Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I have a question about Welsh institutions of higher education, and in so doing declare an interest as a former president of Aberystwyth University. The Minister may or may not recollect that for about a century the University of Wales was a federated unified institution. That is no longer the case; there are now 12 separate institutions. There is a great deal of cohesion, happily, between them, and the many modular schemes mean that there is a velocity of travel from one institution to the other. Will the Minister give an assurance that there is no

5 Mar 2009 : Column 844

question of foreign students having to apply for a refreshing of their visas in the case of such movement? Such a requirement could jeopardise very greatly the considerable enrichment, both financial and culturally, that comes from that source.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, if the University of Wales is on the sponsor register as the University of Wales, even with those separated units—I imagine it is, but if I am wrong I will get back to the noble Lord in writing—the answer is that the students would not have to apply each time they change. They can change courses within a particular university or unit. That is allowed for in the rules.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, are the rumours about the curtailing of post-study work arrangements for international students entirely unfounded or are they are correct?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am not absolutely certain. Is this after they have completed all their studies and then go on to post-study work? There will be an opportunity for them to do postgraduate work, but there is no intention to allow all the people who study in this country to remain here to work. They would have to go through the normal procedure for tiers 1 and 2.

Health: Contaminated Blood Products

Question

11.30 am

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare an interest, not pecuniary, as architect of the Archer inquiry.

The Question was as follows:

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, we take this issue very seriously. We will respond when we have given the report of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer the consideration that it deserves. While successive Governments have acted in good faith, the serious infections inadvertently contracted by those patients as a result of their treatment have had tragic consequences. I am deeply sorry that this has happened. These events were the subject of long-concluded legal proceedings, and the Government have established three schemes to provide financial assistance to those affected.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, as ever I am grateful to my noble friend. Is she aware that, when I set up the inquiry two years ago, already 1,757 haemophilia patients had died from being infected; that the death toll has since risen by more than 200; and that many more are now terminally ill?

Again, I most warmly thank my noble and learned friend Lord Archer, Dr Norman Jones and Judith Willetts. Is my noble friend further aware that their

5 Mar 2009 : Column 845

report, exhaustively researched and powerfully argued, is by common consent also one of excelling integrity and humane concern for arguably the most stricken minority in Britain today? Is it too much to ask in their name now for a response of matching concern and humanity from Whitehall and Westminster?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, may I pay tribute to my noble friend for his lifelong work in this and other areas of healthcare? I understand that he made the first call for an inquiry on these issues in 1982. I join him in tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer for the work that he has undertaken and the magnificent report that he has produced. We have every sympathy with those who have been infected, and their families, and we recognise that it has impaired the lives of many people.

The inquiry by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer investigated the circumstances surrounding the supply of contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s, and has made many detailed recommendations, all of which we will be seriously considering. My honourable friend the Secretary of State will respond as soon as we are able.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Haemophilia Society. Would the Minister agree how important it is to collect data, as the inquiry says, on the dangerous and serious situation of blood safety? Would she also agree that some people are very worried at the moment, as they may have variant CJD?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes an important point because, as your Lordships will be aware, as recently as 17 February the finding of vCJD was announced in a haemophiliac who died of other causes. It is not surprising, therefore, that people with haemophilia remain concerned that history does not repeat itself. We are taking this very seriously, and investigations are ongoing. At the moment, it seems likely that the exposure was due to contaminated blood products in the mid-1990s.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords—

Lord Patel: My Lords—

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, will the Government be offering further support to the Haemophilia Society, which does such important work in this area, as a result of the inquiry?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the work of the Haemophilia Society was absolutely vital to the production of this excellent report, and it does a wonderful job across the country supporting people with haemophilia. The society received core funding under Section 64 of the general scheme of grants for a number of years; however, that source of funding is not intended to be permanent. As we have discussed before in your Lordships’ House, we have informed the society’s chief executive that we intended to taper its core funding over three years. However, I know that officials are in discussion with the Haemophilia Society about funding opportunities,

5 Mar 2009 : Column 846

because we are very keen that it should continue and develop its important work.

Lord Patel: My Lords—

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Cross Bench!

