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Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to take action where we can against those friends of Mr. Mugabe who make violence and repression possible, not least arms dealers based here in the UK? Those include Mr. Mugabe's main supplier, Mr. John Bredenkamp, whose name I have brought to the attention of the House several times. I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has been pursuing investigations into that individual. Over several months, I am sorry to say, my questions to the Foreign Office in that respect have simply hit a brick wall. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to ensure that the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry work closely with the Department for International Development to do their utmost to close down the activities of those UK-based arms dealers?

The Prime Minister: I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will have heard what my hon. Friend said and will be in touch with him about that. My understanding is that the European Union has made it clear that the export of arms to Zimbabwe is unacceptable.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Would not our country have more credibility countering the propaganda of the Zimbabwe Government Information Minister, Mr. Jonathan Moyo, if our Government Information and Communications Service and its officers and £150 million budget did not answer to the Prime Minister's political appointee, Mr. Alastair Campbell?

The Prime Minister: It is extraordinary that on a serious subject for millions of people in Zimbabwe, and when it is obvious, as the leader of the Liberal Democrats said a moment or two ago, that the best message to send out from the House is a united one, some parts of the Conservative party have done nothing today but try to make political capital out of the situation in Zimbabwe and suggest that there is some magic resolution of it that the Government could have secured. That is nonsense. What is happening in Zimbabwe is a disgrace. The whole House should be united in condemning it, and points such as those made by the hon. Gentleman only give succour to those who support the Mugabe regime.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Does the Prime Minister accept that many of us strongly support his

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comment in his statement that the fudging must stop? The indecision of the Commonwealth conference has left a dreadful stain on the Commonwealth which will last for a long time to come. On the assumption that the election on Sunday will almost certainly be violently rigged by Mugabe, will the Prime Minister do everything in his power to ensure that smart sanctions are introduced as quickly as possible by as many countries that are our allies as possible?

The Prime Minister: We will, of course, do everything we possibly can. On the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, the test for the Commonwealth will come once the election takes place. I should have preferred action to be taken before then, but that is the chance for the Commonwealth to show that the principles that it agreed—ironically, in Zimbabwe, at Harare—10 or so years ago will be maintained in this situation. The United States has already indicated the action that it will take, as has the European Union. We will fight for action at every international level.

David Burnside (South Antrim): The Prime Minister knows better than any of us how important international unity has been following the national unity in this House in the international fight against terrorism, whether through the UN, the Commonwealth or the EU. As the Prime Minister has recognised through his international travel that terrorism is terrorism wherever it comes from and wherever it takes place, whether the Twin Towers, Canary Wharf, the Baltic Exchange or Enniskillen, could he foresee a time when Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive and not convicted, would receive a national and international amnesty similar to the amnesty that he and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are about to announce in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister: No, Mr. Speaker. I understand the hon. Gentleman's strong feelings, but the situation in Northern Ireland is different because a peace process is under way there. Whatever the difficulties, the hon. Gentleman would have to accept that the Belfast agreement has considerably improved the situation in Northern Ireland, whether with regard to jobs, investment or security, and it is important that we sustain that agreement. However, as I say, I understand why the hon. Gentleman expresses the views that he does.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): If, as is widely expected, the outcome of this week's election in Zimbabwe is to unleash yet further violence against Mr. Mugabe's enemies, can the Prime Minister assure the House that every possible contingency plan has been taken to protect the lives of the 25,000 UK passport holders who at present reside there?

The Prime Minister: We shall obviously do everything that we possibly can. Of course, we have given considerable thought to what we could do to protect the people there, but I very much hope that it will not come to that.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): The Prime Minister was right to point out in his statement that, remarkably, it is still just possible that Mugabe could be toppled from power this weekend, such is the scale of his unpopularity

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there, as shown by what polling evidence there is. If that happens, unlikely as it may be, can the Prime Minister confirm that plans are in place to provide immediate assistance next week to help to stabilise the new President and the country and to help the reconstruction process get under way?

The Prime Minister: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, if the Opposition were to win and the democratic will of the people were to prevail, we would do everything that we could to ensure that Zimbabwe was given the fresh start that it needs.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): The Prime Minister has said that his preference would be for action before the election on Sunday, not after. There is one thing that he could do that would send a clear signal now. Will he make it clear today that if Mugabe remains in office after Sunday, Zimbabwe will not be welcome at the Commonwealth games in Manchester this summer?

The Prime Minister: I shall certainly consult on that in the light of what happens at the weekend.

Mr. Speaker: The next business was to be a statement from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. However, the statement reached the Opposition only 10 minutes ago, so in order to allow the Opposition time to study the statement I shall take the ten-minute Bill first.

