Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Fifthly and finally, there was the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, who said, "Do not meddle with citizens' rights: that is a very dangerous thing to do". Yet of course a private prosecution in this context cannot proceed under current law without the consent of the Attorney-General, who applies the twofold test in the code for Crown prosecutors. Nothing in Clause 154 interferes with the right of the private citizen to bring a private prosecution which was, and will remain, a matter that then requires the consent of the Attorney-General.

None of the amendments before this Committee is necessary or appropriate. Amendments 245, 245A and 245AZA would all give the director an advisory role. Yet that would leave open the anomaly that the magistrate who takes the decision on whether to order arrest and detention applies a different standard to that of the Attorney-General and the DPP, who look at whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction and any public interest considerations. The amendments would ensure that the advice from the DPP would be on issues which are not for the magistrate to determine and are therefore, with great respect, very difficult to understand.

Lord Campbell-Savours: As a non-lawyer, I wonder whether I can ask the noble Lord a lay man's question. What kind of considerations would the public interest considerations be in the application for a warrant in a case like this? What would the DPP have in mind?

Lord Pannick: The DPP dealt with that matter in the evidence that he gave to the Public Bill Committee. He was very reluctant to address hypotheticals but said:

"There may be a case where there is a very powerful argument ... the example that is given by others and therefore not from my mouth is where you have a fraught and difficult peace negotiation that has to take place in 24 hours in a country and you need international leaders there. I do not know. There may be a situation where you would have to carefully consider the arguments one way or the other".-[Official Report, Commons, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee, 20/1/11; col. 134.]

Lord Campbell-Savours: I-

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1015

Lord Pannick: I will just finish my answer, then I will happily give way to the noble Lord. If he is saying that public interest has no role in this area then his quarrel is with the code for Crown prosecutors, but his amendment does not address that.

Lord Campbell-Savours: When the noble Lord said that the DPP was totally independent, he appeared to be saying that they would not have political considerations in mind. If peace negotiations were about to take place, surely that is a political consideration. It is precisely those sorts of areas that might cause the public some concern, even though the justification may be merited.

Lord Pannick: I am grateful to the noble Lord. It is of course the experience of all those who have held the sensitive and difficult office of Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney-General-we are fortunate to have two former Attorney-Generals here-that they have to address these sensitive and difficult questions. There is nothing unusual about this area that singles it out from the problems that are faced, if not on a daily basis then I am sure on a weekly or monthly basis, by those who hold that office. I am sure that they will be able to assist the House regarding this matter.

My point is that the noble Lord's amendment seeks to give an advisory role to the DPP in relation to a matter that the magistrate simply has no role under existing law to determine. I suggest with respect that that is not a sensible way to proceed, nor would it be sensible to confer on the magistrate a new role, which the magistrate has never had, of having to consider the criteria in the code for Crown prosecutors of whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction or whether the public interest justifies a decision being taken.

The other amendment, Amendment 245AA, would include in the legislation criteria that told the DPP how to exercise his discretion. It would be quite unprecedented for Parliament to tell the DPP what criteria to adopt in exercising his functions, nor do the courts do so. Indeed, it was highly controversial that the Appellate Committee of this House decided in July 2009 to require the DPP even to publish guidelines on whether he would prosecute for assisting a suicide. I declare an interest as counsel for Mrs Purdy in that case. Parliament and the courts have, for good reason, preferred to leave the DPP to develop his own criteria in the code for Crown prosecutors. Amendment 246 raises very different issues-

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Does the noble Lord agree that it would surely be right that the DPP should apply the same standards when he is considering one of these cases that come from abroad as he would for a person within the domestic jurisdiction?

Lord Pannick: I certainly agree that the DPP should apply the same standards in the sense that he asks whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction and whether the public interest justifies a prosecution. The application of those principles, though, will inevitably depend on all the facts and circumstances of the individual case. It would be unprecedented for Parliament to tell the DPP in detail how to apply his discretion,

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1016

and there is nothing in what the DPP said to the Public Bill Committee that should cause concern to noble Lords about the manner in which he proposes to exercise this new power if he is given it.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I think it is fair that I ask the noble Lord this. He has said several times now that the consent of the Attorney-General to one of these prosecutions is required. My understanding, and I want to get this quite clear, is that the Attorney-General can issue a nolle prosequi that his consent is not required.

8.45 pm

Lord Pannick: It amounts to the same thing. If the Attorney-General takes the view that it is inappropriate for a prosecution to continue, they will say so. The purpose of the provision of English law is to ensure that the Attorney-General is able, in this sensitive and important context, to take a view on whether it is appropriate.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, to pursue the point, there is a vast difference, with respect, between getting the consent of the Attorney-General as a prerequisite and the right of the Attorney-General to intervene by way of nolle prosequi. The noble Lord is mistaken in what he draws from that.

Lord Pannick: My understanding is that consent is required. In any event, with great respect, I do not see the practical difference. Other noble Lords will assist the Committee in that respect.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, this is a delicate and sensitive matter and I will spend a few moments on it. I entirely understand why noble Lords who have spoken have raised the points that they have. There are some footnotes as well, but two major things emerge from the debate so far. First, it is interesting that, despite the fact that certain noble Lords have said, "Let's leave the system exactly as it is, there's nothing wrong with it", everybody who has spoken so far has proposed a change to the present system, either by supporting the Government or by tabling amendments as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has done-

Baroness Tonge: Can the noble and learned Lord please clarify that? The amendments are to Clause 154, which I thought was a new provision to change the existing arrangements for the application for arrest warrants.

