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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. Clause 29 incorrectly refers to orders made under subsection (5) of Clause 6. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising the issue when I briefed
I can assist the noble Baroness to the following extent. One asks officials in the Public Bill Office and others how the matter can be addressed. They then tell you, in convention terms, how it can be done, and after that we tend to say, "Thank you". With that in mind and given that the amendment as tabled would incorrectly refer to order-making powers under subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 6 rather than subsection (6), I hope that the noble Baroness can withdraw her amendment. I have found that it is better to say "Thank you" because the officials are invariably correct.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Chief Minister of Gibraltar wrote to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on 22 December, formally tabling proposals for reform of the 1969 Gibraltar Constitution. He has replied, acknowledging the importance of these proposals to Gibraltar, and saying that they will receive the most careful consideration. He expects to meet the Chief Minister soon for an initial discussion.
The cornerstone of our policy towards Gibraltar remains the sovereignty commitment, that the UK Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes. Whatever the outcome of the present proposals, that position will not change.
The starting point for consideration of these proposals is the Government's general policy towards the UK's relations with our Overseas Territories, as set out in the 1999 White Paper, Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories (Cm 4264). As my honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Rammell) said in his Written Statement of 18 December 2003 (Official Report, Commons, cols 151WS152WS) the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories remains a key foreign policy objective for this Government.
While the people of Gibraltar wish to remain British, it is essential that there should be an appropriate balance of powers between the UK and Gibraltar. While we recognise the aspiration of the people of Gibraltar to manage more of their own affairs, the UK Government must have sufficient and effective powers to protect their overall responsibility for ensuring good governance, compliance with international obligations and minimisation of contingent liabilities. An assessment of the powers required by the UK Government to deliver a balanced and modern relationship must, in particular, take full account of the fact that the UK is responsible for Gibraltar's compliance with EU law, including ultimately before the European Court of Justice. And, in considering the constitutional relationship between the UK and Gibraltar, Her Majesty's Government will take account of Gibraltar's particular circumstances and the wider international context.
This Government will therefore study the proposals put forward by the Gibraltar Government, and look forward to discussion of them in due course, with a view to the further development of a modern and appropriate relationship with Gibraltar.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: With the support of Her Majesty's Government, the United Nations Security Council on 22 December 2003 unanimously adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 1521(2003). The resolution revised the determination for the basis of sanctions against Liberia. UNSCR 1343(2001) was based on Liberia's (in particular former President Charles Taylor and the former Government of Liberia) threat to Sierra Leone. The new resolution is based on Liberia's instability and the threat of proliferation of arms and armed non-state actors (including mercenaries) and their potential threat to the greater sub-region. The measures against Liberia remain the same: an arms embargo, a travel ban, a timber ban and a diamond embargo. The lift criteria have been revised. The travel ban will be started from scratch and include those who constitute a threat to the peace process in Liberia, or who are engaged in activities aimed at undermining peace and stability in Liberia and the sub-region (including senior members of former President Charles Taylor's government and their spouses and members of Liberia's former armed forces who retain links to former President Charles Taylor).
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: With the support of Her Majesty's Government, the original Council Decision 94/165/CFSP of 15 March 1994 imposing an EU arms embargo against Sudan was repealed and replaced by Common Position CFSP/31/2004 on 9 January 2004. A Council regulation will follow shortly. The embargo prohibits (a) the delivery or supply of arms and related materiel to Sudan; (b) the provision of technical assistance, brokering services and other services related to military activities and to the provision, manufacture, maintenance and use of arms and related materiel to any person, entity or body in, or for use in, Sudan; and (c) the provision of financing or financial assistance related to military activities to any person, entity or body, in or for use in, Sudan. Exemptions to the embargo are permitted for non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, institution building programmes of the UN, EU and European Community, for materiel intended for EU and UN crisis management, for demining equipment and materiel for use in demining operations, and for the provision of financing, financial assistance and technical assistance related to such equipment.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Since 1997 crime in England and Wales has fallen by a quarter. The chances of being a victim of crime are now at their lowest for over 20 years. At the same time, we continue to face a major challenge from organised crime which costs the country billions of pounds in lost revenue, facilitates 70 per cent of all illegal immigration to the European Union and can cause local communities huge damage, for example through its link with local drugs markets and all the problems of addiction and crime that go with them. The UK crack and heroin markets alone are estimated to be worth £3 billion per year.
