Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



6 Feb 2008 : Column 1053

Baroness Billingham: My Lords, this is a very important and worthwhile review. The Minister has given us a list of people that the Government hope to see representing the people in their communities, but she did not mention younger people. It is very important that we get people from a whole spectrum of age groups representing their own peer groups. Are the Government doing anything about this?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, it was a very important aspect of the commission’s consideration. It came up with the celebration of good practice; for example, young mayors elected by young people in places such as Lewisham and Newham. In addition, the Prime Minister’s speech in July anticipated the establishment of a youth citizenship commission, which will look at how schools, colleges and all other educational institutions will engage with politics. We have just reviewed key stages 3 and 4 of the national curriculum on citizenship, with a view to building up the element of that curriculum that connects with local democracy.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, how are the Government going to respond to the proposal in the report that council by-elections should be abolished in favour of a sort of reserve system? Does she not agree that if local democracy is to be healthy, people who come on to councils must have their own personal mandate and not come in through the back door on someone else’s coat-tails?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we have expressed some reservations about that proposal, and there have been demonstrations in Wales on the process. It will be considered along with all the other recommendations for term limits and so on that affect the operation of councils.

Lord Soley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the problem is not just about the resources and the ability of councillors to deal with problems? The report indicates that in a number of ways. Is it not also about the problem of ordinary people in society not knowing how to use a councillor? One of the problems in our political system is that people often think that they must go to their Member of Parliament first because they see them as being at the top of the pyramid of power, instead of recognising that in many cases the first port of call should be the councillor. That is a difficult link to make. It is not apparent to me from the report that we are addressing that in the detail that is needed.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, one of the most important recommendations in the report is recommendation 1, which looks at how local government can promote the democratic process and address the question of people not having enough information. One of the paradoxes is that while 60 per cent of people think that their services have improved, only half think that their council is better. This is about closing that gap. A lot of it is about how we explain and get more out of the work of councillors, particularly ward councillors, who now have a duty to engage with and involve local people.



6 Feb 2008 : Column 1054

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister said that she thinks most local councillors find the work very interesting and satisfying. Does that mean that she is not aware of the great dissatisfaction of councillors with the new cabinet structure, where they find a great dichotomy between those who are cabinet members and who therefore know everything that is going on in the council, and others who are not in the cabinet and who find that they are not informed to the extent that they were before this new arrangement?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we discussed in the local government Bill what impact the cabinet system has over the committee system and certainly there are issues around that. The report addressed that and said that local government is no less important or interesting a place for councillors to be. The emphasis in the Bill now has changed to the engagement between the ward councillor and the individual constituency. There is a major job to be done to get people to understand what councillors do and what they can do for them. It is a challenge to which most councillors would really respond.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, is the Minister quite sure, in the light of recent events not very far from here, that paying councillors more and giving them greater expenses is likely to improve their standing in the eyes of the electorate?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I do not think that there is any appetite for putting councillors on a professional footing. There is no indication in the report about that. Satisfaction is still derived from the notion of public service, which we are very glad about. Most councillors see serving the public as a privilege. While there are issues around allowances, they have to be considered in that context and not as a way of creating a different professional class.

Kenya

3.23 pm

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, UK Ministers and officials have been involved in intensive diplomatic efforts across Africa and with international partners to urge regional engagement, an end to violence and dialogue. We have given our full support to the Annan mediation mission. There can be no business as usual until the current crisis is resolved in a way that respects the democratic will of the Kenyan people. The Department for International Development has provided £2.2 million for humanitarian relief.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The problems in Kenya arose following the election on 27 December between Mr Kibaki’s PNU and Mr Odinga’s ODM. There has been tribal

6 Feb 2008 : Column 1055

violence, bloodshed and disputes concerning land. There was bloodshed in Eldoret, Kisumu and the Rift Valley. What is the Minister’s assessment of the election? Does he feel that there needs to be a rerun or a government of national unity?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. The election was simply not satisfactory. Doubts are left as to the real outcome of that election and we can have no confidence in a government formed on the basis of the announced election results. The EU observers, as well as those of the Commonwealth and others, have all made it clear that the elections fell far short of acceptable international standards. The EU Commissioner Louis Michel is currently en route to Kenya to deliver the preliminary election report of those EU observers.

