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Turkey: EU Observers

2.58 pm

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the European Union does not intend to send observers to the forthcoming elections in Turkey. At the invitation of the Turkish authorities, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe is sending an assessment

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mission. A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is also monitoring the elections.

Lord Rea: My Lords, I am glad to hear that the OSCE is sending at least some form of observers, because international observers tend to have a salutary effect on elections held in countries that have, shall we say, a democratic deficit. In fact, would it not have been more appropriate for observers to be there during the current run-up to Sunday's election, considering that there has been widespread intimidation and obstruction of pro-Kurdish parties and individual candidates? Only yesterday, as my noble friend will have heard, a Turkish but pro-Kurdish independent candidate was shot dead in Istanbul. Does she agree with the statement by the International Strategic Research Organisation, which is an independent Turkish think tank based in Ankara, that,

Will Her Majesty's Government, from their experience in Northern Ireland and other countries, strongly urge the Turkish Government to settle the long drawn-out conflict in the south-east of the country by negotiation and dialogue rather than military force?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it was a matter for the OSCE and Turkey as to when the observer mission went to Turkey. Of course we were deeply concerned to learn about the murder of the independent candidate standing in Istanbul, but we are pleased that the Turkish authorities are actively investigating the murder and have apparently already detained three suspects. We are confident that the authorities will investigate that fully. On the quotation cited by my noble friend, we fully agree that the more that the Kurds are allowed and enabled to participate in the democratic process in Turkey, the less that the PKK will be able to be pre-eminent in the Kurdish areas.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, has any European Union ambassador or any official from any of the EU embassies visited the three high-security areas in the south-east since they were designated on 9 June? If so, have those officials confirmed the allegations referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, of widespread intimidation and harassment against independent candidates and their supporters? Does the noble Baroness really think that free and fair elections are possible in the south-east when regional parties are prevented from getting into Parliament by the 10 per cent threshold and other restrictions on their activities?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not know whether any ambassadors have visited the region; I will certainly let the noble Lord know whether that has taken place. We have not heard allegations about intimidation, but if they have been made—

Lord Avebury: They have.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I beg the noble Lord’s pardon but I was not aware of the allegations, and neither was the Foreign Office as far as I know. If there were allegations of malpractice, we

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would expect the Turkish authorities to investigate them. As far as I know, the European Court of Human Rights does not think that the 10 per cent boundary has been an obstacle to Kurds being elected to Parliament.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that if there were any further interference following the election by the Turkish armed forces in the normal practice of the democratic institutions of Turkey, that would be a major setback to Turkey's relations with a large range of countries, not least for its application to join the European Union? That would be extremely bad news for Her Majesty's Government, who I hope will be pursuing that application with great force after the elections.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble Lord is right—it would certainly be an enormous setback. However, we have every confidence that the Turkish armed forces will respect the democratic norms that exist in Turkey and we will certainly pursue Turkey’s accession with the same rigour as we have shown in the past.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, while hoping that Sunday’s elections are conducted with minimum violence and that the difficult situation facing Turkey in relation to its border with Iraq and the Kurdish activities—violent activities—is handled peaceably, and while recognising that it would be quite improper for any of us to take sides in what this election’s outcome should be, can the Minister assure us—following the question from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—that, whichever party wins, we really will do everything we can to unfreeze and take forward the negotiations on Turkish membership of the European Union? In particular, we must work out how to resolve the additional problem which has now arisen—that Mr Sarkozy and the French Government appear to be resolutely against long-term membership for Turkey anyway. Can we have a firm indication that there really is a plan to try to break this deadlock?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the views of the French Government have long been known, but this Government’s intention, as I explained earlier, is to pursue the accession process robustly and with rigour. Indeed, I understand that just this week discussions have begun on Chapter 3 of the acquis communautaire, on fundamental rights and judicial reform. We will continue to pursue those accession discussions along with the other 26 member states of the European Union.

Lord Russell-Johnston: My Lords, on the specific question of observation, I was a member of the Council of Europe observation team. Does the Minister agree that the Council of Europe has a long and admirable record of rigorous but fair observation of elections? Is not the fact that it has a very large observation team present much to be welcomed?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Certainly, my Lords; the Government warmly welcome the Council of Europe observation team and pay tribute to its great expertise in these matters. However, I should also make it clear that the OSCE and other organisations have not insisted

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on monitoring the Turkish elections because they believe that it is much more important to focus their efforts on less democratically robust states. We believe that the Turkish elections will be free and fair and that Turkey has a fully functioning democracy.

National Trust (Northern Ireland) Bill

3.07 pm

Read a third time, and passed.

Gambling Act 2005 (Horserace Totalisator Board) Order 2007

Gambling Act 2005 (Amendment of Schedule 6) Order 2007

Gambling Act 2005 (Horserace Betting Levy) Order 2007

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move the Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 13 June be approved. 20th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 July.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2007

Community Order (Review by Specified Courts) Order 2007

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I beg to move the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 13 and 14 June be approved. 20th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 July.—(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (Amendment) Order 2007

Asylum (Designated States) Order 2007

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I beg to move the two Motions on the Order Paper standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 21 and 24 May be approved. 19th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 July.—(Lord Grocott.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

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Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): 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 12 June be approved. 20th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 July.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill

3.09 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order 47 having been dispensed with, Bill read a third time, and passed.