Lord Patel: My Lords, what policies do the Government have to prevent transmission of infections to haemophiliacs via blood products?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware, more than I am indeed, that in 1985 heat treatment for plasma-derived blood products became available. That removed the risk of HIV and hepatitis C and all blood donors are tested. To remove any potential for transmission of infection through donor-sourced products, since 1988 all children in the UK have an access to recombinant—that is, synthetic clotting factors, which are completely safe. In February 2003, the Government announced additional funding to extend availability to adult haemophiliacs in England and all haemophilia patients are now eligible for treatment with those synthetic products. We will continue to provide funding for that; we are committed to this. Expenditure on these products has risen from £21 million in 2004-05 to £46 million in 2008-09.

Baroness Barker: My Lords—

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, there is an expression that I was brought up with, which goes “fair words butter no parsnips”.

Noble Lords: Liberal Democrats!

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I am on my feet. Why should I break the habit of the lifetime? Fair words butter no parsnips. Would it not be much easier just to say that both Governments have made a terrible error in this issue and that compensation will be paid, period? That is all that needs to be said.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, all Governments have been apologising for this since 1987, and there are funds available for those people that both Governments have established.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, does the Minister agree that perhaps the most chilling point in the excellent report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is that many of these people were infected as a result of being given experimental products without their consent or knowledge? In light of that, does she agree that the current system of compensation is inadequate and ineffective and that the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions need to act rapidly to ensure that those people who still survive no longer face an uncertain future in dire poverty?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, £140 million have so far been given to the people who are infected, and we shall consider carefully the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, particularly relating to payments for infected individuals and their carers.



5 Mar 2009 : Column 847

Business of the House

Announcement

11.37 am

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I thought that it might be helpful to the House if I said a few words about the expected timing of proceedings on the Northern Ireland Bill next week. The Bill arrived from the Commons and had its First Reading last night. It was printed this morning and is available in the Printed Paper Office. The Second Reading of the Bill will be taken on Monday as first business; the list of speakers for the Second Reading opened this morning in the Government Whips’ Office. The Committee stage will be taken as first business on Wednesday 11 March, with Report and Third Reading being taken later that day, after proceedings on the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.

To assist the House in considering the Bill, the Public Bill Office will accept amendments in advance of Second Reading; amendments can be tabled from today and a Marshalled List of amendments will be available on Tuesday morning next week. The deadline for tabling amendments to appear on the Marshalled List will be 5 pm on Monday or 30 minutes after the end of Second Reading on Monday, whichever is the later. These arrangements have been agreed by the usual channels to allow the Bill to get Royal Assent on Thursday 12 March. I shall set out next week the likely timings for Committee and Report.

Banking Act 2009 (Third Party Compensation Arrangements for Partial Property Transfers) Regulations 2009

Banking Act 2009 (Restriction of Partial Property Transfers) Order 2009

Banking Act 2009 (Bank Administration) (Modification for Application to Banks in Temporary Public Ownership) Regulations 2009

Banking Act 2009 (Bank Administration) (Modification for Application to Multiple Transfers) Regulations 2009

Banking Act 2009 (Parts 2 and 3 Consequential Amendments) Order 2009

Official Statistics Order 2009

Legislative Reform (Supervision of Alcohol Sales in Church and Village Halls &c.) Order 2009

National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Housing) Order 2009

Renewables Obligation Order 2009

Motions to Refer to Grand Committee



5 Mar 2009 : Column 848

11.38 am

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motions agreed.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in force of sections 1 to 9) Order 2009

Copy of the Order
6th Report from JCSI
5th Report from JCHR

Motion to Approve

11.39 am

Moved By Lord West of Spithead

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the purpose of the order before the House today is to renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Sections 1 to 9 of the Act will automatically expire after one year, unless renewed by order, subject to affirmative action by a resolution in both Houses. The effect of this order will therefore be to maintain the powers set out under the Act until the end of 10 March 2010. This will allow us to continue to use control orders to tackle the threat posed to national security by suspected terrorists whom we can neither prosecute nor deport.

We remain firmly of the view that the legislation and the order before us today are fully compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights. The other place voted in favour of renewal on 3 March. Since last year’s debate on the renewal of the Act we have, of course, had the opportunity to consider the control order powers in some detail. During the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 we considered a number of government and opposition amendments to the original powers. Some minor changes were made to the 2005 Act as a result.