Lord Goldsmith: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I will make my second point, about what the existing system is. With respect, there is a misunderstanding among some of the Committee as to what the existing system is. In a moment, I will take the opportunity to say something about that on the basis of my experience, particularly from when I was Her Majesty's Attorney-General.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1017

First, in fundamental agreement with my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, the principle of universal jurisdiction is extremely important. I strongly support that principle. I was a Back-Bencher on the Labour Benches led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, who pushed the Government into passing an effective form of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, which meant that we could prosecute people who were not permanently established here. I was the Attorney-General who consented to the prosecution of Zardad the Afghan warlord; I actually led for the prosecution in that case. As the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, said, he was convicted, by a British jury, of hostage taking and torture. He was sentenced to 20 years, which he is still serving.

Just so that noble Lords do not think that my favouring of universal jurisdiction is limited to particular countries, I mention Israel. I publically indicated that I was going to call for the extradition of an Israeli solider when I was concerned that the Israeli authorities were not properly investigating and dealing with an allegation that a British citizen, James Miller, had been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire. I did not do that because I was being pushed by some group. I went and talked to the Israeli investigators, looked at their files, cross-examined them, and called for the Metropolitan Police to carry out its own investigations into evidence which the Israelis said demonstrated that it was not Israeli gunfire, but which demonstrated that it almost certainly was.

In the end the Israelis did not go quite as far as I would have liked, but they did more than they had done as they were threatened with a prosecution. Indeed, they thankfully paid significant compensation to the family of this poor young man. Therefore, I am very much in favour of universal jurisdiction. It is important that we have a robust and effective system. However-this is the second point-there is an anomaly in the existing system, which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has rightly identified; namely, that the prosecution cannot take place without the consent of the Attorney-General. This is the debate that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, had.

I know that memories fade and that it is a number of years since I did this job, but my recollection is that every single one of the universal jurisdiction offences requires the consent of the Attorney-General to a prosecution. Of course, the Attorney-General can always issue a nolle prosequi, but that is different. In these cases, Parliament has taken the view that a prosecution of this sort has such a public element to it that it should not proceed without the consent of the Attorney-General. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, pointed out, the consequence of that is that we have this anomaly. A private group or a private individual, no doubt for good reasons but sometimes perhaps not-I will come back to that-can have an individual arrested even though, when the matter goes to the Attorney-General, the prosecution will not take place.

I first came across the practical problem to which this matter gives rise in the case of Major General Almog, which has been referred to. The first that I knew of an application to arrest Major General Almog

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1018

was when we received a call from the relevant court to ask me whether I wanted to say anything about it. I could not say anything about it as I had no role at that stage; my role would come later. I could not do anything. I make this point also because one of the briefings that I have seen on this issue suggests that there is no evidence that in that case there was no prior notice given to the Attorney-General of the intended application. I know that there was not in that case because it took place on my watch. From that moment I have considered how you deal with the anomaly that you can have somebody arrested but ultimately there will be no prosecution. That gives rise to a number of problems. First, it gives rise obviously to the problem that someone may be detained, deprived of their liberty and certainly restricted in their movements for a period before the papers reach the Attorney-General and a decision can be made. That is not good for the individual. Secondly, it is not good for the people who have, as it were, promoted the prosecution in the first place. They will be disappointed that, having got somebody arrested, the matter does not proceed.

There is a question of the public funds involved-perhaps it is for your Lordships to decide how important this is-but there is also the consideration that such action will in certain circumstances exacerbate relations with what may be a friendly state if, for good reason-I will come back to what that may be-an Attorney-General says no to a prosecution but somebody has been locked up for a period of time, or at least prevented from going about their business. That will do nothing for good relations and there may be circumstances-the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, referred to such a circumstance, hypothetically, at least-where that could be very damaging to a wider interest.

For a long time I believed that it was necessary to deal with the anomaly. One comes back to the difference between noble Lords' amendments and the Government's amendment. Fundamentally, the difference comes down to this: other noble Lords' amendments say that you should notify the DPP and he should have an advisory role. The Government say that this process cannot happen without his consent. What is the difference between those stances? It is not the difference of timing because if you are going to notify the DPP and ask him to give an advisory view, you need to give the man or woman time to consider it. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said about the ability of the CPS to move swiftly. I have also heard it said that one of the problems is that there may not be enough time. In the cases that I have seen, the groups that have wanted a prosecution have known for some time that they would like to see that particular individual prosecuted. They may not have known that he or she was travelling on a particular day but they have been assembling their evidence. I see no reason at all-I understand that the DPP has offered this-why there cannot be a system under which they present their material to the DPP so that he and his staff have a reasonable opportunity to consider it and can form a view as to whether or not they will give their consent.

I see real dangers in the present system. It is an anomaly. It leads to dangers to the individual and risk to the people who promote this. It risks relations. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said that he knows of

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1019

cases-indeed, he has advised on cases-of people who are frightened to come to this country. I have heard this as well. The Government will know better, and if that is the case, it is a bad thing. It is a bad thing if in fact they are being deterred from coming where ultimately there have been no prosecutions.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Does the noble and learned Lord agree that it would be quite wrong for the DPP to give in advance immunity to someone coming to this country?

