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Lord Marsh: My Lords, can the Minister envisage any circumstances in which the Government may take direct action to bring pressure to change Mr Mugabe's long-standing total contempt for the international community by his illegal actions?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord may be aware that last week, following our concern about journalists in Zimbabwe being identified as terrorists by President Mugabe, we sent a strong message to his government through our High Commissioner. We are working in a variety of ways through a variety of forums. Unilateral action by the United Kingdom in this area will be meaningless. We have sought to work in partnership not only with southern African and other African heads of state but with our Commonwealth and European Union partners, because this issue is international, not bilateral.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, have the Government taken note of the fact that almost daily there are bloody and wicked murders of innocent white farmers in Zimbabwe? Apart from the question of elections, what action has been taken to demonstrate to that government that the Government, as a member of the Commonwealth, regards that practice with abhorrence?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, we are concerned about the situation, but we think that effective civil rather than military action is required for us to improve physical security. We are pressing French authorities to act urgently.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. I have two questions to ask him. First, he has ruled out military involvement, but does he agree that last year, when the lorry drivers were blocking the fuel depots of this country, military involvement was certainly on the cards? The Government had a plan to implement that.
Secondly, does he agree that, if a government want to keep people out of their country, they build the fence and patrol it? In this case they have decided that the fence should be in Calais. However, does it not remain the responsibility of our Government to sort out the fence rather than, as I understand to be the case, the Prime Minister writing to Mr Jospin telling him that he should build the fence and that if he does not do so we shall fine his railway when it brings in illegal immigrants?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I shall not comment in detail on what may or may not have happened with the petrol crisis last year. However, there is a world of difference between considering military action in the UK and the deployment of British Armed Forces in another European country. As I suggested, the situation requires powerful and effective civil policing, backed up by effective security measures.
As regards the noble Lord's second point, the matter is for SNCF and the French authorities. Our police have no powers of trespass and arrest within French territory. We are co-operating with the French but are urging them to treat the issue with considerable importance and to take much speedier action.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, we should by now be seeing 10 million tonnes of freight go through the Channel Tunnel each year. We are at about 2.75 per cent and that is falling rapidly. There are two reasons for that: first, the inability of the Government to deal with SNCF, which is thoroughly inefficient; and, secondly, the inability of the Government to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants. When will we get some effective action on both issues?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, that question invites me to roll two large issues togetherand as regards this problem they are rolled together to some extent. In relation to the SNCF issue, the Prime Minister wrote to Lionel Jospin on 16th November stating how seriously we considered the matter. Tomorrow there will be the UK summit between France and the United Kingdom when we expect the Prime Minister to raise the matter again with Lionel Jospin. On 3rd December there will be a meeting with the head of security of SNCF when we will again be pressing it to build the fence it has talked about since May in order to provide
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, is the Minister aware that United Kingdom operators are losing about #8 million a week as a result of the action that has been taken by SNCF? Will he give the House some information about the compensation which will be sought, and from whom, for those operators in future?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, no, I do not have the detailed figures relating to the potential amount of business that is being lost. However, we view the matter with considerable concern. Government policy is clearly to try to increase rail freight and to increase international rail freight. We would like to reach 6 per cent rather than the current figure which the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, mentioned.
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, although security at this point and elsewhere on the coast of France is important, is not the real answer to press ahead to reach agreement with our EU partners for a common asylum policy and for understandable policies relating to the economic migration into the countries of the European Community? Can my noble friend say what progress is being made on that?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, yes, I strongly agree. The Government's view is that the Dublin convention has not worked in the way we hoped and expected. We are pressing other European countries rapidly to bring the matter on to the agenda. There are initial discussions about that but we are still in the early stages. It is crucial that that convention is revised. In the mean time, in this situation we must rely on physical security measures and effective police action at the French end. Where that has been taken at Eurotunnel PLC and through the Channel ferries, it has been effective. We are now seeing displacement on to SNCF's site and if it had hardened that site when it said it intended to do so we would not be experiencing the scale of problem we are now seeing.
Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Hollis of Heigham will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement which is being made in another place on benefits uprating.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for and in connection with a new social security benefit called state pension credit and to amend Section 47(1) of the Pension Schemes Act 1993. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 16. As regards Amendment No. 3, having read Amendment No. 4 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I do not intend to move my own.
The Committee stage of the Bill has followed Second Reading more swiftly than is customary. There may be occasions on which amendments are moved which bear no relation whatever to speeches made from the Opposition Front Bench. I simply beg the pardon of Members of the Committee if that happens.
As regards Amendment No. 1, under the powers set out in Schedule 1, a police officer can apply to the magistrates' court for restraint of cash which is expected to be associated with, or furthers, terrorist activities. The order is for a maximum of three months, extendable for two years. When the investigations are complete, an application can be made to the magistrates' court for forfeiture. There is a right of appeal of the forfeiture order to the Crown Court by any aggrieved person within 30 days.
We accept that that is a valuable weapon in our armoury to defeat terrorism because it is self-evident that, without funding, terrorism cannot flourish. We therefore support the extension of that power. However, a magistrates' court will be faced with difficult questions of fact and law in determining whether or not cash should be forfeited. Before making the forfeiture order, the magistrates will have to be satisfied that the cash was intended to be used for
We believe that the right court to determine these issues is the High Court. The High Court is, of course, a civil court and has the necessary expertise to deal with the difficult issues which could arise in any application for an order that cash be forfeited. A forfeiture order is a matter which should be dealt with by senior judges with many years' experience of financial litigation.
Applications for restraint orders are currently heard in the High Court. The Proceeds of Crime Bill would change the jurisdiction for restraint orders to the Crown Court. Lay benches and district judges, however, will have no experience of restraint orders which are complex matters of civil proprietorial rights. We submit that these complex, sensitive matters must be dealt with in the High Court. I have dealt with Amendments Nos. 1 and 16. I have surrendered Amendment No. 3 to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I beg to move.
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