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Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, my understanding is that DfID concerns are part of the embassies’ responsibilities, and much of our ability to affect things is co-ordinated through embassies. Whether there is one official between the three, I do not know. Of course, an important question is what happens if there is a crisis. We are not expecting one, but centred in the UK we have a specialist team available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is able to give immediate help with experts, funding and relief supplies if a crisis emerges. That is what would happen in Georgia.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, does not the Mines Advisory Group, supported by DfID, have a role to play in mine clearance in Georgia?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I believe that it does, but I do not know the details.

Iraq: UK Armed Forces

3.30 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, Prime Minister Maliki did not say that UK forces are no longer required in southern Iraq. Instead, he recognised that the role for UK forces has evolved from combat to training. This is entirely consistent with the statement of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in July that our forces in Basra were now focused on completing the task of training and mentoring the Iraqi army before we make the transition to a long-term bilateral relationship with Iraq.

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, given the smouldering resentment that Prime Minister Maliki clearly feels over the manner of our withdrawal from Basra and his obvious lack of appreciation for the efforts of our forces in Iraq, and given our wider military overstretch, is it not time to draw a line under this costly and controversial mission and bring our boys home now?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, it would be totally irresponsible to do anything pre-emptive or which might remove support from the real progress that has been made in southern Iraq in recent years. In the interview, of which only parts were reported, Prime Minister Maliki praised the work of British troops and expressed appreciation for them. Our decision to withdraw from the centre of Basra to the airfield was not a unilateral one; it was made after consultation with the Iraqis, and they provided other support to replace the guard in Basra Palace. We have to take thoughtful decisions, which means not having knee-jerk reactions to such issues.

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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned the Iraqi army. Is it also intended that the naval training team continues its very important work after any possible future withdrawal of combat troops?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, at the moment about 800 to 900 people are involved in training and mentoring the Iraqi army. About 50 people are involved in training the Iraqi navy, which is particularly important if we are to help Iraq to protect its oil potential. Clearly it needs naval resources to protect that area. That is at present under the command of a British naval senior person and it will continue for some time as there is much work to do. We are making good progress, and although we have made very good progress with the 14 Division of the army, there is still a significant way to go in terms of naval training.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, will the Minister tell us what is happening with the status of forces agreement? I see in the US press that the United States is making rather slow progress in the status of forces agreement needed as from January next year. I understand that the British Government are not currently negotiating on this. Are we simply waiting for the Americans to tell us what the status of forces agreement will be, or do we assume that we will have withdrawn?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office with specific responsibility for this area, Bill Rammell, has been in Iraq in the past few days and has been talking about that. On a number of occasions when we have had renewals in the past, they have gone rather to the wire. A few complicated issues need to be discussed, and as I say, the Minister of State has been in Iraq only this week and has been discussing these issues.

Lord Trimble: My Lords, it is unfortunate that our involvement in the Basra region is drawing to a close amid such recrimination, as has been mentioned here. Will the Minister tell us whether it is now recognised in the Ministry of Defence that it was a grievous mistake to enter into the sort of deals that the troops did with militias in Basra and that the lesson will be drawn for other situations?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, a voice in my ear tells me that it is the noble Lord’s birthday and I shall recognise that before turning to his question. He should not get some of the statements that have been reported out of proportion. We did a very good job in Basra. As I said, our withdrawal was done after consideration of the issue with General Mohan, who was in charge there. Central government in Iraq knew about it and, in all that has been said by President Maliki over the past few weeks, there have been many expressions of congratulations for the work that has been done, respect for the British forces and thanks for the contributions that we have made in transforming the situation in southern Iraq. Our troops should get the recognition for the very good work that they have been doing.

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Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, can the Minister assure your Lordships’ House that nothing will be done in the negotiation of the status of forces agreement that touches on the safety and security of 4,000 members of the Iranian resistance living in Ashraf City who enjoy protected person status under the fourth Geneva Convention?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I do not know the detail about the group of people to which my noble friend refers, although I know of his long-standing interest in the matter. The purpose of the SOFA is to ensure that we can operate on the basis that we do now. There will be changes, because we think we are moving towards a more mature relationship with Iraq and, as I said, the Minister of State is at present discussing the details of that.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, what provisions are the Government making for people such as interpreters, who have served the British troops so loyally and faithfully, but who are not being cared for by being given immigration rights here according to the new rule?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I know that there is concern in the House about this; it has been raised more than once this week. It is not directly a matter for the Ministry of Defence, although we obviously take a very close interest in it. We have to ensure that, when we are providing help for those who have been working for British forces there, we have all the details of their employment and that we are sure about what we are doing. Great care is taken in trying to ensure that those who have serious needs to be accommodated here are looked after, but I know that there is still concern and that my noble friend, who spoke earlier this week, undertook to look earlier at the petition.