Lord Goldsmith: I am really not sure that I agree with the noble Lord. It is not an immunity, but if the question arose and the DPP had seen the material that was going to be produced, had examined it and, having regard to the evidential test and the public interest test, he was of the view that he would not consent to a prosecution, I do not see why he should not say that. That would not be done in a broadcast, but if there were a legitimate reason to know the answer, so that someone can, for example, come to attend an important meeting with Her Majesty's Government, why not? In that respect, what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, said about the DPP having an opportunity to consult a policy statement about this was very wise. That is exactly what I would expect this particular DPP to do; and he would look to what all the interests were. That would, no doubt, be one of the questions that he would consider-to what extent is it right? He would want to make sure that he is not bounced into making wrong decisions and that he has an adequate opportunity to decide. That is important.

That takes me to where I was going when the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, intervened-the amendment in his name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven. There are two points about that. The first is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. Neither this DDP nor, I hope, any DPP needs the straightjacket of being told by Parliament how to do his or her job. They can be trusted to do that without that sort of straightjacket.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords-

Lord Goldsmith: Let me just make this point and of course I will give way to the noble Lord. I made the point about that amendment not just because it is surprising that he is putting it forward on the basis that it is intended to restate the law as it stands, because it patently does not do that, but because, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, it demonstrates the dangers of trying to be prescriptive as to exactly what the tests should be.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I think that the noble and learned Lord misunderstands the purpose behind our amendment, which is not to put a straightjacket around the director, but to give assurance to people who want to come to this country that they will be treated in exactly the same way as a resident or a British citizen would be treated. I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, would welcome that assurance for the purposes of advising his clients.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1020

Lord Goldsmith: I have to say that the one thought that had not crossed my mind when I read this amendment was that it was intended to give reassurance to people coming from abroad. Noble Lords can form their own views in relation to that. I oppose that amendment.

I want to consider the final amendment, which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. I give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Tonge: The noble and learned Lord is very generous and I thank him for giving way yet again. Before he moves on to my noble friend's amendment, can he explain something to me? I am enjoying and learning a huge amount from this debate, but I am not a lawyer. Let us say that a British citizen is arrested on a Saturday night, or whenever, for some reason or other, and put into the cells for perhaps one or two nights, and that no charge is brought in the end. What is the difference between that and someone who may or may not have committed war crimes being put into a cell and held for one or two days, but no charge is brought?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for what she kindly said about this debate, but I should have thought that she and I would agree on this without hesitation. So far as is possible, no one should be detained and deprived of their liberty in circumstances where ultimately they are not going to be charged with a criminal offence, or for some other good reason. I do not like the idea of saying, "Oh well, it is all right, because after a night out in the pub, people may be locked up for a night; let us lock up the Foreign Minister", or a general from another state. If there will not be a prosecution, it makes no sense to do that.

The other fundamental difference is the second element missing from the debate. Parliament has decided that in such an offence, universal jurisdiction is enormously important and we should do our bit to ensure that tyrants, despots and war criminals do not find a place of refuge in this country. Absolutely, but it has decided that that should be done by giving the ultimate responsibility to the Attorney-General to decide whether prosecution takes place. The anomaly is that, despite that, prosecutions can be started and people can be detained, even though that will not happen.

9 pm

I conclude by saying that I support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. It is a sound amendment. If I may tell tales out of school, when I was in office, I tried to resuscitate the war crimes unit, which had existed. The problem-I address these remarks absolutely at the Minister-is resources from the police. The police have to do the investigation. The prosecutors can help, and I hope that, despite cuts, they will be able to help, but ultimately the police have to do that.

For example, to bring the Zardad prosecution, we had to have Metropolitan Police officers in Afghanistan. We had to find the evidence and give it by video conference to a court in the Old Bailey, which was an interesting experience in itself for the jurors, who were not quite sure what they were watching. It is a much

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1021

more onerous obligation to prosecute those cases. That is one of the public interest considerations which someone might well take into account, especially if there is another country, including the home country, which looks as if it is capable and willing to prosecute the case itself, which is one of the principles under the International Criminal Court treaty, the Rome treaty: the principle of complementarity.

I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, but I respectfully oppose the other amendments.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: As a non-lawyer, I shall make some non-lawyer points. I briefly echo what I said on Second Reading, which is that I very much welcome Clause 154 and congratulate the Government on bringing it forward. I wanted the previous Government to bring it forward. Although they were preparing to do so, they came to the end of their tenure before it came near the legislature. I am very pleased to see it because, despite what has been said by those who have tabled some of the amendments to Clause 154, the status quo is not acceptable to non-lawyers-as well, apparently, as to lawyers. It is unacceptable for various reasons. One is that it exposes the English and Welsh legal systems to abuse by politically motivated individuals who just want to have a foreign politician arrested for political reasons. It cannot be good for the law to allow that to happen.

There are other reasons why the status quo is unacceptable. An unintended consequence of the current legislation is that the DPP is consulted only before the issue of arrest warrants in public prosecutions, not private ones. To a non-lawyer, that makes no sense. I do not consider that any of the four amendments do anything to improve the clause; they are unnecessary.

I shall speak briefly to Amendment 245AA. In the 15 years that I have watched Bills go through the House, I have never seen such prescriptive instructions to a DPP. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven is not in his place, because I hoped that he would explain it to me. Perhaps he can do that at Report.