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill

3.10 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments

[The page and line references are to HL Bill 19 as first printed for the Lords.]

MOTION A“(d) a duty owed to anyone held in custody.”““custody” includes being held in prison, secure mental healthcare facilities, secure children's homes, secure training centres, immigration removal centres, court cells and police cells, and being subject to supervision by court, prisoner and detainee escort services;”

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“Power to extend meaning of “relevant duty of care”(a) is in custody or detention, or otherwise is required by virtue of a statutory provision to remain or reside on particular premises, or is subject to some other form of restriction of his liberty, and(b) is by reason of that fact a person for whose safety the organisation is responsible.(a) may amend this Act so as to restrict or disapply exceptions as regards the application of any provision contained in this Act as a result of such an order;(b) may make any amendment to this Act that is incidental or supplemental to, or consequential on, an amendment made by such an order.““premises” includes land, buildings and moveable structures;”

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move that this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10, to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10K to 10N in lieu.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill returns to us from another place once more. The Bill now hangs in the balance. Your Lordships first sent it to the other place to consider the extension of the new offence to deaths in custody at the end of February. At that point, the other place was content to accept a number of significant changes to the Bill proposed in your Lordships’ House, and on the question of deaths in custody, the Government sought to make substantial, positive progress. Measures were proposed to improve the investigation of deaths in custody by putting the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman on to a statutory footing. That commitment is now in a Bill introduced in the other place. The Government also offered to consider how the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody could be strengthened. That goes directly to the issue of seeking to reduce the occurrence of these tragic events in the first place.

Since bringing forward these proposals, the Bill has been sent to your Lordships’ House four times. On the three previous occasions, your Lordships indicated dissatisfaction with the movement offered in the other place and asked the Government to reconsider their position. We have done that. I am grateful, as I have indicated on every other occasion on which we have discussed the Bill, for the time that the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Wirral, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Lee and Lord Dholakia, have taken to discuss with me the important issues in the Bill. Again, I pay tribute to them for their time.

As noble Lords will recall, debate in your Lordships’ House was postponed a fortnight ago for further discussions and consideration. A new Administration and new Ministers recognised that very strong concerns

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had been expressed during the passage of the Bill, and that it was right for the Government to allow a further pause. Ultimately, however, they reached the same view: that the Government had quite properly paved the way for the Bill to extend to custody in the future, but that to go further at this stage would not be right.

The Bill now has two further days before proceedings in the other place must be completed. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, pointed out previously, that period can be extended. However, we must look at the possibility of doing so against the experience of the Bill’s passage between your Lordships’ House and the other place to date. For nearly two months, the Bill has passed between the two. The Government have put a solid compromise on the table. I recognise that this does not deliver all that the amendments adopted by your Lordships would deliver. It is a compromise, and I recognise it as such. That compromise has not yet proved acceptable. In practical terms, there appears to be little to be gained by extending the time available for the offence, simply to prolong the passage of the Bill between this House and the other place. I consider the compromise to be a good one and one on which this House should accept the passing of the Bill.

For the Government’s part, the concession that we have offered takes the offence further than we have considered is its appropriate ambit. The compromise opens the door to the offence applying to custody. Recognising the principle of extending the offence, and providing a means of doing so, is a very large movement. On the other hand, the compromise asks that, although the principle of the offence applying to custody is accepted, the power to extend must rest in the hands of the Government. That is entirely appropriate.

The further amendments proposed today provide for a specific timetable. It is already clear that the other place is not content to accept amendments that put custody directly in the Bill. Noble Lords must consider how very unlikely it would be, therefore, that in those circumstances it would agree to the more advanced proposition that puts custody in the Bill and sets a specific timetable for implementation.

I want to bring to your Lordships’ attention a difference between the amendment in lieu that we are considering today and that which we considered last week. The power to extend the offence applies slightly more widely than to those strictly in custody or detention, and includes people on specified premises. This is to ensure that the order-making power is sufficiently wide to cover, for example, local authority secure accommodation, where residents are not necessarily in custody. It might also be desirable to cover certain other circumstances, which are not custodial, such as approved probation premises.

The drafting of this aspect of the power has been improved by showing that it is now clearly targeted. I have nothing further to say.

Moved, That this House do not insist on its Amendments 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 10K to 10N in lieu.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

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3.15 pm

Lord Ramsbotham rose to move, as an amendment to Motion A, Motion A1, leave out from “House” to the end and insert “do insist on its Amendments 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10, do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments 10K to 10N in lieu and do propose the following amendments in lieu of Commons Amendments 10K to 10N—

(a) section 2(1)(d);(b) sections 3(2), 3(3) and 5(3) so far as they relate to section 2(1)(d).”
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