees be charged to such stages;
That the Private Business Standing Orders apply to the Bill in the next Session only in regard to any stage through which the Bill has not passed during the present Session.--(The Chairman of Committees.)