I support Clause 154 and I do not think that it needs to be amended.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House much longer. However, not having been in the Bishops' Bar earlier and not being a lawyer, I beg leave to give the view of the common man-or the common woman doctor, if you like. It comes from experience gained in the other place and here of going to places where horrendous war crimes have been committed.

When I was in the other place, I visited Rwanda soon after the genocide. I visited Kosovo and Albania when the atrocities were going on, and I cannot describe to you the injuries suffered by some women who had managed to run down to Albania and get into the hospitals there. Southern Sudan has seen atrocities committed over decades. More recently, I was in Gaza very soon after the conflict there. People who have had that experience and who have seen what happens feel very strongly that we should do everything in our

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1022

power to try to bring the perpetrators to justice. That is where I am coming from. It is not in the case of a particular country although many people may think that it is-it is not. These crimes are being committed all over the world, as my noble friend Lord Carlile has told us.

I welcome this group of amendments which I hope will allow the Government to look again at Clause 154. They are suggestions of amendments and Clause 154 has caused huge consternation among those who care about universal jurisdiction. I also hope that the Government will give the real explanation-and a plausible one, please-for introducing the clause in the first place. I repeat that the right to initiate a private prosecution is an ancient common law right of the people of England and Wales and it provides a valuable safeguard for people like me, not lawyers, against political interference by the Executive.

If we ever have a Bill of Rights it should surely include the right of any citizen to approach the courts with an application for the arrest of a suspect who may have committed the sort of crimes that I have seen. This right has not been abused: 10 applications in 10 years is hardly politically motivated people manipulating the law-10 in 10 years, with only two successful ones. Will the Minister explain what abuse has taken place over the last 10 years or is it, as many people outside this House feel, an attempt to regain some sort of political control over this process?

This is why I support the amendments. Amendment 245, tabled by Lord Campbell-Savours, says,

That implies a long wait before that advice is received -he can take his time and it might delay the process too much-but nevertheless we should consider it.

Amendment 245A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, and my noble friend Lord Lester, proposes that instead of being given the right of veto over the arrest, the DPP should be allowed to give evidence of his views to the court as an additional safeguard against vexatious applications. The timing would be out of his hands and therefore there would be less delay. Amendment 245AZA, tabled by my noble friend Lord Phillips, makes this even clearer, giving the DPP the opportunity to attend the court to give his opinion.

My noble friend Lord Carlile says that there will be no delay, and this has been emphasised by other lawyers in this House: "There is no delay. The DPP does not delay. These things are very urgent. They have to be dealt with immediately". I am a doctor and I would say that too. If anyone said to me that I might be late turning up or might delay or not make a decision on a patient in time, I would say, "No, of course not. I deal with things immediately. I always go when I am called. I am never at a dinner party when someone wants my advice. I will never, ever delay". We all say that, in whatever profession, but sometimes there are reasons why there is delay and that is what concerns me. Delay occurs not deliberately but because of business and the pressure of work.

If the House wishes to retain a veto over applications for arrest warrants by the DPP, that will in my view be regrettable. However, if the Government insist, they

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1023

must set out the circumstances in which the DPP will not use the veto, which is essential to preserve the independence of his office. I appreciate the comments that have been made about Amendment 245AA tabled by my noble friend Lord Macdonald and presented in his absence by my noble friend Lord Thomas. I think that it would achieve some of our objectives. It provides that the DPP must consent to the issuing of arrest warrants when he believes that the evidence establishes a prospect of conviction or when there are reasonable grounds to believe that such evidence will be forthcoming within a reasonable period. He will keep the case under review and take it over in order to discontinue it if the evidence is not produced. I have already dealt with the question of someone being unjustly held under an arrest warrant for a short time.

I cannot understand anyone who professes to believe in universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity nor war crimes opposing any of these amendments or seeking to improve Clause 154. I do not approve of the clause at all-I would rather the status quo was maintained. However, if we are to have Clause 154, then anyone who believes in universal jurisdiction should look again to make sure that we implement it fairly and justly, and in a way that means that we can apprehend international criminals.

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the new clause tabled by my noble friend Lord Carlile. He and I have many disagreements but that does not mean-I say this very sincerely-that I do not hugely respect him and his opinions and judgments. As I said, we have many disagreements but on this matter we agree, and I trust that the Government will find a way of accepting his amendment.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am very conscious of the time and therefore shall try to be telegraphic, as Lord Kingsland used to say when standing at this Dispatch Box.

We have clearly had a very energetic and well informed debate. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that the previous Government were extremely proud of having introduced and expanded universal jurisdiction. There was a real determination to make plain that this country would not provide a safe haven for those accused of war crimes and the other serious offences in the schedule, and I am confident that the current Government share that aspiration. The whole purpose of having universal jurisdiction is so that we can address those issues. It is important that these grievous offences are prosecuted with vigour. I say straight away that I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about whether we currently have sufficient resources to ensure the vigorous and effective prosecution that we all seek. We hope that the Government will be able to make those resources available. We think that Amendment 246 should be strongly supported and we hope that the Government will give it favourable consideration.

Noble Lords will be relieved to hear that I agree with the analysis given by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile of Berriew and Lord Pannick, and by my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith in relation to this amendment. Specifically, I endorse and agree with the

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1024

approach adopted by the current Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who made it plain when he gave evidence before the committee that because of the seriousness of the cases to which universal jurisdiction applies, if the evidential test was met, it would speak very powerfully in favour of a prosecution. I would respectfully agree with that view.

