Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



19AAfter Clause 22, insert the following new clause—
"Length of stay (1)The Secretary of State may not arrange for the provision of accommodation for a person in an accommodation centre if he has been a resident of an accommodation centre for a continuous period of six months.

6 Nov 2002 : Column 789


    (2)But—


(a) subsection (1) may be disapplied in respect of a person, generally or to a specified extent, by agreement between the Secretary of State and the person, and
(b) if the Secretary of State thinks it appropriate in relation to a person because of the circumstances of his case, the Secretary of State may direct that subsection (1) shall have effect in relation to the person as if the period specified in that subsection were the period of nine months. (3) Section 45 is subject to this section.


    (4) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (1) or (2)(b) so as to substitute a shorter period for a period specified."


19BPage 18, line 35, at beginning insert "An order under section (Length of stay) or"

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 19 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 19A and 19B in lieu thereof.

The issue of length of stay was debated in another place. The amendment brought forward by the Government was welcomed there. Oliver Letwin commented:


    "we accept it as the best that the Government are willing to offer. I am grateful that the Minister gestured towards reducing it further".—[Official Report, Commons, 5/11/02; col. 164.]

Simon Hughes added:


    "the proposal for a six-month limit is greatly welcome. It will set a discipline . . . The new proposal marks progress and we will not disagree with the Government".—[Official Report, Commons, 5/11/02; col. 172.]

This amendment will mean that a resident will remain in an accommodation centre for a maximum of six months unless, in the particular circumstances of the case, the Secretary of State decides that it is appropriate that the person should remain for a short time longer. If he does decide that, it will be for a maximum of a further three months.

We have also provided for an order, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, to be made allowing Parliament to shorten either or both of the six-month and the additional three-month periods. That is a clear indication that we are not simply saying that we accept that these limits are as good as it gets; it says that we shall continue to do all that we can to drive down processing times in the way that we have done since we came to power in 1997 in order to secure a speedy, fair and credible system.

The amendment recognises that there will be exceptions. If, for example, someone is due to receive a determination shortly after the six-month limit, we believe that it would make sense to require that person to remain for a short period beyond six months rather than subject him to upheaval. Of course, the intention will be to complete as many cases as possible end-to-end within the initial six-month period or less. But in cases which are particularly complex, documentation will need to be obtained from overseas or from other organisations. There will also be cases where asylum seekers have themselves delayed the process. In those instances, it is sensible to ensure that we have the capacity to require the applicant to remain for a short

6 Nov 2002 : Column 790

while longer in the accommodation centre. There may be other circumstances in particular cases in which it may be appropriate to require a person to remain for longer than six months. We intend to set out clear guidance on that area and will publish it as appropriate.

Furthermore, our amendment ensures that a person may remain in an accommodation centre if he wishes. Whatever views we may have about accommodation centres, it would make no sense to require someone to leave where they wished to stay.

The remaining amendments with which we are disagreeing—Amendments Nos. 25, 26, 41, 42 and 44—are consequential.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 19 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 19A and 19B in lieu thereof.—(Lord Filkin.)

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, these amendments refer to the suggestion that was made in the House of Commons by my honourable friend Simon Hughes. He thought that six months should be the maximum time but was prepared to acknowledge the need for flexibility in individual cases. We are delighted to see a time limit on the face of the Bill and I thank the Minister.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I also thank the Minister. This government clause is more significant than the credit given to it outwith the Chamber and another place has demonstrated. The Government have recognised in the final part of the clause that maybe we shall achieve the correct piloting and modelling in relation to accommodation centres. It will be possible to reduce the time spent in those centres to less than six months, and I hope significantly less than six months. I welcome this pragmatic move forward by the Government.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration of Commons amendments be adjourned until 8.25 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, may we not carry on with the Bill?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there has been discussion on this matter and there is agreement across the Chamber that we shall break now to deal with the dinner-hour business.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I think we should divide on the matter.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, no one has discussed the matter with me. My name is associated with the following amendment and I press for this matter to be dealt with now.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I had expected that we would take the dinner-hour business now.

6 Nov 2002 : Column 791

That was agreed across the Dispatch Box. I acknowledge the point made by the right reverend Prelate that I had not discussed it with him. I had not realised that he expected the House to carry on with the Bill. I believe that it is wise to break now. We have had a long debate and there are several other amendments to be considered thereafter.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Northern Cyprus

7.26 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards resolving the problems of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce this short debate on Cyprus, specifically Northern Cyprus, a region too often given the "blind eye" treatment and frequently misrepresented within the United Kingdom. More significantly, and with dire consequences for Turkish-Cypriots, the European Community has scandalously manipulated the issue.

