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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am intrigued by the noble Lord’s opening comments. I understand that he is now a Liberal Democrat, but perhaps he is now offering advice on socialism and going back to

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his roots. That is a great move forward in your Lordships’ House, and we look forward to the defection. On the noble Lord’s more substantial point, of course it is a matter of concern that there are overcrowded trains. By and large, the network functions well but, sadly, there will always be occasions when we encounter congestion and overcrowding. We work with the rail companies to minimise these problems, and where there is spare capacity on a train as the result of unfilled first-class seats, clearly some exceptions should be made and a waiver given.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the railway operator One Railway, which operates to and from Stansted Airport as well as in various other areas, is proposing to cut out stops at all the intermediate stations between Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport and notwithstanding that reduction will increase by only two the stopping services between Liverpool Street and Stansted? Commuters are going to have a hell of a time getting to and from London.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my noble friend’s question goes back to the first Question today and I can understand why he has conflated the two issues. I understand that in any expansion plans for Stansted, the airport operator will have to bring forward practical and sensible measures to address the increased capacity that will be required on the rail network.

Iran: UN Sanctions

2.59 pm

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, we are considering a range of options with the E3+3 partners. That process is still at an early stage, and I am not going to speculate on the outcome. However, we will want to discuss measures that have a wider impact, and Iran is already in effect sanctioning its own economy through its defiance in the face of the international community, which is discouraging international investment.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the United States appears to be moderating somewhat its policy towards Iran and North Korea? Is he aware that a very senior official of the State Department recently described the agreement on denuclearisation by North Korea as a template for negotiations with Iran, and that he said that a military conflict with Iran was neither desirable nor feasible?

Nevertheless, Iran presents serious problems. Is it not necessary that further steps are taken? I agree with the Minister on that. Will he consider further economic and financial measures?

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Lord Triesman: My Lords, real progress has been made with North Korea, and the regional neighbours have been extremely important in that process; China has obviously played an important role. We need to continue to put that kind of pressure on Iran as well, both in the region and internationally.

As matters stand, under the unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737, there is the possibility of a considerable extension of sanctions, should that prove necessary. We are not at the end of diplomacy, but the introduction of further sanctions is under active discussion.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Minister will be well aware of the intense pressure within right-wing circles in Washington for tighter and tighter sanctions on Iran, building up into a confrontation where there is finally a military attack. Can he reassure us that Her Majesty’s Government are adopting due caution towards that pressure, with a recognition that the Iranian political system is complex and the current Government would be strengthened by aggressive opposition from the outside, and that we need to do our best to reintegrate Iran into a regional approach to a more stable Middle East?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, we have been insistent that diplomatic work should continue. Alongside that, we have said that if there was not compliance with United Nations international decisions, there would need to be an increase in the sanctions regime, and the Security Council has agreed with that. We have also been clear on whether this is moving towards some military phase. The Prime Minister said on 6 February that:

Those words were not all that far away from what Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in the United States on 2 February, and that broadly is a position I have been able to reassure the House about on a number of occasions.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, my noble friend will recall that in the 1980s the most effective pressure on the apartheid regime in South Africa was not public sanctions from the United Nations and the European Union but private sanctions, particularly the refusal of the Chase Manhattan Bank to roll over loans for the apartheid regime. Does he think there are parallels here? Is it true that, as reported, the Foreign Office has counselled banks in the United Kingdom and private institutions against further investment in Iran?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, as I said in my Answer, the private sector is no doubt having a real impact on the Iranian economy. I also said that I did not wish to be drawn into the details of the issues we are discussing with our partners, largely because I want to achieve the same unanimity that was achieved around the Security Council resolution. We have a bit of work to do on that, but unanimity on this is what will cause the breakthrough. If some people feel they can splinter away from that position, the Iranian Government need take no account of any of us.