9.15 pm

I also agree with the view expressed by a number of noble Lords that we can rely on the Director of Public Prosecutions to exercise his discretion appropriately and wholly independently and that when both he and/or the Attorney-General of the day act in relation to specific cases, they act without political bias and as law officers. The one successful prosecution we have had-which was led, as my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith has made plain, by him personally-was the most successful way of prosecuting these cases. I hope that the Committee, when reading Keir Starmer's evidence to the committee, will be comforted by his clear commitment to working with groups that might be concerned about those who have committed these grievous offences in order to prepare cases in advance of anyone coming to this country and so that they can respond vigorously. In his evidence he said that he had set up a committee, that he intended to publish guidelines and that it met regularly. That is a matter of great concern and interest.

When he gave his evidence, the DPP also raised the issue of the gap. I should like to endorse quickly what my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith said about the process that we currently have. Noble Lords will know that the prima facie case that has to be produced is not one where the court currently interrogates the evidence. The difference between what the DPP will do and what the court can now do is that the DPP is able to interrogate that evidence and the gap. Therefore, the time between when the warrant is issued and when the consent has to be obtained is likely to be very short. That gap causes some real difficulties, as my noble and learned friend has indicated. The Government have got that right. I invite noble Lords who disagree to consider carefully what has been said in this debate and the evidence given by the current DPP, which bears reading in a very favourable way.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, made no reference to the advice given by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the noble and learned Baroness has made no such reference. Does that mean that she sets its advice at nought?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, my Lords, certainly not. I was seeking to relieve the Committee of the burden of listening to me for more than was absolutely necessary, bearing in mind that we are now at 9.19 pm and the Government have yet to respond. Of course, it is for the Government to deal with these matters. I simply wanted to make plain that we on this side would support the analysis made by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Pannick, and my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith. I thought that that

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1025

would be the fastest way. I am sure that we can return to this on Report. If the Committee would love to hear from me on that basis, I am sure that I could entertain your Lordships for some considerable time. But, at this time of night, something told me that the Committee would not thank me. For that reason, I have curtailed my remarks. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, need have no such restraint.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, sometimes the House throws up, well outside the usual hours of attention, debates of immense importance. There is no doubt that this debate will be read and studied outside the confines of the House to great advantage, because it was extremely thorough, with arguments deployed on both sides with great passion but also, in the tradition of the House, with great courtesy. As one of the non-lawyers participating, I very much benefited from listening to the learned side of the House dealing with matters of law.

Of course, as with all these things, it is a matter of judgment. We get advice from many quarters. It is not a matter of setting the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights at nil; our judgment is carefully considered. However, as the two former Attorneys-General pointed out, somebody then has to make a judgment. The judgment that we have made is that the purpose of Clause 154 is to ensure that in respect of offences over which the United Kingdom has asserted universal jurisdiction, an arrest warrant is issued on the application of a private prosecution only where there is a real prospect of a viable prosecution. This outcome is achieved by requiring the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before the warrant can be issued. The Government have decided that this is the best way forward.

The detail of this debate indicates that more than one opinion can be honestly held, but nothing that I have heard today has dissuaded me from thinking that this is the right way forward. However, we will return to this on Report. I hope that some issues were clarified in the debate. Certainly I will look at the resource issue that was raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, but I am a little worried about the answer that I will be given-[Interruption.] It is always worrying when there are interventions. It is bad enough when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, intervenes, but when the thunderous intervention seems to come from an even higher authority, one gets really worried.

I pay tribute to the previous Government on their record on universal jurisdiction. The two officeholders responsible can take rightful pride in it. I also put on record the confidence of this Government in the independence and abilities of the present DPP. The way that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, introduced the debate set a tone that encouraged the exchange of honest and informed opinions. Although I will ask noble Lords, given the nature of the Committee stage, not to press their amendments, it is clear that the debate will influence further discussions on how we go forward.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1026

I will deal with some of the issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, finished her remarks by expressing her concern that there would be unnecessary delay. That concern was also expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. It was answered very clearly by the noble Lords, Lord Carlisle and Lord Pannick. In some ways, I shall try to shorten my remarks because I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is after my job, but his speech answered many of the questions raised, including on delay. The DPP has made it clear that anyone who wants to pursue a crime of universal jurisdiction should engage very early with him. Giving evidence, he said:

"They should come to us with whatever evidence they have, and we will undertake to look at it and to advise".-[Official Report, Commons, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee, 20/1/11; col. 124]

We have already heard evidence about the amount of resources and the 24/7 nature of that coverage.

It is not a matter of trusting the judges to do their job. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, put the problem far better. The actual case put to the judge is not the one that causes the problem in that, as the noble and learned Lord rightly pointed out, it may involve somebody being detained on very spurious grounds. We are all experienced politicians and we have seen examples. The gain for those wanting to raise these issues is not in the trial or the verdict but in the publicity gained by getting the individual into the situation in the first place. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, suggested, it is not in any way that we wish to take away the right of the private citizen to pursue matters of universal jurisdiction, but simply that we believe that the present situation is unsatisfactory and extremely difficult in terms of law. I know that there have been very few cases but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, pointed out and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, confirmed, the previous Government were looking at this issue and feared, as do we, that there is a risk that the present weakness of our system could be exploited at a time when we would want to use all our influence.

