Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that the vital point is that, when evidence is being given by an expert witness, the whole of that evidence is disclosed in advance to the other parties in the case?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, that relates not only to the evidence but also to the material that the expert witness might in his or her opinion regard as irrelevant but whose significance could be seen by other experts. The worry is always that either the competence or the arrogance of the experts deprives other parties of the opportunity of looking at the full case.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, said, Sally Clark was extremely fortunate in the work that her husband and the dedicated team of supporters did for her. Is the noble and learned Lord satisfied that adequate help will be available to ensure that the cases of those who are less fortunate in their friends and family are properly investigated before they are brought back to the Criminal Cases Review Commission?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, in many cases it is a matter for the solicitors to undertake the

6 Feb 2003 : Column 368

appropriate investigations. This case focuses in particular on the failure of a forensic pathologist to disclose material which underlay the conclusion that he had reached. What needs to be examined is whether the arrangements for disclosure not merely of the report but of the extraneous material was adequate. Again, I do not want to comment in detail on the matter until we have seen the full judgment of the Court of Appeal, which has not yet been published.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, in the light of the Question and the subsequent exchanges—and given that Clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill currently before another place requires the defence counsel to give notification of which defence witnesses will be called—would it not be a good idea if a similar situation applied to the prosecution and it, too, had to specify in advance which witnesses it intended to call?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is already an obligation on the prosecution to disclose any expert material that it has, even if it does not intend to use it, because it might be of value to the defence. The question in this particular case related to the extent to which that was complied with.

Lord Monson: My Lords, is Mrs Clark entitled to compensation?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not know precisely what the position is. It is for her to make an application.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, was it not MRSA in the spine of the second baby which caused its death? Is this not a very serious problem in our hospitals now?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is a real issue regarding the problems of MRSA. The health service has a strategy to deal with it. I do not want to comment on the detail of the case until the Court of Appeal has published its judgment.

Lord Wigoder: My Lords, is it not perfectly clear that this is not a case where the prosecution failed to disclose the evidence that it had before the trial, but one where the evidence never reached the prosecution at the proper time?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, again, I do not want to comment in detail in relation to that. We should wait until we see what the Court of Appeal says in detail.


3.22 p.m.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale : My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as chairman of the British Committee on Iran Freedom.

6 Feb 2003 : Column 369

The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government for what purpose the Prime Minister met Mr Kamal Kharrazi, the Foreign Minister of Iran, in London this week.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr Kamal Kharrazi, today had meetings with my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. In addition to the crisis over Iraq, the discussion covered other regional issues and the developing bilateral relationship, including the importance of maintaining frank dialogue on outstanding issues of concern.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for that response, but is it not morally offensive for the UK to seek or accept assistance about Iraq from a regime that uses terror at home, sponsors it abroad and is developing nuclear and chemical weapons? Does my noble and learned friend share the revulsion of a majority of Members of both Houses at the mullahs' use of public executions, stonings and amputations against those demanding freedom and human rights?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I entirely endorse my noble friend's concluding remarks. The British Government have publicly, on several occasions, expressed their abhorrence at those practices.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I understand that the question of Iran's civil nuclear programme is one that Mr Kharrazi hoped to raise while he was in London. We all hope to avoid any further nuclear proliferation. Was the subject discussed; and has it been made clear that the IAEA must have an active role in supervising the civil nuclear programme as it develops?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I cannot give a categoric answer to that question—the reason being that the meetings took place this morning and had not entirely concluded by the time I came to this House. If it is of assistance, and I am sure it will be, I will research the matter, write to the noble Lord and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, did my right honourable friend and the Prime Minister seize the opportunity to clarify the attitude of the regime to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie? Did Mr Kharrazi confirm that the regime is now opposed to the organising of murder in the territory of other countries?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, when my right honourable friend the President of the Council was Foreign Secretary, several years ago, he obtained a

6 Feb 2003 : Column 370

public declaration on the Iranian Government's attitude to the unlawful, wholly unacceptable fatwa issued against a British subject.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, is not the most careful balance required? On the one hand, we surely do not want to be seen to be endorsing some of the revolting practices to which the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, has drawn attention, which have continued under the present clerical regime in Iran; on the other hand, we need the support of Iran both in Afghanistan and in the developing situation in Iraq. Will the noble and learned Lord ensure that in the present discussions and any future discussions, his colleagues bear in mind the need for that most careful balance?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. All that we are doing, particularly in the EU context, about trade and co-operation with Iran has been on the specific basis that binding commitments must be made by the Republic of Iran on various elements. We have made it absolutely plain that the practices referred to are simply not acceptable and should not be tolerated. We have made it plain that, if there are not binding agreements—for instance, on counter-terrorism—no trade and co-operation agreement will be entered into. I can assure the House and the noble Lord on that point. It is not quite a case of "across the wire the electric message came", but the diligence of the officials, as always, means that I do not need to write to the noble Lord. The matter was on the agenda for discussion.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, what response, if any, has been received from the Iranian Government to representations from the British Government?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there is a continuing dialogue. I return to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. We have an interest in the modernisation and reform of the regime in Iran. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, implied, we cannot close our eyes to the matters that we find deeply objectionable. There are in some ways quite modest, encouraging signs of a degree of liberalisation within certain sections of the Iranian Government.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, was the question of the Kurds on the agenda this morning? In an interview on television about 10 or 15 minutes ago, Mr Kharrazi said that what concerned Iran as a neighbouring country was the territorial integrity of Iraq. One can understand that concern, because there is a Kurdish population in Iraq pressing for a greater degree of autonomy, as there is in Iran. That clearly affects not only the Kurds but the stability of the whole area.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the security of the whole area was under discussion. I remind the House that the Prime Minister's Statement that I repeated in this House earlier this week referred to the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that many people are anxious about the

6 Feb 2003 : Column 371

fact that, although we have had what has been described as a constructive dialogue on human rights with Iran for some time, there is never any feedback about what the Iranian regime has undertaken to do? Should we not be using the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Iran, and those of the thematic rapporteurs such as the rapporteur on religious intolerance, to measure whether Iran has made any progress in meeting its human rights obligations?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page