On the noble Lord’s second question, we think there is so much tension in the country at the moment that a rerun of the elections would be enormously dangerous. At the very minimum, a government of national unity, to be followed at some future point by further elections, seems the most likely and sensible way forward.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I welcome the enhanced mediation process under former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the apparent acceptance by the parties that the process should be completed within seven days. Does this also imply that the parties will accept whatever verdict the Kofi Annan mediation team come up with, including a rerun of the elections at some future date? On the delivery of humanitarian relief, does the noble Lord agree that the obstruction of relief in western Kenya by the continuing violence there and the interruption of supplies from neighbouring countries through the port of Mombasa might warrant the referral of Kenya to the Security Council as a threat to peace?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord makes good points. First, the Annan panel has already dealt with the humanitarian issues. Both sides have committed to the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, to agree an invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to send an investigation team to visit Kenya, and to the right of freedom of expression and assembly, which led immediately to the lifting of the ban on live broadcasts. They have also committed to the need to deal with the resettlement of those displaced and the provision of adequate security. The talks have now moved on to the more difficult political issues. I spoke to Kofi Annan a few hours ago. He said that both sides had made their opening political presentations and he felt that the hard bargaining would continue this afternoon.

On the role of the Security Council, it has already made one presidential statement. Yesterday the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the council on his own visit, and that is likely to be followed by a further statement. We certainly agree that it may now become an agenda item of the council because there are significant regional implications. I was in southern

6 Feb 2008 : Column 1056

Sudan last week and saw them in the increase of the price of fuel. I met President Museveni of Uganda later in the week, who confirmed that fuel and food prices in Uganda had gone up significantly, too, as a result of this crisis.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the United Nations is engaged and senior African leaders are engaged. Does my noble friend see any role at all for the Commonwealth? Given the feeling of “winner takes all”, is there any prospect of power sharing before a possible rerun of elections?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend rightly draws attention to the role of the Commonwealth. I have been in regular touch with Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary-General—most recently yesterday. At the moment there is room for only one negotiation, that of Kofi Annan. Obviously we are considering referring the Kenyan situation to CMAG, the ministerial committee of the Commonwealth, which deals with matters of this kind. But we want first to see the outcome of the Annan negotiations. Certainly there will be a role for the Commonwealth in supporting the strengthening of the Electoral Commission, and perhaps even the strengthening of the justice system, both of which are critical if confidence in government institutions is to be restored.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am glad to hear the Minister say that he thought the tensions were so great that, for the time being, talking of a further rerun of the election would not be practical. Does he agree that there has been a tendency, particularly in the British press, to take sides and to depict Mr Raila Odinga as the wronged party, whereas, of course, there is major skulduggery on both sides? Therefore, would he counsel that we not only avoid taking sides but that we avoid any further encouragement of massive demonstrations, as some of us argued from the start, because such demonstrations lead yet again to more bloodshed and more horror and that the concentration should be, as he rightly says, on urging some kind of government coalition and coming together of the two parties, so that they can counsel both of their tribal followers—Luo and Kikuyu—to stop killing each other?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite correct. In a situation in which 1,000 have been killed and 300,000 displaced, it seems inappropriate to move immediately to elections. There needs to be a cooling-off period. Trust needs to be restored. While the conduct of the election is the immediate trigger to the violence, there are underlying causes and, I suspect, as the noble Lord suggests, certainly plenty of blame to be attributed to both sides. Hence the importance of an investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and of a truth and reconciliation commission to assign blame where blame is due.



6 Feb 2008 : Column 1057

National Security: Chilcot Report

3.31 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

“The Government are today publishing the results of work on the use of communications intercepts as evidence: the report of the committee of privy counsellors, drawn from the three major parties chaired by the right honourable Sir John Chilcot GCB. I am grateful to Sir John, Lord Hurd, Lord Archer of Sandwell and the right honourable Member for Berwick for that report. It is thorough, measured, detailed, and unanimous; and it properly reflects both the seriousness and the complexity of the questions that their committee was asked to address.

“Let me again pay tribute to our security agencies for all that they do—quietly and effectively—in the defence of our country. I have met and listened to those who lead our agencies, and many who serve in them and I praise their expertise, professionalism and courage, often in the most testing and dangerous of circumstances, but always in the best interests of our country. I acknowledge—as we all acknowledge—that what they do defends our freedom, protects our society, and saves lives.

“The use of intercept in evidence characterises a central dilemma that we face as a free society: that of preserving our liberties and the rule of law, while at the same time keeping our nation safe and secure. In July, in the first Statement I made on security to the House, I said that I favoured the principle of using intercept material as evidence in criminal cases if, but only if, a way could be found to do so while protecting the higher interests of national security. I therefore invited the cross-party Chilcot committee to advise on,

“Today I am publishing a version of the Chilcot committee's report. The committee itself has prepared this version, which omits, in the interests of national security, certain sensitive facts and arguments. Its main conclusions and recommendations, however, are exactly those of the full report. Briefly, the report examines in detail both the potential benefits of accepting intercept as evidence, and the risks that might arise from such acceptance. However, it concludes that it should be possible to find a way to use some intercept material as evidence, provided—and only provided—that certain key conditions can be met. These conditions relate to the most vital imperative of all, that of safeguarding our national security. The Government accept this recommendation and take the accompanying conditions very seriously.