One accepts the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, that there may be a chill factor in asking for that hurdle to be cleared. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, argued, there may be a deterrence factor. We have had to weigh those things, and we have come down in favour of trying to remove that deterrence factor while not removing the line to universal jurisdiction. We are asking a non-political officer to look at the issue and asking those wishing to take it forward to clear what is in many ways a very modest hurdle if the situation is as clear as they would claim. There is no point in allowing the court to issue a warrant in a case where the director has concluded that there is no realistic prospect of a viable prosecution. That is why we believe that the first three amendments cast the Director of Public Prosecutions in an advisory role to the court, which is not welcome.

Amendment 245 requires the court to apply to the DPP for advice on the advisability of granting a warrant or summons. It goes on to make it clear that such a warrant or summons cannot be issued without taking into account the DPP's advice. As was acknowledged by those who tabled the other amendments,

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1027

the thrust of them is to move from giving responsibility to the DPP to putting him in an advisory role. The DPP was clear in his evidence to the Public Bill Committee about the degree of detail in which applications for consent are examined and the specialist resources that are available for him in doing so. If the DPP concludes that the tests under the code for the Crown prosecutors are not met, it is difficult to see what purpose will be served by the court nevertheless issuing a warrant or why it would wish to do so.

Amendment 245AA is obviously intended to place in the Bill the test used by the DPP in considering whether to grant this consent. I will not go into great detail at this point because I would be afraid of rekindling the fire between the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. But I ask readers of Hansard to turn to those exchanges to judge again whether we have got the balance right. I think that we have. I am not persuaded that it is necessary to embody the guidance in the clause. The tests are of general application but they are not set out in statute and it would be strange to do so in this context.

The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Carlile is designed to monitor the arrangements for investigating and prosecuting certain grave international offences and for assisting the International Criminal Court. I understand the interest in reviewing the effectiveness of these arrangements but I am not sure that what is proposed would be helpful. Prosecutions for one of these exceptionally grave offences are rare and when one takes place it is newsworthy enough for a reporting requirement to be superfluous. Investigations that do not end in prosecution are a different matter and reporting on them would not be straightforward.

As the exclusions built in the amendment recognise, it would not be right to disclose personal details, but without such details the information is unlikely to be meaningful. The information that the report provided would therefore be so incomplete as to make it effectively useless. What would be of value would be for the Director of Public Prosecutions to monitor any case for which his consent is sought under Clause 154, which applies to offences that to some extent overlap with those listed in this amendment, and to publish the number of cases and the outcome. I understand that the director would be content to carry this out.

The amendment includes a requirement to report on the assistance of the International Criminal Court. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office produces an annual human rights command paper, which includes details of the UK policy on criminal justice and the rule of law. It is subject to the scrutiny of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The command paper makes clear the UK's commitment to the principle that there should be no impunity for the most serious international crimes and that we should provide details of the practical support which we have provided to all six existing international criminal tribunals. The paper does not currently provide the level of detail which the amendment would require but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will give careful consideration to extending it to include more specific details of assistance provided as envisaged by this amendment.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1028

I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, when they have time to look at those two responses, to see whether they are satisfactory. I will be happy to meet with them on these points, but I hope that they go a long way to meet what they say. If not, of course, we can return to this on Report or clarify it further in discussions. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment, but with real and personal thanks both for the spirit and the level of engagement in this debate which I hope will help to reassure people about where we are coming from. I think that both in this House and in this Parliament there is cross-party commitment to pursuing those who perpetrate horrific crimes that are committed all over the world and which were so graphically described by my noble friend Lady Tonge. As a country, we have been for many years a leader in this, and we will continue to be.

I can make a personal commitment. At the Ministry of Justice and within this Government, I am the Minister responsible for civil liberties and human rights. I would not stand at the Dispatch Box advocating this clause if I did not believe that it was absolutely foursquare with our continuing full commitment to the universal jurisdiction. It is not a step towards political control. It gives us a law that is fit for purpose, a very noble purpose, if we all continue to pursue it.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, we have had a fascinating debate. It is nearly 10 o'clock and I have not eaten yet, as indeed will be the case for most noble Lords. We have a lot to reflect on before the Report stage, as indeed will many organisations outside this House which have been in contact with Members. Before I withdraw the amendment, I should say that I remain slightly confused about the public interest. That is where the suspicion may well lie, and as I understand it, explanations as to what constitutes the public interest in particular cases are not published. With that in mind, the responses of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, to my interventions may well be of interest to a number of organisations. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 245 withdrawn.

Amendments 245A to 246 not moved.

Clause 155 : Orders and regulations

Amendments 247 to 249 not moved.

Clause 155 agreed.

Clauses 156 and 157 agreed.

Clause 158 : Commencement

Amendment 250

Moved by Lord Rosser

250: Clause 158, page 104, line 29, after "subsections" insert "(2A),"

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1029

Lord Rosser: My Lords, in moving Amendment 250, I shall speak also to Amendment 252. This Bill represents a major change for policing in England and Wales, and the Minister has told us on more than one occasion that the Government are listening.

