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Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we condemn outright the treatment of the Harare mayor. As the noble Baroness will know, he was on an FCO-sponsored visit to the UK from 29th June to 3rd July and was arrested on his return. The build-up of human rights resources across the board in Zimbabwe encourages the international community to look robustly at the way in which it can help a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.

Lord Acton: My Lords, we have spoken of the economic challenges. Is my noble friend aware that tobacco has played what is possibly the crucial part in earning foreign exchange for Zimbabwe? In view of the international decline in the tobacco market, will Britain and its partners pay attention to finding cash crops that a new-born Zimbabwe can develop to earn foreign exchange?

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Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I cannot give my noble friend a detailed answer on the issue of tobacco, but I will say that any rescue plans for a post-Mugabe regime will involve the taking of macro-economic measures by the international community, as well as poverty reduction measures.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am afraid that we are substantially over time.

Libya: Foot and Mouth Disease

3.8 p.m.

Lord Plumb asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Libya, whether they have completed their contingency plans for dealing with the possible threat of its spread to the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, trade with Libya in foot and mouth-susceptible species and their products is not permitted. Following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Libya in May, the Government have reviewed their contingency arrangements. We are satisfied that the existing plans and precautions are sufficient for the relatively low threat from Libya. Officials maintain a high state of vigilance at our ports and airports.

Lord Plumb: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. I am aware that the volume of products coming from Libya is minimal. However, there are plenty of people who come from Libya, and there are the countries surrounding Libya, which are equally concerned by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

Is the Minister aware that there is a serious outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Libya? It spread throughout the country for six weeks before it was reported to OIE—the International Office of Epizootics—and is, therefore, possibly spreading into surrounding countries. In those circumstances, will Defra therefore alert the livestock producers throughout the European Union because the border countries are not far from the areas where foot and mouth disease is spreading? What steps have been taken at ports of entry to increase detection of illegal imports from Libya or neighbouring countries with a special warning to tourists? I accept that we are not importing from Libya but plenty of products come through those countries. Will extra surveillance be instituted and targeted where risks are highest? Bearing in mind—

Noble Lords: Question!

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Lord Plumb: My Lords, I just want to say that the confusion which arose in our outbreak is of great concern. Therefore, let us not be complacent and prepare for any possibility, recognising the threat that exists in those countries.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there is no doubt that the Government take seriously any threat of foot and mouth disease. There has been no instance of the disease spreading beyond Libya, but it is important that the operational requirements at ports and airports—both EU and UK—take account of the fact that there is an outbreak in Libya. Without going into detail, undoubtedly that will inform the priorities of those authorities at ports and airports. As the noble Lord recognises, the import of livestock and products from Libya has been banned for many years.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, will the Minister acknowledge what the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, said about illegal imports? Illegal imports of meat are coming from all over the place and are not always intercepted. What strain of foot and mouth is rampant in Libya at the present time? What stocks of vaccine are present in the United Kingdom in case—God forbid—there is an outbreak here?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government certainly recognise the problem of illegal imports and the possibility that such illegal imports may be diseased. That is why we have allocated another 25 million to protection against illegal imports in this country. In terms of the strain of the disease, the virus in Libya is SAT 2 which has never been recorded in North Africa previously. We have stocks of that vaccine—it is one of the eight strains that the UK keeps. It is also available from European sources.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, my noble friend said that BSE has spread beyond the borders of Libya. The Minister said it has not. Who is right?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, perhaps I may correct the noble Baroness. We are talking about foot and mouth and not BSE. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, to say that there was a possibility of it spreading because it spread rapidly within Libya and therefore might go across the border. I said that there has been no incidence of foot and mouth in neighbouring countries to Libya. That is not to say that we should not be extremely vigilant should that happen.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, have extra discussions taken place since this outbreak occurred? What instructions have been given to port authorities with regard to illegal imports of meat? Secondly, the noble Lord said that we have enough vaccine. My understanding is that that is not so. There is not enough vaccine across the EU. Should there be another foot and mouth outbreak we would be back to slaughtering and not using vaccination, as this House recommended.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as regards vaccine, it would depend on what strain of foot and mouth occurred in

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Europe. But we have sufficient vaccine to deal with an outbreak of this strain. Clearly, more will be produced, but that is not to say that every strain of foot and mouth disease is covered by vaccine stocks in Britain or Europe.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, what specific steps have been taken to inform the public of the dangers of illegal import of meat? What penalties are available and will be applied?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as far as information to ordinary travelling members of the public is concerned—as distinct from trade because there is no trade with Libya and therefore it does not arise in this case—we have put out a substantial number of leaflets, posters and now in-flight videos to warn passengers from all destinations against bringing back, for personal or commercial use, meat from any destination or point of origin outside the EU. That message is being reinforced daily.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister further—he did not actually answer my question. If a foot and mouth outbreak occurred again in this country, is it the fact that vaccination would not be the first choice of priority and that slaughter still would be so?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, who has sat through many of these debates, will recognise, the contingency plan, which we have established here and would be broadly followed by other EU countries, would see the slaughter of diseased animals and those immediately exposed. We would then, provided the vaccine was appropriate to the strain, consider as a first priority the use of preventive vaccination. It would not necessarily be appropriate in all circumstances, but that is the order of priority in the current contingency plan.

