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House of Lords

Wednesday, 12 October 2005.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: the LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Coventry.

Lord Mance

The Right Honourable Sir Jonathan Hugh Mance, Knight, a Lord Justice of Appeal, having been appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and thereby created a Baron for life, by the style and title of Baron Mance, of Frognal in the London Borough of Camden—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Hoffmann and the Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood.

Lord Turner of Ecchinswell

Jonathan Adair Turner, Esquire, having been created Baron Turner of Ecchinswell, of Ecchinswell in the County of Hampshire, for life—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Weidenfeld and the Lord May of Oxford.

The Lord Chancellor: Leave of Absence

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, before business begins, may I take the opportunity to inform the House that I will be undertaking a ministerial visit to Nottingham on Friday 14 October? Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence.

Military Retrials

2.48 pm

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether resort by the Ministry of Defence to retrial under the concurrent jurisdiction will be entrusted to the High Court and the extant discretionary process precluded.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, where a case has been tried in the military system, any retrial will be in the same system. This is so even where the case could have been tried in either the civilian or the military system; that is where there was concurrent jurisdiction.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her response. Is she aware that retrial for Trooper Williams, sought for reasons extraneous to justice, as recorded on 14 July, was also deviant from natural justice for want of notice to afford any opportunity for objection; and was granted in likewise deviance without reasons and in
 
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fundamental error, there never having been evidence upon which any jury, duly directed, could have convicted? In those circumstances, may the symbiotic process of seeking retrial under the concurrent jurisdiction, within the closet of discretion without the law, now be foreclosed on?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am afraid that I have to disagree with the noble Lord. I do not like disagreeing with him but in this case I have to. As he knows, there was no trial in the military system in Trooper Williams's case. The commanding officer in this case had exercised his power to dismiss the matter without any form of hearing or trial. The effect of his decision was to stop any possibility of a military trial. As the charge was murder, our civilian courts also had jurisdiction, and the trial judge said that the prosecution had not behaved in some unprincipled way.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the Attorney-General's decision to take the Trooper Williams case out of military jurisdiction, and the long delays in bringing the case to trial, have been enormously damaging to the morale of the Armed Forces. Five members of Trooper Williams's regiment still await a decision from the CPS over events alleged to have taken place in Iraq two and a half years ago. Should soldiers have to wait this long to clear their name?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right; there should not be lengthy delays. Such delays are stressful for all concerned. The MoD is working hard to ensure that there should be as little delay as possible between investigation, accusation and the trial itself; such delay should be kept to a minimum. I could not agree more with the noble Lord. I am not able to go into detail on the specific cases he raises because they are under investigation.

Lord Garden: My Lords, in the debate on 14 July on the chain of command in the Armed Forces, we covered the Trooper Williams case in some detail, and the Minister's colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, accepted, at col. 1262 of Hansard, that there had been a great burden of uncertainty that Trooper Williams himself had personally had to bear. He assured the House that lessons had been learnt from this case, but time precluded him from telling us what they were. Will the Minister tell us what they were, how many have been implemented, and what progress there has been in putting extra resources into both investigation and legal personnel in the Ministry of Defence?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am happy to tell the noble Lord, Lord Garden, that, following that debate answered by my noble friend in the summer, one of the lessons we have learnt concerns the role of commanding officers. This will come up when the House discusses the Armed Forces Bill in the coming
 
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year. We will consider commanding officers' not being able to dismiss any cases without first hearing them in a summary trial.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that any case, whether military or civilian, that gets in the hands of lawyers is procrastinated over more than any other—especially, as when lawyers speak in this House, when two words are used instead of one?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, it is always a joy to see our lawyer colleagues in the House, especially when a question such as this comes up. I am always delighted to hear what our lawyer colleagues have to say, however long it takes them to say it.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I should like to test that assurance to the limit. Is it not the case that the prosecution of Trooper Williams was abandoned—dropped virtually at the door of the court—in the light of evidence that had always, from the very beginning, been in the hands of the prosecution?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord. In answer to a question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, I quoted the trial judge in the case of Trooper Williams. The trial judge did not believe that there was an abuse of process in that case. She said that the prosecution had not behaved in an unprincipled way. Plainly, in a case as grave as this, there was material before the prosecution upon which it was entitled to take a view that a prosecution was merited.

Secondary Schools: Citizenship

2.56 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made with respect to the development of the curriculum on citizenship in secondary schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My Lords, substantial progress has been made since citizenship became a statutory secondary school subject in 2002. Programmes of study have been developed alongside guidance by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Some 1,000 specialist teachers will be trained by summer 2006. There are now 70 advanced skill teachers in citizenship. This year, there were 38,000 entries for the citizenship studies short course GCSE, an increase of 32,000 in two years, making citizenship the fastest-growing GCSE subject.
 
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving me evidence of progress. Does he recall that the Chief Inspector of Schools said in a speech in January that citizenship is currently the worst-taught subject in secondary schools, and that the Association for Citizenship Teaching states on its website that this is a very loosely and poorly defined subject? A rough poll I conducted of sixth formers first produced confusion, and then answers such as, "It's mainly about drugs", or, "It's about what you should eat". Then one person said, "Oh, we had a lesson on the European Union".

Does the Minister accept that part of the problem is that the Government are not able to define political rights, civil liberties and the role of Parliament in checking the executive because the Government are not entirely clear what they want people to learn about that?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord has strayed wide of the Question. Citizenship education has been taught in schools in a systematic way for only three years. During that time enormous progress has been made and I gave some of the figures. The substantial Ofsted report on which the chief inspector's findings were made was published soon after the introduction of the subject. Ofsted is compiling another report in which we will take a keen interest. However, significant progress has been made thanks in part to organisations such as the Citizenship Foundation which are working closely with schools and providing them with excellent materials, including on the function of the European Union.


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