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Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the reason why the Eritreans declined to accept a visit by Mr Lloyd Axworthy is that it is not they who are responsible for incursions into the temporary security zone; that it is not they who have failed to create the necessary conditions for demarcation to proceed; and that it is not they who have failed to co-operate fully and promptly with the boundary commission? In view of the Ethiopians' continued non-compliance with the Security Council resolution, does not she think that a threat to peace exists that should now be referred to the Security Council under chapter 6 of the charter?

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord's conclusions. The United Nations appointed Lloyd Axworthy relatively recently and he ought to be given the opportunity to take forward the remits that he has. I have indicated that there are shortcomings on both sides, and the noble Lord has indicated very clearly the shortcomings on the Ethiopian side. It is important now that we use the forthcoming visit of the development secretary to press home the point, as we did with the visit of my honourable friend recently. I hope we will give this process a chance, under Mr Axworthy, who I believe to be a very good choice for the UN envoy role.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, can the Minister say what progress has been made in demarcating the frontier and whether this process also involved an element of arbitration in places where the frontier was in dispute? Furthermore, can she give us any good news about the return of prisoners and refugees by both sides which must surely help to build trust and confidence?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I fear that the stand-off between the two countries at the moment does not allow me to give the good news that the noble Lord requests. I wish I could give him such news. I can only reiterate that this is a highly unsatisfactory situation. The Ethiopians have refused to accept the findings of the boundary commission. The United Nations has put in an envoy who we hope will be able to bring the two sides together, but the Eritreans are currently refusing to deal with him. The boundary commission found in favour of the Eritreans, as the noble Lord knows, but at the moment, the area particularly around Badame—which is the area principally under dispute, and where there are about a thousand people living—is in considerable difficulty.

I return to my main point—that the envoy has to be given the opportunity to discuss the borders, the future of Badame and the important question that the noble Lord has raised in relation to prisoner exchange.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, would the Minister agree that this dispute in the Badame region goes back a long way, certainly to the time of Mussolini and probably before that, and that there has been a long string of undertakings and agreements—the US-Rwanda peace plan; UN Resolution 1226; as well as the Algiers agreement that we are talking about? Would she accept that it is going to take a lot to persuade the Ethiopians to come into line with the boundary commission, but that it is worth while persisting very hard, because last time the matter turned into violence with 100,000 lives being lost. We want no repeat of that.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords; I agree that it has been a dispute of very long-standing. Sadly, many disputes of long-standing duration become intractable over a period of time. It is obvious

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that both sides view the Badame area as part of their own country. We have consistently stressed to the Ethiopians, at prime ministerial and ambassadorial level both in Addis Ababa and in New York, that we believe that the decision of the boundary commission is final and binding. However, it is now for the Ethiopian Prime Minister to persuade his government, his party, and his people that they must accept the boundary commission's findings. However, I am sure that he will face an uphill task in doing so, as my noble friend Lord Rea indicated in his supplementary question.

Lord Rea: My Lords, could I ask my noble friend to convey my congratulations to her honourable friend Chris Mullin on the excellent work that he has been doing in this troubled area? Perhaps I could use this short intervention to clear up any misunderstanding that I might have created with my first supplementary question. I do not include the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr Meles Zenawi, in any way with those who are trying to disrupt the agreement.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for what he said about Mr Mullin. He is right. During Mr Mullin's visit, from 13 to 19 January, he was able to address these issues with both Eritrea and Ethiopia. He met President Issaias in Eritrea and Prime Minister Meles in Ethiopia. Her Majesty's Government have shared the regard that my noble friend has expressed about Prime Minister Meles. We are worried about many issues in Ethiopia, particularly in connection with human rights, but Prime Minister Meles shows some instincts for reform in his country; he is trying to bring forward the economic agenda and we support him in the way that he is dealing with NePAD.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, would it be wrong to presume that the Minister is familiar with the concept of horse-trading? I wonder whether the Ethiopian Government are taking up the position in the hope that they can gain some advantage, particularly from third parties who are interested to see peace in the area. Have the Government any idea what they might be looking for?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I used to be the general secretary of a trade union. Therefore, I do know a little about horse-trading, one way or another. I cannot read what the Ethiopian Government are looking for. Quite often, in these sorts of border disputes, individuals think that by not coming to an agreement they have more to gain as time goes on—for example, as more and more Ethiopians come into the area in dispute, the idea is that their claims will be strengthened by people on the ground. That may be some of the thinking behind what has gone on, but that is speculation. We have to allow Mr Axworthy to bring both sides together. It will not be an easy task, but we must afford him the opportunity to try to fulfil the remit that he has been given by the United Nations.

