Tuesday, December 27, 2005

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Sudan 9 Dec 2005


Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, whose views always command enormous respect for the length and breadth of her experience in Sudan, has expressed grave concerns about the implementation of the north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The right reverend Prelate spoke about the lack of trust which exists. The noble Lord, Lord St John, spoke with deep pessimism about the prospects of the agreement being fully implemented. But there are some good signs: the adoption of the interim national constitution; the installation of the Government in the south; and the partial deployment of UN peacekeepers. The process survived the tragic death of John Garang, and I hope that there is enough momentum to carry it forward. Khartoum has reduced its military presence in the south by some 17 per cent. As we have heard, SPLA troops have entered the city of Juba peacefully. Some 4,000 UNMIS troops and observers are in the mission area, compared with the target of 10,000 that was set by UNSCR 1590 last March. We understand that there have been some logistical difficulties. It would be useful if the Minister could say whether a timetable exists for the deployment to be completed.

We would be grateful too for a first reaction to the request from Jan Pronk of SRSG to the international community for $1.7 billion for Sudan, which is a third of the total of the UN's humanitarian appeal for next year. Donors would be keener to produce this enormous sum if it were not for the continuing violence in Darfur, as well as the grievances of the Beja people in the east, about which the noble Baroness spoke, as she has many times in the past. The talks between Khartoum and the Eastern Front, which were supposed to begin in November, were postponed for a month. I understand that they have now been put off again until January.

Has the UK made any offer to contribute to the $1.7 billion? Is it conditional on progress at the Abuja talks, which seem to have run into trouble, with both rebel groups rejecting the AU formula for power sharing? Will the Minister give us an update on the negotiations and his assessment on whether there is any realistic hope of concluding an agreement by the end of the year as was being suggested until a few days ago?

I know that the south is beginning from ground zero, but part of the money for de-mining and infrastructure developments should come out of the south's 50 per cent share of the oil revenues, plus the additional 2 per cent for the states where the oil is produced. What arrangements are being made to ensure that the revenue from the oil output, which is estimated to reach 750,000 barrels a day by the end of 2006, are properly recorded and audited? Sudan is not

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a member of the EITI and should be asked to sign up to that agreement. Taxpayers in donor countries will not be keen on writing large cheques to a country that is not fully transparent.

We should also help the south to resuscitate its agriculture and its trade with neighbouring Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and DRC so as to reduce the need for foreign aid.

The situation in Darfur has been described as the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world, with further attacks continuing, as we have heard, by the Janjaweed and the Sudanese military on the civilian population in spite of the repeated warnings that have been given by the international community. On Tuesday, militias attacked a town in west Darfur and destroyed wells constructed for the local people by humanitarian agencies. This seems to be part of a more general campaign to destroy farmland, crops and water supplies.

It has been reported separately that there has been a huge increase in the number of attacks and robberies on humanitarian workers. An attack took place on three villages about 40 kilometres north of Nyala by Sudanese armed forces and militia last Saturday, displacing 7,000 people and causing an unknown number of casualties. People of 20 villages in southern Darfur have sought refuge in Gereida, where the internally displaced have increased to 60,000 in the past few weeks.

This brings me to the question of whether the size and mandate of the AU force is adequate for the task it is undertaking, or should be asked to undertake. A month ago, the force had reached 5,500 military and civilian personnel plus 1,000 police, which is not far short of the authorised number of 7,700, although it took them a long time to get there. The Minister said in a recent answer that there would be an assessment in the near future of AMIS's effectiveness, and of whether any further expansion was required. The international military advice in March was that the mandate was adequate, but that more troops were needed to deliver it effectively.

Clearly, the international responsibility to protect the civilian population against overwhelming humanitarian disaster, which was first invoked in the case of Kosovo but is now perhaps a customary principle of international law, has not been observed in Darfur. AMIS has not been asked to prevent the attacks on civilians and the few assets that allow them to stay alive in a harsh environment. It has been obstructed by Khartoum's failure to co-operate, exemplified by the refusal to allow unrestricted use of Sudan's airspace and the obstacles that were placed in the way of the delivery of essential equipment, such as the Canadian armoured vehicles that, I am glad to see, have now at last been allowed through.

Nor have the Government of Sudan co-operated in the arrest and prosecution of those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since not a single one of the militia criminals who have perpetrated innumerable war crimes has been arrested, an

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expanded AMIS should be given the task, and should be reinforced with teams of experts who could take witness statements and collect forensic evidence, using methods that comply with the rules of evidence of the International Criminal Court.

The Prosecutor of the ICC has opened an investigation into a number of cases that were referred to him by the Security Council, based on the report of the International Commissioner of Inquiry on Darfur established by the Secretary-General. He says that his investigation, which has only just begun, needs the sustained co-operation of national and international authorities, including the African Union, as required by the Security Council. Clearly he will get nothing from Khartoum. If witnesses are to be persuaded to make statements, they will need protection. Although there was a great deal of self-congratulation about the precedent of getting a reference to the ICC through the Security Council, war criminals have nothing to fear unless there is a determined and systematic campaign to collect and store the evidence.

