Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as my noble and learned friend will know, that is a hypothetical question that I shall certainly resist answering. Terrorism was not the full picture of how we addressed the issue. The whole point of passing the Act was to ensure that we had a modern, effective, efficient procedure that could be adopted and which would be advantageous not only to the US but, more particularly, to us, because we want those who have behaved badly in our country and fled to other countries returned, and returned speedily.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, does the Minister agree—I think she does—that reciprocity is the only basis on which extradition can be justified; that reciprocity means reciprocity here and now, not reciprocity at some time in future; and that any other view could lead to a sense of great injustice among those affected?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will know that it is almost impossible to get absolutely identical reciprocity. If he means reciprocity in the round, I respectfully agree with him. We must remember that we have had a long and fruitful beneficial relationship with the United States and that, over time, we have had agreements that have worked and worked well. Obviously, we desire that the new arrangement be ratified as speedily as possible, but the rules that are in place are still sound and inure to our advantage.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, why are the Government so supine towards the United States, which extradites people from third countries to offshore centres and denies them access to the United States courts, while simultaneously trying to advance US jurisdiction into this country, even on tax matters?

With great respect to the Minister, I must say that, surely, the question raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is not hypothetical. There is a case before the UK courts now, that of Bermingham, Mulgrew and Darby. I am not asking the Minister to
 
9 Nov 2004 : Column 752
 
comment on that case, but surely it is wrong in principle that, in a case alleged against British citizens for alleged crimes against British entities and where all the documentary evidence is in this country, there should be an application for extradition to America.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I would describe this Government as anything other than supine. We have taken appropriate action to protect our people in the proper way. The noble Lord suggests that his hypothetical question could be answered by me, but he knows well that that would be improper because the facts are very similar to a case that is currently sub judice. The noble Lord will also know that the Extradition Act sets out clearly the rules that apply, as does our previous jurisprudence. Our courts will be entitled to examine those and decide whether or not an extradition application is well founded in our law, and they can so determine.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, would the Minister be good enough to explain to the House the position of those cases of extradition to the United States that were in progress when the new Act came into force on 1 January 2004? Does she recall the undertaking that she gave to the House on Report:

Can she confirm to the House now that the undertaking that she gave then is still being honoured?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can. The new treaty reflects the best modern practice. Of course, we must wait until it is ratified by the US before the US and we can take advantage of it. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made it clear that we certainly desired that to be done, and I have affirmed that that is the position, because it is a good arrangement. I remind the noble Lord that, in the mean time, we have arrangements which have stood us in good stead that can still be used to good effect.

Iraq: UK Forces Weapons Training

Lord Holme of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, all soldiers on active service in Iraq are required to undertake appropriate weapons training in accordance with clear standards laid down by policy.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, but I wonder whether he thinks that it is adequate to the very serious revelation made in a court martial acquittal verdict last week that
 
9 Nov 2004 : Column 753
 
2,300 reservists have been sent to Iraq despite having failed their weapons tests, in flat contravention of the rules on deployment and putting their own and other people's lives in considerable danger. How many reservists today serving in Iraq have still not passed their weapons test? Further, who made the decision to deploy them? If it was a military decision, who will be facing disciplinary proceedings? If it was a political decision, who will be coming before Parliament to accept responsibility?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I, too, saw the press reports of the case that the noble Lord mentions. Of course we are aware of and giving serious consideration to the comments made in those press reports of the recent trial, which, I remind the noble Lord, ended only six days ago. We are still awaiting the transcript. It is completely untrue that 2,300 reserves were deployed on operations having failed safety tests.

Lord Truscott: My Lords, to what extent has the largest deployment of Territorial Army and reservists since the Korean war been a success?

Lord Bach: My Lords, as the House knows, I think, the performance of the TA and the reservists in theatre has been a resounding success. Their record speaks for itself. They have once again earned the respect of their regular counterparts. More than 9,000 have served since TELIC 1 began. Part of that success can be put down to the excellent training that they received in the TA and reserves before mobilisation and afterwards. The House may wish to join me in paying tribute to them, their families, their employers and the communities who supported them. Noble Lords will be aware of the two gallantry awards made to TA soldiers: a Military Cross and a Queen's Gallantry Medal.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that there were weapons instructors at Chilwell who were themselves not properly qualified? Is he satisfied that the highest standards are now applied to instructors responsible for training TA soldiers about to go to war?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not know the answer to the noble Lord's first question. While we are giving serious consideration to the comments reported in the press on the recent trial of Corporal Blaymire, instructions have been issued to ensure that only personnel who have been trained strictly in accordance with the policy that I mentioned are deployed.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, why does the Minister not know why training instructors have failed their weapons test? As a former TA range officer, I know that the amount of everyday training given to TA personnel is far from adequate for sending them on operations. The Minister must be aware that remedial training must have been available. How much
 
9 Nov 2004 : Column 754
 
remedial training was undertaken? If none was undertaken, someone at the MoD should take the blame.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I repeat that the success of our reserves and TA in Iraq is in part due to the excellent training that they received. I have said three times now that we are giving serious consideration to comments made in the press. But I can tell the noble Lord that no soldier has been deployed with a weapon to Iraq who has not passed the requisite safety tests. Only three individuals who have failed the safety test have been deployed to Iraq. All three were employed in a field hospital—one was a surgeon, one a chef and one a medical technician—and none was equipped with a weapon. Others who have not passed the safety test have just not been deployed.

Viscount Slim: My Lords—

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords—

Lord Grocott: My Lords, we have time for questions from the Cross Benches and the Bishops' Bench, in strict rotation.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, as we know, soldiers work mostly by night. It has come to my notice lately and it is my personal observation that weapons training and the testing of range-firing and weapons is perhaps not carried out sufficiently in the dark. It is a very important part of training. Will the Minister give me some comfort that proper attention is being paid to it?


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page