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Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, given that unanimity is going to be difficult to achieve in the Security Council, what is the Government’s attitude to another option—pressed on us, I think, by the United States—that we in the European Union should of our own volition apply certain financial sanctions, as the noble Lord has indicated, which the Americans have been applying for a long time? Are the Government examining that?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I acknowledge that the sanctions that the United States private sector and Administration have applied show considerable signs of success. I do not accept, however, that there is no or a small prospect of unanimity. I was told that there was unlikely to be unanimity about Resolution 1737; in fact, there was unanimity. The discussions have been going well through the latter part of January and through February, and I believe that we can reach a unanimous position. We will have to take account of the successes others have had when we consider the prospects for particular sanctions.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, may I ask my noble friend’s advice? I was at the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia last week when this question came up. How would he answer the accusation that we are engaging in double standards in doing everything that we can within the United Nations to stop Iran developing a nuclear capability while doing nothing about Israel's undoubted nuclear capability? Much as many people are against what is happening in Iran, the fact that so many in the region perceive a double standard undermines the position.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware at first hand that there has been a good deal of discussion with the Government of Israel about the desirability of having a nuclear-free area throughout the Middle East. The existence of nuclear weapons in any part of the Middle East encourages others to consider following that option. But we have a straightforward priority: we do not want to see nuclear proliferation and least of all do we want to see it in regimes that may be undemocratic, unstable or liable to threaten or consider wiping out other nations in their region.


3.06 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with permission, a Statement on welfare reform will be repeated later this afternoon. It will be delivered by my noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton after completion of the debate on the prevention of terrorism order.

Torture (Damages) Bill [HL]

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for actions for damages for torture; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

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Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2007

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22 January be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 27 February, 7th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Baroness Morgan of Drefelin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2007

Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2007

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move the two Motions on the Order Paper standing in the name of my noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 24 January be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 27 February, 7th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in force of sections 1 to 9) Order 2007

3.08 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 1 February be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 received Royal Assent in March 2005. The Act provides for control orders to address the risk posed to public safety by individuals believed to be involved in terrorism who can be neither prosecuted nor deported. The purpose of the order before us is simple. Today's renewal debate is taking place in accordance with Section 13 of the 2005 Act. The powers in the Act will automatically lapse after one year unless renewed by order subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses. They were renewed last year but, without this new order, will lapse on 10 March 2007. The effect of the order is to continue the powers in force until 10 March 2008. The other place voted in favour of renewal on 22 February. As there is a serious issue before us, I shall expand on the specific need for the powers to continue.

As noble Lords will know, there is a serious and sustained threat from international terrorism to the United Kingdom and United Kingdom interests overseas.

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The current threat level is assessed as severe. An attack is judged to be highly likely. Moreover, since the tragic events of July, the police and Security Service have had considerable success in disrupting alleged terrorist plots.

Prosecution is regularly mentioned in this context, not least by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report published yesterday—and rightly so. We shall of course respond formally to the Joint Committee’s report, but I reassure all noble Lords that prosecution remains the Government’s preferred option for tackling individuals involved in terrorism. That is why the Government have strengthened the ability to prosecute for involvement in terrorism-related activity in the Terrorism Act 2006. It is demonstrated by the fact that, in 2006, 85 individuals were charged after being arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 or other legislation, when the investigation was conducted as a terrorist investigation.

Similarly, we seek to deport foreign nationals involved in terrorism, but that will sometimes not be possible, even with the memoranda of understanding or other agreements that are in place with a number of countries to enable us to return individuals safely to their countries of origin. Consequently, there will remain a comparatively small number of individuals for whom neither prosecution nor deportation is viable and whom the Security Service assesses are involved in terrorism and pose a risk to public safety. Without control orders, those individuals would be free to continue to engage in terrorist-related activity. That is a risk that the Government are not prepared to take.

I remind noble Lords that voting against renewal without having an alternative in place would expose the public to that risk. I would also ask what alternative noble Lords would have in its place. I emphasise that the legislative proposals suggested by honourable Members in another place to strengthen prosecution powers would not remove the need for control orders. That assessment of the necessity of control orders is shared by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, whose annual report on the operation of the Act was published on 19 February. In paragraph 7, he states:

We would respectfully agree.

