Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Earl Howe during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Torture Overseas: Ministry of Defence Policy

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Earl Howe
Monday 20th May 2019

(5 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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I entirely take the noble Baroness’s point. The consolidated guidance is clear that, where Ministers or officials know or believe that a particular action will lead to torture being administered, that action may not be proceeded with. The difficulty comes where the state of knowledge may not be sufficiently high to act as a legal prohibition. In that event, were a Minister to be called upon to take a decision whether to release intelligence, that decision would be informed by detailed legal and policy advice. It is not possible to make generalisations in this context on what that advice might comprise because it would be highly fact-specific to the individual case. However, I emphasise that Ministers may never act unlawfully and officials must never advise Ministers to act unlawfully, and I am confident in saying that Ministers have not acted unlawfully.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, I think that the MoD policy adds to the evidence of complicity in torture and rendition programmes. After all, the Government accepted responsibility in the Belhaj case. Last year’s Intelligence and Security Committee report revealed deep and systematic involvement by the UK in extraordinary rendition but, due to government imposed-restrictions, the ISC was unable to produce “a credible Report”. In view of these revelations, does the Minister not agree that the time has come for an independent, perhaps judge-led, inquiry into the UK’s adherence to the convention against torture?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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My Lords, I am not aware that there is solid evidence that this Government, the previous Government or the previous Labour Government engaged in the kinds of activity that the noble Baroness refers to. There was a single instance in 2004 that was admitted to, where compensation was paid. Upon investigation it was found that the security services and the department had released information that led to the detention and torture of an individual. That is the single instance that I am aware of, but I think that the noble Baroness conflates two issues in this context. The issue that she refers to relates to the Government being complicit and directly involved in the administration of torture, whereas here we are talking about the release of intelligence to third parties and agencies that might or might not engage in torture in certain circumstances. We need to make that distinction.

Afghanistan Update

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Earl Howe
Wednesday 11th July 2018

(5 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, recent research begins to suggest that certain kinds of assistance can have the effect of stabilising communities, even within the context of war and conflict. I am talking about investments in infrastructure such as roads, sewerage and water. Can the Minister tell us something about whether the Army will be involved in working with the Afghan army in trying to further infrastructural projects in the interests of creating some kind of stability in local communities?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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The noble Baroness makes an excellent point. I can tell her that the UK is supporting the Afghan people by helping to provide them with greater access to healthcare, education, safe drinking water and many things that a few years ago they were unable to enjoy. But it is also about building a better basis for the Afghan economy to function: helping to create jobs, boosting economic development, and, importantly, tackling corruption, which I am afraid has been endemic in many parts of the country. To that end, the UK has pledged to spend up to £750 million in aid to Afghanistan between 2016 and 2020, depending on security conditions and Afghan government performance.

As I understand it, our Armed Forces are not directly involved in that civilian type of work, although they could be called on if needed, as indeed could personnel from any of the NATO allies—but on the whole our focus is on enabling the Afghan agencies themselves to undertake that work with financial support.