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Written Answers

Monday, 9th June 2003.

CPS: Pre-trial Witness Interviews

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Attorney-General's consultation paper on pre-trial witness interviews by prosecutors is to be published.[HL2673]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): In April 2002 there was acute public concern about the outcome of the Damilola Taylor murder case. I therefore asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to look into the Crown Prosecution Service's handling of the case, to consider whether there were implications for the conduct of future cases. I asked him particularly to consider whether the time had come to introduce a system where, before trial, key witnesses could, in appropriate cases, be interviewed by the prosecutor, as this might be a useful mechanism for assessing the credibility and reliability of witnesses at an early stage in the proceedings.

The consultation paper on pre-trial witness interviews by prosecutors has been published today and lodged in the Libraries of both Houses. It will be accessible via the net on the CPS web site at

The paper will be a valuable springboard for comment, both from within and outside the legal profession, and will be circulated widely. The final date for comments is 21 July 2003.

CPS: Early Legal Advice and Charging Pilot

Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the results will be known of the pilot scheme implementing the recommendation of Sir Robin Auld that the Crown Prosecution Service should take responsibility for determining the charge from the outset of the case.[HL2842]

Lord Goldsmith: The independent evaluation of the early legal advice and charging pilot was published in a series of reports, the final version being released in April 2003.

The results have been very positive. The number of cases discontinued in the pilot sites was down, dramatically in some areas; more defendants pleaded guilty at first hearing; cracked and ineffective trials were significantly reduced and the number of convictions increased. The pilot demonstrated that the early input of a Crown Prosecutor's legal expertise into police investigations helps to build watertight cases. Getting cases right from the start means fewer abandoned prosecutions, less delay, more cases being brought to justice and a better deal for victims and witnesses.

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The Crown Prosecution Service is working up a shadow-charging scheme to prepare for a seamless transition to the full statutory scheme when the Criminal Justice Bill is enacted.

Maladministration Complaints

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

    Whether they consider the principles of good administration require them to deal within reasonable time with complaints of maladministration under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information submitted to them by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.[HL2941]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Government endeavour to deal with all complaints submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration within reasonable time in line with the principles laid down in the code itself and in the Guidance on Interpretation of the Code.

Azerbaijan and Armenia: Arms Embargoand UK Exports

Lord Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods subject to the OSCE arms embargo have recently been approved for export to Azerbaijan and Armenia.[HL3225]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government remain committed to the OSCE arms embargo against both Azerbaijan and Armenia, which we interpret as covering all goods and technology controlled under entries in Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 (commonly known as the military list).

In December 2002, the Government approved an export licence application for demining equipment for the HALO Trust for demining operations in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The decision was made in accordance with our practice occasionally to make an exemption to our interpretation of the embargo by approving exports of non-lethal military goods to humanitarian, media or peacekeeping organisations where it is clear that the embargo was not intended to prevent those exports and there is a strong humanitarian case for them.

G8 Summit: Government's Objectives

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be their specific objectives at the G8 Summit in June 2003 with respect to economic and social support for the people of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Zimbabwe.[HL3051]

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The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos): The G8 has actively supported African efforts to achieve and consolidate peace and security throughout Africa but particularly in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Sudan.

At the summit in Evian G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieve the objectives set out in the Doha Development Agenda and reported on progress made on the Africa Action Plan since the summit in Kananaskis in June 2002. Beyond Evian, DfID's development assistance programme in Africa will rise to £1 billion by 2005–06.

The Africa Action Plan focuses on conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction in Africa, including in Sudan, the DRC, Angola and Sierra Leone.

The UK supports humanitarian and peace building work in Sudan. With others in the international community, we are now planning for the hard work of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction when there is peace.

In the DRC we are working actively within the international community supporting implementation of the proposed new transitional national government and a sustainable settlement of the long-running DRC conflict. We have committed ourselves to a significant increase in development assistance once the new government is established. The UK has also committed to a contribution to the rapid deployment multinational force which will help to stabilise the current crisis situation in Ituri region.

In order to cement the Angolan peace process, we are contributing to the multi-donor demobilisation and reintegration programme, and are continuing our support to meet urgent humanitarian needs. With others we are also helping the government to focus on longer-term reconstruction and poverty needs, including work on a proposed national poverty reduction strategy.

In Sierra Leone our key objectives are resolving conflict, improving standards of governance and combating corruption, reforming the security sector, reducing poverty, ensuring macro-economic stability and developing human resources. These are shaped by our 10-year Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Sierra Leone.

In Zimbabwe our programme is entirely focused on the humanitarian crisis and mitigating the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Other activities are limited by the difficult policy environment. We expect to remain one of the three largest donors along with the USA, and European Commission with which we share similar objectives and co-ordinate our efforts. In Evian the G8 expressed concern about the reports of further violence by the authorities in Zimbabwe and called on the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the right to peaceful demonstration.

The UK does not have a bilaterial programme with Liberia, although we provide humanitarian assistance when the need arises.

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Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be their specific objectives at the G8 Summit in June 2003 with reference to:

    (a) the fulfilment of NePAD (the New Partnership for Africa's Development) objectives on conflict prevention, management and resolution and on peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, post-conflict resolution rehabilitation and reconstruction;

    (b) the establishment of a G8/African Joint Task Team on Peace Support Operations; and

    (c) support for the African Peace and Security Agenda.[HL3052]

Baroness Amos: The objectives achieved at the G8 June Evian Summit included the following commitments to support the African peace and security agenda, in line with the G8 Africa Action Plan, support to NePAD and the African Union (AU). These commitments are set out in the Implementation Report by Africa Personal Representatives on the G8 African Action Plan as follows;

Conflict Resolution: the G8 has actively supported African efforts to achieve and consolidate peace and security throughout Africa but particularly in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan and in other countries such as Burundi, Central African Republic and Cote d'Ivoire.

The G8 remains committed to continuing this support. In particular it has invited the international financial institutions to strengthen significantly their instruments for the consolidation of peace and post-conflict reconstruction and will work to this end in their governing bodies.

Development of peace support capacity in Africa: the G8 is taking the following steps in pursuit of this objective:

A joint Africa/G8 plan to enhance African peace support operations, developed through the Berlin Process, that aims to mobilise technical and financial assistance so that, by 2010, African partners are able to engage more effectively to prevent and resolve violent conflict on the continent, and undertake peace support operations in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Initial steps in implementation will include the following:

    the establishment, equipping and training by 2010 of coherent, multinational, multi-disciplinary standby brigade capabilities including civilian components, at the AU and regional level, in particular integrated mission planning capability, mission field headquarters and strategic headquarters which would be available for UN-endorsed missions undertaken under the auspices of the UN, AU or an African regional organisation;

    the development of capacities to provide humanitarian, security and reconstruction support in the context of complex peace support operations; and,

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    the development of institutional capacities at the continental and sub-regional level to prevent conflict through mediation, facilitation, observation and other strategies.

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