Concerns have been widely expressed about the impact of the politicisation of the police; the impact of the lack of effective checks and balances on commissioners and the considerable unchallenged powers that they will have; the impact of the relationship between the PCCs and chief constables on the latter's operational responsibilities; and the impact of the strategic policing requirements and the proposed national crime agency on the new arrangements. There is uncertainty, too, about the impact of the new policing structure on relationships and working arrangements with other bodies, including local authorities. There has been no assessment of the impact of the proposed new arrangements on levels of crime, which have been going down steadily for a number of years. The Government agree that their proposals represent a major change to policy in England and Wales. We should not make such a change without a full inquiry and a report on the impact of the changes by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, with the report being laid before both Houses of Parliament before a commencement order is made by the Secretary of State under Clause 158(1) in respect of Part 1 of this Bill.

The Government have sought to put Bills through Parliament that have then been delayed because they have been compelled to reassess their stance when the impact of their proposals has become clearer. It has resulted in delays, for example, to the health Bill, the Armed Forces Bill and the Public Bodies Bill, which is why we have to start a week earlier after the summer Recess than the Government previously announced.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I should not wish the noble Lord to mislead the House; I know he has no intention of doing so. As he knows, earlier today I explained that the earlier start was as a result of the Labour Party's excessive use of 17 days in Committee on one Bill, and the absolute refusal of the opposition Front Bench to divide Bills as normal between Grand Committee and the Chamber. The noble Lord would not wish to mislead the House, and that is the reason-fairly and squarely at the feet of the Opposition-for our coming back a week earlier. There is no doubt about the matter.

Lord Rosser: I am sure the noble Baroness would not wish to think that because she and the Government have a view on the cause of the situation, that view is automatically right and everybody else accepts it.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, perhaps in that case the noble Lord-or the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition, who is now present-will confirm that the Opposition are now willing to make a proper disposition of Bills into Grand Committee, and assist the Government by having a normal disposition. We now have the lowest level of Bills in Grand Committee for the past 10 years.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1030

Lord Rosser: I am sure that if the issue had been caused by what happened over the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, it would not have taken as long as it has for the Government to decide that they needed to come back earlier after the Summer Recess. It is clear that it has happened because of the kind of issues that have been raised over the health Bill, the Armed Forces Bill and the Public Bodies Bill. The Government have been compelled to reassess their stance as the impact of their proposals has become clear.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I really cannot allow the Opposition to mislead the House. The decision was made only after the Opposition refused to come to agreements over the scheduling of business. That is why we have delayed. We could have made this decision a lot earlier had we had a definitive answer from the Opposition. We are clearly now in a difficult position where the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is trying to gainsay reality. I know Hansard will record his words. I know wherein the facts lie; they are not in his words.

Lord Rosser: I appreciate that the noble Baroness is fairly sensitive on this matter because the reasons that she put forward this afternoon are being challenged. I simply repeat: surely the noble Baroness does not believe that when she expresses a view on why the Government have got themselves into a mess, it means that everybody else will accept it. We do not.

9.45 pm

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, in that case I look forward to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, who is in the Chamber now-

Noble Lords: The Leader of the Opposition!

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Leader of the Opposition-she has been a distinguished Leader of the House in the past; I hope that she will not be again for a long time, but she fulfilled the task very ably. I hope that she is now able to confirm that the Opposition will no longer refuse the proper disposition of Bills between the Chamber and Grand Committee, because that would assist the House to move on to normal working practices. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has a view that is held, I am sure firmly by him, for political reasons. I look only at the reality of business.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness the government Chief Whip. I know-it is not that I think-that my colleague the opposition Chief Whip has been very willing to consider, quite properly and appropriately, Bills going into Grand Committee. That is what we wish to do. We wish to co-operate fully with the Government. It has to be said, however, that many of the Bills before us are extremely complex. It is not just that they are political. Therefore, my noble friends on these Benches-not only those who are here today but those who are not in their places-believe that the scope of the Bills is such that they deserve to be debated in the Chamber.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1031

One of the problems, not only on my Benches but throughout the House as a whole, is that people do not understand yet that the Grand Committee is not a second-rate Chamber. It is a Chamber where we can deliberate and assess Bills and scrutinise them just as we can in this Chamber. All around the House we have to be more aware of the ability of this House to better use the Grand Committee.

Having said that, I want to put on record that earlier in the day it was said that we had agreed to put one Bill into Grand Committee and then subsequently decided that it would be more appropriate for it to be taken on the Floor of the House. I record that that Bill was the Scotland Bill. After the elections to the Scottish Parliament, things fundamentally changed, not just politically but in terms of the subject matter of the Bill. That is why we decided it was more appropriate for the Bill, which is now a major constitutional Bill in our view, to be taken on the Floor of the House.

That having been said, I know that next week my noble friend the Chief Whip will wish to enter into further conversation with the government Chief Whip to see how we can secure other Bills in a Grand Committee of this House.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I put on record my gratitude to the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition for her intervention. She and I agree on so many matters when it comes to the business of the House. I entirely accord with her views expressed clearly about the value of Grand Committee. I am sure that she is right that it is misunderstood generally around the House, not just by newer Members of this place who work well here but those who have a more established presence. It is a valuable place.

I recall that I agreed very reluctantly for the Extradition Act to be considered in Grand Committee because it was a highly controversial Bill at the time. But it proved that it was worth while. I certainly welcome, late as it is at night-we have had a long day-the measured way in which the Leader of the Opposition has responded and the fact that she has put forward a proposition that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, the opposition Chief Whip, should enter into further discussions next week about the disposition of Bills into Grand Committee. That is most welcome.

