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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord obviously does not know that, as we speak, we have an armed snatch squad of inspectors touring up and down the country looking for these fast-growing leylandii cypress, and they are due to report back shortly.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, we know only too well of the bitterness, anger and resentment that disputes of that nature can cause between neighbours and how they can sour relationships for years, if not decades. Can the Minister therefore confirm that legislation will be used to settle one of the longest and worst examples of this type of disputethat is, of course, the one between Nos. 10 and 11 Downing Street?
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Government welcome the clarity that their Lordships' judgment has brought to this important and difficult issue. We have consistently condemned torture. It has never been our intention to present to court evidence which we believe to have been obtained by torture, and the effect of the judgment is to replace this policy with an exclusionary rule of law. SIAC must exclude evidence if it is established on the balance of probabilities that it was obtained by torture.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's replynot without time. Are the Government able to say unequivocally that, apart from condemning the policy of torture, they will do everything to undermine and condemn it? Will they also co-operate fully with the Chief Constable of Manchester regarding his inquiries into the alleged flights by the United States into the UK?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am happy to endorse everything that my noble friend has said about our total condemnation of torture. I am not aware of the Chief Constable of Manchester's inquiry and I will write to him in relation to that matter.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the Law Lords decided by a majority of four to three that evidence would be excluded only if the defendant proved, on the balance of probabilities, that that evidence was obtained by torture. Since for obvious reasons that will be extremely difficult to prove, does this not mean that in future a good deal of evidence will be heard that is in fact obtained by torture?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not believe that is so. In the leading judgment, which was of course made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, he puts the position very succinctly. Of course, if there is still a question as to whether evidence might have been obtained by torture, that would go to weight and he rightly expressed the view that one would have to be cautious about it.
Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, would the Minister confirm that the UK participated at a meeting on closer collaboration on, among other matters, rendition procedures, held in Athens in 2003 and recorded in a document which was sent to the Home Office entitled New Transatlantic Agenda, EU-US
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meeting on Justice and Home Affairs? Does the Minister agree that such collaboration is contrary to the Law Lords' ruling of last week, and certainly contrary to the UK's obligations to avoid illegal transfer of individuals and their possible torture?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not understand that question. If the noble Baroness is asking whether the EU and US consult on and talk about these issues, then of course it is right. But we have made it absolutely clear that this Government will do only that which is consistent with their international and other obligations, and will at all stages act lawfully within the meaning of our law and international law. That is something of which we can be proud.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza; I had not appreciated that she had risen to speak. I would always yield to her on this issue, and she is a Cross-Bencher. I want to pursue a slightly different aspect of the question that she raised. We have a special relationship with the United States and rendition is now very much a live issue in Congress, where there has been a lot of debate about it. Given that, can the Minister assure the House that, using our own channels to the United States, we will make it absolutely clear that we oppose rendition and ask it to review its policy on that matter?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Well, my Lords, it depends on what the noble Baroness means by rendition. If she means improper use for torture, then absolutely, and we were very warmed by the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she said:
"The United States has respectedand will continue to respectthe sovereignty of other countries. The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured. The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured".
Lord Peston: My Lords, can my noble friend say, for those of us who are not lawyers, whether it is not perfectly obvious that something obtained under torture simply is not evidence and could not be construed as evidence in any meaningful sense? Why then does the burden of demonstrating various statements not fall on the prosecution? Is it not obliged to satisfy itself that it has fully checked everything that it puts forward as evidence, according to an absence of torture criterion?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, it is always difficult to explain these issues in detail from the Dispatch Box. Perhaps I should have said that I disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, about his synopsis of what the Law Lords said in their judgment. But they were dealing with the circumstances
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in which such evidence can come in, the basis on which the burden of proof would be satisfied, and what caution should be used when such evidence is brought into court. We respectfully suggest that the leading judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is absolutely right and is balanced. I commend to the House paragraph 118 on page 66 of the judgment, because it is succinct and puts the case as it should be put.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, if it emerged that people were being transported via British territory to places abroad where they could be tortured, would not a crime have been committed under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988? What steps would the Government take to increase the capacity of the Metropolitan Police to deal with those offences, considering that only two officers are allocated to those duties?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, that is a hypothetical question, not least because we have trawled the records and your Lordships will be aware of a statement made by my right honourable friend Jack Straw in relation to rendition. We have found no cases where any impropriety has taken place.
Lord Judd: My Lords, in view of some of the reported statements in recent times which could have been interpreted as being a trifle equivocal on this matter, will my noble friend assure the House that all those responsible for security policy in this country understand the uncompromising, commendable and altogether laudable stand of the Government on this issue?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton on the Order Paper.
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