After Srebrenica and Rwanda there was a lot of hand-wringing. There were inquiries into the failure of the international community to respond in time, or with effective force, to the threat of genocide and mass murder. The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica, according to the Secretary-General, was:

"that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorise, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion".

In his comment on the official report on Rwanda, he said:

"All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it. There was a United Nations force in the country at the time, but it was neither mandated nor equipped for the kind of forceful action that would have been needed to prevent or halt the genocide. On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse".

Yesterday, Mr Annan said he was gravely concerned about the worsening situation in Darfur and urged the Security Council and the donor community to do everything possible to assist AMIS. But that has all been said before. The very least we should and can do now is to call an emergency meeting of the Security Council and invite the AU and its commander in Darfur to attend, bringing proposals for protecting civilians from further attack, disarming the Janjaweed and bringing to justice those who are still perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Home Office Communication 9 Dec 2005

Home Office Communication

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 17 November (WA 155) and having regard to the Home Office communications published at www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/concede-weakness, why they maintain that two sentences were not deleted prior to submission; and whether they will publish in the Official Report the two sentences. [HL2595]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The noble Lord's Question of 17 November (WA 155) asked about briefing that was put to the Minister of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality on 19 January 2005. No substantive changes were made to the briefing prior to its submission. The Home Office communication published at www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/concede-weakness relates to a submission that was put to the Minister on 16 December 2004. The 16 December 2004 submission concerned the handling of a proposed application for judicial review of the decision taken on an application for registration as a British citizen under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997. The two sentences included in an early draft, but not in the final version, were as follows:

"It nevertheless seems to me that there is force in Mr [X]'s arguments, and that the position is perhaps not quite so clear cut as we have held it out to be. Applications for registration under the 1997 Act continue to be received (there is no deadline for submission in the Act), and there may be some merit in allowing the matter to come before the courts."

Ghana and Nigeria: Asylum Seekers 12 Dec 2005

Ghana and Nigeria: Asylum Seekers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the debate on the Asylum (Designated States) No. 2 Order on 24 November (Official Report, cols, 1082-12), why statistics on asylum applications from citizens of Ghana and Nigeria were not broken down by gender, as in the 13th Report of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee; and whether they

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will provide a breakdown of the grants of asylum and discretionary leave to remain, according to whether these grants were given on application or gained by appeal. [HL2638]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The tables below show the asylum application, initial decision and appeal outcome figures broken down by gender, for nationals of Ghana and Nigeria, 2004 and January to September 2005. It is not possible to provide a breakdown of the allowed appeal figures into grants of asylum, humanitarian protection (HP) and discretionary leave (DL), but it is estimated that in 2004 90 per cent of allowed appeals were grants of asylum and the remaining 10 per cent were either grants of HP or DL. Information on asylum applications and initial decisions, by gender, is published in the annual statistical bulletin Asylum Statistics United Kingdom. Copies of these publications and others relating to general immigration to the UK are available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html.
Asylum applications 1 received in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, by sex, nationals of Ghana and Nigeria, 2004-2005 Q1-Q3

Nationality Total applications Male applications Female applications
Ghana 2004 355 265 85
Q1 2005 65 50 15
Q2 2005 65 40 25
Q3 2005 55 40 15

Nigeria 2004 1,090 745 345
Q1 2005 255 175 75
Q2 2005 240 145 100
Q3 2005 245 145 100

1 Provisional figures rounded to nearest 5, with '*' = 1 or 2.

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Charleston September 7, 2005 Posted by Picasa



Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the statement on the parliamentary elections in Chechnya, which they issued during their presidency of the European Union on 29 November, did not take account of the report published on 23 November by the International Helsinki Federation of Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society and other similar

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bodies, or of the report by Andreas Gross, the Council of Europe Rapporteur on Chechnya. [HL2872]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The UK Government welcome the joint publication of the report In a Climate of Fear on 23 November by a number of non-governmental organisations. However, while we agree that conditions for the elections were far from ideal, it is a positive development that in such an unstable region the elections passed peacefully and with the participation and election of representatives from a range of parties. The EU presidency statement reflects that view. We continue to believe that an open and inclusive political process will be the best way to bring stability to Chechnya and hope that all sides will take the opportunity of these elections to push for greater democratic accountability.

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Drug and Alcohol Treatment: Residential Services 19 Dec 2005

Drug and Alcohol Treatment: Residential Services

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many residential places for drug and alcohol treatment and maintenance will be available nationally and by region, for men and women respectively, for persons serving the non-custodial part of a custody plus sentence, when this provision comes into force. [HL1984]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): There are presently 122 residential treatment centres for adult drug and alcohol misusers in England and Wales with a total of 2,595 beds. A breakdown by region and gender is shown in the table below.
RegionNumber of centresTotal number of bedsNumber of male only bedsNumber of female only beds
Yorkshire and
East Midlands44966
West Midlands351244
East of England6148625

Further information is available from the National Treatment Agency's online residential treatment directory.