Criminal Justice Bill

3.16 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 41 [Application by defendant for trial to be conducted without jury]:

On Question, Whether Clause 41 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Hunt of Wirral: We now move to that part of the Criminal Justice Bill entitled, "Trials On Indictment Without A Jury".

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I oppose the Question that Clause 41 stand part of the Bill and indeed the whole of Part 7, which seeks to restrict jury trial. I asked for all the clause stand part debates relating to Part 7 to be grouped today because, from these Benches, our objective is to strike Part 7 from the Bill. We therefore consider that if we are successful in deleting Clause 41, all the other clause stand part debates will be consequential and all the other clauses will fall. It is on that basis that I speak today.

I do not need to remind your Lordships of the fundamental importance of jury trial to our democracy. It provides a crucial link between the citizen and the system of justice. Trial by one's peers prevents the justice system becoming a matter of the state judging the citizen. Trial by jury is far more popular with the public than any politician or political party. The polls clearly state that. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said:


    "This country of ours exists on some very important traditions—traditions that bear the test of time. If you asked any citizen of this country which is one of those great traditions, I have no doubt the answer would be the jury trial".—[Official Report, 16/6/03; col. 593.]

So it is of critical importance. It is against this background that some three years ago the previous Home Secretary brought forward proposals to abolish the right to elect jury trial in either-way cases. Those proposals were rightly rejected by your Lordships' House not once but twice in two Bills in the same Session. Now a different Home Secretary again proposes to cut back the right to jury trial, but the Government have shifted their position from one extreme to the other.

What is the reason for this Government's obsession with restricting the right to trial by jury? I do not believe for one minute that the Government are bringing forward the measures set out in Part 7 because there has been a huge call for them from the Labour Party or from the general public. In that sense, the debate we are having now is by no means party-political, and I certainly do not seek to make it one. Some of the staunchest defenders of jury trial sit on the Benches opposite and on the Labour Benches in the House of Commons.

Rather, what the Government are seeking to do is a more serious manifestation of a much more important confrontation than mere party politics; namely, the relationship between the state and the citizen. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, reminded us at Second Reading:


    "The Government have designs on the jury, and this is just the beginning".—[Official Report, 16/6/03; col. 621.]

That comment echoes the words of Lord Justice Auld. I was interested to read his lecture to the Medico-Legal Society given at the Royal Society of Medicine on Thursday, 9th May 2002. The right honourable Lord Justice Auld said in reference to no jury trial in a relatively small category of serious and complex fraud cases that the proposals would make,


    "a good starting point . . . if that reform comes about, and if it is a success, then consideration could be given to extending it".

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If I read aright the contributions made by noble Lords at Second Reading, that is what troubles a great many of us. There is a question over whether these proposals will be extended.

In any event, why are we dealing with that in what can only be described as a "bits and pieces" reform? I shall return to that question in a moment. But of course many noble Lords present in the Chamber today were also present in your Lordships' House at the time when the Government brought forward the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bills to end the defendant's right of election in either-way cases. At the time it was said from the Treasury Bench that there was no question of ending the use of jury trial for serious cases.

At Second Reading of the first Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that:


    "For serious cases, the accepted means for defendants to be tried in our jurisdiction is by jury. It is extremely important that that should continue where the state and the citizen are engaged in matters of proportionate importance. We want to strengthen and improve the workings of the jury system in serious cases".—[Official Report, 2/12/99; col. 922.]

When the second Bill, the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 2) Bill, came before your Lordships' House, the same noble and learned Lord made the same point about the importance of jury trial for serious cases when he said this:


    "Perhaps I may say by way of background that the right to an impartial trial in a reasonable period of time is one of the rights in the European convention. It is not a right that attaches only to defendants. I suggest that it is the right of the wider community that serious cases should be tried in the Crown Court with a jury within a reasonable period of time".

He went on to say in the same speech that:


    "I understand as well as anyone the importance of trial by jury. It is the appropriate remedy in serious instances where the state and the citizen's interests collide".—[Official Report, 28/9/00; cols. 961 and 963.]

So, we were told previously that the Government's proposal to remove the right of election in middle-ranking cases did not mean there was any question of ending the use of jury trial in serious cases. Now the Government have put forward the very series of clauses which we were assured were not in their minds just three years ago. They say to us, as no doubt the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, will say again this afternoon, that their proposal to end the use of juries in some serious cases does not mean that there will be any further erosion of jury trial. While the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that jury trial would be retained for serious cases, last month the noble and learned Lord the present Lord Chancellor said that jury trial would,


    "continue to be the norm for the vast majority of serious cases".—[Official Report, 16/6/03; col. 560.]

