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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No, I am not saying that. It is my fault for not explaining it adequately and clearly to the Committee. In order for the special post-Omagh rules to apply to a prescribed organisation, the organisation has to satisfy two tests: first, it has to be a specified organisation under Section 3(8) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act. That means that it has to be an organisation which in the judgment of the Secretary of State is not complying with a ceasefire. Under the rubric "IRA", two bodies presently are specified organisations: the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA. So the first condition for the special provisions to apply is for the organisation to be a specified organisation under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act. Secondly, the organisation must be a proscribed organisation under Schedule 2 to the Bill. Under Schedule 2, the Irish Republican Army will include the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA. As the Provisional IRA is not a specified organisation under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, although it is a proscribed organisation under this schedule, it does not satisfy the requirements of Clause 107 of the Bill to make the special provisions apply to it. I am sorry that the explanation is so complicated, but that is how we get there.

Lord Swinfen: What will happen if an organisation currently on ceasefire withdraws from the ceasefire?

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What will happen if a completely new organisation is formed which announces that it will not be on ceasefire?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: As far as concerns organisations which are presently on ceasefire but then cease to be on ceasefire, it will then be a matter for the Secretary of State, under Section 3(8), to determine whether it is a specified organisation in those circumstances; that is, one which is not complying with the ceasefire. If it becomes a specified organisation and is also proscribed under Schedule 2, the special provisions will apply to it. As to new organisations, I shall have to check to see what is the order-making power under the Bill. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord in relation to that.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Before we started the debate I thought I understood which organisations were in which category. I am now beginning to wonder. I apologise for pressing the noble and learned Lord further, but in response to my noble friend Lord Marlesford he explained that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA were part of the Irish Republican Army as listed in Schedule 2 and therefore were covered because they were also covered by the other provision. So the Provisional IRA and, for that matter, any parts of the Irish Republican Army other than the two I have mentioned, remain proscribed organisations. It is illegal to belong to them or to wear their uniform. There are also other matters covered earlier in the Bill. On the other hand, however, the powers in this part of the Bill do not apply to them.

Perhaps I may put the following point to the Minister. Let us suppose that the authorities of the Irish Republican Army disown at some point the Real IRA and/or the Continuity IRA--after all, some people closely connected with the IRA as a whole have already criticised the Omagh and Hammersmith Bridge bombs. If the authorities of the Irish Republican Army were to do that, that would mean that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA were no longer part of the IRA. We do not control who is part of the IRA; the IRA does. If the authorities of the Irish Republican Army threw them out, they would no longer be proscribed and for that matter no longer be covered by the provisions in this part of the Bill.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: With great respect to the noble Lord, that is completely the wrong way in which to regard Schedule 2. That schedule contains the phrase, "The Irish Republican Army". The question here is: what does that rubric cover? It covers the Real IRA, the Provisional IRA and the Continuity IRA. It does not depend on the precise relationship between those three groups; the issue is whether they are part of an organisation that properly falls within the rubric of the Irish Republican Army. The answer is that they would be, irrespective of what the relationship has been. This is a mechanism. It does not, as it were, depend on the precise relationship between the various groups.

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Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble and learned Lord for his patient explanation. I still feel that there is room for a degree of clarification and tidying up of the drafting here. After the earlier part of our debate on Schedule 2, I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, and I have received a response. I understand from that reply that Schedule 2 is to be amended and changed by an order to be brought in by the Government at a point soon after the Bill becomes an Act. For the purpose of today's debate, I should like to think over the matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 170 and 171 not moved.]

Clause 107 agreed to.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Sierra Leone

4.21 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

    "When I made the first Statement to the House, I announced that the British military presence would be of value in securing two objectives: to get British nationals out and to get more UN forces in. I am pleased to report to the House that we have made good progress on both objectives.

    "The UN force has expanded rapidly over the past month and by next week we expect it to be at its original authorised strength of 11,000. This successful build-up has been possible only because of the increased efficiency which the British presence has brought to logistical movements. We have provided security for the airport and provided a lead which has encouraged the UNAMSIL contributors to deploy quickly.

    "The security situation has much improved, in part because of the UK presence. The rebel advance on Freetown has been reversed and their leader is under arrest. All the 500 UN personnel who had been seized by the rebels have been released but we continue to watch with care the situation of Major Harrison and Mr Smith.

    "We remain on course for our target of withdrawal by mid-June. The first battalion of the Parachute Regiment has already withdrawn and we expect Four Two Commando to be withdrawn next week. At that point, security of Lungi airport will be transferred to the UN. At the weekend I spoke to Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, who

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    expressed his appreciation for what he described as the magnificent effort by the British troops in helping to stabilise the situation in Sierra Leone.

