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19 Feb 2003 : Column WA173

Written Answers

Wednesday, 19th February 2003.

Cayman Islands

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the informal talks with representatives of the Cayman Islands in Lancaster House on 9 to 11 December 2002. [HL1684]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We invited representatives of both government and opposition parties in the Cayman Islands to informal talks in Lancaster House, on 9–11 December to discuss the report of the Cayman Islands Constitutional Review Commission and associated documents. At the conclusion of that meeting, we undertook to prepare a revised draft constitution for further public consultation and discussion in the Cayman Islands. This has now been done and papers forwarded to the governor.

Copies of the proposed draft constitution and related draft Orders in Council together with the text of the governor's press release have been placed in the Library of the House.

Life Sentences

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many life-sentence prisoners have been imprisoned for longer than their judicial tariff; and what is the total of extra years served. [HL1431]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The tariff is the minimum period a life sentence prisoner must serve before being considered for release, which then can take place only when the independent Parole Board is satisfied the prisoner is no longer a risk to the public. Following the House of Lords decision in the case of Anderson on 25 November 2002, judges, rather than the Secretary of State, will set tariffs for adult mandatory life sentence prisoners. New legislation is being introduced in this Session of Parliament to establish a clear set of principles which judges will be expected to follow in setting tariffs in the future.

The latest statistical information available (September 2002) indicates that there were 3,270 mandatory lifers in England and Wales whose tariff had been set. Of those, 2,470 had tariffs which had not yet expired. The tariffs of the remaining 800 mandatory lifers had expired and those prisoners continued to be detained on grounds of risk. An analysis of 1,257 tariffs in new cases between 1 April 1997 and 30 June 2002 indicated that 87 per cent of

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those were set in line with the judicial recommendation. Of the remainder, the Secretary of State set a tariff higher than the judicial recommendations in 6 per cent of the cases and a lower tariff in 7 per cent of the cases.

Corresponding information on the tariffs set by the trial judge in non-mandatory life sentence cases and on the total years served beyond tariff is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Rape Allegations

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they have reviewed the work of Eugene J Kanin of Purdue University on the incidence of false declaration of rape in a metropolitan community of 70,000 inhabitants in the United States. [HL1486]

Lord Filkin: The Sexual Offences Bill follows a major review of the criminal law on sexual offences, which looked at a wide range of the very numerous authorities on sex offences and sex offenders, as listed in Annex K of volume 2 of Setting The Boundaries. The review process involved consideration of a significant number of reports and research studies and included a comparison with the laws of a number of other countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Eugene Kanin's work was not considered as part of the review process, but we are satisfied that the review was comprehensive and thorough. We do not believe that there is anything in our proposals, which are based on the review, that would encourage an increase in the number of false allegations that are made.

The police are duty bound to make detailed investigations where allegations are made of serious offences. Following the initial investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considers the content of the police findings and makes its own independent assessment. Both the police and the CPS have to consider the nature of the evidence before them and whether it is reliable enough to support a realistic prospect of conviction. It is the overriding duty of the CPS to ensure that the right person is charged with the right offence.

There are important safeguards in the criminal justice system to ensure that those who are falsely accused or wrongly convicted can have this injustice righted. These include the presumption of innocence, the high standard of proof on the prosecution, the right to legal representation, the right to call any witnesses to challenge and test evidence through cross-examination and the right to seek leave to appeal against conviction or sentence. There are also a range of offences to deal with those who might seek to pursue such allegations, including the offences of perverting the course of justice, wasting police time and perjury. The latter carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

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House of Lords Reform

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the votes in both Houses on Tuesday 4 February, they will now propose the ending of the Joint Committee on the Reform of the House of Lords. [HL1551]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): No. As set out in the terms of reference, the Joint Committee will now consider the outcome of the votes and come forward with recommendations.


Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the request of United Nations weapons inspectors for more time and intelligence to complete their task will be granted; and, if so, for how long. [HL1446]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We always consider very carefully all requests from the inspectors for more resources and time. Arrangements for the sharing of intelligence are already in place.

Nimrod and Astute Projects

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made with BAE Systems in resolving the outstanding financial issues arising from the Nimrod and Astute programmes.[HL1776]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Government have reached agreement with BAE Systems on a way ahead for these two strategically important defence projects. We have agreed a new structure for the two contracts which reduces risk, while placing new incentives on the company to perform. This will, however, involve a rise in the overall expected cost to completion and further delays to the in-service dates of the two projects.

For the Nimrod MRA4 project, which was originally won by British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) in open competition in 1996, the company has announced that it will be making a provision of £500 million against the project this year in its preliminary results for 2002. This is in addition to a previous provision of £300 million made in the company's 2000 results. For our part, the Government have agreed to delay the start of series production until we have seen demonstrated performance from the first three aircraft; and to increase our funding of the project by around £270 million, subject to final negotiations. This covers our share of restructuring the programme and will result in the achievement of an in-service date by 2009, defined as delivery of the sixth series production aircraft. As a result of the delay to

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the start of production, we now have the option of considering an increase in the aircraft's capability to meet the defence requirements of the 21st century. We have already introduced improvements to existing Nimrod MR2 aircraft which use some of the technology planned for the new MRA4 aircraft, thereby both reducing risk in the new programme and increasing existing capability.

The starting point for the Astute class attack submarine project was different. The original contract was based on a single source supplier, namely GEC-Marconi (which subsequently merged with British Aerospace to form BAE Systems) as the only UK provider of this unique defence capability. We sought to establish a fair price, given the economic conditions, and agreed joint assumptions on an open book basis at the time of contract signature in March 1997 on how the project would be delivered. These related, in part, to the benefits to be derived from the first comprehensive application of computer aided design (CAD) techniques to UK submarines. This will deliver significant advantages in the future, but its benefits have proved more difficult to realise on a programme of this complexity than either we or the company had assumed. We now know that the introduction of CAD requires more time and effort than either of us had originally anticipated. As a result, the Government have agreed to increase our funding by around £430 million, subject to final negotiations, as against an increased contribution by the company of £250 million which it has announced will be included as a provision in its preliminary results for 2002. These increases reflect the Government's acceptance of a share of the responsibility along with BAE Systems for the underestimate of the required effort and the consequent design delays. They also cover costs incurred through restructuring and other revisions to the project and will result in the first of class coming into service by 2008. In the light of what we now know about the costs and benefits of CAD, we are confident that the new deal represents a good deal for the taxpayer and will provide outstanding new generation attack submarines for the Royal Navy.

This agreement has been reached following intensive negotiations, carried out in a constructive and co-operative spirit since the autumn. Both the Government and BAE Systems agree that the priority now is to put these difficulties behind us. We have agreed with the company that we will introduce new methods of project control and reporting on these and other projects. The exact details of the agreement required to establish formally the new financial structure and the revised in-service dates still need to be agreed. This should take several months and the Government will report further to the House when this has been achieved.

Overall, we expect the additional cost to the Government of these two contracts to be around £700 million, although significant additional MoD expenditure will not begin until 2008 and will be spread

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over the following years. The scale of the financial consequences now announced by the company demonstrates that it accepts responsibility for its share of the serious difficulties that have arisen on these two immensely complex and demanding programmes. It is, however, appropriate, for the reasons that I have set out, that the Government should make these additional contributions to the Nimrod and Astute contracts.

The unique military capabilities represented by these two programmes are crucial to Britain's future defences and there are no alternative systems capable of offering comparable levels of performance at economic costs in any existing projects anywhere in the world. The Government are satisfied that both the Nimrod and the Astute project represent value for money. We now look to the company to deliver.

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