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Child Trust Funds Bill

3.16 p.m.

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, before the debate begins, perhaps I may say a few words about speaking times. As noble Lords know, we have a target finishing time of 10 p.m. We can meet that if speeches are limited to a maximum of eight minutes. I give the House a gentle reminder that when eight minutes displays on the Clock it means that the speaker is in the ninth minute. If we are to meet our target rising time of 10 p.m., it means just that: noble Lords should speak for eight, not nine, minutes. It is quite important that we aim to finish around our target time because tomorrow we start at 11 a.m. That gives us a particular reason for wanting to aim for that target, quite apart from the fact that many of us might also wish to finish at that time in any case.

Hutton Inquiry

3.17 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the inquiry by the Lord Hutton into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to debate the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, into the tragic death of Dr David Kelly. I particularly welcome and look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder of Wensum, who will obviously have a lot to contribute to the debate this afternoon.

The report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, repays careful study. I intend to consider it in a little detail, both in relation to its conclusions and its findings. Also, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, asked me, in the Statement last week, to indicate what the Government's responses are to the criticisms made of them in the report. But it is right, as well, that I speak about the inquiry announced yesterday into the issue of intelligence, and the threat of weapons of mass destruction generally.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, agreed to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of Dr Kelly. The noble and learned Lord is a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. He was a serving Law Lord when he accepted the task. His appointment was greeted with widespread approval. His conduct of the inquiry has been regarded as exemplary because of the transparency of the process, and the clarity with which the evidence unfolded.

His report is an outstanding piece of analysis. There is a generalised complaint, however, that it criticised the media and was not balanced in its attacks on the Government.

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The robust prejudice with which the report has been approached is exemplified by comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, in a place other than this House. He is quoted as saying:

    "I have not fully read his report but I have already come to the conclusion that his evidence does not support his conclusions and that is, put quite simply, a bad bit of work".

Put simply, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, deserved better than that.

Judges are not selected to produce a compromise; they are asked to analyse the evidence and reach findings of fact. That is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has done with conspicuous skill as a trained professional and a judge. Look at his record; note the skill with which his handling of the hearing was praised; above all, read his report and see the meticulous care with which he analysed the evidence.

Set that record against the attacks in the media on his report. Today's Independent newspaper report claimed that Dr Jones was overruled about the inclusion of the 45-minute claim. In the evidence that Dr Jones gave to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, he accepted that it was right to insert the 45-minute claim; indeed, he said that it was important intelligence. But his concern related to whether the intelligence should be prefaced in the dossier by the words "intelligence suggests" rather than "we judge". It is a significant issue, but not the sort of complaint that justified the subsequent reports of it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, focused on a number of issues. The main ones were: the accuracy of Mr Andrew Gilligan's broadcasts on 29 May; whether the dossier was sexed-up and the propriety of its production; and whether the Government engaged in an underhand or duplicitous strategy in relation to the naming of Dr Kelly.

Taking Mr Andrew Gilligan's broadcast first, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concluded that the allegations reported by Mr Gilligan that the Government probably knew that the 45-minute claim was wrong or questionable were unfounded. Mr Gilligan himself accepted that he had made errors in his broadcasts in the "Today" programme on 29 May 2003.

Secondly, on the so-called sexing-up, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concluded that the allegation was unfounded as it would have been understood by the people listening to it. The dossier, he found, had not been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable.

Finally, on the question of the release of Dr Kelly's name, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, reported that there was no dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media.

However, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, found that the Ministry of Defence was at fault for not informing Dr Kelly that its press office would confirm his name if a journalist suggested it. He also considered that the Ministry of Defence was at fault for not having set up a procedure whereby Dr Kelly would be informed immediately his name had been confirmed to

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the press and in permitting a period of one and a half hours to elapse between the confirmation of his name and his being told of it. Of course, the Government must respond to those criticisms.

The MoD acknowledged that it would have been better if it had told Dr Kelly explicitly that his name would be confirmed if a journalist suggested it, and if there had been a procedure to inform him immediately he had been identified by the press. The Ministry of Defence has already taken measures to improve procedures, including, first, by reference to terms of employment and, secondly, by reference to disciplinary and related procedures. It intends also to examine assistance to civil servants at risk of media attention and guidance on dealing with the media, where the principle will remain unchanged that no-one should speak to the media, on or off the record, without express approval.

