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10 Mar 2003 : Column WA143

Written Answers

Monday, 10 March 2003.

UN Peacekeeping Personnel

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they can know that United Nations personnel on peacekeeping operations are fully accountable for their actions; and whether any alleged breaches by such personnel are dealt with in accordance with the rule of law. [HL1735]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): United Nations peacekeeping operations and their personnel are accountable, through the commander of the operation in the field, the Department of Peace-Keeping Operations at UN Headquarters and the UN Secretary-General, to the Security Council.

UN peacekeeping personnel are obliged to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and may be subject to prosecution for any breaches which they commit.

Afghanistan: Dasht-e-Leili

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government;

    What stage has been reached in the investigations of mass graves at Dasht-e-Leili in Afghanistan; whether they are co-operating with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan Human Rights Commission for this purpose; and what precautions are being taken to protect the evidence at Dasht-e-Leili. [HL1779]

Baroness Amos: Our embassy in Kabul has discussed our concerns about the alleged human rights abuses at Dasht-e-Leili with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan Human Rights Commission. We support the UN's two-stage approach to the investigation: forensic investigations and dignified reburials now, followed, at a later stage, when the security situation improves, by more detailed witness interviews and investigations. It is important that further investigations should only take place when it is possible to protect potential witnesses. We understand that a UN-led investigation may start in the next few months.

The site is visited weekly by staff from the UN office in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Following their visit to Dasht-e-Leili in January this year, Physicians for Human Rights reported that there had been no deterioration or destruction of the site at Dasht-e-Leili. The UN view is that there is no need for static protection of the site.

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Mr Derek Bond: Detention in South Africa

Lord Lamont of Lewick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What help the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave to Mr Derek Bond while he was held in detention in South Africa.[HL1960]

Baroness Amos: We provided Mr Bond with all proper consular assistance during his detention in South Africa.

Our consular staff in Durban were notified of Mr Bond's arrest on 7 February. They immediately contacted the South African police. During his detention, consular staff arranged medical support for Mr Bond and visitor access for his wife. Our consular staff in Durban maintained close contact with Mr and Mrs Bond throughout. Consular staff put pressure on the US authorities to resolve issues regarding Mr Bond's identity. Consular staff assisted with arrangements for Mr Bond's release and return to the UK and were at the airport to meet him on his arrival in Britain.lynne

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representation they intend to make to the American Government about the conduct of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with reference to the detention of Mr Derek Bond in South Africa.[HL1961]

Baroness Amos: During Mr Bond's detention, our High Commission put pressure on the US authorities to resolve quickly the issue of Mr Bond's identity.

We do not know whether Mr Bond's lawyers intend to pursue this matter with the US authorities. We stand ready to provide Mr Bond with any further consular assistance we properly can.

Police Officers above the Rank of Inspector Currently Suspended

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the cost to public funds of obtaining information concerning the number of police officers above the rank of inspector currently suspended in England and Wales; and what is the amount of salary and other emoluments being paid to them.[HL1626]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): I estimate the cost of this exercise to be over £1,000. This figure is based on an estimated average unit salary cost and an estimated time to collect this information in each of the 43 police forces. This estimate does not include the cost of transmitting the information or the cost to the Home Office of co-ordinating and collating it.

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Government IT Systems: Security

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In light of recent advice from the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) about potential threats to key commerical information technology systems, whether appropriate steps are being taken to protect the integrity of the Government's own information technology systems. HL1849]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Each department and agency is responsible, under its Minister, for maintaining its own appropriate levels of protective security. To help meet this responsibility, protective security policy is decided, and advice and guidance provided, through a Cabinet Office committee structure. In addition, the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) helps departments to secure their systems by disseminating reports of significant electronic attack threats from a wide range of sources.lynne

Key Commercial IT Systems: Security

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In light of recent advice from the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) about potential threats to key commercial information technology systems, what practical assistance they are offering to appropriate commercial interests to facilitate an effective response to the risk.[HL1850]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Central government assistance to those systems that are considered to be part of the critical national infrastructure is by way of the Unified Incident Reporting and Alert Scheme (UNIRAS), which is part of the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC).

