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Why has Hamas been demonised, when it contains some of the most well educated, honest and consistent politicians in the Arab world? Why were we so cool about the Arab League initiative? Why did we not welcome the Palestinian Government of national unity? Why are we still relying on the largely unreformed Fatah party, which is now internally split? Her Majesty’s Government have a great deal to explain.

8.26 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, we are debating tonight a very sad and complex problem. I have always believed that the big mistake that Israel made historically was when, having won the major wars in the past, it was not more magnanimous in giving away territory, taking the long view and seeking a settlement. We are all paying the price today, including Israel. That failure has led to increasing bitterness over the years, the increasing militancy of settlers and the increasing militancy of Hamas.

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In the very frank interview that has been referred to by my noble friend Lord Dykes and the noble Lord, Lord Cope, Ehud Olmert, the recently retired Israeli Prime Minister, not only said that they should give away more territory; he said:

“I read the words spoken by our retired generals, and I say, how is it possible that they have not learned anything and have not forgotten anything ... With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless”.

One only wishes, as has been said, that he had said those things when he was Prime Minister.

Yesterday I talked to my cousin in Israel, who emigrated 25 years ago. He is a headmaster in a boarding school of 250 pupils. He is very aware but is not politically active. He sees Hamas as a very cynical enemy. The feeling in Israel is that Israel completely pulled out from Gaza but that was answered only by rockets. The public in Israel are dismayed by corrupt politicians, and there is a mood of pessimism. They believe that they have no one to negotiate with, the PLO being a spent force. My cousin accepts that, ultimately, Israel will have to make major territorial concessions, and he is also particularly worried about the increasing right-wing trend among youth.

Today we have bitterness and mistrust, not only between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, not only, sadly, between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, but between the PLO and Hamas; that is a nightmare situation for anyone attempting to negotiate a lasting settlement, whether from Europe or elsewhere.

In a few months there will be new Administrations in America and in Israel. Thankfully, Tzipi Livni is seen as an honest politician, but she will have an extremely difficult task in putting a coalition together and then trying to negotiate a lasting settlement. We can only pray that she and the Palestinian leaders reach an accommodation. It cannot come a moment too soon for many Israelis, who live in fear, and most Palestinians, who live in misery.

8.29 pm

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, for initiating this debate. We should not simply return to this topic only when a fresh horror from the Middle East is reported on the news. We cannot forget the security fears of the Israelis, and the division of Palestinians is ongoing.

Your Lordships debated this subject on 2 July, as my noble friend Lord Cope said, when the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, assured the House that,

Can the Minister tell the House what more has been done by the Government since then?

It is nearly a year since the Annapolis conference. The EU, as one of the quartet, backed the conference and the joint declaration issued at its conclusion. How has the EU contributed to realising those aspirations, which were set out with much hope in the declaration? As a major donor to the Palestinian territories, the EU should be at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the desperate situation in which many Palestinians find

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themselves. All of us here realise that security and prosperity are vital to finding a lasting peace. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked, what has the European Union been doing in these areas?

We hope to hear that the Government and the EU, of which France holds the presidency, are actively involved in diplomacy with other states which have an interest or an influence in the region. Now that the Palestinian leadership is split and weakened, it is important that others can be prevailed upon to contribute in a positive manner and not to exacerbate the splits. The Arab world should be encouraged to act in the best interests of the Palestinians, not in a way that plays to the gallery at home. We watch with interest the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah.

Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas had committed themselves to fortnightly meetings. Will these continue in the light of Mr Olmert’s resignation? Indeed, what contact have the Government had with Israel’s Prime Minister-designate, Tzipi Livni? The fragile peace process is very precious. I hope that the Government are doing everything possible to nurture it.

This debate has highlighted faults on both sides of this difficult ongoing problem. We heard of a fresh horror on the “Today” programme this morning, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Trimble. It contained the most chilling interview with an 18 year-old girl—a proud potential suicide bomber who was willing to kill innocent women and children. What would the Government’s response have been if she had been targeting the UK?

8.32 pm

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, for initiating this debate. I reassure him and other noble Lords that the Middle East peace process continues to be a high priority for the Government. I know that it is a topic of great interest to this House. The UK remains committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and is working closely with its EU partners to offer all possible support to the Annapolis process. The EU has a critical role to play in this. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said that the Government had a lot to answer for. I am not sure that I accept that, but I certainly accept that we have been asked a lot of questions tonight, and I will do my best to answer as many of them as I can.

The situation for the Palestinians and the ongoing peace negotiations continue to pose tremendous difficulties. It remains as important as ever that we progress on both if we are to build a better future for Palestinians inside a viable Palestinian state. The UK and the EU will, therefore, continue to play a leading role in the international community in supporting the peace process.