I do not have time to retrace in detail the history of the past 40 years. Suffice to recall that the Greek/Turkish arrangement for an independent Cyprus under the 1960 Treaty of Alliance precluded both enosis (union with Greece), the Greek and Greek Cypriot preference, and taksim (partition of the island), favoured by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.

The Treaty of Guarantee committed Britain, Turkey and Greece to underpin and safeguard that arrangement. Yet between independence in 1963 and the 1974 Turkish "peace operation"—or invasion, depending on one's point of view—the Turkish-Cypriots endured a nightmare of discrimination, persecution and ultimately murder by their Greek-Cypriot neighbours. The 1974 Turkish action was fully justified and curtailed genocide that was already assuming monstrous proportions.

On 28th December 1963 the London Daily Express reported:


    "We went tonight into the Turkish Cypriot Quarter of Nicosia in which 200 to 300 men women and children had been slaughtered in the last five days. We were the first Western reporters there and we saw sights too frightful to be described in print. Horror so extreme that the people seemed stunned beyond tears".

The American Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, stated that the Greek Cypriot leader's,


    "central interest was to block off Turkish intervention so that he and his Greek Cypriots could go on massacring Turkish Cypriots".

Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon recalled:


    "No one who lived as I did in Cyprus in the 1960s will forget what was happening. It was an attempt at the systematic elimination of a community. It was ethnic cleansing before that phrase came into vogue in the Western media".

I do not suggest that every Greek-Cypriot colluded in those atrocities. History shows that many of them died as a consequence of Grivas/Makarios treachery.

6 Nov 2002 : Column 792

Like the IRA, EOKA operated on the theory that orchestrated murder and mutilation can keep an entire people in fearful subjection. Later, on 15th July 1974, five days before the Turkish operation, hundreds of Greek-Cypriot supporters of Makarios were slaughtered and were buried by the truckload in mass graves when mainland Greek forces overthrew the Makarios regime. One can only regret the Cold War pressures and strategic geographical considerations that precluded Britain from fulfilling her treaty obligations at the time. I do, however, pay tribute to our armed servicemen and women who have, since 1974, manned the Green Line and helped sustain peace on the island.

If one refuses to acknowledge what the Greek Cypriots did to the Turkish Cypriots—whom they outnumbered four to one—then one will not understand why the Turkish Cypriots established their own state. Nor will one comprehend why today they must not agree terms that may seem reasonable to outsiders but would put them at risk again.

I must ask why Britain—my nation—continues to be party to actions by the European Union that condemn a small, peaceful community of Turkish Cypriots to an economic, political and cultural wilderness, while concurrently embracing nations that until recently have been our sworn enemies.

That question cannot be answered without giving consideration to the recent "enlargement" deliberations by the European Union. The decision to exclude Turkey, our faithful ally for the past 80 years, while admitting a divided Cyprus in a situation that would enhance the Greek Cypriot south while further impoverishing the Turkish Cypriot community in the north, is surely perverse.

I cannot accept protestations that the European Union would ensure equity. Is it not the European Union that imposes an embargo on exports from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; the European Union that has sustained the embargo on direct flights into the TRNC; the European Union that has allowed Greek influence to dictate, effectively, that Cypriot history must be considered only from the moment Turkey sailed to protect a besieged people from barbarism?

Do we as a nation, while we preen ourselves on our human rights record, on our equality agendas and on our world leadership, do anything to ameliorate this injustice? No. We turn a blind eye; we raise no ripples on a "Sea of Humbug". And to what effect? Industrious Turkish Cypriots must abandon their beloved island and seek their livelihood in the UK, the USA and elsewhere. Hence, the Turkish Cypriot population gradually decreases and Greek Cypriot propagandists make much of that.

The European Union is effectively contributing to social engineering—dare I use the phrase "condoning social extermination"? We are helping to accomplish the "final solution"—what the Akritas Plan designed by Makarios, Yorgadjis and Clerides failed to accomplish by oppression and murder in the 1960s.

6 Nov 2002 : Column 793

Not only are a people affected by the imposed isolation of the TRNC; the whole ecology of the Mediterranean may be put in jeopardy through financial constraints that preclude comprehensive, sustainable and scientifically planned environmental programmes in the area.

Worldwide, protected areas are set aside to conserve nature and landscapes with, invariably, international support for such objectives. In poorer regions financial support is made available through NGOs and the commercial sector. When decisions are made and actions implemented, national parks are sustained by inbuilt tourism programmes. How can that happen in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus when, after almost 30 years of peace there, we in Europe still fail to acknowledge its existence? The Mediterranean region is a global priority for conservation. Can that be achieved without cognisance being taken of Northern Cyprus as a major element in the equation?

