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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord attended to my Answer. First, the status of the Stevens report is that it is not a report to government. It is a report commissioned by the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Secondly, I am glad that the noble Lord now seems to accept my stance when I dealt with Questions about Senator Pinochet that allegations of state crime ought to be fully investigated.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, of course the Stevens report reveals some disgraceful facts, but can the noble and learned Lord assure the House that any judicial inquiry will not prove a legal goldmine, as has happened elsewhere? Furthermore, will he give his view on the merits of having a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland?

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and I have said on a number of occasions, we need to focus quite carefully on the form of any inquiry and the fact that it should not become simply a beanfeast for lawyers. As regards truth and reconciliation, that idea has not been ruled out and it is certainly worthy of further detailed consideration.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the matter still has to go through the normal legal processes. But, bearing in mind the unfortunate flawed precedent of the Widgery report, would he not agree that a judicial inquiry under a sole British judge, however eminent, would not be regarded as credible in Northern Ireland at the present time? Do we not need to look at some form of international tribunal which will fall far short of the excesses of the Saville inquiry in terms of the expense and may well incorporate a truth and reconciliation element?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as I believe your Lordships know, the distinguished retired Supreme Court judge from Canada, Judge Peter Corey, is presently looking at six distinct cases. The Governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have agreed that they will attend to his recommendations and put them into effect. Of course, that will include the nature of the tribunal to which the noble Lord, Lord Smith, referred.

UK-US Extradition Treaty

2.48 p.m.

Lord Goodhart asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect that the terms of the United Kingdom-United States extradition treaty will be published.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the new United Kingdom-United States bilateral extradition treaty will be laid before Parliament as a Command Paper in the normal way. We hope that it will be possible for this to happen by the end of May.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the Government have already indicated that the treaty excludes the need to produce evidence of guilt to support the extradition claim. Given that the United States of America contains 51 different jurisdictions, and that in some of them the standards of investigation and trial are questionable to say the least, how do the Government justify that?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is the case that we intend to remove the requirement for prima facie evidence to accompany extradition requests. There has been no secret about that. We drew attention to that fact in an Answer to a parliamentary Question by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer. We do not see any difference between the United States as an

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established democracy and the other signatories to the European Convention on Extradition, which comprise some 40-plus countries.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, why have we abolished the prima facie rule?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Earl is a supporter of the party which removed that obligation from the Council of Europe countries. We do not believe that it is the sort of stringent requirement an established democracy requires.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is one important difference between our system and that of the United States? In the United States the Senate is able to scrutinise a treaty such as the extradition treaty before ratification whereas in our curious and antiquated parliamentary procedures the best that we have is the Ponsonby rule, an explanatory memorandum and exiguous parliamentary scrutiny. Do the Government now accept the recommendation of the Wakeham Commission that there should be more effective scrutiny arrangements in this House with a treaty scrutiny committee to look into matters of that kind?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, this has been the traditional way to scrutinise such treaties. There will be the opportunity for a debate on this matter in your Lordships' House. I know that the issue of adopting an affirmative procedure is one of concern to noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches. No doubt that point can be debated during the passage of the Extradition Bill through your Lordships' House.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Mr Kenny Ritchie, who is now on Death Row, becomes eligible for British citizenship in view of the fact that Section 13 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act came into force at the beginning of this month? Will the extradition treaty withhold leave to extradite any person from this country who may be liable to the death penalty in the United States?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my understanding is that the answer to that question is "Yes".

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will the debate in this House to which the Minister referred be held on an assurance before ratification?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I think that that probably is a matter for the usual channels.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, bearing in mind that people in the United States are six times more likely to be placed in prison than are people in this country, is it wise to get rid of the requirement that prima facie evidence should be provided before extradition takes place?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we trust all other democratic nations and states without having a

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prima facie evidence provision in place. I see no difference between the 40 signatories to the European Convention on these matters and the United States, which is a mature and highly effective democracy.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister would reconsider that answer. I understand that in a number of democracies outside the European Union and the Council of Europe procedures it is indeed the case that prima facie evidence is still required. In the light of that, will the Minister carefully consider the Question raised by my noble friend Lord Goodhart about the very different procedures in the different states of the United States?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand the force of the point made by the noble Baroness. These matters can be debated and these are points to be considered, but that is the position adopted by the Government.

Individual Learning Accounts

2.54 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made on the investigation into individual learning accounts.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the department's special investigations unit has been asked to investigate 157 learning provider organisations. The police are investigating 98 of those cases. There have been 71 arrests, which have resulted to date in six people being convicted, nine people accepting cautions and one other awaiting a court appearance.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, this has been the most scandalous waste of public money. The department has been found wanting and yet there has been no apology and to date no proper compensation for genuine providers. What are the Government going to do about it?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, first, on behalf of the Government, we do apologise for this. Indeed, when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee the Permanent Secretary said:


    "this is a very bad story . . . I am very sorry for it too, and we have to put it right".

So, I believe we are quite clear in apologising.

The noble Baroness will be aware of the Ombudsman cases. As a consequence of those we shall be writing to a number of learning providers. I believe we have written to 179 and will be writing to some 3,000 in June inviting claims from those who have had similar experiences to those covered in the Ombudsman cases. We have written to 20,000 learners to seek out those who may

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have had similar experiences to those outlined by the Ombudsman. I do believe that we have already made some inroads into sorting this out.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, my noble friend has frequently accepted the responsibility of the department for failings and shortcomings. Would it not be better if the Opposition, who continually raise the matter, were for once to condemn the crooks rather than pretend that what happened was a result of the department's failings?


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