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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his remarks. I quite understand why he feels a sense of disappointment. However, perhaps I may correct him on one minor point. I am sure that he will welcome, as I do, the fact that the death penalty ceased to be available for any military offence in the Armed Forces from November of last year. That is already in place.
With respect to granting pardons, these are extremely difficult and complex matters. They involve inviting the Queen to intervene and overturn a decision of a properly constituted judicial tribunal. That is a difficult thing to do. As I said in reply to the noble Earl, the evidence is scanty and concerns events that took place 80 years ago. I agree with him that even one execution is one too many, but unfortunately these matters occurred in the past and I am afraid we must leave matters as they are.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I take seriously the points that the noble Lord makes and of course I bow to his experience. I think it is worth recalling to your Lordships that nearly all these courts martial were conducted by junior officers with immediate and relevant experience in the field of battle with regard to the people on whom they sat in judgment. Some 20,000 servicemen were charged with offences during the First World War to which the capital penalty then attached. Of those 20,000 some 3,000 were convicted and of those 3,000 only about 10 per cent. were executed. I do not think that makes the matter any better but I thought that your Lordships might like to know those facts.
Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that his argument that the evidence is scanty in a matter involving reasonable doubt is capable of cutting both ways? Does he agree that the medical effects of trauma were much less well understood 80 years ago than they are now, and that that fact alone might well give rise to a reasonable doubt?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am quite sure that the main point on which the noble Earl rests with respect to recognition of the medical effects of trauma is absolutely correct. However, one has to recognise that there was a whole range of offences for which these men were convicted. I am afraid to say that in some of those cases there was little doubt that the tribunal came to an appropriate verdict. We must accept that. As regards the fact that matters have changed with respect to medical assessments, I am sure the noble Earl is right about that. However, not only did my honourable friend undertake this review, but a review was also undertaken by the previous government which came to exactly the same conclusions.
Lord Monson: My Lords, does the Minister agree that no more than 25 German servicemen were executed for similar offences during the whole of World War I? Given that British and Empire servicemen were no less brave and steadfast than their German counterparts, does this not indicate that if the less draconian standards prevailing in other combatant armies at that time had been applied by the British Army, probably no more than 30 British and Empire servicemen would have been executed? If the Minister agrees with that analysis, will the Ministry of Defence issue a public statement to that effect so that the descendants of those who were executed can console themselves with the thought that their forebears were statistically probably among those who were unjustly executed, even by the standards of 80 years ago?
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, while I am most grateful to my noble friend for the information he has just given the House, I point out that in the previous critical period it was quite obvious that there was extremely serious and unfair competition within the EU. Is it not now clear that at present the situation is far-reaching and serious? May we be assured that the department will maintain the keenest monitoring of the situation because the achievements of the British steel industry in recent years ought not to be impaired by dumping on the part of some from overseas?
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I assure my noble friend that the department will certainly keep a close watch on the way the world marketplace is developing and the way that competition is intensifying. I agree with him that the performance of British Steel in the world marketplace is outstanding. Despite the difficulties of competition I note that it is exporting more both to the European Union and elsewhere than any of its competitors from inside the Union. We shall seek to maintain that position and defend strenuously the interests of a good British company.
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, we have discussed subsidies as a principle within the European Union at great length within the Council. It has been one of our objectives to ensure that the level of state subsidies across the board is reduced. That is happening. As part of the single market action plan there is a comprehensive analysis of state subsidies, league tables and a targeting process to reduce these elements which falsify competition. As regards tax harmonisation, the noble Lord makes a hypothetical assumption that this will be a subsidy to competition. Where subsidy exists, we shall try to reduce it. Where it is hypothetical, we should wait to see whether it becomes reality.
Lord Brookman: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this is a matter of great urgency and it is therefore essential that the Government, working in harmony with employers in the United Kingdom, ensure that these illegal subsidies in Europe are investigated speedily as imports are increasing at a tremendous rate? It is vitally important that there is speedy action on this point.
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. We shall certainly do our best to ensure that that is done. The marketplace is dynamic and many of the issues to do with subsidy and dumping comprise allegations which have to be carefully investigated. This is a detailed area. As I have already said, those investigations which took place in 1998 have already been resolved. Those which are being investigated currently through EUROFER--which is the group which looks after the interests of the steel industry in conjunction with the Commission--will not be left on the back burner.
Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I am delighted to hear that the department is monitoring the situation. However, we are concerned about the speed with which anti-dumping legislation is put in place. That is a matter not for us, but for Europe. Of late, the problem has worsened because the Americans can move through anti-dumping procedures quickly. How many meetings has the department held with the Commission to ensure speed once the case is proven?
Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that there are continuous meetings on the state of the development of the marketplace. I have no detail as to how many have taken place. There are continuous discussions between the department and the industry, the industry and EUROFER, and between EUROFER and the Commission. If the noble Baroness wishes to raise any detailed points with me outside any of those meetings, I shall be happy to comply.
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