Business of the House: Standing Order 47

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with tomorrow to allow any Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 3) Bill brought from the Commons to be taken through all its stages that day.—(Baroness Royall of Blaisdon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Counter-Terrorism Bill

3.37 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

House in Committee accordingly.

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[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 34 [Post-charge questioning: England and Wales]:

Lord Wallace of Tankerness moved Amendment No. 37:

37: Clause 34, page 22, line 35, after third “a” insert “related”

The noble Lord said: The amendment stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford and me. I am grateful that the debate is attracting so much interest.

We are moving to the part of the Bill dealing with post-charge questioning, which allows a person to be questioned about an offence after he or she has been charged. The purpose of this set of amendments is probing, to elicit what might happen when questioning involves a potentially different charge but, nevertheless, one arising from the same set of facts and circumstances.

Although I was not present in your Lordships' House at the time, I understand that during debates in 2005, when the issue was extending pre-charge detention to 90 days, among the correspondence cited was a letter from Andy Hayman—whose articles in the Times were extensively cited in our debates on Monday—to the Home Secretary about why extension was necessary. Among the reasons given was particular stress on the difficulty that the police faced in gathering sufficient evidence to bring an appropriate charge.

It is only fair to point out that, as in many cases, not exclusively terrorism cases, much evidence is gathered after charging. It was argued, therefore, that there is no reason why properly authorised re-questioning could not take place under existing law if a continuing investigation suggested that someone charged with a lesser terrorism offence—for reasons debated on Monday, often a lesser charge is brought, such as acts preparatory to terrorism—may not be questioned again about a more serious offence.

As I understand the situation—I confess that I am not an English lawyer—the codes of practice under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act set out the limited grounds for permitting questioning when someone has already been charged and might be questioned further about the same offence. These grounds include preventing or minimising harm or loss to some other person or to the public, clearing up ambiguity in a previous answer or statement, or, if it is in the interests of justice, commenting on information that has come to light since they were charged.

Clause 34 allows a general ability to question someone about terrorism offences after they have been charged. The Government’s position, as I think it has been explained in the past, is that there is no need to address questioning for different offences as that is already permitted. Outwith the terrorism cases, if someone is charged with burglary, there is no difficulty with post-charge questioning if the offence that the person is being questioned about is, for example, a separate assault.

We tabled the amendment to seek clarity about post-charge questioning that involves a potentially different charge but one that arises out of the same set of facts. As I have already indicated, someone may

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have been charged with a lesser terrorism offence but the same facts and circumstances may give rise to a more serious terrorism offence. It could be argued that it is not clear what questioning is permitted under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act when that questioning relates to different offences but is based on the same facts. As I have already said, the use of the precursor offence is increasingly relied on.

I hope that the Minister will explain in his response the situation where the subject of the post-charge questioning relates to offences arising out of the same facts. That is why our amendments define related offences as those where the facts are wholly or substantively the same as those pertaining to the terrorism offence for which the person has already been charged or informed that they may be prosecuted. The Minister might find this a surprise, but it is intended to be helpful so that there is no dubiety about post-charge questioning being permitted in circumstances where the facts were basically the same but the charge may be more serious. I beg to move.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I do not know whether the noble Lord intends to speak to his other amendments at this stage, but it might be convenient if I spoke to my amendments, which cover much of the same ground as his, although in some respects we have a different approach. I am happy to continue if that is in order and is convenient to the Committee. My amendments are in a separate group, but it might be helpful to clear the ground at this stage. They go wider than those of the Liberal Democrats, because they are not confined to related offences.

The Earl of Onslow: I am now in an even bigger muddle. The JCHR has tabled an amendment on exactly the point with which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, is dealing. Are we discussing the first two groups of amendments together, or are we discussing the Liberal Democrat ones alone? I know that the Government do not like telling me things because they say that they will not give answers to questions, but they may like to answer this one.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I think that I have the most up-to-date grouping of amendments. My amendments are preparatory, but they all relate to the issues that I have already addressed.

