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War Crimes Act

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: To date a total of 376 cases have been considered by the Crown Prosecution Service and Metropolitan Police War Crimes Units. Most cases have not led to criminal proceedings either because the suspects have died or because there was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecutions.

Two cases remain under investigation. In one case a person has been charged with four specimen charges relating to the murder of Jewish civilians in Belarus and is due to stand trial at the Central Criminal Court on 8 February 1999. In the other case, the allegations currently under investigation relate to the murder of Jewish civilians in the Ukraine. It is anticipated that police investigations will be completed by March 1999.

There has been one previous prosecution. In April 1996 Szymon Serafinowicz was committed for trial from Dorking Magistrates' Court to the Central Criminal Court on allegations of the murder of Jewish civilians in Belarus. In January 1997 a jury at the Central Criminal Court found the defendant unfit to stand trial. Subsequently the Attorney-General entered a nolle prosequi (permanent stay on the prosecution) due to the defendant's failing mental health. Mr. Serafinowicz has since died.

Metropolitan Police expenditure currently stands at approximately £6.5 million and Crown Prosecution Service expenditure currently stands at approximately £3.5 million for war crimes investigations and prosecutions.

Community Service Sentences: Litter Clearance

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It is for individual probation services to decide which kinds of work offenders should be required to undertake within the

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framework of the Community Service National Standard.

It is already possible for offenders to be assigned to litter clearance work, and some probation services have made arrangements with local authorities accordingly, subject to being satisfied about the health and safety implications for offenders and supervisory staff.

Liability for Psychiatric Damage

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce a measure of law reform to give effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission in its report on Liability for Psychiatric Illness (Report No. 249 of March 1998) and of the House of Lords in its judgment in White and others v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others, to rationalise the law of negligence relating to liability for psychiatric damage.[HL222]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government are considering their response to the Law Commission report. It will take full account of the judgment in White and others v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others before reaching a decision.

Lords of Appeal: Outside Interests

Lord Marlesford asked the Lord Chancellor:

    Whether the outside interests of the Lords of Appeal are taken into account in deciding which of them should hear a particular case in the House of Lords.[HL260]

The Lord Chancellor: There has been no formal procedure within the House of Lords in its judicial capacity for ensuring that a Law Lord does not sit where there exists any appearance of conflict of interest arising from his sitting. Any Law Lord, however, intended to sit on a committee hearing an appeal to the House of Lords in its judicial capacity would have considered whether there existed any appearance of conflict of interest arising from his sitting which should be disclosed to the parties; and, if he so considered, would disclose it to them and if any party objected a determination would be made whether or not he should sit.

For the future I have requested the senior Law Lord, or the senior Law Lord in the chair, to ensure that at the time when any committee is being composed, its proposed members will consider together whether any of their number might appear to be subject to a conflict of interest; and, in order to ensure the impartiality, and the appearance of impartiality, of the committee, to require any Law Lord to disclose any such circumstances to the parties and not sit if any party objects and the committee so determines.

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Lords of Appeal: Appointments

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the nature of the soundings taken by the Lord Chancellor among the judges before he recommends names to the Prime Minister for appointment as Lords of Appeal in Ordinary.[HL285]

The Lord Chancellor: The Lord Chancellor is fully aware of the whole professional and judicial careers of the candidates for these appointments. Before deciding the advice which he should submit to the Prime Minister, he consults serving Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and other senior members of the judiciary.

Judicial Appointments

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce lay involvement in the selection of judges.[HL284]

The Lord Chancellor: Lay people are already involved in the shortlisting and interviewing of applicants for judicial office below High Court level. Lay interviewers have been selected from among the chairmen and members of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace and have experience both of interviewing and of the judicial process. They will continue to play a valuable part in the judicial appointments process.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce public hearings before new appointments are made to the higher judiciary.[HL283]

The Lord Chancellor: There are at present no plans to introduce public hearings before new appointments are made to any level of the judiciary.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they continue to support the present secret process for selecting judges in Britain.[HL282]

The Lord Chancellor: The process for selecting judges in England and Wales is not secret. Applications are invited for all appointments up to and including the High Court and selection is based strictly on merit against criteria for each office.

Judges: Declaration of Interests

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the ruling of the Appeal Committee on 17 December on the case of General Pinochet, they will introduce guidelines for the declaration of interests by judges.[HL403]

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The Lord Chancellor: There are at present no plans to introduce a requirement of declaration of interests by judges. However, in relation to the House of Lords in its judicial capacity, I have for the future requested the senior Law Lord, or the senior Law Lord in the chair, to ensure that at the time when any Committee is being composed, its proposed members will consider together whether any of their number might appear to be subject to a conflict of interest; and, in order to ensure the impartiality, and the appearance of impartiality of the Committee, to require any Law Lord to disclose any such circumstances to the parties and not sit if any party objects and the Committee so determines.

Conflicts of Interest

Baroness Denton of Wakefield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions it has been necessary for the Minister for Science, Energy and Industry to excuse himself from official discussions due to conflicts of interest; and, if applicable, what the conflicts of interest were.[HL390]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): As the answer in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the right honourable Member for Bromley and Chislehurst on 19 October made clear, (Official Report, col. 1050) the statement I issued at the time of my appointment indicated that such conflicts were unlikely. This has proved to be the case, as there have been no occasions when I have excused myself from official discussions within my policy area due to conflicts of interest.

Treaty of Rome: Economic and Financial Sanctions

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what occasions the United Kingdom has exercised power under Article 73(g)(2) of the Treaty of Rome to impose economic and financial sanctions "for serious reasons and on grounds of urgency".[HL311]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The United Kingdom has never exercised power under Article 73(g)(2).

European Commission: Fraud Prosecutions

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 30 November (H.L. Deb. col. 232), whether any prosecutions against staff or officials of the European Commission for fraud are in prospect; and, if not, why not.[HL265]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Further to the Answer given on 30 November, prosecutions against staff or officials of the European Commission are a matter for the relevant national authorities in the light of the jurisdictional rules of the country in question. The Commission has never refused to waive immunity when requested by the relevant national authority. In the UK, allegations against EC staff or officials which fell within the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales would be investigated by either the police or the Serious Fraud Office, and if appropriate would be prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service or the Serious Fraud Office; waiver from immunity would be sought in such a case. Neither the Crown Prosecution Service nor the Serious Fraud Office is presently undertaking any prosecution against a member of staff or official of the European Commission for fraud or corruption.


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