The Department of Health and National Treatment Agency have plans to increase the number of beds from 2006-07 but it is not possible to say

1 Nine are drug only and 11 alcohol only.

2 116 are drug only and 188 alcohol only.

3 38 are drug only and four alcohol only.

4 Six are drug only and four alcohol only.

Iraq: Asylum Seekers 19 Dec 2005

Iraq: Asylum Seekers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the letter from the Minister of State for the Home Office, Mr Tony McNulty, of 18 October stating that operational issues had developed which would prevent the removal of failed Iraqi asylum seekers within a reasonable timeframe, why the Home Office announced the recommencement of removals, starting on 20 November. [HL2763]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Home Office announced its intention to commence an enforced returns

19 Dec 2005 : Column WA222

programme to Iraq in February 2004. Having these arrangements in place brings Iraq into line with arrangements we have for other countries. As my honourable friend's letter dated 18 October highlighted, we were obliged to defer an enforced return in October for logistical reasons. These reasons have now been worked through and resolved, which resulted in the first enforced return flight on 20 November.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 21 Iraqi asylum seekers who were in detention on 14 October awaiting enforced removal were released on the Chief Immigration Officer's bail in accordance with the letter from the Minister of State for the Home Office, Mr Tony McNulty, of 18 October. [HL2764]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Thirteen of those detained were advised that the Immigration Service was considering release on bail and invited to provide details of proposed sureties and addresses. The remainder were assessed as posing too great a risk of absconding. Six of those were subsequently invited to provide sureties and addresses and were granted bail by an Immigration Judge. The remaining seven individuals were removed.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What procedures they followed to ensure that persons removed to Iraq on 20 November (a) were from the Kurdish regional government; and (b) were without families; and that their cases did not fall within the Rashid judgment (EWCA/Civ/2005/744). [HL2765]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: All enforced removals are carried out on a case by case basis. Those returned to Iraq were aware that they were being removed to Erbil. All potential returnees were carefully screened to ensure that they were from the three northern governorates and they had no dependants on their asylum claim; this was carried out again before removal took place. Until the timeframe which Justice Collins has highlighted is clarified we will seek to remove only those claimants whose cases were not decided in that timeframe or whose cases otherwise fall outside the potential scope of Rashid, even on a wide reading of that judgment.

Prison Service: Furniture Procurement 19 Dec 2005

Prison Service: Furniture Procurement

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have considered allowing prison governors to purchase office consumables and furniture from any supplier, rather than only from approved suppliers, on condition that the items in question cost no more than if obtained from the approved supplier. [HL2026]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Government purchasing seeks to demonstrate value for money while promoting fair and open competition. As well as value for money, a number of other factors are used to determine the most appropriate products to buy, including: technical, health and safety and environmental considerations, as well as delivery and after sales service. Because of the aggregated value of the items purchased by the Prison Service, the European Union (EU) public procurement directives apply to both stationery and furniture and have been the subject of EU competition procedures, the latter of which was undertaken by the Inland Revenue as part of a collaborative venture. The Prison Service uses furniture manufactured by prisoners. As well as ensuring value for money, this policy has the added benefit of providing prisoners with purposeful activity, training and potentially qualifications that will help lead to employment on release. Where specific items of furniture cannot be manufactured in house, two contractors have been selected to provide such items from framework agreements awarded by Inland Revenue following an open competition. Contract prices are subject to rigorous reviews to ensure that products remain competitively priced throughout the life of the contract.

19 Dec 2005 : Column WA235

House of Lords: Mobile Telephones

20 Dec 2005 : Column WA254

House of Lords: Mobile Telephones

Lord Avebury asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether the appropriate Committee of the House will consider measures to deter the ringing of mobile telephones in the Chamber, including the recording of the responsible Members' names in a public register of offenders and substantial fines payable to charities to be agreed. [HL3115]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): Paragraph 4.05 of the Companion states that:

    "Mobile telephones must be turned off in all public areas of the House, including the Chamber".

In accordance with the principles of self-regulation, it is the responsibility of the House itself—that is, of all Members who are present—to draw attention to breaches of order or failures to observe customs.

Somalia December 20, 2005

20 Dec 2005 : Column WA287


Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Triesman on 19 October (WA 133) and 10 November (WA 111–2), what is their estimate of the number of vessels hijacked in Somali waters since the beginning of 2005; and whether they remain of the view that the long-term solution to piracy in these waters is a return to peace and good governance in Somalia. [HL2979]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): According to information received by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office there have been 11 confirmed hijacks and 14 reported attacks on ships in Somali waters this year, as of 13 December.

We indeed remain of the view that the long-term solution to piracy is a return to peace and good governance in Somalia.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make representations to the United Nations Security Council with a view to the council providing alternative transitional arrangements for the administration of government in Somalia, bearing in mind the prospects for reconciliation between the Jowhar and Mogadishu factions. [HL2980]

Lord Triesman: The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference led to the formation of the Transitional Federal Government and Parliament, whose members are currently having discussions to resolve their differences. We and other United Nations Security Council members have supported the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government, which we believe offers the best prospect of restoring effective governance to Somalia.
Stansted Airport

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Eric Avebury