    "Much more remains to be done to ensure that the UN mission is not only at full strength but also an effective force. We will continue to provide valuable back-up to the UN operation, including better communications to its units and military advice to its headquarters.

    "The achievement of the past month has been to avert an immediate threat to Freetown. Sierra Leone, as a result, may have dropped out of the front pages, but we will secure lasting stability in Sierra Leone only if we, the international community, and the government of Sierra Leone follow through the gains of the past month with a sustained effort. We must also expect some local reversals before we succeed in bringing the conflict to an end. On Thursday I will be visiting Sierra Leone to explore with President Kabbah how we take forward our work in partnership. Today I wish to outline to the House our strategy for building on the progress of the past month. The strategy has three priorities: repel the rebels; restore the peace process; and rebuild Sierra Leone.

    "The first priority is to equip the government of Sierra Leone with an effective and accountable army of its own. Since the Lome agreement of last year, Britain has been the lead nation in training a new Sierra Leone army. We propose to accelerate our training in order to achieve a rapid boost in troop capacity. We will therefore be providing a short-term training team to provide an intensive infantry course for a thousand new recruits, all of them screened recruits over 18 years old. This training will be conducted by around 180 personnel drawn from 2 Royal Anglian. They will be supported by HMS "Argyll", RFA "Sir Percivale", which will provide communications and back-up offshore. In addition, 40 junior officers of the Sierra Leone army have this week commenced training in Ghana with the British military and advisory team there.

    "We anticipate that the intensive phase of initial training will be completed over the next two months. In the longer term, we will retain the lead in military training of the Sierra Leone army and in advising the government of Sierra Leone on structures for the democratic accountability of their army. We will be deploying shortly the lead elements of a long-term training team of around 90 personnel, but their full deployment will depend on establishing a secure environment.

    "The second priority is to restore momentum to the peace process. Before the recent return to conflict, over one-third of the armed groups had entered the disarmament process started by the Lome agreement. It is vital that the option of demilitarisation remains open to all those willing to lay down their arms.

    "The United Kingdom is by far the largest donor to the peace process in Sierra Leone and we have committed some £70 million from the development

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    budget. We will be seeking further support of other donors, including the World Bank, to help to match the resources required by the shattered economy and society of Sierra Leone.

    "The amnesty within the Lome agreement applied only to crimes committed before the date of its signature. It does not provide immunity for crimes committed in the recent conflict. The rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, is now under detention and must remain so until he is brought to justice.

    "The third priority is to reduce the incentive which the illicit trade in diamonds has provided for armed conflict in Sierra Leone. Diamonds have fuelled this war. The people of Sierra Leone remain among the world's poorest while the wealth of its diamonds goes to rebels. In the medium term, the objective must be to bring the diamond area under the control of the government and of the UN. In the mean time, we must take action outside Sierra Leone to regulate the trade in its diamonds. We are exploring with partners in the Security Council our proposal for a UN resolution banning the trade in diamonds from Sierra Leone except where they are certified as legitimate by the government of Sierra Leone.

    "Any action to halt the flow of diamonds out of Sierra Leone and the flow of illicit weapons into Sierra Leone would have a much better prospect of success with the co-operation of neighbouring countries, especially Liberia. I regret to inform the House that there is significant evidence establishing close links between the rebels in Sierra Leone and supporters in Liberia, and that Liberians are profiting from illegal diamond smuggling. We are consulting with the United States and the European Commission on how we can jointly step up international pressure on Liberia to close down its links to the rebels.

    "The position in Sierra Leone has greatly improved in the month since my first Statement to the House. British troops have made a big contribution to this turnaround. The whole House will want to record its appreciation of the professionalism with which they have carried out their duties and the commitment with which they have served in challenging circumstances.

    "But there remains a long way yet to go before Sierra Leone is free from conflict. The best way we can express our appreciation for the efforts of our troops is to make sure that we build on the gains that their presence has secured. We are determined to do so and we will continue to make every realistic contribution open to Britain. Our objective is to ensure that the people of Sierra Leone are offered a realistic prospect of stability and peace and are freed from the violence of a brutal rebel minority".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating this very full Statement by the Secretary of State on the situation in

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Sierra Leone. I completely support and endorse everything that has been said about the expertise and excellence of our troops and their skill in performing sensitive and complex tasks. I know that we expect nothing less of them, but it is always warming to see it in action. They will recognise that Members on all sides of the House feel very proud.

The Statement is meant to be about strategy. I confess that some of us find it no easier now to understand what is the long-term strategy towards poor Sierra Leone and all its agonies than we did previously. Is the aim to remain in Sierra Leone? What is the nature of the commitment referred to by the Secretary of State, or of his partnership with President Kabbah, as mentioned in the Statement? Is the main priority now the training of the Sierra Leone army, such as it is? Or is the main priority to stiffen the UN, which was the original idea? Which of those two will do the fighting that is continuing?

