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18 Jul 2003 : Column WA185

Written Answers

Friday, 18th July 2003.

The Lord Chancellor

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

    Whether they have consulted about their proposals to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and the judicial functions of the House of Lords and the functions of the House of Lords; and if so; with whom.[HL3419]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): A consultation paper Constitutional Reform: a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom was published on 14 July. Consultation will run until 7 November. A Select Committee of the House of Lords will consider the future of Speakership of the House of Lords. I will be publishing a consultation document in September setting out the issues to be addressed in relation to the roles of the Lord Chancellor that do not relate to the Speakership, his functions as departmental Minister or his judicial capacity.

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 8 July (WA 21), whether they will list individually the "wide range of powers, duties and privileges which have been conferred over time" on the Lord Chancellor and the means by which each can be alienated from the holder of that office.[HL3938]

The Lord Chancellor : I will be publishing a consultation document on the office of Lord Chancellor in September which is intended to address such issues.

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 8 July (WA 21), whether, if the word "important" were deleted from the sentence "None of the important powers, duties or privileges of the Lord Chancellor has been alienated since 30 January", the statement would still be true.[HL3939]

The Lord Chancellor: None of the powers, duties and privileges of the Lord Chancellor has been alienated since 30 January. However, there has been a minor transfer from the Lord Chancellor to Scottish Ministers of the commencement of certain provisions which amend the Taxes Management Act 1970 as regards Scotland. In addition, a transfer of functions order under the Ministers of the Crown Act was made at the Privy Council meeting on 17 July. This order transfers from the Lord Chancellor to the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs certain of the Lord Chancellor's principal ministerial responsibilities. It will come into force next month.

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Civil and Criminal Justice: Ministerial Responsibility

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 7 July (WA 1), why it is more appropriate to keep responsibility for the content of the criminal law with the Home Secretary rather than with a Minister of Justice with responsibility for the whole of English law, criminal as well as civil.[HL3901]

The Lord Chancellor: No one department of state, or Secretary of State for that matter, could ever sensibly have responsibility for the whole of English law. In relation to the criminal law, we believe it is more appropriate that one ministry, the Home Office, should be responsible and have as its primary focus the criminal law, fighting crime and responsibility for the police. It provides a firm base for the criminal justice system and that, together with the joint working between the Home Office, my department and that of my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General, will deliver real improvements in bringing the guilty to justice quicker and in public confidence in the system.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to assist in the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in areas of conflict.[HL3872]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UK was a driving force behind the adoption of Resolution 1325 in October 2000 and maintains an active and positive approach towards its implementation both in London and through the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York. The UK used its presidency of the UN Security Council in July 2002 to host an open debate on UNSCR 1325, led by the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations, with the participation of the UN Special Adviser on Gender, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the UN Department for Political Affairs.

The UK is committed to ensuring the participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, including peace negotiations, as well as to raising awareness of the positive role that women can play in peace building and reconciliation.

The Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) continues to work and fund projects with the UN's Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) and others on gender training for peace keepers.

The UK helped UNIFEM to put together a programme of work on women, peace building and gender justice and has pledged £3m towards that work. This ambitious programme, now in its second year,

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aims to increase women's participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict justice mechanisms. With our support, UNIFEM has published an independent assessment of how women are affected by armed conflict.

In Iraq the UK is committed to including women in all phases and at all levels in the reconstruction. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister's special representative and his team in Baghdad are working closely with Ambassador Bremer and officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to increase the representation of women in all strands of the rapidly evolving political and reconstruction process, such as the governing and economic councils. In addition we have seconded a gender expert from the government's Women and Equality Unit to the CPA's gender equality team and an FCO official in the CPA's governance team, who have been engaged in the involvement of women in the political process. The CPA has also facilitated an Iraqi-led women's conference consisting of five workshops, the recommendations from which will feed into the political process.

We will continue to seek opportunities to further the implementation of Resolution 1325 in areas of conflict.


Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have received from (a) the Indonesian authorities and (b) non-governmental organisations, about the number of civilians missing and killed in Aceh since the introduction of martial law on 19 May; and what additional steps they will now take, in conjunction with the United Kingdom's partners in the European Union and the United Nations Security Council, for the restoration of the cessation of hostilities and a resumption of negotiations for a political solution of the problem of the territory's constitutional status.[HL3875]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Indonesian authorities reported on 8 July that 325 members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) had been killed by the Indonesian armed forces since the introduction of martial law in May. However, we are aware of reports from the media and NGO's about attacks on villages by the army that have resulted in civilian deaths. Kontras, an independent Indonesian NGO has provided unconfirmed statistics that 176 civilians were killed and 15 went missing between the introduction of martial law on 19 May and 18 June. KOMNASHAM, the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, is investigating allegations of civilian deaths. Our embassy in Jakarta is monitoring the situation, but restrictions on travel to Aceh make it impossible to verify casualty figures.

On 20 May, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary issued a joint statement with the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, calling on the Indonesian armed forces to ensure full respect for human rights and to show maximum restraint while they carry out operations in Aceh. This was reinforced

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by my honourable friend the Minister of State at the FCO (Mike O'Brien) during his visit to Indonesia from 3 to 4 June, when he discussed Aceh with President Megawati and other senior members of the Indonesian Government. He raised the issue of civilian deaths and stressed that the Indonesian armed forces must respect human rights and act in accordance with international law in Aceh. He also urged the Indonesian Government to resume negotiations as soon as possible, stressing that military action alone would not resolve the problems in Aceh; only political negotiation could offer a long-term solution. We will continue to raise this with the Indonesian Government, both bilaterally and with others including our EU partners, Japan, the US and the World Bank.

Congo: MONUC

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the proposal by the United Nations Secretary-General that the strength of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) should be increased to 11,000 troops, and that an arms embargo be imposed on Ituri and the Kivus; and why the mandate of MONUC was extended only to 30 July, when the Secretary-General had asked for it to continue until June 2004.[HL3876]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In his second special report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the Secretary-General recommended an increase in the MONUC troop ceiling to 10,800 from the present level of 8,700. We support this increase to enable troops in sufficient numbers to be deployed in Ituri. We are presently pushing, in the Security Council, for agreement to the increase.

We are supporting the imposition of an arms embargo on Ituri and the Kivus. This should give the necessary political leverage to act against regional states, such as Rwanda and Uganda, and to act against the DRC Government if they arm rebel groups in the region where the worst atrocities have been taking place.

The present MONUC mandate expired on 30 June 2003. There was insufficient time for detailed consultations on the new mandate giving Chapter VII powers to MONUC, the increase in troop ceiling plus the implementation of an arms embargo. It was therefore agreed that there would be a technical rollover until 30 July when a new resolution should be adopted including all of the desired measures. This new mandate will continue until June 2004.

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