HL Deb 07 July 1992 vol 538 cc1053-4

3 p.m.

Viscount Caldecote asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much money has been spent on investigations of suspects under the War Crimes Act 1991.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, in England and Wales in 1991–92 the costs were £1,003,072. The corresponding figure for Scotland is about £300,000.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that clear reply. Can he say what the estimated further expenditure is likely to be before the stage is reached when a decision can be taken on whether prosecutions should be started on these suspects?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I cannot tell my noble friend whether or when prosecutions will be started. However, I can tell him that in the forthcoming year a figure of £6.2 million has been provided. In Scotland the figure is £1.15 million.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether the decision to prosecute by the prosecuting authorities in the United Kingdom will be taken only if there is enough evidence to suggest a realistic prospect of a conviction?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is the usual course of events but the decision to prosecute will be taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions after consultation with the Attorney-General; and in Scotland it will be taken by the Lord Advocate.

Lord Morris

My Lords, bearing in mind the second criterion which is always brought to bear when considering whether prosecution should go forward —namely, that it is in the public interest—and bearing in mind the appalling costs, can my noble friend demonstrate that it is in the public interest so to do?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is not for a government Minister to decide whether it is in the public interest. That is a matter for the lawyers. I have told your Lordships that that will be one of the cases which will be considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions and, indeed, by the Attorney-General.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, in view of the fact that the Question relates to the War Crimes Act 1991, and to the millions who were slaughtered, is it possible to measure in pounds and pence the cost of finding the criminals?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, those were parts of the arguments which were deployed when the War Crimes Bill was going through Parliament. The fact is that the Bill went through Parliament. Parliament decided to enact it and it is now for those responsible to take the necessary action.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, can the noble Earl tell the House how many cases are at present under investigation?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, 300 cases were identified by the Hetherington-Chalmers inquiry. A further 43 cases have been brought to the attention of the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit. All those cases have been reviewed. Ninety-two cases are under active investigation.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House how many suspects are under investigation in the figures he has just given?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, 92 cases are under active investigation.