§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, costs associated with the War Crimes Act 1991 are estimated as in the order of £3 million in England and Wales and £600,000 in Scotland in this financial year
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is similar expenditure expected in future years? He will observe that the Question refers to the next two years. Will expenditure continue at that level?
My Lords, it is difficult to be precise in such matters, but for 1992–93 it is likely to be in the order of £11 million and for 1993–94 in the order of £11 million. The expenditure in Scotland is likely to be in the order of £3 million for 1992–93.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, is the Minister aware that Australia and Canada are still in a state of standstill on their very first cases? Does that give the British Government any encouragement to embark upon an adventure of frustration and fiasco?
My Lords, the decision to take such action was made by Parliament. There was overwhelming support for it in another place. One cannot compare Australia and Canada, which operate under different jurisdictions.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, does the Minister agree that if the Government did not waste money on essentially political excursions, of which this is a minor example and the poll tax story is one of staggering size, they might have more money to spend on practical needs such as modernising London Underground?
My Lords, we can all make terrible mistakes. I do not believe that I ever made a worse mistake than that one. I was going to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, on extending the subject of the Question about war crimes to the poll tax and other such matters. We cannot compare 736 them. He is well aware that Parliament agreed to take the action. As Parliament, which is all powerful in these matters, has agreed to do it, it is up to the Government to make funds available.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the second part of the Question asks, "how many convictions are likely to be obtained under it in the next two years"? Does the Minister realise that he was well advised not to answer such a Question as it would be a most unhappy day for the House if we were asked to take on the job of being a jury and decide how many convictions there might be before charges are even brought?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for saying how well advised I was. That is in contrast to what he said the other day on the Criminal Justice Bill. I cannot possibly answer that Question because I do not know how many people will be charged or convicted.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, as the Minister cannot answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will he tell us what criteria the Government will adopt in deciding whether they are receiving value for money for that £3 million?
My Lords, it is not the Government's business to decide whether we are receiving value for money when we start prosecuting people on a matter for which Parliament has decided they should be prosecuted.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, have any of the police or security people working on the war crimes investigation been taken off work against terrorism or drug trafficking?
My Lords, the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit was set up to investigate these cases on 28th May. It consists of a number of police officers. I cannot tell the noble Lord from which areas they have been drawn.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, what steps are being taken to bring to justice communist war criminals who must be at least as numerous as Nazi war criminals, if not more so?
My Lords, I am certain that the noble Lord knows to what the War Crimes Act refers and it does not refer to communist war criminals.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, does my noble friend's inability to answer, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, pointed out, that part of my Question in which I asked how many convictions were expected mean that it is possible that the expenditure about which he told us will result in no convictions over the next two years?
My Lords, it is possible that the expenditure to be incurred over the next two years will result in no convictions. It may result in some convictions. My noble friend is well aware that I cannot tell him how many there will be.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, Does my noble friend agree that it is somewhat inappropriate and difficult to talk about convictions of proposed accused people who are assumed to be innocent until they are convicted?
My Lords, that is true. One cannot be convicted until one has been prosecuted. I cannot tell your Lordships how many people will be prosecuted or convicted.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
My Lords, will my noble friend assure the House that anyone who faces a possible appearance before the judges will have ample time to search for witnesses on his own behalf?