Organised criminals are willing to resort to extreme violence, intimidation and corruption to protect their illegal businesses. They often display detailed awareness of law enforcement methods and take sophisticated counter measures including counter surveillance techniques and elaborate money laundering arrangements. Through their involvement in people trafficking, organised criminals exploit the vulnerable and deal in human misery as appears to be the case in the tragic events at Morecambe Bay at the end of last week. They use every legal device available to them to evade prosecution when they are arrested.
Responsibility for tackling organised crime has until now been spread across a range of different agencies. Each of them has been highly effective in their own area of specialismand we pay tribute to the outstanding work they and their staff have undertaken to datebut each must also work within its own priorities and departmental structures. This can make co-ordination difficult and has led to blurred lines of accountability in some key areas like drugs and fraud and to a lack of critical mass in some important skill areas like those required to tackle financial and other economic crime.
In response to these issues, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced last July that the government would be reviewing the structures of our national law enforcement agencies responsible for investigating serious organised crime.
Over the past six months we have undertaken detailed consultations with all those involved in fighting organised crime, including the police service and all of the relevant national agencies and regulators. The clear view from almost all we consulted was that the present arrangements were not satisfactory and that there was a strong case for rationalising existing structures.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has therefore today announced the next step in this process. Drawing on the lessons from this consultation we intend to bring together in a single national agencythe Serious Organised Crime Agencywhich will report to the Home Secretary, the responsibilities which currently fall to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, the Home Office's responsibilities for organised immigration crime and the investigation and intelligence responsibilities of HM Customs and
The creation of the new agency is a key part of a wider series of changes including new powers available to tackle organised crime. We will set out the detail of all these changes in a Statement to the House when we publish a policy paper within the next few weeks.
The new agency will have as its core objective reducing the harm caused to the UK and its citizens by organised crime including the trafficking of drugs and people. It will have the capabilities to make a real difference through enhanced intelligence, financial investigation skills, economic analysis and better and more sophisticated use of technology. It will develop a comprehensive strategy for reducing the harm caused by organised crime and will be much more than the sum of its parts, drawing on best practice and skills from all the existing agencies to focus on those criminals and criminal markets causing us the most harm. It will work very closely with the revenue departments which will continue to be responsible for tackling revenue and tax fraud.
The new agency will work closely with police forces, regulators and others throughout the UK. Its focus will be on crime that crosses national and international frontiers. But, where a request is made, or where it is otherwise agreed, it will also have a key role in supporting individual police forces in tackling crime that crosses police force boundaries. It will provide intelligence from criminal activity to the wider law enforcement community, drawing on the intelligence they themselves provide in developing a firm understanding and strategy.
The agency will have a UK-wide remit. However, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency and the Police Service of Northern Ireland will continue to exercise the functions they currently undertake in partnership with existing UK agencies.
Specialist prosecutors answerable to my noble friend the Attorney-General will co-operate closely with officers of the new agency and work alongside them wherever this makes good operational sense. They will be available whenever required to provide comprehensive, practical and specialist advice to help to shape investigations and develop strong and well presented cases for prosecution. The specialist prosecutors will stay with each case from the outset of investigations right through to the point of sentence.
The arrangements for the agency's governance will be crucial. A Home Office-led task force, including representatives of those who will form part of the new organisation, will consult stakeholders on this and
Until their appointment, representatives of all the agencies concerned will be driving forward the transition process, under Home Office chairmanship, to enable the agency to get off to a rapid and effective start.
We shall take the earliest opportunity to seek Parliament's approval for the legislation needed to establish the Serious Organised Crime Agency but will seek as far as possible to anticipate the benefits of these changes through closer joint working and operations, training and secondments so that this transitional phase enhances rather than disrupts this critical work.
Those who seek to damage our country and undermine our way of life through organised crime will continue to grow in expertise and sophistication. We must more than match them and ensure that the skills and insights we have developed in different areas are shared. These proposals will enable us to respond to these challenges effectively in the years ahead.
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