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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I take issue with what the noble Lord said about our being a conquering power. I emphatically tell him that that is not how we have seen ourselves; that has not been said at any point by any of those in the coalition. We conceive our role as that of liberating powers. The noble Lord has only to look at the faces of the Iraqi people in Baghdad yesterday. They were not the faces of conquered people; they were the faces of liberated people who were themselves pulling down the statues of Saddam Hussein.

I turn to the question of the authentication of any weapons of mass destruction that may be found. I have not ruled out—no one would dream of doing anything

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so silly—the authentication for which the noble Lord asked. What I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was that it was quite possible, if any weapons of mass destruction are found, that they will be found by coalition forces. The fact that they had been found by them should not lead one then to say that there was somehow a doubt about the veracity of what they had found.

I fear that by pursuing their line, the Liberal Democrats may well argue themselves into the position, if weapons of mass destruction are found by the coalition forces, in which somehow the whole world will be able to say, "They were not real, because they were found by coalition forces". It is quite possible that they will be found by those forces, but the role of the United Nations in then inspecting what has been found has not been ruled out. It is a matter to be discussed with the UN and the forces on the ground.

I turn to the question of Syria. There is nothing sinister in the statement that has been made about Syria. There have been questions about Syria's attitude to Iraq. That is clear. Those statements have been made openly. We are concerned about Syria's attitude. We do not want succour to be given by the Syrians to the fallen regime of Saddam Hussein. That is the point at issue. But there is nothing sinister in our asking my honourable friend Mike O'Brien to go to Syria, as my right honourable friend has done. As the Statement makes clear, having such a dialogue with Syria is the sort of thing that we need to be doing. That is precisely what the Government are doing—nothing sinister, but sensible diplomacy.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I want to raise a question that has not hitherto been appropriate. In the light of the looting, and so on, I have given notice to my noble friend of my question, which I raise on behalf of the All-Party Group on Archaeology. One dimension of winning hearts and minds among significant groups in Iraq is recognition of their pride in their history. The heritage of Iraq has considerable potential for the crucial task of forging national unity. All groups in Iraq share a common pride—a pride successfully exploited by Saddam Hussein.

For a number of reasons, it is desirable for any reconstruction plans to include some provision for safeguarding those sites.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Reading!

Lord Lea of Crondall: Does my noble friend agree that the question of protecting archaeological sites against looting, borders and so on, should be given urgent attention now that the issue of policing is on the agenda? Would it be helpful if an Arab League country such as Tunisia was also involved in such a policing operation?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is a serious matter that the Government take seriously, but we must be careful. Military action in Iraq is not yet over. There may well be serious questions of security, not only in some of the outlying regions—we

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have been discussing Kirkuk and other problems raised by your Lordships relating to different parts of Iraq—but there is obviously still fighting going on in Baghdad. That is an important issue, but we must take things carefully at present, not move to some of the points that, however important they may be, are not as important as safeguarding the lives of the people on the ground—our own servicemen and women and civilians.

However, we are considering how we can help the Iraqi people to preserve their archaeological heritage. We are in touch with archaeologists and other experts to discuss ways forward. I know that the matter concerns my noble friend. I have been trying to contact colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, who of course have the primary responsibility in that area. If I cannot find someone who can help the noble Lord immediately, I am willing to meet him and his colleagues who take an interest in the matter one day early next week.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that, by reason of the way in which, from the outset of this matter, she has shouldered her anxious responsibilities to the House, she has put us greatly in her debt?

Lord Judd: My Lords—

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords—

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I fear that we are out of time.

Sexual Offences Bill [HL]

1.56 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 30 [Family relationships]:

Baroness Noakes moved Amendment No. 201:

    Page 14, line 35, after "half-sister," insert "step-sibling or foster-sibling,"

The noble Baroness said: We now come to a group of amendments that concern the family relationships in the familial sex abuse clauses—Clauses 28 and 29. Amendment No. 201 adds step-siblings and foster-siblings to the list of basic relations—if I may term them that—in Clause 30(2)(a). That extends the relationship beyond blood relations. The amendment is consistent with the inclusion of step-parents and foster parents in paragraphs (b) and (c). In terms of creating a family relationship that can be abused, I cannot see that step and foster siblings can be separated from siblings of whole or half blood, who do not have to live in the same household to be able to abuse their family relationship.

