|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, can the Minister clarify the Answer that he gave to my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby? Was any access given to or any interviews done with former detainees, or were the interviews done only with current detainees? Has any
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I would love to be more specific in response to the noble Baroness's first question. The advice that I have is that detainees were able to speak to the inquiry team; no distinction is made, I understand, between former and current detainees. I will check that point; the noble Baroness is right to press it. I cannot be very helpful with the noble Baroness's second point, for which I apologise.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, will my noble friend remind the House whether the reopened sections of Yarl's Wood are equipped with sprinklers, to avoid a repeat of the disastrous fire two or three years ago?
Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale? Oakington is due to close in two years, and the Government have no plans for any alternative facility. Could Yarl's Wood be extended to provide alternative accommodation to Oakington, thereby reassuring all the staff, who are in great anxiety about the future of the institution?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point. I understand that adequate provision has been made for removal centre locations. I will endeavour to check the point about Oakington, as it is an important matter. As I explained, there is an expanding facility anticipated at Yarl's Wood, with the gradual reopening of that facility.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, will the noble Lord clarify his response to the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, who asked him when the Government intended to publish the report? He said that the Government had only recently received it. Is that any reason to refuse publication? The Government do not intend to change the report, do they?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Government have no intention of changing the report. We particularly wanted an independent report. Stephen Shaw is a highly adept and effective official, and his independence is greatly valued. We will, of course, publish his report, and we will publish it when we are ready to do so.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, in view of the indications in the original report that appeared in the Daily Mirrorthat head-butting and other forms of restraint would be permittedcan the Minister
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the situation in Kosovo developed quickly last week. The United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo which oversees flights of returned asylum seekers advised us on 18 March that due to the security situation it would not be able to accept forced repatriation flights until further notice.
In the light of that, flights returning failed asylum seekers to Kosovo have been temporarily suspended. We shall continue to monitor the situation closely in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with a view to resuming flights as soon as is practical and possible.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. In considering how long the duration of this policy should be, will he take account of the remarks made by Ruud Lubbers of UNHCR on 18 March, in which he referred to,
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Earl is right. Those comments are very important. I have no doubt that they will be carefully considered. The Government take the situation in Kosovo very seriously. For that reason, we have suspended flights and are not returning failed asylum seekers to Kosovo.
Lord Renton: My Lords, bearing in mind that for a good many years now in this country we have absorbed many genuine asylum seekers and many whose claims were not genuine, will the Government be firm in ensuring that those who are not genuine have to return to their own countries?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, clearly that is the intention of the Government. It is also the case that we are returning increasing numbers of failed asylum seekers back to where it is most appropriate for them to return.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, what needs to be understood is that we have to take very careful cognisance of the safety of those we seek to return if their asylum application has failed. That is exactly what we have done in this situation. We have acted entirely properly. That course has been well advised.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister join me in congratulating KFOR on its prompt reaction to the crisis and the rapidity with which we moved forces in to prevent a much greater loss of life than actually occurred? When the Government decide to resume flights, will they pay particular attention to minorities such as the Roma and ensure that the situation in Kosovo is safe for them as well as any others who may be returned?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the whole House will want to congratulate KFOR. It has done a splendid job in the circumstances, for which we are very grateful. My noble friend Lady Symons is taking very close note of what the noble Lord said. I am sure that that will be communicated.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the constitutional limbo in which Kosovo finds itself as defined by Security Council Resolution 1244 represents a major barrier to the move towards stability and democracy in the country? Can he tell us what progress is being made in the Security Council in settling the status of that territory?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, at the time there was a concern that the contents of Mr Dring's personal statement, had it received publicity beforehand, could have been prejudicial to Mr Waugh's trial, at which Mr Dring was a witness of fact. Mr Dring contributed to the epidemiological investigations set out in the
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. How soon after the outbreak had occurred was the decision taken to withhold the evidence from Dr Anderson's inquiry? At what level was that decision taken? Was the Minister advised at the time?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the decision was taken around September/October 2001 when we were submitting papers to the Anderson inquiry. I can give the noble Baroness the exact date. As to the level at which the decision was taken; it was taken by those who were compiling the evidence for the Anderson inquiry on legal advice. Ministers were not informed. As Ministers subsequently have said, had they been informed, they would not have taken the same decision.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge that the cover sheet on Mr Dring's 30-page memorandum apparently had been removed when it explicitly stated that it was to "The Anderson Inquiry, Room 207, Ashley House, 2 Monck Street, London SW1P 2BQ"? Dr Anderson's report is entitled, "Lessons Learned". What lessons have Defra learnt as a result of this alleged sleight of hand? Is not the best action now to hold a very brief inquiry into this matter? Clearly, foot and mouth is far too important to be left on the shelf.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page