Thus in three years we have moved from jury trial for serious cases to the "vast majority" of serious cases. Where will the Government be on this matter next year, the year after or in three years' time?

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On that basis, I submit that Members of this Committee justifiably should be apprehensive not only of the Government's present intentions, but of what the Government's intentions may well be in the future if the principle that not all trials on indictment should be by trials by jury is conceded by us in this Bill.

Within the nine relevant clauses in the Bill, there are three main areas in which the Government have designs on trial by jury. At this point I should make the comment that this Bill is extraordinarily long. It contains a whole series of very important measures. There are 307 clauses and 32 schedules set out over 374 pages. Why, then, do we have these provisions to restrict trial by jury? Why have they been slipped into what is a Bill of some considerable importance? We await the response from the noble Baroness, but it is a question that should be asked.

Contained in the nine clauses are three particular categories of trial by jury that are to come under Part 7. The first category covers defence applications for trial without a jury, the second covers prosecution applications in what are described as "complex or lengthy trials", and the third category is where there is an issue of jury tampering. I believe that the Government's proposals are flawed in many ways, but let me deal in turn with each of those three areas as briefly as possible.

Clause 41 will create a two-tier system and is, I believe, divisive. Defendants charged with offences that attract serious public opprobrium may well opt for trial by judge alone, not daring to face trial by jury. Also, there is a two-tier system in the Bill itself. Under Clause 41(2), the defendant,


    "may apply to a judge of the Crown Court for the trial to be conducted without a jury",

but, under subsection (6), may not do so if,


    "the defendant, or any of the defendants, holds, or has held, an office or employment concerned with the administration of civil or criminal justice".

So a police officer, lawyer or judge must be tried by jury if the offence raises questions about the discharge of his functions or whether he was a fit person to hold the office; that is, any offence of dishonesty. That is a very curious, two-tier system.

Will defendants engage in "forum shopping" in the hope that they will get a particularly liberal judge? I recall that in the debate on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said something with which we all agreed:


    "Juries, unlike judges, are not inclined to be either pro-prosecution or pro-defence".—[Official Report, 16/3/03; col. 613.]

In the speech made by Vera Baird QC, MP, in the other place, she, too, said that defendants would abuse this new provision. Although I do not have time to do so in my remarks, I hope that some of my noble friends will refer in more detail to Vera Baird's remarks. The notion of how defendants would abuse the new provision struck a chill in many hearts, in particular in regard to perceptions of racial and gender bias, due to what is, at present, the overwhelmingly white, male nature of the Crown Court judiciary.

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I turn now to Clause 42 covering prosecution application in complex or lengthy trials. This marks the erosion of jury trial on the grounds of expediency. If the Government have their way, then the most serious types of complex cases, such as trials on indictment for serious fraud, major drugs rings and so forth, will be tried by judge alone, but lesser trials on indictment, such as street robbery, will be by jury only. That line is very difficult to draw and surely it is only a matter of time before the Government seek to remove the right to jury trial for more trials on indictment, if the principle that some of the most serious offences can be tried by judge alone is conceded.

Juries well understand the issues relevant to guilt or innocence, particularly in relation to dishonesty in serious fraud cases. Indeed, the standard for dishonesty used in court is the Ghosh test—the ordinary standards of reasonable people as to whether what was done was dishonest and whether the defendant must have been aware that his conduct would have been regarded as dishonest by such people. Surely members of a jury are the best possible people to determine this.

Simplifying the law on fraud to make it easier not only for jurors but also for judges to understand is surely preferable to dispensing with juries altogether. There are Law Commission reports and proposals in this area—for example, Report No. 276, issued last year—to simplify the law on fraud and we should carefully consider going down that road.

Any problems with juries in fraud trials are surely better addressed by improved case management—for instance, by allowing the judge to give written notes to the jury, better conditions for jurors and so on.

This issue is not confined to serious trials. Clause 42(5) states that juries can be dispensed with in any case where there are complex or lengthy issues of a,


    "financial or commercial nature or which relate to property".

I am advised that this could well extend to money laundering cases, terrorist financing cases, drugs importation cases, major health and safety cases and even to offences such as arson and criminal damage. Thus many more cases will be affected than the Government have so far claimed. Even a murder or rape case could be tried by a judge alone if it fitted the criteria laid down in the clause.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I am much obliged to the noble Lord. Is he aware that sometimes the prosecution itself acts horrendously? I remember a case—I am sure this can be multiplied by a number of other instances—where a large number of documents were served on me which were entirely irrelevant, and so another set of documents had to be served. That kind of situation is untenable and avoidable. As far as I am concerned, juries understand the basic purpose of a trial, which is to decide whether or not there had been dishonest behaviour. Does the noble Lord agree?


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