In setting the scene for our debate today, it is important to remember that in recent years we have witnessed a number of significant attacks, and attempted attacks, on our country. These have sought to undermine our fundamental rights and values through the indiscriminate murder of innocent people. The threat to the UK from international terrorism remains real and serious. Recent trials and investigations have shown that terrorist networks continue to plan and attempt to carry out attacks. We need a broad range of responses to reduce the risk of further terrorist attacks. These responses must ensure public security while protecting our values and civil liberties. Prosecution has been, and continues to be, our preferred approach, since terrorists are criminals who attack the values that we all share.



5 Mar 2009 : Column 849

In 2008, 51 people were convicted in 18 terrorism cases, with 21 individuals pleading guilty. These figures underline the considerable success that the police and intelligence agencies have had in disrupting terrorist plots and that the CPS has had in prosecuting these individuals. We remain absolutely committed to enhancing the ability to prosecute terrorists. Thus, the Home Office is currently taking work forward to implement the recommendations in last year’s Privy Council review report on the use of intercept as evidence. However, the report explained that, in a review of nine control order cases by an independent senior criminal counsel, the use of intercept as evidence would not have enabled criminal prosecutions in any of those cases. In other words, it would not have made any practical difference. From this, one cannot hold out much hope to resolve all the problems.

Where we cannot prosecute suspected terrorists and the individual concerned is a foreign national, we look to detain and then deport them. Last month’s Law Lords’ judgments in three cases—including that of the Jordanian Abu Qatada—demonstrated that the Government’s policy of deportation with assurances, or DWA, is compatible with the ECHR.

Despite improvements in our ability to prosecute or deport individuals who pose a threat to national security, there remains a small group of individuals whom we can neither prosecute nor deport. Control orders are intended to protect the public from the risk posed by those individuals. For the past four years, they have been a valuable and targeted tool in our fight against terrorism. Each order places a tailored set of obligations on an individual to help to prevent or restrict him from engaging in terrorism-related activity. They are not imposed arbitrarily—a judge must agree that they are necessary and proportionate—and they are subject to regular and rigorous review. I know this because I am deeply involved in those reviews. There are currently only 15 control orders in force.

We accept that control orders cannot entirely eliminate the risk of an individual’s involvement in terrorism-related activity. Indeed, the independent reviewer of the operation of the Act, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, notes in his most recent report that he has seen material showing that a few controlees,

However, it is absolutely clear that the obligations in place make such involvement more difficult. It is for that reason that the Act itself refers to,

There continues to be a school of thought that control orders should be time limited. That is superficially attractive. However, our position is that orders should be imposed for as short a time as possible, commensurate with the risk posed. Of the individuals currently subject to control orders, only five have been subject to them for more than two years. We do not believe that an arbitrary time limit is an appropriate way to manage the risk.



5 Mar 2009 : Column 850

11.45 am

We would also like to remind noble Lords that the High Court has supported our view that a control order can be justified beyond two years. Mr Justice Collins recently found that, if there is evidence that an individual remains a danger, the control order should continue for as long as necessary.

There continue to be those who argue that the control order regime is an affront to human rights. Let me be clear: that is not the case. The highest court in the land has upheld the whole regime, reflecting the substantive and rigorous judicial checks and balances in the control order regime.

The Law Lords are currently considering what measures are necessary to safeguard the right to a fair trial in control order cases. Their deliberations will undoubtedly take into account relevant jurisprudence, including the House of Lords judgment in 2007, the Court of Appeal judgment of October 2008 and the recent European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of A and others. The judgment of the European Court last week relates to detention proceedings in SIAC rather than the control order proceedings in the Administrative Court. The cases considered by Strasbourg are historic. There have been many developments and improvements in the operation of the special advocate system since the time of the cases in 2004.

Our view remains that supported by the Court of Appeal last October, which is that there is no irreducible minimum level of disclosure that is necessary to ensure that control order review hearings are compatible with a right to a fair trial. The individual is already given as full an explanation as possible of the reasons for the imposition of a control order, subject only to legitimate public interest concerns, and each case is determined by an independent High Court judge who has all the relevant material.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page