Lord Rosser: I shall conclude the comments that I was making. In putting forward these two amendments, I have made points about a number of areas of concern in relation to this Bill that have been expressed in our discussions, particularly in relation to Part 1. We should not be taking risks over changes to policing arrangements. We should be as clear as we can before we start on the impact of what is proposed, and the Government should agree to the independent inquiry and the report on the impact of their proposals that is provided for in these amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Doocey: In view of the lateness of the hour, I will be brief. The purpose of Amendment 251 is to move the implementation of the changes to policing in London from October this year to October

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1032

next year. The Mayor of London and the Government are keen to introduce the new system from 1 October this year and the Bill would allow that to happen. There are two important reasons why that should be delayed.

First, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place between July and September next year. There will also be many preparatory events which require large policing operations. For example, the torch relay will start in May and continue until July. That will be a major security challenge. Police officers will be drafted in from all parts of the country to police the Games. The Olympics will affect every police force in Britain, not just the Metropolitan Police. There is absolute agreement that the Olympics present the biggest security challenge that British police have ever faced in peacetime. They will require a policing operation on an unprecedented scale. The Metropolitan Police have spent years planning for every eventuality. As circumstances develop, these plans will need to be updated and revised to take account of issues as they arise. For any Government to allow the police to divert their efforts from this huge security operation in order to take part in a reorganisation is deeply worrying.

Secondly, the mayoral election in London next May could result in a change of mayor. It is entirely possible that a new policing system could be put in place on 1 October this year, designed to reflect the current mayor's priorities, only to be dismantled again next year if another party wins the election. It is a real possibility that the police in London could face not one but two major reorganisations in the period leading up to the Olympic Games. Reorganisations are disruptive in any organisation. This one will require the police to change all their reporting structures and to brief a completely new set of stakeholders and board members. This is no easy task, as anyone who has ever been involved with policing will say. It will take huge effort and time on both sides. The reorganisation will be work-intensive, expensive and time-consuming. It should happen only once and at a time when it does not conflict with the planning of the Olympic Games. The police must not get involved in a major reorganisation at this time. They must be free to concentrate their efforts and energies on the greatest security threat this country has ever faced.

Baroness Hamwee: I support my noble friend in her amendment. She has been absolutely consistent and spoken powerfully on a number of occasions, both in public and in private, about this issue. She has certainly convinced me. I have not told her, but I thought at the start of the conversation some months ago that she was perhaps overegging the case. I do not believe that now. In view of the time, I do not want to detain noble Lords any longer but wanted to put that on record. Similarly, though I do not want to enter into much of the discussion that surrounded Amendment 252, I said during the debate on pilots that I thought it a good idea for HMIC to report on the operation of pilots. That was many hours of debate ago but it is only consistent of me to support a different arrangement but one also involving HMIC and a report to Parliament, as contained in Amendment 252.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1033

Baroness Browning: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Doocey has put forward the assertion that it is not in the interests of the Metropolitan Police Service for the model to be implemented in London before the Olympics due to the potential impact on the operational delivery of policing within London. I have to say to my noble friend-and I know she has heard this also from my right honourable friend the Policing Minister in person on a number of occasions-that not just the Mayor of London but the Commissioner of the Metropolis is also keen for the transition from MPA governance to that of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime as soon as possible after Royal Assent is achieved for this Bill.

I appreciate that my noble friend's concerns that moving to the new system of governance ahead of the Olympics will require the membership of the newly established police and crime panel in London to be brought up to speed on the intricacies of the Olympic operation in London, which the Metropolitan Police will co-ordinate with the support of other forces in England and Wales. However, I would stress that the key decision-makers around this operation within London, the Mayor for London and the Commissioner of the Metropolis, will remain the same if the transfer from one system of governance to the other takes place before May 2012. Of course, we cannot predict the outcome of the mayoral election in May 2012. It may be the case that in May next year the commissioner will be briefing a new mayoral team on the policing arrangements for the Olympics. But that is a possibility that arises whenever we commence the provisions in the Bill. The point is that commencing the provisions before May 2012 would not create any additional disruption.

I am sorry that I cannot say more to my noble friend. I know that she has had several conversations with my right honourable friend in another place about this since she originally raised these concerns. I am obviously very happy to talk to her about it again, but we have double-checked that there is no real concern with the mayor or the commissioner. That is the response sought specifically in relation to the concerns that my noble friend raised previously.

16 Jun 2011 : Column 1034

We have already debated at some length the merits of pilots, and it is the Government's view that pilots should not take place, as this would create two models of governance within England and Wales for a police service that on a daily basis interacts and collaborates across force boundaries. We have also made it clear that the Government do not believe it necessary for HMIC to conduct a feasibility study into the coalition Government's manifesto commitment. HMIC has already provided sound evidence of the need for reform and greater accountability and transparency to be introduced within the policing landscape within England and Wales.

I am grateful to the many noble Lords who have made their views known during the Committee stage of this Bill. I am also grateful for the meetings that I have had with Members across the House on Part 1 of the Bill. I hope to meet as many concerns as possible when we return at Report, but I am unable to accept the amendments before the House tonight, and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for that response, which I have to say was not entirely a surprise. The Minister has said on more than one occasion that the Government are listening. We will await and see what impact that has at Report before considering whether or not to pursue this matter at that stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 250 withdrawn.

Amendments 251 to 254 not moved.

Clause 158 agreed.

Clause 159 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at 10 pm.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page