I wish to make the following points. The argument that Mr Gilligan's broadcasts were in substance true albeit inaccurate in some particulars is wrong. His claim was that the intelligence about Saddam using some weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so was inserted in the dossier, not by the JIC, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had told Parliament, but by Downing Street. He said that that was done against the express wishes of the JIC, and that it was done by Downing Street,

    "probably knowing the intelligence was wrong".

Furthermore, he said that the source of that unprecedented charge was,

    "a senior official in charge of drawing up the dossier".

That was the substance of the broadcast at seven minutes past six on 29 May. In fact, every single one of those claims was wrong, as the noble and learned Lord has found.

Secondly, the criticisms that the noble and learned Lord makes of the BBC were, in large measure, based on the views of the BBC itself. Thirdly, the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, were entirely consistent with the findings of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee on the reliability and propriety of the dossier.

With respect to those who attack the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, such as the Independent today, I ask that they understand what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has done—an independent analysis of the facts that is unbiased, unprejudiced and fair. No axe to grind; no case to make; no unsupported assumptions. Instead, detailed findings of fact. We will make so much more progress in this matter if we accept those findings and then draw our conclusions from them.

Perhaps I may lay one more canard to rest. It has been suggested that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has enunciated a doctrine that greatly inhibits press freedom. It is said that this is new law. We do not accept that that is right. Obviously, we regard the independence of the BBC as critical. But the relevant findings are set out in the report.

The first is: do not publish false allegations. In support of that, the noble and learned Lord relies on well known decided cases and quotes Reynolds from

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this House. Secondly, he says that it is necessary to ensure that the editors of media outlets know the terms in which a serious attack is going to be made on the Government before it is broadcast and consider whether it is right in all the circumstances to broadcast it. Thirdly, he concludes that, where an allegation of inaccuracy is made, the management should normally investigate it before dismissing it. Finally, he concludes that, where the Prime Minister and the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee allege to the governors of the BBC that a broadcast is false, the governors should investigate it. None of that is either new law or bad practice.

The report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was into the death of Dr Kelly. It was set up in the wake of his tragic death. It did not deal with the accuracy of the intelligence, though the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concludes that the dossier was an accurate account of the intelligence then available. We support and have the highest regard for the intelligence services. As has been made clear, we have not, until very recently, thought that an inquiry into the disparity between the intelligence received on weapons of mass destruction and what has been found about WMD by the Iraq Survey Group was either wise or timely. The ISG has been looking at the WMD position in Iraq.

Until the beginning of this week (Sunday), we have always preferred to wait until that group had reported before considering any further investigation of the discrepancies that might exist after the ISG had reported. I myself expressed that view as late as Sunday morning, in a broadcast. However, a series of events has caused us to change our view. David Kay's evidence to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday of last week and the increasing uncertainty of the time within which the ISG might conclude its activities make it unwise to wait. We accept that an inquiry is required. We would have been happy for it to be conducted by the ISC, but my right honourable friend in another place was pressed hard for a Franks-type inquiry, and has agreed to it.

The inquiry was described in detail by my noble friend Lady Symons yesterday, when she repeated the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place yesterday. The inquiry will be able to examine the whole intelligence issue, including weapons of mass destruction, and investigate in particular any discrepancies in that intelligence and what has been found in Iraq by the Iraq Survey Group. It will be able to make recommendations. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for agreeing to chair it, and to all the other members participating. I know that in this House we will be particularly pleased to see the participation of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge.

I have no doubt about the independence and integrity of the members of that inquiry. I hope that they will be given time and space to conduct their inquiry, and that people will judge them by the quality of their findings rather than by whether they give the judgment that those who have already formed their view on the issue want. I hope that the willingness of

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public servants such as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, and their fellow members of the inquiry to give of their time in such inquiries is not undermined by the monstering that they get from some elements of the press—either after they have failed to deliver a judgment in accord with the prejudices of some, or even, in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in advance of uttering one word on the subject.

I am very glad that the Conservatives are co-operating in the inquiry. I welcome the participation of the Conservative Party. I am disappointed but not surprised by the Liberal Democrats' failure to participate in the inquiry. They will snipe from the sidelines; they will make no positive contribution; and they will hope that it all goes wrong for somebody else.

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