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Baroness Williams of Crosby: As the Minister rightly confirmed yesterday, the Aqaba summit was the beginning of an extremely important discussion on the possibility of a ceasefire by Hamas. Can the Minister comment on yesterday's pre-dawn round-up of the largest number of Hamas suspects ever undertaken by the Israeli Defence Force, which might jeopardise the chances of that negotiation?
In her view, is there any possibility that both sides might accept the presence of international monitors who could inform the international community as to the repercussions on both sides, across the border, which are of such importance in trying to create new trust?
We are at a very delicate phase in the whole road map. What happens over the next few weeks is crucial to whether or not the road map is able to succeed. I choose my words extraordinarily carefully, particularly at the moment, in answering these questions.
I hope that I have been clear to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, about extra-judicial killings. However, we must be clear that extra-judicial killings are very different from rounding up terrorists who themselves may be perpetrating terrorist actions.
On the need for international monitors, I understand that the United States is planning to send a nine-person team to the region to carry out some of the monitoring that will be necessary for the road map. That will be headed by John Wolf, who is a State Department official. We are very pleased with that development.
Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld: My Lords, while it is very encouraging that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority are committed to the road map, it remains a fact that the only road map in the possession of Hamas terrorists is the road map to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where they perpetrate their terrible crimes. Does the Minister agree that there is little moral difference between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom pursuing a war against terrorism and Israel pursuing a war against terrorism when it is in the very front line of that terrorism? Is it not right that we should encourage the Arab nations and the Islamic countries to give as much encouragement as possible to the implementation of the road map?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, if noble Lords will forgive me, I will not get drawn into the question of moral equivalence. However, terrorism is terrorism wherever it is carried out. I believe that what we undertook in Iraq was of a rather different nature. In phase one of the road map, it is clear that the Palestinians themselves must act against terrorism and that they must do what they can to prevent attacks, to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure and to rebuild their own security infrastructure in Palestine. That is a very clear objective of phase one of the road map.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the erection by Israel of a security fence and wall in its present position is extremely unhelpful? If it is required, should it not be moved back to the green line? Will Her Majesty's Government raise the issue with all members of the quartet?
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, we must continue to appoint judges on merit. However, there is no inconsistency between ensuring that judges are appointed on merit and seeking a more diverse judiciary. The Government are making progress and my noble and learned predecessor did much to increase the diversity of the Bench. There is more to be done to ensure that appointments are accessible to the widest possible range of candidates. The creation of an independent judicial appointments commission is a vital step in that process.
Will the Lord Chancellor confirm that in his interview in the Guardian he in no way meant to diminish the contribution of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, when he described the post of Lord Chancellor as always being occupied by a 50-plus member of the English Bar? I thank the Lord Chancellor for his reply. Is it not the case, as he said, that while diversity of age, gender and experience may be important, the most important point is, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine, did, to continue the most important principle of selecting the most qualified personnel for the judiciary?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his congratulations. I unreservedly apologise to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. As the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said, I referred to all previous Lord Chancellors as being members of the English Bar, whereas the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, was a very distinguished member of the Scottish Bar. I apologise for that; it was a mistake on my part.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, we very much approve of the Lord Chancellor's remarks. Clearly, if there is to be full confidence in the system of justice in this country, all members of our society must be able to see on the Bench those whom they can regard as representing the whole of the United Kingdom. We on these Benches therefore very strongly support what he said.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for those remarks. I believe that we are entirely agreed on the need for quality and diversity on the Bench and for a Bench that is representative of the society that it seeks to serve.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, our Government introduced the Race Relations (Amendment) Act after the Lawrence inquiry suggested that. It is extremely important that in all areas of life it is given effect to; that is obviously the case in relation to the public sector, at which it is primarily directed, but also in relation to the way in which the courts operate.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, while merit is clearly the guiding principle on appointments to the Bench, is the Lord Chancellor aware that a committee of Justicethe Stevens committeereported some 10 years ago that a judicial commission would be the best way forward? While congratulating the Government on that decision, is it not clear that the time has more than arrived by which a far more transparent method of appointing able, qualified members of the Bar and the solicitors' profession should be achieved?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, political correctness is one fear but political interference is another. From a government who have given us an access regulator for the universities, what can the noble and learned Lord give us in terms of comfort that he is not about to introduce an access regulator for the Bench?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I entirely agree with the first part of the noble Lord's question; of course the time has come, as he will be the first to agree, to separate politics from appointments to the Bench. That is why the time has come for an
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, where NHS staff are transferred, the provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 usually apply. That ensures that, apart from pensions, all aspects of an employee's existing terms and conditions of service continue to apply and can be changed only with the agreement of employees. Terms and conditions for any new staff are the responsibility of the new employer and are settled locally.
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