If the aim has now shifted slightly towards helping the SLA, that is quite a mouthful. The SLA is a chaotic organisation. It has rebel troops fighting alongside it as well as rebel troops shooting at it. The RUF is advancing, not retreating--it has just "nabbed" two more towns--and, of course, it is still in control of the diamond fields. So we need to know a little more about how that situation will be handled.

A stronger UN presence is obviously welcome. But are we now moving into a major long-term UN commitment? If so, where has the questioning been done--I hope, at the UN in New York--about where the forces and reinforcements in the longer term will come from to back up this operation? You cannot enter into such commitments without readiness to back them up with reinforcements if they go wrong, or if they become prolonged, which they invariably do. We need to know more about the part that we are playing in seeing that the UN gears itself up for what could be a massive and prolonged commitment in this part of Africa, aside from its other commitments all over the continent.

As to the question of "conflict" diamonds and the attempt to control them, we certainly wish that attempt well. I hope that it can be done. There is recognition that it is an immensely complex market. There is difficulty enough in tracking uncut diamonds, even with finger tracing and so on, but tracking cut diamonds is almost impossible. Although we are aiming for some UN resolution, I am not clear how in practice we distinguish between diamonds that are approved officially and which generate revenue for Sierra Leone or other states, and diamonds that are "unofficial". It will be a fiendishly difficult task. Then there is the problem of bringing Liberia into line, which was commented on in the Statement.

We must ask whether this commitment means more arms supply, and what sort of arms? How are we to ensure that they do not end up in teenage hands? It is fine saying that trainees should not be under 18, but

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how can we guarantee that? How can we avoid hair-raising stories of the kind filed by the Evening Standard journalist, Alex Renton, in his brilliant dispatches about young children being trained to kill?

Finally--I am sure that the noble Baroness expects this point to be made--in order to understand what will happen next and in the future, we need to understand a great deal more about what has occurred in the past. There is still a good deal of mystery about the Lome agreement and how on earth anyone ever came to do a deal with Sankoh and to put in place a butcher--which he is--as vice-president of a republic. Who backed that deal, and why did it happen? If we cannot answer those questions today, we shall have to return to them. Unless we understand what went wrong and ensure that it is not repeated, we shall not avoid other fatal mistakes in future of the kind that have led to so many deaths and so much tragedy and mutilation.

We welcome what the troops are doing. We welcome the effort to bring the diamond situation under control, which will be difficult. However, we still want to press the Government further on the question of our long-term commitment, and on what our partnership really is, in this benighted country and on how we can ensure that our undertakings and fine words are turned into action.

4.35 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Like the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I should like to express our great appreciation for what might be described as a classic operation by an outstanding group of British troops. Anyone realising the speed with which the situation has been stabilised and the change in confidence on the part of the Sierra Leone Government must be extraordinarily impressed.

On these Benches, we do not find the Government's motivation quite so difficult to understand. In a situation where, clearly, far too much of Africa is slipping towards anarchy, largely because of the commercial exploitation of oil, diamonds and other natural resources, it is essential that the rule of law is restored and maintained. We believe strongly that the United Nations must be an instrument in that, and that the Government are right in attempting to back the UN in this situation.

We are pleased to hear the decision that the training of the Sierra Leone army will be done by the Royal Anglian Regiment. Will training also be undertaken by other Commonwealth countries? Are we right in assuming that in the take-over in part from the British troops--many of whom will now be leaving Sierra Leone--there has been an impressive strengthening of the Government's position as a result of Indian troops coming to the scene, who are equally well trained and battle hardened? It is worth saying that this is also classic Commonwealth operation. It indicates how important the Commonwealth continues to be, right up to the present day.

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Can the Minister tell the House anything about the position of the Ghanaian troops at Lunsar, which I understand to be the crucial town between the diamond areas and Freetown. Have they fought their way out of what appeared to be a difficult position? Will the Minister confirm that the RUF is retreating, not advancing, and that at Rogberi Junction it fled into the bush after confronting UN troops?

On the issue of arms, what steps have been taken to ensure that further arms do not fall into the hands of the rebels? Can any extra action be taken in terms of certification, safeguarding of the arsenals and so on?

The Minister implied a worrying rise in the official export from Liberia of diamonds and diamond pieces. I understand that it rose by 30 million dollars last year. As Liberia is not a major diamondiferous area, that suggests that a good many diamonds are being smuggled out through that area. I underline the Minister's remark about the importance of the United States in this area, given its close ties to Liberia, and the possibility that it can bring pressure to bear on Mr Taylor, whose role in this whole affair is far from attractive.

