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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I accept that there is a link between the paramilitary organisations and organised crime which is committed simply for criminal purposes and for no other. It is vital that not just the police but all of the agencies involved get together and fight that with all the vigour they can command. The task force was set up to bring all the relevant agencies together to fight organised crime. It is vital that it be defeated so that Northern Ireland can return to normal.

Lord Renton: My Lords, what proportion of the crime in Northern Ireland--that is, the established crime which has resulted in convictions--is known to be politically motivated?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not have the statistics to hand. I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord do his best to convince his colleagues that harmonising VAT and other taxes as between Northern Ireland and the Republic would do a great deal to reduce organised crime and in particular to reduce the profitability of smuggling?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I take note of the noble Lord's point. I am very aware of the fact that the greater the difference in duty rates between the two

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countries and, indeed, between the United Kingdom and other countries, the greater the prevalence of that kind of crime.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, is my noble and learned friend able to make a comparison between the crime rate in Northern Ireland and that in England?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the rate of ordinary crime, as it were, in Northern Ireland is lower than in the United Kingdom.

Lord Elton: My Lords, what is the volume of illegal diesel being brought into this country from the island of Ireland and particularly from the Province? Who is benefiting from those illegal sales and what is being done in the United Kingdom to prevent them?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I cannot give the precise figures. I believe that the figures are greater in the main part of the United Kingdom than as between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I shall give the noble Lord the figures in writing.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, have Sinn Fein/IRA and the SDLP yet taken any steps to encourage their communities to co-operate with the police as against hating the RUC and doing their best to destroy it?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the noble Baroness will know from the debates that we had on the then police Bill that neither the SDLP nor Sinn Fein has yet urged their communities to join the new police service.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that the key to tackling this problem lies with the paramilitaries? Can he report any progress in dealing with their prevalent activities? Is he aware that the editorial of the Belfast Telegraph of 24th April states:

    "The reality is that despite the ceasefires many areas of Northern Ireland remain within the grip of the paramilitaries. These self-appointed groups lay down the law and intimidate those who stand up to them"?

Do the Government recognise that description and--I appreciate the difficulties--can they offer us some progress?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the analysis of the threat posed by organised crime published by the task force earlier in the year specifically recognises the link between paramilitary organisations and organised crime. It states that the legacy of terrorism is a significant influence. More than half of the groups known to police are either associated with or controlled by loyalist or republican paramilitary organisations. The task force seeks to bring together all of the agencies tackling these groups and to make the fight concerted. The first step it has taken is to

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prioritise against which groups they must focus the fight. In the light of what has been said, it is clear which groups those are.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, against the background of the debate we have just had, does the Minister share our deep concerns over reports that up to half of the senior officers in the RUC are set to leave the force by the autumn of this year?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, this point has been raised in the past. I was able to report that the Chief Constable is satisfied that as a result of boards he is having there will be sufficient people above chief inspector to fill any vacancies.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that the introduction in Ireland next year of the notes and coins of the single currency, the euro, may give new opportunities for organised crime and racketeers, especially in the areas of fraud and money laundering?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, that is a point which has to be taken into account by the task force.

US Weapons Sales to Taiwan

2.51 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations have been made to the United States administration with regard to the supply of advanced radar weapon systems such as Aegis to Taiwan.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, none. This is a matter for the United States administration, which decides on weapons sales to Taiwan with reference to American law and its assessment of Taiwan's needs. We attach great importance to the avoidance of conflict in the Taiwan Straits which could be very destabilising for the whole of the region. We look to both China and Taiwan to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and indicate appreciation for the restraint shown by the US administration in postponing any decision about the supply of Aegis radar systems to Taiwan at present.

First, is the Minister aware that the eight diesel submarines which are to be supplied to Taiwan are all based on European designs? Can the noble Baroness tell the House whether those European designs have been the result of consultation with the United States; and what the German and Dutch governments may have said about them?

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Secondly, will the Minister and Her Majesty's Government consider making the strongest representations to the People's Republic of China about possible retaliation through the supply of missile technology to the Middle East and Pakistan, indicated in the past two days by a leading military officer in a leading think tank in Beijing?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we understand that by mutual agreement the United States and Taiwan do not discuss the specific decisions taken at their annual meetings on arms sales. It would not be appropriate, therefore, for me to do so now. Although I am aware of the details contained and widely discussed in the press and have noted their comments, I cannot respond, therefore, to the first part of the noble Baroness's questions. However, we see it as of crucial importance that everyone should now behave in a temperate way; that we should be very careful to do all we can to make sure that there is a rapprochement between China and Taiwan and an amelioration of any anxieties that may currently exist between the United States and China.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I am sure that everyone will back the Minister in her desire to avoid conflict between China and others. However, will she also bear very much in mind that the Government of Taiwan are not now the rump of the Kuomintang. They are an elected, proper, authentic, democratic government. Will the noble Baroness further remember that in any supply of weapons to Taiwan there is no danger whatever of Taiwan committing aggression against China; and, frankly, there is every prospect of something nasty happening from the Chinese end?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we of course acknowledge the elections the Taiwanese held, and we were warm in our congratulations to the Taiwanese on those elections and the democratic process in that country. We bear well in mind what the noble Lord says. However, I reiterate that we must all consider how to express ourselves with moderation at this time. Ill considered words can sometimes cause more damage than good.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, further to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, does the Minister accept that while the Americans are probably right on this occasion to withhold the Aegis anti-missile radar systems from the Taiwanese, they are totally justified in supplying equipment to allow the Taiwanese, who are a resourceful and dynamic people and nation, to defend themselves against violence and violent threats. That is their democratic right. That is consistent with the ethical standards which I understand Her Majesty's Government support. So could we have a little more enthusiasm from the

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Government Benches for the measures which are being taken to ensure that the Taiwanese are allowed to protect themselves against violence and violent attack?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that from these Benches we fully appreciate the nature of the situation. But I reiterate that the American position is the American position. We have demonstrated the position that we take, which is moderate, well considered and balanced.

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