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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that many of us would agree that Israel should provide these co-ordinates. However, are we really in a position to be quite so critical when, eight years after the use of such weapons in Serbia, the alliance of which we are a very important, integral partthat is, NATOhas failed to give the same information to the Serbian authorities? If we are still using these ghastly weapons, should this sort of information not be sent as a matter of routine after hostilities have ceased?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I fully agree, my Lords; as I said, I am ashamed that the information was not provided to Serbia earlier. When this information is required specifically by the UN, it should, and must, be provided as a matter of course.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we all agree that these are horrific and horrible weapons, and I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Elton and indeed many others for their ceaseless campaigning until these dumb weapons are outlawed and the Oslo process really makes progress. But perhaps I may widen the Question a little on to not so much the cluster-bomb side as the south Lebanon side.
Is the Minister aware that the Lebanese Government in Beirut are hanging on by a threadby the vote and opinion of one Minister onlyunder colossal pressure from Hezbollah and other disruptive forces outside? Does she recall that, with their hand on heart, the British Government and the American Government and others made massive proposals for supporting Mr Siniora and the Lebanese both in clearing up the cluster bombs and in reconstruction, and that these resources were supposed to be forthcoming? Does she realise that a weekend conference is coming up in Paris to consider how further help can be given to this fragile Government? Will she assure us that the British Government are living up to their word and doing what they said they would do in supporting Mr Siniora, before Lebanon collapses and with it still further support for peace in the Middle East?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble Lord is right that the situation in Lebanon is very fragile. The Government are certainly living up to what we said we would do. We are supporting the Lebanese Government as strongly as we can. The noble Lord will also be interested to know that the Security Council will be looking at this issue on 18 July when it considers the report of the independent assessment team on arms smuggling across the borders together with the report of the Secretary-General, to see what else the United Nations as a whole might do to support Lebanon.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, can the Minister assure us, in view of what she has said and the moral attitude she has struck, that the British Government will now forward to the Serbian Government all the details they have of the locations of weapons in Serbia forthwith, and cease sheltering behind NATO?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government were not sheltering behind NATO. We were observing a process that is usually followed; that is, to provide NATO with that information. In respect of the moral attitude that I took, as I explained earlier
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: As I explained earlier, my Lords, that was in relation to only one point, but I am totally assured that the Government would act morally on each and every occasion. If NATO has not yet provided the information to Serbia, I will speak to my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to see if it can be provided directly.
Whether in 2001 NATO member states, including the United Kingdom, granted blanket overflight clearances and access to airfields to United States military aircraft involved in operations against terrorism; and whether the Government were then aware that such operations included the transfer of detainees.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, on 12 September 2001, NATO states, including the UK, granted blanket overflight clearance for American and other allies military flights for operations against terrorism. NATO also agreed to provide access to airfields for operations against terrorism. At that time the precise form of the international communitys response to the events of 11 September had not been determined. The Governments policy on the transfer of detainees is clear: we have not approved, and will not approve, the transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would face a real risk of torture.
Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Recent reports reveal compelling and extensive circumstantial evidence that the UK has been involved in the practice of extraordinary rendition. Does she believe that the Government have a moral duty to protect and promote fundamental human rights, including the right to be free of torture, and that, no matter what public opinion might be, they must come out in the strongest possible terms against the utterly unacceptable and counterproductive practice of extraordinary rendition? Does she agree that there should now be legal safeguards to ensure that the practice cannot continue in any shape or form in the future?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is indeed the Governments moral duty to protect the human rights of all their citizens. Torture is morally wrong, and the Government unreservedly condemn its use.
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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that President Bush and the Secretary of State have admitted that rendition is taking place, and have said that that is not unknown to European Governments? Can we expect the Government to act on what Harriet Harman said during the Labour deputy leadership campaignthat the Chicago Convention should be amended so that we know precisely who is on these flights, in order that we are not, as she said, complicit in transferring prisoners for torture?
Many people think that it is anomalous that while one must declare whether an aircraft is carrying a VIP or a dangerous substance, there is no requirement under the Chicago convention to declare whether prisoners are being carried.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the past conduct of the CIA supports a reasonable suspicion that an aircraft under its control may be being used for unlawful rendition? That being so, is there a problem about requiring that any aircraft seeking permission at least to land at a United Kingdom airport should disclose in advance its estimated time of arrival, and is there then any difficulty about arranging for a search? Could any reasonable American Government object to that?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government believe that the systems in place are adequate and that it would not be possible to provide the sort of searches and information that my noble and learned friend suggests. However, they are continually looking at this active, live issue, and I am sure that they will look at it further.