Although I accept the impatience of many noble Lords who have spoken about the fact that Annapolis is almost a year old, it is worth reminding ourselves that a year ago, before Annapolis, there were no negotiations. Seven years had been lost without real talks. The conference changed that. Talks began and both sides restated their commitment to their road map obligations. The conference was also a signal of renewed international commitment to the peace process. It was encouraging for a particularly strong Arab

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attendance. Our own Foreign Secretary and the EU attended to lend our support.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that the EU political association agreement is intended as a technical agreement; it is not meant to carry a political message. Indeed, in announcing it, the importance of the political situation as regards Palestinians was specifically marked out and the agreement was in no way intended to prejudice progress on that.

The EU remains committed to ensuring that there is progress in the negotiations. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have visited the region and they speak often with the key players. Similarly at the EU level, the Middle East peace process is frequently discussed at Foreign Ministers’ meetings, most recently at the September informal meeting. The EU special representative, Marc Otte, spends a great deal of time in the region, and Javier Solana for the Council and Benita Ferrero-Waldner for the Commission are also deeply engaged.

The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, asked about the progress of discussions between the parties, referring to the fact that there was an original commitment for fortnightly meetings. I think it is correct to say that the last meeting between Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas occurred in the middle of September. Since then, Mrs Livni has met the chief Palestinian negotiators. While the change of government in Israel has inevitably slowed down the momentum of meetings, it is very clear that both sides are making every effort to keep the momentum of these talks moving.

Throughout, we on the outside have been consistent in our message: we support the Annapolis process and, as part of this, expect all parties to fulfil their road map obligations. Of course, the talks have moved more slowly than the optimists hoped, but they have not collapsed as the pessimists predicted, so we will continue to build on the progress made.

Part of supporting the talks is tackling actions which undermine confidence. The most striking example of that is Israeli settlement construction—a policy which serves to break down trust and make a final deal even harder. Settlement building, whether in east Jerusalem or the West Bank, is illegal and contrary to Israeli commitments, and we have made it clear that it must stop. Even since Annapolis, according to Peace Now, the number of tenders for construction in the settlements has increased by more than 500 per cent. In public and private, we, as the UK and the EU, have made clear our opposition to this.

Another key plank of our support for the peace process is building Palestinian institutions that can govern effectively. In December last year, the international community pledged an extraordinary $7.7 billion at the Paris donor conference in support of the Palestinians based on the Palestinian Authority’s Reform and Development Plan. This plan, designed by Prime Minister Fayyad, offers a route to substantial reform of Palestinian institutions so that the Palestinian Authority can deliver essential services to Palestinians more effectively. The UK committed £243 million in support over three years, linked to political progress, which amounted to a substantial increase in the Government’s assistance.

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The European Commission pledged more than $1 billion over the next three years, making it the single biggest donor to the Palestinian people.

We all know that the security sector is particularly important. Israel has legitimate security concerns but it is better for all if these can be met by Palestinians policing Palestinians. Our European partners have been very involved in this. On 24 June, Germany hosted a conference in Berlin to galvanise international support in this area. We announced that we would support it and have set money aside for security sector reform, including improving civil justice and public prosecution.

The EU has a leading role in training the Palestinian civil police and the UK has been a long-standing contributor to that civil police training mission. We currently provide three police officers to the mission and have allocated £1.2 million of our funding to support Palestinian policing needs this year.

We also support the US effort to reform the Palestinian national security forces, led by its security co-ordinator, General Dayton. There is obviously a long way to go, but as we are seeing in Jenin particularly, which has been the focus of our efforts, we are trying to bring together security and economic development, including co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. We think that it is showing some positive results, which we hope may prove a broader model for co-operation between both Israeli and Palestinian security forces, and that this more integrated approach will deal with economic development as well as security issues.

Lord Dykes: Is not the sad reality that these are exactly the same things as the Minister was outlining last January? Nothing has gone forward. There is no progress. He must give us more exciting answers than he is giving tonight.

Lord Malloch-Brown: I understand the noble Lord’s impatience, but every example that I have recently given are events that occurred in June this year. I confess that progress is slow, but it is not the case that nothing has happened since January.

I was asked by a number of noble Lords what Tony Blair has been up to. Again, there is progress to report. His last visit was just a week ago, on 7 October. He continues to push forward with his confidence-building measures. The noble Lord is correct to express frustration that it is more of the same, if you like, but in a situation where there is no broad breakthrough on a peace agreement, perhaps incremental progress is the best we can hope for. Since January—I take the noble Lord’s point—the UK has been a key partner in the Palestine investment conference, an initiative supported strongly by Mr Blair which was held in Bethlehem in May. We have worked since then with the World Bank to try to get access to investment for Palestinian companies. In the light of that, and looking forward, on 15 December we will be holding an investment conference here in London to encourage investment and build UK-Palestinian business relations.