UNIRAS is the UK Government CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) and receives reports of significant electronic attack incidents, threats, new vulnerabilities and countermeasures from its customer base and other commercial, government and international sources. It then validates, amends (where appropriate) and disseminates the information back to its customers through e-mail alerts and warnings. In addition, UNIRAS provides a helpdesk for its customers, giving advice on IT security incidents, particularly internet related problems; and collates reports of IT security incidents supplied by its customers and issues regular statistics. These reports are suitably amended to protect commercial or departmental sensitivies.

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Trafficking Victims

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made towards establishing the special arrangements for victims of trafficking outlined in Chapter 5 of the White Paper Secure Borders, Safe Havens.[HL2079]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The Government are pleased to accounce new measures to support female victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation in the UK.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum (NIA) Act 2002 introduced a new offence that commenced on 10 February 2003 of "trafficking a person for the purpose of controlling him or her in prostitution".

From today, safe accommodation and a range of services will be provided to support female victims of human trafficking through a non-governmental organisation. A six-month pilot scheme located in London will cater for approximately 25 women, on a rolling basis, who meet the criteria for access to the services, including a willingness to come forward and co-operate with the authorities in the combating of international organised crime that could lead to prosecutions of criminals.

We will consider, in light of individual circumstances, whether it would be appropriate to allow such victims who have co-operated to remain here. Where they are to return home, we will assist them to do so, providing them with initial counselling, ensuring that they have suitable accommodation to return to and providing help to enable them to reintegrate into their own community and find employment.

We are also publishing a new best practice toolkit for the police, immigration officers and others who deal with illegal immigrants and trafficking victims. The toolkit will help them to identify victims and to provide practical advice on how to deal with them appropriately.

The Sexual Offences Bill, introduced into the House of Lords on 28 January 2003, also proposes new comprehensive offences of trafficking for sexual exploitation to replace the stop-gap offence introduced by the NIA Act 2002 of trafficking in prostitution. These new offences tackle the movement of people into, within and out of the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation and will carry maximum penalties of 14 years' imprisonment. The offence relating to trafficking within the UK applies equally to UK nationals trafficked from place to place in the UK and to foreign nationals brought here and then moved around from place to place within the UK. This is the first time that the trafficking of UK nationals within the UK has been tackled in legislation.

Internationally, we are committed to addressing the issue of trafficking by our involvement with the EU framework decision on combating the trafficking of human beings and the UN protocol to prevent,

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suppress and punish trafficking. We believe the trafficking provisions in this Bill meet the requirements of the EU decision and the UN protocol, and indeed go further in that they criminalise trafficking for a sexual offence per se, whereas the protocol specifies it ought to be criminal only in certain circumstances; for example, where force, coercion or abduction are involved.

They also go further than the provisions in the NIA Act in specifying that it will be a criminal offence to traffic someone for the purposes of submitting them to a sex offence, rather than limiting this to trafficking them for the purposes of exploiting their prostitution. This allows us to offer greater protection against all forms of sexual trafficking; for example, for those who are trafficked in order to be sexually assaulted by others where there is no prostitution taking place.

In addition, the Bill introduces new offences to tackle directly the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The activities that the offences cover include buying the sexual services of a child, causing or encouraging a child into commercial sexual exploitation, facilitating the commercial sexual exploitation of a child and controlling the activities of a child involved in prostitution. The maximum penalties available for these offences will range from seven years to life imprisonment depending upon the nature of the offence committed and the age of the child victim.

All these provisions together will set in place a comprehensive framework of robust legislation and improved support that will enable us both to bear down on perpetrators, often organised criminals, and provide a better response to victims.

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