Lord Chidgey: My Lords, does the noble Baroness acknowledge the massive divergence between the Council of Europes report on rendition and the ACPO inquiry? Have the Government undertaken any analysis to establish whether this divergence is
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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am replying on behalf of Her Majesty's Government; therefore, I am looking at the case from a very British perspective. We are confident that over the past few years no person has been rendered through the UK. We believe that the Council of Europe report by Dick Marty did not bring forward any new evidence of people who might have been rendered through UK air space. That is not the case; nothing like that has happened since 2001. We know that of the four cases since 1998, two people were rendered; permission was asked to render two more, and they were not rendered.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, would it be acceptable to the Government if planes used for extraordinary rendition came to British airports for refuelling even if they did not at that moment contain any suspects being transported for such operations in other countries?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, our concern would be to ensure that no person on an aircraft was being rendered away from justice, as it were. Our concern is not about the aircraft itself but about the safety and human rights of the person on board.
Moved, That Standing Order 41 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Thursday 12 July to allow the Motion in the name of Lord Bassam of Brighton to be taken before the Motion in the name of Lord Truscott and on Wednesday 18 July to allow the Motion in the name of Baroness Hanham to be taken before the Motion in the name of Lord Adonis.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move, That this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 21 to 30, 40 to 64 and 66, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 66A to 66QQQ in lieu.
The amendments are all concerned with where residual responsibility for the board should lie. As we have set out both here and in the other place, the Government believe that, if the provisions to ensure the independence of the board are effective, the question of who has residual responsibility will become much less significant.
We have explained at some length the mechanisms that we are putting in place to ensure independence for the board. These include an assured, five-year funding package, set outside the normal spending review process, and a commitment that all appointments to the board will be made in line with the standards set by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. In addition, as the whole House will be aware, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made further announcements last week that relate directly to the issues before us today. I speak about the package of reforms announced last Tuesday, aimed at reforming the governance of Britain to make the Executive and Government more accountable to Parliament and to the people.
The Prime Minister announced that the Government will reduce the length of time for which pre-release access is available to 24 hourswe will come to that in more detail laterand proposed that the choice of the chair of the board should be subject to an affirmative vote by the House of Commons prior to their appointment. If noble Lords consider that alongside the changes made to the Bill, and the other measures already announced, they cannot reasonably doubt the sincerity of the Governments desire to make genuine reforms to the statistical system in the UK and to ensure that the independent board at the heart of the Bill will be just that: independent of government.
Consequently, as my honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary said in another place, the Government still believe that the board would benefit from having the Treasury as the link with the Government. The Treasury has a strong interest in ensuring that we have a good evidence base; it has long experience of working with and understanding statistics; and it has a role in co-ordinating performance reporting and monitoring across government. We had hoped that retaining the link with the Treasury would build further value into the reforms.
There has of course been considerable debate on this issue. The Government recognise the strength of feeling about it, particularly in this House. We are therefore prepared to agree to the shift of responsibility in principle. However, for largely technical reasons, the Government cannot accept the amendments that the House passed last time we discussed these issues. They have therefore tabled amendments in lieu, which have been accepted in the other place and which I hope noble Lords will accept. The amendments give effect to the intent of this House expressed in the votes that it cast last time.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that introduction and am glad that he mentioned the Prime Ministers Statement last week. Two policy announcements were made then, one of which related to 24 hours pre-release and the other to the confirmatory vote in the House of Commonsor that is what the Minister said, although I believe that the Statement said that the vote was by Parliament, thereby implying that the House of Lords could be included as well. Why has neither of those things appeared in amendments to the Bill? The Minister could easily have achieved that.
Having said that, we of course welcome the Governments conversion to our view that the Cabinet Office is a safer place for the Statistics Board and the transfer of the ONS therein. In particular, we had many debates about the resource squeezes put on the ONS and the forced relocation to Newport. These may not be completely avoided under new ownership, so to speak, but at least someone will speak for the Statistics Board in Parliament.
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