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I have no doubt that most Zimbabweans understand the problems they face and the solutions required. Many, even in ZANU-PF, know the party has to change or lose all credibility. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether we see splits that may be of some benefit. I know that some leading members of that regime have been rather slower than they have

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in the past to climb on the Mugabe bandwagon. We must pay careful attention to that, not in a way which labels them and makes it impossible for them to operate, but one recognising that there are fundamental changes. Mugabe, of course, opposes all reform and continuously blames others for the crisis he has created, even to the extent of threatening international diplomats based in Harare, as I have said.

The United Kingdom shares the region’s desire to see Zimbabweans recover. There is no UK agenda other than the decent recovery of that country, but it is increasingly obvious to all that the present policies pursued by that Government are a barrier of the most profound kind on Zimbabwe’s road to recovery. Mugabe’s policies must change, or someone who can introduce new policies must be there, for any hope of a better future for ordinary Zimbabweans. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, asked what we were doing. I shall try to answer that, although he will appreciate that trying to “ensure”, as he put it, free and fair elections is something we can influence, but not achieve directly of our own volition. We can certainly try.

As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place, there is considerable concern across the international community about the situation I have described. The United Kingdom’s concern is shared by the European Union and many in the wider international community, particularly in Africa. SADC has shown for the first time that it is willing to discuss a matter which it has steadfastly refused to discuss on all previous occasions. So we must work closely with all of these bodies to sustain international pressure on the Mugabe Government. There are issues where we can exert pressure but have not so far done so. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked me how many children of the regime are in university. I tell the noble Baroness candidly that I do not know, but I am determined to find out.

We have maintained a firm EU policy, including the use of targeted measures. They have put pressure on the leaders of the regime and underline the EU’s position. We have recently achieved the roll-forward of those pressures, although not everybody in Europe was entirely confident that that was the right thing to do. They were content with our pressure, but I believe that rolling forward was absolutely right and we were successful in doing so. We must try to extend those measures. They are inadequate. They certainly punish Mugabe and his ruling clique, but are not intended to punish the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on this: we check, and must ensure that we continue to do so. We must be certain that the measures in place are as effective as intended.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that there has been no invitation to Mugabe for any EU conference held with Africa. My understanding is that nobody wishes to see the agreed sanctions stood down. We will continue to maintain the United Nations’ focus on Zimbabwe as well. That has included a strong statement: a number of nations have associated themselves at the Human Rights Council on 29 March, expressing their deep concern at the situation in Zimbabwe and calling for special rapporteurs. Briefings at the UN Security

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Council, most recently on 29 March, about the deteriorating humanitarian situation were among the first and most serious discussions we have seen. Visits by envoys of the UN Secretary-General have been important. The role of the new Secretary-General and what he might say were asked about. On 12 March, he made a hard-hitting statement condemning the brutality used against peaceful protestors. We believe that he is willing to continue to exert that pressure, which I welcome.

We will continue to support those working for peaceful democratic dialogue in Zimbabwe through the development of civil society programmes, which we support. Whatever the brutality visited on many of those people, I am with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark in applauding the work of most religious groups and leaders. The Archbishop of Bulawayo has played an exemplary role and deserves not just our support but our heartfelt thanks.

We are discussing with partners how the international community can best support the people of Zimbabwe, if and when there is a Government willing to turn from their present course and undertake serious and genuine political and economic reform. There are ways in which we could increase that pressure; they have come up in your Lordships’ debate. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, made the point that the G8 could do more. I assure him and the House that we are pushing for the matter to be on the agenda of the G8 and will continue to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Luce, and others, raised the role that the Commonwealth may play. I say to him and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, that the Commonwealth in planning its conference is none too keen to reintroduce matters which took up almost the whole of the Commonwealth conference not too long ago. None the less, I see the strength of the argument and I am certainly prepared to argue it with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Luce, that through the Commonwealth and the United Nations, the mobilisation of the tools of recovery is absolutely vital. I also share with the noble Viscount, Lord Goshen, the fundamental point that, if there is just another leader like Mugabe, pouring in additional resources, or trying to make these arrangements in circumstances which have not changed fundamentally, will not succeed. For those reasons, it is a matter of changing and securing different policies. My noble friend Lord Anderson was quite right to say that we have the advantage of being able to build on some existing strength; and we have to make sure we do.

Africans are highly critical, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said. Many individual Africans have been bravely outspoken. We pursue the issues repeatedly with the African organisations and states. We have urged at every stage a stronger African response. I have raised the Zimbabwean issue regularly with African Ministers—I think with every one I have ever met—as do my colleagues and officials. The noble Viscount, Lord Goshen, described it as “constant pressure”. I say to my noble friend Lord Acton that this has been at the centre of my discussions with President Mbeki on all occasions, and—I say to the noble Earl, Lord

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Caithness—with other former leaders who might have influence, such as President Chisano. It has been a constant theme of the work we are doing.