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Criminal Evidence (Prohibition of Sale)

4.13 pm

Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester): I beg to move,

In 1994, a series of murders committed over a number of years came to light in my constituency of Gloucester. During that time, the city became the focus for the country's, and indeed the world's, media. It soon became apparent that 25 Cromwell street had been the venue for some of the most appalling acts of sexual abuse, torture and mass murder that Britain has ever seen. During a number of agonising weeks, many people discovered the fate of their missing loved ones. It was an extremely painful time for many people, and how victims' relatives and the surviving victims can even begin to rebuild their lives is almost beyond my comprehension. I know that many have done so, however, as many of them reside in my constituency. I am introducing this Bill because their healing process was to be rudely interrupted.

In 1996, Fred West committed suicide in jail while still awaiting trial. He died intestate and the Official Solicitor made a deal with a television company for the documentary television and video rights to the archive material from his estate. That evidence included recorded interviews that the police had conducted with West, West's personal photographs, home video footage and witness testimonies—evidence that would have been covered by Crown copyright had West not committed suicide pre-trial. Essentially, all the evidence that the police had gathered during their investigations was being sold on by the Official Solicitor to a television company. That television company was the creative consortium working with Channel 5.

When the police interview a suspect such as Fred West, they give the defence counsel copies of their evidence under the disclosure rule. They do not expect evidence for a court case then to be sold on to the media to produce a salacious television documentary. Channel 5 commissioned a programme on Fred West and broadcast not just transcripts of his confessions but his voice—he described his crimes in great detail. Unsurprisingly, the Gloucestershire constabulary was aghast. The victims, many of whom live in my constituency, turned to me because they could not believe that trial evidence could be traded in such a way.

Prior to the broadcast, I wrote to or had meetings with representatives of the Home Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Independent Television Commission and the Attorney-General to convey the concerns of the police and those of the victims and their families. The Attorney-General told me that an application for an injunction would not be successful, and that a court could not be expected to prevent a broadcast as it would contravene article 10 of the European convention on human rights. The police argued that taped interviews and other material were covered by Crown copyright and asked the Attorney-General to block that material being broadcast on the basis that not to do so would be a contempt of court. That request was turned down. The BSC and the ITC then told me that they could only act retrospectively—after the programme had been shown.

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Indeed, the Broadcasting Act 1990 explicitly excludes the possibility of the ITC being able to preview such a programme.

By maximising the estate of Fred West in such a way, the Official Solicitor had made it impossible for the Government or the regulators—the ITC and the BSC—to prevent footage of a mass murderer talking about his crimes in his own voice from appearing on our screens.

Channel 5 showed its documentary. Throughout the campaign to block the broadcast, Channel 5 consistently gave reassurances that the programme would be tasteful and predominantly investigative. Indeed, shortly before the broadcast, Channel 5's chief executive stated:

None the less, the programme showed Fred West describing his crimes in great detail. It showed pictures of victims faded in and out against pictures of their skeletal remains, and it showed Rose West undressing in front of the camera and in bed with her clients

Some may argue that censorship is an issue in this matter, and a reason to object to the Bill. However, it has never been my intention to prevent the making of a programme about Fred West. I do not have a problem with crime documentaries. Two other documentaries about Fred West are in the public domain at present. They were made with the co-operation of surviving victims, the police and people in the legal profession. My Bill would not prevent the media from covering or documenting such cases, but the sale of evidence and the screening of the film have significant implications for future police investigations.

The police officer who led the investigation, former Detective Superintendent John Bennett, said on the eve of the Channel 5 broadcast:

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If this programme has set a precedent and more programmes of this nature are made, how long will it be before detained prisoners, aware that their confessions could soon be in every living room in the country, simply refuse to talk to the police? How long will it be before witnesses, who already face enormous difficulties in even talking about their experiences, are simply unable to open up to the police?

Furthermore, once evidence is in the public domain, there is also the danger that convicted criminals will have easy access to witnesses' testimonies once they have served their sentences. How long will it be before a convicted criminal is able to access everything that a prosecution witness has said?

This Bill does not introduce censorship. It does not undermine the media. However, it will ensure that, if surviving victims of crime or the families of murder victims object to the sale to the media of evidence that was meant for a trial, the Official Solicitor will have to seek permission from the Attorney-General.

Fred West is dead. Through the sale of evidence from his trial by the Official Solicitor to the media, his surviving victims, many of whom are my constituents, have been tormented by him again. The police and the justice system have felt undermined. In similar cases up and down the land, that could happen again. This Bill can change that. It may be too late for some, but it is not too late for others

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Parmjit Dhanda, Mr. David Drew, Mr. Nigel Jones, Mr. Tom Watson, Ms Candy Atherton, John Mann, Mr. Simon Thomas, Mr. George Osborne, Patrick Mercer, Jim Knight, John Robertson and Valerie Davey.

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