I am aware that under Clause 30(3)(d), foster siblings may be brought within the scope of the familial sex abuse clauses, but step-siblings could not be caught, except by Clause 30(4), which does not concern family relationships at all. It would be safe to

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include those relationships squarely in Clause 30(2). While I am on my feet, I support the amendment of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, which seeks to clarify which cousins are intended to be covered by Clause 30(3). The noble Lady knows far more about the meaning of words such as "cousin" than I could ever learn, and I look forward to hearing what she has to say. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: There are three amendments in this group: Amendments Nos. 201, 202 and 203. They all deal with the question of who should be included in the family group. Clauses 28 and 29, dealing with familial child sex offences, are designed to protect children within the family environment, where they should be entitled to feel safe and protected but where, unfortunately, they are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Because of the balance of power in the family unit and the close and trusting relationships that exist within it, the family creates ideal opportunities for exploitation and abuse. What familial relationships should be covered? It is clear that the most important factors are the proximity of the relationship and the balance of power that exists between the abuser and his victim, and that those attributes extend beyond the immediate blood relatives of a family. The definition of the family unit also needs to be drawn widely to reflect the fairly loose structure of the modern family and the sometimes transitory nature of familial relationships.

In brief, the definition of the family unit is therefore drawn into three categories. Subsection (2) relates to core family members. Subsection (3) relates to wider family members, such as the partner of the child's parent who lives or has lived in the same household as the child, or who holds or has held a position of trust or authority in relation to the child. Subsection (4) relates to other persons living in the same household as the child and who hold positions of trust or authority in relation to the child at the time of the alleged offence.

The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, proposes bringing step-siblings and foster-siblings within subsection (2), which covers relationships where there will always be an offence. As the noble Baroness will be aware, step-siblings and foster-siblings may not be related by blood; they may never live in the same household and may rarely come into contact with each other. So we do not think that it is right for them to be covered by subsection (2). We have already covered foster-siblings in subsection (3)(d) because we recognise that in some cases they may live in close proximity. There may also be merit in bringing step-siblings, who are not covered by paragraph (d), into the scope of the offence in certain circumstances. We should like to consider that point further. We are not suggesting their inclusion in subsection (2); in effect, we are suggesting subsection (3)—it depends on whether or not they live together.

Amendment No. 202 is a government amendment. Subsection (3)(b), as drafted, brings the partner or spouse of the child's aunt or uncle within the scope of the offence, where the defendant lives or has lived in the

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same household as the child, or where he holds or has held a position of trust or authority in relation to the child. On reflection, we think that those relationships ought to be covered by subsection (4), where the defendant lives in the same household as the child, and where he holds a position of trust or authority in relation to the child. We no longer think that there is anything peculiar to the relationship between partners or spouses of aunts or uncles as distinct from a range of other relationships. Amendment No. 202 takes out of the scope of the relationships covered by the offence the partner or spouse of the child's aunt or uncle.

The amendment of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, Amendment No. 203, would restrict the relationships between cousins covered in subsection (3) to first cousins. However, I do not think that the amendment is necessary, given that "cousin" is defined in subsection (5)(b) as,

    "the child of an aunt or an uncle".

In the light of those considerations, I respectfully suggest that the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, withdraw Amendment No. 201 to enable me further to consider the point about step-siblings. I make it clear that it is in regard to subsection (3), not subsection (2). I also ask Members of the Committee to accept the government amendment, Amendment No. 202.

For the reasons that I have given, I am afraid that I do not think that Amendment No. 203 is necessary because the point is already covered. I therefore hope that the noble Lady will not feel it necessary to move it when the time comes.

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