Following the recent escalation in violence, I am pleased to tell the House that, as many noble Lords will know, the Prime Minister has spoken to President Mbeki and President Kikwete of Tanzania. They made clear to him—this is their contribution to the conversation rather than the Prime Minister’s—that the tragedy in Zimbabwe is now having a significant impact on them and their region. It is a direct impact; it is also a social impact. They see the situation also as liable to get worse rather than better.

How do I assess this African intervention? My assessment in the past has been that it has been lacklustre. I think everybody knows my view on that. Quiet diplomacy has been urged on me. I believe that it has mostly been silent rather than quiet, but it is now audible and change is potentially unstoppable.

In saying these things, of course we all must make sure that the failed attempts of the past—including President Mbeki’s attempts, which the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, mentioned—culminate in the present attempt being more successful. We must relentlessly exert pressure. But I echo the point made by my noble friend Lord Anderson. This must be done in a way, as Morgan Tsvangirai has made clear to us, that does not undermine the efforts of those in the country who will have to bear the greatest weight in the changes we are trying to achieve. There is absolutely no point in destroying the credentials of those who may very well emerge as the leaders we need in the new Zimbabwe, whatever accommodations have to be made in order to achieve that result. When a key opposition leader makes those points, we must listen very carefully to them and show proper respect.

I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark and the noble Lord, Lord Best, that we are continuing work to provide aid. DfID has put £35 million into HIV/AIDS—a matter the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about—in an attempt to bring down its prevalence in that country; €200 million have been given by EU states; and the United Kingdom alone disbursed nearly €60 million in bilateral assistance. These are not the actions of nations that are not interested in the well-being of the people of Zimbabwe rather than the problems of its rulers.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Best, that Anna Tabijuka is unlikely to be welcome to return to make another report. I share his view, but we will have to find either someone like her or others who will continue to put on that pressure. I perfectly appreciate what he said about the homelessness organisations and I should like to know more about them.

We intend to maintain that pressure and to work in difficult circumstances for the outcome that this House plainly wants. During his Easter message on 8 April, His Holiness the Pope made clear that Zimbabwe is in the grip of a crisis. It echoes the sentiments expressed throughout the international community condemning Mugabe's actions and supporting the brave Zimbabweans who have stood up against the regime.

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We must all—we in this country in particular—play our role, strongly supporting the steps towards a new democracy, towards fair elections, towards a different outcome for the people of Zimbabwe, without, as I have said, damaging the opposition. We will continue to ensure that the targeted measures of the EU are in place. We will make sure that those who violate human rights and subvert the rule of law are targeted. We support all those working for peaceful and democratic dialogue, including WUSA, if I may say so to the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. We will make sure that we are supporting them as well.

In two days’ time, the Government of Zimbabwe will hold celebrations for Zimbabwe's independence day—27 years after independence was declared. Independence from what? Are these people truly free? This House has expressed its view tonight and I hope that the House will feel that I have expressed the Government's view tonight: they cannot express their basic rights. They cannot choose the Government without a beating or worse from the police. That is unacceptable and we will play our part in turning round that grievous disaster.

Legal Services Bill [HL]

8.32 pm

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Schedule 1.

Amendments 17 to 22 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 27 not moved.]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) moved Amendment No. 28:

“(b) give a copy of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report to the Lord Chancellor. (a) a copy of the statement of accounts for that year, and (b) a copy of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on that statement.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [The Board's duty to promote the regulatory objectives etc]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 29:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as I am sure that the noble Baroness is well aware, the amendment is identical in terms to Amendment No. 31, tabled in Committee. It generated a short debate which is to be found in Hansard of 9 January 2007 at cols. 173 to 176. The background to the amendment—I do not intend to go into as much detail as I did in Committee—is the reaction of the Government to one of the recommendations of the Joint Committee. That

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recommendation essentially endorsed Sir David Clementi’s recommendation that the manner of regulation for the Legal Services Board should be not direct but supervisory.

In their response to the Joint Committee, the Government said:

The amendment seeks to incorporate this notion into the Bill at this point. However, later amendments express precisely the same principle in rather different terms. I refer the Minister in particular to Amendment No. 174, which I anticipate we will come to at some stage on Wednesday afternoon.

The theme will be familiar to the Minister: the existing professional bodies should be the front-line regulators, and the Legal Services Board should have a supervisory role, intervening only if it believes that a front-line regulator is failing in its duty in some way or another. The Minister seemed to endorse this approach at various points in Committee. However, she was reluctant to have it reflected in the Bill.