Is there to be no recognition, no co-ordinated international programme, no resources, no tourists, no realism and no hope? Time is running out for the protection and maintenance of the biodiversity of the Karpaz; and the need to set up a national park—even more extensive than is often talked about—is a priority.

The town of Dipkarpaz and numerous villages could be restored within their own present boundaries to accommodate literally thousands of tourists who would, as I have for years, come to enjoy the natural environment and cultural heritage of the area. That is the viable alternative to gradual encroachment of development based on individuals' desire to have a skyline villa or a stretch of unspoiled beach. It is the alternative to ecological destruction.

Some good work is being done on a shoestring budget. On the initiative of my good friend, Kutley Keco—a resident of Girne and a devoted conservationist—there has been a successful programme supported by Glasgow and Swansea Universities to study and to help protect the habitat of the endangered green turtle, which nests on Northern Cyprus beaches. But that is only a fraction of what needs to be done. I do not have time to speak about the significance of the Kyrenia Mountains or the Klidhes Islands. Suffice to say that millions of migratory birds move through here annually and that unique flora and fauna exist now, but that, without realistic and timely international support and understanding, we shall negatively "change the face of nature".

My allocated time is gone. I am grateful for your Lordships' attention and to those who will participate in this debate. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, will be able to indicate some understanding by the Government of the enduring plight of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, its people and its environment.

It will not be adequate to be told merely that the United Kingdom Government, "support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General". That does not stand up to close analysis because the United Nations,

6 Nov 2002 : Column 794

so far, has not been an impartial interlocutor. It has taken the Greek Cypriot side on the fundamental question—that the Greek Cypriot administration is the government of all Cyprus. That is not the case. That can never, ever again be the case.

There can be a solution on the island, but it has to be one that guarantees—absolutely guarantees this time—the integrity of the Turkish Cypriots.

7.37 p.m.

Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, in the various debates that I have listened to in the other House over many years, uppermost in the minds of participants has been a recognition of the rights and the security of Turkish Cypriots as well as the rights and security of Greek Cypriots. It is right and just that that should be the case.

In this short debate the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, provides a welcome opportunity at a crucial period in negotiations on the Cyprus problem to raise a few questions about the current status of those talks. Most importantly, it enables the Government, in their dual role as a guarantor of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus and a member of the Security Council, to bring together for us today the strands of the negotiations and to let us know the precise situation.

It is my understanding that, at the start of this year's talks between the leaders of the two communities, June was agreed as the target date for reaching an agreement on an agenda that was set by the United Nations Secretary-General.

That agenda required discussion of four core issues: the constitution of Cyprus; its territorial integrity; its security; and the combined issue of refugees and properties. Alas, it seems that progress was disappointingly slow, if not static. I understand that Mr Denktash did not wish to examine the core issues set down by the Secretary-General before pre-conditional proposals establishing two sovereign independent states in Cyprus, which would between them sign a treaty for a common structure. The Denktash proposals were outside the parameters set by the Security Council resolutions and therefore they were as unacceptable to that body as they were to President Clerides.

I make that point because I have before me a press statement issued on 9th July by the Security Council. It which expresses disappointment that progress remained slow and that the June target date for agreement had not been met. The statement stated:


    "They [the Security Council] noted in this regard that the Turkish Cypriot side had been less constructive in its approach so far and had declined to support the goal of resolving the core issues by the end of June".

The statement goes on to urge both sides to co-operate fully to meet the requirements of Resolution 1250 and to work with Mr Alvaro de Soto for a

6 Nov 2002 : Column 795

settlement that takes full consideration of relevant Security Council resolutions and treaties. I shall quote a little further from the statement:


    "They"—

the Security Council, of course—


    "strongly underscore the need for the Turkish side in particular to move in this direction".

Will the Minister confirm that the Government will not allow a divisive element to enter into the talks and that they remain firm in their support of the legitimacy of Security Council resolutions and that the desire of the Government and their aim is a unified Cyprus, which means a single sovereign state? Is that the Government's position?

Early last month, though no substantial breakthrough had taken place at a meeting in New York between the two leaders, the UN Secretary-General used his good offices once again and established the setting up of two committees composed of representatives of both communities to consider the laws and international treaties that must be applied following a solution of the Cyprus problem. His intervention to keep the two sides together and to keep them talking must be welcomed. Can the Minister tell the House whether the two communities have nominated their representatives and whether the committee is in talks on those matters? Will she also confirm, at so close a date to the European summit in Copenhagen next month, that the solution of the Cyprus situation will not be a pre-condition for the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union?

I shall conclude on this note, as I have only four minutes in which to speak.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page