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Baroness Sharples: My Lords, does the Minister agree that because there is very little employment in Nepal, when those troops are decommissioned, they should be allowed or encouraged to return to this country? Their money from this country would go back to Nepal.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I cannot agree in full with the noble Baroness. The problem goes back to the tripartite agreement, which is now many years old, although it has been brought up to date since 1947. It involves Nepal, India and this country. The basis of

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that agreement is that the Gurkhas are recruited in their homeland, they serve in their own regiments and are discharged as Nepalese citizens in their own land. They are therefore subject to the same immigration rules as everyone else.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, although I welcome the fact that the MoD dropped its case for not paying compensation to Gurkha prisoners of war in Japan—it took more than 50 years to agree—does the Minister agree that that should be taken as a case for improving pay and conditions to Gurkhas when the next review of the tripartite agreement takes place?

Lord Bach: My Lords, as I said, there is currently no planned review of the tripartite agreement although we are seriously looking into elements of it as a result of the judgment. One such matter was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples. We accept the current position on compensation.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, made clear, the unhappiness among Gurkhas at the moment is not so much about pay and conditions as about what happens after their release. It is strange that a government who accept criminals, terrorists and all sorts of funny people from overseas into this nation of ours do not take a loyal and solid Gurkha once he has had his discharge in Nepal and wishes to come back to work. It is my understanding—I hope that the Minister will correct me—that the Home Office is not too averse to the proposal, but the Ministry of Defence seems to dig its toes in at anything to do with a Gurkha after he has left service.

Lord Bach: My Lords, as the noble Viscount knows, Her Majesty's Government are not to be divided up in the way he suggests. I cannot possibly agree with the last comment that he made. However, both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, have raised an issue which I know is of considerable importance to, and accepted by, many in this House. During the course of a debate in another place on 6th March, my honourable friend Dr Lewis Moonie, who is the Minister responsible for these matters, made it clear that he would take up with his colleagues the issue that has been raised generally. But he also made it clear that he could make no promises.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, can the Minister say whether, if the tripartite agreement could be amended satisfactorily for all three parties, consideration might be given to extending the terms of engagement from 15 to 22 years, as 99 per cent of all Gurkhas now complete their full-time military service of 15 years?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I certainly undertake to look into that matter. However, one advantage held by the Gurkhas is that at the end of 15 years, which is their minimum level of service, they receive a pension which is paid straightaway. UK-citizen soldiers have to be in the Army for 22 years before receiving a pension

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straightaway; otherwise, as the noble Lord knows better than I do, they have to wait until they are 60 years of age.

Asil Nadir

2.52 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contact they have had, directly or indirectly, during the past five years with Asil Nadir concerning criminal charges outstanding against him in the United Kingdom.

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): My Lords, within the past five years, the Central Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Asil Nadir, and Interpol has been notified. In the course of an application made to the Central Criminal Court on his behalf for a stay of the criminal proceedings, contact took place through his solicitors. Arrangements were also made for him to be examined by two medical practitioners on behalf of the Crown to assess his physical and mental health—the state of his health forming part of his application.

Mr Justice Potts heard that application in the Central Criminal Court and, in effect, refused it in January 2001. Since then two informal indirect approaches were made, in late 2002 and early 2003, to the British High Commission in Cyprus which did not receive a response. Having made inquiries, I am not aware of any other contact, direct or indirect, between Her Majesty's Government and Mr Nadir concerning the criminal charges outstanding against him.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I am grateful to the Attorney-General for that reply. But can the noble and learned Lord appreciate my suspicion that there may have been some arrangement to ameliorate legal proceedings pending against Asil Nadir when this fugitive from justice suddenly changed the editorial position of his Kibris and Cyprus Today newspapers to castigate President Denktash of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for his opposition to the disgracefully partisan United Nations resolution on the Cyprus issue?

Does the noble and learned Lord agree that "Mr Polly Peck" is hardly the most reliable individual, nor does he have the principled commitment of President Denktash to the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus? Will he assure me that Asil Nadir's support for the United Nations resolution will not be canvassed in return for legal concessions and that all charges against Nadir will continue to stand?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the first issue raised by the noble Lord is whether or not some sort of arrangement has been made with Mr Nadir to drop, or, as he says, ameliorate, the outstanding charges in exchange for some political support. I can assure him that no such arrangement or deal has been made. I

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would encourage Mr Nadir to return to the jurisdiction so that the outstanding proceedings can be completed.

The noble Lord asked how that is to be squared with the change of line being taken in newspapers owned by Mr Nadir. The rationale behind the editorial line taken in those newspapers is not something for which Her Majesty's Government can answer. We do not have any information as to why the Kibris newspaper shifted its editorial position any more than we do in relation to any other newspaper.

However, if one were to speculate, one might think that, as it is the most popular newspaper in northern Cyprus, it may have detected a shift in the opinion of its readers. Perhaps the editorial team would have noted the 75 per cent approval rating for the United Nations proposals, and the presence in the street of up to 70,000 demonstrators—about a third of the entire population of northern Cyprus—against Mr Denktash's policies and in favour of the United Nations proposals.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that the application of Turkey for membership of the European Union should be considered not only in the light of its human rights record but in the light of the pressure that it can exert upon the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to introduce proper extradition proceedings?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I suggest to the noble Lord that that is very wide of the Question that has been asked and that it would be more appropriately put in the context of a different Question.

Drugs Dealing with Children: Penalties

2.56 p.m.

Lord McColl of Dulwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether plans to make the supplying of drugs to children a specific offence are to be dropped.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, we have decided not to introduce a specific new offence of supplying drugs to young people. Evidence that a dealer is specifically targeting children and young people would be an aggravating factor brought to the attention of the court. We shall seek to ensure, including through the proposed new sentencing guidelines council, that sentences for dealing drugs to young people are appropriately severe.

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Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Is it possible, by some unimaginable stretch of the imagination, that the Government have got this wrong? How are we going to prevent children being hooked on such drugs? Once they are, it leads to a lifetime of misery and disaster and a shortened life span.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree with that. The question is: what is the most effective way to deal with the situation? A year ago, it was suggested that consultation should be carried out on the question of whether the offence of dealing in drugs should be aggravated if it involved dealing to children. After the issue had been considered widely, it became apparent that far steeper sentences for dealing drugs to children could be achieved without introducing a new crime. As indicated in a case called Nolan, the courts are very willing to give stronger sentences. That, rather than introducing a new element to the crime, seems the most effective way to deal with the problem. I believe we all agree with the noble Lord, Lord McColl, that we should fight the scourge to which he refers. The question is: what is the most effective way to deal with it?

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