With the greatest possible respect to her, this is not satisfactory. Once the Legal Services Board is up and running, it will inform itself on the basis of the words of the statute itself, and there will undoubtedly be a temptation for it to over-regulate. An amendment such as this would make it absolutely clear to the board what the limits of its regulatory powers are. The Government are on record as fully supporting the approach that is reflected in the amendment. Will the Minister therefore reflect what the Government’s response is by agreeing to the amendment? I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I support the amendment. There was considerable discussion of this subject in Committee. I had thought that it was more or less agreed that the principle at stake was that the board should have a supervisory role. However, the problem is that the complex structure of the Bill seems to demand that we must deal with the application of the principle in a piecemeal way. This is the first piece of that piecemeal way. I shall not say much more about it, other than that it does not seem possible to translate the pencil to cover the Bill, as I suggested in relation to Amendment No. 5, because it is of specific, not generic, application to the structure of the Bill. I merely mention that, but it is an essential matter on which there was considerable discussion in Committee.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, no part of this Bill better exemplifies the gap which has opened up between the assertions of Ministers about their purposes and the language of the legislation we are considering. It is fair to say that there is genuine anxiety on the part of front-line regulators about what is likely to develop. If steps are not taken by the Government to express in the Bill the purposes which have been eloquently expressed by the Minister, the Legal Services Board could become a behemoth. It will be required to supervise, but it has been given

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roles and powers which are ample and sufficient to enable it to grow far beyond the conception expressed by the Minister in debate. Without some clear curtailment of that possibility, it must be apprehended. The intentions of the Lord Chancellor and the purposes of Sir David Clementi will be deflected. It cannot be in the interests of the public that that should be so.

Some parts of the regulation of legal services as they stand have not been seriously criticised; notably, the work of the Bar Council has been acknowledged to be efficient, effective and reasonably inexpensive. The defects addressed in this Bill are primarily those of the solicitors’ professional response to complaints. No one on these Benches is unaware of the necessity of tackling this problem. We have been broadly at one with what the Government have said, but the gap is growing and the anxieties are increasing about what has been said and what is encompassed in the Bill.

In Committee, my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford spoke in support of this amendment. It seemed almost inconceivable that some step would not be taken by the Government between Committee and Report to reflect what were perceived generally to be legitimate concerns, but that has not so far been forthcoming. Consequently, we must be left with the conclusion that there is to some extent a hidden agenda and that the Government look without concern at the probable consequence of failing to constrain the growth potential of the Legal Services Board.

If this were being funded by the Treasury, the probability is that these concerns would have been acted on. But, as is well known and understood, it is being funded by the profession, which of course means that it will effectively be paid for in due course by the very consumers this supposedly seeks to protect. There is no division of interest between consumers and lawyers about this; rather there is an identity of concern that the regulation of the legal professions should be economical, effective and efficient, and should not comprise layer on layer. I hope that the Government will undertake yet again to reconsider the position which has been taken up to now. I am very concerned that the lead regulators may see their positions being progressively eroded by a Legal Services Board with imperial ambitions. The Government and the noble Baroness have spoken about the lead responsibility resting with the approved regulators, but that is not provided for. Nothing in the Bill will ensure that that will happen. If the Minister cannot reassure the House, I do not doubt that we shall return to this, as will Members of another place.

There has been an expression of view that to some extent lawyers are the enemies of consumers, one made with great force but, I have to say, not much conviction by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, whose presence of course we greatly welcome. However, it is not one that is necessarily shared by other protectors of the consumer. Erecting an elaborate and expensive system of regulation is not in the consumer interest. This argument needs to be rehearsed and repeated, and I hope that the Government will acknowledge it and take steps to allay the justifiable concerns which are increasingly being expressed.

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8.45 pm

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I strongly support this amendment and I was pleased to add my name to those of my noble friends Lord Kingsland and Lord Campbell of Alloway, as well as that of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart. Partnership was very much a theme of the Joint Committee. We would like to see the Legal Services Board acting in partnership. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, has just raised the important issue of cost, about which one or two rumours are going around. Perhaps we could take the opportunity either in this debate or in a later one to try to put some credible figures to the stories which are running in the press.

When the Government first looked at the whole issue in the light of Sir David Clementi’s recommendations, most of those involved in the process and independent commentators were considering a new, streamlined regulatory system to be put together reasonably quickly which, provided Sir David Clementi’s proposals were accepted, would be comparatively economical and thus welcomed by the professions. Indeed, it was Sir David Clementi who could see how a partnership would work. We have had debates about this partnership that have already been referred to, but we are still waiting for the Minister to confirm how the new Legal Services Board will work. Will it rely on the front-line regulators to be in the front-line and not be subject to day-to-day administrative interference? Obviously the Legal Services Board, in complying with the regulatory objectives, has an attitude in principle towards the way that regulation will evolve, but there is still a suspicion that unless we write something into the Bill along the lines of this amendment—and we are going to debate a number of subsequent amendments as well—we may well end up with something that duplicates, indeed triplicates, the existing system, which seems to be working reasonably well at present. The separation of the regulatory and representative functions has worked well, and some of the key individuals involved inspire confidence in the way the whole process is now evolving.

If one’s suspicions about costs—transitional costs in particular—become a reality, one has to question whether it is all in fact worth it. In order to reach a conclusion about that, we need to hear much more from the Minister.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful for all contributions. This is an important issue of principle about the relationship between the front-line regulators and the Legal Services Board. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is right to raise the issue of cost, and I shall say a little bit about that.

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