3.45 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): To assist the Committee, I should point out that we are dealing only with the group in the name of the noble Lord from the Liberal Democrat Benches. Although I recognise that the amendments tabled in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, are very much related, they are in a different grouping, so I sense around the Committee that it might be easier to keep the debate in order if we concentrate on the first group. However, obviously, that is in the hands of the Committee.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: If we simply are discussing Amendment No. 37 and not the others in that group, perhaps I may say that I do not find it easy to understand

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the purpose of the amendment. As I understand it, and as the noble Lord has made clear, it is always open to police officers to continue their investigation after a suspect has been charged. If in the course of that investigation they discover other matters which would warrant a separate charge, it has always, as I understand it, been open to police officers to question that man in respect of those matters. To confine the subject to related offences seems to me, in a sense, to be beating the air because there is no need for that amendment. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say on that subject.

Lord West of Spithead: I shall speak to the first group of amendments and will try to clarify the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. As I understand it, this is a probing amendment. First, for the record, it might be worth outlining the purpose of the clause. Since 2001, experience of terrorism cases has clearly demonstrated that they have grown in scale and complexity, leading to an increase in the volume and complexity of evidence, about which we have heard a lot over the past few weeks.

As the Director of Public Prosecutions has made clear, this means that a great deal of evidence comes to light following the charge of a terrorism suspect, either as a result of decryption or translation of material or as a result of additional investigation by the police. At present, it is not possible to compel a suspect to be questioned on such evidence following their charge, which is obviously not in the interests of justice. Therefore, this clause enables questioning of suspects about terrorism offences for which they have already been charged or informed that they would be prosecuted for in England and Wales.

This questioning would be possible not only for the terrorism offences listed in this clause, but also where a Crown Court judge makes an order for a preparatory hearing to be held under Section 29 of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 on the basis that an offence was connected to terrorism and carries a maximum sentence of at least 10 years. For example, that could allow post-charge questioning about conspiracy to murder if it was connected to terrorism. The clause would also enable adverse inferences to be drawn from an accused’s silence in post-charge questioning; otherwise a suspect could simply choose to refuse to answer any questions with impunity.

The amendments seek to allow post-charge questioning about a “related terrorism offence” where the related offence is connected to the same set of facts on which the person subject to post-charge questioning was charged. These amendments arise because there is a belief that it is not possible to question a suspect about an offence arising out of the same set of facts as those relating to an offence for which they have already been charged.

The Government do not believe that this is correct. If a person has been charged with a terrorist offence, and if new evidence shows that the offence with which they are charged is insufficient to capture all the offending behaviour—for example, conspiracy to murder turns out to have led to an actual murder—the person can be re-arrested and interviewed for that new offence. That is not post-charge questioning but is normal

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pre-charge questioning for the new offence. A problem could also arise if amendments to this effect were passed. Any such provision could undermine the police in their questioning of suspects in non-terrorism cases, whereas at present there are no statutory restrictions on their ability to question about other offences.

Finally, the effect of these amendments could be to prevent questioning about the offence for which a person has been charged because of the insertion of the word “related” before the words “terrorism offence” in Clause 34(2). I hope that that explains why we do not believe that these amendments are necessary.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The Minister has given a clear response to these probing amendments. He indicated that doubt had been expressed about whether, under both this clause and existing law, it was possible where the facts and circumstances were the same that they could give rise to different charges. It is because of that dubiety that I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, intervened. If it is a matter of a different offence, of course there is no problem, but that there might be some dubiety was raised with us. The amendments were tabled because we do not feel that such dubiety should exist. The Minister has said that he is satisfied that there is no grey area as such. In the circumstances, it is not my intention to press the matter, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 38 to 41 not moved.]

Lord Lloyd of Berwick moved Amendment No. 42:

42: Clause 34, page 22, line 37, at end insert “but only if it is a serious terrorist offence as defined in section 24(4) of this Act”

The noble and learned Lord said: I am glad that that problem has been resolved.

I should like to speak to all the amendments tabled in my name in this group, with the exception of Amendment No. 53A, a probing amendment to which I do not expect an answer from the noble Lord. It is certainly something I do not know the answer to, but we will come to that amendment later on. On the amendments in this group, I should like to make it clear at the start that I am in no way opposed to post-charge questioning as such. As we all know, it already happens. Nor would I, as I thought the Liberal Democrats intended, confine post-charge questioning to related offences. For the reasons I have explained, I would allow such questioning in respect of offences for which the defendant has already been charged, but only in very limited circumstances. My great objection, therefore, is not to post-charge questioning as such, but to what is proposed in Clauses 34 to 36. I have no objection in principle, but I object to the way it is proposed to be carried out.

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