I was asked why the Government did not more specifically mention Gaza in several recent overseas speeches. Last week in the other place, the Foreign Secretary said:

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“There remains an urgent imperative to improve the access for humanitarian supplies, commercial goods and people”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/10/08; col. 122.]

Of course it needs to be about more than just humanitarian supplies. A hand-to-mouth existence will not lift Gazans out of poverty. Without crossings open for people and commercial goods, Gaza cannot lift itself out of economic decline. Israel must allow more in and more out, and we and our EU colleagues will continue to press Israel to do so.

The ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas—another new development in recent months—is welcome. We commend Egypt for its work on the ceasefire. It is good news that it has held so far. But this cessation of violence is only one step. In that regard, the retention of Gilad Shalit in captivity does not allow that to be built on, but neither does the retention of Palestinian parliamentarians in jail without trial.

This has been a year of incremental progress; I plead guilty to the charge of the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, on that score. There is certainly no reason for great optimism at this stage. However, we remain absolutely committed to this peace process, which remains a core objective of Britain’s foreign policy. We view ourselves and the EU as having particular responsibilities in the coming months as the United States goes through a change of Administration, with the inevitable loss of attention and focus that that can often mean on foreign policy issues. We will try to make sure that the momentum of peace-making continues through the arrival of a new Government in Israel and that all sides are left in no doubt that only a just peace can end the terrible tragedy of the Middle East.

Counter-Terrorism Bill

8.45 pm

House again in Committee.

Schedule 2 [Amendments relating to period of pre-charge detention]:

Lord Wallace of Tankerness had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 31A:

31A: Schedule 2, page 75, line 28, leave out “(in Scotland, of the Crown Agent)”

The noble Lord said: This amendment and Amendment No. 31B are detailed, technical probing amendments. I rather suspect that they are now academic. I shall not move them.

[Amendment No. 31A not moved.]

Schedule 2 negatived.

Clause 24 [Report of operational need for further extension of maximum period of detention]:

[Amendment No. 31B not moved.]

Clause 24 negatived.

Clause 25 negatived.

Clause 26 [Notification of chairmen of certain committees]:

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Clause 26 negatived.

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Clause 27 [Statement to be laid before Parliament]:

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

Clause 27 negatived.

Clauses 28 to 33 negatived.

Baroness Stern moved Amendment No. 34:

34: After Clause 33, insert the following new Clause—

“Extension of detention under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000

(1) Part 3 of Schedule 8 to The Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11) (extension of detention under section 41) is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph 29 (warrants of further detention) after sub-paragraph (6) insert—

“(7) Nothing in this Part is to be read as requiring the judicial authority to act in a manner inconsistent with the right of the specified person to a fully judicial procedure under Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

(3) In paragraph 31 (notice) after paragraph (d) insert—

“(e) a statement of the suspicion which forms the basis for the person’s original arrest and continued detention, and

(f) the gist of the material on which the suspicion is based.”

(4) Before paragraph (a) of paragraph 32(1) (grounds for extension) insert—

“(za) there are reasonable grounds for believing that the person has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of a terrorist offence,”.

(5) For sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 33 (representation) substitute—

“(1) The person to whom an application relates shall be entitled—

(a) to appear in person before the judicial authority and make oral representations about the application,

(b) to be legally represented by counsel at the hearing,

(c) to legal aid for such representation,

(d) to be represented by a special advocate at any closed part of the hearing of the application, and

(e) through his representative, to cross examine the investigating officer.”

(6) After sub-paragraph (3)(b) of paragraph 33 insert—

“(ba) if the judicial authority is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the exclusion of the person or his representative is necessary in order to avoid any of the harms set out in paragraph 34(2)(a) to (g).””

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 34 is in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Dubs. I imagine that the Committee has now registered that we are all members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 reflect concerns that the committee has felt for some considerable time about the safeguards that are in place when pre-charge detention of between 14 and 28 days is being authorised. The Minister will no doubt be grateful to know that these are probing amendments through which we seek his views on what the committee sees as the need for more adequate safeguards.

The committee has done some detailed work on the arrangements surrounding pre-charge detention. The Minister is no doubt aware of this work and has read it with great interest. I shall say a little more about the detail. Between 14 and 28 days, if detention is to be

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continued, there has to be a hearing before a judge,and it is the nature of these hearings that has caused the committee concern. In its 25th report of the Session—its 12th report on counterterrorism—it says:

“We do not accept that the current arrangements for judicial authorisation of extended pre-charge detention satisfy the stringent requirements either of habeas corpus or Article 5 ECHR”.

The committee has identified three basic problems. First, the suspect and his or her lawyer can be excluded from the hearing, so parts of the hearing can be closed to them. Secondly, information can be put before the judge that neither the suspect nor his or her lawyer can see. Thirdly, the committee was concerned about the narrowness of the questions that the court is required to answer when it decides whether or not to authorise further detention.

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