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25 Nov 2002 : Column WA17

Written Answers

Monday, 25th November 2002.

Asif Ali Zardari

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Amos on 6 November (WA 103), whether they will raise the question of the continuing detention without trial of Asif Ali Zardari. [HL13]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We are aware that there are a number of cases in the Pakistani domestic courts outstanding against Mr Zardari and that some of them have been brought to trial. We and our EU partners regularly engage with the Pakistani authorities on a wide range of human rights issues, including issues relating to detention and, where appropriate, in relation to specific cases. We have not engaged with the Pakistani authorities on Mr Zardari's case and are not aware of any grounds to do so.


Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 4 November (WA 53), whether they have evidence to suggest that an attack by Iraq is imminent. [HL59]

Baroness Amos: The Iraqi regime's weapons of mass destruction, and their proven willingness to use them, threatens the entire international community. We have never suggested that an Iraqi attack is imminent. But we cannot wait while Iraq seeks ever more powerful weaopnry. The United Nations Security Council, through its unanimous adoption of Resolution 1441, has served notice on the Iraqi regime that it must now give up those weapons or face serious consequences.

Murder: Sentencing

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have in relation to tariff-setting arrangements for those convicted of murder.[HL259]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The House of Lords has made decisions today in two cases that deal with the arrangements for the sentencing of adults convicted of murder. These judgments concern matters of fundamental significance for the criminal justice system and the role of Parliament and Ministers in formulating policy on

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the provision of adequate punishment for the quality and the protection of the public.

In the case of Pyrah and Lichniak, the House of Lords has confirmed that the mandatory life sentence of murder is compatible with the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. This sentence will remain in place.

The case of Anderson deals with the Home Secretary's power to set the tariff or minimum period a convicted murderer must remain in custody until he becomes eligible for release. This power has ensured ministerial accountability to Parliament within the criminal justice system for the punishment imposed for the most heinous and serious of crimes. When Parliament took its decision to abolish the death penalty for murder, this was the framework with which it was replaced. The House of Lords has not ruled that the Home Secretary's power is unlawful. All existing tariffs therefore stand. The House of Lords has declared instead that the Home Secretary's power to set tariffs for those convicted of murder is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The existing law and tariffs set according to it therefore remain until new legislation is in place.

The judgment will affect only the issue of who sets the tariff in each case. As is proper in a democracy, Parliament will continue to retain the paramount role of setting a clear framework within which the minimum period to be served will be established. The Government determined that there should continue to be accountability to Parliament for these most critical decisions. This is fundamental to our democracy and to the maintenance of confidence in the criminal justice system.

We need to study the judgment carefully before finalising our proposals, but we intend to legislate this Session to establish a clear set of principles within which the courts will fix tariffs in the future. These principles will be debated and agreed by both Houses of Parliament, and in setting a tariff, the judge will be required, in open court, to give reasons if the term being imposed departs from those principles. The Attorney-General already has powers in relation to unduly lenient sentences and it will be open to him to challenge any tariff which he does not consider to be consistent with these principles.

These principles will set a framework within which judicial discretion, which is an essential feature of sentencing, will operate. They will be robust and comprehensive. We envisage that they will comprise a statement of the major guiding principles followed by a series of clear messages about the tariffs Parliament expects to be imposed for different categories of murder. The principles will provide entry points for particular categories of murder, which would be adjusted up or down in line with specified aggravating and mitigating factors. The principles will set out that for the most serious crimes—such as the sexual, sadistic murder of children—life should mean life. The principles will incorporate the same aggravating factors upon which previous Home Secretaries and the

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present one have based our decisions. These factors will include murder committed in the course of armed robbery or the murder of prison or police officers in the course of their duty as set out to Parliament by Leon Brittan in 1983. In the case of existing tariffs, these arrangements will ensure that any judicial reconsideration is on the basis of this same set of principles.

We believe that coupled with the new arrangements for the determination of release of mandatory life prisoners by the Parole Board, under which the Home Secretary will have an opportunity to make representations on the impact of any future offending by the prisoner concerned, the provisions outlined will amount to a sensible and secure scheme for the management of life sentences generally. The new scheme will be compatible with our human rights obligations and will also ensure that Parliament has established the framework for dealing with the most dangerous and evil people in our society.

Clandestine Entrants: Cross-Channel Ferry

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any combination of checks and tests carried out on goods vehicles prior to embarkation on cross-Channel ferry can be reasonably certain of detecting clandestine entrants.[HL4]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The United Kingdom (UK) Government are seeking to deploy a variety of detection technologies to screen UK-bound freight at key European feeder ports and are currently installing equipment in Calais. The Immigration Service uses several types of equipment to detect clandestine entrants concealed in freight vehicles, each having its own particular strengths and weaknesses in terms of speed of use and effectiveness. By deploying a variety of technologies, including heartbeat detectors, passive millimetric wave imagers and CO 2 detectors, backed up by visual searches, search teams will be able to screen vehicles with the technology most suited to the type and level of traffic using the port while avoiding excessive delays to embarking vehicles.

The effectiveness of the technology will depend to a large extent on the skills of the search teams using the equipment, but full training will be provided by the UK Government and the results will be evaluated.

Controlled operational trials have confirmed that the technology and search systems that the Immigration Service is introducing are effective in detecting clandestine entrants. However, we have not reached the stage where we can be confident of detecting 100 per cent of people concealed in lorries. The checks being introduced are intended to supplement security measures adopted by vehicle drivers and port operators, not replace them.

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Home Office Consultants

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total expenditure incurred by the Home Office on work carried out by consultants during the financial years 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-1 and 2001-02.[HL85]

Lord Filkin: The available information held by the Home Office on total expenditure incurred by the department for work carried out by consultants during the financial years 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2001-02 is as follows:


The increase in expenditure on consultancy in 2000-01 is primarily due to costs incurred on the Home Office modernisation programme, in particular information technology (IT) related consultancy.

The high spend figures for 2001-02 include the cost of setting up the National Probation Directorate and various consultancies on IT business change.


Portable Water Pumps: Armed Forces

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the numbers and pumping capacity of all portable, transportable or towable pumps held in the inventory of the Royal Engineers; and[HL92]

    Whether they will list the numbers and pumping capacity of all portable, transportable or towable pumps held in depot for land use by the Defence Logistic Organisation.[HL93]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): It is assumed that the Questions relate to water pumps. The Defence Logistic Organisation manages this equipment on behalf of all land units, including the Royal Engineers (RE). The information is set out in the table below.

Type of pumpQty held in depotQty held by Royal Engineer unitsPumping capacity
NBC water purification units (source)334011,100 L/hr
(2,442 gal/hr)
NBC water purification units (distribution)334011,100 L/hr
(2,442 gal/hr)
NBC decontamination system804,200 L/hr
(924 gal/hr)
Various pumpsets792246,800-216,026
L/min (1,500-
47,520 gal/min)
Towed bowser320315 L/min
(70 gal/min)
Cutting tool water supply03N/A
Hydraulic pumpset1842950 L/min (210 gal/min)
Various fire pumps401,000-1,600 L/min
Various water hand pumps1170863-6,819 L/hr (190-1,500 gal/hr)

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