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Lord Elton: My Lords, as we are in the realm of comparison, does it not reflect interestingly on the comparative efficiency of our legal and our legislative procedures that these legal costs amounted to half the cost of running your Lordships' House for one year?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I would be the first to accept that the taxpayer in this country gets extremely good value for money from your Lordships' House. However, it is really impossible to draw a comparison between the taxpayers' interest and enthusiasm in maintaining your Lordships' House and the cost of a trial of this kind, which is a very different subject indeed.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord tell us whether he thinks that in trials of this complexity--he has already stressed that--the course of justice is best served by a jury trial?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, that matter has been considered from time to time. It was considered by my noble and learned friend Lord Roskill and his committee. Important considerations have to be taken into account in this connection. As I said earlier, the Government are keeping such matters under review in the light of developments and of the developing complexities of such issues. In this country the right to jury trial is a very well established and important right and can therefore be innovated upon only after careful consideration and only, I think, for very good reason.
Following the accession of Russia to the Council of Europe, whether they will urge the Russian Government to withdraw their forces from Chechnya so that a properly supervised referendum on independence for that country can be held.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer as far as it goes. However, is my noble friend aware that the wanton destruction of towns and villages by the Russian military in Chechnya has resulted in two-thirds of the population being refugees? Does he think that if we had reacted similarly in Ulster we would still be members of the Council of Europe? Finally, should not Her Majesty's Government call Russia's attention to the fact that Britain has granted independence or self-determination to all her former colonies and territories, and should we not encourage the Russians to do the same?
Lord Chesham: My Lords, the conflict is a tragedy which has claimed thousands of civilian lives and displaced very many people. However, the UK also condemns those who use hostage-taking to advance their cause. We understand the very real difficulties for the Russian and other governments in dealing with this situation, and we have made clear to the Russian Government our concerns about the level of force being used. The OSCE principle is that frontiers are inviolable but can be changed peacefully and by agreement. The right to self-determination does not equate automatically with a right to secession. Chechnya is internationally recognised as part of the Russian Federation. A negotiated settlement needs to find an effective way to enable the Chechen people to express their identity within the framework of the constitution of the Russian Federation.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned the OSCE. Can he tell the House what action has been taken by the chairman-in-office and the central council of that organisation since the matter was last debated in this Parliament?
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, in view of the fact that the Russian Foreign Office said at the end of January that the mandate of the OSCE did not allow it to mediate in Chechnya, despite the fact that it has been present there since 1995, does the noble Lord hold out very much hope that the OSCE will in fact do anything?
Lord Mayhew: My Lords, whatever the merits of the subject, is there not a growing danger of intervening in an issue in the Russian presidential elections, following the precedent set by the noble Lord's party of intervening in the American presidential elections against Mr. Clinton?
Lord Rea: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that as an amendment to the resolution of the Assembly of the Council of Europe which admitted Russia, a monitoring group on the conflict in Chechnya is to be set up? Can the noble Lord say whether that monitoring group has actually been set up? Who are its members? What is their remit? How often will they report, and to whom? What will be the relationship of that monitoring group to the OSCE? If by any chance the Minister does not have all those details at his fingertips, perhaps he can write to me.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, following on from my noble friend's question, given that the Council of Europe's own report to its Parliamentary Assembly admitted that Russia does not meet the membership criteria of the Council because of its failure with respect to human rights both in Chechnya and elsewhere, would the Government be willing to support some increase in Council of Europe resources for human rights monitoring, and would they be prepared to make a small additional contribution?
Lord Chesham: My Lords, as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia will be required to comply with the full range of Council of Europe principles. Those include early signature of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am sorry to have to intervene again. I do not think that the noble Lord answered my question. I wanted to know whether we would support additional resources for human rights monitoring and whether the UK would make a small additional contribution.
Lord Finsberg: My Lords, as regards Russian accession to the Council of Europe, which will in fact take place next week, it is not just the Parliamentary Assembly which is monitoring some 25 proposals which have been accepted by Mr. Zuganov and the Russian delegation, but also the Ministers' Deputies. May we
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am intrigued, as perhaps are other noble Lords, by what he said about the difference between self-determination and secession? Why did not the British Government take the same view in relation to the Yugoslavian federation where Croatia and Bosnia wished to secede but were granted recognition in spite of that? What is the difference between Yugoslavia in that respect and Chechnya?
Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, following that question, if the Chechen people should use their right to self-determination to ask for secession, what would be the view of Her Majesty's Government?
Lord Chesham: My Lords, I go back to the main Answer. The principle is that frontiers are inviolable but can be changed peacefully and by agreement. Chechnya is internationally recognised as part of the Russian Federation. That is therefore the way we must view it.
Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, has it been made plain and clear to Mr. Yeltsin and the Russian Government that whereas this country was delighted at the collapse of the Soviet Union we think that the attitude of the Russian Government in Chechnya has been deplorable?
Lord Chesham: My Lords, I have already said that we have put as much pressure as we can on the Russians. Her Majesty's ambassador in Moscow discussed Chechnya with Mr. Mikhailov, the Nationalities Minister, and with Mr. Primakov at the beginning of February and urged the Russians to continue the search for a negotiated peace.