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House of Lords

Thursday, 10th April 2003.

The House met at eleven of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Portsmouth.): The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001: Detainees

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total number of people held in custody under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; what are their nationalities; and how many have been convicted.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, 15 foreign nationals have so far been detained using powers in Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Eight were detained in December 2001, one in February 2002, two in April 2002, one in October 2002, one in November 2002 and a further two in January 2003. Of the total detained, two have voluntarily left the United Kingdom. The other 13 remain in detention. They have been detained under an immigration power. They are not being held pending criminal charges.

Under the Special Immigration Appeals Commission's direction under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1987, we are directed that,

    "there shall be no publication of any matter which may identify them or any of them".

Therefore, the nationalities of those detained must remain undisclosed.

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for his reply. Can he tell the House whether any of those detained have been involved with any terrorist activities in this country? Were their arrests due to intelligence received from their countries of origin or from their activities in this country? Will they be extradited to their countries of origin or will they remain in custody for a very long time and, if so, for what period?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I shall not comment on any intelligence material. As I said in the Answer to the Question, their detention comes under an immigration power. We wish to deport them from this country because they are suspected terrorists. We cannot deport them because we fear what may happen to them if we do so. Therefore, they are detained in this country until they can be deported.

As I indicated, the detainees can leave voluntarily if they wish, and two of them have done so. Therefore, criminal charges are not pending. How long they remain in custody will depend on the view of the Secretary of State and the review of their position by SIAC. SIAC must consider their position and the

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hearings will start on 19th May. After a conclusion has been reached, the decision will be reviewed every six months thereafter.

Lord Biffen: My Lords, will the detainees be deported to countries which operate the death penalty?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the country to which they would be deported, if they agreed to go, would depend on the nationality of each individual defendant. I cannot say whether or not those countries have the death penalty.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, given the current circumstances around the world in which the death toll from terrorism currently runs well into the thousands, is it not perfectly reasonable that the authorities should take a considerable interest in persons who have been involved in terrorism, whether in this country or anywhere else?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it is perfectly reasonable. We have balanced the rights of the individual against the national security of the state. The approach that we have taken is sensible and has been approved by the courts as being both sensible and lawful.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is always preferable that suspects should go through due process? Can he say how many people arrested under this legislation have subsequently gone through the normal processes of the courts following a charge?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Question relates to Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. I gave the numbers in the Answer. The total was 15 foreign nationals. I repeat that this is not a precedent to criminal proceedings. This matter comes under an immigration power. We would wish to remove those people from the country because we believe that they pose a threat, but we are not prepared to put them in the danger that would arise from their being deported. Therefore, these are not criminal proceedings; they are immigration powers intended to protect the state and to protect the interests of the defendant.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I refer to an earlier reply of the Minister in which he stated that the detainees have not as yet appeared in front of SIAC. If that is the case, has no one looked at them since their arrest, which occurred a considerable time ago?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the point first raised in relation to SIAC was whether or not the derogation from the European convention was lawful. That matter was not resolved until October 2002 and, indeed, a further appeal is possible. However, the merits of the cases are now to be considered by SIAC

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in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and that is due to start in May. Initially, the detainees' position was looked at by the Home Secretary.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the helpful answers that he has given today on these difficult issues. He referred to legal procedures that are coming into effect with regard to SIAC. Can he say something about the special advocate procedure? His noble friend Lord Filkin, in reply to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, said that that would be kept under review. Can the Minister say what kind of review it will be and under what timescale it will be carried out?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the special advocate procedure involves someone being appointed to represent the detainee at SIAC. That person is entitled to hear closed evidence which the detainee himself would not be able to hear. I do not believe that any specific review of the role of the special advocate is intended to take place. The special advocate is there to protect the interests of the detainee but in a way that also protects the national security of the state.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, are any of the 13 remaining detainees required or wanted as international terrorists in other countries?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not prepared to make any comment about the details surrounding any of the detainees.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, some of the detainees may be from Algeria. Can the Minister explain the difference between our attitude to the Government of Algeria and that of the French Government?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not prepared to say anything that indicates the nationality of the detainees.

Services for Older People

11.7 a.m.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further action they intend to take to improve co-ordination across departments in light of the National Audit Office's report, Developing Effective Services for Older People.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we welcome this publication by the National Audit Office, which provides a very fair report on government achievements in the field of policy on older people. We are pleased that it acknowledges the effort we have put in towards better co-ordination across government. It notes, in particular, our successes, such as setting up a Cabinet Sub-Committee on Older People, appointing a Cabinet

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Champion for Older People, designating the Department for Work and Pensions to take the lead on older people's issues, and establishing the Pension Service to provide a dedicated benefits service for pensioners. However, that does not leave room for complacency. We acknowledge that still more could be done. We accept all the National Audit Office's recommendations.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I certainly congratulate the Government on the important initiatives that are currently under way for improving the access of older people to services that they need. However, in accepting all the recommendations of the National Audit Office, does the Minister nevertheless agree that there remains a lack of departmental co-ordination and feedback for those consulted in some areas? With the number of old people likely to grow from approximately 10.5 million today to 16 million by 2040, does the Minister accept the need for policies to be planned across all government departments to meet that challenge? Can he say when the older people's strategy, long promised by the Department for Work and Pensions, is to be published and whether it will, in particular, identify one department to be responsible for the co-ordination of these services?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, although I accept the recommendations of the National Audit Office, I believe that to some extent it was scratching around for things to criticise. It is such a favourable report that it is difficult to read it in the way I fear the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has been doing. However, there is a substantive point about the promise we made to produce a strategy for older people. We have not done so. I think, frankly, that the priority lies in communication with older people themselves. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said feedback—and she is quite right—such as updating the publications, which are now a little out of date, should be addressed to people themselves. The time for White Papers, cross-cutting reviews and strategies may be past. It is better to communicate directly.

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