“Intercepts are strictly controlled under the 2000 legislation. Interception is allowed only if it is necessary to obtain information which could not

6 Feb 2008 : Column 1058

be acquired in another way, and any interception must be proportionate to what it seeks to achieve.

“The relevant decisions of Ministers are overseen by a senior judge, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, who reports at least annually. An investigatory powers tribunal exists to consider complaints from the public and has powers to order appropriate remedies. The most recent figures for numbers of interception warrants are contained in the Interception Commissioner’s annual report, published on 28 January—1,435 intercept warrants were issued in the last nine months of 2006. That compares with 2,407 in the previous 15 months.

“The Chilcot report notes that there are already limited circumstances in civil and terrorist proceedings where intercept can be used in evidence. Each of these instances includes appropriate protections, such as closed proceedings, to ensure that the use of intercept does not put our national security at risk. For any new regime, the Chilcot report sets down conditions which start from the proposition that,

and,This is right.

“The report also says that any resulting reduction in inter-agency co-operation,

The Government also agree with that assessment.

“The report sets out nine conditions in detail. These relate to complex and important issues, including: giving the intercepting agencies the ability to retain control over whether their material is used in prosecutions; ensuring that disclosure of material cannot be required against the wishes of the agency originating the material; protecting the current close co-operation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies, which is crucial; and ensuring also that agencies cannot be required to transcribe or make notes of material beyond a standard of detail they deem necessary.

“The committee, which reported to us, acknowledges that further extensive work is needed to see whether and how these and other conditions, which are intended to protect sensitive techniques, safeguard resources, and ensure that intercept can still be used effectively for intelligence, can be met. This is a unanimous recommendation that the Government accept. We will proceed to develop a detailed implementation plan under which material might be made available to be used in criminal cases in England and Wales, subject—and strictly subject—to meeting all the Chilcot conditions.

“The report is clear that if the conditions could not be met then intercept as evidence should not be introduced, and the Government accept that. Similarly, the committee recommends that, in the event of a regime being introduced which later fails to meet the Chilcot conditions or otherwise threatens

6 Feb 2008 : Column 1059

our security, that regime should be removed pending the introduction of another, under which the conditions can once again be met. The Government also accept that recommendation.

“The report also states that the committee has seen no evidence to suggest that the need for measures such as control orders would be reduced by the introduction of intercept as evidence. Designing a regime to meet the Chilcot conditions will require, as the committee notes, a substantial programme of work covering legal, operational and technical issues. This work must involve and engage the intelligence agencies, government departments, the legal system, and those responsible for communications.

“The Chilcot team has made it clear to me that the necessary work should be led by an implementation team within government and that that team should move ahead comprehensively and quickly. But the team has also told me that it would not expect the work to be concluded in time to inform the Counter-Terrorism Bill currently before Parliament.

“The Government strongly believe that it is in the national interest to draw on a wide range of expert external advice. The cross-party nature of the Chilcot report has been of great value. I am therefore grateful for the agreement of opposition parties that Sir John Chilcot, Lord Archer of Sandwell, the right honourable Member for Berwick, and another member to be nominated, will advise on privy counsellor terms during the next stage of the work.

“The Chilcot report also notes that communications technology is changing, and changing rapidly, with the switch towards internet protocol communications and the clear implications that that brings for our security. Accordingly, we have launched the interception modernisation programme to update our capability to ensure that under these new circumstances our national interests will continue to be protected. The new regime for intercept as evidence must be designed to work safely and effectively for this new capability too.

“As the Chilcot report states, the challenges ahead are complex and must not, and will not, be underestimated, but the Government acknowledge and endorse the valuable work of the Chilcot committee and are grateful for the committee’s support in our continuing efforts to meet the double challenge that we face as a nation. The challenge is to at all times and without fail protect our nation’s security while advancing the rule of law. This we will always seek to do. I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.40 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. It is impossible to hear such a Statement without paying tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. After all, he has used his presence here to press this idea on Government for years and it is but

6 Feb 2008 : Column 1060

one more example of how much this House will lose when the noble and learned Lords are excluded from those Benches.

Many will wonder why the Government did not act earlier on the issue on the noble and learned Lord’s advice rather than waiting for the work of not only this committee but now yet another one to come. Perhaps the Government should consult more with the noble and learned Lord. I also join the noble Baroness in thanking the committee, most notably the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell. As the House will know, my party has for some time advocated the admissibility of intercept evidence in court. It was my right honourable friend Mr Cameron who suggested that a cross-party committee of privy counsellors should look at how intercept evidence might be used.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page