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22 Apr 1996 : Column WA85

Written Answers

Monday, 22nd April 1996.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contributions they are making to the two-year recovery programme for Angola as presented by President Dos Santos and Jonas Savimbi to the aid donor's conference in September 1995.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Since June 1993 the UK has committed over £40 million bilaterally and through the European Community to Angola. More than £6 million has been targeted on the priority areas within the Community Rehabilitation and National Reconciliation Programme presented to the Brussels Round Table Meeting. Our ability to do more will depend on the Angolan Government's efforts to expedite the peace process and to improve economic management.

Former Yugoslavia: Arms Control and Supply of Weapons

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign Secretary has been rightly quoted as saying that "all members of the international community will need to show wisdom and restraint in ensuring that the pursuit of markets for weaponry does not undermine the arms control process and fuel a regional arms race", and if so what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to ensure that the US and Turkey do "not undermine the arms control process and fuel a regional arms race" in ex-Yugoslavia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly made clear that agreement on an effective arms control regime in the former Yugoslavia, as provided in Article IV of the Dayton Agreement, must be a first priority; and that any military support to the Parties must be consistent with that objective.

European Aviation Authority: Response to Working Paper

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their reaction to the European Commission's working paper on the creation of a specific European aviation safety organisation (published in December 1995); and whether they have submitted or when they propose to submit their response thereto.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): I refer the noble Lord to my reply on 16th April, Official Report, column WA 66.

Law of Murder

Lord Shaw of Northstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached any conclusions following the review of the law of murder.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The review has been completed and a copy of the report from the inter-departmental steering group has been placed in the Library. The steering group comprised officials from the Home Office, Scottish Office, Northern Ireland Office, Ministry of Defence, Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers and the Crown Office.

The review's task was to consider whether there should be an intermediate verdict, between murder and acquittal, where a defendant had killed in self-defence or to prevent a crime. It was also asked to consider whether any such intermediate verdict, or any other change to the law, should apply only to members of the police and armed forces.

The review came down firmly against any separate provision for the police and armed forces. It would be objectionable in principle and very difficult to achieve in practice in any defensible and coherent way. The review did not consider it desirable or practicable for guidance on the use of lethal force (the Yellow Card) to be given legislative status. These views were supported by those members of the police and armed forces whom the review consulted. The Government agree with these conclusions of the review.

The review identified three broad options for a change in the law but concluded that only one, a verdict of manslaughter where a defendant had over-reacted and used unreasonable force, might provide a way forward. That is the option which previous studies have proposed, except that the review considered a refinement that a murder verdict could remain available for a grossly unreasonable over-reaction. The review recognised that this option would not necessarily ensure better justice and did not itself come to a firm conclusion.

We have considered carefully the arguments for and against the options identified by the review but have concluded that the case has not been made that they would improve either the certainty or quality of the criminal law. The police representative associations whom the review considered did not suggest a change in the law in this area. If the option identified by the review as providing a possible way forward were adopted, the difference between a manslaughter and murder verdict would depend on an assessment of whether the defendant honestly believed that the level of force which he used was justified. Where the court or jury were satisfied that the defendant honestly believed that the force he or she used was justified, the defendant could only be convicted of manslaughter no

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matter how unreasonable the force. We do not believe that this would be a satisfactory position. Equally, however, adopting the refinement considered by the review and retaining a verdict of murder for those who had used grossly unreasonable force would risk over complicating the law and requiring juries to draw unrealistically narrow distinctions.

For these reasons, we are not persuaded that an adequate case has been made to change the law.

Nuclear Safety and Security Summit Meeting, Moscow

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the Nuclear Safety and Security Summit in Moscow.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister attended the Moscow Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security on 19th and 20th April. He has arranged for copies of the declaration and background documents to be placed in the Library of the House. The summit was chaired jointly by President Yeltsin and by President Chirac as the current chairman of the G7. Other G7 leaders attended, as did President Kuchma of Ukraine for the later part of the summit.

There was unanimous agreement at the summit on the priority that needs to be given to ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants and the security of nuclear materials. It was agreed that the Convention on Nuclear Safety must be ratified and brought into force as soon as possible; the United Kingdom has already ratified the convention.

At the same time, the summit endorsed the importance of market-oriented reforms in the energy sector, and the contribution this can make to nuclear safety. Investment strategies should be based on least-cost planning, and energy efficiency and conservation have an important role to play.

It was also agreed that it was necessary to work for the early adoption of a convention on the safety of radioactive waste management, which is currently under negotiation. The disposal of radioactive waste at sea is prohibited under the 1993 amendment to the London convention, which the UK and most other countries have accepted; at the summit, Russia gave a firm

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commitment to accept the amendment. The summit agreed to work together to identify strategies for the safe management and eventual disposal of fissile material no longer required for defence purposes.

President Kuchma attended the summit for the discussion on Chernobyl. The summit welcomed his decision to close Chernobyl by the year 2000 in accordance with the memorandum of understanding signed between the G7 and the Ukraine last year, and confirmed the commitment to implement the memorandum.

The summit also discussed the need to prevent any illicit trafficking in nuclear materials. A programme to combat any such trafficking, and to increase co-operation to ensure the safe storage and protection of nuclear materials was agreed to. Existing co-ordination between national agencies will be enhanced.

The countries at the summit also committed themselves to conclude and sign a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty by September 1996.

The summit also provided a timely opportunity to discuss the main international issues, particularly Lebanon and Bosnia. On Lebanon, the need for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to end the present crisis and enable the wider peace process to resume was agreed to. Current diplomatic efforts to bring this about were endorsed. On Bosnia, it was agreed that the deployment of IFOR and implementation of the military part of the Dayton agreement had gone well, but that more rapid progress was needed on key issues such as elections, reconstruction, and the return of refugees.

Before the summit, the Prime Minister visited Prague and Kiev for discussions with the Governments of the Czech Republic and Ukraine. In Moscow he had meetings with President Yeltsin, Prime Minister Chernomydin and others. He also took the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Chretien and President Clinton and to discuss our problems with the European Union over beef exports informally with the other EU leaders present.

In sum, therefore, the Moscow summit made a major contribution to nuclear safety, through agreements reached and endorsed. It was also an invaluable occasion for my right honourable friend to take forward other significant issues informally with his fellow heads of state and governments, and to reinforce links with them. It was a success on all counts.

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