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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his acknowledgement of the strenuous efforts being made by my noble and learned friend. He is, indeed, being robust, energetic and
The noble Lord goes back to questions raised in your Lordships' House on previous occasions about defining a "terrorist". I believe we can all readily acknowledge that the types of issue being discussed in relation to the detaineesnot only the British detainees but also all detainees at Guantanamo Bayare enormously serious. They relate not only to terrorism but to the activities associated with terrorism. Those issues must be taken seriously, but that point in no way undermines the fundamental point about securing a fair trial.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, is not the problem that the rules published by the United States Government for trial by military commission are so plainly incompatible with international human rights law that either they must be disapplied and a special arrangement made for trial by proper courts in the United States or the detainees must be repatriated and tried here? Perhaps I may give the Minister a couple of examples of the ways in which those rules are incompatible.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I shall do so with the leave of the House. They involve secret trials. They are entirely under the control of the President of the United States and there is no effective remedy
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, does the Minister agree that those are the kinds of ingredients that make the rules entirely incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the other conventions and covenants?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord was very kind to try to help the House with his examples. But, of course, it was because of those examples and others that I answered the Question of the noble Baroness, his Leader, in the way that I did by saying that the United Kingdom Government do not consider that the current plans will permit fair trials. That is why my noble and learned friend has spent so much time trying to negotiate to a point where a fair trial might be possible.
I say to the noble Lord that there is an ambiguity in the noble Baroness's Question because it relates to current plans for judicial procedures. Those current plans might have referred to the initial proposals for
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I join the acknowledgement of the very robust position that the British Government have taken. I am well aware that they find this issue as difficult as we all do. In the various points being negotiated with the United States Government, has the question of independent observers at these trials been raised?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords, that has been raised, as has the possible access to public scrutiny by the press and media. Indeed, all those matters are under discussion. The question of access by the press and media was dealt with by my noble and learned friend in his statement on 22nd July in which he stated that, subject to any necessary security restrictions, the trials of the first two individuals who have been designated will be open and the media present.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, is not the right answer to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway that the American officials have given a new status or label to the prisoners at Guantanamo; namely, that they are not prisoners of war or suspected criminals but illegal combatants? That is the label they thought up to reflect the new nature of the war on terrorism which, as the noble Baroness rightly said, is an "unprecedented" situation.
Is not the message that we should be giving to our American friends that this status should be given official form and speedily? While we all accept that lawyers in every country tend to move very slowly, is it not the two years in limbo in which these people have been left which really is intolerable, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said? That must now be ended and the new status defined if we are in a new situation.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords; I have a great deal of sympathy with that view. The question of the legal limbo in which all these detainees have been left was pinpointed by the International Red Cross in its criticisms. The noble Lord talks of a new status. Moving towards an internationally recognised new status would be enormously helped if there were an internationally recognised fair trial that went with such status. It is rather difficult to argue for one without the other.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, we welcome last week's constructive speech by the deputy commissioner. On performance our clear position is that there are certain standards of policing, which should be delivered to all communities, the framework for which is set out in the National Policing Plan. We have no immediate plans to revise the PSA targets, but we shall shortly publish the National Policing Plan for 200407, which will encourage forces to engage with their communities about local priorities within the framework for delivering key national standards.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but there still seems to be a gap between police expectation, Home Office requirements and police performance. Does the Minister agree with the Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who stated:
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I indicated, we welcome much that was said in that speech. It was constructive and very much in tune with what the Government seek to do. The relationship between local and national targets is clear. We have saidACPO members have supported thisthat it is important to have a national standard for minimum standards to be delivered across the country. It is also important to ensure that the needs of local people are met.
Lord Condon: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the speeches made at the Future of Policing Conference last week by a number of police chiefs show that the police service has willingly embraced an agenda for reform and civil renewal? However, in order to play its full part in that programme it seeks some relief from the rather tight straitjacket of centrally imposed performance criteria so that it can respond more effectively to the compelling policing priorities set by local communities.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, do the Government accept that one of the major drawbacks of centrally imposed targets is that, as the noble Lord has just said, they distract from the attainment of local objectives and local priorities, which are all important to local communities to whom the police should be and, indeed, would wish to be, accountable? How will the new national plan, to be announced, cope with the defective situation that exists at present?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I do not accept that the current system is defective. Neither do I accept that the national criteria which have been set detract from local delivery. I acknowledge the debate about national targets. However, as I have tried to say, our bottom line is that there are certain standards of policing which all communities should expect to enjoy. We are very committed to raising the performance of all our forces. We have made clear in the National Policing Plan that we are responsive to the needs of local people and local forces.
So far the focus on performance management in forces has been successful and shows results. Merseyside, West Midlands and Staffordshire, for example, are forces with a clear focus on performance management. They are performing well in tackling the targets on crimes of burglary, vehicle crime and robbery. Crucially, we are seeing increased public satisfaction with those forces. We believe we are on the right track and applaud those police officers who are working hard to deliver high quality policing to the people they serve.
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