Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, I am one of the few remaining members of the Franks committee, which investigated the origins of the Falklands War. Will this new committee have the power to call any body or any individual that it wishes to give evidence?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that that will be the case. The powers of the committee will be similar to those of the Franks committee. They are not exactly the same, because these are different circumstances, and it is a different conflict in different times. I hope that the committee will be able to make full use of those powers.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am glad that the Government have decided to set up an inquiry of Privy Counsellors. I was the Secretary of the first Privy Counsellors' conference on security, which looked into the disappearance and reappearance in Moscow of Burgess and Maclean. In that case, our report had two parts; one was open and the other was top secret. I remember delivering the top secret part to No. 10 Downing Street. Will the same procedure be carried out on this occasion, with an open part of the report and a secret part?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I understand it, that is the case. There will be an open report, and there will be parts of the report that cannot be put into the public domain, because of the nature of the evidence that will be taken. The noble Lord has reminded us of the enormous wealth of experience that there is on these issues in your Lordships' House.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the legal basis of the military action was UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which was based on the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he was concealing. Should the committee consider whether we really had a legal case for military action, particularly in the absence of the second Security Council resolution, which we never managed to obtain? Will the committee be shown the Attorney-General's full opinion, which the Government have so far refused to disclose?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, on that last point, it is the convention that the Government do not expose the advice of the Attorney-General. We have been over this point many, many times before. Had the noble Lord's party been on the committee it could have argued vigorously on that point.

As far as UN Security Council Resolution 1441 is concerned, the legal advice was based—as I remember debating at some length in your Lordships' House, when the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was a robust interlocutor—on not just Resolution 1441, but Resolution 1441 in relation to Resolution 678 and Resolution 687. If the noble Lord is really suggesting

3 Feb 2004 : Column 573

that we revisit UN Security Council resolutions, our poor committee will not be reporting by this summer's Recess, but by many summer Recesses from now.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords—

Lord Biffen: My Lords—

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I think it is the turn of these Benches, and then the Conservative Benches.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is not the first time, sadly, that the Liberal Democrats have refused to participate on a tri-party basis in examining issues of national security? Will my noble friend, even at this late stage, make a special plea to the Liberal Democrat Benches to reconsider their decision? They have excluded Mr Alan Beith MP from this committee. He is one of the members of the committee with the most experience, as he has been on the committee since its inception in 1993. He knows the security services through and through, and he has extensive knowledge of every aspect of their operations. He has a formidable brain, and he is exactly the kind of person required on that committee—to act like a ferret to find out where the truth lies. I appeal to them to reconsider.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have enormous sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours said. I very much regret this. After all, as the noble Baroness has told us on a number of occasions, the Liberal Democrat Benches have a different view of the rights and wrongs of what happened in relation to Iraq. That has been a valuable contribution, which has kept us all up to the mark. The noble Baroness never has any nonsense about anything—not that she gets nonsense from this Dispatch Box—she is very clear in the way that she pursues these issues.

I am not as well acquainted with Mr Alan Beith MP as my noble friend, because he had experience in the other place. Nevertheless, I regret enormously that the Liberal Democrat Benches will not be making the sort of point that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was able to make to us a moment ago. It is sad that they will shout from the sidelines and not in the heart of the debate. That is to be regretted.

Lord Biffen: My Lords, it would be churlish not to admit that the Minister has given a formidable exposition of the latest turn in the Government's policy, although with a little more contrition than she showed last Thursday.

The reality has already been indicated by my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater. Plenty of arguments are going on before this inquiry has even begun about its terms of reference, and the like. It is not a shortage of discussion or a shortage of committees that we have in the prosecution of this war; it is a lack of confidence on the part of the British public.

3 Feb 2004 : Column 574

Absent spectres from this evening's miserable feast are Robin Cook and Kenneth Clarke, who, in their respective positions, have been able to give voice to the powerful feeling that there is throughout the country that we are fighting an American war, on American terms, in a sequence of events dictated by Americans. That is no position from which to summons national support, whether through further meetings or further committees, or by a more direct appeal on the part of the Prime Minister to the public at large. The truth is: we are in this position, and it is a miserable position in which to be.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am not sure what the noble Lord's question was. I did not detect one in the exposition that he just gave us. I am sorry if I appeared to be contrite today; I did not mean to be. I meant to offer your Lordships a clear explanation of the Government's position. I hope that I did that. I shall have to watch my step.

Was it an "American war"? No, it was not. It was not an American war, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister fought for his point of view over and over again in another place and was the first Prime Minister to subject that point of view to a vote of the House of Commons. There was nothing "American" about that; it was very British. If I may say so, it was very much in tune with the way in which my right honourable friend conducts himself.

Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]

4.10 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Transfer to Lord Chancellor of functions relating to Judicial Appointments Commission]:

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass moved Amendment No. 1:

    Leave out Clause 1.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I sometimes think that, now that the nation is in the mood for inquiries, it would be exciting to have an inquiry into what intelligence provoked the Government to bring a Bill of this kind to the House. It has been brought to us in its present form for the second time in two years.

In Committee, when I spoke on Clause 1, I hoped that somehow I would be enlightened about the Bill. Sadly, that was not the case. I accept that the Tory amendment relating to the Lord Chancellor was accepted, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, knew of and alluded to proposed changes in the role of the Lord Chancellor, I have to ask what was really achieved by that concession.

My party is opposed to the whole concept of devolving judicial appointments, especially, I emphasise, the appointment of our 17 High Court judges, as it does not go hand-in-hand with the devolution of responsibility for criminal justice. The Criminal Justice Review saw the devolution of judicial appointments happening only in the context of the devolution of criminal justice. They are

3 Feb 2004 : Column 575

two aspects of the same issue, so why separate them? One recalls that, at Second Reading, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, indicated that the review had shown that something like 77 per cent of the population had expressed confidence in the fairness of judges and magistrates. Why, then, the urgency?

I ask that in the light of the Government's promise that none of it would happen without broad support from the political parties in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has written to me, and I am grateful for his correspondence. However, I am unhappy that he has confirmed the reason why the Government broke that promise. Although the noble Lord does not spell it out, the reality is that, at Weston Park, where we went to meet the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in good faith, a nasty little deal was done with Sinn Fein, leading ultimately to the Joint Declaration. I cannot say that political parties in Northern Ireland were not properly consulted—they were not consulted at all about some of the important points.

With no devolution of responsibility for criminal justice, we would be content for Northern Ireland to be part of whatever emerges with regard to a Judicial Appointments Commission for England and Wales. Does the noble Lord foresee the composition of the commission for England and Wales having the same balance as that for Northern Ireland? If not, why not?

I end, as I began, by questioning the intelligence behind what is happening with the Bill. The one thing that we see again and again in Northern Ireland legislation is an entrenchment—a re-entrenchment—of the things that derive from sectarianism. The overall interests of the community at large are ignored—sometimes one tradition in the community, sometimes another—and the overall effect is that the community as a whole in Northern Ireland suffers from the compulsory re-entrenchment of sectarianism that is built into every Bill that the Government bring forward on such issues. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, although I have a lot of sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, and a lot of sympathy with his aversion to the Bill as a whole, I do not share all of that aversion. Were the noble Lord to divide the House, I would not feel able to support him in the Lobbies. However, I have made the point several times that I disagree strongly with the timing of the Bill and many of the issues in it. We will come to those issues later.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page