An extremely welcome report in today's Financial Times suggests that the UK is taking the initiative in suggesting an international diamond regime that would enable all diamonds to specify their origin and that would require the major diamond companies to agree not to use diamonds that did not indicate their origin. As that has already been dealt with in Angola and is now being dealt with in Sierra Leone, could it also be extended to cover the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I understand there is a major outbreak of fighting over Kisangani, which is also within the diamond-bearing areas?

Finally, will the noble Baroness confirm that perhaps one of the few ways in which we can bring some sort of established peace to this very rich area of west Africa is by making sure that those who exploit the deep suffering and sacrifice of other people will be prevented from making money out of it, whether the source of that money is diamonds or oil?

4.40 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank both the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, for their welcome comments about the sterling efforts of our troops. It is heart-warming to hear praise for those efforts echoed from all sides of the House.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised a number of points, and I should like to deal with them in the order in which they arose.

The noble Lord asked about training. It is quite clear that training is a hugely important issue if we want to see within Sierra Leone a democratic and accountable army. There are efforts in relation to keeping a sizeable force--in the Statement I mentioned 180 personnel--to that end. There has been a deal of concern about the way in which the Sierra Leone army has operated in the past. We are very concerned about the reports that British weapons may

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have been in the hands of children, as the noble Lord mentioned. We have instructed the Commissioner in Sierra Leone to remind President Kabbah of the assurance he gave in March 1999 that those weapons would be used only by regular SLA soldiers in accordance with international law and responsible human rights standards. We expect those assurances to be kept.

This is just one of the reasons why the UK-led military advisory training team announced by the Prime Minister on 27th March is needed in Sierra Leone: to create the responsible and accountable Sierra Leone Army that we would all like. A condition of the establishment of the MAT is that children shall not be used by the Sierra Leone armed forces or the civil defence force. The release programme announced on 23rd May will be carefully supervised by British military personnel on the ground to ensure that any British weapons go only to adult soldiers and to the Sierra Leone army for training or for legitimate operational requirements. Only by training and making sure that the army has the proper ability to respond appropriately and effectively shall we be able to bring about the long-term change that we all know is absolutely crucial in the area.

We hope that by the time our troops withdraw there will be up to 13,500 UN troops on the ground. The UN has taken very seriously the need to increase those troops. Noble Lords will remember that the Secretary-General mentioned that he would like to see the troop numbers increased to 16,500. That matter is being addressed. Minds are being very clearly focused on the long-term needs.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned diamonds. The Statement also elucidated that this is an incredibly important issue. Diamonds have been the fuel. As the noble Lord said, it is a very difficult task. Her Majesty's Government have been determined that the issue should be addressed. I hear what the noble Baroness says about the Congo. Obviously, we shall take that very seriously too, because the issue of oil and diamonds is of wider application than just to Sierra Leone.

Britain wants to see international action to curb the illicit trade in diamonds now. The proposed new United Nations Security Council resolution on Sierra Leone provides a golden opportunity to focus the international mind on addressing the problem and exploring measures to tackle it. Britain is proposing ideas to prevent the RUF having access to Sierra Leone diamonds and the diamond market, and to help the development of a regulated and sustainable diamond industry in Sierra Leone. We believe that if our ideas are accepted and implemented they will go a long way to eliminating the reason for the conflict and encouraging a secure and stable peace in Sierra Leone. It is difficult, but we have set our hand clearly to achieve that, and we are hopeful that we shall receive support.

The noble Baroness raised the issue of training. The Commonwealth countries are participating very creatively in this. It warms our hearts that that is so,

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and that we are seeing this united approach. We shall continue to consult them and work with them, and we very much value their contribution, as we value the contribution made by the Ghanaian troops. I cannot give the noble Baroness specific details about their position, but I can say that she is right in saying that the RUF is retreating in many areas and that the UN efforts appear to be going very well.

I come to the Lome agreement, which I remind noble Lords was voluntarily entered into by all the participating parties. Noble Lords will remember that Britain at that stage was an observer, not a participant. We have to be very careful not to be presumptuous in our approach to what is best for others. The people around that table included not merely Foday Sankoh, but many other rebels, who have held to their side of the bargain. They decided that it was the best way forward for Sierra Leone. At the time the agreement was warmly and wholeheartedly welcomed. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can be a very dangerous instrument to employ.

We have to look to the people in Sierra Leone to make decisions on the future. We shall rely on them, as we relied on them before, to determine what is best for themselves--obviously with our assistance and with the support of all other international contributors who wish them well.

4.46 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Minister for repeating the Statement. In it she referred to the fact that the United Nations would be assuming responsibility for the security of the airfield at Freetown. That airfield, of course, could be of immense importance to any further moves that Her Majesty's Government might need to make either to increase the troops who remain or to extract them. What confidence can the Minister give the House that the United Nations will be capable of securing that airfield in the event that the RUF should mount attacks against it?

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