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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for the lucidity and care with which he has answered the questions put to him. We can all understand why he was so successful in persuading juries. I should like to put a question to which the noble and learned Lord may want to give overnight consideration before he replies. In the light of all that he has said about the need to ensure that those who commit such vile crimes as torture and murder and cause people to disappear should not escape the law, is he now entirely comfortable with the legislation, which he helped to take through this House, which enables

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those who tortured and caused to disappear United Kingdom citizens in Northern Ireland to be protected from prosecution?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not believe that anyone who was present on the occasions to which the noble Lord refers would have gone away happy. They would have gone away having tried as best they might to reconcile the almost irreconcilable. Let us remember that the legislation was voted through, not by executive fiat or on the basis, "We are powerful and above the law", but by two Chambers of a free Parliament, which I believe makes a very significant moral and political difference. But I join with the observations of the noble Lord. I was not happy about it. There are many things about compromises, legal or political, with which neither he nor I feel entirely content. However, sometimes we have to bite the bullet--the noble Lord has much more experience than I--and go for the best rather than the perfect solution.

Lord Monson: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord tell the House whether the Government will consider compiling and publishing a list of all the countries where torture has been officially sanctioned at one time or another during the past 50 years? Such a list would be quite a long one. In this way one would be able to judge whether double standards are being applied by the international community.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am not sure what practical validity would derive from that. The sub-text to the question of the noble Lord is that the rogue countries are perfectly well known. One should try to devise a system of justice that works rather than--I hope that he does not find my adjective disagreeable--a cosmetic list. The fact is that these were grave crimes and whoever was guilty of them caused monstrous, wicked offence not only to living human beings, who then had their lives taken from them, but to their relatives. To appreciate that one has only to go occasionally to South America, as I did before the election of the previous government when in power, to talk to people whose lives are utterly bereft and whose faces are blank because they simply do not know what happened to their 16 year-old son or brother 30 years ago.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I did not suggest that my list should be "cosmetic" but a complete one.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, one can produce lists for all kinds of purposes. I am wondering whether the moral seriousness of what we are now discussing is really attended to by the production of a list which everyone knows about anyway.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I apologise to the House for rising to my feet again, although we still have three minutes. It appears from what the noble and learned Lord said that we shall prosecute the vile who have no power but not the vile who have power.

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We welcomed to this country the President of China, who is not exactly a parish councillor from Scunthorpe. We also have as part of the establishment Martin McGuinness and Mr Adams, who are up to their elbows in blood, because it is convenient to us. As a Conservative, I have no difficulty with that because there are times when the ends justify the means. But it is slightly sickening that somebody who has no power is prosecuted for these horrible crimes. I totally agree with the noble and learned Lord's description of these crimes. It is unattractive that we prosecute the "weak vile" but not the "strong vile".

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not put Senator Pinochet in the category of the "weak vile". According to the medical evidence which the Home Secretary looked at and accepted on the basis that it was independent material, he is now weak. But he was not weak when he came here; nor was he weak in the years of his power and his glory. I do not know of any admissible evidence against either Mr McGuinness or Mr Adams--

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords--

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, if the noble Earl has some, I expect that he will discharge his duty by providing it to the relevant authorities. I repeat: I know of no admissible evidence against either of the two men he identified sufficient to justify a charge of murder, if that is what he is alleging.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister to look up the instructions to the Grenadier Guards in Ulster 15 years ago: to arrest McGuinness on a charge of murder; he was their most wanted man. I assume that the authorities had some evidence for that: that they would not have done it just for a whim--"Let's lock up all ginger-headed Ulstermen".

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Earl identifies precisely the trap he should be avoiding. To arrest someone it is necessary to have reasonable grounds to suspect that he has committed an offence. Thank God in our country reasonable grounds for suspicion are not the same as proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]

5.22 p.m.

Lord Bach: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 19, Schedule 2,

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Clauses 20 to 26, Schedule 3, Clauses 27 to 30, Schedule 4, Clauses 31 to 46, Schedule 5, Clauses 47 to 50, Schedule 6, Clauses 51 to 101, Schedule 7, Clauses 102 to 116, Schedule 8, Clause 117, Schedule 9, Clauses 118 to 119, Schedule 10, Clauses 120 to 122.--(Lord Bach.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Local Government Bill [H.L.]

5.23 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 22 [Absence of requirement for political balance]:

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Proposals]:

Lord Laming moved Amendment No. 46:

    Page 4, line 30, at end insert (", and

(c) ensure they deliver both value for money and quality standards of service").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall not dwell again on my concern--I have shared it with noble Lords previously--about the requirement in Clause 18(b) that 400 and more local authorities of different sizes and circumstances have to report their internal structures to the Secretary of State.

I emphasise again that my desire is simply to allow local governments to determine the structure which they judge best to produce good quality services. It is not to be interpreted, as I fear that it has been on some occasions, as a defence by me of the status quo. As the Minister will know, I have experienced both the best and the worst of local government; and I should be the last person to wish to defend the continuation of stifling and time-wasting bureaucratic committees.

My point is quite different. In this day and age we should evaluate all organisations, even your Lordships' House, not by the procedures that they employ (however fancy they may be) but on the outcomes achieved. It should be the results rather than the administrative structures employed upon which we should concentrate.

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By referring again to best value evaluation system, I fear that I may be accused of being even more enthusiastic about that system than are the Government; but I am sure I am not. My concern is that the Government give to local authorities a clear message that it is the outcomes, not the structures, against which they will be evaluated. For that reason I proposed that Clause 18(b) be deleted. However, the steely response from the Minister caused me to be pragmatic. I accept that Clause 18(b) will remain. However, I have been greatly assisted by a letter which the noble Baroness kindly sent me. I am grateful and happily leave it to the Minister to decide how best these matters will be taken forward. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches strongly support the spirit of the noble Lord's amendment. I have not had sight of the letter he received from the Minister. However, if it gives him some encouragement, I am delighted. The Government resisted our Amendment No 11. Perhaps at this point they will consider drawing together an overall plan so that local authorities can judge whether they have the right balance of considerations--they may have too much emphasis on economic well-being at the cost of environmental well-being, and so on--which should be included in the standards of service. I look forward to seeing a copy of the letter.

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