I also place on record the Government’s gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who has produced another carefully considered, valuable report, which should inform today’s debate. The two other statutory consultees—the director-general of the Security Service and the Intelligence Services Commissioner—are also content with the intention to renew the legislation. However, as I know that the issue has caused much concern, I underline to the House that control orders have been successful in preventing, or at least limiting, these individuals’ involvement in terrorist-related activity. That view is shared by the Security Service. No one is pretending that control orders are 100 per cent effective. They are weaker and less effective than we would want, not least because of recent court judgments. As

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a result, there is inevitably a real risk that individuals on control orders will re-engage in terrorism or abscond. Indeed, there have been three well-publicised absconds. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, addresses that point cogently in his report, in paragraph 59, where he says that,

More encouragingly, the police, the prosecution authorities and the courts take enforcing control orders seriously. In January, the courts sentenced an individual to five months’ imprisonment for breaches of his control order. Charges against other individuals are pending.

So the need for the powers is clear. Parliament can also be reassured that a comprehensive set of safeguards are in place under the Act to ensure appropriate use of the powers. Indeed, we remain firmly of the view that the legislation and the order before us today are fully compliant with the ECHR. The Act provides full judicial oversight and rights of appeal. The courts must give permission for the Secretary of State to make a non-derogating control order or confirm within seven days an urgent control order made by the Secretary of State. There is automatic, independent judicial review of the decision to make or renew a control order. Individuals subject to control orders can appeal the Secretary of State’s decision to modify a control order, and apply themselves to have one revoked or modified where there is a change in circumstances—and can appeal the Secretary of State’s decision.

3.15 pm

Some people have previously questioned the sufficiency of the safeguards put in place by the Act, but events over the past year demonstrate the robustness of those safeguards. Noble Lords will be well aware that the judiciary has been actively overseeing the Act. First, we welcome the Court of Appeal’s conclusion in August 2006 that the judicial review procedure within the Act was compatible with Article 6 of the ECHR; that is, the right to a fair trial. That overturned an earlier High Court ruling against the Government.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier High Court decision that the particular control orders imposed on six individuals breached Article 5 of the ECHR; that is, the right to liberty. Noble Lords will be aware that the Government have appealed that decision, and both those points of law will now be heard by the Judicial Committee of your Lordships’ House in due course.

Thirdly, there have now been three control order review hearings in which all the substantive evidence has been put before the courts. Previous hearings had dealt only with legal issues. The High Court handed down judgment on the first such case on 16 February. We were of course disappointed that the order was quashed. The judge himself agreed that the individual was reasonably suspected of being a terrorist, and that the decision to keep the individual under a control order on an ongoing basis was necessary. Noble Lords will be aware that an appeal on that is pending. Meanwhile, to protect the public, we have made a new, albeit weaker, order against this individual in the light of the judgment.

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The reports of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, remain as valuable a safeguard as ever. We are constantly seeking to improve the way in which we administer control orders. The noble Lord’s new report includes some specific recommendations which we will consider carefully, consulting interested parties as necessary. We will respond formally to the noble Lord in due course. The recommendations include suggestions of areas for possible legislative amendment which we will of course examine.

In addition, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, notes the need for an “exit strategy” so individuals are not subject to control orders indefinitely. Control orders are valid only for a maximum of 12 months at a time. Indeed, following the noble Lord’s recommendation last year, we established the control order review group to keep all control orders under quarterly, formal and audited review. This helps to ensure that obligations in control orders remain tailored to the individual, necessary and proportionate. Of course, if the individual is no longer considered to represent a significant risk, the control order would be revoked.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, states his belief that there is a need for thorough, documented consultation in every case on whether a prosecution could be brought against individuals subject to a control order. Before making an order, the Secretary of State always consults the police on whether evidence is available that could realistically be used for the purposes of prosecuting the individual for a terrorism-related offence. But the Government, with the police and the CPS, will review consultation procedures in the light of the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the recent court judgment on this issue.

To sum up, the Government believe that control orders are necessary to address the continuing threat posed by terrorism. This belief is supported by the independent reviewer, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his annual report. He explicitly reiterates his conclusion from his previous report when he states:

The Government’s role, first and foremost, must be to protect the public. Control orders help to achieve that while maintaining the necessary safeguards to protect individual rights. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 1 February be approved. 8th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and 9th Report from the Merits Committee.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

Lord Dholakia rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert “but this House regrets that the Government have not replaced control orders with new measures to strengthen the ability of terror suspects to be prosecuted in court.”

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