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Lord Hooson: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, can she say whether this country has taken the initiative in establishing agreed guidelines within the European Community for the refusal of bail? The Minister will be aware of the great and understandable concern caused in this country recently by the knowledge that a British lorry driver had spent 20 months in custody in Spain before being brought to trial for, I believe, a motoring charge on which he was acquitted. Obviously, if that causes concern in this country, similar concern must be felt in other European countries. Is it not now necessary to establish guidelines for the refusal of bail which will be acceptable in each of the European countries?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I believe that the concept of some degree of harmonisation underpins the noble Lord's comments. We do not wish to go down that road. However, we wish to have the highest possible co-operation among member states. Indeed, if one takes the situation of Roy Clarke, who was alluded to in the noble Lord's question, it is not right to assume that for such a serious alleged crime, with millions of pounds being involved in drug peddling, this country would not have granted bail or not have imposed custody. It would be a matter for the courts to decide. That is how it should be.

Lord Richard: My Lords, can the Minister give the House an assurance that the length of time that such people are on remand in British prisons before trial, although they are nationals of European Union countries, is approximately the same as if they were British subjects?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there is absolutely no distinction whatever made between a foreign national, a European national or a British subject. As I said, it is a

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matter for the court to determine whether someone should be detained on remand or whether bail should be granted. The time factor for anyone, a foreign national or a subject of this country, is a matter of concern. I know that the Government are doing what they can to ensure that such time is minimised.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is there not a particular problem in the case of persons held in custody awaiting extradition hearings? Does the Minister recall a certain case where someone who was to be extradited to Hong Kong remained in custody in this country for eight years but, on his return, was finally acquitted of the charges? Is not such custody an enormous burden on taxpayers? Further, should not some mechanism be found for releasing persons who are held beyond a certain time, which I believe is done in Scotland?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, whether someone should be released is a matter for the court; it is not a matter for me to comment upon from the Dispatch Box. As regards this country's record on extradition, in the United Kingdom we believe in the principle that people should face court proceedings in the country in which they are alleged to have committed the offence. Our record for extraditing people so that matters can be expedited is a very good one. For someone who commits an offence in another country, we still believe it is important that that should be where he or she faces court proceedings.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, will my noble friend explain why precise figures are available for England and Wales but not for Scotland or Northern Ireland?

Baroness Blatch: No, my Lords, I cannot say why, but I shall find out why they are not readily available.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, why are the Government against harmonisation of approach in this matter within what is a relatively small community, the European Union? Why is it undesirable to have an agreed approach and harmonisation?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, we believe that harmonisation has implications for the judicial system and for jurisdiction in this country. We do not believe in harmonising that aspect of the legal system in this country. Nor do we believe that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that this is a problem which needs to be tackled in this way. I have already given the figure of 235 people who are held on remand. I do not believe that that is sufficient justification for changing the legal system in the United Kingdom.

Iraq: Kuwaiti Prisoners

2.51 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to alert the international community to the continued suffering of Kuwaiti prisoners in Iraq.

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, we take every opportunity at the UN to raise the subject of Kuwaiti missing persons. In June we were instrumental in obtaining a progress report from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Iraq must produce substantive information on the fate of all missing persons and prisoners of war. We shall keep up the pressure on Iraq.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. I am sure she is aware that the people and the Government of Kuwait are grateful to our country and government and the United States who did so much to enable them to have their country back. The problem they are now facing is that those who were taken back to Iraq by the Iraqi forces—men, women and children—are now suffering abominably. Information is being leaked out describing the terrible things that are happening to them. Would it not be possible, please, for the United Nations to press further so that the people of Kuwait will know that mankind is on their side, and Iraq should receive a proper warning that if it does not return these men, women and children and prisoners of war but continues to punish them, it will pay a heavy penalty?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is absolutely right. I think he understands that the ICRC is the key organisation for dealing with the prisoners of war and the 600 or so missing persons. One of the matters which concerns us is a tendency on the part of the Iraqi authorities not to work with the technical sub-committee which has been set up by the tripartite commission to speed up the review of the ICRC case files. It is making slow progress and part of that is undoubtedly down to the Iraqis. The message to Iraq is simple. We expect full compliance with all the United Nations Security Council resolutions and that means getting on with this job. The situation as regards prisoners of war and detained missing persons is a matter to which the whole world gives much attention and it is one that it wishes to resolve. I would simply add that the only way that this matter will be resolved is by the Iraqis producing the evidence which will allow the ICRC to resolve the matter.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister know whether any inquiries have been made of the defectors from the Iraqi regime—I refer in particular to Hussein Kamil—about the fate of the 600 missing persons? If that is not the case, can inquiries be made of him via the Jordanian authorities not only as regards those persons but also those who were held hostage at the beginning of the Gulf War when about 1 million people were expelled to Iran by Saddam, some of their relatives being detained to prevent them making a fuss?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raises an interesting point. Certainly the defection of Hussein Kamil was a serious blow to Saddam Hussein. I do not know the details of the information he has given but we have found that the Iraqis are still not giving us the information that they must give under Security Council resolutions. Therefore I am certain that the discussiosn with Hussein Kamil

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will continue. We know that following his defection the Iraqis provided much more information. Let us see whether we can obtain more information of the kind that the noble Lord described.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, although I support the thrust of the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, on Iraq, is it not the case also that the people of Kuwait are trying to obtain the privileges that accompany living in a democratic country, such as the right to vote? Has there been any more progress as regards that matter despite the fact that the family which is ruling that country is running it as a private company?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am not sure that I entirely follow the noble Lord, Lord Dean, but I shall read his question and if I have not understood it correctly I shall write to him. I should add that much progress is being made in Kuwait. As regards the franchised vote, about which the noble Lord is concerned, there have been recent moves to extend the franchise further in Kuwait and we fully support any measures designed to broaden consultation.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, my noble friend asked about Kuwaiti prisoners held in Iraq. Is the Minister aware that according to Amnesty International there are substantial numbers of prisoners in Iraq from other nations? Will the Minister indicate how many there are and what representations have been made on their behalf, particularly on behalf of the many Palestinians who are apparently being held?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe the noble Baroness will know that there has been continuing discussion with the Iraqis as regards the position of all types of prisoner of war who are being held. As regards Iranians and some Palestinians, I believe this is now the subject of active discussion with the Government of Iraq. However, unless Security Council Resolution 598—the resolution which called for an exchange of PoWs after the Iran/Iraq war—is complied with in full, there will not be much progress. The same is true as regards Palestinians who were caught up at the time of the invasion of Kuwait and as regards some other nationals. However, we shall continue to press this matter.


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